book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

Ramprasad: the melodious mystic

Swami Budhananda

Budhananda, Swami;

Ramprasad: the melodious mystic

Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre, 1982, 69 pages

ISBN 8175052406

topics: |  biography | hindu | religion | music | | |

interestingly, this book, which is meant for the non-bengali, has the song titles (first lines) cited in devnAgari script. however, providing the full songs would also have been of interest.

the translations are however rather pedestrian. i wish they would move better.

the biography is a religious text, and it would be a mistake to expect a secular tale separate from all the legends.

like all legends, there are many versions, and the overall body has many self-contradictions. if rAmprasAd despises money and material wealth so much, how come he agrees to become a courtier and accepts a hundred-bighA grant of land - a rather large land grant - nearly an entire village.

was he indeed given such a large grant? did he agree to become courier? it is difficult to un-layer the tale.

we have a much more sparse version in Leonard Nathan and Clinton B. Seely's
introduction in (Grace and mercy in her wild hair, 1999)
- a work on rAmprasAd's poems:

	though rAmprasAd is not shy about letting his personal feelings into
	his songs... we know almost nothing about his life except that he
	flourished in the Bengal of the 18th c.  Legend has it that, as a
	young clerk bored with his work and suffused with devotion, he was
	caught filling his ledger with songs to the Mother Goddess, and was
	sent off, adequately subsidized by his kindly employer.

	Even in his death he exemplified a perfect form of worship.  [When at
	the climax of the festival] the Goddess is immersed in the waters, the
	poet is said to have followed her under, singing lyrics he composed to
	elicit her grace.

Ramprasad Sen (ca. 1718-1775)



mahArAjA kriShNachandra's affection

one of [rAmprasAd's] habits was to stand neck-deep in the gangA and continue
to sing loudly song after song in his powerful voice. these songs, surging up
from the hridaya-gangA of rAmprasAd, would mingle with the sweet murmur of the
Ganga itself and fill the atmosphere drawing local people in numbers to the

it is said that once, while cruising on the ganga, mahArAjA krishnachandra of
navadvIp was so charmed to hear rAmprasAd's songs that he waited in his boat
for a long time until rAmprasAd had finished his devotions.

krishnachandra [was] a great patron of talent. his court was adorned by poet
bharatachandra, by agamavAgisa, the great tAntrik sAdhaka, and by gopal
bhnAR, the court jester.

despising money

krishnachandra respectfully approached rAmprasAd and suggested that he too
might come and adorn his court. what was the reaction of rAmprasAd at this
windfall which would solve material problems of his life for ever? was
rAmprasAd beside himself with joy at this sudden stroke of good luck? no, he
felt as though struck by a thunderbolt. how could one in whose heart the
mother of the universe was enthroned think of becoming a courtier? humbly
and gracefully rAmprasAd declined the offer of the maharaja, who in turn
grew all the more respectful at the blazing renunciation of this young
one may recall here how, when lakShminArAyaN mArwAri offered to make an
endowment of ten thousand rupees for personal expenses, sri rAmakrishna fell
unconscious as if struck on the head. strange men these, who were mad with
love of the divine mother!  the values of the world were no values to them.

but maharaja krishnachandra was not to be easily put off. he persuaded
rAmprasAd to accept a gift of a hundred bighas of land free of rent as the
hereditary right of his family.

song : taking the name of kAli, dive in (ডুব দে মন কালী বলে)

taking the name of kAli, dive deep down. o mind,
into the heart's fathomless depths,
where many a precious gem lies hid.
but never believe the bed of the ocean bare of gems
if in the first few dives you fail;

	ডুব দে মন কালী বলে। হৃদি-রত্নাকরের অগাধ জলে।
	রত্নাকর নয় শূন্য কখন, দু-চার ডুবে ধন না পেলে,

with firm resolve and self-control--
dive deep and make your way to mother kAli's realm.
down in the ocean depths of heavenly wisdom lies.  
the wondrous pearls of peace, o mind;
and you yourself can gather them,
if you have but pure love and follow the scriptures' rule.

	তুমি দম-সামর্থ্যে একডুবে যাও, কুলকুণ্ডলিনীর কূলে।
	জ্ঞান-সমুদ্রের মাঝে রে মন, শান্তিরূপা মুক্তা ফলে,
	তুমি ভক্তি করে কুড়ায়ে পাবে, শিবযুক্তি মতো চাইলে।

within those ocean depths, as well,
six alligators lurk--lust, anger and the rest--
swimming about in search of prey.
smear yourself with the turmeric of discrimination,
the very smell of it will shield you from their jaws.
upon the ocean bed lie strewn
unnumbered pearls and precious gems,
plunge in, says rAmprasAd, and gather up handfuls there!

