Category Archives: Aruna Sairam

Chittam Eppadiyo

What is your intention, O Lord? Will you uplift me as a virtuous man? Or, Oh Doer, will you abandon me?

Graduation Today is a day of celebration for my family. After six years of study, our son can finally add Dr before his name! My young one, a doctor?!! It seems rather surreal to me. Images flash past in my mind, superimposed one over the other, a kaleidoscope of life.  I remember my pride at my six month old when he overcame his fear of crawling down the single step between the bedroom and the corridor. How I rejoiced at his first step at ten months, his first words soon after, his first foray into reading at three, his first entry to school soon after, his first hat-trick at seven, his first musical performance at eight, his first……ah! He has been my pride and joy for 23 years. As a mother, I can only pray for his well being and continued success in life.

Much as I am proud of my son’s achievements, I wonder how much credit should any individual get for what one does?  What exactly are we taking joy and pride in? Do not Karma and the hand of God play a really large part in our destinies? My son tells me that there is no free will; he believes that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. For a going-to-be-psychiatrist, this is a good position because one can treat everyone with kindness, absolving them of blame for their behaviour. On the other hand, it denies them credit for their achievements as well.

I have been thinking about this on and off for the past few days. I decide that though I understand causality, I disagree with any theory which absolves people from personal responsibility. So what do I believe in? In essence it is this : Every point in our lives is determined by two sets of causality. First, there is a holistic causality determined by everything in the world around us – from national and international politics to weather patterns. Second, there is personal causality, determined by our genetics, our upbringing, our experiences, our intellectual and emotional intelligence, by karma from this and other lives. Both holistic and individual causality brings us to decision points, while individual causality gives us an impulse to act in a certain manner (or not act). In that brief gap between impulse and action, free will comes into playWe take personal responsibility for bridging that gap, designing the karmic debt of the future. An overriding factor for all this is the hand of God.

Ramalinga Swamigal, also called Vallalar (1823-~1874) seems to ascribe more control to the will of God than individual free will. In a verse from Tiruvarutpa, he says in a most beautiful manner :

பாட்டுவித்தால் பாடுகின்றேன்,
பணிவித்தால் பணிகின்றேன்,
பதியே, நின்னைக் கூட்டுவித்தால் கூடுகின்றேன்,
குழைவித்தால் குழைகின்றேன்,
குறித்த ஊணை ஊட்டுவித்தால் உண்கின்றேன்,
உறக்குவித்தால் உறங்குகின்றேன்,
உறங்காதென்றும் ஆட்டுவித்தால் ஆடுகின்றேன்,
அந்தோ, இச்சிறியேனால் ஆவது என்னே !

Tiruvarutpa of Vallalar, Tirumurai-VI part I , verse 3369

paTTuvittAl pADuginDREn
paNivittAl paNiginDREn
padiyE, ninnai kUTTuvittAl kUDuginDREn
kuzhaivittAl kuzhaiginDREn
kuRitta UNai UTTuvittAl uNginDREn
uRanguvittAl uRanguginDREn
uRangAdenDRu ATTuvittAl ADuginDREn
andO, ichchiRiyEnAl Avadu ennE!

If you allow me to sing, I sing. If you allow me to serve, I serve. O Lord, if you allow me to join you, I join you. If you allow me soften with love, I soften. When you allow me to eat appropriate food, I eat. When you allow me to sleep, I sleep. When you forbid me to sleep and make me dance instead, I dance. Alas, what is in the control of this lowly being ?

This soul stirring poetry is sung by Aruna Sairam in raga Shubhapantuvarali and then Nadanamakriya before my song presentation of the day. Chittam Eppadiyo by Vedanayagam Pillai (1826-1889) is an emotive and contemplative song in which the poet asks ‘What is your intention, O Lord? Will you uplift me as a virtuous man or will you abandon me?’. Again, the implication here is that it is all under the control of God, saying little about free will. To know more about the raga, click here.

Alternate Link : Click here.


