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Bhagat Jaidev Ji

Bhagat Jaidev Ji, bhagat and poet, two of whose hymns are incorporated in the Guru Granth Sãhib, is chiefly known to the literary world as the author of the Gita Govinda, a lyrical poem in which the love of Rãdhã (soul or devotee) for Govinda (the Supreme Being) is described symbolically and mystically.

Jaidev, his childhood name was Pardharmrik, was born at Kindu Bilvã which, according to some, is now Kenduli, about twenty miles from Suri, in Birbhüm district of West Bengal, on the river Ajay and, according to others, Kendüli-Sasan, on Prachi river, near jagannath Puri in Orissã, India. At the end of his poem, he has given his father's name as Bhojadeva and mother's as Rãdhãdevl, deciphered also as Ramãdevi, or Vãmadevi (also called Bani Devi by some). Bhagat Jaidev was a Bhagat and Poet and was born in the southern part of Bengal.

He is said to have flourished in the reign of Raja Karnarnav (AD 1142-56) and Rãjã Purushottam Dev (AD 1170-80), both of Orissã. Several legends about him are recorded in the Bhaklamal of Chandradatta. In his youth, he led the life of an ascetic and a wandering preacher. The course changed for him as, while in Puri once, a Brãhmarm forced the hand of his daughter on him. It turned out to be a happy marriage. His wife sang with him the devotional songs which were of his own composition. He spent some years at Katham Kancli, now called Jaidevpur in his memory, where he composed his immortal lyric, the Gita Govinda. From devotee of Lord Krsna he became a devotee of the Supreme Lord. He roamed about the country preaching the gospel of love of God and of man. Rãjã Lakshmian Sen (AD 1175-1200), of Bengal, became his disciple. Jaidev lived long and died in the village where he was born, in happy retirement. There is a samadhi of the bhagat in the village and an annual fair is belch on the first of Magh.

He became the most famous of the five distinguished poets who lived at the court of Lakshman Sen, King of Bengal, who dates from the year 1170. The five poets were called the five jewels of Lalishman Sen's court, and so proud was the King of them that he erected a monument to preserve their names to succeeding ages.

Very little is known of Jaidev's early life. It is certain that from his youth he was a diligent student of Sanskrit literature, and developed rare poetical talents. He is described by the author of the "Bhagat Mal" as an incarnation and treasury of melody on which, however, he owing to his ascetic habits, long preferred to feast his own soul rather than communicate to the world the splendid gifts he possessed. He wandered in several countries, provided with only a water-pot and dressed in the patched coat of a mendicant. Even pens, ink, and paper, generally so indispensable to literary men, were luxuries which he did not allow himself. Such was his determination to love nothing but God, that he would not sleep for two nights in succession under the same tree, lest he should conceive an undue preference for it and forget his Creator.

Besides the Gila Govinda, two other com­positions, the Rasanã Raghava, a drama, and the Chanthalok, an essay on the grace of style, are also ascribed to him.

Jaidev's hymns in the Guru Granth Sãhib, one in Raga Gujari and the other in Rãga Märü, are in adoration of Hari, the Supreme Being. "Duality," he says, "ended for me as I remembered God who is the fountainhead of all virtue. Cherish the Divine Name in your heart. By repeating His praise you will break the circuit of birth and death, and you will dread death no more. Your heart and your word and deed should be imbued with the love of One Hari alone." Bhãi Gurdas in his Vàrañ, X. 10, pays tribute to Jaidev's loving devotion whereby he attained the state when no distinction remains between "the devotee and the infinite."

Jaidev was orphaned early in childhood. He used to express grief at the loss of his parents by composing sad songs, and then by singing them. Narinjan, one of his father's friends, fraudulently usurped the entire family property, this helped trigger Jaidev's tendency toward renunciation and detachment even further. It was in such a mood of detachment that Jaidev devoted himself to the worship of Lord Krishna. His austere nature became so strong and intense that he used to avoid sitting in the shade of a tree for long lest it should attach him to the comfort it provided and become an obstacle in the way of God-realisation.

