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As a young boy I would visit Gurudev Siddha Peeth with my mother and sister. I remember how, on so many occasions, I would arrive at the Ashram in the morning, and Gurumayi Chidvilasananda would be giving darshan in the courtyard. Her seat was just outside one of the walls of Baba Muktananda’s Samadhi Shrine.
The custom in India is that whatever your talent and ability is, you offer that to the Guru in appreciation for receiving the Guru’s blessings and teachings. Those who had musical aptitude would therefore offer to sing and play their instruments during darshan. There was an area in Guru Chowk designated specifically for them to make their musical offerings; it was near the murti of Bhagavan Nityananda, where he stands amidst the white jamun tree, the mango tree, and the ratarani vine—the night-blooming jasmine.
Often during darshan, these musicians would sing the songs of poet-saints to musical accompaniment. As soon as I put my foot inside the Ashram gate, I would hear the sweet strains of the melodies traveling through the air; I would be engulfed by the particles of dulcet sound. I felt so much joy. Just stepping into the Ashram put a spring in my step; and when I heard these sounds, I practically bounded toward Guru Chowk, where Gurumayi was giving darshan. My heart was filled with ecstasy.
By age six I had begun learning the tabla, and since I grew up listening to the Siddha Yoga namasankirtanas and svadhyaya, I had naturally imbibed much of the basic Siddha Yoga music repertoire. However, my experiences in Gurudev Siddha Peeth as a nine-, ten-, twelve-, fifteen-year-old were incredibly formative. I began offering music seva in the Ashram, playing tabla during the chanting saptahs that would take place on Siddha Yoga holidays. The afternoon and late-night shifts gave the young musicians a good opportunity to practice—there were fewer people there! We could play with abandon and not have to worry about hitting the wrong notes on the harmonium or running out of steam on the drums. Truly speaking, we had a field day, since no adults would come up to us telling us what to do or not to do.
In 2000 and 2001, when Gurumayi visited Gurudev Siddha Peeth, I was twenty-five years old. Many of us who were in the Ashram decided to perform a “welcome” song for Gurumayi upon her arrival. I stepped in as the conductor of this performance—and I found, as I was conducting, that I had a natural aptitude for it!
It was also in the year 2000, just before her Teachings Visit to Gurudev Siddha Peeth, that Gurumayi initiated the first Premotsava Music Retreat in Shree Muktananda Ashram. The retreat prepared Siddha Yoga musicians to become custodians of Siddha Yoga music by learning and practicing the Siddha Yoga music principles. The directors of this retreat had also traveled to Gurudev Siddha Peeth to support the Teachings Visit, and when they saw me conducting the welcome song, they invited me to participate in a subsequent Premotsava Music Retreat and receive training from expert conductors. In this way, I too could become a Siddha Yoga music conductor.
It is therefore an honor for me to speak to you about one of the abhangas that I have had the great joy of listening to, playing, and conducting as a Siddha Yoga musician: “Je Je Ghadela Te Te Ghado.”
When I listen to and reflect on the words of this abhanga by the poet-saint Namdev Maharaj, what I immediately think is that this is a song of surrender—a song of joyous surrender. As a Maharashtrian, I find that it is a perfect song for Gudhi Padva, for our new year. Gudhi Padva is a time to look ahead, to renew and recommit to our intentions in light of all that the coming months will bring. Namdev Maharaj teaches that whatever happens, happens—and if we remain in touch with the heart, with the strength and conviction of the Self, then we can remain steady and, yes, even joyous in the face of whatever we encounter.
As with all abhangas, Namdev Maharaj wrote it in the common vernacular. He was born in the village of Narsi, Maharashtra, and so the language he wrote in was Marathi. Although “Je Je Ghadela Te Te Ghado” has only three verses and is written in simple Marathi, let me tell you: in these three verses, Namdev Maharaj gives everything that a seeker is looking for; he helps you understand what is truly important in life, and from where you get true sustenance. Namdev teaches that we find this sustenance in our firm belief in God, in our unwavering trust in God, and by chanting God’s name.
In the summer of 2000, at Gurumayi’s request, Denise Thomas directed Golden Tales about the lives of the great poet-saints of India. The children who were visiting Shree Muktananda Ashram with their parents and guardians were the actors, narrators, singers, and dancers in these plays. At the conclusion of each Golden Tale, Gurumayi would sing a bhajan, abhanga, or qavvali with the music ensemble, which consisted of many of the children. The bhajan, abhanga, or qavvali would often be one written by the poet-saint whose life had just been enacted on stage.
“Je Je Ghadela Te Te Ghado” was sung after the Golden Tale about the life of Namdev Maharaj. Gurumayi created the arrangement for this composition, and it is based on traditional melodies of this abhanga. This recording, along with the other songs that Gurumayi sang with young people after each Golden Tale, is available on the CD Sounds of the Heart in the Siddha Yoga Bookstore.
I remember that on the last three nights of Gurumayi’s Teachings Visit to Gurudev Siddha Peeth in 2000 and 2001, she asked that everyone sing the bhajans and abhangas from the Golden Tales. I had the great good fortune to serve as the conductor for these kirtans. Anyone who has been to Gurudev Siddha Peeth knows the magic of the night sky in Guru Chowk. And those nights at the conclusion of Gurumayi’s Teachings Visit felt especially magical.
It was the first time in Gurudev Siddha Peeth that everyone in the hall was singing bhajans and abhangas, rather than one musician or a small group. There were about twenty-five people in the music ensemble—both musicians from India and those who had traveled to India to offer seva supporting Gurumayi’s Teachings Visit. On top of that, most of the people attending knew the bhajans and abhangas, so they sang along too. It was as though everyone became part of a big choir of Indian devotional music.
For those three days, everything and everyone was focused on what would happen in the evening. People couldn’t wait for satsang. It’s all they would talk about during the day. They’d sing the bhajans and abhangas as they offered seva. They’d smile from ear to ear just anticipating what was to come. It was like the raslila—all the gopis waiting for Lord Krishna’s dance.
When the time for satsang neared, people would leave dinner early to get to Guru Chowk. Before we knew it, the courtyard was packed. You could feel everyone’s anticipation in the air—their eagerness to sing with Gurumayi.
And when the bhajans began, I felt as though Gurumayi was imprinting her grace and blessings on every brick, every tile, every wall, every particle of dust, every molecule of water in the Ashram. Everything felt charged with Gurumayi’s grace, with her shakti. The experience was at once electrifying and totally peaceful. We were at once soaring and completely grounded. The atmosphere was filled with ecstatic sound. In the presence of our beloved Gurumayi, the experience of the poet-saints, of Namdev Maharaj, was made manifest.
Today, as you learn more about Gudhi Padva and wish to celebrate Gudhi Padva, I—as a Maharashtrian and a Siddha Yoga musician—encourage you to listen to this abhanga, to appreciate the beauty and profundity of the message inherent in Namdev Maharaj’s words.
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