In Mourning for U.Srinivas


In Mourning for U.Srinivas


Filed under Uncategorized

Chinnanjiru Pen Pole

Shiva Durga DancingI have a question for you this week. You know how we Hindus worship Krishna as Balagopala, in the form of a child? And we also worship Kartikeya as a young lad? Do we worship any Goddess as a child in a temple anywhere in India?  I thought of Kanyakumari, but her form is that of an adult woman in spite of the name. Googling brought me no answers. I am aware of the kumari puja tradition during Navaratri; I myself have enjoyed being the recipient of honours as a child. But I haven’t heard of a child-Goddess murti. If you have, please do write and tell me.

My question occurred to me in a roundabout fashion. I was remembering the Indian PM’s speech on Republic Day and his words regarding female infanticide or selective abortion. I also remembered an episode of Satyameva Jayate by Aamir Khan in which he approaches this very touchy subject. I wondered, if we worshipped child-Goddesses, would that have been a deterrent against this horrific practice? But then again, I suppose it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. After all, horrid crimes against grown women happens everyday in a country where Goddesses control power, wealth and knowledge. Odd that, don’t you think?

I searched in my mind for songs addressed to child-Goddesses and again I drew a blank. There is Bharathiyar’s chinnanjiru kiliye addressed to a girl-child but she’s not a Goddess.  The nearest which came to mind was Chinnanjiru Pen Pole which, though not addressed to a child-Goddess, at least likens Durga to a young girl. The poet describes the beauty of her eyes and her body, saying that she is a good match for the most handsome Lord Shiva. Those who have been following my blog for a time would have noted my particular fascination with dancing and musical Gods; here the poet says she is equal to her Lord in dance as well. Ah how I love the mental image this creates of the divine couple swirling away! I always imagine that if they were to stop, the world too would come to a dead halt; Sivaji Ganesan singing என் இசை நின்றால் அடங்கும் உலகே, நான் அசைந்தால் அசையும் அகிலம்மேல்லமே (if my music halts, the world will stop; and when I move, the world moves with me) in Pattum Nane (Thiruvilaiyadal) left a lasting impression!

Chinnanjiru Pen Pole belongs to the genre of Bhakti Padal or devotional song, similar in concept to the Bhajans of North India. These devotional forms of music often straddle the line between classical and popular music; though based on classical ragas, the songs have an approachability which classical music often lacks. Sirkazhi Govindarajan was a master of this genre. The song is lovely, his voice is always very interesting with a venry unique timbre and he infuses it with great feeling. Written by Ulundoor Pettai Shanmugasundaram, it is addressed to Sivagami (Durga) who resides in a temple next to Sivaganga tank in Chidambaram. I visited Chidambaram just last year but alas, I missed seeing this shrine. I hope you enjoy it!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

சின்னஞ்சிறு பெண் போலே சிற்றாடை இடை உடுத்தி
சிவகங்கை குளத்தருகே ஸ்ரீ துர்கை சிரித்திருப்பாள்

பெண்ணவளின் கண்ணழகை பேசி முடியாது
பேரழகுக்கு ஈடாக வேறொன்றும் கிடையாது

மின்னலை போல் மேனி அன்னை சிவகாமி
இன்பமெல்லாம் தருவாள் எண்ணமெல்லாம் நிறைவாள்

பின்னல் சடை போட்டு பிச்சிப்பூ சூடிடுவாள்
பித்தனுக்கு இணையாக நர்த்தனம் ஆடிடுவாள்


chinnanjiru peN pOlE chiTRADai iDai uDutti
sivagangai kuLattarugE srI durgai sirittiruppAL

peNNavaLin kaNNazhagai pEsi muDiyAdu
pErazhagukku IDaga vERonDRum kiDaiyAdu

minnalaippOl mEni annai sivagAmi
inbamellAm taruvAL eNNamellAm niRaivAL

pinnal shadai pOTTu pichchippU shUDiDuvAL
pittanukku iNAIyAga narttanam ADiduvAL


Near (arugE) the Sivagangai pond (kuLam), Sri Durga smiles (sirittiruppAL), wearing (uDutti) a small garment (chiTRADai) on her waist (iDai) like (pOlE) a little (chinnanjiru) girl (peN).

I can endlessly talk (pEsi muDiyAdu) of the beauty (azhagai) of that (avaL) girl’s (peN) eyes (kaN)!  There is nothing (vERonDRum kiDaiyAdu) equal (IDaga) to that great beauty (pErazhagu)!

Mother (annai) Sivagami’s body (mEni) is like (pOl) a lightning (minnal)! She will give (taruvAL) all (ellAm) happiness (inbam), she will fulfil (niRaivAL) all our wishes (eNNam=thoughts)!

She braids (pinnal) her hair (shadai) and adorns (shUdiduvAL) it with wild jasmine (pichchippU). And she will dance (narttanam ADiDuvAL) in conjunction with (or equal to) (IDAga) the Mad One (Shiva) (pittan).


