Nanaati Batuku

NDEMy head is swimming with the words of the book that I have just finished reading. I look at the world around me, wondering if it is all a mirage, as unreal as the dream I dreamt last night. Just as the sun dispels the early morning mist before me, will the blessing of God dispel the veil of Maya one day? Will I be able to see and feel the oneness of the universal consciousness then? I ask myself questions for which there are no certain answers.

My fey mood has been triggered by an account by Dr. Eben Alexander of his Near Death Experience (NDE) in his book called ‘Proof of Heaven’. I have long followed this genre of books; the first time I read on this subject was nearly 18 years ago and I have continued to read on and off since then.  These books are first-person accounts of people who have been close to death or have died and then been revived. They talk of their spiritual journey before and during their ‘death’.  What did they see? What did they experience? I am always fascinated by these accounts though I am far from being a morbid person. I wonder, am I looking for confirmation of my own beliefs in these books?

Obviously, NDE accounts vary in credibility. There are some which are self-glorifying (I was ‘the chosen one’ syndrome), others are too denominational to be credible (my faith gets into heaven, all else in hell syndrome). Then there are the scientific explanations which explain away NDEs as synapses firing in a dying brain, an alteration of brain chemistry. Still, the commonality of experiences often give me pause and I have always kept an open mind. This last book I read seems the most convincing because of the credibility of the witness, a Neurosurgeon from Harvard, and that when he was in a coma for a week with bacterial meningitis, his neocortex (the area of the brain responsible for conscious thought, sensory perception, language etc) was not functional.

So what did he experience? Many things, but some things resonated more with me than others. He says that in that other place ‘everything was distinct, yet everything was also part of everything else’. This is one of my core beliefs, that we are one and all is God Sarvam Brahmamayam. He describes the presence of a Being, ‘a brilliant orb’, which was ‘omniscient, omnipotent, and unconditionally loving’ and which was of ‘infinite vastness’. This resembles the ultimate Brahman of the Upanishads who is ‘eternal, omnipresent, free from all changes, self sufficient, not composed of parts, self-effulgent’  as explained by Adi Shankaracharya (8CE) in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. Dr.Alexander writes that there was a sound he heard which was associated with the Being and that it sounded like OM. Again, this matches Hindu thought as in this quote from Katha Upanishad ‘The syllable Om is Brahman’.

Dr Alexander’s concludes that the brain is not the source of consciousness, that consciousness exists beyond our physical selves. The scientific-rationalists of course think that consciousness is the product of the brain; when the brain is dead, the consciousness ceases to exist. Dr.Alexander proposes that the brain acts as a filter to keep out memories of the infinite. Is this not what we call Maya?

Do you wonder that with these thoughts in my mind, I chose to listen to Annamacharya’s exquisite kriti Nanaati Batuku in the most mystical of ragas Revati? And what a song! It strikes exactly the correct note for me today. Annamacharya says ‘This day to day existence is but a drama’ .  He stresses ‘To be born is real, to die is real, everything in between is just drama’. So what is real? ‘That which is beyond is liberation’ he says. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

One cannot think of this song without thinking of the wonderfully emotional renditions by M.S.Subbulakshmi. Yet today, it is to T.M.Krishna’s rendition that I am drawn and that is what I present to you. His beautiful voice adds even more beauty to this kriti.

[Alternate link (sorry, seems to have a scratchy sound here): %5D

For an instrumental version, listen to Kadri Gopalnath on the Sax giving strength to the beseeching notes of Revati.

[Alternate link (not the same version) : click here ]

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

I do not speak Telugu so I have transcribed them in Devanagri script. The lyrics have been sourced from various sites on the internet and aurally verified. Special thanks to Sri Sistla for an excellent compilation of Annamacharya kritis.

नानाटि बतुकु (/ब्रतुकु ) नाटकमु
कानक कन्नदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 1
पुट्टुटयु निजमु पोवुटयु निजमु
नट्टनडिमी पनि नाटकमु ।
येट्ट नेदुट गलदी प्रपञ्चमु
कट्ट कडपटिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 2
कुडिचेदन्नमु कोक चुट्टेडिदि
नडुमन्त्रपु पनि नाटकमु ।
वोडि गट्टुकोनिन वुभय कर्ममुलु
गडिदाटिनपुडे कैवल्यमु ॥
चरणं 3
तेगदु पापमु तीरदु पुण्यमु
नगि नगि कालमु नाटकमु ।
एगुवने श्री वेङ्कटेश्वरुडेलिक
गगनमु मीदिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

Transliteration :

nAnATi batuku (/bratuku) nATakamu
kAnaka kannadi kaivalyamu

Charanam 1
puTTuTayu nijamu pOvuTayu nijamu
naTTanaDimIpani nATakamu
yeTTaneduTa galadI prapanchamu
kaTTA kaDapaTidi kaivalyamu

Charanam 2
kuDichEdannamu kOka chuTTEDidi
naDumantrapu pani nATakamu
vOdi gaTTukOnina vubhaya karmamulu
gaDidATinapuDE kaivalyamu

Charanam 3
tegadu pApamu tIradu puNyamu
nagi nagi kAlamu nATakamu
eguvanE SrI vEnkaTEshvaruDElika
gaganamu mIdidi kaivalyamu

Translation :

This day to day existence is but a drama. That of which we have but a glimpse (is seen yet unseen) is liberation.

