Pibare Ramarasam

RamaWhen a reader requested me to write on this song last week, it was easy for me to acquiesce. I have listened to and enjoyed Pibare Ramarasam for many years after all. I always prepare myself for writing a post by listening to multiple renditions of a song, both vocal and instrumental; I want the song to permeate my being, I want to absorb the words, the meaning, the sounds, the emotions and the moods invoked by a piece of music before being able to write of it. I also listened to a lot of Raga Ahir Bhairav in Hindustani Music and what a pleasure that was! To know more about this raga, click here.

Coming back to Pibare Ramarasam, I kept getting distracted by the mispronunciations of Sanskrit by almost all the vocalists. पिबरे (pibarE) pronounced as पिभरे (pibharE) is bad enough, but as बिबरे (bibarE)? I shudder!! Even the maestro who can normally be depended on to pronounce Sanskrit correctly slipped up; I distinctly heard पीठम्  (pITam) instead of  पीतम्  (pItam) which changes the meaning totally. As this hobby horse of mine threatened to take over this post, I have put my rants in a separate page, the better to refer to it in future posts when my annoyance at mispronunciations takes over everything else! To read my rants, click here; I need an audience for my rants and raves too!! In the meanwhile, I beg vocalists and students to please please learn Sanskrit compositions in Devanagari script and learn to pronounce the words properly. Please.

It is indeed appropriate to stress on pronunciation in relation to this song;  after all, the poet talks of the power of the name of Rama, the power of the sound itself. Sadasiva Brahmendra (17th-18th century)  was an avadhoota, an ascetic who had renounced everything, and who has contributed some beautiful and mystical works to Carnatic Music. ‘Drink the essence of the name of Rama, O tongue’, the poet extolls, ‘for it will keep you far from sins and fulfill you with many rewards’. This is not a reminder for the mind, but a reminder for the tongue. This is an acknowledgement of the power of the sound energy in the name of Rama. Hinduism has always recognized the power of sound. I had written of this in a post last year, of Mantras and Bija Mantras and the power they carry. Sadasiva Brahmendra says that so too is the power of the name of Rama. ‘The poet then goes on to describe the rewards, such as ‘removal of the grief of the birth-death cycle’, ‘purify even the worst of sinners’ etc.  For full lyrics and translation, see footnote.

This song used to be sung in Yamuna Kalyani but the great Maestro Balamuralikrishna has made his Ahir Bhairav version very popular. I have a great affection for this latter raga; the notes themselves seem to imbue the song with a deep mystical sense. There is no question about it, the Maestro’s version is the best, especially if you listen to the ones sung when his voice was at its peak. If you haven’t heard him, here is a link. But wanting to present an alternate version, I have selected a very pleasant and peaceful rendition by Unnikrishnan. Click here to listen.

For an instrumental version, there is this perfect little rendition by flute Maestro Shashank. Ahir Bhairav and the flute seem to have been made for each other!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit
Note: Its common to sing only lines 1,3 and 5 but I have heard a complete version too.

पिबरे राम रसम् रसने पिबरे राम रसम्
दूरीकृत पातक  संसर्गम्  पूरित नानाविध फल वर्गम्
जनन मरण भय शोक  विदूरम् सकल शास्त्र निगमागम सारम्
परिपालित सरसिज गर्भाण्डं   परम पवित्री कृत पाषाण्डम्
शुद्ध परमहम्स आश्रम / आश्रित  गीतं शुक शौनक कौशिक मुख पीतम्


pibarE rAma rasam rasanE pibarE rAmarasam
dUrIkrta pAtaka samsargam pUrita nAnAvidha phala vargam
janana maraNa bhaya shOka vidUram sakala shAstra nigamAgama sAram
paripAlita sarasija garbhANDam parama pavitrI krta pAshANDam
shuddha paramahamsa Ashrama gItam shuka shaunaka kaushika mukha pItam


