Grammar bits in Bhaja Govindam

If you have been hearing Bhaja Govindam a million times and curious about some grammar bits.. I hope you can connect to this post.

Back in my younger days when technology was limited to music players.. Bhaja Govindam was an entree in them. My understanding was limited to a few words here and there and the tune.. And the mysterious message that it seemed to convey.

Each verse seemed to have mini sentences.. Words seemed to be rhyming producing a calming effect.. There is abundance of “mm“ and “e” ending words.. and the simplicity of sentences made me curious to explore.

And knowing these patterns will helps in finer imagery and appreciation.. Where to pull the emotion and where to let-go kinds.. And further the journey into Sanskrit Grammar and appreciation of masterpieces.

A few observations from my side. I have used the grammar analysis of Niveditha Bhagini provided in the reference section.

In the mini sentences.. who is the actor? What is it talking about? Where and when did it happen? And sequence of events and actions.. Some special words..

Look at the Mini Sentences

Each verse is made up of mini mini sentences that are closely connected.

It is said that in Varanasi, Adi Shankaracharya with his disciples one day came across an old aged scholar reciting the rules of Sanskrit grammar repeatedly on the street. Taking pity on him, Shankara advised the scholar not to waste his time on Grammar but to turn his mind inward and worship.

Oh foolish man.. Moodamate.. Dwell in the Lord.. Grammar shall not save you at time of your approaching death. नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ्करणे

Let us look at the first verse and unfold the mini sentences in it..

भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं
गोविन्दं भज मूढमते ।
संप्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले
नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ्करणे ॥१॥

मूढमते । (त्वं) गोविन्दं भज । (त्वं) गोविन्दं भज । (त्वं) गोविन्दं भज । सन्निहिते काले संप्राप्ते “डुकृञ्करणे” न हि रक्षति । न हि (रक्षति)

The Actor words

The doer of a sentence is the subject or kartha.. In some of the verses, the subject is not mentioned explicitly as Shankaracharya is speaking to the old man..It is like saying.. “Dwell in Govinda”.. You or त्वं is the intended subject here..

a) The singular male words that end with visarga are easiest to identify

बालः तावत् क्रीडासक्तः
तरुणः तावत् तरुणीसक्तः
वृद्धः तावत् चिन्तासक्तः
परमे ब्रह्मणि कः अपि न सक्तः ॥ 7॥

When a child, he is attached to games.. When in youth he is busy courting lady love.. When he is old, he is pinned eternally with his worries.. When does he have time to be attached to the divine?

b) The neuter words ending with am as in phalam fruit. These kind of words are abundantly seen. I would mistake them for second vibhakthi had I not seen this analysis.

पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं
पुनरपि जननीजठरे शयनम् । 21

And again birth.. And again death.. And again sleep in the womb..

अङ्गं गलितं
पलितं मुण्डं
जातं तुण्डम् ।
वृद्धो याति गृहीत्वा दण्डं
तदपि न मुञ्चति आशापिण्डम्॥15॥

Limbs grow weak.. hair grows white.. mouth becomes without teeth.. the old man uses a stick for support.. But still not freed from his seed of desire.

And गलितम् पलितम् दशनम्  विहीनम्  जातम् are neuter nouns tooformed from verbs.

Calling Out.. Sambhodhana

मूढमते .. गोविन्दं भज मूढमते.. Pray to God.. Oh Foolish Man!
वातुल .. वातुल
किं तव नास्ति नियन्ता.. Foolish man! Did no one warn you?
कृपयाऽपारे पाहि मुरारे.. Oh Murari.. Please save me

Interesting Words and Phrases

डुकृङ्करणे grammar
आशापिण्डम् bundle of desire
आशावायुः wind of desire
आशापाशः rope of desire
भवार्णव bhav arnava worldly ocean
विग्रहसन्धौ in breaking and fixing (relations)
सेन्द्रियमानस with senses and mind in control
lotus feet of the teacher

The Connector Words

A few connector words that are conspicuous and mark the beginning of verses..

