Shivakama Sundari

Happy Navaratri to all my readers! Though as I’ve been away so long from blogging, I am not certain if there are any readers left to see my greetings..

The thing is, I’ve not been listening to music and really, its quite impossible to be a music blogger if that’s the case! When I blogged regularly, I was listening to music all day long….when I walked, when I did my household chores, when I drove or pursued my artistic interests. But for quite a while I’ve been very distracted. First, by the stressful process of moving internationally, and then because my attention turned to spiritual matters. Music was replaced by lectures on topics related to the vedas, upanishads, itihasasas and mysticism. We live in lucky times with so many lectures available on YouTube and podcasts as well! I’m learning so much, and my mind is so very occupied that there hasn’t been much space left for music. For those who are wondering, I’ve listened to simply hours and hours of lectures by Swami Sarvapriyananda who is amazingly erudite and a wonderful speaker. But given that I cling to my devotion and advaita is not really my marga, I also listen to upanyasams by Velukkudi Krishnan swamigal, Dushyant Sridhar etc. Of course, music itself is divine and Carnatic Music is devotional in essence so I have not wandered too far from where I was!

I’ve also been busy with family. My grandson is a little bundle of energy, mischief, playfulness and above all, love. I cook for him, tell stories and sing songs, play lego, hide&seek, chase, digging in the backyard and myriad other games which keeps us both occupied all day. He has taken over my life and I feel so blessed to have him even as I lie exhausted after a day of baby sitting! Good karma there..

My daughter made me a grandmother again recently but both mother and child did not have it easy and we have been through some very worrying times. And I’ve had some niggling health issues as well. Life throws these challenges when you least expect them, doesn’t it! We all have to deal with our karma. Who knows what I did in my previous lives? Who can keep track of all the harm I have done in this life? How are we to escape from this never ending loop that we are stuck in?

That brings me to the song choice of today. I was listening to a kutcheri on YouTube yesterday when the musician sang Shivakama Sundari in Mukhari, composed by Papanasam Sivan. Though I have listened to and liked this song for longer than I remember, it was only yesterday that the words of the anupallavi struck a chord. ‘Bless me‘ says the poet-composer ‘to meditate on you so that my old karma does not cling to me‘. How interesting, I thought to myself, that I am searching in all those lectures for something that the music I have listened to all my life has always been saying!

I have to, of course, start with D.K.Pattammal’s rendition as she was famous for singing Papanasam Sivan’s many compositions. I admit that I have not done the due diligence of picking the best possible rendition; the one I found first is what I present below.

I also quite enjoyed Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s rendition which he sings with a lot of emotion. I hope you enjoy it too.

Footnote : Lyrics and Translation

Composer : Papanasam Sivan
Raga : Mukhari
Language : Tamil

சிவகாம சுந்தரி ஜகதம்பா வந்தருள் தந்தருள்

பவ ரோகம் அற வேறு மருந்தேது
பழ வினைகள் தொடராமல் உனை பஜிக்க

கேளாயோ என் முறைகள் ( திரு செவியில் – for repetition) உயர் சாம
கீத வினோதினி போதும் உன் சோதனை 
(இனி) தாளேனே அகதி நானே
ராமதாசன் பணியும் அபிராமி வாமி

Transliteration in English

shivakAma sundari jagadamba vandaruL tandaruL

bhava rOgam aRa vERu marundEdu
pazha vinaigaL toDarAmal unai bhajikka

kELAyO en muraigaL (tiru seviyil – for repetion) uyar sAma
gIta vinOdini pOdum un sOdanai
(ini) tALEnE agadi nAnE
rAmadAsan paNiyum abhirAmi vAmi

Translation in English

Oh beautiful (sundarI) mother (ambA) of the world (jagat) who is desired (kAma) by Shiva, grace (aRul) me (implied) by coming (vandu) and giving (tandu) me (implied) your blessings (aruL).

What else (vEru Edu) is the medicine/cure (marundu) to destroy (aRa) the disease (rOgam) of existence (bhava)? Bless me (implied by pallavi) to meditate on you (unai bhajikka) so that old (pazha) karma (vinai) does not cling/follow (todarAmal).

Do listen (kELAyO) (with your to divine ears (tiru seviyil)) my (en) complaints (muRaiyai – muRai is a rule, muRaiyIDu is a complaint against a rule, here the rule of karma), Oh Goddess (implied) who delights (vinOdini) in the great (uyar) music (gIta) of Sama Veda! Enough (pOdum) of your (un) trials (sOdanai), I cannot bear it (tALEnE); I am indeed (nAnE) helpless / with no other recourse (agadi), Oh Abhirami (Paravati-who is beautiful), Oh Vami (Parvati-who is the left half of Shiva) who is served by/bowed to by rAmadAsan (the signature of the composer) (paNiyum).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, D.K.Pattammal, Papanasam Sivan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan

29 responses to “Shivakama Sundari

  1. Suja! hope your daughter, grandchild and you get over your health issues soon! prayers!
    This is one of my favorite songs! Simple words but filled with meaning and emotions. thanks for writing about this beautiful song

    • Thank you Geetha for your good wishes and prayers! That was quick, I still haven’t left my computer table after posting my piece 🙂 It is indeed a beautiful song, very emotional and touches straight to my heart.

  2. I always read your blog, Suja, even when I can’t understand the music or relate to the spirituality.

    • And I appreciate it so much Srinivas! I know that you followed my little ruminations on filmi music but this isn’t your thing really 🙂 so I appreciate your reading even more!

  3. S.Chandrasekaran.

    Thank you , Madam, for the excellent write-up and also for the superb videos! May I expect one post atleast a month, from now on. Happy Navarathri!

