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॥

Transliteration
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

Translation

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!’

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Filed under Abhanga, Namdev

Rama Rama Guna Seema

Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! Rama! You are the delight of our hearts! Sita’s Rama! Your face  is like the moon! You are deeply dark ! Your clothes are golden! You are the cessation of enemies!

Happy Ramanavami to all my readers! How did you celebrate this occasion? I am sadly negligent; my festival days go by simply, with just a mental marking, an acknowledgement when I say my prayers. Is that enough? Should that not be enough?

I feel a twinge of guilt. I remember my childhood when my family would wear new clothes, go to the temple and then have a lovely feast to eat. Yet I ask – when we mark a festival with a feast, is it God we please or our own selves ? When we buy and wear new clothes, whom are we trying to please?

I guess you know what I think! Yet, these ways of marking festivals have an important part to play. In my childhood, because my parents bought me new clothes only for festival days, I didn’t even realise one could buy clothes for no reason! In a way, it made each garment I wore a kind of ‘prasAda’, a blessing from above. Now that my clothes are bought whenever I please, they have lost their specialness. Likewise, my mother prepared certain dishes only on certain feast days. The dishes somehow became enhanced by that. They became ‘prasAda’, a gift from God. By marking these feasts, we silently thank God for all that we have.

I have prepared no feast today. Instead, the prasAda that I prepare today is this post. One of my very favourite songs, it is very simply a list of ‘identifiers’ for Lord Rama. Nothing is asked, not even blessings. An acknowledgement, that is all it is. It is written in Sanskrit by Swathi Thirunal and set to raga Simhendra Madhyamam. To know more about this raga, click here.

I am especially fond of Sikkil Gurucharan’s rendition in his CD December Season 2005. It is available in Musicindiaonline; click here for the Alapana and here for the Kriti. In fact, I recommend that you buy this track from whichever online store you use, keep it on your mp3 player and listen very often! In the meanwhile, I found a rendition from this exceptionally talented young man in youtube, which I present to you here. Note the superbly talented S.Varadarajan on the violin; I really admire this young man!

Alapana (starts at 09:01)

Kriti :

Another young artist, Nisha Rajagopal, has also given a find rendition which I enjoyed very much. Listen below, Alapana from 16:25 and Kriti from 23:42.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

Note: This kriti has three charanams but I have heard only the third one sung. Therefore only that charanam is transcribed here.  Also note that the singers usually use the long A at the end of musical phrases. eg. dhAma is often sung as dhAmA. Lyrics are verified aurally, but I cannot guarantee correctness.

राम राम गुण सीमा राम ह्रुदयाभिराम सीता

सोमानन घनश्याम हेमाम्बरारि विराम –पट्टाभि (alt: लोकाभि)

दीनबन्धो मामव दश मुख विदलन विनत कल्पतरो वारिज नाभ
मुनि मानस धामा मृगमद सुललाम अवनिजापाङ्ग सुदाम वैदेहि सकाम

Transliteration

pallavi
rAma rAma guNasImA rAma hrdayAbhirAma sItA

anupallavi
sOmAnana ghanashyAma hEmAmbarAri virAma –paTTAbhi (alt: lOkAbhi)

charaNam
dInabandhO mAmava dasha mukha vidaLana
vinata kalpatarO vArija nAbha
muni mAnasa dhAma mrgamada sulalAma
avanijApAnga sudAma vaidEhi sakAma

Translation

Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! (guNa=virtue, sImA=boundary). Rama! You are the delight (abhirama=delightful) of our hearts (hrdaya)! Sita’s Rama!

Your face (Anana) is like the moon (sOma)! You are deeply (ghana) dark (shyAma) ! Your clothes (ambara) are golden (hEma)! You are the cessation (virAma) of enemies (ari)! O consecrated one (paTTAbhirAma) ! (alt: O the one loved by everyone! (lOkAbhirAma))

O my friend (bandhu) of the wretched (dIna)! You are the destroyer (vidalana=tear asunder) of the humbled (vinata) Ravana (dasha mukha=ten faced)! You are like a wish-fulfilling tree (kalpataru)! You have a lotus-navel (vArija nAbha) (also signature of Swati Thirunal)! You dwell in (dhAma) in the minds (mAnasa) of sages (muni)! You have a kasturi tilaka (su lalAma=beautiful mark on your forehead, mrga mada=deer musk)! Sita (vaidEhi), who is born from the earth (avani ja), looks at you, the one who gives bountifully (sudAma) with sidelong glaces (apAnga) filled with love (sakAma).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Swathi Thirunal

Endraikku Shiva Krupai

When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace? When will this wretched person’s grief cease? When there is wealth, all kith and kin come to praise and serve. When there is a reduction of wealth they do not speak even when they see us! When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace to push away this wicked and villainous world and get liberation?

