The Story of Bhakti – Srimad Bhagavatam

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The Plight of Bhakti in Gujarat

Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahatmyam, Chapter One Sloka 47-53: Ulpanadravida…

I was born in Dravida land, grew up in Karnataka, gained strength in Maharashtra, in Gujarat I became old. Due to the widespread of terrible kali there, people who did not believe in the Vedas injured me. I was helpless and with my two children, I could not do much. Then I went to Vrindavan. Like rebirth, I regained my youthfulness. Now I am beautiful, but my two sons, due to grief, have fallen down here. I want to go from here to another place. But by then, my children lost their strength. Because of this, I am sad. I am young and my children are old men. Why did this happen? In fact, we are not of different bodies. One entity in three forms. If the mother is old and the children young, there is no surprise, but when the opposite happens, it is indeed strange. This is troubling my thoughts. You are a yogi and a visionary, so please tell me the reason.

Interpretation: The slokas give an insight that the Bhakti cult was strong in South India. She says she was born in Dravida Pradesh – mainly Tamil Nadu and Kerala. And from there the Bhakti movement went to Karnataka and then to Maharashtra. Bhakti movement is still strong in these states. It is evident from the travels of Bhakti across various regions in the south, as described in the Mahatmyam verses of Srimad Bhagavatam, devotion for the Lord was strong. Gyana (knowledge) and Vairagya (renunciation) were practiced by the people in the south, though not in large numbers. Hence, Bhakti flourished; Gyana and Vairagya did not do badly.

But something seems to have happened in Gujarat. Probably the people there were not strong believers in Bhakti and never accepted Gyana or Vairagya. In all probability, there was another form of Hindu religion there which was more popular and strong. It may also be true that trade and business first flourished in Gujarat; even now most successful entrepreneurs have come from Gujarat. One could make out, through the narration of Bhakti, that people were probably more involved in trading and had little time to practice Vedantic knowledge that ultimately led to renunciation.

When Bhakti says she grew old in Gujarat, it means that she was either outdated because of a new religion there or she was unwanted (the old are sometimes ‘unwanted’). Mark her words: she says “I was injured” – which means that people who practiced Bhakti were probably put down. That being so, Gyana and Vairagya had absolutely no place. So they became weak.

Probably in Gujarat of those days, the people there respected and worshipped the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Even today, the traders in Gujarat worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, especially during festivals.

It is also strange that Gujarat was once the place where Sri Krishna built his empire – in Dwaraka to be precise. How come Bhakti could not flourish there?

But when Bhakti and her children went to Vrindavan, she gained her youthfulness. However, Gyana and Vairagya (knowledge and renunciation) remained old and weak. Why was that? Narada muni had the answer. That will be in the coming slokas.

Also Read: Kali’s scary signature is all over

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