Please ask why my dear Lord Shiva has not not come yet, my friend. Why does the infinitely compassionate Lord test my patience by remaining invisible? Did I try to do something I ought not to do?
Why does God not respond to us? This is a question which dogs all true believers. God is compassionate we say. God forgives all our mistakes, we just have to ask, we say. God loves us, we say. We are God’s children and He will come running just as a mother runs to her child in need, we say. Yet in reality few of us have truly experienced this kind of instant response from God. If all this is true, why does He not answer our call?
Even the most faithful are dogged with the question of why there is no visible response from God to all one’s pleas. Even I, who tend to be philosophical about life, have been known to pray ‘please, one sign, just one sign!’. This reminds me of the famous allegorical poem called Footprints in the Sand. As there is some dispute regarding authorship, I will leave it unsaid. The content is of more interest to us.
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?’The Lord replied,
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’
The poem reminds us that though it may seem that we have had no response, it may just be that we are too blind to see it.
These are my ruminations on the song choice of the day by Gopalakrishna Bharathi. In Karanam Kettu Vadi, the poet wonders what he has done that God does not hear his call. Comparing himself to all the great ones who transgressed but whose calls have indeed been answered, he asks his friend to go and demand of God himself what his reasons are for ignoring the poet’s pleas. Set to raga Purvi Kalyani which I quite adore, I am rather surprised at how rarely this song is sung in concerts today. It is in fact my reference song in Purvi Kalyani; the song I sing to myself to recognize the raga. I’ve fond memories of my mother singing it in my childhood. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
To present this song, I first give you a version I listen to often by Sudha Raghunathan, who has long reigned supreme in the field of Carnatic Music. With the instrumentation used, it almost becomes a piece of ‘light music’. I love the timbre of her voice!
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The second version I present is traditional one by Trichur V.Ramachandran. The Maestro has sung this beautifully; I am sure you will be as charmed as I am.
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The third one if a joyful flight into Purvi Kalyani by the magnificent Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan on the violin.
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Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Tamil
காரணம் கேட்டு வாடி -சகி
காதலன் சிதம்பர நாதன் இன்னும் வராத (காரணம்)
பூரண தயவுள்ள பொன்னம்பல துரை என்
பொறுமையை சோதிக்க மறைமுகம் ஆனதன் (காரணம்)
கல்லாலும் வில்லாலும் கட்டி அடித்தேனோ
கண்ணப்பன் செய்ததைக் கனவிலும் செய்தேனோ
செல்லா மனைக்குத் தூது சென்றுவா என்றேனோ
செய்யாத காரியம் செய்யவும் முயன்றேனோ
kAraNam kETTu vADi -sakhi
kAdalan chidambara nAdan innum varAda (kAraNam) anupallavi
pUraNa dayavuLLa ponnambala durai en
porumaiyai sOdikka maRaimukham Anadan (kAraNam)charaNam
kallAlum villAlum kaTTi aDittEnO
kaNNappan seidadai kanavinilum seidEnO
chella manaikku tUdu sendRu vA enREnO
seyyAda kAriyam seyya muyandREnO (kAraNam)
Please ask why my dear Lord of Chidambaram (Lord Shiva) has not not come yet, my friend.
(Ask why does) the infinitely compassionate Lord of the Golden Temple (Chidambaram) testing my patience in remaining invisible.
Did I strike him with stones and bows? (refers to Arjuna facing Shiva as a hunter). Or did I even dream of doing what Kannappan did (Kannappa Nayanar put his foot on the Shiva Linga). Did I send him as a messenger to a house to which one should not go? (The Lord went on behalf of Sundaramurti Nayanar to his first wife’s home). Or did I try to do something which I ought not to do?
Footnote (Raga) :
There seems to be two schools of thought about the raga of this song. Some call it Gamakakriya, which may or may not be another raga, as it shares the same scale. One thought is that it is just the old name for Purvi Kalyani. I do not have the knowledge to discuss this; I will just call it Purvi Kalyani as I had thought of it for many years. For knowledgeable readers, there is an excellent article on Purvi Kalyani here.
The scales of Purvi Kalyani are as follows :
Aarohanam (Ascending) : S R1 G3 M2 P D2 P S’
Avarohanam (Descending) : S’ N3 D2 P M2 G3 R1 S
Purvi Kalyani is a janya raga, derived from Gamanashrama (below), 53rd on the Melakarta scale.
Well known compositions in Purvi Kalyani are Meenakshi Me Mudam by Muthuswami Dikshithar, Karanam Kettu Vadi by Gopalakrishna Bharathi, O Rama Nee Nama by Bhadrachala Ramadas and Parama Pavana Rama by Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar.
Note : The 12 notes in the octave are named as below. Please note that C is used as Sa for the sake of simplicity as the scale is relative in Carnatic Music. Also note that the scales paint only a superficial picture of the raga as the gamakas(ornamentations) are a very important part of a raga.