TEZPUR, Sept 21 - Bhakti is not mere worship; it is a state of mind. The closest Tagore�s �puja� could get to bhakti is perhaps in that song of worship where �the god of the lonely hearts� is to be given offerings.
The word bhakta is used there in the sense of worshipper, as an exemplar so to speak in such worship. Again, going by the Gita, one of its sources, bhakti is yoga, a marga like jnana, karma and dhyana, Tagore�s puja, even in the sense of worship, is much short of that.
This was the observation made by renowned scholar and critic Professor Amiya Dev, while delivering the Sixth Srimanta Sankardev Lecture, a Tezpur University Endowment Lecture, at the Council Hall of the University here, recently.
Prof Dev was speaking on �Tagore�s Puja Songs in the Background of Bhakti.� The Tezpur University Vice-Chancellor, Mihir Kanti Chaudhuri, inaugurated the lecture.
Prof Dev, a former professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University and a former V-C of the Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, West Bengal (1995-1999), said that the concept of Tagore�s puja is not similar to the bhakti concept of Kabir and Nanak, the two towering saint poets of the Bhakti movement of India, which brought about immense changes in the socio-religious life of the country during the medieval period.
�This is why, if we go to call Tagore a modern-day Kabir and Nanak, it will indeed be going wide of the mark. True, the word �Puja� is a little misleading; taken in isolation it may sound a variation on bhakti. But we would do better not to take it in isolation,� said Prof Dev.
Drawing analogies with Kabir and Nanak, he said that Tagore was also not an idol worshipper. So, his puja cannot mean idol worship, let alone worship by priestly mediation. His prabhu or nath (both meaning Lord), whom he often invokes, is no deity in the common sense of the term.
Bhakti defied traditional worship by defying the priestly mediation, but it did have a deity in purview, whether saguna, with attributes, or nirguna without attributes.
In other words, bhakti�s expression is personal and can be only partially institutionalised in the bhaktas� togetherness, not ritualistically, said Prof Dev.
However, Prof Dev maintained that it is better to look into Tagore�s �Puja� in its own terms and not propose it as a modern version of Kabir�s nirguna.
Moreover, he said that Tagore knew that saguna practices were still active, especially in villages where religion was part of everyday life, but if Tagore would ever sing bhakti, it would be nirguna.
While drawing a comparison between the respective bhakti concepts of Srimanta Sankardev and Tagore, Prof Dev said, �It is obvious that Sankardev�s bhakti, as seen from the Bargeets, and Tagore�s �Puja� are quite dissimilar... Sankardev is too religiously motivated to admit any ambiguity � bhakti is the corner stone of the neo-Vaishnavism he was preaching.