gaṃgāṣṭakam 2 Lyrics in English:
॥ sri ayyaval iti prasiddhaih sridharavenkaṭesabhidhaiḥ viracitam ॥
Introduction:- Once, the author Shridhara had to perform the shraddha ceremony wherein his ancestors are propitiated. In this ceremony three pious brahmins who are well versed in the vedas
and are of exemplary character are invited. The Manusmriti gives details about the qualifications of the brahmins to be invited on this occasion. The forefathers are invoked in them. Then these brahmins are honoured, as one would do his ancestors with food, clothes and dakshina. In Shridhara’s case the ceremony fell on an Amavasya day in the month of Kartika (8th month of the solar calendar). He had made all arrangements to conduct the ceremony as ordained in the shastras, including inviting the three brahmins. The food items to be served to the brahmins (who represent his ancestors) were being cooked. As the preparations were in progress, he heard the plaintive cry of a beggar. The beggar was an outcaste. He said he had not eaten for hours, and so is famished and distressed. Shridhara, who was a very pious person, saw in this outcaste the image of Lord Siva and was immensely moved. He immediately gave the food items prepared for the shraddha ceremony to the beggar and ensured his hunger was appeased. He beggar ate heartily and went away after invoking Lord’s blessings on Shridhara and his amily members. Shridhara came to himself some time after the beggar went away and realised his “folly. One is not expected to serve the food prepared specifically for serving to the ancestors (invoked in the brahmins) to anyone else till the ceremony was over. He was very upset and asked the brahmins as to how he should expiate for his act. They said that the only way to atone is to take a bath in the sacred Ganges. But Shridhara felt that this was impossible to be done as the trip to Ganges will take many weeks. This implied that he will not be able to perform the shraddha ceremony on that day. So it will be an act of ommission and will invite serious sin. Shridhara felt that the only thing to do in such a predicament is to surrender to the Lord. So, in the following verses he explained his predicament to Lord Siva and prayed to Him to release Ganga from His matted locks as He did on an earlier occasion in response to the prayers of sage Bhagirata. The kindly Lord could not bear to see His devotee upset. So He released Ganga from His locks. The well in Shridhara’s house started to overflow. Many animals like fish, tortoises came out along with the gushing waters. The villagers were astounded at the sight and were wonderstuck at the intensity of Shridhara’s piety. They realised his greatness. They requested him to control the flow of the water which was threatening to flood the village. Shridhara prayed and the flow from Ganges subsided. All, including the brahmins who had been invited specially for the ceremony were only too willing to accept that if Shridhara took bath in the waters of the well it will be equal to a bath in the Ganges. Shridhara was very happy at the decision of the brahmins. He took bath in the water drawn from the well and completed the shraddha ceremony.
This incident is celebrated every year on the Amavasya day in the month of Krittika at the village. The faithful throng in large number at the house in Tiruvisanallur village where Shridhara lived on that day every year and take bath in the water drawn from the well. They believe that the bath gives the same benefit as a bath in the Ganges.
COMMENTS. The scriptures assure that a true devotee will not encounter misfortune or problems in life. na vasudevabhaktanam asubham vidyate kvacit। says Vishnusahasranama in the phalashruti. Lord Krishna gives an assurance to this effect in Gita (9-31). kaunteya pratijanīhi na me bhaktah pranasyati। The question, then, is why should devotees like Shridhara and many others like Prahladha face problems? The answer is that the problems they face may be attributed to prarabdham or deeds they might have committed in their past births. But, though the problem appears to be of serious nature to us, it does not appear to be so to the devotees themselves. They do not lose their serenity in the face of adversity, nor is there least change in their devotion.
ghrstam ghrstam punarapi punascandanam caru gandham
chinnam chinnam punarapi punah svadu cai-veksukhandam ।
dagdham dagdham punarapi punah kancanam kantavarnam
na pranante prakrtivikrtih jayate sajjananam ॥
This says that a piece of sandal wood, when repeatedly rubbed against a stone emits only a pleasant flavour. Even when the sugarcane is cut into many pieces it will continue to taste sweet only. A chunk of gold when heated in the fire again and again will give out its natural shine only. So also, the qualities of the great people will not undergo the least change even at the end of their lives. To repeat, a devotee of the Lord will certainly encounter problems. They are designed by the Lord to bring out the devotee’s unshakeable faith in the Lord so that others may understand his greatness. The devotee himself never complains that he is undergoing immense suffering. But he thinks of the Lord as usual for help. He gets it and is happy that his problem is solved. In fact, Kunti-the mother of Pandavas, cleverly converted the problems into advantage. She found from experience that she thought of the Lord whenever she faced a problem. Krishna promptly appeared on the scene and helped her. So, she prayed to Krishna that she should face problems every now and then so that she can have His darshan often. She said:
vipadah santu nah sasvattatra tatra jagadguro।
bhavato darsanam yasmadapunarbhava-darsanam॥ Shri Bhagavatam (1-8-25).
