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: History of Religions, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Nov., 1984), pp. 113-132 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1062478 . Accessed: 05/03/2012 02:44
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Daniel Gold and Ann Grodzins Gold
THE FATE OF THE NATH HOUSEHOLDER
Susceptible to the thralls of women, wealth, and temporal rule, Matsyendra, the most senior of the legendary Nath yogis, did not perfectly exemplify the ideals of yogic asceticism. For as most Hindus know, Matsyendra was tricked into becoming the consort of the queen of the city of women, where he happily forgot his yogic identity and settled down to raise a family in regal comfort. But his illustrious disciple Gorakh managed to change his sex, join a group of singing girls, and penetrate the women's city. There Gorakh dramatically reminded Matsyendra of his true identity and rescued him from the appealing snares of worldly life. In honoring Gorakh's yogic triumph over the queen's worldly attractions, this central Nath legend shows how ordinary Hindus as well as ascetics may see greater value in the renunciate's path than in the householder's family life. But in demonstrating how Gorakh must himself become a woman to free his guru from woman and home, the story reveals the complexity of the persistent Hindu tension between householder and renouncer, a tension seen by Dumont as crucial in the development of Indian religion.' The complexity of this tension in
I Louis Dumont gives a nice presentation of the sociological implications of the tension between householder and renouncer in "World Renunciation in Indian Religions," a classic article reprinted in his Religion/Politics and History in India (The Hague: Mouton, 1970), pp. 33-60. The vitality of this tension in Hindu mythology is brilliantly presented by Wendy O'Flaherty in Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), esp. chap. 7, "Shiva as Ascetic and
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Of the scholarly collections in Hindi. asexual sort but as someone rougher and more virile-though still most unhouseholderly. with full beard and matted hair. In Kanphata: Untersuchungen zu Kult. pp. ed. Briggs. ed. "the hundred verses of Gorakh". Goraksa Samhita (Varanasi: Sampurnananda Sanskrit University. The best known hatha-yogic text of all is the Hathayogaprad7pika of Svatmarama. a text and English translation is given in George Weston Briggs. 1971]). who offers some English translations with his texts. sometimes. 19-32. Goraksapaddhati. . ed. 1978).. ed. p. 1980). 3 Several short Sanskrit texts treating hatha-yoga practice are attributed to Gorakh (see YogabTja. 43-52). Fausta Nowotny offers a scholarly edition with a German translation (Das Goraksasataka.3 Householder. 1969]. Keshava Ramchandra Joshi [Puna: Keshava Ramchandra Joshi. 1973). For these display concerns not only with the physical ascesis of hatha-yoga and a solitary concentration on spiritual sound but also. ed. It can be supplemented by the collections of Dvivedi. Gorakh Bani [Allahabad: Hindustani Academy. pp. 2 In Nath Sampradaya (Varanasi: Naivedya Niketan. Mohan Singh. ed. 1957]. Nagendranath Upadhyaya discusses the scholarly editions (Goraksanath: Nath Sampradaya ke Paripreksya mem [Varanasi: Kashi Nagari Pracharini Sabha. gives a list of books known to Naths in his day. 16-22." The story of Gorakh's transformation into a woman follows a popular account by Rajesh Dikshit (ShrT Navanath Charitra Sagar [Delhi: Dehati Pustak Bhandar. see Shri Janardan Shastri Pandey. containing a modern Hindi commentary. p. ed. reprint. vol. Dokumente der Geistesgeschichte 3 [Cologne: Dr.114 The Householder Nath myth and life is further revealed in a continuing tradition of rural Rajasthani Naths. For a Nath text devoted to alchemy and ayurveda. that of Barthwal. Nowotny. who in verse 4 acknowledges the favor of Matsyendra and Gorakh (The Hathayogapradipika of Svatmarama [Adyar. Gorakh Nath and the Kanphata Yogis (1938. 1918]. is the most extensive (Pitambar Datta Barthwal. Mukund Ram Shastri. ungentle image of the Nath yogi in the popular imagination. Mahidhar Sharma [Bombay: Shri Venkateshwar Press. 1966). Madras: Adyar Libraryand Research Center. gives a digested popular picture. Dikshit. and Amanaska Yoga. Shy of neither anger nor intoxicants. 251-57. he wears thick earrings through holes bored painfully into his cartilages-the distinctive mark of a Nath yogi. 5). pp. pp. and Kalyani Mallik.. 1954]). scholarly. 2. Of Gorakh's hatha-yoga texts the most important is the Goraksasataka. Hazari Prasad Dvivedi discusses the images of Naths found in literary sources.. 138). 1974]. Gorakhnath and Medieval Hindu Mysticism [Lahore: Dr. Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 20 [Shrinagar: Government of Kashmir. Yoganath Swami [Puna: Siddha Sahitya Samshodhan Prakashan Mandal. 1967]).2 The stark religious practice at the root of this popular image can be discerned in part from the texts in Sanskrit and Hindi commonly attributed to Naths. who also includes some important Sanskrit works (see Hazari Prasad Dvivedi. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 1967].. References to internal yogic sounds are plentiful in the vernacular Nath songs. and Kalyani Mallik. 1972]. Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati and Other Works of the Natha Yogis [Poona: Poona Oriental Book House. 284-304. Mohan Singh. Gorakh's power to take a female form seems all the more formidable given the awesome. Mythologie und Geschichte Sivaitischer Tantriker in Nepal (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag. who demonstrate values running strangely counter to those displayed by Gorakh in the city of women. with drugs and alchemy. Karl A. 1976]. pp. ed. The Nath is usually depicted not as an ascetic of the clean-shaven. Mohan Singh. Research Department. Gunter Unbescheid gives a useful bibliography. 1976]). 1937]. Amaraughasasanam. Nath Siddhom kT Baniyam [Banaras: Kashi Nagari Pracharini Sabha.
