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

Eppadi Manam Thunindado

Rama ExileLet us take our minds to the scene from Ramayana where Rama is summoned to his father’s presence the day before his coronation. Kaikeyi has demanded the boons promised to her by Dasaratha; she wants her son Bharata to be coronated and Rama to be exiled. Dasaratha is devastated but obliged to keep his word.

सप्त सप्त च वर्षाणि दण्डक अरण्यम् आश्रितः |
अभिषेकम् इमम् त्यक्त्वा जटा चीर धरः वस ||

You have to leave this coronation function and dwell in the forest of Dandaka for fourteen years, with matted hair and clothed in animal skin

So says Kaikeyi to Rama, when Dasaratha finds it too difficult to utter the words.  How shocked Rama would have been to be exiled thus! Yet he takes it manfully, seeing it as his duty to fulfill his father’s words to Kaikeyi. Bidding farewell to his mother Kausalya, Rama comes to inform Sita of his imminent departure. He bids her farewell, advising her of her duty towards Bharata, who is to be king in his stead, towards his father Dasaratha and his mothers. Sita, quite unlike herself, does not take this meekly.

एवम् उक्ता तु वैदेही प्रिय अर्हा प्रिय वादिनी |
प्रणयात् एव सम्क्रुद्धा भर्तारम् इदम् अब्रवीत् ||

“Sita, who speaks kindly and deserving of kindness, after hearing Rama’s words, became angry out of love alone and spoke thus to her husband.”

She is upset and demands to go to the forest with Rama, saying that the destiny of a wife is tied to her husband. Her words are strong; she says that she cannot be prevented from her intention.

Rama explains to her the many discomforts, difficulties and dangers faced by forest dwellers. He speaks of dangerous animals, the lack of food, bed and comforts; he tells her of the rigours of the life of a hermit.

तत् अलम् ते वनम् गत्वा क्षमम् न हि वनम् तव |
विमृशन्न् इह पश्यामि बहु दोषतरम् वनम् ||

“Therefore, do away with the idea of your coming to the forest. The forest is not indeed bearable for you. Reflecting now, I perceive the forest as having too many disadvantages.”

Sita tries to convince Rama in many ways. She talks of her duty to be beside him, she talks of soothsayers predicting her stay in a forest. She even threatens suicide! When he tries to dissuade her, she demands to know why he is afraid of taking her, going so far as to ask-

किम् त्वा अमन्यत वैदेहः पिता मे मिथिला अधिपः |
राम जामातरम् प्राप्य स्त्रियम् पुरुष विग्रहम् ||

 “What will my father, the king of Mithila, think of having a son-in-law such as you, a woman having the form of a man”

Strong words indeed!! I was surprised when I read the word to word translation of this chapter; I had imagined Sita as a softer character, who goes quietly with whatever is demanded of her.

Curious to see what Goswami Tulsidas writes in his Ramcharitmanas, I looked it up. In this, it is Kausalya who advices Rama that Sita is too gently brought up to survive the forest and she advices him to leave her behind. Sita is described as अति सुकुमारी , exceedingly delicate; as being timid चित्रलिख कपि देखि डेराती – frightened even to see a picture of a monkey. Rama then dissuades Sita by demonstrating her unfitness for the forest in many ways.

मानस सलिल सुधाँ प्रतिपाली । जिअइ कि लवन पयोधि मराली ।

Can a swan brought up in the nectarean water of the Manasa lake live in salt water of the ocean?

Sita’s reply is much softer than in Valimiki’s dialogue. Her main argument is that a wife should be with her husband, and that she could not bear to be separated from him.

बन दुख नाथ कहे बहुतेरे । भय बिषाद परिताप घनेरे ॥
प्रभु बियोग लवलेस समाना । सब मिलि होहिं न कृपानिधाना ॥

You have mentioned many hardships and perils, woes and afflictions attendant in forest life; but all these put together will hardly compare with an iota of the pangs of separation from my Lord, O fountain of mercy!

She offers herself in service of her Lord, she begs and pleads in her distress.

सबहि भाँति पिय सेवा करिहौं । मारग जनित सकल श्रम हरिहौं ॥

I shall render all sorts of service to my beloved Lord and shall relieve him of all the toil occasioned by the journey.

Tulsi’s Sita is more gentle but comes across as rather servile, calling herself a दासी or handmaiden.

Arunachala Kavi’s (1711-1779) representation of her is more like what I had imagined her to be. This great Tamil poet wrote the musical-drama called Rama Natakam which is based on the Ramayana. My song choice of today is set to the scene above. In contrast to Valmiki’s Sita who angrily demands her rights or Tulsi’s Sita pleadingly offering her services, Arunachala Kavi’s Sita is distressed but aware of her rights, as she reminds Rama of promises made.

