Kamakshi Bangaru

KamakshiHappy Navaratri, Dussera and Durga Puja to all my readers! I hope you are all enjoying the festivities of this season!

I feel very blessed by the Goddesses this week; we’ve had some very good news in the family. My son has just been accepted into the College of Psychiatry, a dream he has had for a long time.  For those who haven’t read my occasional forays into personal life, my son (25) is a doctor currently working as a Resident. He has long dreamed of becoming a Psychiatrist. His getting a placement as a Psych Registrar is a very big step in the many steps that it has taken to embark on his chosen career. It feels especially good to get this news during Navaratri.

I believe he owes his success to his worship of the Goddesses, but not in any way you imagine. In fact, much to my distress, he claims to be somewhere between atheistic and agnostic. So why do I say that he worships the Goddesses? Is it possible to get blessings without a single shlOka or puja, without even acknowledging the existence of the Goddesses? Let me share my thoughts…(Note: I am in a mood to ramble, so if you want just the music, jump right ahead!)

We believers think that our Gods and Goddesses are omnipresent. That they are present both in those who acknowledge them and those who don’t. Let us search for Shakti first. She is manifest as energy all around us. Touch your skin – even the warmth there is but a manifestation of the energy your cells create. But just as in a temple we need to perform a prANa pratishTHa to consecrate the idol and bring the power of the deity within it, we too need to ‘consecrate’ ourselves to let her manifest her powers within us. How can we do that? I have a theory..

Is Shakti not energy? So if we follow our goals with energy and vigour, surely it is a celebration of her! Shakti is prANa, the life energy itself. How better to worship her than by looking after the health of our bodies and minds? Shakti is courage. By developing our self-confidence and courage, we invite Her to take residence in our hearts. As a baby my son was afraid of the whole world. I could not even enter a lift if there were others there! It took years of coaxing for him to accept the world outside our family. As a boy, he was shy and retiring. He would hardly meet anyone’s eyes when he talked. I remember a moment of pride when at sixteen he voluntarily walked up to a visitor at home and introduced himself; it felt as if he had crossed an important threshold! When he bravely presented a research paper at a Psych conference at 21, almost a decade younger than the next youngest conference attendee, I was bursting with pride. I have seen him slowly build on his courage, his self-confidence to a level that he performs very well in interviews. If this is not the prANa pratishTHa  of Shakti, what is?

Lakshmi too is ever present in our lives. Every time anything good has happened to you, every time you have felt lucky, every time you have enjoyed a sense of well-being and happiness, it is but Lakshmi kaTAksham – Her eye has fallen on you. Or so I believe. She may look in our direction but unless we have done the groundwork to receive it, her blessings may slip and fall from our fingers! In his last rotation, my son was lucky enough to have the Head of Psych Training of another leading hospital as his supervisor. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. She gave a glowing reference saying that ‘I’ll be happy to work with him as my colleague’! By working hard and well enough to gain such a reference, he prepared himself to receive Lakshmi’s blessings; I see it as Lakshmi pratishTHa.  At another conference he attended, he learnt that one of the interview panellists was there. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. He walked up to him and introduced himself, talking of the job he hoped to get. That is Lakshmi pratishTHa. A senior nurse he worked with happened purely by chance to meet one of the panellists. She remembered my son voluntarily and spoke well of him. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. That he had established a good relationship with the nursing staff, that is Lakshmi pratishTHA.

Where would we be without Saraswati? Knowledge governs our life at every turn. An infant who recognizes his mother as his source of nourishment and succour, even that infant has an important piece of knowledge. We are bombarded with information in this world, we absorb only a minute fraction of which even a smaller fraction gets converted into knowledge. As to wisdom, I don’t know how one gets that but I hope that one day our knowledge leads us to wisdom! Is not Saraswati in all sources of knowledge,  in all wisdom? When we convert information to knowledge and then into wisdom, what is it but Saraswati pratishTHa? Even with his limited income as an intern and a resident, my son made the effort to attend many seminars and conferences in Psychiatry over the past two years. I myself was surprised when I saw his CV – ‘When did he get the time to do all that?’ I wondered. When we pursue knowledge we are but paying homage to the Goddess!

I have rambled on a bit, haven’t I? But then a proud mama is allowed to gloat a while! But back now to music. My song choice today is a composition by Shyama Shastri in the Raga Varali. ‘Please protect me’ says the composer, invoking the many qualities and symbolisms of the Goddess. He was a priest at the Kamakshi temple in Tanjavur; his love for his Goddess is very evident in this composition. I present below this beautiful song in the mellifluous voice of Bombay Jayashri.