He had attachment only to God, and he used to sing His eulogies through His compositions. Thus, three volumes of his compositions came into being to be known as 1. Darshan Raghav 2. Geet Govinde 3. Chandia-Lok. Of these, his Geet Govinde has been generally accepted as better in terms of Poetics, music and thought contents. It is accepted amongst his followers that the Lord Akal Purkh himself would take the bodily form of Jagan Nath, so as to listen to his book and hear His eulogies face to face. As a result of his intense devotion towards Krishna, he was able to compose beautiful, mystical poetry. He remained for some time, a court poet and one of the five famous 'jewels' in the court of King Lachhman Sain of Bengal. Jaidev returned tohis native village towards his later years. He was too old and weak to go to the River Ganga to bathe therein. However, floods caused a miracle, perhaps an outburst of a devotess's love for his deity. The Ganga river naturally shifted its course a little and started flowing just by Jaidev's residence. What wonderful example of Nature's love for its devotes!

Once it so happened that Jaidev stopped midway completing a verse, and God himself comleted it in his absence. Impressed further by this miracle, Jaidev dedicated himself more intensely to the worship of Lord Krishna. So he renounced his household and wide (Padmavati) and left for the forest to devote himself fully to the Master. In the forest, he found the word 'Geet Govinde' written on each leaf. This is how the Divine Spirit revealed itself to Jaidev. "Whichever direction I look to, I find only the Lord and nothing else", but his is only one side of the coin, the other is as follows:

According to the 10th stanza of Ver X of Bhai Gurdas, when God Himself completed the verse left incomplete by Jaidev, the latter felt proud that God liked his verse so much that He showed inclination to complete it. No sooner had this ego erupted in his mind, he was surprised to find that the contents of his book 'Geet Govinde' was written on each leaf of the tree. Thus this miracle put an end to his pride. He made a supplication to God Almighty with utter humility and prayed that this lapse on his part be ignored. He had then realised that God is Omniscient, and is capable of doing anything. Man, however great, powerful and famous he may be, is nothing against Him. In fact, whatever a human being is, he is due to God's grace. After this incident, Jaidev's love, reverence and devotion towards God became more intense and immense. Guru Arjan Sahib Ji, in his hymn recorded on Aang 1192 of Siri Guru Granth Sahib, has made an allusion to this and to Jaidev discarding this egoist tendency: Guru ji has said:

ਜੈਦੇਵ ਤਿਆਗਿਓ ਅਹੰਮੇਵ ॥ (1192-10, ਬਸੰਤੁ, ਮਹਲਾ 5)
Jai Dev gave up his egotism.

Guru ji has reffered to many bhagats and holy-men in this hymn and states that different bhagats achieved oneness with the Lord through different means. If Dhanna realised Him through his innocence, Jaidev achieved Him through eradicating ego from his mind. Kabir concentrated on the Divine for long and ultimately became one with Him. Ajarnal, Balmik and prostitute Ganika realised God through constant remembrance of Him, by listening to the Divine Name from a parrot, respectfully. With the help of these instances, the Guru advises the seeker that he should make use of this human birth and remember the Lord. He cautions us against all those adverse effects of ego which Jaidev had fallen prey to.

Bhagat Jaidev of Bengal was a contemporary of Sheikh Farid of Punjab. Two hymns of Jaidev are found recorded in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji under 'Gujri'measure (Aang 526) and Maru measure (Aang 1106). Both these hymns were collected by Guru Nanak when during one of his preaching odysseys (1508-1515), Guru ji visited his village. These hymns were later included in the Scripture by Guru Arjan Sahib.

Jaidev's hymns included in the Gujri measure can be summed up as follows: the true Lord is immanent in all places. He who ever remembers Him is freed from the fear of transmigration, old age, disease and suffering. His heart, his words, his deeds become pious. If a man has to win over the God of Death, it is necessary to seek the protection of the Timeless One. The grace of such a One is eternal and pervasive and is constantly bestowed throughout the preceding 3 eras. The only need is to remove all feelings of discrimination and differentiation which become possible only by remembering Him and singing His praises. Therefore O man, you should give up greed, lust and anger and seek His shelter, only then can you realise Him. Guru Nanak has also reiterated similar views in one of his hymns appearing in Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, at Aang 505.