Footnote (Lyrics):

Language: Tamil

சித்தம் எப்படியோ ஐயா நின்

உத்தமனாக என்னை உயர்த்திடுவாயோ
கர்த்தனே நீ என்னை  கைவிடுவாயோ
(note, Aruna Sairam sings kAntanE instead of karttane. I believe this is an important word here – God as the Doer – and should not be changed)

வாடி நொந்தேனே மெய்ஞானக் கண் மூடி நைந்தேனே
நாடி ஆள்வாய் என்று நம்பி வந்தேனே
பாடும் வேதநாயகன் பருகும் செந்தேனே


chittam eppaDiyO ayyA nin

uttamanAga ennai uyartiDUvAyO
karttanE nI ennai kai viDuvAyO

vADi nondEnE mei jnAna kaN mUDi naindEnE
nADi ALvAi enDRu nambi vandEnE
pADum vEdanAyakan parugum sen tEnE


What is your intention, O Lord?

Will you uplift me as a virtuous man? Or, Oh Doer, will you abandon me?

Alas, I was wilted and wounded! Closing my true eyes of wisdom, I became frayed! Believing that you would search me out and rule me, I came here. O the pure honey that is imbibed by this singing Vedanayakan, what is you intention?


Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Vallalar, Vedanayagam Pillai

RTP in Madhyamavati

I prostrate before the Goddesses, that they may bless us all with food for the body and for the soul, with courage to face all that life throws at us, with the wellbeing of our children and those of the future generations to come, with victory in setting uplifting goals as well as in achieving them, with prosperity in all its forms and with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wealth for all.  Ashtalakshmi 2









I wish a very Happy Navaratri to all my readers !! May the Goddesses cast their eyes on all of you!

I had planned for some very interesting posts for this period but unfortunately my computer became sick and was hospitalised for the last ten days. As I am going to be away for the next two and a half months, my household responsibilities also reached mammoth proportions this week. Therefore I have chosen a very simple post for this occasion, a post I hope you will enjoy nonetheless.

I present to you a Ragam Tanam Pallavi by Aruna Sairam which celebrates the eight forms of Lakshmi. I have heard it innumerable times since I bought the CD a number of years ago; each time I find the same sense of prayer and fulfilment.  The main raga is Madhyamavati, a very auspicious raga. Aruna Sairam goes on to garland each of the eight forms of Lakshmi with a different Raga, each elegant, each beautiful. The ragas of the ragamalika are

Kamboji – Aadi Lakshmi आदि लक्ष्मी The Primeval Goddess, the foundation

Kurinji – Dhaanya Lakshmi धान्य लक्ष्मी The Goddess of Grain, of food

Atana – Dhairya Lakshmi धैर्य लक्ष्मी The Goddess of Courage

Mohanam – Gaja Lakshmi गज लक्ष्मी The Goddess of Elephants, of livestock

Sahana – Santaana Lakshmi संतान लक्ष्मी  The Goddess of the Progeny

Ranjani – Vijaya Lakshmi विजय लक्ष्मी The Goddess of Victory

Bhairavi – Aishwarya Lakshmi ऐश्वर्य लक्ष्मी The Goddess of Prosperity

Lalita – Dhana Lakshmi धन लक्ष्मी The Goddess of Wealth

This version is from the CD – I strongly recommend it as a buy, it is excellent.

Ragam :

Tanam :

Pallavi :

For those who cannot link with the music server I use, you can download a slightly different version from Sangeethapriya here (free membership needed). It is Item 10 in this album. This version is not as good as the one in the CD but still beautiful.

My prayers to the Goddesses for all!


Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music

Adathu Asangathu Va Kanna

Come without dancing and swaying, Krishna, as your dance makes all the fourteen worlds sway and tremble! Even Lord Shiva abandons his own dance to come and see you dance! When you dance, all who listen to the anklets jingle on feet are intoxicated. If one of your devotees who come to see your divine dance cast an evil eye on you, my heart will be wounded so please come without dancing and swaying.

Hamsa hand

Beware the evil eye!’ my mother would warn me whenever I talked of any good fortune which came my way.  I learnt from childhood to be circumspect with whom I shared good news. This belief in the evil eye is widespread in India. What I discovered with surprise in the course of my life that it is not Indians alone who fear it. This superstition is common amongst many cultures in South and Central Asia, the Mediterranean region, parts of South America as well as parts of Africa. If there is mention of it in Atharvaveda, there is also mention of it in the Old Testament and in the Islamic scriptures. That it is so widespread lends credence to it, don’t you think? Our minds are more powerful than we think, who knows what damage an envious thought can do?