Their Founder. .. representing. pp. T. The book is full of inaccuracies." Indian Antiquary 7 : 47-53). Rough-looking sadhus can still be met who say they owe allegiance to individual gurus in Nath tradition. an ancient religious tradition alongside Vaishnavism and Shaivism. is very prosperous and regularly issues respectable publications." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 5 : 268-71. 1974). Shri Janardan Shastri Pandey [Varanasi: Sampurnananda Sanskrit University. pp..6 But in more recent times. the Naths still remain vital today-not only through the texts and legends they have left but also in religious communities. Gopinath Kaviraj writes: "The greatest defect in the Sanskrit writings of the sect is the frequent violation of the rules of grammar. But most of the more established lineages have adopted Sanskritic ways and-save for their earringsare largely indistinguishable from other respectable Shaivite ascetics. even disreputable people. Scholars speculate on the interpenetration of Siddha and Nath traditions. 1. the main Nath monastic center in the Gangetic plain. 1979]).5 "Nathism" has been recognized by some as a separate strand in Indian popular religion.. described ascetics much more intent on charity than on yogic practice (see L. P. Upadhyaya. the main monastic establishment in Gujarat. perhaps.4 while their vernacular compositions speak to the generally unlettered peasant classes from which many of them probably came. often themselves unlettered." 5 Nath tradition took shape alongside that of the Buddhist Siddhas in pre-Islamic India. 7-42. Nevertheless. 7 The math at Gorakhpur. Nineteenthcentury travelers to Dhinodhar. Khakhar. 1962).7 4 In a prefatory note in English to Goraksa Siddhdnta Sangraha (ed. A Tibetan hagiographical collection treating Indian Siddhas has recently been translated by James B. the Naths are presented as strongly individualistic yogis. but the Naths of legendary fame were probably preceded by the earliest remembered Siddhas. discusses the lists and presents a thorough review of the Indian scholarship on the relationship between the two traditions. Kabir (Oxford: Clarendon Press. Of the diverse tantric traditions that flourished in postclassical India. Uttar Pradesh. 1973]). Postans. see Briggs. that of the Naths appears as one of the most unrefined and closest to the people. On the historicity of Gorakh and other early Naths. the legends of the "nine Naths" still provide ordinary Hindus with some of their most central conceptions of the wonder-working yogi. 228-50. p. metric. the most notable being Akshaya Kumar Banerjea's long. n. "History of the Kanphatas of Kachh. systematic presentation in English of The Philosphy of Gorakhnath (Gorakhpur: Mahant Digvijay Trust. Like the Siddhas in Buddhism. etc .History of Religions 115 The works of the Naths in Sanskrit often show language that has little regard for classical canons. 6 See Charlotte Vaudeville. especially since some names found on the many lists of "eighty-four Siddhas" and "nine Naths" are similar. who-as in the case of Gorakh and the singing girls-are ready to mix with common. 88. and D. "An Account of the Kanphatas of Dhinodhar in Cutch with the Legend of Dharamnath. and since the sixteenth century. at least. with whom they were roughly contemporaneous. Indeed. Nath tradition together with Shaivism has become partially eclipsed in north India by Vaishnava devotion. Robinson (Buddha's Lions: The Lives of the Eighty-Four Siddhas [Berkeley: Dharma Publishing. Gorakh Nath has been identified with Shiva.
householder Naths can come to know a variant of the tension between householder and renouncer not really addressed in the story of Gorakh in the city of women. 3:103-4. Enthoven. The Tribes and Castes of Bombay [Bombay: Government Central Press. 3:58-63. The hero of his popular epic. 1:117-18. 409-10. Tribes and Castes of Bengal[Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press. the householder Naths must keep their traditions magically potent in the eyes of the peasant castes. Not a householder struggling to be a yogi. A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the North-West Frontier Province [Lahore: Government of India. H. Risley. The Tribes and Castes of the North West Provinces and Oudh [Calcutta: Office of the Superintendant of Government Printing.E. But before we examine the ways in which householder Naths deal with the contradictions of their situation. there are also householder Naths integrated into Hindu society as castes. 3:165. 1914]. For the householder Nath is not like the individual Hindu attracted by yoga who must then find a way somehow to subordinate his family responsibilities to ascetic practice. Rose. 1920]. pp. Some valuable descriptions of castes of yogis and Naths can be found in the regional surveys (see William Crooke. 1:278-85. 46-51. A. as we shall see. 1891]. Tribesand Castes of the Central Provinces [London: Macmillan. 1920]. with whom the Naths of our 8 Briggs. R. yet somehow identified with a tradition of renunciate yogis outside it. Robert Vane Russel and Rai Bahadur Hira Lal. we must first look more closely at just what that situation is. the Nizam's Dominions [Bombay: Times Press. the yogic ways of the householder Nath inform his orientation toward the rest of Hindu society. 3:252-54). . E. H. discusses married yogis and castes of Naths. At the same time. 2:388-89. 1896]. Instead of attempting to make their rough traditions look respectable in brahmanic eyes. he is a satisfied householder sometimes struggling with a yogic identity. Siraj al Hassan. He is. thus stands in striking contrast to the model offered by Gorakh. The Castes and Tribesof H. TRADITION THE COMMUNALIZATIONOF NATH ESOTERIC While the Hindu householder attracted to yogic practice may be oriented toward a salvational goal standing beyond the social order. 1:355-60.H.8 Naths as householders in village society face problems of change different from those faced by the Naths of great monastic establishments. some of whom take wives. H. instead.116 The Householder Nath Yet in addition to Nath ascetics of different varieties. 1916]. In effectively popularizing their esoteric traditions. these esoteric traditions must become personally meaningful for all those born as Naths. Communities who trace their origins to ascetic traditions-the many Jogi castes. who still look to them for spiritual leadership. happily integrated into Hindu society.