Drink (verb piban) (implied: absorb) the essence (rasam) of the name of Rama, o tongue (rasana).
It will help you (implied) remove or be distant (doori krta) from association with sin(pAtaka) (or be distant from those who cause you to sin) and you will be fulfilled (poorita) with many kinds (nAnAvidha) and types (varga) of rewards/gains (phala).
It will help you be far removed (vidUram) from the grief (shOka) of the cycle of birth and death (jananamaraNa), it is the essence (sAram) of all (sakala) the religious treatises (shAstra), the Vedas (nigama) and sciences (Agama).
It protects (paripAlita) all creation. Brahma was born of a lotus (sarasija) from a golden egg (garbha anda, womb & egg) and then he created the whole universe. So this phrase implies that Rama nama protects the whole universe.  It will purify (pavitrI) even the most (parama) impious or heretic (pAshANDam).
It is the pure (shuddha) song (gItam) that paramahamsa (signature of poet) has taken refuge in (Ashrama/Ashrita), it is the same which has been drunk (pItam) by sages like Shuka, Shaunaka and Kaushika.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.Balamuralikrishna, Sadasiva Brahmendra, Shashank, Unnikrishnan

37 responses to “Pibare Ramarasam

  1. Ramesh

    A beautiful post full of wonderful nuggets that I knew nothing about. The nuances with the Hindustani raga and the parallels in film music makes this post one of your best. Bravo Suja

    Balamuralikrishna’s rendering is on a different plane altogether compared to other singers. Equally so for me is MS’s rendition in Yamunakalyani. Both are simply divine.

    Very interesting that the common rendition is of the 1st, 3rd and 5th lines. Wonder why that came to be about.

    • Thank you Ramesh, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      As to the rendition of lines 1, 3, and 5. Line 1 is evident, 5 has the poet’s signature so both need to be sung. Line 3 is nice, but I cannot see why it is chosen over the other lines…hmm…

      • Shanker Janakiraman

        Line 3 is a succinct goal of life more than the other lines. Having heard this song as a child, this line stayed with me after all the intervening decades.

  2. Filmbuff

    Hey Suja – you never fail to surprise me by talking about compositions that i really love. This one also comes in that category. BTW, i think Kalyani Menon is the singer who has sung this song in the movie “Morning Raga”. It is a good rendition. I will listen to UK’s version later .

    Regarding pronounciation of sanskrt words by singers,mispronounciation of words in languages which the singer is not familiar is quite common. A no of carnatic music singers from TNadu tend to mispronounce telugu words in Thyagaraja’s compositions and in some kannada words too when u hear them sing Purandaradasa compositions. You are right when they spend so much time in practising the ragas and compositions, they can go the extra bit in getting the pronounciation right.

    • Hi again! I did forget the Morning Raga version, didn’t I? Thanks for that. If other readers are interested, here is a link. As to pronunciation, my not knowing Telugu or Kannada makes me happily unaware of the atrocities done to the languages 🙂
      So you are a Unnikrishnan fan? I only passingly listen to him. Perhaps you can recommend his best CD and I’ll have a listen..

  3. Filmbuff

    Forgot to add, I have all Unni Krishnan CDs on me and have never missed his live performance over the years. He also performed at the Swaralaya festival last year

  4. shoote

    Suja, Thanks for posting my fav raaga. Ahir Bairav simulates sadness with pleasure. I am reminded of Schelly’s words” our sincere laughter is often wrought with deepest pain”. Its pleasurable pain ondeed.

    • Ah, another person to like Ahir Bhairav. Its a very popular raga, isn’t it? That pleasurablable-pain mood it invokes..it must be something which appeals to many people. Do listen to the link I have provided for a pure Hindustani rendition by Rashid Khan. I am sure you’ll love it.

  5. The ragam is Yaman Kalyan, not Ahir Bhairavi as stated. Thanks for this.my long search for this lyric has ended today Do you have “Krishna née vegamai varaai” in Tamizh? And padari varugudu Urugudu en Aavi in Kambodi?