 “How can you even bear the thought of leaving me?” she asks. She reminds him of his promise to never separate from her in any birth and asks if he is breaking his word to her. She speaks of her distress;  “By distressing me again and again, you kill me without killing me with your words” she says. There is pathos in her pleas and it is well expressed in the Raga Huseni. I believe it was set to tune by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

My favourite rendition is by Sanjay Subrahmanyan who is extraordinarily talented in showing bhava, expression, in his music. I have just listened to at least fifteen renditions and for me, none come close to the expression he portrays! I am a fan!

Alternate link : Click here

I also like very much K.V.Narayanaswamy’s rendition which is beautifully enunciated.

Alternate link : Click here and download song 4


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Tamil

எப்படி மனம் துணிந்ததோ, சுவாமி
வனம் போய் வருகிறேன் என்றால்
இதை ஏற்குமோ பூமி?

எப்பிறப்பிலும் பிரியேன், விடேன்  என்று கை தொட்டீரே
ஏழையான சீதையை நட்டாற்றிலே விட்டீரே

கரும்பு முறித்தாற் போலே சொல்லல்லாச்சுதோ ?
ஒருக்காலும் பிரியேன் என்று சொன்ன சொல்லும் போச்சுதோ?
வருந்தி வருந்தி தேவரீர் வெல்ல (alt: சொன்ன ) வார்த்தையால் கொல்லாமல் கொல்ல
இரும்பு மனது உண்டாச்சுதல்லவோ?
என்னை விட்டுப் போகிறேன் (alt: பிரிகிறேன்) என்று சொல்ல


eppaDi manam tuNindadO, swAmi
vanam pOy varugiREn enDRAl
idai ERkumO bhUmi

appiRappilum piriyEn, viDEn enDRu kai toTTIrE
EzhaiyAna sItaiyai naTTATRilE viTTIrE

karumbu muRittAR pOlE sollallAchchudO ?
oru kAlum piriyEn enDRu sonna sollum pOchchudO?
varundi varundi dEvarIr vella (alt: sonna) vArttaiyAl kollAmal kolla
irumbu manadu uNDAchchudallavo?
ennai viTTup pogirEn enDRu solla

How (eppaDi) can your mind (manam) even bear the thought (tuNindadO; literally dare), O Lord (swAmi)? If you say (enDRAl: if so) that you will leave (pOy varugirEn) for the forest (vanam) (implied: without me), will the earth (bhUmi) bear it (ERkumO)?

Did you not hold (toTTIrE: literally touch) my hand (kai) and say “I will never part with you (piriyEn), I will never leave you (viDEn) in any birth (eppaRappilum)”? (Refers perhaps to pANigraha ritual in a wedding). And yet (implied) you leave ((viTTIrE) this wretched (EzhaiyAna) Sita mid-stream (naTTATRil)?

So there is to be (AchchudO) this harsh (karumbu muRittar pOlE: literally like a sugar cane being broken) proclamation (sollall) ? Are the words (sol) “I shall never (oru kAlum) separate from you (piriyEn) that you spoke (sonna) forgotten (pOchchudO: literally gone)? By distressing me again and again (varundi varundi), you kill me (kolla) without killing me (kollAmal) with your winning/subduing words (vella vArtayAl) O Lord (dEvarIr)! Have you become hard-hearted (irumbu=iron, manadu=mind, uNdAcchu=come into existence) enough to say (enDRu solla) that you will leave me behind (ennai viTTu pOgirEn)?


Filed under Arunachala Kavi, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, K.V.Narayanaswamy, Sanjay Subrahmanyan

Rave Himagiri

Kanchi KamakshiYou are what you are eat’ , so say the wise ones. The tradition of watching what you eat is an old one in India. According to Ayurveda, our bodies have vata, kapha or pitta doshas, or a combination thereof. For good health, we should eat that which stablizes the imbalance between the three doshas in our body. This has been a proven health system, surviving for centuries in India.

What about the makeup of our minds? Our minds are a combination of sattvik, rajasik and tamasik gunas, says Ayurveda. The gunas associated with what we eat affect our mind. For good mental health and well being, we need to ingest lots of sattvik food, less of rajasik food and avoid tamasik food.

But I ask, why consider only the food we eat? True, the body ingests only food. But does not the mind ingest so much more? What we see, what we read, what we hear – they all form food for the mind, do they not? Should we not watch out what we ingest mentally as well as physically?

It amazes me that the young ones, even those who are careful about their health, listen frequently to loud, throbbing music with lyrics which are often very passionate. The films they watch are much of the same, with added violence. Will these types of ‘ingestion’ not lead to future generations of people who are strongly rajasik or tamasik? Where are they getting their daily does of sattvik food for the mind?

