Challare Ramachandruni

RamaHappy Ramanavami to all my readers. Today is a day of worship. There are those who worship with prayers and offerings but in this blog, I offer worship just with music.  With my song choice of today, with the words of Tyagaraja and the voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi, I shower Lord Rama with champaka, lotus, jasmine and parijata flowers.

The thing is, I have been terribly distressed this week and not in the right state of mind for worship. I had been pouring out my confusion and distress into a post which I had intented to post today, in spite of it being Ramanavami. ‘How can I think of worship when my heart is so heavy?’ I had thought. ‘This blog reflects the music of my heart, and if it has a note of dissonance today, so be it’.

When I woke this morning and ambled bleary eyed to my prayer alcove to say ‘Good Morning’, that was still my intention. But as I stood there, a sort of acceptance washed over me. And so I have kept aside my other post and here I am in a state of worship after all.

Let us shower flowers on Sri Ramachandra with a joyous mind says Tyagaraja.  My mind is not joyous today, I have to work at it. Setting aside ignorance and observing self restraint, let us shower lotus flowers on Him. Is grief for worldly matters also just ignorance? Is giving into distress a lack of self restraint? Perhaps this song is addressed to me after all.. Let us whole heartedly worship Sri Ramachandra so that there are not countless births and deaths. Today, with my heavy heart, I see the beasts hidden in the hearts of men..and if prayers can get me away from this cycle, I will pray with all my heart.

I present you M.S.Subbulakshmi who wrings every possible emotion out of Ahiri.

Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Telugu

Note: MS sings only a subset of the charanams which I have marked in blue. As I do not speak Telugu, the translation relies on various web resources (tyagaraja vaibhavam, sahityam, karnatik).

Transliteration in Devanagari

चल्लरे रामचन्द्रुनिपैनि पूल

चरणं 1
सॊम्पैन मनसुतो इम्पैन बंगारु
गम्पलतो मञ्चि चम्पकमुलनु

चरणं 2

पामरमुलु मानि नेममुतोनु
रमा मनो-हरुनि पैनि तामर पूल

चरणं 3

ई जगतिनि देव पूजार्हमौ पूल
राजिलो मेलैन जाजि सुममुल

चरणं 4
अमित पराक्रम द्युमणि कुलार्णव
विमल चन्द्रुनिपै हृत्कुमुद सुममुल

चरणं 5

धात विनुतुडैन सीता पति पैनि
चेतुलतो पारिजात सुममुल

चरणं 6
ऎन्न रानि जनन मरणमुलु लेकुण्ड
मनसार त्यागराज नुतुनि पैनि पूल

Transliteration in English

challarE rAmachandrunipaini pUla

charaNam 1
sompaina manasutO impaina bangAru
gampalatO manchi champakamulanu

charaNam 2
pAmaramulu mAni nEmamutOnu
ramA manOharuni paini tAmara pUla

charaNam 3
I jagatini dEva pUjArhamau pUla
rAjilO mElaina jAji sumamula

charaNam 4
amita parAkrama dyumaNi kulArNava
vimala chandrunipai hRt kumuda sumamula

charaNam 5
dhAta vinutuDaina sItA pati paini
cEtulatO pArijAta sumamula

charaNam 6
enna rAni janana maraNamulu lEkuNDa
manasAra tyAgarAja nutuni paini pUla


Let us shower (challarE) flowers (pUla) on (paini) Lord Ramachandra (ramachandruni).

With a joyous (sompaina) mind (manasutOnu), let us shower (implied) nice (manchi) champaka flowers (champakamulanu) from beautiful (impaina) golden (bangaru) baskets (gampalatO) .

Abandoning (mAni) ignorance (pAmaramulu) and observing self-restraint (nEmamutO), let us shower (implied) lotus (tAmara) flowers (pUla) on (paini) He who is beloved (manO haruni) to Lakshmi (ramA).

Let us shower (implied) jasmine (jAji) flowers (sumamula), the best (mElaina)  amongst all the flowers (rAjilO pUla) fit for (arhamau) worship (pUjArhamau) of the Gods (dEva) in this world (jagatini).

Let us shower (implied) the lotus  (kamala) flowers (sumamula) of our hearts (hRt) on the spotless (vimala) moon (chandra) of the ocean (arNava) of the Solar (mani=jewel, dyu=sky) dynasty (kula) with infinitely (amita) mighty(parAkrama).

Let us shower (implied) pArijata flowers (sumamula) with our hands (chEtulatO) on (paini) the consort (pati) of Sita, praised (vinutuDaina) by Brahma (dhAta).

Let us wholeheartedly (manasAra) shower (implied) flowers (pUla)  on He is who is worshipped (nutuni) by this Tyagaraja so that there are no more (lEka uNDa) countless (enna rAni) births (janana) and deaths (maraNamulu).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Tyagaraja

Priye Charusheele

Radha sad‘Oh my love! O my virtuous one!’ So addresses Krishna his beloved Radha in this 12th century song in Sanskrit by Jayadeva. His Gita Govindam, literally The Song of Krishna, consists of 12 chapters with a total of 24 songs, most with eight padas or couplets  (therefore also called Ashtapadi). In addition, there are 70 to 92 shlokas (depending on versions) in this great literary work, a true treasure of India.

Jayadeva was the court poet of king Lakshmanasena (1179-1205), a Vaishnavaite king. Jayadeva and his wife Padmavati enjoyed a long and happy marriage. There is an interesting story associated with this particular Ashtapadi. When he was composing this song, the following verse came to his mind :

स्मर गरल खण्डनम् मम शिरसि मण्डनम् देहि पदपल्लवम्  उदारम् ।

Place your tender feet on my head  as an ornament to refute  Cupid’s poison.

