(Last Updated on : 11/03/2011)
Bargeetas or Vaishnava spiritual lyrics constitute a distinct form of musical composition in Vaishnava literature. In them is found a beautiful blend of poetry and religion which melt into melody. The philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita
is the basis of the Bargeetas. Alone and exposed to the adversity of life, the soul desires salvation and the mind gets weary seeking peace. The world is an illusion and in this desert of life, the only ray of hope is divine bliss, enkindled through prayer and absorption in the thought of God; the human soul weeps in agony, deep and penetrating. Mortal existence with its mundane fetters wears out the soul; the soul seeks bliss elsewhere and this supreme bliss finds fulfilment in the focus of divine light. The easiest way of attainment as also fulfilment in divine purpose on earth has been revealed by Lord Krishna
in the Gita thus:
! concentrate your mind, be my devotee, Be my worshipper, bow down to me, I promise, You will obtain Me, dear as you are.
This message of the Gita is the message of the Bargeetas and what is laid down as. essential in both is the absolute and unconditional surrender of self to God.
The language of the Bargeetas of Sankaradeva
and Madhavdeva, songs that are deeply spiritual in appeal and inspiration, is different from that used in their regular Kavyas. This language is known as Brajabuli, i.e., the language of Vrindabana, the mytho-poetic land of Krishna's spiritual activities. In the literal sense, Brajabuli means "language of the gods"; thus it acquires a sort of sacredness and spirituality in the minds of the people. This language mostly comprises vowels and alliterative juxtapositions. Scholars have described this language of the Bargeetas as "mixed Maithili-Assamese language
". It must be said that under different Vaishnava saint-poets, Maithili underwent variations according to different regional linguistic characteristics. In Assam also it developed into an indigenous Maithili form which might roughly be described as "Kamarupi Maithili".
Each Bargeeta is composed according to a Raaga
of Indian classical music
. It is set to tune accordingly and sung in the Prasangas, i.e., prayer time. The Bargeetas are of a spiritual nature as they have a deeper and more complicated musical composition (Marga-Sangita) than that of the usual type of people's songs. From the Raagas of the songs, it is difficult to say if an indigenous system of music flourished in Assam
or it was a modified extension of the prevailing Indian form.
Sankaradeva is most famously associated with the composition of Bargeetas. In most of Sankaradeva's Bargeetas, an austere devotion to and focus on Krishna constitutes the main main theme. In one of his Bargeetas (Raga Kedara), Sankaradeva sings of the futility of life's possessions, Athira Dhana Jana; in this world of conflicting interests and emotions, Krishna is the only saviour. Another Bargeeta (Raga Asawari) is a war-poem in the sense that it describes the movement of an army; every word of it strikes like a drumbeat and the rhythm of the poem is modulated into an unprecedented vigour. Yet, this poem too concludes on a note of resignation to Raghupati. Vishnu is worshipped in his two incarnations of Krishna and Lord Rama
. It is said that Sankaradeva wrote 240 Bargeetas, most of which are said to have been lost accidentally in a forest fire.
The art of the Bargeetas steadily declined in the hands of subsequent composers. Except those in the hands of Ramacharana Thakura, Gopaladeva and a few others, it became a pale imitation in the hands of subsequent writers. In some of the songs of the post-Sankara era, Brajabuli was discarded for Assamese. Even this could not give the new Vaishnava lyric artistic polish and spiritual beauty. Radha first made her appearance, a mature woman given to the devotion of God, in Madhavdeva's compositions. However, this gradually underwent a morbid decline and the romantic notion gave way to physical love. Madhavdeva was the last of the great musicians and with him the Bargeeta died.
The Bargeetas are essentially hymn-lyrics that represent the ideal of salvation through mystic union with the divine.