Ānandghan or Ānandaghana, who lived in the 17th century, is best known as a mystical poet. Supposed to have been a Śvetāmbara monk, he wrote hymns to the Jinas and spiritual songs in a vernacular language close to Gujarati, Rajasthani and Hindi. He is part of the trend for both devotional poetry and exaltation of the Self, also known as the Absolute or the soul. For this reason and because he is also regarded as a powerful yogi, he has often been compared to the Hindu Sant poet Kabīr.
A mysterious figure in many aspects, Ānandghan is best remembered for two collections of poetry, one of which was compiled after his death. These poems underscore that the path to the Absolute lies within, with individual effort advancing the soul towards its final liberation. The tone is direct, sometimes conversational, and the poet uses alliterations, comparisons and puns. The language is plain and easy to understand, containing spiritual truths in terms that are accessible to a wide audience. The imagery is standard for bhakti poetry, working on more than one level and familiar to many listeners and readers. Jain beliefs shape the work but are not overpowering, with little technical detail or attempt to persuade. Ānandghan wrote poems that are non-sectarian and have a tone of universality that is appealing not only to all Jains but also to followers of other faiths.
The popularity of Ānandghan’s hymns seems to have been constant, with the poems circulated in manuscript and book form and, more recently, in records and digital media. Even so, until the 2013 translation of a selection of Ānandghan’s poems by Bangha and Fynes, with a substantial introduction, nothing in non-Indian languages was really available on this author. However, sound scholarship on Ānandghan was accessible in Indian languages. It consists of reference editions and translations in Hindi or Gujarati, which are listed in the Further reading tab on the left.
Hardly anything fully reliable is known about the life of Ānandghan, whose works do not provide any hint. He is known to have lived in the 17th century but his exact dates are a matter of hypothesis.
Similarly, there is some evidence that he may have come from Rajasthan, but there is no solid proof of this.
He appears to have been a Śvetāmbara monk but never used his monastic name in his poetry. Instead, he uses the name of ‘Ānandghan’ in his verse, which may reflect his poetic concerns.
Ānandghan’s absence from monastic records indicates that he may have been something of an outsider, not quite a full member of the formal monastic hierarchy. Later legends position Ānandghan as something of a rebel against authority.
Dates and origins
According to the latest estimation, based on several datable events during the same period, Ānandghan could have been born before 1624 and died before 1694 (Bangha and Fynes 2013: xxvii–xxx). This is the year of the oldest available manuscript of one of his works, the Cauvīsī.
Ānandghan’s name is associated with that of the famous Jain ideologue Yaśovijaya. It is possible that the two of them met. Yaśovijaya wrote an eight-verse praise of Ānandghan called the Aṣṭapadī and is credited with a commentary, which is untraced so far, on one of Ānandghan’s collection. Both of them are shown in legends as having had a lot of respect for each other.
Where Ānandghan came from is not fully clear either. Legends connect him with places in Rajasthan such as Mount Abu, Jodhpur and Merta. In this last place there is a sacred hall dedicated to Ānandghan – Ānandghan kā upāśray (Desai 1998: 48; Bangha and Fynes 2013: xxxi). The language Ānandghan uses in his verse is ‘a mixture of different dialects’ (Bangha and Fynes 2013: xxxi), leaning towards Rajasthani. This may support the idea that he came from the region of modern Rajasthan.
According to a Gujarati text, he was the younger brother – which can mean either by birth or a spiritual, monastic brother – of Satyavaijaya Paṃnyāsa. He was:
a famous ascetic of the Tapāgaccha lineage, who, disillusioned with factionalism, refused to accept the religious leadership of the Tapāgaccha and started the saṃvegī lineage, from which all contemporary Tapāgaccha monks claim their descent
Bangha and Fynes
page xxix, 2013
In the 17th century, records of Jain monastic history are available, especially for Śvetāmbara monastic orders. There is information on several religious teachers but there is no solid material about Ānandghan. This might suggest that he was a freelance ascetic who lived on the fringes of organised religious communities rather than being a full member of any of them, and that he was definitely not part of monastic hierarchy. ‘He doesn’t fit well into our models of late-medieval Śvetāmbar Mūrtipūjak Jain mendicancy’ (Cort in Bangha and Fynes 2013: x) and can best be defined as an ‘outsider to the mainstream ritual, institutional and devotional culture of the late-medieval Tapā Gaccha’ (Cort as previous: xvi).
Despite his monastic name of Lābhānanda, Ānandghan always wrote under the name of:
- Ānandghan – spelt corresponding to the modern Indian pronunciation
- Ānandaghana – spelt according to Sanskrit pronunciation.
This name can be translated as ‘cloud’ – ghana – ‘of bliss’ – ānanda – according to Bangha and Fynes’s 2013 translation.
The name of Ānandghan agrees with the nature of the author’s poetry and is strikingly non-Jain and non-sectarian. Some modern Jain authors sometimes add the title sūri or muni to Ānandghan’s name in editions of his poems, as if they wanted him to have the same authority as other well-known Jain writers. However, the author himself never uses such titles.
