January 27 2018
I wake up at 4:30 am after just a few hours of restless sleep. It will be dawn soon. The Australian sun is set to warm us to 38ºC today. I wince at the thought of sweltering inside my heavy Kancheepuram silk sari. But I have a hundred things to do before I get to that stage. I hurry to get ready and start the day with drawing a simple kolam on the porch. I bustle about getting things ready for the priest who comes in and sets the stage for the wedding on the deck outside our living room.
I look around our home. The furniture has been moved elsewhere; hired chairs and ottomans face the deck. The dining table rests in the garden while caterer’s tables take up the dining area. The kitchen bench is decorated with many vases of fresh flowers. Strands of fresh flowers decorate the entrance, strands that my sister and friends strung for hours yesterday. Strands of artificial marigold hang on balustrades inside and out. An arbor decorated with fresh flowers stands on the deck. Borrowed brass lamps decorate the hallway. A large colourful Rangoli that I painted on canvas decorates a corner of the living room. A hundred LED tea lights are arranged along the corridor and on the Rangoli. I think of all the friends and family who gathered yesterday to get our home decorated and I thank them silently.
My daughter and her partner announce that they are engaged and would like to be married by the end of 2017. She is a senior paediatric registrar, half Tamil Iyengar, half Bengali, fully Australian. He is a psychologist, both Australian and Polish. She would like to get married at home, she tells me. I do not dissuade her but my mind races with questions. We have been working with a builder since March 2016 on a project to knock down and re-build our home in Melbourne. The project is scheduled for 2017. Will our new home be ready in time given the vagaries of Melbourne weather? Just to be safe, we move the wedding date to Jan 2018.
My husband had waved goodbye to our old home in March 2016. He will come back only when our new home is ready. I’ve returned to Melbourne for finalising details with the builder and empty our home. I spend much of November sorting through years of gathered possessions and memories. I pack what needs keeping and discard as much as I can. This is such hard work! Finally everything is packed and sent off to storage. The empty shell of the home-that-was makes my heart ache. The house will come down by the end of Feb 2017; I shall be in Switzerland by then.
‘An hour‘ my daughter tells me ‘The rituals must be limited to an hour‘. I stare at her wordlessly. I think of how little control I had at my own wedding. I chose my husband but that is all the choice I made. My parents made all the decisions for the wedding as it was to be a Tamil one. Like all girls I had dreamt of a lovely wedding, instead it was a day of misery for me. All I remember of the day is my husband’s fury at being made to do rituals he had no belief in and no wish to do, my father’s fury at being forced to accept a Bengali son-in-law who did not value his culture, beliefs and his need for such rituals, my mother’s grief and fear for my future, my in-laws disappointment in having to deal with an alien culture, and above all, my shame at all the drama I had caused in my parents’ life. It was a traumatic day and I still cannot remember it without my eyes flooding rivers of sorrow. I know I don’t want that for my girl. If it is an hour-long wedding she wants, it is an-hour long wedding she will get. We have a meeting with Sriraman mama, the priest, and come up with a doable list. It ends up being an hour and a half but we are all content.
I am back in Melbourne for another few months. We have made good progress with our new home. We have been lucky with the weather, the builders have lost only a few days for rain, less than expected. I had done a lot of running around in December, choosing bricks, outside paint colour, roof tiles, windows, doors, and the like. This trip is for choosing a zillion things for the indoors. Who would have thought that even a small thing like choosing the kitchen tap involves multiple trips to plumbing supplies stores, involving many woman-hours?!!! The light fittings are a great challenge thanks to the high roof of the cathedral ceiling. The kitchen design takes many iterations to get right.
In the meanwhile, plans for the wedding are going along well. We select a flower supplier, caterer, photographer and videographer. We’ll have to find someone to do the lighting. The guest list is ready; we are still working on the invitation card format. The celebration has grown to a party in Kolkata on the 13th for extended family and friends, a celebratory family trip to the Sunderbans, a registration wedding in Melbourne on the 25th followed by lunch for the immediate family, a Henna night, a Hindu ritual followed by lunch on the 27th, an Australian style event followed by dinner and dance that night. I have a created a spreadsheet for the task list, we would be lost without it.
I am back in Melbourne for the final stages of the building. Even now, the builder calls me daily to make one decision or the other. With the time difference between Switzerland and Melbourne, I have often to make decisions without discussing with my husband. It is stressful. I consult YouTube and have a ‘do-it-myself-Grihapravesham’ ceremony on a ‘auspicious day’ even before the house is ready. Finally I can get my things back from storage. I work hard in unpacking and getting my house in order, including stocking up a minimal kitchen. I leave for India on the 5th of January, the house must be ready before then. The builders are still tinkering around doing the last bits of cabinetry etc before they leave for their Christmas break. I have a panic just after Christmas when the sewer blocks up. Everyone is away, it can’t be fixed now. I retreat back to my sister’s house, with the builder promising to get it fixed while we are in India.