Filed under Bhakti Padal, Sirkazhi Govindarajan, Ulundoor Pettai Shanmugasundaram

Siddhi Vinayakam Anisham

ashtasiddhiHappy Vinayaka Chaturthi everybody! I hope you had a few moments to offer prayers to Vinayaka today; if not, the song I have chosen is a prayer in itself.

But I am running ahead of myself. We all know that one prays to Vinayaka for the achievement of goals, for success. The word siddhi which we use to preface His name translates to exactly that.  Who amongst has not demanded that Vinayaka help us pass our exams, get through that interview, get the promotion we are aiming for? I know even some people who claim to be agnostic sending up a ‘just in case’ prayer if the goal seems important enough! But these goals give us but momentary satisfaction, forgotten even as we set the next possible goal.  I wonder, are we wasting the good Lord’s time by asking for things which are too easy to deliver? Should we not be setting Him some stretch targets?

Vinayaka is also the Lord of the eight Siddhis (occult Yogic powers) referred to by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra. These are indeed amazing powers!

  • अणिमा aNimA : Power to become subatomic
  • महिमा mahimA : Power of become infinitely large
  • लघिमा laghimA – Power to become infinitely light
  • गरिमा garimA – Power to become infinitely heavy
  • प्राप्ति prApti – Power of attaining any objective
  • प्राकाम्य prAkAmya - Power of transmigration
  • ईशित्व Ishitva – Godlike power to create and rule
  • वशित्व vashitva – Power to control/subdue all matter

Vinayaka has the power to bestow the yogin with all of these occult powers. They sound rather dangerous, don’t they? Instead I think about the words metaphorically and I offer you alternate meanings to reflect upon.

  • अणिमा aNimA : The ability to concentrate such that we can focus our mind to a pinpoint.
  • महिमा mahimA : The ability to have such a broad world-view that we can encompass all.
  •  लघिमा laghimA : The ability to let go everything, all maya, so they we are weightless.
  • गरिमा garimA : The ability to absorb all challenges we face with the stability of the infinitely heavy.
  •  प्राप्ति prApti : The ability to stick to an objective until we achieve it.
  • प्राकाम्य prAkAmya : The ability to empathise so well with others that we virtually transmigrate into them.
  • ईशित्व Ishitva : The ability to create beauty and joy.
  • वशित्व vashitva : The power to rule over our weaknesses, to control our needs and subdue our passions.

Now, these siddhis are worth praying for, don’t you think? My song today is addressed to Siddhi Vinayaka, set to the beautiful raga Shanmukhapriya (Chamaram) and composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar. It is a song of praise, reminding us that He is the bestower of whatever we desire. The Yogic theme for today was inspired by the words reminding us that Vinayaka is present in the Mooladhara Chakra, that which much be awakened if we are to reach a higher state of being. For lyrics and translation, see footnote below.

There are so many nice performances of this popular kriti that I had some trouble choosing the one to present to you. The first one I would like you to hear is this excellent rendition by T.N.Seshagopalan (live, 1975). He is accompanied by V.V.Subramaniam and Trichy Shankaran.  I do have a weakness for TNS from that era!! (Alapana and Kriti)

Alternate link : Click here and download items 2 and 3 (need free membership to

I could not look past Pattabhirama Pandit for his most energetic and creative performance (Alapana and Kriti). He is accompanied by Mysore Srikanth, H.S.Sudhindra and Giridhar Udupa.

Alternate link : Click here and download items 5 and 6 (need free membership to

If you have a taste for more, check out this lovely performance by MDR (item 7) and another very good one by Sumithra Vasudev (item 2).


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

सिद्धि विनायकं अनिशं चिन्तयाम्यहम्
प्रसिद्ध गण नायकम् विशिष्टार्थ दायकम् वरम्

सिद्ध यक्ष किन्नरादि सेवितम्
अखिल जगत्प्रसिद्धम्
मूल पङ्कज मध्यस्थं मोदक हस्तम्

भाद्र पद मास चतुर्थ्याम् ब्राह्मणादि पूजितम्
पाशाङ्कुश धरम् छत्र चामर परिवीजितम्
रौद्र भाव रहितम् दास जन हृदय विराजितम्
रौहिणेयानुजार्चितम् ईहना वर्जितम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
अद्रि राज सुतात्मजम् अनन्त गुरु गुहाग्रजम्
भद्र प्रद पदाम्बुजम् भासमान चतुर्भुजम्


siddhi vinAyakam anisham chintayAmyaham
prasiddha gaNa nAyakaM vishishTArtha dAyakam varam

siddha yaksha kinnarAdi sEvitam
akhila jagat prasiddham
mUla pankaja madhyastham mOdaka hastam

bhAdra pada mAsa chaturthyAm brAhmaNAdi pUjitam
pAshAnkusha dharam CHatra chAmara parivIjitam
raudra bhAva rahitam dAsa jana hRdaya virAjitam
rauhiNEyAnujArchitam IhanA varjitam

(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
adri rAja sutAtmajam ananta guru guhAgrajam
bhadra prada padAmbujam bhAsamAna chaturbhujam


I (aham) incessantly (anisham) meditate (chintayAmi) upon Siddhi Vinayaka. He is the Lord (nAyakam) of the famous (prasiddha) Ganas, the foremost (varam) bestower (dAyakam) of the specific (vishishTa) object of desire (artha).