    • Thank you for your comment. Pibare ramarasam as featured in this post, set to music by Balamuralikrishna, is indeed Ahir Bhairav. As I have stated in my post, it used to be sung in Yaman Kalyan (Yamuna Kalyani) but the Ahir Bhairav version is more popular now. If you want to listen to it in yaman kalyan, here is a link sung by MS.
      I am sorry, but I do not have the Tamil version of Krishna Nee Begane. I have a written a post for the original version. And no, I have heard padari varugudu only rarely and do not have the lyrics. I will make a note to research it one day.

      • Thank you very much, Suja. Though interested in Carnatic and Hindustani music from a very early age, I have been able to get acquainted with it only in recent years (which is why I asked for “Padari Varugudu … ” in Kambodi, the one I used to sing in the unformed voice of a five-year old while my two elder sisters danced to it at neighbors” “golu”.) You have added to my growing knowledge with your blogs and with this one about Pibare Ramarasam being in Ahir Bhairavi at one time. In my last comment, I failed to say this : I am amazed that you have such rich knowledge of all that relates to music. Only undying love for music can drive a person to spend the many hours that you doubtless do, unearthing information. I am glad classical music has you to lend it the strength that comes from being popular. God bless you for it. A suggestion, the reason for which you would appreciate better if you have heard Rashid Khan’s Saraswati or Hamsadwani. Can you juxtapose Carnatic and Hindustani style of ragas which are common to both and explain the small differences that may exist in them? Years have passed, but I cannot forget the morning I heard Bhimsen Joshi take the cue from Balamurali Krishna sitting to his right on the stage, go on heavenly trips repeatedly on Yaman Kalyan conveyed in Hindi and return to Balamurali Krishna’s pallavi in Yamuna Kalyani, in Telugu. Two masters, each paying to the other the obeisance that he deserved, yet making the other accept that he, himself, was the better one. A friendly rivalry that brought me many times to the verge of tears of joy. Of the present lot, Rashid Khan and Sikkil Gurucharan most suited for a similar contest? Thank you for taking the trouble to respond to my mail.

      • I am very happy that you find my blog useful in your musical journey. It is such a vast field and I know so little – writing this has been a process of discovery for myself as well.

        As to Hindustani music, you are not the first person to ask me to include it. But my knowledge is so feeble that I fear I cannot do justice to it. I plan to educate myself slowly and when I reach a certain level of understanding, I will keep your suggestions in mind. In the meanwhile, I do occasionally include posts on Hindustani music. If you click the category to the right of the screen, it will list the postings in that area. I have posted an instrumental Jugalbandi which you may like. I too was privileged enough to see Balamurali and Bhimsen Joshi perform together about 20 years ago. I wonder about your suggestion of Rashid Khan and Sikkil Gurucharan…hmmm…I am not sure. I have included a Bombay Jayashri & Rashid Khan duet in my blog. You might like this : https://sujamusic.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/katyaayani/
        cheers. suja

  6. Namaste!
    This is by faaar, the most comprehensive detail about this super simple but very melodious, meaningful and soft song. My eyes always well up whenever I hear to this song, don’t know why, may be its with Yaman Kalyan. But with BMK’s rendition, in some live concerts he has tend to stretch and so the melody becomes a chore (my thought, though), not to take away the greatness of the song or him and the flexibility that Carnatic/Hindustani allows our singers to take liberties.
    All that said, I have enjoyed your piece… good writing. I am grateful fo rall the lines, mostly we find only abridged versions.

    • Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed my post. I must point out, however, that the renditions I have presented are in Ahir Bhairav and not Yaman Kalyan. Ahir Bhairav is hauntingly beautiful, and a deeply meditative raga; I have listened to many hours of this raga with great pleasure. I agree with you that sometimes the rendition is so over-stretched that it loses its charm…some songs need no embellishments and should be presented in simplicity, I agree.
      Cheers. Suja

  7. natujaya

    Thanks a lot for your deep and intense meaning of this Sanskrit verse.With best wishes always..

