Deepa Pradakshina in Dakshina Sampradaya Bhajan

Chandrasekharan Raman

(Dedicated to my father Sri N. Raman, who exposed me to this greatest treasure!)

In Kali Yuga, Namasankeertanam is advocated as the easiest way of attaining Chitta Shuddi, leading to liberation by Self-Knowledge. The Puranas and many great Acharyas have expounded the efficacy of Namasankeertanam.

In South India, Sampradaya Bhajan refers to a practice of systematic rendition (Paddhati) of devotional songs of various composers. The Paddhati was mainly put together by Marudanallur Sri Venkatrama Swamigal (also known as Marudanallur Sadguru Swamigal), but the tradition is attributed to the famous trinity – Bhagavan Nama Bodhendra Saraswati, Thiruvisanallur Sridhara Ayyaval and Marudanallur Sadguru Swamigal. The entire Bhajan Sampradaya Paddathi itself has many important renditions like Guru Keertanam (songs in the praise of Gurus), Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi  (the famous poetry called Gita Govindam), Deepa Pradakshina, etc.

Deepa Pradakshina can be called the “heart” of Sampradaya Bhajan, and so it goes by the name Divya Nama Deepa Pradakshina. A Lamp (Deepam) with five wicks representing five faces is lit and placed at the center of the venue, earmarked for the purpose. The five faces represent the Pancha Bhootas. Devotees sing the praise of Lord in ecstasy, dance and go around the lamp with their heart soaked with devotion. In the process, a devotee get Chitta Shuddhi and single-minded concentration, because the body dances around the lamp (Kayikam Karma), the tongue chants the name of the Lord (Vachikam Karma), mind is remembering the Lord (Manasam Karma).

Devotees dancing around the lamp

By the act of singing, dancing and going around the Deepam, one accrues the benefit of going around the entire globe.  The following verse which asserts the above fact, is sung as a part of the Deepa Pradakshina Paddhati

भक्ताः सङ्गम्य चान्योन्यं दीपं मध्ये निधाय च

        ज्योतिर्मयं मां ध्यायन्तः कीर्तयन्तश्च मद्गुणान् ।

        प्रदक्षिणं प्रकुर्वन्तो भूप्रदक्षिणजं फलम्

        लभन्ते नात्र सन्देहो विनतानन्दवर्धन ॥

Further, when devotees perform Namasankeertanam in chorus, the benefits of hearing (Shravanam) and singing (Keerthanam) are achieved simultaneously and the entire atmosphere is charged with divine powers. The Almighty is immensely pleased as He is present in the venue and blesses the devotees with all prosperity, health and longevity.

Some of these verses are part of the Sampradaya Bhajan’s Deepa Pradakshina Paddhati:

विसृज्य लज्जां योऽधीते मन्नामानि निरन्तरम् ।

        कुलकोटिसमायुक्तो लभते मामकं पदम् ॥

(Those who give up the diffidence and shyness and always sing His names, Lord reach Him.)

नाहं वसामि वैकुण्ठे न योगिहृदये रवौ ।

        मद्भक्ता यत्र गायन्ति तत्र तिष्ठामि नारद ॥

(The Lord tells Sage Narada that He does not reside in Vaikunta nor in a Yogi’s heart. He is very much present in the place where His devotees sing His names).

कालक्षेपो न कर्तव्यः क्षीणमायुः क्षणे क्षणे ।

       यमस्य करुणा नास्ति कर्तव्यं हरिकीर्तनम् ॥

 (This verse cautions us that we do not have much time to spare. Our human birth, which the rarest gift we have got, is dwindling every second. When our time on this earth is over, Yama — the Lord of death — will show no mercy! We will have to leave this place then and there when Yama decides that our time is over. So, we need to start chanting the Lord’s name right now!)

Devotees performing Deepa Pradakshinam

The Deepa Pradakshina Paddhati consists of invocatory songs to invoke the Lord in the lamp. During the Deepa Pradakshina, songs composed by saints Bhadrachala Sri Ramadasa, Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Narayana Theertha are sung. An important part of the Deepa Pradakshina Paddhati is the Gopika Geetham, which occurs in the Dashama Skanda or the 10th book of Srimad Bhagavatham. The devotional fervor of the Gopika Geetham is not only unmatched in the literature, but it also has the highest Vedantic Truth. In the fourth stanza of this song goes as

न खलु गोपिकानन्दनो भवान् अखिल देहिनां अन्तरात्मदृक् ।

विखनसार्थितो विश्वगुप्तये सख उदेयिवान् सात्वतां कुले ॥

(O Krishna; certainly You are not just the son of Yashoda, but the immanent witness of all embodied beings! In response to the prayer of Brahma, the Creator of the worlds, You have risen among the Yadavas to protect the world.)

In the last stage before the Deepa Pradakshina ends, the following verses that bring out the efficacy of uttering the Lord’s names are sung, followed by the chorus of name of the Lord.

  किं तात वेदागमशास्त्रविस्तरैस्-

          तीर्थैरनेकैरपि किं प्रयोजनम् ।

          यद्यात्मनो वाञ्छसि मोक्षसाधनं

          गोविन्द गोविन्देति स्फुटं वद ॥

         (गोविन्द गोविन्द)

 (O Friend, if your goal is liberation from samsara, what is the use of dwelling into all the details of Veda Shastra, Agama Shastra, and touring all places of pilgrimage? All you have to do is to utter the name “Govinda, Govinda”! This verse does not render the Shastras useless, but asserts that chanting the Lord’s name is as powerful as the aforementioned Sadhanas.)

 भर्जनं भवबीजानामर्जनं सर्वसम्पदाम् ।

         तर्जनं यमदूतानां राम रामेति गर्जनम् ॥

 (जय जय राम राम)

(If “Rama Rama” is said out loud, it will roast the seed that causes rebirth, gives all the wealth needed, and scares away the emissaries of Yama, the Lord of death.)

 कोटयो ब्रह्महत्यानामगम्यागम कोटयः।

        सद्यः प्रलयमायान्ति महादेवेति कीर्तनात् ॥

(हर हर महादेव)

 (Singing the names of Mahadeva (Lord Shiva) will immediately annihilate the sins incurred killing crores of Brahmanas, and crores of visit to prostitutes’ places!)

The proceedings end when an elderly devotee restores the lamp to its original place.


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