Arumo Aval

In January, this blog quietly celebrated it’s third birthday. What started as a whim has developed into a beloved project. My today’s post is in celebration of my fascination with music, Carnatic Music in particular.

As an analyst at heart, I will start with a graphical representation of the world of Carnatic Music as I see it.

Life of a composition

The journey of a song before it reaches the humble ears of a rasika quite fascinates me. There is so much creativity in each step of the process, and by so many individuals !

Firstly there is this marvellous Raga-Melody relationship. The majority of Carnatic Ragas have not started their life in some structured process. Instead they emerged from an aesthetic developed over time based on the intellectual and emotional experience of a people or an individual. There seems to be a feedback loop, unstructured though it is; concrete ideas develop from such a cloud of experience and then contribute back to the cloud. At some point of time in the loop, there is a consensus on how a subset of melodies are to be sung. We  just call this consensus a Raga. Obviously, there are multiple bursts of creativity even before this stage is reached!

A Raga is not set in stone; the consensus continues to evolve. Words and cadence, melodies and rhythm are then developed not in isolation, but feeding back from the Raga consensus and the collective experiences of all those concerned. The words, cadence and rhythm feed from the mood of the Raga. And as more lyrics are written, the mood of the Raga acquires new meaning from these. Each of these boxes I have drawn above – Raga, Words and Cadence, Melody and Rhythm are affected and affect the other.

Sometimes the definer of the Raga, the lyricist and composer are all the same (e.g. Omkarakarini in Lavangi by Balamuralikrishna). At times each step is by a different individual at a different time (e.g.. Hamir Kalyani from unknown origins, Andal writing Thoomani Madattil many centuries ago (dates contested), Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar tuning the words in the 20th century). Apart from the great bursts of creativity by the named individuals, there are many invisible others who contribute to the process by forming the cloud of experience in which the creators live.

And thus we have a composition. It is taught to a student with contributions from his or her guru, and their gurus and so on. There is intense creativity at this stage too. Sangatis, for example, belong to the guru-shishya parampara. In time, the student becomes a performer.  By that time he or she has lived in this cloud of intellectual and emotional experience for years and absorbed so many influences. Their performance, including their manodharma, is in effect a wonderful fruit of a long evolution.

Thus we, the shrotas, finally come to hear a piece of music. You may think us of an unimportant part of the whole, but I beg to differ. That wonderful effect it has within your heart and mind and body? That is the culmination point of that piece of music, its point of self-actualisation. Imagine how far it has travelled, with how many creative contributions to finally reach your ears! It is as if our ancestors touch us across centuries! We, the listeners, do not stand in isolation, but become a part of the system, providing the feedback into the cloud of intellectual and emotional experience.

When I hear, for example, Arumo Aval, I wonder: Who first sang a melody with the yearning of separation in far away Rajasthan? Who all heard and loved it so much that they wrote more songs in the same style?  When did this style of singing acquire an identity, a name? When and who turned it from a style of singing to a grammar called a Raga? How and when did it traverse 2500 kms across India to establish itself in Carnatic Music? I don’t know the answer to any of that. But when I look over my shoulder, I see an infinite web of silver strands, with countless nodes where contributors stand, some glowing bright with importance, others just shadowy figures, some with bright colourful turbans. I see the web continue far into the future too. And I am ensnared in this silver web, unable to move away. Will my yearning for more music ever be satiated? ArumO Aval?

And so to my song choice of today, based, I admit, purely on the rightness of the first two words to the theme of this post!

Arumo Aval is a lovely song written by Kannan Iyengar in Mand and made famous by the great songstress of yesteryears, M.L.Vasantakumari, to whom we shall listen first. To know more about Mand, click here.

Alternate link : click here.

The version I listen to most often is the one by T.M.Krishna, which I quite adore!  As an aside, he rolls his Rs with such gusto, doesn’t he? I so like it!

Alternate link : click here.

With this post I am taking a short hiatus as I am away travelling. I will be back blogging in a month or so, see you then!

