Are my words ridiculous ? Is my public extolling of you ridiculous? If I see you always out of fear, out of doubt and out of grief, asking you for refuge, O Protector of those who seek your refuge, am I being ridiculous?

PersonasPersonas & Masks. Are you wondering how I have come upon this rather unlikely topic for Carnatic Music? Well, I was listening to this beautiful kriti by Tyagaraja in which he asks of his God  ‘Are you ridiculing me?’ and it struck me that prayer is something that strips us of all our masks, doesn’t it?

Saints or sinners, we will all admit to putting on one or more personas to get through life. Our work persona is quite different from our home persona which may again be different to our social persona. In fact, the Latin word persona means mask. Part of the need for masks is in response to society’s demands  that we are seen to be ‘normal’, ‘cultured’, ‘business like’, ‘civilized’, etc. Part of it is our own deep-seated insecurities and shortcomings.  Can we ever be our true selves even in front of our closest friends or family? I reckon not. Are we our true selves even in front of the mirror? Not always. There will always be some barrier, some veil behind which we hide.

Every now and then, when in deep grief and great fear, and especially in prayer, the veil drops and we are revealed for what or who we are. Even Meera sang once, साजि सिंगार बांधि पग घुंघरू लोक-लाज तजि नाची  ‘dressing up, tying bells on my feet, I danced without embarrassment (shame)’. She had let her veil drop, physically and metaphorically, in her quest for God. Society mocked her then but reveres her now.

In Tyagaraja’s composition today, he is aware of having dropped the mask but is still uncertain about how he will be perceived, not by society but by God.  ‘Are you ridiculing me?’ asks Tyagaraja to his Lord Rama. ‘Is my public extolling of you ridiculous?’.  There he is, singing song after song, laying his heart at the feet of God for all to see, what if he was just making himself an object of ridicule? ‘If out of fear, out of doubt or out of grief, seeking you if I ask for refuge, will you mock me?’ says Tyagaraja. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

I am very fond of this lovely composition, especially on the violin. But first listen to  the majestic voice of the Maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam.

For an instrumental, I will pick my favourite instrument-the violin, by my favourite Maestro, Lalgudi Jayaraman. I have also excellent renditions by Kanyakumari and a masterly performance on the Veena by Jayanthi Kumaresh which I enjoy very much.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As I do not speak Telugu, the song is transcribed in Devanagari script. Lyrics are from multiple internet sources, aurally verified.

परियाचकमा माट पदि गुरिलो पॊगडिनदि

वॆरपुननुमानम्बुन वॆसनम्बुन ने कोरि
शरणागत रक्षक निन्नु सन्ततमुनु शरणानग

ऒक मुनिकै द्रौपदि द्वारक निलया शरणानग
ऒक माटकु विभीषणुडु ओर्व लेक शरणानग
सकलेश्वर प्रह्लादुडु  जालिचे  शरणानग
हित करुणडै ब्रोचितिवे त्यागराजुनि माट


pariyAchakamA mATa padi gurilO pogaDinadi

verapunanumAnambuna vesanambuna nE kOri
sharaNAgata rakshaka ninnu santatamunu sharaNAnaga

oka munikai draupadi dwAraka nilayA sharaNAnaga
oka mATaku vibhIshaNuDu Orva lEka sharaNAnaga
sakalEshwara prahlAduDu jAlichE sharaNAnaga
hita karuNaDai brOchitivE tyAgarAjuni mATa


(based on internet sources)

Are my words ridiculous ? Is my public extolling of you ridiculous?

Out of fear, out of doubt and out of grief, seeking you always, if I say ‘give me refuge’ O Protector of those who seek your refuge, am I being ridiculous?


When Draupadi, fearing Durvasa, said ‘O resident of Dwaraka, give me refuge’, when Vibhishana, unable to bear the harsh words (implied, of Ravana his brother), said ‘Give me refuge’,  when Prahlada, out of grief, said ‘Give me refuge’, did you not benevolently protect them? If so, are the words of this Tyagaraja ridiculous?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja

13 responses to “Pariyachakama

  1. indigoite

    Very interesting post. When I saw the masks on the Google Reader, I was wondering where you were leading !!

    Would you mind mailing the Kanyakumari version of the krithi – couldn’t find it on the net.

    Two questions for you

    – What is the relationship of this raga with Ganamurti -the 3rd raga on the Melakarta. There seems to be some intertwining.

    – What is a vivadi raga – what is the dissonance.

