Chetah Sri Balakrishnam

Krishna baby on leafI’m home! What a busy month I have had! At the start of September, my friend and I went to Moscow and St Petersburg for 9 days. Russia was so very impressive! Then there was a bit of local tourism in Switzerland before setting off for a 10 day driving tour in Italy. We’ve been to Italy many times, but we always find something new to savour and enjoy. As we drove about 2700 km, there was enough time to listen to music – but it was all Hindi film songs, Ghazals, Bhajans and Qawwalis. No Carnatic Music (CM) at all. I do enjoy all these forms but how I missed CM! You can well imagine what I have been doing since I am back to my normal routine since Wednesday…  It was only when I let the sounds of CM seep into my soul that I felt truly home.  It is indeed my ‘ishTa gAnam’ !

That was not always the case. I have often mentioned in this blog that I was brought up in a family where CM was like a playback track to life. But in my teen years, the music that I chose for myself was mostly Hindi film music. I did like CM, but it was limited to just a few artists…and I preferred instrumentals mostly. I did love Bharatanatyam and enjoyed dance music. When my father played his favourite tapes of Semmangudi and Madurai Mani Iyer on his Grundig, I would moan complainingly! What an asamanjam (ignorant idiot+++) I was! I am so ashamed of my teenage stupidity! This week, as I have been listening obsessively to Semmangudi, I look back to those days and wonder why I didn’t have the musical maturity to appreciate such an extraordinary musician… How is it that some young ones already have such a developed taste? Do the learnings from one life pass on to the next? Would I have a more discerning taste in my next life?

In this week of my obsession with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, I have chosen to feature a song which he sang very often and with great beauty. This wonderful composition by Muthuswami Dikshithar extols the qualities of Balakrishna in the charming raga Dwijavanti. The composer says that ‘His lotus like feet bestow all dreamed about objects of desire’. When I listen to this song, I like to think of what dreams I would like to lay on His feet…One that I would like Him to consider is my wish to be born as a Carnatic Musician in my next life. I am still working out the details of the dream, the voice of Bombay Jayashri if I am born a woman or TMK if I am a man, the amazing sweetness and grace of Lalgudi’s creative mind, the bhakti bhava of MS, the flamboyant flair of GNB’s renditions……all this would be nice, but it is the lighting fast, brilliant musical mind of Semmangudi which would be the essential ingredient! Listen to my selection below and see how amazing his kalpana swarams are..

Alternate Link : Click here and download track 8 (free membership to Sangeethapriya required)

If you like this kriti, then you are in luck as there are many good renditions of this song by very many artists. A couple that  I have enjoyed this week are :

Track 3 in this concert by K.V.Narayanaswamy (free membership to Sangeethapriya required). The leisurely pace suits this song very well.

The first song in this concert by T.M.Krishna. The video is not good but don’t be put off; the audio is fine.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Muthuswami Dikshithar
Raga : Dwijavanti
Language : Sanskrit

चेतः श्री बाल कृष्णं भज रे
चिन्तितार्थ प्रद चरणारविन्दम् मुकुन्दम्

नूतन नीरद सदृश शरीरम् नन्द किशोरम्
पीत वसन धरम् कम्बु कन्धरम् गिरि धरम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
पूतनादि  सम्हारम् पुरुषोत्तमावतारम्
शीतल  हृदय विहारम् श्री  रुक्मिणी दारम्

नवनीत गन्ध वाह वदनम् मृदु गदनम्
नळिन पत्र  नयनम्  वट पत्र शयनम्
नव  चम्पक नासिकम् अतसी  सुम भासकम्
नतेन्द्रादि  लोक पालकम् मृग मद तिलकम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
नव तुळसी वन मालम् नारदादि मुनि जालम्
कुवलयादि परिपालम्  गुरु गुह नुत गोपालम्

