Narsī Mehtā


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(1414–1480, or later)

The most widely revered of the Vaiṣnava bhakti poet-saints of Gujarat, little is known of Narsī's life, although there is an extensive hagiography, much of it depicting direct interventions by Kṛṣṇa (as the lord of the temple at Dvārakā) on behalf of his devotee. Such stories appear to have been drawn from the content of the songs attributed to Narsī; other compositions are erotic in nature, playing on the relationship between Rādhā (with whom the poet identifies) and Kṛṣṇa, and probably drawing on Jayadeva's Gītagovinda. It has also been suggested that he belonged to the Vallabha sect. A number of the non-erotic poems attributed to Narsī (albeit in a modernized form of the language) are still widely used in the daily devotions of Gujarati speakers. Among them is Vaiṣṇava jana, a characterization of the ideal Vaiṣṇava devotee, which is said to have been one of Gāndhī's favourite songs.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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