Article: Ānandghan

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Poet's name

Despite his monastic name of Lābhānanda, Ānandghan always wrote under the name of:

  • Ānandghan – spelt corresponding to the modern Indian pronunciation
  • Ānandaghana – spelt according to Sanskrit pronunciation.

This name can be translated as 'cloud' – ghana – 'of bliss' – ānanda – according to Bangha and Fynes's 2013 translation.

The name of Ānandghan agrees with the nature of the author's poetry and is strikingly non-Jain and non-sectarian. Some modern Jain authors sometimes add the title sūri or muni to Ānandghan's name in editions of his poems, as if they wanted him to have the same authority as other well-known Jain writers. However, the author himself never uses such titles.

The name of Ānandghan is found in the last verse of all the poems he wrote. This type of signature, technically known as bhaṇita – 'said' – is a long-existing usage in Indian poetical tradition, and has become systematic in vernacular language poetry.

There are other writers of the same name, especially one Nimbārkī Ānandghan, but recent research has demonstrated that they are all different persons.

Legends

This illustration from an 18th-century Ādityavāra-kathā manuscript shows Digambara monks preaching to lay men. Sitting on low platforms above their listeners, the monks hold up scriptures. The bookstands in front underline their role as religious teachers

Monks preach to lay men
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Legendary episodes like to portray Ānandghan as a rebellious figure who followed his own path, against social conventions and institutional authorities. For instance, during one Paryuṣaṇ festival, he was sitting ready to give a sermon in a monastic hall – upāśraya. Everybody in the village was present, but the rule was that the sermon should start only when the leading businessman of the town – nagarsheth – arrived. The monk waited for quite some time, but as the man did not come he started preaching. When the nagarsheth finally turned up and was angry about the situation, the monk replied that he had to follow his own rules on time, and left (Ratnasenavijaya 1985: introduction 17–19).

Ānandghan is regarded as having had yogic powers. Much later than his own lifetime, legends about Ānandghan featured him:

as a great yogi who participated in the social life of his times and who attained siddhis, miraculous yogic powers, often associated with stereotypical miracles that are ascribed also to other saints. It is his asceticism that earned him the epithet yogīrāj

Bangha and Fynes
page xxv, 2013

His works, however, do not emphasise this aspect at all.

Works

Ānandghan is mainly credited with two sets of poems, namely:

  • the Cauvīsī
  • poetry that was later collected in the anthology known as Bahattarī.

The language of Ānandghan's verse is a vernacularbhāṣā – combining Gujarati, Rajasthani and Braj. This is the typical language of devotional poets singing love and devotion – bhakti – to their respective gods.

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