Sri Kamakshi Katakshi

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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. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.

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

பல்லவி
ஸ்ரீ காமாக்ஷி கடாக்ஷி

அனுபல்லவி
ஏக வச்துவாக எங்கும்/எங்குமே நிறைந்தாயே
போக மோக்ஷம் பக்தர்க்கு புரிந்திடும் எந்தன் தாயே

சரணம்
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

Transliteration

pallavi
shrI kAmAkshi kaTAkshi

anupallavi
Eka vastuvAga engum/engumE niraindAyE
bhOga mOksham bhaktarkku purindiDum endan tAyE

charaNam
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

Translation

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.

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8 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Ganesh-Kumaresh, Jon Higgins, Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai

8 responses to “Sri Kamakshi Katakshi

  1. Ramesh

    Beautiful introduction of spring. Back in India, of course, there is no spring, but in Europe its beautiful indeed. Although , I hear this season, there’s snow even in April in some places. Lucky you – spring, summer in northern hemisphere and spring , summer in southern hemisphere too :)

    Delighted that you featured Jon Higgins. An amazing man, In the incredibly traditional and closed, parochial music community of the 70s, he, a rank outsider, came, learnt and even mastered a form of music surely very few had even heard of back in the US. His rendering of Krishna Nee Begane is still one of the best ever. How much of effort it must have taken to learn both the music and the level of pronunciation he has achieved. Real tragedy that his life was cut sort by a hit and run accident. To me, he is one of the all time greats of Carnatic music.

    • Yes Ramesh, Spring is indeed beautiful in Europe. Last week I was still shivering but today it was a glorious 22 degrees! And yes, I am very lucky to live a life of only springs and summers hehehehe :)
      Higgins’ achievement in Carnatic Music is mind boggling – to take on a form of music which is difficult even for the locals, to take on a new culture and sing of the Gods of a foreign religion with such feeling – why do we think that Supermen need to build muscles, wear capes and fly in the sky? You can be a Superman wearing dhotis and singing on the stage as well!
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ravi

    Thank you for posting the Jon Higgins version, Suja. I had heard it before, but it was good to hear him again.

    Ramesh mentioned Higgins’ rendition of “Krishna Nee Begane”. There is a related story about it. Apparently Higgins wasn’t let into the Udupi Krishna temple by the priests as he was not a Hindu. Higgins’ Indian friends apparently refused to enter the temple as well. They then told Higgins to sing “Krishna Nee Begane” and an appreciate crowd gathered. The priests were moved by his rendition and invited Higgins to enter the temple.

    Higgins, a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, will be proud of his college, as the students are continuing to study Carnatic music, as is evident in this piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en-GB&v=lwdDm3UO5WM&gl=IN.
    Well done, I might add.

    • Thank you Ravi for the interesting story. I think I may have heard something similar about Yesudas as well. These kind of barriers put up at temples really upset me! Surely a place of worship should be open to all? As to Higgins, his efforts are very admirable. Thank you for the link, it is good to see Carnatic Music outside its own natural ‘habitat’ :)
      Cheers. Suja

  3. “The lake glints outside my windows as if diamonds were scattered on it.” Your splendid form continues! Sadly the only thing that’s glinting in Bangalore’s hottest summer ever are beads of sweat on my brow.

    • Thank you Srinivas :) Whatever happened to Bangalore? It used to be always so pleasant! Except for the dogs that is :) BTW A little birdie (actually a large birdie) tells me that you are being dragged reluctantly out of your home to again brave new shores, my sympathies! :)

  4. Jay

    Suja,

    Jon Higgins was a beloved personality. I’ve though felt that his rendition of “kṛṣnā nee begane” distinctly different from mainstream. His viriboṇi varṇam, kā vā vā,
    govardhana giri dhāra in Darbāri Kānaḍa.and endaro mahānubhavulu are
    outstanding. Regarding the issue with Yesudas, you are probably referring to the long standing issue of not allowing him to enter the Guruvayoor temple. Few years back, when a movie actress Meera Jasmine attended a temple in Kannur, the temple authorities performed some form of purificatory rites and collected fines! Kerala for all its so called gains made on the literacy front, is probably the last place you would expect such attitudes, esp. in this age. The song “oru neram engilum” which is an ode to kṛṣnā in Dwijavanthi that Yesudas has sung captures the sentiment. One does not have to understand Malayalam … he struggles with emotions @ 5:20 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4reS_tJ3DSU

    Jay

    • Hi Jay, Jon Higgins was indeed a very well-admired personality. As I was writing the post, I heard his singing with a great deal of concentration, perusing the pronunciation of every word, listening to the sound of every Gamaka. I could not find anything to pick the fault of ‘foreign-ness’. Amazing!

      Thank you for the link to Yesudas’s program – I may not have understood his every word, but I did understand his emotions and the gist of his little speech. It is very touching. Is it not very sad that the worst of Hindus, who practice nothing of its values and share nothing of its beliefs can enter a temple just because he is born a Hindu? And the temple is barred to a good man, a man of devotion just because he happens not be a Hindu? Sad..

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