My husband has taken responsibility for arranging the Kolkata get-together with the help of his cousin. He has also reviewed options for the Sunderbans trip; all I do is book it in. I have already arranged hotels in Kolkata. Tickets have been bought. My daughter has finalised the invitation and has posted them. RSVPs are being collected and collated with our list. I have fixed a Henna lady and arranged for dinner that night. I think the wedding plan seems sound.
January 27 2018
I watch as my Polish-Australian son-in-law ties an Iyengar Thali (Mangalsutra) around my daughter’s neck. Sriraman Mama has done very well, getting it all done in exactly the time promised. I throw akshata (yellowed raw rice) on their heads in blessing, praying that their marriage leads them to a lifetime of happiness. My sister and aunt whirl the aarati tray and we all join in singing ‘Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame‘. There is still the evening celebrations to follow. The couple will exchange vows which they have written themselves, there will be speeches from the family, the groom’s family will welcome the bride with a bread-salt-and-vodka ritual, they will dance a Polka with the groom’s family and a Bollywood medley by themselves. There will be cake cutting and eating and drinking and merry-making. But for me, with the singing of ‘Sita Kalyana’, the wedding has reached its completion.
February 12 2018
I’m still in Melbourne for another couple of weeks. My husband calls me from Switzerland to wish ourselves a happy anniversary. He is still on the 11th while I have rushed forward to the 12th. I let my mind wander to my daughter’s wedding and our own wedding 36 years ago. Ours has not been an easy marriage. The many differences in culture and beliefs, in temperament and tastes, in needs and wants…all the differences make many an ordinary thing into a matter of contention. But we have one most important thing in common – a shared value system. Perhaps in the end that is the only glue a marriage needs. I wonder what the thoughts of my daughter would be on her own 36th anniversary. And I lay prayers at the feet of all my Gods.
What else can I play on this day but Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame? This version by Dr.Balamuralikrishna is familiar and dear to me.
I also enjoyed listening to Mr & Mrs T.M.Krishna sing the version below.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga: Kurinji / Shankarabharanam
Language : Tamil pallavi, rest in Sanskrit
सीता कल्याण वैभोगमे
राम कल्याण वैभोगमे
पवनज स्तुति पात्र पावन चरित्र
रवि सोम वर नेत्र रमणीय गात्र
भक्त जन परिपाल भरित शरजाल
भुक्ति मुक्तिद लील भूदेव पाल
पामरासुर भीम परिपूर्ण काम
श्याम जगदभिराम साकेत धाम
सर्व लोकाधार समरैक वीर
गर्व मानव (alt:मानस ) दूर कनकाग धीर
निगमागम विहार निरुपम शरीर
नग धराघ विदार नत लोकाधार
परमेश नुत गीत भव जलधि पोत
तरणि कुल सञ्जात त्यागराज नुत
sItA kalyANa vaibhOgamE
rAma kalyANa vaibhOgamE
pavanaja stuti pAtra pAvana charitra
ravi sOma vara nEtra ramaNIya gAtra
bhakta jana paripAla bharita sharajAla
bhukti muktida lIla bhUdEva pAla
pAmarAsura bhIma paripUrNa kAma
shyAma jagadabhirAma sAkEta dhAma
sarva lOkAdhAra samaraika vIra
garva mAnava (alt: mAnasa) dUra kanakAga dhIra
nigamAgama vihAra nirupama sharIra
naga dharAgha vidAra nata lOkAdhAra
paramEsha nuta gIta bhava jaladhi pOta
taraNi kula sanjAta tyAgarAja nuta
Oh the grandeur (vaibhOgamE – from sanskrit vaibhava, the E at the end denotes an exclamation) of Sita’s wedding (kalyANa)! Oh the grandeur of Rama’s wedding (kalyANa)!
He who is the object (pAtra) of worship (stuti) by Hanuman, the son of Vayu (pavanaja), He whose character (charitra) is pure (pAvana), He whose excellent (vara) eyes (nEtra) are like the sun (ravi) and the moon (sOma), He who has a charming (ramaNiya) body (gAtra).
