010. Leave This Chanting. Rabindranath Tagore Poem. Appreciation by P S Remesh Chandran
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum
God was the most beautiful creation of mankind, created in man’s exact likeness, one playful, lovely and comely. So why not love him ardently and affectionately and respect him beyond everything as the creator who decided to stay? Tagore’s poem Leave This Chanting has universal appeal, the appreciation of which is presented here by P.S.Remesh Chandran, Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
A house in Bengal where Veena, Thabala and Mridangam resounded day and night.
Rabindranath Tagore was an educationalist, poet and social reformer of India. He wrote hundreds of poems, plays, novels and short stories in English which enjoy universal appeal and esteem. He was a noted painter also. In a house where Thabala, Veena and Mridangam resounded day and night, it is no wonder music and rhythm found their way into his heart. Only the immovable in Tagore House did not sing, dance or write. Santhinikethan was a model educational institution founded by him where all Fine Arts faculties enjoyed privileges. Educated in England and in India, he himself was an educational visionary of exceptional dreams. His multitude of poems and songs written in the Bengali language brought renaissance to Bengal. He himself tuned his songs and never translated these songs to English, a very unfortunate affair.
A poem that exposed the pseudo-zeal of worshippers everywhere.
Politics also seemed to fit him well. Along with Mahathma Gandhi, he served as a leading light and source of inspiration for the Independence Movement of India. His famous poetical collection Geethanjali was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. His poem Where The Mind Is Without Fear is world famous in which he mixed fact and fancy, reality and dream and politics and poetry. Without telling it directly and plainly, he skillfully portrayed in this poem the position into which British Rule pushed India with a heritage far longer than the British. This poem Leave This Chanting is equally important in World Literature due to his exposing the pseudo-zeal of worshippers everywhere. Just as ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear’ contains his vision of a Free India, ‘Leave This Chanting’ contains his vision of Uncontaminated Worship.
God has gone out to Tillers, Stone-Breakers and Path Makers to stay with them.
Leave This Chanting is an advice to worshippers everywhere to seek God outside temples, among the labourers. The worshippers sing Manthras and count their Rudraksha Beads inside the shut, dark, lone corners of their temples, but when they open their eyes their God is nowhere to be seen in the temples. They are blind to think that God would be pleased to stay inside shut temples. How can God rest in such suffocating places? Tagore was not new to sights of Jungle Shrines in Bengal where anyone could light a lamp and pray to the deity. When at night a desperate human being seeks solace in the door steps of a temple or church, they are closed and locked preventing entry to him. So God has gone out to stay with the tillers, stone-breakers and path makers who do the heaviest and the dirtiest of works, opting to stay with them in the heavy heat of the Sun and the chilling cold of the down pouring Rain, without minding his clothes being covered with dust. Those who seek God should put off their holy mantles, wear workers’ uniform and come down to the dusty soil to be steeped in their own sweat and tears.
Release is after as many births and deaths as there are leaves in the huge Banyan Tree.
Where and when will blind deity worshippers ever listen to good advice? They answer that they are after Deliverance, i.e. Mukthi or Moksha, which means release from the clutches of life. There is a story of a saint travelling to see God. On his way he came across a group of meditating saints who asked him to enquire with God when they would each be given their final release. He came back with the good news that the first saint would be given release after his second birth. This saint started wailing about the misfortune of the tediousness and boredom of passing through yet another life. His wailing was to last till the end of his second life, so is told. Reply to the second saint was that he had to pass through as many births and deaths before his Release as there were leaves on the huge Banyan Tree standing above him. The instant he heard this good news he began to shout and laugh out of beaming happiness that it had been made sure he would be given Deliverance some day, though in a far distant future, perhaps Aeons after. The amused and kindly God could not help himself from appearing there and offering this contended saint Deliverance then and there.
He will not leave any day: He has come to stay with the world.
Deliverance is for those who love this world and the life here. Mukthi or Release is not the leaving of this world; it is not detachment but divine attachment. God created this world and decided to stay with this world forever. How beautiful, ardent, tender and comely such a God would be! Mankind would feel he is one among them. He has joyfully taken upon him the responsibility of preserving and caring for his creations. Even God does not seek Moksha. He has come to stay with us till the end of the days, and he likes being bonded to this world. Many of his worshippers are living in a virtual world of incense, meditation and flowers which displeases him much. He wishes them to come out of this world of illusion, to stand by him in Sun and Shower. There is no harm in their robes becoming tattered and stained like God’s because they are nearing their God anyway. Those who seek God should be prepared to meet him and stand by him in toil and in the sweat of their brow.
Jungle shrines are common in almost all states of India where anyone can light a lamp at any time of the day or night. In Kerala in the Trivandrum-Scencottah route, turning right at Vencollah we will reach the Saasthaam Nada Marsh where there is one such shrine. It is situated in the middle of dense forests but close to inner-going forest road and is devoted to Saastha or Ayyappan, the son and manifestation of Lord Vishnu, himself a forest and mountain dweller headquartered in Sabarimala. Lorries will stop there on their way to take in bamboo and reed loads, to pray for their safety during the precarious hill tract climbs and descends. They will dumb many oil bottles, cloth, incense sticks and match boxes nearby under rocks to protect them from rain and flash floods, so that the materials are available to anyone handy and free any time. I myself was a frequenter of this jungle spot inhabited by aborigines and have liberally made use of these materials. After bathing in the fresh and cold stream and reposing for a while lying on the shaded rocks or foliages I would light a lamp. Once we light the lamp in this cool sequestered wilderness, we will feel the sublimity and pleasure of God embracing us from our back. This spot had the stone statue of a baby elephant. One day a lone real elephant, one among a herd who usually passed that way, gave the baby elephant a blow with its trumpet and broke the statute’s trumpet. It did not like the way the baby stone elephant’s trumpet looked.
Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
English Songs, Indian Poets, Leave This Chanting, Literature And Language, P S Remesh Chandran, Poetry, Poets, Rabindranath Tagore, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum
I love reading into the musings of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali.
There is always an unknown and revealing space in the inner sanctum of a poet with such a meditative composition of a divine song.
Ah yes, Gitanjali is one of my favorites by Tagore. You may have heard of Parameshwaraji, a famous person in Kerala. I used to visit his and share long discussions when he was admitted as a patient in Amma’s hospital in Cochin(where I do seva). He read my poems and then gifted me with Gitanjali. My favorite quote from tagore (may not be exact–from memory)
“I slept and dreamt that life is joy.
I awoke and saw that it was service;
I acted, and behold! service was joy.”
Tagore did not translate many of his beautiful Bengali Songs into English. His Udbodhan was translated into English by Mr. Rabindranath Chowdhury which has now been recast in the true poetic form, making it an exquisite piece of poetry that can be sung tunefully. The link to this recast poem is http://sahyadribooks-remesh.blogspot.com/2010/09/awakening-poem-from-bengal-recast-by.html
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Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan: The Intelligent Picture Book. Born and brought up in the beautiful village of Nanniyode in Trivandrum District in the Sahya Mountain Valley in Kerala. Unmarried and single. Edits Bloom Books Channel, world’s foremost producers of musical English Recitation Videos.