Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! Rama! You are the delight of our hearts! Sita’s Rama! Your face is like the moon! You are deeply dark ! Your clothes are golden! You are the cessation of enemies!
Happy Ramanavami to all my readers! How did you celebrate this occasion? I am sadly negligent; my festival days go by simply, with just a mental marking, an acknowledgement when I say my prayers. Is that enough? Should that not be enough?
I feel a twinge of guilt. I remember my childhood when my family would wear new clothes, go to the temple and then have a lovely feast to eat. Yet I ask – when we mark a festival with a feast, is it God we please or our own selves ? When we buy and wear new clothes, whom are we trying to please?
I guess you know what I think! Yet, these ways of marking festivals have an important part to play. In my childhood, because my parents bought me new clothes only for festival days, I didn’t even realise one could buy clothes for no reason! In a way, it made each garment I wore a kind of ‘prasAda’, a blessing from above. Now that my clothes are bought whenever I please, they have lost their specialness. Likewise, my mother prepared certain dishes only on certain feast days. The dishes somehow became enhanced by that. They became ‘prasAda’, a gift from God. By marking these feasts, we silently thank God for all that we have.
I have prepared no feast today. Instead, the prasAda that I prepare today is this post. One of my very favourite songs, it is very simply a list of ‘identifiers’ for Lord Rama. Nothing is asked, not even blessings. An acknowledgement, that is all it is. It is written in Sanskrit by Swathi Thirunal and set to raga Simhendra Madhyamam. To know more about this raga, click here.
I am especially fond of Sikkil Gurucharan’s rendition in his CD December Season 2005. It is available in Musicindiaonline; click here for the Alapana and here for the Kriti. In fact, I recommend that you buy this track from whichever online store you use, keep it on your mp3 player and listen very often! In the meanwhile, I found a rendition from this exceptionally talented young man in youtube, which I present to you here. Note the superbly talented S.Varadarajan on the violin; I really admire this young man!
Another young artist, Nisha Rajagopal, has also given a find rendition which I enjoyed very much. Listen below, Alapana from 16:25 and Kriti from 23:42.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Swathi Thirunal
Raga: Simhendra Madhyamam
Language : Sanskrit
Note: This kriti has three charanams but I have heard only the third one sung. Therefore only that charanam is transcribed here. Also note that the singers usually use the long A at the end of musical phrases. eg. dhAma is often sung as dhAmA. Lyrics are verified aurally, but I cannot guarantee correctness.
राम राम गुण सीमा राम ह्रुदयाभिराम सीता
सोमानन घनश्याम हेमाम्बरारि विराम –पट्टाभि (alt: लोकाभि)
दीनबन्धो मामव दश मुख विदलन विनत कल्पतरो वारिज नाभ
मुनि मानस धामा मृगमद सुललाम अवनिजापाङ्ग सुदाम वैदेहि सकाम
rAma rAma guNasImA rAma hrdayAbhirAma sItA
sOmAnana ghanashyAma hEmAmbarAri virAma –paTTAbhi (alt: lOkAbhi)
dInabandhO mAmava dasha mukha vidaLana
vinata kalpatarO vArija nAbha
muni mAnasa dhAma mrgamada sulalAma
avanijApAnga sudAma vaidEhi sakAma
Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! (guNa=virtue, sImA=boundary). Rama! You are the delight (abhirama=delightful) of our hearts (hrdaya)! Sita’s Rama!
Your face (Anana) is like the moon (sOma)! You are deeply (ghana) dark (shyAma) ! Your clothes (ambara) are golden (hEma)! You are the cessation (virAma) of enemies (ari)! O consecrated one (paTTAbhirAma) ! (alt: O the one loved by everyone! (lOkAbhirAma))
O my friend (bandhu) of the wretched (dIna)! You are the destroyer (vidalana=tear asunder) of the humbled (vinata) Ravana (dasha mukha=ten faced)! You are like a wish-fulfilling tree (kalpataru)! You have a lotus-navel (vArija nAbha) (also signature of Swati Thirunal)! You dwell in (dhAma) in the minds (mAnasa) of sages (muni)! You have a kasturi tilaka (su lalAma=beautiful mark on your forehead, mrga mada=deer musk)! Sita (vaidEhi), who is born from the earth (avani ja), looks at you, the one who gives bountifully (sudAma) with sidelong glaces (apAnga) filled with love (sakAma).
6 responses to “Rama Rama Guna Seema”
I’ve all along believed that there is something majestic about this ragam and it ranks high among the few ragams that I know. Thyagaraja’s `needu charanamule’ is one of my favorite kritis. My knowledge of ragas is limited but evolving and I looked a little closer to understand why this raga is so appealing – maybe it is due to those teevra notes for each svara. This ragam is close to Shanmughapriya which is just one note different: the ni svara at a slightly lower pitch. In a different scheme, this raga is named Sreevatsam; the Dikishitar paddhati names it as Sumadyuti. It seems like this raga is similar to the Hungarian gypsy scale.
Hi Jay, I do love Simhendra Madhyamam, especially when the musicians hover over to the prati madhyamam. It sounds SO good! Have you heard the Lalgudi-Amjad Ali jugalbandi? Its incredibly good : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgYVN5L3DJU . And I love Shanmukhapriya equally. Like you I have wondered in the past why some ragas appeal so much to me. I will need to do a full analysis one day…:)
Happy Ramanavami to you and all our friends here. Nice post, nice ragam, nice kriti and nice singers – that makes for a complete post !
Indeed a very pleasant ragam, although I like its Shuddha Madhyamam counterpart Keeravani even more. Sikkil Gurucharan is a very fine singer indeed . I happened to be in a concert where Varadarajan was accompanying Prince Rama Varma – after a particularly good alapanai by Varadarajan, Rama Varma remarked that most violinists use talcum powder or oil in their fingers, but Varadarajan seems to be using honey !!
Yes , festivals and their way of celebration had a certain cultural context which has lost its relevance mostly today. So new clothes and special foods which were unique to festival days , have become commonplace and hence no longer “special”. However, we can celebrate some festivals in more personal ways now, perhaps; in the spirit of the festival. I spent the evening in a Kadri Gopalnath concert – in Bangalore I’ve come to associate Ramanavami with music simply because its the season here.
Hi Ramesh, that’s a nice anecdote about Varadarajan! I always look forward to his alapanai and kalpanaswarams when he is accompanying in a concert; he has indeed a honeyed touch.
As to attending a concert in honour of the festival, that counts as ‘nadopasana’, I am sure 🙂 I hope you enjoyed the concert, I am so envious!
You also have to listen to Yesudas’ Needu Charanamule and L. Subramanyam’s ragam, thanam, pallavi in simhendramadhyama since you seem to like this raga very much.
Thank you for your suggestions Dandapani, I will certainly look for what you recommend!