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 Gurugītā (Gurugita) (English)

Translations of the short and long versions of the celebrated Song about the Guru


Hi, Gabriel Pradīpaka once more. Gurugītā --wrongly-written Gurugita-- is a ancient chant included in the Skandapurāṇa. There are 18 Purāṇa-s (ancient accounts or stories), the one dedicated to Skanda (also known as Kārttikeya, one of the sons of Lord Śiva) being the lengthiest (about 81,000 verses). Purāṇa-s are directly related to the sacred four Veda-s [Go read First Steps (2) and Ṛgveda for more information about Veda-s]. Some complex teachings given in the Veda-s are really difficult to understand for the vast majority of people. By "Veda-s" I am referring in this case to the Mantra, Brāhmaṇa, Āraṇyaka and Upaniṣad sections such as I teach you on First Steps (2). Vedavyāsa, the compiler of the Vedic knowledge understood that most people would find it difficult to grasp some abstruse truths postulated by Veda-s. So, to have that problem resolved, he compiled all Vedic wisdom in the form of accounts or stories, thus giving rise to the eighteen Purāṇa-s. The tradition of giving hard-to-understand knowledge in the form of stories is a well-known strategy to allow people to grasp the meaning in an easier way, as most of them love reading accounts and tales.

These Purāṇa-s deal with five topics: (1) Sarga (creation of the universe), (2) Pratisarga (destruction and renovation) of it, (3) Vaṁśa (genealogy of gods and patriarchs), (4) Manvantara (the periods of the Manu-s), and (5) Vaṁśānucarita (history of the solar and lunar races). Obviously, I cannot describe the gods, patriarchs and Manu-s here as well as the solar and lunar races, because my explanation would be extremely long and somewhat off-topic, I think. In turn, the 18 Purāṇa-s are divided into three branches (Rājasa, Sāttvika and Tāmasa) according to the god of the Hinduist trilogy (Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva) they exalt. Here you are a complete chart summarizing the Purāṇa-s:

Six Rājasapurāṇa-s
Name Length
A brief description
Brahmā Brahma 10,000 It was revealed by the god Brahmā a Dakṣa in order to promote the worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Brahmāṇḍa 12,000 It was revealed by the god Brahmā to mainly describe the universe in the form of a cosmic egg.
Brahmavaivarta 18,000 Pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa and the celebrated gopī-s or milkmaids are described here abundantly.
Mārkaṇḍeya 9,000 It was narrated by the sage Mārkaṇḍeya to expound the nature of Lord Kṛṣṇa and explain some facts occurring in the epic poem called Mahābhārata.
Bhaviṣya 14,500 In this scripture, the god Brahmā describes future events along with religious rites.
Vāmana 10,000 Pulastya tells the sage Nārada (Vedavyāsa's guru) about the Viṣṇu's incarnation as a dwarf and His pastimes with the king Bali.
Six Sāttvikapurāṇa-s
Viṣṇu Viṣṇu 23,000 It describes the creation and dissolution of the world, contains a list of kings and dynasties, deals with Veda-s and Varṇāśrama (castes and stages of life) and narrates the life of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Bhāgavata 18,000 It was related by Śuka (son of Vedavyāsa) to king Parīkṣit, and mainly deals with the glories of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Nāradīya 25,000 It was composed by the sage Nārada (guru of Vedavyāsa). It describes many sacred cities such as Dvāraka, the city of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Garuḍa 19,000 Garuḍa, the vehicle of Viṣṇu, is the main character in this scripture. He was son of Kaśyapa and Vinatā.
Padma 55,000 It contains stories of Rāma and Jagannātha (Lord Kṛṣṇa).
Varāha 24,000 Viṣṇu, in His boar-incarnation, is the main subject matter here.
Six Tāmasapurāṇa-s
Śiva Śiva 24,000 Obviously, it is a scripture devoted to the stories, praises and so on pertaining to Lord Śiva.
Liṅga 10,000 It deals with Śiva in His Agniliṅga (fiery Liṅga or Mark) form. There are also a description of the incarnations of Lord Śiva in opposition to those of Lord Viṣṇu. All related to Gāyatrī mantra is also studied here.
Skanda 81,000 Skanda (the Attacker), also known as Kārttikeya (the one who was raised by the six Kṛttikā-s or Pleiades, hence he has six heads), one of the two sons (the other is Gaṇeśa) of Śiva and Pārvatī, is the main character in this scripture. He is the god of war, of course. This Purāṇa is the longest one, as you can see. The celebrated Gurugītā is right here.
Agni (or else Vāyu) 15,400 A description of Śālagrāma (or also "Sālagrāma") is included in this scripture. Śālagrāma is a village situated on the river Gaṇḍakī. In turn, a black stone abundantly found close to that village in the Gaṇḍakī river is also named "Śālagrāma". It is said that this kind of stone is pervaded by the presence of Viṣṇu. Hence it is sacred to the Vaiṣṇava-s
Matsya 14,000 This scripture was communicated to the 7th Manu by Viṣṇu in his fish-incarnation. Therefore, the main character here is Matsya, the first of the ten incarnations of Lord Viṣṇu. He became a fish to save the 7th Manu (the current one) called Vaivasvata (or also Satyavrata) from the universal deluge [See First Steps (2) for more information about incarnations of Viṣṇu]. The topic "temple constructions" is also dealt with here.
Kūrma 17,000 The main character in this scripture is Kūrma, the second incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu. He took the form of a turtle or tortoise to support the Mandara mountain, with which gods and demons churned the ocean by twisting it around with the help of Vāsuki (one of the three serpent-kings) acting as a rope. They did so to rescue some lost objects. Well, the story is a long and well-known one, you know.

