Dhano Dhanno Pushpo Bhora


I have always been proud of coming from a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country. In today’s migratory world, many countries can claim the same. But immigrants remain foreigners at least for a generation or two; sometimes for more. In India, we are all different but we are none of us foreigners! As strange as it may be to reach some corner of India where the language is indecipherable, the culture alien and the food unrecognisable, we still look at the people and accept the oneness of being Indian.

So it gives me great pleasure when famous musicians bravely launch into songs from elsewhere in India with passion and enjoyment. I was recently listening to the live telecast of T.M.Krishna’s concert at Spic Macay convention. I am a fan of TMK; I almost always enjoy his music. The last song he sang was the Bengali song Dhano Dhanno Pushpo Bhora. It was a fan request; evidently people have heard him sing this before. I listened with interest as I know this song well. His musicality was beautiful and his rendition full of emotion. But I have to say this much as I hate to do so – the pronunciation just didn’t work. I understand; it is so difficult for us Indians to learn and appreciate each other’s languages, isn’t it! It is all so different, especially Tamil and Bengali. I know; I am fluent in both. Still, I am very happy that he chose to present this lovely piece of nationalistic poetry by Dwijendralal Ray (1863-1913).  Perhaps a new set of audience will come to appreciate these beautiful words. This song has been sung in the past by M.S.Subbulakshmi as well. Given that my audience is almost 99% non-Bengali, I am writing this post to bring this song to the attention of all you readers.

Before I transcribe it, I would like to bring some important points about pronunciation in Bengali. My readers would be well used to the modified version of the Harvard Kyoto transliteration scheme which I use in this blog. I have described it in this page. To be able to transliterate Bengali, I have the need for two more vowel symbols. ɒ is like o as in Hot. This is the ‘default’ vowel sound in Bengali; it often replaces अ in Sanskrit. अ can also be replaced by o like in old. The other vowel sound which occurs frequently is ɛ like ai in air.  Other than that, Sanskrit words when used in Bengali have the following replacements of consonants (I list the ones in the song, this is not a universal list).

v as in vasundhara (earth in Sanskrit) is replaced with b
s  as in sakal (from sakala, total / everything in Sanskrit) is replaced with sh
sw like in swapna (dream in Sanskrit) is replaced with sh
rya like in sUrya (sun in Sanskrit) is replaced with rjɒ
note also that rAnI in Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali is with the soft न (n) unlike Tamil where the hard ण (ண – N) is used.

I’ve selected a beautifully sung rendition from the West Bengal Sangeet Academy for you to listen to while you follow along with the words below. The lyrics are in Bengali with English transliteration. My thanks to my husband who proof read and corrected the Bengali script for me. I hope you enjoy it!

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ধন ধান্য পুষ্প ভরা আমাদের এই বসুন্ধরা
তাহার মাঝে আছে দেশ এক সকল দেশের সেরা
ও সে স্বপ্ন দিয়ে তৈরি সে দেশ স্মৃতি দিয়ে ঘেরা |
এমন দেশটি কোথাও খুঁজে পাবে নাকো তুমি
ও সে সকল দেশের রাণী সে যে আমার জন্মভূমি
সে যে আমার জন্মভূমি, সে যে আমার জন্মভূমি।।

dhɒno dhanno pushpo bhɒrA AmAdEr Ey boshundhɒrA
tAhAr mAjhE ACHE dEsh ɛk shɒkol dEshEr shErA
O shE shɒpno diyE tOyrI shE dEsh smriti diyE ghɛrA
ɛmOn dEshti kOthA’O khu.njE pAbE nAkO tumi
O shE shɒkol dEshEr rAnI shE jE AmAr jɒnmo bhUmi
shE jE AmAr jɒnmo bhUmi, shE jE AmAr jɒnmo bhUmi

In this (Ey) earth (boshundhɒrA) which is ours (AmAdEr), filled with (bhɒrA ) with riches (dhɒno), grain (dhanno) and flowers (pushpo), in the midst (mAjhE) of which (tAhAr) is (ACHE) a (ɛk) country (dEsh) which is the best (shErA) amongst all (shɒkol) countries (dEshEr). That which is (O shE) created (tOyrI ) with dreams (shɒpno) , that (shE) country (dEsh) is surrounded (ghɛrA) by memories (shmriti ). You (tumi) will never (nAkO) find (khu.njE pAbE) a country (dEshti) such as this (ɛmon) anywhere (kOthA’O)! That which is (O shE) the queen (rAnI) of all countries (shɒkol dEshEr), that is (shE jE) my (AmAr) birthplace (jɒnmo bhUmi).

চন্দ্র সূর্য গ্রহ তারা, কোথায় উজান এমন ধারা,
কোথায় এমন খেলে তড়িৎ, এমন কালো মেঘে,
ও তার পাখির ডাকে ঘুমিয়ে পড়ে (alt: উঠে ) পাখির ডাকে জেগে।
(repeat refrain)

chɒndro shUrjo grɒho tArA, kOthAy ujAn ɛmon dhArA
kOthAy ɛmon khɛlE tɒDit, ɛmon kAlO mEghE,
O tAr pAkhir DAkE ghumiyE pɒDE (alt: uTHE) pAkhir DAkE jEgE
(repeat refrain)

The moon (chɒndro), the sun (shUrjo), the planets (grɒho), the stars (tArA) – where (kOthAy) is such a (ɛmon) stream (dhArA) with an upstream flow (ujAn)? Where (kOthAy) does lightning (tɒDit) play (khɛlE) like this (ɛmon), amongst black (kAlO) clouds (mEghE) like this (ɛmon)? Which falls asleep (ghumiyE pɒDE/uTHE) with the call (DAkE) of its (tAr) birds, having also (implied) woken (jEgE) with bird calls (pAkhir DAkE).

