Irakkam Varamal

nataraja1Is God really compassionate? I worry about this, the way I worry about so many unsolvable problems in the world. Is the compassion we ascribe to Him/Her just wishful thinking on our part? If you are a non-believer, this question is moot. But I am a die-hard believer; I hold the kind of belief which is beyond reason, beyond logic. So this question is important to me, especially because I stumble ever so often in my life and am very much in need of both compassion and forgiveness.

The thing is, I think that the qualities ascribed to God are determined by men; there can be no real proof to their veracity. The Hindu pantheon has evolved over the thousands of years from the time of Rig Veda. Some deities have gained importance; others have lost it. Their qualities, their functions, their stories, everything has changed, developed and evolved. Even die-hard believers have to agree that it is men who have ‘designed’ the qualities of Gods. And men, being so very fallible, may have added compassion to the list of Godly qualities because it suits us just fine! As the poet says in my song choice of today ‘பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும் பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம்’ (However many sins/errors I commit, Shiva of Chidambaram protects me). Wishful thinking?

I guess I’ll not have the answer to this question until I am past the stage of needing compassion. Still, I too, like the poet of this song, make a fundamental assumption that God is compassionate.  இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் ? The poet asks, ‘what is the reason that you have no compassion towards me?’ as if His/Her compassion were a right and not a privilege. ‘I have come to you having heard and believed that you are an ocean of compassion‘ he says. I guess we believers are all in the same boat – we have heard, we have believed and we pray for compassion. And so the song feels very real, very true and close to our heart.

This beautiful song is a composition of Gopalakrishna Bharati however I understand that the madhyamakala sahityam is not written by him. Set to Raga Behag, it pulls effortlessly at my heart. My love for Behag is endless; I can listen to this raga any number of times! There are many beautiful renditions of this song. One in particular I would like to recommend is KVN’s very simple and graceful one here (you need free membership of Sangeethapriya).

But today as I was playing catch-up with the Margazhi Maha Utsavam episodes on Youtube, I came upon this very nice version by Vignesh Ishwar. In fact I enjoyed the whole concert. He starts with leisurely chera rAvadE in Ritigowla, then a Begada alapana (09:02), innum parAmukham at 16:20 (very nice neraval!),  vazhi maraittirukkudE in Todi from 26:56 which I liked particularly  (TMK’s influence is clearly audible!) and of course irakkam varAmal from 38:40. I do like Vignesh Ishwar’s rendition;  perhaps I would have preferred a tad less ornamentation. He has a gentle and emotive voice, a very nice range and skills which will see him in good stead over the years to come. I like. A young man to watch.

irakkam varAmal from 38:40.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Gopalakrishna Bharati
Raga : Behag
Language : Tamil

இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் என் சுவாமி (-க்கு)

கருணைக் கடல் என்று உன்னைக்
காதிற்/காதில்  கேட்டு நம்பி வந்தேன் (இரக்கம்)

ஆலம் அருந்தி அண்டர் உயிரை ஆதரித்த உமது கீர்த்தி
பாலகிருஷ்ணன் பாடி தினமும் பணிந்திடும் நடராஜ மூர்த்தி

பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும்*
பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம் (alt: பாலித்திடும் சிதம்பரம் என )
மொழி கற்றவர் வழி உற்றுனை   (alt: வழி பெற்றவர்)
முப்பொழுதும் மறவேனே 
(இரக்கம் )


irakkam varAmal pOnadenna kAraNam en swAmi (-kku)

karuNai kaDal enDRu unnai
kAdiR/kAdil kETTu nambi vandEn (irakkam)

Alam arundi anDar uyirai Adaritta umadu kIrtti
bAlakrishNan pADi dinamum paNindiDum naTarAja mUrti

pazhi ettanai nAn seydinum*
pAlittiDum shiva chidambaram
mozhi kaTravar vazhi uTRunai (alt: vazhi peTravar)
muppozhudum maRavEnE

Note: I listened intently to a number of renditions; most singers say ‘seydiDum’ not ‘seydinum’. However KVN sings it as ‘seydinum’ or even ‘seyyinum’.  As this makes more grammatical sense, I am sticking with this!  