The name of Ānandghan is found in the last verse of all the poems he wrote. This type of signature, technically known as bhaṇita – ‘said’ – is a long-existing usage in Indian poetical tradition, and has become systematic in vernacular language poetry.
There are other writers of the same name, especially one Nimbārkī Ānandghan, but recent research has demonstrated that they are all different persons.
Legendary episodes like to portray Ānandghan as a rebellious figure who followed his own path, against social conventions and institutional authorities. For instance, during one Paryuṣaṇ festival, he was sitting ready to give a sermon in a monastic hall – upāśraya. Everybody in the village was present, but the rule was that the sermon should start only when the leading businessman of the town – nagarsheth – arrived. The monk waited for quite some time, but as the man did not come he started preaching. When the nagarsheth finally turned up and was angry about the situation, the monk replied that he had to follow his own rules on time, and left (Ratnasenavijaya 1985: introduction 17–19).
Ānandghan is regarded as having had yogic powers. Much later than his own lifetime, legends about Ānandghan featured him:
as a great yogi who participated in the social life of his times and who attained siddhis, miraculous yogic powers, often associated with stereotypical miracles that are ascribed also to other saints. It is his asceticism that earned him the epithet yogīrāj
Bangha and Fynes
page xxv, 2013
His works, however, do not emphasise this aspect at all.
Ānandghan is mainly credited with two sets of poems, namely:
- the Cauvīsī
- poetry that was later collected in the anthology known as Bahattarī.
The language of Ānandghan’s verse is a vernacular – bhāṣā – combining Gujarati, Rajasthani and Braj. This is the typical language of devotional poets singing love and devotion – bhakti – to their respective gods.
This work of Ānandghan is a collection of 24 poems praising the Jinas and is a characteristically Jain poetic form. Most of the poems are quite short, even though they vary in length, but they are intended to be sung. A well-known tale depicts the hymns being passed on via singing, a tale which also links Ānandghan with the famous monk Yaśovijaya. Despite this, there seems to have been a healthy custom of making written copies of the anthology from the time of Ānandghan onwards.
The cauvīsī is a typically Jain form of poetry, which has been illustrated by several Jain authors in all the languages they used. This Indian word, which can also have the forms covīsī, cobīsī, cobīśī, means ‘set of 24’ and is used for poems addressed in devotion and praise to each of the 24 Jinas.
Ānandghan’s Cauvīsī is no exception. But he did not write the hymns to the 23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, and to the 24th, Mahāvīra. Given these Jinas’ importance, it is slightly puzzling to note that these two hymns have been handed down in completely different versions. This is clear from the very different hymns in the two commentaries on the Cauvīsī that have survived. These are the:
- Gujarati commentary – bālāvabodha – written by the Śvetāmbara monk Jñānavimala-sūri in 1712 CE
- 1809 commentary by the scholar Jñānasār.
The 22 hymns which Ānandghan composed mostly have between six and 11 verses. The longest ones are those dedicated to the:
- 16th Jina, Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti, with 15 verses
- 22nd Jina, Neminātha or Lord Nemi, which has 17 verses.
Each poem has a refrain and a musical mode – rāga. According to legend, the author sang these hymns sitting in a temple in Mount Abu, where a group of leading and learned Śvetāmbara Jain monks happened to listen to him. Among them was Yaśovijaya, who memorised all of the devotional songs. This tale stresses the oral transmission of the hymns.
On the other hand, the Cauvīsī seems to have been widely transmitted in writing as well. Kumarpal Desai, editor of a 1980 critical edition of the text, has collected 174 manuscripts that were copied in the 18th and 19th centuries (pages 152 to 297). This fairly large number points to the continued popularity of the collection.
Ānandghan’s second major work is the Bahattarī. The title means ’72’ but the work does not refer to anything connected to this number. It contains brief verses with musical modes, which were handed down in both writing and the oral tradition. Ānandghan did not compile the collection himself but the anthology of this name was formed by 1775 and became a standard reference. The number of poems varies according to the edition.
The Bahattarī consists of short poetical units – pads – like those composed by the famous bhakti poets Sūrdās and Mīrābāī, addressed to the Hindu god Kṛṣṇa, or the poems of spirituality and transcendence composed by Tulsīdās and the Sant poet Kabīr. They are sometimes known as adhyātma pads – ‘spiritual verses’. Each of them is connected with a musical mode – rāga.
The songs in the Bahattarī were transmitted both orally and in written form, in anthologies of varying lengths, although the Bahattarī collection is the main one. However, Ānandghan’s songs form a kind of fluid body of work, in that many poems attributed to him may not be his. Like other poets of this type, Ānandghan’s name has worked as a magnet to attract numerous similar poems, the authorship of which is uncertain. Bangha and Fynes’s selection (2013) thus places at the end what they call ‘Songs Forgotten’, which are found only in part of the manuscript tradition.
Manuscripts of the pads present variations in the number and identity of songs they collect, ranging from 75 to 89. The first printed collection, published by the lay man Bhimsingh Manak in 1876, has 107 songs. This became a kind of reference but the 1974 Khairad-Jargad critical edition contains 124 hymns. Up to 152 songs are attributed to Ānandghan today (Bangha and Fynes 2013: li).
