Happy New Year to all my Tamil readers! In Southern India the New Year signals the start of the extreme heat to follow but here in Europe, Spring is in the air and a spring is in my step. We set back the clocks a couple of weeks ago and light streams into my home until late in the evening and the lake glints outside my windows as if diamonds were scattered on it. The French Alps that I see across the lake are still snow-capped but only the highest of them will remain so through summer. The quality of light has changed from the cool blue-greys of winter to brilliant warm light of the summer sky. The gardeners are busy everywhere, planting small flowering plants in the roundabouts and the flower beds which abound in the city. Today when I went for my morning walk I noticed that the first of the daffodils are out. Perhaps next week I’ll go out a bit further to see the fields of narcissus. The tulips will be out soon and like each year, I will set out to see the multi-coloured blooms. There is joyfulness in the air and I am infected by it.
This phenomenon of an upward mood swing with the coming of spring is fairly common. In fact, there is a syndrome called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which occurs during fall and winter, when the days are shorter, and goes away with the advent of spring. The chemistry of our bodies is an extraordinary thing, isn’t it? And the workings of our mind is even more marvellous. Just as light can affect the way our body works, and hence the mind, so too can music affect our minds, and hence our bodies. How do we bring Spring into our minds with music? Obviously with the Raga Vasanta which means Spring! I am always seduced by the elegance of this raga, it’s beautiful slides and upbeat mood. I have a recording of Sri Kamakshi by the violin maestros Ganesh & Kumaresh which stands amongst the most-listened in my music library. I must say that Vasanta sounds simply magical in their hands!
Recently the maestros performed in Geneva. I had written an email to their website before their arrival, requesting that they perform Vasanta and they kindly obliged. I was delighted to hear Sri Kamakshi live; a week has passed and I am still in an ‘enhanced’ state!
In this lovely and uplifting Kriti, the poet-composer Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai* refers to the Goddess Kamakshi as the embodiment of Music and begs her to come and remove his emptiness and loneliness. With this song, I too pray that the good Goddess, the very embodiment of vasantam (Spring), scatter away the emptiness and loneliness of winter and usher in the blooming of devotion and joy in my heart.
I present this fantastic rendition by the young geniuses on the violin, the Maestros Ganesh and Kumaresh. It is a radio recording and the sound quality is not the best but it is still superb (26 mins).
Alternate link in Sangeethapriya.
For a vocal version, listen to Jon Higgins, our own American bhagavatar, singing this song with astonishing ease (6 mins).
Alternate link in Sangeethapriya.
* There seems to be some confusion regarding the composer of this kriti. It is ascribed to Subbaraya Shastri in a number of places yet there seems to be a convincing case for those who say it is by Ramaswami Pillai. Without having real knowledge, I have opted to use the latter’s name in my blog.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Tamil
ஸ்ரீ காமாக்ஷி கடாக்ஷி
ஏக வச்துவாக எங்கும்/எங்குமே நிறைந்தாயே
போக மோக்ஷம் பக்தர்க்கு புரிந்திடும் எந்தன் தாயே
வேதாகம சாஸ்திர நாத ச்வரூபிணியே
வேகமே வந்திப்போதென் வறுமையை நீக்குவாயே (alt: போக்குவையே)
ஆதாரம் எனக்கு நீ வேதபுரீச்வரியே
அம்பா சித்தம் இறங்கி அடிமையை பாலிப்பாயே
மாநிலம் தனில் தேவி நின் மகிமையை சொல்ல
மாலயனாலும் ஆகுமா உனக்கு சமானம் இனி
தெய்வமா நிஜமா குமாரனை ரக்ஷி
shrI kAmAkshi kaTAkshi
Eka vastuvAga engum/engumE niraindAyE
bhOga mOksham bhaktarkku purindiDum endan tAyE
vEdAgama shAstra nAda svarUpiNiyE
vEgamE vandippOden (vandu+ippo+en) varumaiyai nIkkuvAyE
AdhAram enakku nI vEdapurIshvariyE
ambA chittam irangi aDimaiyai pAlippAyE
mAnilam tanil dEvi nin mahimaiyai solla
mAlayanAlum AgumA unakku samAnam ini
deivamA nijamA kumAranai rakshi
O Kamakshi, she with the sidelong glance (it is said that even a sideways glance of the Devi is filled with compassion and grace, so kaTAkshi implies the compassionate one)
You who are all pervading as the One, you who provide prosperity and salvation to your devotees, my mother.
You who are the essence of the Vedas and Agamas, you are the embodiment of music. Please come now and remove my loneliness and emptiness. (note: vaRumai means poverty but also emptiness and loneliness; the latter meaning seems more appropriate here). You are my support, the Goddess of Vedapuri. Have compassion for this servant of yours and protect me. In this world who can describe your glory, not even Vishnu or Brahma! There is no deity equal to you! In truth come and protect your son.
Footnote (Raga) :
The scales of Vasanta are as follows :
Arahonam (Ascending): S M1 G3 M1 D2 N3 S’
Avarohanam (Descending) : S’ N3 D2 M1 G3 R1 S
It is a Janya raga, derived from Suryakantam (below), 17th on the Melakarta scale.
This very old raga is considered an auspicious raga and suitable for singing in the evenings. In old Tamil music, it is called Andi Pan. It is upbeat and joyful, yet some of the slides in the avarohanam can evoke introspection. The raga shines in medium and fast speeds. Some well known compositions in Vasanta are Seetamma Mayamma by Tyagaraja, Ramachandram Bhavayami and Harihara Putram by Muthuswami Dikshithar, Natanam Adinar by Gopalakrishna Bharathi.
Tamil speaking readers may enjoy this presentation of the raga by Charulata Mani.
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.