Gurugītā is presented in two flavors, as it were: Short (182 stanzas) and long (352 stanzas) versions. At first glance, one might think that the long version "simply includes" the entire short version and more stanzas are added, but this is not the case. Firstly, the celebrated hymn Śrīgurupādukāpañcakam, which is generally included in the short version of Gurugītā, is absent in the long one. Secondly, many times two stanzas of the long version are simplified into only one in the short version. Thirdly, many verbs have been replaced with others whose meaning is similar. Fourthly... well, you will see it by yourself.

Regarding the translations, let me make this point clear: Sanskrit translators generally try to get a previous translation (if there is any) of a scripture in order to use it as a guidance, specially when the topic being dealt with in that scripture is not their specialty. This is not possible sometimes, of course, and the translator has to run the risk to make a mistake because some topics are too complex and words have so many different meanings very often. The same term may mean different things according to the philosophical system which the scripture belongs to. I usually see various translations with some errors in them, not because those translators were negligent but because Sanskrit texts may easily make a translator confused. Just as regarding other languages, there are no "universal Sanskrit translators" who can translate "all" scriptures with equal accuracy. Not at all. For example: in Spanish, even if you are a good translator, you will have problems to translate a medicine treatise if you do not know about the subject. The same thing is true for Sanskrit language. One should be first a specialist in a philosophy if he is going to translate a scripture pertaining to it, and so on.

As regards the short version of Gurugītā, I handwrote the translation many years ago by consulting now and then some previous translations of it in order to avoid so much mistakes as possible, as I am not conversant with the Vedic literature (only Trika or Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir is my specialty, and I am not too good even translating Trika scriptures, let alone Vedic ones). Anyway, I have never translated the long version of Gurugītā and I do not have any previous translations upon which to base my translation. Thus, I will have to translate it from the scratch... well, life is hard sometimes, you know, hehe, but I think that I will cope with it.

Finally, there is also a commentary on this scripture. That is why I will add as few explanatory notes as possible during the running translations of the short and long versions. Enjoy Gurugītā!


 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.

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