Monsoons – Eternal Inspiration For India’s Literature!

From the Vedic Age to modern times, every great philosopher, writer and poet in India’s literary history has written about rain and its magical spell over the Indian subcontinent!

By Vimla Patil

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Baby Krishna, The Darling of Millions

It is rare in human history that a whole civilization adores one single child! But this miracle has happened in India – this nation has been in love with the divine Krishna for thousands of years. Perhaps it is because Krishna can be loved as a child, as a romantic lover, as a statesman of great wisdom and finally as the ‘guru’ of the world because of the immortal Bhagvad Geeta! Yet another vignette of Krishna endears him to the nation – his constant association with rain as love, romance, beauty, magic and blessing! The Bhagwat Purana – which narrates the wondrous story of Krishna – tells how this divine child was born in a prison cell on a rain-and-lightning-streaked night and was carried across the raging River Yamuna. It tells how he romanced the women of Gokul and Vrindavan in rain dances and finally, ‘with his beautiful body’ left this earth on a rainy night! No wonder, for Krishna himself has been called Ghanshyam or Meghashyam – meaning the dark cloud of rain! Thus, all literature about Krishna celebrates the Monsoons with great abandon. Even the Bhagvad Geeta venerates the Monsoons saying: “The whole world finds its source in food, which is created by Parjanya (rain) which gives blessings and abundance.” (Chapter 3 verse 14)

The Rigveda

The much earlier Rigveda too, devotes hymns to the Monsoon as the “Prana” or the life-force of India: “Sing these songs as your welcome to the mighty Monsoon, in adoration and praise of Parjanya, which lays the seed for germination” it says. The Parjanya Sukta says: “Then the winds blow. Then the lightning falls. Then the flora sprouts and grows. Then the space overflows. The land prepares for the welfare of all. When Parjanya the Rain God protects the earth by waters! Food springs abundant for all living creatures when Parjanya quickens the earth with moisture!” 

Kalidas Wrote Meghdoot, an Epic Poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The omnipresence of rain continued in Indian literature through the centuries. Kalidas (6th century CE), the greatest Sanskrit poet ever, wrote his fabulous Meghdoot, describing the woes of a lover separated from his beloved and his request to the ‘cloud messenger’ to carry his love message. Jayadeva’s (12th century) Geet Govind took the poetic presence of rain in literature to magical heights when he described the rendezvous of Radha and Krishna on rainy nights under a cover. His ashtanayikas – or eight romantic heroines – walked in storms and rain, through jungles infested with snakes to meet their beloved Krishna in flower-bowers. Both these magnum-opus poems were sung to different ragas or musical phrases which became special to the Monsoon.

Tansen, the Master Musician

 Later, when the huge mingling of Sufism and the Bhakti Movement covered India, Akbar’s court spawned the poetry of Swami Haridas, Surdas, Ramdas and Tansen, again writing songs of Krishna and rain. Surdas’s famous song ‘Nisdin Barasata Nain Hamare, Sada Rahat Pavas Ritu Hampar, Jab se Shyam Sidhare (My eyes have not stopped raining…For me, it is Monsoon forever since Krishna left me) is the cry of this blind poet. Tansen too, it is said, brought rain by singing ‘Barso Re Kale Badarava’. Later, Mohomed Shah Rangeela (1719 -1748)  patronized two poet/musicians – Sadarang and Adrang – who composed thousands of (bandishes) songs in praise of Krishna and rain in ragas like Megh, Malhar, Mian Ki Malhar, Sur Malhar and others. The literary movement spread to peninsular India with Dnyaneshwar and other poets of the Varkari Panth writing beautiful songs on Krishna and rain. The Guru Granth Sahib also praised Krishna as the absolute truth from whom all elements come. It contains a beautiful painting of Krishna blowing the conch to invite the Monsoons. Tulsidas wrote in his famous Ram Charit Manas “Ghana Ghamand Nabha Barsat Ghora, Piyabin Tarsat Man Mora” to allude to the allegory that just as all rain water falling from the skies flows to merge with the ocean, all living beings flow finally into the shining pool of divinity. Meerabai, Kabir, Surdas, his father Ramdas, Tulsidas – and many other poets and saints of the Middle Ages wrote songs about the Monsoon and its magical rhapsody whenever they wanted to express their longing for the divine soul.

Rabindra Nath Tagore

Poets and writers of various eras of literary history and languages have written about the Monsoons with a rare passion. Rabindranath Tagore, one of the greatest poets of India, writes, “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” Modern Hindi poet Rajiv Krishna Saxena’s Rim Jhim baras raha hai paani heartily welcomes rain. Sarveshwer Dayal in Megh Aaye Bade Ban Than Ke Sanwar Ke compares the approaching clouds to a fancy visitor returning from city to village after a year. The internationally-famous poet Harivanshrai Bachchan writes: Indradhanu par shish dharkar; Badlon ki sej sukhkar; So chuka hoon nind bhar mai; Chanchala ko bahon me bharkar…“With my head resting on the rainbow, I have slept on the soothing bed of clouds, holding a fickle-minded woman in my arms!”

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Did you know?

 

Krishna on a Bike with his ‘Parents’

 Folk literature was not far behind. Throughout history, every community, every village in India created its own cache of literature and poetry in the local language, and this too was full of rain songs. Families of all religions dress their children as Krishna and see in him the fulfillment the promise of plenty and the every auspicious event. Today, there are special prayers to the rain god in every language in India. Children’s text books too feature songs like ‘ye re ye re pavsa, tula deto paisa’ (Come down rain, I will give you a coin!)!

 

Krishna blowing conch to invite rains

 

 

The people of India look to the Monsoons not only as the harbinger of love, beauty and romance, but also plentitude and prosperity!

 

 

“Monsoons are unique to India,”

 

 

 

Dr. Gautama Vajracharya, Professor of Indian Art and Sanskrit at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, says “It is the only country in the world which has the mighty barrier of the Himalayas to block the passage of rain-bearing clouds that bring a magical rain-dance to India in a specific season every year. India is endowed with the largest water-bearing cloud system in the world. It is estimated to be the size of the entire continent of Europe! It feeds innumerable rivers and their huge network of tributaries to fertilize the subcontinent. This is why the Monsoon is the Prana or life force of India.

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    2 Comments

    1. Nobin Pradhan says:

      Vimlatai, such a splendid article.Next time, if it rains in Pune,I will recall the verses of Dr.Harivanshrai Bachhan,Gurudev Tagore and Saveshwar Dayal.Ther cant be any better way than this to praise the monsoons.More and people ought to read your blogs to appreciate such simple and good things of life.Believe me.

    2. Vimla Patil says:

      Dear Nobinji, India is full of miracles – small and huge. We only need eyes and an open heart to receive its magic. Next time it rain,s also remember the Jayadeva’s Nayika in Geet Goving. She travels wild animal and snake infested jungles on rainy nights to meet the beloved of the universe – Krishna.

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