Adum Deivam

Urdhva TandavaMaha Shivaratri is almost upon us and so, of course, my mind is on the Dancing Lord, our ADum deivam. So here I am, back to this blog to share a nice Tamil lore with you. And of course, a song too!

There are many versions of the story I am sharing, I just picked one of them. I also tried to find references to see where the story comes from, but I couldn’t find anything definitive. So just take it as a lore…

 Goddess Kali is on a war path. Created to destroy demons, she is a destructive force par none. But even after she vanquishes the demons, she continues to ravage all in her path. The Gods, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, approach Lord Shiva to calm his consort. Lord Shiva blocks the Goddess and challenges her to a dance contest. In some versions of the story, Lord Vishnu is called upon to act as the judge. The Goddess turns all her energies to the dance. They are evenly matched. She can match his every movement, he can match her every pose. They dance thus for eons. The universe trembles with the force of their stamping feet and their passionate movements. Some say that it is Lord Vishnu who makes a sign to Lord Shiva on how to win. Lord Shiva pretends that his earrings have dropped to the ground. Picking his earring with his feet, he raises it to his ear. This pose is called Urdhva tAnDava. To protect her feminine modesty, the Goddess smilingly concedes defeat. Her ferocity is gone and she is once more the peaceful and compassionate Goddess. Shiva is given the title of Lord of Dance or Nataraja. This is supposed to have happened in the forests of Tillai. Lord Nataraja rests in Tillai as does the dance ‘judge’ Lord Vishnu as Govindarajan. The Goddess retreats to Tiruvalankadu which is also associated with the same lore.

How wonderful are our stories, aren’t they! I can almost see it before me – Shakti, she who is power, unleashed upon the it a nuclear holocaust? Tsunamis, volcanoes or earthquakes? The start of ice age or the end of one? She is destruction incarnate. It is Shiva, our dancing Lord, the other half of her, who must dance with her and drain her fury so that she becomes once more the loving Mother Goddess that she is. It is interesting that it is He we call the Destroyer! What does he destroy then? He is destroyer of the darkness within us, the darkness which lashes out like Kali in her rage. May he always dance the Tandava within our hearts to destroy the tsunamis and earthquakes which we create to destroy ourselves.

This wonderful lore is mentioned in my song choice of today. ADum deivam is written by Papanasam Sivan in raga Kambhoji. There is something about Kambhoji – the more I live, the more I listen, the more my soul sways to the mood of this raga. Listen below to Sanjay Subrahmanyan prove why he richly deserves the title of Sangita Kalanidhi. I have a really soft spot for S.Varadajan on the violin.

Raga Alapanai (exploration of the raga without words)

Kriti (song)

You can download another beautiful version by Sanjay Subrahmanyan here. You will need a free membership to Sangeethapriya.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Papansam Sivan
Raga : Kambhoji
Language : Tamil

ஆடும் தெய்வம் நீ அருள்வாய் இடது பாதம் தூக்கி (ஆடும்)

நாடும் அடியர் பிறவித் துயரற வீடும் தரும் கருணை நிதியே  நடம் (ஆடும்)

சுபம் சேர் காளியுடன் ஆடிப் படு தோல்வி அஞ்சி திருச் செவியில் அணிந்த-மணித்
தோடு விழுந்ததாக மாயம் காட்டியும் தொழும் பதம் உயரத் தூக்கியும் – விரி
பிரபஞ்சம் முழுதும் ஆட்டும்  நின் திருப் பதம்  தஞ்சம்  என உன்னை அடைந்தேன்
பரிந்தென் திண்டாட்டம் கண்டு பரிசு தரும் துரையே சபை நடுவில் தத்திமி என்று (ஆடும்)


ADum deivam nI aRulvAy iDadu pAdam tUkki

nADum aDiyar  piravit tuyaraRa vIDum tarum  karuNai nidiyE -naTam

shubham sEr kALiyuDan ADi paDu tOlvi anji tiruch cheviyil aNinda -maNit
tODu vizhundadAga mAyam kATTiyum tozhum padam uyarat tUkkiyum-viri
prapancham muzhudum ATTum nin tirup padam tanjam ena unnai aDaindEn
parinden tinDATTam kanDu parisu tarum duraiyE sabai naDuvil taddimi enDRu


O Lord (deivam) who dances (ADum) with your left (iDadu) foot (pAdam) raised (tUkki), bless me (ArulvAy)!