	কামাদি ছয় কুম্ভীর আছে, আহার-লোভে সদাই চলে,
	তুমি বিবেক-হলদি গায়ে মেখে যাও, ছোঁবে না তার গন্ধ পেলে।
	রতন-মাণিক্য কতপড়ে আছে সেই জলে,
	রামপ্রসাদ বলে ঝম্প দিলে, মিলবে রতন ফলে ফলে।

Dub de re man kAlI bale

(same song from Grace and mercy in her wild hair
tr. Leonard Nathan and Clinton B. Seely)

	Now cry kAli and take the plunge!
	O my Mind, dive into this sea,
	This heart which has yet to be sounded.
	There are gems down there that two or three dives
	Aren't going to get.  Now, hold your breath
	And jump!  Kick down to where She sits
	Deep in the wise waters, a great pearl.
	You can do it, all it takes
	Is overwhelming love and the memory
	of Shiva's good words.

	Down there the Six Passion's cruise
	Like crocodiles snapping at anything
	That moves, so cover yourself with knowledge
	Like turmeric smeared on the skin--
	The odor will keep them off.
	I tell you there's a world of wealth
	In that water.

	    rAmprasAd says: Dive in
	    And you're going to come up with a fortune.

song : now i'll devour you, kAli! (এবার কালী তোমায় খাব)

			[ebAr kAli tomAy khAbo]

	এবার কালী তোমায় খাব। 
	(তারা গণ্ডযোগে জন্ম আমার)
	গণ্ডযোগে জনমিলে সে হয় মা-খেকো ছেলে।
	এবার তুমি খাও কি আমি খাই মা, দুটোর একটা করে যাব ৷৷

this time i shall devour thee utterly, mother kAli!
for i was born under an evil star,
and one so born becomes, they say, the eater of his mother,
thou must devour me first, or i myself shall eat thee up;
one or the other it must be.

	হাতে কালী মুখে কালী, সর্বাঙ্গে কালী মাখিব।
	যখন আসবে শমন বাঁধবে কসে, সেই কালী তার মুখে দিব ৷৷
	খাব খাব বলি মা গো উদরস্থ করিব।
	এই হৃদিপদ্মে বসাইয়ে, মনোমানসে পূজিব ৷৷

i shall besmear my hands with black (kAli),
	and with black my face;
with black i shall besmear the whole of my body.
and when death seizes me,
	with black i shall besmear his face.
o mother, i shall eat thee up but not digest thee,
i shall instal thee in my heart
and make thee offerings with my mind.

	যদি বল কালী খেলে, কালের হাতে ঠেকা যাব।
	আমার ভয় কি তাতে, কালী ব’লে কালেরে কলা দেখাব ৷৷
	ডাকিনী যোগিনী দিয়ে, তরকারী বানায়ে খাব।
	মুণ্ডমালা কেড়ে নিয়ে অম্বল সম্বরা চড়াব ৷৷
	কালীর বেটা শ্রীরামপ্রসাদ, ভালমতে তাই জানাব।
	তাতে মন্ত্রের সাধন, শরীর পতন, যা হবার তাই ঘটাব ৷৷

you may say that by eating kAli i shall embroil myself
with kAla, her husband, but i am not afraid;
braving his anger, i shall chant
	my mother's name.
to show the world that rAmprasAd is kAli's rightful son,
come what may, i shall eat thee up --
	thee and thy retinue --
or lose my life attempting it.

more lively translation by Rachel McDermott

		from Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali

This time, Kali,
I'm going to eat You up.
I'll eat You,
I'll eat You,
Oh Compassionate to the Poor.
I was born under an evil star
and sons born then
devour their mothers.
Either You eat me
or I eat You:
we must decide on one.

I'll make a curry of Your demons and witches
and boil into a soup
with spices and ghee
the heads from Your necklace.
Your blackness I'll smear all over
my hands, my face, and my limbs.
When Death comes
I'll blacken his face too.

I say I'll eat You up
but You won't fill my stomach;
I'll sit You on my heart-lotus
and worship You mentally.
They may tell me
if I eat Kali
I'll get into trouble with Death,
but why should I fear him?
I'll shout "Kali!"
and stick my thumb in his face.
I'll make sure he understands
Sri Ramprasad is Kali's son.
I'll cause my death myself
through mantra repetition.

	[this version is also closer to the original, retaining the vivid text

ডাকিনী যোগিনী দিয়ে, তরকারী বানায়ে খাব
lit. "I'll take your DAkinIs and yoginIs, and make a subzi out of them" - i.e. "I'll make a curry of Your demons and witches." budhananda foregoes the colour of this verse in the meager "i shall eat thee up, thee and thy retinue" link: Sri Ramprasad - Kali's Poet's+Poet

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] gmail) 2013 Sep 12