not to mention their offspring. 10The best informed speculation in English on early Nath castes is to be found in Vaudeville. Census of India. these castes remain as low in the eyes of most Hindus as they have always been. Doing research in a village in Ajmer District. And even though they call themselves Jogis (Hindi for "yogis"). 131-35).9 as well as Vaishnava mendicants-are usually not counted as twice-born Hindus. in order to practice their particular art of warding off locusts and hailstones when village crops were threatened. 1947]. the ruling landlord had deeded high-quality agricultural land to the original Nath settlers. 13 Briggs. W. Rajputana Agency: Report and Tables. we were told. banished from the ashram of his guru Jalandhar Nath and condemned to a low entertainer's life (see Unbescheid. 1931). L. pp. see John Nicol Farquhar. p. may well have eventually turned to the characteristic professions of some yogic castes. See B. Lorenzen. notes instances of married yogis living among traditionally celibate Nath ascetics. pp. . pp. "The Fighting Ascetics of India. Cole." John Rylands Library Bulletin 9 (1925): 431-52. and David N. 12On warrior ascetics in general. 27 (Calcutta: Government of India. and especially in Rajasthan-the area of our study-able-bodied men were recruited into groups of warriorascetics without much regard for their spiritual aspiration." Journal of the American Oriental Society 98 (1978): 61-75. Rajasthan. 1931. Naths were invited to the village several generations ago. 139. Young boys were sometimes adopted into monastic orders. not all are really ready to lead the renunciate life. to singing religious epics. and A Sixteenth-Century Indian Mystic [London: Lutterworth Press.History of Religions 117 study are sometimes classed. 46-47. we encountered a group of Naths whose magical potencies were still well valued." For while Hindus do nominally give up their castes when they join an ascetic order. As inducement to settle in the village. Orr has paid particular attention to warrior ascetics in Rajasthan (see his "Armed Religious Ascetics in Northern India. 1 Thus the Kusle Yogis of Nepal find their origins in Kapali Yogi. pp. 12 Yogis still identified with ascetic orders are known to live with women in open violation of older precepts. vol. G. "Warrior Ascetics in Indian History. to ritually warding off hail and pestilence-a highly valued ability-these professions often appear as worldly adaptations of ascetic ways. Most Jogi castes probably have their origins in communities of lowly ranked occupation who adopted traditions of popular yoga during the medieval heyday of the Naths. 199-209).'0 Other groups may in fact have something of the origins in married ascetics that they claim for themselves. 81-89.13And some of these. The migration of Nath families by invitation to villages where their magical skills were in demand was a 9 The 1931 census of India lumps the Naths of Rajasthan together with Jogis."John Rylands Library Bulletin 24 : 81-100. From simple begging.
Though the Naths of the village do not wear the orange robes of the renunciate."renunciate"14much as Rajputs are addressed as thakur. not sadhus. and their funereal practices inspire fear. Thus every prudent village would have wanted its Naths.dit. they are still addressed respectfully as bheg dharT. his death as a yogi disturbs them. The Naths thus contrast with the Vaishnava mendicants living in the village. they-and they alone-are allowed to wear orange turbans. success on a pilgrimage. despite their priestly functions in several temples. 14 In Rajasthani. the Naths have a hereditary right to perform worship and service at certain village shrines. Yet the customs of their own that they do preserve give them a highly ambiguous status in the eyes of their neighbors. bheg dharT literally means "someone wearing the costume (bheg)" of a renouncer. "teacher. For these. the Naths routinely interfeast with other clean agriculturalists and observe most of their public rituals. And though seen primarily as householder farmers. Although Nath shrines may also confer similar personal benefits. we were still able to hear a doggerel Hindi incantation that was guaranteed to scare away locusts. where they are regarded by their patrons as gurus and receive fixed offerings of grain. Accepted into village society. "lord. Their inherited responsibilities also include shrines in smaller neighboring villages without resident Naths. especially since the spells they employed did not destroy locusts and hail but merely caused them to pass on to the next village's land. relief from physical or financial distress." and brahmans as pan." Just as brahmans hold the priesthood of major temples. which are usually oriented toward one or more sorts of personal fulfillment-the procurement of offspring. were known as beggars and thieves-a more frequent status of communities seen to derive from ascetic traditions.118 The Householder Nath common pattern in the area. Naths today maintain a rank matching the clean peasant castes. . the shrines tended by the Naths stand out from most others. they are unique as the first resort when natural disaster imperils the entire community. Within the village. But while the living yogic force to which the Nath is still seen to have access merits his neighbors' respect. For the burial practices of the Naths are revolting to most villagers who stop to think about them. salvation. and religious experts whose work affects the well-being of all. and small Nath populations remain scattered through many villages. Competent farmers of their own land. And though the advent of modern insecticides has diminished the opportunities for Naths to display their virtuosity. For the Naths perpetuate the role of their forebears as protectors of the village from pestilence.
householderly constraints on the burial practices give this strangeness a gruesome aspect. Madan [New Delhi: Vikas. bury their dead together in a separate gravesite. and followed on the afternoon of the twelfth day by a public feast. But some routinized. pp. are discussed at length by David M. though perhaps ultimately linked to the respect paid to the spiritualized bodies of individual yogis. the Naths routinely traverse it. the Naths' burial practices are not seen as particularly dangerous to others. features balls made from grain and other auspicious foodstuffs that both represent and nourish the dead. Frank E. But the gravesite is small.'5 Among most village castes this complex rite is performed in the morning." in Karma . T. Impurity. called sapindTkaranaor samyojana shraddha. Since the burial place is located so close to where they live. Having joined the ancestors in their own realm." in Way of Life: King. A revered Nath sadhu is likely to be buried with pomp. Ralph Nicholas ("Shraddha. next to their quarter. The ritual. other villagers view them with disgust." in Religious Encounters with Death. The Naths. 1982]. But the Naths' gravesite is not the most fearsome indication of their strangeness. Thus. the large and prosperous Nath monastic community at Gorakhpur has a separate plot of land set aside as a graveyard. hold a feast 15These rites. moreover. after an all-night devotional sing. 1977]. Waugh [University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Hindus all over India observe a rite that puts the newly deceased into the ranks of previous generations of ancestors. Reynolds and Earle H. ed. the common gravesite of the householder Naths has become a concrete reminder of their awesome strangeness as a community. too. On the twelfth day after death. N. ed. a habit suggesting the unkempt yogi hanging about cremation grounds. which marks the end of death pollution. on the other hand. and Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty ("Karma and Rebirth in the Vedas and Puranas. having his own tomb or at least a marked grave. is treated by the villagers with the utmost caution. Knipe ("SapindTkarana:The Hindu Rite of Entry into Heaven. and the dead are buried without coffins. So the fact that the householder Naths are buried at all seems strange to the Hindus of the village. and Relations between the Living and the Dead. too. For however spooky and gruesome they are in themselves.History of Religions 119 Only Hindus of certain ascetic traditions-including Nath sadhusnormally bury their dead. sitting up in a lotus position like yogis. and though Naths mention these discoveries casually in passing. The Naths' transformation of Hindu funereal practices. Renouncer. So after successive generations old bones and silver jewelry are accidentally dug up. The householder Naths. the deceased will no longer linger about his former home as a ghost and serve as a source of pollution to his family. 367-79). pp. which lies just outside the village. Householder. 111-24). most Hindu householders are quickly cremated.
