Rave Himagiri

Kanchi KamakshiYou are what you are eat’ , so say the wise ones. The tradition of watching what you eat is an old one in India. According to Ayurveda, our bodies have vata, kapha or pitta doshas, or a combination thereof. For good health, we should eat that which stablizes the imbalance between the three doshas in our body. This has been a proven health system, surviving for centuries in India.

What about the makeup of our minds? Our minds are a combination of sattvik, rajasik and tamasik gunas, says Ayurveda. The gunas associated with what we eat affect our mind. For good mental health and well being, we need to ingest lots of sattvik food, less of rajasik food and avoid tamasik food.

But I ask, why consider only the food we eat? True, the body ingests only food. But does not the mind ingest so much more? What we see, what we read, what we hear – they all form food for the mind, do they not? Should we not watch out what we ingest mentally as well as physically?

It amazes me that the young ones, even those who are careful about their health, listen frequently to loud, throbbing music with lyrics which are often very passionate. The films they watch are much of the same, with added violence. Will these types of ‘ingestion’ not lead to future generations of people who are strongly rajasik or tamasik? Where are they getting their daily does of sattvik food for the mind?

I assure you that I am not deaf to the talent and music which exist outside the Carnatic world. I am known to hum along with Bollywood songs, not just the classically based ones, but even foot-tapping ones such as Piya tu ab to aajaa  from olden times to even Kajra Re, Munni Badnam Hui and Sheela Ki Jawani! There, I have shocked you, I know!  I admire the talent of the singers and the music directors who have created songs which find such mass appeal. I am not deaf even to Beyoncé gyrating to Put a ring on it  or Shakira declaring that Hips don’t lie (wow!); they are both such incredible singers and dancers! So yes, there is interesting music everywhere but is it sattvik music? Far from it!

Carnatic Music is on the whole sattvik, but some compositions epitomize that. So today, my music has been selected to balance all the rajasik and tamasik qualities that our minds ingest from the world around us. I had the pleasure of listening to a performance by the Iyer Brothers on the Veena in Melbourne last October. They played Rave Himagiri, a swarajati in Raga Todi composed by Shyama Shastri. It is a prayer for blessings addressed to the Goddess Kamakshi. A truly wonderful composition, it is stately in pace, deep in tone, quiet in its quest.  I never appreciated the full beauty of it until I listened to this performance by the Iyer Brothers. In the reverberating tones of the strings, the composition becomes the resonance of the universe, a pranava mantra in many syllables. A wonderful sattvik feast for your mind. I hope you love it as much as I do!

For a vocal version, I feature a unique combination of voices – Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer singing along with M.S.Subbulakshmi, two of the greatest musicians of the Carnatic world.

Alternate link : Click here


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Shyama Shastri
Raga : Todi
Language : Telugu
Note: I do not speak Telugu. The lyrics from multiple internet sources were verified / corrected by listening to many renditions by different artists. The translation is sourced from the web.

रावे हिमगिरि कुमारी कञ्चि कामाक्षि वरदा
मनवि विनवम्म शुभमिम्म मायम्म

चरणम् 1
नतजन परिपालिनि वनुचु नम्मितिनि सदा ब्रोव (alt: ब्रोवु )

चरणम् 2
मदमत्त महिष दानव मर्दिनि वेतदीर्चवे दूरमुगनु

चरणम् 3
काम पालिनि नीवे गतियनि कोरिति कोनियाडिति वेडिति

चरणम् 4
कामितार्थ फलदायकीयनेटि बिरुदु महिलो नीके तगु

चरणम् 5
कमल मुखी दरगळ घन नील कच भरा मृग विलोचन मणि रदना
गज गमना मदिलो निन्नु सदा दलचुकोनि नी ध्यानमे तल्लि

चरणम् 6
श्याम कृष्ण नुत विनु नाचिन्तनु वेवेग दीर्चभयमिय्यवे (दीर्चि अभयमिय्यवे)
कल्याणि कञ्चि कामाक्षि नी पादमे दिक्कु

For notation click here

Transliteration :

rAvE himagiri kumArI kanchi kAmAkshi varadA
manavi vinamma shubhamimma mAyamma

charaNam 1
natajana paripAlini vanachu nammitini sadA brOva (alt: brOvu)

charaNam 2
madamatta mahisha dAnava mardini vEtadIrchavE dUrmuganu

charaNam 3
kAma pAlini nIvE gatiyani kOriti kOniyADiti vEDiti

charaNam 4
kAmitArtha phaladAyakIyanETi birudu mahilO nIkE tagu

charaNam 5
kamala mukhI daragaLa ghana nIla kacha bharA mrga vilOchana maNi radanA
gaja gamanA madilO ninnu sadA dalachukOni nI dhyAnamE talli

charaNam 6
shyAma krishNa nuta vinu nAchintanu vEvEga dIrchbhayamiyyavE
kalyANi kanchi kAmAkshi nI pAdamE dikku


O Kamakshi of Kanchi! O daughter of the snow clad mountains! O bestower of boons! Please come! O mother mine! Listen to my prayers and grant me welfare!

Protector of all those who bow to you! I believe in you only to protect me always.

O destroyer of the arrogant demon Mahisha! Please dispel my agony.