Transliteration :

chEtaH shrI bAla kRshNam bhaja rE
chintitArtha prada charaNAravindam mukundam

nUtana nIrada sadRsha sharIraM nanda kishOram
pIta vasana dharam kambu kandharam giri dharam
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
pUtanAdi samhAram purushOttamAvatAram
shItala hRdaya vihAram shrI rukmiNI dAram

navanIta gandha vAha vadanam mRdu gadanam
naLina patra nayanam vaTa patra shayanam
nava champaka nAsikam atasI suma bhAsakam
natEndrAdi lOka pAlakam mRga mada tilakam
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
nava tuLasI vana mAlam nAradAdi muni jAlam
kuvalayAdi paripAlam guru guha nuta gOpAlam

Translation :

O Mind (chEtah), revere (bhaja) the child Lord Krishna (shrI bAla krishNam), also called Mukunda, whose lotus like (aravindam) feet (charaNam) bestow all dreamed about (chintita) objects of desire (artha).

He is the young boy (kishOra) of Nanda, the One whose body (sharIram) looks like (sadrRsha) fresh (nUtana) rain clouds (nIrada), the One who wears (dharam) yellow (pIta) garments (vasana), the One whose neck (kandharam) is like a conch (kambhu), the One who holds up (dharam) a mountain (giri).

He is the incarnation (avatAram) of Purushottama (=the supreme being). He is the One who destroyed (samhAra) Putana etc (Adi), the One who resides in (vihAram) in calm (shItala) hearts (hRdaya), the One whose wife (dAram) is Rukmini (or does it mean He is the consort of Rukmini? Unsure).

He is the One whose breath (vAha, literally air) from the mouth (vadana) smells of (gandha) butter (navanIta), the sweet (mRdu) talking (gadanam) One. He is One whose eyes (nayanam) look like lotus-leaves (naLina patra), the One who sleeps on (shayanam) the leaf of a banyan-tree (vaTa patra). He is the One whose nose (nAsika) looks like a new (nava) Champaka flower, the One whose complexion (implied) appears like (bhAsakam) the Atasi flower (suma) (a blue flower), the One bowed to (nata) by Indra and the guardians (pAlaka) of the world (lOka), the One who wears a mark on the forehead (tilaka) with the deer-musk (mRga mada=kastUri).

He is the One who is garlanded (mAlam) with new (nava) clusters (vana) Tulasi leaves, the One who has ensnared (jAlam) sages (muni) like Narada etc (Adi), the One who is the protector (pAlakam) of the worlds (kuvalaya Adi = bhUlOka etc). He is Gopala, praised by (nuta) Guruguha (signature of the composer).

(Notation is available here :


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer

15 responses to “Chetah Sri Balakrishnam

  1. Welcome back welcome back. Such a long absence from the blogworld is not on – my mother was pestering me to mail you a complaint !!

    Beautiful raga you have featured today. Akhilandeswari is of course the more usually sung krithi I was going to protest that you hadn’t discussed the raga at all until I clicked on the link and realised that you had covered it before.

    Somehow the meaning of the song didn’t appeal to me very much. It seemed to be in bits and pieces flitting from one thought to another. And how come Dikshithar didn’t feature the raga name in the krithi – as he usually very helpfully did.

    By the way, if you were to be reborn as a Carnatic music exponent, I would wish you to be exactly what you are now – a rasika who brings out the virtues of this genre brilliantly and appeals to everybody – expert to novice.

    The Semmangudi link does not seem to work. I however found the piece on YouTube.

    • Thanks for the welcome Ramesh 🙂 Do reassure your mum that I am back in the blogging-seat !!

      I’m not sure why the meaning didn’t appeal to you much – to me it seems like myriad other Dikshithar kritis which I privately call to myself as ‘Multiple Identifiers Kritis’ – they seem to be no more than a list of ways to identify the deity being prayed to. I assume that each of these are intended to remind you of deeper meanings and stories – why did Krishna hold up the mountain, what does it mean? How did he marry Rukmini? Why does he smell of butter, what is its significance? Each leads to a story from His life that we are remember and savour. They also have deeper meanings…The Lord will lift mountains to protect you. He will battle for those He loves and those who love Him; He will make them his own. He adores hearts which are soft as butter; that is what he wants to ‘steal from you’. Each time I listen to a song, I try and focus on only one such invocation, absorb one such meaning.

