Devi Pavane

Tuesday, 13 Oct
Navaratri starts next Saturday, better start working on a post now‘ I tell myself. I’ve already left it a bit too late. I consider my choices and decide on picking a Navaratri kriti by Swati Thirunal. ‘If I alternate between him and Oothukadu, I’m covered for Navaratri for the next 18 years‘ I tell myself and giggle! I peruse the lyrics from Carnatica.net; I remind myself again to buy Govinda Rao’s book once the post from India is normalised. Which song shall I feature? Ah! There is the Saveri kriti I have always liked. That’s it.

Wenesday, 14 Oct
Babysitting day, no time for anything but my darling little tornado!

Thursday, 15 Oct
I am busy in the morning and I don’t sit at my computer until late afternoon. I have the lyrics in a PDF, but the Sanskrit font is old and I can’t copy it. I try a few things but give up soon. I spend the next hour patiently typing out the lyrics in Sanskrit. I can see some obvious spelling errors. I compare the lyrics with the transliterated ones elsewhere. Sigh, I just wish I had the book! I also make a playlist of about 15 renditions of the song to listen to and copy it to my phone.

Friday, 16 Oct
Cleaning and laundry day today. I put on my headphones and set to it. I have chosen artists from four generations, from the venerable elders to the quite young. MDR is the first on my list. I start the music and drown in it’s beauty. There is a சாவதானம் / सावधानम् – an attentiveness, a deliberateness and a leisureliness about his music which is quite hypnotic. When he starts his tanam, I feel such a rush of affection for him! Next on my list is KVN. I fall in love! I listen to it two times, then continue to listen to other renditions by MDR and KVN for the next 4 hours, dropping my playlist altogether. Today I can listen to no other. In the afternoon I split all the sandhis (joint words) in my document but have too much personal work to do to concentrate on the translation. I am so behind!

Saturday, 16 Oct
Happy Navaratri to myself! It’s babysitting day. I rush in the morning to cook lunch for my princeling. He comes soon, and I have to play, feed, change, play again, read, convince him into taking a nap, make biscottis with him, allow him to water the garden-and me, make tawa-naans for him (I have now perfected the recipe!), play some more, give him dinner, help his grandfather bathe him and put him to bed. Everything is easier said than done as his current favourite word is NO! I am too wiped out to do any blogging after he sleeps.

Sunday, 17 Oct
My princeling is up at 5:15. ‘Patti up‘ he says ‘Odi Odi‘ – he wants me to race with him up and down the house. His grandfather gives him breakfast and I get ready to play some more with him. By 10:00 he is ready for his 2nd breakfast/early lunch. I quickly make some dosai and feed him. We pack him up and drop him home. His parents look refreshed. We look quite the opposite. We are home by noon, I could have got to my translation but I’m wiped out. Instead I binge watch ‘Portrait Artist of the year 2020′ from Sky Arts, feeling deep envy for the artists’ skills.

Monday, 18 Oct
Good going today! I must have spent at least 4 hrs on my computer and I have almost finished the translation. ‘Musicians sing only the first charanam, maybe I should have left it at that‘ I think. But no, that’s a half-done job which I just can’t bear. Nobody is going to care except me, I know, but I care and that’s enough to work at it. There are some translations on the net but it is not word for word, so I can’t really verify they are correct unless I do it myself. I find it satisfying actually, and educational as well. I am struggling with a couple of phrases but I leave them for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 Oct, 2 am
I wake up in the middle of the night with a perfect translation of a phrase I struggled with yesterday! Thank you, Ms. Subconscious! I try to write my post in my head, but it doesn’t quite work. I abandon it and go back to sleep.

Tuesday 19 Oct, day time
I feel guilty about the renditions I did not hear yet, so I put my headphones on and go through my list. Then I go back to MDR and KVN. Nothing compares. I think with horror of the older gentleman whom I had met in my teen years who had gone on and on about how no one can touch the singing of K.L.Sehgal in Hindi film music. I had been so indignant! ‘What about Rafi’s Chaudvin Ka Chand or Manna Dey’s Pucho Na Kaise?’ I had thought to myself. 45 years or so later, I still remember that conversation and the boredom of older people starting a sentence with ‘in my days‘! Have I now become that? Do I like only musicians of the past ? Please no! But this is my blog and I can feature whomever I like, and it’s the venerable elders for today.

I finish writing this up and then do the transliteration. Tomorrow is Wednesday and my princeling will be back. I have to finish the post now. I have spent all afternoon and it’s time to go make dinner. I have no time for an editorial perusal; my readers just have to take it as it is.

This wonderful composition is in praise of Goddess Saraswati. It is the 3rd of Navaratri Kritis written by Swati Thirunal and sung in the Navaratri Mandapam of the Padmanabhapuram Palace every year. A prayer song, the poet describes and praises the Goddess in many ways, asking for Her blessings. You can read an interesting article about the Goddess and the music festival here. May the Goddesses bless us all this Navaratri! May she give wisdom to the leaders to lead us out of this world crisis, may she give knowledge to those who treat the ill and those who develop medicines and vaccines, and please may she give prosperity to those whose livelihood has been affected.

And finally to the music! Here is M.D.Ramanathan’s excellent rendition

And now the one by K.V.Narayanaswamy which I like so very much


Footnote : Lyrics and Translation

Language: Sanskrit
Note – I am not a scholar; I translate merely for the purpose of music appreciation. I have taken the liberty of making small corrections to the lyrics provided by Carnatica.net if the correction seems appropriate. I have especially corrected the long ‘I’ vowels which have been replaced by the short vowels, perhaps to fit the music. My apologies for all mistakes.

पल्लवि
देवी पावने सेवे चरणे ते बुधावने

अनुपल्लवि
भावुक दायी कटाक्ष विलासिनि
भारती देहि सदा कुशलम् भुवनेश्वरी

चरणम्
सोम बिम्ब मदहर सुमुखी भक्तजनाखिल
कामित दाननिरते कान्त कुन्द दन्ति
भीम अनन्त अज्ञान तिमिर भेदन मिहिरायिते
मामक हृदि विहार मान्य गुणा वासे
सामज पुङ्गव चारु गते
सुर साध्य नुते विमले वरदे भुवनेश्वरी

वारिद निभ चिकुरे वासवोपल नयने
मार शरासन रुचि चोर चिल्लिकान्ते
सारस कृत निलये जाम्बूनदमय भूषे
नारदादि मुनि नुत नाम समुदाये
भूरि मनोज्ञक राञ्चित वीणा
पुस्तक भासिनि चारु हासे भुवनेश्वरी

पातित दितिसुते श्री पद्मनाभ विलासिनि
वीत पाप जन गेय विभवे विद्या रूपे
चातको जलदमिव सादरमाश्रयामि त्वाम्
प्रीतिम् मयि कुरु लोक मातरयि नित्यम्
धूत मलम् कुरु माम् सदये
परिपोषित सूरिगुणे शुभदे भुवनेश्वरी

Transliteration

dEvI pAvanE sEvE charaNE tE budhAvanE

bhAvuka dAyI katAksha vilAsini
bhAratI dEhi sada kushalam bhuvanEshvarI

sOma bimba madahara sumukhI bhaktajanAkhila
kAmita dAnanirate kAnta kunda danti
bhIma ananta agyAna timira bhEdana mihirAyitE
mAmaka hRdI vihAra mAnya guNA vAsE
sAmaja pungava charu gatE
sAdhya nutE vimalE varadE bhuvanEshvarI

vArida nibha chikurE vAsvOpala nayanE
mAra sharAsana ruchi chOra chillikAntE
sArasa kRta nilayE jAmbUnadamaya bhUshE
nAradAdi muni nuta nAma samudAyE
bhUri manOgyaka rAnchita vINA
pustaka bhAsini chAru hAsE bhuvanEshvarI

pAtita ditisutE shrI padmanAbha vilAsini
vIta pApa jana gEya vibhavE vidyA rUpE
chAtakO jaladamiva sAdaramAshrayAmi tvAm
prItim mayi kuru lOka mAtarayi nityam
dhUta malam kuru mAm sadayE
paripOshita sUriguNE shubhadE bhuvanEshvarI

Translation

O Holy (pAvanE) Goddess (dEvi)! The learned (budha) bend down (avanE) in worship (sEvE) at your (tE) feet (charaNE)!

O Splendorous One (vilAsini) who (implied) is the bestower (dAyI) of happiness (bhavuka) with just a glance (katAksha)! O Saraswati! (bhAratI)! Please always (sadA) give (dEhi) us (implied) well-being/prosperity (kushalam) , O Goddess (IshavarI) of the whole world (bhuvana).

