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Narsinh Mehta

Context:

Recently, researchers of Bhakta Kavi Narsinh Mehta University (BKNMU), Junagadh, discovered a new species of spider and named it Narsinhmehtai in honour of Narsinh Mehta, the 15th century poet who was a devotee of Lord Krishna, and ‘to put his name on global map.’ However, members of Nagar sub-caste group of Brahmin community, in which Mehta was born, and admirers of the poet objected to the nomenclature, arguing the bard was already a global name and that there was no need to associate his name with a spider.

Relevance:

GS I- History, Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Who was Narsinh Mehta?
  2. Miracles in his life
  3. His poetry
  4. Mehta in popular culture
  5. Giving names to new species

Who was Narsinh Mehta?

Image result for narsinh mehta
  • Mehta is believed to have been born in Talaja in present-day Bhavnagar district in 1410 and died in Junagadh in 1480s.
  • The family had its origin in Vadnagar in north Gujarat, and the caste name is believed to be Pandya but as members of the family were officers in kingdoms of those days, they were called Mehta (one who keeps books of accounts) which later on became the family name.
  • His father died when Mehta was just 5 and it is believed that Mehta learnt to speak only when he was eight years old, after a holy man asked him to utter the name of Lord Krishna.
  • His elder brother Bansidhar and Bansidhar’s wife raised Mehta and arranged his marriage.

Miracles in his life

  • Mehta used to spend time in Krishna-bhakti (devotion to Lord Krishna) even after his marriage to Manekba, paying little attention to family duties.
  • Mehta is believed to have run away from home and done tapashcharya at a Shiva temple in Talaja for seven days.
  • After that, Mehta relocated with his family to Junagadh.
  • There too, he used to remain submerged in Krishna bhakti, writing and singing bhajan-kirtans and was a man of no means.
    • Nonetheless, folklore has it that Lord Krishna, by impersonating as Mehta, helped the devout poet organise shradhha (a ritual performed post death of a family member) of his father, marriage of his son Shamaldas, mameru (gifts presented to a married woman and her in-laws by her parents on special occasions) of his daughter Kunvarbai as well as honoured a promissory note wrote by Mehta on one Shamlsha Sheth of Dwarka.
  • One of his bhajans narrates how Ra Mandlik, the then ruler of Junagadh had imprisoned him, accusing the poet of not having seen Lord Krishna and yet claiming to have done so.
    • The king had ordered that Mehta be released only if the Lord comes to the rescue of his devotee by presenting the poet with a garland. And the next morning, Mehta was found with a garland.

His poetry

  • Mehta penned more than 750 poems, called padd in Gujarat.
  • They mainly deal with devotion to Lord Krishna, gyan (wisdom) vairagya (detachment from worldly affairs). Others like Shalmshano Vivah, Kunvarbainu Mameru, Hundi and Harmala are believed to be autobiographical accounts of different occasions in his life.
  • Vaishanavajn to tene kahiye, Mahatma Gandhis favourite bhajan is Mehtas creation.

Mehta in popular culture

  • Mehta is regarded as adikavi (the first poet) and bhakta kavi (devout poet) in Gujarati literature. His bhajans are integral part of Gujarat’s cultural life even six centuries after they were written.
  • The Junagadh university set up by the state government in 2017 is named after him.
  • A lake in Vastrapur in Ahmedabad is also named after Mehta.
  • The state government is funding a light-and-sound-show facility and a museum at Narsinh Mehtano Choro, a premises believed to be the bard’s home in Junagadh city.
  • Narsinh Mehta Award, which was instituted at the initiative of Morari Bapu and peot Manoj Khanderia in 1999 recognises lifetime contribution of a poet is among the most prestigious awards in Gujarati literary worlds today.
  • However, often Narsinh Mehta is used as an epithet for one who doesn’t earn and does little to support their families.

Giving names to new species

  • Researchers naming new species after a great personality is not new.
  • A new spider species was named after Captain Vikram Batra, the Kargil War hero in 2016.
  • Another spider species has been named after lord Jagannath.
  • Sri Lankan researchers have named one spider species after Mahatma Gandhi.

-Source: Indian Express

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