The poems of Ānandghan demonstrate several characteristics. Firstly, they emphasise the primacy of the internal spiritual journey to fulfilment of the soul. The tone and vocabulary are plain and quite informal, talking directly to the reader or listener. Thoughout, the poet uses simple language that can be easily understood but which also conveys deep insights. Typically for bhakti poetry, the verse uses imagery of love and separation that can be read on several levels.
Finally, although the Jain perspective can be found throughout Ānandghan’s work, it is not insistent, technical or sectarian. The poems display openness towards all religions and sects and stress the internal nature of spiritual progression, which must be undertaken by an individual alone. Rituals and teachings are not as important in this progress as individual effort.
Ānandghan’s religious poetry is a strong exhortation for everyone to undertake an inner journey in search of the Absolute. This opens up his work to a far wider audience than his own sect of Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaka Jains.
For the Jains the Absolute is paramātman, the pure form of the soul. This can be reached only through personal experience, which is an idea conveyed by the word anubhav – Sanskrit spelling, anubhava – that recurs in the poems. Although learning, knowledge and following a spiritual master are also important, they are clearly secondary in this perspective.
Tone and vocabulary
Ānandghan’s verse creates a marked impression in the reader or listener. With many alliterations and comparisons and a direct, often informal tone of voice and vocabulary, it is conversational yet poetic. The metre and musical mode – rāga – also help generate these effects.
His work is urgent in tone, directly addressing the listener or reader, as shown in this example.
Hey, you dullard, why are you asleep? Get up, awake!
Life is slipping away like water from folded hands;
look, the watchman is striking the hour.
Hey, you dullard, why are you asleep? Get up, awake!
Kapadia, poem no. 1, page 1
translation by Bangha and Fynes
page 5, 2013
A recording of this song, known as Kyā sove uṭha jāga bāure, and others are available to listen to online.
The choice of words often produces alliterations and lots of comparisons. Combined with the rhythm of the metre, the direct address to the reader or listener and the musical melody of the rāgas all contribute to the poetry’s striking effects.
Simplicity and depth
Hymn writers illustrating the trend of bhaktidevotional songs, whether they are Jains, like Kundakunda or Yogīndu, or non-Jains, like Kabīr, created poems that are both uncomplicated and profound. Ānandghan’s work clearly displays these qualities.
Rather than sophisticated philosophical argumentation incomprehensible to the masses, Ānandghan used powerful imagery with metaphors and similes familiar to ordinary people. The largest part of Ānandghan’s imagery is shared with the imagery of devotional songs and the imagery of the Hindi court poetry of his times. This imagery can be reinvested with a Jain spiritual meaning
Bangha and Fynes
page xxxvi, 2013
Ānandghan’s poems range from straightforward to cryptic at first sight, because of their abrupt style and the use of puns. They are regarded as having deep spiritual meaning and thus many Indian editions expand upon them with detailed explanations – vivecan. All this makes any concise translation rather difficult.
- Ānandghan Granthāvalī: Saralārtha Sahita
- translated by Umarcand Jain Jargad
edited by Mahtab Chandra Kharaid
Vijaycandra Jargad; Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; 1974
- Śrī Ānandghan Padya Ratnāvalī
- edited by Sarabhai Nawab
Prakrit Bharti Academy; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1954
- translated and edited by Muni Ratnasenavijayaji
Padma Prakashan; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1985
- Ānandghanjī pad saṅgraha
- Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1953
- ‘God Outside and God Inside: North Indian Digambar Jain Performance of Bhakti’
John E. Cort
- Bhakti Beyond the Forest: current research on early modern literatures in North India, 2003–2009
edited by Imre Bangha
Manohar; New Delhi, India; 2012
- Ab Ham Amar Bhaye: Ānandghan: Jīvan aur Kava
- Jayabhikkhu Sāhitya Ṭrasṭ Prakāśan; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1998
- Bhāratīya Sāhitya ke nirmātā Ānandghan
- Sahitya Academy; Delhi, India; 2006
- Śrī Ānandaghana-Covīsī
Moticand Girdharlāl Kapadia
- edited by Ratilāl Dīpcand Desāi
Mahavir Jain Vidyalaya; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1970
- ‘Sant Kabīr aur Sant Kavi Ānandghan’
- Kabīr Sāhab
edited by Vivekdās
Kabīr Vāṇī Prakāśan Kendra; Banaras, Uttar Pradesh, India; 1978
- Ānandghan Caubīsī: 17 racnāoṃ kā saṃkṣipta bhāvārtha, avaśiṣṭa stavan mūl, vivecnākār Muni Sahājānandghan
- Prakrit Bharati Academy and Śrīmad Rāmcandra Āśram; Jaipur, Rajasthan and Hampi, Karnatak, India; 1989
- Ānandghan kā rahasyavād
- Parshvanath Vidyashram Shodh Samsthan; Benares, Uttar Pradesh, India; 1984
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