Scripture and ritual I know not

Shyama sangeet, or Kali songs, express tender Bengali Hindu folk devotion to the Divine Mother. They are also a genre of refined mystic poetry.

The lyrics are always in a colloquial vernacular, and this has made them widely accessible and popular. The songs provide a window to understanding the mien of the common folk of the soil of Bengal.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was a worshipper of Kali.

Aami mantra-tantra kichhui janinay maa

Hear Pannalal Bhattacharya sing this song here (click and open in a new window, and select song no.3).

aami mantra tantra kichhui janinay maa
shudhu jaa jenaychhi shetuk holo ay-e
toray daakaar mataw daaktay jadii paarii
tawbay aasbinay tore emawn shadhya nei

jadi tor o mandirer dwaray
tomaar laagi kaadi awjhore dhaaray
jadee nayan hotey luupta bhuban hoy shei shay ashrutay
tawbu aamaar kaachey aashbinay tore emaan saadhya nei
o maa tore eman sadhya nei

jaani aamaar onek aachay dosh
tawboo maagow towmaei bhaloo baashii
aami nayan mudeyo dekhtey shadai paai
tomaaree oyi bhuban mohan haashii
aami jaa koree maa shabee tomaar kaaj
aamaar aamaar koitey laagey laaj
jawdi shakal chede thaii
chay-aychhi charan tawlaatay
tawbey chirajiban roybey duuree eman shadhya nei
o maa tore eman shadhya nei

In translation:

Scripture and ritual I know not Mother,
the little I know is this:
If I can call for you in the way I should
Then you have not the power to stay away.

If at the door of your temple,
I shed tears in unending streams
so the world vanishes from my eyes,
then you would not have the power to stay away.
Oh Mother you do not have that power.

I know I have many flaws but still, I do adore you.
With eyes closed, I always see your world enticing smile.
All that I do is your work, it shames me to call them mine,
If I leave everything to seek refuge at your feet
Then you cannot keep away for the rest of my life
You do not have the power to do that.

Here's another rendition of the same song.

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Several songs in the Shyama Sangeet genre have the same tune, though the lyrics may be different, and written by different devotees. But the sweetness and entrancing quality of the melody never fail to blend seamlessly with the simple lyrics, full of innocence, humility and self-surrender. One such song is Ebar Torey Chinechhi Ma, by the 18th century Kali devotee Ramprasad. (This song shares the tune with e.g. the song Maiy Amar Uni Bichar Bataen, "My Mother Grants Justice").

Here's the song Ebar Torey Chinechhi Ma, from the classic film Devi by Satyajit Ray. (It appears at 3 min 10 secs of the clip on this YouTube video and runs till 6 mins 58 secs.)

"Now I Recognise You Mother..."

Here's another song in the Shyama Sangeet genre by Pannalal Bhattacharya, Mayer Payer Joba Hoye.

"I shall be a hibiscus at Mother's feet."

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Pandit Ajoy Chakroborty sings Shyama Namer Laglo Aagun.

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“Shyama’s (Kali’s) name has ignited a fire within me”

Image: Kali dancing on top of the world, Pieter Weltevrede.


Anu said...

Hi, This is a beautiful post.I am looking for lyrics from the song Mayer Payer Jaba Hoye.. DO you know them?

rama said...

Hi Anu, if its not here it means it was probably not easily find-able on the net - 4 years ago! Im sure its available (now), if one persists. My Mac does not play the blog's player (I used a PC laptop earlier), so I cant readily listen to the song and transcribe the lyrics and then translate. But I shall keep this in mind!