Anjana Gadhave of Pune district recalls ovi from a memory storehouse, and sings of the saint-poets Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram, of Lord Vitthal and Rukmini, and tulsi' s marriage, for the Grindmill Songs Project

“Yes, I remember the ovya we sang many years ago. They are all here, in my heart,” says Anjanabai Gadhave, indicating it with her palm.

Anjanabai lives in Savindane village of Shirur taluka in Pune district with her two sons and their wives. Her late mother-in-law Dhondabai Gadhave also sang grindmill songs and they have both been featured on PARI. (See When the daily grind is done ) The family belongs to the Kumbhar (potter) community and outside their home is a shrine of the 12th century Bhakti poet Sant Janabai, sculpted by Anjanabai’s father-in-law Fakira Gadhave.

On October 8, 2017, we went to Savindane but were dismayed to learn that Dhondabai had passed away in 2008. We met Anjanabai that day and recorded her songs on video.

When the PARI team visits villages to meet the singers of the Grindmill Songs Project (GSP), we find that many women can’t easily remember the songs. So we try to jog their memory by reciting some couplets. But Anjanabai remembered almost every ovi of the 17 she had contributed to the grindmill songs database in 1995. She sang 16 for us in a voice that has retained its sweet intonation even 22 years after she performed them for the previous GSP team. She was slightly breathless by the time she finished. After a moment’s pause, rather endearingly she told us, “I am a heart patient, I have a pace maker.”

Anjabana bai standing with sons and daughters-in-law outside home
PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri
Janabai shrine outside Anjanabai's home visited by a devotee cat
PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri

Left: Anjanabai Gadhave (centre) with her sons and their wives. Right: The shrine outside their house of Sant Janabai, made by Anjanabai’s father-in-law

Songs of devotion and discord

The first eight ovi are about the lives of Bhakti saint-poets Sant Dnyaneshwar (also called Dnyanoba or Dnyanba) and Sant Tukaram (Tuka or Tukoba). Couplets nine to eleven are about the domestic discord between Lord Vitthal and his wife Rukmini. The five couplets at the end of this medley are about tulsi or the holy basil plant, the idealised ‘ pativrata’ or wife selflessly devoted to Lord Vitthal (Lord Krishna or Lord Vishnu).

Some Hindu communities celebrate this devotion by solemnising the tulsi vivah or the marriage of the tulsi plant and Lord Krishna. It is held within a fortnight of the festival of Diwali in the month of Kartik of the Hindu lunar calendar. The wedding feast includes some sour and sweet seasonal fruits like tamarind, bor or ber (Indian jujube) and pieces of sugarcane, all of which are a treat for children.

In the first ovi , Anjanabai asks: Who is the king of Alandi? It is Dnyaneshwar, who resides in the temple on the bank of the Indrayani river, she replies. The second couplet tells us that the town of Alandi where a five-year-old boy took samadhi (a permanent state of meditation; the final resting place) was plastered with silt from the river. His age is not accurate in the song, but Dnyaneshwar was very young when he renounced life. He was born in 1275 AD and was 21 years old at the time of his samadhi in 1296 AD. During his short lifespan, he achieved such literary feats as the Dnyaneshwari * and the Amrutanubhav *, besides composing several ovi and abhang (devotional and mystical poetry).

In the third ovi, the singer tells us about the golden peepal tree with gem-studded leaves that symbolise the spiritual enlightenment attained by Dnyanoba, who took samadhi below the idol of Nandi, the bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. This refers to the underground vault below the Siddheshwar temple in Alandi, Pune district, where Dnyaneshwar is believed to have ended his worldly life.

In the fourth ovi , Anjanabai compares the phenomenon of the fish from Alandi swimming upstream in the Indrayani river to Dehu to the steadfast devotion of Dnyanoba and Tukaram to Lord Vitthal.

Watch video: ‘How did the fish from Alandi swim upstream to Dehu? Much the same as Dnyanoba-Tukaram are drawn to Vitthal’, sings Anjanabai

Sant Tukaram was born in 1608 in Dehu in Pune district, and his collection of over 4,000 poems forms an important part of Marathi literature. He disappeared without a trace in 1650, and some of his followers believe that he left the earth for Vaikunth (heaven or the celestial abode of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology). Couplets five to eight are about this.

The singer asks in ovi five: Who threw popped grain in the deep pools of Dehu (on the Indrayani river)? And answers: As Tuka went away to Vaikunth, his wife Jija was looking for him. In ovi six, the singer asks: Who threw bukka (a fragrant black powder offered by devotees) in the deep pools of Dehu when, cymbals and veena* in hand, Tuka disappeared from the earth? (The people of Dehu had tremendous faith in Tukaram and it is out of respect and devotion that they showered popped grain and bukka at the time of his farewell.).

