Ninne Bhajana Seyu

Ananta shayanaAre you a one-God man/woman? Do you restrict yourself to praying to your One and no other?

I pray on an everyday basis to a number of Hindu deities. I do have my own One, the One who always listens with a sympathetic ear to whatever  I happen to go on about. I also have a Second-to-the-One for days when I am not on speaking terms with my One. What, you don’t have ‘I’m-SO-annoyed-with-you’ moments with your One? You must be much better tempered than I am!! Of course I also pray to different deities for their expertise in specific matters. I am most certainly not a one-God woman!

My meanderings arise from something I heard recently. I had mentioned a few weeks earlier that I have taken to listening to upanyasams (lectures on spiritual matters), mainly by Velukkudi Krishnan, Dushyant Sridhar and Visaka Hari. Velukkudi Krishnan is especially erudite; his depth of knowledge is quite astounding! Is it possible to learn this much in a lifetime? I am all admiration! Much as I admire his knowledge, I confess that at times I am confounded by some of his pronouncements!! For example, he says in one of his lectures that people should sleep in what they wear ‘normally’ and not change into night-clothes! Really??!! Leaving pronouncements such as this aside, there was one repeated advice which caught my attention. He says that if you serve Lord Vishnu, then you should pray to none other as otherwise He would be offended! Again – Really???? Surely these kind of feelings are human, not Divine? Velukkudi Krishnan does add that it is the same for whichever religion/deity you adhere to; ‘stick to your One’ he says.

I assume that these ideas are Sri Vaishnavite ones as proposed by Ramanuja, the extraordinary theologian and philosopher (11-12 CE). In his times, the Chola kings ruled in South India. Though the kings were predominantly Shaivite, the society was a secular one. Not only other Hindu sects but even Buddhists and Jains had many followers in those times. Under the circumstances, Ramanuja’s preaching that one must follow Lord Vishnu and none other was no doubt a way to preserve Sri Vaishnavism from all the other religious influences. Are his one-God-only ideas just part of the politics of religion?  Is this kind of thought even valid amongst today’s Hindus?  That said, I admit to total ignorance on the subject; I am merely thinking aloud…

I personally do not know even one single Hindu who prays to only one deity! When the Hindu pantheon offers a veritable smorgasbord of deities, each with their own domain expertise, is it not human nature to pray to as many of them as you can relate to? Leave alone Hindus, even in a strictly monotheistic religion like Christianity, prayers are offered to not just their God, but also to His messenger Jesus Christ and to his mother Mary as well as any number of Saints. Many of the Saints have their own speciality ‘domains’ too! I have visited many Catholic places of worship; there are as many candles in front of the Saints as there are in front of Jesus! Listening often to Sufi music, I see that even Muslims sing in praise of and in prayer to their many Saints. Many of us, it seems, spread our prayers wide!

Coming to Carnatic Music, our great composers wrote in praise of many different deities though they were known for their devotion to particular ones. For example, Tyagaraja was a devotee of Lord Rama, Dikshithar was a worshipper of Goddess Shakti, and Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer was entranced by the young Lord Krishna.  Yet in my song choice of today, Tyagaraja says ‘I am the one who chants only your name, I shall not beseech others!’. Set to Raga Natta, it is a lovely composition which appeals to me greatly. I always enjoy Natta with its vigorous and rousing feel. But today the first rendition I have chosen for you has a more contemplative mood. M.D. Ramanathan has a unique sound, one I enjoy immensely, especially in songs such as this. For your ease of listening, I have chosen the rendition loaded in YouTube. The sound quality is poor, but the music is anything but. Listen to my ‘Alternative’ for slightly better sound and a longer rendition.

Alternative : Click here and play song 2. Free membership needed to Sangeethapriya.

The second rendition I would like you to listen to is by Jayanthi Kumaresh on the Veena. I find that the  resonance of the instrument is particularly suited for Natta, don’t you? This talented artist has gifted us with a hypnotic rendition. Don’t miss this!

Alternate link : Click here and play song 1. You need free membership to Sangeethapriya.

And for a third, listen to this energetic and vibrant performance by Sikkil Gurucharan here.  I really enjoyed the kalpana swarams. Again, the recording quality is not the best.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Natta
Language : Telugu

Please note that I do not speak Telugu; the lyrics and translations are credit to various online resources.