Neelakanta SivanSycophancy : A self-seeking, servile flattery towards people of power or influence in order to win favour or for personal gain.

I have recently returned from a very enjoyable holiday in India. As we were accompanied by some friends from Switzerland, I found it very interesting to see India and Indians through their eyes. My topic for the day is triggered by their observation about the excellent service we received at all the hotels we stayed at.

Though their comment was positive, and true, I often noted an obsequiousness which was distasteful to me. This, of course, excludes public servants who were surly and apathetic as always. This servility in India is markedly different to one’s experience in other countries. In Western Europe, for example, for the most part one is treated with distant civility with the exception of taxi drivers in Paris who treat everyone with an equal level of insolence. In Australia one is treated with a rather familiar friendliness. In USA, it ranges from sullen indifference to pushy forwardness. It is only in India that have I seen this particular servility.

If people are just simple and humble by nature, then it is of course praiseworthy. But this is not the case. The same service staff often display marked difference in manner when dealing with their colleagues. This servility is obviously in expectation of tips. In my song choice of today, Neelakanta Sivan condemns sycophancy towards the wealthy. I am however more sympathetic with it. When the tips that they hope to gain make so much of a difference, who can blame them? Is it not need which drives their behaviour? Should we not blame the disparity in society for their servility? If obsequiousness lets them survive, so be it. I tip them more than generously and hope that at least for that one day their life is easier to handle.

Of course Neelakanta Sivan is not talking of service staff. He talks of parasitic relatives. ‘When we have wealth, many kith and kin will come to praise and serve us. When wealth reduces, they will not even speak to us’. Does he speak from personal experience? It seems he was in a position of power and wealth which he resigned subsequently. Click here to read a short article about him. He calls this world ‘wicked and villainous’ and wonders when he will be blessed by Lord Shiva to  attain liberation. He is a bit harsh on the world, don’t you think? The song is lovely though. It is set to Raga Mukhari and its effect is sorrowful, devotional and introspective. To know more about this raga, click here.

To present the song, I have first chosen a lovely rendition by a maestro from yesteryears K.V.Narayanaswamy (1923-2002). The song is often sung starting at the anupallavi, so do not be surprised.


Alternate link : Click here and download song 7 (free membership needed to Sangeethapriya.org)

Another beautiful rendition is by the mellifluous sisters Ranjani-Gayatri. Mukhari is all about bhava or emotion and they bring that faultlessly into their performance.


Alternate link : Click  here

I am also very fond of the more leisurely rendition by T.M.Krishna in his CD Janaranjani. This is available on Spotify; needs free membership to listen.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil
I have noted whatever alternate words that I have heard in various renditions.

பல்லவி
என்றைக்கு சிவ கிருபை வருமோ – ஏழை என் மன சஞ்சலம் அறுமோ ?

அனுபல்லவி
கன்று (alt: கன்றின் ) குரலைக் கேட்டு கனிந்து வரும் பசு போல்
ஒன்றுக்கும் அஞ்சாத என் (alt: எந்தன் ) உள்ளத்  துயரம் தீர்க்க (alt: தீர / நீக்கி )

சரணம்
உண்டான போது வெகு  (alt: கோடி) உறமுறையோர்கள் வந்து
கொண்டாடி தொண்டாடிக் கொள்வார் – தனம்
குறைந்தால் கண்டாலும் பேசார் இந்த கைத்தவமான பொல்லாச்
சண்டாள உலகத்தை தள்ளி சத்கதி (alt: நற்கதி ) செல்ல

Transliteration

pallavi
enDRaikku shiva krupai varumO- Ezai
en mana sanchalam aRumO?

anupallavi
kanDRu (alt: kanDRin) kuralaik kETTu kanindu varum pashu pOl
onDRukkum anjAda en (alt: endan) uLLat-tuyaram tIrkka (alt: tIra / nIkki)

charaNam
uNDAna pOdu vegu (alt: kODi) uramuRaiyOrgaL vandu
koNDADi toNDADik koLvAr -danam
kuRaindAl kaNDAlum pEsAr inda kaittavamAna pollAch
chaNDALa ulagattai taLLi sadgati (alt: nargati) chella

Translation

When (enDraikku) will I receive (literally, will come varumO) Lord Shiva’s grace (krupai)? When will this wretched person’s (Ezai) grief (mana sanchalam) cease (aRumO)?

