A very happy Navaratri to all of you! Let us all pray to the good Goddesses to cast their eyes our way and bless us with wisdom, compassion and devotion. What better way to ask for blessings than by song? My choice today honours Shakti in the form Karpagambal, the Goddess at Kapaleeswarar Kovil in Mylapore. This temple is rather dear to me; both my parents spent their youth in and around the area. Some of my earliest musical memories include listening to concerts in the temple. Do people leave imprints of themselves in the places dear to them? I’ll like to think so. I’ll like to think that the prayers of my parents still remain suspended in the air around the temple, as a murmur of the temple bells, as an echo of footfalls in the prakaram.
This Navaratri comes with its own excitement for me. I have such good news to share with you! Regular readers will remember my post about my daughter’s wedding in January. With God’s blessings, she and her husband are making me a grandmama! The little boy is to arrive by early December. I smile as I write this, I cannot quite contain my joy!
As I think of becoming a grandmother, I think of my own grandmothers. They were two very different women. My mother’s mum was a clever, extremely competent, strong-minded woman who ruled her household with a will of iron. A short, well-rounded woman with very dark skin, her eyes gleamed with intelligence, a gleam brighter than the large diamonds on her nose and ears. Widowed with a young family to bring up and few resources, she had to become one tough lady. I confess I found her somewhat intimidating! I saw her each summer during my school years when we went to spend our summer holidays in Chennai with her. My best memory of her was sitting around her with my sister and cousins in the mittam, the courtyard next to the well, on moonlit nights. She would regale us with stories while rolling balls of kalanda sadam (flavoured rice) into our outstretched hands. Love, entertainment and nourishment all rolled into one! And yes, her sattumadu made in her eeya sombu was pure ambrosia!
My father’s mother was totally different. So thin that she was just skin and bones, she had a very pale complexion and hazel eyes. She gave me the colour of my own eyes; whenever I see them in the mirror I think of her older and kinder ones. Gentle as a new-born lamb, she had no defence against her own difficult life. If my other grandmother had been forged to steel by life, this one became a gentle ghost, a presence almost not there. She lived to be over 90 but her stories were always of the first 10-12 years of her life, as if the rest need not be thought of. I remember her standing shivering in the Delhi winter on our terrace, performing her dawn prayer rituals in her wet clothes. My mother would urge her to come back in, saying she would get pneumonia, but her faith held her strong.
So what kind of grandmother would I be? I want to be both my grandmothers rolled into one. One day when my little grandson remembers his own grandmother as I remember mine, I want him to think of me as being kind and gentle, but equally strong and capable. I want him to remember me showering love and nourishment into his outstretched hands, I want him to say my eyes looked at him with a softness that he will not forget.
On this Navaratri day, this beautiful song is my prayer to the Goddess to bless my daughter and welcome my grandson-to-be. My readers, please can you add your prayers to mine to bless them for a safe delivery? Written by Papanasam Sivan, who himself had a very strong attachment to this temple and the deities, Karpagame is set in the most auspicious of ragas, Madhyamavati. Why this song you ask? Besides the auspiciousness of the raga, and the prayer for the Goddess to cast her eye our way, there is a reference to ‘வர சந்தான சௌபாக்ய’ (vara santAna saubhAgya), the blessing of progeny so it seemed very fitting!
Some songs are just ‘owned’ by some artists, aren’t they? So I cannot possibly present anyone else but Madurai Mani Iyer who renders this song with brisk efficiency and unsurpassed musicality.
Alternate Link : Click here and play item 16.
For a version from the current times, I present Sanjay Subrahmanyan who sings this song with an authority and ease which is hard to surpass. In the rendition below, he sings a viruttam, two pieces of poetry which are very well suited to the song. The first is a verse from the superbly beautiful அபிராமி அந்தாதி Abhirami Anthadi by Abhirami Bhattar (18th century). I could not find the authorship of the second verse but one website mentioned that it is from an inscription found on the walls of the Kapaleeswarar Temple, a fact I could not verify.
