Karanam Kettu Vaadi

Please ask why my dear Lord Shiva has not not come yet, my friend. Why does the infinitely compassionate Lord test my patience by remaining invisible? Did I try to do something I ought not to do?

FootprintsWhy does God not respond to us? This is a question which dogs all true believers. God is compassionate we say. God forgives all our mistakes, we just have to ask, we say. God loves us, we say. We are God’s children and He will come running just as a mother runs to her child in need, we say. Yet in reality few of us have truly experienced this kind of instant response from God.  If all this is true, why does He not answer our call?

Even the most faithful are dogged with the question of why there is no visible response from God to all one’s pleas. Even I, who tend to be philosophical about life, have been known to pray ‘please, one sign, just one sign!’. This reminds me of the famous allegorical poem called Footprints in the Sand. As there is some dispute regarding authorship, I will leave it unsaid. The content is of more interest to us.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?’
The Lord replied,
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’

The poem reminds us that though it may seem that we have had no response, it may just be that we are too blind to see it.

These are my ruminations on the song choice of the day by Gopalakrishna Bharathi. In Karanam Kettu Vadi, the poet wonders what he has done that God does not hear his call. Comparing himself to all the great ones who transgressed but whose calls have indeed been answered, he asks his friend to go and demand of God himself what his reasons are for ignoring the poet’s pleas. Set to raga Purvikalyani which I quite adore, I am rather surprised at how rarely this song is sung in concerts today. It is in fact my reference song in Purvikalyani; the song I sing to myself to recognize the raga. I’ve fond memories of my mother singing it in my childhood. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. To know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I first give you a version I listen to often by Sudha Raghunathan, who has long reigned supreme in the field of Carnatic Music. With the instrumentation used, it almost becomes a piece of ‘light music’. I love the timbre of her voice!

Alternate Link : Click here.

The second version I present is traditional one by Trichur V.Ramachandran.  The Maestro has sung this beautifully; I am sure you will be as charmed as I am.

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The third one if a joyful flight into Purvikalyani by the magnificent Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan on the violin.

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Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Gopalakrishna Bharathi
Raga : Purvikalyani

Language : Tamil

காரணம் கேட்டு வாடி -சகி
காதலன் சிதம்பர நாதன் இன்னும் வராத (காரணம்)

பூரண தயவுள்ள பொன்னம்பல துரை  என்
பொறுமையை சோதிக்க மறைமுகம் ஆனதன் (காரணம்)

கல்லாலும் வில்லாலும் கட்டி அடித்தேனோ
கண்ணப்பன் செய்ததைக் கனவிலும் செய்தேனோ
செல்லா மனைக்குத் தூது சென்றுவா என்றேனோ
செய்யாத காரியம் செய்யவும் முயன்றேனோ (alt: துணிந்தேனோ)


kAraNam kETTu vADi -sakhi
kAdalan chidambara nAdan innum varAda

pUraNa dayavuLLa ponnambala durai en
porumaiyai sOdikka maRaimugam Anadan

kallAlum villAlum kaTTi aDittEnO
kaNNappan seidadai kanavinilum seidEnO
chellA manaikku tUdu senDRu vA enDREnO
seyyAda kAriyam seyya muyanDREnO (alt: tuNindEnO)


Please ask (kETTu vADi) why (kAraNam) my dear (kAdalan) Lord (nAdan) of Chidambaram (Lord Shiva) has not come (varAda) yet (innum), my friend (sakhI).

(Ask why does) the infinitely (pUraNa=completely) compassionate (dayavuLLa) Lord (dorai) of the Golden Temple (Chidambaram) (ponnambala) testing (sOdikka) my (en) patience (purumaiyai) in remaining (Anadan) invisible (maRaimugam).

Did I strike him (kaTTi aDittEnO) with stones (kallAlum) and bows (villAlum)? (refers to Arjuna facing Shiva as a hunter). Or did I even dream (kanavilum) of doing (seidEnO) what Kannappan did (seidadai) (Kannappa Nayanar put his foot on the Shiva Linga). Did I tell him (enDREnO) to go (senDRu vA) as a messenger (tUdu) to a house (manaikku) to which one should not go? (chellA) (The Lord went on behalf of Sundaramurti Nayanar to his first wife’s home). Or did I try (muyenDREnO) / dare (tuNindEnO) to do (seyya) something (kAriyam) which I ought not to do (seyyAda)?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, Sudha Raghunathan, Trichur V.Ramachandran

10 responses to “Karanam Kettu Vaadi

  1. indigoite

    I was at a demonstration by Vani Satheesh today and she said that Carnatic music was based on bakthi, but embellished with many remonstrations to the Lord for not appearing or helping or comforting us. And that’s the theme of your post too !