He is worshipped (sEvitam) by Siddhas, Yakshas, Kinnaras etc (Adi). He is renowned (prasiddha) in the whole (akhila) world (jagat). He is in the middle of (madhyashtha) the lotus (pankaja) of Mooladhara Chakra (mUla). He has the Modaka sweetmeat in his hand (hastam).

He is worshipped (pUjitam) by the Brahmanas etc (Adi) on the fourth day of the lunar cycle (chaturthi) of the month (mAsa) of Bhadrapada. He is the holder (dharam) of a noose (pAsha) and goad (ankusha). He is cooled (parivIjitam) by an umbrella (CHatra) and a chowrie (chAmara). He is devoid of (rahitam) violent or angry (raudra) emotions (bhAva). Who is resplendent (virAjita) in the hearts (hRdaya) of his servants (dAsajana). He is praised (architam) by Krishna (the younger brother (anuja) of the son of Rohini (Balarama)). He is without (varjitam) of desire (Iha).

He is the grandson (sutAtmaja) of king (rAja) of the mountains (adri). He is the elder-brother (agraja) of the eternal (ananta) Guruguha (=Kartikeya). His are the lotus-feet (pada ambujam) which bestow (prada) welfare/prosperity (bhadra). He is the four-handed one (chatur bhujam) who dwells (mAnam) in lustre/light (bhAsa).


Filed under Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, T.N.Seshagopalan

Chalo Man Ganga Jamuna Teer

Triveni SangamMy posts this spring and summer have been so very infrequent! I’ve had a busy time with lots of visitors and my own travelling. Just last weekend my husband and I returned from a long road trip to the North of Spain, driving nearly 4300 kms in 16 days.

This was a trip that I had had in mind for quite some time. Five years back I had made plans to go on the famous Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route with my two lady friends from Australia to celebrate all of us turning 50. We had planned to walk about 300 kms of this route but sadly for me, I had some health issues and could not join in. As it is unlikely that I would ever be able to do this walk, I took the opportunity this summer to do the route the easy way.

I have a great love of Cathedrals and in this trip we saw some really outstanding ones. I will never forget the sheer magnificence of the Burgos Cathedral, nor the magic of the stained glass at León. The Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela had that indescribable atmosphere that only holy places have. But this is a music blog; you’ll have to wait for my travel blog to read details about it all! Those of you who are wondering why this Iyengar woman goes on a Christian pilgrimage, I see the presence of God in the beauty of the architecture, in the skills of the artisans, in the creativity of the sculptors and painters, in the bhakti of all the believers who have come to these cathedrals for the last thousand years. And if I address Jesus or Mary with a couple of Hindu shlokas, I don’t think they mind very much!

This concept of a holiday which is a pilgrimage comes from my childhood. In fact, I used to think that was the way everyone had holidays! Come school break, my parents would take my sister and me to either our grandparents’ homes or on a teertha yatra, or a combination of the two. We went to many sthalas all over India but the most memorable ones for me involved a dip in Ganga. I remember the crowded ghats of Kasi, the swirling rush of Haridwar and Rishkesh, the freezing waters of Badrinath and the body-and-mind-numbing waters of Mandakini at Gaurikund, en route on our walk from Soneprayag to Kedarnath. (I just referred to my article published in my school magazine to remind me of the name of the place. If you would like to read of our pilgrimage at that time, here is a link to my rather immature article from 1975!) But most magical of all was a dip in Prayag at the Triveni Sangama; my then teenaged and very fanciful mind was quite taken by the idea of the hidden river Saraswati quietly flowing and meeting with Ganga and Yamuna.

And thus I come upon my song choice of today. Meera is said to have written Chalo Man Ganga Jamuna Teer in Prayag (unconfirmed).  In her song, she says ‘O Mind, Go to Prayag’, The Prayag that she urges us to is not the confluence of the rivers but the sangama of the Nadis- Ida, Pingala and Sushumna- at the Ajna chakra (between our brows, position of the third-eye) . Ida is associated with Ganga, Pingala with Yamuna and Sushumna with Saraswati. This meeting point is called ‘Mukta Triveni’; it is the point of liberation. Meera urges us to this sangama, saying that the waters here are pure, stainless; such a dip, she says, will cool down our bodies. Cool from what? I imagine she means the heat of the passions and emotions that we live with.  So, you see, though I have been on a many a pilgrimage, I have not dipped in the most important of sangamas. What use such physical pilgrimages then? !!