      Good point that, about not having the Raga name in the lyrics…I missed that..

      எவ்வளவோ தவம் செய்தவர்களுக்கு தான் சங்கீத பாக்கியம் கடவுள் அருள்வார் …அந்த தகுதி இல்லை இருந்தாலும் ஒரு பேராசை…

      Oh did the link not work? It works fine here, it must one of those sites blocked in India. I have provided the Sangeethapriya link as well, I am sure that link should work? The one I selected has a slightly better recording quality and I like the kalpanaswarams better than the youtube version.

      Cheers. Suja

  2. I have a soft spot for Dwijavanti – I find it so meltingly, persuasively, beautiful. This is a lovely piece, and now you have also introduced me to TM Krishna, whose voice I’m enjoying very much!

    • Like you I too have a very soft spot for Dwijavanti..its so very alluring! And oh! have you not been listening to TMK? But he is one of the very best in today’s CM world!! I adore his music!! What a treat you have in store for you, he has a veritable buffet of extraordinarily beautiful music! On the right side of my blog site, you’ll see a list of artists I have featured. If you click on TMK, you’ll find all sorts of goodies 🙂
      Enjoy 🙂 Cheers. Suja

      • My knowledge of the Carnatic world is really quite limited, and is somewhat stuck in time to around 2004, when I was still learning music in Malaysia and exposed to other teachers and rasikas and performances. I also went through that silly phase of not being interested in ‘serious’ Carnatic music, and now that I’m older and a tiny bit wiser I feel I should really go home and trawl through all my mother’s old cassettes! Blogs like yours really help bring me back in touch with this world, so I’m very grateful! 🙂

      • My pleasure 🙂 We all come to it in our own time, in our own way…and as I said, it is a treasure trove of wonderful music and you’ll have great enjoyment discovering it little by little. Keep coming back, I write this blog to share my pleasure in this music, and imagine my delight in finding that it is actually useful!!

  3. Today Ramakrishnan Murthy sang this song in his concert
    in Brahma Gana Sabha. Listening to Dwajavanthi is itself a
    treat and today I enjoyed this song all the more as I knew the
    meaning, thanks to this lovely post 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your comment, it makes me happy to know that my post added to your musical experience. Dwijavanti is such a lovely raga isn’t it! Enjoy the concerts, cheers, Suja

  4. Sumati

    Your post here is a mirror image of my thoughts. My prayers to the Lord are the very same. In my next birth let me be a Carnatic music vocalist and sing In praise of the almighty all the time.

    God bless

    • Hi Sumati, We untrained but passionate rasikas have but one recourse..pray for the blessing of voice, knowledge, maturity and a great guru for the next birth 🙂 May God lend an ear to our prayers!
      Cheers. Suja

    • Sumati, how nice that we have the same prayers 🙂 Who knows, maybe we’ll meet up in the pattu class in a future birth 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  5. The best Semmangudi rendering of Chetah sri in my opinion is from a 1965 concert recording(You can find it archived on Sangeethapriya). He sings it a tad slower than in the version you have posted and sings unbelievable and expansive kalpana swaras.

  6. Raghunath

    You are doing such a wonderful service.

    I am learning Carnatic Music (just 65 years young!).

    I just completed learning this wonderful kriti and I chanced upon your blog which is like ice on the cake.

    Two kritis in the same raga from the same composer ( akhilandeshwri) but see the depth and beauty of the composition….

    Dikshitar’s kritis are so distinctly different.

    Your blog has helped me understand this even better. My pranama to you.

    • He Raghunath, welcome to my blog. First, my admiration for learning CM at 65! I am just a couple of years behind you, and I also find learning new skills to be a joyful experience.

      True, all the composers bring something special to their kritis, don’t they? I love the intellectual depth of Dikshithar’s kritis, the bhakti bhava of Tyagaraja kritis, the imagery in Oothukadu’s kritis, the cadence in Shyama Shastri’s work, the lyricism in Gopalakrishna’s Bharati’s composition, the way I can easily identify with Papanasam Sivan’s work – each unique in their own way, each so special. I hope you keep enjoying your journey!
      Cheers. Suja

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