Bhaja Re Manasa

AstrologyWhat does Astrology mean to you? The reaction to this question falls within a wide spectrum. Some think of it in a total negative light, as mumbo-jumbo practised by charlatans to mislead the world. Others may see it as a harmless superstition, with maybe some grains of truth but on the whole ignore it. Yet others will get a reading done for arranging a wedding or some big event but otherwise have a benign and easy going attitude towards it. And of course there are those who follow it to the last letter, seeing their astrologer more regularly than their doctor. Where do you stand?

My parents were believers. My mother checked ‘rAhu kAlam’ before doing anything of importance (or not of importance). She would read the Tamil astrological magazine Balajothidam end-to-end and would quote knowledgably from it when the occasion arose. My father had a very close relationship with his astrologer. His very favourite religious ceremony was the ‘Navagraha Shanti Homam’ to appease the planets.

Where do I stand? Influenced by my parents, I educated myself on astrology when I was still a teenager. I found it interesting but with so many conditions and counter-conditions, I also found it very confusing. How could anybody balance all the different elements and reach exactly the right prediction? I felt that whether there was truth in it or not, there was possibly very little truth in most practitioners.

When I was in my thirties, I was cleaning up some paperwork while I was visiting my parents. There I found a 30-year old astrological prediction given to my father. Amazingly, many (but not all) of the predictions had come true..and I don’t mean general predictions, but very particular ones which could not have been just an educated guess. This strengthened my ideas and views.

So is it really the planets which determine our destiny? I am not sure. You can give a pen and paper to anyone but will they all write like Shakespeare? Does the talent lie in the pen or Shakespeare’s mind and spirit? I believe that probabilities for the future can be predicted to an extent. I believe also that an astrological chart can be used as a tool, just as someone’s palm or Tarot cards. However,I think that the glimpse of the future lies not in the chart or the palm but in the mind and spirit of the one who sees.

My thoughts today are triggered by the lyrics of Bhaja Re Manasa, a wonderful song in Abheri by Mysore Vasudevachar. The composer urges his -and our- mind to dwell upon Lord Rama, describing his many qualities. Of interest, given my topic today, is his referring to Him as the leader of the Navagrahas. I so love Abheri, it always lulls me into a peaceful state of mind.

I had a very happy day yesterday listening non-stop to Abheri! So whom should we listen to today? My first choice is a rendition by the legendary D.K.Pattammal (1919-2009). This is from a live recording in 1977. She is vocally supported by her equally accomplished brother D.K.Jayaraman. DKP’s voice is strong and has such a ‘gambheera bhavam’! The sruthi is so very low, she switches an octave for the low notes..I wonder if she lowered the sruthi so that DKJ could accompany her..

Click here to listen.

As I was trolling YouTube I listened to this very nice live presentation by Amrutha Venkatesh (in two parts). She is a young lady with a strong voice and a very nice throw, I enjoyed listening to her very much.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
भजरे रे मानस श्री रघुवीरम्
भुक्ति मुक्ति प्रदम् वासुदेवम् हरिम्

अनुपल्लवि
वृजिन विदूरम् विश्वाकारम् (alt: विश्वाधारम्)
सुजन मन्दारम् सुन्दराकारम्

चरणम्
रावण वधनम् रक्षित भुवनम्
रवि शशि नयनम् रविजाति मदनम्
रविजादि वानर परिवृतम् नरवरम्
रत्न हार परिशोभित कण्ठकम्

रवि शशि कुज बुध गुरु
शुक्र शनैश्चर राहु केतु नेतारम्
राज कुमारम् रामम्
पवनजाप्त अवनिजा मनोहरम्

Transliteration

pallavi
bhajarE rE mAnasa raghuvIram
bhukti mukti pradam vAsudEvam harim

anupallavi
v.rjina vidUram vishvAkAram (alt: vishvAdhAram)
sujana mandAram sundarAkAram

charaNam
rAvaNa vadhanam rakshita bhuvanam
ravi shashi nayanam ravi jAti madanam
ravijAdi vAnara pariv.rtam naravaram
ratna hAra parishObhita kanTHakam

ravi shashi kuja budha guru
shukra shanaishchara rahu kEtu nEtAram
rAja kumAram rAmam
pavanjApta avanijA manoharam

Translation

O Mind (rE mAnasa), revere (bhaja) Lord Rama, the hero (vIram) of the Raghu clan. He is the provider (pradam) of both enjoyment (bhukti) and salvation (mukti). He is Vasudeva. He is Hari.