এত স্নিগ্ধ নদী কাহার কোথায় এমন ধুম্র পাহাড়
কোথায় এমন হরিৎ ক্ষেত্র আকাশ তলে মেশে
এমন ধানের উপর ঢেউ খেলে যায় বাতাস কাহার দেশে
(repeat refrain)

ɛtO snigdhO nɒdI kAhAr, kOthAy ɛmon dhUmro pAhAD,
kOthAy ɛmon hɒrit khEtrO AkAsh tɒlE mEshE,
ɛmon  dhAnEr Upɒr dhE’U khɛlE jAy, bAtAsh kAhAr dEshE
(repeat refrain)

Whose (kAhAr) river (nɒdI) is as (ɛtO) gentle (snigdhO)? Where (kOthAy) are such (ɛmon) misty (dhUmro) mountains (pAhAD)? Where (kOthAy) are fields (khEtrO) green (hɒrit) like this (ɛmon) blending (mEshE) under (tɒlE) the skies (AkAsh)? In whose (kAhAr) country (dEshE) does the wind (bAtAsh) play (khɛlE) likes waves (dhE’U) over (Upɒr) the rice fields (dhAnEr)?

পুষ্পে পুষ্পে ভরা শাখি কুঞ্জে কুঞ্জে গাহে পাখি
গুঞ্জরিয়া আসে অলি পুঞ্জে পুঞ্জে ধেয়ে
তারা ফুলের ওপর ঘুমিয়ে পড়ে ফুলের মধু খেয়ে।
(repeat refrain)

pushpE pushpE bhɒrA shAkhi, kunjE kunjE gAhE pAkhi
gunjɒriyA AshE oli punjE punjE dhEyE
tArA phUlEr Upɒr ghumiyE pɒDE phUlEr mɒdhu khEyE
(repeat refrain)

Branches (shAkhi)  filled (bhɒrA ) with flowers (pushpE, repeated for emphasis), birds (pAkhi) singing (gAhE) in bowers (kunjE kunjE), bees (oli) rush (dhEyE) in buzzing (gunjɒriyA) swarms (punjE punjE). They (tArA) sleep (ghumiyE pɒDE) on (Upɒr) the flowers (phUlEr) after having sipped (khEyE, literally eaten) the nectar (mɒdhu) of the flowers (phUlEr).

ভাইয়ের মায়ের এতো স্নেহ, কোথায় গেলে পাবে কেহ,
ও মা তোমার চরণ দুটি বক্ষে আমার ধরি,
আমার এই দেশেতে জন্ম যেন এই দেশেতে মরি।
(repeat refrain)

bhAiyEr mAyEr ɛtO snEhO kothAy gElE pAbE kEhO
O mA tOmAr chɒron duTi bɒkkhE AmAr dhɒri
AmAr Ey dEshEtE jɒnmo jɛno Ey dEshEtE məri
(repeat refrain)

Where (kOthAy) can anyone (kEhO) go (gElE) to get (pAbE) so much (ɛtO) love (snEhO) from brothers (baAiyEr) and mothers (mAyEr)? O Mother (mA), I hold (dhɒri) your (tOmAr) two (duTi) feet (chɒron) on my (AmAr) chest (bɒkkhE ). My (AmAr) birth (jɒnmo) was in this (Ey) country (dEshEtE), take care that (jɛno) I die (məri) in this (Ey) country (dEshEtE).


Filed under Patriotic Music

Yaar Enna Sonnalum

Oothukkadu Kalinga Nartana KrishnaHave you ever asked yourself ‘What if I am wrong in my beliefs? What if there is no God, no karma, no rebirth, nothing but nothingness when we are done here?‘. I don’t mean like a crisis of faith, but just those fleeting thoughts which linger, unanswered and unanswerable. The truth is, of course, we are all equally in the dark, the believers as well as the non-believers. Very often it is the non-believer’s arguments which seem more rational, more scientific. And even worse, the stories in the newspapers are of atrocities committed by believers, whatever genre their belief may be, rather than the non-believers. In this climate, it is hard not to eye the whole ‘belief’ thing with a certain wariness.

This struggle with belief is not new to Hinduism.  You may already know of the Nasadiya Sukta नासदीय सूक्त (Hymn of Creation) of the Rigveda. The last two couplets are of particular interest, which I quote below.

को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |
अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥
इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |
यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥

But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know.

Rig Veda 10:129, Translation by A.L Basham (source)

It is so gloriously open-ended, isn’t it! These verses are about creation but there is something more fundamental, as if even the existence of the Gods and their power over creation is questioned. If even the Vedic seers had such questions in their minds, who will blame us if we do?

And yet there it is, my faith. Perhaps it is childhood indoctrination; in fact it almost certainly is that. However it has been such an old friend to me, has shaped my own character and the choices I have made in life so very much that it cannot be separated from me without causing grievous damage to all that I am. I very much identify with this quote by William Sloane Coffin Jr ‘I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings‘. It feels as if I leapt in my childhood, even before I knew I was leaping and over the course of my life my faith has grown wings. And like a kite it flies, tethered to anything rational by a mere thread.

But the questions remain.

And that is why I have chosen this beautiful composition by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer today.  ‘Whatever anyone says, fear not, O brave heart, keep singing about the compassion of the Lord‘ says he. Why did he write this song, I wonder. What did people say to him that he responded with ‘Even if this world says  a thousand things  we  should keep it aside thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’.  The words seem to speak to me when questions cloud my mind. Set to raga Manirangu, it has all the spirit and lyrical beauty of Venkata kavi’s compositions. It makes me smile because he encourages everyone to sing and even dance if they can!

Please listen first to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s rendition. It has been a while since I featured him, hasn’t it! I hope you enjoy his simply brilliant voice as much as I do.