He who is the protector (paripAla) of his devotees (bhakta jana), He who is capable of shooting (bharita means filled which I have interpreted here as a capability) a multitude of arrows (sharajAla), bestower (da) of worldly possessions (bhukti) and salvation (mukti), He who is playful (lIla), He who is the protector (pAla) of Brahmanas (bhUdEva).
He who terrifies (bhIma) the wicked (pAmara) and the demons (asura), He who fulfils (paripUrNa) all desires (kAma), He who is dark-skinned (shyAma), He who is delightful (abhirAma) to the whole world (jagat), He who resides in (dhAma) in Ayodhya (sAkEta).
He who is the support (AdhAra) of all (sarva) mankind (lOka), He who is one (Eka) hero (Vira) of the battle (samara), He who keeps far (dUra) from arrogant (garva) people (mAnava) (alternate: arrogant minds (mAnasa)), He who is as strong and steadfast (dhIra) as Mount Meru (kanaka aga = golden mountain).
He who wanders (vihAra) in the vEdas (nigama) and the Agamas, He whose body (sharIra) is incomparable (nirupuma), He who holds (dhara) a mountain (naga), He who is a destroyer (vidAra) of evil (agha), He who is the support (AdhAra) of those people (lOka) who bow (nata) to him.
He who is sung (gIta) in praise (nuta) by Lord Shiva (paramEsha), He who is the ship (pOta) for crossing the Ocean (jaladhi) of existence (bhava), He who is well-born (sanjAta) of the Solar (taraNi) dynasty (kula), He who is praised (nuta) by Tyagaraja.
35 responses to “Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame”
A very auspicious Krithi…
‘The’ auspicious krithi, if I were to choose just one..
Woohoo. That’s why you were off the blog for such a long time.
Congratulations on the wedding of the daughter. Can there be a more emotional moment for a parent than the wedding of a daughter (even more than a son , I think). How can the little baby, who was just born yesterday, “fly away” ? Our best wishes for all happiness as they start their life together.
And a very happy anniversary Suja & Mr M. May we wish you both every happiness in the world. A special aashirvadam from my mother to all of you. She had been pestering me for quite a while to write to you remonstrating the long absence from the blog !!
Of course, what else can be the song and which other rendition can it be, but Balamuralikrishna’s. Kurinji is a soul touching raga.
Looking forward to resuming “normal” business 🙂
Hi Ramesh! I did have a very busy year but perhaps I could have squeezed in a post or two..it was my mind which was at fault; I was quite unable to concentrate on anything but my tasks on hand! Thank you for your wishes and those of your mother. I think the aashirwadams and the good wishes from good hearts always bring lustre to one’s life, so I am very grateful. Your comment makes me remember – I didn’t even mention the raga in my post, did I? Sigh, I am out of touch with my own format! Will have to work at getting back to normal business 🙂
Congratulations, Suja. What an apt kriti for such an auspicious occasion!
Thank you Srinivas! As we invariably sing this kriti in weddings, it was the first thing to come to mind when I selected the topic of my post 🙂
Many congratulations for the new addition in your family. May the couple stay blessed .Kudos to you for your achievement..As they say in India…Build a house and conduct a wedding.. then you have seen Life…And you have done this simultaneously!!👍👌
Thank you Lalita for your kind blessings. Indeed both my projects were very demanding. I look back at the year and am quite astounded at myself 🙂
Congratulations Suja. A soul-stirring raga for the occasion!!
I do love Kurinji, have always done so. I associate it with my mother who sang Sita Kalyana to us sisters everytime she put nalangu on our feet on auspicious days 🙂 Song-Raga-Mother-Love-Happiness all connected together in such a way that I dont know where one starts and the other ends…
It is such a haunting rendition by BMK. An all time fav of mine – all four: the composer; the composition, the raga and the singer. Now I shd add a 5th – this blog!
What I particularly like about your blog is besides providing all the essential technical information about the song you are writing about, you also add a dash of personal autobiography and why and what you kike about it. Down the decades these type of writings can be a (I hope not the only) source for younger generations to understand Indian culture, tradition, practices etc set in a context. To that extent, you are doing a laudable service for posterity.
A couple of differences I noticed between the lyrics you have posted and what BMK sings (if you do not mind my observations)
Text: “garva mAnava”;
BMK: “garva mAnaSa” (~4.46); TMK-SS: (~2.54)
I am also not very sure of the following
Text: “taraNi kula”;
Whether BMK is pronouncing it as “DharaNi kula”
But TMK-SS are surely pronouncing as “DharaNi kula” (~4.01)
May be my audio isn’t clear.