To listen to the song, there can be none other than the voice of D.V.Paluskar who made this song his own. Enjoy, and perhaps you will be inspired to take the dip that Meera urges us to.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Rajasthani / Brijbhasa

(Lyrics as sung by D.V.Paluskar; I could not verify Meera’s original words which could well differ)

चलो मन गङ्गा-जमुना तीर ।
गङ्गा-जमुना निर्मल पानी ।
शीतल होत शरीर ।।

बंसी बजावत गावत कान्हा ।
संग लिये बलबीर ।।

मोर-मुकुट पीताम्बर सोहे ।
कुण्डल झलकत हीर ।।

मीरा के प्रभु गिरिधर नागर ।
चरण कमल पर सीर ।।


chalO mana gangA jamunA tIra
gangA jamunA niramala pAnI
shItala hOta sharIra

bansI bajAvata gAvata kAnhA
sanga liyE balabIra

mOra mukuTa pItAmbara sOhE
kuNDala jhalakata hIra

mIrA kahE prabhu giridhara nAgara
charaNa kamala para sIra


O Mind (mana), go (chalO) to the shores (teera) of Ganga and Yamuna (this means Prayag, where the two meet with Saraswati). The body (sharIra) becomes (hOta) cool (shItala) in the stainless (niramala) waters (pAnI) of Ganga and Yamuna.

There (implied), Krishna (kAnhA) is playing (bajAvata) his flute (bansI) and singing (gAvata), accompanied (sanga liyE) by Balarama (balabIra).

Krishna’s crown (mukuTa) of peacock (mOra) feathers and yellow garments (pItAmbara) suit him (sOhE). And from his earrings (kuNDala), diamonds (hIra)  glitter (jhalakata).

Meera says (kahE) that her head (sIra) is on the lotus (kamala) like feet (charaNa) of her Lord who held up the mountain (giridhara nAgara).


Filed under Bhajan, D.V.Paluskar, Meera, Uncategorized

Sogasuga Mrdanga Talamu

MridangamDoes Carnatic music really need lyrics? Isn’t it better off without them?” I was asked recently.  This was not the first time I have heard comments dismissing the sahitya in Carnatic Music (CM).  Some make comparisons with Western Classical Music where there are no lyrics at all or Hindustani Classical Music where the lyrics play a much more minor part than in CM.

CM performances are a balance between the kalpita sangeeta (composed music, including lyrics) and the kalpana sangeeta (improvised music). The musicians show their own creativity and expertise in the kalpana sangeeta and therefore in their eyes it may take on a higher level of importance.  T.M.Krishna says in this interview that ‘the lyrical element of a composition is subordinate to the musicality of it’ and gives a very convincing demonstration to make his case. From an instrumentalist’s point of view, flautist Janardanan says in an interview that he would have a wider audience if the emphasis was not on playing kritis.

I am not a musician; I am a mere untutored shrota. To me, it seems as if the kalpita sangeeta is like the foundation and the girders of a building to which the musician add soaring facades and features with their notes. What would that building be without a foundation? Ragas don’t have a stand-alone existence in my world; instead ragas invoke sahitya and sahitya invoke ragas. And both invoke real life memories. When I see an aarati being performed on an auspicious occasion, kurinji springs forth in my mind as I sing ‘Seeta Kalyanam Vaibogame’ to myself. If someone casually asks ‘yaar adu?’ (who is that) my mind questions itself in bhairavi, singing ‘yaaro ivar yaaro, enna pero?’. If I hear abheri, I instantly say to myself ‘Nagumomu’; I did that even before I knew what nagumomu meant. As a great lover of CM, I cannot imagine it without its sahityam.

To make my case, I present the song Sogasuga Mrdanga Talamu by Tyagaraja in which he defines the components of a kriti (composition) as yati (the framework or pattern in which swaras and words are arranged), vishrama (peacefulness), true devotion, sweetness and navarasa or the nine moods (love, laughter, fury, compassion, aversion, terror, heroism, wonder, peacefulness). The songs, says Tyagaraja, should be imbued with the meaning of the Upanishads, have a purity of notes and sung to the accompaniment of mRdanga. It is evident that sahitya plays a central part in Tyagaraja’s definition of music; why should it be otherwise with us? There is a short lec-dem of this song here. Set to the energy infusing raga Sriranjani, it is a very popular song sung by many musicians.

To present this song today, I have chosen a rendition by Voleti Venkateshwarulu which I like very much. His pacing is brisk and energetic; one finds oneself nodding one’s head in happy resonance!