I assure you that I am not deaf to the talent and music which exist outside the Carnatic world. I am known to hum along with Bollywood songs, not just the classically based ones, but even foot-tapping ones such as Piya tu ab to aajaa  from olden times to even Kajra Re, Munni Badnam Hui and Sheela Ki Jawani! There, I have shocked you, I know!  I admire the talent of the singers and the music directors who have created songs which find such mass appeal. I am not deaf even to Beyoncé gyrating to Put a ring on it  or Shakira declaring that Hips don’t lie (wow!); they are both such incredible singers and dancers! So yes, there is interesting music everywhere but is it sattvik music? Far from it!

Carnatic Music is on the whole sattvik, but some compositions epitomize that. So today, my music has been selected to balance all the rajasik and tamasik qualities that our minds ingest from the world around us. I had the pleasure of listening to a performance by the Iyer Brothers on the Veena in Melbourne last October. They played Rave Himagiri, a swarajati in Raga Todi composed by Shyama Shastri. It is a prayer for blessings addressed to the Goddess Kamakshi. A truly wonderful composition, it is stately in pace, deep in tone, quiet in its quest.  I never appreciated the full beauty of it until I listened to this performance by the Iyer Brothers. In the reverberating tones of the strings, the composition becomes the resonance of the universe, a pranava mantra in many syllables. A wonderful sattvik feast for your mind. I hope you love it as much as I do!

For a vocal version, I feature a unique combination of voices – Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer singing along with M.S.Subbulakshmi, two of the greatest musicians of the Carnatic world.

Alternate link : Click here


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
Note: I do not speak Telugu. The lyrics from multiple internet sources were verified / corrected by listening to many renditions by different artists. The translation is sourced from the web.

रावे हिमगिरि कुमारी कञ्चि कामाक्षि वरदा
मनवि विनवम्म शुभमिम्म मायम्म

चरणम् 1
नतजन परिपालिनि वनुचु नम्मितिनि सदा ब्रोव (alt: ब्रोवु )

चरणम् 2
मदमत्त महिष दानव मर्दिनि वेतदीर्चवे दूरमुगनु

चरणम् 3
काम पालिनि नीवे गतियनि कोरिति कोनियाडिति वेडिति

चरणम् 4
कामितार्थ फलदायकीयनेटि बिरुदु महिलो नीके तगु

चरणम् 5
कमल मुखी दरगळ घन नील कच भरा मृग विलोचन मणि रदना
गज गमना मदिलो निन्नु सदा दलचुकोनि नी ध्यानमे तल्लि

चरणम् 6
श्याम कृष्ण नुत विनु नाचिन्तनु वेवेग दीर्चभयमिय्यवे (दीर्चि अभयमिय्यवे)
कल्याणि कञ्चि कामाक्षि नी पादमे दिक्कु

For notation click here

Transliteration :

rAvE himagiri kumArI kanchi kAmAkshi varadA
manavi vinamma shubhamimma mAyamma

charaNam 1
natajana paripAlini vanachu nammitini sadA brOva (alt: brOvu)

charaNam 2
madamatta mahisha dAnava mardini vEtadIrchavE dUrmuganu

charaNam 3
kAma pAlini nIvE gatiyani kOriti kOniyADiti vEDiti

charaNam 4
kAmitArtha phaladAyakIyanETi birudu mahilO nIkE tagu

charaNam 5
kamala mukhI daragaLa ghana nIla kacha bharA mrga vilOchana maNi radanA
gaja gamanA madilO ninnu sadA dalachukOni nI dhyAnamE talli

charaNam 6
shyAma krishNa nuta vinu nAchintanu vEvEga dIrchbhayamiyyavE
kalyANi kanchi kAmAkshi nI pAdamE dikku


O Kamakshi of Kanchi! O daughter of the snow clad mountains! O bestower of boons! Please come! O mother mine! Listen to my prayers and grant me welfare!

Protector of all those who bow to you! I believe in you only to protect me always.

O destroyer of the arrogant demon Mahisha! Please dispel my agony.

O protector of Cupid! You are my sole refuge. I praise you and  beseech you (to protect me). There is no equal to you in all the worlds. Listen to my entreaties.

O lotus-faced one with a neck like a conch shell, thick dark hair, eyes like a deer, teeth like pearls, with a gait as majestic as an elephant! I always reflect upon you and meditate upon you !

O the one worshipped by Shyamakrishna (signature of the poet)! Quickly dispel my worries and bestow me with fearlessness. O auspicious one! O Kamakshi of Kanchi! Your feet are my only refuge.


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Iyer Brothers, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Shyama Shastri

Sri Raghuvara Aprameya

RamaIn Carnatic Music, we have a number of different forms of compositions like geetam, swarajativarnamkriti, javali and thillana. The mainstay of this music is, of course, the kriti which normally has a three-part form of pallavi, anupallavi and charanam.  Yet I recall that when my mother spoke of these, she called them kIrtanam in Tamil. ‘Are these two names interchangeable?’ I wondered while listening to the rather uniquely structured kriti which is my chosen song of the day.

