Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Home Variety Culture and History Nindāstuti: A Dharmic Paradigm of Devotion through Apparent Censure

Nindāstuti: A Dharmic Paradigm of Devotion through Apparent Censure

Nindāstuti is a Dharmic paradigm of devotion through apparent censure! If binaries of any kind, be it of praise and censure or even of language and silence, all constitute the Ultimate Reality and yet the Ultimate Reality is not restricted to any of these, one can express one's alignment with Brahman using censure and silence too, and not just praise and language!

Vedanta is the essence of the Vedic thought, enshrined primarily in the Upanishads. Vedantic principles decentralise the question of the divine to the individual. They make an individual realise Satya – the Absolute Truth of Brahman (the Universal cosmic principle in the Dharmic framework) by looking within, not without. In doing so, the seeker of this Truth finds the paradoxical nature of this reality: it is both transcendent and immanent, both dynamic and unchanging. And most importantly, being existent and non-existent! It is in this final dismantling of the empirical, physicalist conception of reality that the reality beyond the empirical is placed.

The Ultimate Reality, being beyond the relative and worldly, cannot be described in terms of anything that is empirical and worldly. In short, it is best described as attributeless. Going one step further, not only is it attributeless but its existence itself cannot be defined in terms of positive or negative ontological premises. It both is and is not! However, in terms of what we see around us – the elements of nature, society and civilisation, objects and physical processes – the Ultimate Reality is definitely not confined to any of that. Thus, a Vedic Maharishi would suggest the Neti, Neti (not this, not this) approach, with regards to things that we can sense and understand in our worldly existence, as the best one can do to ‘define’ Brahman.

This apparent paradox of existence and non-existence, positive and negative, nothing and yet everything, is beautifully translated to a very absurd form of devotion in the Dharmic framework: Nindāstuti. Nindāstuti is a Dharmic paradigm of devotion through apparent censure! If binaries of any kind, be it of praise and censure or even of language and silence, all constitute the Ultimate Reality and yet the Ultimate Reality is not restricted to any of these, one can express one’s alignment with Brahman using censure and silence too, and not just praise and language!

This highly counter-intuitive idea cannot be easily comprehended, especially by those conditioned to think in terms of binaries and multiplicities in this world as well as those who do not understand the difference between God and gods. God, in the Dharmic framework, is One, is beyond all manner of space, time and causality, while gods are associated with derived manifestations and realities from the Ultimate Reality.

For instance, God does not single out the Devtas (noble celestial being, regarded as gods) for preferential treatment, often to later perturbations well-described in so many mythological stories such as those where Lord Shiva grants boons to the Asuras and Rakshasa like Ravana. One may ask why? And in the answer to that question lies a great truth of Dharmic thought:


This is why, while Devtas in Hindu traditions are sometimes shown to have baser instincts and behaviours, such Lord Indra with his wrath, God or Brahman is shown to be indifferent to this. Praise and censure then are just two sides of the same coin: alignment and constant reflection on the Absolute Truth. The pieces composed for Nindāstuti are ones where we question the divine. Sometimes we even scold them and make unflattering comparisons, such as when Sant Tukaram Maharaj compares Lord Vitthala to a ghost in Pandhariche Bhoota Mothe! However, the key principle in this is that this censuring, this criticism, is not done with a spirit of disrespect or hatred.

It is done out of love and in union with the divine. It is like one mock-scolds or gives disparaging comments (in humour and affection) to a child or a friend or a family member one loves. It is done with the paradoxical idea that even when highlight some of the apparently negative sides of, say, a manifestation of the divine, we still highlight the divine essence while doing so. But most importantly, by doing this


It is one of the most powerful tools to break through the veil of Maya (the illusory veil that hides the true essence of the divine, as per Vedantic thought). It takes the conception of Brahman beyond any understanding in terms of attributes, praises or even language! Ciranjiva Bhattacarya, in his seminal work Kavyavilasa, describes Nindāstuti as

निन्दास्तुतिरलङ्कारो निन्दाव्याजेन चेत्स्तुतिः

which translates to Nindāstuti is when from apparent censure, praise is implied. An example of Nindāstuti is

वाराणसी! वृथैव त्वामाश्रयण्ति महाजनाः।
भवभोगपरित्यक्तं यत्करोषि दिगम्बरम्॥

These lines from the Kavyavilasa speak of how Varanasi is to be apparently blamed for making great men take refuge in it, after denouncing worldly joys and pleasures and remaining as sky-clad (Digambara). But due to the association of the word Digambara with Lord Shiva and great spiritual power, it is also a praise of Varanasi, by saying that Varanasi makes a person denounce worldly pleasures and turn towards Lord Shiva. What is apparently blame and censure is actually praise!

