Bhagat Namdev
(1270-1350 AD)

"In the imperishable realm of the Formless Lord, I play the flute of the unstruck sound current."


After the birth of Bhagat Namdev, many of his contemporaries looked upon him solely as a low caste man. However, he was blessed with a unique deep love for, and firm faith in, the Divine. Consequently, he happened to rule over the hearts of God-loving people. Guru Ram Das ji acknowledges his uniquely beautiful love for the Divine & refers to it in one of his hymns:

Nam Dev loved the Lord; the people called him a fabric dyer.
The Lord turned His back on the high-class Kh'shaatriyas and Brahmins, and showed His face to Nam Dev. ||3||

This implies that being aware of Namdev's selfless love, God turned his back on the higher caste Khatris & Brahmins & embraced low caste Namdev, a calico printer. Guru Arjan Dev ji held him in such high esteem as he declared that Namdev was one with God because he ever remembered Him.
Namdev was born in 1270 at the village of Narsi Bahamni in Satara district in Maharashtra, the beautiful land where Guru Gobind Singh ji breathed his last. Under the guiding of saint Janadeva, Namdev was converted to the path of Bhagati. He became a disciple of Bhagat Naneshwar, a holy man of Maharshtra. Namdev married to Raj Bai, who came from a respectable business family, and lived a householder's life. He had four sons & a daughter. His parents (father: Damesh & mother: Gona Bai) remained occupied in various odd jobs to make both ends meet. However, his maternal grandfather, who was a deep devotee of Tahkur (Stone deity), left an indelible impression on young Namdev's mind. Once, his maternal grandfather asked Namdev that he should offer milk to the Tahkur in his absence away from home. Namdev peristed with his prayer and submission before the deities to accept his offer of milk with such devotion that God Himself intervened & entered the deities to accede the prayer of his devotee. This happened at Pandarpur. Namdev later on refers to this incident in his hymn:

Taking the golden cup, Nam Dev filled it with the ambrosial milk,
and placed it before the Lord. ||2||
The Lord looked upon Nam Dev and smiled. "This one devotee abides within my heart."||3||
The Lord drank the milk, and the devotee returned home.
Thus did Nam Dev come to receive the Blessed Vision of the Lord's Darshan. ||4||3||

This immense devotion created such a fountain as it formed a huge pool of admirers for Namdev, who then saw God in each being. His devotion reached such a pitch that, once a dog ran away, snatching his food. Namdev chased the beast with a tin of ghee (butter oil) in hand saying:
O Bhagat of God! Stop a while and let me smear the loaves with butter oil, otherwise how would you eat the course parts!
For such a pious soul, none was alien. However, this innocent pious & unprejudiced attitude, coupled with universal admiration; became the cause of jealousy for the high caste Brahmins. Consequently, Namdev had to bear the brunt of their displeasure at every step. So much so that once this pious being, who was ever mystically attained with God, was thrown out of the temple for being a low caste. This happened in the temple of Nag Nath in the village of Aund; situated in Dist. Parbani, in Maharashtra. It was in this temple that Namdev, blisfully fixated on Naam, wanted to sing hymns in eulogy of God. The so-called high caste preists in the temple snatched castanets from him & threw him out. This humble devotee of God, had heartfelt sadness at this. In fact, due to the union between God & His humble devotee, it is said that through Divine intervention, the temple moved to face him, despite his sitting outside. This incident is reffered to in a hymn in the SGGS:


Laughing and playing, I came to Your Temple, O Lord.
While Nam Dev was worshipping, he was grabbed and driven out. ||1||
I am of a low social class, O Lord;
why was I born into a family of fabric dyers? ||1||Pause||
I picked up my blanket and went back,
to sit behind the temple. ||2||
As Nam Dev uttered the Glorious Praises of the Lord,
the temple turned around to face the Lord's humble devotee. ||3||6||


Although Brahmins & other sham "devotees" experienced only humiliation & slight with this happening, yet they could not, even then, extinguish from their hearts the fire of jealousy for Namdev. Rather, they availed themselves of another opportunity to incite Emperor Mohammed Tughlak against him. The emperor then asked Namdev to prove his spiritual power by reviving a dead cow. Namdev refused to interfere in the will of his beloved Lord. His plain refusal infuriated the emperor as a result of which, he was immediately arrested and tortured in many ways. However, nothing could make Namdev waiver in his devotion, & he remained focussed on God. The emperor then decreed that since he didn't revive the dead cow, he should accept Islam. Namdev boldly & flatly refused to accept either of his orders. Many of his admirers & well-wishers tried to impress upon him to accept either option to save his life, but Namdev was adamant in his stand. At last, his grief-stricken mother suggested that since there was no difference between Allah & Ram (2 names given by Muslims & Hindus, respectively, to God), he should have no problem in accepting Allah, his ultimate ideal. Moreover, she had heard him saying that Allah, Ram, Rahim, are attributive names of the same Lord, so he should have no difficulties repeating Allah's name instead. A verse of Namdev reads:

Nam Dev's mother began to cry,
and she said, "Why don't you abandon your Lord Raam, and worship his Lord Allah?"||6||


In answer to this, Namdev asked his mother to refrain from pressing him to say Allah instead of Ram, telling her he was fully aware of her motherly love for him, which was causing her to try to save his life. He further warned her against such emotional pressure, that otherwise he would not consider himself as her son, due to her attachment to him. A verse of Namdev reads;

Naam Dev answered, "I am not your son, and you are not my mother.