will go nowhere near the Naths' song gathering. in language both technical and poetic it describes the birth of some primal yogi and his internal experience: The son of the immortal. Thussaid Gorakh. "songs of devotion to the Formless Lord. The following song was recorded at a Nath funeral gathering.one of the nineNaths.the ascetic. which has grown to include an element of secret ritual that itself substitutes for the common grain-ball rite. pp. A sadhuin the sky. 1980]. Ninedevis. Throughthe crookedchannel The gurusent thejuicesdown Watering susumna's fields.120 The Householder Nath on the afternoon of the twelfth day. Unlike the songs of many devotional gatherings. TribenT. though appreciated by other villagers on different occasions. O'Flaherty [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. are usually characterized as "deep" and "profound"-not easily understood. ten temples-brother. payattention: All aroundis lifelessmatter. to which other villagers will gladly come. Theearthand the sky werefashioned.  [Refrain]   In thesefieldsare manycrops And all of themthe yogi knew falls ThroughtribenT the gurudrop by drop. . sadhuindestructible: is Slowlyin his heartan instrument sounded. ed. those sung by the Naths are restricted to a specific genre: the nirgun bhajan. Then MountSumeru Thena diamondyogi sproutedup. To the white-colored The lightof that soul in the world Willbe seenby all. The same villagers. He'llshow the Sant'sname. wherediamondeyes are fixed. however. The gurushowseight lotusesand thirty-twopetals soul." These songs often contain allusions to yogic practice and. Gloryto Hing Laj Ma! Gloryto one'sGurudev!       and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. W. And see the threeworlds.filth. 3-37). D.
"path." where susumna intersects two other channels between the eyes. incorporated Nath esoteric techniques into a more devotional piety. is concerned about the preservation of the cult group. At her puja. "three veins. for whom the initial grain-ball rite creates a lasting place in the heavens. But the poetic imagery of the song also gives it a more distant family resemblance to a tradition more widespread and vital in India todaythat of the Hindi Sants. for his part. Thus. the ordinary Hindu's concern for sustenance in the heavens may add to his desire to propagate his lineage through sons. called panth.History of Religions 121 Most of the technical terms appearing in the song above are found in yogic traditions all over India: the lotuses of verse 6. For the ordinary Hindu. susumna (verse 3). as is the stress on the sound in the heart. in the song above. over much of north India it is the verses of Sants that usually form the basis for the nirgun bhajan." In contrast to the ordinary Hindu. and tribenT(verse 5). Hing Laj Ma is worshiped as a flame said to burn in water: a perfect image of nonnurtured existence. the ritual act around which the funeral sing is focused still remains known as Hing Laj Ma Puja. subsequent offerings of grain-balls provide sustenance for the ancestors as a group. In fact. centers of power in the body. someone for whom the Hing Laj Ma Puja is performed finds immediate and complete salvation. Hing Laj has been one of the most important cultic centers of the Naths of western India. Both rites are seen to be vital to the state of the soul after death. As in many Sant songs. But in the song above we also see the invocation of a goddess who is never mentioned in Sant texts: Hing Laj Ma. referring to them in the song above (verse 9) and even at their funeral rite singing songs in a more devotional tone with signatures of famous Sants. that people to whom the rites will eventually become due get anxious about their future performance. The village Naths themselves recognize their kinship with the Sants. the song above bears a clear family resemblance to many of those published in the available collections of Hindi Nath verse. in fact. beginning with Kabir in the fifteenth century. "prayerto Mother Hing Laj. the deity of the shrine at Hing Laj. Though the area of the shrine is now in Pakistan and hence inaccessible to the village Naths. the type of song identified by village Naths as characteristically theirs. too. as yogic description. Someone involved in the Hing Laj Ma Puja. the central channel of energy flow." For anyone participating in Hing Laj Ma . But the "crooked channel" of verse 3 (bank nal in Hindi) is a term more specifically characteristic of Nath tradition. so vital. on the other hand. who. Located in Baluchistan. which in singing is referred to again and again in the repeated refrain. we see a concluding invocation of the guru. Indeed.
this!  It'sfilled with diamondsand with preciouspearls:remember is it! Fromthis flamethe imperceptible made:remember this! In this flamewill man be made:remember only In this flameare palacesand beauty. "visible power.reciteits name. indicates the linking of hands by all participants. . as is customary. which. his guru (verse 5). Remembering O CrazyOnes. GorakhYogi lit the flame Gorakhlit the flame. [Refrain] this All beingsin the worldshouldcontemplate flame. we must surmise from the song accompanying it.Oh Sants.in it are manySants.take darshan The flamebeginsto burn. For though our Nath informants were willing to record the song for us (a tape recorder has no soul).and Maheshpraiseit alone.    The next three verses refer more directly to cultic practices. the singer identifies himself. In the last verse." The flame was lit by Gorakh Nath. we were told.take darshannow. Yes. "remembering Macchinder"Matsyendra. which is sung at no other time. The first five verses of the song enjoin those present to contemplate the self-existent flame and imbibe its darshan. Macchindar.Oh Sants. Verse 6 mentions a vine. the See and recognize trueword. We were thus not permitted to witness the rite. the song also has a place for the idea of the Sant (refrain. and our restive souls would come back to haunt the members of the panth. verse 2) and the great Hindu gods (verse 4): The flamebeginsto burn.122 The Householder Nath Puja must have it performed for him at his death if he is not to become a hungry ghost. greatseersand munispraiseit alone The greatestseersand munispraiseit alone See Brahma. this linking of hands is elaborated in verse 7. you see manyin this flame. for no one could perform it in America. they were reticent about filling in the details.mingleflamein flame. then. but in addition to sectarian Nath heroes. Verse 8 refers by name to the presiding guru and his special work of making an elaborate grain design called pat.Vishnu. Most of what we know of Hing Laj Ma Puja. And anyone even accidentally witnessing the rite is understood to be one of its participants. Praisethis flame'sgreatpower  A Sant lit this flame. You see them.