Alternate link : Click here

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

कामाक्षि बङ्गारु कामाक्षि (अम्बा)
नन्नु ब्रोववे

तामसमेले रावे
साम गान लोले सुशीले

श्याम कृष्ण परिपालिनी
शुक श्यामळे  शिव शङ्करी
शूलिनी सदा शिवुनिकि राणी
विशालाक्षि  तरुणी  शाश्वत रूपिणी

स्वर  साहित्य
ना मनविनि विनु देवी
नीवे गतियनि नम्मिनानु
मायम्मा  वेगमे करुण जूडवम्मा
बङ्गारु बॊम्मा


kAmAkshi bangAru kAmAkshi (ambA)
nannu brOvavE

tAmasamElE rAvE
sAma gAna lOlE sushIlE

shyAma kRshNa paripAlinI
shuka shyAmaLE shiva shankarI
shUlinI sadA shivuniki rANI
vishAlAkshi taruNI shAshvata rUpiNI

svara sAhitya
nA manavini vinu dEvI
nIvE gatiyani namminAnu
mAyammA vEgamE karuNa jUDavammA
bangAru bommA

Translation :

Note : I do not speak Telugu; I have sourced the translation from multiple web sources.

O Kamakshi! O Golden (bangAru) Kamakshi! Please protect (brOvavE) me (nannu). Why (Ela) delay (tAmasam)? Please come (rAvE)!  O Enjoyer (lOlE) of recitation (gAna) of sAma vEda! O Virtuous One (sushIlE)!

O One who protects (paripAlinI) shyAma kRshNa (signature of composer)! O dark-skinned One (shyAmaLE) who holds a parrot (shuka)! O Consort of Shiva (shiva shankarI)! O One who holds a trident (shUlinI)! O Queen Consort (rANI) of shivA (shivuniki)! O Large-eyed One (visAlAkshi)! O youthful One (taruNI)! O One who is manifest (rUpiNI) eternally (shAshvata) !

O Goddess (dEvI)! Please listen (vinu) to my (nA) plea (manavini). I trust(namminAnu) you alone (nIvE) to be (ani) my refuge (gati)!! O my (mA) mother (ammA)! Quickly (vEgamE) show (jUDu) mercy (karuNa) O Mother (ammA)! O Golden (bangAru) Idol (bommA)!


Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Shyama Shastri

N.Ramani RIP

N Ramani RIP

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October 9, 2015 · 8:05 am

Chetah Sri Balakrishnam

Krishna baby on leafI’m home! What a busy month I have had! At the start of September, my friend and I went to Moscow and St Petersburg for 9 days. Russia was so very impressive! Then there was a bit of local tourism in Switzerland before setting off for a 10 day driving tour in Italy. We’ve been to Italy many times, but we always find something new to savour and enjoy. As we drove about 2700 km, there was enough time to listen to music – but it was all Hindi film songs, Ghazals, Bhajans and Qawwalis. No Carnatic Music (CM) at all. I do enjoy all these forms but how I missed CM! You can well imagine what I have been doing since I am back to my normal routine since Wednesday…  It was only when I let the sounds of CM seep into my soul that I felt truly home.  It is indeed my ‘ishTa gAnam’ !

That was not always the case. I have often mentioned in this blog that I was brought up in a family where CM was like a playback track to life. But in my teen years, the music that I chose for myself was mostly Hindi film music. I did like CM, but it was limited to just a few artists…and I preferred instrumentals mostly. I did love Bharatanatyam and enjoyed dance music. When my father played his favourite tapes of Semmangudi and Madurai Mani Iyer on his Grundig, I would moan complainingly! What an asamanjam (ignorant idiot+++) I was! I am so ashamed of my teenage stupidity! This week, as I have been listening obsessively to Semmangudi, I look back to those days and wonder why I didn’t have the musical maturity to appreciate such an extraordinary musician… How is it that some young ones already have such a developed taste? Do the learnings from one life pass on to the next? Would I have a more discerning taste in my next life?

In this week of my obsession with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, I have chosen to feature a song which he sang very often and with great beauty. This wonderful composition by Muthuswami Dikshithar extols the qualities of Balakrishna in the charming raga Dwijavanti. The composer says that ‘His lotus like feet bestow all dreamed about objects of desire’. When I listen to this song, I like to think of what dreams I would like to lay on His feet…One that I would like Him to consider is my wish to be born as a Carnatic Musician in my next life. I am still working out the details of the dream, the voice of Bombay Jayashri if I am born a woman or TMK if I am a man, the amazing sweetness and grace of Lalgudi’s creative mind, the bhakti bhava of MS, the flamboyant flair of GNB’s renditions……all this would be nice, but it is the lighting fast, brilliant musical mind of Semmangudi which would be the essential ingredient! Listen to my selection below and see how amazing his kalpana swarams are..

Alternate Link : Click here and download track 8 (free membership to Sangeethapriya required)

If you like this kriti, then you are in luck as there are many good renditions of this song by very many artists. A couple that  I have enjoyed this week are :

Track 3 in this concert by K.V.Narayanaswamy (free membership to Sangeethapriya required). The leisurely pace suits this song very well.