O Compassionate one (karuNai nidi (nidi=character, attribute)) who removes/expunges (aRa) the sorrow (tuyar) of birth (piravi) and provides (tarum) shelter (vIDum) for the devotees (aDiyar) who seek you (nADum), who dances (ADum – from pallavi) the dance (naTam)….

While dancing (ADi) with Kali, who is associated (sEr) with auspiciousness (shubham), fearing (anji) total defeat (paDu tOlvi), you created an illusion (mAyam kATTiyum) that (Aga) the gem-studded (maNi) earring (tODu) which you wore (aNinda) on your sacred (tiru) ear (cheviyil) fell (vizhundadu) and you raised (tUkki) your venerated (tozhum) foot (padam) high (uyara). Knowing (implied by ena=as) that your (nin) sacred (tiru) feet (padam) makes the expanse of (viri) the universe (prapancham) move/dance (ATTum) , I sought refuge (tanjam aDaindEn) in you (unnai). O Lord (durai) who, on seeing my (en) misery/struggles (tinDATTam), shows mercy (parindu) and bestows (tarum) the gift (parisu) of seeing (?implied? not sure) you dance (implied by taddimi enDRu=to the rhythm of ‘ta ti mi’) in the middle (naDuvil) of the assembly room (sabai).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan

21 responses to “Adum Deivam

  1. vijayaa108

    O Suja- always such a joy to read and listen to your choice of Kambhoji Ragam.
    What a wonderful nation we are born into and what treasures we possess in the form of our music and our Sahithyam and Ithihaasam!
    Ours is Punyabhoomi Bharatavarsham!
    Rombhave nandri !

    • Thank you for reading, I am happy you enjoyed the lore and the music 🙂 You are right, the richness of our heritage is an endless ocean! I never tire of it – not the music, not the stories, not the philosophy..everything resonates with me!
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Sundar Puttanna

    Dear Suja, I can’t thank you enough. Although I am not a Tamilian I love Tamil literature and Carnatic music. I often read your wonderful writings on this blog. How impressive! Once read, and heard the song the feeling is somewhat divine. It is our music that enthrals and mesmerise. I specially enjoyed Aadum Deivam and the related story on this occasion of mahasivaratri. Blessed I am, love your log so much. Many thanks again, Sundar

    • Dear Sundar, Thank you for such a warm and appreciative comment! I am so glad you enjoyed my post! I appreciate songs so much better when I have a sense of the meaning and some association, be it a story, a memory or something else. I hope you too find that you can never again listen to Adum Deivam without seeing Shiva and Kali dance the Tandava in your mind’s eye…likewise, never see our Nataraja without the sounds of Kambhoji making you sway in ecstasy!
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Ramesh

    Welcome back ! Enjoyed your interpretation of the folklore even more than the story itself !

    Yes Sanjay is a superb artiste and richly deserving of the Sangeeta Kalanidhi title. His voice isn’t great, but I admire the way he constructs a kutcheri. He is also very professional – starts concerts on time, seems to get along brilliantly with his fellow artistes, attempts to give the audience the best musical experience he can give. This cannot be said for a good many stalwarts.

    • Thank you Ramesh 🙂 Its you say his voice does fail him at times but he is beyond admirable in so many ways! I am a fan..
      Cheers. Suja

  4. Went to a concert by Trichu Brothers today (they really have become an outstanding duo). The main was Kambhoji and I was half expecting Adum Deivam !! Instead they did a RTP (Yuk !) but the pallavi line was Thillai Esanai Kana Enna , so that was close enough .

