Glossary IV of IV


(1270-1350) one of the "Great Quartet" of "The Poets ofVithoba" (see Jnanadev, Eknath); one of the greatest poets in the Marathi language; author of a large body of lyrical, narrative, descriptive,autobiographical, didactic, incantatory, and ode-like abhangs;Namdeo had made an impulsive pledge, according to one of his own poems, that he would write one billion poems in praise of Vitthal, just like the monumental epic that Valmiki had written; Namdeo informs us that Vitthal himself tried to dissuade him from this unrealistic pledge pointing out that in the present age, human life was too short for a poet to be able to write one billion poems; in Tukaram's dream of initiation into poetry, Namdeo made a reference to this pledge and ~sked Tukaram to "write those I've left unwritten from the one:billion I pledged"; there is gentle humour and irony in this aspect of an otherwise revelatory and solemn dream when we remember the context of Namdeo's original poem about his pledge and Vitthal's wry remark about the brevity of human life; a later poet, Niloba, who regarded Tukaram as his guru, thought that Tukaram was an avatara of Namdeo; indeed, there is a striking resemblance between some of the poetry of Namdeo and Tukaram, though Tukaram is distinguished by his horror of the human condition, personal anguish and will to transcend even Bhakti to achieve absolute enlightenment.

Name, the:
sometimes, this word has been treated as a proper noun because it refers specifically to one or more of the personal names by which the Bhakta knows, remembers, worships, and evokes his God; in the case of Tukaram this does not only refer to the name/s of Vitthal/Vishnu/ Krishna but also to the mantra (or device for meditative, inner recitation) given by Babaji, his guru: "Rama Krishna Hari", which again are names of Vishnu; the V arkaris sing, chant, or mentally recite by rote the various names of Vitthal Vishnu; "JaiJai Rama Krishna Hari" has now become a slogan for them to raise at bhajans and keertans; most poet-saints have a sequence of poems that describe the power of "the Name"; each "name" is the evocation of a specific image of the deity since each name has its special aspect, allusion, association, mythical or legendary context; the poetry of proper nouns is inevitably lost in translation like the poetry of any culture-specific nouns-whether proper, common, personal, pronouns, or collective nouns; in folk, bardic and women's poetry this loss is crucial; Tukaram's poetry has roots in all three.

another name for Vishnu that means "son of man" or "son of the waters"; Tukaram uses this as another name for Vitthal; in the poems that refer to the ordeal-by-water to which Tukaram's notebooks were subjected, the radical, literal meaning assumes special significance; Vishnu or Narayana resides in the depths of a primordial ocean, stretched on his couch, the serpent of infinity; Narayana is thus one who resides in water; and it was from water that Tukaram's poems were returned undamaged after thirteen days.

Pandharpur lies to the south-east of Bombay, about 480 kilometers away,on the Deccan plateau; the river Bheema, which at this point is given the poetic name "Chandrabhaga" or "crescent moon", flows through the sacred city housing the premier shrine ofVitthal;it is an ancient settlement on a busy junction of old trade routes passing through a river valley; for the last seven hundred years Varkari pilgrims have been gathering here twice every year to attend the festival of Vitthal; the Varkaris believe that Vitthal is the form in which Vishnu himself landed on the Earth to visit his great devotee, Pundalik, and has been standing since on the "the Brick" on which Pundalik asked him "to wait for a while"; the cult of Vithoba or Vitthal is thus centred in Pandharpur as its sacred geographical nucleus; a Maharashtra-wide network of pilgrim routes meets at this centre; Pandharpur is also the city where the poet-saints and devotees of Vithoba gave a shape to the Marathi language and its literary culture by assimilating the dialects of various pilgrims and disseminated a sense of equality, brotherhood, and spiritual community; Tukaram has several poems about Pandharpur and its sacred importance; he also addresses Vitthal quite often as the "Lord of Pandharpur"; Tukaram has stressed the importance of the pilgrimage and the Varkari way of life; but it is not clear whether Tukaram regularly visited Pandharpur himself; he has an epistolatory poem to Vitthal "sent" with Varkari pilgrims; in another poem he describes himself as waiting anxiously for news from Pandharpur and news about Vitthal's welfare; Varkaris symbolically carry the "spirit of Tukaram" from Dehu to Pandharpur on their regular pilgrimage; this custom is followed till this day; all their beloved saints from Jnanadev to Tukaram are believed to be present in spirit at every festival in Pandharpur; traditions of the poetry of the saints are maintained in an oral form and as performed songs through the living medium of the pilgrimage and the festival in which it culminates.

another name for Vitthal, used for the first time in the thirteenth century according to Deleury.

also "Pundarika" and "Paundarika". See "Brick, the".

medieval compilations of myths concerning various deities of the Hindu pantheon; they are regarded as part of the scriptures.

also "reincarnation"; traditional Hindu belief that man is successively born and dies until his individual spiritual evolution is complete; see karma.