Just as (pOl) the cow (pashu) comes (varum) tenderly (manam kanindu) on hearing (kETTu) the voice (kural) of it’s calf, (When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace) to remove (tIrkka/nIkki) the grief (uLLat-tuyaram) of one who fears nothing (onDRukkum anjAda)? (unsure if it is the grief which fear’s nothing….)

When (pOdu) there is wealth (danam unDAna), all kith and kin (uramuRaiyOrgaL – short for for uravumuRaiyOrgal) come to praise and serve (konDADi-tonDADi). When there is a reduction of wealth (danam kuRaidAl) they do not speak (pEsAr) even when they see us (kanDAlum). (When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace in order to) push away (taLLi) this abhorrent(kaittavamAna – unsure about this; kaittu is abhorrent, kaittavam I read in one translation as destined) wicked (polla) and villainous (chaNDALa) world (ulagam) and get liberation/moksha (nargati/sadgati chella-literally go to the ‘good destiny’) .

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Neelakanta Sivan

Arumo Aval

In January, this blog quietly celebrated it’s third birthday. What started as a whim has developed into a beloved project. My today’s post is in celebration of my fascination with music, Carnatic Music in particular.

As an analyst at heart, I will start with a graphical representation of the world of Carnatic Music as I see it.

Life of a composition

The journey of a song before it reaches the humble ears of a rasika quite fascinates me. There is so much creativity in each step of the process, and by so many individuals !

Firstly there is this marvellous Raga-Melody relationship. The majority of Carnatic Ragas have not started their life in some structured process. Instead they emerged from an aesthetic developed over time based on the intellectual and emotional experience of a people or an individual. There seems to be a feedback loop, unstructured though it is; concrete ideas develop from such a cloud of experience and then contribute back to the cloud. At some point of time in the loop, there is a consensus on how a subset of melodies are to be sung. We  just call this consensus a Raga. Obviously, there are multiple bursts of creativity even before this stage is reached!

A Raga is not set in stone; the consensus continues to evolve. Words and cadence, melodies and rhythm are then developed not in isolation, but feeding back from the Raga consensus and the collective experiences of all those concerned. The words, cadence and rhythm feed from the mood of the Raga. And as more lyrics are written, the mood of the Raga acquires new meaning from these. Each of these boxes I have drawn above – Raga, Words and Cadence, Melody and Rhythm are affected and affect the other.

Sometimes the definer of the Raga, the lyricist and composer are all the same (e.g. Omkarakarini in Lavangi by Balamuralikrishna). At times each step is by a different individual at a different time (e.g.. Hamir Kalyani from unknown origins, Andal writing Thoomani Madattil many centuries ago (dates contested), Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar tuning the words in the 20th century). Apart from the great bursts of creativity by the named individuals, there are many invisible others who contribute to the process by forming the cloud of experience in which the creators live.

And thus we have a composition. It is taught to a student with contributions from his or her guru, and their gurus and so on. There is intense creativity at this stage too. Sangatis, for example, belong to the guru-shishya parampara. In time, the student becomes a performer.  By that time he or she has lived in this cloud of intellectual and emotional experience for years and absorbed so many influences. Their performance, including their manodharma, is in effect a wonderful fruit of a long evolution.

Thus we, the shrotas, finally come to hear a piece of music. You may think us of an unimportant part of the whole, but I beg to differ. That wonderful effect it has within your heart and mind and body? That is the culmination point of that piece of music, its point of self-actualisation. Imagine how far it has travelled, with how many creative contributions to finally reach your ears! It is as if our ancestors touch us across centuries! We, the listeners, do not stand in isolation, but become a part of the system, providing the feedback into the cloud of intellectual and emotional experience.

When I hear, for example, Arumo Aval, I wonder: Who first sang a melody with the yearning of separation in far away Rajasthan? Who all heard and loved it so much that they wrote more songs in the same style?  When did this style of singing acquire an identity, a name? When and who turned it from a style of singing to a grammar called a Raga? How and when did it traverse 2500 kms across India to establish itself in Carnatic Music? I don’t know the answer to any of that. But when I look over my shoulder, I see an infinite web of silver strands, with countless nodes where contributors stand, some glowing bright with importance, others just shadowy figures, some with bright colourful turbans. I see the web continue far into the future too. And I am ensnared in this silver web, unable to move away. Will my yearning for more music ever be satiated? ArumO Aval?

And so to my song choice of today, based, I admit, purely on the rightness of the first two words to the theme of this post!

 Arumo Aval is a lovely song written by Kannan Iyengar in Mand and made famous by the great songstress of yesteryears, M.L.Vasantakumari, to whom we shall listen first. To know more about Mand, click here.


Alternate link : click here.