He is far (vidUram) from wickedness (v.rijina). He is the embodiment (AkAram) of the universe (vishva). (Alternate: He is the foundation (AdhAram) of the universe (vishva)). To the virtuous (sujana), he is the Mandara flower (unsure what this implies).  He has a beautiful (sundara) form (AkAram).

He vanquished (vadha) Ravana and protected (rakshita) the world (bhuvanam). His eyes (nayanam) are like the sun (ravi) and the moon (shashi).  He is the God of Love (madanam) of the Sun dynasty (ravi jAti). He is surrounded (pariv.rtam) by the Vanaras such as son of the Sun, Sugriva (ravija) etc (Adi). His throat (kanTHakam) is adorned (parishObhita) by a jewelled (ratna) necklace (hAra).

He is the leader (nEtAram) of the Navagrahas – Sun (ravi), Moon (shashi), Mars (kuja), Mercury (budha), Jupiter (guru), Venus (shukra), Saturn (shanaishchara), Rahu and Ketu. He is Rama, the son (kumAram) of a king (rAja), the one dear to (Apta) to Hanuman (pavana) and beloved  (manOharam) to Sita (avanijA=daughter of the earth).

23 Comments

Filed under Amrutha Venkatesh, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, D.K.Pattammal, Mysore Vasudevachar

23 responses to “Bhaja Re Manasa

  1. Ramesh

    This time I am going to comment on both the artistes you have chosen to feature.

    The Pattammal Jayaraman combination was unique – not many duos of a man and a woman exist. Its generally though that that’s so because of the big difference in sruthis, but that’s only because duos tend to follow the “standard recipe” of singing together in synch. I wonder if a more creative way of combining can be done. Other forms of music have a rich tradition of man and woman – after all even in our own film music, much of which has a classical base, male-female duets have their own charm.

    Nice to see you featuring Amrutha Venkatesh. She’s a “local girl” and so I have a fond corner🙂 As you observed, she sings beautifully. I heard her once in tandem with her guru – Prince Rama Verma and it was an interesting kutcheri (man/woman duo again !), but they don’t sing often together. On her own, she performs regularly in Bangalore and I have been to one or two concerts. Very nice and an artiste with a good future.

    • Glad you enjoyed my selections Ramesh. I agree, man-woman duos have their own unique charm. The problem is, as you say, the sruthi difference. Classical Indian singing does not include harmonies so in fact the singers need to sync the music. I did a little illustration of the voice ranges but had some tech glitch in inserting it here, sigh! Here’s a link

      The filmi singers sing at a higher pitch range and therefore are able to sing duets with the male singers. But that is not the natural range of most female singers so it does not work for everybody. I had posted an innovative male-female classical singing developed by Pandit Jasraj where the singers sing in their natural pitches but then have to sing two different ragas as of course the notes are offset due to their pitches..here is the link in case you want to have a listen again. Its quite creative but I imagine it is very difficult indeed to keep to one raga when your companion sings another raga..

      A do indeed like Amrutha Venkatesh’s singing, she is developing her own unique style which is very good. I feel very happy to see these accomplished your singers; youth must carry own what the old revere or all is lost…
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ramesh

    Missed you for a month here. Don’t go away for so long please !

    • It was tax time and then I came over to Oz..but yes, it was a big gap – shall try to do better! And thank you, its nice to be missed🙂

  3. Srini

    Suja – There is a very lovely rendition of this song by Sri. Maharajapuram Santhanam along with his son. Please listen to it. It will give you goose bumps.

      • Oh yes, I have heard this before and love it! His voice is so ‘solid’ somehow, you can almost feel his presence next to you! Thank you for posting the link.
        Cheers. Suja

      • srini

        Suja – Can you please clarify if this is Abheri or Karnataka Devaghandari? I have seen conflicting opinions and this song listed in both ragas.