Krishna's principal wife; Tukaram considers her synonymous with Vitthal's wife, Rakhuma, also referring to her as Rakhumai (Mother Rakhuma), Rakhumadevi (Goddess Rakhuma), Rakhumabai (Lady Rakhuma) etc., Vitthal-Rakhuma, Krishna-Rukmini, and Lakshmi- Vishnu are synonymous couples and are often iconographically shown together or close to each other.

Santaji Teli Jagnade:
a devoted companion of Tukaram; his notebooks contain the only contemporary copies of some of Tukaram's work.

"Tuka" is the dimunitive as well as abbreviated form of the full name "Tukaram"; Tukaram's family name is "More", a Maratha clan-name; his father's name was Bolhoba and mother's Kanakai; Tukaram describes himself as a Shudra kunbi or a non-caste peasant. The name Tukaram is somewhat obscure; there is a goddess named Tukai, sometimes the name is used for the Goddess Arnba at Tuljapur in Maharashtra; it is clear that this word is "Tuka plus aai" and "aai" means mother in Marathi; but Tuka remains unexplained; however, there is the Marathi noun "tuk" which means importance; weighing; measuring; sizing up; balancing; weighing in a balance; the verb "tukane" has similar meanings; it also means to be equal to something in weight, size, or importance and also to appreciate, to assess, to evaluate; or to balance, equalize, to make symmetrical, to make poised, to counterbalance; and it also means to reflect, to consider, to reconcile, to square up; finally, it means to nod, to give assent to, to acquiesce etc. "Rama" of course is the name of an avatara of Vishnu. Tukaram has used the abstract noun "tuk" as well as the verb "tukane" in various places in the proximity of his signature-line, "Says Tuka"; one line goes as follows: "Tuka tuki tukala"; there are several puns in these three words; Tuka' the proper noun, is the subject, followed by the locative form of the same noun used as the object, and lastly the verb "tukane" used in the simple past tense, third person singular; read in the context of the above meanings, the line becomes a translator's nightmare.

the sweet basil or the black basil, a plant sacred to Vitthal and to Vishnu; all Vaishnavs (devotees of Vishnu or children of Vishnu) worship the plant itself; it is grown in the courtyard of their houses in a little squarish-shaped clay-tower or pot called vrindavan;Vitthal and Vishnu both are supposed to wear a necklace or a rosary-like garland of luisi-wood beads; the images of Vitthal and Vishnu are offered luisi-leaves during the performance of rites of worship; a Varkari wears a luisi-bead necklace or rosary when he takes his initial vow; and whenever he goes on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur he wears it; some of them wear it all the time.

is one who makes a "vari", which in Marathi means, "round trip" or "pilgrimage" or "regular visit to a place and return from it"; a Varkari is vowed and committed to undertake, twice every year, a pilgrimage to Pandharpur to attend the Ashadhi and the Kartiki festivals of Vitthal; this is scrupulously observed by every Varkari, Varkaris also avoid eating meat, refrain from intoxicants and stimulants, and follow certain other regulations and codes of conduct; see also,Ashadhi, Kartiki, Vitthal, Dehu, Alandi, Pandharpur, etc.

the four earliest Hindu scriptures; Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda,and Atharvaveda; the fourth Veda is a later addition and the first three are still known as "the sacred triad"; they are believed to have been the self-revelation of the Absolute/Supreme/Whole Being or Brahman Itself, and therefore not man-made; for this reason they are also known as shrntis or "revealed and heard sound" as distinct from the man-made compositions of sages that are known as smritis or "recollections"; "revelations" and "recollections" could be a short way of naming them; Tukaram often alludes to the Vedas and he seems to have had a sophisticated acquaintance with them though he points, often with mock humility, to his non-caste status and "ignorance"; Tukaram's Brahmin detractors, according to his own account as well as Bahinabai's autobiography, considered him an ignorant upstart because as a Shudra, access to the Vedas was forbidden to him; when he sheds his feigned self-derogation, Tukaram talks equally confidently of knowing the secret teachings of the Vedas; Tukaram perceives his own poetry as "revealed by God"; he says, "God -speaks through me"; he goes to the extent of denying all credit for authorship, owning only ignorance and lack of eloquence as his personal flaws but asserting that the truth he is expressing is "not man-made" but "divine"; this is exactly the claim that is made on behalf of the "revelations" of the shrntis; to Tukaram, all genuine poetry is revelatory as much as the shrntis are; this gives us two fundamental categories of poetry, like the two applied to the scriptures themselves: "revealed poetry" and "recollected poetry"; if the Vedas are poetry, Tukaram's poetry is often Veda-like; if religion itself is poetry like the Vedas, Tukaram's poetry is religion; Tukaram's non-dualism is so radical that he makes no difference between poetry and religion, perceiving both as revelations of Absolute Being; his mysticism itself is a radical, revolutionary stance; this is the poetics of Tukaram's spirituality; when Tukaram says, "We alone know the meaning of the Vedas", he is saying that both poetry and the Vedas are revealed language or recollected language pointing to a vast non-discursiVe truth: their validity lies in what they are pointing to: like painted arrows, they only signify and direct attention.

