Ananda Natana Prakasham

puzzlesI have a penchant for puzzles. It started with an addiction to the Times of India crossword puzzles eons ago, while I was still at high school. Since then I have amused myself with all kinds of puzzles, my current obsession being Sudoku.

The moment my husband walks in from work, I grab his Telegraph for my puzzle-fix. With the advent of an IPad into my home, I continue the evening doing tougher puzzles during the commercial breaks on the telly.  I love the logical structure of Sudoku. You work through it methodically, eliminate logically and voila, you have a perfect solution! What a pleasure that is!

While I do my Telegraph puzzle, I also finish the word game based on anagrams which is featured on the same page. Now this is a very different kettle of fish to Sudoku. The only way I can work out anagrams is to jumble up the letters, removing the linearity, then staring at them until the answer comes to mind. I love the magical ‘pop’ of the answer into my head! Though I have a very good success rate, I have no control over it. There is neither logic nor method in this.

But why is she going on about puzzles in a music blog?’ I’m sure you are puzzling over that right now! Well, there is a connection…..

We Carnatic Music rasikas have our own puzzles, you see. It is called ‘What raga is this?’! Whenever you hear a song, that is the first question that comes to mind. So what is it exactly that we recognize as a raga? Mind you, there is a difference between remembering and recognizing. If you hear a kriti and you know that it is of a certain raga, that is remembering. If you hear an improvised alapana or an unknown kriti, and then can name the raga, that is recognizing.

With the caveat that my knowledge is meagre indeed, I believe there are three major characteristic-sets to ragas:

  • The Notes : Arohanam and Avarohanam define the set of permitted notes. There are further conditions of use for these notes; for example, some are Jiva swaras or ‘life giving’ notes while others are Amsa Swaras, notes which occur frequently. As Carnatic Music uses a variable scale depending on the pitch of the musician, surely what our mind registers are the presence of frequency-intervals? To use these rules in raga recognition, you need to be able to translate a tune or an alapana to its notes on the fly. Sadly, I cannot.
  • The Ornamentation: Ragas have rules regarding gamakas or oscillations and slides between notes. Again, raga recognition by this is difficult for untrained rasikas as it demands you to recognize the notes as they are sung.
  • The Characteristic Phrases: Prayogas and Sancharas are essentially little micro-tunes made up of a few notes, a combination by which a raga can be identified.  Of the three, this is the easiest for a musically uneducated listener. If you have a mental database of what these characteristic phrases sound like, you could compare them to what you are listening. With my limited ability, I just cannot spot micro-tunes amongst the barrage of notes that the musician spouts out.

So what is my method? This is not a puzzle like Sudoko which I can approach in a methodical and logical manner. Instead, somewhat like my anagram puzzle, I have to wait for the answer to ‘pop’ into my mind. See, I told you there was a connection! My very unscientific method rests on listening to the alapana, waiting for my mind to have the incredible urge to belt out some kriti for which I already know the raga. Recognizing the raga is based solely on this urge! A method prone to errors, I assure you. Yet I can recognize many ragas based on this unscientific method!

So coming to my song choice of the day..

Last week I was listening to a nice kutcheri by Sanjay Subrahmanyan on youtube while rolling out the chapatis for dinner, head nodding, rolling-pin going back and forth in perfect tala, saying ‘besh besh’ when the music warranted it. I was a happy woman indeed! A new alapana started and as usual I waited for my mind to offer a raga-match. My mind obligingly offered up ‘Valachi Va-a-a-chi-i-i-i’ in a confident manner.  Now I knew that this varnam is a ragamalika but what is the first raga? For the life of me, I could not remember! You are no doubt sniggering at me now if you know the answer! I waited for an alternate kriti to pop out, getting more and more frustrated with myself for being so inept and clueless. The kriti started and this too was unfamiliar. I finally gave up and went back to enjoying the music. That’s when I heard myself mutter ‘Hmmmm not a bad Kedaram, maybe I should feature this in my next post?’.  I stopped short and grinned as my chapati burnt to a crisp. Puzzle solved!

For those who are new to Carnatic Music and for those who would like to train themselves in raga recognition, I propose a simple strategy here. If you would like to know more about Kedaram, click here.

Instead of presenting the song I was listening to, I am presenting a good reference song in Kedaram, the song which my mind should have logically ‘popped’ out. Muthuswami Dikshithar’s Ananda Natana Prakasham is a very interesting, and mystical song, I am doing it injustice by not discussing the lyrics in detail. Oh well, some other time maybe..

Since last week I have been listening to multiple versions of this song. Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s rendition in his CD Keshtra Chidambaram is gentle as a lullaby. T.M.Krisha’s rendition in his CD Panchabhutam brings out all it’s mysticism, this is available to listen in Spotify.   But there is no match, I think, for M.D.Ramanathan’s deep-voiced leisurely exploration of the song. Somehow MDR’s voice and style seem a perfect match for this song. What do you think?