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Kannan Iyengar
Raga : Mand
Language : Tamil

ஆறுமோ ஆவல் ஆறுமுகனை நேரில் காணாது

ஏறுமயில் ஏறி குன்றுதோறும் நின்றாடியவன்
பெரும் புகழும் தெரிந்தும் அவன்  பேரழகை பருகாமல்

ஞான குருபரன் தீனர்க்கருள் குகன்
வானவரும் தொழும்  ஆனந்த வைபோகன்
காண கிடைக்குமோ  கூறுதற்க்கில்லாமல்
அற்புத தரிசனம் கற்பனை செய்தால் மட்டும்


Arumo Aval Arumuganai nEril kANAdu

Erumayil Eri kunDRu tOrum ninDRADiyavan
perum pugazhum terindum avan pErazhagai parugAmal

jnAna guruparan dInarkkarul guhan
vAnavarum tozhum Ananda vaibOgan
kANakkiDaikkumo kUrudark-killAmal
arpuda darisanam karpanai seidAl maTTum


Will my yearning (Aval) be appeased (Arumo) without meeting (=without seeing (kANAdu) directly (nEril)) the six-faced Lord Murugan (Arumugan)?

Even after knowing the great (perum) fame (pugazh) of He who rode a peacock (Erumayil Eri) and danced (ninDRu Adiyavan=stood and danced) on each hilltop (kunDRu tOrum), will my yearning be appeased (ArumO Aval) without drinking (parugAmal) in his (avan) great beauty (pEr azhagai)?

He who is the guru and deity (paran) of knowledge (jnAna), the hidden One (guhan) who bestows grace (aRul) on the wretched (dInarkku), He is the one worshipped (tozhum) even by the celestials (vAnavarum), He delights (vaibOgan) in joy (Ananda)! Will I ever get to (kiDaikkumO) see (kANa) this wonderful (arpuda) vision (darisanam) without having to say (kUrudarkkillAmal)? Will my yearning be appeased (ArumO Aval) by imagining (karpanai seidAl) alone (maTTum)?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kannan Iyengar, M.L.Vasanthakumari, T.M.Krishna

17 responses to “Arumo Aval

  1. Narasimharaj

    “. . graphical representation of the world of Carnatic Music . . ”
    Suja, incredible ‘analysis’ indeed! I am one of those inclined towards EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE – without bothering about the INTELLECTUAL EXPERIENCE – be it Music in Carnatic/Hindustani/any-other style.
    As for MLV’s rendition, I’ll say my ears-mind-heart are ever receptive to her renderings – for, she is one of my ‘favorites’ – as I mentioned in your earlier ‘post’.

    Have a nice ‘breather’ – and get back soon to your interesting ‘posts’.
    Best Wishes.

    • Thank you Raj! As for me, emotional and intellectual experiences are two halves of a whole, each one incomplete without the other. But we all have our own unique way of enjoying the world, and I am ‘pro-differences’ 🙂
      Cheers Suja

  2. Chandramouli Subramanian

    Lovely song as always Suja! Happy anniversary! Your fans’ yearning for the ever-informative blogs will continue. Happy journey! 🙂

    • Thank you Chandramouli 🙂 it is with the encouragement of fellow music lovers like you that I have the will to continue what I started 3 years ago. cheers Suja

  3. Happy Anniversary Suja! After reading your blog for a few weeks and really enjoying them, I’ve been inspired to start my own and I’ve just written my first post! Maybe you could consider that a kind of anniversary present, as your blog is definitely touching people around the globe (like me in London)

    • Thank you, indeed it’s a wonderful gift! I have read your first post and like it very much. I am so pleased that one so young as you, brought up in an a different culture, can still connect with this beautiful music. My aashirvaadams for a future filled with lovely music. Cheers. Suja

  4. Dear Suja,
    I wanted to come here and tell you I’d replied to your kind message on lesttalkaboutbollywood (and there are unanswered questions waiting there for you), and I was quite thrilled to read this post, not because I know much about carnatic music, because I don’t, but because you speak about it so well and so convincingly! Happy anniversary!

    • Dear Yves, In the grand scheme of music Carnatic Music occupies just a little corner perhaps but it is a corner where I live 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed my post, thank you for visiting. I have hopefully answered all your questions with my translation – language learning is such an uphill task!
      Cheers. Suja

  5. Gayatri Ravi

    Please can you help me download MLV”s Aarumo Aaval. I have been trying to record it for a long time now. please,,,,

  6. jana venkat

    Which movie did above mlv arumo aval sung in ?

  7. Jana

    Hello Madam, I happened to see your blog and I loved it. Great!!
    I am particularly interested in your blog about the song arumo aval. I think it is from a tamil film. Can you help me identify the film name?

    • Thank you for you comment and welcome to my blog! I am sorry but I do not know which film this is from. I hope one of my readers will be able to help..
      Cheers. Suja

  8. Devika kulasekaran

    So nice! I have been in love with this song since when! Beautiful treatise and great language too! Now I’m trying to find out other songs in Maand!

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