The version I listen to most often is the one by T.M.Krishna, which I quite adore!  As an aside, he rolls his Rs with such gusto, doesn’t he? I so like it!


Alternate link : click here.

 With this post I am taking a short hiatus as I am away travelling. I will be back blogging in a month or so, see you then!


Footnote (Lyrics) :

பல்லவி
ஆறுமோ ஆவல் ஆறுமுகனை நேரில் காணாது

அனுபல்லவி
ஏறுமயில் ஏறி குன்றுதோறும் நின்றாடியவன்
பெரும் புகழும் தெரிந்தும் அவன்  பேரழகை பருகாமல்

சரணம்
ஞான குருபரன் தீனர்க்கருள் குகன்
வானவரும் தொழும்  ஆனந்த வைபோகன்
காண கிடைக்குமோ  கூறுதற்க்கில்லாமல்
அற்புத தரிசனம் கற்பனை செய்தால் மட்டும்

Transliteration

pallavi
Arumo Aval Arumuganai nEril kANAdu

Anupallavi
Erumayil Eri kunDRu tOrum ninDRADiyavan
perum pugazhum terindum avan pErazhagai parugAmal

charaNam
jnAna guruparan dInarkkarul guhan
vAnavarum tozhum Ananda vaibOgan
kANakkiDaikkumo kUrudark-killAmal
arpuda darisanam karpanai seidAl maTTum

Translation

Will my yearning (Aval) be appeased (Arumo) without meeting (=without seeing (kANAdu) directly (nEril)) the six-faced Lord Murugan (Arumugan)?

Even after knowing the great (perum) fame (pugazh) of He who rode a peacock (Erumayil Eri) and danced (ninDRu Adiyavan=stood and danced) on each hilltop (kunDRu tOrum), will my yearning be appeased (ArumO Aval) without drinking (parugAmal) in his (avan) great beauty (pEr azhagai)?

He who is the guru and deity (paran) of knowledge (jnAna), the hidden One (guhan) who bestows grace (aRul) on the wretched (dInarkku), He is the one worshipped (tozhum) even by the celestials (vAnavarum), He delights (vaibOgan) in joy (Ananda)! Will I ever get to (kiDaikkumO) see (kANa) this wonderful (arpuda) vision (darisanam) without having to say (kUrudarkkillAmal)? Will my yearning be appeased (ArumO Aval) by imagining (karpanai seidAl) alone (maTTum)?

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kannan Iyengar

Dhyaname Varamaina

Meditation is verily the sacred dip in the Ganges. Can the mental stains of deception and treachery be washed away by dipping in rain water?

Dip in GangesAre you a Hindu? If so, do you believe that a dip in the Ganges will relieve you of your sins? If you say yes, you are in good company. Merely go to any ghat on the Ganges, be it Haridwar or Badrinath, Varanasi or Allahabad; you just have to look at the millions who take a dip in this holiest of rivers of India to know how strongly this belief is held on to.

Hinduism is not the only religion to offer a sin-wash. Catholicism, for example, offers absolution by confession. In Islam, there is Istighfar. Psychologically, if we have accepted the existence of sin, it is good to accept a kind of ‘escape clause’ as well otherwise the burden would be too heavy to bear, would it not?

I am a woman of strong faith but in this matter I do have some reservations. Let me take the most extreme of examples: think of the worst of sinners – murderers, rapists, paedophiles – and imagine that one stays next to the Ganges. He takes a daily dip. Can he live on in his depravity and be washed of sin on a daily basis? I cannot quite accept that! My sense of justice demands ‘karma phala’, a karmic debt. Does this mean that I don’t believe in the sanctity of the Ganges? But I do! A dip in the Ganges for me is symbolic – a physical ritual to represent a mental cleansing by way of prayer, repentance and a change of attitude and behaviour. The ritual without the attitude is not good enough. I probably sound sacrilegious to some…oh well!

On an aside, those of you who have the right to vote in India, would you please demand that your chosen politicians include the environmental protection of the Ganges in their agenda?

My ruminations are triggered by my song choice of the day. In  Dhyaname, Tyagaraja says that ‘meditation is like a sacred dip in the Ganges’, thus asserting to the holiness of both. But then he asks ‘can the stains of deception and treachery be washed way by dipping in rain water?’. Isn’t Ganges sourced by melting snow from the Himalayas? And isn’t snow just another form of rain? Is Tyagaraja too questioning the ritual? I cannot quite believe it…

Tyagaraja is not the only one who questions the cleansing of the body while the mind is unclean. There is a well known bhajan मन मैला और तन को धोये the mind is unclean and he washes his body’.  In a similar vein, Kabir says

मल मल धोये दाग़ न छूटे ग्यान का साबुन लाये पिया
कहत कबीर दाग़ तब छुटि है जब साहब अपनाय लिया
I rub and wash (my shawl) but cannot remove the stains. My beloved brought me the soap of knowledge. Kabir says the stain will lift when my Lord makes me his own.