Alternate Link : Sangeethapriya (free membership).


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

पल्लवि
आनन्द नटन प्रकाशं चित् सभेषम्
आश्रयामि शिवकामवल्लीशम्

अनुपल्लवि
भानु कोटि कोटि सङ्काशम्
भुक्ति मुक्ति प्रद दहराकाशम्
दीन जन संरक्षण चणम्

मध्यम काल साहित्यम्
दिव्य पतञ्जलि व्याघ्रपाद
दर्शित कुञ्चिताब्ज चरणम्

चरणम्
शीतांशु गङ्गा धरम्  नील कन्धरम्
श्री केदारदि क्षेत्राधारम्
भूतेशम् शार्दूल चर्माम्बरम् चिदम्बरम्
भूसुर त्रिसहस्र मुनीश्वरम् विश्वेश्वरम्
नवनीत हृदयम् सदय गुरुगुह तातमाद्यम्
वेद वेद्यम् वीत रागिणमप्रमेयाद्वैत प्रतिपाद्यम्
संगीत वाद्य विनोद ताण्डव जात बहुतर भेद चोद्यम्

Transliteration :

pallavi
Ananda naTana prakAsham chit sabhEsham
AshrayAmi shivakAmavallIsham

anupallavi
bhAnu kOTi kOTi sa.nkAsham
bhukti mukti prada daharAkAsham
dIna jana samrakshaNa chaNam

madhyama kAla sAhityam
divya patanjali vyAGra pAda
darshita kunchitAbja charaNam

charaNam
shIta.nshu gangA dharam nIla kandharam
shrI kEdArAdi kshEtrAdhAram
bhUtesham shArdUla charmAmbaram chidambaram
bhUsura trisahasra munIshvaram vishvEshvaram
navanIta hrudayam sadaya guruguha tAtamAdyam
vEda vEdyam vIta rAgiNampramEyAdvaita pratipAdyam
sangIta vAdya vinOda tAnDava jAta bahutara bhEda chOdyam

Translation:

Pallavi
He who is lustrous (prakAsham) with the dance (naTana) of bliss (Ananda), the   Lord (Isham) of the court (sabhA) of the soul (chit) [also Lord of Chidambaram]. I take refuge (AshrayAmi) in the Lord of Shivakamavalli [shivakAmasundari is the name of the Goddess at Chidambaram].

Anupallavi
His appearance (sa.nkAsham) is like millions (kOti kOti) of suns (bhAnu). He is the provider (prada) of pleasure (bhukti) and salvation (mukti). He is  the form of the yogic space of daharAkAsha (deep psychic world). [Yoga Upanishads talk of three etheric planes: chit-AkAsha=space of the mind, hrudaya-AkAsha=space of the heart and daharAkAsha=space of the psychic world. Note also that Chidambaram is the one which represents Akasha amongst the pancha-bhoota sthalams of Lord Shiva]. He is famed (chaNam) as the protector (samrakshaNam) of the wretched (dIna jana). His lotus-like (Abja) bent (raised?) (kunchita) feet (charaNam) are those seen by the divine (divya) Patanjali and Vyaghrapada [sages who were given a vision of the dancing Lord at Chidambaram].

Charanam

He who holds (dharam) the moon (shItAnshu) and the Goddess Ganga. He is blue (nIla) necked (kandharam). He is the foundation (AdhAram) of sacred places (kshEtra) such as (Adi) Kedara [note: also name of Raga]. He is the Lord (Isham) of all living beings (bhUta). His apparel (ambaram) is the skin (charma) of a tiger (shArdUla). He resides (implied)  in our consciousness (chit) and ether (ambara) [also temple of Chidambaram]. He is the Lord (Ishwaram) of the three thousand (thri-sahasra) Brahmin (bhUsura) sages (munI). He is the Lord (Ishwaram) of the universe (vishva). His heart (hrudayam) is soft as (implied) fresh butter (navanItam). He is the compassionate (sadaya) one, the father (tAtam) of Guruguha [Lord Subramanya, also signature of composer], He is the primal (Adyam). Celebrated (vEdyam) in the Vedas, He is dispassionate/calm (vItarAga). He is immeasurable (apramEya). He is expounded (pratipAdyam) in the Advaita philosophy.  He takes pleasure (vinOda) in music (sangIta), instrumental music (vAdya) and dance (tAnDava) causing (jAta) different kinds of (bhEda) great (bahutara) astonishment (chOdya). [there can be multiple interpretations of this last phrase; this is just one possibility.]

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12 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.D.Ramanathan, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, T.M.Krishna

12 responses to “Ananda Natana Prakasham

  1. Ramesh

    This is truly a gem of a post. For some time, I’ve been looking for a simple and cogent answer to “what raga is this”. I am sure that will remain a mystery for a long while to me, but at least I now know the process !! I hadn’t found anybody who could explain it in any comprehensible manner, and here you are …….