He further tried to convince his mother by stating, "When I repeated Allah's name, it is by my own free will, my inner self's wish. For me, God is one whom people remember through varied names. However, I will not surrender to a royal decree to remember God by this particular Name & not by any other Name. I shall not say so under the emperor's order, even if I may say the same thing of my own free will." To Namdev, it was a question of freedom.
His mother continued, wailing that for her sake, could he at least revive the dead cow & save his life. Namdev was patiently adamant, he told her that is does not behove a man of God to interfere in the Divine Will & that he would be happy in His Will. She then, stopped pressing him due to the obvious strength of his convictions. It is said that a miracle happened at that time: the cow came back to life, such is the tie between God & devotee, thus, the life & honour of Namdev had been preserved. Namdev milked the cw in the presence of a large gathering that has assembled there & presented this milk to the emperor. At this, the emperor sought forgiveness from God's devotee & was apologetic. He offered to fulfil any material wish of Namdev. Since Namdev had so little temptation for material goods & beared no grudge, Namdev only advised the king to provide true justice to his subjects. In fact, this is the duty of a king. Mohammed Tughlak was very sorry & this made him conscious of his duties as a king. This particular event was related to, by Namdev in the SGGS:

The Sultan said, "Listen, Nam Dev:
Let me see the actions of your Lord."||1||


If the emperor challenged Namdev to prove his devotion to Ram, he felt happy in the Divine will of a reviving a cow & called his deity Bithal, meaning 'Protector of the Ignorant'. In a flash, God put a question to Namdev: When you were made to suffer tortures in the confinement under imperial orders, you bore everything with patience & equanimity, but you could not face your expulsion from the temple in the same spirit, Why? Namdev is said to have replied that pain caused to his body is his personal, but when his soul is hurt it involves faith, his God as well. How could one bear insult for the deity in the house of deity itself? God was pleased with Namdev's answer. There is another hymn, by Namdev which begins with the following verse:

When I see Him, I sing His Praises.
Then I, his humble servant, become patient. ||1||


Herein we find Namdev eulogising God after having a direct communication with Him. He explains this encounter by referring to God as light effulgent:

The skinless drum plays.
Without the rainy season, the clouds shake with thunder.
Without clouds, the rain falls,
if one contemplates the essence of reality. ||1||
I have met my Beloved Lord.
Meeting with Him, my body is made beauteous and sublime. ||1||Pause||


The selected few verses from Namdev's hymns, as quoted above, testify his deep faith in the Divine, who he describes as all-powerful & being capable of doing whatever he desires. So long as we live separated from God, this life seems burdensome, but as one realises oneness with Him, no pain really hurts. It is like a pitcher, which does not seem heavy even though filled with water so long as it remains in the ocean. As we take the pitcher out, it drains our strength & becomes a burden. Namdev gives the example of his own life to exhort us that no true devotee of God ever gives up his own faith in God as a result of any pain, operation, cruelty or material temptation. God also reaches His devotees, His worshippers & saves their honour, protects them & glorifies them in the Truth.
So far as the question of Namdev's competence to clear & explain a point is concerned, he was rather proficient in explaining any point in a very interesting and rational manner. In this context, some of his padas (couplets) make interesting reading. These padas are known as abhang, and their language is Marathi.
Namdev visited numerous centres of pilgrimage so that he could share with the maximum number of people the limitless power of God as he realised it. Finally, he came to Punjab, accompanied by Gian Dev. He made the village of Ghuman, in Gurdaspur district, his dwelling place. He stayed there for about ten years, and it was here that he breathed his last in 1350AD. Most of Namdev's hymns that are included in the SGGS ji were possibly composed here; the language of these is either Punjabi, or greatly influenced by it.
Namdev was a holy-man who travelled form Maharashtra to Punjab and gave the natives of Punjab, a message of love. Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgharia erected a memorial at Ghuman in commemoration of Namdev's work. A large fair is held there in January (2 Magh) every year. Sada Kaur also got a aholy tank dug there. Now many more elegant buildings have come up at that place, constructed by his followers. Several organisations have engaged in spreading Namdev's spiritual & humanitarian message to the peoples. Namdev has summed up his entire message as follows:

