“Madhushalaa – Harivanshrai Bacchhan” – A Treatise

Madhushaala — A Commentary…
Well i just thought that it would be a good idea to write a commentary on some verses from the poem “Madhushaala ” that Late Harivanshrai Bacchan wrote. You will find that the same poem is terrific from a spiritual standpoint, and has loads and loads of knowledge to offer… From those verses, one can only imagine, the heights that Harivanshrai Bacchan himself had scaled spiritually…. So here’s starting off…

Verse 6

मदिरालय जाने को घर से चलता है पीनेवला,
‘किस पथ से जाऊँ?’ असमंजस में है वह भोलाभाला,
अलग-अलग पथ बतलाते सब पर मैं यह बतलाता हूँ –
‘राह पकड़ तू एक चला चल, पा जाएगा मधुशाला।’

This verse aptly describes the spiritually-inclined devotee, who is in search of the right path, that will take him to the promised lands of self-realization. At that point in time , he really is in a crucial phase of his life, for if he chooses the right path, and walks on it with all his heart, then he will be made, but if he makes a mistake, that would mean him getting lost in the world of delusions. The poet exhorts the devotee, to choose one path and then walk it with all his heart, and walk on it with faith and devotion till the end of all ends, stating that in the end he will surely find the promised land.

In these verses, मदिरालय and मधुशाला represent the temples of devotion and knowledge, of bhakti and dnyaan…

Verse 8

मुख से तू अविरत कहता जा मधु, मदिरा, मादक हाला,
हाथों में अनुभव करता जा एक ललित कल्पित प्याला,
ध्यान किए जा मन में सुमधुर सुखकर, सुंदर साकी का,
और बढ़ा चल, पथिक, न तुझको दूर लगेगी मधुशाला।।८।

This verse represents the stage of evolution in the life of a spiritually-inclined devotee \, when he can neither clearly see the path in front of him, nor can he himself gauge his own progress in his spiritual journey. This is actually a time of great peril for the devotee, as he is very much likely to abandon the spiritual path, for he feels that it is neither rewarding, nor is it that glamorous. That’s why the poet exhorts the devotee, to always keep on chanting the lords name in all his glory , so that he may keep his errant thoughts at bay. In return the Lord will reward him with the exhilarating and intoxicating bliss of bhakti rasa . He asks the devotee to always picture his guru, in all his might, and all his fatigue will vanish.. He urges the devotee to move on and keep walking, stating that doing thus, he wont find the promised lands to be too far.

Here साकी which literally means the girl who serves the wine, is used to represent the sadguru who indeed is very much like the distributor of the intoxicating and exhilirating wine of divine wisdom and bhakti

Verse 9

मदिरा पीने की अभिलाषा ही बन जाए जब हाला,
अधरों की आतुरता में ही जब आभासित हो प्याला,
बने ध्यान ही करते-करते जब साकी साकार, सखे,
रहे न हाला, प्याला, साकी, तुझे मिलेगी मधुशाला।।९।

This is perhaps one of the most heavily veiled verses, that is the most difficult to decipher and explain. It is not much different from the commentary that Sri Parmahansa Yogananda writes on the Gita as the interpretaions are quiet similar.
The poet states that when the desire to obtain the divine intoxicating
amrita of knowledge and devotion, surpasses all limits, to an extent that the desire itself becomes the source of the devotion and the devotee loses all his veiled intentions and perceptions, finally hitting rock bottom, that is when truly the changes start to happen.
The pit of his stomach, starved to near-death for want of the Lord, itself becomes like an empty cup that is now ready to be filled. Then in deep meditation when he atlast, finds the Lord at the seat of his soul on the
aadnya chakra, which means that his kundalini is awakened, purely by his desire to find his guru. Then in that meditative trance when he is in that moment one with the creator and the creation, forgetting that he even exists, forgetting that he lives in a world that is ignorant of his desire, forgetting everything but the Lord, that is the point when he finds the temple of divine knowledge and ecstatic bliss… and that is when his master finally finds him, in the chaos of his worldly life.

Verse 12

मेंहदी रंजित मृदुल हथेली पर माणिक मधु का प्याला,
अंगूरी अवगुंठन डाले स्वर्ण वर्ण साकीबाला,
पाग बैंजनी, जामा नीला डाट डटे पीनेवाले,
इन्द्रधनुष से होड़ लगाती आज रंगीली मधुशाला

The poet here describes the beauty of the temple of divine knowledge.. He almost insists that the beauty and the grandeur of the temple, is to the means of inviting the hereto unsuspecting devotee, to totally accept the guru (saaki) and to completely immerse himself in the gushing waters of intoxicating mirth that flow forth from the temple (madhushaala).