There have been a number of musicians, poets and spiritual luminaries who have used this form of devotion. Purandara Dāsa, known as the father of Carnatic music, is remembered for his devotional pieces, with famous pieces such as the popular Devaranamas like Chandrachooda Shiva Shankara Parvati, Sharanu Siddhi Vinayaka, Neene Anatha Bandhu, Gajavadana Beduve and Gummana Kareyadire. He is also known for composing Nindāstuti such as Entha Cheluvage, a Nindāstuti on Lord Shiva in Raga Abheri. Sadhguru Sri Tyagaraja also is known for composing various pieces in Nindāstuti such as Abhimaanamu Ledemi in Raga Andhaali.

These may look like strong pieces to censure the deities but they are actually to praise and show love to them. After all, Nindāstuti is a form of Shleshakavya – a poetic composition that is laden with double-entendres and is looked upon as a form of Dvesha-bhakti – a devotion that is expressed through censure and even apparent maliciousness.

Besides this being a form of devotion we must all know about, this also brings to us an important lesson – of breaking the shackles of righteous indignation and exclusivism that one sees in various religious and spiritual traditions around the world. Dharma brings to us all a very different, quite counter-intuitive understanding of devotion, theism and spirituality in Nindāstuti.

I believe keeping the balance between employing this form of Bhakti and yet not using it as a license to insult or deride spiritual truths is important, and for this, I would like to suggest the principle of Viśiṣṭvividhīkaran (विशिष्टविविधीकरण) or qualified diversification that speaks of how one must always think dually: regarding the worldly alignment and association with God or Brahman in terms of religion, the conception of divinity in terms of social and cultural ideas, myriad forms of devotion, and yet always remembering that there is a level of unity, of oneness, beyond all this that remains unaffected, indifferent and beyond these concepts – of the Absolute Truth.

Even if one were to employ Nindāstuti or even general censure and criticism for anything or anybody in life, be it in the spirit of free speech and free will or in Bhakti – devotion and spiritual pursuits, one must never forget the unity transcending all this. The unity transcending the bounds of doctrinal elements of religions. The unity transcending the bounds of identities, ideas and ideologies.


Only then shall we be firmly on the path to true liberation!

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Dr. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar
Mrittunjoy is a physicist, activist, writer, social worker and philosopher.

Related Articles

Trending now

AAP supported farmer protests hampering war against Covid-19, oxygen supplier writes to GOI saying tankers delayed due to roadblocks by protestors

Inox Air Products said that they are facing delays in Delhi while transporting oxygen due to road blockades by the farmer protestors

After getting vaccinated himself, Rakesh Tikait says the Modi government will be responsible if farmers get COVID-19

Rakesh Tikait had recently said that 'farmers' protests is not Shaheen Bagh than can be stopped in the name of coronavirus

How China’s ‘Re-education through labour’ policy put minorities in labour camps even before the Uyghur crisis: About the Masanjia camps

The letter went into detail about the conditions at China's Masanjia Labor Camp, including the gruelling hours, verbal abuse and physical abuse

From sitting on upturned dustbins to photo ops at crematorium grounds, Barkha Dutt gets questioned for her ‘vulture journalism’

While the situation on ground is indeed grim, people on social media have been calling out the dramatics by journalists who could have perhaps focused on the news instead of their brand building.

Maharashtra FDA minister embarrasses his own govt and alliance leaders, says his ministry had approved Remdesivir procurement by BJP

Maharashtra FDA Minister and NCP leader Dr. Rajendra Shingne confirms that he was aware about BJP procuring Remdesivir for state govt

Journalism: The new performance art

With the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists have screamed "Beware of the Ides of March" to anyone who would listen - Barkha Dutt for example.

Recently Popular

Understanding the hate factory: How Rohan Joshi and his hateful post against Hindus gives us an insight into the ‘liberal’ mind

Comedian Rohan Joshi tells Bhakts, "I have nothing but contempt for them and nit a shred of empathy" as he mocks Coronavirus deaths

Maharashtra Remdesivir ruckus: Saket Gokhale brazens his lies by filing complaint against Fadnavis, BJP returns favour. Details

A complaint has been filed against Saket Gokhale by a BJP member in which the complainant has accused the Congress supporter of lying and waging a war against the state in the midst of a pandemic

Filmmaker Hansal Mehta challenges for free flight tickets to Pakistan but goes into hiding after Twitter user provides it. Read what happened

Hansal Mehta's flight to Pakistan via Dubai is scheduled for 20th April, 2021. We shall keep you posted if Mehta goes to Pakistan or will he register his name in long list of paper tigers.

Delhi couple abuses cops over masks in viral video, husband blames wife after arrest

Police have booked and arrested a Delhi couple after the duo misbehaved with the personnel over masks. The video went viral.

250 ventilators sent by central govt lied unutilized in the state of Punjab amid the second wave of coronavirus

250 ventilators sent by the central government to Punjab for use in government hospitals were lying unused till late March.

When ‘comedians’ double up as doctors and believe ‘Bhakts’ deserve the misery as Chinese coronavirus rages

You will never see them questioning how many mosques have opened up their gates as medical facilities. Because, everyone likes to keep their heads.
- Advertisement -


Connect with us