    • I too listened to a number of concerts by the Trichur Brothers on YouTube these past so many months. Like their voices very much. Some of their manodharma music touch the edge of ‘modern’ for me 🙂 I’m traditional I know! But still I do enjoy them. I don’t feature RTPs as my blog is very lyrics orientated but I just love RTPS!! You just have to listen to more of them, I can’t believe you say ‘yuk’ for RTPS!! And didn’t you say you don’t like neraval either? My favourite part of a concert !!! 🙂 I hope you enjoyed the kambhoji nonetheless!

  5. Suja, Om Namashivaya! Thanks a million for sharing such a divine composition. Feeling blessed. __mouli

  6. srini

    Suja – Greetings !! How apt that you present a song in Khamboji. I was just lisenting to MS Amma’s O Rangasayee in Khamboji. This is one raga that I never get tired of listening to. And yes, Sanjay is very deserving of the award and I am becoming a big fan of his these days.

    A question for you, though not appropriate here. Are Bindumalini and Darbari kanada used interchangably like Sudda Hindolam and Varamu? Please enlighten.

    • Oh God, a technical question! I dread these as I am just a simple rasika like you and have no qualification whatsoever to write on technical matters! But from what little I know, no, Bindumalini and Darbari Kanada do not refer to the same raga.

      Bindumalini Arohanam : S G3 R1 G3 M1 P N2 S
      Bindumalini Avarahonam : S N2 S D2 P G3 M1 P G3 R1 S

      Darbari Kanada Arohanam : N2 S R2 G2 R2 S M1 P D1 N2 S
      Darbari Kanada Avarohanam : S D1 N2 P M1 P G2 M1 R2 S

      I wonder why you find them similar; as you can see, the basic notes are very different. Bindumalini is a janya of Chakravaham (it used to be considered a janya of Suryakantam once upon a time but got reassigned) while Darbari Kanada is a janya of Natabhairavi.

      O Rangasayee is an excellent composition and I too have my favourite renditions which I listen to often – and like you, I just don’t tire of this raga at all!

      Cheers. Suja

      • srini

        My confusion arose from the fact that a song (Govardhana Giri dhari) that Maharajapuram sang is listed as Bindhumalini and the exact same song is referred to as Dharbari Kanada by some other musicians. I, however, could not find any similarities to other Dharbari kanada compositions. Hence the question.

      • Srini, it often happens that Bhajans, poetry etc are sung in different ragas by different singers. Govardhana Giridhari is normally song in Darbari Kanada. I trolled the internet to see if I could find Govardhana Giridhari sung in Bindumalini by anybody but I couldn’t find a version to listen. However, there was a reference to it being sung in Bindumalini in this post : so perhaps you have listened to the same lyrics set to two different tunes. It is not as unusual as you would think!

  7. Ravi

    Terrific, Suja! Thanks. I grew up in a village where there was a Shiva temple behind our house and Durga temple on the right. It’s been about 4 decades since I left that quaint village as a teenager, but this brings back memories of Siva Ratri and all that.

    My brother sent me this rendition of ShivapanchAkShara stotra by Adi SankarAchArya for Shiva Ratri by a little girl who is not yet 10:

    As the old joke goes, I have socks older than her, but her devotional rendition is no joke. It is terrific in my opinion. I hope you enjoy it.

    Stay well,

    • Your village sounds wonderful Ravi! Have you been back in your adult years? Has it changed a lot? I grew up in big cities which have changed to be quite unrecognisable. I do look back with nostalgia at the days past….

      What a talented young girl! She is absolutely terrific! I think I saw something else on youtube by this child a few months back..with her dad I think..a very charming voice; she has voice control far beyond her years..
      take care, Suja

      • Ravi

        I’m glad you enjoyed the little girl’s rendition, Suja. My daughter used to take Carnatic music lessons at that age and so it brought back memories.

        Yes, I’ve been back to the village that was my home, albeit less frequently than I’d have liked, the last time being to perform last rites for my dear mother who passed away in 2014.