Verse 14

लाल सुरा की धार लपट सी कह न इसे देना ज्वाला,
फेनिल मदिरा है, मत इसको कह देना उर का छाला,
दर्द नशा है इस मदिरा का विगत स्मृतियाँ साकी हैं,
पीड़ा में आनंद जिसे हो, आए मेरी मधुशाला।।१४।

Here the poet now comes to the point where the devotee is truly ready to obtain the divine knowledge and guidance from his guru. He then describes that, even though the devotee has always been aspiring the intoxicating wine of the guru’s wisdom, he shall now find it agonizing, for the guru always schools the devotee in each and every of his errors, for he seeks that the disciple should obtain perfection. He also very subtly states that once the guru initiates the disciple he will get pain from the old memories of his bygone lives. By pain, the poet here wants to suggest the feeling that is experienced when you can truly see yourself through many incarnations; you can feel the pain that each of your desires gave you; you can feel the languish and despondency that gripped you at the end of each of your life; when you realized that all your efforts, all your strifes aimed at fulfilling your desires were pointless; as now you were to lose it all. There you can truly appreciate what each and every life cost you.. More on this later… Then the guru also starts to wipe out the disciple’s unrequited karmas one by one. This in turn may also yield him unexpected losses and gains at the same time. Still the poet points out that the journey to self-realization is always a painful one, and only the one who can truly enjoy this pain, realizing that it all is the result of his own karma should walk this path…

Verse 16

बहती हाला देखी, देखो लपट उठाती अब हाला,
देखो प्याला अब छूते ही होंठ जला देनेवाला,
‘होंठ नहीं, सब देह दहे, पर पीने को दो बूंद मिले’
ऐसे मधु के दीवानों को आज बुलाती मधुशाला।।१६।

Here the poet considers the example of someone who might consider himself to be substantially advanced spiritually. When he does that, instantly the ego starts to grip him, and he starts to think great things about himself. While that is not bad in the materialistic world, in the spiritual world it means the end of all progress. Therefore now the job of the guru subtly changes as he makes sure that his disciple stays grounded no matter what. At the same time it is also His responsibility to ensure that the disciple’s spiritual education goes on..Therefore he now uses stern words to dispense his commands, which is akin to fire, that burns away the disciple’s ego, much like the wine, that burns the throat as it flows down the mouth. This continues to a point where the disciple feels that it is utterly pointless to go to the guru, as at each and every opportunity, the guru humbles his pride.. This is the outburst of the ego. and the disciple now deluded, thinks that the guru can offer him knowledge, no more. But still the one who is that desirous of that divine and intoxicating mix of knowledge and devotion, that he is willing to undergo any amount of pain to obtain it…. The temple of the guru, welcomes such disciples…

Verse 17

धर्मग्रन्थ सब जला चुकी है, जिसके अंतर की ज्वाला,
मंदिर, मसजिद, गिरिजे, सब को तोड़ चुका जो मतवाला,
पंडित, मोमिन, पादिरयों के फंदों को जो काट चुका,
कर सकती है आज उसी का स्वागत मेरी मधुशाला।।१७।

Here the poet describes the ideal mindset of the aspiring disciple. who truly wishes to attain self-realization and move beyond all the barriers of this physical world. He urges the disciple to have a free mind; a mind free of all external education and external samskaras; a mind that refuses to be conditioned into the rot of the society, but still a mind that can openly accept new ideas and decide for itself the correct way to act.
A mind that is free from the burdens of all the religious texts, for in the end, they all are but a burden. They can make you imagine; they can describe what realization is; but never in this world can they make you reach the state of self-realization. He also leaves the temples and places of worship, for he no longer needs them, his god is always with him inside his own heart, and he worships it with each of his breath. He also asks the disciple to turn away from all the treacherous devices of phony godmen, who only seek to cash in on his insecurities, for now the disciple must have no insecurities… This verse describes some things that apply to the devotee as he moves furthur up the ladder and advances on the spiritual path… (p.s. don’t go burning up the religious books at your homeplace… lol )

Verse 22

सब मिट जाएँ, बना रहेगा सुन्दर साकी, यम काला,
सूखें सब रस, बने रहेंगे, किन्तु, हलाहल औ’ हाला,
धूमधाम औ’ चहल पहल के स्थान सभी सुनसान बनें,
झगा करेगा अविरत मरघट, जगा करेगी मधुशाला

In the lines above, the poet states appropriately the sheer fickle nature and the temporarity of all the things that surround human life and engulf the human consciousness. He says that in the end there are only two eternal truths; death and enlightenment. Further he goes on to state that even though death being the greatest leveler, has no power over the house of enlightenment that the madhushala represents. Thus the poet in these very lines, subtly tells the human being that in the end only the sweet taste of enlightenment is an eternal sense that shall remain with him through the endless cycles of death and rebirth; that self-realization is the only way to attain that state where the human then goes beyond the bonds of the forces that control the mortal universe as he is transmuted and reformed into an immortal, divine being…

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  • By suvarna kunnur, January 24, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

    superbly explained

  • By Umesh, October 17, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

    Thanks admin for explaining in excellent manner. full marks Sir!!!
    I believe each verse related to each stages of spirituality from begining to end.

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  1. Featured Epistles | The Last Pilgrimage — January 5, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

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