Dhyaname is set to the raga Dhanyasi; to read more about this raga, click here. To present this song, I have a rendition by Malladi Brothers which I heard on a webcast last Sunday. I learnt about these webcasts from www.paalam.in but recently. Every Sunday, at 6:05 pm Indian time, they do a free webcast of music, dance, lecdems etc. I believe this was on for all of 2013 and I never knew! I hope this post brings this to the attention of others who may enjoy such webcasts. There is a bit of noise in the transmission and also a tiny gap when it failed; I hope you enjoy the song nonetheless. You can download my recording from the links below (almost an hour in all).

Alapana : click here
Kriti : click here
Thani : click here


 

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
I am not a Telugu speaker; the following relies heavily on various web sources. I verified the lyrics aurally as well.

पल्लवि
ध्यानमे वरमैन गङ्गा स्नानमे मनसा

अनुपल्लवि
वान नीट मुनुग मुनुग लोनि वञ्चन द्रोहमनु कर पोना (alt: पोवुना )

चरणम्
पर धन नारी मणुलनु दूरि पर निन्दल पर हिंसल मीरि
धरनु वॆलयु श्री रामुनि कोरि त्यागराजु तॆलुसुकॊन्न राम

Transliteration

pallavi
dhyAnamE varamaina gangA snAnamE manasA

anupallavi
vAna nITa munuga munuga lOni
vanchana drOhamanu kara pOnA (alt: pOvunA)

charaNam
para dhana nArImaNulanu dUri
para nindala para himsala mIri
dharanu velayu shrI rAmuni kOri
tyAgarAju telusukonna rAma

Translation

O Mind! Meditation is verily the sacred dip in the Ganges.

Can the mental stains of deception and treachery be washed away by dipping again and again in rain water?

Spurning the wealth and women of others, overcoming slandering and causing harm to others, seeking the glorious Lord Rama on this earth and meditating on Rama is the true dip in the Ganges, as realised by this Tyagaraja.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Tyagaraja

Babul Mora

Oh father mine, my natal home is slipping away from me! Four bearers are decorating my palanquin. That which was mine belongs to others, it is slipping away from me!

Wajid Ali ShahA decadent voluptuary? Or a patron of arts and intellectuals? How should we remember Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887)? He ruled as the last Nawab of Oudh (Awadh) from 1847 to 1856. Even when he ascended the throne, much of the kingdom was already under the hands of the British. At about the same period, the sun was setting on the great Mughal Empire in Delhi as well, under the hands of Bahadur Shah Zafar. Is it a coincidence that both men were patrons of art ?

Wajid Ali Shah started out, it is said, by being a good administrator, in being interested in reforms. However his passion was not for statecraft but for the arts. Statecraft in those times was no easy beast to handle, was it? It is little wonder that he quietly retreated into his own world of pleasure filled with singers, dancers, actors and courtesans. They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. Awadh did not burn, but it did disintegrate while Wajid Ali immersed himself in his life of pleasure. The British called him debauched, saying that his kingdom was maladministered and lawless. They used it as an excuse to annex his kingdom  and exiled him to Kolkata. Historians today are looking with a more kindly eye at him.

But what do I know of matters of State? My interest in him is as a patron of arts. He himself was a composer and had had vocal training as well as training in Kathak. He is said to have created a number of ragas and written prose, poetry and song. Those of you who missed seeing Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977), do take time to see an interpretation of the last years of Wajid Ali’s rule in Oudh. It is a classic, well worth your time. After seeing the film, if interested, click here to read a critique the depiction of Wajid Ali and Ray’s defence.

It is said that when Wajid Ali left his beloved Lucknow, all his subjects lamented his exile. On March 13, 1854, the royal caravan of about 1000 people left towards Kolkata (source). Wajid Ali Shah was distrait. It was in this grief stricken state that he burst forth with Babul Mora.

Oh father mine, my natal home is slipping away from me! Four bearers are decorating my palanquin. That which was mine belongs to others, it is slipping away from me!’ he wails. It  is written as a bidai song, in the voice of a bride as she leaves her father’s home. It is possible to interpret it as the final farewell to the world as four bearers carry one to the final resting place. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

Babul Mora is the most famous of Wajid Ali Shah’s works and remains in the public consciousness of India due to K.L.Saigal’s memorable rendering of the song in the film Street Singer (1938). It is set to Hindustani Raga Bhairavi; if you want to know more about this raga, here is an excellent resource.