निन्ने भजन सेयु वाडनु

पन्नग शायि परुल वेड लेनु

स्नानादि जप तप योग ध्यान
समाधि सुख प्रद
सीता नाथ सकल लोक पालक
त्यागराज सन्नुत


ninnE bhajana sEyu vADanu

pannaga shAyi parula vEDa lEnu

snAnaAdi japa tapa yOga dhyAna
samAdhi sukha prada
sItA nAtha sakala lOka pAlaka
tyAgarAja sannuta


I am a worshipper (bhajana sEyu vADanu) only of you (ninnE).

O One recumbent (shAyi) on a snake (pannaga)! I shall not (lEnu) plead (vEDa) to anyone else (paralu).

You are the provider (prada) of happiness and well-being (sukha) which come from (implied) bathing in holy waters (snAna), repeated prayers (japa), penance (tapa), Yoga, meditation (dhyAna), deep concentration leading to identification with the object of meditation (samAdhi) etc (Adi). O Consort (nAtha) of Sita! O Guardian (pAlaka) of the entire (sakala) world (lOka)! O One praised (sannuta) by Tyagaraja!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Jayanthi Kumaresh, M.D.Ramanathan, Tyagaraja

25 responses to “Ninne Bhajana Seyu

  1. vijayaa108

    Very beautifully expressed.
    I for one pray and do so to the great POWER that exists in all our Gods, Goddesses,Great Mahapurushas and Saint composers who came as AVATARAS to help humanity cross this SAMSAARA SAAGARAM.
    OUR SANATANA DHARMA is so all-embracing and inclusive ‘sans dogma’ that we are able to discuss, critique and follow that which suits us individually. No two Sanatanis (albeit husband and wife) need follow the same beliefs and rituals!
    Grateful thanks, Suja.

    • I appreciate your comment Vijaya, thank you for reading and sharing your view point! We are all in the one path of Sanatana Dharma, yet we are each in our own individual pathways..rightly said!
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Suja, you say “even in a strictly monotheistic religion like Christianity, prayers are offered to not just their God, but also to His messenger Jesus Christ and to his mother Mary as well as any number of Saints”, which is true, ie prayer is indeed not restricted to God only, but where I must correct you (if you don’t mind) is your formulation of ” not just their God, but also to His messenger Jesus Christ”: in Christianity, Jesus-Christ is God himself made man. He is the Son, and teaches us about his Father. If you make a difference between God and “his messenger Jesus”, it is no longer monotheism!
    Well, there you are, theology…

    • Thank you for your clarification Yves! So I should think of Jesus as an incarnation of God rather than his messiah? Oh! Ok! But you know, as a Hindu, I can easily fit plurality into monotheism 🙂 As you say, theology….
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Nattai and MDR go well together – the long notes and the slow gait…

    I have heard the song impressively sung by Balamurali Krishna (AIR recording). The first time I hear d the song was when it was rendered by Nookala Chinna Sathtanarayan (live concert) in the 1960s and it has remained with me ever since.

    • Thank you for your comment. I too felt exactly the same, that Nattai and MDR are a great combination! I listened to 25-30 renditions in the last few days but this made the maximum impact. Wow! You are lucky to have heard this rendered by a great such as Nookala Chinna Sathyanarayana, that too as your first listen of the song! I imagine his voice sounded even more amazing in his thirties…
      cheers. Suja

      • Nookala is a family friend and my elder sister’s guru in 1960s at the govt music school (now college) at Marredpally, Secunderabad. It was our privilege to have known the entire family and they are in our ‘must invite’ list for any occasion or celebration at our homes. He did not receive the kind of recognition he richly deserved for his knowledge and talent but then the concert world has its own politics!

      • What a privilege! You must have had the opportunity to listen to so much divine music in informal settings!! Sometimes fate hands out enormous gifts, doesn’t it….You are right, many many wonderful artists were never given the recognition they deserved..sad..

  4. typo.. it should be Sathyanarayana

  5. Padma

    Super …the song as well as the introduction you give to each song … I just love both .. God bless

  6. La ilaha illallah ….. I would guess that most of humanity believes in just One God as the major religions are all monotheistic. Yes, saints are also revered, but I would submit that true worship is only to one God. Hinduism is of course different and there is the rare Hindu who does not worship more than one God.