O Beautiful one (sumukhI) who is (implied) the destroyer (hara) of the arrogance (mada) of the spherical (bimba) moon (sOma) (i.e She who is more beautiful than the moon), you delight in/are committed to (niratE) bestowing (dAna) whatever is wished for (kAmita) by your devotees (bhakta jana) worldwide (akhila). You are one who has teeth (dantI) like jasmine (kunda)! O (ayi) you (tE) who destroys (bhEdana) terrible (bhIma), unlimited (ananta) ignorance (agyAna) like the sun (mihira) destroys (implied) the darkness (timira), you (repeating the meaning of tE) live (vAsE) as the honourable (mAnya) qualities (guNA) in the temple (vihAra) of my (mAmaka) heart (hRdI). You have the beautiful (chAru) gait (gatE) of the best (pungava) elephants (sAmaja). You are praised (nutE) by the learned (sura) and the accomplished (sAdhya). You are the unblemished (vimalE) conferrer of boons (varadE), O Bhuvaneshwari (name of Saraswati, also means Goddess of the whole world)!

O Beautiful One (kAntE) with (implied) hair (chikura) like (nibha) rain clouds (vArida), eyes (nayanE) like sapphires (vAsava=Indra, upala=precious stone; indranIla is sapphire), and (implied) eyebrows (chilli, short for chillikAlatA) which steal (chOra) the beauty (ruchi) of Kamadeva’s (mAra, name of manmatha) bow (sharAsana) ! O Lustrous one (bhAsini) with a beautiful (chAru) smile (hAsE) who has made (kRta) an abode (nilayE) on a lotus (sArasa), who wears (implied) golden (jAmbUnadamayaof gold from the river jambu) ornaments (bhUshE), who is praised (nutE) by a multitude (samudAyE) of important (bhUri) sages (muni) like Narada etc (nArada Adi), on whose beautiful (manOgya) curved (anchita) hands (kara) is a Veena-musical instrument (vINA) and a book (pustaka), O Bhuvaneshwari (name of Saraswati, also means Goddess of the whole world)!

O wife (vilAsini) of Shri Padmanabha (note: by some traditions, Saraswati was wife of Vishnu before being married to Brahma), who struck down (pAtita) demons (ditisutE)! People (jana) who lose (vIta) their sins (pApa) sing (gEya) of your greatness (vibhavE)! O Embodiment (rUpE) of knowledge (vidyA)! Like (ika) Chataka birds (chAtaka) take refuge (implied) in clouds (jalada), I respectfully (sAdaram) take refuge (AshrayAmi) in you (tvam). O (ayi) Mother of all people (lOka mAtara), be loving (prItim kuru) to me (mayi) always (nityam) and remove/destroy (dhUta) the sins/impurities (malam) in me (mAm). O Compassionate one (sadayE), with the nurtured (pariposhita) learned (sUri) qualities (guNE)! O Bestower of (dE) prosperity/well being/auspiciousness (shubha)! O Bhuvaneshwari (name of Saraswati, also means Goddess of the whole world)!

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, K.V.Narayanaswamy, M.D.Ramanathan, Swathi Thirunal

Natha Hare

Why does some poetry last eight centuries in the memory of men while others last not even a generation? I don’t really have an answer. I am referring to Jayadeva’s epic work Gita Govinda. If a work’s success is to be measured by its longevity, this work from the 12th century surely meets its mark. It is sung and danced to in different parts of India, from its native Odisha to Kerala, a couple of thousand kilometres away. I have already featured one song from Gita Govinda in this blog; today I am exploring Natha Hare which is well known to Carnatic Music fans.

The song describes Radha in a state of viraha or abandonment by her beloved. She is a forlorn heroine and Jayadeva paints a pitiable picture of her. My last post on a Qawwali describing an intoxicated lover is not that different from this post featuring a lovelorn Radha. Both represent the longing of the soul (Jeevatma) for the Divine (Paramatma), both use the human emotion of romantic love as an analogy. The former shocks us with drunken revelry, the latter with erotic imagery. Poets always use a combination of imagination and life experiences to draw us into an emotional understanding of what they want to convey, and Jayadeva has done that with exquisite artistry.

That exquisite artistry is matched by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (1926-2004) in giving abhinaya (expression of the sentiment) to this beautiful song. I particularly chose an ashtapadi this week because I wanted to feature this revered Guru of the Odissi dance tradition. He was acknowledged with the Padma Vibhushan in 2000 for exceptional and distinguished contribution to the arts. A dancer from Odisha to give abhinaya for poetry from the same State seems apt! I particularly enjoyed his portrayal of Radha dressing herself and secretly leaving her house to meet Krishna.

There is a longer version here for those who are interested.

Natha Hare has been sung by Carnatic musicians in different ragas. However none of the many renditions I listened to were of the full song. If you would like to listen to some renditions, here are a couple of links :

  • A rendition by Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna in Darbari Kanada. His renditions are very well known of course. I am a bit surprised that he has sung it as ‘nAda harE’ instead of ‘nAtha harE’.
  • A rendition by Unnikrishnan in Madhuvanti. Both the softness of the raga and the silkiness of his voice match the mood of this poetry to perfection.

As with other long pieces, I have given a word for word translation and an interpretation based on my understanding, limited though it is.

पश्यति दिशि दिशि रहसि भवन्तम्।
तदधर मधुर मधूनि पिबन्तम्॥
नाथ हरे जगन्नाथ हरे।
सीदति राधा वासगृहे धृवम्॥

pashyati dishi dishi rahasi bhavantam
tadadhara madhura madhUni pibantam
nAtha harE jagannAtha harE
sIdati rAdhA vAsagRhE dhRvam

Radha is surely (dhRvam) pining (sIdati) in the bed-chamber (vAsagRhE), sucking at (pibantam=drinking) that (tat) sweet (madhura), honeyed (madhUni) lower lip (adhara), secretly (rahasi) looking (pashyati) in all directions (dishi dishi) for you (bhavantam), O Lord (nAtha) Hari (harE), O Lord of the Universe (jagat+nAtha)

Radha awaits Krishna for a union much as a devotee awaits a union with the Divine. She looks in all directions, not knowing where He is. This quest for God is described by many poets in many different ways. A song from an old Hindi film comes to mind – तू ढूंढता है जिसको बस्ती में या के बन में, वह साँवरा सलोना रहता है तेरे मन में – He, whom you search for in populated places or in forests, that beautiful dark skinned one lives in your heart. Radha, who has Krishna in her heart, still looks blindly for Him everywhere.

त्वदभिसरण रभसेन वलन्ती।
पतति पदानि कियन्ति चलन्ती॥
विहित विशद बिस किसलय वलया ।
जीवति परमिह तव रति कलया॥

dvadabhisaraNa rabhasEna valantI
patati padAni kiyanti chalantI
vihita vishada bisa kisalaya valayA
jIvati paramiha tava rati kalayA


She (implied) eagerly (rabhasEna) hastens (valantI) to your (tvad) rendezvous (abhisaraNa), walks (chalantI) a few (kiyanti) steps (padAni) and (implied) falls (patatI). Girdled (valayA) with the soft (vishada) sprout (kisalaya) of a lotus plant (bisa) (implication-in order to cool the heat of her desire), now (iha) henceforth (param) she (implied) lives (jIvati) by imagining (kalayA) the pleasure of your love-making (tava rati).

She is eager for the union but stumbles and falls as she hastens to meet Him. Shall we take it to imply that the path to our union with the Divine is not a straightforward one? We will have doubts, we will stumble and fall and sometimes all that will console us is imagining that one day we will be be one with God.

मुहुरवलोकित मण्डन लीला ।
मधुरिपुरहमिति भावन शीला॥
त्वरितमुपैति न कथमभिसारम् ।
हरिरिति वदति सखीमनुवारम्॥

mahuravalOkita maNDana lIlA
madhuripuhamiti bhAvana shIlA
tvaritamupaiti na kathamabhisAram
haririti vadati sakhImanuvAram


Adorning herself (lIlA-disguising or dressing as one’s paramour) with ornaments (maNDana) like that of Krishna (implied), she (implied) looks (avalokita) again and again (muhuh) at herself (implied) and is accustomed to imagining (bhAvanashIlA) ‘I am (aham) Krishna (madhu ripu=enemy of Ripu)’ . How is it (katham) that Hari doesn’t (na) swiftly (tvaritam) come towards (upaiti) the rendezvous (abhisAram), she (implied) says (vadati) to her friend (sakhi) time after time (anuvaram).

To take on the colours or the form of the beloved is a metaphor for drowning oneself in His love. Our beloved Meera said मैं तो सांवरे के रंग राची – I am dyed in the colour of the dark one. The wonderful Bulleh Shah said रांझा रांझा करदी नी मैं आपे रांझा होई । सद्दो नी मैनूं धीद्दो रांझा, हीर ना आखो कोई । – By repeatedly calling for Ranjha, I myself became Ranjha. Call me Ranjha from now, don’t call me Heer. Jayadeva, who predates both Meera and Bulleh Shah, has used a similar metaphor in these verses. ‘I am Him‘ is Vedantic thought isn’t it, no wonder we come across it in many forms! .

श्लिष्यति चुम्बति जलधरकल्पम् ।
हरिरुपगत इति तिमिरमनल्पम्॥
भवति विलम्बिनि विगलितलज्जा ।
विलपति रोदिति वासकसज्जा॥

shlishyati chumbati jaladharakalpam
harirupagata iti timiramanalpam
bhavati vilambini vigalitalajja
vilapati rOditi vAskasajja


Thinking (implied) that (iti) Krishna (harih) has arrived (upagata) she (implied) embraces (shlishyati) and kisses (chumbati) the vast (unalpam-not small) cloud-like (jaladhara=cloud, kalpam=similar to) darkness (timiram). Realising that he (implied) has become (bhavati) delayed (vilambini), Radha (implied), a woman ready to receive her beloved (vAsakasajja – vAsaka=home, sajja=decorated/prepared), wails (vilapati) and weeps (rOditi) without shame (vigalita lajja).

Radha takes the very darkness that surrounds her to be Krishna, the dark one. Darkness is often used to symbolise ignorance. Radha, who in her ignorance thinks she is separate from Krishna, weeps in despair.

श्रीजयदेव कवेरिदमुदितम् ।
रसिकजनम् तनुतामतिमुदितम्॥

shrI jayadEva kavEridamuditam
rasikajanam tanutAmatimuditam

May this (idam), which has been said (uditam) by the poet (kavi) Shri Jayadeva accomplish (tanutam from verb tanutE) great (ati) delight (muditam) in an appreciative (rasika) audience (jana=public).

Jayadeva signs off, hoping that his verses pleases his audience. To me, this is not a very meaningful or important verse, but this is the verse included by most musicians!

Image citation : Radha Pining for Krishna from a Gita Govinda manuscript, Freer Gallery of Art
https://asia.si.edu/object/F2005.7/

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit, Jayadeva, M.Balamuralikrishna, Unnikrishnan

A Voice for the Stars

‘Oh no, he has passed away!’ I read the news item with sorrow. I know that he has been in critical care for a while. But it still hits hard. I go about my day but it is there at the back of my thoughts….this passing of a voice which has been so familiar and so dear for so long.

Browsing the internet, I see that ‘Ayiram Nilave Va‘ was one of his earliest songs. Oh! I remember the radio blaring out this song from when I was just a young girl! One doesn’t forget the songs of one’s childhood and youth, does one? I listen to his songs in the background as I read the eulogies which flood the internet. His voice is like velvet, enveloping me in a zone of comfort. What can I say that so many others have not already said? Only that I love his voice, and that I am grateful for the many gems that he has given us over the years. He may be a public figure but I grieve his loss as if it were a personal one. My respects to the great S.P.Balasubrahmanyam.

It is very difficult to choose just one song from his repertoire of more than 40,000 recorded songs. But I have chosen one, a song which appealed from the first time I heard it and still does. More importantly, it features a glimpse of SPB in a role that he has played all his life with such excellence.

Here’s a link to a totally light hearted song in which his singing prowess shines brightly as always. I hope it makes you remember him with a smile just as I do 🙂 Thank you SPB.

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Filed under S.P.Balasubramaniam, Tamil Film Music

Mere Rashk-E-Qamar

Nusrat3This is a post I have been meaning to do for a long time so I am happy to have finally come to it. Regular readers know that though I write mostly about Carnatic Music, I am very fond of a few other forms as well. Qawwalis are near the top of my list. There is something about the passionate singing, the clapping rhythm and the beautiful poetry which appeals very much to me. My choice today is a Qawwali written by Fana Buland Shehri, tuned and sung by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan originally in the late 1980’s.  There is also a recent ‘filmi‘ version but I have not heard it.

Devotion comes in many guises, doesn’t it. There is the cerebral kind, the followers of which are very interested in philosophy and meaning. They tend to think of mythologies as analogies and scriptures as setting direction rather than dictating rules. Many of them are loners in their devotion, internalising their beliefs and preferring to go their own way rather than follow any organised groups. I confess that my devotion belongs in this category.

There is ritualistic devotion, the followers of which find great solace in performing religious dictates to perfection. They will fast on the days one is meant to fast, make a study of ‘puja vidhi‘ or its equivalent in different religious practices, visit places of worship as ordained and generally see the perfection of their rituals as proof of their devotion. These people enjoy devotion in a community; at times allowing the lines between social and religious interaction to blur. The cerebral kinds look as these ritualists with benign bemusement but are happy to join in occasionally.

Then there is passionate devotion, the followers of which seem to have an almost intimate association with the Divine. Not for them the rules and rituals of established religion, nor the studious examination of philosophy.   Sometimes they are in a community, at other times they weave a lone path. The ritualists abhor them for they follow no rules, the cerebralists look askance for they seem to have no thought of consequences. They seem to just Love God, and I do mean to capitalise the L as it seems apart from all that I call love. But ah, to love like that!  If one of my young lady friends from a good family suddenly declares that she will abandon everything, and take to the streets singing and dancing in praise of God, I’ll probably call their family and offer a referral to a good psychiatrist. But this is what Meera did and we still sing her songs! What does it take to have passionate devotion like that? Qawwalis are songs of such passionate devotion, and they quite intrigue me.

Coming to my song choice of today, I have given the lyrics with transliteration and translation as I always do. Sufi songs always seem to have a meaning within a meaning so I have also given my personal interpretation. I’m no expert; I know little of Islam, even less of Sufi beliefs. I understand only the parts of Urdu which are common to Hindi. Using dictionaries and other resources online, I present you with a ‘good enough’ translation in order to enjoy the music – or so I hope!

Of note : The poet gives the Divine a feminine persona, taking up a masculine one for himself. This is interesting in itself. In Hindu devotional poetry, though there is plenty of poetry addressed to Goddesses, the Divine principle or ‘Purusha‘ is masculine. Male poets at times take on a female persona or ‘Nayika Bhava‘ but I wonder if male divinities are given a female persona in poetry? As I write this, I can only think of the ‘Kannamma‘ songs of Subramaniya Bharati, where Krishna is portrayed as a girl child. This feminine divinity allows the poet to present his ‘enthralment’ in a romantic light.

Listen to the maestro sing below, while you peruse the lyrics and my interpretations which follow.

Note: I present the lyrics in Devanagari script as I do not know Urdu script.

मेरे रश्क़-ए-क़मर तू ने पहली नज़र जब नज़र से मिलायी मज़ा आ गया
बर्क़ सी गिर गयी काम ही कर गयी आग ऐसी लगाई मज़ा आ गया

mErE rashk-E-qamar tU nE pahlI nazar jab nazar sE milAyI mazA A gayA
bark sI gir gayI kAm hI kar gayI Ag aisI lagAyI mazA A gayA

O my (mErE) envy-of-the-moon (rashk=envy, qamar=moon i.e. so beautiful that the moon envies that person) when you (tu nE) met my eyes (nazar milana = to meet eyes, an idiom) for the first time (pahlI), how enjoyable was that! (mazA A gayA)! It was as if (sI) a lighting (barq sI) fell (gir gayI), and did what it was meant to do (kAm hI kar gayI), igniting (lagayI) such (aisI) a fire (Ag) that it was greatly enjoyable! (mazA A gayA)!

The poet talks of the ‘pahlI nazar‘ or the first meeting as being like a lightning strike alighting a burning passion. Love at first sight is not something I trust in, but I do understand the concept. Well, I did love my children from the moment they were put in my arms!  What then is a first meeting with the Divine? I have felt a certain something in some holy places, yes. And also when seeing some natural wonders. Do some people feel these things so strongly that they become passionately devoted from that moment on?

जाम में घोल कर हुस्न की मस्तियाँ चाँदनी मुस्कुराई मज़ा आ गया
चाँद के साये में  ऐ मेरे साक़िया तू ने ऐसी पिलाई मज़ा आ गया

jAm mEṅ ghOl kar husn kI mastiyAṅ chAṅdnI muskurA-I mazA A gayA
chAṅd kE sAyE mEṅ ai mErE sAqiyA tU nE aisI pilAyI mazA A gayA

After mixing (ghOl kar) the intoxications (mastiyAṅ) of beauty (husn) in (mEṅ) my (implied) goblet (jAm), the moonlight (chAṅdnI) smiled (muskurA-I); how enjoyable was that (mazA A gayA)! In the (mEṅ) shelter (sAyE) of (kE) the moon (chAṅd), O (ai) my (mErE) cup-bearer (sAquiyA), you (tu nE) gave me drinks (pilAyI) in such a way (aisI) that it was greatly enjoyable (mazA A gayA)!

Intoxication is an analogy for being in a heightened state of divine love, an analogy often used in Sufi poetry. The beauty of divinity is mixed into the goblet which the poet imbibes. Who then is the sAquiyA or the cup-bearer? Perhaps it is the Guru or the teacher who initiates one into loving the Divine. I like the use of moonlight to set the scene – it is so much more gentler than sunlight, isn’t it? In moonlight, much is still in the dark, just as for us all, much about the Divine is unknown.

नशा शीशे में अंगड़ाई लेने लगा बज़्म-ए-रिंदां में सागर खनकने लगा
मैकदे पे बरसने लगी मस्तियाँ जब घटा घिर के छायी मज़ा आ गया

nashA shIshE mEṅ angṛA-I lEnE lagA bazm-E-riṅdAṅ mEṅ sAgar khanaknE lagA
maikadE pE barasnE lagI mastiyAṅ jab ghaTA ghir kE CHAyI mazA A gayA

Such was (implied) the intoxication (nashA) that started stretching out (angṛA-I lEnE lagA) in (mEṅ) the glass (shIshE), that goblets (sAgar) started clinking (khanaknE lagA) in (mEṅ) the dissolute (riṅdAṅ) gathering (bazm). When storm clouds (ghatA) gathered (ghir), becoming overcast (chAyI), and intoxication (mastiyAṅ) started showering (barasnE lagI) upon the tavern (maikadE pE), it was greatly enjoyable (mazA A gayA)!

The poet talks about a dissolute gathering of intoxicated people. To the ritualistic devout, this passionate love will of course seem dissolute! As the love for the Divine took root and stretched, says the poet, the goblets started clinking. I think he means that a resonance is created, and devotees feed on each other’s fervour.  As that happened, it was as if more intoxication, more love, poured down upon him. It seems to me that the poet talks about reaching an ecstatic state.

बे हिजाबाना वह सामने आ गए और जवानी जवानी से टकरा गयी
आँख उनकी लड़ी यूँ मेरी आँख से देख कर ये लड़ाई मज़ा आ गया

bE hijAbAnA vah sAmnE A gayE aur jawAnI jawAnI sE takrA gayI
Aṅkh unkI laṛI yUṅ mErI Aṅkh sE dEkh kar yE laṛA-I mazA A gayA

Unveiled/openly (bE hijAbAnA), she (vah) came in front (sAmnE A gayE) of me (implied), and youth (jawanI) collided (takrA gayI) with youth (jawanI). Her eyes (Aṅkh unkI) and mine  (mErI Aṅkh sE) exchanged loving glances (ankh ladnA-idiom meaning cast loving glances, fall in love) in such a manner (yUṅ)! Seeing (dEkh kar) this (yE) casting of glances (laṛA-I – implied from prev phrase) was greatly enjoyable (mazA A gayA)!

It is in such an ecstatic state that the Divine becomes unveiled and clear to the seeker. The poet likens the meeting to one of youthful lovers. It is a mutual love, the poet clearly states, not a one-sided affair. I like that!

आँख में थी हया हर मुलाक़ात पर सुर्ख आरिज़ हुए वस्ल की बात पर
उस ने शर्मा के मेरे सवालात पे ऐसे गर्दन झुकाई मज़ा आ गया

Aṅkh mEṅ thI hayA har mulAqAt par surkh Ariz huE wasl kI bAt par
us nE sharmA kE mErE sawAlAt pE aisE gardan jhukAyI mazA A gayA

There was (thI) modesty (hayA) in her eyes (Aṅkh mEṅ) at (par) each (har) encounter (mulAqAt), and her cheeks (Ariz) reddened (surkh) at the talk of (bAt par) union (wasl). At my questions (mErE sawAlAt pE), she (us nE) bent (jhukAyI) her neck (gardan) in embarrassment (sharmA kE) in such a way (aisE) that it was greatly enjoyable (mazA A gayA)!

Portraying the Divine in a feminine form to the poet’s masculinity lends an interesting aspect to the poetry. Here the poet takes on the masculine pursuer’s role, while the Divine is the one pursued. I interpret this to mean that those who are seek the Divine need to actively pursue this, and not wait passively for it to happen. The poet seeks union, and the Divine shies away; the Divine is not easily ‘caught’.

शैख़ साहिब का ईमान मिट ही गया देख कर हुस्न-ए-साक़ी पिघल ही गया
आज से पहले ये कितने मग़रूर थे लुट गयी पारसाई मज़ा आ गया

shaikh sAhib kA ImAn miT hi gayA, dEkh kar husn-E-sAqI pighal hI gayA
Aj sE pahlE yE kitnE mag̠rUr thE luT gayI pArsA-I mazA A gayA

The faith (ImAn) of the venerable gentleman (shaikh sAhib) was destroyed (miT hI gayA) and seeing (dEkh kar) the beauty of the cup-bearer (husn-E-sAqI), it just melted away (pighal hI gayA). How proud (mag̠rUr) he (yE) was before today (Aj sE)! Now his virtue (parsA-I) is lost (luT gayI), how enjoyable was that (mazA A gayA)!

Here I hesitate in my interpretation. Who is the venerable gentleman? Is it the poet himself? If that is right, he had been a traditional devotee before, with a strong faith and pride at his own virtue. A ‘ritualistic’ devotee perhaps? The transition from ritualistic belief to passionate belief must occur with a break-and-remake. All that you consider to be virtue – the rituals, the beliefs, the rules – have to be thrown away before you can embrace this new type of devotion.

ऐ फ़ना शुक्र है आज बाद-ए-फ़ना उस ने रख ली मेरे प्यार की आबरू
अपने हाथों से उसने मेरी क़ब्र पर चादर-ए-गुल चढ़ायी मज़ा आ गया

ai fanA shukr hai aaj bAd-E-fanA us nE rakh lI mErE pyAr kI AbrU
apnE hAthOṅ sE usnE mErI qabr par chAdar-E-gul chaDHAyI mazA A gayA

O Death (fanA -also the pen name or takhallus of the poet)! My (implied) gratitude (shukr) that today (Aj), after my death (bAd-E-fanA), she has (us nE) kept (rakh lI) the honour (AbrU) of (kI) my love (pyAr). With her own hands (apnE hAthOṅ sE) she  (usnE) spread (chaDHAyI) a covering (chAdar) of flowers (gul) on my (mErI) grave (qabr) which was greatly enjoyable (mazA A gayA)!

Again I interpret the ‘death’ to be the death of the old prideful self. In Hindu philosophy I have read that the ego, this feeling of self, must be destroyed before one can find union with the Divine. Not that different, is it! Through it all, the Divine keeps honour with your love, the poet says. I have not so far commented on the refrain ‘mazA A gayA‘ which adds so much beauty to these lyrics! The poet has enjoyed every step of his transformation from his first introduction to Divinity, his intoxication, the pursuit of a union and the destruction of his old self. He implies that this is a joyful transformation indeed!

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Filed under Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Qawwali

Hari Tum Haro

Krishna BabyAfter many months of being away from this blog, I am finally back to wish you all a very happy Janmashtami–Krishnatashtami-Gokulashtami! I have been feeling so guilty about ignoring my blog, but I couldn’t help it; nothing really felt like Music to My Ears.

It started soon after the stories of Covid became public. For some undecipherable reason, I just couldn’t listen to music anymore! I wondered and wondered about it, I even tried to force myself to listen but there it was – there was no music in my soul. There was a sense of disturbance in my mind, of a kind which would not allow me to concentrate on anything. For some, music soothes all disturbances. For others, true music only exists when there is little disturbance, or the disturbances can be swept away. Sadly, I am of the latter type. Months went by and I listened only to snippets, and nothing really drew me in.

Then last month my daughter sent me a video of my little grandson dancing to music. His expression of enjoyment, his concentration and his movements were such a delight to watch! “There it is!!”, I thought, “That’s the joy I have lost!”. Since then I have been listening more often and with more joy.  My grandson was here this morning, and we played music for him so I could record his reactions for you. Here he is demonstrating his signature moves – the sway, the spin, the bounce and the clap 🙂 Today’s play list included the Beatles, Bhupen Hazarika and Jitendra Abhisheki.

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The Joy of Music

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It took me only a few moments to decide on the song I would like to feature on this Janmashtami day.  ‘Hari, you remove the woes of all people‘ says Meerabai in this lovely Bhajan. I wonder, is this a prayer as in ‘Please remove the woes‘, or a statement ‘You are the remover of all woes‘ ? It works as both, does it not, a statement of belief and a prayer for relief.  This seems exactly the right prayer for the times we are in today.

There can be no other than M.S.Subbulakshmi’s rendition for has she not made this bhajan totally hers! The internet abounds with stories of Gandhiji’s love for this song and his request for her to sing it, so I shall not repeat them. It has been set to tune in Darbari Kanada by ‘Piano’ Vaidhayanathan.


Lyrics

Language : Braj Bhasha
The lyrics below are sourced from Bhajan Sangrah (Geeta Press) 1938. That matches closely with the 2015 Edition too.

हरि तुम हरो जन की भीर।
द्रौपदी की लाज राखी, तुरत बढ़ायो चीर॥
भगत कारण रूप नरहरि, धर्यो आप सरीर॥
हिरण्याकुस को मारि लीन्हो, धर्यो नाहिन धीर॥
बूड़तो गजराज राख्यो, कियौ बाहर नीर॥
दासी मीरा लाल गिरधर, चरण-कँवल पर सीर॥

The lyrics as sung by M.S.Subbulakshmi are slightly different as given below. I will stick to her version for a detailed translation. I used a Braj Bhasha dictionary; please excuse any errors.

Lyrics in Braj Bhasha

हरि तुम हरो जनकी भीर।
द्रौपदी की लाज राखी, तुम बढ़ायो चीर॥
भगत कारण रूप नरहरि, धर्यो आप शरीर।
हरिणकश्यप मार लीन्हो, धर्यो नाहिन धीर॥
बूड़ते गजराज राख्यो, कियो बाहर नीर।
दास मीरा लाल गिरधर, दु:ख जहाँ तहाँ पीर॥

Transliteration

hari tum harO jan kI bhIra
draupadI kI lAj rAkhI, tum baDHAyO chIra
bhagata kAraNa rUpa narahari, dharyO Apa sharIra
hariNakashyapa mAr lInho.n, dharyO nAhina dhIra
bUDatE gajarAja rAkhyO, kiyO bAhara nIra
dAsa mIrA lAla giradhara, dukkha jahA.n tahA.n pIra

Translation

Hari, you (tum) remove (harO) the woes (bhIr) of all people (jana).
You (tum) lengthened (baDHAyO) Draupadi’s garment (chIr) and protected her  dignity/honour (lAj rAkhI – an idiom).
For the sake (kAraNa) of your devotee (bhagata), you (Apa) assumed (dharyO) a body (sharIr) in the form (rUpa) of Narasimha (narahari).
You killed (mAra lInhO.n) Hiranyakashipu. (Sorry, could not make sense of second half of this line. Dharyo-you took on, nAhina-negation, dhIra-courageous…what could this mean?)
You (impled) saved (rAkhE) the drowning (bUDatE) king of elephants (gaja rAja) by (implied) taking him out  (kiyO bAhara) of the water (nIra).
Meera, the devotee (dAsa) of her beloved (lAla) Krishna (giri-dhara=holder of mountain) says (implied) “wherever (jahA.n) there is suffering (dukkha), there (tahA.n) comes (implied) a divine/holy person (pIra)”. (Note : pIra also means pain/difficulty/sorrow. Some people translate this last line as ‘wherever there is suffering, there is pain’. But that seems repetitive to me. Meera has given examples of how when there is suffering, a divinity comes to aid us. So I’ll go with the definition of divine/holy/siddha for pIra).

 

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Filed under Bhajan, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Meera, Uncategorized

Kana Kan Kodi Vendum

Lord ShivaHappy Shivaratri everyone! May Lord Shiva bless us all!

As always, I want to celebrate the day with a post in Lord Shiva’s honour. I have chosen a song which I love for many reasons. Kana Kan Kodi Vendum is written by Papanasam Sivan in praise of the Lord Kapaleeshwarar. Mylapore, where the temple is located, was the poet’s home ground, as it was my father’s. I remember many a visit to this temple in my childhood, many a concert heard in its grounds. I can never visit Chennai without a visit to this temple where echoes of my childhood and the loving care of my parents can still be heard deep in my heart.

I love this song also because it is in Kambhoji, a raga dear to me. Why do some ragas resonate inside you like a reflection of an emotion you never knew you had? When Kambhoji is sung, not just my head but my whole being sways in time. I meet the characteristic phrases of the raga like I would a dear friend of long standing.

A reader had commented recently that he enjoys kritis in Tamil, a language which he feels to be his own. That made me think. I too, I realise, perk up a little when a kriti is in Tamil. There is an added pleasure to enjoying the lyrics when the consonants and vowels sit so very comfortably on my tongue! This is surprising, as I believe I am more competent in Hindi and I speak Bengali more often than I speak Tamil. Still, one’s mother tongue has a special place in one’s heart, does it not.

I also love the lyrics of songs which are descriptive in nature. That drew me to Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer who is adept at drawing a picture which feels so very real. Papanasam Sivan has proven that he too can do an admirable job of describing a scene. Do check out the lyrics in the footnote. In my mind, I substitute the utsava moorti (the processional idol) by our Lord Himself, dressed not in skins and coated with ashes, but resplendent with glittering ornaments and fragrant garlands, His Goddess and His sons following. I add to this imagery the sound of the Nayanars singing and Nandi playing his mridangam. Would not the hordes of devotees melt at this sight and fall to His feet as Papanasam Sivan describes? Would they not be simply enchanted? Imagery and visualisation are powerful tools used for goal setting, self-improvement and meditation.  Lyrics which include wonderful imagery are good tools in our spiritual arsenal.

But you know, songs I like invariably become background music to my own life. It has just been a few weeks that my grandson has learnt to walk. He is still unsteady on his feet, his legs splayed wide for better balance. With his new skill, he sets out to explore the world with intrepidity! What a sight that is! The other day we set him loose in the park and he ventured courageously to explore his surroundings. My husband followed with the pram and the various paraphernalia that babies need, and I followed with my hands ready to grab the little one if needed. A little procession 🙂 And I said to myself ‘En kaNmaNiyin bavani kANa kaN koDi vENDum’ (One needs countless eyes to see my darling parading!). So there you are, I have brought the joy of the sacred to the profane, but the profane seems sacred to me now. Perhaps the separation between the two is not a chasm but just an ephemeral screen.

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En Kanmaniyin Bavani

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To present you this song, I bring to you a performance by Madurai Mani Iyer. My sister will no doubt laugh at me, as we were bombarded with his music in our childhood and have since kept quite away from it. I smile as I listen to it a number of times in the last few days, freely admitting that he is quite incomparable. I am remembering my father and his love for Madurai Mani’s music as I post this.


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி

காணக் கண் கோடி வேண்டும் கபாலியின் பவனி (காணக் )
அனுபல்லவி
மாணிக்கம் வைரம் முதல் நவரத்னாபரணமும்
மணமார் பற்பல மலர் மாலைகளும் முகமும்

மதியோடு தாராகணம் நிறையும் அந்தி
வானமோ கமல வனமோ என மனம்
மயங்க அகளங்க அங்கம் யாவும் இலங்க
அபாங்க அருள் மழை பொழி பவனி (காணக் )

சரணம்

மாலோடையன் பணியும் மண்ணும் விண்ணும் பரவும்
மறை ஆகமன் துதிக்கும் இறைவன் அருள் பெறவே
காலம் செல்லுமுன் கனதனமும் தந்தார்க்கு நன்றி
கருதிக் கண்ணாரக் கண்டுள்ளுருகிப் பணியப் பலர்
காண அறுமுகனும் கணபதியும் சண்டேச்வரனும்
சிவகணமும் தொடர கலைவாணி
திருவும் பணி கற்பக நாயகி வாமன்
அதிகாரநந்தி சேவைதனைக் (காணக் )
Transliteration

pallavi
kANak kaN koDi vENDum kapAliyin bavani (kANak)

anupallavi
mANikkam vairam mudal navaratnAbharaNamum
maNamAr paRpala malar mAlaigaLum mugamum
madiyODu tArAgaNam niRaiyum andi
vaAnamO kamala vanamO ena manam
mayanga agaLanga angam yAvum ilanga
apAnga aruL mazhai pozhi bavani (kANak)

charaNam
mAlODaiyan paNiyum maNNum viNNum paravum
maRai Agaman tudikkum iRaivan aruL peRavE
kAlam sellumun ghanadhanamum tandArkku nanDRi
karudik kaNNaarak kanDuLLurugip paNiyap palar
kANa aRumuganum gaNapatiyum chanDEsvaranum
shivagaNamum toDarak kalai vANi
tiruvum paNi kaRpaga nAyaki vAman
adikAranandi sevaidanaik (kANak)

Translation
Pallavi
One needs (vENDum) countless (kODi – literally, a crore/10 million) eyes to see (kANa) the procession (bavani) of Lord Kapali (Lord Shiva of Kapali temple, Mylapore).
Anupallavi
With His appearance (mugamum) decorated (implied) with ornaments (AbharaNamum) studded (implied) with the nine (nava) gems (ratnam) starting from (mudal) rubies (mANikkam) and diamonds (vairam),  and garlands (mAlaugaLumum) of many (paRpala) flowers (malar) full of (Ar) fragrance (maNam), with all (yAvum) His unblemished (agaLanga) limbs (angam) shining brightly (ilanga), our minds (manam) become enchanted (mayanga) wondering if it is (ena) the twilight (andi) sky (vAnam) full of (niRaiyum) stars (tArAgaNam) along with (ODu) the moon (madi), or is it (implied) a lotus (kamala) forest (vanam) . One needs countless eyes to see (from pallavi) the procession (bavani) of the Lord (implied) who showers (mazhai pozhi) grace (aruL) with the corner of his eyes (apanga).
Charanam
Before (mun) any further (implied) time (kAlam) passes (sellum), with the intention of (karudi) of gratitude (nanDRi) to the One who gave (tandArkku) gold (ghanam) and wealth (dhanam), and to get (peravE) His grace (aruL), let us (implied) bow down (paNIya) with a melting heart (uL=inside, uRugi=melting) after watching (kANDu) to the solace (ARa) of the eyes (kAN) the procession of the Lord (iRaivan) who is paid obeisance to by (paNiyum) Lord Vishnu (mAl) along with (ODu) Brahma (aiyan), and who is eulogised/praised (tudikkum) in the Vedas (maRai) and Agamas (Agaman) which are spread (paravum) throughout the world (maNNum) and heavens (viNNum). One needs countless eyes to see (implied) the service (sEvai danai) of Lord Shiva (vAman) on his vehicle with a bull’s face and body of a man (adikAranandi), along with Goddess Karpagambal (kaRpaga nAyaki) being served by (paNi) Goddess Saraswati (kalai vANi) and Goddess Lakshmi (tiruvum), followed by (toDara) Lord Subrahmanya (arumugamum), Lord Ganesha (gaNapatiyum), Lord Chandikeshwara (chandesvaranum), and the Ganas (shivagaNamum), while many (palar) watch (kANa).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Madurai Mani Iyer, Papanasam Sivan

New Visions

My regular readers know that my focus is normally on lyrics and meaning. So I am stepping out of my norm in writing this post today. You see, I rather worry about the future of CM. Has it become something of an anachronism, to be appreciated by the aging or the aged? Concert goers often report that the audience is predominantly made up of seniors. If that is so, what of the future?

My exposure to Carnatic Music came when I was but a small child. My parents were in their twenties and thirties, and so were all their friends who also went to those concerts. Do the current generation of twenty-and-thirty somethings show any interest in CM? If they don’t, how will their children be exposed to this music like I was? Those days of playing outside sabhas with other children of rasikas with CM playing the background have certainly made a difference to my own tastes.

Perhaps it is entertainment available at home via TV and mobile devices which influence the type of audience at CM concerts. In my early childhood there was no television. My parents and other people of their age group depended on concerts, plays and movies for their leisure time. But with the constant bombardment of home entertainment, added to appalling traffic conditions, I guess going to concerts as a family outing is quite unappealing. How then are the little ones getting exposed to the concert experience?

Perhaps it is the lessening impact of religion amongst the youngters of today. After all, CM is mostly devotional, and maybe it does not seem so meaningful to the young as it does to those of us of a different generation.

I confess that I am rather old fashioned in my tastes in CM; I like it totally traditional. However, I don’t ever want to be one of those oldies who always start sentences with ‘in my days….‘!! With this is mind, I have, for the past few years, listened with interest to innovative videos on YouTube. What is the artists of the younger generation doing to appeal to the youth of today? CM artists have, for a long time, collaborated with musicians from other parts of the world in attempts to merge different worlds. These attempts don’t appeal to me. However, other innovations have caught my attention and I am presenting a few for your consideration today. Tell me what you think!


Carnatic Progressive Rock Band -Agam : When I first saw Harish Sivaramakrishnan’s video a couple of years back, I was quite struck with his voice and his presentation. I believe he and his band Agam are performed in mainstream sabhas last season. Look at the audience; so many youngsters and everyone enjoying themselves too! I’ll be happy to attend Agam’s concert if that’s possible one day.


I have also been following videos by Indian Raga on youtube. You can read about the iniative at their website here https://indianraga.com/.  Given that it is Ramakrishnan Murthy who sings (I do like him!) it is absolutely authentic. I have also been seeing Mahesh Raghavan’s videos for sometime, he is quite amazing with his iPad! How’s this for youthful appeal!


Now this is again from Indian Raga, but a totally different kettle of fish. Vinod Krishnan, Aditya Rao and Mahesh Raghavan give a Carnatic take on Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. Of course this is not CM, but will it influence youngsters to take an interest in CM, do you think?


This fouth video is totally classical but I have included it to showcase this talented youngster. The non-traditional setting and attire have no impact on his music but may make it more accessible to youngsters, don’t you think?

I hope you have enjoyed the music I have presented today. Perhaps, like me, you can reassure yourself that CM will endure, perhaps in a slightly different guise, but still recognisably CM!

 

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Arunachala Natham

A man who travelled 200km to save his parents’ bushfire-threatened home in Bobin on New South Wales’ mid-north coast (fire pictured in the town earlier this month) has claimed he was fired from his job for taking time off work. Picture: Peter Parks/AFP.The worship of fire and the worship with fire has been a part of ancient religions across the world. If the Adityas and then Agni were primary deities in the Vedas, the Zoroastrians saw fire as the light of Ahura Mazda. The Vestal Virgins of ancient Rome worshipped the Sacred Fire of Vesta, the Greeks bowed to Hestas and Hephaestus, the Aztecs had Chantico, to name just a few. Although I light a lamp every morning and evening at my home altar, although I have seen and participated in innumerable Hindu rituals where the homa fire stood as witness, I have always seen Agni as some remote God of the Vedic people quite unrelated to my own beliefs. I even saw the deification of nature as somewhat primitive, preferring to think of it as symbolic.

But lately I have become much more sympathetic to the idea of nature worship. My change of mind comes from, of all things, the Solar Panels we installed earlier in the month. ‘What?’ You are thinking, aren’t you, ‘Whatever is Suja going on about today?‘. So, here’s the thing. Since the installation, I have become so much more aware of the power that is that ball of fire we call the Sun. A slowtop, that’s what I am! One goes through life with blinkers on, doesn’t one, not even noticing the extraordinary which is within all those ordinaries around us! Our new solar panels produce so much electricity that we can run all our appliances during the day including a washing machine, dishwasher, induction cook top, fridges, vacuum cleaner, electric mop, TV and computer (to just name just a few) and still have extra to export to the grid. Is that not simply amazing? We don’t have a battery so we do use electricity from the grid when solar production is not sufficient but we are net positive.  I confess; all these years I have paid electricity bills without once glancing at consumption. Now suddenly I am hyper-aware and am just blown away by the wonder of solar energy. The fire so far away in the skies has so much power that even the most insignificant, miniscule part of it which falls upon our roof is enough to run our home! I know, this is something even school kids would know. But there is knowing and there is truly experiencing. It doesn’t feel primitive at all to respect that fire and call it a God, it is that awe inspiring.

But we Hindus have one more factor amongst our Gods and Goddesses. We realise that they have both benevolent and malevolent aspects to them. A kindly Durga and a threatening Kali are but two sides of the same, as are Shiva and Bhairava. That kindly solar fire which runs my home has also caused the most destructive havoc in Australia, my home country. Wild bush fires are all consuming, voracious in their appetite for more destruction. The earth is parched with drought and people are suffering. The temperatures across Australia are reaching record highs. We are a nation scorched. We need rain, rain which quenches the thirst of a parched land. But that is a prayer to Varuna, another God, and another post.

Today my musical choice is dedicated Shiva in his manifestation in the form of an Agni Lingam, am emblem of fire. Arunachala Natham, set to raga Saranga, belongs to a set of compositions by Muthuswami Diksthar called the Panchabhutalinga Kshetra Kritis. Many years ago I had featured Ananada Natana Prakasham in Kedaram which belongs to the same set of compositions. In my song choice of today, Dikshithar describes Shiva as resembling a crore of rising suns but also as a source of mercy. My land of Australia needs that mercy now.

Listen below to Sikkil Gurucharan’s meditative rendition of this song. The focus is on the purity of the composition; a fact which rather appeals to me. See if you enjoy the repeated use of sound ङ्ग (nga) in the charanam as much as I do!


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation)

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
अरुणाचल नाथम् स्मरामि
अनिशम् अपीत कुचाम्बा समेतम्

अनुपल्लवि
स्मरणात् कैवल्य प्रद चरणारविन्दम्
तरुणादित्य कोटि सङ्काश चिदानन्दम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
करुणा रसादि कन्दम् शरणागत सुर वृन्दम्

चरणम्
अप्राकृत तेजोमय लिङ्गम् , अत्यद्भुत कर धृत सारङ्गम्
अप्रमेयं अपर्णाब्ज भृङ्गम् , आरूढोत्तुङ्ग वृष तुरङ्गम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
विप्रोत्तम विशेषान्तरङ्गम् , वीर गुरु गुह तार प्रसङ्गम्
स्वप्रदीप मौलि विधृत गङ्गम् , स्वप्रकाश जित सोमाग्नि पतङ्गम्

Transliteration

pallavi
aruNAchala nAthaM smarAmi
anisham apIta kuchAmbA samEtam

anupallavi
smaraNAt kaivalya prada charaNaravindam
taruNAditya kOTi sangkAsha chidAnandam
karuNA rasAdi kandam sharaNAgata sura vRndam

charaNam
aprAkRta tEjOmaya lingam atyadbhuta kara dhRta sArangam
apramEyam aparNAbja bhRngam ArUDhOttunga vRsha turangam
viprOttama vishEshAntarangam vIra guru guha tAra prasangam
svapradIpa mauli vidhRta gangam svaprakAsha jita sOmAgni patangam

Translation

pallavi
I constantly (anisham) remember/recite the name of (smarAmi) the Lord (nAtham) of Arunachala together with (samEtam) Goddess Apitakuchamba – mother (ambA) with unsuckled (apIta-literally undrunk) breasts (kucha).

anupallavi
The God who (implied) grants (prada) release from the cycle of birth (kaivalya) simply (implied) by His lotus-feet (charaNa aravinDam) being remembered (smaraNat),  who resembles (sangkAsha) countless (kOTi, literally a crore) young (taruNa) suns (Aditya). He who is blissful (Ananda) consciousness (chit) incarnate (implied), He who is the original (Adi) root (kandam) of compassion (karuNA rasa) towards the flocks (vRndam) of learned men/divinities (sura) who seek refuge in him (sharaNAgata).

charaNam
He whose emblem (linga) is extraordinarily (aprAkRta) brilliant (tEjOmaya) (note: refers to the story of Shiva manifesting himself as an unmeasurable column of light at Arunachalam), He who holds (dhRta) a very (ati) wonderous (adbhuta) deer (sArangam – note this is the name of the raga as well) in his hand (kara), He who is unfathomable (apramEyam), He who is the lotus (abja) to the bee (bhRngam) who is Parvati (aparNA), He who is mounted on (ArUDHa) a tall (uttunga) and speedy (turangam) bull (vRsha), He who is especially (vishEsha) intimate (antarangam) with the best of the (uttama) learned men/Brahmins (vipra),  The savior (tAra) to whom the heroic (vIra) Subrahmanya (guruguha, also the signature of the composer) is devoted (prasangam) , He who bears (vidhRta) Ganga as an ornament (pradIpa) of his own (sva) top-knot (mauli), He whose own (sva) luminescence (prakAsha) surpasses that of (jita, literally wins) the moon (sOma), fire (agni) and the sun (patangam).

(A Notation is available at this site : http://meerascarnatic.blogspot.com/2019/07/arunachala-natham.html)

 

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Sikkil Gurucharan

Mere Nazar Mein Moti Aayo

Diya, Diwali, Deepavali, Deepawali, Hindu, Lamp, LightHappy Deepavali everybody! May your lives light up with joy! May the light in your eyes never fade!

And that is my tale for you today – about the light in my own eyes. The story has morals and teachings, as do all tales if we just bother to look.  I’ve shared my own insights not for moralising, but for you to think about your own stories and derive your own morals from them.

I’ve been very short sighted as long as I can remember. It was quite by accident that my grandmother discovered by inability to see when she pointed out a passing bus number to me. I was about 8 then. ‘Do buses have numbers?’ I had asked in surprise. The optician she took me to was shocked as to how I survived with no glasses! I was so amazed when I looked around the world that first time with glasses. ‘Is this what you all see?’ I asked my grandmother in great surprise. How could I have known? If you have poor eyesight since birth, that is your only reality.

Moral : Our reality is defined by ourselves, within our parameters. It is not THE reality. Unless we test our parameters, we will not be able to keep bettering the definition of our own reality.

What a difference the glasses made! Until then I was a dud in school, performing near the bottom 30% of the class. I was also shy and didn’t have much to say. I can’t remember now, but I think I could never see the chalk board clearly so I used to be quite lost most of the time. After the specs I shot up to being in the top 10% of the class. This gave confidence and I got the attention of teachers. That gave further motivation until anything other than topping the class became unacceptable to me. This led to other openings and by the time I finished, I was in dramatics, debating and the like. Soon the approbation of others stopped mattering. The pleasure of doing anything well was motivation enough.

Moral : Both failure and success have root causes which may not be obvious so look at everyone with a kindly eye and lend a helping hand if you can. Sometimes a push in one direction can have a waterfall effect, so perhaps your support and encouragement will allow people to reach their potential.

I am not much for sports, so I don’t think my eyesight caused me to lose out much in life. In my teenage years, I used to be called four-eyes or such silly names by the class bully boys, but hey, I was the class topper and they always came to me for my notes, so my ego didn’t bruise much.

Moral : Careful about denigrating people – you may need their help one day and then where will you be?

I switched to contact lenses in my late teens and wore them for many years until one day I just decided I had had enough of it. For the last 20 years I have worn only glasses.  I have been going regularly to an ophthalmologist for about 15 years as my eyes are in the high-risk category for a number of problems. So I have been well-aware of the onset of the cataracts. It happened gradually but one day I found that I had had just enough of the dazzling lights while driving at night. Last week the lens in one eye was removed and replaced with an IOL – Intraocular Cataract Lens. That very day I was seeing quite well and now that it has settled down, I have 20/20 vision in the eye! Perhaps I am imagining it, but it seems I am seeing far more sharply than I have ever seen with any glasses or contact lenses! The world from this eye has a blueish tinge; the other eye has a yellowish cast; I was surprised and looked it up. It seems ageing eyes develop the yellowishness which I didn’t even know about! It’s all rather magical.

Moral : Sometimes solutions to problems exceed expectations and you wonder why you ever worried!

However I am quite struggling with near vision. How wonderful is our God given lens that it can focus from near to far with little trouble! My corrected eye which has now a perfect vision for the distance is no good for reading or the computer, or even the phone. I am finding it all quite difficult.

Moral : There is often a sting to the tail/tale; watch out for it!