Coming back to my first question : Was Wajid Ali a decadent voluptuary? Or a patron of arts and intellectuals? Somewhere in the middle I would say. I feel a sneaking sympathy for him despite his having let his kingdom get into British hands with nary a fight. You see, I come from the same mould – my furniture is covered with dust, my cupboards look like disaster zones, my ironing pile is taller than I am, but I am spending all day today with my music and my new painting! I will remember him with kindness for he did help preserve, propagate and enrich the wonderful world of Indian music .

K.L.Saigal’s rendition has to come first. Is it even possible to think of this song without thinking of him? The music was composed by Rai Chand Boral.

Too short to satisfy? Listen below to a more detailed, brilliant rendition by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, a master of his art form. This is Bhairavi in despair, exquisite and memorable.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

(Saigal’s version)

बाबुल मोरा नैहर छूटो ही जाए |

चार कहार मिल मोरी डोलिया सजावें
मोरा अपना बेगाना छूटो जाए |

अँगना तो पर्बत भया और देहरी भयी बिदेश
ये घर बाबुल आपनो मैं चली पिया के देश |

Transliteration

bAbul mOrA naihar chUTO hI jAyE

chAr kahAr mil mOrI DOliyA sajAvE.n
mOrA apnA bEgAnA chUTO jAyE

a.nganA tO parbat bhayA aur dEhrI bhayI bidesh
yE ghar bAbul ApanO mai.n chalI piyA kE dEsh

Translation

Oh father mine, my natal home is slipping away from me!

Four bearers are decorating my palanquin. That which was mine belongs to others, it is slipping away from me.

The courtyard has become a mountain (=insurmountable) and the threshold, a foreign country. This house is yours now father, I am leaving for my beloved’s land.

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Filed under Bollywood 30's Music, Hindustani Classical Music, Wajid Ali Shah

Endaro Mahanubhavulu

There are so many great ones! My salutations to them all ! To all those who experience the eternal bliss of seeing Him whose complexion is like the moon in the lotus of their hearts, salutations! To all the best amongst the blessed, whose hearts have become beautiful by being immersed in the singing of Sama Veda, salutations!

Tyagaraja

Humility : ‘the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance’. So says the dictionary.

I admit, I really struggled with this concept in my youth. ‘Why is it considered good?’ I would wonder. When we think less of others, it is belittling them – a decidedly negative thing. Why does it become noble just because it is applied to oneself? My argument was that  humility presupposes the existence of a superior quality. A person with no good qualities cannot be called humble. Then, if a person is unaware or downplaying this superior quality, they have either insufficient self-appraisal and self-valuation skills or they are pretending. Ergo, there is nothing admirable in humility!

It is only with maturity that I understood that humility is the only possible result of a true and rational appraisal of one’s qualities, of gaining perspective of one’s true place in the time and space continuum of the universe.

As an example, I can confidently say that I draw well; if you took a random sample, I might well fall within the top 10% for drawing skills. Humility is not being unaware of this quality or about pretending to be less than one is. It is in understanding that the distribution of skills is a bell curve; the top 0.1% is so sparsely populated that to get from being in the 90th percentile to the 99.9th percentile is improving my skills not by 9.9% but by an unquantifiable large ratio. It is also understanding that my skills as they stand are the result of influence from many artists before me, from cave painters to modern masters. It is to be grateful to the genes passed on to me. It is to be grateful to my mother and my teachers who encouraged me. It is to do with so many factors outside myself that humble is the only way to be! In fact I feel rather embarrassed even mentioning my drawing skills but I do want to illustrate my change of mind about the concept of humility so I will leave it in.

And so I come to my song choice of today which clearly demonstrates the humility of the great saint-poet-composer Tyagaraja, who is, I can say without hesitation, one of the most important figures in the musical history of India. Last week I listened to the music from the 167th Tyagaraja Aradhana and today I commemorate this event with this post.

There are so many great ones!’ he says in this song. ‘My salutations to all of them!’. Who all does he acknowledge? It is not a random salutation to all the greats in all spheres of life. Instead, it is a salutation to the those worthy of his salutation in his own sphere of greatness. By choosing to salute those who have excelled in his own strengths of music, devotion, spirituality and esoteric knowledge, it is clear to me that he was well aware of his own qualities.

For music, he salutes Narada, Tumburu, to those immersed in the singing of Sama Veda, to those who sing in praise of the Lord with raga and laya, those who do nama-sankirtana, and those who understand the happiness of listening to music with bhava-raga-laya.

