Friday, December 17, 2010

Masterly evocation of the Sreemad Bhagavatha


Prema Pandurang, renowned preacher of Hinduism, talks about timeless truths

Photo: Prema Pandurang (second from left) with the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court J. Chelameswar (third from left) at the inauguration of the week-long lecture programme on the Sreemad Bhagavatha

By Shevlin Sebastian

On the flower-bedecked stage of the Vinayaka Hall at Kochi there is a replica of the front of a temple. In the doorway of the temple there is an idol of Lord Krishna.

Prema Pandurang, a renowned preacher of Hinduism, has come to Kerala to give a week-long lecture on the Sreemad Bhagavatha (this is regarded as the 19th Purana, and contains 18,000 verses). She sits on a chair behind a small table strewn with flower petals. The Bhagavatha takes pride of place.

Premaji begins with a hymn and her mellifluous voice, accompanied by musicians on the flute, harmonium, tabla and the electronic synthesiser, fills the auditorium.

“When we walk together we may fight, but when we sing together, we are always in tune,” she says. Premaji tells a story. Emperor Akbar is praying. Birbal waits, but Akbar goes on praying. So Birbal walks away. Later Akbar asks him, “What did you want?” Birbal replies, “I came to beg something from you. But I saw that you were begging something from Allah. So, I thought let me beg directly from God.”

Premaji reads a shloka from the Bhagavatha and explains its meaning in English. Sometimes, she breaks into song. Frequently, she receives applause from a receptive audience.

“In newspapers and on TV, you only see villains and more villains,” she says. “Why are we highlighting the villains of the world? What a bad impact this will have on children. Why can’t the focus be on good people? Satya (truth) is a forgotten word these days.”

While talking about the Pandavas, she says, “The more they suffered, the more they believed in Lord Krishna. As for us, the more we suffer, the less we believe in God. We want joy for 365 days of the year.”

Premaji says that Kunthi, the mother of the Pandava brothers, asked Lord Krishna to give her suffering, instead of joy. “When I have sorrow, I will always think of you,” said Kunthi. Premaji says, “In sorrow, we are humble, while in joy we are proud.” On the floor, at one side, sits a young Brahmin priest, Pandit Sreekandath, who looks up with admiring eyes at Premaji.

The preacher is up to date with what is happening in the world. “At four years, two brothers can share a chocolate,” she says. “So, why can’t they share a factory when they are forty?” This is an oblique reference to the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, India's richest businessmen, who had a feud for a long time.

And on the powerful theme of death, Premaji says, “We see people die and think we are immortal. Life is a sentence; death is a full stop. One day we will have to go, whether rich or poor, strong or weak.”

It is a mesmerising performance by Premaji: songs, stories, scripture readings and body movements blend together perfectly to leave the audience spellbound. Thanks to Premaji, many people are reminded of the timeless truths in the Bhagavatha, which they have forgotten in their mad chase for money, status, and power.

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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