But he hesitated to write it down. Radha placing her feet on Krishna’s head? It is culturally so unacceptable! Without putting it down in the palm leaves, he left the incomplete song in his wife Padmavati’s hand and went to the river to bathe. While he was away, Lord Krishna is said to have taken Jayadeva’s form and visited his home. Taking the palm leaves from Padmavati, He wrote the very words that Jayadeva had hesitated to write. When Jayadeva returned, he saw the verse written down and realised that Lord Krishna himself had visited his home and written this verse.

Gita Govindam is a story of just one night, a night highly charged with emotions and passions. There is loneliness and longing, flirtation and jealousy, anger and pride and above all, the tenderness of love. This is lyrical and sensuous poetry, openly erotic in places; Jayadeva’s words will certainly make you blink or blush if you are old-fashioned. That said, however ‘old’ your ‘fashions’ are, surely it can’t be older than these words from the 12th century ! My song choice of today is relatively mild, only PG rated so you can read on..

The songs of Gita Govindam have come to be sung in different ragas in different regions of India though Jayadeva did set them to ragas. In the South, they are normally sung to the tunes set by Pudukkottai Gopalakrishna Bhagavatar but of course musicians and music composers may choose to present them in their own chosen ragas.

Priye! Charusheele! is refrain of song number nineteen from the 10th chapter. Radha is upset and angry with Krishna. In this song, he cajoles and flatters her, displaying his own love, longing and passion for her.  I have chosen to present two of my favourite renditions here today. (note: different subsets of the verses are sung)

The first is by O.S.Arun, in raga Vasanti. He is in great voice and this raga suits the mood of the song quite beautifully.

The second rendition is by T.M.Krishna in Mukhari. The viraha bhava is beautifully expressed in this raga. You can listen to it here (song 3).

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

वदसि यदि किङ्चिदपि दन्त रुचि कौमुदी हरति दर तिमिरम् अति घोरम् ।
स्फुरदधर सीधवे तव वदन चन्द्रमा रोचयतु लोचन चकोरम् ॥
प्रिये ! चारुशीले ! प्रिये !चारुशीले !
मुञ्च मयि मानम् अ निदानम् सपदि मदनानलो दहति मम मानसम् ।
देहि मुख कमल मधु पानम्
प्रिये ! चारुशीले ! प्रिये !चारुशीले ! ॥ -1-

vadasi yadi kinchidapi danta ruchi kaumudI harati dara timiram ati ghOram
sphuradadhara sIdhavE tava vadana chandramA rOchayatu lOchana chakOram
priyE! chArushIlE! priye! chArushIlE!
muncha mayi mAnam a nidAnam sapadi madanAnalO dahati mama mAnasam
dEhi mukha kamala madhu pAnam. priyE charushIlE! priyE charushIlE!

If (yadi) you say (vadasi) even (api) some small thing (kinchid), the moonshine-like (kaumudi) beauty (ruchi) of your (tava) teeth (danta) steals away (harati) the very (ati) terrible (ghOram), fearful (dara) gloom (timiram). Let my eyes (lOchana) find pleasure in (rOchayatu) in your (tava) face (vadana) with quivering (sphurat) nectarine (from sIdhu=nectar?) lips (adhara)  just like (implied) the chakora bird (chakOram) takes pleasure in the moon (chandrama).

O Beloved (priyE)! O virtuous one (chAru=beautiful shIlE=of character)!

Please set aside (muncha) this unfounded (a nidAnam) anger (mAnam) on me (mayi)! The fire (analah) of passion (madana) burns (dahati) my heart (mAnasam=mind) at present (sapadi). Please give (dEhi) me a drink (pAnam) of nectar (madhu) from your a lotus-like face (kamala mukha) (alternate : give me a nectar like (madhu) kiss (pAnam) from your lotus-like (kamala) mouth (mukha)).

O Beloved (priyE)! O virtuous one (chAru=beautiful shIlE=of character)!

सत्यमेवासि यदि सुदति मयि कोपिनी देहि खर नख शर घातम् ।
घटय भुज बन्धनम् जनय रद खण्डनम् येन वा भवति सुख जातम् ॥ –2-

satyamEvAsi yadi sudati mayi kOpinI dEhi khara nakha shara ghAtam
ghaTaya bhuja bandhanam janaya rada khaNDanam yEna vA bhavati sukha jAtam

O One with beautiful teeth (su dati)! If you are (tvam asi) truly (satyamEva) angry (kOpinI) with me (mayi), wound and injure me (dEhi shara ghAtam) with your sharp (khara) nails (nakha). Fetter me (bandhanam) by bringing together (ghaTaya) your arms (bhuja),  cause me (janaya ) hurt (khanDanam) with your teeth (rada), or whichever way (yEna vA) makes you happy (bhavati=happens, sukha=happiness, jAtam=born).

त्वमसि मम जीवनम् त्वमसि मम भूषणम् त्वमसि भव जलधिरत्नम् ।
भवतु भवतीह मयि सततम् अनुरोधिनि तत्र मम हृदयम्  अति यत्नम् ॥ –3-

tvamasi mama jIvanam tvamasi mama bhUshaNam tvamasi bhava jaladhiratnam
bhavatu bhavatIha mayi satatam anurOdhini tatra mama hRdaya ati yatnam

You are (tvam asi) my life (jIvanam), you are (tvam asi) my ornament (bhUshaNam), you are (tvam asi) the supreme jewel (adhiratna) of the ocean of my existence (bhava jala).   That (tatra=in this matter) you may be (bhavatI) gracious (anurOdhini bhavatu) with me (mayi) here (iha), in that (implied) my heart (hRdayam) will always (satatam) make the utmost effort (ati yatnam).

