Indian Poetry

Indian Poetry

  • Indian poetry stretches from the earliest Vedic times to the contemporary Indian poets.
  • Indian poetry reflects the diverse spiritual traditions that have prospered in India.
  • This poem from the Upanishads gives a striking message.

Delight

From Delight we came into existence.
In Delight we grow.
At the end of our journey’s close,
Into Delight we retire.

From: The Upanishads



The poetry of the Upanishads and Vedas is imbibed with the confidence of the Vedic Seers. They give a lofty message of spiritual transformation.

Death To Immortality

Asato ma sad gamaya.
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya.
Mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya.
 
Lead me from the unreal to the Real.
Lead me from darkness unto Light.
Lead me from death to Immortality

From: The Upanishads



Many Indian Poets have been inspired to write poetry in an attempt to express their sublime mystical experiences. Adi Shankaracharya was India’s leading exponent of Non – Dualism (Advaita). “I am He” is an immortal poem that expresses a state of consciousness far beyond the mundane worldly experiences.

I Am He

Mind, nor intellect, nor ego, feeling;
Sky nor earth nor metals am I.
I am He, I am He, Blessed spirit, I am He!
No birth, no death, no caste have I;
Father, mother, have I none.
I am He, I am He, Blessed spirit, I am He!
Beyond the flights of fancy, formless am I,
Permeating the limbs of all life;
Bondage I do not fear; I am free, ever free.
I am He, I am He, Blessed spirit, I am He!

By:Shankaracharya


India has had a long tradition of illumined Spiritual Masters. In their own unique way they have used poetry as a method of alluding to the transcendental consciousness which is the aim of Yoga.

This is from a poem by Sri Chinmoy entitled The Absolute:

The Absolute

No mind, no form, I only exist;
Now ceased all will and thought;
The final end of Nature’s dance,
I am it whom I have sought.

A realm of Bliss bare, ultimate;
Beyond both knower and known;
A rest immense I enjoy at last;
I face the One alone.

By: Sri Chinmoy


This is an extract from Nirvanaby Sri Aurobindo.

Nirvana

Only the illimitable Permanent
Is here. A Peace stupendous, featureless, still.
Replaces all, – what once was I, in It
A silent unnamed emptiness content
Either to fade in the Unknowable
Or thrill with the luminous seas of the Infinite.
 

 By: Sri Aurobindo


Another significant element in India’s spiritual and poetic life is the devotional bhakti tradition of Vishnava Hinduism.

The great Bhakti poets such as Mirabai, Sri Chaitanya, Ramprasad Sen and Kamalakanta used poetry to express their overwhelming devotion and love for their chosen deity (often Krishna or Mother Kali)

To Mirabai nothing else mattered apart from worshipping her beloved – Krishna

O My Mind

O my mind,
Worship the lotus feet of the Indestructible One!
Whatever thou seest twixt earth and sky
Will perish.

Why undertake fasts and pilgrimages?
Why engage in philosophical discussions?
Why commit suicide in Banaras?
Take no pride in the body,
It will soon be mingling with the dust.

By: Mirabai

The songs of Ramprasad Sen were often sung by India’s great Mystic, Saint Sri Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna admired Ramprasad’s devotion to the Divine Mother,

A Country Fair

Drive me out of my mind, O Mother!
What use is esoteric knowledge
          Or philosophical knowledge
Transport me totally with the burning wine
Of your all-embracing love.
Mother of mystery, who imbues with mystery
          The hearts of those who love you,
Immerse me irretrievably
In the stormy ocean without boundary,
Pure love, pure love, pure love.

- Ramprasad Sen


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Commentaries by Richard