In the other hymn included in the Maru measure, Jaidev expresses his deep devotion in the Real One. He states that he recites the Divine Name for 16 times only with the passing of one breath. In other words, it implies that he does not waste any moment of his breathing and remain engaged in the remembrance of God who is an epitoe of nobility. Thus, he has overcome all distinctions of mine and thine between God and himself. He feels, that he has merged with God, just as a droplet merges with water. The love of the Divine has satiated all his desires. As such, he realised the Lord and thus broke the circuit of life and death.

Jaidev shares with us a very important event and experience on the way to God-realisation. Through this, he advises and inspires us to make Divine remembrance an integral part of our life so that we are able to achieve the ultimate aim of life.

Although only two of Jaidev's hymns are included in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, many more of his verses exist in his Geet Govinde, Darsan Raghav and Chandra-Lok. People of Bengal, Orissa and Andhra recite these hymns with due devotion and reverence.

Very little is known of Jaidev's early life. It is certain that from his youth he was a diligent student of Sanskrit literature, and developed rare poetical talents. He is described by the author of the "Bhagat Mal" as an incarnation and treasury of melody on which, however, he owing to his ascetic habits, long preferred to feast his own soul rather than communicate to the world the splendid gifts he possessed. He wandered in several countries, provided with only a water-pot and dressed in the patched coat of a mendicant. Even pens, ink, and paper, generally so indispensable to literary men, were luxuries which he did not allow himself. Such was his determination to love nothing but God, that he would not sleep for two nights in succession under the same tree, lest he should conceive an undue preference for it and forget his Creator.

Adult Life

It pleased God, with the object, it is stated of saving the human race, to withdraw Jaidev from his ascetic life. For this purpose, the chronicler relates, God devised the following expedient. An Agnihotri Brahman of Jagannath, to whom a beautiful daughter named Padamavati had been born as the result of many offerings and prayers, brought her up with the object of dedicating her as a dancing girl to the local idol. Her father duly conducted her to the idol and was ordered to take her away and bestow her on the great saint Jaidev. On this, she was taken to him, and he was informed of the divine decision in his favour. Jaidev reasoned with the Brahman, and told him he ought to give his daughter to some more wealthy man, who would be more suitable for her than a homeless ascetic like him.

The Brahman replied that he could not disobey God's order. Jaidev rejoined, ‘God is master and omnipotent. He may have thousands and tens of thousands of wives, but one for me is the same as a hundred thousand' that is, he had no more need or ability to maintain one than he had a hundred thousand. After further discussion, in which the Brahman failed, notwithstanding the exercise of all his powers of persuasion, he left his daughter with Jaidev. Before his departure he told her it was impious to act in opposition to the will of God. She was to remain with Jaidev, and obey him according to the instructions laid down for wives in the Hindu sacred writings.

The tender girl remained with Jaidev and attended on him like his shadow. He is said to have represented to her the futility of living with him:

‘Thou art wise,' he said; ‘endeavour to do something to improve thy position; I have no power to maintain and cherish thee?

She replied, ‘What power hath this poor creature? Thou canst do as thou pleasest I am a sacrifice unto thee and shall never leave thee'.

On this Jaidev believed that God was forcing him into the alliance, and he reconciled himself to the situation. As the first preparation for domestic life he built a hut for his spouse, set up an idol in it, and applied himself to its worship. He then began the composition of the celebrated poem the "Gitgovind". This is believed to have been his second composition, his first being a drama called "Rasana Raghava". A third work attributed to him is "Chandralok", an essay on the graces of style.