that trueguru.History of Religions Formthe trueword'svine. are interested in salvation. Yes.deeply. the The flamebeginsto burn. moreover.take darshan. have through their personal qualities risen to positions of respected elder in the panth. form this trueword'svine and hold one sound. including many members of those peasant castes who have traditionally revered the Naths. threepersonsplacetheirhandsand hold a singlesound. those attracted to the panth. that trueguru. the collective relationship seen to hold among the members of a secret society. Goradhan Nath is my guru.moveback. Seize the essenceof all Sants. in examining the patterns of communalization of Nath esoteric practice. A few members of these other castes. Victoryto Hing Laj Ma! 123     While the presiding guru of the puja.Oh Sants.yes Goradhan Nath is my guru. Since the panth promises not sustenance in the other world but immediate release from the round of life and death. Yes.remember guru. Praiseit. pay attentionto this thing. The householder Naths themselves show us both yogic custom transformed into caste tradition and individual guru-disciple interaction transformed into the role of a caste in Hindu society. reveals what can happen when the private inner practices of yogis become transformed into an inner ritual accessible to groups of personally enthusiastic peasants.deeply UgmaNath said. The lifelong. recitethe name. He madethe pat fully.Oh Sants. like those traditionally drawn to be disciples of yogis. and all the village Nath families were involved in the panth.takedarshan. Yet access to the salvational power offered in the panth demands a different kind of commitment than access to the salvational power of the guru.and havingunderstood. eternal relationship of individual beings seen to exist between guru and disciple becomes. was a Nath called from outside the village. a voluntary community. Thus. The flamebeginsto burn. all bound eternally to perpetuate its existence.hold singleness. in the panth. we must distinguish the wider community of the panth from the caste of Nath householders. indeed. Goradhan. Yes. Threepersonsplacetheirhandsand hold a singlesound. Each presents its own characteristic developments. With the collectivization of the esoteric guru-disciple relationship comes a democratization of the well-defined line of authority from . Releasetheirhands. he madethepat fully. recite the name. the panth itself reaches beyond the boundaries of the Nath caste. Oh CrazyOnes. The panth.
Democratization of practical authority then leads to a change in the religious value of the esoteric language in the songs-songs that anyone can lead. They cling to their mysterious death rites and claim access to magic power as yogis. For someone born within the Nath caste. The disciple of the yogi is supposed to obey him in everything. All descendants of forebears invited to . respectable Hindu practice closest to their roots. Thus. Individual renunciates. popular Sant tradition-which itself acknowledges Gorakh Nath as an elevated personage. will now and then grant worldly boons to persons afflicted with barrenness or ill health. render their most essential aid collectively. however.124 The Householder Nath guru to disciple that this relationship entails. to the village as a whole. Though some in the panth are revered as especially wise and well versed in esoteric lore. in fulfilling their function as shrine priests-whom the typically iconoclastic Sants disdain-the householder Naths. At the same time. Thus. a community within society. For though singers in oral traditions do follow established patterns. their authority is practically limited to presiding over ritual. and one revered elder explained some esoteric language (to us. in accommodating to peasant society the Naths adapt the two forms of current. anyway) in the most grossly sexual terms. the singing of esoteric nirgun bhajans-however they are understood-presents a way of identifying with a yogic heritage without necessarily being able to perform yogic practice. All members of the panth in theory may take turns in leading songs-and there is no general correlation between expertise in singing and in yoga. Householder Naths. clearly differs from that of yogi renunciates. The dominant form of personal piety for the householder Nath then approaches the devotion to the Formless Lord found in the continuing. follow Shaiva practice. and it is in fact largely through subordinating himself to the divinity in the guru that he sees himself able to merge with the divine. The inspiration these singers receive is likely to lead to poetic vision sooner than to yogic insight. outside the social order. in some places tending images of Shiva. Their exercise of magic power in the world. they are also likely to improvise. esoteric language that in specific yogic traditions has definite referents in experience can now be used innovatively by singers who have no yogic experience at all. like established Nath renunciates. Yet the Naths do not accommodate to peasant society at the expense of their special status within it. They are seen less as gurus revered by individual devotees than as members of a caste valued by the entire village. In this way the esoteric vocabulary that the yogi uses to help convey his experience to his disciple now becomes the basis for polysemous poetic expression that each can interpret according to his inspiration of the moment. particularly in an ecstatic religious atmosphere.