Alternative link : Click here

To contrast with the briskness, listen now to a leisurely exploration of the raga and song by M.D.Ramanathan. The song and raga take on another mood altogether. I was admittedly uncertain at first, wondering how Sriranjani would sound at such a pace, but now I am a convert..I like it very well indeed!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

(Note: I do not speak Telugu; the lyrics have been validated aurally but the translation is dependent on various web resources)

सॊगसुगा मृदङ्ग ताळमु
जत कूर्चि निनु सॊक्क जेयु धीरुडॆव्वडो

निगम शिरोर्थमु गल्गिन
निज वाक्कुलतो स्वर शुद्धमुतो

यति विश्रम सद्भक्ति विरति द्राक्षा रस नव-रस
युत कृतिचे भजियिञ्चु (alt: भजियिञ्चे) युक्ति त्यागराजुनि तरमा श्री राम

Transliteration :

sogasugA mRdanga tALamu
jata kUrchi ninu sokka jEyu dhIruDevvaDO

nigama shirOrthamu galgina
nija vAkkulatO swara shuddhamutO

yati vishrAma sad-bhakti virati drAkshA rasa nava rasa-
yuta kRtichE bhajiyinchu (alt: bhajiyinchE) yukti tyAgarAjuni taramA shrI rAma


Who (evvaDO) is the wise one (dhIruDu) who enchants you (ninu sokka jEyu) by charmingly (sogasugA) harmonizing (jata kUrchi) the beat (tALamu) and the drum (mRdanga)?

With true (nija) words (vakkulatO) conveying (galgina) the highest meaning (shirOrthamu)  of the Upanishads (nigama) in pure notes (swara shuddhamutO)?

Is it possible (taramA) for Tyagaraja to worship you (bhajiyinchu) by creating kritis (kRitichE) endowed with (yuta) yati (a pleasing framework),  vishrAma (peacefulness), true devotion (sad-bhakti), caesura or pauses in verse(virati), sweetness like grape juice (drAksha rasa) and the nine moods (nava rasa) ?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Tyagaraja


AwargiA long drive. A quiet road. A peaceful landscape streaming by. A full moon rising.  Time slowing down. Body, mind, spirit all at peace. What music would I choose? A Ghazal, every time!

Ghazals are familiar to a wide audience in India; after all, there are so many wonderful Ghazals which the Hindi film industry has presented us with. I love the sound of Ghazals, the restful, slightly melancholic air, the smoothness of the melodies and especially the language. Surely anyone who likes poetry loves Urdu, for isn’t the language just perfect for poetry? The sound of the language itself is music; its syllables fall like ripples of a stream! Today I have chosen a wonderful old favourite to present to you.

In India we have a tradition which runs from Vedic times, that of the wandering monk, sanyasi or vairagi. Unfettered by the bonds of life, their minds are detached and dispassionate, seeking spirituality. It is not disillusionment with life; quite the contrary. When Maya drops her veils, it is surely a state of illumination? To my mind, this mental state is related to the word Awargi in Urdu. A complicated word, it has many shades of meaning from vagrancy, waywardness, carelessness to licentiousness and even wantonness. In this song, I interpret it to mean the state of mind of the vairagi, a mind which seeks a solitude,  which is neither happy nor unhappy.  Though vairagya is a Hindu word and this Ghazal is of Islamic origin, the sense is the same. To see the word related to Islamic thought, read Hazrat Inayat Khan’s discourse here.

In this lovely song, the poet Mohsin Naqvi describes his mental journey to the state of vairagya, which, for the purpose of brevity, I will call detachment.

ये दिल ये पागल दिल मेरा, क्यों बुझ गया? आवारगी ।
इस दश्त में इक शहर था, वो क्या हुआ ? आवारगी ॥

Why did it get subdued, this crazy heart of mine? Detachment! There used to be a city in this barrenness, what happened to it? Detachment!

The poet likens his heart to a ruined city which once may have bustled with life but now is no more than a barren wasteland. How did it come about, he wonders? I wonder, was detachment the cause or the result?

This has not been a planned journey into his new sense of detachment. In fact he is quite startled to find himself there.

कल शब मुझे बे-शक्ल की आवाज़ ने चौँका दिया ।
मैं ने कहा, तू कौन है ? उस ने कहा, आवारगी ॥

Last night, I was startled by a formless voice. I asked, ‘Who are you?’. It said ‘Detachment’!

But, of course, detachment doesn’t come suddenly.

इक तू कि सदियों से मेरे हमराह भी हमराज़ भी ।
इक मैं कि तेरे नाम से ना-आश्ना, आवारगी ॥

There was you, who, for centuries, has been both my fellow-traveller and confidant! And there was me, unaquainted with your name – Detachment!

He acknowledges that the detachment has always been a silent presence at the back of his mind.  Do we not all sense a part of us which often stays apart, remaining a witness to events?  What do we call that presence? And when something terrible happens of which you can speak to no-one, do you not silently look at that presence for an acknowledgement, for the sharing of the pain? This is a very cleverly written couplet, I like this personification of that silent witness as ‘हमराह’ and ‘हमराज़’.

यह दर्द की तनहाइयाँ, यह दश्त का वीराँ सफ़र ।
हम लोग तो उकता गये, अपनी सुना, आवारगी ॥

We all are tired of this loneliness of pain, this desolate journey in a barren land! Tell me of yourself, O Detachment ?