The first song in this concert by T.M.Krishna. The video is not good but don’t be put off; the audio is fine.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

चेतः श्री बाल कृष्णं भज रे
चिन्तितार्थ प्रद चरणारविन्दम् मुकुन्दम्

नूतन नीरद सदृश शरीरम् नन्द किशोरम्
पीत वसन धरम् कम्बु कन्धरम् गिरि धरम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
पूतनादि  सम्हारम् पुरुषोत्तमावतारम्
शीतल  हृदय विहारम् श्री  रुक्मिणी दारम्

नवनीत गन्ध वाह वदनम् मृदु गदनम्
नळिन पत्र  नयनम्  वट पत्र शयनम्
नव  चम्पक नासिकम् अतसी  सुम भासकम्
नतेन्द्रादि  लोक पालकम् मृग मद तिलकम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
नव तुळसी वन मालम् नारदादि मुनि जालम्
कुवलयादि परिपालम्  गुरु गुह नुत गोपालम्

Transliteration :

chEtaH shrI bAla kRshNam bhaja rE
chintitArtha prada charaNAravindam mukundam

nUtana nIrada sadRsha sharIraM nanda kishOram
pIta vasana dharam kambu kandharam giri dharam
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
pUtanAdi samhAram purushOttamAvatAram
shItala hRdaya vihAram shrI rukmiNI dAram

navanIta gandha vAha vadanam mRdu gadanam
naLina patra nayanam vaTa patra shayanam
nava champaka nAsikam atasI suma bhAsakam
natEndrAdi lOka pAlakam mRga mada tilakam
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
nava tuLasI vana mAlam nAradAdi muni jAlam
kuvalayAdi paripAlam guru guha nuta gOpAlam

Translation :

O Mind (chEtah), revere (bhaja) the child Lord Krishna (shrI bAla krishNam), also called Mukunda, whose lotus like (aravindam) feet (charaNam) bestow all dreamed about (chintita) objects of desire (artha).

He is the young boy (kishOra) of Nanda, the One whose body (sharIram) looks like (sadrRsha) fresh (nUtana) rain clouds (nIrada), the One who wears (dharam) yellow (pIta) garments (vasana), the One whose neck (kandharam) is like a conch (kambhu), the One who holds up (dharam) a mountain (giri).

He is the incarnation (avatAram) of Purushottama (=the supreme being). He is the One who destroyed (samhAra) Putana etc (Adi), the One who resides in (vihAram) in calm (shItala) hearts (hRdaya), the One whose wife (dAram) is Rukmini (or does it mean He is the consort of Rukmini? Unsure).

He is the One whose breath (vAha, literally air) from the mouth (vadana) smells of (gandha) butter (navanIta), the sweet (mRdu) talking (gadanam) One. He is One whose eyes (nayanam) look like lotus-leaves (naLina patra), the One who sleeps on (shayanam) the leaf of a banyan-tree (vaTa patra). He is the One whose nose (nAsika) looks like a new (nava) Champaka flower, the One whose complexion (implied) appears like (bhAsakam) the Atasi flower (suma) (a blue flower), the One bowed to (nata) by Indra and the guardians (pAlaka) of the world (lOka), the One who wears a mark on the forehead (tilaka) with the deer-musk (mRga mada=kastUri).

He is the One who is garlanded (mAlam) with new (nava) clusters (vana) Tulasi leaves, the One who has ensnared (jAlam) sages (muni) like Narada etc (Adi), the One who is the protector (pAlakam) of the worlds (kuvalaya Adi = bhUlOka etc). He is Gopala, praised by (nuta) Guruguha (signature of the composer).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer

Nigahen Milane Ko Ji Chahta Hai

Nigahen MilaneHow I have been neglecting my blog! Summer is always a busy time for me; this summer has been no different. I’ve been busy first with family visitors and then with my own travels. And it’s not finished. My September is fully booked up with more travelling and more visitors, so I am taking advantage of this brief lull for this post.

My travels took me to India this time. It was a hectic schedule which included four cities in two weeks! This India trip was a font of inspiration for me; you’ll no doubt hear of them in future posts. My song choice of today is also triggered by this trip…but I will come to that by and by..

The first part of the trip was a get-together with a select group of alumni from my husband’s alma mater. They have been organising meets every two years for a while now. There is invariably plenty of reminiscing and reconnecting, eating and drinking, jokes and laughs and some tourism if the mood takes us. It’s nice to see the guys relax and be ‘boys’ again. When they are fooling around, its difficult to reconcile that one of them has been decorated with a Padma Shri, a number of them are Heads, Deans or senior academic members of some of the greatest academic institutions in India and outside, one is a policy advisor to a Head of State, another is an entrepreneur whose company is now worth more millions than I can count, one is a COO of an outstanding global tech company from India, another is an enterprise architect of a multi billion dollar company and yet another is a CTO of a large bank in India ….a high achieving bunch indeed!

One of the most entertaining parts of these get-togethers has been a themed photo-and-music presentation by my husband’s pal each year. As he is a veritable encyclopaedia of filmi music from the old-is-gold period, these presentations are always very enjoyable. This year there was a quiz based on the musical choices by the alumni members. It was fun to see how well they all knew each other as they invariably named the person by the song choice almost immediately!

That set me wondering, can I name one song by which people who know me will be able to identify me? After pondering a while it was evident that it was quite an impossible task to choose that one special song which has a strong connection with me. There is so much music out there, how can I name just one? Could you? However, I could short list a number of songs which have a great appeal in each genre that I listen to. My song choice of today falls into that short list for filmi music. The combination of Roshan’s admirable music, Sahir Ludhianvi’s beautiful words, Asha’s flawless rendition, Nutan’s lovely expressive face and the Qawwali style makes this quite irresistible to me. The song is so well known that I am sure you have heard it many times before. Still, join me now in listening to this song….