The shrine was located in a field outside the village.History of Religions 125 protect the village from pestilence. his Nath friend's fearsome funeral rites. Observing that the appointed time had arrived but the brahman had not. But to the villager thinking about. and the shrine became a flourishing place of power. With his esoteric tradition having undergone such far-reaching transformation. but then. including a Rajput who told us the story. then. and the brahman with whom the devotees had arranged to perform the installation had failed to arrive. In a pinch. but the innate power of the two born ritual officiants is not . These same contradictions can also prove problematic to individual householder Naths. and who continues to officiate at personal functions today. Only our Rajput informant held his ground. nor was the usual complement of five men always called for on such occasions. the householder Nath can sometimes substitute for a brahman. The Rajput hesitated at first. asserting that no brahman was necessary. THE PROBLEMOF THE HOUSEHOLDER NATH AND THE DISTRESSOF RAJA GOPICHAND By birth a protector of the village from natural disaster and an officiant over rituals attended by many villagers. submitting to the Nath's authority. in some ritual functions the Nath can replace the brahman. Although some later objected to the unorthodox nature of this installation. On the auspicious night several devotees. Frightened. say. We were told of the installation thirty or forty years earlier of an oracular deity at an unused shrine that now draws pilgrims from all over the region. assembled at the shrine. the householder Nath can still maintain his identity as a yogi while living as a householder in peasant society. who was coming to take part in the ceremony. getting bigger as it approached. Suddenly those assembled could see an eerie flickering in the distance. performed the ceremony. among the peasant castes the householder Nath plays a role analogous to the brahman-whose great sacrifices of old provided for the common good. most decided to forget about the brahman and retreat to a safe distance. it was accepted as accomplished. In fact. the contradictions in the Naths' socioreligious status can appear highly ambiguous. a familiar village Nath. As the light grew closer it turned out to be a lamp carried by Madhu. It was getting dark and a little scary: the men were out unprotected in the fields with a powerful deity who was waiting for his worship to begin. together they tend shrines to which people continue to come first in times of natural disaster. Madhu instructed the Rajput to perform the installation.
To be pure enough to serve as a conduit for the power of Vedic mantra it is enough for the brahman to be moderately strict in his personal hygiene and social interaction. moreover. Though the term bheg dharT could refer to village Naths-and the possessed priest often used it that way-it could also refer to a real renunciate yogi.16 The ritual power of the householder Nath. Which did the deity mean? Since the village Naths were close at hand.. . I above]. And then. including some iron tongs for the deity's fireplace. we were about forty or fifty people that day. brahman-personally uncharismatic. has a source in the same yogic power that the legendary Naths used in order to perform impressive miracles. yet still qualified to perform effective ritual. when people were asking for proofs of its powers. and anyone of normal intelligence can learn to memorize the proper incantations. Our Rajput informant told us of a miraculous incident that occurred several years after he had helped install the deity at the shrine. if rather dull. immediately after planting the tongs in the fireplace. the power of the one to perform ritual and the other to perform miracles is seen to be continuous. Our informant approached the yogi. are still said to be wandering the earth today. So our informant. our informant decided to summon one of them and get on with the ceremony-when another devotee noticed that a renunciate yogi was walking down the road nearby. the possessed priest commanded that the tongs be put in place by some "bheg dharT. he disappeared. but only to the man who had had him installed. At the appointed time. 43. . While villagers certainly make a distinction between their own Naths and Nath ascetics. pp. the yogi disappeared. 46). but in the middle of them all. The brahman's derives ultimately from the Vedic seers of the ancient past. according to the deity's instructions. who agreed to his request without hesitation. but he would not really be expected to combine ritual and miracle like the ascetic 16 See Dumont's ideal-typal contrast between the brahman settled comfortably in the world and the renouncer beyond it ([n. The deity speaking through the possessed priest replied that he would indeed give proof.126 The Householder Nath understood to be the same-for the power of each derives from a different source. gathered together some specific offerings."Our informant did not know what to make of the statement. after the other offerings were presented." A householder Nath from the village might be grudgingly seen as competent to install the deity at a shrine through ritual. Hindu culture has long had a place for the punctilious. on the other hand. and fierce-looking yogis remain a common sight at many well-frequented pilgrimage places. These legendary Naths.. "Everyonewas amazed .
and always sure of a home-cooked meal. In Nath tradition the term Ogar (a Rajasthani form of aughar) refers to a renunciate whose ears have not been cut for earrings. This was the state of the true renunciate. so even when the family was under birth pollution. In contrast to the brahman. is understood to augment the Naths' powers: one village Nath of the recent past used to sit in cremation grounds and became famous for his powers of clairvoyance. Ogar Nath was exempt. with whom he would indulge in both conversation and intoxicants. spells for scorpion stings are understood to gain potency through repetition. he was not bound by the restrictions of Hindu family life. not mere memorization. however. Respected as a celibate ascetic. Madhu. the village Naths cannot seriously practice rigorous yogic asceticism while still raising families as their neighbors do. was frequented by traveling sadhus. the seat of a famous ascetic of old. and though Ogar Nath dressed like a sadhu. for which. thus. he did not wear the characteristic earrings of the Nath yogi. He explained that the cartilages were the site of a nexus of bodily senses. the same Nath whom we saw installing the deity at the shrine. fondling the children. to be buried alive. the keeper of one of the important local shrines. he said he was not ready. boring holes through the cartilages would bring the senses under control and give inner peace. Madhu did . seemed to enjoy the best of both worlds. Nevertheless. either did not put stock in Ogar Nath's ideas about ear cutting or had a higher regard for his own spiritual state. Maintaining ascetic practice. How is the householder Nath to understand his access to yogic power in light of the ideals set before him in the image of the living renunciate? How is he to reconcile his life as a householder with the potentials of his yogic identity? A few exceptional individuals manage consciously to adapt their particular circumstances to straddle the roles of householder and ascetic.History of Religions 127 yogi. For he both wore the Nath earrings and lived as a householder with a family. Ogar Nath. whose routinized mode of bringing the eternal power of the ancient sages into everyday life has evolved over millennia. But inside the village lived his deceased brother's family. His shrine. with whom he could often be seen playing the uncle: talking to the women of the house. outside the village. He was also not ready for the constant tension involved in wearing the earrings. moreover. however. Yet even when they want to. the idea of a living tradition of miracle-working ascetics stands behind the ritual power the village Nath is seen to possess. for if they should ever tear through the ear and fall to the ground the yogi would be forced immediately to take "living samadhi" at that very spot-that is. the householder Nath is seen to draw on a type of power that still flourishes in traditions of yogic asceticism today.
