Is 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)
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)]