As part of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, artists from 124 countries contributed musically, paying homage to Baapu through his favorite bhajan ‘Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye’. Yesterday, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a medley version of the bhajan by artists from 40 countries, during the ceremony of Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Conference.
The 15th century poem written by famous saint poet of Gujarat, Narishn Mehta was adopted by Baapu into the roster of prayers he would sing at the Sabarmati Ashram.
The beautiful composition sung by those artists from different countries reminded me of Baapu whose political and spiritual memory, his contribution in the independence of India and his vision for the nation is being questioned everyday in Narendra Modi’s India.
Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye Je Pida Parayi Jane Re
(One who is a Vaishnav- Devotee of Vishnu, knows the pain of others)
Para Dukhe Upakara Kare To Ye Mana Abhimana Na Ane Re
(Does good to others without letting pride enter his mind)
Forget empathy or sympathy in today’s India which is diving deep in the holes of Hindutva. The ability to identify with someone else’s sufferings has faded away in the polluted air of violence, power and religion. And in the remaining few Vaishnavs, fear has been instilled deeply and their voices have been silenced. Imagine how terribly Hindutva has distorted the essence of Hindu piety and has twisted the true meaning of being a Vaishnav Jan- a follower of Vishnu or Hinduism.
Today, we are living in a nation where terrorizing of minorities, lynching of Dalits and Muslims, silencing voices that speak truth, banning the rights of people and devoiding citizens of their basic fundamental rights has been normalized so much.
It has broken all binds of human solidarity and mutual respect that has kept us together as a society since so many years. And it definitely does not recognize as Hindu in any way or comes even tad bit close to Mahatma Gandhi’s meaning of Hinduism.
In those five minutes of an eclectic, colorful composition by artists of various countries- the hymn of Mahatma playing in the Rashtrapati Bhavan- infused with the local flavor of those countries- I wondered if even a handful of people sitting in the Rashtrapati Bhavan actually understood the true meaning of that song. Did our Prime Minister feel uncomfortable or anxious with those words even for a minute and realized what our country has turned into- a horrible, polluted place with the molecules of hatred in the air.
I wondered why those artists from different countries agreed to sing this bhajan and not some other. And how this bhajan by Baapu does not belong in this country anymore. A country which has failed to live up to his ideologies. A country that failed him and his struggles.
India has been blinded with the ideologies of Hindutva. It is not rare when our politicians feel free to pass derogatory remarks about the people who shed their blood sweat and tears to make this country what it is today. And there is no doubt that we are entering in the depths of living hell- diving deep in the Hindutva jive.
The most damaging effect of the BJP rule is the slow and steady erosion of empathy- in the new India- Modi’s India. Something that is making us lesser humans and lesser Indians. Baapu might not be here to see the new India and fulfill his vision but what we have is his remains- in the form of his words, sayings and his bhajans- something we need and something we should learn from.
Vana-lobhi ne kapata-rahite che, Kama Karedha nivarya re
(A Vaishnav does not succumb to worldly attachments, he has renounced lust of all types and anger)
Bhane narasaiyo tenum darasana karatam, Kula ekotera tarya re
(The poet Narsi will like to see such a person by whose virtue, the entire family gets salvation)
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