Yaar Enna Sonnalum

Oothukkadu Kalinga Nartana KrishnaHave you ever asked yourself ‘What if I am wrong in my beliefs? What if there is no God, no karma, no rebirth, nothing but nothingness when we are done here?‘. I don’t mean like a crisis of faith, but just those fleeting thoughts which linger, unanswered and unanswerable. The truth is, of course, we are all equally in the dark, the believers as well as the non-believers. Very often it is the non-believer’s arguments which seem more rational, more scientific. And even worse, the stories in the newspapers are of atrocities committed by believers, whatever genre their belief may be, rather than the non-believers. In this climate, it is hard not to eye the whole ‘belief’ thing with a certain wariness.

This struggle with belief is not new to Hinduism.  You may already know of the Nasadiya Sukta नासदीय सूक्त (Hymn of Creation) of the Rigveda. The last two couplets are of particular interest, which I quote below.

को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |
अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥
इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |
यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥

But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know.

Rig Veda 10:129, Translation by A.L Basham (source)

It is so gloriously open-ended, isn’t it! These verses are about creation but there is something more fundamental, as if even the existence of the Gods and their power over creation is questioned. If even the Vedic seers had such questions in their minds, who will blame us if we do?

And yet there it is, my faith. Perhaps it is childhood indoctrination; in fact it almost certainly is that. However it has been such an old friend to me, has shaped my own character and the choices I have made in life so very much that it cannot be separated from me without causing grievous damage to all that I am. I very much identify with this quote by William Sloane Coffin Jr ‘I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings‘. It feels as if I leapt in my childhood, even before I knew I was leaping and over the course of my life my faith has grown wings. And like a kite it flies, tethered to anything rational by a mere thread.

But the questions remain.

And that is why I have chosen this beautiful composition by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer today.  ‘Whatever anyone says, fear not, O brave heart, keep singing about the compassion of the Lord‘ says he. Why did he write this song, I wonder. What did people say to him that he responded with ‘Even if this world says  a thousand things  we  should keep it aside thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’.  The words seem to speak to me when questions cloud my mind. Set to raga Manirangu, it has all the spirit and lyrical beauty of Venkata kavi’s compositions. It makes me smile because he encourages everyone to sing and even dance if they can!

Please listen first to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s rendition. It has been a while since I featured him, hasn’t it! I hope you enjoy his simply brilliant voice as much as I do.

And the second rendition that caught my fancy today is by Shobana Vignesh. Very nicely sung indeed!

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer
Raga : Manirangu
Language : Tamil

யாரென்ன சொன்னாலும் அஞ்சாத/அஞ்சாதே  நெஞ்சமே
ஐயன் கருணையைப் பாடு – ராக
ஆலாபனமுடனும் பாடு – முடிந்தால்
அடவோடும் ஜதியோடும் ஆடு
அருமையென வந்தப் பிறவிகளோ பல
ஆயிரம் தந்தாலும் வருமோ ஆதலின்

நாரத நாதமும் வேதமும் நாண
நாணக் குழல் ஒன்று ஊதுவான்
நீரதக் கழல் ஆட கோபியரும் பாட
நேர் நேர் என சொல்லித் தானாடுவான் – அந்த
அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு

தோலை அரிந்து கனி தூர எறிந்து
வெறுந் தோலைத் துணிந்தொருவன் தந்தானல்லவோ
மேலைப் பிடி அவலை வேணுமென்றே தெரிந்து
விரும்பி ஒருவன் அன்று தந்தானல்லவோ
காலமெல்லாம் தவம் இருந்து கனிந்து கனி
கடித்து சுவைத்தொருவள் தந்தாளல்லவோ – இந்த
ஞாலமும் ஆயிரம் சொன்னாலும் நாம் அதை
நமக்கெதற்கு என்று தள்ளி நாமமும் ஆயிரம் சொல்லிச் சொல்லி
(அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு)


yArenna sonnAlum anjAdE (alt: anjAda) nenjamE
aiyan karuNaiyai pADu – rAga
AlApanamuDanum pADu – muDindAl
aDavODum jatiyODum ADu
arumaiyena vandap piRavigaLO pala
Ayiram tandAlum varumO Adalin

nArada nAdamum vEdamum nANa
nANak kuzhal onDRu ooduvan
nIradak kazhal ADa gOpiyarum pADa
nEr nEr ena sollit tAnADuvAn – anda
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)

tOlai arindu kani dUra eRindu
veRun tOlait tuNindoruvan tandAnallavo
mElaip piDi avalai vENumenDRE terindu
virumbi oruvan anDRu tandAnallavo
kAlamellam tavam irundu kanindu kani
kaDittu suvaittoruvaL tandALallavo – inda
ñAlamum Ayiram sonnalum nAm adai
namak kedarku enDRu taLLi nAmamum Ayiram sollich-cholli
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)


Whatever (enna) anyone (yAr) says (sonnAlum), fear not, O heart (anjAdE nenjamE) [Alternative – O brave heart (anjAda nenjamE) ], sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan). Sing (pADu) with (ODu) elaborations (Alapanai) of the Raga. If you can (muDindAl), also  dance (ADu) with (ODu) proper gestures and steps (aDavu). Even if you are given (tandAlum) many (pala) thousands (Ayiram) of precious (arumai) lives (piravigal), will this one come again (implied by varumO=will it come)? Therefore (Adalin)…..