Hand-in-hand with this belief in the evil eye are the ways of warding against them. In India you will often see children with black dots painted on their face, houses with odd and ugly sculptures mounted prominently, etc. In my recent very short visit to Turkey, I noticed with surprise the ‘eye’ very prominently displayed everywhere. A very long time ago, my Iraqi friend gave me a Hamsa hand, also called the hand of Miriam or the hand of Fatima to hang on my front door. After nearly 20 years, it still hangs there.

But can a look of envy affect God himself? Is He in danger of having an evil eye cast on Him? It does seem an odd thought. Isn’t He all powerful? Who could harm Him? Yet one of the most famous prayers recited daily in many Vaishnavaite temples is the couplet written by Periyazhwar in the 6th century to ward of the evil eye for Narayana.

பல்லாண்டு பல்லாண்டு பல்லாயிரத்தாண்டு
பலகோடி நூறாயிரம் மல்லாண்ட திண்தோள் மணிவண்ணா! உன் சேவடி செவ்விதிருக் காப்பு

pallANDu pallANDu pallAyirattANDu
pala kODi nURAyiram mallANDa tiN tOL maNivaNNA! un
sEvaDi sevvi tirukkAppu

O gem-coloured Lord with strong shoulders, who overcame the wrestling Mallas, may the beauty of your divine red feet be protected for countless years, for thousands of countless years, for millions of countless years !

Periyazhwar was not the only one who thought of protecting God from the evil eye. In today’s song, poet-composer Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer (1700-1765) sings to his beloved bala Krishna (Krishna as child). ‘Come without dancing and swaying’ he says. Krishna is so breath-taking when he comes dancing and singing that the whole world stops to watch. Even the great dancing Lord Shiva, whose dance keeps the world revolving, stops his dance to come and watch, says the poet. His description of the dancing Krishna is beguiling. He describes ‘The anklets of the tiny little feet’ which jingle,  the ‘plaited hair’ which is all in disarray by the dancing and swaying, the feather stuck in His hair displaced. He is still a beautiful God; ‘Azhaga’  the poet calls Him. Such beauty is in danger of the evil eye, is it not?  ‘If an evil eye is cast on you, my heart will be wounded!’ says he. This beautiful song is set to the Raga Madhyamavati. To know more about this raga, click here. For lyrics and translation see footnote.

There are many wonderful renditions of this song. I have chosen an interesting rendition of the song by one of my favourite musicians Aruna Sairam.

Alternate Link : Click here.

Now answer this quiz : The singer has brought in excerpts from four Oothkadu kritis into her rendition, as a Ragamalika. Which are the four kritis? Answers at the bottom of this post.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

ஆடாது அசங்காது வா கண்ணா
உன் ஆடலில் ஈரேழு புவனமும்
அசைந்து அசைந்தாடுதே எனவே

ஆடலைக் காணத்-தில்லை அம்பலத்திறைவனும் (அம்பலத்து + இறைவனும்)
தன் ஆடலை விட்டு இங்கே கோகுலம் வந்தான்
ஆதலினால் சிறு யாதவனே
ஒரு மாமயில் இறகணி  (இறகு+அணி) மாதவனே நீ

சின்னஞ் சிறு பதங்கள் சிலம்பொலித்திடுமே (சிலம்பு + ஒலித்திடுமே)
அதைச்-செவிமடுத்தப் பிறவி மனம் களித்திடுமே
பின்னிய சடை சற்றே வகை கலைந்திடுமே
மயில் பீலி அசைந்தசைந்து நிலை கலைந்திடுமே
பன்னிரு கை இறைவன் ஏறு மயில் ஒன்று
தன் பசுந்தோகை விரித்தாடி பரிசளித்திடுமே
குழல் பாடி வரும் அழகா
உனைக் காணவரும் அடியார் எவராயினும்
கனக மணி அசையும் உனது திரு நடனம்
கண் பட்டுப் போனால் மனம் புண்பட்டுப் போகுமே