The word kriti comes from the Sanskrit root कृ, kR to do. यत् क्रितम् तत् कृतिः  That which is created is a kriti, so in a general sense, it just means a creation. kIrtanam no doubt comes from कीर्तन kIrtana, to praise. Given that in Hindi, kirtan is more like a bhajan than a classical composition, I tend to think of it in the same terms. What is the difference between the two in Carnatic Music?

Seeking comprehension on the net, I found a very interesting article by eminent musicologist T.S.Parthasarathy in the journal Shanmukha (April-June 2005) . Not only was my question answered but I also learnt a number of other things, some of which I note below for your interest.

The word kriti to denote a musical composition was first used by Kalidasa (5th-6th centuries) in his Raghuvamsa. But this did not refer to a composition such as we know in Carnatic Music today. This structure owes its origins to the dhruvas and charanas of the Ashtapadi by Jayadeva (14th century). Though the pitamaha of Carnatic Music  Purandaradasa (15th century)  refers to his own compositions as kritis in his song Vasudeva Namavaliya, his compositions have various composition-form names. The majority are called kirtanas.  Tyagarja defines a kriti in his Sogasuga Mrudanga Talamu as containing yati (a pattern of swaras & words in a beat), visrama (rest), sadbhakti (true devotion), virati (pause), draksha rasa (grape flavour?!) and navarasa (the nine sentiments).

In normal parlance today, the words kriti and kirtanam are often used interchangeably. However, according to another eminent musicologist Prof. P.Sambamoorthy, there is a difference which I summarize below :


  • An older form (14th century); kritis evolved later from kirtanas
  • The lyrics are strictly devotional.
  • The melody and rhythm are simple; the music is subordinate to the lyrics.
  • The charanas are all sung to the same dhaatu (melodic-rhythmic structure as opposed to maatu which denote the lyrics) and the anupallavi is dispensable.
  • They are set to common ragas and are without ornamental angas like chittaswaras, sangatis etc.


  • It may be devotional, didactic or introspective in character.
  • The accent is on musical excellence; the words take a secondary position.
  • The charanas may have difference dhaatus.
  • Sangatis (melodic variations) are a characteristic feature; a kriti lends itself to musical interpretation of the raga.
  • It normally has a pallavi, anupallavi and charanas. It can be enriched by ornamental angas like chittaswaras etc.

Coming back to my inspiration for educating myself today, Sri Raghuvara Aprameya by Tyagaraja, is interestingly different. It has four charanas, each set to a different melodic pattern. Some artists sing only the sahitya, but others sing the swaras as well, like they do for the Ghana Raga Pancharatna kritis. And interestingly, some sing the charanas in two speeds. What a delightful piece of music it is! Tyagaraja praises Rama as the one who enjoys music arising from swara and laya; well, if the music is like this, surely even God cannot but enjoy its magnificence? Set to raga Kambhoji, it has a brisk but contended mood which I enjoy very much indeed. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

My favourite rendition of this kriti is by D.K.Jayaraman who sings the swaras and renders the charanas in two speeds.

Alternate Link: Click here and download song 8 (free membership to Sangeethapriya needed).

I was inspired today while listening to young Bharat Sundar make a very credible effort in his rendition below (alapana 48:17, kriti 1:08:08). He sings the swaras but renders the charanas only at one speed.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

श्री रघुवर अप्रमेय मामव

श्री रघु कुल जलनिधि सोम श्री राम पालय

चरणम् 1
सारस हित कुलाब्ज भृङ्ग संगीत लोल

चरणम् 2
विरोचन कुलेश्वर स्वर लयादि मूर्छनोल्लसित नारद विनुत

चरणम् 3
श्री भास्कर कुलाद्रि दीप श्री भागवत विनुत सुचरण

चरणम् 4
सीता नाथ त्यागराज नुतानिल सुताप्त सुगुणाभरण


shrI raghuvara apramEya mAmava

shrI raghu kula jalanidhi sOma shrI rAma pAlaya

charaNam 1
sArasa hita kulAbja bhRnga sangIta lOla

charaNam 2
virOchana kulEshvara svara layAdi mUrCHanOllAsita nArada vinuta

charaNam 3
shrI bhAskara kulAdri dIpa shrI bhAgavata vinuta sucharaNa

charaNam 4
sItA nAtha tyAgarAja nutAnIla sutApta suguNAbharaNa


O Best (vara) of the Raghu clan, O Unfathomable one (apramEya) ! Protect (verb अव्  av) me (mAma)!

O Lord Rama, the nectar (sOma) in the ocean (jalanidhi) of the splendid (shrI) Raghu clan (raghu kula), [perhaps equating with the churning of the milky ocean, which brought forth the nectar of immortality] take care of me (pAlaya) !