Within all hearts, the Lord speaks, the Lord speaks.
Who else speaks, other than the Lord? ||1||Pause||


The tradition of holding fairs in Ghuman in his honour testifies that Punjabis took to Namdev's message of love with equal intensity. They have not only remembered what he said but have actively followed his tenets.
A total of 61 hymns of Namdev are extant in SGGS ji which are included under 18 different musical measures. Namdev is categorical in saying that it is Guru's grace alone which can clear man's all doubts & enable him to swm across the world-ocean; the spiritual journey of life.
In the beginning of his life, Namdev was no doubt a vaishnavite, but his hymns in SGGS ji make it very abundently clear that he became an ardent devotee of the formless Lord. Ultimately, his soul merged in the same Nirankar or formless Lord.

Touching the philosopher's stone, I have been transformed into gold.

The following are some of his works, or work on him, from Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

Raag Gauree Chaytee, The Word Of Nam Dev Jee:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
God makes even stones float.
So why shouldn't Your humble slave also float across, chanting Your Name, O Lord? ||1||Pause||
You saved the prostitute, and the ugly hunch-back; You helped the hunter and Ajaamal swim across as well.
The hunter who shot Krishna in the foot - even he was liberated.
I am a sacrifice, a sacrifice to those who chant the Lord's Name. ||1||
You saved Bidur, the son of the slave-girl, and Sudama; You restored Ugrasain to his throne.
Without meditation, without penance, without a good family, without good deeds, Naam Dayv's Lord and Master saved them all. ||2||1||

Aasaa, The Word Of The Reverend Nam Dev Jee:
In the one and in the many, He is pervading and permeating; wherever I look, there He is.
The marvellous image of Maya is so fascinating; how few understand this. ||1||
God is everything, God is everything. Without God, there is nothing at all.
As one thread holds hundreds and thousands of beads, He is woven into His creation. ||1||Pause||
The waves of the water, the foam and bubbles, are not distinct from the water.
This manifested world is the playful game of the Supreme Lord God; reflecting upon it, we find that it is not different from Him. ||2||
False doubts and dream objects - man believes them to be true.
The Guru has instructed me to try to do good deeds, and my awakened mind has accepted this. ||3||
Says Nam Dev, see the Creation of the Lord, and reflect upon it in your heart.
In each and every heart, and deep within the very nucleus of all, is the One Lord. ||4||1||

Goojaree, Padas Of Nam Dev Jee, First House:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
If You gave me an empire, then what glory would be in it for me?
If You made me beg for charity, what would it take away from me? ||1||
Meditate and vibrate upon the Lord, O my mind, and you shall obtain the state of Nirvaanaa.
You shall not have to come and go in reincarnation any longer. ||1||Pause||
You created all, and You lead them astray in doubt.
They alone understand, unto whom You give understanding. ||2||
Meeting the True Guru, doubt is dispelled.
Who else should I worship? I can see no other. ||3||
One stone is lovingly decorated,
while another stone is walked upon.
If one is a god, then the other must also be a god.
Says Nam Dev, I serve the Lord. ||4||1||

GOOJAREE, FIRST HOUSE:
He does not have even a trace of impurity - He is beyond impurity. He is fragrantly scented - He has come to take His Seat in my mind.
No one saw Him come - who can know Him, O Siblings of Destiny? ||1||
Who can describe Him? Who can understand Him? The all-pervading Lord has no ancestors, O Siblings of Destiny. ||1||Pause||
As the path of a bird's flight across the sky cannot be seen,
and the path of a fish through the water cannot be seen;||2||
As the mirage leads one to mistake the sky for a pitcher filled with water
- so is God, the Lord and Master of Nam Dev, who fits these three comparisons. ||3||2||

Raag Sorat'h, The Word Of Devotee Nam Dev Jee, Second House:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
When I see Him, I sing His Praises.
Then I, his humble servant, become patient. ||1||
Meeting the Divine True Guru, I merge into the sound current of the Naad. ||1||Pause||
Where the dazzling white light is seen,
there the unstruck sound current of the Shabad resounds.
One's light merges in the Light;
by Guru's Grace, I know this. ||2||
The jewels are in the treasure chamber of the heart-lotus.
They sparkle and glitter like lightning.
The Lord is near at hand, not far away.
He is totally permeating and pervading in my soul. ||3||
Where the light of the undying sun shines,
the light of burning lamps seems insignificant.
By Guru's Grace, I know this.
Servant Nam Dev is absorbed in the Celestial Lord. ||4||1||

