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Uddhav Shatak Of Jagannath Das Ratnakar

Uddhav Shatak, a Hindi devotional poetical work, comprises of one hundred verses (shatak) written by Jagannath Das Ratnakar. It is composed in the Bhramar Geet Parampara genre started by the well known Krishna devotee Suradasa. Uddhava Shatak of Jagannath Das Ratnakar was published in 1931 and is one of the best in the Bhramar Geet genre.

Bhramar Geet parampara is a tradition of Hindi poetry wherein a bhramara (bee) is addressed instead of the person really intended, in this case Uddhava.

Story Of Uddhav Shatak

As per Srimad Bhagavad Purana, after Sri Krishna left his childhood companions and youthful friends in Vrindavana and went to Mathura, the gopis, especially Radha, became despondent. Krishna, realizing the sorrow of all those who had centered their lives on his childhood play, sent his good friend Uddhava to Vrindavana to pacify them.

By doing so, Krishna intended to strike two birds with one stone. Uddhava was very proud of his learning of the knowledge texts and he believed that the only way to God was through knowledge. All other methods, including devotion, he considered inferior. He was confident that he would convert the people of Vrindavan to his view. Krishna knew that gopis would not be converted to this path, as they were the epitome of true devotion to God and required no further knowledge to sustain their devotion and their rejection of Uddhava’s view would bring down Uddhava’s pride. On the other hand, although the path of knowledge was not for them, Uddhava’s preaching would help them get over their pangs of physical separation and internalize their devotion.

Uddhava went with pride, but returned converted instead, to the devotional path of gopis, who plied him with clever innocent questions like, “If the Lord is without hands and feet, how will He milk our cows for us, how will He dance with us then?” Radha is pictured as too shattered to even talk, so she sits quiet throughout the episode while her friends do the talking. A bee comes and buzzes around Radha; so, after listening to Uddhava’s preaching, Radha replies to each of his arguments by pretending to address the bee.

This episode was turned into a genre wherein the differences between the path of knowledge and the path of devotion are poetically compared and contrasted, to bring out the superiority of the latter.

Importance - Style - Philosophy In Uddhav Shatak

Uddhav Shatak is the best and most famous literary work of Jagannath Das Ratnakar. His treatment of episodes, wherein the emissary hands over the letter from Sri Krishna to the unlettered cowherd women, who fall over each other to have a look at it; the description of the fading lotus, on seeing which Sri Krishna remembers the plight of Radha and decides to send his emissary to Vrindavana – the wit and humor of the arguments; the anxiety and desolation of the residents of the hapless village; his meeting with foster parents – all are handled with poetic finesse and impressive poignancy.

The language is ornamental Braja, and the verses are written in the syllabic kavita meter, which allows for free separation as well as a link to the next verse. The originality of the poet lies in combining the Bhramara gita tradition with the hundred verse genre (shatak) as well as the Dutakavya (emissary poems) traditions going back to Sanskrit poetry. The story, running through the verses naturally, gives the poem a narrative dimension (khandakavya).

The mood (rasa) is the romantic-tragic (vipralambha sringara) and the argumentative attitude of the abandoned cowherd women lends it a peculiar pathos, while making it eminently interesting.

The initial episode of the lotus flower is also an original contribution, lending further pathos to the flight of the superhuman protagonist who has to move on to the call of duty, abandoning the very background that made him what he was. It also helps to keep the very reason of the plight, Krishna, in focus. This is a spectacular combination of literature, logic and spirituality, for, ultimately, two spiritual paths are discussed within the Indian cultural milieu. Also, it would be easier for a group of women to talk about their love to a bee instead of directly to a man they hardly knew. It also gives them license to employ sarcasm and jest, which would normally not be possible with a stranger.

The poet’s choice and conversion of a difficult spiritual theme into attractive interesting poetry that is easily recited by even the unlettered as well as his mastery over the language of Braj Bhasha and the idiomatic use of it, definitely ensure a place for Uddhava Shataka as a classic of Braj Bhasha literature.

Source – 
  • Encyclopedia of Indian Literature Vol V (1992) Edited by Mohan Lal – Sahitya Akademi New Delhi
  • Uddava Shataka (1970) Ramashankara Shukla – Lakhanau Prakashana Kendra
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume XI page 13 - 14 - IHRF