    Your featuring Jayanthi triggered the thought of the decline of Veena in Carnatic music. Hardly anybody plays the Veena these days. Barring Jayanthi, I haven’t been to a Veena concert in the last 5 years and even she these days prefers fusion music – this year, she went absent even in the sole scheduled concert on the Bangalore season. Wonder why the Veena is declining while the violin, for example, is positively teeming with brilliant performers. Goddess Saraswati must be shedding a tear !

    • You are right Ramesh, Veena players may well become an extinct species in the future…sad.. I have read somewhere that Veena is in fact the instrument best suited for Carnatic Music and that it used to be the accompanying instrument before the violin was brought into the job. The violin may be teeming because there are more opportunities in the concert platform as it is the preferred accompanying instrument. Maybe soloists should experiment again with Veena as a pakka vadyam?
      Cheers. Suja

  7. Jay

    This raga came to the fore at the right time. I was recently reviewing this raga at your site to see the raga lakshana as my teacher has started me on Nata (mahaganapathim). There are multiple versions of the avarohana, one where ga is vakra another with ga and dha varja (absent) and one with both ga and dha vakra. I couldn’t help observing, the cluster of consecutive svaras in the lower and upper tetrachord – this renders a powerful mode.

    I am so glad that you featured Jayathi Kumaresh, a very talented woman. If you have a chance please listen to Jayalakshmi Sekhar too. The tonal quality of the Veena is amazing. Very talented players can do so much with string movement at any given fret. A few years back when I purchased the Veena in India, my American friend with me observed the space between the string and the fret and the shape of the platform where the frets are mounted – between each fret, the fretboard is concave . Compare that with a acoustic guitar. These arrangement are innovative and provides so much latitude to the Veena player. Veena was the player that singer used to perfect their svara sthanas. For a standard kriti/song, if you open a book on notations and try to play it verbatim on Veena, it is not the same. Veena shows you the path, the alankara and what note to be played at what fret (remember you can play multiple notes at one location, based upon stretch), and much more. It is much more detailed and helps the student gain appreciation of the sancharas. Veena used to have a somewhat similar standing that a harmonium has in Hindusthani music. There are fewer Veena players no doubt, but I think it is too early to make any ominous predictions. I doubt Veena and Sitar will never lose its prominence in Indian Classical music. The problem with Veena is transporting. Though there are newer Veena’s that are modular and easy to carry. My Veena teacher has several students. Another fact: the modern Veena is referred to as Saraswati Veena – the name probably stuck following Ravi Varma’s paintings. The modern Veena did not have such name as recently as 200 years back!

    As far as gods/goddesses, these are mental images, mere aids to focus. The prehistoric man (The Source by Michener) worshiped Stones as the Divine. The sages argue that the realized being has to graduate beyond these to the nameless, formless. The masses like us are stuck in mental images that follow anthropomorphic representations of that Divine. I remember a quote by a wise man: “that which strengthens you can also strangle you”. You see that in the modern world. Man has become fixated on symbolism.

    • Hi Jay, Good to see your comments after a long time! So you are learning to play the Veena!

      Actually I have made exactly similar observations about the Veena that you have made here. My son, a guitarist since very young, decided he wanted to learn to play the Veena. So I arranged for his (then future) Veena teacher to choose one when he was in India, had the shop ship it to Australia, went through customs and lots of hassles because there are lots of controls on bring wooden items into Australia..When it did finally arrive, my son and I looked with great curiosity at the structure, the strings, the frets is such a beautiful instrument!