नील नलिन आभमपि तन्वि तव लोचनम् धारयति कोकनद रूपम् ।
कुसुम शर बाण भावेन यदि रञ्जयति कृष्णम् इदम् एतत् अनुरूपम् ॥ –4-

nIla nalina Abhamapi tanvi tava lOchanam dhArayati kOkanada rUpam
kusuma shara bANa bhAvEna yadi ranjayati kRshNam idam Etat anurUpam

O slender one (tanvi)! Though (api) your (tava) eyes (lochanam) resemble (Abham) a blue lotus (nIla nalina) now, in anger, (implied) they wear (dhArayati) the appearance (rUpa) of a red water lily (kOkanada).  If (yadi) they (idam) are transformed (bhAvEna) into flower-tipped (kusuma) arrows (shara bANa) (note: cupid’s love arrows are flower-tipped arrows) they will dye/redden (ranjayati) the dark-hued one (kRshNa) to match (anurUpam) (i.e he will be flushed with love).

स्फुरतु कुचकुम्भयोः उपरि मणि मञ्जरी रञ्जयतु तव हृदय देशम् |
रसतु रशना अपि तव घन जघन मण्डले घोषयतु मन्मथ निदेशम् |॥–5-

sphuratu kuchakumbhayOh upari maNi manjarI ranjayatu tava hRdaya dEsham
rasatu rashanA api tava ghana jaghana maNDale ghOshayatu manmatha nidEsham

The pearl (manjari) mani (ornament) on top of (upari) your (tava) water-pot like (kumbhayOH) breasts (kucha) quiver (sphuratu) on your (tava) chest (hRdaya=heart, dEsham=place). Let the girdle (rashanA) also (api) tinkle, make sounds (rasatu) on your compact (ghana) hip and loin (jaghana) areas (maNDalE) to proclaim aloud (ghOshayatu) Cupid’s (manmata) command (nidEsham).

स्थल कमल गञ्जनम् मम हृदय रञ्जनम् जनित रति रङ्ग पर भागम् ।
भण मसृण वाणि करवाणि चरण द्वयम्  सरस लसत् अलक्तक रागम् ॥ –6-

sthala kamala ganjanam mama hRdaya ranjanam janita rati ranga para bhAgam
bhaNa masRNa vANi karvANi charaNa dvayam sarasa lasat alaktaka rAgam

Like excellent (ganjanam) land-growing lotuses (sthara kamala), your feet (implied by next verse) delight (ranjanam) my (mama) heart (hRdaya) producing (janita) the pleasure of love (rati), colouring (ranga) another part (para bhAgam). Tell me (bhaNa vANi), what if I colour (karavANi=if I do, rAgam=colour) your two (dvayam) soft (masRNa) feet (charaNa) with red juice / lac (alaktaka) so they glitter (lasat) in passion (sarasa)?

स्मर गरल खण्डनम् मम शिरसि मण्डनम् देहि पद पल्लवम्  उदारम् ।
ज्वलति मयि दारुणो मदन कदनानलो हरतु तदुपाहित विकारम् ॥ –7-

smara garala khaNDanam mama shirasi maNDanam dEhi pada pallava udAram
jvalati mayi dAruNO madana kadanAnalO haratu tadupAhita vikAram

Place (dEhi=give) your tender (pallava-tender leaf) feet (pada) on my (mama) head (shirasi) as an ornament (manDanam) to refute (khanDanam) Cupid’s (smara) poison (garala). Cupid’s (madana) destructive (kadana) fire (analaH) burns (jvalati) intensely (dAruNah) in me (mayi), let your feet (implied) take away (haratu) that (tat) disquietitude (vikAram) caused by (implied) that fire (upAhita).

इति चटुल चाटु पटु चारु मुर वैरिणः राधिकाम् अधि वचन जातम् ।
जयति जयदेव कवि भारती भूषितम् मानिनी जन जनित अति शातम् ॥ –8-

(alternate rendition for last two lines:
जयतु पद्मावति रमण जयदेव कवि भारती भणितम् इति गीतम् ) 

iti chaTula chATu paTu chAru vairiNah rAdhikAm adhi vachana jAtam
jayati jayadEva kavi bhAratI bhUshitam mAninI jana janita ati shAtam

jayatu padmAvati ramaNa jayadEva kavi bhAratI bhaNitam iti gItam

Such (iti) were the sweet (chaTula) pleasing words (chATu) words (vachana) uttered (jAtam=happened) by the clever (paTu) and endearing (chAru) Krishna (=the enemy (viriNah) of Mura) to Radha (rAdhAm adhi). May the poet (kavi) Jayadeva’s well-adorned (bhUshitam) literary composition (bhArathI) result in (janita) extreme happiness (ati shAtam) for women folk (mAninI jana). [Alternate : Victory (jayatu) to the husband (ramaNa) of Padmavati. Such (iti) is the literary composition (bhArathi) uttered (bhaNitam) by the poet (kavi) Jayadeva, a song (gItam) of praise (paNita)] 


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, O.S.Arun, T.M.Krishna

Mehfil Mein Baar Baar


Love was in the air in February, thanks to Valentine’s Day. The shops were full of chocolates and other goodies. Television stations ran endless soppy chick-flicks. Though I happily watch the films when I can, I don’t really buy into the Valentine’s day hype. My husband and I mark our marriage anniversary which falls close to Valentine’s day and that seems more than enough. This year we celebrated our 33rd year as a married couple –it sounds like a big number but time just flew by..