To be born and to die, these are real (truth). In between these two events, all that we do is drama. That which is right in front of us, is the universe. That which is the ultimate end, is salvation.

The food and drink we consume, the clothing we wear, this conjured up things we do is is all drama. When you cross beyond these, there is salvation.

Our sins never reduce. The good-deeds to be done are endless. All these laughable time-bound acts are drama.  The one who is in the higher place is Sri Venkateshwara, beyond the skies and the universe is salvation.



Filed under Annamacharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Kadri Gopalnath, T.M.Krishna

13 responses to “Nanaati Batuku

  1. Wow!

    It was just yesterday that my friend and I I were talking about near death experiences. And here you are, Suja, writing on this topic.

    The selection of Annamayya’s “naanaati bratuku” is so apt. In spite of his obvious pronunciation errors, TM Krishna did a great job on this.

    See if you can get hold of the book ‘God on the Hill’ (OUP; Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman). A very nice translation of Annamayya’s dazzling poetry (both SRngara and AdhyAtmika) plus an excellent afterword on Tirupati and Annamayya (mind you, it is more on history and literary appreciation side).

    Here is something else I wanted to share (picked up from web, of course):

    “In yet another of his [Nedunuri’s] concerts, the legendary M.S. Subbulakshmi was among the audience. After hearing Nedunuri’s “Nannatu batuku natakamu .” in Revathi, she remarked, “for this one raga exposition, Nedunurigaru, you deserve the “Sangeeta Kalanidhi” title. If Annamacharya were alive, he would have shed emotional tears hearing you sing his composition.” Nedunuri again felt elated but humbled at the praise coming from one of the immortal legends of Carnatic music. He was quite humility personified, when he replied, “Amma, I don’t deserve such high praise from you. For, you are the one who has done yeomen service to popularize his krithis. It is only your own greatness that makes you appreciate my music. I am truly grateful to you” “

    • Thank you Srinivas for the recommendation, I shall have to ask the next friend who visits from India to get it for me. In fact, there are a number of books on the composers and their music that I am interested in, but it may all have to wait until my next trip to India – who knows when!

      It is indeed oddly coincidental that you were talking of NDEs just as I did my post…is there meaning in coincidences? or is it just a random event? I never know..

      The little story about Nedunuri and MS is wonderful, thank you for adding it to your comment. I am sure my other readers would also enjoy reading it just as I did!

      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ramesh

    Never thought you would deal with such a topic in a music blog, but then, aren’t you one versatile writer.

    Its one of those highly emotional ragas, isn’t it ? And none better than MS, when it comes to divinity in music.

    By the way, thanks for the alternate link. Greatly eases the enjoyment of your post in those who live in censored worlds !!

    • Actually, many things in life remind me of music, so no doubt you’ll find me venturing into unknown territories every now and then 🙂 In this case the book I was reading tied in very neatly with this song, at least to me.. And yes, I SO love Revati!
      You are welcome for the links, since you told me about the problems with some Indian ISPs, I have been conscious of finding links if there are any.
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Ravi

    One of my Telegu friends introduced me to Annamacharya’s work a few years ago and I have been a devotee of his work since then. “Nanati Batuku” (MSS’s version) and “Ekkadi Manusha Janmam” are two of my favorites, though it is hard—and probably unwise—to pick favorites from Annamaiah’s large body of work. Aside from my friend’s help, I’ve used to learn the meanings of many of Annamaiah’s kritis.

    I am also fond of the superb renditions of various Annamacharya kritis by Smt. Vedavathi Prabhakar Rao. You may want to listen to her version of “Bhavayami Gopala Balam,” which you wrote about as well.

    In October of last year, I read about Dr. Alexander’s account of his NDE in Newsweek ( I would never in a million years have thought that anyone would ever mention his NED experience in a discussion about “Nanati Batuku.” Yet you did. Unique. Unexpected. Thought-provoking. That’s what makes it a worthwhile effort to re-visit your blog off and on, Suja. Thanks for sharing your singular perspective.

    [An aside: I was more moved by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk about NED than I was by Dr. Alexander.]

    I must add that some of the insightful comments from your eclectic group of readers also make your blog interesting. In this instance, a hat tip to Srinivas for his mention of the book “God on the Hill” by Drs. Rao and Shulman and his recounting of the MSS-Nedunuri exchange. The book, by the way, is available on Amazon.

