An elderly saint’s song of lament: Indu Yenage Govinda

Raghavendra Swami was a follower of Sripad Madhvacarya and lived from 1595 until 1671. Indu Yenage Govinda is a much-loved song that he sang shortly before he passed away. It is in the Kannada language of Karnataka. The song is a lament for time on earth wasted in material life. Expressions such as this are just as common as exultant songs of praise to Krishna. They are based upon the very real feeling, as death approaches, that: ‘I could have done more. I was given a precious chance to achieve perfection but I wasted my time.’

Raghavendra Swami’s leaving the world was extraordinary in that he simply walked into his own samadhi tomb and assumed the lotus position. Many years later, during the time of the British Raj in India, the local district collector, Sir Thomas Manroe, came to the small village of Mantralayam and visited the tomb. His purpose, however, was not devotional. In 1812 the East India Company had passed a rule that when a temple or shrine had no living owner, the property would be seized by the government. By 1820 the tomb and accompanying temple of Raghavendra Swami had no owner and the British official had come to arrange for its transfer of ownership.

“Where is the Swami?” asked Sir Thomas Manroe to the villagers, and the locals pointed him to the tomb. He took off his shoes and entered the structure. As the villagers and priests gathered around they saw a curious sight. The British government man was speaking to someone inside the tomb. They could see him asking questions but no-one could hear the replies. After some minutes the gentleman came out and with a smile said: “Well, that all seems to be in order. I’ve had a charming conversation with the Swami who speaks excellent English by the way, and he assures me that he is the owner of this place.”

Some weeks later, Sir Thomas was promoted to governor of Bellary and was therefore in the extraordinary position of officially approving his own account of the story. He came to understand that Raghavendra Swami had indeed passed on 150 years previously, but also knew that he’d had a conversation with him that day and noticed that: ‘His face was glowing…’

There are many such miraculous stories of Raghavendra Swami, but here is a rough translation of the song and two film versions of it, one old and another more recent:

Oh Lord Govinda, Mukunda, Lord of Indira (Lakshmi) please show me your lotus feet today.

Oh one with a beautiful face, son of Nanda, personification of bliss, who lifted the Mandara mountain, Lord of Indira…

I got engulfed in worldly bondage and suffered a lot. I did not see the way ahead, and despaired in the world. Oh Krishna, divine father, please consider me your child and do not count my shortcomings.

Oh Hari, out of sheer ignorance I led the life of a coward and did not show deep, strong devotion. I did not see you. I did not sing your glory. Oh charioteer Krishna, I beseech you.

During my lifetime I was a mere burden on the world. I lost my way and became like wicked people. There is nobody to protect me now. It all depends on you.

Oh brave Venugopal, please help me cross over this world of repeated deaths and births.


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One response to “An elderly saint’s song of lament: Indu Yenage Govinda

  1. Thanks for this post.
    In our village (Thenthiruperai, in the southern interiors of Tamil Nadu), we have our own “British Official Story”.
    Now, Thenthiruperai is one of the 108 divya desams, or to put it in simpler centres, one of the 108 holy places on which the Azhvars composed songs.
    Anyways, there also is a temple to Lord Shiva in our village.
    There has been (there still is) a coconut tree in this temple of Lord Shiva which has been used for the sole purpose of performing abhishekam with the coconut water.
    Once, a Brit official has walked in to the temple, and being very thirsty, asked some local to get him some coconut water off “that tree”.
    The guy said he couldn’t possibly do that, but as the officer chose to obtain a coconut anyway, the priest was called in.
    Now, the priest told this officer that he’d get him a coconut from another tree if he wished, but insisted that coconuts from the said tree were only for Lord Shiva.
    To this, the highly skeptical officer has retorted, “Why, does this coconut have horns?”
    And, the next minute, the coconut sprouted two horns!
    i am not even going to go into what the poor British official, by now thoroughly ragged, did afterward, because i simply have no idea. Everyone who told me the story stopped with this part. (I dunno, i am always intrigued by what the poor guy’s reaction was.)
    Anyways, if u can’t believe this story, you can always come to Thenthiruperai. And, you can see the “Horned Coconut”. It’s still preserved. 🙂

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