राज़ की बात है मेहफ़िल में कहें या न कहें
बस गया है कोई इस दिल में कहें या न कहें

rAz kI bAt hai mehfil mE.n kahE.n yA na kahE.n
bas gayA hai kOI is dil mE.n kahE.n yA na kahE.n

It’s a secret (rAz) matter (bAt), shall I say (kahE.n) it in (mE.n) this gathering (mehfil) or (yA) not (nA kahE.n)? Someone (kOI) has taken root (bas gayA hai) in (mE.n) this (is) heart (dil), whether I say it (kahE.n) or (yA) not (nA kahE.n).

The first couplet sets the mood of the song : a girl, newly in love, wonders if she shall talk openly about it. Qawwalis always include hand clapping to enhance percussion. It is lovely in this passage to hear the clang of the ghungroo (dancers’ belled  anklets) in addition to the claps.

निगाहें मिलाने को जी चाहता है
दिल-ओ-जाँ लुटाने को जी चाहता है

nigAhE.n milAnE kO jI chAhtA hai
dil-O-jA.n luTAnE kO jI chAhtA hai

My (implied) heart (jI) longs (chAhtA hai) to share glances (nigAhE.n milAnE kO) (implied : with my loved one). My(implied) heart (jI) longs to (chAhtA hai) to lose (luTAnE kO) itself  heart and soul (literally dil=heart, jA.n=life).

Who can resist the glances of Nutan when she drags her arms across her face and peeps smilingly?  The theme of the song is the repeated phrase ‘jI chAhtA hai’ – what the heart longs for, yearns for. On an aside, isn’t it interesting that both in English and Hindi/Urdu, to ‘lose one’s heart’ works well to describe falling in love? And how different it is ‘to lose one’s heart’ vs. ‘to lose heart’!

वो तोहमत जिसे इश्क़ कहती है दुनिया
वो तोहमत उठाने को जी चाहता है

wO tOhmat jisE ishk kehtI hai duniyA
wO tOhmat uTHAnE kO jI chAhtA hai

That (wO) aspersion (tOhmat) that (jisE) the world (duniyA) calls (kehtI hai) love (ishk) – my heart (jI) longs (chAhtA hai) to take on (uTHAnE kO) that aspersion (tOhmat)

Isn’t tohmat a lovely sounding word? The poet implies that the world views being in love as a crime, and to say someone is in love is slander, an aspersion, an allegation. And yet, the heart longs to be in love. Musically, this is composed very cleverly to bring attention to the lyrics. The phrasing of the first line goes as ‘wO tOhmat..duniyA’, ‘kehtI hai duniyA’, ‘wO tOhmat’, ‘jisE ishk’, ‘kehtI hai duniyA’ thus emphasising each part beautifully. The second line of the couplet becomes a chorus, the repetition adding weight to the words. And Asha is simply superb with the phrasing and connection between phrases, isn’t she? Listen to how easy she makes it look at 2:33! I bow my head in respect!!

किसी के मनाने में लज़्ज़त वो पायी
कि फिर रूठ जाने को जी चाहता है
kisI kE manAnE mE.n lazzat vO pAyI
ki phir rUTH jAnE kO jI chahtA hai
I (implied) found such pleasure (lazzat) in being coaxed (manAnE mE.n) by someone (kiSi kE) that (ki) my heart (jI) longs (chAhtA hai) to sulk (rUTH jAnE kO)

How prettily the lyrics talk of the pleasure of making up after a tiff!! And isn’t Nutan amazing in her moment of ‘rUTHnA’ at 3:14? She makes me smile! The musical phrasing of this couplet follows the previous pattern.

वो जलवा जो ओझल भी है सामने भी
वो जलवा चुराने को जी चाहता है

wO jalvA jO Ojhal bhI hai sAmnE bhI
wO jalvA churAnE kO jI chAhtA hai

That lustre (jalvA) which is (hai) both (implied by bhI=also) hidden (Ojhal) and apparant (sAmnE, literally ‘in front’). My heart (jI) longs (chAhtA hai) to steal (churAnE kO) that lustre (jalvA) (implied- for myself).

People in love do have a certain lustre about them, don’t they? Its as if the glowing of the soul is so much that it cannot be contained within one’s self and seeps out of your skin!

जिस घड़ी मेरी निगाहों को तेरी दीद हुई
वो घड़ी मेरे लिये ऐश की तमहीद हुई
जब कभी मैंने तेरा चाँद सा चेहरा देखा
ईद हो या कि न हो मेरे लिये ईद हुई

jis ghaDI mErI nigAhO.n kO tErI dId huI
wO ghaDI mErE liyE aish kI tamhId huI
jab kabhI mainE tErA chA.nd sA chehrA dEkhA
Id hO yA ki na hO mErE liyE Id huI

At the moment (ghaDI) when (jis) my (mErI) glances (nigAhO.n) caught sight (dId huI) of you (tErI), that (wO) moment (ghaDI) became (huI) a prelude (tamhId) to a life of pleasure (aish) for me (mErE liyE). Whenever (jab kabhI) I (mainE) saw (dEkhA) your (tErA) moon like (chA.nd sA) face (chehrA), whether (implied) it was Eid (Id hO) or (yA) not (nA hO), for me (mErE liyE) it became (huI) Eid.