Though our marriage came by from our having fallen in love, we both will be the first to admit that our ‘mixed’ marriage was quite a challenge. I didn’t speak his language then, he still doesn’t speak mine. I love the arts. He swears by sports. I hoard my art magazines. He hoards his car magazines. I am fascinated by history but am bored speechless by politics or current affairs. He is the exact opposite. I like fiction and fantasy. He likes biographies and business tales. I am a dedicated vegetarian, I eat to live. He eats anything, he lives to eat. I anger rarely but forgive with difficulty. He angers quickly but forgives the next moment. I am careful with money. He is generous and extravagant. I find peace in temples. He won’t step into them. If we have lasted 33 years, I don’t give credit to love – instead I think of everything else which makes a marriage work, like respect and understanding, compassion and forgiveness, acceptance and compromise – these seem far more important to me than love.

And yet…it all resulted from having fallen in love. All of us (I hope!) have this as a common life experience – that heady, uncomfortable, exciting, joyful, miserable state that we call being in love. So a month late, I am going to concentrate on love-themed music for March.

My first choice is this beautiful ghazal in Urdu written by Agha Bismil. I loved the song from the very first time I heard it sung by Ghulam Ali; years later I still love it! It is very popular and you might well know it already but this time, walk with me to enjoy the nuances of the poetry.

As is the norm, Ghulam Ali starts with a few  couplets to set the stage before he commences on the song (Note: authorship of couplets unknown to me). Here is a young man grieving a lost love. He clings to hope, remembering the few moments of joy they had shared. Meeting her is a bitter-sweet experience, his happiness in glimpsing her is followed by sadness afterwards. Hoping that she has come to regret casting him out, he comes once more to a gathering where he hopes to meet her.

चंद कलियाँ निशात की चुनकर |
मुद्दतों महर-ए-आस रहता हूँ ||
तेरा मिलना ख़ुशी की बात सही |
तुझसे मिलकर उदास रहता हूँ  ||
नज़र नज़र से मिलाओ बहार के दिन हैं |
ग़मो को भूल भी जाओ बहार के दिन हैं ||
शायद मुझे निकाल के पछता रहे हो आप |
महफ़िल में इस ख़याल से फिर आ गया हूँ मैं ||

chand kaliyA.n nishAt kI chunkar
muddatO.n mehr-E-As rehtA hU.n
tErA milnA khushI kI bAt sahI
tujhsE milkar udAs rehtA hU.n
nazar nazar sE milA-O bahAr kE din hai.n
.gamO.n kO bhUl jA-O bahAr kE din hai.n
shAyad mujhE nikAl kE paCHtA rahE hO Ap
mehfil mE.n is .khayAl sE phir A gayA hU.n mai.n

Having chosen (chunkar) a few (chand) flowers (kaliyA.n) of happiness (nishAt), I have remained (rehtA hU.n) in expectation (As) of kindness (mehr) for a long time (muddatO.n).
Meeting you (tErA milnA) may well be (sahI) a matter of joy (khushI kI bAt), yet (implied) I remain (rehtA hU.n) sad (udAs) after meeting you (tujhsE milkar).
Meet my eyes (nazar nazar sE milA-O), it is spring time (bahAr kE din hai.n). Forget (bhUl jA-O)  your sorrows (.gamO.n), it is spring time (bahAr kE din hai.n).
Perhaps (shAyad) you (Ap) regret (paCHtA rahE hO) having sent me away (mujhe nikAl kE)? On this thought (is .khayAl sE), I (mai.n) have again (phir) returned (A gayA hU.n) to the gathering (mehfil mE.n).

The first couplet of the song is my very favourite. The poet expresses that helplessness of attraction so very perfectly!! Again and again his eyes land on her. He tries so hard to avoid it, but no, his eyes have a will of their own. I love how Ghulam Ali renders ‘bAr bAr’..gentle and perfect! And his skills with the harmonium….Oooooooh!

महफ़िल में बार बार किसी पर नज़र गई |
हमने बचाई लाख मगर फिर उधर गई ||

mehfil mE.n bAr bAr kisI par nazar ga-I
humnE bachA-I lAkh magar phir udhar ga-I

In the gathering (mehfil mE.n), my eyes fell (nazar ga-I) again and again (bAr bAr) on somebody (kisI par). I tried hard to avoid it (humnE bachA-I lAkh=I saved a hundred thousand times), but (magar) again (phir) my eyes fell (ga-I) there (udhar).

She has cast a spell on him, it seems. He wonders if there is some magic in her eyes which make all those on whom she casts her eyes to fall for her.

उनकी नज़र में कोई तो जादू ज़ुरूर है |
जिस पर पड़ी, उसी के जिगर तक उतर गई ||

unkI nazar mE.n kO-I tO jAdU zurUr hai
jis par paDI, usI kE jigar tak utar ga-I

Surely(tO) her eyes have (unkI nazar mE.n) some (kO-I)  magic in them (jAdU hai)! On whomever (jis pas) they land (paDI), it goes straight into (utar ga-I) their (usI kE) hearts (jigar).

But wait! His longing glances haven’t been in vain! Are those tears which spill out of her eyes? Does that mean she loves him still? The poet is very successful in expressing that hope which every unrequited love has, that somehow that love is reciprocated. Did you note how Ghulam Ali presents the word ‘paDE’ to show the falling of tears?

उस बेवफा की आँख से आँसू छलक पड़े |
हसरत भरी निगाह बड़ा काम कर गई ||

us bE-wafA kI Ankh sE A.nsU CHalak paDE
hasrat bharI nigAh baDA kAm kar ga-I

Tears (A.nsU) spill  (CHalAk paDE) from (sE) the eyes of (kI Ankh) that unfaithful one (us bE-wafA). My longing (hasrat bharI) looks (nigAh)  have achieved something (kAm kar ga-I) important / big (baDA)!

Until now the poet hasn’t mentioned her beauty. Is it because now that she has shown emotion, he can once more allow himself to be enraptured by her radiance? Don’t foget to note Ghulam Ali’s little demo of his three-Octave voice range..