    Dr. Shulman has written extensively about South India languages and art forms. You and your readers may be interested in one of Dr. Shulman’s recent blog entries:

    On a lighter note, if you want to know what a near death experience is like, try shoveling over a foot of snow off your driveway, walkway and sidewalk, which is what some of us New Yorkers had to do today!

    Looking forward to your next entry, Suja.

    – Ravi

    • Thank you Ravi for the very informative comment. I am sure my readers would take not of the links you have given, as I have. I remember seeing the sangeethasudha link before but I had lost it; I will add it to my own reference information site list, I will be glad of it. I will listen to Vedavathi Rao, I am not familiar with this artist so I am very interested.

      Thank you also for your kind comments re my post, it is very kind of you 🙂 I have made note of Jill Bolte Taylor and shall watch her as soon as I have a little time.

      Posts such as mine become infinitely more interesting due to input from readers like you and the others who give their own insight into topics, songs or the world in general. I have learnt much from you all and am always appreciative of this fact.

      As to snow, I have two weeks more of summer in Australia before I return to the winter of Switzerland 🙂 Its hard to think of snow when we have 35 C days!
      Cheers. Suja

  4. Ravi

    Since I owe you big time for Channulal Mishra, Kabir Project and other links you provided, here’s where you can find some of Smt. Vedavathi Prabhakar Rao’s songs:

    I really love her version of “paluku tenela talli.” I must say that I didn’t know the meaning of that Annamacharya kriti at first. When I looked it up, it made me blush. So there! You have been warned!

    Enjoy your summer in Australia! I have to go pick up my daughter from the airport. She is coming from warm Hawaii to cold New York after attending a medical conference on stroke there. So now you have a reference to why I have more than a passing interest in neuroscience. She’s a researcher and she is the one who sent me the link to Dr. Alexander’s NDE story. I used to teach her stuff and now she’s teaching me!


  5. Jay


    This beautiful raga’s shakti is in its capacity to emote pathos from a bhakta’s perch. I liked TM Krishna’s rendition that was absent of usual flourishes that most carnatic players usually take. In my view what made MSS great was delivering such great poetry absent of any artistic embellishment while rendering the bhava that the poet probably intended to convey in his lyrics. She had the distinctive capability. As a native speaker of Malayalam, I’ve noticed that even when she has rendered Poonthanam’s Jnanapaana, her bhava is insuperable and more than compensates for any slight accent lapse.

    The theme that Annamayya dwells on is one that our scriptures have reminded us at several occasions. This reflective thought process reminded me of Alain De Botton’s “Status Anxiety” under the chapter on Religion/Death. Similar to NDE – you might want to read Rupert Sheldrake’s book “Science set free”. Sheldrake as some may recall had participated in conversations with J. Krishnamurthi.


    • You absolutely have a point there Jay about MS’s ability in delivering just the right ‘bhava’ or emotion that the song needs. In fact, there are so many songs and prayers that when I hear, my mind automatically goes to MS’s version. I actually force myself to listen to others as well, and scold myself for being so set in my ways 🙂

      Thank you for your book recommendations. A quick check showed that youtube has the documentary on Status Anxiety which I have added to my watch list. I have also noted Sheldrake’s book as a ‘to read’. Sometimes I get a panic attack when I see the list of books I want to read, the list of music I want to listen to, and the list of films/videos I want to watch. So much information out there, so many interesting and relevant things that we need to learn, so limited out capacity in both intellectual power and time! Are thoughts like these the seed of multiple births?

      Cheers. Suja

  6. Narasimha Raj

    “This day to day existence is but a drama. That of which we have but a glimpse (is seen yet unseen) is liberation. . . . . The one who is in the higher place is Sri Venkateshwara, beyond the skies and the universe is salvation. ”
    Even as I type the words, I’m listening to ‘Nanati Bathuku . .” – a track from the Media Library on my PC – sung by MSS. I have listened to it every morning for several years now – without understanding the meaning. I am glad I found the meaning in your ‘post’. That makes it even more
    enjoyable – as I re-play the track now – thanks to you.
    Reading through your ‘posts’ is also another great experience – for they bring more than just about ‘music’ – like, good composition in chaste English, ecstasy of wide reading habits, insight into our culture, introspection, etc. I’m fortunate that I ‘chanced’ on your blogs.
    God Bless you.

    • Hello again Raj, It opens a new dimension to music when we understand the meaning as well, doesn’t it? I too often listen with great pleasure to Carnatic Music without understanding, but since I have started researching the meaning of compositions and thinking deeply about what they mean and how they connect with my life, I feel my listening experience to much enriched. I hope you have the same experience. It is very kind of you to be so appreciative of my posts, thank you very much. I am grateful for your presence.
      Cheers. Suja

  7. nagaraju gandamalla

    beautiful.thank you very much.

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