Holy water Vitthal field Vitthal
God Vitthal ritual worship Vitthal
Mother Vitthal father Vitthal
Brother Vitthal lineage Vitthal
Teacher Vitthal teacher’s god Vitthal
Treasure Vitthal without gaps Vitthal
Nama says to me Vitthal is found
Hence to the age of one quarter truth [Alt. age of darkness] there is no ripeness
This is an abhanga of Namdev, a contemporary of Dnyaneshwar, from about seven hundred years ago. It sings of his complete and single-minded concentration on Vitthal until everything is only Vitthal and evil has no play. You can hear it here:
From the point of view of translation, the language is straightforward. But there are words with specific deep meanings in the devotional tradition of India, such as “teerthakshetra” or holy-water-field, more naturally, a place of pilgrimage, “devapuja” or ritual worship of a god, and “gurudevata” or the deity that is the teacher.
There are also technical social and philosophical terms such as “gotra” meaning ancestral line which is deeply embedded in the relationships between social groups in India (for example, for marriage), and “kalikala” commonly known as “kaliyuga” or the present age in which virtue has diminished to one quarter of what it was in a previous age of truth.
Then there is the meditative repetition of the name “Vitthal” which we encountered previously in Dnyaneshwar’s Mogara poem.
The abhanga is expressed in compact lines of (2+3, 2+3), (2+3, 4+3), (2+3, 2+3), (2+3, 2+3), (2+3, 5+3), (3+3, 4+3), 13, and 11 syllables. So, in the main, the changing terms of just a couple of syllables are used to trigger deeply held associations.
The pilgrim is Eternal, the place is Eternal
The deity Eternal, worship is Eternal
Mother is Eternal, father Eternal
Siblings Eternal, kins are Eternal
Preceptor Eternal, the precept is Eternal
The treasure is Eternal, always Eternal
Nama says it is the Eternal I have found
Darkness all around can bear no fruit
Please read the comments below for an organic discussion of this translation, or read the “finished” version of these translations here: (pdf).