Ovi seven tells us that Tukaram’s strings of tulsi beads, which floated on the river after he left this world, made the deep waters of the river appear black. In ovi eight we learn that the devotion for Tukaram was so great that the tailor who made the pandal at Dehu wrote his abhang all over the fabric.

In ovi nine, ten and eleven, Anjanabai sings of Rukmini’s anger towards Vitthal; it is so intense that she gives him cold water for his bath. She sits near a pond and is sulking. Her beloved Pandurang (Lord Vitthal) puts his arm around her neck and tries to pacify her. She is reluctant to sit beside him because she cannot bear the lingering dust of abir and bukka*, the fragrant powders that devotees offer Vitthal.

The last five songs are about tulsi , and Anjanabai addresses her as a plant and a pativrata –  an idealised woman who worships her husband and is wholeheartedly devoted to him. (This idealisation is  socially and culturally rooted in patriarchy, with no parallel in a similarly devoted husband.)  She tells her not to wander in the forest and offers her a place in the courtyard of her spacious home, in a rectangular pot called vrindavan . Anjanabai sings that tulsi has no parents and she grows in black soil. Harichandra, the wind, the plant’s friend and brother-in-law, pushes her making her sway and when her leaves are blown away, Lord Vitthal fondly collects them. This couplet shows that Lord Vitthal cherishes her, and this is perhaps why tulsi leaves are offered to the deity during worship.