For devotion and spirituality, he salutes those who see the Lord in meditation,  those who keep Him in their hearts, those who surrender to Him, those who view the world with love and compassion and those who have become true servants of the Lord.

For  esoteric knowledge he salutes the great sages and those who have understood the core knowledge of our great scriptures.

As to the composition, it is just a magnificent piece of music which one never tires of, however many times one hears it. Set to raga Sri, the sounds are dignified, contemplative, quiet. To know more about the raga, click here.

It is difficult to choose a rendition for you today. I have listened to so many renditions- voices old and young, male and female, brisk and meditative, stentorian and gently graceful, stylistic and straight-forward. To my ears today, what feels most ‘humble’ – my theme of the day – is T.M.Krishna’s simple rendition of this timeless kriti. Hope you enjoy it too!

You can download all the pancharatna kritis sung by TMK from this site.

For an instrumental version, I could not walk past this rare live video of the great Veena maestro from yesteryears, Chitti Babu. Is it not hypnotic? They say that Veena is the instrument best suited to display the beauty of Carnatic Music. What do you think?

For a more in-depth look at this kriti, listen to this interesting lecdem . The sound quality is unfortunately not so good but the content is excellent.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As I am not a Telugu speaker. I am indebted to multiple web sources for meaning of words. I have reworded the translations I found for language and readability. For notation, click here.

Transliteration in Devanagari

पल्लवि
ऎन्दरो महानुभावुलु अन्दरिकि वन्दनमुलु

अनुपल्लवि
चन्दुरु वर्णुनि अन्द चन्दमुनु हृदया-
अरविन्दमुन जूचि ब्रह्मानन्दमनुभविन्चु वार-

चरणम् 1
साम गान लोल मनसिज  लावण्य धन्य मूर्धन्युल-

चरणम् 2
मानस वनचर वर सञ्चारमु निलिपि मूर्ति बागुग पॊगडने वार-

चरणम् 3
सरगुन पादमुलकु स्वान्तमनु सरोजमुनु समर्पणमु सेयु वार-

चरणम् 4
पतित पावनुडने परात्परुनि  गुरिञ्चि परमार्थमगु निज मार्ग-
मुतोनुपाडुचुनु सल्लापमुतो स्वर लयादि रागमुलु (alt:रागमुलनु ) तॆलियु वार-

चरणम् 5
हरि गुण मणिमय सरमुलु गळमुन शोभिल्लु भक्त कोटुलिललो
तॆलिवितो चॆलिमितो करुण गल्गि जगमॆल्लनु सुधा दृष्टिचे ब्रोचु वार-

चरणम् 6
हॊयलु मीर नडलु गल्गु सरसुनि सदा कनुल जूचुचुनु पुलक शरीरुलै
आनन्द पयोधि निमग्नुलै मुदम्बुननु यशमु गल वार-

चरणम् 7
परम भागवत मौनि वर शशि विभाकर सनक सनन्दना
दिगीश सुर किम्पुरुष कनक कशिपु सुत नारद तुम्बुरु
पवन सूनु बाल चन्द्र धर शुक सरोज भव भूसुर वरुलु
परम पावनुलु घनुलु शाश्वतुलु कमल भव सुखमु सदानुभवुलु गाक

चरणम्  8
नी मेनु नाम वैभवम्बुलनु नी पराक्रम धैर्यमुल
शान्त मानसमु नीवुलनु वचन सत्यमुनु रघुवर नीयॆड
सद्भक्तियु जनिञ्चकनु दुर्मतमुलनु कल्ल जेसिनट्टि नी
मदि नेरिङ्गि सन्तसम्बुननु गुण भजनानन्द कीर्तनमु सेयु वार-

चरणम्  9
भागवत रामायण गीतादि श्रुति शास्त्र पुराणपु
मर्ममुल शिवादि षण्मतमुल गूढमुलन मुप्पदि
मुक्कोटि सुरान्तरङ्गमुल भावम्बुल नॆरिंगि भाव राग लयादि सौख्य
-मुचे चिरायुवुल् गलिगि निरवधि सुखात्मुलै
त्यागराजाप्तुलैन वार-

चरणम्  10
प्रेम मुप्पिरिकॊनु वेळ नाममु दलचे वारु
राम भक्तुडैन त्यागराजनुतुनि निज दासुलैन वार