"the pervader"; originally a solar god, then the supreme god, for which position he vies with Shiva; see Vitthal, Ananta, Narayana, Govinda, Gopala, Hrishikesha, Keshava, Rama, Krishna, Hari, etc.-all these are synonymous in Tukaram's poetry with God,Lord, Master, Maker, Creator, Brahman, Absolute Being, Whole Being. Primordial Being, Being, Bliss, Beatitude, etc. each specific name, however, signifies a specific aspect or perception of "the One" or the "all-inclusive Being"; Tukaram is a Vaishnava monotheist but as an enlightened mystic, his monotheism transcends names.

also, in Tukaram, Vithoba (Father Vitthal), Vithu (Vitthal addressed with the familiarity of a close friend), Vithabai ("Lady Vitthal" a feminized form of the masculine noun; Tukaram some times drops the formality and uses the word in the sense of Mother). The origin of the name Vitthal is obscure, uncertain, and contested; one is not sure when this name was used first but, like Pandurang, it seems to have emerged into literary usage some time in the thirteenth century. The native "region" of the name Vitthal radiates from Pandharpur throughout Maharashtra, parts of Karnataka, and parts of Andhra Pradesh which were often one large political unit in the history of the Deccan; the name Vitthal does not seem to have any roots in Sanskrit and it could be of Dravidian origin; in Jnanadev's time, when the name Vitthal started gaining wide currency, Marathi vocabulary already had a significant content of Kannada and Telugu and some distinct traces of Tamil, so this may not be as far-fetched as it seems.The iconography of Vitthal is unique and intriguing; the best way to begin to approach it is by trying to describe the image and its stance, treating the Pandharpur image as central.In brief, Vitthal's image at Pandharpur is a male figure, stoneblack in colour, and standing erect on a raised slab known as "the Brick"; arms akimbo and hands on hips, the figure is perfectly symmetrical; in terms of proportions, it is a stocky figure of medium build; the feet are placed e.venly together, as though standing to attention, and the eyes seem to be looking straight ahead; the crown is cylindrical though in some images it is also conical; there are fish-shaped rings in both the ears; the image is adorned with sweet basil beads turned into a necklace; the left hand holds a sea-conch and the right hand holds the stalk of a lotus though in some images it makes the gesture of blessing as traditionally understood; the cloth that covers the loins is skin-tight and the shape of the genitals shows through the garment; sometimes,Vitthal's image is accompanied by the image of his wife, Rakhuma. The image and the stance of Vitthal have been read in many different ways that amplify or go beyond the actual visual appearance. Scholars contest both the image and the name of Vitthal, offering diverse hypotheses about their origin; briefly, Vitthal has been connected variously with Vishnu, or a cattle-god, or a hero-stone,and even with the Buddha; the worshippers of Vitthal have seen him, for the last seven hundred years, only as a form of Vishnu. The poetic "iconography" of Vitthal, or Vitthal as described by poets in their own words since Jnanadev and Namdeo, follows a core of conventions and joint-stock phraseology, though each poet has added his own unique flourishes to the description. Tukaram's poem describing the image and the stance ofVitthal, apparently simple and elegant, contains an enigmatic element that
may crucially influence one's reading; he begins the poem literally with the following three words: "sundar te dhyana" or in the same literal order and word-for-word "beautiful that..." the third word is the enigmatic one; while "beautiful" can be rendered with a choice of synonyms with some family-resemblance among them, "dhyana"-the third word-can mean "(that) character" in a colloquial sense, or "(that) meditating (figure)" which are very diverse in their meaning; the word is a forked sign; Tukaram refers to the mythology of Vishnu by pointing to the "Kaustubha", a fabulous gem-stone obtained when the gods and the demons churned the ocean to receive its legendary secret gifts; this gem-stone was placed on the breast of Vishnu; the fish-shaped or crocodile-shaped earrings also belong to the mythological description of Vishnu; the conch-shell and the tulsi-bead necklace are of course obvious and not imagined or finely perceived; Tukaram is not merely a worshipper of Vishnu; he has a mythopoetic imagination, the need to create a legend to satisfy in the process of worship; he also has an emotional need to find the exact words; and finally, he has the urge to explore the many sub-texts in which a literary or poetic image of Vishnu is rooted; he has to be faithful to the physical precision of the sculptured image that is so well-known and seen by almost his entire audience; yet he also has to grace it with poetic creativity.