Madhu. on the other hand. polished-glass earrings that he was ready to give to a worthy Nath. while Madhu sat with his hands under his knees so as not to clutch his ears in pain. able to recite oral epic. whatever their social status. he was able to keep. who strikes a noble figure.128 The Householder Nath have a healthy terror of the earrings' death-dealing potential. is ready to install a deity at a shrine and is understood to have the power to do it. It has 17 Ogar Nath emphasized the seriousness of the ordeal suffered by Madhu. For Ogar Nath knows yogic lore and resides at a major temple to Shiva. He was one of the few in his generation to have learned the oral epic of Raja Gopi Chand.17 and together with the earrings. The story of the Raja's leaving his court to become a yogi dramatically reveals the tension between householder and renouncer that all householder yogis may feel. Though narrated to us as history. even though keeping up family ties. Madhu was ready to accept them. which he recently had rebuilt through his own donations and fund-raising efforts. is a landowning farmer who has reverted to ways of the professional bard. the first pair are usually of clay. a rather demeaning occupation. In order to protect the cuts no sleep is allowed for the first three days after the operation. . And when the Rajput lord of one of the nearby villages let it be known that he had some fine. The epic of Raja Gopi Chand sung by Madhu is recited in different versions by mendicant singers all over north India. the Raja also gave Madhu some land and a well-not all of which. Today Madhu stands out from his caste fellows as a character with an interest in caste traditions and access to a little magical power-the only one among them whose ears are cut. Compare Briggs. he is. 32. Jalandhar Nath's disciple. moreover. Yet people question his motivation in accepting the Raja's earrings. some of whose descriptions correspond in essentials to Ogar Nath's. Ogar Nath is a revered sadhu. Madhu and Ogar Nath have moved in two different directions to reconcile the householder's life with a renouncer's identity. and he is less respected for his personal qualities than is Ogar Nath. however. The operation was performed by a specially trained yogi. is seen to have stepped out of the common social order. this report sounds prescriptive. After nine days the sticks of nTm wood placed in the cuts just after the operation are changed. as we have seen. and was the only one local people now knew who was capable of reciting the epic at length. though. from Bengal to the Punjab. who. At yearly festivals and specific invitation he will sing the exploits of Raja Gopi Chand-often accompanied by his grown son and usually expecting remuneration. Only when the cuts are fully healed are earrings worn. As a young man Madhu seems to have had aspirations different from most others in his caste. The ear-cutting ceremony was performed in all its painful glory. Madhu. and always traveled with a scarf well-wrapped several times around his ears and head. p.
. only because his mother wrangled a boon from Shiva-despite the fact that there was no son written in her fate. reprint.'8 Madhu's version." Folklore 12 : 376-96). Needless to say. But just as they are pulling him through the sky. says Madhu. they were probably from low castes of professional entertainers. Unbescheid. he will die. I:vii-xii. pp. and by R. Patiala: Government of Punjab. having taken in the situation. 131-35. Language Department. and pushes in a huge stone after him.History of Religions 129 thus understandably become the core of probably their most widespread popular epic. We have also had access to an unpublished translation from the Bengali by Kanika Sircar (Gopicander Pancali [University of Chicago. Transcriptions taken from bards' performances of the epic are offered by George Grierson in "The Song of Manik Chandra. gives oral legends gathered from the Kusle yogis of Nepal. Dvivedi (n. Gopi Chand was born. Camping with his disciples in the palace gardens. and "Two Versions of the Song of Gopi Chand. What does he do? Accompanied by some trusty men he goes straight to the yogi's camp in the garden. 355-56. 190-217. however. mimeographed]). with Jalandhar Nath coming to collect his debt. his uncle. shows some touches that seem especially to reflect the tensions of a living tradition of householder Naths nicely integrated into the middle ranks of Hindu society. As prophesied. The terms of this loan stated. Department of South Asian Languages. who then breaks the news to Gopi Chand of the circumstances of his birth and the necessity of the moment." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 54 (1885): 35-55. that after ruling over his kingdom for twelve years Gopi Chand be returned to his guru. If Gopi Chand becomes his guru's true disciple. For a note on the status of epic bards and how transcriptions were made in the nineteenth century. offers concise retellings in modern Hindi of four versions of the story of Gopi Chand taken from written sources. Temple in The Legends of the Punjab (1884. 1962). 2 above). The most important scholarly transcriptions we have of the tale were recorded in performance by nineteenth-century folklorists. death's messengers come and start to drag him away with them. 205-8. C. this rather crude ploy gets him nowhere. and Mahapatra ("The Nath Cult of Bengal. I above). Even though the performers may have prided themselves on a yogic descent.. pp. pp.d. one of the disciples of the accomplished yogi Jalandhar Nath was granted to her as a son on loan. Popular narratives are retold by Dikshit (n. however. For good measure he then sends for seven hundred cartloads of horse manure from the royal stables and dumps them on top of the stone. some not easily accessible. he will receive an immortal body. see Temple. Jalandhar Nath. The story opens in the twelfth year of Gopi Chand's reign. he sends a message to Gopi Chand's mother. 18 Among householder yogis the epic of Raja Gopi Chand is rivaled only by that of Bhartrihari. but if he refuses to renounce the world. acts at once." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 47 (1878): 135-238. n. throws his former and future guru down a deep well. Through Shiva's mediation. Gopi Chand questions her closely and.