आळंदी काय गावू कोण्या राजाच गावू
इंद्रायणीच्या कडला ज्ञानेसवराच देवूळ

आळंदी सारवली इंद्रायणीच्या गाळान
जित समाधी घेतली पाच वर्षाच्या बाळान

सोन्याचा पिंपळ याला जडीवाची पान
समाधी घेतयली नंदी खाली ज्ञानुबान

आळंदीचा मासा देहूला गेला कसा
न्यानुबा तुकाराम साधुचा नेम तसा

देहुच्या डोहावरी कुणी उधळली लाही
तुका वैकुंठाला जाई जीजा भोवताली पाही

देहूच्या डोहावरी कुणी उधळीला बुका
हातात टाळवीणा गायीप झाला तुका

देहूचा डव्ह कशानी झाला काळा
तुका गेला वैकुंठाला वर तरंगिल्या माळा

देहूचा मंडप कुण्या शिप्यान शिवीला
तुकायारामाचा वर अभंग लेवीला

रुसली रखमीण हीच रुसण वंगाळ
देवा विठ्ठलाला गार पाण्याची आंघूळ

रुसली रुखमीण जाऊन बसली तळ्याला
प्रितीचा पांडुरंग हात घालीतो  गळ्याला

इठ्ठला शेजारी रुखमीण बसना
अबीर बुक्याची हिला गरदी सोसना

तुळशी पतीव्रता नको हिंडू राणीवनी
पैस माझ्या वाडा जागा देते इंद्रावनी

तुळशी पतीव्रता नको हिंडू जंगलात
पैस माझा वाडा जागा देते अंगणात

तुळशी पतीव्रता तुला नाही आईबाप
काळ्या मातीवरी तुझ उगवल रोप

तुळस पतीव्रता हीला कोणीना दीला धक्का
हरीचंद्र हिचा मेव्हणा सखा

तुळशीचा पाला वार्यानी काही गेला
देवा विठ्ठलानी आवडीन गोळा केला

āḷandī kāya gāvū kōṇyā rājāca gāvū
indrāyaṇīcyā kaḍalā jñānēsavarāca dēvūḷa

āḷandī sāravalī indrāyaṇīcyā gāḷāna
jita samādhī ghētalī pāca varṣācyā bāḷāna

sōnyācā pimpaḷa yālā jaḍīvācī pāna
samādhī ghētayalī nandī khālī jñānubāna

āḷandīcā māsā dēhūlā gēlā kasā
nyānubā tukārāma sādhucā nēma tasā

dēhucyā ḍōhāvarī kuṇī udhaḷalī lāhī
tukā vaikuṇṭhālā jāī jījā bhōvatālī pāhī

dēhūcyā māḷāvarī kuṇī udhaḷīlā bukā
hātāta ṭāḷavīṇā gāyīpa jhālā tukā

dēhūcā ḍavha kaśānī jhālā kāḷā
tukā gēlā vaikuṇṭhālā vara taraṅgilyā māḷā

dēhūcā maṇḍapa kuṇyā śipyāna śivīlā
tukāyārāmācā vara abhaṅga lēvīlā

rusalī rakhamīṇa hīca rusaṇa vaṅgāḷa
dēvā viṭhṭhalālā gāra pāṇyācī āṅghūḷa

rusalī rukhamīṇa jāūna basalī taḷyāla
pritīcā pāṇḍuraṅga hāta ghalītō gaḷyāla

iṭhṭhalā śējārī rukhamīṇa basanā
abīra bukyācī hilā garadī sōsanā

tuḷaśī patīvratā nakō hiṇḍū rāṇīvanī
paisa mājhyā vāḍā jāgā dētē indrāvanī

tuḷaśī patīvratā nakō hiṇḍū jaṅgalāta
paisa mājhā vāḍā jāgā dētē aṅgaṇāta

tuḷaśī patīvratā tulā nāhī āībāpa
kāḷyā mātīvarī tujha ugavala rōpa

tuḷasa patīvratā hīlā kōṇīnā dīlā dhakkā
harīcandra hicā mēvhaṇā sakhā

tuḷaśīcā pālā vāryānī kāhī gēlā
dēvā viṭhṭhalānī āvaḍīna gōḷā kēlā

Which king reigns over Alandi village?
Dnyaneshwar’s temple is on the bank of the Indrayani

Alandi was plastered with silt from the Indrayani
There, a five-year-old boy took samadhi

The gold pimpal [peepal tree] has gem-studded leaves
Dnyanoba took samadhi under Nandi [the bull, Lord Shiva’s vehicle]

How did the fish from Alandi swim upstream to Dehu?
Much the same as Dnyanoba-Tukaram are drawn to Vitthal

Who scattered popped grain in the deep pools of Dehu?
As Tuka goes to Vaikunth, Jija [his wife] looks around [for him]

Who scattered bukka in the deep pools at Dehu?
Cymbals and veena in hand, Tuka disappeared

How did the deep pools at Dehu become black?
Tuka has gone to Vaikunth, strings of tulsi beads float on the river

Which tailor has stitched the pandal at Dehu?
He has written Tukaram’s abhang on it

Rukhmin is upset, her anger is bad
[She gives] cold water for Lord Vitthal’s bath

Rukhmin is sulking, she goes and sits near a pond
Her dear Pandurang [Vitthal] puts his arm around her

Rukhmin is reluctant to sit near Itthal [Vitthal]
She cannot bear the abundant abir and bukka

Tulsi pativrata , don’t wander in the forest and jungle
My house is spacious, I will give you a place in the vrindavan*

Tulsi pativrata , don’t wander in the jungle
My house is spacious, I will give you a place in the courtyard

Tulsi pativrata , you have no parents
Your plant grows in the black soil

Tulsi pativrata , who pushed her?
Harichandra [the wind], her friend, her brother-in-law

Tulsi leaves were blown away by the wind
Lord Vitthal fondly collected them


Abir or gulal : a fragrant orange powder that is offered by devotees to Lord Vitthal and to Bhakti saints, also applied as a dot on the forehead by devotees

Amrutanubhav : Sant Dnyaneshwar’s unique poetic work in the ovi form, consisting of 800 poems of four lines each. It is a meditation on ‘Being’ or ‘the Self’ in the Kashmir Shaivagama tradition. It was translated into contemporary Marathi by Vinda Karandikar and into English by Dilip Chitre as Anubhavamrut – The Immortal Experience Of Being .

Bukka : a fragrant black powder that is offered by devotees to Lord Vitthal and to Bhakti saints, also applied as a dot on the forehead by devotees

Dnyaneshwari : Sant Dnyaneshwar’s commentary in 12th century Marathi on the Sanskrit Bhagavad Gita . It was originally called the Bhavarth Deepika (the light that illuminates the meaning) but is popularly known as Dnyaneshwari , after its author.

Veena : A stringed musical instrument. The veena mentioned in the sixth ovi has a single string.
Anjanabai Gadhave's portrait
PHOTO • Namita Waikar

Performer/Singer : Anjanabai Gadhave

Village : Savindane

Taluka : Shirur

District : Pune

Caste : Kumbhar (potter)

Age : 56

Children : Two sons and three daughters

Occupation : Potter and agricultural labourer

These songs were recorded and the photographs were taken on October 8, 2017.

Poster: Sinchita Maji

Namita Waikar is a writer, translator and Managing Editor at the People's Archive of Rural India. She is the author of the novel 'The Long March', published in 2018.

Other stories by Namita Waikar

PARI Grindmill Songs Project Team: Asha Ogale (translation); Bernard Bel (digitisation, database design, development and maintenance); Jitendra Maid (transcription, translation assistance); Namita Waikar (project lead and curation); Rajani Khaladkar (data entry).

Other stories by PARI GSP Team
Photos and Video : Samyukta Shastri

Samyukta Shastri is an independent journalist, designer and entrepreneur. She is a trustee of the CounterMediaTrust that runs PARI, and was Content Coordinator at PARI till June 2019.

Other stories by Samyukta Shastri
Editor : Subuhi Jiwani

Subuhi Jiwani is a writer and video-maker based in Mumbai. She was a senior editor at PARI from 2017 to 2019.

Other stories by Subuhi Jiwani
Editor : Sharmila Joshi

Sharmila Joshi is former Executive Editor, People's Archive of Rural India, and a writer and occasional teacher.

Other stories by Sharmila Joshi