उनके जमाल-ए-रुख पे उन्ही का जमाल था |
वोह चल दिए तो रौनक-इ-शाम-ओ-सहर गई ||

unkE jamAl-E-rukh pE unhI kA jamAl thA
woh chal diyE tO raunak-E-shAm-O-sahar ga-I

She was beautiful (jamAl thA) with the radiance (jamAl=beauty, here radiance fits better) of her own (unhI kE) face (rukh). When (tO) she (wOh) went (chal diyE), even the brilliance (raunak) of dawn (sahar) and dusk (shAm) faded (ga-I).

Those tears, does it mean she still cares for him? Shall he send a message? Tell her, he says, that Bismil is close to death. I assume this is metaphorical! Surely, he says, she will come if she knew? This is a verse of hope, a hope which has revived on seeing an emotional response from her.

उनको खबर करो के है बिस्मिल करीब-ए-मर्ग |
वोह आयेंगे ज़ुरूर जो उन तक खबर गई ||

unkO khabar karO ke hai ‘Bismil’ karIb-E-marg
wOh AyEngE zurUr  jO un tak khabar ga-I

Give him the news (unkO khaba karO) that (ke) Bismil (name of poet) is close (karIb) to death (marg). She (wOh) will surely (zurUr) come (AyEngE) once (jO) news reaches her (un tak khabar ga-I).

We don’t know what happens next. Did the friend take the message? Did she come? Did they get together once more? If he sang with Ghulam Ali’s voice, which woman could resist him? Not this one….

Enjoy this wonderful live presentation (from the start, 18:06 mins) by the master of the art of Ghazal singing. The accompanying artists are excellent; unusual but lovely to see a violinist on the dais with Ghulam Ali.


Filed under Ghazal, Ghulam Ali

Kaalai Thookki

Happy Shivaratri to everybody! May the One Who Dances keep you safe and happy!

NatarajaReaders who have been with me for a while know my bent towards Gods who dance. Over time, in different parts of the world, we humans have nominated many Gods. There are interesting commonalities. Natural phenomena such as rain and thunder are popular such as Indra (Hindu) and Thor (Norse). Astronomical deities are also prevalent, such as Chandra (Hindu), Ra (Egyptian) and Mama Killa (Inca). Human skill sets have a great deal of importance too, such as Saraswati (Hindu) and Apollo (Greek), both associated with knowledge, music, arts. As are human calamities such as war-Kartikeya (Hindu), Thor and Tyr (Norse) are examples. Wealth is naturally important, take Lakshmi (Hindu) or Caishen (Chinese). My point is that there are certain themes for which humankind have felt the need of Gods. But amongst all that, the idea of a God who dances to keep the world in motion- that is indeed unique. What a perfect idea!! His drum keeps time while he dances joyfully! And then someone somewhere came up with the idea of depicting this God in the form of Nataraja. Is there anything which is more perfect? And then someone else built a temple for this God in Thillai. And then poets and devotees sang to Him. Such is the song that I have selected for you today. It is written by Marimuttu Pillai (1712-1787), one of eminent pre-trinity Tamil composers and set to Raga Yadukula Kambhoji.

O Lord  who dances with his foot raised, please raise your hand to reign over me! ‘ pleads the poet. The word for raise and that for holding up or carrying is the same in Tamil and the poet has used this word as a theme throughout the song. I very much enjoy Sanjay Subramanyan’s rendition, which I hope you will enjoy too!

Alternate link : Click here


Footnote (Lyrics) :


காலை தூக்கி நின்று ஆடும் தெய்வமே என்னை கை தூக்கி ஆள் தெய்வமே

வேலை தூக்கும் பிள்ளை தனை பெற்ற தெய்வமே
மின்னும் புகழ்சேர் தில்லை பொன் அம்பலத்தில் ஒரு

செங்கையில் மான் தூக்கி சிவந்த மழுவும் தூக்கி
அங்கத்தில் ஒரு பெண்ணை அனுதினமும் தூக்கி
கங்கையை திங்களை கதித்த  சடைமேல் தூக்கி
இங்கும் அங்குமாய் தேடி இருவர் கண்டறியாத


kAlai tUkki ninDRu ADum deivamE ennai kai tUkki AL deivamE

vElai tUkkum piLLaitanai peTRa deivamE
minnum pugazhsEr tillai pon ambalattil oru

senkaiyil mAn tUkki sivanda mazhuvum tUkki
angattil oru peNNai anudinamum tUkki
gangayai tingaLai gatitta sadaimEl tUkki
ingum angumAi tEDi iruvar kanDaRiyAda


O Lord (deivamE) who dances (ADum) with his foot (kAlai) raised (tUkki), please raise (tUkki) your hand (kai) to reign (AL) over me (ennai)!

O Lord (deivamE) who bore (peTRa) the son who (piLLAI tanai) holds up (tUkkum) the spear (vElai)! In the glorious (pugazhsEr) sparkling (minnum) golden (pon) temple (amabalattil) of Chidambaram (tillai), (connection to pallavi – O Lord who raises) one (oru)…

Holding (tUkki) a deer (mAn) and also a reddish (sivanda) battle-axe (mazhu) in your beautiful hands (sem+kaiyyil=senkaiyyil) , He also always (anudinam) holds (tUkki) a woman (peNNai) on his body (angattil) (referring to Parvati on his lap? or half his body as Ardhanareeshwara?). He holds (tUkki) Ganga and the Moon (tingaL) on his thick (gatitta) locks (shadaiymel). He is unknown even to (kanDu + ariyAda = not seen and known) those who search (tEDi) here (ingum) and there (angumai), as did Brahma and Vishnu (Iruvar=the two, referring to the Legend of Shiva Linga, one form of which you can read here).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Marimuttu Pillai, Sanjay Subrahmanyan


Shiva MeditatingI have come back to my blogging after a short hiatus; life just seemed to take over these past two months. While most Carnatic Music fans immersed themselves in music during this season, I switched of all music and concentrated on my family and friends.