The fact appears to be that the mantling fire of Jaidev's genius sought for an outlet that with experience of life a change came over his religious opinions that he resolved no longer to play the hermit, but accept the wife offered him, distinguish himself, and seek for worldly fame and its pleasures. God has been introduced ex machina into the narrative to save Jaidev from the charges of inconsistency and submission to human passion.


The Gitgovind is well known in both hemispheres. It has been translated into English prose and paraphrased in English verse. It is perhaps a solitary instance of a great popular poem composed in a dead language. In the twelfth century of the Christian era Sanskrit was, it was true, used as Latin was at the same time in Europe, but the great age had passed away when Sanskrit was a 1iving language — the only recognized Indian vehicle of men's thoughts and aspirations. The Gitgovind is still not only remembered, but nightly chanted in the Karnatik countries and other parts of India, because it is ostensibly a love song and its strains are sweet and find a responsive echo in the human heart.

During the composition of the Gitgovind Jaidev represented Radhika the heroine as pouting because Krishan the hero had followed other loves. Krishan alters his ways~ and applies himself to the task of appeasing her and apologizing for his conduct. The poet was preparing to make Krishan address his lady love; ‘Adorn my head by putting on it the lotus leaves of thy feet, which are an antidote to the poison of Cupid?' when he reflected that it would be a dishonour to his god if any woman were to put her feet on his heat While thus reflecting the poet ceased to write, and went to bathe, intending subsequently to alter the sentence into more conformity with the relative positions of the hero and heroine, What was Jaidev's surprise when on returning from his bath he found the verse completed exactly as he had subsequently intended! He asked his wife how it had occurred. She told him he had returned himself, and having written the verse gone away again. Upon this Jaidev knew that Krishan himself had written the verse, and thus hallowed the composition. The fame of the event and of the poem spread far and wide, and Jaidev obtained the high renown he had so earnestly sought.

Poem by the King

Satvika, King of Urisa (Orissa) at the time, was also a poet and learned man. He had accidentally selected for a poem the same subject as Jaidev, and he appears to have produced a work of respectable merit, which he directed his Brahmans to copy and circulate. In reply they showed him the composition of Jaidev. They meant by this that the Raja's poem was as nothing in comparison with Jaidev's. As well compare a lamp with the suns The Raja in his pride could not accept the Brahmans' criticism, but caused both poems to be placed in the temple of his capital, and promised to abide by the decision of the idol as to which was superior.

The idol rejected the king's Gitgovind and took to his heart that of Jaidev. Upon this the Raja thinking himself greatly dishonoured was overcome by shame and jealousy, and set out to drown himself. Krishan is said to have taken pity on him He appeared to him and told him it would be a vain and foolish act to put an end to his life. It was very clear that his poetical merit did not equal that of Jaidev, but, to compensate him for his disappointment, Krishan ordered that one of the Raja's verses should be inserted in each of the twelve cantos of Jaidev's poem, and both compositions should thus go forth to the world and down to distant ages. This was accordingly done.

Power of Gitgovind

The estimation in which the Gitgovind was held may be gathered from the following anecdote. A gardener's daughter while one day gathering eggplants was singing with great zest the following verse from the fifth canto of the poem:— The zephyr gently bloweth on the banks of the Yarnuna while Krishan tarrieth in the grove.

On this, it is said, the idol of Jagannath followed her wherever she went, with the object of feasting his heart on the dulcet strains. The idol wore only a thin jacket which was torn by the brambles. ‘When the king went to worship and saw the condition of the idol's dress, he in astonishment asked the priests the cause. When the Raja learned what had occurred, he was perfectly satisfied of the superiority of the product of Jaidev's genius, and issued a proclamation that the Gitgovind should only be read in a clean and purified place, as Jagannath, the lord of the world, himself was in the habit of going to listen to it.

Not only Hindu, but men of all creeds were enchanted with the composition. It is related that a Mughal on hearing of the divine honours paid to the work, used to peruse it with the greatest delight. One day while riding he was singing its verses when he fell into an ecstasy of pleasure, and thought that, though a Moslem, he felt communion with Krishan.