      I must demur at your dismissal of symbolism as something which needs to be rejected to become a ‘realised being’. I’ve thought about this a feels just like those musicians who want to play only ragas and reject the importance of kritis! When I listen to Abheri alapana I love it, but my mind keeps going to Nagumomu.. When I listen to Nagumomu, I love it, but my mind keeps losing itself in why should we think of one way as being more important than the other? I can see that if we say Abheri is only Nagumomu, thats a problem as Abheri is much more than that but isn’t all the spirit of Abheri encompassed in Nagumomu? do you not recognize Abheri by Nagumomu? Is not an appreciation of Nagumomu, an appreciation of Abheri? I personally enjoy the symbolisms of Gods and Goddesses, I see power and beauty in it..and if that makes me unwise, so be it!
      Cheers. Suja

  8. I too pray to many Hindu deities but have my favourites, and I certainly agree that some of these pronouncements on ‘offending’ deities are very much human. There is a degree of respect to be shown, especially in places of worship, but no god of mine is so petty as to be offended if I offer my prayers to other deities or even occasionally to deities of other religions.
    I like your description of Nattai as vigorous and rousing. Is it a morning raga? It has that feel to me, of rising and calling out to others. M.D. Ramanathan’s deep voice really suits it. And I was delighted to see Jayanthi Kumaresh featured, being a veena player myself (although very poor at practising nowadays!)
    When I was learning veena in Kuala Lumpur there was a fairly big group of veena students, and I miss performing in a big group during Navarathri and in orchestras. It was so nice having 7 or 8 of us bringing out the unique veena resonance together. Volume was always a problem though, and the poor AV people always had a challenge in getting the veenas miked and balanced properly, especially in orchestra ensembles. But technology is helping, and the little contact mikes that sit directly on the base work very well, and are hopefully getting cheaper these days. Size and transportation is of course an issue, but where there’s a will (and very supportive parents) there’s a way.
    My teacher now lives in New Zealand, where she and her husband lead a successful Carnatic music group. She has a good group of veena students there, while my old veena classmate now teaches in Kuala Lumpur. So although we may not be as trendy as other instruments, from my perspective it still seems to be popular. But it certainly would be nice to see singers seek out veena as pakkavathiam – it’s not something I’ve heard before, but I think it would be great!

  9. I am not sure whether it would be appropriate to draw your attention to the ravages caused in the name of religion in recent times.Do you see the bloodshed in any measure has something to do with which Gods or God to worship? Would it not be better if religion and worship remained private and very intimate ? When institutionalised hell breaks loose.What say? I agree music seems to be the first casualty in my question… Not to forget your passion and devotion to both worship and music endures in your writing for which I remain eyes closed in adulation.

    • vijayaa108

      I just read your comment and beg to differ on this fundamentally flawed premise of equating and compartmentalising Hinduism under the heading of religion.
      What has happened throughout the world in the name of religion can never be attributed to our Bharatavarsham.
      Religion is not to be confused with our Santana Dharma.
      No two Hindus are the same even living under the same roof!And yet we do not cause bloodshed or wars.
      It is dangerously erroneous to repeat these thoughts.
      Those following Abrahamic religions viz.Mohammedanism,Christianism and Judaism are religionists.In the name
      We have never have had Jihad and Crusades like them.
      What is happening today throughout the world is due to the clash between these dogmatic Abrahamic religions.
      Dharma is Eternal duty and is of the spirit that permeates every stratum of our lives.
      Dharma and religion are entirely different.
      We need to reflect very deeply before making such statements.Namaskaram!

      • I understand your strong adherence to Hindusim but this site is strictly non-denominational. Under no circumstances would I like to put down any religion, even by implication. Music is above all religions, and this site is primarily about music. As a carnatic music fan and as a Hindu, my blog often reflects Hinduistic reflections. However, I am devoted to Islamic music as well! And living in Europe, visiting Cathedrals is one of my favourite occupations! When we pray ‘sarve sukhino bhavantu’ we do not mean ‘those of a particular religion, caste or creed’. We mean EVERYBODY. And music is for everybody too. Please reflect on that before any further comments otherwise I may need to use my editorial rights.

    • You raise a question to which I am not in the least qualified to answer. I do have my opinion, but it is just that – an opinion. For me, Divinity is one- unblemished, faultless, pure, perfect. Religious Philosophy is the product of man, and as such limited by his intellect. Religious Philosophy examines many things but to me its most important function is to define the relationship between divinity and man, man and life, life and divinity. For me, religion is a byproduct of the philosophy; if philosophy is an idea, religion is its implementation. Religious gurus, teachers, saints, sages, writers etc interpret the religion. And finally an individual attempts to understand and follow what he understands. The problem is that each step is open to misinterpretation. Did the religious philosopher offer the right ideas to address the relationship between man and divinity? man and man? Did the religion which evolve from this philosophy have rituals which truly reflect the philosophy? Did the teachers and writers correctly interpret the ritual to understand its true meaning? Did the people who follow the ritual understand this meaning? In each step humans are involved; each step is open to errors of thinking, of action. When things go wrong, it could be not just one person who is wrong, but a series of steps from a long time which leads to what happens at any one time. A domino effect. So whom will you blame? Having said all that, let me answer your questions :