O bee (bhRnga) hovering over the Lotus (sArasa) of the Solar dynasty (abja=lotus, hita=friend of, kula=dynasty – friend of lotus=Sun)! O enjoyer of music (sangIta lOla)!

O Lord (Ishvara) of the Solar (virOchana=sun) dynasty (kula)! One who is made joyful (ullAsita) by musical notes (svara), rhythm (laya) and melody (mUrCHana) etc (Adi)! One praised (nuta) by Narada!

O bright (bhaskara) lamp (light) of the solar (adri=sun) dynasty (kula)! One whose feet (su charaNa) are worshipped (vinuta) by the blessed (shrI) followers of Vishnu (bhAgavata)!

O Lord (nAtha) of Sita! One who is praised (nuta) by Tyagaraja! O friend (Apta) of Hanuman, the son (suta) of the God of wind (anila)!  One who is adorned (AbharaNa) by virtues (suguNa)!


Filed under Bharat Sundar, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, D.K.Jayaraman, Tyagaraja

Vadavaraiyai Mattakki

KannagiIn the early centuries AD, deep in South India, there is a town called Puhar under the rule of the Cholas. Two well to do merchant families who live there arrange a match between their children. Kovalan and Kannagi start their married life pleasantly. But after a few years, Kovalan’s eyes stray. He takes up a talented young dancer Madhavi as his mistress. Enthralled by her, he neglects both his wife and his business. He even has a child with Madhavi. Spending lavishly on her, her fellow musicians and dancers, Kovalan’s ancestral wealth dwindles away to nothing. In the meanwhile, Kannagi silently bears his abandonment, uncomplaining, chaste. One day, something quite trivial triggers his disillusionment; his ego is hurt and he gives up Madhavi to return to his wife. The penniless young couple decide to leave for Madurai where Kovalan hopes to restart a business with Kannagi’s anklet as principle. After a strenuous voyage, they reach Madurai where they take shelter with a cowherdess. Kannagi rests there while Kovalan goes to the market hoping to sell the anklet. A deceitful gold merchant blames his own crime of stealing the queen’s anklet on Kovalan and he is punished to death by the king. Grief stricken, Kannagi marches to the Pandiya king’s court to demand justice. The king is aghast when he realises the truth and punishes himself. But Kannagi’s wrath remains unquenched; her curse burns Madurai to cinders. She moves away to the Chera Kingdom where she is venerated as a Goddess after she too passes away.

This is the synopsis of Silappadikaram, an important literary work from the Sangam period. Written by Ilango Adigal (~5 AD), it is a mix of prose, poetry and song. To this day, Kannagi is venerated in South India as a symbol of virtue and chastity. A chaste and submissive doormat even when her man is a low-life and a vengeful Goddess when he dies, she is a dream heroine for men, don’t you think? I wonder how many sorry females have tried to live up to this impossible male ideal? Reminds me of Stepford Wives!

I may question the characterisation, but the poetry is still beautiful. Our song choice of today are some verses from a  song sung by the cowherdesses as they dance, called Aychiyar Kuravai ஆய்ச்சியர் குரவை. Tuned by S.V.Venkataraman as a Ragamalika in Hamsanandi, Kamas, Hindolam, Shanmukhapriya, Paras and Kapi, this song was made famous by M.S.Subbulakshmi.  The verses remind us of stories from Hindu myths and epics, hinting at many incidents related to Lord Vishnu and his avataras. The poet expresses his amazement at the many contrasting incidents and then questions the worth of a life not spent in praising, honouring and worshipping Lord Vishnu. The poet cleverly uses similarities and contrasts, rhyme and alliteration, rhythm and repetition to create a very moving and beautiful song. This ancient Tamil has a lovely ring to it; see footnote for lyrics and translation.

Listen below the irreplaceable M.S.Subbulakshmi and her impeccable rendering of this song :

Alternate link : Click here


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sangam Period Tamil

For lyrics and word breakups, I consulted the excellent virtual library here. I also referred to the explanations as I translated word by word using dictionaries as many words from classical Tamil are unfamiliar to me. However, I am not a Tamil scholar, so please refer to books for better accuracy.

Raga Hamsanandi
வட வரையை மத்தாக்கி வாசுகியை நாணாக்கி,
கடல் வண்ணன் பண்டொருநாள் கடல் வயிறு கலக்கினையே!
கலக்கிய கை யசோதையார் கடை கயிற்றாற் கட்டுண்கை,
மலர்க்கமல உந்தியாய்! மாயமோ? மருட்கைத்தே!