The verses of Gangashtakam are given below. The translations of the verses given here are not exact.
sambho bhavannama nirantaranusandhana bhagyena bhavantameva ।
yadyeva sarvatra tatha’ntyaje’dya pasyatyaho ko’tra krto’paradhah ॥ 1॥
O Lord Shambhu! I am used to repeating Your name all the time. As a result I am blessed to see You only every where. So, today I saw You only in this outcaste also. Is there anything wrong in this?
astvesa mantuh pitryajna niste gaṅaplavo yo vihito’pacityai ।
dūrattu tannamajapena suddhih na syat katham me smrtirarthavadah ॥ 2॥
Let me agree that a bath in the Ganges is the proper atonement for my transgression of the rules pertaining to the shraddha ceremony. But the Smriti texts say that even if one just repeats the name “Ganga few times he
becomes pure. Can not I take recourse to this expediency in this situation?
tvannamanista na hi tavato me sraddha yatah karmasu na pradagdha ।
traisaṅkavam me pasupantarayah mucyeya tasmatkatham artabandho ॥ 3॥
O Lord, I accept that I have not got that intense faith in Your name that I can give up performance of duties like shraddha. Thus I am in an awkward situation, like king Trishanku. How do I get relieved from this situation?
yadyadya te sraddhavinastirista ko’ham tato’nyaccaritum samarthah ।
sraddhe vrtah pūrvadinopavasah nanyatra bhunjīyuh idam tu khidye ॥ 4॥
If it is Your wish that the shraddha should be missed let it be lost. I cannot go against Your will. But, what about the brahmins who have been specially invited for the occasion? They have been fasting since yesterday and will not take food at any other place.
sraddhalavah sraddhavighatabhītya svatmoparodham vighanayya dhīrah ।
yatprocuratrapacitim mahantah tatrocitam yaddayaya vidhehi ॥ 5॥
These brahmins are noble souls. They have prescribed the expiation, not with any selfish motive but only to make sure that the shraddha should not become deficient in any manner. They have not taken into account
the inconvenience that they will face in the process.
gaṅgadhara! tvadbhajanantaraya bhītya grhe kūpakrtavagahah ।
jane na tīrthantaram adya gaṅgam asadayeyam kathamartabandho! ॥ 6॥
On account of the fear that the chanting of Your name should not be interrupted even for a moment, I have been taking bath only in the well in the house itself. I do not know any other holy river or waters. This being the case, how will I go in search of Ganga?
naham tapasvī sagaranvavayah jane na jahahnuh carati kvaveti ।
sambho! jatajūtamapavrnusvetyabhyarthane nalamayam varakah ॥ 7॥
I am not an ascetic like Bhagiratha nor do I know the whereabouts of the sage Jahnu. I am not qualified
even to pray to You to release Ganga from Your locks.
gaṅgadharakhya gatiratra nanya tamasraye saṅkata-mocanaya ।
hanta! pravahah kathamatra kūpe vispūrjatīsah khalu te prasannah ॥ 8॥
So, Your name Gangadhara is my refuge. I see no other way out. Oh! What a wonder! Even as i say this, I see
the well overflowing! surely, the Lord has shown mercy.
gaṅgeti gaṅgeti harati grnhan aplavitoham dayaya purareh ।
kūpottitoyam karunapravahah gaṅgascirayatra janan punatu ॥ 9॥
As I repeat the name “Ganga, the very mercy of the Lord has taken the form of a flood and submerged me. May
this flow of the waters of Ganga purify the people in the days to come.
