One of my favorite times of the year is a couple of days away.
श्री कृष्ण जनमाष्टमी is on Friday.
It’s a bit odd- I really don’t have any over-the-top celebration. Maybe it isn’t even as per vidhi. I just clean the temple thoroughly, decorate it with flowers and perform a simple Aarti, then eat sweets and savories. I fast if I can, but it’s not a given every year.
Yet this is one day when I feel absolutely radiant, at peace and generally happy. I don’t know why, but there is something in this day that makes me comfortable. I think it is due to the nature of Sri Krishna himself – one that does not demand any specific way of puja or archana or devotion or tapas.
He says – your way, your choice of how you love me, because I always love you back regardless.
And this is also why Meera loved Krishna beyond anyone’s imagination.
Here is a post that I had written many months back, and I revisit it every time Janmashtami nears. I hope you like it too!
श्याम पिया मोरी रंग दे चुनरिया ।
ऐसी रंग दे, के रंग नहीं छुटे ।
धोभिया धोये चाहे सारी उमरिया ॥
लाल ना रंगाऊं मैं, हरी ना रंगाऊ ।
अपने ही रंग में रंग दे चुनरिया ॥
बिना रंगाये मैं तो घर नाही जाउंगी ।
बीत ही जाए चाहे सारी उमरिया ॥
मीरा के प्रभु गिरिधर नागर ।
प्रभु चरनन ने लागी नजरिया ॥
श्याम पिया मोरी रंग दे चुनरिया ।
Shyam Piya More Rang de Chunaria
Aisi rang de ke rang nahi choote…Dhobiya dooye chahe ye sari umariya
Lal na rangavu Mei…Hari na rangavu…Apne hi rang me rang de chunaria
Bina rangaye mai to ghar nahi javongi…beet hi jaaye chahe saari umariya
Meera ke prabhu, giridhar nagar…prabhu charanan ne laagi najariya
Rang de Chunariya – one of my most favourite bhajans of Sri Krishna, sung by Meera, the biggest devotee of them all. The meaning that is contained in these 8 lines cannot be conveyed by words, be it in any language, and surely not in English. Oh Krishna, my beloved…doesn’t have the same essence as Shyam Piya mori...I will not go home without being colored…is nowhere close to bina rangaaye main toh ghar nahi jaaungi…
And yet, here I am, attempting the un-attemptable…
Chunariya is a garment worn mostly by women. In this bhajan, it is a synonym for clothes, and a deeper meaning, a synonym for the body. Indian philosophy likens the body to clothes that we wear, and discard. The atman (and it does not translate into soul, unlike popular perception) is imperishable – it does not die – नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः।न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुतः॥ – nainaṃ chindanti śastrāṇi nainaṃ dahati pāvakaḥ, na cainaṃ kledayantyāpo na śoṣayati mārutaḥ – No weapon can cut the atman into pieces, nor can it be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. We go through many bodies, representing janmas, or lifetimes, and the body is different every time, but the atman is the same.
Shyam piya mori…Rang de chunariya – paint me in your colors – let me blend into you, cries Meera to her beloved – her piya, Krishna. Let me be one with you in mind, heart and soul – she says. Notice that she calls him Shyam – not Krishna, not Kaanha, not Kanhaiya…but Shyam. Shyam means dark, and is one of Krishna’s names. Shyam piya mori….oh my beloved Shyam…also can be Shyam, piya mori range de – color me in the color of Shyam…the wordplay brings out the deep-rooted devotion that Meera has for him, and her yearning to be one with him.
Aisi rang de ke rang nahi choote…Dhobiya dooye chahe ye sari umariya – color my clothes in a way that even if a washerman washes it his whole life, the color doesn’t come off me…colour me in a way that it doesn’t come off me, whatever happens, however anyone tries. Like a drop of water blends into the ocean, let your colour blend into my body – inseparable, indistinguishable…liberate me with your wisdom, let me become you, says Meera.
Lal na rangavu Mei…Hari na rangavu…Apne hi rang me rang de chunaria…No, I don’t want any other color – no red, no green, no other color…paint me in your own colors, in the colors that you are – your wisdom, your essence…I don’t want to know other ways, of books and scriptures that you say can also lead me to you, I don’t want to be a karma yogi. All I want is to blend into you, in your bhakti…color me that way oh Shyaam…
Bina rangaye mai to ghar nahi javongi…beet hi jaaye chahe saari umariya – I am persistent, I will not go back home until you color me, so what if a whole lifetime passes by. The way of bhakti is the way of persistence, of love, of sometimes even fighting with your God – why aren’t you listening to me? I don’t want anyone but you, I don’t want anything but you..I don’t even want liberation since that may take me away from you. All I want is to be a part of you, like you, in the same color as you. And I will not give up, not in this lifetime, not even in the next…
Meera ke prabhu, giridhar nagar…prabhu charanan ne laagi najariya…My Lord Giridhar, I am at your feet, focused, eyes, mind, body, soul…transfixed on you….Rang de Chunaria – please, oh my Lord, please, I request you, I beg you, from the deepest corners of my heart – make me yours…let me become you. Rang de Chunaria…
Here is the finest rendition that you can find – by Anup Jalota. Rang de chunariya…Close your eyes, listen, feel and enjoy the bliss that this bhajan brings you…Jai Shri Krishna…Happy Janmashtami!