It lifts your spirits and transports you to the ocean of divine bliss.
The deftly wielded pen of the renowned saint-playwright, Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath, brings souls from the earthly and the divine plane together As you read, an inner revolution starts on its own.
Here is a moving account of lives of Nivruttinath, Jnaneshwar Naamdev, Jana, Gora Kumbhar and Chokhamela, all much-adored saints and prime movers of the Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra. Some are outcasts from the Brahminical fold and some risen from the class of menials. There is Gorakhanath, Adinath and other divinities discussing concerns for spiritual uplitment. It is a miraculous circle of devotees!
Here is a play titled Jai Jai Ram Krishna Han’. The playwright is the renowned saint of Bengal, Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath. This play was originally written in Bengali. Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda) has tendered an English translation of the play.
Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath (1892—1982) is widely regarded as the Naam kvatara. He attained a vision of Lord Shiva at the tender age of six. He was Sanskrit scholar and studied the Vedas, Upanishads and others Shastras first-hand. He knew that the average devotee would be unable to grapple ‘with the abstruse ideas in these esoteric texts. Out of compassion, He gave the distilled essence of these Shastras in His writings. His writings reveal much more than scholarship a depth of subtle experience that is exceptional. In the times to come, His writings will be recognized as classic spiritual treatises.
Sri sitararndas Omkarnath wrote several plays in His lifetime. Among them arc ‘Shiva Vivaha’, ‘Ashrubadal’, Tapas Habib’ and ‘Guru Puja. In India, I there is a tradition of using the media of the literary crafts and the performing arts to convey a spiritual message in a palatable form. The Ramleela, Raasleela and Krishnaleela are a form of folk drama of North India depicting various Portions of the lives of the Vishnu-avatars Ram and Krishna. The Jatra, a popular form of Folk theatre, with a distinctive Vaishnavite preaching spread I like wild fire through Bengal with the spread of Vaishnavism. The venue of these theatrical renditions of religious stories was usually the temple yards, public festivals and courtyards. They are usually five act plays like this one. The older classical Sanskrit plays by Bhavabhuti, Bhasa and the great Kalidasa often had religious themes. ‘Jai Jai Ram Krishna Han’ written by Sitaram Baba belongs to this particular genre of plays.
Thematically speaking, we find the predominance of the Bhakti Movement of Maharashtra in this play. Various events unfold around the bhakti saint- poets giving a storyline that creates human interest both for those familiar and unfamiliar with them. The main characters of the play are Naamdeva, Janabai, Jnaneshwara and his siblings (Nivruttinatha, Sopana and Muktabai), Chokhamela and Gora Kumhar. These are real-life characters that played a role in a religious renaissance from the thirteenth century onwards, in Maharashtra. In every sense, these personas are comparable with Kabir, Tulsidas and Guru Gobind Singh. Sri Omkarnath, the revered saint of Bengal, reveres these saints of the Bhakti Movement, as can be amply seen!
At the time in which this play is set, the caste institution was deeply entrenched in the society. Members of the lower caste were denied entry into temples and forbidden the study of the Shastras. The rule of the Mughals created a new sort of consciousness among the common folk. On the one hand there was a craving for more egalitarianism. On the other, there was a subconsciously felt need for greater social cohesiveness, so as to present a more united front to the alien rulers. The Bhakti Movement served both the purposes though it had no conscious political slant. It was basically a religious movement that expressed the aspirations of the common folk.
The popular deity of the bhaktas (devotees) in Maharashtra was, and is even today, Vitthal Dev. His consort is Rukmini or Rakhumabai as in the colloquial language. The devotees of Vitthal Dev are known as Vitthalas. The mode of worship is the collective singing of Naam and the devotional songs Written by the saint-poets. Even today in the 21st century, devotees gather at Dehu and Alandi for this collective worship. This path of worship is known as the varkari panth. The devotional song own as abbanga is extremely popular in Maharashtra. Generations of vastly talented singers, musicians and music composers have made contributions in the rendering and recording of these songs. The abhanga expresses Divine love without any artifice. Couched in rhythmic metre and simple colloquial language, it makes its way straight into the heart of the listener. Jai Jai Ram Krishna Han overflows with strains of such devotional lyrics.
The Bhakti saint-poets were steeped in, and recommended the practice of the utterance of Naam (name of God). This practice was recommended for all regardless of caste and creed. No rules were needed to be observed for the practice of Naam. Thus the saint-poets democratized religion.
JaiJai Ram Krishna Han is a sublime offering! Some Flourishes of the pen of Sri Omkarnath and we are transported into the pristine environs of rural Maharashtra, far away from the madding crowd! As we read on, we are metaphorically speaking, refreshed with the whiff of the aromatic soil of Maharashtra. The saints in this drama enjoy divine company and effortlessly so! Vishnu as Vitthal sports with these saints, both within and without the famed Vishnu temple at Pandharpur. Vitthal performs many miracles and serves the saints. The Bhakta or devotee, through emotional attunement succeeds in removing every barrier between his lower self and his higher Self i.e. God. Thus miracles become an everyday possibility for one who is steeped in Bhakti Yoga. Such is the message that clearly comes across.
When I was writing this preface, I was also reading a copy of Bhagawat Mahapurana which Raj Supe (kinnkar Vishwashreyananda) had sent me. I was delighted to find a thread of continuity in the Mahapurana and this play when the personas of Bhakti, Jnana and Vaitagya intermingle with the earthly characters of Jai Jai Ram Krishna Han. ‘The one who reads Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari may be sufficiently intrigued and persuaded to read Bhagawat Mahapurana. Also the one who has read the Bhagawat Mahapurana maybe induced to read the play Jai Jai Ram Krishna Han.
It is however a known fact, that Sri Omkarnath in His infinite fatherly compassion had made it a habit to use his infinite fatherly compositions as a vehicle convey the message of the shashtras or scriptures. In this play we once agun receive proof of his compassion.
As we read the play with uplifted spirits, the playwright launches us into Siddhalok, where Adinath and Gorakhnath (of the Navnathas) talk about it merits or spiritual practices!
The most potent of practices, such as meditation on Omkar and meditation on the inner sound current (Naad) are prescribed these days somewhat blithely to one and all. Sri Omkarnath was in His lifetime seriously concerned about the consequences of doing such practices without being adequately qualified. He also said that these practices would be impossible, tacos, or even harmful. The practice of Naam Japa on the other a, was to be highly recommended. No rules proscribed the practice of Naam. As with the characters in this play, any person of any community, caste or creed could resort to Naam Japa and attain to the highest. One would become qualified for the higher practices as the Japa on Naam cleared ill the karmic debts one had accumulated life after life. A simple practice of meditation on the name of a favourite deity itself could take one to the highest levels of attainment, all the way to Advaita! The events portrayed in his play as unfolding in the lives of the saints of the Bhakti Movement succeed in driving home such important truths.
It may be appropriate to reflect on the title of the play, ‘Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari. We observe that in the play, given the nature of the majority of characters, miracles abound. ‘Jai Jai Ram Krishna Han’ is the chant that echoes as these miracles transpire. Like the haloed Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare and Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari occupies a place on the centre stage of the most haunting devotional chants.
As is the case with all works of great merit it is impossible to say whether this play has greater literary aesthetic or spiritual value one may prefer to receive in silence the grace that our Guru always gives in abundance we accept this gift of the play jai jai Ram Krishna Hari from Sri Omkarnath with heads bowed in utter gratitude.