Friday, October 19, 2018

Narsinh Mehta and Vadnagar

Narsinh Mehta and Vadnagar 

After 25 years, we were visiting the house of Narsinh Mehta at Sukhnath Chowk of Junagadh where he had spent 67 years of his life. Instead of preserving his old house in original shape, size and appearance, the administration has dismantled it and is now making a new house and a exhibition hall in small campus of approximately 800 metre. It is located near the Majevadi gate, surrounded by Muslim basti and a newly built Medical College and General Hospital nearby. 

The Brahmin girl was explaining the life of Narsinh Mehta and identified him as Nagar. But the man at the reception clarified that he was a Brahmin of Talaja (Bhavnagar) but later became Nagar after the marriage with a Nagar girl of Junagadh. 

What does it matter whether he was a Brahmin or a Nagar? I intervened. Brahmins and Nagars are different castes. Nagars are superior to Brahmin the man at the reception was arguing. The Brahmins performs karmakands and eat from the money and goods received even from the rituals of deaths. Nagars don’t do that. Sweet in their tongue Nagars are capable of doing all Panchat (polity) on any subject. He made the argument lighter. 

Great worshiper of Lord Krishna, first Gujarati poet Narsinh Mehta is known to the present world through the song Vaishanav jan to tene kahiye..that was lived by Gandhiji. Narsinh Mehta’s ancestors were from Vadnagar of Mehsana District from where the present PM belongs. 

Bhanaji Pandya a Brahmin from Vadnagar moved to Talaja Bhavnagar in 1304. He had performed Putreshthi Yagya for Vallabhipur King Nagarjuna in 1360. Luckily the king got a son and therefore, he granted three villages to Gadadhar the son of Bhanaji Pandya and also appointed him as the Karbhari, and Gadadhar Pandya became Gadadhar Mehta. Narsinhdas Mehta was his great grandson born in 1408 in Talaja but when he was 12 years old, he moved to Junagadh with his uncle Parvatdas. Narsinhdas then married to a Nagar girl Manekbai of Majevadi village of Junagadh. He stayed in Junagadh for 67 years and died in 1488 at the age of 79 years. A great Krishna Bhakta Saint and, believer of the equality of humans, and his Prabhatiya (morning bhakti songs) became the pathway of millions of Gujaratis for last 5 centuries. 

From Narsinhdas Mehta, India got Mohandas Gandhi, the father of the Nation. Mohandas simply practiced his teachings of Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye.. song for his entire life, became Mahatma and gave us freedom from Britishers with the weapons of truth and nonviolence. 

There is connection of Mohandas with Junagadh and North Gujarat life Narsinh Mehta. Mohandas’s family was Modh Vanik, belonged to Modhera village of Mehsana District. The family moved to Saurastra and his ancestors were working as Divan of the princely States in Saurastra. His father Karamchand Gandhi was the Divan of Porbandar. His mother Putalibai was from a Pranami family of Junagadh. Putalibai was the fourth wife of Karamchand. In want of Son, he married four wives. The last Putalibai gave him four sons and a daughter. Influenced by Narsinhdas and Pranami during childhood in Junagadh, Mohanchand became Mohandas. He was also a believer of equality of humans and like Narsinhdas Mehta advocated for removal of untouchability from the society. Like Narsinh Mehta, Gandhiji also lived for 78-79 years.

There is a big lake in Vadnagar named Sharmishta. Who was Sharmishta? I asked the people present during my visit to Vadnagar. But none was able to answered. I got the answer from Junagadh after reading the pedhinamu of Narsinhdas Mehta. His life was a tragedy. His only son Shamaldas died on the first night of his marriage. His only daughter Kunvarbai was married to Vatsraj, the son of Shrirang Oza of Una (Junagadh). There is a famous miraculous legend of Lord Krishna giving Mameru of Kunavarbai on behalf of Narsinh Mehta. Kunvarbai had only one daughter Sharmishta, who was married to Ghanshyam of Vadnagar and their daughters were Savitri (Tana) and Sandhya (Riri) married to Lokesh and Mahesh respectively, the sons of Vadnagar’s Mandaleshvar Nilkanthray. Both the sister died jumping into the well when they were called to perform music in the court of Muslim Emperor Akbar. When Tansen was burning in the fire of Raga Deepak and roamed around India, the two girls of Vadnagar cooled down the fire by singing Raga Malhar. When they were called to perform in the court of Emperor Akbar, the preferred to commit suicide drowning in a well. Tansen then created a new Raga in their memories, named TanaRiri. 

The lake of Vadnagar is named Sharmishta after the mother of the great sisters Tana Riri, Savitri Sandhya.

Great souls of their time. Our salutes.

Punamchand
19 October 2018

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