At this point, there is a melody change and a change to a masculine persona both in the lyrics and it’s portrayal by Nutan. The poet points to that first glimpse as a prelude to a life of happiness and says that her moon-like face (a traditional simile for the beauty of a woman) makes everyday a day of festivity. For those unaware of the tradition, it is a moon-sighting which declares the start of the festival of Eid. What a romantic verse! I wonder, is it what a man would say or is it what a woman would wish her man would say? Again, the music director has cleverly made this section stand out before returning to the refrain of the previous couplet, thus returning to the feminine persona. Asha does an expert job of the swaras/sargam/solfeggio which follow.

मुलाक़ात का कोई पैग़ाम दीजिये कि
छुप छुपके आने को जी चाहता है और
आके न जाने को जी चाहता है

mulAkAt kA kOI pai.gAm dIjiyE ki
CHup CHupkE AnE kO jI chAhtA hai aur
AkE na jAnE kO jI chAhtA hai

Do send (dIjiyE) me (implied) a message (pai.gAm) of (kA) a meeting (mulAkAt), for  my heart (jI) longs (chAhtA hai) to come (AnE kO) meet you (implied) secretly (CHup CHup kE) – and (aur) having come (AkE), my heart (jI) longs (chAhtA hai) to not go back again (na jAnE kO).

With another melody change, the music comes to the concluding verse. The final longing is that for her to be with her loved one forever. There is a melancholic air to the melody of this last phrase, for this is a dream which may or may not come true. The first two lines have a staccato feel; I am not sure I like the phrasing with  ‘ki’ and ‘aur’ dumped at the end of the previous phrases instead of the start of the phrase in which they belong.

I hope you enjoyed this walk-through of one of my favourite songs from Hindi films. I would love to hear from you about the one song above all (if possible) that you would choose as yours.


Filed under Asha Bhonsle, Bollywood 60's Music, Bollywood Music, Qawwali

Theerada Vilaiyattu Pillai

Krishna's MischiefCan one call oneself Tamil if one doesn’t know this song? This gem amongst the gems written by the great poet Subramanya Bharathi has such an extraordinary appeal! For one, we all love stories about the mischievous and quite irresistible  Lord Krishna, don’t we? And then there is the poet’s expertise in choosing words and metres which resonate so deeply with the audience.  However poetry by its very nature finds itself at a disadvantage crossing borders; for isn’t poetry about language at its very best, its very beautiful? Who but natives can really appreciate it? But once it has been sung as a song, it crosses borders so much more easily!

Popular as a ‘light’ piece in Carnatic Music, this song happily bridges the gap between the classical and the popular. I hope you will join me on a walk-through of this beautiful poem and its meaning. I limit myself only to the verses sung by Carnatic musicians.

Raga: Sindhu Bhairavi

தீராத விளையாட்டுப் பிள்ளை – கண்ணன்
தெருவிலே பெண்களுக்கோயாத தொல்லை

tIrAda viLaiyATTUp piLLai – kaNNan
teruvilE peNgaLukkOyAda tollai

Krishna (kaNNan) is such an endlessly (tIrAda) playful (viLaiyATTu) boy (piLLai)!! He is a ceaseless (OyAda) trouble (tollai) to the women (peNgaLukku) on the street (teruvilE)!

The first verse sets the scene perfectly. Such an endlessly mischievous lad, the poet says, that he is Trouble with a capital T to all the women on the street. Why women? Did He not direct any mischief towards the men? But no, He never did! He was the darling of the women and he loved them dearly; yet it is those very women He troubled! Our symbolism starts here..He is Parama Purusha, the supreme male aspect.  All creation, Prakriti, is the female aspect. We see this symbolism again and again in poetry from all around India.

Raga : Sindhu Bhairavi

தின்னப் பழம் கொண்டு தருவான் – பாதி
தின்கின்ற போதிலே தட்டிப் பறிப்பான்
என்னப்பன் என்னைய்யன் என்றால் – அதனை
எச்சிற்  படுத்திக் கடித்துக் கொடுப்பான்

tinnap pazham koNDu taruvAn – pAdi
tinginDRa pOdilE taTTip paRippAn
ennappan ennaiyyan enDRAl – adanai
echchiR paduttik kaDittuk koDuppAn

He will bring (konDu) and give (taruvAn) fruit (pazham) to eat (tinna). While (pOdilE) eating (pAdi =half, tinginDRa) he will grab it (taTTi paRippAn)! If (enDRAl) one cajoles him (ennappan, ennaiyyan as terms of endearment) – he will bite it (kaDittu) and contaminate it by eating (echchiR=jhUTA in hindi) and then give it back (koDuppAn).

What mischief! He grabs back the fruit he has given and takes a bite before giving it back! I wonder, is this concept of contamination by eating/saliva unique to India? In the olden days, at the wedding feast, a wife would eat off the plate eaten by her husband to denote the closeness of the new relationship. Sharing of food half eaten by others is a privilege limited to those who are near and dear. Here the poet wants to show how close the relationship is between the Lord and his subjects. Krishna is happy to eat the fruit half-eaten by his loved ones (remember Rama and Sabari?) and what He gives back we take as prasaadam. So what does the fruit denote? All that He gives us, of course! Perhaps the poet wants to say also that He who gives may equally take away.

