Shiva Deeksha

I have been initiated into Shiva’s worship, I cannot forgo my virtue the least bit. I will not disobey my Guru’s command to take Shiva’s name, I will not join with a Sri Vaishnava. Do not come rushing into the monastery, do not open the door when I am worshipping Shiva. Do not fumble with my ceremonially purified saffron robes, do not keep silencing me.

Shiva Deeksha

Seduction, the act of causing someone to do something that they would not usually consider doing by being very attractive and difficult to refuse, from the Latin seducere.

Today, my topic is this rather unusual one for Carnatic Music.  Though there are sub-genres like Javalis which have non-devotional themes, most of Carnatic Music is indeed devotional. Seduction has no part in it. Today, however, I have selected a song which uses the theme of seduction to convey a devotional message.  And why not? After all, is this not one of the great common experiences of life?  Who amongst us has not been seduced at least once in their life by someone or something? In today’s song, Ghanam Seenayya (~1704-1731) cleverly uses this common experience to bring home a rather cheeky point.

To present this song, I am featuring the brilliant dancer Priyadarshini Govind. In fact, this post is to honour her recent appointment as the director of the venerable institution Kalakshetra.

Interpreting the dance is superfluous because it is self-evident. Yet there are many cultural connotations (for example, worship in wet clothes) which may make it inaccessible to those unfamiliar with Indian culture or with Bharatanatyam. For this reason, I shall attempt to do a ‘walk through’ of the dance for you.

Our Nayika, the heroine, is a sanyasini, a monk who has taken deeksha or initiation in Shiva worship. Collecting her water pot, she goes for her ritual bath to the river where she will also collect water for her worship. Testing the water carefully with her feet, she takes a dip, wrings her hair and robes and returns with her now filled pot.  As per tradition, she is now ‘cleansed’ for performing her rituals. With great devotion, she performs the abishekam (pouring of water) and then decorates her deity, a Shiva Linga (the dancer shows us the mudra ie. a gesture). When she starts her devotions, she is disturbed by someone who enters the monastery. Who is it? He is so attractive that she can hardly turn her eyes aside. Her hands shoo him away but her eyes…ah, her eyes tell another tale. She is as taken by him as he is with her. ‘I am initiated in Shiva worship’ she tells him, ‘I cannot join with a Sri Vaishnava’ (note the mudra of the Shankha & Chakra). She tries to convince him to leave, but is she convincing him or herself ? We catch a momentary glimpse of him as eyes twinkling, he nods suggestively at her. Her words do not work. First he grabs her hand, but when she pries herself loose, he grabs her clothes. There is pleasure in his touch, yet she denies him. She wraps herself once more in her saffron robes. How conflicted she is as she sends him away and closes the door on him! Both pain and determination flashes through her face. She tries to concentrate on her worship but she cannot, for though she has denied him, she is seduced. Seduction is, after all, a state of the mind and not that of the body.

Who is her seducer? None other than Lord Vishnu himself in the form of Mannaru Ranga, the preferred deity of Ghanam Seenayya. Cheekily, the poet has our Lord himself seduce the Nayika who is a Shiva worshipper. Historically there has always been a certain – shall we say competitiveness? – between the Vaishnavaites and Shaivaites. This surfaces in stories and myths, and in songs such as this one. Written in the early 18th century, the words of this padam are actually quite racy, especially the unsung charanams the translation of which I have read some time back. The song is set to Raga Kurinji, a raga I least associate with raciness of any sort!

To know more about raga Kurinji, click here.

How graceful is Priyadarshini! Each movement has meaning,  each expression tells a story. There are so many small details she adds to make it all so interesting and convincing. The wringing of her wet hair (1:29), the shift in her shoulder as she lifts a heavy water-pot (1:49), the little movements of her fingers as she does the abhishekam (2:46) – these may be small but they make the story real. And her expressions! Her wide-eyed shake of her head when first accosted (4:10), the first signs of attraction with a sidelong glace (4:22), that beautiful smile (4:40), her shock at herself (4:41), her gesture to send him on his way (5:04) – we are almost seduced along with her! When she momentarily plays Lord Vishnu (9:03), she transforms herself in front of our eyes. Look at her face when He grabs and pulls her clothes (09:30), such a mix of confusion, hesitation, shyness, pleasure..this is abhinaya at its best!

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

I am sorry to say that I could not find a reliable source for the lyrics as yet. I am trying to source them and shall update this once I get the lyrics authenticated. The song has many charanams, I give below only what has been sung in the performance above. I am not a Telugu speaker and am grateful to my friends who have helped with the translation.

