Vaishnava Jana To – Decoding Narsinh Mehta’s crown jewel

Vaiṣṇava jana to tene kahiye
je pīḍa parāyī jāṇe re,
para duḥkhe upakāra kare to ye
mana abhimāna na āṇe re 

Call those people Vaishnav who
Feel the pain of others,
Help those who are in misery,
But never let self-conceit enter their mind.


sakaḷa loka māṁ sahune vande,
nindā na kare kenī re,
vāca kācha mana nischala raakhe,
dhana dhana jananī tenī re 

They respect the entire world,
Do not disparage anyone,
Keep their words, actions and thoughts pure,
The mother of such a soul is blessed.


sama-dṛṣṭi ne tṛṣṇā tyāgī,
para-strī jene māta re,
jihvā thakī asatya na bole,
para-dhana nava jhāle hātha re

They see all equally, renounce craving,
Respect other women as their own mother,
Their tongue never utters false words,
Their hands never touch the wealth of others.


moha māyā vyāpe nahi jene,
dhruda-vairāgya jenā manamāṁ re,
rāma-nāma shu tāḷī lāgī,
sakaḷa tīratha tenā tanamāṁ re

They do not succumb to worldly attachments,
They are firmly detached from the mundane,
They are enticed by the name of Ram,
All places of pilgrimage are embodied in them.


vaṇa-lobhī ne kapaṭa-rahita che,
kāma krodha nivāryā re,
bhaṇe narasaiyo tenuṁ darasana karatāṁ,
kuḷa ekotera tāryā re

They have forsaken greed and deceit,
They stay afar from desire and anger,
Narsinh says: I’d be grateful to meet such a soul,
Whose virtue liberates their entire lineage.”


Even though this is only a rough translation of this literary gem, one still marvels at the beautiful tribute by a bhakta that speaks volumes of his devotion to Lord Krishna! The virtues and traits of a Vaishnava is spoken about with such rhapsody, respect and humility that it really melts one’s heart and inspires one to become a champion of samadṛṣṭi – equal regard or consideration or equality of vision.


Narsinh Mehta’s biography makes for a very interesting read with his whole life dotted with awe-inspiring experiences and help from the Supreme Being at every turn be it the incident of having Lord Shiva’s darshan or seeing Shri Krishna’s Raas Lila or The Lord coming to his aid on the day of pitrushraaddha (offering oblations to forefathers) or the note of credit or singing bhajans in the areas where the lower classes resided or the floating garland or the divine experience of life’s ephemeral nature on the demise of his son and wife to name a few. Sometimes they are so unbelievable and astounding that it makes one wondrous of his devotion and faith in the Supreme Being.


Narsinh Mehta richly deserved the title of the first poet of Gujarati – Adi Kavi. His devotional bhajans are sung even today having attained an eternal place in the hearts of bhaktas. His poetry greatly enriched the bhakti literature of medieval India.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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