1984). Dvivedi. when Jalandhar Nath reproaches Gopi Chand for his perpetual ensnarement in the net of illusion. 2. His attachment to his family then becomes so powerful that the only way Jalandhar Nath can save him is by immediately reducing him to ashes-and later reincarnating him in another body. Not born a worldling who must then renounce. Renouncing the world is no mean feat for Gopi Chand. for example. who throws his daughter in his lap. Again and again Jalandhar Nath is called on to save Gopi Chand from the world for which he longs. Once. for his possessions are multiply seductive. 132. Gopi Chand returns to his body-which was being mourned in the palaceand revives. chap. Unbescheid. his beauty which must be buried beyond recognition beneath a yogi's ash paste and rough garment. but he also regrets the loss of his personal luster. suspects Gopi Chand. 192-93. 378-79. University of Chicago. Though fulfilling the terms of his debt may not be as painful for the 19A longer version of the story will appear in translation in Ann Grodzins Gold. pp. "Life Aims and Fruitful Journeys: The Ways of Rajasthani Pilgrims" (Ph. The idea of a yogi on loan. nor is the motif of Gopi Chand's being a yogi on loan. and his eleven hundred queens. Gopi Chand is recognized by his chief queen. pp. seems to encapsulate nicely the predicament of the householder Naths among whom Madhu lives. Mahapatra. 8-11. horses. the guru receives this crude and pointed reply: "What do you know of such things? You fell from the sky and have no mother and father!" Having been on loan to the world for so many years. Not only is he attached to his thousands of women and his magnificent palaces. Gopi Chand presumes to know some truths to which his guru has no access. diss.20Gopi Chand for Madhu is really a yogi who is born to participate in worldly life-while still owing something to his yogic origin. pp. and elephants.. 20 See Dikshit. p. But now chastened by this close encounter with mortality.130 The Householder Nath whose yogic powers were unaffected by Gopi Chand's crude maltreatment. Thus. maybe his guru does not really understand. as in most other versions of the epic. however.D. his sixteen hundred slave girls. he admits that he must do as his mother had told him in the beginning: renounce the world. Gopi Chand is not always so happy at being rescued like this and at times appears distinctly ungrateful. . comes storming up behind them and challenges the servants of King Yama: "Hey sister-fuckers. This insolence of Gopi Chand toward his guru after so many years of discipleship is certainly not found in other accessible versions of the story. where do you think you're going with my disciple?"'9 Jalandhar Nath's yogic authority prevailing. to the great joy of his mother. In fact. 205-8. Temple. pp.
the noble figure of Gopi Chand's mother can embody a painful union of the healthy family affection they know and the powers of yogic asceticism they may see as theirs to acquire. 23 We are following Dikshit. while the womb that gave him nurture was nothing human but an earthy. somehow have to own up to the responsibilities of his yogic identity? Like Raja Gopi Chand. p. then. p. But convinced by her gossipy neighbors of the ashes' dangerous power. she nevertheless knows his fate and urges him to leave the world. however. becomes Gorakh's father in a very concrete sense. and Matsyendra is able to summon Gorakh out of the cow dung.21 For a community of born yogis. . as Gopi Chand noted." and he had rushed to save his guru-father from forgetting himself in the city of women. the householder Nath knows a continuity of yogic and family identities that can be both confusing and problematic. a yogi's blessing must always bear its fruit. Coming to visit the woman twelve years later. Gorakh would not forget his filial duty to his nonhuman parents. too. where he had grown into a fine youth. "fell from the sky. through his sacred ash. We are told that Matsyendra Nath. amorphous." and Gorakh Nath arrived in the world as a twelve-year-old boy-and this on account of woman's fickleness. Matsyendra finds out what she had done and is furious. For when Naths other than Gopi Chand have miraculous births. writes: "This must be the unique occurrence in history of a mother herself encouraging her son to embrace renunciation. in order to remain with his eleven hundred 21 Dvivedi.22 The strong and pivotal role of the mother in the epic of Gopi Chand. in Bengali versions of the tale. the mother in the Indian home is perhaps the strongest focus of family affection. Gorakh's very name means "protector of cows. pp. then. Gopi Chand. A renowned Indian scholar comments on the irony of the scene: normally the first to dissuade her son from the renouncer's path." 22 See Mahapatra. Jalandhar Nath. Having borne Gopi Chand in her womb and raised him to manhood.23 Matsyendra. In most versions of the epic this continuity of identities develops into a basis for dramatic pathos well exemplified in the figure of Gopi Chand's mother.History of Religions 131 householder Nath as it is for Gopi Chand. on the other hand. 206-7. will not he. stands in contrast to her role in the legends of other Nath yogis. Nevertheless. bestowed some ashes on a peasant woman who had besought him for a son. then. they are likely to appear as well-developed ascetics. and peculiarly sacred pit of cow dung. Gorakh's guru. Indeed. the woman threw them into a pit of cow dung. and Dvivedi. pp. 378-82. Gopi Chand's mother herself is a great yogini. 205. 119. with women having little positive to contribute to their origins at all.
pp. has Gopi Chand bury Jalandhar Nath in horse manure after the Raja's wives accuse the guru of an illicit relationship with Raja's mother. rebels against his destiny. instead. indeed. The village Nath's attempts somehow to come to terms with his true identity through the communal life he has evolved certainly seem more effective-if less dramatic-than Raja Gopi Chand's frustrated exploits. For as the hero of the popular epic of the householder Naths whom we have described. tries to kill his guru-by burying him in horse manure. 133) say that Jalandhar's wives themselves put Gopi Chand in a deep hole in a stable. who visits Jalandhar Nath as a disciple.24Thus again. not saving his guru-father from the court of the kingdom of women but urged on by his powerful mother to renounce the many women of his court-Gopi Chand appears as a striking contrast to Gorakh. 198-200. the Gopi Chand whom the villagers know does not conform to the Hindu stereotype of the prospective renunciate ensnared by his ties to woman and home. Oberlin College 24 Dikshit. the archetypal Nath ascetic. decisive action on the part of Gopi Chand is another distinctive touch of Madhu's Rajasthani tale: in most other versions of the epic Jalandhar is dealt this ignominious treatment through the plotting of Gopi Chand's wives. Gopi Chand is fated to be a renouncer and questions.132 The Householder Nath wives and sixteen hundred slave girls. problems that for individual Naths can sometimes be just as painful and perplexing. Temple's version (p. This single-handed. 16) has Gopi Chand bury Jalandhar in filth (including horse manure) at the instigation of his minister. . Not born of his guru from a pit of cow dung but attempting to kill him in a pit of horse manure. Raja Gopi Chand seems to embody the conflicts of their situation-one that inverts the tension between householder and renouncer faced by most Hindus. Yet these attempts answer to problems similar to those of the epic hero. not coming into the world as a twelveyear-old through woman's fickleness and stupidity but as a royal infant through a queen's desperate bargain. Unbescheid's informants (p.
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