Oriental chroniclers are enthusiastic in their praises of Jaidev. All other poets are compared to petty kings while he is the great chakrawarti or poetical monarch of the world! As the moon can-s not be concealed by the stars, as the eagle cannot be surpassed by any bird in flight, as Indar attracts notice in the midst of the gods, so is jaidev's fame conspicuous in the world4 it may be added that Jaidev himself does not appear to have been insensible of his own merits, At the conclusion of the Gilgovind he writes, ‘Whatever is delightful in the modes of music, whatever is exquisite in the sweet art of love let the happy and wise learn from the sons of Jaidev.

Notwithstanding the lusciousness and sensuous beauty of several parts of the Gitgovind, there can be no doubt that Jaidev intended the poem as an elaborate religious allegory. This, too, is insisted on by the author of the Bhagat Mai, who states that the love scenes and rhetorical graces of the poet are not to be understood in the sense that persons of evil minds and dispositions attach to them. Radhika the heroine is heavenly wisdom. Tue milkmaids who divert Krishna from his allegiance to her, are the senses of smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing Krishan represented as pursuing them is the human soul, which attaches itself to earthly pleasures. The return of Krishan to his first love is the return of the repentant sinner to God, which gives joy in heaven.

The Thugs

After the completion of the poem Jaidev went to travel and visited Bindraban and Jaipur. To the latter place its king had given him a pressing invitation. While on those travels it is related that he met a party of thugs. He knew what they were from their ready offer to accompany him on his journey. Without more ado he pulled out his purse and gave them all the money and valuables he possessed thus reasoning, ‘Wealth is the basis of sin; gluttony produceth disease; and love of the world purchaseth pain, so it is proper to discard all three.

The thugs at once suspected him. They had not been accustomed to obtain men's wealth without a struggle or without at least having made a request for it, and they concluded from Jaidev's readiness to part with his money, that he merely designed to have them arrested on their return to the city. One of them proposed to put him to death, but another said that would be a meaningless act. They only required his wealth, and that they had obtained. It was at last decided that they should cut off his hands and throw him into a narrow and dark well, and this was accordingly done.

Jaidev, it is said, meekly accepted the treatment he had received as a fate predestined for him, and applied himself to divine contemplation and the utterance of God's name. It chanced that Karaunch, the King Of Utkal, passed that way, and hearing that Jaidev was in the well caused him to be extricated. Jaidev was so little revengeful for his injuries he had sustained, that, in reply to the king's inquiries as to the cause of his mutilation, he told him he had been born so.. The king became convinced that Jaidev was a saint, and congratulated himself on his good fortune in meeting such a man.

Honoured by the King

The king had him conveyed to his capital where he was treated with all honour and respect, and a house set apart for him. He was, moreover, provided with food and every article of comfort. The king himself offered to become his servant and, with hands clasped in the Oriental attitude of supplication, begged Jaidev to say what duty he could render him. Jaidev had one request to make, and that was that the king should serve holy men and not him. In happy faith and with open heart the king obeyed and performed menial service for the saints of God who were waiting at his gate. The fact that the king was performing such services was noised abroad and the thugs among others, heard of it.

They assumed the guise of religious men and proceeded to the monarch's gate. This led to an interview with Jaidev. He recognized them, and told the king that they were his brethren and very holy persons. Fortunate was the king in having been favoured with a sight of them and devoutly ought he to serve and minister unto them. The king took them into his palace, and lavished on them every honour that Oriental politeness and hospitality could suggest.

The thugs, however, recognizing Jaidev, were troubled for their safety, and applied for permission to depart. This was finally granted, and Jaidev dismissed them with a large present of money and a convoy of soldiers for their protection. On the way the soldiers fell into conversation with their charge. They remarked that they had never before seen visitors to the king so heartily and kindly treated, and they inquired in what relationship the men they were escorting stood to Jaidev. The thugs replied: ‘What shall we say? It is not a fit thing to tell. The soldiers promised them perfect secrecy.

