Monday, April 09, 2012

Religion as Literary region, Literally

Ganapat Dattatreya Sahasrabuddhe, better known as Das Ganu Maharaj, was a gifted poet, prolific kirtankaar and biographer of proven authority. His principle works are devoted to his spiritual master Sai Baba of Shirdi who was solely instrumental in Das Ganu’s transcendental transformation from a naïve tamasgir to a seasoned kirtankaar.

A police constable by profession, Das Ganu also wrote several engaging biographies of many a saint in colloquial Marathi, the language of the masses in Maharashtra. One among these is his consummate Charitra based on the life and times of Saint Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon, an avaliya free-willed saint of the Digambar tradition (1878 - 1910). Composed of 21 chapters, the epic biography is a dexterous embroidery of 3668 ovis (lines of poetic cadence).

Conventionally, any religious text is conveniently regarded as a detached faction of the literary movement, exempt from the principles that govern aesthetic writing, prose and verse included. But Das Ganu’s superlative effort is simple, lucid, aesthetic and edifying all in the same breath, a sublime work that sits on the cusp of prose and verse, laden with all the qualities of good literature. Artistic and evocative in expression, its permanence is epitomised by the work's luminous universality and the author's sinuous style.

Rich in metaphorical splendour, the lyrical ovis take us through the times touching upon several social,political, economic and cultural facets of public life that provide a much larger context to Gajanan Maharaj’s essence and enormity as a non-conformist deity in human form. Each chapter begins with humble salutations to the Supreme to bless the endeavour with the tenacity and dexterity to complete the divine task. The humility is awe-inspiring and sincerity worthy of emulation especially for our post-modern writers who seek instant gratification often at the cost of the detachment and self-effacement that literature demands way ahead of competence and credential.

I have humbly undertaken an English translation of the original Marathi work which in no way makes any claim of reproduction, exact or otherwise. It’s only a sincere effort to convey a fair idea of the poise and perfection of Das Ganu’s pen and penance to those who wish to be pulled by interest, not pushed by instruction. I expect the whole endeavour to be completed by the end of 2012. I sincerely hope to be blessed with the courage and conviction needed to take the mission to its fruition, especially in an era where religion and pragmatism are deliberately seen as antonyms, making all believers needlessly apologetic about their religious and spiritual heritage.

This effort is dedicated to my mother who transformed my life by making me an ardent devotee of Gajanan Maharaj from an impressionable age and to the Gajanan Math of Belgaum where I first learnt about the astounding life story of Shri Das Ganu Maharaj.