न हि नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ्करणे.. grammar shall not save
मा (do not) मा कुरु धनजनयौवनगर्वम्.. do not take pride in wealth and youth
पुनरपि (again) पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं
इह, बहु
(here, too much) इह संसारे बहु दुस्तारे..this world is very difficult to cross
वा (or) योगरतो वा भोगरतो वा.. enjoying in yoga or bhoga
एव (only) नन्दति नन्दति नन्दति एव..only enjoyment

यावत् -तावत् (as long as-till then) यावत्पवनो निवसति देहे -तावत्पृच्छति कुशलं गेहे as long as there is life in this body..till then your family cares about your welfare

The Compound Words

A group of words having a relation between them fuse to form a bigger word. Each of the words leave their contexts and there exists only one context for this new word. Some of these words run quite long and it adds to the chanting brilliance.

The following suffixes have been used again and again.

योगरतः -भोगरतः -सङ्गरतः connoisseur of yoga -bhoga -sangha
सङ्गवीहीनः -आत्मज्ञानविहीनः -ज्ञानविहीनः absence of company -atma gyaan
व्याध्यभिमानग्रस्तः -filled with disease and abhimaan
शोकहतम् -killed by shokam
पुण्यापुण्यविवर्जितः -free from punya apunya

A few longish compound words..

नलिनीदलगतजलम् (drop of water on a lotus leaf)
अतिशयचपलम् (very unstable)
व्याध्यभिमानग्रस्तं (inflicted by disease and ego)

विद्धि व्याध्यभिमानग्रस्तं
लोकं शोकहतं च समस्तम् ॥ 4॥

This life is transient and unsteady as a drop of water on a lotus leaf. It is inflicted with ego and diseases. The world is surrounded with grief.

Nouns with a Time & Space Context

The saptami context of a noun represents a sense of “where”, “in whom” or “when” kind of a scenario.. And these word endings have a meditative ee sound making it a calming choice.

इह संसारे बहु दुस्तारे
कृपयाऽपारे पाहि मुरारे ॥21॥

With rearrangement, it can be seen as (हे) मुरारे ! बहु दुस्तारे.. अपारे.. इह संसारे (त्वं) कृपया (मां) पाहि..
संसारे is the main locative noun. दुस्तारे and अपारे are locative adjectives further describing samsaara..

O Murari.. with your grace (krupa), save me in this difficult uncrossable infinite world..

यावज्जीवो निवसति देहे
कुशलं तावत् पृच्छति गेहे । 6

As long as there is life in the body.. in the house you are sought after..

Sati Sapthami — the bridge

I learnt something new.. Apart from the usual “where, when, in whom” scenarios of sapthami Vibhakthi, it is also used as a bridge in sati saptami.

Instead of saying “While doing Satsang detachment happens”, it is worded like “Upon Satsang is Detachment”.. The connector word yada tada, yaavat taavat is avoided and the locative sapthami case is used instead. It is used quite a bit in Bhaja Govindam and it makes the verses terse and crisp..

सत्सङ्गत्वे निस्सङ्गत्वम् ।
निस्सङ्गत्वे निर्मोहत्वम् ।
निर्मोहत्वे निश्चलतत्त्वम् ।
निश्चलतत्त्वे जीवन्मुक्तिः । 9

Upon Satsang detachment happens. Upon detachment delusion is lost. While in delusion free state, mind is steady. While mind is steady, jeevan mukthi happens.

Verse 1 cam be understood easily with sathi sapthami..
सन्निहिते काले संप्राप्ते .. “डुकृञ्करणे” न हि रक्षति
Upon “sannihitha kaala samprapthi” happening... ie the time of death is nearing.. grammar shall not save.

