The Olden Song
(Karman Ki Gatti Nyari Udho)

The lyrics are in Brij Bhasha, probably written by Sur Das’s disciple or disciples, who attributed their work to the pen-name of ‘Sur Shyam’.


Surdas – the poet, saint, and a musician seemed to have had a great following even during his life time.  Born anywhere around 1479 A.D and 1584 A.D. Surdas wrote mainly and majorly in Brij Bhasa, the dialect of Hindustani considered at that time to be rather crude, as the literary languages were primarily Persian and Sanskrit.  Surdas’s work is credited with raising the status of Brij Bhasha to the plinth of a literary standard.


Coming to the song, the poet represents, the sentiments of the gopis (followers of Lord Krishna) as they pine for Krishna’s attention; Udho is the message-deliverer for the gopis to Krishna.  The lyrics give examples of the style of karma and how karma works: raising “whys” in varying forms and concluding to the theory of our actions and the recurring births, which is reincarnation.  ‘Karman’ is derived from Sanskrit for ‘karma’.  Karma is the fruits – the good and evil effects of action.  Since man has the gift of reason by which to choose all his actions, thus he is accountable for them. 


Karman ki gatti nyari Udho,
Sab nadiyaan jal bhar bhar raheyan,
Sagar kis widh khari Udho.


Udho, how our actions bear the fruits are so strange.  Look!  The rivers are sweet, and the mighty ocean carries salty, undrinkable water.


Sundar nayan deye mrigah koe,
Ban, ban phirat ujadi Udho,
Karman ki gatti nyari Udho.


The deer is known for its beauty – such beauty in its beautiful eyes.  Yet, it roams in the wilderness.

Komal pankh deye bagla koe,
Koyal kis widh kari Udho,
Karman ki gatti nyari Udho.


The egret has splendid white wings, though it is quite talentless.  Look!  The koyal with the skill to sing so melodiously has a plain black appearance.


Moorakh raja raj karat hain,
Pandit phirat bhikhari Udho,
Karman ki gatti nyari Udho.


Some become kings though they are utterly foolish; on the other hand, a scholar with renowned wisdom is a pauper.


Sur Shyam milney ki asha,
Pal, pal, chhin, chhin, bhari Udho,
Karman ki gatti nyari Udho.


Udho, we pine for attention from Lord Krishna and yet can’t reach out to him.  Every moment is hard to spend without Lord Krishna.

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