The thugs then proceeded to exercise their inventive faculties developed by long practice. They said that Jaidev and they had been servants of a king. For some offence Jaidev had been condemned to death, and. they had been appointed his executioners. They merely, however, cut off his hands and thus saved his life. Through gratitude for that favour Jaidev induced the king to pay them such extraordinary attention. It is said that God could no longer endure the fabrication of false charges against His saint. The ground opened beneath the feet of the thugs, and they sank into the pit of hell!

King convinced about Jaidev

The soldiers in amazement returned to Jaidev and told him what had occurred. He began to tremble with pity for the thugs, and made a gesture as if rubbing his hands — the Oriental attitude expressive of grief - whereupon, it is related, new hands sprouted from his body. The soldiers went and informed the king of the two miracles their eyes had beheld. The king proceeded to Jaidev and performed before him the prostration due to saints.

He begged Jaidev to explain how the incidents had occurred. The saint for a long time refused, but, when greatly pressed by the king, gave him a detailed account of all the circumstances. The king's faith in Jaidev had now reached its utmost limit, and he knew that the man before him in the guise of a saint was really a divine incarnation it is the usual custom of saints when they receive evil always to return good, even as bad men return evil for evil, so the king deemed his conclusion warranted by the forgiving conduct of Jaidev.

Jaidev felt a longing for home and told the king of his determination to take his leave. The king put his head on the saint's feet, and represented to him that his country had turned to God and the practice of virtue, since it had been trodden by his holy feet. If the saint were to depart, the kings subjects would turn away from their faith. He therefore implored him to defer his departure. As a further inducement to Jaidev to abide with him, he went himself and brought Padamavati so that the saint's happiness might be complete, and his distant home forgotten. Padamavati was installed in the royal palace, and the queen received stringent orders to perform all menial offices for her.

Dedication of Padamavati

While Padamavati resided at the court the queen's brother died, and his wife was burned with him on the funeral pyre. One day when the queen was boasting of the wonderful devotion of her sister-in-law, Padamavati smiled! When asked the reason she replied ‘To burn oneself alive with one's husband's corpse is far from being the acme of affection. True affection and love require a woman to sacrifice herself directly she even heareth of her husband's death.' In the present age,' replied the queen, ‘thou alone art such a Sati,' a word defined by the author of the Bhagat Mal as a ‘woman who considereth her husband a god and hath no concern with any other deity.' Not feeling flattered by the well-nigh unapproachable standard of conjugal devotion which alone Padamavati considered as worthy of admiration, the queen determined to put her to the test at the first opportunity.

One day when Jaidev was absent from home, the queen arranged that one of the royal servants pretended haste was to come to her when with Padamavati, and inform the latter that Jaidev had been attacked and killed in the forest by a tiger. On the servant coming to where they were seated and repeating this carefully tutored Story, Padamavati swooned and fell lifeless to the ground.

The queen who had brought about this disaster, turned pale and became distracted at the unexpected turn of events. She was severely rebuked by the king when he heard of the occurrence. Life became bitter to her, and she made preparations for death on a funeral pyre which she had constructed. When the circumstances were communicated to Jaidev, he appeared in time to hinder the immolation of the queen, and approaching the dead Padamavati sang his well-known ashtapadis. To the surprise and joy of all, she was restored to life, it is said, and joined her husband in his song.

Jaidev and his wife by this time had had sufficient experience of regal life. They were glad to abandon all state and return to their lowly home at Kenduli, where they enjoyed the society of saints and transferred their idolatrous devotion to the love and homage of the one true God.

On the anniversary of Jaidev's birth a religious fair is held at Kenduli, the poet's birthplace, and is attended by thousands of Vaishnavs who celebrate the occasion by assembling round his cenotaph for worship, and singing the most sublime portions of his immortal songs.

Simply two hymns of Jaidev have merged him with the Shabad-Guru and thereby immortalised him. Jaidev died in 1273AD.

The Sikh Religion, Vol 6,, Max Arthur MacAuliff, Oxford University Press, 1909.

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