பூத்தவளே புவனம் பதினான்கையும் பூத்த வண்ணம்
காத்தவளே பின் கரந்தவளே கறை கண்டனுக்கு
மூத்தவளே என்றும் மூவா முகுந்தற்கு இளையவளே
மாத்தவளே உன்னை அன்றி மற்றோர் தெய்வம் வந்திப்பதே
pUttavaLE buvanam padinAngaiyum pUtta vaNNam
kAttavalE pin karandavaLE kaRai kaNDanukku
mUttavaLE enDRum mUvA mukundaRku iLaiyavaLE
mAttavaLE unnai anDRi maTROr deivam vandippadE
She who gave birth (pUttavaLE – literally, flowered) to all the fourteen (padinAngaiyum) worlds (buvanam), She who protected (kattavaLE) in the same way as (-vaNNam) she bore them (pUtta), then (pin) who hid them (karandavaLE – கரந்த means மறைந்த), She who is older (mUttavaLE) to Shiva (He whose neck (kanDam) is stained (kaRai which also means poison)), She who is younger to (iLaiyavaLE) to the always (enDRum) young (mUvA, மூவு means end but here it means ageing) Vishnu (mukundar), She who has done great (mA) penance (tavam), why should I worship (vandippadE) any other (maTROr) God (deivam) except (anDRi) you (unnai)?
ஆடும் மயிலாய் உருவெடுத்து அன்று இறைவன் திருத்தாள் நாடி
அர்ச்சித்த நாயகியாய் அம்மா உனது திரு நாமங்களைப் பாடி பாடி
உருகிப் பரவசம் மிகு அப்பாங்கு நீ எனக்கு அருள்வாய்
காடெனவே பொழில் சூழ் திரு மயிலாபுரி கற்பகமே!
ADum mayilAy uruveDuttu anDRu iRaivan tiruttAL nADi
architta nAyakiyAy ammA unadu tiru nAmangaLai pADi pADi
urugi paravasam migu appANgu nI enakku arulvAY
kADenavE pozhil sUzh tiru mayilApuri karpagamE
O Karpagambal (karpagamE) of holy (tiru) Mayilapuri which is surrounded (sUzh) by a grove (pozhil) as large as (enavE – like, perhaps implying largeness) a forest (kADu)! O Mother (ammA) we worship you (implied) as the Goddess (nayakiyAy) who at one time (anDRu), having taken the form (uruveDuttu) of a dancing (aDum) peacock (mayil), sought (nADi) and worshipped (architta) the holy (tiru) feet (tAL) of our Lord (iRaivan)! May you (nI) bless (aruLvAy) me (enakku) in a way that (appAngu) I (implied) become very (migu) ecstatic (paravasam Agum) and emotionally melt (urugi) by singing (pADi) again and again (pADi repeated) your (nin) holy (tiru) names (nAmangal).
Afterthought : A reader has correctly observed that I should have mentioned Lalgudi and he is right. Lalgudi Jayaraman is always amazing but with Karpagame he is magical. His violin speaks as no voice can. There is a link provided by the reader in the comments section. Another one is here. I hope you enjoy the music!
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Papanasam Sivan
Raga : Madhyamavati
Language : Tamil
கற்பகமே கண் பாராய்
கற்பகமே கடை (கருணை) கண் பாராய்
சித்பர யோகியர் சித்தர்கள் ஞானியர்
திருவுடை அடியவர் கருதும் வரமுதவும்
திருமகளும் கலைமகளும் பரவு
சத்து சிதாநந்தமதாய் சகல உயிருக்குயிராயவள் நீ
தத்துவமஸ்யாதி மஹா வாக்கிய தத்பர வஸ்துவும் நீ
சத்துவ குணமோடு பக்தி செய்பவர் பவ தாபமும்
பாபமும் அற இம்மையில் வர
சந்தான சௌபாக்ய சம்பத்தோடு
மறுமையில் நிரதிசய இன்பமும் தரும் (கற்பகமே)
karpagamE kaN pArAy
karpagamE kaDai (karuNai) kaN pArAy
chitpara yogiyar siddargaL ñaniyar
tiruvuDai aDiyavar karudum varamudavum
tirumagaLum kalaimagaLum paravu
sattu-chidAnandamadAy sakala uyirukkuyirAyavaL (uyirukku-uyirAyval) nI
tattuvamasyadi mahA vAkkiya tatpara vastuvum nI
sattuva guNamODu bhakti seybavar bhava tApamum
pApamum aRa immayil vara
santAna saubhagya sampattODu
maRumaiyil niradisaya inbamum tarum
O Karpagambika (karpagamE) of the holy (tiru) town of Mayilai, cast a compassionate (karuNai) glance upon me (literally, look at me (pArAy) with the corner (kaDai) of your eyes (kaN)).
She who aids (udavu) with a boon (varam) of what is considered (karudum) holy (tiru) wealth (uDai) by ascetics (yOgiyar) with extended (para) consciousness (chit), mystics (siddargaL), wise/sage people (ñaniyar), and devotees (aDiyavar), she who is extolled (paravu) by Lakshmi (tirumagaL) and Saraswati (kalaimagaL)..
