Posts Tagged Bay Area Gujarati Samaj of Northern California

Celebrating Poet Shree Narsinh Mehta – Gujarat Day Event by Bay Area Gujarati Samaj

wpid-20140608_123136.jpgBay 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.wpid-20140608_114215.jpg

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.

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Gujarat Day Celebration with Rabindra Sangeet AND Birthday Celebration of Mazmudar Dada

My interest in writing poems came about after I read “Collected Poems and Plays by Rabindranath Tagore”.  I have heard that a great body of his works translated into English does not do full justice to the beauty and meaning embedded in his work.  Apparently, his songs also loose the musicality, when translated in English.  And yet, his writings have a breadth of fresh perspective and though his verses are simple, crisp and clear, they convey deep meaning, humanity, and idealism that is so appealing at a young age.  I also took classes and learned vocal Rabindra Sangeet for some time.  While a lot of his work has been translated into English, there was not much that was translated into Gujarati.  When I learned Rabindra Sangeet, I learned to sing, without understanding the meaning because I did not have English translations of what was taught in the class – those were pre-Google days :).

Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize for li...

Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize for literature. It is the first Nobel prize won by Asia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was therefore pure delight, to hear Rabindra Sangeet, translated into Gujarati on the occasion of celebration of Gujarat Day.  The words were beautifully translated, and music was enchanting and lyrical.  Bay Area Gujarati Samaj of Northern California celebrates Gujarat Day each year, on June 30 with presentation of Gujarati literature, poetry, and music.  This year the celebration focused on recognizing Tagore’s genius and giving it expression in Gujarati.  The celebration ended with recognizing a dedicated community volunteer Shree Harikrishna Mazmudar, lovingly known in the bay area, by one and all, as “Dada” or grand-father.  Here is a little synopsis of the celebration and some information to familiarize you with enormous contributions of these two great entities – Tagore and Mazmudar Dada.  Many people question why Gujarat Day was celebrated with Tagore’s music.

Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore’s contributions and achievements are many and hard to summarize.  Tagore was India’s Nobel Laureate and his compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: India’s Jana Gana Mana and Bangladesh’s Amar Shonar Bangla.  Tagore was a humanist and an internationalist and strongly advocated independence from Britain.  Tagore’s perspectives and his enormous body of work were not restrictive in nature.  A poet, playwright, essayist, composer, and painter, he crossed boundaries of language, cast, creed, and nations.  Bay Area is very fortunate to have enormously talented artists who can recognize, translate, and give expression to the works of such a legendary figure.

Bay Area’s talented artist Asim Mehta translated some of the compositions and set all of the translated compositions to music.  Twelve highly gifted singers included Asim Mehta, Madhvi Mehta, Amish Oza, Ratna Munshi, Ran Muni, Anjana Parikh, Gaurang Parikh, Minu Puri, Sanjiv Pathak, Neha Pathak, Parimal Zaveri, and Darshana Bhutta Shukla.  Shree Dada’s wife and well known writer and poet in her own right, Shree Premlataben Mazmudar also translated many of the compositions.  Premlataben never ceases to amaze and inspire everyone with her brilliant poetry, her beautiful style of recitation and now this 84 year old woman was instrumental in translating many of Tagore’s songs.  The program began with patriotic song, “akla chalo re” (walk alone, if no one responds to your call, then walk alone), translated in Gujarati by Asim Mehta and was sung by Minu Puri and Darshana Bhutta Skhula.  The group of twelve, honored Rabindra Sangeet, and sang one song after another that included “eso shyamalo shundaro”, “aaj jemon kore gaiche aakash”, “mon mor megher songi”, all beautifully translated into Gujarati.  As Pragnaben Dadbhawala, chief organizer and DJ of the event observed, it was a dilemma whether to compliment the writer, composer or the singers.  Truly, Tagore crossed the boundaries of language and the event on this day extended the reach to bring this beautiful music to Gujaratis, in the Bay Area.

Harikrishna Mazmudar “Dada”

Next, Mazumudar Dada was recognized on the event of his 94th birthday.  Shawl was wrapped around Dada and Premlataben (his wife).  Dada has led an amazing life.    He was born in 1919 and practiced law in India, after graduation.  He came to the US in 1985, at the age of 65, and joined community college to study calculus, and then co-wrote a book “Factorization” on mathematics.  He also later deeply studied Shakespeare and aspired to write in Gujarati on Shakespeare.  Dada routinely also contributed articles in Gujarati publications on various topics, including law.  He then began to provide social service and legal help and counseling to seniors and other immigrants.  He wrote and published the book “Mapping the Maze” to help immigrants navigate through the maze of legal challenges.  To date, he keeps himself well versed with changes in laws and is always ready to extend his help.  His philosophy has been to remove the focus from “me” to “all of us” and to live life in the service of others.

Another group of Bay Area’s finest singers, Piyushbhai Mehta, Darshanaben Bhutta Shukla, Hemlataben Bhrambhatt, and Rajubhai Solanki, accompanied on Tabla by Balabhai, entertained the audience with some well known songs like “madi taru kanku kharyu” and some newly created compositions like “kagal lakhyo pahela pahela, kasturi shabdone chandama gholyata”.

The beautiful program ended with superb meal of shrikhand, puri, undhiyu, and kachori, that was sponsored by Chaat Bhavan.  Kudos, Pragnaben Dadbhawala and talented artists of Bay Area for yet another fantastic program.

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