It was a pleasant surprise when Narayana A. Bangera (NAB) called me up when he landed at Chinchwad Railway Station on the evening of 4th January from Mumbai and gave me a complimentary copy of his Kannada Book: ‘Kanakadasara Haribhaktisara Vyakhyana Male’. He was on his way to Brahmasthana at Nigdi, Pune, where Mata Amritanandamayi, popularly known as ‘Amma’ (Mother) was scheduled to give audience to her devotees on 4th and 5th.
NAB’s exposition of ‘Haribhaktisara’ is being serially published from October 2009 in ‘Mogaveera’, the oldest Kannada Monthly from Mumbai. These articles are also published in ‘Bantaravani’ and ‘Amulya’ in Mumbai.
My introduction to ‘Haribhaktisara’ goes back to 1950’s when I was in 5th Standard at Iddya Vidyadayinee Higher Elementary School (Suratkal). Subbanna Rao (popularly called ‘Subbanna Master’) was in charge of Stationery Shop of the School in a separate Hall (Building). He taught us cotton thread spinning by using ‘Takali’ (Hand spindle, a device with slender rod having circular metal base) and ‘Charaka’ (Spinning wheel) in our Craft periods there. Once he distributed to students unbound printed sheets of Haribhaktisara, which lay discarded in a corner. Cutting the paginated sheets, I made a palm-size booklet and used to recite these songs, though not fully graspable at that age. Later on, I purchased a printed Book of Haribhaktisara, which also contained other devotional songs of Kanakadasa at Vidyanidhi Book Store at Fort, Mumbai. I have lost this book some time in 1970 in Pune (when I loaned it to a friend). I memorize often some of the songs (though some stanzas in tidbits) whenever I am in bubbling spirits or am despondent. The stanza, soliciting news of well-being of delicate feet of the Lord, is my favourite one (q.v. Page 137 of this Book).
It is true that we get solace and peace by praying God for favours - either materialistic or spiritualistic. His Holiness Sri Swami Shantananda Puri of Vasistha Guha (Himalayas), in his Booklet “Answers to Basic Spiritual Questions of Sadhakas”, says:
“Prayers are in effect talking to God……Those who are constitutionally more emotional and those who find themselves unable to sit in Japa or meditation will find prayers as an easy method to keep the mind engaged in God and to develop concentration.”
In Srimad Bhagavatam, the Title of ‘Haridasa’ is given to three persons – Uddhava, Yudhishtira and Govardhana Giri (Mountain) (q.v. Uddhava Geet in Shrimadbhagavatam/11th Skandha Part). They are Bhaktiyogis as opposed to Jnanayogis and Karmayogis. In Bhagvad Gita (Song Celestial) Bhagavan Krishna is both the narrator and the subject himself. He brings out the subtle difference in Jnanayoga, Karmayoga and Bhaktiyoga – the Three Sadhanas (Paths) to Liberation. One who is detached from actions chooses Jnanamarg (Path of Knowledge); one who is attached to mundane life with desires and activities are entitled to follow Karmayoga. So Lord Krishna taught Karmayoga to Arjuna. Those who are neither detached fully nor so much attached to activities follow Bhakti Yoga. In Bhakti Yoga, the aspirant takes delight in Plays (Leelas) of God and surrenders at the altar of service to God by doing virtuous deeds and eschewing bad ones. Kanakadasa belongs to the Bhaktiyoga Paramapara (Tradition) as his contemporary Purandaradasa. So also NAB is a devout devotee of Lakshmi Narayana and Amritanandamayi.
Quintessence of Devotion
“Dig deep to get gold”. This is a simple and popular proverb. Narayana A. Bangera‘s expounding of the poetic work of Kanakadasa: ‘Haribhaktisara’ (Quintessence of Devotion to Hari, the Protector) is proverbial. He brings out the nuances of each stanza in his own style of discourse. His deep knowledge is reflected in the lucid exposition of each stanza. To a layman, the words of praise of the God look similar in meaning but NAB dips deep into mind-ocean of Kanaka to gather shining thought-pearls of varying hues.
A peep into the Book
The Book has 34 Chapters. This is the forerunner for the remaining Volumes to come.
Heart Opens from inside:
The Book starts with the Chapter: Kanakana Kindi. It relates to the event, which took place during his sojourn in Tulu Nadu. When at Udupi Shri Krishna Temple, Kanaka, being low born, was denied the view of the Deity from the main entrance on the eastern side and chased away. He prays ardently, singing the glory of Shri Krishna and seeking his compassion, outside the Temple on the western side. This spontaneous and soulful singing of 108 stanzas is the genesis of ‘Haribhaktisara’. This fervent prayer – a concentrated mental energy – makes a rupture in the west wall of the temple and moves the idol from east-facing to west-facing. This wall opening is converted into a window with meshed holes and is immortalized by naming it as ‘Kanakana Kindi (Window of Kanaka). It is a custom to peep from this window to have a first darshan (view) of the Deity even today. It is a part of Tulu History, entwined with ‘Madhwa Sampradaya’.
