Pada and Kirtans of Pushti Marg

 

One of the main tanents of Pushti Marg as envisioned by Shri Gusaiji is "Raga".
Raga means, "attachment" and "musical modes".

Since the time of Shri Vallabhacharyaji, music was seen as one of the key components of daily worship. In his own time, He initiated the likes of Kubhandas, Surdas, Paramanandas and Krishnadas into the sect and entrusted the work of writing new devotional songs to them. As true visionaries, these great poet saints sung the lilas of the Lord as they witnessed them. These were no flights of fancy or imagination, but factual descriptions of what they saw the Lord doing in the wonderful world of spiritual Vraj. Simple, yet powerful, words of their poetry speak of this "eye-witness" nature of the padas.

Shri Gusaiji added four more poet saints to the original group of four (  Nanadadas, Chitswami, Chaturbhujdas, and Govindswami) and created the celebrated "Ashta chhap" group of 8 divine poets and singers of ShriNathji's court. Mirroring the equally celebrated gems of Akber's court, the Ashta Chhap were well known and respected by all their contemporaries. Emperor Akber was known to have invited a number of them to sing at his court. Indeed, one of the sons of Shri Gosaiji was a permanent member of the Imperial court and helped win a number of farmans (Imperial Proclamations) in favor of Pushti Marg and Hindus in general.

The Astha Chhap singers wrote truly inspirational devotional poetry. They mostly wrote in VrajBhasha and composed in traditional, classical ragas. The poetry composed by the Ashta Chhap is known as "pada". "Drupad" was favored mode of their music, hence "Drupad" style of singing is often considered to be synonymous to the "haveli" style of music.

Traditionally, all darshans in main Havelies of Pushti Marg are accompanied by poetry composed by the Ashta Chhap. Atleast one pada from the Ashta Chhap is sung at each darshan. Sadhan Dipika (by Shri Gopinathji), clearly states that all expressions of joy - singing and dancing included, should accompany seva and especially seva during festivals and special functions.

Padas are written in accordance with seasons, moods, times of day, bhavas etc. Each Nidhi svarup has padas written for it by the Ashta Chhap in accordance with the bhavas relating to the svarup.  Variously, they saw the Lord's lilas as a friend, parent or a lover. Many wrote about the gopi bhava that Pushti Marg instilled in them. Of all the various bhavas that a bhakta can have, gopi, dasa and vattsalya bhava are the most popular in Pushti Marg.

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.  It is a powerful, great, wrenching pain of separation from such a darshan !! 

For example, at one time one of the Astachap left the pada incomplete.  Shri Gausaiji asked him the reason for doing this.  With due respect, the devotee said, Shri Krushna is too fickle and ran away before I could complete the pada.  Shri Gausaiji was pleased with the honesty of the astachap.  Having had the full darshan, Shri Gausaiji completed the pada for him. 

For this reason, 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). 

Poetry sung in Pushti Marg's havelies is a reflection of the wonderful literary achievements of its poets of a bygone era.  By the grace of the Lord and their Guru, these great devotees wrote down the lilas of the Lord that they actually saw and experience it.  Hence their words are still capable of evoking the divine mood in us all. Often their words stir the deepest spiritual emotions in us and help lift us off this mundane world into a divine world full of divine play of the Lord.

Sung in classical ragas appropriate to the moods, seasons, settings and situations, the padas of Pushti Marg made a very valuable contribution to the literary movement of their time.  For example - The Granth Sahib of the Sikhs is also writen in Vrajbhasha and in the same pada / kirtan form.

Reading and listening to these padas of Pushti Marg is a highly spiritual experience.

 

Bhagwat Shah

 

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