    • It is I who must thank you. Indeed I am grateful for I expected no readers, and there you all are, saying hello! I started this blog for myself, as an expression of my love for music but then thought of it as an infinitely small service to fellow rasikas. With that in mind, I will try and write more often.

  4. indigoite

    Just see how committed your readers are to this blog. You ask if any readers are left and you get a fistful of comments even before the ink has dried on your post !

    A famous song. Often sung at kutcheris. Isn’t it interesting that the song being in Tamil, maks it easier for Tamil speakers to discern the meaning readily. Not speaking Telugu is a major handicap for Carnatic Music lovers – the meaning completely escapes you unless you read this blog carefully ! Semmangudi might say it doesn’t matter and the music is more important, but from this blog we have learnt that understanding the meaning enriches the experience.

    Of course, a kriti on Saraswati is now due, isn’t it 🙂

    • Ah Ramesh, you have always been a great supporter!

      Indeed I believe very strongly that the meaning is essential to the true appreciation of carnatic music because it is poetry set to music. And whoever heard of poetry where the words are unimportant?!! Ghazals and qawwalis are likewise poetry set to music, and they cannot be truly appreciated unless you understand the words. Of course many may disagree with me.

      Yes, I think Goddess Saraswati is sadly ignored by this blogger who loves music, art and learning!! I’ll have to address this lack, don’t I!

      Thank you again for your support.

  5. Saraswati

    Hi Suja
    Delighted to see your blog post. Your write-ups gives depth and meaning to the kritis /songs. Your explanations and interpretations resonates with my thought process. Was definitely missing that.
    Glad that you are back.
    Wishing you and your dear ones, a good health and happy Navaratri

    • Thank you Saraswati 🙂 Oh I am glad my thoughts seem meaningful to you! I guess I try to equate and correlate life experiences, music and spirituality, none of which may not align with those of others. So it’s good to hear it resonates with you. Thank you for your wishes.

  6. Good Evening.
    Nice to see you back. Now that you are into Vedanta, if time permits please visit and…. Thanks

  7. Happy Navaratri Suja.
    Best of health and cheer to all in your family.

    Indeed mukhari is a rakti raga, and Sivan’s song is evergreen as sung by Smt. D. K. Pattammal.

    • Thank you for your wishes. It’s odd, I was not much into Mukhari 20 years ago but as I grow older, it feels more and more appealing. Of course, songs such as this one stood apart for they were familiar and dear from way beyond.

  8. Hope you have a good Navrathri too and all well with you and yours. Although I am not a great fan of Mukhari, Shri Sivan’s compositions are very very special and connect with the soul instantly, perhaps because I am a Tamilian too. As someone else pointed out, understanding the lyrics adds to the experience. Having said that, I also find that the raga bhava is often enough to transport us to the spiritual mode.
    On the side, the anupallavi does make me ponder on the dichotomy between the eastern and western philosophies or what I understand of them. Do you agree the Hindu philosophy is slightly fatalistic while the west is more positive and stresses on effort and self belief and self reliance?
    Also, very happy that I am now able to comment:)

    • Ah good that you can comment finally 🙂 You are right, Papanasam Sivan’s compositions do connect with the listeners quite easily. Yes because we understand the language, and also because there is genuine emotion and simplicity in his lyrics. Mukhari hmmm – ragas are very personal and it’s hard to say why one appeals while another doesn’t. I have previously written a post on Endraikku Shiva Krupai where my selections should appeal. Do have a listen!
      Hindu philosophy is such a vast ocean that you can find ideas all the way from total atheism to Advaitism ! Yes generally we Indians, not just Hindus, are rather fatalistic I think. How has that affected our lives, I wonder…. Have there been both positive and negative effects? Something to think about..

      • True, maybe it’s an Indian thing ! And thanks again for posting this kriti, have listened to it so many times these last few days, by various singers. Also reminded me of my mother singing it 🙂
        Young Rahul Vellal appears to be missing from your list..the young lad is making big waves and is one of my favorites. I wonder if you have listened to him, Suja?

      • Yes indeed, I have listened to your Rahul. He is a very talented young boy, isn’t he! I am watching with interest where the path leads him.. No, I haven’t featured him as yet, I think I’ll wait for his adult voice..

  9. Padma

    Dear Suja , happy to see you back on your blog with this beautiful song during Navaratri…but the reason that brought you back , is worrisome.
    Hope daughter and grand daughter are now better and picking up .
    Also hoping your health is also better .. Wiyh this background when I listened to this song , both the Raagam and words sound so apt and emotional.

    Take care and stay well

  10. Thank you Padma. My daughter is doing much better; my little grandson still needs extra oxygen support. What can I do except pray?
    Take care of yourself too.

  11. Jay


    Glad to see this post. Listening to DK Pattamal late in the evening brought back memories of listening to AIR back in the day.

    I wish you, your grandson and your daughter the very best.


    • Hello Jay, I am happy to see you around again! Thank you for your kind wishes. There is rather nostalgic pleasure in listening to old recordings, isn’t there 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  12. What an amazing blog. I just discovered it. Thank you, thank you!

  13. Suja. Your blog just echos my thoughts. I have wrott3n 2 blogs at 2 stages in my when carnatic music spirituality became the pivot of my life. Now dance has waltzed Into my life putting other things in thr background. I keep recommending your blog to a lot of my friends..but sadly I have not kept up with reading it for a long time. I hope to correct this henceforth. Life does bring change to each of us at different stages in our life.
    I wish you good health and happiness always.

    • So many paths, all heading in the same direction, aren’t they? Spirituality through music, dance or art, spirituality through work, duty, commitment to family or society, spirituality through devotion, sacrifice, charity, and devotion through meditation, study, introspection – do they not take us to the same place finally? Thank you for recommending my blog but I am not writing regularly at all. Too busy with so many other pathways! My best wishes to you too.

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