Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of yours in not talking to me when I have held your feet with such devotion? O Merciful Lord! Is it not true that when the erudite Anjaneya saluted you, you asked your younger brother to convey the details to him? However, is this fair, this whim of yours in not replying to this Tyagaraja?
Most of us who have grown up in India have a special place in our hearts for the epic Ramayana. Our behaviour, our beliefs, our language – all this and more are influenced by this great epic. However, if we are asked if Ramayana is myth or history, if it is legend or reality, many amongst us will be conflicted. I am. My heart believes, but my mind questions many of the incredible occurrences. I try and add my own reasoning (totally unproven!) to make it real, for I want it to be real.
Take, for example, Lord Hanuman and the legions of Vanaras (apes) who have a starring role in Ramayana. ‘Talking apes? Really?’ My mind asks me. Given my beliefs, I feel both guilt and shame for asking such questions and then hasten to counter-ask myself ‘What if some Neanderthal men were still around at that time? Would they have been seen as another species i.e. as apes?’. The dates don’t fit, but what if?
Evidently, I am not the only one who wants to find logic to fit the legends. I-Serve, the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas seems to be populated by exactly the same kind of people. They were much in the news last year when they used astronomical dating of planetary positions mentioned in the Ramayana to get dates for some important events. Lord Rama’s birthdate was 10 January, 5114 BC, they say with authority. Their paper is an interesting read for anyone interested in the Ramayana.
So when I came to the topic of today, the first meeting of Lord Hanuman with Lord Rama, I see it in my mind’s eye as a somewhat mythical history, but history nonetheless. Before we come to Sarga 3 of the Kishkinda Kanda of the Ramayana, Sita is already taken. Rama and Lakshmana are on her trail. Dressed simply like hermits, they still have the appearance of princes. It is at this time that Hanuman is sent as a messenger seeking help from them by Sugreeva, the younger brother of Vali, the Vanara ruler of the region, who has now become Sugreeva’s enemy.
Dressing himself as an ascetic in order not to alarm then, Hanuman approaches them. His speech is full of praise, as seems to be the polite form of address in those times, before introducing himself. Rama is well pleased with his greeting. Turning to Lakshmana, he praises Hanuman’s knowledge of grammar and the Vedas. But he does not speak directly to Hanuman, letting Lakshmana be his spokesperson. This is believed to be the protocol of those times in dealing with messengers. For the verses and the translation, read here.
Tyagaraja uses this incident in our song choice of today, Adamodi Galade, set to the charming Charukesi raga (to know more about this raga, click here). Tyagaraja asks Lord Rama if it is fair that he persists in his whim of not speaking to him and reminds him that it was thus with even Hanuman, that the Lord did not reply directly to him when spoken to. Does Tyagaraja imply that if the Lord would not speak to Hanuman himself, what chance did he have? Does he see himself as a loyal servitor of Lord Rama, just as Hanuman was and thus worthy of his love? He does seem to berate the Lord, calling him whimsical! For lyrics and translation, see footnote.
To present this song, I am in the mood for some legends today. To start with, I present a rare live presentation from the musician whose Charukesi I love better than anything else, the inimitable Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930-2013).
And for a vocal version, I can present no other than the Maestro with a voice like nectar, Dr.Balamuralikrishna (1930-). He was a man who pushed the boundaries of tradition in his time and is a living legend now.
Alternate link : in Sangeethapriya, accessible with a free account.
Next I would like to recommend a very interesting interpretation by the great Veena player, Chitti Babu (1936-1996). I was surprised to note the Vedic hymn style notes produced in the alapana and in the thanam as well, something I associate with Revati, not Charukesi. It ends abruptly, but still do listen, this raga sounds particularly beautiful on the Veena.
Alternate link : In Sangeethapriya, accessible with a free account.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Telugu
I do not speak Telugu and have sourced the lyrics and translation from various internet sources, especially Tyagaraja Vaibhavam. This I have calibrated against multiple performances and modified as seemed fit.
आड मोडि गलदा (alternate: गलदे) रामय्य माट(लाड मोडि )
तोडु नीड नीवे अनुचुनु (alt: यनुचुनु) भक्तितो गूडि (नी)
पादमु (alt: पादमुल) पट्टिन नातो माट(लाड मोडि )
चदुवुलन्नि तॆलिसि शंकरांशुडै
सदयुडाशुग सम्भवुडु म्रॊक्क
कदलु तम्मुनि पल्क जेसितिवि
गाकनु त्यागराजु आडिन माट(लाड मोडि )
ADa mODi galadA (alt: galadE) rAmayya mATa (lADa mODi)
tODu nIDa nIvE anuchunu (Alt: yanuchunu) bhaktito
gUDi (nI) pAdamu (pAdamula) paTTina nAtO mATa (lADa mODi)
chaduvulanni telisi shankarAnshuDai
sadayuDAshuga sambhavuDu mrokka
kadalu tammuni palka jEsitivi
gAkanu tyAgarAju ADina mATa (lADa mODi)
Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of yours in not talking to me? (Note: mODi has been translated as obstinacy, haughtiness etc. but I liked whimsical which is also a valid translation by the dictionary. You take your pick!)
Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of not talking to me who considers you alone to be as constant as a shadow, when I have held your feet with so much devotion?
O Merciful Lord! Is it not true that when the erudite Anjaneya, born of the Wind God, who is also an aspect of Lord Shiva, saluted you, you asked your younger brother to convey the details to him? However, is this whim of yours in not replying to this Tyagaraja just?