But I am back now, trawling the web for everything I missed during my time-out. I landed immediately on Jaya TV’s Margazhi Maha Utsavam videos on Youtube and selected Ranjani and Gayatri’s performance for my first listen. It turned out to be a great choice, a very good concert with a nice variety. Their theme was ‘Ezhil Mozhi Ezhu Mozhi’. They presented songs in seven languages – Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi. Nice theme. Following is the song list with the start time in the videos :

1. Swaminatha Paripalaya (Sanskrit), Natta, Dikshithar (Part 1, 1:21)
2. Adedella (Kannada), Purvi Kalyani, Purandara Dasa (Part 1, 09:28)
3. Kantanodu (Malayalam), Neelambari, Swati Thirunal (Part 1,  34:06)
4. Viruttam (Ragamalika in Saveri-Kanada-Sindhu Bhairavi) (Part 1, 41:54)
5. Chandrashekara (Tamil), Sindhu Bhairavi, Anai Vaidyanatha Iyer (Part 1, 49:12)
6. Pakkala Nilabadi with Alapana (Telugu), Kharaharapriya, Tyagaraja (Part 2, 1:00)
6. Ram Nam Tu Japa (Hindi), Lalit (Hindustani), Khalis (?) (Part 2, 33:45)
7. Devar Varuga (Tamil), Ragamalika, Subramanya Bharathi (Part 2, 40:49)
8. Dhanya Dhanya Te Sharira (Abhang in Marathi), Durga, Sant Eknath (Part 2, 47:22)

Ranjani and Gayatri were accompanied on the violin by B.V.Ganesh Prasad, Mridangam by N.Manoj Siva and Ghatam by Chandrashekhar Sharma. Listening to music after a break, everything sounded good to my starved ears! I was especially taken by their Purvi Kalyani, being one of my favourite ragas as also the beautiful rendition in Lalit. But it was Sindhu Bhairavi which drew me back for an immediate second-helping and so that is what I shall offer you today.

Chandrashekhara was preceded by a viruttam consisting of two pieces of poetry from the tevarams. The first one by Tirumular திருமூலர் was sung in Saveri. It seems to have a simple message ‘God will reside in the hearts of those who seek him’.

நாடும் நகரமும் நற்றிருக் கோயிலும்
தேடித் திரிந்து சிவ பெருமான் என்று
பாடுமின் பாடிப் பணிமின் பணிந்தபின்
கூடிய நெஞ்சத்தைக் கோயிலாக் கொள்வனே  (திருமுறை 10)

nADum nagaramum naTRiruk kOyilum
tEDit tirindu siva perumAn enDRu
pADumin pADip paNImin paNindapin
kUDiya nenjattaik kOyilAk koLvanE

Wander you through town and villa
Seek Him through shrine and temple
Sing of Him as ‘Siva, Siva, my Lord’
And thus do you offer
worship meek,
And the Lord will make your heart His temple (source :

The second piece of poetry was written by Appar Tirunavukkarasar அப்பர் திருநாவுக்கரசர். It was sung in Kanada and Sindhu Bhairavi. What a marvellous bit of poetry! I sympathise if you don’t speak Tamil because the beauty of it is tied to the beauty of the language and much is lost in translation. Here Appar describes the Lord’s characteristics in poetic terms.

மண்ணாகி விண்ணாகி மலையுமாகி
வயிரமுமாய் மாணிக்கம் தானேயாகி
கண்ணாகி கண்ணுக்கோர் மணியுமாகி
கலையாகி கலைஞானம் தானேயாகி
பெண்ணாகி பெண்ணுக்கோர்  ஆணுமாகி
பிரளயத்துக் அப்பாற் ஓர் அண்டமாகி
எண்ணாகி எண்ணுக்கோர் எழுத்துமாகி
எழுஞ்சுடராய் எம்மடிகள்  நின்ற வாறே (திருமுறை 6.94.2)

maNNAgi viNNAgi malaiyAgi
vayiramumAi  mANikkam tAnEyAgi
kaNNAgi kaNNukkOr maNiyumAgi
kalaiyAgi kalai.nyanam tAnEyAgi
peNNAgi peNNukkOr ANumAgi
praLayattuk appAR Or anDamAgi
eNNAgi eNNukkOr ezhuttumAgi
ezhunchuDarAi emmaDigaL ninDRa vARE

As earth,
heaven and mountain,
As diamond and ruby itself,
As eye and pupil of eye,
As Sastras and the Sastraic Wisdom itself,
As woman,
and man for the woman,
As the universe beyond Dissolution,
As Thought and as letters therefore,
As rising radiance,
our God abides for ever  (source :

Chandrashekhara by Anai Vaidyanatha Iyer in set to raga Sindhu Bhairavi and has a very bhajan like feel. The sisters sang it just beautifully (except for that one moment in Kanada but I am just being picky), I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Viruttam starts at 41:51.



Footnote (Lyrics) :
சந்திரசேகரா ஈசா  ஈசா  சுந்தரேச்வரா கௌரீசா சென்ஜடாதரா

அந்தி வண்ணனே சம்போ அருள் முக்கண்ணனே ச்வயம்போ
சிந்தை தீர்க்க வந்தாய் சிதம்பரேசா கைலாச வாசா


chandrashEkharA IshA IshA sundareshvarA gaurIshA shenjaTAdharA

andI vaNNanE shambhO aruL mukkannanE svayambhO
chintai tIra vandAi chidambarEshA kailAsa vAsA


O Lord (IshA) Shiva (chandrashEkharA), O Beautiful (sundara) Lord (IshwarA), the Lord (IshA) of Parvati (gaurI), the one with reddish (செம்-shem) matted hair (jatAdharA).