And the second rendition that caught my fancy today is by Shobana Vignesh. Very nicely sung indeed!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

யாரென்ன சொன்னாலும் அஞ்சாத/அஞ்சாதே  நெஞ்சமே
ஐயன் கருணையைப் பாடு – ராக
ஆலாபனமுடனும் பாடு – முடிந்தால்
அடவோடும் ஜதியோடும் ஆடு
அருமையென வந்தப் பிறவிகளோ பல
ஆயிரம் தந்தாலும் வருமோ ஆதலின்

நாரத நாதமும் வேதமும் நாண
நாணக் குழல் ஒன்று ஊதுவான்
நீரதக் கழல் ஆட கோபியரும் பாட
நேர் நேர் என சொல்லித் தானாடுவான் – அந்த
அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு

தோலை அரிந்து கனி தூர எறிந்து
வெறுந் தோலைத் துணிந்தொருவன் தந்தானல்லவோ
மேலைப் பிடி அவலை வேணுமென்றே தெரிந்து
விரும்பி ஒருவன் அன்று தந்தானல்லவோ
காலமெல்லாம் தவம் இருந்து கனிந்து கனி
கடித்து சுவைத்தொருவள் தந்தாளல்லவோ – இந்த
ஞாலமும் ஆயிரம் சொன்னாலும் நாம் அதை
நமக்கெதற்கு என்று தள்ளி நாமமும் ஆயிரம் சொல்லிச் சொல்லி
(அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு)


yArenna sonnAlum anjAdE (alt: anjAda) nenjamE
aiyan karuNaiyai pADu – rAga
AlApanamuDanum pADu – muDindAl
aDavODum jatiyODum ADu
arumaiyena vandap piRavigaLO pala
Ayiram tandAlum varumO Adalin

nArada nAdamum vEdamum nANa
nANak kuzhal onDRu ooduvan
nIradak kazhal ADa gOpiyarum pADa
nEr nEr ena sollit tAnADuvAn – anda
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)

tOlai arindu kani dUra eRindu
veRun tOlait tuNindoruvan tandAnallavo
mElaip piDi avalai vENumenDRE terindu
virumbi oruvan anDRu tandAnallavo
kAlamellam tavam irundu kanindu kani
kaDittu suvaittoruvaL tandALallavo – inda
ñAlamum Ayiram sonnalum nAm adai
namak kedarku enDRu taLLi nAmamum Ayiram sollich-cholli
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)


Whatever (enna) anyone (yAr) says (sonnAlum), fear not, O heart (anjAdE nenjamE) [Alternative – O brave heart (anjAda nenjamE) ], sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan). Sing (pADu) with (ODu) elaborations (Alapanai) of the Raga. If you can (muDindAl), also  dance (ADu) with (ODu) proper gestures and steps (aDavu). Even if you are given (tandAlum) many (pala) thousands (Ayiram) of precious (arumai) lives (piravigal), will this one come again (implied by varumO=will it come)? Therefore (Adalin)…..

He will play (ooduvAn, literally blow) a (onDRu) flute (kuzhal) such that (implied) it would put the music (nAdam) of Narada and the Vedas to shame (nANa). (Note : there is a second nANa in front of kuzhal, I don’t understand why. Is there another meaning to it? Or is it for emphasis?).  With his cloud-like (nIrada) anklets (kazhal) jingling (ADa, literally dancing), and the cowherdesses (gOpiyar) singing (pADa), asking (solli, literally saying) to be face to face (nEr nEr ena) He would dance (ADuvAn) himself (tAN) (I am a bit puzzled about the ‘nEr nEr ena’. Perhaps this is a reference to the episode where He duplicates Himself for each gopi and dances with each of them face to face?). Sing of his (His) compassion (pallavi line)

Didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), having cut (arindu) the peel (tOlai) and throwing away (dUra eRindu) the fruit (kani),  presume to (tuNindu) give (tandAn) only (tani) the peel (tolai) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the episode when Vidura, in the excitement of having Krishna close by, peels bananas and offers the peels to the Lord instead of the fruit. Krishna too consumes it. Vidura on realising what he had done is horrified but Krishna says he would accept anything offered with love.] Further (mElai), didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), knowing (terindu) that it was wished for (vENum enDRu),  lovingly (virumbi, with liking) give (tandAn) a handful (piDi) of flattened rice (aval) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the tale of Sudama]. Didn’t (allavO) a woman (oruvaL), having lived (irundu, literally been) lifelong (kAlamellam) in austerity, tenderly (kanindu) give (tandAL) a fruit (kani) after biting (kaDittu) and tasting (suvaittu) it? [Note: Refers to Shabari]. Even if this (inda) world (ñAlam) says (sonnAlum) a thousand things (Ayiram) we (nAm) should keep it aside (taLLi, literally push away) thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’ (nammakku edarkku enDru) and repeating (solli solli) His thousand (Ayiram) names (nAmam) sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan) (pallavi line).


Filed under Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Shobana Vignesh, Uncategorized

Jaagiye Raghunath Kunvara

Rama_thumb.jpgHappy Ramanavami to all my readers! May the Lord’s blessings shine on all of you!

On this auspicious day, I have chosen for your listening pleasure a wonderful bhajan by Tulasi dasa in the voices of Rajan and Sajan Mishra. This is from a set of CDs by Musictoday called Bhaktimala which I have since the eighties. It’s an excellent set with some beautiful music by myriad artists whom I have listened to innumerable times.

Tulasi dasa has written this poetry as being recited by Vishwamitra when he wakes the young Rama and Lakshmana. We are all very familiar with verses in Valmiki’s Ramayana, set to the same scene.

कौसल्या सुप्रजा राम पूर्वा संध्या प्रवर्तते ।
उत्तिष्ठ नरशार्दूल कर्त्तव्यं दैवमाह्निकम् ||

kausalya suprajA rAma pUrvA sandhyA pravartati.
uttiSHTHA narashArdUla kartavyam daivamAhnikam.

O Rama, the noble son of Kausalya! Dawn has commenced in the East. O Best amongst men! Wake up, the daily rituals have to be performed!

These words in the golden voice of M.S.Subbalakshmi are etched in all our hearts, aren’t they! I always smile when I imagine the scene. I can well visualise Vishwamitra coaxing young Rama and Lakshmana, who were but boys at that time, just as I had to coax my son out of bed to get to school when he was their age!

I have listened to Rajan and Sajan Mishra’s music for many years; they are amazing musicians whom I intended to feature again in the future. In this rendition, they start with an invocation to the Sun God.

आदिदेव नमस्तुभ्यं प्रसीद मम भास्कर
दिवाकर नमस्तुभ्यं प्रभाकर नमोऽस्तु ते

AdidEva namastubhyam prasIda mama bhAskara.
divAkara namastubhyam prabhAkara namOstu tE.

Salutations to O Primal God ! Please be gracious to me, O Effulgent One!
Salutations to the Day-Maker! Salutations to the Maker of Light!

-First verse of Suryashtakam from the Samba Puranas

In Ramayana, divinities descend on earth in human form and thus Vishwamitra awakening them is nothing extraordinary. But who are we singing to when we awaken God? Is He not always awake? Yes, of course He is. When we sing suprabhatam or songs of awakening, we sing to the God within us, urging Him/Her to awaken from the cloud of Maya which keeps the divinity inside us in a state of sleep. With this song, we urge our own divinity, our soul to wake up to and understand its own Truth.

This song was often sung in Gandhiji’s ashram. He translated it for Mirabehn; that is the translation I have given below in the footnote.

So here are Rajan and Sajan Mishra with Jagiye Raghunatha Kunwara.

Footnote : Lyrics and Translation

Language : Awadhi, a dialect of Hindi


जागिये रघुनाथ कुंवर, पंछी बन बोले |

चंद्र किरण शीतल भई, चकई पिय मिलन गई |
त्रिविधमंद चलत पवन, पल्लव द्रुम डोले ||

प्रातः भानु प्रकट भयो, रजनी को तिमिर गयो |
भृंग करत गुंजगान, कमलन दल खोले ||

ब्रह्मादिक धरत ध्यान, सुर नर मुनि करत गान |
जागन की बेर भई, नैन पलक खोले ||

तुलसीदास अति अनन्द, निरख के मुखारबिन्द |
दीनन को देत दान, भूषण बहु मोले ||


jAgiyE raghunAtha ku.nvara, panchI bana bOlE.

chandra kiraNa shItala bhayI, chakayI piya milana gayI,
trividhama.nda chalaya pavana, pallava druma DOlE.

prAtah bhAnu prakaTa bhayO, rajanI kO timira gayO,
bhringa karata gunjagAna, kamalana dala khOlE.

brahmAdika dharata dhyAna, sura nara muni karata gAna,
jAgana kI bEra bhayI, naina palaka khOlE.

tulasIdAsa ati ananda, nirakha kE mukhArabinda,
dInana kO dEta dAna, bhUshaNa bahu mOlE.

Translation (by Gandhiji)

O Prince of the Raghus, wake up; the birds are singing in the grove. The moon will disappear presently, the chakravaka bird is off to meet her lord. The threefold breeze is gently blowing, the leaves are rustling. The morning sun is on the horizon, darkness of the night is gone. The bees are humming, the lotus has opened its leaf. Brahma and others are in meditation; the gods, common people and sages are singing hymns of praise. Thus when it was rising time Rama opened his eyes. Tulsidas is overjoyed to see the lotus face of Rama who gives valuables as gifts to the poor.



Filed under Uncategorized

Shobhillu Sapta Svara

SaptasvaraHave you ever thought about how so many different cultures use music as a form of worship? We all know of the wonderful choral music traditions of the Christians, the chantings of the Buddhists, the kirtans of the Sikhs, the emotional outpourings of the Sufis and the many traditions of musical worship of the Hindus. Some are simply sacred music, like bhajans, their primary purpose being worship. Others, like Carnatic Music, have a deep thread of devotion running through them but retain an identity apart from their devotional roots. So yes, the use of music as a means of worship is common enough. But it is not very common to have music itself as the divinity being worshipped. That is the concept which I approach in my post today.

As a devotee of music, this concept pleases me greatly! To those of us who agree that divinity is omnipresent, this is no stretch of imagination. If divinity can be found everywhere, why not in music?  To those of us who search for that spiritual feeling in places of worship to allow us to connect with divinity, this makes it even easier. For music is there, real and accessible to most of us in one way or the other. We need not search for places of worship; we may worship the music right within us.

Sound as a divine principle comes to us Hindus from the Vedas. We all know the importance of AUM, I shall not venture there. The Vedas themselves are also called Shruti meaning ‘That which is heard‘,  emphasising both their divine origin and their oral tradition. Samaveda, in particular, ‘the Veda of Songs‘ includes notated music, perhaps the oldest surviving tunes of this world.  An interesting aside – the word vEd or knowledge comes from the Proto-Indo-Iranian word ‘weyd‘ meaning ‘to know, to see’.  The Latin videō meaning ‘to see, perceive, look comes from the same root word. So a sentence like ‘I have a video of the vedas‘ is etymologically quite amusing ! But I digress..

Coming back to the divinity of music, the Vedas refer to the divine nature of vAk वाक् or voice.  This divinity is said to be present in AUM. The Upanishads refer to Shabda-Brahman शब्दब्रह्मन् meaning The Cosmic Sound.  The word Nada-Brahman नादब्रह्मन् (nAda also means sound) is used instead of Shabda-Brahman in later treatises like Brihaddeshi by Matanga Muni (date unknown, speculated 6th-8th century CE). In this Nada is linked with various divinities.

न नादेन विना गीतं न नादेन विना स्वराः
न नादेन विना नृत्तं तस्मान् नादात्मकं जगत्
नादरुपः स्मृतो ब्रह्मा नाद रूपो जनार्दनः
नादरूपा पराशक्तिः नाद रूपो महेश्वरः

Without Nada, there is no music. Without Nada, there are no musical notes. Without Nada, there is no dance. Therefore the whole universe is composed of Nada. Brahma is known to be incarnate in Nada, as is Vishnu, Parashakti and Shiva.

In Sangeeta Makaranda by Narada (~11 century CE), there is an explanation of the passage of Nada through our body.

तम् नादम् सप्तधा कृत्वा तथा षड्जादिभिः स्वरैः
नाभी हृद् कण्ठ तालूषु नासादन्तोष्ठयोः क्रमात्
षड्जश्च .ऋषभ गान्धारौ मध्यमः पञ्चमस्तथा
धैवतश्च निशादश्च स्वराः सप्त प्रकीर्तिताः

that nAda, passing through the naval, heart, neck, tongue, nose, teeth, and lips, generates the seven svaras, shadjam, rishabham, gAndhAram, madhyamam, panchamam, dhaivatam and nishAdam.

-Article by P.P.Narayanaswami in Carnatica

There is a similar passage in Sangeetaratnakara by Saragadeva (13th century CE) in which the author links musical notes with Chakras (centres of spiritual centre within the body) and Nadis (subtle energy channels within the body), describing the passage of nAda through the body .

आत्मा विवक्षमाणोऽयम् मनः प्रेरयते , मनः |
देहस्थम् वह्निमाहन्ति स प्रेरयति मारुतम्  ||
ब्रह्मग्रन्थिस्थितः सोऽथ क्रमादूर्घ्वपथे चरन् |
नाभि हृत् कण्ठ मूर्धास्येष्वाविर्भावयति ध्वनिम् ||

Desirous of speech, the individuated being impels the mind, and the mind activates the battery of power stationed in the body, which in turns stimulates the vital force. The vital force stationed around the root of the navel, rising upwards gradually manifests nada in the navel, the heart, the throat, the cerebrum and the cavity of the mouth as it passes through them. 

from Sangita Ratnakara translation by R.K.Shringy

R.K.Shringy explains that ‘Nada is not merely an object of the sense of hearing. The concept of nada refers to the perception when subject and object are not differentiated‘. Normally when we name objects, we are naming the perception of that object in our consciousness. As such, the subject in our consciousness and the object outside have a relationship but are always apart. Nada on the other hand refers to the melding of the sound and its presence in our consciousness, when they become one. Nada is both the energy and its manifestation.

All this is but a lead up to my song choice of today. Tyagaraja has composed this masterpiece in homage to the divinity of music residing in the seven notes. He worships the divinities resident in the navel, heart, throat, tongue and nose, similar to the quotes from Sangeeta Makaranda and Sangeeta Ratnakara above. He refers to himself as the auspicious Tyagaraja; if for no other reason, surely the presence of the divinities within him makes this a just description! Set to the beautiful raga Jaganmohini (that which charms the universe), it is a favourite amongst Carnatic Music fans.

I have chosen this song today for a particular reason. When Dr.Balamuralikrishna passed away late last year, I was travelling and did not write a post in his honour. One of my readers wondered about it in a comment but it was not really forgetfulness on my part. You see, as I have mentioned in previous posts, my childhood home always rung out with Carnatic Music. Be it Semmangudi, Madurai Mani Iyer, G.N.Balasubramaniam, M.D.Ramanathan, M.S.Subbulakshami, S.Balachandar, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Balamuralikrishna and myriad others, they were all voices of my childhood, familiar and very very dear. Over the years, one after the other, they have passed away. With each passing it seems that I wave goodbye to one more dear one, to my past, to my history. Dr. BMK was particularly dear to me because he was my mother’s favourite. I can never listen to him without remembering my mother’s pleasure in his voice. His passing adds one more goodbye in my life and deepens the sorrow of my own losses. Sigh! Shobhillu Sapta Svara is a song I associate with him and I selected it as a tribute to a man who was the ultimate Nadopasaka, a devoted worshipper of the Nadabrahman.

Alternate link : Click here and choose song 2 (free membership of Sangeethapriya required)

Footnote : Lyrics

Language : Telugu
(Note – I do not speak Telugu; the translation here is from various internet resources)

शोभिल्लु सप्त स्वर सुन्दरुल भजिम्पवे मनसा

नाभि हृत् कण्ठ रसन नासादुलयन्दु

धर ऋक् सामादुललो वर गायत्री हृदयमुन
सुर भूसुर मानसमुन शुभ त्यागराजुनियॆड


shobhillu sapta svara sundarula bhajimpavE manasA

nAbhI hRt kaNTHa rasana nAsAdulayandu

dhara Rk sAmAdulalO vara gAyatrI hRdayamuna
sura bhUsura mAnasamuna shubha tyAgarAjuniyeDa


Worship (bhajimpavE) the radiant (shObhillu) beautiful (sudurula) divinities (implied) of the seven (sapta) svara (notes), O mind (manasA)!

Worship the divinities glowing (implied) in (andu) navel (nAbhi), heart (hRt), throat (kaNTHa), tongue (rasana) and nose (nAsa) etc. (Adula).

Worship the divinities glowing in (implied) the sustaining (dhara) Vedas such as (implied) Rg, Sama etc. (Adulalo), in the heart (hRdayamuna) of the foremost (vara) gAyatrI mantra, in the minds (mAnasamuna) of the celestials (sura) and Brahmins (bhU-sura), and within (eDa) this auspicious (shubha) Tyagaraja (tyAgarAjuni) .


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Balamuralikrishna

Ananda Natam Aduvar Thillai

Happy Shivaratri everybody! As music lovers, our worship is music, our prayer is music and our blessing is music, is it not? And so here I am, offering a song of the Dancing Lord in worship and in prayer, praying that I shall evermore have the blessing of a heart fulfilled by music.


Cosmic Microwave Map, can you spot the S and H?

It might seem strange to you but I always associate Lord Shiva with Cosmology! You see, the image I have in my mind is of Him dancing, galaxies streaming around Him, the background sound of OM keeping sruthi like a tanpura, His ascetical beautiful face blissful, His matted hair flying, the snakes on His neck swaying, the drum in Hand beating the beat of the world, His movements ecstatic, His contemplation the existence of the universe, His pulse its rhythm. So yes, I think of Cosmology when I think of Him. Knowing that Shivaratri was coming up, I picked a lecture to see from the Oxford University podcasts. I only understood parts of it but there was something there which made me laugh! Check out what the speaker shows at the 22nd minute. The letters ‘S’ and ‘H’ show up in the microwave map (see above), a cosmological message from the time the Universe was created! I wonder when they are going to find the ‘I’, ‘V’, and ‘A’!!! Lord Shiva’s signature on his handiwork, don’t you think? 🙂

There was something else which sparked my interest. The model which I had read before said that the universe was expanding like a balloon, but that the rate of expansion reduces as time passes. I had imagined that it would then attain some kind of stability. Instead, I understand (and I may be well have misunderstood!) that the expansion is in fact accelerating, and that the model that emerges is that of a universe which will expand faster and faster until it collapses into itself to become what it was before the Big Bang. And then perhaps it would start a new cycle again? Is that the cycle of destruction and creation which we ascribe to Lord Shiva? I must read up a bit more on this subject….

To remember Lord Shiva’s dance today, I have chosen a lovely song composed by Neelakanta Sivan in the raga Purvikalyani. I listened to many a rendition but this week, I couldn’t get past the old timers.. So first up is K.V.Narayanaswamy with a gorgeous rendition below.

Alternative Link : Click here and select song 3 (Free membership of Sangeethapriya required)

For a slightly longer version with an alapanai, here are the Hyderabad Brothers. I do like their singing, I should listen to them more often!

Alternate Link : Click here and select song 10 (free membership of Sangeethapriya required)

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

ஆனந்த நடம் ஆடுவார் தில்லை
அம்பலம் தன்னில் அடி பணிபவர்க்(கு)-அபஜெயமில்லை (ஆனந்த)

தானந்தம் இல்லாத ரூபன்
தஜ்ஜம் தகஜம் தகதிமி
தளாங்கு தக  தத்திங்கிணதோம்
தளாங்கு தக  தத்திங்கிணதோம்
தக திமி(alt:திகு) தக தத்திங்கிணதோம் (ஆனந்த)

பாதி மதி ஜோதி பளீர் பளீர் என
பாதச் சிலம்பொலி  கலீர் கலீர் என
ஆதிக் கறை உண்ட நீலகண்டம் மின்ன

(மத்தியம காலம் )
ஹரபுர ஹரசிவ சங்கர
அருள் வர குருபர சுந்தர (alt: அருள் குருபர சிவ சுந்தர )
அண்டமும் பிண்டமும் ஆடிட
எண்திசையும் புகழ் பாடிட

Ananda naTam ADuvAr tillai
ambalam tannil aDi paNIbavark-apajayam illai (Ananda)

tAnantam* illAda rUpan
tajjam takajam takadimi
taLAngu taka tatingiNatOm
taLAngu taka tatingiNatOm
taka dimi (alt: diku) taka tatingiNatOm (Ananda)

pAdi madi jyOti paLIr paLIr ena
pAda silamboli galIr galIr ena
Adi kaRai uNDa nIlakaNTam minna

(madhyama kAlam)
harapura hara shiva shankara
aruL vara gurupara sundara (alt: aruL gurupara shiva sundara)
aNDamum piNDamum ADiDa
eNdisaiyum pugazh pADiDa

*Note : தானந்தம் is pronounced as tAnandam by most singers, however as it is derived from Sanskrit word अन्त meaning end, the correct pronunciation would be tAnatam in my humble opinion.


The Lord (implied) will dance (ADuvAr) his Dance of Ecstacy (Ananda naTam) in the (tannil) temple (ambalam, normally hall or court) in Chidambaram (tillai) where, for those who worship (paNibavarkku) at His feet (aDi), there is no defeat (apajayam).

With an infinite/endless (tAnantam illAda) form (rUpan), with a beat (implied by the solkattu or beat-words) like (ena) tajjam-takajam…tatingiNatOm (..the Lord will dance)

With light (jyOti) flashing brilliantly (paLIr paLIr ena) from the crescent moon (pAdi = half, madi = moon), the sound (oli) of ankle-bells (silambu) on his feet (pAda) ringing sharply (galIr galIr ena), His (implied) blue-hued (nIla) throat (kanTam) which swallowed (uNDa) the primeval/ancient (Adi) impurity (kaRai) glittering (minna) (reference: Shiva drinking poison from the churning of the ocean).

‘O Auspicious One (shankara)!! O Benign One (shiva)!! O Destroyer (hara)!! (Not sure what harapura indicates here…) O Beautiful One (sundara)! O Benevolent One (aruL vara)!  O Ultimate (vara) Preceptor (guru)!! Thus do (implied) all eight directions (eNdisaiyum) sing (pADiDa) His praise (pugazh) while the whole globe (piNDam) and universe (aNDam) dance (ADiDa).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Hyderabad Brothers, K.V.Narayanaswamy, Neelakanta Sivan

Azhaga Azhaga

azhagar-koilAre Gods beautiful?

According to the great poets and songwriters of India, Gods are indeed beautiful. We even come across hymns and prayers from ancient times which describe the beauty of the Gods in extravagant terms.

But why do Gods need to be beautiful? This bothers me somewhat, especially in the climate of today where there is an obsession over beauty. I would like to think of Gods as being compassionate, loving, just, generous and forgiving. In comparison, beauty seems to be such an inessential quality! Surely this focus on beauty is worth questioning?

I guess we humans have always been drawn to beauty. We like to decorate ourselves with cosmetics, jewellery and garments in order to make ourselves more beautiful. I remember visiting archaeological museums and admiring the way even the most ancient of people made rings, necklaces and other such ornaments. Cosmetics aren’t anything new either; I believe it comes from the time of the ancient Egyptians. Still, I find that the world today has taken this pursuit of beauty to such extremes! Plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons has become so common. Why, I read recently of Far-Eastern ladies having surgery to make their eyes bigger, short (or not!) people deliberately having their legs broken and stretched so that they could be taller! I am rather horrified! Yet the practices such as lengthening the neck as practiced in some African tribes are no different and these practices have been around for years. Body piercing and tattooing too has been around for a long time. I guess my protests against this madness for beauty are a bit hypocritical; like many ladies, I too make attempts to present myself as well as I can. Still, I see beauty as no more than a superficial thing and giving it importance goes against my grain. So I come back to the question, why describe Gods as being beautiful?

TED lecture by neurobiologist Samir Zeki that I happened to watch gave me an interesting perspective; in fact, that is what prompted me to write this post. In his research, he has found that there are neural correlations between the subjective mental states of love and the experience of beauty. In effect, there is one common area of mental activity located in the medial orbital frontal cortex which is active when one experiences beauty and also happens to be the same area which is active when you look at the face of the person you love very much. Does it mean that we experience both emotions similarly, I wonder? Does an experience of beauty trigger us to love the object which gives us this experience and equally, do we see beauty in all that we love? I am just speculating but I wonder if Gods are described as beautiful to make it easy for us to love them?

Yesterday I was listening to a Podcast on aesthetics and there was a comment which caught my attention. The speaker talked about a ‘vocabulary cloud’ which links the words beauty, truth and goodness. I immediately thought of ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram’, not the movie, but the philosophy. I did a quick search to see if I could find the exact source, but I only found imprecise info linking it to the Upanishads (if you know the source, can you please add a comment with the info? Much obliged!). ‘What‘, I asked myself, ‘if it is only the presence of Satyam (Truth) and Shivam (Goodness) which brings about the quality of Sundaram (Beauty)‘?  I remember my university days when I used to find great beauty in the perfection of a well-solved mathematical problem, the perfect ratios in nature etc. I used to describe them as beautiful; and yes, there was truth in them, goodness in them. Now that kind of beauty truly attracts me; I am very comfortable associating such beauty with the Divine!

I chose the song which came first to my mind when I thought of this subject. Written in praise of the deity from Azhagar Koil (the temple of the Handsome One), it is written by Ambujam Krishna is a very emotive and personal style. Set to Shuddha Dhanyasi, a lyrically appealing Raga, it is a very beautiful song and I hope it pleases you as much as it pleases me. MLV was famous for this song and if you haven’t heard her as yet, be sure to listen here to one of her many renditions available freely on the net. There is also a very pleasing rendition by Bombay Jayashri which I like very much. But with an intention of listening to young artists whenever possible, here is a very nicely done rendition by Saketharaman.

Alternate Link : Click here (free membership to Sangeethamshare is required)

Footnote (Lyrics) 

Language : Tamil

அழகா அழகா என்றழைத்துக் கை தொழுது வந்தேன்
திருமாலிருஞ்சோலை உறையும் வடி  (வழகா)

வழுவாது திருப்பாதம் தொழுதேத்தும் அன்பர்க்கு
அருள் வாரிச் சொரிந்து அவர் உள்ளம் கவரும் கள்  (ளழகா)

நடந்து நடந்து உன் சன்னிதி வந்தேன்
நாதன் உன் நற்றால் நிழல் தாராயோ?
நாடி நாடி உன் புகழ் கேட்டு வந்தேன்
நாரணா என் குரல் செவியுரக் கேளாயோ?
அடைக்கலம் அடைக்கலம் என்றுனை அடைந்தேன்
அபயக் கரம் தந்து வினை தீராயோ?
பாடிப் பாடி உனைப் போற்றிப் பணியும் எனக்குப்
பவழ வாய் திறந்து அஞ்சேலென்று அருளாயோ?

மத்யமகால சாகித்தியம்

விரிஜ்யோதி கமலமென உன் முகத்தே திகழும்
இருவிழி அருள் தேனை அள்ளி அள்ளி உண்டு
மறை புகழும் திரு மார்பில் மன்னி என்று உரைந்திட
மன வண்டுன் புகழ் பாட மையலுடன் உனை நாடி   (அழகா)


azhagA azhagA enDRazhaittuk kai tozhudu vandEn
tirumAlirunjchOlai uRaiyum vaDi (vazhagA)

vazhuvAdu tiruppAdam tozhudEttum anbarkku
aruL vArich chorindu avar uLLam kavarum kaL   (LazhagA)

naDandu naDandu un sannidi vandEn
nAtan un naTRAl nizhal tArAyO?
nADi nADi un pugazh kETTu vandEn
nAraNA en kural seviyurak kELAyO?
aDaikkalam aDaikkalam enDRunai aDaindEn
abhayak karam tandu vinai tIrAyO?
pADip pADi unaip pOTRip paNiyum enakkup
pavazha vAy tiRandu anjElenDRu aruLAyO?

madyamakAla sAhityam

virijyOti kamalamena un mugattE tigazhum
iruvizhi aruL tEnai aLLi aLLi uNDu
maRai pugazhum tiru mArbil manni enDRu uraindiDa
mana vaNDun pugazh pADa maiyyaluDan unai nADi  (azhagA)


Oh handsome one (azhagA)! Thus (enDRu) have I called out (azhaittu) as I have come (vandEn), hands (kai) held in worship (tozhudu). O One with the handsome form (vadivazhagA) who lives in (uRaiyum) Thirumalirunsolai (literally Tirumal=Vishnu, irum=residing in, solai=grove also called Sri Kallazhagar Perumal Temple or Azhagar Koil near Madurai).

For the devotees (anbar) who worshipfully praise (tozhudu=worship, Ettu=praise) the sacred feet (tiru+pAdam) which never fail us (vazhuvAdu), Kallazhagar (the name of the deity) attracts (kavarum) their hearts (uLLam) by showering them (chorindu) in a torrent (vAri) of blessings (aruL).

I have come walking (naDandu) a long way (implied by the second naDandu) to your sanctum (sannidhi). O Lord (nAtan), will you not give me (tArAyo) your protection/shelter (nizhal) out of your goodness (naTRAl)? Hearing of (kETTu) your glory (pugazh), I have come (vandEn) seeking (nADi nADi) O Narayana (nAraNA), do you not hear (kELAyO) my (en) loud (ura) voice (kuRal) ? Calling out (implied) ‘Sanctuary Sanctuary‘ (aDaikkalam)  thus (enDRu) I have approached you (aDaindEn), will you not bring an end to (tIrAyo) to my misfortune (vinai) by giving me (tandu) your gesture of fearlessness (abhaya karam, a mudra indicating protection)? Will you not open (tiRandu) your coral (pavazha) lips (vAy, literally mouth) and bless (aruLAyo) me (ennai) by saying ‘Do not fear‘ (anjEl enDRu), I who worship you (paNiyum) by singing (pADi) again and again (indicated by second pADi) in praise of (pOTRi) you (unai)?

My mind (mana) is like a bee (vaNDu) which seeks you (nADi) in attraction (maiyyaluDan) of the two eyes (iru vizhi) which are like luminous blooming (viri jyoti) lotuses (kamalam) in your face (mugattE tigazhum), to grab again and again (aLLi aLLi) the honey (tEnai) of your benevolence (aruL). Singing (pADa) your (un) praise (pugazh), and saying (uraindiDa)  ‘Forgive Me’ (manni) to the holy chest (tiru marbil)..(O Handsome one!)


Filed under Ambujam Krishna, Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Saketharaman, Uncategorized

Irakkam Varamal

nataraja1Is God really compassionate? I worry about this, the way I worry about so many unsolvable problems in the world. Is the compassion we ascribe to Him/Her just wishful thinking on our part? If you are a non-believer, this question is moot. But I am a die-hard believer; I hold the kind of belief which is beyond reason, beyond logic. So this question is important to me, especially because I stumble ever so often in my life and am very much in need of both compassion and forgiveness.

The thing is, I think that the qualities ascribed to God are determined by men; there can be no real proof to their veracity. The Hindu pantheon has evolved over the thousands of years from the time of Rig Veda. Some deities have gained importance; others have lost it. Their qualities, their functions, their stories, everything has changed, developed and evolved. Even die-hard believers have to agree that it is men who have ‘designed’ the qualities of Gods. And men, being so very fallible, may have added compassion to the list of Godly qualities because it suits us just fine! As the poet says in my song choice of today ‘பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும் பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம்’ (However many sins/errors I commit, Shiva of Chidambaram protects me). Wishful thinking?

I guess I’ll not have the answer to this question until I am past the stage of needing compassion. Still, I too, like the poet of this song, make a fundamental assumption that God is compassionate.  இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் ? The poet asks, ‘what is the reason that you have no compassion towards me?’ as if His/Her compassion were a right and not a privilege. ‘I have come to you having heard and believed that you are an ocean of compassion‘ he says. I guess we believers are all in the same boat – we have heard, we have believed and we pray for compassion. And so the song feels very real, very true and close to our heart.

This beautiful song is a composition of Gopalakrishna Bharati however I understand that the madhyamakala sahityam is not written by him. Set to Raga Behag, it pulls effortlessly at my heart. My love for Behag is endless; I can listen to this raga any number of times! There are many beautiful renditions of this song. One in particular I would like to recommend is KVN’s very simple and graceful one here (you need free membership of Sangeethapriya).

But today as I was playing catch-up with the Margazhi Maha Utsavam episodes on Youtube, I came upon this very nice version by Vignesh Ishwar. In fact I enjoyed the whole concert. He starts with leisurely chera rAvadE in Ritigowla, then a Begada alapana (09:02), innum parAmukham at 16:20 (very nice neraval!),  vazhi maraittirukkudE in Todi from 26:56 which I liked particularly  (TMK’s influence is clearly audible!) and of course irakkam varAmal from 38:40. I do like Vignesh Ishwar’s rendition;  perhaps I would have preferred a tad less ornamentation. He has a gentle and emotive voice, a very nice range and skills which will see him in good stead over the years to come. I like. A young man to watch.

irakkam varAmal from 38:40.

Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Tamil

இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் என் சுவாமி (-க்கு)

கருணைக் கடல் என்று உன்னைக்
காதிற்/காதில்  கேட்டு நம்பி வந்தேன் (இரக்கம்)

ஆலம் அருந்தி அண்டர் உயிரை ஆதரித்த உமது கீர்த்தி
பாலகிருஷ்ணன் பாடி தினமும் பணிந்திடும் நடராஜ மூர்த்தி

பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும்*
பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம் (alt: பாலித்திடும் சிதம்பரம் என )
மொழி கற்றவர் வழி உற்றுனை   (alt: வழி பெற்றவர்)
முப்பொழுதும் மறவேனே 
(இரக்கம் )


irakkam varAmal pOnadenna kAraNam en swAmi (-kku)

karuNai kaDal enDRu unnai
kAdiR/kAdil kETTu nambi vandEn (irakkam)

Alam arundi anDar uyirai Adaritta umadu kIrtti
bAlakrishNan pADi dinamum paNindiDum naTarAja mUrti

pazhi ettanai nAn seydinum*
pAlittiDum shiva chidambaram
mozhi kaTravar vazhi uTRunai (alt: vazhi peTravar)
muppozhudum maRavEnE

Note: I listened intently to a number of renditions; most singers say ‘seydiDum’ not ‘seydinum’. However KVN sings it as ‘seydinum’ or even ‘seyyinum’.  As this makes more grammatical sense, I am sticking with this!  


What is the reason (enna kAraNam) that you don’t feel (varamal ponadu) compassion (irakkam) towards me?

Having heard (kAdir kETTu) that you are an ocean (kaDal) of compassion (karuNai), I have come (vandEn) trusting (nambi) you (unnai).

It is your (umadu) fame (kIrtti) that you saved (Adaritta, literally supported) the lives (uyirai) of the celestials (anDar) by drinking (arundi) poison (Alam). (Note: This refers to the story of the churning of the oceans). You are the embodiment (mUrti) of Nataraja that Balakrishnan (signature of the poet) worships (paNindiDum) by singing (pADi) everyday (dinamum).

However many (ettanai) sins/errors (pazhi) I (nAn) commit (seydinum), Lord Shiva of Chidambaram is the one who protects (pAlittiDum). Closely following (uTRu) the way (vazhi) of those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) (I assume this implies the language of worship?), I will not forget (maRavEnE) you (unnai ) all day (muppozhudu – literally, the three parts of the day ie. Morning, Noon, Evening). [Alternate wording : Like (implied) those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) and have found (peTravar) the way (vazhi)]


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Vignesh Ishwar