Raga : Kamas

அழகுள்ள மலர் கொண்டு வந்தே (alt: வந்து ) – என்னை
அழ அழச் செய்தபின் கண்ணை மூடிக்கொள்
குழலிலே சூட்டுவேன் என்பான் – என்னைக்
குருடாக்கி மலரினைத் தோழிக்கு வைப்பான்

azhaguLLa malar koNDu vandE (alt: vandu) – ennai
azha azha seydapin kaNNai mUDikkoL
kuzhalilE sUTTuvEn enbAn – ennai
kuruDAkki malarinai tOzhikku vaippAn

He will bring (konDu vandE) a beautiful (azhaguLLa) flower (malar). After (pin)  making one cry (azha azha seyda) He will say (enbAn) ‘close (mUDikkoL) your eyes (kaNNai), I will adorn (sUTTuvEn) your braid (kuzhalilE) with it’. After making (Akki) me (ennai) blind (kuruDu), he will place (vaippAn) the flower (malarinai) on my friend (tOzhikku)!

Have you ever seen something you wanted very badly? Perhaps you begged and pleaded for it, perhaps you worked hard for it, but you thought you almost had it. And then when you relax for a moment, it is gone, given to some other. In real life this could be tragic. Imagine it is the promotion you worked hard for, the treat your parents promised you, the relaxed retirement you look for after a lifetime of work. And then circumstances occur when it seems to be snatched away from you. How frustrating it is, how depressing when it happens! If we can see it as no more than Krishna’s mischief, his leela, perhaps it will console us.

(Don’t miss the mridangam at this interval in the BJ performance, how good it sounds!!)

Raga : Shanmukhapriya

பின்னலைப் பின்னின்றிழுப்பான் -தலை
பின்னே திரும்பு(ம்) முன்னே சென்று மறைவான்
வண்ணப் புதுச் சேலை தனிலே -புழுதி
வாரிச் சொரிந்தே வருத்திக் குலைப்பான்

pinnalaip pinninDRizhuppAn – talai
pinnE tirumbu(m ) munnE chenDRu maRaivAn
vaNNap puduch chElai tanilE – puzhudi
vArich chorindE varuttik kulaippAn

He will pull (izhuppAn) one’s braid (pinnalai) while standing behind (pin ninDru). Before (munnE) one can turn (tirumbum) one’s head (talai) back (pinnE) He will disappear (chenDRu maRaivAn)! He will make one sorrowful (varutti) and agitated (kulaippan) by throwing (vAri) dust (puzhudi) on (tanilE) one’s new (pudu) colourful (vaNNa) sari (sElai).

Krishna pulling at a Gopi’s hair and disappearing – isn’t it a disarming portrayal of our mischief making Lord? Has your metaphorical braid been pulled by someone or something at any time? How frustrating not to be able to pinpoint who did it! And what about your metaphorical new clothes? Has someone thrown dust as it?  These are common life occurrences, aren’t they! They sadden us, agitate us, disturb us. And yet we smile when we think of Krishna and his mischief. That too is a leela.

Raga : Mand

புல்லாங்குழல் கொண்டு வருவான் – அமுது
பொங்கித் ததும்ப நற்கீதம் படிப்பான்
கள்ளால் மயங்குவது போலே – அதனை  (alt:அதைக்)
கண் மூடி வாய் திறந்தே கேட்டிருப்போம்

pullAnguzhal konDu varuvAn – amudu
pongit tadumba naRgItam paDippAn
kaLLAl mayanguvadu pOlE – adanai (alt:adai)
kaN mUDi vAy tiRandE kETTiruppOm

He will bring (konDu varuvAn) a flute (pullAnguzhal). He will recite (paDippAn) good (nal) songs (gItam) which overflow (pongi tadumba) with nectar (amudu). And like (pOlE) one gets intoxicated (mayanguvadu) with liquor (kaLLAl), we would be listening (kETTiruppOm) with closed (mUDi) eyes (kaN) and open (tirandE) mouths (vAy)!

This is a lovely verse where Krishna is portrayed as the enchanter that He is. And oh, how I love Raga Mand! In the other verses the poet talks of how He troubles and agitates the women. In contrast, this verse is about how he fascinates with his playing of a different kind. What is Krishna’s song in your lives? What is that which enchants you, intoxicates you, absorbs you? As to me, I hear Krishna’s song in so many things – in the light which reflects off the lake I see from my window, in that pause between two notes when Lalgudi plays Mohanam in a CD I have, in the perfection of Vermeer’s Milkmaid, in that smell of the earth just after it rains, in the memory of cuddling my children when they were babies and a million other things besides.  These are indeed nectarine as the poet says. After listing all the mischief the Lord plays on us, it is good of the poet to remind us of how He plays his music for us too!

To present this song, I have chosen renditions by two divas of the Carnatic Music world, Bombay Jayashri and Nithyasree Mahadevan. I have always loved Bombay Jayashri’s voice and in this recording it sounds warm and lovely, as smooth as honey.