CONCLUSION. One may ask as to how it was possible for Shridhara to have a vision of Siva in a beggar. The answer is that he was convinced that every thing in this world is the Lord only and there is no second thing. Krishna says this in the Bhagavad Gita. He explains that He manifests Himself as the world using the power of maya. Though He is every thing in the world, people are deluded by the powerful maya. Their vision is veiled. They see the objects and overlook the God behind them. As an example, we see that several ornaments are made of a piece gold. They are given various names like bangle, chain etc. If we think a bit we will find that the word “bangle is not a substance but only a name given to a particular shape of gold. Gold can exist as gold but bangle cannot exist without the gold. Similarly, a person can go to sleep and have a dream. The dream is not substantial and is dependant on the dreamer; but not the other way round. Such things as the ornament that have no separate existence but have shape and name are called unreal objects or mithya vastu . They do not have a permanent existence. A bangle may be melted and made into another ornament any number of times. They are therefore impermanent or anityam। But the items like gold that lend substance to them are known as real or satyam। . They are permanent or nityam . They do not change when the ornament is changed. We may say that gold pervades the bangle as, really speaking, there is no such thing as bangle. Krishna says He pervades the entire universe. maya tatamidam sarvam jagadavyakta-mūrtina। Gita(9-4). The right knowledge will, then, be to understand first that the ornament is gold. Overlooking the very existence of gold will be a major error and will have serious consequences. Extending this idea, we should be able to see that every thing in this universe visvam
is impermanent and changing. People and animals come and go. So do the seas and mountains. We learn that even the sun and the stars are not permanent but have limited life only. Thus, the universe is anityam only. These impermanent, changing objects are many names and forms of the Lord only. In other words God is the real thing or satyam। . God gives substance to the world and is the substratum or adhisthanam। Krishna explains this to Arjuna and says the right vision is to see Him every where. But we are taken by the world and do not see the God hiding behind it. To start with, we do not see the Lord within us, but identify ourselves with the
bodies. This results in numerous problems. We have to take care of the body, ensure it is fed and clothed properly. We require so many things to protect it and keep it happy and secure. To get all these things we have to work hard. The need for comfort and security makes us desire many things. We get a family and friends around ourselves. We import their joys and sorrows on to ourselves. This leads to likes and dislikes. We like things and people who add to our joy and comforts and dislike those who do not. This corrupts our minds. As we go on working hard for ourselves and our family and friends, we do many things that are right and many times compromise with values and do wrong things. The results are punyam and papam. We have to enjoy the fruits of the punyam and papam in our account and to do this we have to take one or many births. Repeated births
and deaths is sorrow only. The only way out of this problem is to have the right vision that shows that God is in every thing and every where. Yama tells this to Nachiketha in Kathopanishad. (2-1-10).
yadeveha tadamutra yadamutra tadanviha।
mrtyoh sa mrtyumapnoti ya iha naneva pasyati॥
He says that one who sees plurality is condemned to be born and die again and again. Krishna says that by intense devotion one gets an understanding of the Lord’s true nature and gets such a right vision. Gita (18-55).
bhaktya mam abhijanati yavanyascasmi tattvatah।
Thus a true devotee is able to see the Lord in every being.
vidyavinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini ।
suni caiva svapake ca panditah samadarsinah॥ Gita (5-18).
He says that a person endowed with wisdom sees the same brahman in a brahmin endowed with wisdom and humility, in a cow, an elephant as also in a dog, and in an outcaste who eats a dog. Sage Narada said the same in his advice to Yudishtira. Bhagavatha (7-14-9).
atmanah putravat pasyet tairesamantaram kiyat ॥
One should look upon a deer, camels, donkeys, monkeys, rats, reptiles, birds and flies as though they were his own children. What is it that makes them separate from these (own children)? The vedic seers had this grand vision. The great vedic hymn Shri Rudram has three hundred salutations to the Lord, not by His names, but as
being available in various beings, both animate and inanimate. He is saluted as being the one available in the streams, shoals, clouds, lightnings, trees, grass, animals like horses, vultures and even in cheats and thieves! Because the hymn contains such a lofty idea its recitation is very inspiring. But, everyone may not be expected to study the scriptures like the upanishads, Gita and Shri Rudram. Understanding this limitation of the people in general our rishis had incorporated these valuable ideas in the popular hymns. We see these names encountered above visvam , satyah , and adhisthanam in the Vishnusahasranamam. One of Lalita’s names in Lalitasahasranamam (No. 734) mithyajagadadhisthana। (i.e.) She is the substratum of this unreal universe, says this fact explicitly. As we keep on reading or reciting these prayers, the great vedantic truths contained in them will gradually enter our mind and change our concept of God. That is why we have the practice of parayanam or reciting such stotras daily. By repeated reading we will understand that God is not a Being residing in remote places like Vaikuntha or Kailasa, but He is very intimately avilable in any thing we see or
hear about – including our bodies. This is said in the Narayana Suktam
yacca kimcijjagatsarvam drsyate srūyate’pi va ।
antarbahisca tatsarvam vyapya narayana-sthitah।
Understanding and accepting the facts stated above will cause a great change in our personality and attitude. We will know that we are surrounded by God resident in all things and beings. So, we are never alone or away from Him. This idea will give us great sense of security, as we can get His help at any time or place. Krishna says this in Gita(6-30).
yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati ।
tasyaham na pranasyami sa ca me na pranasyati ॥
Since He is in all things and beings we will show great respect and love for them. We will enjoy immense peace of mind and confidence. This is how the great men like the sages and saints could be calm and enjoyed happiness. Thus Shridhara’s experience teaches us an important lesson to be followed in life.