As that very (adAy) truth-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-Anandam), you are (nI) She (avaL) who is like the life-force (uyirAy) of all lives (sakala uyirukku). You (nI) are also the object (vastuvum) of the true intent (tatpara) of great (mahA) pronouncements (vAkkiya) such as (Adi) ‘thou art that’ (tat-tvam-asi from the Upanishads). You are She who (implied) remove (aRa) the sorrow (tApamum) and sins (pApamum) of existence (bhava) of those who follow (seibavar) devotion (bhakti) with (-ODu) good (sattuva) character (guNam) in this birth (immaiyil) and bless them (vara) with the good fortune (saubhAgya) of progeny (santAna) and with (-ODu) wealth (sampattu). You are She who (implied) gives (tarum) unsurpassed (niradisaya) happiness (inbam) in the next life (marumaiyil).
13 responses to “Karpagame Kan Parai”
I am born in a Telugu family and can’t understand an iota of Tamil. But, oh god, the magic that you communicate through interpreting music and life is a bliss to us. The grandmother thing touched the right chords for me. What a way of looking at same things by two different individuals. Like the wind that forces the plant to dig its roots deep, adversities make people strong, but that same wind can carry the flowers of life to the feet of the lord, the total surrender of self to the almighty. Your analysis of the reaction of your grandmothers to life seemed so.
I am into thirties and still unable to get to the right notes of music. These articles on literature and music are a blessing for a layman in music, such as me. We feel blessed as always with a new article from you. Pray the ever blissful lord Murugan to bless your daughter and the child. Take care
Thank you for your comment Sudheer, I am so very pleased that my post connected with you. I really liked your analogy of the wind! Musicality runs in the very veins of the Telugu people, does it not! Hasn’t immeasurable wealth come to Carnatic Music from your lands? I can see that music already speaks to your soul; that in itself is a blessing. One day perhaps, with the blessings of Goddess Saraswati, music will speak to you in the right notes as well. Thank you again for your prayers for my daughter and grandson, may your words be carried to the Lord.
First, congratulations on your imminent ‘promotion’ as grandma! Also best wishes to your daughter for a safe and painless(less pain?) delivery in due time!!
Tthe song, ragam and the artists are my favorites too. On the instrumental side I thought nobody makes such a convincing plea like Lalgudi. I was hoping you would be referring to his rendition and provide a link too.
Here is one of the many…
Sorry, the above link is not working in India. So here’s another from YouTube
The song starts ~40 min.
You are very right, indeed I should have included one of Lalgudi’s version as well. My oversight, thank you for the links. I love the word you use for describing his Madhyamavati – as a plea – it is absolutely that, isn’t it! In his hands, his violin has a கொஞ்சிப் பேசும் capability 🙂
Thank you for your good wishes!
You would be the most wonderful grandma a little boy can have. You’ll be all that you have wished in the post and more. All our good wishes to you and your family, and especially to the baby to be born.
A lovely song you have selected in a majestic raga. I will probably associate this song whenever I hear it with this post and warmly wish all of you, everytime !
Thank you Ramesh for such warm-hearted wishes!
Hello ma’am, I am Pragyan, from Odisha, staying in Hyderabad. I had to admit that though this is the first blog of yours I read just now.. Still I can imagine you as someone very full of life..stories and happiness altogether. Though I could not understand the language, but prayers are always connected to heart and I deeply wish all the good luck to your daughter for a safe delivery and may your life be fulfilled with all the happiness that the new born would bring!
You would become the best grandma the kid will ever have!
Loads of love.
Thank you Pragyan for your very kind words and warm wishes! It takes a bit of time for people not used to Carnatic Music to appreciate it, There is both the barrier of language and style. But if you like classical music, you may find that listening regularly will improve your appreciation. This may be your first time here, but it need not be the last 🙂
Hello Suja,Today Mayilai Thiruther, and tommrrow 63-var ulaa. Only Mayilai Karpagambal takes me to your blog…Well articulated & I love it. stay blessed.
Thank you for your comment. Living so far away, I can only imagine how all the festivities are taking place!
Just had a look at your translation of Karpagame. God Bless You! Simply superb! As a singer I earnestly believe that I should know the meaning of (rather internalize) every word of the composition taken up for singing. Kudos to you for the efforts! God Bless You always!
Thank you! As a listener, I too want to internalise and understand the meaning of the music I listen to then, hence this blog 🙂