    Of course there is a cheat sheet, which is what I use. Look up the internet if you can spot the krithi likeness ! That’s why I am tapping away on my mobile during a kutcheri :) We should salute Dikshitar who very kindly included the raga’s name in his krithi for the ignoramus such as I.

    Surely there is an idea for an app which can from the sound match the raga and pop it up on your screen. Now, that is a project for you !!

    Beautiful raga and a first class piece from MDR you have chosen today.

    • Thank you Ramesh, glad it answered some questions for you :) I had half-written a ‘how to learn to recognize ragas’ page which I have now published and linked to this post. Perhaps you will be interested in following my method in training myself. Good idea for an app :) Actually I read a technical paper on the subject..people are at it already!

      Kedaram and MDR are a great match, aren’t they? Now that I have heard this (about 15 times!), it will be difficult to forget Kedaram..

      Cheers. Suja

  2. S.Narasimha Raj

    “This is truly a gem of a post.”
    Naa nenachche, nee wodaneye shollivitte – Ramesh!! (I thought fo, you immediately said it – Ramesh!). Suja, this ‘post’ is gripping – in its content & construct!! No ‘less matching’ is the short summin-up on the ‘Post’ (as quoted) by Ramesh.
    Well, for all the technicalities of music – the ‘remembering’ & ‘recognizing’ of ‘ragas’, and the uncanny puzzle-soving-sugestions of Suja, I am content in just listening to good music and feeling & being ‘happy the man who can accept the charming emotions of music, without analyzing the charms!’
    Best Wishes.
    Raj

    • Thank you Raj, as always you are very kind :) Actually it is a much better listening experience if one abandons the thought of puzzling out the raga; the true knowledge of a raga is not in its name, it is in the sense and feel of it. So your way is much better!
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Are there a few more stories hidden in here:

    “bhUsura trisahasra munIshvaram”? “divya patanjali vyAGra pAda/darshita kunchitAbja charaNam”??

    • Exactly, you are on the spot Srinivas! Also interesting to discuss the last line of the song sangIta vAdya vinOda tAnDava jAta bahutara bhEda chOdyam as it can be interpreted differently. The importance of dance & music to our spirituality and their relationship to what this temple represents – Akasha (of the Pancha Bhoota) is worth thinking discussing. Many ideas spring to mind. Perhaps when I write on the songs related to the other Pancha Bhootha sthalams, I will bring it up.
      Cheers. Suja

      • Kedaaram has a nice, long kriti of Tyagaraja in it (O ramA ramaNa…). I heard a Dr.Srikanthan’s rendition of it. It is available on Sangeetapriya. My daughter’s favorite.

        Speaking of Chidambaram, did you listen to “sabhApatikku veru daivam samaanaaagumaa” of Hyderabad Brothers? I think, they sang it – right in the temple premises (Album Chidaanandam)

      • Oh yes, I have heard that kriti though with my ‘weakness’ for Nataraja, I like Ananda Natana Prakasham better. I have not heard Dr Srikanthan’s rendition, I will look for it. As also Sabhapatiku which happens to be a kriti I like a lot. I have not heard Hyderabad brothers’ rendition, I will look for it. Thank you for your recommendations!
        cheers. Suja

  4. N.Saikrishnan

    Excellent write up and please keep writing! I do not have the basic theoretical knowledge of carnatic music. Still I enjoy listening to it for any length of time and as you have rightly put it, the pleasure is enhanced when you can identify the ragam. As a student of science, I follow the typical calibration method- proceeding from the known to the unknown. Like your method, I have certain benchmark krithis in different ragams and when I hear a new song, I compare ( calibrate ) it against my various benchmarks. In more than 90% of the cases, I succeed. The problem arises when the song is in a ragams which are very close to another ( typical examples like Bhairavi/Manji, Valaji/Malayamarudham, Pantuvarali/Poorvikalyani, Sri/madhyamavathi, Abhogi/Sriranjani, udayaravichandrika/Suddadanyasi etc ) where my absence of basic knowledge hampers the progress. I have been writing a blogspot for people like me ( saidvk.blogspot.in ) and you are welcome to listen to the songs uploaded there. Thanks

    • Hello again Saikrishnan, we untrained music lovers struggle through the same maze isn’t it? :) But its like solving a puzzle when one succeeds, its suck a kick! :) I had a quick look at your site, I will need to explore it in detail once I return home (on a holiday now). I will put a link to your site from mine, we must interest the same kind of readers!
      Cheers, Suja

  5. jay

    Truly interesting. Can you post your mp3 with raga names or provide a link so that we can get the kids to listen to it.? you can send me the link at jaisimha@hotmail.com

    • Sorry Jay for the delayed reply. I am travelling currently and have very infrequent use of the internet. I shall respond when I am back in one of my homes. Cheers, Suja

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