      Do you see the bloodshed in any measure has something to do with which Gods or God to worship? NO. People have committed atrocities in the name of all religions. Let us lay blame where it is due – to the bloodlust, envy, greed and the need for power – the shortcomings of man.
      Would it not be better if religion and worship remained private and very intimate ? Man is a social being and a need for society is a very primal feeling. Also, people with similar thinking gain from each other when they are together. But if people want to do it themselves, there is no harm I guess. Each to their choice.

      As to music, it is a religion in itself! A direct pathway to divinity..

      Cheers. Suja

      • vijayaa108

        My reaction was to the statement that all religions have caused bloodshed. This cannot be attributed to Hinduism which is in real essence pure spirtuality and cannot be categorised as a religion.

        At the core we all are humans following different belief systems and each person is on his own personal journey.
        Living for over two and a half decades in Europe have been hearing this very statement repeatedly (ad nauseum ) which cannot be further from the truth.

        Music is indeed divine and crosses all barriers and boundaries of class,creed,colour and nationality.I feel those reading your blog also have the same sentiments for music that you have stated.
        No words or comprehension is needed for it is referred to as NADABRAHMAM.

        हाथ कंगन को आरसी क्या
        मुल्ले को फारसी क्या?

        धन्यवाद एवम् नमस्ते

  10. jaipalsinh

    namaskaram suja ,

    nice blog(s). as i am going through one by one i am feeling like i am just enjoying nectar drop by drop.

    there is a famous line from a devotee name narsinh mehta from gujarat mentioning ” अन्ते हेम नु हेम होये” means jwellery made by gold is gold only in various form. either one say it bangles or earring or nosepin or ring. but if one sees everything just as gold then he/she is knowing the ultimate Truth.

    likewise each and every form of god is nothing but a gold, Pure Gold. according to our nature guru(in any form) give a form to worship so that we can communicate with that form properly and get the results accordingly.

    so it is A Entity who takes form according to devotee to help him/her. even if we can see god within or in everyone than we can love and worship god in millions of form

    it’s like from same ingredient we can make idli, dosa, utapam for change and enjoyment , we can love that omnipresent in such way…

    so we are not worshiping many but the only one

    isn’t it good ?!

    • Namaskaram and welcome to my blog 🙂 A Rajasthani (your names sounds so) with an interest in Carnatic music? That’s rare!

      You have given a nice analogy; I tend to think in the same way. Pity that people use the name of God for division in India, rather than the cohesion that you describe!

      Namaste. Suja

  11. R.Krishna Kumar

    Just a response as a novice. Velukkudi Krishnan’s pronounciation is innocuous. Many today, following the western tradition, wear minimum while going to sleep. It is fine for people who sleep in AC rooms and on a cot. There are many Velukkudi’s followers who may not have the luxury and sleep on the floor. With ants and other insects, it is saner to cover oneself as you do in the morning. This is not theology or religion, but a pragmatic advice.
    The Chola kingdom at Ramanuja’s time was not secular and that is why Ramanuja went to Melkotai.
    Vaishnavism has a religion and a theology. Please read Vaishnavism by S.M. Srinivasa Chari. You will be surprised to learn that Vaishnavism as well as others based on vedas are monotheistic.
    You will also find excellent explanations for Saivism.

    Ranga Ranga

    • Thank you for your comment and suggestions. Of course I am aware that Vaishnavism is monotheistic! Have I written something to question that? I must read my post again…

      My opinion on Velukkudi Krishnan’s comment stands..When people in position of spiritual leadership make even casual comments or state personal opinions, these comments take on a religious significance which they may not have. In fact, in my opinion it is unhygienic to wear your outdoor clothes to bed and bring in germs from outside! But I am no religious leader and my opinion matters little to anyone but that is not the case with Mr.Krishnan. A little care is indicated when making statements like this!
      Cheers. Suja

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