Transliteration :

ADadu asangAdu vA kaNNA (nI)
un ADalil irEzhu bhuvanamum
asaindu asaindADude enavE

ADalai kAna (kaNNA un) tillai ambalat-tiRaivanum
tan ADalai viTTu ingE gOkulam vandAn
AdalinAl siru yAdavanE oru mA mayiliRagani mAdavanE nI

chinnan-siru padangal silambolittiDumE
adai sevimaDuttap-piravi manam kaLittiDumE
pinniya saDai satRE vagaik-kalaindiDumE
mayil pIli asaindu-asaindu nilai kalaindiDumE
panniRu kai iRaivan Eru mayil ondRu
tan pasun-togai virittADi parisaLittiDumE

madhayamakAla sahityam
kuzhal pAdi varum azhagA
unaik-kANavarum aDiyAr evarAyinum
kanaka maNi asaiyum unadu tiru natanam
kaN paTTu pOnAl manam puN paTTu pOgumE


Come (vA) without dancing and swaying (ADAdu asangAdu), my Krishna (Kanna)
By your (un) dance (ADalil) all the fourteen (IREzhu) worlds (bhuvanamum) sway and tremble (asaindu asaindu ADudE), therefore (enavE) (come without dancing…)

To see (kANa) your (un) dance (ADalai), even the Lord of the temple (ambalattu-iRaivan) at Tillai (Lord Shiva)
abandoned (viTTu) His (tan) dance (ADalai) and came (vandAn) here (ingE) to Gokulam
Therefore (AdalinAl), O young (siru) Yadava, who wears (aNi) the feather (iRagu) of a (oRu) great (mA) peacock (mayil), O Madhava (come without dancing…)

The anklets (silambu) on the tiny little (chinnan-shiru) feet (padangaL) will jingle (olittiDumE),
and the minds (manam) of the life forms (piravi) which listen (sevimaDutta) to it will be intoxicated (kaLittuDumE),
the plaited (pinniya) hair (saDai) will be disarranged (vagai kalaindiDumE) just a bit (saTRE),
the peacock (mayil)  feather (pIli) will have moved (nilai kalaindiDumE) with all the swaying (asaindu asaindu)
One of the peacocks (mayil onDRu) mounted by (Eru) the Twelve-Handed (panniRu kai) Lord (iRaivan) (Murugan)
will bestow the gift (parisu aLittuDumE) of dancing (ADi) with its tender (pasum) feathers (tOgai) outspread (virittu)

Oh handsome Lord (azhagA) who comes (varum) while playing the flute (kuzhal paDi))
If one of (evarAyinum) your devotees (aDiyAr) who come (varum) to see (kANa) you (unai)
dance your (unadu) divine (tiru) dance (natanam) with golden (kanaka) bells (maNi) swaying (asaiyum)
cast an evil eye on you (kaN paTTu ponAl), my heart (manam=mind) will be wounded (pUN paTTu) (therefore, come without…)


Answer to the quiz :

The four kritis from which excerpts are sung are :

1. Thaye Yashoda in Todi
kAlinil silambu konja kaivaLai kulunga muttu
mAlaigaL asaiya teru vAsalil vandAa
kAlasaivum kaiyasaivum avan tALAmODi saidu vara
nIlavaNNa kaNNan ivan nartam ADurAn

2. Kshanameva Ganyam Anye in Bhupalam
nIla rUpENa ranjita kOmaLa nirmala padayuga nUpura galgala
lOva vurasthala kaustubha maNivara mukhatara smita nasmikara smaraNa
(note: Last part above is different as sung by Aruna Sairam)

sAra sAsana sanaka sanAtana sujana gaNAdi vinuta nartana
kOMaLa pada brndAvana viharaNa gOpa gOpikA jIvana smaraNa

3. Madhura Madhura in Atana
bahu vidha kaLabha kastUri tilaka gandham sugandham
samam samAgama guhuguhu itividha kOkila kalarava kUjita brndAvana sadanA
mAhEndra nIla dyuti kOmalAnga mrdu mandahAsa vadanA
kunda vrnda makaranda bindu samabrndahAra taraNa
chandra sUrya nayanA nAgEndra shayana ramaNA