      • Oh God! You are asking me something which I myself find very confusing! Short answer : One can find reasons to call it either raga but I prefer to call it Abheri to keep things simple. Sanjay Subramaniam thinks that Mysore Vasudevachar named it as Karnataka Devagandhari – click here and read point 5 – so that might be the authentic answer. If you want to puzzle your head about the Abheri conundrum, click here.
        Cheers. Suja

  4. Yes there is something peaceful about Abheri. I find it majestic: powerful but calm and controlled.
    I certainly enjoyed Amrutha Venkatesh’s performance, and I’d love to try and listen to the Pattamal-Jeyaraman piece as well (couldn’t on my mobile).
    I associate Abheri with Karnataka Devagandhari (I understand there’s a lot of issues around it, but one of my favourite songs is Panchashath peeta roobini and I learnt it as being in KD). One of the things I love is the name of the raga itself, so your post reminded me that I used to say if I had a pet lioness I would call her Devagandhari.

    • ‘Majestic but calm and controlled’ is a great description of Abheri – you have found exactly the right words! As to KD, Devagandharam, Devagandhari, Abheri and even Bhimpalas, I leave it to the experts🙂 A pet lioness named Devagandhari?🙂 What a nice alternate-reality thought! You made me smile🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  5. For a long time I have been conscious that Carnatic Sangeet has not found much or no space at all at Tansen-ique.( https://www.facebook.com/groups/Tansenique/
    Need I say that this surely would be travesty of Indian music considering we keep trying to emphasise the the diversity and plurality of our cultures and that of the world.Thayagraja,Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri the Triumvirate have given to the world a cherished musical tradition, a foil to the Hindustani music.In all different genres Indian or global there is complementarity while being separate, commonality despite the uniqueness.If nothing at all it is eclectic sound in which all live and let live in a manner of speaking.
    The void needed to be filled or the first ragas of a different kind needed to be rendered and heard within our group.Talked about.This ambling and innocent piece of a personal journey seems to amplify the simple and shares the beauty, rhythm and melody of a Bhajanam that celebrates the Purushottam all founded upon a strong voice.I would say a small step then towards the union of the yin and yang of Indian Classical music.
    What would also intrigue readers is the rather cryptic and honest admissions of the author while talking of astrology.She steers clear of superstition and yet courageously leaves us guessing on some of the truths with many unanswered questions.To each his own, perhaps !? Why all this writing, inadvertently, is in a strange way very relevant and contemporary is also because all the talk of Religion, Yoga and the Classical having got mired in the unseemly debates of flag and country.The universalism in the particular needs to be rediscovered with faith and science.Pride lies somewhere in the intersections, only thereafter.Music is secular and needs no reiteration.
    Read through this and find out newer joys in the ancient,traditional and pure.

    • Thank you for your comment and for posting a link to your facebook group. Indeed it is a pity that there is this great ‘divide’ between the North and South of India in music. It is difficult to understand, especially when the roots of both Hindustani and Carnatic Music are exactly the same. Purandaradasa, who is called the ‘Pitamaha’ or the Father of Carnatic Music is said to have been the guru of Swami Haridas, who in turn was the guru of Tansen. I myself listen to both with pleasure…but then I am a Tamil who grew up in Delhi, married a Bengali and have lived overseas most of my adult life, so my tastes tend to be diverse!
      My blog is about enjoying music and the associations it triggers. These myriad associations make music appreciation into a very personalised activity. The shehnai triggers thoughts of weddings, the ektara reminds me of wandering Saints, the flute brings to mind of Lord Krishna, Raga Kurinji reminds me of my mother when she did Aarati, Raga Revati reminds me of Lord Shiva because of a song I like, Raga Mishra Shivaranjani reminds me of Rajesh Khanna because of the song in Mehbooba! As is obvious, some associations are personal, others have a greater commonality. My idea is merely to share these associations with the music so that the readers too can examine their own experiences and truths. And absolutely yes, ‘To each his own‘ is my mantra!
      cheers. Suja

      • I shall take the liberty to paste this very detailed description of the sense of the general joy and the personal at Tansen-ique without your permission. Your erudition and musical skills are very aptly summed up in the Title ‘Music to my ears’.That you travel, shoot and do much more is also a background score that does not distract but makes one curiouser and appreciative .I am sure that your blog shall make our untrained ears that much sharper to seek what as yet we do not know.Thanks.Always.Sunil