  8. Shiv

    Dear Suja, I am blessed to have reached your blog. This melody is always ringing and today it reached another pinnacle with through your blog.

    Thanks for such pious work

    • Welcome to my blog Shiv 🙂 Thank you for your very kind comment; I want to reach the hearts of music lovers, and it seems you are one.
      Cheers. Suja

  9. Vijay

    Thanks for this. Personally, I’ve always liked the yamuna kalyani better, because the ms version is how I first fell in love with this. But you’re right, this flute version is great! Close competition…

  10. I do love MS’s version but being totally in love with Ahir Bhairav, I must say that I prefer to listen to this song in this raga now. Isn’t the flute a delight? Reminds me, I must re-listen, its been a while…
    Cheers. Suja

  11. wonderful coming across this blog. This song particularly BMK’s version has been a old favorite. Am now learning to sing this bhajan; can anyone help in finding me the chords for harmonium accompaniment. Regrads, Gopal

  12. Suswara

    By the way this composition is of Sri. Mysore Vasudevachar, disciple of Sri Thyagaraja. Mysore Vasudevachar has composed many more kritis which are sung by Sri. Santanam, Smt. Vasantha Kumari, Sri. Balamurali etc.

  13. C.Sudha

    Have you heard Rahul Vellal’ s. Rendition? The child sings with his whole body!

  14. Lakshmi

    Pranams to You. I had tears as I read thru the word by word meaning. Love You Rama.

  15. Lakshman

    Suja: Do you have the notations for the ahIrbhairav version of pibarE rAmarasam? Thanks.

  16. Sobhana Kamath.chennai.

    Beautiful composition and God gifted art, now only We know the meaning of the lirics.god bless you and thank you.

  17. Shanker Janakiraman

    Thank you for this excellent blog with much valuable information related to the song.
    Only note I’d add here is that, one shouldn’t get too literal about sound or it’s rasane. In fact, audible sound of Rama – the name of the Ultimate in the context of this song, is a vibration, one manifestation of vibration that can get subtler and subtler until there is oneness with the source of that ‘sound’! The rasane is tasting, rather perceiving, the essence of Rama which of course can’t be with the tongue.
    The journey of robber Valmiki, the author of Ramayana, who couldn’t even utter Rama and started with ‘mara’ instead until he was absorbed in the essence of it to become a sage, gives an illustration of what the great Sadashiva Brahmendra tried to convey in this composition.

    • Thanks for your comment! In general, I do think like you do, that one should not be literal about words like ‘rasane’ . It does mean tasting, but also to sense, perceive etc. However, the use of pure sound to integrate with the divinity within us is deep within Hindu thought. For example, each of the chakras in our body is associated with a Bija mantra like ‘lam’ for the Mooladhara, ‘vam’ for the Swadishthana etc. From my meagre knowledge, it looks as if the sounds itself have innate power. My post was pointing to the power of ‘rama nama’ about which I have read in many other sources, but I cannot quote at the moment (my brain has sadly become like a sieve, can’t remember facts..!). I believe that when I wrote this post (many years ago), I wanted to bring this to the attention of my readers with regard to this song. But yes, totally with you on not being too literal with these songs.
      Cheers. Suja

  18. Hi Suja, Once again I came here searching for the lyrics and meaning of this song. Heard this song played in nadaswaram by Nemmara Brothers at the Seeveli of Lord Guruvayurappan at Guruvayur yesterday. It was just divine.

    It is really surprising that many times when I hear a song and love the music and lyrics and try to learn more about it, I come across the same explained beautifully here. I must really appreciate the excellent selection of songs in your blog. Please do continue blogging about more songs.

    • Hello Parvathy! Isn’t it just the most divine song ? The words and raga match so beautifully! Thank you for your kind comment, I am glad you find my blog useful. I am so very constrained for time at the moment; I hope that by and by, I will start find the time to post regularly once more.
      Cheers. Suja

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