4. Nirada Sama in Jayantishri
makara kuNDala dharita mahanIya vESA
sakala jana munigaNa samUha mana mOhA
tara kaTaka karatala jla jvalita jAlA


Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer

Ananda Nartana Ganapatim

I meditate upon the joyously dancing Ganapati. He is Spirit incarnate, he is the origin and the foundation, the form of Om, elephant faced, the greatest! He is praised by the joyful chiefs of sages. He lies hidden in the mind of Shiva Shankara.  He dwells as the reverberations when celestial musicians endowed with the lute and rhythm  strike a note. He is heaven for the wretched. He dwells with beauty in an incomparible divine kalEbara.  He dwells in light. He is incomparable. He is fitting. He is honoured by his devotees.

Narthana GanapatiHappy Ganesh Chaturthi to all of you!

Pillaiyar (His Tamil name) and I share a very amicable relationship. I think of Him as my friend and look often to Him to share the ups and downs of life with me. It wasn’t always so. Brought up in a Vaishnavaite family, He existed only vaguely in my peripheral vision. Naturally, when I married, left India and marked out one corner of my kitchen bench top as the altar of my new home, I did not look for a picture or idol to represent Him. Thus I reached the ripe age of 29 without really integrating Pillaiyar into my life.

Then in my 29th year something strange happened. Pillaiyar started invading my home. First it was a friend who came to visit and gave a little pencil holder carved with His form. Then came another friend from India who gave me a small idol which I placed in my altar. A friend from Bombay sent me prasad from a Vinayaka temple and yet another idol. My sister-in-law sent along a wall hanging in Batik, another Pillaiyar.  My mother sent a pocket calendar with a picture of Ganesh. Ah, I forgot to say – all this was over just a couple of weeks.

Very soon after that I had a psychic experience, an experience which gives me goosebumps even now. Don’t mistake me. I am just an ordinary woman. But very rarely in one’s life extraordinary things can and do happen. And so an extraordinary thing happened to me. After the experience I was left with an unassailable conviction that Pillaiyar had blessed me with a son. As we had not even contemplated having a second child, my husband looked at me with great disbelief when I shared my experience with him that evening. But a visit to the doctor a few weeks later confirmed it, and 40 weeks later I had a beautiful son to nestle in my arms. Now 22 years later, as I look at him sitting across the room engrossed in his book, I remember that day and the wonderful blessing I was given. And on this Pillaiyar Chaturthi day, I once again thank Him for sending me my son.  Needless to say, since that day so many years ago, Pillaiyar’s presence abounds in my heart and my home.

So what music did I pick for Him today? Those who follow my blog know how much pleasure I take in dancing Gods. And what can be more wonderful that a dancing Pillaiyar? In this wonderfully rhythmic song set to Raga Natta (click here to know a bit more about this raga), Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyar prays to Vinayaka while he dances his divine dance. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

To present this song, I went for the obvious choice of a dance. In the video below, watch Padmashri and Sangeet Natak Academy winner Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant give meaning to this song with her beautiful Bharatanatyam movements.


Click here to listen to an energetic rendition by Aruna Sairam, with slightly different jatis.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

Note: I have transcribed the jatis as it has been sung for the dance video. It seems as if different musicians add their own jatis as I have heard a few different versions.

आनन्द नर्तन गणपतिं भावये – (परम् / सदा )
चिदाकार मूलाधार ॐ कार गजवदनं परमम् परम् (आनन्द)

सानन्द मुनीन्द्र गणनुत शिव शङ्कर मानस निलीयमानं
तन्त्रीलय समन्वित गन्धर्व सारण वरानुगीय मानं
दीन जन मन्दारं अनुपम दिव्य कलेबर शोभाय  मानं
भासमानं असमानं भजमानं भक्तजन सम्मानं