वयसि गते कः कामविकारः ?
शुष्के नीरे कः कासारः ?
क्षीणे वित्ते कः परिवारः ?
तत्त्वे ज्ञाते कः संसारः ? ॥10॥

While the youth is lost where is the lust?
While a dry patch is left where is the lake?
While the wealth is lost where is the flock of family?
While the self knowledge is attained .. where is the plurality of samsaara?

A look into the Action Words

Reminding of the context.. Shankara speaking to the old grammarian.. We should be able to find quite a few ‘second person singular’ verbs..

A few “DO xxx” kind of “instruction” words..

भज -भव- पश्य- प्रविश pray -be -look- enter
कुरु -उत्सृज do- discard
विद्धि- जहीहि -पाहि know -win- save
विनोदय- विचिन्तय- भावय- परिभावय be -happy -think -feel

लभसे -कुप्यसि -वाञ्छसि -द्रक्ष्यसि You are getting- getting angry-desiring-seeing

Third person singular verbs

रक्षति -भवति -पृच्छति -निवसति -बिभ्यति -हरति
क्रीडति -गच्छति -मुञ्चति -पश्यति -याति -मुञ्चति
रमते -क्रियते -नन्दति

Having done XXX do YYY

मायामयमिदमखिलं बुद्ध्वा
ब्रह्मपदं त्वं प्रविश विदित्वा ॥11॥

Having realised now that everything is an illusion.. Having known this know.. May you attain the absolute..

Nouns derived from Verbs & Idea of Passive Voice

I was curious about the highlighted words. These are nouns created from verbs. In addition, they have been used in Passive voice. It makes the sentences very terse as the subject is skipped. For instance
You should read Gita” is written here as “reading of Gita (ought to be done by you)”

गेयं गीतानामसहस्रं
ध्येयं श्रीपतिरूपमजस्रम् ।
नेयं सज्जनसङ्गे चित्तं
देयं दीनजनाय च वित्तम् ॥२७॥

Chanting of Gita and Vishnu Sahasranaamam.. Meditation on Vishnu’s form Taking company of good people..Giving wealth to the needy (ought to be done)..

भगवद्गीता किञ्चिदधीता
गङ्गाजललवकणिका पीता
सकृदपि येन मुरारिसमर्चा
क्रियते तस्य यमेन न चर्चा ॥२०॥

By whom Bhagawad Gita has been studied a little.. Ganga water has been consumed a bit.. he shall not be fight with (Yama) Death at his last hour.

Matraa Chandas & Meter

Unlike Anustup and other meters which have a rigid template for short and long syllable arrangement, this meter only puts a constraint on the length of matraa per quarter (short = 1 , long = 2 ). This is a very free flowing meter and every quarter in Bhaja Govindam excluding the first one has a length of 16 units.

पु न र पि ज न नम् पु न र पि म र नम्
पु न र पि ज न नी ज ठ रे श य नम्
इ ह सम् सा रे ब हु दुस् ता रे
कृ प या पा रे पा हि मु रा रे

भ ग वद् गी ता किञ् चि द धी ता
ग ङ् गा ज ल ल व क णि का पी ता
स कृ द पि ये न मु रा रि स मर् चा
क्रि य ते तस् य य मे न न चर् चा


Niveditha Bhagini has a treasure trove of Sanskrit learning resources ranging from advanced Grammar lectures to Gita, Classical Music and Stotram Analysis. I have used a small part of her magnum opus work as a backdrop for learning and validation. She covers details of sandhi, samaas, verb roots, krudantas etc.


Sati Saptami -

MSS version has a few verses tuned in ragamalika
Sadguru’s Bhajan style starts midway
Swami Brahmananda’s chant for all the verses

Verses, backdrop and translation




I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Life Lessons, Ancient Works on Wellness, Linguistics, Sanskrit, STEM, Patterns

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Sujatha R

Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Life Lessons, Ancient Works on Wellness, Linguistics, Sanskrit, STEM, Patterns

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