Since “Dharani” means the Earth, and Sita is also refereed as Dharani-ja in several songs, I am a bit confused 😛
Thank you for your compliment, but to add me that list of luminaries is quite laughable 🙂 But you are kind, and I am grateful! My goal has been to share my personal enjoyement of this music in context, exactly as you say. To see music as a ‘background score’ for life. If it helps the next generation appreciate our culture even a little bit, I will be absolutely thrilled!
You have caught me out – I generally listen and compare word by word to make sure I point out the variations. But I had only a few hours to do my post yesterday so I didn’t take the time. Thank you for listening and pointing out the differences.
(1) garva mAnava vs garva mAnasa – arrogant men or arrogant minds, the sense remains much the same, doesn’t it. I’ll alter the text to show this as an alternate. Thank you.
(2) taraNi vs dharaNi – I have heard these kinds of errors in pronunciation again and again. taraNi is written in Tamil as தரணி which is exactly the same way one would write daraNi दरणि (meaning surf in sanskrit) or dharani धरणि (meaning earth). Musicians who learn Sanskrit from Tamil script have to be careful. I don’t speak Telugu but perhaps the same issue is there. Rama was born in surya-vamsha so the word in this song should be pronounced as taraNi. In contrast, Sita was born of the earth, and so her name should be dharaNi-ja or earth-born.
In Telugu, the alphabets are like in Sanskrit. So ta, tha, da, dha, na (like in Sanskrit.) So I can understand TMK-SS mispronunciation but that is why I was keen to check how BMK pronounces it. Until today it did sound ‘dharani’ to me but after the meaning contained in your text, I heard it a few times. Yet, tbbh, I still seem to hear what is etched in memory than what it really is! 😛
Yes, either mAnava or mAnasa does not make much difference in terms of overall meaning, but since both BMK and TMK-SS sang it alike, I was wondering whether there are two text versions…
This was so nice to read – you’ve captured the life of all those first generation people who’ve made a life in far flung countries and are now seeing their children grow up and start their married lives. Thank you for sharing the details. I’m in awe of your breadth of knowledge of Carnatic music – it’s truly wonderful. I came upon your site a few years ago and forwarded it to my mother in Chennai – she’s stopped reading my blog but eagerly waits for yours! She even wants to host you when you visit Chennai as she lives very close to Music Academy and she would love to meet you 🙂
I’m writing this from a wet and windy Bristol, UK!
Dear Maithreyi, Such a warm-hearted comment! Thank you!! Oh, but my knowledge of Carnatic Music is very limited you know..I am but a typical listener, with enough understanding to appreciate but nothing more. But my love for Carnatic Music is indeed limitless.
You too are a first generation immigrant it seems, we all have a shared experience, don’t we… I would love to meet your mother when I am in Chennai next. I normally stay in Woodlands as it so convenient to visit the Sabhas. I am thinking at the moment of heading to Chennai in late-Nov-Dec this year. Perhaps she would like to join me for breakfast one morning and share her thoughts on music with me 🙂 We have a shared experience, your mother and I, we are both mothers of Maithreyis, though with a small difference in spelling 🙂
Bristol? I was not far from you when we visited Bath as part of a driving holiday a couple of years back…
Thanks for writing back, Suja. Ah…incredible that your daughter and I share the same name (the spelling has changed a few times in my case, I have to say)! Most people don’t make it till Bristol after visiting Bath – it’s a hidden gem and quite a glorious city. For eg. Raja Ram Mohan Roy died there and there’s a statue in his honour. And the first glimpse of the Clifton Suspension Bridge is pretty stunning. Hope you can make it sometime. I’ve been dreaming of Melbourne a lot – we spent a pleasant few days there some years ago but I’ve been longing for it every January during the tennis!
I shared our exchange with my mother, she’s very tickled and is hoping to see you when you’re there next. If you wish I can pass on her details – my email is email@example.com. Cheers Maithreyi
Perhaps we will make our way to Bristol one day 🙂 I am sending you an email..
Dear Suja, Belated congratulations! and Happy anniversary.
I missed you all this time and now I know there was a very good reason. I am also a first generation immigrant living in the U.K. I felt literally with you all in the wedding ceremony and you have so beautifully ,vividly described. In fact the song as I hear in BMK’ S golden voice bring tears of joy.Many of us have had the similar experience as our grown up children start settling and begin their new life.
I do hope you will continue to enrich us through your blog without a break. I love your narrations and of course all that is related to the music.
Blessings to the newlyweds!
Best wishes & Regards..