Transliteration

pallavi
endarO mahAnubhAvulu andariki vandanamulu

anupallavi
chanduru varNuni anda chandamunu hrdayA-
aravindamuna jUchi brahmAnandam anubhavinchu vAr-

charaNam 1
sAma gAna lOla manasija lAvaNya dhanya mUrdhanyul-

charaNam 2
mAnasa vanachara vara sanchAramu nilipi mUrti bAguga pogaDanE vAr-

charaNam 3
saraguna pAdamulaku svAntamanu sarOjamunu samarpaNamu sEyu vAr-

charaNam 4
patita pAvanuDanE parAtparuni gurinchi paramArthamagu nija
mArgamutOnupADuchunu sallApamutO svara layAdi rAgamulu (alt:rAgamulanu) teliyu vAr-

charaNam 5
hari guNa maNimaya saramulu gaLamuna shObhillu bhakta kOTulilalO
telivitO chelimitO karuNa galgi jagamellanu sudhA dRshTichE brOchu vAr-

charaNam 6
hoyalu mIra naDalu galgu sarasuni sadA kanula jUchuchunu pulaka sharIrulai
Ananda payOdhi nimagnulai mudambunanu yashamu gala vAr-

charaNam 7
parama bhAgavata mauni vara shashi vibhAkara sanaka sanandanA
digIsha sura kimpurusha kanaka kashipu suta nArada tumburu
pavana sUnu bAla chandra dhara shuka sarOja bhava bhUsura varulu
parama pAvanulu ghanulu shAshvatulu kamala bhava sukhamu sadAnubhavulu gAka

charaNam 8
nI mEnu nAma vaibhavambulanu nI parAkrama dhairyamula shAnta mAnasamu nIvulanu vachana satyamunu raghuvara nIyeDa
sadbhaktiyu janinchakanu durmatamulanu kalla jEsinaTTi nI madineringi santatambunanu guNa bhajanAnanda kIrtanamu sEyu vAr-

charaNam 9
bhAgavata rAmAyaNa gItAdi shruti shAstra purAnamu marmamula shivAdi shanmatamula gUDhamulan muppadi mukkOTi surAntarangamula bhAvambula nerigi bhava rAga layAdi saukhya
muchE chirAyuvul galigi niravadhi sukhAtmulai tyAgarAjAptulai na vAr-

charaNam 10
prEma muppiri konu vELa nAmamu dalachEvAru
rAma bhaktuDaina tyAgarAjanutuni nija dAsulaina vAr-

Translation

pallavi
There are so many great ones! My salutations to them all !

anupallavi
To all those who experience the eternal bliss of seeing Him whose complexion is like the moon in the lotus of their hearts (salutations..)

charaNam 1
To all the best amongst the blessed, whose hearts have become beautiful by being immersed in the singing of Sama Veda (salutation..)

charaNam 2
To all those who clearly see the form of the Lord by stopping the monkey like wanderings of the mind (salutations…)

charaNam 3
To all those who immediately surrender the lotus of their hearts at the feet of the Lord (salutations…)

charaNam 4
To all those who, cognizant of the true path which leads to the ultimate knowledge,  joyously sing about the supreme Lord who sanctifies the wretched, in ragas which arise from the seven notes and rhythm (salutations..)

charaNam 5
To all those countless devotees whose necks are adorned with the precious garland of divine qualities, who protect the world with their sweet glances filled with understanding, love and compassion (salutations..)

charaNam 6
To all those who are famous for remaining joyfully immersed in the ocean of bliss and ecstacy by always seeing with their (mind’s) eyes the beautiful Lord with his charming gait (salutations…)

charaNam 7
To all the great sages who are devotees of the Lord, to the Moon, the Sun, sage Sanaka, sage Sanandana, the Lords of the four quarters, the celestials, the kimpurusha, to Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada,  to Narada, the celestial musician Tumburu, to Hanuman, to Lord Shiva, sage Suka, Lord Brahma, the Brahmanas, the great holy ones, the eminent ones, the eternal ones, to all those who have experienced bliss (salutations..)

charaNam 8
To all those who, knowing your disaproval of wrong paths, in order to generate true devotion towards you, always sing joyful chants in your praise,  about the glory of your body, your name, your valour, your courage, your fortitude, your serenity of mind and the truth of the words uttered by you (salutations..)

charaNam 9
To all those benefactors of Tyagaraja who understand the core of (the hidden meaning of) Bhagavatam, Ramayanam, Gita, the Vedas, the Shastras, the ancient lores, the six schools of religious worship like Shaivism, the mindset of  thirty three crores of celestials, the happiness of (implied:music) with emotion, melody and rhythm, and have attained a long life of uninterrupted joy (salutations..)

charaNam 10
To all those who meditate on the name of the Lord at the time when love multiplies and have become true servants of the Lord praised by this Tygaraja, a true devotee of Lord Rama (salutations…)

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu