Karpagame Kan Parai

Kapali templeA very happy Navaratri to all of you! Let us all pray to the good Goddesses to cast their eyes our way and bless us with wisdom, compassion and devotion. What better way to ask for blessings than by song? My choice today honours Shakti in the form Karpagambal, the Goddess at Kapaleeswarar Kovil in Mylapore. This temple is rather dear to me; both my parents spent their youth in and around the area. Some of my earliest musical memories include listening to concerts in the temple. Do people leave imprints of themselves in the places dear to them? I’ll like to think so. I’ll like to think that the prayers of my parents still remain suspended in the air around the temple, as a murmur of the temple bells, as an echo of footfalls in the prakaram.

This Navaratri comes with its own excitement for me. I have such good news to share with you! Regular readers will remember my post about my daughter’s wedding in January. With God’s blessings, she and her husband are making me a grandmama! The little boy is to arrive by early December. I smile as I write this, I cannot quite contain my joy!

As I think of becoming a grandmother, I think of my own grandmothers. They were two very different women. My mother’s mum was a clever, extremely competent, strong-minded woman who ruled her household with a will of iron. A short, well-rounded woman with very dark skin, her eyes gleamed with intelligence, a gleam brighter than the large diamonds on her nose and ears. Widowed with a young family to bring up and few resources, she had to become one tough lady. I confess I found her somewhat intimidating! I saw her each summer during my school years when we went to spend our summer holidays in Chennai with her.  My best memory of her was sitting around her with my sister and cousins in the mittam, the courtyard next to the well, on moonlit nights. She would regale us with stories while rolling balls of kalanda sadam (flavoured rice) into our outstretched hands.  Love, entertainment and nourishment all rolled into one! And yes, her sattumadu made in her eeya sombu was pure ambrosia!

My father’s mother was totally different. So thin that she was just skin and bones, she had a very pale complexion and hazel eyes. She gave me the colour of my own eyes; whenever I see them in the mirror I think of her older and kinder ones. Gentle as a new-born lamb, she had no defence against her own difficult life. If my other grandmother had been forged to steel by life, this one became a gentle ghost, a presence almost not there.  She lived to be over 90 but her stories were always of the first 10-12 years of her life, as if the rest need not be thought of. I remember her standing shivering in the Delhi winter on our terrace, performing her dawn prayer rituals in her wet clothes. My mother would urge her to come back in, saying she would get pneumonia, but her faith held her strong.

So what kind of grandmother would I be? I want to be both my grandmothers rolled into one. One day when my little grandson remembers his own grandmother as I remember mine, I want him to think of me as being kind and gentle, but equally strong and capable. I want him to remember me showering love and nourishment into his outstretched hands, I want him to say my eyes looked at him with a softness that he will not forget.

On this Navaratri day, this beautiful song is my prayer to the Goddess to bless my daughter and welcome my grandson-to-be. My readers, please can you add your prayers to mine to bless them for a safe delivery? Written by Papanasam Sivan, who himself had a very strong attachment to this temple and the deities, Karpagame is set in the most auspicious of ragas, Madhyamavati. Why this song you ask? Besides the auspiciousness of the raga, and the prayer for the Goddess to cast her eye our way, there is a reference to ‘வர சந்தான சௌபாக்ய’ (vara santAna saubhAgya), the blessing of progeny so it seemed very fitting!

Some songs are just ‘owned’ by some artists, aren’t they? So I cannot possibly present anyone else but Madurai Mani Iyer who renders this song with brisk efficiency and unsurpassed  musicality.

Alternate Link : Click here and play item 16.

For a version from the current times, I present Sanjay Subrahmanyan who sings this song with an authority and ease which is hard to surpass. In the rendition below, he sings a viruttam, two pieces of poetry which are very well suited to the song. The first is a verse from the superbly beautiful அபிராமி அந்தாதி Abhirami Anthadi by Abhirami Bhattar (18th century). I could not find the authorship of the second verse but one website mentioned that it is from an inscription found on the walls of the Kapaleeswarar Temple, a fact I could not verify.

பூத்தவளே புவனம் பதினான்கையும் பூத்த வண்ணம்
காத்தவளே பின் கரந்தவளே கறை கண்டனுக்கு
மூத்தவளே என்றும் மூவா முகுந்தற்கு இளையவளே
மாத்தவளே உன்னை அன்றி மற்றோர் தெய்வம் வந்திப்பதே

pUttavaLE buvanam padinAngaiyum pUtta vaNNam
kAttavalE pin karandavaLE kaRai kaNDanukku
mUttavaLE enDRum mUvA mukundaRku iLaiyavaLE
mAttavaLE unnai anDRi maTROr deivam vandippadE

She who gave birth (pUttavaLE – literally, flowered) to all the fourteen (padinAngaiyum) worlds (buvanam), She who protected (kattavaLE) in the same way as (-vaNNam) she bore them (pUtta), then (pin) who hid them (karandavaLE – கரந்த means மறைந்த), She who is older (mUttavaLE) to Shiva (He whose neck (kanDam) is stained (kaRai which also means poison)), She who is younger to (iLaiyavaLE) to the always (enDRum) young (mUvA, மூவு means end but here it means ageing) Vishnu (mukundar), She who has done great (mA) penance (tavam), why should I worship (vandippadE) any other (maTROr) God (deivam) except (anDRi) you (unnai)?

ஆடும் மயிலாய் உருவெடுத்து அன்று இறைவன் திருத்தாள் நாடி
அர்ச்சித்த நாயகியாய் அம்மா உனது திரு நாமங்களைப் பாடி  பாடி
உருகிப் பரவசம் மிகு அப்பாங்கு நீ எனக்கு அருள்வாய்
காடெனவே பொழில் சூழ் திரு மயிலாபுரி கற்பகமே!

ADum mayilAy uruveDuttu anDRu iRaivan tiruttAL nADi
architta nAyakiyAy ammA unadu tiru nAmangaLai pADi pADi
urugi paravasam migu appANgu nI enakku arulvAY
kADenavE pozhil sUzh tiru mayilApuri karpagamE

O Karpagambal (karpagamE) of holy (tiru) Mayilapuri which is surrounded (sUzh) by a grove (pozhil) as large as (enavE – like, perhaps implying largeness) a forest (kADu)!  O Mother (ammA) we worship you (implied) as the Goddess (nayakiyAy) who at one time (anDRu), having taken the form (uruveDuttu) of a dancing (aDum) peacock (mayil), sought (nADi) and worshipped (architta) the holy (tiru) feet (tAL) of our Lord (iRaivan)! May you (nI) bless (aruLvAy) me (enakku) in a way that (appAngu) I (implied) become very (migu) ecstatic (paravasam Agum) and emotionally melt (urugi) by singing (pADi) again and again (pADi repeated) your (nin) holy (tiru) names (nAmangal).

Afterthought : A reader has correctly observed that I should have mentioned Lalgudi and he is right. Lalgudi Jayaraman is always amazing but with Karpagame he is magical. His violin speaks as no voice can. There is a link provided by the reader in the comments section. Another one is here. I hope you enjoy the music!


Footnote : Lyrics
Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
கற்பகமே கண் பாராய்
கற்பகமே கடை (கருணை) கண் பாராய்

அனுபல்லவி
சித்பர யோகியர் சித்தர்கள் ஞானியர்
திருவுடை அடியவர் கருதும் வரமுதவும்
திருமகளும் கலைமகளும் பரவு
திருமயிலைக் (கற்பகமே)

சரணம்
சத்து சிதாநந்தமதாய் சகல உயிருக்குயிராயவள் நீ
தத்துவமஸ்யாதி மஹா வாக்கிய தத்பர வஸ்துவும் நீ
சத்துவ குணமோடு பக்தி செய்பவர் பவ தாபமும்
பாபமும் அற இம்மையில் வர
சந்தான சௌபாக்ய சம்பத்தோடு
மறுமையில் நிரதிசய இன்பமும் தரும் (கற்பகமே)

Transliteration

pallavi
karpagamE kaN pArAy
karpagamE kaDai (karuNai) kaN pArAy

anupallavi
chitpara yogiyar siddargaL ñaniyar
tiruvuDai aDiyavar karudum varamudavum
tirumagaLum kalaimagaLum paravu
tirumayilai

charaNam
sattu-chidAnandamadAy sakala uyirukkuyirAyavaL (uyirukku-uyirAyval) nI
tattuvamasyadi mahA vAkkiya tatpara vastuvum nI
sattuva guNamODu bhakti seybavar bhava tApamum
pApamum aRa immayil vara
santAna saubhagya sampattODu
maRumaiyil niradisaya inbamum tarum

Translation

O Karpagambika (karpagamE) of the holy (tiru) town of Mayilai, cast a compassionate  (karuNai) glance upon me (literally, look at me (pArAy) with the corner (kaDai) of your eyes (kaN)).

She who aids (udavu) with a boon (varam) of what is considered (karudum) holy (tiru) wealth (uDai) by ascetics (yOgiyar) with extended (para) consciousness (chit), mystics (siddargaL), wise/sage people (ñaniyar), and devotees (aDiyavar), she who is extolled (paravu) by Lakshmi (tirumagaL) and Saraswati (kalaimagaL)..

As that very (adAy) truth-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-Anandam), you are (nI) She (avaL) who is like the life-force (uyirAy) of all lives (sakala uyirukku). You (nI) are also the object (vastuvum) of the true intent (tatpara) of great (mahA) pronouncements (vAkkiya) such as (Adi) ‘thou art that’ (tat-tvam-asi from the Upanishads). You are She who (implied) remove (aRa) the sorrow (tApamum) and sins (pApamum) of existence (bhava) of those who follow (seibavar) devotion (bhakti) with (-ODu) good (sattuva) character (guNam) in this birth (immaiyil) and bless them (vara) with the good fortune (saubhAgya) of progeny (santAna) and with (-ODu) wealth (sampattu). You are She who (implied) gives (tarum) unsurpassed (niradisaya) happiness (inbam) in the next life (marumaiyil).

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

Hari Ke Charana Kamala

Krishna BabyA very happy Janmashtami to all of you! I hope that you joyfully celebrated the occasion with your families. Are you replete after having many lovely treats as  ‘prasadam’? Our household Gopala is on a diet and gets only fruit even on his birthday!

Other than adding an extra something to my daily prayers or going to the temple, I am not in the habit of celebrating our various festivals. I guess it all started with being married outside my community; my husband has little interest in rituals. He also did not appreciate my kind of festival ‘feasts’ or sweets. In my need to ‘fit in’ at the start of our life together, I gave up most of what were my own cultural ways. But I didn’t pick up any of his cultural festivities either which is my own loss. We moved overseas within a year of being wed so familial influences were lost as well. The thing is, festivals are social occasions rather than religious ones, don’t you think? One needs a community to celebrate them well, or at least a partner of the same mind. My children have never known the pleasure of kneeling on the floor with their mother, painstakingly drawing ‘footprints’ of Gopala to lead from the front door to the Puja room. I remember doing that with my mother and the picture in my mind is of the house we lived in more than 50 years ago. So it is with that memory and my mother’s kind face smiling at me that I mark the festival today.

As for a musical offering, I have wandered away from my normal Carnatic Music posts to this beautiful piece of Hindustani music. In this song, the poet urges us to meditate upon the feet of the Lord to help us navigate this ocean of existence. ‘Those who meditate upon the Lord find reconciliation‘ says he. Are we not all in need of reconciliation? A composition in Shree by Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, it was made famous by the incomparable D.V.Paluskar. (Note to Carnatic Music fans:  Shree Raga is quite different in the Hindustani system). In this version from a 78 RPM recording, Paluskar demonstrates ably why he lives long in the memory of his listeners. I find him simply incredible!

हरि के चरण कमल निसदिन सुमर रे
भाव धरकर (alt : धर सुधा) भीतर भव जलधी तर रे
जोई जोई धरत ध्यान पावत समाधान
‘हररंग’ कहे ज्ञान अबहु चित धर रे

hari kE charaNa kamala nisadina sumara
bhAva dharakara  (alt: dhara sudhA) bhItara bhava jaladhi tara rE
jO’I jO’I dharata dhyAna pAvata samAdhana
hararang kahE gyAna, abahu chita dhara rE

Remember (sumara) the lotus-feet (charaNa-kamala) of (kE) Hari everyday (nisadina). Holding (dharakara)  this emotion (bhAva) within (bhItara) and cross/swim (tara) the ocean (jaladhi) of existence (bhava) . Those (jO’I jO’I) who hold (dharata) in thought/meditation (dhyAnA) find/get (pAvata) reconciliation (samAdhAna). ‘Hararang’ (I think this may be the poet’s pseudonym) says (kahe) hold this wisdom (gyAna) in your mind (chita) from now (abahu).

I was reminded of this beautiful composition when I heard it ‘live’ in a webcast earlier this year. I had made note of it then, meaning to share it with you all. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande is a musician I have admired for a long time and I hope you enjoy her performance as much as I do.

Listen from 15:00 to about 1:02:00.

The Dhrut section reminds us that without a Guru, it is difficult to find a transcendental pathway.

गुरु बिन कौन बतावे बाट
भव सागर का लम्बा घाट
गुरु बिन ज्ञान नाही दूजा
ज्ञान बिना नहीं दीपक दूजा
दीप बिना कैसे देखूँ बाट

guru bin kaun batAvE bAT
bhava sAgar kA lambA ghAT
guru bin gyAn nAhI dUjA
gyAn binA nahIn dIpak dUjA
dIpa binA kaisE dekhU.n bAT

Who except a guru (guru bin) can teach (batAvE) the transcendental way (bAT)? Of the long (lambA) wharf (ghAT) of this ocean (sAgar) of existence (bhava) ? There is no other (nahin dUjA) knowledge (gyAn) without a (bin) Guru, and no other (nahIn dUjA) lamp (dIpak) without (bin) knowledge (gyAn). Without (binA) a lamp (dIpa), how (kaisE) will I see (dEkhU.n) the transcendental way (bAT)?

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Rama Ni Samanamevaru

ScaleYesterday I listened to two concerts on YouTube. Now this is a more momentous occasion than the statement reflects. I don’t often get time to listen non-stop to music so this was special. As usual my life feels like a runaway train with me hanging by my fingernails! But I’ll leave my life be for the moment. As I said, I was listening to concerts of two young men whose music I enjoy. Both have excellent gurus. Both have glorious voices, a remarkable stage presence and styles which have the mark of their guru on them. Actually, I find myself listening more and more often to young artists nowadays. I enjoy their energy and verve, and if they stumble now and then, they have a lifetime to fix it so I don’t worry about it.

The first concert I heard was by Sandeep Narayan. Since hearing him do a fantastic Bhairavi during the season in 2016, I have been clicking on his concerts online. This was a nice concert; I particularly liked the order and mix of kritis chosen which is a skill in itself. His dwijavanti was pleasing, his take on chalanatta was interesting and the hamsanandi thillana at the end and karpagame to conclude were both quite lovely. The main item on the menu was a solidly performed pakkala nilabadi in Kharaharapriya.

Next I turned to Vignesh Ishwar. I haven’t had the pleasure of listening to him live but I have really enjoyed a number of his concerts online. I was happily nodding to his singing when the young man launched into Kharaharapriya and I thought ‘Hey, I can do a one-to-one comparison now, can’t I!’. Alapana done, the kriti taken up was ‘Rama Ni Samanamevaru‘ which made me laugh. Here I was all set to do a comparison and there was Tyagaraja with ‘There is none to compare with you Rama!’. I was happy to find a theme for my blog post – our tendency to make comparisons. The rest of the concert was good. The main piece was in Begada, not my favourite raga, but I still enjoyed it.

The kriti set me thinking about how very judgemental we human beings are. We are forever judging others on the things they say and do, on their achievements and failures, on their character and abilities and so on. It is rather non-stop, isn’t it! Or is it only I? I talk confidently on a collective when all I am sure of is myself! I love my children equally, or so I hope, but I confess to comparing them especially when one of them makes me sad. ‘He is so oblivious to my needs‘ I’ll say to myself , ‘She would never have left me like this‘.  Or ‘She is so sharp, are girls always this unkind? He is so much kinder‘.   Of course, we also compare people to themselves. ‘He was so much better in his previous film‘.  ‘Oh, she looked nicer in red than in green, didn’t she!‘. It is not always unkind or negative.  We may as easily say ‘Amma, this is the best rasam you have ever made!‘ Still, the comparisons are more often negative than positive. Is it just our need to categorise and put things in order? As a Carnatic Music fan, I am often critical of performances. Even while I am listening to one musician, I may well be racking my brain thinking of some other artist, some other occasion when I felt a turn of a phrase may have sounded better! What a waste of time! Instead of being in the moment and enjoying the pleasure of what falls into my ears, my mind is scrambling elsewhere! Is it a common failing or is it just me? Whatever the case, it is high time to stop it I think…

As Vignesh Ishwar inspired this post, let us first listen to him singing Rama Nee Samanamevaru in Kharaharapriya. Alapana starts at 16:12 and the kriti at 28:15. Dr Hemalatha on the violin sounds very good.

And for a second rendition, who other than T.M.Krishna, who is Vignesh Ishwar’s guru. Maybe you will, like me, enjoy noting the stylistic similarities passed from guru to shishya.

And for an instrumental, I present the very talented vainikas from my own home town of Melbourne, the Iyer Brothers. The recording is a bit tinny but it is still enjoyable. They are accompanied by their daughters. The sound of four Veenas synchronised has such a majestic quality!


Footnote : Lyrics

Language : Telugu
(Note: I do not speak Telugu; the details below are based on a number of online resources)

Sanskrit Transliteration :

पल्लवि
राम नी समानमॆवरु रघु वंशोद्धारक

अनुपल्लवि
भामा मरुवम्पु मॊलक भक्तियनु पञ्जरपु चिलुक

चरणम्
पलुकु पलुकुलकु तेनॆलॊलुकु माटलाडु
सोदरुलु गल हरि त्यागराज कुल विभूष मृदु सुभाष

English Transliteration :

pallavi
rAma nI samAnamevaru raghu vamshOddhAraka

anupallavi
bhAmA maruvampu molaka bhaktiyanu panjarapu chiluka

charaNam
paluku palukulaku tEneloluku mATalADu
sOdaralu gala hari tyAgarAja kula vibhUsha mRdu subhAsha

Translation :

Who (evaru) is equal (samAnamu) to you (nI), O Rama, the uplifter (uddhAraka) of the Raghu dynasty (vamsha)?

Like a parrot (chiluka) in a cage (panjarapu) of devotion (bhaktiyanu) of your wife (bhAma) who is as gentle (implied) as the shoot (molaka) of sweet marjoram (maruvampu). (Note: There seem to be a number of interpretations of this line – is it Sita who is like a parrot in the cage or is it Rama? Who is enslaved by devotion? The devotee or the devoted?)

You (implied) who have (gala) brothers (sOdaralu) who speak (mATalADu) like honey (tEne) drips (oluku) at each word (paluku palukulaku)!  You who youself (implied) are so gently well-spoken (mRudu subhAsha)!  O Hari (name of Vishnu), you are (implied) the ornament (vibhUsha) of Tyagaraja’s family (kula)!!

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Iyer Brothers, Sandeep Narayan, T.M.Krishna, Tyagaraja, Uncategorized, Vignesh Ishwar

Carnatic Music Season in Bangalore

A blogger’s world is rather an isolated one in general, mine is even more so. I live far away from the buzz of hotspots of Carnatic Music, listening almost exclusively to recorded music. The occasional live streaming is a treat for me. I don’t have anyone nearby who shares my interest and enthusiasm for this music; perhaps that is why I started blogging in the first place. In this isolated world, the comments left by readers of my blog always feel special. Ramesh has been my most regular commentator. He left his first comment on 20th of February, 2012. Since then, he has left me encouraging comments on almost every one of my posts, an encouragement I have been very grateful for. Though we have never met, this has been a virtual connection of more than six years. As my blog hardly ever features live events, I requested Ramesh to do a write-up of the Ramanavami concerts that he has attended during this period. Like me, Ramesh too is just an untutored rasika so his reactions and observations fit well into the theme of this blog. I hope you find his report as enjoyable as I do.


CLASSICAL MUSIC IS THRIVING IN BANGALORE

Ramanavami 1Ramanavami 4

(Photo Credits : Ramaseva Mandali)

If it is Ramanavami time, then all roads lead to Bangalore, at least for those who are humming Kalyani under their breath! This is the Carnatic Music season in Bangalore, which has now become a centre second only to Chennai, for this genre of music. This year  was a resounding success, keeping up with the trend that we have been seeing over the last 5 years. Crowds are getting bigger, younger people are coming to concerts, and, heartwarmingly, people are willing to buy tickets to kutcheris. It has been truly a lovely festival of music over the last month and a half.

There are half a dozen sabhas which conduct concerts daily for a month or so.  The grand old daddy of them all is the Ramaseva Mandali at Fort High School. This is the 80th year the Mandali concerts are being held –  from humble beginnings on the footpath of  a side street to a massive pandal now at the Fort High School Grounds in Chamarajpet. Virtually every musician of note in both Carnatic and Hindustani music has performed here over the years and it is now the largest classical music event in India.

The old problems remain. Bangalore does not have a concert venue of note, other than Chowdiah Hall, which has now become unaffordable for any Sabha. Almost all kutcheris are held in pandals with the cacophony of Bangalore traffic as the sruti. The sound system at any venue is guaranteed to give trouble, as usual. Facilities are non-existent and commutes are long for any Bangalorean attending concerts. And yet, we went in droves. Season tickets at Fort High School were put up for sale online for the first time and all but the cheapest tickets were sold out even before the season started, unheard of for classical music.  Traffic police had to be deployed for the most popular kutcheris. Wow! It is heartening to see the growing interest in classical music here. Not even in Chennai do we see such crowds.

The music was mostly wonderful. Kumaresh kicked off the season in more than one Sabha, with his wife Jayanthi in one and with his brother Ganesh in another. There were many violin concerts – Ganesh/Kumaresh, L Subramaniam, Kanyakumari & Embar Kannan, Nagaraj & Manjunath, Krishnan & Vijayalakshmi reflecting the fact that talent in violin is probably at its peak now. This year the Cleveland Music Festival was being held at the same time and whoever was not going to the US came to perform here. Regulars included Yesudas, Trichur Brothers, Kadri Gopalnath, Ranjani & Gayathri, Priya Sisters, U Rajesh, Shashank, Malladi Brothers, TM Krishna, Soumya, et all. Hindustani music stalwarts Ronu Majumdar, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and  Pravin Godkhindi were also here. This is largely a Carnatic music festival, but there is also a smattering of Hindustani music.

This year seemed to be the season of Todi. After listening to it for 6 times over 20 days, I am willing to give it a break for few years! Surprisingly Kalyani, Bhairavi, Abheri and Sankarabaranam were rare. There were multiple Dharmavatis, which competed with Todi for the title of the Raga of the season. Thankfully the very obscure ragas were hardly to be heard,  reversing a trend from the last few years where we have heard ragas with unpronounceable names. The Ragam Thanam Pallavi continued to rule, much to my chagrin (Edit: Ramesh has a quite ununderstandable revulsion for RTPs!!). Freed from the shackles of a time bound 2.5 hour concert in Chennai, artistes let loose with elaborate RTPs, often starting at 9.00 PM !

Two concerts stood out for me and they will live long in memory. Trichur Brothers in Basaveshwara Nagar Sabha were at their absolute best.  A short 2 hour and a bit concert featuring Sahana, Hamsadhwani, Reetigowlam, Pantuvarali, Kaapi, Sarasangi, Kaanada and Kurinji  was mesmerising. They sang their main piece in Pantuvarali early on in the concert and after the thani avarthanam played a scintillating series of thukkadas to round-up the concert. The concert was such a brilliant one that even after the Mangalam, people were hesitant to leave.

The other was a majestic concert by Ranjani & Gayathri at Fort High School. The 3000 capacity pandal was full and people were standing in the aisles – such is their popularity here. And they delivered an absolutely divine RTP in Nalinakanthi. A complicated Pallavi and a thala structure, beautifully supported by the accompanying artistes was easily a classic for the ages. There were 1000 people at Mangalam time  at 10.00 PM; I have never seen anything like this in any kutcheri ever.

In keeping with this blog’s style I will feature a krithi which perhaps symbolizes this year’s season simply because it was the most sung krithi, 3 times no less ! Todi it has to be and it is Shyama Sastri’s swarajati masterpiece Raave Himagiri Kumari.

The featured renditions of the Swarajathi that I have chosen are both for sentimental reasons. The vocal rendition is from the Bombay Sisters, C Saroja and C Lalitha who were awarded this years SV Narayanaswami Rao Award.

The Instrumental rendition I have chose is by Mandolin Srinivas, the legend who was a star performer at every Bangalore season for many years, and who often did not accept a fee from the sabha just to support them. His concerts always attracted huge crowds in Bangalore and every time Rajesh now performs , it is hard not to miss the prodigy.

(Edit : For Lyrics and Translation, please refer to my previous post on this composition Rave Himagiri )

 

 

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Nada Loludai

Meditation MusicA Happy New Year to all those who celebrate it today! I wish you the very best for a year of personal, professional and spiritual achievement!

Can we divorce the musician from the music he/she creates? This question has been buzzing in my brain since I read some comments in a music group that I follow in Facebook. There were some pithy comments about the politics of a particular musician and the resulting rejection of his music by some. Others seemed to think that his politics had nothing to do with his music. As I walk the shores of Lake Léman on this cold spring day, this question seems an important one to address in this blog.

This is not a new question; it has arisen a number of times over the years. I remember my father making disparaging comments about a flautist from yesteryear whose love for alcohol was well-known. And yet, my father would never miss his concerts! I remember my own goggle-eyed reading of the crazy antics of a great Bollywood playback singer whom I admired very much. ‘How am I to see this man?‘ I used to wonder, ‘As a madman or a genius?‘. I remember my friend from Berlin describing her experiences with helping host very famous Hindustani musicians – the amazing vocalist who came so drunk to the stage that he almost fell off, the very senior maestro of the topmost echelon and his unusual sleeping arrangements with his much younger lady disciple and so on. ‘Stop‘, I had cried out to my friend ‘I don’t want to know!!‘.  I was right, every time I listen to their music I have this annoying niggle at the back of my mind which I just don’t want to have. And what of those wonderful musicians from the Western world of the sixties whose music came from a drug-induced haze? And then we come back to this musician whose politics and even ideas on music don’t sit well with me, but oh, his singing is so divine!

This is not limited to music alone, of course. Van Gogh is well-known for having insurmountable mental health issues. I still spent hours in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, drooling over his canvases. The great Michelangelo’s scorn and misbehaviour towards his young rival Raphael is well know, yet I worshipped at his creations as I did at Raphael’s. And who can top my very favourite Caravaggio who murdered someone and came to an untimely death!  But it was in front of his canvas that I unshamedly shed tears in appreciation to a master of his craft.

So it comes back to the question, can we admire the art without admiring the artist? It should be stressed that I am not making a quality judgement here in as to who is admirable and who is not; that is for you to decide. The pragmatic part of me thinks that only the most delusional amongst us can afford to cast the first stone. And where do we draw the line? Alcohol is ok but not drugs? Socialism is ok but communism is out? Are we not venturing into McCarthyism and the Hollywood Blacklist ? But what do we do with this feeling of distaste that we have for certain artists? I categorically refuse to watch Woody Allen films; I just cannot disassociate the art from the man.

Dear readers, don’t look to me for answers, I only have questions today! But for myself, I have a theory that the musician is just another instrument, a pathway between Nada Brahmam and the listener. The songs I hear have started their journey a long time back, as a germ in the mind of a composer, in a raga which may have originated hundreds of years before even he was born, a composition heard and sung by disciples generation after generation until finally it is there in front of me and I am listening to it. The creativity the musician adds to it is just one more step in a long process of creation. Inside my head, heart and soul it reaches completion, added on to all the music I have ever listened to, in this life and all the lives I have lived before, like a mountain stream which has joined the ocean. Who worries about what pen a story was written in? Why would I worry about the musician when all I wish to hear is the Nada? Tyagaraja says ‘Attain supreme bliss by being immersed in the Nada‘ in the composition I have selected to present today. I take his advice and concentrate on the Nada alone.

My first and last love in Carnatic Music will always be Lalgudi Jayaraman, who cajoles and beguiles with the violin which bows to his mastery. I fell for his Kalayana Vasantam eons ago and still turn to him for a ‘fix’ when I have a longing. Here is his short 7 min rendition.

Alternate Link : Click here

For an immersion in the beauty of Kalyana Vasantam for 30 minutes, listen to this vocal rendition by Maharajapuram Santhanam. The alapana gently sweeps and ushers us into the lyrical kriti. How can a voice be both majestic and sweet?

Alternate Link : Click here  (needs free membership to Sangeethamshare)

Lastly, any post on Kalyana Vasantam is incomplete without a rendition by Kadri Gopalnath who has made this raga his very own. On his Saxophone, the raga takes almost a strident note, demanding immediate attention.

Alternate rendition (I could not find my version online) : Click here 

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
(I do not speak Telugu and the information below is dependent on various web sources)

पल्लवि
नाद लोलुडै ब्रह्मा-
नन्दमन्दवे मनसा

अनुपल्लवि
स्वादु फल प्रद सप्त
स्वर राग निचय सहित

चरणम्
हरि हरात्म भूसुर पति
शर जन्म गणेशादि
वर मौनुलुपासिञ्च रे
धर त्यागराजु तॆलियु

Transliteration

pallavi
nAda lOluDai brahmA
nandamandavE manasA

anupallavi
svAdu phala prada sapta
svara rAga nichaya sahita

charaNam
hari harAtma bhUsura pati
shara janma gaNEshAdi
vara maunulupAsincha rE
dhara tyAgarAju teliyu

Translation

O Mind, attain (andavE) the rapture of absorbtion on the Brahman (brahmAnanda) by immersing (loluDai) in music (nAda, literally sound), which includes (sahita) the seven (sapta) svara (notes) and a multitide (nichaya) of ragas (rAga) that bestow (prada) sweet (svAdu) results (phala).

Vishnu (hari), Shiva (harA), Brahma (Atma bhU – self born), Indra (sura pati – Lord of the Gods), Kartikeya (shara janma – born in reeds), Ganesha, great sages (vara maunulu), etc (Adi) workship (upAsincha) nAda (implied), of this Tyagaraja is aware (teliyu) on this earth (dhara).

 

 

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Bhavayami Raghuramam

A very Happy Ramanavami to all my readers! May God’s grace fall upon you all!
I have chosen a concise Ramayana for you to listen today as you meditate upon Lord Rama. When I use the word ‘meditate’, I use it loosely, Meditation need not always be in a lotus position, does it? For me, it is often with my head nodding under my headphones. I call that worship too!
As to the song, it is a Ragamalika composed by Swathi Thirunal. There are those amongst you who don’t appreciate ragamalikas; I bring this composition particularly to your attention. While the lyrics list the major events in each kandam (canto) of the epic, the ragas paint the emotion in parallel. Balakandam is in a calm and stable Nattakurinji reflecting the stability of Rama’s childhood. Ayodhyakandam in Dhanyasi resounds with a gentle sweetness. I don’t think this goes against the story as Rama is perfectly content even in exile. Aranyakandam is in a romantic Mohanam reflects the happy life Rama and Sita lead in the forest in spite of Shurpanakha et al. Kishkindakandam is in a grief stricken Mukhari as both Rama and Sita suffer, each in their own way. Sundarakandam follows in a more hopeful Purvikalyani though it is still infused with sadness thanks to the minor Ri. Yuddhakandam finishes in an auspicious Madhyamavati, the traditional raga for a happy conclusion. And the whole is tied together in a prayerful Saveri. I understand the original version was only in Saveri. It was Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who tuned it as a ragamalika, adding the chittaswarams as well. This is the version popularised by M.S.Subbulakshmi.
I have chosen a rendition by the young Trichur Brothers. I think they have done a very credible job indeed. There are of course some wonderful renditions by yesteryear greats. In my growing years my father used to play a tape by MS all the time; I still hear her voice in my head when I think of this song. And I just love MDR meandering through the composition in his inimitable style; I always take a particular pleasure in his re-catching Saveri at the end of every charanam; it’s almost a thrill to hear the switch to ga-ri-sa-da, ri-sa-da, sa-da 🙂 But there is also great enjoyment in listening to young voices sing these age-old songs with such conviction.  Trichur Brothers start their rendition with the following shloka. They sing it also in a ragamalika like the main composition. (Note : If you are new to Raga recognition and distinction, this is a perfect opportunity to try your skills on this shloka as you know which ragas to expect).
वामे भूमिसुता पुरश्च हनुमान् पश्चात् सुमित्रासुतः
शत्रुघ्नो भरतश्च पार्श्वदलयोः वाय्वादि कोणेषु च।
सुग्रीवश्च विभीषणश्च युवराट् तारासुतो जांबवान्
मध्ये नील सरोज कोमळरुचिं रामं भजे श्यामळं॥ 
vAmE bhUmisutA purascha hanumAn paschAt sumitrA sutah
shatrughnO bharatascha pArchvadalayOh vAyvAdi kONEshu cha.
sugrIvscha vibhIshaNascha yuvarAT tArAsutO jAmbavAn
madhyE nIla sarOja kOmalaruchim rAmam bhajE shyAmaLam
With Sita (bhUmisuta-daughter of the earth) on the left (vAmE), and (cha) Hanuman in the front (puras), in the rear (pashchAt) Lakshmana (son (sutah) of Sumitra), surrounded by (pArshvadalayoH) Shatrughna and (cha) Bharata, and (cha) with Vayu etc (Adi) in the corners (kONEshu), with Sugriva and the young king (yuvarAj – don’t know why it is yuvarAt in the shloka) Vibhishana, the son (suta) of Tara i.e Angada, Jambavan and in the centre (madhyE) the gently (komala) handsome (ruchim) dark-hued (shyAmaLam) Rama looking like (implied) a blue lotus (nIla sarOja), whom I worship (bhajE) .
Watch from 19:01
(for some reason embedding is not working)

Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Sanskrit

Pallavi and Anupallavi (Saveri)

भावयामि रघुरामम् भव्य सुगुणारामम् ।
भावुक वितरण परापाङ्ग लीला लसितम् ।।

bhAvayAmi raghurAmam bhavya suguNArAmam
bhAvuka vitaraNa parApAnga lIlA lasitam

I meditate upon (bhAvayAmi) the delightful (ArAmam), gracious (bhavya) and virtous (suguNa) Lord Rama (rAmam) of the Raghu dynasty, who playing (lasitam) at his Divine Play (lIlA) bestows (vitaraNa) happiness (bhAvuka) to others (para) with just his sidelong glances (apAnga).

Charanam 1 (Nattakurinji) – Balakandam

दिनकरान्वय तिलकं दिव्य गाधिसुत सवना-
वन रचित सुबाहु मुख वधम् अहल्या पावनम् ।
अनघमीश चापभङगं जनक सुता प्राणेशं
घन कुपित भृगुराम गर्व हरमित साकेतम् ॥

dinakarAnvaya tilakam divya gAdhisuta savanA-
vana rachita subAhu mukha vadham ahalyA pAvanam
anaghamIsha chApabhangam janaka sutA prANEsham
ghana kupita bhRgurAma garva haramita sAkEtam

He who is the ornament (tilakam) of the sun (dinakara) lineage (anvaya), he who killed (vadham) the demons (implied) beginning with (mukha) Subahu while protecting (avana) the sacrifice (savana) performed by (rachita) the Vishwamitra (son (suta) of gAdhi), he who purified (pAvanam) Ahalya, he who broke (bhanga) the bow (chApa) of the sinless (anagham) Shiva (Isha), he who is the husband (prAnesha) of Sita (daughter (sutA) of Janaka), he who destroyed (haram) the pride (garva) of the profoundly (ghana) kupita (angry) Parashurama (bhRgurAma as he is a descendent of bhRigu), he who is from (ita) Ayodhya (sAkEtam).

Charanam 2 (Dhanyasi) – Ayodhyakandam

विहिताभिषेकम् अथ विपिन गतम् आर्य वाचा
सहित सीता सौमित्रीं शान्ततम शीलम् ।
गुह निलय गतं चित्रकूटागत भरत दत्त-
महित रत्नमय पादुकं मदन सुन्दराङ्गम् ॥

vihitAbhishEkam atha vipina gatam Arya vAchA
sahita sItA saumitrIm shAntatam shIlam
guha nilaya gatam chitrakUtAgata bharata datta-
mahita ratnamaya pAdukam madana sundarAngam

He who went (gatam) to the forest (vipina) with (sahita) Sita and Lakshamana (saumitrI, son of Sumitra) at the word (vAchA) of his Lord (Arya) in spite of (atha) the destined (vihita) consecration (abhishEkam),  he who was in the habit of (shIlam) being extremely calm (shAntatam), he who went (gatam) to the residence (nilaya) of Guha, he who went (gata) to Chitrakoota, he who gifted (datta) Bharata his esteemed (mahita), bejewelled (ratnamaya, studded with precious stones) sandals (pAdukam), he who has an intoxicatingly (madana) beautiful (sundara) body (angam).

Charanam 3 (Mohanam) – Aranyakandam

वितत दण्डकारण्य गत विराध दलनं
सुचरित घटज दत्तानुपमित वैष्णवास्त्रम् ।
पतगवर जटायु नुतं पञ्चवटी विहितावासं
अति घोर शूर्पणखा वचनागत खरादि हरम् ॥

vitata daNDkAraNya gata virAdha dalanam
sucharita ghaTaja dattAnupamita vaishNavAstram
patagavara jatAyu nutam panchavatI vihitAvAsam
ati ghOra shUrpaNakhA vachanAgata kharAdi haram

He who went (gata) to the vast (vitata) Dandaka forest (AraNya), he who destroyed (dalanam) Viradha, he who was gifted (datta) the matchless Vaishnava weapon (astram) by the virtuous (sucharita) Agastya (ghaTaja – born in a pot), he who is worshipped by (nutam) the chief of birds (patagavara) Jatayu, he whose abode (AvAsam) was put in order (vihita) in Panchavati, he who destroyed (haram) Khara etc (Adi) who came (Agata) on the word of (vachana) of the very (ati) horrible (ghOra) Shurpanakha.

Charanam 4 (Mukhari) – Kishkindakandam

कनक मृग रूप धर खल मारीच हरमिह
सुजन विमत दशास्य हृत जनकजान्वेषणम् ।
अनघम् पम्पातीर संगताञ्जनेय नभोमणि
तनुज सख्यकरं वाली तनु दलनमीशम् ॥

kanaka mRga rUpa dhara khala mAricha haramiha
sujana vimata dashAsya hRta janakajAnvEshaNam
anagham pampAtIra sangatAnjanEya nabhOmaNi
tanuja sakhyakaram vAlI tanu dalanamIsham

He who killed (haram) the wicked (khala) Maricha who had worn (dhara) a form (rUpa) of a golden (kanaka) deer (mRga) here (iha), he who searched for (anvEsham) the daughter of Janaka (janakajA) who was seized (hRta) by Ravana (dasha – ten, Asya-face) who disregarded (vimata) the virtous (sujana), he who is sinless (anagham), he who, accompanied by (sangata) Hanuman (AnjanEya), made friends (sakhya karam) with Sugriva (son of (tanuja) the Sun (nabhOmaNi)), he who destroyed (dalanam) the body (tanu) of Vali, he who is supreme (Isham).

Charanam 5 (Purvikalyani) – Sundarakandam

वानरोत्तम सहित वायुसूनु करार्पित
भानुशत भास्वर भव्य रत्नाङ्गुलीयम् ।
तेन पुनरानीतान्यून चूडामणी दर्शनं
श्रीनिधिमुदधि तीरेश्रित विभीषण मिलितम् ॥

vAnarOttam sahita vAyusUnu karArpita
bhanushata bhAsvara bhavya ratnAnguliyam
tEna punrAnItAnyUna chUDAmaNI darshanam
shrInidhImudadhi tIrEshrita vibhIshaNa militam

He who, accompanied by (sahita) the best (uttama) amongst the Vanaras, offered (arpita) in the hands (kara) of Hanuman (child (sUnu) of Vayu) the beautiful (bhavya) bejewelled (ratna) ring (angulIyam) which was lustrous (bhAsvara) like a hundred (shata) suns (bhAnu), he who saw (darshanam) the blemishless (anyUna) (crest jewel (chUDAmaNI) brought (AnIta) in turn (punah) by him (tEna ie hanuman), he who is the reservoir (nidhi) of auspiciousness (shrI), he who met (militam) Vibhishana who sought refuge (Ashrita) on the shores (tIrE) of the ocean (udadhi).

Charanam 6 (Madhyamavati) – Yuddhakadam

कलित वर सेतुबन्धं खल निस्सीम पिशिताशन
दलनम् उरु दश कण्ठ विदारणम् अति  धीरम् ।
ज्वलन पूत जनक सुता सहितम् यात साकेतं
विलसित पट्टाभिषेकं विश्व पालं पद्मनाभम् ॥

kalita vara sEtubandham khala nissIma pishitAshana
dalanam uru dasha kaNTHa vidAraNam ati dhIram
jvalana pUta janaka sutA sahitam yAta sAkEtam
vilasita paTTAbhishEkam vishva pAlam padmanAbham

He who made (kalita) the best (vara) bridge (sEtubandham),  he who killed (dalanam) numerous (nissIma-endless) wicked (khala) demons (pishitAshana-flesh eaters), he who crushed (vidaranam) the huge (uru) ten-headed (dasha kaNTHa) Ravana, he who is extremely (ati) dhIram (brave), he who, along with (sahita) Sita (janaka sutA-daughter of Janaka) who was purified (pUta) by fire (jvalana), proceeded to (yAta) Ayodhya (sAkEtam), he who shone (vilasita) in coronation (paTTAbhishEkam), he who protects (pAlam) the world (vishva), he who is the lotus-navelled one (padhanAbham).

 

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Kanden Sitaiyai

Hanuman and Sita

She sits under a tree, lost in her own misery. For ten months she has been in captivity, surrounded by her enemies. Her captor has given her twelve months to give in to him and become his consort. He has threatened death, he has tried temptation but she remains aloof and dismissive. But internally she has started despairing. Will her Lord be able to rescue her in time ? Her despair leads her to thoughts of giving up her life. Our Lord’s envoy finds her thus. He approaches her cautiously, gaining her trust in small steps. He offers to take her back but she refuses; she will allow only her Lord to rescue her. The Lord’s envoy bids her goodbye, causes as much havoc as he can in the enemy camp and returns to his Lord to bring glad tidings. Our Lord too has been suffering without his lady. He is desperate for news. His envoy greets him joyfully ”My Lord! Yes, I have seen her! Yes, she is still alive and chaste!”.

This is such a pivotal moment in the story, isn’t it! We have all followed this story innumerable times, through the innocence of our hero’s childhood, through his adolescent victories, the obedience of young adulthood, a comparatively uneventful exile and finally through the despair of loss.  Through all this time our hero has just been a man in the making, at least to my eyes. Oh, he was mature enough in age. Married at 16, he lived at home under his father’s rule for 12 years when he was sent into exile. he would have been 28 then. His lady was captured after 13 years in exile so at this stage of the story, our hero is close to 42 years in age. But he has not yet fulfilled the role for which he was born, as man or as God. It is after this point that he rouses himself from despair and takes the steps to become the glorious, victorious one that we all greet him as when we say ‘Jai Jai Ram’.

So, as I said before, this point of the story is pivotal. Ramayana is a story which has been told countless times, in countless forms. There is no saying if Valmiki’s was the original one; who knows what stories were there before? Perhaps there was always a Ramayana, whether told or untold. Still, Valmiki’s is the story we refer to as the original version. Let us see what he says about this moment of the story.


Valmiki Ramayana (Sundara Kanda, Sarga 64 and 65)
(Reference : https://www.valmiki.iitk.ac.in/)

अङ्गदे ह्यननुप्राप्ते सुग्रीवो वानराधिपः।
उवाच शोकोपहतं रामं कमललोचनम्।।5.64.24।।
समाश्वसिहि भद्रं ते दृष्टा देवी न संशयः।
नागन्तुमिह शक्यं तैरतीते समये हि नः।।5.64.25।।

Seeing the grief stricken, lotus eyed Rama, the lord of the vanaras Sugriva said this before the arrival of Angada : Trust me, Rama. Be blessed. The vanaras have seen the divine lady. There is no doubt. It is not possible for them to come here after exceeding the time limit (in their search for Sita).

Sugriva, Rama and Lakshmana watch the havoc created by the vanaras in Madhuvana from a distance. From the very celebratory behaviour of the vanaras,  Sugriva guesses that they come with good news. So it is he who gives first intimation of the news by saying ‘the vanaras have seen the divine lady‘.

Valamiki gives further description of the approach of the vanaras and the exchange of greetings before coming to the salient point.

हनुमांश्च महाबाहुः प्रणम्य शिरसा ततः।।5.64.37।।
नियतामक्षतां देवीं राघवाय न्यवेदयत्।

Then the strong armed Hanuman with his head bowed down offered salutations and reported, ‘Divine lady Sita with her constant devotion to Sri Rama is sound in body’.

With this one sentence two important bits of news are conveyed, that of Sita’s wellbeing and that of her constancy.
In the next sarga, Valmiki has Anchaneya give a more detailed description of his experiences.
समुद्रं लङ्घयित्वाहं शतयोजनमायतम्।।5.65.8।।
अगच्छं जानकीं सीतां मार्गमाणो दिदृक्षया।
तत्र लङ्केति नगरी रावणस्य दुरात्मनः।।5.65.9।।
दक्षिणस्य समुद्रस्य तीरे वसति दक्षिणे।
तत्र दृष्टा मया सीता रावणान्तः पुरे सती।।5.65.10।।
सन्न्यस्य त्वयि जीवन्ती रामा राम मनोरथम्।
दृष्टा मे राक्षसीमध्ये तर्ज्यमाना मुहुर्मुहुः।।5.65.11।।
राक्षसीभिर्विरूपाभी रक्षिता प्रमदावने।
Having crossed the sea consisting of a hundred yojanas in quest of Vaidehi, I found her. On the southern shore of the ocean is situated the city of Lanka, ruled by the evil-minded Ravana. There, in the inner palace of Ravana, I saw your lovely wife Sita, with all her hopes pinned on you, giving up all other desires. I found her in the beautiful garden guarded by hideous ogresses threatening her again and again.
I have highlighted the phrase  दृष्टा मया सीता as this is the closest to the title of our song today ‘Kanden Sitaiyai’. She is well but she is threatened. This will rouse our hero to immediate action.
दुःख मासाद्यते देवी तथाऽदुःखोचिता सती।।5.65.12।।
रावणान्तः पुरे रुद्धा राक्षसीभि स्सुरक्षिता।
एकवेणीधरा दीना त्वयि चिन्तापरायणा।।5.65.13।।
अधःशय्या विवर्णाङ्गी पद्मिनीव हिमागमे।
रावणाद्विनिवृत्तार्था मर्तव्यकृतनिश्चया।।5.65.14।।
देवी कथञ्चित्काकुत्स्थ त्वन्मना मार्गिता मया।
Sita, who did not deserve and yet was full of grief was detained by Ravana in his inner palace, guarded by ogresses. She had a single braid (a sign of desolation), was pathetic, and totally absorbed in your thought. She was lying on bare ground with her limbs turned pale, like lotus in winter. She was averse to Ravana and was determined to commit suicide. She has only Rama in her mind. Somehow I found her.
Sita’s devotion to Rama and her determination to seek death rather than dishonour is the salient point here. Note how she is described as looking pale as a lotus in winter. When you come to the translation of our song, you will notice the same description there.
जीवितं धारयिष्यामि मासं दशरथात्मज।।5.65.24।।
ऊर्ध्वं मासान्न जीवेयं रक्षसां वशमागता।
इति मामब्रवीत्सीता कृशाङ्गी धर्मचारिणी।।5.65.25।।
रावणान्तः पुरे रुद्धा मृगीवोत्फुल्ललोचना।
O Son of Dasaratha I will hold on to life for a month. Captured by the demons, I will not live for more than a month. With her limbs emaciated through austerities detained in Ravana’s inner palace, eyes wide open in fear, Sita said this to me.
Sita gives Rama a mere month to defeat Ravana and rescue her. I have read and heard Ramayana innumerable times but somehow missed this pertinent fact. So as Sita did not give up her life, I assume that less than 30 days passed between Hanuman bringing this news and Rama’s defeat of Ravana. Is that even possible? I have to do more research on that!

KAMBA RAMAYANAM , Sundara Kandam, 6028, 6031 and 6051
எய்தினன்அனுமனும்; எய்தி, ஏந்தல்தன்
மொய் கழல்தொழுகிலன்; முளரி நீங்கிய
தையலை நோக்கியதலையன், கையினன்,
வையகம் தழீஇநெடிது இறைஞ்சி, வாழ்த்தினான்

Hanuman having reached that place, without saluting the heroic Rama’s anklet clad feet, he saluted southwards towards where the Goddess, who, having abandoned the lotus flower and been born on this earth, was currently resident, by falling on earth, with his head and hands touching the earth and praised Sita lying there.
Kambar has Hanuman conveying the news in a more subtle manner. On gaining audience, Hanuman pays obeisance to Sita instead of saluting Rama and thus conveys the news of Sita’s well-being by gestures alone. Interestingly, Kambar stresses the divinity of Sita here by connecting her to Goddess Lakshmi.
கண்டனென், கற்பினுக்கு அணியை, கண்களால்,
தெண் திரை அலைகடல் இலங்கைத் தென் நகர்;
அண்டர் நாயக !இனி, துறத்தி, ஐயமும்
பண்டு உள துயரும்’என்று, அனுமன் பன்னுவான்
Hanuman looked at Rama and said ‘O Lord of Devas, in Lanka, a city in the South which is surrounded by clear, curling tides, I saw with my own eyes your Lady who is like an ornament to chastity. Therefore forget all the doubt (of whether she is chaste or not) and the sorrow thereof’. He continued to tell in more detail.

I included this verse because it is closest to the words ‘Kanden Sitaiyai’ . Kambar’s description of Sita is very evocative and poetic.

இங்கு உளதன்மை எல்லாம் இயைபுளி இயையக் கேட்டாள்;
அங்கு உள தன்மைஎல்லாம் அடியனேற்கு அறியச் சொன்னாள்;
“திங்கள் ஒன்றுஇருப்பென் இன்னே; திரு உளம் தீர்ந்தபின்னை,
மங்குவென்உயிரோடு” என்று, உன் மலரடி சென்னி வைத்தாள்.

After hearing of all that occurred here, she told me of everything that had happened there in detail. ‘I will remain alive for only one more month’ she said. ‘If my Lord does not want to save me within that time, I will kill myself’ . She gestured as if she was saluting your divine feet.

Kambar’s Sita, like Valmiki’s Sita, gives her Lord only a month’s time to rescue her. Interesting is the wording here ‘If my Lord does not want to save me within that time’. Is there a doubt that he would want to save her or not? A hint of a future doubt over her chastity?


Ramacharitamanas,  Sundara Kanda 5-29 and 5-30
Reference : http://www.ramcharitmanas.org

I could not find the equivalent of the words ‘Kanden Sitaiyai’ in Ramacharitmanas. It is Jambavan who speaks first to the Lord.

प्रभु कीं कृपा भयउ सबु काजू। जन्म हमार सुफल भा आजू॥2॥
नाथ पवनसुत कीन्हि जो करनी। सहसहुँ मुख न जाइ सो बरनी॥
पवनतनय के चरित सुहाए। जामवंत रघुपतिहि सुनाए॥3॥
सुनत कृपानिधि मन अति भाए। पुनि हनुमान हरषि हियँ लाए॥
कहहु तात केहि भाँति जानकी। रहति करति रच्छा स्वप्रान की॥4॥

‘Everything has turned out well by the grace of my Lord; it is only today that our birth has been consummated. The achievement of Hanuman (the son of the wind-god) cannot be described even with a thousand tongues’. Jambavan then related to the Lord of the Raghus the charming exploits of Hanuman. The All-merciful felt much delighted at heart to hear them and in His joy He clasped Hanuman once more to His bosom. ‘Tell me, dear Hanuman, how does Janaka’s daughter pass her days and sustain her life?’

This version of the meeting came across to me as more intimate somehow. Unlike the other two versions, there is no comment about Sita’s chastity. I will quote only one more verse for a comparison, a verse which gives Sita’s message to Rama.

मन क्रम बचन चरन अनुरागी। केहिं अपराध नाथ हौं त्यागी॥2॥
अवगुन एक मोर मैं माना। बिछुरत प्रान न कीन्ह पयाना॥

I am devoted to Your feet in thought, word and deed; yet for what offence, my lord, have You forsaken me? I do admit one fault of mine, that my life did not depart the moment I was separated from You.

Sita feels abandoned but she neither sets a deadline nor threatens suicide.


How many versions there are of the story! Is it really just one story? Prof. Ramanujan calls the various instances of the Ramayana story as ‘tellings’. In his essay titled 300 Ramayanas  he says ‘Some shadow of a relational structure claims the name of Ramayana for all these tellings, but on a closer look one is not necessarily all that like another‘.  I urge you to read this essay when you have some time;  it is very interesting indeed.

Finally I come to the song I have chosen to present today (you may well sigh in relief !). The song is from Arunachala Kavi’s  (1711-1779) Rama Natakam, his own telling of Ramayana. The song is a narration by Hanuman to Lord Rama; it is both beautiful and poignant. I have heard it sung in Bageshri and Vasanta but I believe it is also sung in Behag and Mukhari. I understand the tuning in Vasanta was by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar but I don’t know about the other versions. If you have links to a version in Behag or Mukhari, please can you add a link in the comments? Also, I have heard only the first two charanams sung, if you know of a rendition which includes all three charanams, I will be grateful.

Let us first listen to Sikkil Gurucharan in Vasanta. He sings only the first charanam. Vasanta is so cheerful, isn’t it! The jubilation in the words is nicely matched by the raga.

 

Next, here is a rendition by Bombay Jayashri. She sings only the second charanam. I love Bageshri and the song sounds quite beautiful to me.

 


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Tamil
Note – you may note that the lyrics don’t match exactly with the renditions above. I have done my best to provide what I think is most accurate for the purpose of music appreciation. If you are a student, please refer to your guru.

பல்லவி
கண்டேன் கண்டேன் கண்டேன் சீதையை
கண்டேன் ராகவா (நான் )

அனுபல்லவி
அண்டருங் காணாத இலங்காபுரத்திலே
அரவிந்த வேதாவை தரவந்த மாதாவை

சரணம் 1
காவி விழிகளில் உன் உருவெளி மின்னக்
கனி வாய் தனிலே உன் திரு நாமமே பன்ன
ஆவித்துணையைப்  பிரிந்த மட அன்னம்
ஆனாள் நான் சொல்லுவதென்ன
பூவைத் திரிசடை நித்தம் நித்தம் சொன்ன
பக்தி வழியே தன் புத்தி நிலை மன்னப்-
பாவி அரக்கியர் காவல் சிறை துன்னப்-
பஞ்சு படிந்த பழம் -சித்திரம் என்ன

சரணம் 2
பனிக்கால வாரிஜம் போல் நிறங் கூசிப்
பகல் ஒரு யுகமாக கழித்தாளே பிரயாசி
நினைத்தங்கே ராவணன் அந்நாள் வரச் சீச்சி
நில்லடா (older version: சண்டாளா) என்று ஏசி
தனித்துத்-தன் உயிர்தனைத் -தான் விட மகராசி
சாடும் பொழுது காணும் சமயம் இதுவே வாசி
இனித் -தாமதம் செய்யல் ஆகாதென்றிடர் வீசி
ராமா ராமா ராமா என்றெதிர் பேசி

சரணம் 3
அடல் சேரும் வாலியை வானுலகிலே கூட்டி
அவனியை சுக்ரீவன் ஆள முடி சூட்டி
உடனே நீ தூது போ என்ற சொல் அமுதூட்டி
உன்னெழில் பாராட்டி
விட வந்த அனுமன்தன் நான் என்று சீராட்டி
விவரம் சொல்ல உயிர் கொண்டிருக்கிறாள் சீமாட்டி
திடமா லக்ஷ்மணன் செய்த பர்ணசாலை வீட்டில்
தேவாதி தேவா உன் திரு ஆழிதனைக்-காட்டி

Transliteration

pallavi
kaNDEn kaNDEn kaNDEn sItaiyaik
kaNDEn rAghavA (nAn)

anupallavi
aNDarung-kANAda lankApurattilE
aravinda vEdAvait-taravanda mAtAvai

charaNam 1
kAvi vizhigaLil un uruveLi minnak
kanivAy danilE un tiru nAmamE panna
AvittuNaiyaip-pirinda maDa annam
AnAL nAn solluvadenna
pUvait-tirishaDai nittam nittam sonna
bhakti vazhiyE tan buddhi nilai mannap-
pAvi arakkiyar kAval siRai tunnap-
panju paDinda pazham-chittiram enna

charaNam 2
panikkAla vArijam pOl nirang-kUsip-
pagal oru yugamAgak-kazhittALE prayAsi
ninaittangE rAvaNan annAL varach-chIchchi
nillaDA enDRU Esi
tanittut-tan uyirt-tanait-tAn viDa magarAsi
sADum pozhudu kANum samayam iduvE vAsi
init-tAmadam seyyal AgAdenRiDar vIsi
rAma rAma rAma enRedir pEsi

charaNam 3
aDal sErum vAliyai vAnulagilE kUTTi
avaniyai sugrIvan ALa muDi sUTTi
uDanE nI tUdu pO enDRa sol amudUTTi
un ezhil pArATTi
viDa vanda anumantan nAn enDRu sIrATTi
vivaram solla uyir koNDirukkiRAL sImATTi
diDamA lakshmaNan seyda parNasAlai vITTil
dEvAdi dEvA un tiru Azhitanaik-kATTi

pallavi
I have seen (kanDEn) Sita (sItaiyai), O Raghava!

anupallavi
In the city (purattilE) of Lanka, a city not seen (kANAda) even by the Gods (anDarum) (implied meaning: A city more beautiful than the celestial cities), I saw Sita (the words of the pallavi), the mother (mAtAvai) who came (vanda) to give (tara) Brahma (aravinda vEda) .
[*Note: I am very dissatisfied with the translation of the second line. I trolled the net to see what others think, but did not find anything convincing. Brahma is the son of Vishnu but only indirectly of Lakshmi. I would prefer to read it as ‘Lakshmi who sits (implied) on a lotus. After all Lakshmi is also known as Vedavalli, so could vEdA be a short version of that?  If so, what has she come to give? Can it be read as something else? Your opinions are welcome!]

charaNam 1
With your (un) reflection (uruveLi) shining (minna) in her (implied) reddened (kAvi) eyes (vizhigaLil) (ie eyes reddened by tears), uttering (panna) only (-mE after nAmam) your (un) sacred (tiru) name (nAmam), she has become (AnAL) like (implied) a pen (female swan) (maDa annam) separated (pirinda) from her soul (Avi) companion (tuNaiyai), what (enna) shall I (nAn) say (solluvadu)!  Keeping her state of mind (buddhi nilai) firmly constant (manna) by following (implied) the way (vazhiyE) of devotion (bhakti) as advised (sonna-told) daily (nittam nittam) by the lady (pUvai) Trijata (tirishaDai), while the sinful (pAvi) demonesses (arakkiyar) crowd close (tunna) guarding (kAval) her prison (siRai). She is like (enna) an old (pazham) painting (chittiram) which has become valueless (panju paTTa).

charaNam 2
Withdrawn (kUsi) with her colour (niram) pale (implied) like a lotus (vArijam) in winter (pani kAlam), the distressed lady (prayAsi) passed (kazhittaLE) each day (pagal) as if it was an eon (yugamAga). That day (annAL) when Ravana came (vara) there (angE) purposefully (ninaittu) , she (implied) reproached (Esi) him saying (eNDRu=thus) ‘chIchi’ (exclamation of disgust) Stop (nillaDa)!’.  Alone and helpless (tanittu), the blessed woman (magarAsi) decided to (implied) give up (viDa) her own (tan) life (uyir tanai) herself (tAn).  Seeing (kANum) the moment (pozhudu) of the decision (implied) of killing herself (sADum) and divining (vAsi) that this was (iduvE) the time (samayam), that (enDRu) delaying (tAmadam) further (ini) won’t do (seyyal AgAdu) , I interrupted (edir pEsi) by scattering (vIsI) the words (implied) ‘Rama Rama Rama’ .

charaNam 3
Gathering (kUTTi) the murderous (aDal = murder, but why sErum? !) Vali (vAliyai) into the celestial world (vAnulagam) and crowning (muDi sUtti) Sugriva to rule (Ala) the world (avaniyai), he said (implied) ‘Go as my ambassador (tUdu pO)’, feeding (Utti) words (sol) of nectar (amudu) to me (implied). Praising (pArATTi and sIrATTi) your (un) grace (ezhil), I  said (enDRu-thus, here indicates what is said), ‘ I (nAn) am Hanuman (anumantan), having come (vanda) to rescue you (viDa)’ .  O Lord of Lords (dEvAdi dEva)! In the leafy hut/hermitage (paRNasAlai vITTil) built (seyda) by Lakshmana, [Note: In Kamba Ramayanam, Sita is captured along with their hut, thus protecting her chastity even further by her never having been touched by Ravana], as I explained (solla) the details (vivaram) and showed [kATTi] your (un) sacred (tiru) signet ring (Azhitanai), the lady (sImATTi) resolutely (diDamA) retains life (uyir koNDirukkiRAL) (ie. he has successfully stopped her from giving up her life).

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