Words Separated
வடவரையை மத்து ஆக்கி, வாசுகியை நாண் ஆக்கி,
கடல் வண்ணன் பண்டு ஒரு நாள் கடல் வயிறு கலக்கினையே!
கலக்கிய கை யசோதையார் கடை கயிற்றால் கட்டுண் கை
மலர்க் கமல உந்தியாய்! மாயமோ? மருட்கைத்தே!

vaDa varaiyai mattAkki vAsukiyai nANAkki
kaDal vaNNan panDorunAL kaDal vayiru kalakkinaiyE
kalakkiya kai yasodaiyAr kaDai kayiRRAR kaTTuNkai
malarkamala undiyAy mAyamO maruTkaittE

O Ocean-Coloured one! (kaDal =ocean, vaNNan=coloured), once upon a time (panDu=a former time, oru=one, nAL=day), making the northern (vaDa) hills (varai) into a churning-staff (mattu) and Vasuki (the mythical serpent King) as cord (nAN), you stirred (kalakkinaiyE) the centre of the ocean (kaDal=ocean, vayiru=belly).  That hand (kai) which stirred (kalakkiya) is the same as (implied) the hand (kai) tied (kaTTuN) by Yashoda (yasodaiyAr) with the churning cord (kaDai=churning, kayiRu=cord). O Lotus-navelled one (malar=flower, kamala=lotus, undi=navel)! Is  this an illusion (mAyamo)? I am amazed (maruTkaittE)!

Raga Kamas
அறுபொருளிவனென்றே அமரர் கணம் தொழுதேத்த,
உறு பசி ஒன்றின்றியே, உலகடைய வுண்டனையே!
உண்ட வாய் களவினான் உறி வெண்ணெய் உண்ட வாய்,
வண்டுழாய் மாலையாய்! மாயமோ? மருட்கைத்தே!

Words Separated
‘அறு பொருள் இவன்’ என்றே, அமரர் கணம் தொழுது ஏத்த,
உறு பசி ஒன்று இன்றியே, உலகு அடைய உண்டனையே!
உண்ட வாய் களவினான் உறி வெண்ணெய் உண்ட வாய்,
வண்டுழாய் (alt?வண் துழாய்) மாலையாய்! மாயமோ? மருட்கைத்தே!

aRu poruL ivanenDRE amarar kaNam tozhudEtta
uRu pasiy onDRinDRIyE ulagaDaiya vuNDanaiyE
unDa vAy kaLavinAn uRi veNNai uNDavAy
vanDuzhAy mAlaiyAy mAyamO maruTkaittE

The immortals (amarar, gaNam=group) praise (Ettu) and worship (tozhudu) Him as the Absolute (aRu poRuL). You ate (uNDanaiyE) the whole (aDaiya) world (ulagu) without (anDRi) any (onDru=one) great (uRu) hunger (pasi).  That same mouth (vAy) which ate (unDa), is the mouth which ate the stolen (kaLavu) butter (veNNai) from the hanging pot (uRi)! With a nature/natural quality (mAlai) as such a one (vanDuzhAy), [alternate: O One who is garlanded (mAlai) with well-grown (vaN) Tulasi (tuzhAy)]! Is  this an illusion (mAyamo)? I am amazed (maruTkaittE)!

Raga Hindolam
திரண்டமரர் தொழுதேத்தும் திருமால் நின் செங்கமல
இரண்டடியான் மூவுலகும் இருள்தீர நடந்தனையே!
நடந்த அடி பஞ்சவர்க்குத் தூதாக நடந்த அடி,
மடங்கலாய் மாறட்டாய்! மாயமோ? மருட்கைத்தே!

Words Separated
திரண்டு அமரர் தொழுது ஏத்தும் திருமால்! நின் செங் கமல
இரண்டு அடியான் மூ-உலகும் இருள் தீர நடந்தனையே.
நடந்த அடி பஞ்சவர்க்குத் தூது ஆக நடந்த அடி,
மடங்கலாய் மாறு அட்டாய்! மாயமோ? மருட்கைத்தே!

tiraNdamarar tozhudEttum tirumAl nin senkamala
iraNDaDiyAn mUvulagum iruL tIra naDandanaiyE
naDanda aDi panchavarkkut-tUdAga naDanda aDi
maDangalAy mATRaTTAy mAymO maruTkaittE

O Lord Vishnu (tirumAl) who the immortals (amarar) gather (tiraNDu) and worship (tozhu)! To end (tIra) the darkness (iruL) in the three worlds (mU ulagu), you stepped (naDandanaiyE) with your two (iraNDu) red-lotus (senkamala) like feet (aDi). That same feet (aDi) which stepped (naDanda),  were the feet which stepped (naDanda ADi) as an ambassador/negotiator (tUdu) for the five Pandavas (panchavar). You as Narasimhan (maDangalAy) destroyed (verb அடு, attAy) your enemies (mARu). Is  this an illusion (mAyamo)? I am amazed (maruTkaittE)!