What is the reason (enna kAraNam) that you don’t feel (varamal ponadu) compassion (irakkam) towards me?

Having heard (kAdir kETTu) that you are an ocean (kaDal) of compassion (karuNai), I have come (vandEn) trusting (nambi) you (unnai).

It is your (umadu) fame (kIrtti) that you saved (Adaritta, literally supported) the lives (uyirai) of the celestials (anDar) by drinking (arundi) poison (Alam). (Note: This refers to the story of the churning of the oceans). You are the embodiment (mUrti) of Nataraja that Balakrishnan (signature of the poet) worships (paNindiDum) by singing (pADi) everyday (dinamum).

However many (ettanai) sins/errors (pazhi) I (nAn) commit (seydinum), Lord Shiva of Chidambaram is the one who protects (pAlittiDum). Closely following (uTRu) the way (vazhi) of those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) (I assume this implies the language of worship?), I will not forget (maRavEnE) you (unnai ) all day (muppozhudu – literally, the three parts of the day ie. Morning, Noon, Evening). [Alternate wording : Like (implied) those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) and have found (peTravar) the way (vazhi)]


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Vignesh Ishwar

10 responses to “Irakkam Varamal

  1. A very beautiful write up linking personal context to an ageless classic composition. I happened to hear the entire concert on tv and was, like you, impressed by Vignesh. This particular song, இரக்கம் வராமல் … , is one of the numerous favourites of mine in Behag. Again, like you, I too am fascinated by Behag. கறங்கி போக வைக்கும் ராகம்.
    Having said that, I felt Vignesh sung it a tad faster than in the சௌக கால சௌக்யம் that oozes out of KVN’s masterly and patented rendering. Could not help remembering it.

    I try my best to live in the present and enjoy the current rendition. Yet sometimes I fail. Memory is such an enemy of the living moment.

    • ‘Memory is such an enemy of the living moment’ ; profound and so true! Nicely put! As you said, it is hard not to remember KVN’s renditions, that is why I gave a link in my post even though I meant to focus on just Vignesh Ishwar. Yes, I agree, a slower pacing and less ornamentation renders a more meditative, thoughtful air to Behag which I too like..
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ramesh

    Share your enthusiasm for Behag – lovely raga. Mosta janyas of Shankarabharanam are very nice; aren’t they ?I have never heard Vignesh Ishwar. Thanks for the intro – will listen to him . He never seems to have come to Bangalore though.

    Isn’t it natural for a believer to believe that God is compassionate ? After all most of us turn to God as an anchor to weather the storms of life. We look for strength and support. If there was no compassion, then that would be a very bitter pill to swallow.

    • Hmmm..Now that you mention it, I do have a liking for a number of janyas of Shankarabharanam..funnily enough, I dont enjoy Shankaraabharanam itself!

      You would think that one would assume Gods are compassionate but thats not always the case – historically Gods were often seen as being paternalistic and judgemental, not just in Hinduism but in other religions too. The most important Vedic God was Indra who was self-indulgent and scheming, not particularly compassionate. Varuna, another important Vedic God was seen more as a controller and dispenser of justice. And Rudra was rather militant and has a tempestuous nature! I’m glad that the Hindu deities evolved into more compassionate ones!
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Padma Ramani

    Irakkam varamal … one of my favourites , love listening to thE Bombay Jayashree’s version .. enjoyed Vignesh ishwars too .. soul touching lyrics . And vazhi maraikude, yet another soulful song both rendered beautifully by Vignesh . Thanks suja .

  4. Krithika

    What’s the meaning of vazhiutrunai?

    • Its there in the translation. The word is a combination of 3 words – vazhi (way) UTru (closely) and unai (you). If you see the word by word translation I have given at the bottom, all three words are there but split and placed in an appropriate way for the English translation to be meaningful.

  5. Vanaja Muthukrishnan

    அருமை.ஒவ்வொரு வரிகளும் அருமை.மெய் சிலிர்த்து போகிறது.Thanks for sharing.

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