Bay Area Gujarati Samaj of Northern California celebrated Gujarat Day at ICC in Milpitas, CA. Pragnaben Dadbhawala, a tireless and dedicated community volunteer and lover of Gujarati culture, literature, and arts, organized the program, with a focus on Saint Narsinh Mehta. Pragnaben also welcomed and thanked the officials of the state who were present, including council members Ash Kalra and David Whitman. Also present was the chief guest, the Mayor of Milpitas, Mr. Jose Esteves. Gujarati community would be amiss if we did not celebrate the community that has welcomed and included us with open arms. Mr. Esteves, as representative of the city of Milpitas, was honored and deeply thanked for his presence and for support of ICC and the Indian community.
Each year, during Gujarat Day celebration, a prominent Gujarati poet or writer is selected.
Saint Narsinh Mehta (1414-1481), a poet, saint, and Krishna devotee is deeply revered. He is credited with having composed 1400 plus poems. Most of his compositions are tributes to Lord Krishna. Additionally, he has also written about societal traditions and challenges he encountered. Being part of a traditional Nagar community, Narsinh Mehta was expected to strictly follow traditions and his rebellious nature annoyed the community. Narsinh’s compositions are like a window into the ritualistic, separatist world of the time, where untouchables existed apart from higher castes and girls were supposed to bring in big doweries.
Narsinh’s compositions on Lord Krishna reflect both Narsinh’s deep devotion as well as the intense closeness he experienced with Krishna. He asked for Krishna’s help and at least 52 times Krishna is said to have come to his aid. But Narsinh also admonished and cajoled Lord Krishna. While Lord Krishna supports righteous deeds and steadfastly stands against evil and wrongful deeds, in Hindu religion, he is also a God who is considered to be playful, loves music, and is credited with playing many little pranks that alternately fascinated and annoyed his devotees.
This entire program was presented by the children artists and they did such a superb and highly professional job that 400+ attendees were compelled to give standing ovations. This absolutely talented group of performers included Ria Dadia, Kavya Dadia, Ishita Patel, Isha Pandya, Khusboo Pandya, Shivam Vyas (on drums), Khushi Vyas, Risha Jaha, Heer Dadia, Shreyas Patel (on tabla), Aryahi Vaidhya, and Shravya Anjaria. Pragnaben’s fascinating commentary on Narsinh Mehta and his compositions interspersed the presentations by the children. Narsinh’s poems can be enjoyed for both the beauty of the wordings and deeper meaning inherent in them. Additionally, they can be enjoyed at surface level and also can be analyzed for deeper meaning inherent in them. Below are some highlights.
જાગ ને જાદવા, ક્રષ્ણ રે ગોવાળિયા
તુજ બીના ઘેન માં કોણ તો જાશે
In this beautifully sung morning poem, Shree Krishna’s mother is lovingly waking up her son, to go attend to his chores and take the cows for grazing. But Lord is always awake. A deeper meaning inherent in the poem is to wake up one’s own consciousness.
ઉંચી રે મેડી તે મારા સંતની રે, મેં તો માણી ન જાણી રે
અમને તે તેડા શીદ મોકલ્યા, હે મારો પીંડ છે કાચો રામ
Despite climbing the long and arduous path to devotion, Narsinh feels that he is stil not ready to meet the maker, that he still needs to grow in his devotion. Little further he says, he is not afraid of death but he is not sure if he has collected enough good karmas to go across and he asks Shree Krishna’s help to cross over to the other side.
જશોદા તારા કાનુડા ને સાદ કરીને વાર રે
આવડી ધૂમ મચાવે વ્રજમાં, કોઈ નહીં પુછણહાર રે
In this poem, the tone is completely different. Narsinh is speaking on behalf of the Gopis (the women of the village) who loved child Krishna but also got tired of his little pranks. On behalf of the Gopis, Narsinh says to Jashoda (Krishan’s mother), to call and stop him from playing his little pranks. This poem shows that Narsinh identified so closely with the Gopis, who were deep devotees of Shree Krishna that he felt he could voice their concerns and he also felt close enough to Lord Krishna to complain about him.
Saint Narsinh Mehta has left such a treasure of poems that we will continue to enjoy them for years to come. But what I had not anticipated was the enormous treasure of talent that exists in the Bay Area, among child artists.
In addition to the celebration of Gujarat Day with these poems and songs, several members of the Gujarati community who have contributed to the community and have departed in the last year, were posthumously honored. They include, Shree Pravinbhai Desai (highly regarded in Gujarati community as a journalist and reporter), Shree Naranjibhai Patel (highly regarded for his selfless service to the community, including his contribution and service to Sunnyvale Hindu Temple), Shree Kanubhai Shah (journalist in well known Gujarati newspapers and promoter of culture), Shree Miraben Mehta (dedicated volunteer in Gujarati community and a tireless promoter of language and arts), and Deepa Thakore (also a promoter and lover of arts).
Huge kudos to Pragnaben and also the dedicated teachers and others who helped the children prepare for the program, Asimbhai and Madhviben Mehta, Aanalben Anjaria, Darshanaben Bhuta Shukla, and Ashishbhai and Palakben Vyas.
Finally, attendees enjoyed a delicious lunch of shrikhand, puri, undhiu, dhokla, and kachori. This was yet another memorable celebration of Gujarat Day in the bay area.