Posted: July 19, 2011 in Icons, The NamoLeague Times
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A name synonymous with poetry, devotion and Gujarati literature – Narsinh Mehta is the pride of Gujarat and its invaluable language treasures. His lyrics have swayed the hearts of millions of Gujarati people from scholars to illiterate poor for over six centuries. The compositions attributed to Narsinh are inseparable from Gujarati ethos and identity. He was given the proud title of ‘Adi Kavi’ which means ‘first among the poets’.

Narsinh Mehta was born in Talaja, near Bhavnagar, in 1414, Vad Nagar Brahmin by caste. He was a staunch follower of Lord Krishna and there are many instances when the Lord is believed to have come to his rescue. Narsinh faced a lot of problems as a child as he lost his mother in 1425. His uncle raised him, who too passed away soon after Narsinh’s marriage to Manekbai probably in 1428. The couple shifted to his cousin Bansidhar’s house in Junagadh. But Bansidhar’s wife was ill-tempered and did not welcome the couple well. Fed up of the taunts and insults, Narsinh one fine day left the house and went to a nearby forest in search of some peace, where he fasted and meditated for seven days. A legend says that Lord Shiva appeared, appeased by his prayers, took him to Vrindavan and showed him the eternal raas leela of Shri Krishna and the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrindavan. Narsinh was transfixed by the spectacle and burnt his hand with the torch he was holding but he was so engrossed in the blissful vision that he was oblivious of the pain. He is believed to follow the command of Lord Krishna to sing His praises and the experience of the rasa in this mortal world. He resolved to compose around 22,000 kirtans or compositions.

This dream-like experience changed the life of Narsinh Mehta. He took the blessings of his sister-in-law and thanked her for abusing him. He started living a poor but transformed life in Junagadh with his wife and two children, son named Shamaldas, and a daughter for whom he had special affection, Kunwarbai. Narsinh had little interest in his social life and possessed immense faith in the Lord. He sang and danced to the tunes of Lord’s songs with other disciples, irrespective of their caste, creed or sex. The people, especially Nagars of Junagadh mocked at him at every possible opportunity. But he was truly devoted and poured his heart out in his songs.

All the happenings of Narsinh Mehta’s life when the Lord came to help him are composed in the form of poems and verses. Apart from these, he has written many wonderful divine poems in praise of the Lord, and these summarize the spiritual truths. In a soul-stirring incident, after his daughter Kunwarbai’s marriage in around 1447 to Sringara Mehta’s son, she became pregnant and it was a custom for the girl’s parents to give gifts and presents to all the in-laws during the seventh month of pregnancy. This custom, known as Mameru, was simply out of the reach of poor Narsinh. But the Lord came to his rescue and the Mameru was performed grandly.

At another time, when Narsinh Mehta and his brother were very hungry while they were traveling, the Lord appeared in the form of a shepherd boy, took them to a cottage and offered them food. A little later when his brother returned to take a vessel he had left there, he found neither the cottage nor the shepherd boy anywhere. These and many other such stories in the Gujarati Literature deepen our faith in the Lord and our love for the great poet-saint.

Not many people are aware of the wide range of poetic themes Narsinh handled, dramatic narratives, autobiographical compositions, love songs, philosophical poems of unsurpassable greatness, poems expressing honest moral concerns and the poems on Lord Krishna’s childhood. His poems have carved a niche on our minds and heart.

Mahmud Begada invaded Junagadh in 1467 and soon after many Muslim raids; the city was annexed to the Gujarat Sultanate. Perhaps to escape the consequences, Narsinh went to Mangrol. He is believed to die at the age of 66 in 1480. The striking composer of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite bhajan ‘Vaishnav jan to…’ Narsinh Mehta’s life and work will never fail to inspire us. All glories to this great icon of Gujarat!

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