Is the poet asking the question of his alter-ego, his dispassionate self, or is he asking us ?

इक अजनबी झोंके ने जब पूछा मेरे ग़म का सबब ।
सहरा की भीगी रेत पर मैं ने लिखा, आवारगी ॥

When a strange gust of wind asked me the reason for my sorrow, I wrote ‘Detachment’ in the wet sands of the desert.

This couplet puzzled me for a bit; surely the cause of sorrow is not detachment? Would not the cause of detachment be sorrow? But thinking of the poet’s alter-ego, the detachment which has always accompanied him, I think perhaps it was also the cause of his failure with relationships in life?

ले अब तो दश्त-ए-शब की सारी वुस’अतें सोने लगीं ।
अब जागना होगा हमें कब तक बता, आवारगी ॥

Now that the expanse of the desert-night has started sleeping, tell me, O Detachment, how long have I to still keep awake?

The poet repeatedly refers to his heart as a barren land. In this couplet he seems to say that even the last of the bonds have died down. He seems to be tired of life, of living; he asks how long he still has to keep awake i.e.. keep alive.

कल रात तनहा चाँद को देखा था मैंने ख़्वाब में ।
‘मोहसिन’ मुझे रास आयेगी शायद सदा आवारगी ॥

Last night I saw a lonely moon in my dreams. It said to me ‘Mohsin, perhaps detachment will always agree with me’.

The poet finishes on a positive note by suggesting that he finds the state of detachment quite agreeable. The moon is detached from both the sun and the earth yet it is there, reflecting the light of the sun to enlighten the darkness of the earth. Likewise a vairagi, a sanyasi, is detached from the world but is still there, reflecting the light of God to enlighten the darkness of unawakened mind.

To present this song, I have a rendition by the wonderful Ghazal singer, Ghulam Ali. I have had the privilege of being in his audience a number of times. His voice quality, his enunciation, his impeccable pitching, the ease with which he traverses the scale, his musicality all added to a great stage presence make him one of the greatest performers I have seen.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Urdu (transcribed in Devanagari script)

ये दिल ये पागल दिल मेरा, क्यों बुझ गया? आवारगी ।
इस दश्त में इक शहर था, वो क्या हुआ ? आवारगी ॥
कल शब मुझे बे-शक्ल की आवाज़ ने चौँका दिया ।
मैं ने कहा, तू कौन है ? उस ने कहा, आवारगी ॥
इक तू कि सदियों से मेरे हमराह भी हमराज़ भी ।
इक मैं कि तेरे नाम से ना-आश्ना, आवारगी ॥
यह दर्द की तनहाइयाँ, यह दश्त का वीराँ सफ़र ।
हम लोग तो उकता गये, अपनी सुना, आवारगी ॥
इक अजनबी झोंके ने जब पूछा मेरे ग़म का सबब ।
सहरा की भीगी रेत पर मैं ने लिखा, आवारगी ॥
ले अब तो दश्त-ए-शब की सारी वुस’अतें सोने लगीं ।
अब जागना होगा हमें कब तक बता, आवारगी ॥
कल रात तनहा चाँद को देखा था मैंने ख़्वाब में ।
‘मोहसिन’ मुझे रास आयेगी शायद सदा आवारगी ॥


yE dil yE pAgal dil mErA, kyO.n bujh gayA? AvArgI
is dasht mE.n ik sheher thA, wO kyA huA? AvArgI
kal shab mujhE bE-shakl kI avAz nE chau.nkA diyA
mainE kahA tU kaun hai? usnE kahA, AvArgI
ik tU ki sadiyO.n sE mErE hamrAh bhI hamrAz bhI
ik mai.n ki tErE nAm sE nA-AshnA, AvArgI
yE dard kI tanhA’iyA.n yE dasht kA vIrA.n safar
ham log tO uktA gayE, apnI sunA, AvArgI
ik ajnabI jhO.nkE nE jab pUCHA mErE .gam kA sabab
sehrA kI bhIgI rEt par mainE likhA, AvArgI
lE ab tO dasht-E-shab kI sArI vus-atE.n sOnE lagI.n
ab jAgnA hOgA hamE.n kab tak batA, AvArgI
kal rAt tanhA chA.nd kO dEkhA THA mainE khwAb mE.n
mohsin mujhE rAs AyEgI shAyad sadA AvArgI

Why (kyO.n) did it get subdued (bujh gayA), this (yE) crazy (pAgal) heart (dil) of mine (mErA)? Detachment! (AvArgI) There used to be (thA) a city (sheher) in this barrenness (dasht), what happened to it (kyA huA) ? Detachment (AvArgI)!

Last night (kal shab), I was startled (mujhE chau.nkA diyA) by a formless (bE-shakl) voice (AvAz). I asked (mainE kahA), ‘Who are you?’ (tU kaun hai). It said (usnE kahA) ‘Detachment’ (AvArgI)!