Composer : Ghanam Seenayya
Raga : Kurinji

Language : Telugu

Transliteration in Devanagari

शिव दीक्षा परुरालनुरा ने शीलमिन्तैन विडुवजालनुरा
शिव शिव गुरुनाज्ञ मीरनुरा ने श्री वैष्णवुडण्टे चेरनुरा

वडिग वच्चि मठमु जोरवकुरा शिवार्चन वेळ तलुपु तेरुवकुरा
मडुगु कावि चेरगु दीयकुरा नन्नु माटिमाटिकि नोरु मुय्यकुरा

Transliteration in English

shiva dIkshA parurAlanurA nE shIlamintaina viDuvajAlanurA
shiva shiva gurunAjna mIranurA nE shrI vaishNavuDantE chEranurA

vaDiga vachchi maTHamu joravakurA shivArchana vELa talupu teravakurA
maDugu kAvi cheragu dIyakurA nannu mATimATiki nOru mUyyakurA


I have been initiated into Shiva’s worship, I cannot forgo my virtue the least bit. I will not disobey my Guru’s command to take Shiva’s name, I will not join with a Sri Vaishnava.

Do not come rushing into the monastery, do not open the door when I am worshipping Shiva. Do not fumble with my ceremonially purified saffron robes, do not keep silencing me.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Telugu, Ghanam Seenayya, Priyadarshini Govind

10 responses to “Shiva Deeksha

  1. Ramesh

    I am not a fan of Bharatanatyam, or for that matter, any of the Indian classical dance forms and would normally have skipped anything on dance without missing beat. But your writing is so compelling that I read every word – you should really consider writing for, say, The Hindu and reach a wider audience.

    Kurinji is a beautiful raga and I suspect one of your favorites, for you featured this raga before. Can there be a more soulful experience than a wedding with a 6.00 AM Muhurtham and the strains of Seeta Kalyanam Vaibhogame ………

    MS amma is truly the master of this raga. You featured her in the earlier post on Kurinji and her Bruhi Mukundenti is also divine.

    • Hi Ramesh, you are so complimentary that you make me embarrassed 🙂 But thank you for liking my writing, thank you for reading it and being my most regular visitor. I really appreciate it. Art as well as writing needs an audience, I am thankful that you are part of mine.

      I have a great love for dance, in fact I learnt for a few years as a young girl and I believe I had a talent for it. A visitor to our home, an eminent dance teacher, asked my parents to send me to the resident school where she taught. But my parents refused and then we moved away, and thus ended my dancing career at the age of 10! But I still love watching it, and sometimes I dream of what-ifs 🙂 Something as special as Priyadarshini’s performance is a like a special treat for me! Its a pity you don’t have a taste for it.

      I started by wanting to feature raga by raga but that changed. Now I just post what pleases me, and if some ragas are repeated so be it. You are right, MS Amma’s rendition of Ksheerabdhi Kanyakaku is amazing, that it what I had featured. I do love this peaceful raga, and I found it interesting that this raga was chosen for what is a very different mood of Shiva Deeksha.
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Very well written article.

  3. Narasimharaj

    “Did you read my previous post on dance? I remember you when I posted it, knowing you like dances!” (that’s what you wrote when I commented on your featuring Kabir’s composition on Guru Poornima day)
    Suja, yes I’ve done so! Priyadarshini Govind’s dance is graceful.
    Right you are – I like watching dances – as the ‘body language’ of the dancer convey the emotions louder than the ‘lyrics’ sung in the background – etching photographic memories in the mind.
    Yes, understandably I enjoy watching – over & over again – the video of my grand daughter’s Bharatanatyam Arangetram performance on August 18, 2012.
    Suja, you’ve said “I learnt for a few years as a young girl and I believe I had a talent for it.” I’ll say you now have a talent for interpreting ‘dances’ in words strung as beautifully as the ‘movements of the dancer’!
    I fully ‘echo’ the words of Ramesh when he says “your writing is so compelling that I read every word”! Well, I’m glad I’m getting ‘addicted’ to your ‘blog posts’ – be they on Music, Dance or Travel.
    Best Wishes.

    • Hi Raj, Priyardarshini’s dance is delightful, isn’t it? Glad you found it so as well. You are very kind in your appreciation of my writing, thank you!
      Cheers. Suja

  4. Raghunath

    I guess I am late by years!
    This javali was used in “Pooja Phalam” a Telugu movie made in 1964, directed by B.N.Reddi. The credit for lyrics went to D. Krishna Sastry ( must be a mistake by the person who put it up on YouTube).
    L. Vijayalakshmi performed the dance to the music of S.Rajeswara Rao. It is sung by S.Janaki. It is available on YouTube. Please do watch it, though the Abhinaya doesn’t convey the message of the javali is intended for.

    • Thank you so very much for the information! And despite the years since I wrote this, your comment is very welcome as I did not find a replacement video for my post when I had looked before. You are right, the abhinaya leaves much to be desired. So if there are others reading this comment, please check out for a ‘filmi’ interpretation of this song. I just wish you could see the video I had linked to was just out of the world excellent!
      Cheers. Suja

  5. Narayanaswamy Sankagiri

    The film version is again available on youtube under a different entry

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