    By the way, would this also be a “water raga” in the Suja system of raga classification !!! At least it sounded like water rippling along when I listened to the Sudha Ragunathan version. And, as always, very thoughtful of you to give multiple sources to your featured pieces – I continue to be at the mercy of site blockers and you are very kind to direct me to “open” places !!

    • Attending lecdems in Carnatic Music now Ramesh? I am impressed!! And a bit envious 🙂 Self-education can get one only so far…I wish I had more opportunities to learn.

      As to my system of raga classification, it was just for a bit of fun 🙂 Still, I continue playing it with myself every time I hear a song. ‘How does it make me feel?’ I ask myself. Raga means any feeling or passion in Sanskrit, and the emotional response is a very important part of a successful rendition. For me, Purvi Kalyani fits sometimes into my ‘water ragas’ classification (sensuous, deep, mysterious, dark, musical phrases which flow, very interesting in the lower part of the octave) and sometimes with the ‘air ragas’ (light, airy, open, joyful, musical phrases which weave and flit and jump, very interesting in the higher part of the octave). Sudha’s rendition is closer to ‘water’ qualities and Kunnakudi’s is closer to its ‘air’ qualities. I declare it as a hybrid in my classication system 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Jay

    Hello Suja,

    This is a soothing raga. An old malayalam song set to this raga, ‘padma teerthme unaroo’, composed by Devarajan fetched Yesduas a national award sometime in the early 70s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9oxJZcn7RE

    In Malayalam, there’s a popular song with a similar meaning ‘karuna cheyvan endu thaamasam krishna’, why is there delay, O’ Lord to shower your mercy, composed by Iraiyman Thampi. Chembai used to deliver this piece at most concerts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4wMDeIrzd0)

    As you say, we are blind. What is right in front of us we fail to recognize and yearn for something else. We are after all finite beings and our reach, our understanding is finite, and not capable or oblivious to realize the unsung grace that makes our very lives and everything around us and of those in between possible!


    • Hello Jay,
      I really enjoyed your links, thank you! Yesudas’s Padma Teerthame sounded exquisite! I have so far not presented any songs in Malayalam in my blog; I need to correct this soon…there is this whole set of beautiful poetry and music I am not much familiar with. A treasure trove 🙂

      Thank you also for your insights into life; ‘unsung grace’ is a good term..
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Pathy.VV

    Karanam Kettu vadi …is thecomposition of Kaviyogi Shuddhananda Bharati.

  4. R S Prasad

    I am leaving a couple of comments. Hope they help us enjoy this krithi more..

    1. While “villalum” refers to Arjuna fighting with Lord Shiva (with Kandeepam), “Kallaalum” refers to one of 63 naayanmaar-s by name Saakkiya(Chakkiya) Nayanar. Please chk out this link.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakkiya_Nayanar

    2. The line “Kannappan Seithathai Kanavilum Seitheno/Seiveno?” is one of the best ever lines written in the Tamil Language. While it appears to be rebuking Kannappa nayanar for having kept his foot on Lord Shiva, so that he could take out his second eye and place it (the Shiva Lingam’s second eye too started bleeding after Kannappa Nayanar had taken out his first eye and replaced the first eye of the Lingam), what is implied is none of us has the selfless bhakti as that of Kannappa Nayanar; while all of us cling to God for something, he held on to God just out of pure love, giving his all. We will never even, in our wildest dreams, dare to do something like what Kannappa Nayanar did. The line is deceptively simple but exquisitely eloquent. For those of you interested, please refer to 63rd shloka of Sivananda Lahari – Sri Shankara celebrates the pristine Bhakthi of Kannappa Nayanar in that. Also, in certain traditions, it is believed that Kannappa Nayanar is the rebirth of Arjuna – as he chided Lord Shiva, using the caste tag “Hey! You Hunter!” Lord Shiva asks him to be born as a hunter (to remove the vasana-s pertaining to so called high/low births/castes). Thirumuruga Kirupananda Variar Swamigal’s rendition of this story is amazing for his mastery over philosophical stances/references, Tamil language and above all, handling of raaga-s with gay abandon, ease and grace. God Bless!

  5. Hello Prasad,
    I am very grateful for all the detailed and insightful information, it adds to my knowledge and will be useful to other readers too, I am sure! Thank you!

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