      • vijayaa108

        Suja- I am in absolute agreement with you about this tragic divide we have created in our Divine music.
        No one refers to Western classical music as Russian,American or English music!Everything is bracketed as Western classical music.
        I am half a South Indian who grew up in the north but was re-introduced to Carnatic music through my wonderful husband who was a great music aficionado of both ‘fleuves’ of our music.
        Music flows in my blood as from both sides there is music in our genes.
        I love both as they transport me beyond ‘consciousness’ so to say!
        We need our youth to be exposed to both genres of music to see the unity and magic when we shall unitedly call it BHARATEEYA Sangeetham – not Hindustani or Carnatic music.
        Sri SriAdiSankara propounded the greatest Truth of Advaita – non-duality philosophy to the world and yet paradoxically we bicker over stuff that is baseless.

      • India is a country of divides, won’t you say? I am a Tamil brought up in Bengal and Delhi..I was always a Madrasi, some ‘alien’ in Delhii even though my Hindi is better than the natives! I married a Bengali 33 years ago and speak Bengali like a native but even now when I am introduced by one Bengali to another, the second statement after my name is ‘jAno tO, ini bAngAli noy’..do you know, she is not a Bengali! That is perhaps the nature of the human beast! I don’t worry about the musical divide, but instead count myself as fortunate that both genres of Classical Music of India simply thrill me!
        Cheers. Suja

  6. ramachandran

    Majestic voice.

  7. पवनजाप्त —> pavanajApta (close to the son of vAyu, i.e., Hanuman)
    The English transliteration gives it as “pavanApta”. Pl correct.

    Also I have seen a version “ravijAti vardhanam” (you give it as ravijAti madanam). The former expression means “one who embellished/made to flourish the sun dynaty”)

    Can you comment?

    • Thank you for pointing out my typo, I have fixed it now.

      I have seen a few versions floating around the internet. In addition to what you say, there is also ‘ravijArimardanam’. I do not have any authentication resources but instead decided to stick with what MS Amma sings..to that end, I listened carefully to her and made sure that my version matches her exactly.

      Cheers, Suja

  8. vijayaa108

    Just came upon your blog article on astrology and Bhaja re Maanasa…….and was reminded at once of Pandit D.V.Paluskar singing the immortal bhajan composed by Sant Tulasidas -जब जानकीनाथ सहाय करे तब कौन बिगाड़ करे नर तेरो……

    Here is a rough translation of the lyrics ……..

    When Janaki’s Lord (=Lord Rama) helps you, who can harm you?

    The Sun, Moon, Mars, Jupiter (etc. other planets are listed) grant your boons. Rahu, Ketu, and Saturn (the baleful planets) are defeated and cannot oppress you.

    Evil Duhshaasan tried to dishonor Draupadi, by disrobing her. The merciful BHAGAVAAN helped her,

    It is difficult to translate poetic idioms………

    • What an apt connection for this blog post! Thank you Vijaya! For the readers unfamiliar with this Bhajan, here is a link to this song by the incomparable D.V.Paluskar :

      Cheers. Suja

      • vijayaa108

        Dear Suja,
        Thanks for the bhajan link.
        You are very computer savvy.
        I recall fondly how long years ago my dear father explained this Bhajan to me when we first played this 78rpm HMV record at home.
        Though I speak Tamizh I cannot read or write.
        My mother was adept in Marathi,Bangla,Hindi,Tamizh and Malayalam.
        Growing up among a population of great many Bangalis I can speak,read and write Bangla reasonably well a language which I love.Marathi,Hindi too.
        Rabindro gaan always pulls at my soul-strings and brings back memories of a dear friend from a modest middle-class,refined family.
        What riches we have-Tamizh,Telugu,Kannada,Bangla,Hindi,Marathi abhang,Natyasangeet everything flowing like the mighty Ganga from abode of Siva!
        Treasures strewn everywhere- only needing our senses and ATMAN to be awakened to perceive and Just Be!
        This is what is meant by Bharateeya Kalaachaaram*( *culture ). We need to be connected through Samskritham the Mother of all our languages to realize the ONENESS that is at the very root of our Being!
        The barriers shall break down and then it will be just be OM Tat Sat!
        Aham Asmi!

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