There is you, who (ik tU ki), for centuries (sadiyO.n sE), has been both my fellow-traveller (hamrAh) and confidant (hamrAz)! And there was me (ik mai.n), unaquainted (nA-AshnA) with your name (tErE nAm sE) – Detachment (AvArgI)!

We all (hum LOg) are tired (uktA gayE) of this loneliness (tanhA-iyA.n) of pain (dard), this desolate (vIrA.n) journey (safar) in a barren land (dasht)! Tell me of yourself (tErI sunA), O Detachment (AvArgI)?

When (jab) a strange (ajnabI) gust of wind (jhO.nkE) asked me (pUCHA) the reason (sabab) for my (mErE) sorrow (.gam), I wrote (mainE likhA)  ‘Detachment’ (AvArgI)  in the wet (bhIgI) sands (rEt) of the desert (sehrA).

Now that the (ab tO) expanse (vus-atE.n) of the desert-night (dasht-E-shab) has started sleeping (sOnE lagE), tell me (batA), O Detachment (AvArgI), how long have I (kab tak) to still keep awake (jAgnA mujhE) ?

Last night (kal rAt) I saw the moon (chA.nd) in its solitude (tanhA) in my dreams (khwAb mE.n). It said to me ‘Mohsin, perhaps (shAyad) detachment (AvArgI) will always (sadA) agree with me (rAs AyEgI)’.


Filed under Ghazal, Ghulam Ali, Mohsin Naqvi

Sendru Va Nee Radhe

Do go now Radha, go immediately! There is no time to think! You do not understand even if told, nor would you think of it by yourself. Don’t trust that Lord! After all, the promises of that illusionist  come from the mouth which ate mud!  For one who has measured  the earth , is it difficult to come to you and make up false stories? Even if Krishna came and told us a thousand things, is it really justified for us to believe it all?

In my last post, I talked of Sita, of her refusing to be left behind when Rama goes on exile. Krishna does not go on exile but He does leave Brindavan to complete all that He has to do in His incarnation. And Radha, His sweetheart, His love, is left behind.

What happens to Radha? In youthful love, she dances to His tune, both literally and metaphorically. In adulthood, she awaits her Lord for evermore while Krishna marries Rukmini and Satyabhama. Is she seen as the jilted sweetheart? But no! She is His eternal love and has a unique place in the Krishna story. She adorns many a Radha-Krishna temple in a status equal to that of the Lord. ‘Radhe-Krishna’ exclaim millions of Indians; naming Krishna as the one belonging to Radha.

Though Radha is sung of in many parts of India, there are hardly any Carnatic songs which feature her. Does the mystic love of Radha and Krishna not really capture the imagination of the more conservative Southerners? Whatever the case, I am pleased to offer for your listening pleasure this gem of a song by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer. I am not sure whether it should be classified as a nindA stuti (backhanded praise of the Lord); it does seem like it should. After all, when normally we are told ‘Trust in God’, the poet says ‘Don’t trust anything He says!’. You can find the lyrics and translation in the footnote. The words are such that we need to look beyond them for a meaningful interpretation.

Do go and find him immediately!’. Radha is urged by the poet to go and seek out Krishna. ‘There is no more time to think’, she is told. Who is Radha? She is but the representative of the jIvAtma, the soul which resides in each of us. The song is urging us all to seek Krishna.

Krishna is ever busy herding His cattle and paying attention to the crowds who seek Him, says the poet. Radha waits forever for her Krishna to come to her. Are we too waiting for the Lord to find us? The poet urges us instead to actively try and find Him. ‘You neither think of seeking Him yourself, nor do you understand when told by others’ says he. A little scolding for us all from the poet!

Don’t trust Him’, says the poet to Radha, and us. ‘After all, the promises of that illusionist come from the same mouth which once ate mud!’. This refers to the story of Krishna as a small child. He is caught eating mud by His mother Yashoda. When questioned, He denies it. She asks Him to open His mouth and sees the whole universe within it. Did He lie? Yes. He did eat mud. No. How can He ingest anything when all the universe is contained within Him? Krishna created illusions – but which was the illusion? That the universe was within His mouth? Or that He was a little child who ate mud? No, He is definitely not to be trusted!

‘For One who has measured the earth, is it difficult to come to you and make up false stories?’. The poet has cleverly used the two meanings of alappadu; this line always makes me smile! Referring to the vAmana avatAra when Lord Vishnu measured the whole world in one single step, the poet says that, in comparison, the task of making up tales is no great thing for the Lord. We have a hint for the interpretation by the poet’s use of mAyan or illusionist for referring to Krishna. The world is but a mAyA, an illusion, a falsehood made up by the Lord. ‘Even if Krishna  came and told a thousand things, is it really justified for us to believe it all?’. The Lord encompasses everything, both that which is within the bounds of Maya and that which is outside the bounds of Maya.  The poet says thatNot all that is contained within the Lord is true’. The Lord tells us a many a tale in this illusion of life that He has created, we should not believe it all!