        Except for the increase in traffic and the preponderance of cell phones, the village is pretty much the same. My ancestral home in Kerala sits on a small hill by a narrow winding road that snakes through rice fields. The cacophony of hooting owls and croaking frogs can still be heard at night, as it was when I was growing up. Coconut, mango, papaya and banana trees as well assorted vegetable and fruit plants are still abound in the house compound. The two temples I mentioned still exist as does another Bhagavati temple which still plays, as in my younger days, M.S. Subhalakshmi’s Suprabathams, etc., early in the morning. The Bhagavati temple still holds a festival in March, with elephants and fire works and all that. Typical village in Palakkad district!

        My sister is renovating the house, and she said, in some respects, the place is somewhat wilder, in that peacocks have now been known to make appearances on our compound, something that was not the case when I was young.

        From that quaint village, which I left when I was 17, I landed in New York, except for a brief stop in Bombay. Quite a change. From being familiar with only buildings that were no more than two stories tall, to looking up at buildings that nearly hugged the sky. In my twenties, I even worked in the World Trade Center before my office moved to the suburbs. Interestingly, my office moved back to Manhattan in 2005 to a building adjacent to where the WTC once stood. I could see the hole in the ground where the Twin Towers once stood, which was sad, but it was sadder still to hear the names of the victims being called out on every 9/11. On the bright side, I was there when the new WTC was almost finished but changed jobs to one in the suburbs to save time on commuting.

        I am in my late 50s now, and if it gets any later, I’ll be looking at 50s in the rear view mirror! With that, I guess, comes trips down memory lanes, such as the one above. This is probably a bit (a lot?) more than what you expected (or wanted!) in my response. Sorry!

        Take care and stay well.

      • I loved reading of your experiences Ravi! You write very well with beautiful imagery..a talent which needs to be explored further maybe? Given that I am possibly very close in age to you, just running at your heels so to speak, I enjoyed your reminiscences very much!

        Your village does sound idyllic..I travelled a bit through Kerala on a holiday and found it to be truly beautiful. I am city born and bred and probably will not survive in a small village but I am still attracted to the idea of a slower lifestyle in a small community..What a change for you to go from that to New York! What an adventure you have had! My cousin’s son died in 9/11 at the WTC; we too were living in Westport, Connecticut at that time and I cannot ever forget the horror of seeing it all live in TV. Sad day.


      • Ravi

        Thank you, Suja.

        I’m sorry to hear of your cousin’s son. My nephew’s then fiancé (now wife) worked in the WTC then, but she was saved as the City stopped the subways after the first plane hit the WTC and she couldn’t get to work.

        Here’s another “life-saved” story that you may like. Chalk this one under mother’s instinct! Or we can put it under “Adum Deivam!” just so that we are not straying too far off topic!

        A colleague of mine who’s Jewish told me this story. Orthodox Jews keep strict Kosher diet, as you probably know. My colleague’s friend’s son worked in the WTC. He lived at home. He forgot to take the lunch his mother had made for him. So she tells her husband, who also worked in the City, to drop the lunch off for their son, but her husband says there is no need as it is not difficult to find Kosher food in the City. She insists that her husband take the lunch. Finally he relents and takes the lunch for his son. When the father got to the WTC, he calls his son and tells his son to come down to the lobby and pick up his lunch. The son says to leave the lunch with the guard and he’ll pick it up later. Father tells son that his mother nagged him to bring the lunch and he’s not going to leave until his son comes down to pick up his lunch. Finally his son relents and comes down. The plane hit the upper floors of the WTC where the son worked at that time but his life was saved as he was in the lobby!

  8. Finally I’ve been able to listen to these properly! I love how he plays with the rhythm in the ‘tadimi endru’ line – very apt for the story behind this song of course. And what a story; I’ve not heard it before, but I’m so taken by it – how interesting that here Shakthi is destroying and Shiva is pacifying.
    This also reminded me of Thillai Ambala Nataraja, which is a favourite of my father’s, and now I know what it refers to 🙂

    • With a name like Sakthi, this is a story which should mean a lot to you 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the story..I have a weakness for dancing Gods 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

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