English Translations of Narsinh Mehta by Keki Daruwalla and Meena Desai

Keki Daruwalla and Meena Desai (Translators)


To the Foot of the Bed


To the foot of the bed I’ll fasten your arms

with flower- ropes shamelessly.

Who will free you from the temple of my body?

Rivals? What can they do but flame in anger?


To the foot of the bed I’ll fasten your arms.


You are the gardener, I the flowering vine;

Why plant me if you will not water me?

You are the honey bee seduced by my love,

You, dying in the fragrance of my lotus heart.


To the foot of the bed I’ll fasten your arms.


Love’s essence and lover should be one–

Yours is the divine surrender of body and mind.

Says Narsaiyo: Gopi, won’t you teach me

how to burrow into his heart and win?


To the foot of the bed I’ll fasten your arms.


Transfixed on Beauty


Transfixed on beauty’s gem-like face

Shyamalo gazed upon her face

eye-contact exiled vireh’s longings.

His embrace made her half his body;


still fixed on beauty’s gem-like face.


Arms round his neck she lauds him;

You’re my sanctuary, he declares,

my splendour, my heart’s adornment!

Their ecstatic minds in concert sway,


transfixed on beauty’s gem-like face.


Flesh and spirit, soul and wealth–

all yours, believe me doe-eyed one.

My mouth forgets to kiss, beloved,

my heart is not forgetful, Love—


transfixed on beauty’s gem-like face.


Krishna sings your paeans, bless’d one.

On him Shiva meditates.

Narsi’s Swami is ocean’s roar

Your mutual praise the ocean sings


transfixed on  beauty’s gem-like face.


Translators’ Note: Narsinh Mehta was a fifteenth century Vaishnava poet saint, considered to be the Adi Kavi or first poet of Gujarati literature. Born to a Nagar brahmin family, Narsinh Mehta grew up in straitened circumstances. According to legend, an insult directed at him by his cousin’s wife drove him to a nearby forest where he fasted and meditated for seven days. Lord Shiva appeared before him, andat the poet’s request, took him to Vrindavan where he witnessed the grandeur of the raasleela of Krishna and the gopis. He spent the rest of his life singing Lord Krishna’s praises, and left behind a legacy of kirtans that are sung even today. His early works are primarily richly erotic poems about Radha and Krishna, while his later literature turned more metaphysical.

All the translations are from Eating God: A Book of Bhakti Poetry; edited by Arundhathi Subramaniam; Penguin India, 2016. Published with permission from the translators.