Narasimha Maheta, the 15th century poet who wrote Vaishnava Janato! This bhajan was Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite

Vaishnav Jan To, Tene Kahiye Je

Peed Paraaye Jaane Re

Par Dukkhe Upkaar Kare Toye

Man Abhiman Na Anne Re…

As soon we hear the first word from this bhajan, the image we get is of Gandhi ji. The bhajan had become part of his everyday prayer. It was his favourite bhajan for he considered it to be song which depicts essence of Hindu philosophy and ethics. None of the Gandhi Jayanthi program misses out on this song. It is that famous.

But do we know who wrote this beautiful song, which capsules all the values taught by hindu philosophy in such simple words??!!!

This song was written by a Gujarathi poet by name Narasimha Maheta, around 500 years ago. In the 17th century with the Bhakthi movement his fame too spread all over the country. His life, work and miracles which happened with him, all became a centre of the bhakthi movement.

He was born in the village Talaja near Junagadh in Gujrath. He was born into a orthodox, high society brahmin family known as ‘Nagara Brahmanas’. He has given his life accounts through his songs and he mentions many of the miracles performed by Shri Krishna which changed course of his life.

When he was a young boy, he lost his father and was left with his elder brother. He was a devotee of lord Krishna and follower of Bhakthi sampradaya of Brindavan. He sang and danced like gopis in the streets. His bhakthi was not understood by elders in the family and they felt he had brought shame on the family. The girl with whom his marriage was fixed, refused to marry him.

But Manek Bai, a ardent devotee of Shri Krishna understood his love and dedication for the God and married him by her wish. They had a son and a daughter in some time. They were still living in his brother’s home.

One day saddened by a Comment from his brother’s wife, he went into jungles and started calling Krishna through songs. And there he attained the enlightment and krishna actually embraced him and reassured him.

After returning home, he took his family and left his brother’s place. He thanks his sister in law who was responsible for hid enlightment on Krishna.

Narasimha Maheta was against the untouchability. He saw krishna in every living being. The Nagara brahmanas kept him away as he was associated with the people of lower caste.

It so happened one time a Anna daana was arranged by these brahmanas but they purposefully did not invite Narasimha. It so happened whatever they did they couldn’t sit down and have food. What they saw was many ‘dhed’ a class if sweepers were sitting in their place and having food.

The brahmanas realised their mistake and the greatness of Narasimha. From then onwards the bhakthi movement took a path of social reform.

But, everything was not going well in his personal life. He lost his wife and later his son. His daughter became a widow. He would just utter it is all Krishna’s wish and continued in the path of Bhakthi.

He wrote short poems called ‘Pada’ and around 750 of such pada have been collected and published now. The main theme in all of this pada remains Sri Krishna, his ‘leela’, and his love for Radha. The poet also portrayed philosophy in his own words and style as Bhajans.

He says-” you will never find him if you keep on discriminating among living beings. When you treat everyone as equal you will realise, ‘he’ was there all the time with you.

Vaishnava Janato

It is one of the sublime pada, which attracted Mahatma Gandhi. He is a Vaishnava(devotee of vishnu) who feels others sufferings as his own. He serves those who are afflicted, he bows before everyone and hates none. He is steady in body, mind and word.

Just like Haridasa sahithya of Karnataka, Narasimha Maheta and the followers of Krishna Sampradaya spoke same divine language. They sung praises of God thinking him to be a child, they scold him, they taunt him, they praise him, they call him a thief and what not…. Because God too bows down only to Bhakthi. In that stage of ultimate devotion God is their own.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth