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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Filed under Compositions in Telugu, Kadri Gopalnath, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja

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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Filed under Arunachala Kavi, Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Sikkil Gurucharan

Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame

Kalyanam

January 27 2018
I wake up at 4:30 am after just a few hours of restless sleep. It will be dawn soon. The Australian sun is set to warm us to 38ºC today. I wince at the thought of sweltering inside my heavy Kancheepuram silk sari. But I have a hundred things to do before I get to that stage. I hurry to get ready and start the day with drawing a simple kolam on the porch. I bustle about getting things ready for the priest who comes in and sets the stage for the wedding on the deck outside our living room.

I look around our home. The furniture has been moved elsewhere; hired chairs and ottomans face the deck. The dining table rests in the garden while caterer’s tables take up the dining area. The kitchen bench is decorated with many vases of fresh flowers. Strands of fresh flowers decorate the entrance, strands that my sister and friends strung for hours yesterday.  Strands of artificial marigold hang on balustrades inside and out. An arbor decorated with fresh flowers stands on the deck. Borrowed brass lamps decorate the hallway. A large colourful Rangoli that I painted on canvas decorates a corner of the living room. A hundred LED tea lights are arranged along the corridor and on the Rangoli.  I think of all the friends and family who gathered yesterday to get our home decorated and I thank them silently.

October 2016
My daughter and her partner announce that they are engaged and would like to be married by the end of 2017. She is a senior paediatric registrar, half Tamil Iyengar, half Bengali, fully Australian. He is a psychologist, both Australian and Polish. She would like to get married at home, she tells me. I do not dissuade her but my mind races with questions. We have been working with a builder since March 2016 on a project to knock down and re-build our home in Melbourne. The project is scheduled for 2017. Will our new home be ready in time given the vagaries of Melbourne weather? Just to be safe, we move the wedding date to Jan 2018.

November-December 2016
My husband had waved goodbye to our old home in March 2016. He will come back only when our new home is ready.  I’ve returned to Melbourne for finalising details with the builder and empty our home. I spend much of November sorting through years of gathered possessions and memories. I pack what needs keeping and discard as much as I can. This is such hard work! Finally everything is packed and sent off to storage. The empty shell of the home-that-was makes my heart ache. The house will come down by the end of Feb 2017; I shall be in Switzerland by then.

January 2017
An hour‘ my daughter tells me ‘The rituals must be limited to an hour‘.  I stare at her wordlessly. I think of how little control I had at my own wedding. I chose my husband but that is all the choice I made. My parents made all the decisions for the wedding as it was to be a Tamil one. Like all girls I had dreamt of a lovely wedding, instead it was a day of misery for me. All I remember of the day is my husband’s fury at being made to do rituals he had no belief in and no wish to do, my father’s fury at being forced to accept a Bengali son-in-law who did not value his culture, beliefs and his need for such rituals, my mother’s grief and fear for my future, my in-laws disappointment in having to deal with an alien culture, and above all, my shame at all the drama I had caused in my parents’ life. It was a traumatic day and I still cannot remember it without my eyes flooding rivers of sorrow. I know I don’t want that for my girl. If it is an hour-long wedding she wants, it is an-hour long wedding she will get. We have a meeting with Sriraman mama, the priest, and come up with a doable list. It ends up being an hour and a half but we are all content.

June-Aug 2017
I am back in Melbourne for another few months. We have made good progress with our new home. We have been lucky with the weather, the builders have lost only a few days for rain, less than expected. I had done a lot of running around in December, choosing bricks, outside paint colour, roof tiles, windows, doors, and the like. This trip is for choosing a zillion things for the indoors. Who would have thought that even a small thing like choosing the kitchen tap involves multiple trips to plumbing supplies stores, involving many woman-hours?!!! The light fittings are a great challenge thanks to the high roof of the cathedral ceiling. The kitchen design takes many iterations to get right.

In the meanwhile, plans for the wedding are going along well.  We select a flower supplier, caterer, photographer and videographer. We’ll have to find someone to do the lighting. The guest list is ready; we are still working on the invitation card format. The celebration has grown to a party in Kolkata on the 13th for extended family and friends, a celebratory family trip to the Sunderbans, a registration wedding in Melbourne on the 25th followed by lunch for the immediate family, a Henna night, a Hindu ritual followed by lunch on the 27th, an Australian style event followed by dinner and dance that night. I have a created a spreadsheet for the task list, we would be lost without it.

November-December 2017
I am back in Melbourne for the final stages of the building.  Even now, the builder calls me daily to make one decision or the other. With the time difference between Switzerland and Melbourne, I have often to make decisions without discussing with my husband. It is stressful. I consult YouTube and have a ‘do-it-myself-Grihapravesham’ ceremony on a ‘auspicious day’ even before the house is ready. Finally I can get my things back from storage. I work hard in unpacking and getting my house in order, including stocking up a minimal kitchen. I leave for India on the 5th of January, the house must be ready before then. The builders are still tinkering around doing the last bits of cabinetry etc before they leave for their Christmas break. I have a panic just after Christmas when the sewer blocks up. Everyone is away, it can’t be fixed now. I retreat back to my sister’s house, with the builder promising to get it fixed while we are in India.

My husband has taken responsibility for arranging the Kolkata get-together with the help of his cousin. He has also reviewed options for the Sunderbans trip; all I do is book it in. I have already arranged hotels in Kolkata. Tickets have been bought. My daughter has finalised the invitation and has posted them. RSVPs are being collected and collated with our list. I have fixed a Henna lady and arranged for dinner that night. I think the wedding plan seems sound.

January 27 2018
I watch as my Polish-Australian son-in-law ties an Iyengar Thali (Mangalsutra) around my daughter’s neck. Sriraman Mama has done very well, getting it all done in exactly the time promised. I throw akshata (yellowed raw rice) on their heads in blessing, praying that their marriage leads them to a lifetime of happiness. My sister and aunt whirl the aarati tray and we all join in singing ‘Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame‘. There is still the evening celebrations to follow. The couple will exchange vows which they have written themselves, there will be speeches from the family, the groom’s family will welcome the bride with a bread-salt-and-vodka ritual, they will dance a Polka with the groom’s family and a Bollywood medley by themselves. There will be cake cutting and eating and drinking and merry-making. But for me, with the singing of ‘Sita Kalyana’, the wedding has reached its completion.

February 12 2018
I’m still in Melbourne for another couple of weeks. My husband calls me from Switzerland to wish ourselves a happy anniversary. He is still on the 11th while I have rushed forward to the 12th. I let my mind wander to my daughter’s wedding and our own wedding 36 years ago. Ours has not been an easy marriage. The many differences in culture and beliefs, in temperament and tastes, in needs and wants…all the differences make many an ordinary thing into a matter of contention. But we have one most important thing in common – a shared value system. Perhaps in the end that is the only glue a marriage needs.  I wonder what the thoughts of my daughter would be on her own 36th anniversary. And I lay prayers at the feet of all my Gods.

What else can I play on this day but Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame? This version by Dr.Balamuralikrishna is familiar and dear to me.

I also enjoyed listening to Mr & Mrs T.M.Krishna sing the version below.

 


Footnote : Lyrics

Language : All except the pallavi is Sanskrit

पल्लवि
सीता कल्याण वैभोगमे
राम कल्याण वैभोगमे

चरणम् 1
पवनज स्तुति पात्र पावन चरित्र
रवि सोम वर नेत्र रमणीय गात्र

चरणम् 2
भक्त जन परिपाल भरित शरजाल
भुक्ति मुक्तिद लील भूदेव पाल

चरणम् 3
पामरासुर भीम परिपूर्ण काम
श्याम जगदभिराम साकेत धाम

चरणम् 4
सर्व लोकाधार समरैक वीर
गर्व मानव (alt:मानस ) दूर कनकाग धीर

चरणम् 5
निगमागम विहार निरुपम शरीर
नग धराघ विदार नत लोकाधार

चरणम् 6
परमेश नुत गीत भव जलधि पोत
तरणि कुल सञ्जात त्यागराज नुत

English Transliteration

pallavi
sItA kalyANa vaibhOgamE
rAma kalyANa vaibhOgamE

charaNam 1
pavanaja stuti pAtra pAvana charitra
ravi sOma vara nEtra ramaNIya gAtra

chharaNam 2
bhakta jana paripAla bharita sharajAla
bhukti muktida lIla bhUdEva pAla

charaNam 3
pAmarAsura bhIma paripUrNa kAma
shyAma jagadabhirAma sAkEta dhAma

charaNam 4
sarva lOkAdhAra samaraika vIra
garva mAnava (alt: mAnasa) dUra kanakAga dhIra

charaNam 5
nigamAgama vihAra nirupama sharIra
naga dharAgha vidAra nata lOkAdhAra

charaNam 6
paramEsha nuta gIta bhava jaladhi pOta
taraNi kula sanjAta tyAgarAja nuta

Translation

Oh the grandeur (vaibhOgamE – from sanskrit vaibhava, the E at the end denotes an exclamation) of Sita’s wedding (kalyANa)! Oh the grandeur of Rama’s wedding (kalyANa)!

charaNam 1
He who is the object (pAtra) of worship (stuti) by Hanuman, the son of Vayu (pavanaja), He whose character (charitra) is pure (pAvana), He whose excellent (vara) eyes (nEtra) are like the sun (ravi) and the moon (sOma), He who has a charming (ramaNiya) body (gAtra).

charaNam 2
He who is the protector (paripAla) of his devotees (bhakta jana), He who is capable of shooting (bharita means filled which I have interpreted here as a capability) a multitude of arrows (sharajAla), bestower (da) of worldly possessions (bhukti) and salvation (mukti), He who is playful (lIla), He who is the protector (pAla) of Brahmanas (bhUdEva).

charaNam 3
He who terrifies (bhIma) the wicked (pAmara) and the demons (asura), He who fulfils (paripUrNa) all desires (kAma), He who is dark-skinned (shyAma), He who is delightful (abhirAma) to the whole world (jagat), He who resides in (dhAma) in Ayodhya (sAkEta).

charaNam 4
He who is the support (AdhAra) of all (sarva) mankind (lOka),  He who is one (Eka) hero (Vira) of the battle (samara), He who keeps far (dUra) from arrogant (garva) people (mAnava) (alternate: arrogant minds (mAnasa)), He who is as strong and steadfast (dhIra) as Mount Meru (kanaka aga = golden mountain).

charaNam 5
He who wanders (vihAra) in the vEdas (nigama) and the Agamas, He whose body (sharIra) is incomparable (nirupuma), He who holds (dhara) a mountain (naga), He who is a destroyer (vidAra) of evil (agha), He who is the support (AdhAra) of those people (lOka) who bow (nata) to him.

charaNam 6
He who is sung (gIta) in praise (nuta) by Lord Shiva (paramEsha), He who is the ship (pOta) for crossing the Ocean (jaladhi) of existence (bhava), He who is well-born (sanjAta) of the Solar (taraNi) dynasty (kula), He who is praised (nuta) by Tyagaraja.

 

 

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, M.Balamuralikrishna, T.M.Krishna, Tyagaraja, Uncategorized

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!

Alternate link : Click here

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) like 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).

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