He will play (ooduvAn, literally blow) a (onDRu) flute (kuzhal) such that (implied) it would put the music (nAdam) of Narada and the Vedas to shame (nANa). (Note : there is a second nANa in front of kuzhal, I don’t understand why. Is there another meaning to it? Or is it for emphasis?).  With his cloud-like (nIrada) anklets (kazhal) jingling (ADa, literally dancing), and the cowherdesses (gOpiyar) singing (pADa), asking (solli, literally saying) to be face to face (nEr nEr ena) He would dance (ADuvAn) himself (tAN) (I am a bit puzzled about the ‘nEr nEr ena’. Perhaps this is a reference to the episode where He duplicates Himself for each gopi and dances with each of them face to face?). Sing of his (His) compassion (pallavi line)

Didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), having cut (arindu) the peel (tOlai) and throwing away (dUra eRindu) the fruit (kani),  presume to (tuNindu) give (tandAn) only (tani) the peel (tolai) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the episode when Vidura, in the excitement of having Krishna close by, peels bananas and offers the peels to the Lord instead of the fruit. Krishna too consumes it. Vidura on realising what he had done is horrified but Krishna says he would accept anything offered with love.] Further (mElai), didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), knowing (terindu) that it was wished for (vENum enDRu),  lovingly (virumbi, with liking) give (tandAn) a handful (piDi) of flattened rice (aval) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the tale of Sudama]. Didn’t (allavO) a woman (oruvaL), having lived (irundu, literally been) lifelong (kAlamellam) in austerity, tenderly (kanindu) give (tandAL) a fruit (kani) after biting (kaDittu) and tasting (suvaittu) it? [Note: Refers to Shabari]. Even if this (inda) world (ñAlam) says (sonnAlum) a thousand things (Ayiram) we (nAm) should keep it aside (taLLi, literally push away) thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’ (nammakku edarkku enDru) and repeating (solli solli) His thousand (Ayiram) names (nAmam) sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan) (pallavi line).


Filed under Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Shobana Vignesh, Uncategorized

11 responses to “Yaar Enna Sonnalum

  1. Sudheer Aryasomayajula

    I am a 35 year old from Andhra pradesh. Somehow, I accidentally found this blog and whenever you post some content, it drenches my heart with it’s power of devotion and sincerity. There is a universal appeal to your language and content. May God bless you to make people like us happy. ‘thrivarga phaladaa sarve dhaana yagnya japaadhayaa, ekam sangeetha vignanam chathurvarga phalapradham.

    • Thank you Sudheer for such kind words, it is you who have made me very happy! What could a blogger like me want except to touch the hearts of those who read my posts? Yes indeed, I do believe that not just the ‘vignanam’ but even ‘guNagyatA’ or the appreciation of the good qualities of music gives ‘chaturvarga phala’ !! We who share a love of Carnatic Music are much aware of that truth, are we not!
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ramesh

    You really are a walking encyclopaedia. You are probably more knowledgeable about the Vedas or the epics (witness your narration of the Vidura/Krishna event) than the scholars of that genre.

    Is this a song better rendered by a lady ? I feel some songs are like that. So much so that liked Shobhana Vignesh’s rendering even more than Maharajapuram (Is it sacrilege to say so ?)

    Requesting that the musical elements of the song you have chosen also be covered in your post. Yes, you have linked to the raga post , but would love your views on the musical side of the song. By the way, there is simply no chance that I would recognise this in comparison to Sree – for that you have to write a post every day and I have to read them for 5 years

    I hope you have forgotten your resolve on RTP. In the recently concluded music season here, every artiste started a RTP at 9.00 PM. I have now resolved to get up and leave the concert at the very start of a RTP and also clobber anybody who praises this abomination !!!!

  3. Hi Ramesh,
    To answer your last question first – not at all, I have not forgotten about doing a post on a nice RTP. Thankfully I am too remote for anyone to try to clobber me 🙂
    Oh no, you would laugh if you knew how little I know about anything! I am good at joining the dots I guess and am a dab hand with Google, but that’s about all! My mind stores away droplets of info (wasn’t there something the nastika vadis quote from the vedas? wonder what it was?) and then I try to ferret it out (google: vedas argument of nastikas. Oh that doesn’t work. What else can I try?)
    Not sure about male vs female voice for this song, though I do feel like you for other songs. I think Shobana did a very good job, and if you liked her better than Santhanam, good for her! I may or may not like your taste but I will defend to death your right to have it (misquoting Hall in the voice of Voltaire, and no, I didn’t remember her name but google came to the rescue!).
    Frankly Ramesh, I am less confident writing about the musical elements. I am after all without any training or knowledge, as I often say. What good is to anybody if I say “oh I like such and such turn of phrase” or “that I loved everything about the rendition but the rather ‘filmy’ anjade nenjame at 5:46 spoilt it for me and sadly, my mind insists on remembering this one bad moment instead of the myriad good ones”. And if I can’t write about what is just a matter of taste, I have nothing else to write about musically. Do you think it would be fair of me to influence readers with comments on taste?
    I struggle with raga identification of Manirangu too, its just darned difficult!
    Thanks again for your comments,
    Cheers. Suja

