A study of the 2 different shades of life, people and divinity with touch of sufism in Malik Mohammad jaysi’s epic Kanhavat
Malik Muhammad Jayasi (1477-1542) was a significant Indian Sufi poet of medieval devotional period whose ability to put details in perspective casted the religious sensitiveness and secular feelings in a very poignant balance in his epic work Kanhavat written in regional Awadhi language.
This work is important not only because it is the first and probably last epic works written by a Muslim poet in Awadhi on one of the most significant religious Hindu mythological legend Krishna but at the same time it also shows the deep and profound knowledge Jayasi possessed about Indian theology and Hindu spirituality.
Even though being enamored in the devotion of monotheism but in Kanhavat he gave his poetic consent to the theory of incarnation and polytheism. Jayasi’s religious veneration was so liberal that he propagated his Sufi ideology and mysticism through Indian cultural symbols.
Islam as a religion does not have any concept of rebirth on the basis of ‘karma’ but Jayasi has validated the idea of rebirth and also the idea of salvation through the devotion and selfless love as described in the religious Hindu scriptures.
The most important viewpoint which is visible in Kanhavat is the Cultural excellence and humanism which Jayasi propagates by portraying that though we follow different set of religious ideologies and belief system by being Hindu or Muslim but on the humanitarian level we are not different neither superior or inferior to each other.
Jayasi’s own writing identifies two lineages of Sufi pirs who inspired or taught him. The first lineage was that of the Chishti leader Saiyid Ashraf Jahangir Simnani of Jaunpur Sultanate. From this lineage Jayasi’s teacher was Sheikh Mubarak Shah Bodale, who was probably a descendant of Simnani. The second lineage was that of Saiyad Muhammad of Jaunpur and Jayasi’s preceptor from this school was Sheikh Burhanuddin Ansari of Kalpi.
Malik Muhammad Jayasi in his composite works has shown the gracefulness, the deep glance of culture, history and spiritual awakening with accepting the bountiful omnipresence of love. He incorporated all these themes which are also the basic traits of Sufi mysticism.
The great Indian tradition of Indian love poetry gets mingled in a beautiful way with the Persian form in this prolific works of Jayasi. According to him love is the only medium or approach by which one can attain salvation and eternal peace.
He further states that attaining this approach of love of divinity is not that simple as it seems from the outer surface. It is really difficult to attain the ultimate love which unites the person with the divinity and the supreme divine power.
He suggests that to attain this blissful state one must selflessly drown himself selflessly in the devotion towards the goal of attaining the supreme state of love which ultimate leads and units with the god or divinity.
In Indian history and literature the mythical image of Krishna is portrayed in different and diverse ways starting from Vedic period to modern period. Jayasi has used the mythological story of Krishna as a base for his epic Kanhavat, though he took it not directly from Hindu scriptures but from folk tales and stories prevalent during his time.
A distinctive quality of jayasi’s Kanhavat is that it presented the character sketch of Krishna who is regarded as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, not only as a divine and blissful being but he also tries to personify Krishna in a cast of human being and presented his version of Krishna as fully ornamented with all the worldly emotions of normal human being. He has shown him breathing and feeling all the pains and pleasures of a normal human being.
A major point which makes this work different from other works written around mythological character of Krishna is that usually whenever the love story of Krishna is depicted, it is generally depicted with the Radha but in kanhavat Jayasi has woven the story of Chandrawali and Krishna as the main plot. Krishna is shown as the desperate but enthusiastic lover trying his best to get united with Chandrawali. Though the basic outline of the story of Krishna is same as described in the Hindu scriptures but Jayasi has taken the creative freedom to describe the various phases and events from Krishna’s life with a blend of Jayasi’s own creative imagination.
One can say that the storyline of kanhavat is based on the Indian divine incarnation theory but Jayasi has interpreted and related it with his mystical Sufi belief system of oneness with the supreme divinity. He has seen the human soul not as separate but as a place of God himself and advocated the omnipresence of God at every place including the human soul.
Jayasi was true devotee of Mother Nature also and it is visible in his epic work Kanhavat where he praises the beauty of nature by describing seasons of Nature and the rich productive crops. Jayasi has touched the various shades of life and its institutions like family, marriage, and caste and class system of that time.
By portraying Krishna in different role ranging from his character as son, brother, friend and lover also, Jayasi has tried to present the importance of family as well as society in shaping the life direction of a being. Jayasi has also mentioned about the diverse customs and traditions prevalent at that time and he has presented it bluntly with all its positives and negatives in the most honest way.
With various examples like polygamy, corruption and various other vices prevalent at that time he has tried to present the biased social prejudiced rampant in the society.
Jayasi has tried to touch all the debatable issues ranging from social to political. He has discussed especially more about ‘caste’ which are socially either too underdeveloped, exploited or which do not have much respectable status in society.
He presented the two different kinds of women in Kanhavat, one who are well connected with social norms and regulations and another one who are more independent and free in putting their opinion.
Jayasi has portrayed the two different kinds of kings also one is the ideal king who always works for the welfare and wellbeing of his people and who has more democratic and unbiased relation with his officials as well as with his subjects. Krishna, the king of Dwarika has been portrayed as the ideal king. The other kind of king is portrayed with the example of Kansa; the wicked and corrupt king of Mathura who always suppressed and exploited his people for the sake of his selfish social and political motifs.
During the time when Kanhavat was written, poetry was considered as the best medium to showcase the philosophical as well as devotional view point and Jayasi also like other creative’s of his time chose poetry as tool to express his inner thoughts and viewpoints.
It is interesting to note that the multidimensional philosophy of Jayasi is not restricted to only mystical Sufi belief system to which he generally gets associated or to any other particular community. As per the tendency of his times where one talked and wrote only about their sect and belief systems to which they belonged but here Jayasi took the diverse path and wrote about every shade and belief system of his time.
The diversity of his works can be seen in his range of works like Kanhavat and Akhiri Kalaam in which he talks about the Islamic belief system and about dooms day as described in the Holy Scripture of Muslims and contrary to the theme of this work in Kanhavat talks about Krishna. In Padmavat takes Indian myth and history as the central theme. This multiplicity shows his creative excellence.
He even includes the multi-deity belief system and the incarnation theory of Hinduism in his works. A major point of research in this work is that what was the creative power which compelled a mystic Muslim Sufi saint and poet to write an prolific epic on one of the most celebrated and divine mythological figure of Hindus; lord Krishna. It is really interesting to read that how Malik Muhammad Jayasi has beautifully amalgamated the two different sects of belief system; Hinduism and Sufism.
In Kanhavat by keeping the life story of Krishna as the central character and theme Jayasi presented a reasonable blend of Sufi spiritualism and Hindu religious ideologies. Not only this It has been presented in such a way that in its undertones it portrays the then Indian society at its various level of cast, class and gender in relation with its social and cultural consciousness, Indian folk culture, religious beliefs and philosophical recognitions along with the Sufi opinion blended with Indian value system.