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Parmanand and his 'Krishna Leela'

"Contentment leads to perennial joy"

by Moti Lal Khar

Moti Lal KharThe cultural life of Kashmir has had the impress of great mystics. Often we witness a happy blending of poetry and mysticism in it. Among these mystics a prominent place goes to Parmanand, the great saint-poet of southern Kashmir.

Pandit Nand Ram, Parmanand being his penname, was born in 1791 A.D. in Seer Village near Mattan (Martand), one of the famous holy places of India. Both his father, Krishna Pandit, and his mother, Saraswati Devi, were of religious bent of mind. Child Nand Ram got his education in Persian, the court language of Kashmir those days, in his own village. He also learned Sanskrit from Sadhus who used to visit and stay at Martand temple. Nand Ram was a precocious child and his teachers and schoolmates were greatly impressed by his sincere devotion and inborn knowledge about spiritual matters. He attained mastery over Persian and wrote verses in that language under the pen-name "Gareeb''.

Early Life

Parmanand

Picture Courtesy: Anjali Kaul, Austin

After his schooling, Parmanand was married to Mal Ded, a girl from his own village. She was an ill-tempered lady, yet the tolerant nature of the saint took it in its stride. His father was a Patwari in Mattan village and after his death Nand Ram was offered his father's post. A Patwari was looked down upon by people in those days. Parmanand had no aptitude for this post, but compelled by circumstances he had to accept it in order to sustain himself and his family.

Meditation

Parmanand was greatly influenced by the scenic beauty of his village and its surroundings. He would be found sitting under a tree absorbed in deep meditation. He would compose verses in Kashmiri there and then. Unlike other Patwaris of his time he never accepted bribes. On the contrary, he would at times pay land revenue from his own pocket on behalf of poor peasants. Being bold and frank, Parmanand made sarcastic remarks in his verses about the then despotic rule even at great risk. He was put to severe hardship by his officers to whom he would never bow or flatter. But by God's grace he escaped dismissal or incarceration. Like Guru Nanak Dev, Parmanand spent all he had to feed Sadhus to the great distress and chagrin of his wife. Parmanand's poor wife often rebuked him for not caring for his family.

Seeing this non-attachment to the things of the world even at a young age, people living in the locality came to realise that Parmanand was born to fulfill a definite purpose and held him in high esteem. After he left his job, devotees would arrange for the maintenance of his family. Especially his Muslim neighbour, Salah Ganai, the headman of the village, stood by him through thick and thin, knowing the worth and merit of Parmanand.

The devotional songs of Parmanand are on the lips of all Kashmiris. His poetic collections are available in both Devanagri and Persian scripts. Master Zinda Kaul, the famous poet of Kashmir, who edited the poetic collections of Parmanand was very much influenced by his poetry. Pandit Narayan Kaul, and his beloved disciple-poet, Pandit Laxman Bhat of village Nagam, also have edited some of his collections. Parmanand was an eloquent and a gifted poet endowed with a forceful style. His devotional songs and hymns in praise of Lord Krishna are to this day on the lips of every Kashmiri. His Sudhama Charactar is regarded as one of its best Kashmiri renderings. His spiritual hymns and Leelas are recited in temples and on marriage ceremonies or on festivals such as Janamashtami or Shivratri. His style is direct and effective.

Philosophy

Parmanand's philosophy is best depicted in Karam Bhoomika where he says that the highest good is only attainable when the self is subdued and that perennial joy is the reward obtained by the mastery of one's own self. To overcome one's own self, according to him, is to wage the toughest war in the battlefield of life and to subdue one's own self is the noblest of all victories.

Religion for Paramanand was not mere ritual and formal worship but something far more fundamental and a matter deeply connected with the soul. In the poem, Amarnath Yatra, he describes the different paths and stages an aspirant has to pass in spiritual Sadhna or practice. Most of his poems are allegorical. His poem, Radha Suamber, is his masterpiece and is regarded as one of the most precious contributions to devotional literature. To read Parmanand or listen to his Leelas is to live through a religious experience which gives Param- Anand: eternal bliss.

Fascinating

Parmanand's poetry testifies to a fascinating kinship between mystics all over India. His writings provide convincing proof of the universality of the concept that Truth is one, though sages call it by different names. In his famous poem, Shiv-Lugan, Parmanand propounds the unity of the One and the many. The infinite and the finite are absolutely identical, according to him. In another poem, The Scenes of the Tree and its Shade, he says that God is attained by merging the finite with the infinite. He asserts that by getting freedom from our wordly fetters we can attain salvation.

Parmanand was loved and adored by Hindus and Muslims alike. Salah Ganai gave him succor in his old age, when Parmanand's kith and kin had died before him, leaving him all alone. He had no son or daughter of his own. At about 90, this great mystic poet died in 1879 A.D. Pandit Laxman Bhat wrote his death date in his elegy in which he lamented, "The singing nightingale of the garden became silent making the garden desolate".

Source: Koshur Samachar

 

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