Kirtans and Padas of Pushti Marg
Kirtans are different from most bhajans in that they describe a lila of the Lord and
are essentially full of joy.
Joy of Yashoda playing with her Natakhata Nanda-Kishor.
Joy of Gopal and his friends playing in the woods of Vrindavan.
Joy of gopies roaming the flowering groves of Kadamb, tala, Madhu etc on the banks of the
Joy of the Lord's lila with his beloved gopies, stealing their butter, their clothes and
Joy of the Lord appeasing his beloved gopi, having upset her by his infidelities.
Joy of devotees appreciating the grace of their beloved Lord upon them.
All this and more is expressed in poetry and sung in the various classical ragas.
Padas describe the intense darshan of the bhakta. This darshan is usually
a jhakhi - glimpse - a brief glimpse. Lord's darshan is always brief, all
too brief. This leaves the bhakta desperate for more.....for more detailed
darshan. After writing the pada, the bhakta is left with the pain and
pleasure of chasing the beloved ! Ahhh the sweet pain of such a chase.
True beauty of the padas is just this - that it is a jhakji - an intense glimpse
of GOD. For this reason, the padas are usually short and sharp. In
haveli sangeet, here is no elaborate alap (long, slow build up). Start of
the pada is made from a little way in the first line and the full line is only
revealed later on. Last line of the pada is repeated three times
(signalling end of the pada).
Rarely do kirtans and padas express sadness at being alive, or express a complaint
against the Lord for the woes of life. Even when there is a complaint, it is about
the Lord stealing their hearts, or butter - never about being poor or less fortunate than
others. This is what really sets padas and kirtans apart from the conventional bhajans.
The original padas and Kirtans were written by the devotees who were initially
converted to Pushti Marg by Shri Vallabhacharyaji and Shri Gusaiji. They were
inspired by the visions inspired by their conversion and were blessed enough to experience
and indeed "see" the lilas of the Lord. The joy of this insight into the
Lord's lila sprouted forth as poetry. The sublime nature of this has inspired
countless devotees and literary greats throughout the last 500 years.
Of the true "greats" amongst Pushti Poets, Surdas commands a special place
of honour. He is well known for his wide range of poetry and his ability to express
the most complex of human emotions in the most simplest of terms. His language
was simple yet full of multi-layered meanings that delighted the ordinary and
intelligent alike. As a result, Surdas's poetry is well known outside the sect and his padas are sung throughout India.
Though born blind, he was a gifted child and was a revered saint even before he met
Shri Vallabh. Upon his conversion, he renounced his own status as a "guru"
and became a disciple of Shri Vallabh. He wrote a huge number of
padas and kirtans and is reputed to have written 125,000 poems. His
"Sur-sagar" - literally an "Ocean of Music", is a vast collection of
Surdas's works. Unfortunately, some are now lost, but through the efforts of many
vaishnavs and scholars, many are now published in various languages. The aura of the
great saint is such that many tales have grown up around him. One such tale is that
once, Surdas was upset at the thought that he was now too old to write any more and will
not be able to reach his goal of 125,000 poems he wanted to write. Ever
compassionate, the Lord and Shri Radha came to his rescue and wrote padas to help him
complete the Sur-sagar for him, writing many padas in Surdas's name.
Others have continued the tradition of the poet saints of Pushti Marg and these have
been preserved in the collections of various havelies around India. Written in
Vraj-bhasha - the language of the people of Vraj, the padas retain the original feel of
how the Lord and his friends might have communicated. It is a very sweet dialect of
Hindi and is full of raw beauty. Some of the padas were written in Sanskrit and much
later, some were written in Gujarati, Rajasthani, Punjabi and other regional languages of the Vaishnavs. These
are often known as dhaul and kirtans.
© Bhagwat Shah
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