पा म ग मा रि सा स रि सा
तकदिमि तकजणु किट तडान्गु तक
दीम् त दीम् त ता तैय्य ताम्
ता तडम्तरि ता  तक तडं तडं तरि तै
तरि तरि तरि त  दिमि दिमि दिमि त
जडु जडु जडु त  दिमि दिमि किट त
किट किट किट जण जण जण

दिविपतिनुतं  पदसरिसजं
म ग प म नि प मरकत निभं
मदकरिमुखं प्रणव निनदं
अजितं अनघं शुभदं परमम्

कनकाम्बर धरणं एक रदनं / दन्तं

तक तडं तकत तरि दित्
तक तडं तकत तरि तक तडं तकत तरि ताम्
दित् तक तडं तकत तरि दित्
तक तडं तकत तरि तक तडं तकत तरि तै
तत् दित् तक तडं तकत तरि दित्
तक तडं तकत तरि तक तडं तकत त


Ananda nartana gaNapatim bhAvayE
chidAkAra mUlAdhAra OmkAra gajavadanam paramam param (Ananda)

sAnanda munIndra gaNanuta shiva shankara mAnasa nilIyamAnam
tantrI laya samanvita gandharva sAraNa varAnugIya mAnam
dIna jana mandAram anupama divya kaLebara shObhAya mAnam
bhAsamAnam asamAnam bhajamAnam bhaktajana sammAnam

pa ma ga mA ri sa sA sa ri sA
takadimi takajaNu kiTa taDAngu taka
dIm ta dIm ta tA taiyya tAm
tA taDambari tA taka taDam taDam tari tai
tari tari tari ta dimi dimi dimi ta
jaDu jaDu jaDu ta dimi dimi kiTa ta
kiTa kiTa kiTa jaNa jaNa jaNa

divipatinutam pada sarisijam
ma ga pa ma ni pa marakata nibham
madakari mukham praNava ninadam
ajitam anagham shubadam paramam
kanakAmbara dharaNam Eka radanam (or eKa dantam)

taka taDam takata tari dit
taka taDam takata tari taka taDam taka tari tAm
dit taka taDam takata tari dit
taka taDam takata tari taka taDam taka tari tai
tat dit taka taDam takata tari dit
taka taDam takata tari taka taDam taka ta (Ananda)


I meditate (bhavayE) upon the joyously (Ananda) dancing (nartana) Ganapati. He is Spirit incarnate (chidAkara), he is the origin and the foundation (mUla AdhAra), the form of Om (OmkAra), elephant faced (gaja vadana), the greatest (paramam).

He is praised (nuta) by the joyful (sAnanda) group (gaNa) of chiefs of sages (munIndra). He lies hidden (nilIyamAnam) in the mind (manasa) of Shiva Shankara.  He dwells (mAnam) as the after-song (reverberations?) (anugIta) (note: unsure if anugIya comes from anugIta) when celestial musicians (gandharva) endowed with the lute and rhythm (tantrI laya) strike a note (sAraNa). He is heaven (mandAra) for the wretched (dIna jana). He dwells (mAnam) with beauty (shObhAya) in an incomparible (anupama) divine (divya) kalEbara (body).  He dwells (mAnam) in lustre/light (bhAsa). He is incomparable (asamAnam). He is fitting (bhajamAnam). He is honoured (sammAnam) by his devotees (bhakta jana).

He is praised (nutam) by the Lord (pati) in Heaven (divi) (meaning Indra I think). His feet (pada) are like the lotus (sarasijam). He resembles (nibham) an emerald (marakata). He has a face (mukham) of an elephant (madakari is an elephant in rut, but here perhaps it just means elephant. Unsure). He is the sound (ninadam) of Om (pranava). He is unsurpassed (ajitam). He is faultless (anagham). He is the giver (-da as suffix) of welfare (shubha).  He is the supreme (paramam). He wears (dhAranam) golden (kanaka) clothes (ambara). He has one (Eka) radanam or dantam (tusk).



Filed under Ananda Shankar Jayant, Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer

Enna Kavi Padinalum

Madurai SomuDespair. Of all human emotions, is this not the most painful?  Hope is what keeps us living from one minute to the next, of taking one step after another. What are we hoping for, you may ask. Whether our circumstances are propitious or direly,  we all share the unvoiced hope that there will be no disasters in the next minutes or hours, that life will flow through  our veins, that those we care about will be safe. Despair then is the lack of even these hopes, it is like taking away the foundations of life from beneath our feet, making it meaningless.

We do not see despair very often in Carnatic Music though this music is very emotional in nature. Carnatic Music runs through a gamut of emotions, from romantic to tragic, from joyful to reflective, from devotional to patriotic. The emotion is perhaps one the most important part of this music; technical artistry is after all well understood only by a limited audience and the many languages in which the songs are written is a barrier to responding to the words. Emotion speaks to all.

Enna Kavi Padinalum , my song choice for today, speaks of despair. It is set suitably to the Raga Neelamani which drips pathos. The lyricist-composer Anayampatti Adisesha Iyer (later known as Sadhu Guhananda) addresses Lord Murugan when he says ‘Whichever poet (=poet’s song) I sing, your heart still does not melt, are you still testing me?’. He despairs of the lack of divine blessings in his life but what touched me most  is the phrase that ‘there is no one to take my side’.  Don’t we all want that, need that? Somebody to take out part in life? Yet in his despair, he still cries out for one ray of hope ‘if only You (Murugan) thought of me, I would have no more misery’.  For full lyrics and translation, see footnote. To more about the raga Neelamani, click here.

Today I present the song in the voice of Madurai Somasundaram (1919-1989) who made this song his own. It is impossible not to be touched by his emotional rendition. Note how the violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman, the Maestro whom I love and admire to the depths of my heart, wrings pathos out of every note.

In recent times, it is Aruna Sairam’s deeply emotional singing which has touched me. Click here to listen to a soulful rendition.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Tamil

என்ன கவி பாடினாலும் உந்தன் உள்ளம் இரங்கவில்லை
இன்னும் என்ன சோதனையா முருகா, முருகா (என்ன கவி)

அன்னையும் அறியவில்லை தந்தையோ நினைப்பதில்லை
(உன்) மாமியோ (/மாமியும் ) பார்ப்பதில்லை மாமனோ கேட்பதில்லை (என்ன கவி)

அக்ஷரலக்ஷம் தந்த  அண்ணல்  போஜ ராஜன் இல்லை
பக்ஷமுடனே அழைத்து பரிசளிக்க யாரும் இல்லை
ஈஜகத்தில் நீ நினைந்தால் எனக்கோர் குறைவில்லை
(அ) லக்ஷியமோ உனக்கு உன்னை நான் விடுவதில்லை (என்ன கவி)


enna kavi pADinAlum undan uLLam irangavillai
innum enna sOdanaiyA murugA  murugA

annaiyum ariyavillai tandaiyO ninaippadillai
un mAmiyO (/mamiyum) pArppadillai mAmanO kETpadillai

akshara laksham tanda aNNal bhOja rAjan illai
pakshamuDanE azhaittu parishaLikka yArumillai
Ijagttil  nI ninaindal enakkOr kuraivillai
(a)lakshiyamO unakku unnai nAn viDuvadillai


Whichever poet (=song of poet) I sing, your heart does not melt. Are you still testing me, Muruga?

(Your) mother (=Shakti) does not wish to know, nor does your father (=Shiva) even think of me. Your aunt (=Lakshmi) does not see me, your uncle (Vishnu) does not listen to me. Implied meaning: Without Shakti, the poet is powerless and without Shiva, who is most compassionate,  he is without blessings.   Without Lakshmi looking at him, he has no wealth as even a look from the corner of her eyes – Lakshmi kataksham – one is so blessed. Without Vishnu, the Preserver,  listening to him, the poet’s very life is at stake.

The generous king Bhoja Raja who gave lakhs (note: the famous king was a generous patron of the arts), nor is there anyone who will take my side and gift me. In this world, if you only thought of me, I would have no more misery. Is this your aim (to be indifferent to me)? Or do you just not care?  I shall not give you up!


Filed under Anayampatti Adisesha Iyer, Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Madurai Somasundaram


RainAs the sky in Melbourne seems to be quite grey this morning, I am playing this old favourite of mine set to Raga Amrutavarshini, meaning She Who Showers Nectar.