  4. I (a confirmed Carnatic rasika and c music nut of the old mama school, and somewhat schooled in music) was researching this Tamil kriti of Oothukaadu, and I chanced upon your page Suja. A rare bonus was a philosophical segue, of your personal connection to the pallavi, and to the meaning (which I was familiar with) of the Ko Addha Veda , Ka Iha pravOcat of the Nasadiya sukta.
    I was just going to leave it at that after “liking” the column, but the clincher that made me drop a note of appreciation was the explanation of your m.o. (modus operandi) and where you are coming from, as Americans like to say in their unpicturesque way.
    You are doing fantastically for someone with no purported training or “knowledge”. Keep up the writing.

    • Welcome to my blog Ramesh. I appreciate your dropping by and for your very encouraging comments 🙂 Life events have kept me very busy this year and I have not paid much attention to my blog but I’ll be back to writing regularly as soon as I am able. I hope you’ll drop by then.
      Cheers. Suja

  5. Ravi

    I suspect, Suja, that those of us who got “hooked” on your blog and who revisit when we get the time, do so because you, more often than not, have something interesting to say. You seldom disappoint, as is evident with this blog entry.

    When you say, “Very often it is the non-believer’s arguments which seem more rational, more scientific,” you are correct. Christopher Hitchens’ eloquent arguments come to mind. His book, “God is not great,” is quite persuasive. But then you wind up going back to your roots, persuasive arguments (“Yaar Enna Sonnalum”) notwithstanding.

    Religion and/or faith doesn’t generally do any harm. It is religious zealotry, combined with dogma, that leads to dastardly actions and disastrous results. There’s an old saying in Malayalam, “Adikamayaal amrithum visham.” Anything in excess, including amrit, is not good. That applies to religion, too, I think.

    Anyway, thanks for another informative and educational post, and topping if off with the late great Santhanam. I never get tired of listening to him.

    Take care.

    • What a nice comment Ravi, you do me honour! Thank you! You are so very correct in saying that is it zealotry which is the failing of even the best of religions. The thing that bothers me is this : people like myself who are strong believers but reluctant to shout about it, are we leaving the arena to the zealots? Is the voice of religion becoming just zealotry? You know how it is with politics – decent people can’t go near it because just being in that arena will taint you. Isn’t it more and more like that with religion? Is there a fear of saying one is religious in case one gets tainted by association? Indeed, in the Western world which I have inhabited for nearly 35 years, religion is not a subject one can discuss in company. What role has religion in the society of the future? But yes, ‘Yaar Enna Sonnalum’…..:)
      Cheers. Suja

  6. Ravi

    Thank you, Suja.

    As for leaving the arena to zealots, yes, that is–and has been–a problem throughout history. One of my favorite quotes is from the late Haile Selassie:

    “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

    So those of us–usually the majority–who care about country, religion and so on, should stop being inactive, indifferent and silent so that evil doesn’t triumph. We have a responsibility to speak out. The Holocaust museum has a quote about speaking out. You can find it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_

    Lastly, like yourself, I have been in the west for decades, slightly over four in my case, having left India as a teen. So I’m influenced by both East and West.

    Kennedys, warts and all, have been influential in American politics, mostly for the better. Two of them paid the ultimate price for it. One of the great and moving eulogies given was by Ted Kennedy upon the assassination of his brother Robert. In it he said, Bobby Kennedy was “a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” If we are good and decent, we, too, have the responsibility to right wrongs and so on. You can find the eulogy and other great speeches here: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ekennedytributetorfk.html

    Thank you, again, Suja. Keep writing–you are making a difference by doing so.

    Take care.

  7. Letchmi

    Thank you so much – for your detailed references and the deep research about this song and others) – I espescially dig your interest in this song …Suja ( i think that is your name :-)?) I was fascinated the minute I heard it today- yes only today for some reason this song had eluded me! ( tho I have listed to quite a few Maharajapuram Santhanam’s songs but somehow I never came across this song). And you are right his rendition is brilliant – so melodiously timed rendition – couldn’t stop listening to it…and yes listening to these classics is a meditation to me…my heart feels so light and suddenly I have a smile plastered on my face…its amazing! I thank God for music. And thank God also for the Tamil composers who make religion and God accessible to me.
    Keep it up Ma’am – I have learned a lot more about music and through its beauty and energy – more about my religion from your effort. Thank you again for blogging!

    • Such a nice comment, thank you Letchmi! I agree, Carnatic Music has a deep meditative quality and perhaps that is why we rasikas love it so much. I am glad you enjoyed this post, both the music and the thoughts it provokes. Looking forward to hearing of your likes and dislikes in future posts,
      cheers. Suja

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