    • Thank you Ramesh 🙂 I am glad you found the post interesting. As for Kanyakumari’s rendition,are you familiar with Sangeethapriya ? Membership is free and you get access to loads of good music (legal) in this site. You can log on with your google/yahoo/facebook account. Once in click on ‘search’ then at the bottom of the screen, under ‘tracks catalogue’, click on ‘click here’. Choose the kriti from the appropriate drop-down box and you will find multiple renditions by different artists, including Kanyakumari. If it still doesn’t work for you, I shall email it to you.

      As for Vivadi ragas, look at any of my posts to see the notes on a piano scale. Can you see that some keys have two possible notes? This is to do with this double-identity of these notes. Vivadi ragas are those ragas which have any of G1, R3, N1 or D3 in their scale. The problem is, if the note occurs by itself in a raga, one will not know which one of the two possibilities it is. For example if it is a G1 or a R2. In this case, the raga needs to include R1 as well. So the presence of the pairs R1-G1, R3-G3, D1-N1 and D3-N3 makes a raga a Vivadi raga. Why? I’ve no idea. Many of these ragas sound very good to me so I don’t know why they call it dissonant. Perhaps it was thought so traditionally, in the ancient times? You’ll have to ask someone with better understanding of music, I do not quite understand myself.

      As to Ganamurti, the first half of the octave is identical, isn’t it? There are very few kritis in this raga as well.
      Cheers. Suja

  2. N.Saikrishnan

    Thanks Suja for the interesting write up on Vanaspathi. Many of the melakartha ragams ( at least upto the seventh, Senavati ) resemble Ganamurthi in some way or other. In Vanaspathi/Banumathi, there are several other songs as well.
    1. Eswari Jagadeeswari by Balamurali ( )
    2. Dasa Nesane Guhanesane of Koteeswara Iyer, sung by Smt S Rajeswari (—1400/1311-Melaraghakrithi-Koteeswara_Iyer-S_Rajeswari/ ( track 2 )
    3. Vidwan Narayan singing his own composition ” Raghuveera Leela ( )
    4. Muthiah Bhagavathar’s Vana Durge by Smt Ranjani Hebbar (—1800/1683-MB-Chamundamba_Ashtothra_Krithis-Part-9/ ( track 5 )
    5. Nee Mayay olage of Kanakadasa sung by Shri Vidyabhushana ( ( track 11 )
    6. Deekshitar’s Brahdamba Madhamba sung by Shri V Pradeep Kumar (

    • Thank you Saikrishnan for the comment and the interesting list of songs that you have given links to. It will be a useful reference not only for me but to all my readers as well; much appreciated.
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Suja,this indeed is a wonderful site for all music lovers..I missed this opportunity all these days..but I am happy because it is better late to be than never.I have sent email and I am going to put in my face book also..thanks again,God bless you for your unsustainable effort and contribution in the world of music..Maragatham.K..Sundar,Camp..New York ..

    • Hello Maragatham, Welcome to my blog 🙂 I am very glad that you enjoyed my post(s), All my old posts are there, indexed in multiple ways, so you can always read the ones which interest you any time 🙂 I am passionate in my love for music and so the time I spend on this doesn’t seem a burden at all! You know I started it as a way to interest my son in Carnatic Music? I succeeded, he is taking Veena lessons now and listens with great pleasure even to yesteryear greats like BKM and MDR! Still I go on, hoping it will be useful to someone somewhere
      Cheers, Suja

      • Thanks Suja for the instantaneous reply.I have my friend Saikrishnan Nila iyer who has put forth his views and some comments.He too has a blog.I am in Newyork for the time being and will be back to India in a couple of weeks.I am from Coimbatore.My son is also a music lover and from Pattammal’s school.His name is Prasad working for Infosys here.happy sailing in the ocean of music.

  4. VR/SR

    You have put it together very well (though I am not sure how many will be able to put together the persona aspect and the surrender aspect to discover one’s true self.) Very well articulated. VR/SR

    • Thank you for your very kind comment! I am always pleased to know if my thoughts ring the right tone with other music fans. Cheers. Suja

  5. So divine interpretation…I’m a telugu person…yet couldn’t unleash the inner meanings..Devotion has no language..Pranamam ..sata koti pranamam to Tyagaiah..Dhanyosmi ..

    • Who knew what the great ones had in mind when they wrote their songs? We can only think and see if we can glean some wisdom from their words! Thanks for your comment.
      Cheers. Suja

  6. Ravi Ramamurthi

    Deeply touched by your writing read it on the Holy Day of Sri Rama Navami could offer only overflowing tears at my own Hypocrisy in True Bhakthi as every prayer is tinged with deep very deep selfishness

    • Who amongst us can claim truly unselfish prayers? Sarvo sukhino bhavantu I say, but I am thinking of family and friends…We have all much to learn from the great Saints and their music.
      Cheers. Suja

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