Thank you very much Sundar. I am happy to be ‘collecting’ so many blessings for my daughter and son-in-law 🙂 Ah, another first-gen immigrant! We do share many experiences then… I will try hard to get back to regular posting this year. That said, I have just started the very first steps of planning for my son’s wedding; he wants to get married next year and my husband suggested a Bengali style wedding this time! So it is back to the drawing board for me 🙂
Great to see you back, and what a year it’s been! Congratulations and best wishes to the Tamil-Bengali-Polish-Australian newlyweds! And congratulations to you and your husband too on 36 years! My Malaysian-Tamil-Jersey-English-Scottish marriage will reach 3 years this year. At our Hindu wedding my former vocal teacher sang this, which made it all the more special. Thank you for the translation as always.
Thank you Sakthi 🙂 It is interesting, isn’t it, that within India the ethnicities are still well maintained, if not at strongly as they used to be. In contrast, I often meet Australians and Europeans who are a mix of various sub-European heritage. My future daughter-in-law has, I think, English, German and Scottish – or is it Irish- ancestry – and this is not uncommon. I wonder if one day all these lines and distinctions will fade away forever? And that it will be ‘the world will be as one’ as John Lennon imagined? My best wishes to you too, may this 3 become a steadfast and loving 30 one day!
“I wonder if one day all these lines and distinctions will fade away forever? And that it will be ‘the world will be as one’ as John Lennon imagined?”
Yes, that will be a great dream come true – the realisation of vasudaiva kutumbakam. The great music of the world can get us there provided our crass politicians don’t interfere.
“Like all girls I had dreamt of a lovely wedding, instead it was a day of misery for me.”
Despite that, you celebrated 36 years of marriage and made sure your daughter’s special day was indeed special! So, congratulations Suja on both counts!
As Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan once wrote, in a different context, “the times they are a changin’.” But some of what he wrote may be applicable to the changes taking place in personal relations, who people love and who they marry and so on:
“Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Congratulations, again, Suja and best wishes to the newly weds!
Thank you Ravi! That is a really apt quote 🙂 Indeed times are changing and if we don’t change with it, we just stay in a time warp and out of touch with reality!
Reading a blog of yours after a long time .. lost track in between ..
Good to read about your daughters wedding.. and share your joy and concerns too , being a mother of Dsughter myself .
By the way I too visit Melbourne almost every other year , as my daughter is settled there since 2006 .. they live in Hoppers Crossing .. she a teacher in Cambridge primary school . Where is your home ?
Seetha Kalyana vaibogame is a krithi that brings in the austerity and blessings wherever it is sung . Nice to
Listen to both the renditions . Thanks .
Good to see you return to the blog Padma. Ah, so you too have a connection with Melbourne! I think of it as ‘home’ 🙂 I will not mention places in a public forum but our home is in the Eastern suburbs. I am glad you enjoyed the renditions.
Thanks Suja for writing back . May be we get to meet some day . . Just read your next blog . Hats off to you . Cheers Padma
Belated but sincere wishes and prayers for the couple. God Bless!
Thank you 🙂 My daughter has been blessed with a lovely little boy, who is featured in my latest post!
This song is also symbolic of our mind/soul meeting the Self of all. Our own union with the divine. I think of it that way on a personal level. i.e. it is my mind getting married to Rama or the supreme consciousness. This is a great event: hence the celebratory music and wonderful composition. My favorite version is by Maharajapuram Santhanam. I was searching for a devanagari rendition of the song and thus found your site.
True..all of nature and creations are considered feminine, and the divine consciousness being masculine. For me though, it’s more of my earthly experiences. My mother sang it every time she did a nalangu ceremony for me in my childhood. I heard it in every wedding I attended. It’s been a ceremonial, celebratory music of my life. We all experience music differently don’t we!
Well written, Suja. So glad to see the Sanskrit version and word-by-word translation you’ve included. My goal in 2022 is to learn to sing this timeless classic fully and as well as I can. The versions by Dr. Balamuralikrishna and Maharajapuram Santhanam are both my favorites. All the best to you and your family!
Thank you Ram, I’m glad my attempted translation came in useful for somebody! A nice goal, you’ll be a favourite at weddings if you can do a good job of singing it 🙂
Hello Suja, I am trying to get my 3 year old nephew to listen to carnatic songs and YouTube picked this song for us today. I could get the general gist of the song but wanted to do better if I was going to pass something on to the new generation, not to mention his accuracy in catching me out on exactly those words I’m unsure about 🙂
Yours is by far is the best translation out there and it helped me plan his bedtime story as well tonight – Sita swayamvaram obviously! Thank you!
Best wishes, Gayathri
Hello Gayathri, I am so glad that my translations are of help, especially in passing on our wonderful music to the next generation!