It reminds me a story ‘Heart Opens from inside’, told by HH Swami Shantananda Puri in his Book: ‘Stories for Meditation’. At a certain Haridwar Ashram, a Swamiji entrusted a famous painter with painting a picture based on scriptures on the double doors of the meditation hall. He painted a human heart on the two doors with Krishna waiting outside playing flute. On completion of the work, the Swamiji came, with an equally famous foreign painter, to inspect. The visiting painter lauded the painting as ‘excellent’ but pointed out the omission of handles outside to pull the doors. The Indian painter quipped spiritedly, “Sir, I pity your ignorance. The human heart opens from inside. When you open your heart to the Lord by praying and calling Him with real longing and intense devotion, He walks in.” The Swamiji endorsed the statement by nodding delightedly.
Volalanke > Mulike:
The Book also mentions the sojourn of Kanaka to Shri Venkataramana Temple at Volalanke. He renames Volalanke as ‘Mulike’, now known as Mulki (Read Post-305/18.10.2012).
Epithets impregnated with Stories
According to the inner meanings of the stanzas, the Chapters are sub-titled aptly. Each Chapter unveils many parables and stories hidden in Scriptures and Epics – not known or now forgotten. Tulu Nadu is a land of “Yakshagana’. So an aspiring Yakshagana artiste can do well by possessing a copy of this Book in his armour (to give witty replies to his opponent).
NAB draws parallels to behavioral patterns of the past and the present. He also points out the digression of present generation (Among other things, see pages 137 to 141).
In the Chapter “Aditya Hridaya, Valakhillaru” (Page 43) NAB narrates the story of ‘birth of Aruna and Garuda’, who became the charioteer of the Sun (Surya) and carrier of Lord Vishnu respectively. Kadru and Vinata, both the wives of Sage Kashyapa, are sisters. Their jolousy is highlighted in this Story. NAB makes a social picture of Tulu Nadu where a sister loves and fondles children of her sister and vice versa still today.
Kulaguru Rama Panji (1844-1908)
The Book is rightly dedicated to Late Kannangar Rama Panji, who was instrumental in starting ‘Shrimadbharata Mandali’ in 1878, a foremost institution of Kannadigas in Mumbai. It is a religious institution, to inculcate devotion to the God (Shri Lakshminarayana) on the lines of Dasa Paramapara. It conducts Bhajans (Singing of Devotional songs) and discourses on Scriptures and Religious Epics periodically. NAB is one of the narrators during religious recitals. Now the Shri Lakshminarayana Temple is located at MVM Educational Complex Road, Off Veera Desai Road, Andheri (West), Mumbai-400 058.
Blessings & Compliments
Prologue by Tonse Vijayakumar Shetty of Kala Jagat Group is informative. Blessings and compliments from Pujya D. Virendra Heggade of Dharmasthala Temple and other dignitaries vouch for the greatness of the Book.
The 300-Page Book is published by Mogaveera Yuvaka Sangha (1934), 46, Veera Nariman Road, Islam Building, 2nd Floor, Fort, Mumbai-400 023 (Phone: 022-22880057). It is priced at Rs.250. The Book is also available with the writer: Mr. Narayana A. Bangera, 4, Rajguru CHS, Gupte Road, Gaondevi, Dombivli (West)-421 202/ Dist. Thane/Maharashtra. (Cell: 09819778727, Tel: 0251-2403151)
Brief Sketch of the Writer
Mr. Bangera was born on 10th February, 1939 at Mitrapatna of Mukka-Suratkal, Karnataka. Studied at native place and Mumbai and is a Commerce Graduate. Became Kannada Pandit under guidance of Suratkal Subbarao and Ramachandra Uchil. Taught in Kannada Free Night High Schools (of Mogaveera & Kanara Vidyadayini) and was also a Professor of Kannada at M.L. Dahanukar College, Mumbai. Retired from Air India after a meritorious service of 40 years. Being good orator, he is an interpreter and narrator of holy epics (ಪ್ರವಚನಕಾರ) over 50 years at Shrimadbharata Mandali of 135-year standing. He contributes regularly articles in Mogaveera Kannada Monthly and other Monthly Magazines. Besides the Book under review, he has written Nelli Tirtha Kshetra Mahatme, Kandevu Kshetra Mahatme (Prose), Shri Satyanarayana Vrata Katha (in Kannada Vardhika Shatpadi). Tuluvara Maranottara Kriye, ‘Naga Charitre’ is under print (earlier published in Mogaveera serially)
At places, the exposition seems discursive. Nevertheless, it falls in line when taken in totality. The Book will be a valuable addition to one’s library.
-Hosabettu Vishwanath (Pune)