Monday, January 30, 2006

The Mahatma and the Cardinal ...

One of the things I discovered in India last month was that "Lead Kindly Light," that beautiful hymn composed by John Henry Cardinal Newman was among Gandhiji's favorites. [This was in a conversation with an old family friend, a neighbor of the 'rents. Incidentally, it was he who inspired my first travelogues. After graduating I moved to Pune, near Bombay for a year, and I'd write letters of my various jaunts around this new place -- yes, as in real letters, on that now rare bit of postal stationery, the Inland Letter Card -- a trip to the peths [old city], or to the shrine at Alandi.] So lying around on the bookshelf at the 'rents place was an Ashram Bhajanavali -- the hymnbook of Gandhiji's famous Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Apparently "Premal Jyoti" (Cardinal Newman's hymn in a beautiful translation by the poet Narsinhrao Divetiya) was sung every day at sandhya (evening prayer).

Here's what Gandhiji wrote in the introduction to the hymnal (this is my translation of the Hindi, which is most likely a translation from his original Gujarati).
... in this collection, there has been no single editorial perspective. Whatever gems we found anywhere have been collected. This is why many Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Zoroastrians read this with delight, and find some spirtual nutrition from it.
Here we go
પ્રેમળ જ્યોતી તારો દાખવી
મુજ જીવન-પંથ ઉજાળ
દૂર પડ્યો હું ને ઘેરે ઘન અંધાર,
માંગ સુઝ નવ ઘોર રજની માં, નિજ શિશુ ને સંભાળ
મીરો જીવન પંથ ઉજાળ.

ડગમગતો પગ રાખ તું સ્થિર મુજ, દૂર નજર છો ન જાય
દૂર માર્ગ જોવા લોભ લગીર ને, એક ડગલું બસ થાય
મારું એક ડગલું બસ થાય.

આજ લગી રહ્યો ગર્વ માં હું ને માગી મદદ ન લગાર,
આપ-બળ માર્ગ જોઈને હામ ઘરી મૂઢ બાળ
હવે માંગું તુજ આધાર.

ભભકભર્યાં તેજથી હું લોભાયો, ને ભય છતાં ધર્યો ગર્વ.
વીત્યાં વર્ષોને લોપ સ્મરણથી સ્ખલન થયાં જે સર્વ,
મારે આજ થકીં નવું પર્વ.

તારા પ્રભાવે પ્રભુ આજ લગી પ્રેમ ભેર,
નિશ્ચે મને તે સ્થિર પગલેથી ચલવી પહોંચાડશે ઘેર,
દાખ પ્રેમળ જ્યોતીની સેર.

રજની જશે ને પ્રભાત ઉજળશે, ને સ્મિત કરશે પ્રેમાળ
દિવ્યગણોંના વદન મનોહર મારે હ્રદય વસ્યાં ચિરકાળ
જે મેં ખોયા હોતા ક્ષણ વાર
This is Newman's text
1. Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom,
lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

2. I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

3. So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it will,
will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!


[Yes, the Gujarati is longer, because of an introduction of a repetitive parallelism to make it more lyrical, in the style of a Hindu bhajan.]

1 comment:

chez said...

interesting read.