In the last sentence, the poet hopes that the Lord will come to him. ‘If  He were only to come alone near our location today, our penances will bear fruit and the result of our sins be gone!’.  Here, the poet joins Radha and all of us as a fellow seeker awaiting the Lord’s union.

This beautiful song is a Ragamalika in ragas Kalyani, Kambhoji and Vasanta. Given that I love all these ragas, it is no surprise that the song appeals to me so much! I have heard very few renditions of this song. The one I am most familiar with is by the supremely talented Sudha Raghunathan.

Another interesting rendition is by T.N.Seshagopalan, to whom you can listen here.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி (கல்யாணி)
சென்று வா நீ ராதே இந்தப் போதே
இனி சிந்தனை செய்திட நேரமில்லையடி

அனுபல்லவி (கல்யாணி)
கன்று பசு மேய்க்கும் நாட்டத்திலே
அவரை காண வரும் ஆயர் கூட்டத்திலே
சற்று நின்று பேச என்றால் நேரமில்லையடி
நேரில் வர ஒரு தோதுமில்லையடி

சரணம் 1 (காம்போஜி)
சொன்னாலும் புரியாதே -உனக்கு
தன்னாலும் தோன்றாதே
அந்த மன்னனை நம்பாதே
அந்த மாயன் வாக்கு எல்லாம் மண் தின்ற வாய்தானே

சரணம் 2 (வசந்தா)
உலகை அளந்தோர்க்கு  உன்னிடம் வந்தொரு
பொய் மூட்டி அளப்பதும் பாரமா
கண்ணன் நலம் வந்து ஆயிரம் சொன்னாலும்
நாம் அதை நம்பிவிடல் ஞாயமா
ஆயர்குலத் திறைவன் நந்தகோபன் திருமகன்
கொள்வதெல்லாம்   (alt: சொல்வதெல்லாம்) உண்மையாகுமா
நம்  தலத்தருகே இன்று தனித்து வர என்றால்
தவப்பயன் ஆகுமே வினைப்பயன் போகுமே


pallavi (raga kalyANi)
senDRu vA nI rAdE indap-pOdE
ini sindanai seidiDa nEramillaiyaDi

anupallavi (raga kalyANi)
kanDRu pasu mEykkum nATTattilE
avarai kANa varum Ayar kUTTattilE
saTru ninDRu pEsa enDRAl nEramillaiyaDi
nEril vara oru tOdumillaiyaDi

charanam 1 (raga kambhOji)
sonnAlum puriyAdE unakku
tannAlum tOnDRAdE
anda mannanai nambAdE
anda mAyan vAkku ellAm maN tinDRa vAy dAnE

charaNam 2 (raga vasantA)
ulagai aLandOrkku unniDam vandoru
poi mUTTi aLappadum bAramA
kaNNan nalam vandu Ayiram sonnAlum
nAm adai nambiviDal nyAyamA
Ayar kulattiraivan nanda gOpan tirumagan
koLvadellAm uNmaiyAgumA
nam talattarugE inDRu tanittu vara enDRAl
tavap-payan AgumE vinaippayan pOgumE


Do go (senDRu vA) now Radha, go immediately (inda pOdE)! There is no time (nEralimmai) to think (sindanai seidiDa)!

In His concentration (nATTam) of herding (mEykkum) the cows (pasu) and calves (kanDRu), in the crowd (kUTTatile) of cowherds (Ayar) who come (varum) to see (kANa) Him (avarai), He has no time (nEramillai) to stand and talk (ninDRu pEsa) nor is it is appropriate (tOdu) for Him to come Himself (nEril vara).

You do not understand (puriyAdE) even if told (sonnAlum), nor would you think of it (tOnDRAdE) by yourself (tannAlum)! Don’t trust (nambAdE) that Lord (mannanai)! After all (implied in dAnE), all (ellAm) the promises (vAkku) of that illusionist (mAyan) come from the mouth (vAy) which ate (tinna) mud(maN).

For one who has measured (aLandOrkku) the earth (ulagai), is it difficult (bAramA) to come (vandu) to you (unniDam) and make up a story (poi mUTTi aLappadum)? Even if Krishna (kaNNan) fortunately came (nalam vandu) and told (sonnalum) a thousand things (Ayiram), is it really justified (nyAyamA) for us (nAm) to believe (nambiviDal) it all (adai)? Is everything (ellAm) accepted (koLvadu-koL is normally used as an auxiliary, here it is used as an independent verb which means hold, contain, have) by that divine (tiru) son (magan) of the Lord of the cowherds (Ayar kulattiraivan) Nandagopan become true (uNmayAgumA)? If (enDRAl) he were only to come alone (tanittu vara) near (arugE) our (nam) location (talam) today (inDRu), our penances (tavam) will bear fruit (payan Agume) and the result (payan) of our sins (vinai) be gone (pOgumE)!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Sudha Raghunathan, T.N.Seshagopalan