Skip to content

Four poems by Ganga Sati

Translated by Hemang Desai

Kanchan Chander, ‘A Woman’, Guache on paper, 12 X 16 inches, 1979. 

1. 

Mounts may rock

Mounts may rock, for once, 

Cosmos may come crashing down. 

He likes the one who doesn’t stray, 

Even in most torrid of times. 

 

Hiccups of spirits, low and high, 

Can’t get her, she’s a braveheart. 

Guru’s vachan is her only beacon, 

She sails selfless without a care. 

 

Company of the wise gives her a high, 

She swoons like a sot day and night. 

For resolves and routes, don’t give a damn, 

Vicious is maya’s hex, snap out of it, bai

 

Be such a devotee, if you so desire, 

Confide in the legacy of vachan

Says Sati Ganga, listen O Panbai, 

Guru’s grace is your supreme haven.

 

2.

Thread your beads 

Thread your beads in bright of the bolt, 

You ne’er know when the pitch dark’ll pall. 

Days will drift away in a blink, 

Time will devour breaths, once and for all. 

 

It’s an old mystery, woman, 

Well beyond the grasp of a half-wit. 

Want to know His little game? 

Put your ego aside, that’s it. 

 

Shed all your chains, come quick, 

See for yourself the nature of soul; 

I’ll unveil the oneness of opposites, 

And cast you in a novel mould

 

First among Gods, guru is above cosmos, 

Follow me in his holy terrain. 

Says Sati Ganga, listen O Panbai, 

No airs there, nothing to feign.

 

3.

Get Ready to Live like a Pauper

Get ready to live like a pauper, 

If you’re serious about bhakti. 

Melt away your ego, 

Feet of the guru is where lies mukti. 

 

The world of the divine has no place 

For caste, gender or race 

Shed this phantom chain, 

Be cool and take it easy, man. 

 

The mantle of His woman is for those to claim, 

Who are blind to flaws of others. 

What do they care for hope and hanker, 

Simply revel in abiding faith, sweet sister. 

 

Be such a devotee, if you so desire, 

And confide in the power of vachan. 

Says Sati Ganga, listen O Panbai 

Don’t settle for anything less, be His woman.

 

4.

You’re One 

You’re one, He and you, 

That says it all. 

Sup this secret nectar, 

In heady blues, dissolve. 

 

Can’t have enough of His dapper looks, true, 

What is sin, if one’s helpless by heart. 

His company is the thrill of your song, 

Ecstasy lies beyond letters on your tongue. 

 

All illusions shatter to smithereens, 

Once you shed your cast. 

Meet your true self, 

As it descends from heaven upwards. 

 

Contemplating his form is sheer bliss, 

Warps or wefts of mind, nothing is amiss. 

Says Sati Ganga, listen O Panbai, 

Nirvana is your soul’s supreme seat. 

 

Read the Gujarati originals here.

Ganga Sati (ca. 18th-19th century) is a celebrated medieval bhakti poet of the loka dharma tradition that mainly developed in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. She sang fifty-two bhajans to her daughter-in-law, Panbai, which constitute the discourse of the Mahapanth cult and remain a powerful presence of cultural memory in Gujarati households even today.

Hemang Desai, a bi-lingual poet working in Gujarati and English. He has translated contemporary Marathi poetry into Gujarati and contemporary Gujarati poetry and short fiction into English. His Gujarati translation of Arun Kolatkar’s Kala Ghoda Poems was published recently. He can be reached at [email protected]