O Shambho, coloured (vaNNanE) like dusk (andi)! O compassionate (aruL) three-eyed (mukkaNNanE) one! O self-born one (svayambhO)! You have come (vandAy) to relieve (tIrkka) us of our worries (chintai), O Lord (IshwarA) of Chidambaram, the one who resides (vAsA) in Kailasa!


Filed under Anai Vaidyanatha Iyer, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Ranjani Gayatri

O Holy Night

XMas wishes

Merry Christmas everybody! I have been happily overdosing on Christmas carols to celebrate the season. I adore the old favourites, they just put me in the spirit. And no, there is no ‘corny’ when it comes to Christmas music! One of my favourite carols is O Holy Night and this morning I listened with great pleasure to Celine Dion’s incredible voice soaring wonderfully over the scales of this song. I hope you share in my pleasure.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Their name forever praise we,
Noel, Noel, O Night, O Night Divine!
Noel, Noel, O Night, O Holy Night!


Filed under Festive

Bhaja Govindam

Adi ShankaracharyaIt was more than a month ago. I had a call from an old friend in Dubai. ‘Suja, Ravi here. It’s bad news. Gautam is no more’. My mind went blank for a few minutes, I could not quite come to grips with the explanations that followed.

Through the next few days I learnt of more details. I struggled with my emotions, seemingly having lost control of my tear ducts which welled up during the most mundane activities in my life. My husband and I met Gautam in 1985 when we were all very young. There were times when we saw a lot of each other, there were times when we hardly met. Yet he was there. And now he was no more. He was only 53. Father to two beloved  sons, husband to a now desolate wife, he died alone in a hotel room while on a business trip in Singapore. I have taken it harder than I would have thought; after all, we did not live in each other’s pockets. Yet with him gone, I feel as if I have lost a part of the history of my life for he was very much part of it.

Two weeks back I flew into Australia. For those who are newcomers to my blog, my husband and I live in Switzerland, my two grown children live and work in Australia. Trying to live in perpetual summer, I almost always visit Australia in Dec-Jan. Meeting mutual friends of Gautam here was a heart-rending experience as we relived shared moments of our lives.

I tried to write this post a couple of weeks back but grief overcame me and I could not write sensibly at all. But even then a couple of verses from Bhaja Govindam kept running as a refrain in my head –  पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम् – Once again birth, once again death, once again lying down in the womb of a mother. How fragile life is, how uncertain. One day a man goes to work and the next day he is no more. It seems so unbelievable! Adi Shankaracharya (788-820?) advises us to worship Govinda, pointing out to us fools ‘मूढमते’,  the illusory nature of life on earth. I have heard this sung hundreds of times, I have myself recited it many times, but today I have finally come to grips with Shankaracharya’s verses.

Listen below to M.S.Subbulakshmi sing the version she made famous. She sings only 10 out of the 31 verses. See footnote for my translation of the verses which are sung. If you are interested, the words of the complete version can be found easily online.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

Note: I am giving below only the verses sung in M.S.Subbulakshmi’s rendition, with the actual verse number in the full version for reference.

Raga : Yamuna Kalyani

भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं गोविन्दं भज मूढमते ।
संप्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ् करणे ॥ १ ॥

bhaja gOvindam, bhaja gOvindam, gOvindam bhaja mUDHamatE samprAptE sannihitE kAlE nahi nahi rakshati DukR.nkaraNE   ॥ 1 ॥

Worship (bhaja) Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool (mUDHamatE)! On reaching (sampraptE) close to (sannihitE) the appointed time of death (kAlE, time, implies time of death), grammatical formulae (DukR.nkaranE) will not save you (nahi nahi rakshati).

Raga : Brindavana Saranga

मूढ जहीहि धनागमतृष्णां कुरु सद्बुद्धिं मनसि वितृष्णाम् ।
यल्लभसे निज कर्मोपात्तं वित्तं तेन विनोदय चित्तम् ॥ २ ॥

mUDHa jahIhi dhanAgamatRshNAm kuru sadbuddhim manasi vitRshNAm
yallabhasE nija karmOpAttam vittam tEna vinOdaya chittam ॥ 2॥

O Fool (mUDHa)! Abandon (jahI, verb jahita) the desire (tRshNA) for the acquisition (Agama) of wealth (dhana) now (iha)! In a mind without desire (manasi vitRshNAm), comprehend (kuru buddhim) the Truth (sat). That (yat) that you obtain (labhasE) as your own (nija) work’s (karma) gain (upAttam), delight (vinodaya) your mind (chittam) with that (tEna) wealth (vittam).

Raga: Pantuvarali

यावद्वित्तोपार्जन सक्तः तावन्निज परिवारो रक्तः ।
पश्चाज्जीवति जर्जर देहे वार्तां कोऽपि न पृच्छति गेहे ॥  ॥

yAvadvittOpArjana saktah tAvannija parivArO raktah
paschAjjIvati jarjara dEhE vArtAm kO’pi na pRchCHati gEhE ॥ 4॥

As long as (yAvat) one is engaged in (saktah) earning (upArjana) wealth (vitta), till that time (tAvat) one’s own (nija) family (parivAra) remains attached (raktah) (implied: to you). Later (pashchAt) while one lives on (jIvati) in a decrepit/aged (jarjara) body (dEha), no one (kah api) in the house (gEha) inquires (pRchCHa) of one’s news (vArtA).