O protector of Cupid! You are my sole refuge. I praise you and  beseech you (to protect me). There is no equal to you in all the worlds. Listen to my entreaties.

O lotus-faced one with a neck like a conch shell, thick dark hair, eyes like a deer, teeth like pearls, with a gait as majestic as an elephant! I always reflect upon you and meditate upon you !

O the one worshipped by Shyamakrishna (signature of the poet)! Quickly dispel my worries and bestow me with fearlessness. O auspicious one! O Kamakshi of Kanchi! Your feet are my only refuge.


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Iyer Brothers, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Shyama Shastri

6 responses to “Rave Himagiri

  1. Narasimharaj

    “Carnatic Music is on the whole sattvik, . . ”
    Suja, Interesting ‘preface’ !
    The rendition by SSI & MSS is ‘nectar-to-ears-&-soul’!

    • Thank you Raj! This is from a CD called Divine Unison available in Music India Online, I think you will enjoy the whole album.
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ramesh

    For once there is a fair amount to disagree instead of whole hearted agreement that your posts usually elicit !!

    No way “you are what you eat”. If it were possible, I would abolish the entire food activity, but alas, that possibility may only come many lifetimes after mine, if at all 😦 I am happy to avoid tamasik food, or any food for that matter, but I suspect those who subscribe to your opening sentence in the post will heartily disagree with the concept of not eating tamasik food at all !

    Completely endorse that food for the mind is as much crucial as food for the body. Here I will vigorously defend the intake of “tamasik” thoughts – after all life would be too boring without it 🙂

    I know you have a wide taste for music , which is a wonderful thing, but SHEILA KI JAWANI ????????? Milady, thou has fallen 1234 storeys from the lofty heights you had reached :):)

    All this is of course due to the very nice intros you give to the music you feature. As everytime, the music is special. This one even more so – I had never listened to the two giants together .

    By the way, aren’t Shyama Sastri’s swarajathis very nice (Love Kamakshi Ambaa). I have often asked local experts what is a swarajathi, but I have received only technical explanations. Would you educate a beginner in simple terms please.

    • Hi Ramesh, its good that you have at last found points of dissent 🙂 Am I what I eat? I think so – if I substitute the word ‘ingest’ for eat. I feel that much of what I am, is what I ingest through influences directly or indirectly. Food that we eat influences the chemistry of the body and mind, so yes, I include food as well as other mental ingestion. And of course, it is hard to avoid tamasik food, thoughts, influences – and perhaps even boring to do so – but should it not be a goal to balance that with sattvik influences as well? That was the intent of this post, not saying that you give up everything like a sanyasi, but to find a balance.

      Oh no, have I fallen that hard? !!!! 🙂 I added those song names for more for shock value than anything else, I admit 🙂 Seriously though, I have great respect for many kinds of music. To find the pulse of millions, that is a great talent as well. It is not music I choose to listen to, but music which invades my space – and I stop to listen and marvel at the variety of it all!

      Swarajatis are just another form of composition – the structure is slightly different. Shyama Shastri has written amazing ones; they are hypnotic! I will write a page comparing the different structures and post soon.
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Jay


    I liked everything in this post. The veena performance by the Iyer brothers were so measured and synchronous. And the young mridangam player that is left-handed – cannot recall seeing the last time I saw a left-handed mridangam player.

    The vocal rendition by the duo Semmangudi and MS was a rare piece. Singing together, especially male/female combo is not easy where pitches have to align. You can certainly see the challenges. I was lost in the very very beautiful alapana by Semmangudi. The more I learn about music, I find myself enlivened by the expressive capabilities of the ragam than the actual verses.

    There’s really nothing sacred in any particular music. Anything that has the ability to render the ‘ranjakatvam’, the very basis of raga, whether it be the celebrated carnatic or the more popular commercial variety, it can be enjoyed. Though it is kind of sad that the modern popular varieties extract a small fraction in the grand scheme of possibilities, which is also telling of modern audience.

    Looking forward to your section on swarajatis. They are usually taught after geetams before varnams.


    • Hello Jay, I am pleased that my musical choice of today was music to your ears as well 🙂 You are right about Carnatic music being not really suitable for male-female duos. But in that note, have you read my post about Jasrangi Jugalbandi written quite a while back? Here is a link. I found it very appealing and enjoyable; if you haven’t heard it before, I do recommend having a listen.

      The truth is, the music I select to play for myself is 80% Carnatic, 10% Hindustani, 9% Qawwalis, Ghazals, Bhakti geet, 1% other music. However, that is not the only music which falls on my ears. My daughter and son both listen to a lot western popular music, and perforce I too listen when they are around. My son also writes and sings music and plays his guitar almost non stop. As also the Piano. My husband enjoys watching Bollywood films, and I give him company so again, perforce, I listen to Indian popular music as well. I live in a French speaking area, one cannot avoid listening to French popular music either. Though the music is not always to my taste, I still listen with interest to try and understand what exactly is really pleasing to others about it. As you have said, it is the ranjakatvam which is important. In Hindi they say दुल्हन वही जो पिया मन भाये ! My post is about the deeper question of which part of one’s guna does a piece of music appeal to? Is it not important to understand that?

      Cheers. Suja

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