After my rather depressing post last time, I wanted to post something happy. Immediately my mind went to this song that I love in Raga Nalinakanti, a most cheerful sounding piece of music.
As I pored over the translation, my mind wandered off in a tangent with the pallavi line itself. ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to my appeal?’ says Tyagaraja. This device of addressing one’s own mind occurs in music and literature often enough for us not to be surprised by it. But today I asked myself ‘Who is the addresser and who is the addressed?’.
I was first reminded of the mindfulness exercises in some meditative techniques. One is supposed to watch the thoughts flow by without stopping them, just watching them stream past without reaction. A mind watching its own thoughts? ‘Who is the watcher?’ I wondered, ‘and who is the watched?’. I have tried this meditation technique myself and yes, it is quite possible to do this. And so another question arises – if the mind can split into the watcher and the watched, can it split into more parts?
I became engrossed in reading many articles on mind and consciousness, within Hindu thought or otherwise. But I couldn’t get any specific answers to my questions. Coming back to our song, Tyagaraja says ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to the one who knows the compassionate heart of Sri Ramachandra? I am revealing all the secrets’. Oh! So part of his mind knows secrets that the other part doesn’t know? I do know unhealthy minds can keep secrets –such as in amnesia- but can a healthy mind keep secrets from itself? I don’t think so. But the subconscious can and does keep secrets from the conscious mind. Is this intended to be a song from the subconscious to the conscious?
I know, some of you may well be thinking that I am making too much of this, that it is merely a literary device. That is probably very likely. Still, Tyagaraja was such an evolved soul; it behoves us to examine his words and make sure we look beyond the obvious and glean as much wisdom as we can from them. That said, this is such a lovely piece of music that one finds joy in the very flow of the notes. And sometimes that is more than enough.
For the last two days I have been hearing innumerable renditions of this song. There are so many beautiful renditions that it was a difficult choice for me. But when I heard this version by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy (1927-2014), I knew at once that this was IT! I missed honouring him when he passed away in December; I am happy to have the opportunity to feature this illustrious artist in my blog today. There is a wonderful shower of swaras following the song, I am literally dancing to them as I write this! My only complaint is the missing gamaka on the word ‘Tyagaraju’ which only TMK and SKR seem to include..I just adore that gamaka, always makes me melt to a puddle!
(There is a small glitch at 5:45, I assume it is from tape conversion, please ignore)
Alternate Link : Click here and download item 5 – free membership of Sangeethamshare is needed.
And if you want to listen to an outstanding violin rendition, listen to Kanyakumari supported beautifully by Embar Kannan.
Alternate link : Click here and download item 9.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Nalinakanti
Language : Telugu
Note – As I do not speak Telugu, the translation is heavily dependent on various web sources.
Transliteration in Devanagari
मनविनालकिञ्च रादटे मर्ममॆल्ल तॆल्पॆदने मनसा
(common alternate version of first word : मनव्याल)
घनुडैन (श्री) राम चन्द्रुनि करुणान्तरंगमु तॆलिसिन ना
कर्म काण्ड मताकृष्टुलै भव गहन चारुलै गासि जॆन्दग
कनि मानवा अवतारुडै कनिपिञ्चिनाडे नडत त्यागराजु
Transliteration in English
manavinAlakincha rAdaTE marmamella telpedanE manasA
(common alternate version of first word : manavyAla)
ghanuDaina (shrI) rAma chandruni karuNAntarangamu telisina nA
karma kANDa matAkRshTulai bhava gahana chArulai gAsi jendaga
kani mAnava avatAruDai kanipinchinADE naData tyAgarAju
Won’t (rAda) you (aTE) listen (Alakincha) to my appeal (manavini), O mind (manasA)? I am revealing (telpedanE) all (ella) the secrets (marmamu) .
Won’t You listen (implied) to my (nA) appeal, I (implied) who know (telisina) the compassionate (karuNA) heart (antarangamu) of the great (ghanuDaina) Sri Ramanchandra (rAma chandruni)?
Seeing (kani) those who, attracted (AkRshTulai) by the opinions (mata) of the ritualistic action (karma) section (kAnDa) of the Vedas (implied), suffer (gAsi jendaga) as wanderers (chArulai) in the forest (gahana) of worldly existence (bhava), the Lord having incarnated (avatAruDai) as a human being (mAnava) exemplified (kanipincinADE) the right conduct (naData). Therefore, O Mind, won’t you listen to the appeal (implied from pallavi) of this Tyagaraja (tyAgarAju)?
2 responses to “Manavinalakincha”
One of my favourite songs and favourite ragas. I have listened to innumerable versions of this krithi too and the one that mesmerises me most is Chembai’s. Kanyakumari’s version is brilliant as well.
Very often this song is sung to a much faster tempo than say what Nedunuri sings in your featured version. Yesterday, I went to a kutcheri by Mambalam sisters where they did this. Somehow the charm was a bit diluted to me . Trichur Brothers, who are making a big impression on the singing fraternity do exactly the same – they sing it at a terrific tempo and while they are brilliant, I think it does less than full justice to the song.
The most common version of the pallavi I think is मनव्याल.
The charanam’s meaning is still obscure to me. Is the implication that Rama has taken avatar to show people the wastefulness of ritualisitic actions. It also seems to be a trifle disconnected from the pallavi and anupallavi exhortation. Would you mind elaborating on what you think the saint intended ?
Like you, I too like this song sung at a relatively leisurely pace. Singing or playing complex pieces of music displays the technical skills of the musician, I understand. Manodharma delivered at an incredible pace can leave one gasping in amazement. But it is with a leisurely pace than the bhava of music like this infuses into our souls. That reminds me..I must search to see if I can find an MDR rendition of Manavinalakincha. I cannot recall listening to Chembai’s version..I’ll look it up.
My interpretation of the charanam is the same as yours. In short, Tyagaraja seems to say ‘People wander aimlessly in this existence, hoping to find salvation by following rituals. It is better instead to live life in an exemplary manner as per the example set by Sri Ramachandra’. I will add from myself that Sri Ramachandra set an example of ideal living for those times; ages have passed and sending your wife to walk in fire because the neighbours suspect her will not do anymore. The definition of ‘exemplary’ changes with times, we mustn’t forget that.
Tyagaraja has displayed his disbelief in rituals a number of times in his lyrics. One example is Teliyaleru Rama in which he mocks rituals done without true meaning behind them. In Dhyaname Varamaina he questions the ritual of ganga snanam. There is a pattern…so our interpretation is likely to be correct.