Alternative Link : Click Here

It is Nithyasree Mahadevan’s crisp enunciation which attracts me to this performance. This is poetry as it should sound!

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Subramanya Bharathi

Bhaja Re Manasa

AstrologyWhat does Astrology mean to you? The reaction to this question falls within a wide spectrum. Some think of it in a total negative light, as mumbo-jumbo practised by charlatans to mislead the world. Others may see it as a harmless superstition, with maybe some grains of truth but on the whole ignore it. Yet others will get a reading done for arranging a wedding or some big event but otherwise have a benign and easy going attitude towards it. And of course there are those who follow it to the last letter, seeing their astrologer more regularly than their doctor. Where do you stand?

My parents were believers. My mother checked ‘rAhu kAlam’ before doing anything of importance (or not of importance). She would read the Tamil astrological magazine Balajothidam end-to-end and would quote knowledgably from it when the occasion arose. My father had a very close relationship with his astrologer. His very favourite religious ceremony was the ‘Navagraha Shanti Homam’ to appease the planets.

Where do I stand? Influenced by my parents, I educated myself on astrology when I was still a teenager. I found it interesting but with so many conditions and counter-conditions, I also found it very confusing. How could anybody balance all the different elements and reach exactly the right prediction? I felt that whether there was truth in it or not, there was possibly very little truth in most practitioners.

When I was in my thirties, I was cleaning up some paperwork while I was visiting my parents. There I found a 30-year old astrological prediction given to my father. Amazingly, many (but not all) of the predictions had come true..and I don’t mean general predictions, but very particular ones which could not have been just an educated guess. This strengthened my ideas and views.

So is it really the planets which determine our destiny? I am not sure. You can give a pen and paper to anyone but will they all write like Shakespeare? Does the talent lie in the pen or Shakespeare’s mind and spirit? I believe that probabilities for the future can be predicted to an extent. I believe also that an astrological chart can be used as a tool, just as someone’s palm or Tarot cards. However,I think that the glimpse of the future lies not in the chart or the palm but in the mind and spirit of the one who sees.

My thoughts today are triggered by the lyrics of Bhaja Re Manasa, a wonderful song in Abheri by Mysore Vasudevachar. The composer urges his -and our- mind to dwell upon Lord Rama, describing his many qualities. Of interest, given my topic today, is his referring to Him as the leader of the Navagrahas. I so love Abheri, it always lulls me into a peaceful state of mind.

I had a very happy day yesterday listening non-stop to Abheri! So whom should we listen to today? My first choice is a rendition by the legendary D.K.Pattammal (1919-2009). This is from a live recording in 1977. She is vocally supported by her equally accomplished brother D.K.Jayaraman. DKP’s voice is strong and has such a ‘gambheera bhavam’! The sruthi is so very low, she switches an octave for the low notes..I wonder if she lowered the sruthi so that DKJ could accompany her..

Click here to listen.

As I was trolling YouTube I listened to this very nice live presentation by Amrutha Venkatesh (in two parts). She is a young lady with a strong voice and a very nice throw, I enjoyed listening to her very much.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

भजरे रे मानस श्री रघुवीरम्
भुक्ति मुक्ति प्रदम् वासुदेवम् हरिम्

वृजिन विदूरम् विश्वाकारम् (alt: विश्वाधारम्)
सुजन मन्दारम् सुन्दराकारम्

रावण वधनम् रक्षित भुवनम्
रवि शशि नयनम् रविजाति मदनम्
रविजादि वानर परिवृतम् नरवरम्
रत्न हार परिशोभित कण्ठकम्

रवि शशि कुज बुध गुरु
शुक्र शनैश्चर राहु केतु नेतारम्
राज कुमारम् रामम्
पवनजाप्त अवनिजा मनोहरम्


bhajarE rE mAnasa raghuvIram
bhukti mukti pradam vAsudEvam harim

v.rjina vidUram vishvAkAram (alt: vishvAdhAram)
sujana mandAram sundarAkAram

rAvaNa vadhanam rakshita bhuvanam
ravi shashi nayanam ravi jAti madanam
ravijAdi vAnara pariv.rtam naravaram
ratna hAra parishObhita kanTHakam

ravi shashi kuja budha guru
shukra shanaishchara rahu kEtu nEtAram
rAja kumAram rAmam
pavanApta avanijA manoharam


O Mind (rE mAnasa), revere (bhaja) Lord Rama, the hero (vIram) of the Raghu clan. He is the provider (pradam) of both enjoyment (bhukti) and salvation (mukti). He is Vasudeva. He is Hari.

He is far (vidUram) from wickedness (v.rijina). He is the embodiment (AkAram) of the universe (vishva). (Alternate: He is the foundation (AdhAram) of the universe (vishva)). To the virtuous (sujana), he is the Mandara flower (unsure what this implies).  He has a beautiful (sundara) form (AkAram).

He vanquished (vadha) Ravana and protected (rakshita) the world (bhuvanam). His eyes (nayanam) are like the sun (ravi) and the moon (shashi).  He is the God of Love (madanam) of the Sun dynasty (ravi jAti). He is surrounded (pariv.rtam) by the Vanaras such as son of the Sun, Sugriva (ravija) etc (Adi). His throat (kanTHakam) is adorned (parishObhita) by a jewelled (ratna) necklace (hAra).

