VACHANAMRUT’S PROSE ENRICHING GUJARATI LITERATURE
The Vachanamrut is written in Gujarati, since Bhagwan Swaminarayan delivered his discourses in Gujarati. As a written language, Gujarati was evolving and continued to do so until the end of the 19th century.
In 1865, the famed Gujarati poet Narmadashankar Dave, popularly known as Kavi Narmad, systematized Gujarati grammar. This led him to write the gist of the Iliad in good Gujarati prose in 1870. The year 1887 witnessed the first classical novel, Saraswatichandra by Govardhanram Tripathi, in accurate Gujarati. From this we glean that the Vachanamrut’s linguistic excellence was far ahead of its time.
Not surprisingly, scholars of modern Gujarati have lauded the shastra’s prose.
The renowned Gujarati litterateur, Umashankar Joshi, eruditely scrutinized the intricate modes of expression used by Shriji Maharaj in the Vachanamrut, which he detailed in Swaminarayan Sant Sahitya. He eulogizes its unique lingual excellence and contribution to Gujarati literature of the early 19th century, “Vachanamrut is a pinnacle of Gujarati prose’s excellence” (Chaudhary 1981:14).
Chandravadan C. Mehta, another renowned scholar of Gujarati literature, lauded the Vachanamrut, especially its contribution in enriching Gujarati grammar, “Extinct grammatical expressions have been revived and can be read throughout the Vachanamrut, such as the absolute locative – the sati-saptami of Sanskrit: “Pachhi Nãradji gãnvidyã sheekhavtã havã ane Bhagwãn ãgal gãtã havã” (Gadhada I 4). Similarly, some verbs and nouns have been used in a unique manner, without obstructing the meaning. Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s contribution in enriching the language is substantial. Mehta further considers the following usages and expressions as novel:
• Potãnã swarupne jovãno ãdar karyo ane na dithu? (Gadhada I 20). “It is noteworthy how well the word ãdar has been used here.”
• Bhagwãnno nishchay ane mahãtmya rupi jene khatãi chadi hoi (Gadhada I-24).
• Ashtãng yogne sãdhave karine chittno nirodh (Gadhada I 25).
• Samjanne kefe karine chhaki pan javu nahi (Gadhada I 25)
• Dhruvajie Bhagwãnni stuti karvã mãndi, tyãre Vedãdiknã arthni saheje sfurti thai (Gadhada I 29).
Eminent scholars of Gujarati literature have commented on the Vachanamrut’s language:
“In this manner one comes across words enriching Gujarati prose on every page of the whole text… He [Bhagwan Swaminarayan] has explained the most abstruse concepts of adhyatma, yoga, meditation and tapas in the most simple and straightforward sentences in the Vachanamrut… His statements have the weight of experience… There are no ambiguous statements, nor complicated constructions which are not understandable. There are only sayings which easily penetrate the heart of the sympathetic reader. This is Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s important contribution to Gujarati prose.”
- Chandravadan Mehta
“Vachanamrut is a pinnacle of Gujarati prose’s excellence.”
- Umashankar Joshi
“The Vachanamrut’s language is markedly to the point, concise, depicting only one meaning, understandable by those less educated, with simple words and straightforward sentences and construction and, where necessary, using examples to clarify meanings.”
- Kishorelal Mashruwala (1922:125)
“The collection of the Vachanamruts of Bhagwan Swaminarayan is a jewel of the Gujarati language.”
- Kishorelal Mashruwala (1981:84)
“Even from the viewpoint of linguistic textbooks the Vachanamrut is important. From the manner in which the language has been voiced by Shriji Maharaj, in the same manner its linguistic form has been preserved. Hence, it is the most supreme piece of Gujarati prose of a hundred and fifty years ago.”
- Arunodaya Jani (in Chaudhary, 1981:91)
“According to all the critics, the book [Vachanamrut] is the finest specimen of Gujarati prose. The sentences are well-balanced and the style compact and lucid. It has the local colour of Saurasthtra.”
- K.K. Datta, historian, A Comprehensive History of India (XI 1985:848)
In the third article, we shall discuss the imagery used by Bhagwan Swaminarayan to explain philosophical concepts and innovative meanings of selected Sanskrit shlokas from the shastras.