FOURTH HOUSE, SORAT'H:
The woman next door asked Nam Dev, "Who built your house?
I shall pay him double wages. Tell me, who is your carpenter?"||1||
O sister, I cannot give this carpenter to you.
Behold, my carpenter is pervading everywhere.
My carpenter is the Support of the breath of life. ||1||Pause||
This carpenter demands the wages of love, if someone wants Him to build their house.
When one breaks his ties with all the people and relatives, then the carpenter comes of His own accord. ||2||
I cannot describe such a carpenter, who is contained in everything, everywhere.
The mute tastes the most sublime ambrosial nectar, but if you ask him to describe it, he cannot. ||3||
Listen to the virtues of this carpenter, O sister; He stopped the oceans, and established Dhroo as the pole star.
Nam Dev's Lord Master brought Sita back, and gave Sri Lanka to Bhabheekhan. ||4||2||

Dhanaasaree, The Word Of Devotee Nam Dev Jee:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
They dig deep foundations, and build lofty palaces.
Can anyone live longer than Markanda, who passed his days with only a handful of straw upon his head? ||1||
The Creator Lord is our only friend.
O man, why are you so proud? This body is only temporary - it shall pass away. ||1||Pause||
The Kaurvas, who had brothers like Duryodhan, used to proclaim, "This is ours! This is ours!"
Their royal procession extended over sixty miles, and yet their bodies were eaten by vultures. ||2||
Sri Lanka was totally rich with gold; was anyone greater than its ruler Raavan?
What happened to the elephants, tethered at his gate? In an instant, it all belonged to someone else. ||3||
The Yaadvas deceived Durbaasaa, and received their rewards.
The Lord has shown mercy to His humble servant, and now Naam Dayv sings the Glorious Praises of the Lord. ||4||1||
I have brought the ten sensory organs under my control, and erased every trace of the five thieves.
I have filled the seventy-two thousand nerve channels with Ambrosial Nectar, and drained out the poison. ||1||
I shall not come into the world again.
I chant the Ambrosial Bani of the Word from the depths of my heart, and I have instructed my soul. ||1||Pause||
I fell at the Guru's feet and begged of Him; with the mighty axe, I have chopped off emotional attachment.
Turning away from the world, I have become the servant of the Saints; I fear no one except the Lord's devotees. ||2||
I shall be released from this world, when I stop clinging to Maya.
Maya is the name of the power which causes us to be born; renouncing it, we obtain the Blessed Vision of the Lord's Darshan. ||3||
That humble being, who performs devotional worship in this way, is rid of all fear.
Says Nam Dev, why are you wandering around out there? This is the way to find the Lord. ||4||2||

Nam Dev Jee:
I am blind; Your Name, O Creator Lord, is my only anchor and support.
I am poor, and I am meek. Your Name is my only support. ||1||Pause||
O beautiful Lord, benevolent and merciful Lord, You are so wealthy and generous.
You are ever-present in every presence, within and before me. ||1||
You are the river of life, You are the Giver of all; You are so very wealthy.
You alone give, and You alone take away; there is no other at all. ||2||
You are wise, You are the supreme seer; how could I make You an object of thought?
O Lord and Master of Nam Dev, You are the merciful Lord of forgiveness. ||3||1||2||

Bilaaval, The Word Of Devotee Nam Dev Jee:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
The Guru has made my life fruitful.
My pain is forgotten, and I have found peace deep within myself. ||1||
The Guru has blessed me with the ointment of spiritual wisdom.
Without the Lord's Name, life is mindless. ||1||Pause||
Meditating in remembrance, Nam Dev has come to know the Lord.
His soul is blended with the Lord, the Life of the World. ||2||1||
- O man, renounce and abandon all these things.
Meditate, meditate in remembrance on the Lord of the Universe.
Meditate, O Nam Dev, and cross over the terrifying world-ocean. ||4||1||
The deer is lured by the sound of the hunter's bell;
it loses its life, but it cannot stop thinking about it. ||1||
In the same way, I look upon my Lord.
I will not abandon my Lord, and turn my thoughts to another. ||1||Pause||
As the fisherman looks upon the fish,
and the goldsmith looks upon the gold he fashions;||2||
As the man driven by sex looks upon another man's wife,
and the gambler looks upon the throwing of the dice -||3||
In the same way, wherever Nam Dev looks, he sees the Lord.
Nam Dev meditates continuously on the Feet of the Lord. ||4||2||
As the earth burns in the dazzling sunlight,
so does poor Nam Dev burn without the Lord's Name. ||5||4||
Chanting the Name of the Lord, Har, Har, all doubts are dispelled.
Chanting the Name of the Lord is the highest religion.
Chanting the Name of the Lord, Har, Har, erases social classes and ancestral pedigrees.
The Lord is the walking stick of the blind. ||1||
I bow to the Lord, I humbly bow to the Lord.
Chanting the Name of the Lord, Har, Har, you will not be tormented by the Messenger of Death. ||1||Pause||
The Hindu worships at the temple, the Muslim at the mosque.
Nam Dev serves that Lord, who is not limited to either the temple or the mosque. ||4||3||7||

 

 

 

 

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