Raga Shanmukhapriya
மூவுலகும் ஈரடியான் முறை நிரம்பா வகைமுடியத்
தாவிய சேவடி சேப்பத், தம்பியொடுங் கான் போந்து,
சோவரணும் போர் மடியத் தொல்லிலங்கை கட்டழித்த
சேவகன் சீர் கேளாத செவியென்ன செவியே?
திருமால் சீர் கேளாத செவியென்ன செவியே?

Words Separated
மூ-உலகும் ஈர் அடியான் முறை நிரம்பாவகை முடியத்
தாவிய சேவடி சேப்ப, தம்பியொடும் கான் போந்து,
சோ அரணும் போர் மடிய தொல் இலங்கை கட்டு அழித்த
சேவகன் சீர் கேளாத செவி என்ன செவியே?
திருமால் சீர் கேளாத செவி என்ன செவியே?

mUvulagum IraDiyAn muRai nirambA vagai muDiyat-
tAviya sEvaDi sEppat-tambiyoDum kAn pOndu
sOvaraNum pOr maDiyat-tollilangai kaTTazhitta
sEvakan sIr kELAda seviyenna seviyE
tirumAl sIr kELAda seviyenna seviyE

He went (pOndu) to the forest (kAn) with his brother (tambiyoDum) reddening further (sEppa) his reddish feet (sEvaDi) which leapt (tAviya) all the three worlds (mU ulagum) fully (muDiya) in two steps (IraDi) such that (vagai) the number of times(muRai) is not fulfilled (nirambA) (In Vamana avatara, He has a boon of three steps, he stepped the three worlds in just two steps ). What kind of ear is one (sevi enna seviyE) which has not heard (kELAda) the fame/praise (sIr) of the attendant (sEvakan, here Hanuman) who destroyed (kaTTazhitta) the walls (sO) and fortress (araN) such that the inhabitants (implied) died (maDiya) in the war (pOr) in ancient (tol) Lanka (ilangai)? What kind of ear is one (sevi enna seviyE) which has not heard (kELAda) the fame/praise (sIr) of Lord Vishnu (tirumAl)?

Raga Paras
பெரியவனை, மாயவனைப், பேருலகமெல்லாம்
விரி கமல உந்தி உடை விண்ணவனை கண்ணும்,
திருவடியுங், கையும், திருவாயும், செய்ய
கரியவனைக் காணாத கண்ணென்ன கண்ணே?
கண்ணிமைத்துக் காண்பார்தம் கண்ணென்ன கண்ணே ?

Words Separated
பெரியவனை, மாயவனை பேர் உலகம் எல்லாம்
விரி கமல உந்தி உடை விண்ணவனை; கண்ணும்,
திருவடியும், கையும், திரு வாயும், செய்ய
கரியவனை; காணாத கண் என்ன கண்ணே?
கண் இமைத்துக் காண்பார் தம் கண் என்ன கண்ணே?

periyavanai mAyavanaip-pErulagamellAm
viri kamala undi uDai viNNavanai kaNNum
tiruvaDiyum kaiyum tiruvAyum seyya
kariyavanaik-kANAda kaNNenna kaNNE?
kaNNimattuk-kANpArtam kaNNena kaNNE?

The greatest one (periyavan)! The dark skinned one / the illusionist (mAyavan)! The celestial one (viNNavan) in whose navel (undi) like an open lotus (viri kamala) is contained (uDai) all (ellAm) the great (pEr) world (ulagam) !  What kind of an eye is an eye (kaN enna kaNNE) which has not seen (kANAda) the dark complexioned one (kariyavanai) with beautiful (seyya) eyes (kaNNum), feet (tiruvaDiyum), hands (kaiyum) and mouth (tiruvAyum)?  What kind of eye is an eye (kaN enna kaNNE) of those (tam) who blink and watch (kaN imaittu kANbAr)?

Raga Kapi
மடந்தாழும் நெஞ்சத்துக் கஞ்சனார் வஞ்சம்
கடந்தானை நூற்றுவர்பால் நாற்றிசையும் போற்றப் ,
படர்ந்தாரணம் முழங்க பஞ்சவர்க்கு தூது
நடந்தானை ஏத்தாத நாவென்ன நாவே?
நாராயணா என்னா நாவென்ன நாவே?

Words Separated
மடம் தாழும் நெஞ்சத்துக் கஞ்சனார் வஞ்சம்
கடந்தானை நூற்றுவர்பால் நாற்றிசையும் போற்ற,
படர்ந்து ஆரணம் முழங்க, பஞ்சவர்க்குத் தூது
நடந்தானை ஏத்தாத நா என்ன நாவே?
‘நாராயணா!’ என்னா நா என்ன நாவே?

maDantAzhum nenjattuk kanjanAr vanjam
kaDandAnai nUTRuvarpAl nATRisaiyum pOTRap
paDarndAraNmuzhanga panchavarkku tUdu
naDandAnai EttAda nAvenna nAvE?
nArAyanAvennA nAvenna nAve?

