The legend of Vrindavan’s Gopeshwar Mahadeva who is Lord Shiva appearing in the form of a ‘Gopi’, is well-known in the land of Vraja. As one of the ‘dikpala’ Shivas protecting the four corners of Braj, Mahadeva not only guards Vrindavan, but also a devotee’s entry in Sri Krishna’s ‘Maha Raas’.
One of the fortunate devotees blessed by Lord Shiva with a ‘darshan’ of Krishna’s ‘Raas Lila’ in Vrindavan was Narsinh Mehta (1414-1481) of Gujarat.
Revered as ‘Adi Kavi’ (first among poets) in Gujarati Literature, Narsinh Mehta (also known as Narsi Mehta or Narsi Bhagat) was a 15th-century Vaishnava poet-saint, who composed around 22,000 verses in praise of Sri Krishna.
Born in a Nagar Brahmin family in the town of Talaja in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, Narsi was raised by his grandmother, Jaygauri, after losing his parents at the age of 5. He was unable to speak until he was 8.
Narsi was married to Manekbai in the year 1429. They used to stay with his brother Bansidhar whose ill-tempered wife would often insult Narsi for his devotion. Fed up of her taunts he left the house one day, and threw himself at Shiva’s feet, fasting and meditating upon him for seven days.
Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva appeared to offer him a boon. Narsi was so satisfied with the ‘darshan’ that he told Mahadeva to give him ‘whatever he likes the most’…Mahadeva gave him the nectar of Krishna’s ‘Raas Lila’ in Vrindavan. Some say that he was the only person in ‘Kaliyuga’ to have witnessed this splendour.
In one of his works, ‘Shamaldas No Vivah’, Narsi mentions the place of this incident as ‘Gopinath’, and as ‘Gopeshwar’ in another composition called ‘Narsain Mehtanu Akhyan’. It is unambiguously stated that the temple was in a ‘vana’ (forest), and hence it cannot Gopnath near Talaja which is on the seashore.
Narsinh Mehta (1414-1481)
Was it Vrindavan’s Gopeshwar Mahadev then? Struck by immense grief, did Narsi travel all the way to Vrindavan? While historians speculate, these questions are irrelevant; time, space and form are no constraints for Shiva and his devotees.
Legend goes that Lord Krishna commanded Narsi to share his blissful experience with the mortal world in the form of songs and poetry. He composed around 22,000 ‘padas’ (verses), ‘aartis’ and ‘bhajans’ which were largely preserved orally for centuries.
‘Vaishnav Jan to’ – the famous ‘bhajan’ which inspired Indian freedom fighter MK Gandhi and gained nationwide popularity, is his composition.
It was by the blessings of Mahadeva, described as the greatest Vaishnava in Srimad Bhagavatam, that a ‘Shaiva’ Narsi Mehta became a celebrated Vaishnava saint. At the beginning of Ramcharitramanas, Goswami Tulsidas also says that no one can perceive the Supreme without Shiva’s grace.
Followers of ‘Tantra’ and ‘Aghora’ have long held that Shiva and Krishna are “two aspects of the same being”, where one leads to the other. They are the paths of ‘Jnana’ and ‘Bhakti’, both of which need to be practised and perfected to realise the truth.