He is the leader (nEtAram) of the Navagrahas – Sun (ravi), Moon (shashi), Mars (kuja), Mercury (budha), Jupiter (guru), Venus (shukra), Saturn (shanaishchara), Rahu and Ketu. He is Rama, the son (kumAram) of a king (rAja), the one dear to (Apta) to Hanuman (pavana) and beloved  (manOharam) to Sita (avanijA=daughter of the earth).


Filed under Amrutha Venkatesh, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, D.K.Pattammal, Mysore Vasudevachar


NRKAfter my rather depressing post last time, I wanted to post something happy. Immediately my mind went to this song that I love in Raga Nalinakanti, a most cheerful sounding piece of music.

As I pored over the translation, my mind wandered off in a tangent with the pallavi line itself. ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to my appeal?’ says Tyagaraja. This device of addressing one’s own mind occurs in music and literature often enough for us not to be surprised by it. But today I asked myself ‘Who is the addresser and who is the addressed?’.

I was first reminded of the mindfulness exercises in some meditative techniques. One is supposed to watch the thoughts flow by without stopping them, just watching them stream past without reaction. A mind watching its own thoughts? ‘Who is the watcher?’ I wondered, ‘and who is the watched?’. I have tried this meditation technique myself and yes, it is quite possible to do this. And so another question arises – if the mind can split into the watcher and the watched, can it split into more parts?

I became engrossed in reading many articles on mind and consciousness, within Hindu thought or otherwise. But I couldn’t get any specific answers to my questions. Coming back to our song,  Tyagaraja says ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to the one who knows the compassionate heart of Sri Ramachandra? I am revealing all the secrets’.  Oh! So part of his mind knows secrets that the other part doesn’t know? I do know unhealthy minds can keep secrets –such as in amnesia- but can a healthy mind keep secrets from itself? I don’t think so. But the subconscious can and does keep secrets from the conscious mind. Is this intended to be a song from the subconscious to the conscious?

I know, some of you may well be thinking that I am making too much of this, that it is merely a literary device. That is probably very likely. Still, Tyagaraja was such an evolved soul; it behoves us to examine his words and make sure we look beyond the obvious and glean as much wisdom as we can from them. That said, this is such a lovely piece of music that one finds joy in the very flow of the notes. And sometimes that is more than enough.

For the last two days I have been hearing innumerable renditions of this song. There are so many beautiful renditions that it was a difficult choice for me. But when I heard this version by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy (1927-2014), I knew at once that this was IT! I missed honouring him when he passed away in December; I am happy to have the opportunity to feature this illustrious artist in my blog today. There is a wonderful shower of swaras following the song, I am literally dancing to them as I write this! My only complaint is the missing gamaka on the word ‘Tyagaraju’ which only TMK and SKR seem to include..I just adore that gamaka, always makes me melt to a puddle!

(There is a small glitch at 5:45, I assume it is from tape conversion, please ignore)

Alternate Link : Click here and download item 5 – free membership of Sangeethamshare is needed.

And if you want to listen to an outstanding violin rendition, listen to Kanyakumari  supported beautifully by Embar Kannan.

Alternate link : Click here and download item 9.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

Note – As I do not speak Telugu, the translation is heavily dependent on various web sources.

Transliteration in Devanagari


मनविनालकिञ्च रादटे मर्ममॆल्ल तॆल्पॆदने मनसा
(common alternate version of first word : मनव्याल)


घनुडैन (श्री) राम चन्द्रुनि करुणान्तरंगमु तॆलिसिन ना

कर्म काण्ड मताकृष्टुलै भव गहन चारुलै गासि जॆन्दग
कनि मानवा अवतारुडै कनिपिञ्चिनाडे नडत त्यागराजु

Transliteration in English

manavinAlakincha rAdaTE marmamella telpedanE manasA
(common alternate version of first word : manavyAla)

ghanuDaina (shrI) rAma chandruni karuNAntarangamu telisina nA

karma kANDa matAkRshTulai bhava gahana chArulai gAsi jendaga
kani mAnava avatAruDai kanipinchinADE naData tyAgarAju


Won’t (rAda) you (aTE) listen (Alakincha) to my appeal (manavini), O mind (manasA)? I am revealing (telpedanE) all (ella) the secrets (marmamu) .

Won’t You listen (implied) to my (nA) appeal, I (implied) who know (telisina) the compassionate (karuNA) heart (antarangamu) of the great (ghanuDaina) Sri Ramanchandra (rAma chandruni)?

Seeing (kani) those who, attracted (AkRshTulai) by the opinions (mata) of the ritualistic action (karma) section (kAnDa) of the Vedas (implied), suffer (gAsi jendaga) as wanderers (chArulai) in the forest (gahana) of worldly existence (bhava), the Lord having incarnated (avatAruDai) as a human being (mAnava) exemplified (kanipincinADE) the right conduct (naData). Therefore, O Mind, won’t you listen to the appeal (implied from pallavi) of this Tyagaraja (tyAgarAju)?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Embar S.Kannan, Kanyakumari, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Tyagaraja