Raga : Bageshri

मा कुरु धन जन यौवन गर्वं हरति निमेषात्कालः सर्वम् ।
मायामयमिदमखिलं हित्वा ब्रह्मपदं त्वं प्रविश विदित्वा ॥ 11 ॥

mA kutu dhana jana yauvana garvam harati nimEshAtkAlah sarvam
mAyAmaymidamakhilam hitvA brahmapadam tvam pravisha viditvA ॥ ११ ॥

Do not be (ma kuru = do not do) proud (garva) of wealth (dhana), tribe (jana) or youth (yauvana). Time (kAla) can take away (harati) everything (sarva) in a moment (nimEsha)! Abandoning (hitvA) this (idam)  illusory (mAyamayam) universe (akhilam), with realisation (viditvA), you (tvam) should (implied) resort to (pravisham) the place of Brahma (brahmapadam).

Raga : Behag

सुर मंदिर तरु मूल निवासः शय्या भूतलमजिनं वासः ।
सर्व परिग्रह भोग त्यागः कस्य सुखं न करोति विरागः ॥ १८  ॥

sura mandira taru mUla nivAsah shayyA bhUtala majinam vAsah
sarva parigraha bhOga tyAgah kasya sukham na karOti virAgah ॥ 18॥

Dwell (nivAsa) in the temple (mandira) of Gods (sura), in the roots (mUla) of trees (taru). Live (Vasah) with a deer skin (ajinam) on the earth (bhUtala) as bed (shayyA).  Renounce (tyAga) the claim on (parigraha) all (sarva) possessions/enjoyment (bhOga). Who (kasya) will not be (na karOti) happy (sukha) with such indifference to worldly things (virAga)?

Raga : Nadanamakriya

भगवद् गीता किञ्चिदधीता गङ्गा जल लव कणिका पीता ।
सकृदपि येन मुरारि समर्चा क्रियते तस्य यमेन न चर्चा ॥ २० ॥

bhagavad gItA kinchidaDHItA gangA jala lava kaNikA pItA
sakRdapi yEna murAri samarchA kriyatE tasya yamEna na charchA ॥ 20 ॥

Yama (Lord of Death) does not argue (kriyatE na charchA) with one who has read (adhITa) a little bit (kinchit) of the Bhagavat Gita, sipped (pIta) even a drop (kaNikA) of a bit of (lava) of water (jala) of the Ganges (gangA), by whom (yEna) Lord Krishna (murAri) has been worshipped (samarcha) even (api) once (sakRt).

Raga : Kapi

पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम् ।
इह संसारे बहुदुस्तारे कृपयाऽपारे पाहि मुरारे ॥ २१ ॥

punarapi jananam punarapi maraNam punarapi jananI jaTHarE shayanam
iha sa.msArE bahudustArE kRpayA’pArE pAhi murArE ॥ 21 ॥

Once again (punarapi) birth (jananam), once again (punarapi) death (maraNam), once again (punarapi) lying down (shayanam) in the womb (jaTHara) of a mother (jananI)….in this (iha) world (sa.msArE) which is so much (bahu) difficult to endure (dustAra), with boundless (apAra) compassion (kRpA), protect me (pAhi) O Krishna (murArE) !

Raga : Mohanam

गेयं गीता नाम सहस्रं ध्येयं श्रीपति रूपमजस्रम् ।
नेयं सज्जन सङ्गे चित्तं देयं दीनजनाय च वित्तम् ॥ २७ ॥

gEyam gItA nAma sahasram dhyEyam shrIpati rUpamajasram
nEyam sajjan sa.ngE chittam dEyam dInajanAya cha vittam ॥27॥

That which ought to be sung (gEyam) is the Gita and the thousand (sahasram) names of the Lord (nAma). That which ought to be meditated on (dhyEyam) endlessly (ajasram) is the form (rUpam) of Vishnu, the consort of Lakshmi (shrIpati). That to which the mind (chittam) ought to be led to (nEyam) is the company (sa.ngam) of virtuous people (sajjana). That which ought to be given (dEyam) is the wealth (vittam) to the wretched (dIna) people (jana).

Raga : Senjurutti

अर्थमनर्थं भावय नित्यं नास्ति ततः सुखलेशः सत्यम् ।
पुत्रादपि धन भाजां भीतिः सर्वत्रैषा विहिता रीतिः ॥ २९ ॥

arTHamanarTHam bhAvaya nityam nAsti tatah sukhalEshah satyam
putrAdapi dhana bhAjAm bhItih sarvatraishA vihitA rItih ॥ 29॥

There is no (na asti) true (satyam) divine (Esha) joy (sukha) resulting from (tatah) wealth (artha) on which one thinks of (bhAvaya) all the time (nityam) uselessly (anartha).  One fears (bhIti) sharing (bhAja) wealth (dhana) even (api) with one’s son (putrAt)! This (EshA) practice (rIti) is followed (vihita) everywhere (sarvatra).

Raga : Sindhu Bhairavi

गुरुचरणाम्बुज निर्भर भक्तः संसारादचिराद्भव मुक्तः ।
सेन्द्रियमानस नियमादेवं द्रक्ष्यसि निज हृदयस्थं देवम् ॥ ३१ ॥

gurucharaNambuja nirbhara bhaktah sa.msArAdachirAdbhava muktah
sEndriyamAnasa niyamAdEvam drashyasi nija hRdayastham dEvam
॥ 31 ॥

The devotee (bhakta) who relies on (nirbhara) on the lotus-feet (charaNa ambuja) of the Guru is soon (achirat) liberated (mukta) from being (bhava) in this cycle of worldly existence (sa.msAra). Indeed (Eva), with restraint/control (niyamat) of his senses (indriya) with (sa) his mind (mAnasa), he sees (drashyasi) the God (dEva) who is in his own (nija) heart (hRdayasTHa).


Filed under Adi Shankaracharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Religious