My myopic eye will be fixed within a month. I am wearing disposable contact lenses in the eye for the moment. My doctor is suggesting something called Monovision. She will under-correct the vision in the second eye so it will be better for intermediate and near vision. My doc tells me that the brain will adjust to relying on one eye for distant vision and the other one for the near. I am testing it now as my contact lens is under corrected. It’s not perfect but it works to a degree. The world feels a bit weird though, as if I am sleep walking. Will it fix itself in time? Should I correct for distance vision in both eyes and just get reading glasses? What happens when I am sketching and need to look at both the distance and my drawing sheet intermittently? Or while taking notes at a seminar? Do I get those narrow glasses which perch at the end of one’s nose?

Moral : Dilemmas abound in life. There are positives and negatives to everything. Think things through thoroughly, make a decision and then make sure you don’t complain about the negatives.

So thats my tale. And as to my song, I had no choice but to choose ‘Mere Nazar Mein Moti Aayo‘ which translates to ‘I have cataract in my eyes‘! Sung by Shobha Gurtu, It is from a CD called Hari Rang Rati (1992). I featured another song from it in a post many years ago. On searching now, I see a CD called Main Bagiyan Mein with the same songs. The poetry is by Kabir whose words I admire so very much. Of course he is referring to the clouding of the mind’s eyes, not the physical one. For that the operation is far more complex and beyond my reach. Shobha Gurtu sings with heart and soul, I hope you enjoy this song on this Deepavali Day.

Alternate Link : Click Here


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Note to all my readers : I do not have the knowledge to translate Kabir as he is a mystic poet and there is meaning within meaning, none of which is clear to me. But then not only are my eyes clouded, but so is my mind! I leave it to you good people to get what you can from this.

मेरे नज़र में मोती आयो
मैं भला भरोसे पायो

mErE nazar mE.n mOtI AyO
mai.n bhalA bharOsE pAyO

Cataract (mOtI short for mOtiyAbinda) has come (AyO) in (mE.n) my (mErE) eyesight (nazar), and I (mai.n) gained (pAyO) good (bhalA) supports (bharOsE)

What use is there in having clear vision when the mind is clouded? Kabir refers to the clouding of his the mind’s eye, not the physical one. In those times when operations were not available to the common man in India, a man with a clouded eye needed someone to show the way. Who did Kabir find, the ones he calls as good support? When the eyes are clouded, we need support from a marg-darshak, the one who shows the way. Kabir may be referring to a Guru or to God.

चार कुण्ड का देवढ़ बनायो
उस पर कलश भरायो

chAr kUNda kA dEvaD banAyO
us par kalash bharAyO

I (implied) made (banAyO) a temple (dEvaD) of four (chAr) tanks/ponds (kUND) and (implied) filled (bharAyO) a pot (kalash) from it (us par).

A temple is an oft made analogy for our body but it is not clear to me what the four temple tanks represent. Kabir fills his water jug, or his soul, with the contents of these ponds, which I assume to be reservoirs of spiritual knowledge. I am defeated by linguistic knowledge and can see no further. Thanks to reader Padma who told me dEvaD is a Rajasthani term for a temple.

देश देश के दर्शन आये
संतन के मन भायो

dEsh dEsh kE darshan AyE
santan kE man bhAyO

People (implied) from many places (dEsh dEsh kE) came (AyE) to see (darshan); he crept into the hearts (man bhAyO) of the good people (santan).

Who did people come to see from far away places? It must be Kabir himself. Did he charm the good people who came to see him? Or did he influence people into letting God enter their hearts? Did they come to sip from this kalash he filled with spiritual knowledge?

सेज सूनी पर साहब मेरा
तीन लोक सब छायो

sEj sUnI par sAhab mErA
tIn lOk sab chAyO

My (mera) Lord (sAhab) spreads (chAyO) all (sab) three (tIn) worlds (lok) upon (par) my (mErA) empty (sUnI) bed (sEj) .

The empty bed is possibly life itself, lonely and meaningless without the presence of God. But the good Lord spreads all three worlds on this for Kabir.

कहत कबीरा सुनो भई साधो
हुकुमी नाव चलायो

kahat kabIrA sunO bhayI sAdhO
hukumI nAv chalAyO

Kabir says (kahat), listen (sunO) oh good brothers (bhayI sAdhO), God (hukumI, the one who governs) sails (sails) the boat (nAv).

Crossing the ocean of life is an oft repeated simile in India. Kabir says God himself will sail the boat which will help you cross it.

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Sudhamayi Sudhanidhi

kadri-gopalnathWhat a great loss we Carnatic Music lovers have had this past week! Kadri Gopalnath, the saxophonist par excellence, is no more. A man who bent his will over the saxophone such that it blew to his tune, a man who paved an untrodden path to show that the saxophone is an instrument of choice for Carnatic Music, a man of immense talent that we have all admired over many years, he is a man who will never be forgotten. I dedicate this post to this man and his music. May he play his sax in celestial spheres for evermore.

In selecting a song to honour Kadri Gopalnath, I have chosen a devi kriti. Navaratri has passed by without my having made a single post.  This is my first miss for Navaratri since I started this blog in 2011. I cannot believe that one year I had even managed nine kritis for the nine days of Navaratri! So very belatedly, I am presenting this beautiful song to honour Goddess Ambika. This song is particularly suitable as the poet-composer Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar describes the Goddess as being ornamented with beautiful ragas. A post to honour a musician who created beautiful music and a Goddess who is adorned with the same is a good match, don’t you think! I also felt that a raga which is called Amrutavarshini or ‘she who showers the ambrosia of immortality’  is a good choice to honour a man whose music will remain immortal. At times, when I have listened to his music, when notes follow cascading notes, I have felt bathed in the beauty of music. The man who made the music has passed as I too will one day, but I imagine those moments of beauty remaining suspended little gems floating in the atmosphere for eternity.

Out of nostalgia, I am presenting a rendition from an old recording of Kadri Gopalnath from 1985, a rendition which is so very familiar to me.

Alternate link : Click here 

For a vocal version, I have chosen a recording from the same era. I have always had a great liking for Maharajapuram Santhanam who sings Sudhamayee with an effortless charm which I am sure you will appreciate.

Start video at 45:11.


 

Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
सुधामयी सुधानिधि सुमशरेक्षु कोदण्डे

अनुपल्लवि
विधीन्द्र नुत विमले सलहौ वेद सारे विजयाम्बिके

चरणम्
सरसिजाक्षि जगन्मोहिनी सरसराग मणि भूषणी
हरिकेश प्रिय कामिनी आनन्दामृत वर्षिणी (alt: कर्षिणी )

Transliteration
pallavi
sudhAmayI sudhAnidhi sumasharEkshu kOdanDE

anupallavi
vidhIndra nuta vimalE salahau vEda sArE vijayAmbikE

charaNam
sarasijAkshi jaganmOhinI sarasarAga maNi bhUshaNI
harikEsha priya kAminI AnandAmRuta varshiNI (alt: karshiNI)

Translation

O Goddess (implied) who is imbued with (-mayI) and is a reservoir (nidhi) of nectar (sudhA), O Goddess (implied) who holds a bow (kOdanDE) made of sugarcane (ikshu) with arrows (shara) of flowers (suma).

O Goddess Vijambika who is praised (nuta) by Brahma (vidhi) and Indra, O Pure  One (vimalE)! O Goddess (implied) who is the essence (sArE) of the Vedas! Protect me (salahau – this word is in Kannada, not Sanskrit)!

O Lotus-eyed one (sarasija-Lotus, akshi-Eyes)!! O Goddess (implied) who fascinates (mohini) the whole world (jagat)! She who is decorated (bhUshaNI) by the gems (maNi) of beautiful (sarasa) ragas. The loving woman (kaminI) who is dear to (priya) Lord Shiva (harikEsha which is also the poet’s signature), She who showers (varshiNI) us (implied) with the ambrosia of immortal (amRuta) bliss (Ananda) [I’m unsure of the translation of the alternative version]

Note about translation : The lyrics were easy to translate except for the word Salahau. I looked up multiple dictionaries but could not find this word. Is it a typo, I wondered. Or perhaps a declension of some other word? Checking declension tables did not help. I searched for other uses of this word, but only MB seems to have used this word in his kritis. There was no trace of this word in kritis by any other composers. How odd, I thought! I have had a cataract operation only day before yesterday and am still struggling with my eyesight so all this computer work made me quite dizzy. I was almost giving it up after more than 2 hours of searches when I finally found a mention in an old article in Carnatica that this word is in Kannada and the Bhagavatar has often thrown in a few Kannada words into his Sanskrit compositions. Finally the mystery was resolved! All of you Kannada speakers are no doubt wondering at my ignorance!

 

 

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Filed under Compositions in Sanskrit, Kadri Gopalnath, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Muthiah Bhagavatar