The One who overcame (kaDandAnai) the deceit (vanjam) of Kamsa (kanjanAr) with the ignorant (maDam) and deceitful/low (tAzhum) heart (nenjam)!  Who is praised (pOTRa) by everyone (implied) in all four directions (nATRisai)! What kind of tongue is a tongue (nAvenna nAve) which does not praise (EttAda) the one who went (naDandAnai) as an ambassador (tUdu) for the Pandavas to the Kauravas (nUTruvarpAl) while the extensive (paDarnda) Vedas (AraNam) were chanted resoundingly (muzhanga)? What kind of a tongue is a tongue (nAvenna nAvE) which does not say Narayana (nArAyAvennA)? 


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Ilango Adigal, M.S.Subbulakshmi

Teertha Vitthala Kshetra Vitthala

NamdevI am very short sighted. In my world, there are no edges to objects. Things which glow invade the objects beside them. Outlines merge until I never know where one thing starts and the other ends. Objects lose their individuality, my eyes see no boundaries. How odd that what my eyes saw from childhood was not understood by my brain for years! I attest to myself today once more; boundaries are but illusions.

Take your skin, for example. That which was your skin one minute ago was quite different from what it is this moment, for you have lost 30,000-40,000 cells already. What happens to them? They are dust at your feet, literally! Dust mites gobble up these dead skin cells. What was you one minute ago, changes identity and becomes a dust mite a couple of minutes later. Same matter, but identities have changed.

Identities are but more illusions, a play of maya. Isn’t more than 70% of the human body just water? I take a glass from the tap, and in no time, I call that water me. I go for a walk and that very me evaporates from my skin. It rises into the air, joins a cloud, comes down as rain and is drunk by that dog of yours. We are but two manifestations of the same, the dog and I. But of course, it is not the same molecule. The hydrogen and oxygen atoms which make up one molecule of water remain together only for some fractional time. They jump from one molecule to another, sometimes remaining as water, sometimes transforming into something else. Nothing is constant. Everything has fuzzy edges.

If even the physical cannot be contained in boundaries, how can we imagine that God can be contained in a form, be it Shiva, Vishnu, Jesus or Buddha? The wise ones, the mystics, the sages and the visionaries have told us from time immemorial, God is everywhere and in everything. Take away the edges and let God spill over. Namdev too was one amongst these wise ones. He is ecstatic in his vision of Vitthala, his ishta-devata, in everything. In this hypnotic abhanga, he says ‘Vithtala is God and Vitthala is His worship. Vitthala is my mother and Vitthala is my father.  Vitthala is my friend and Vitthala is my clan’. For lyrics and translation see footnote.

To present this song, I have a video of that astounding master of music, Bhimsen Joshi. The video has a short disturbance early on but what a pleasure to watch these old videos!

There is another short version from an old LP which I like as well.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Marathi

Note: I do not speak Marathi but the words are mostly simple and derived from Sanskrit. I am dependent on web resources for the lyrics (aurally verified) and translation below.

तीर्थ विठ्ठल, क्षेत्र विठ्ठल ।
देव विठ्ठल, देवपूजा विठ्ठल ॥१॥
माता विठ्ठल, पिता विठ्ठल ।
बंधु विठ्ठल, गोत्र विठ्ठल ॥२॥
गुरू विठ्ठल, गुरुदेवता विठ्ठल ।
निधान विठ्ठल, निरंतर विठ्ठल ॥३॥
नामा म्हणे मज विठ्ठल सापडला ।
म्हणूनी (alt: म्हणोनी) कळिकाळा पाड नाही ॥४॥

tIrtha viTHTHala kshEtra viTHTHala
dEva viTHTHala dEva pUjA viTHTHala
mAtA viTHTHala pitA viTHTHala
bandhu viTHTHala gOtra viTHTHala
guru viTHTHala guru dEvatA viTHTHala
nidhAna viThala nirantara viThala
nAmA mhaNE maja viTHTHala sApaDalA
mhaNUnI (alt: mhaNOnI) kaLikALA pADa nAhI


Vitthala is a holy body of water, Vitthala is a holy land.
Vithtala is God and Vitthala is His worship.
Vitthala is my mother and Vitthala is my father.
Vitthala is my friend and Vitthala is my clan.
Vitthala is my teacher, Vitthala is the teacher of Gods.
Vitthala is tranquility, Vitthala is everlasting.
Namdev says ‘I have found sanctuary in Vitthala’.
‘Even in this Kali yuga, I can come to no harm!’


Filed under Abhanga, Bhimsen Joshi, Namdev