We Indians have always associated rain with joy. Not for us the associations of the Western world which link rain with cold, gloom, threat and generally bad times.  Quite the opposite for us, isn’t it? We associate rain with joy, exuberance, hope, growth  and prosperity.  In Australia, an immense land with low water resources, the Western association seems like nonsense. Here, we too look gladly at rain, so this song is very appropriate.

The composer, Muthuswami Dikshitar, prays to the Goddess saying ‘you who captivates us into a nectar like joy, shower us with nectar like rain’. He goes on to praise Her compassion, entreating Her to bring us rain. Legend says that Dikshithar was on his way to Ettiyapuram to see his brother. Arriving at a place under severe drought, Dikshitar sang this song. When he came to the part ‘Salilam Varshaya Varshaya Varshaya’ a heavy downpour started which went on to relieve the drought. It is said that many agnostics and atheists became theists on seeing this.

I love the sound of Amrutavarshini. To learn more about the raga, click here. I have heard talented artists bring forth the patter of rain on roofs with their kalpanaswarams, sometimes the gentle tapping of a spring shower, sometimes the furious drumming of a torrential downpour. I personally prefer brisk renditions as the scale seems to become even more joyful with rapid execution. Here are a few renditions that I particularly enjoy :

First, click below to listen to Aruna Sairam’s brisk rendition (7 mins) which is a tattoo of sounds reminiscent of the subject matter; it is a thundershower in summer, beating out all thought but the music.

Next, listen to a more elaborate version (19 min) by the Hyderabad Brothers with a nice alapanai leading up to a brisker kriti and kalpanaswarams; much like a long afternoon of  interspread light and heavy showers.

And third, listen to this fantastic violin interpretation (9 mins) by Lalgudi Jayaraman which is very lyrical and reminds me of peacocks dancing to spring showers in lush surroundings.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

The composition is in Sanskrit.

आनन्दामृताकर्षिणि अमृत वर्षिणि
हरादि पूजिते शिवे भवानि

समष्टि चरणम्
श्री नन्दनादि संरक्षिणि श्री गुरुगुह जननि चिद्रूपिणि
(मध्यमकाल  साहित्यं)
सानन्द हृदय  निलये सदये सद्य सुवृष्टि हेतवे त्वाम्
सन्ततं चिन्तये अमृतेश्वरि सलिलं वर्षय वर्षय वर्षय

For lyrics in Southern languages, click here.


AnandAmrutAkarshiNi amruta varshiNi
harAdi poojitE SivE bhavAni

sree nandanAdi samrakshiNi sri guruguha janani chidroopiNi

sAnanda hrudayE nilayE sadayE sadya suvrushti hetavE tvAm
santatam chintayE amruteshvari salilam varshaya varshaya varshaya

O Bhavani, you who are adored by Shiva and other Gods, who captivates us into a nectar like joy and shower us with nectar like rain.

You who are the protector of the son of Lakshmi (Kama, possibly referring to when Shiva revives Kama by request of Parvati after burning him to ashes), you who are the mother of Guru Guha (Karthikeya), you are a form of the intellect/spirit, you who dwell in hearts full of joy, you who are compassionate, give us (be the cause of – from noun hetu) good rain soon, I think of you always O embodiment of nectar, shower us with rain, shower us with rain.



Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Hyderabad Brothers, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Muthuswami Dikshithar

Krishna Nee Begane

Krishna with fluteReturning home after ten days of travel, it is with great pleasure that I cook myself a satvik meal of rice, dal and simply cooked vegetables that my body craves while listening to satvik Carnatic music which my soul craves. In my tired state, it is the gentlest sound of this familiar song in lilting Yamuna Kalyani raga that brings me the restfullness that I need.

Come soon and show me your face!’ says Vyasatirtha (1460-1539) to Lord Krishna. He was a great philosopher and saint and was one of the most influential of Dvaita philosophers of Southern India.  Vyasatirtha was the guru of Purandaradasa (1484-1564), the father of Carnatic Music. In this lovely song, he says ‘With anklets on your feet and blue-sapphire bracelets, come dancing to me O blue-skinned one! With a waistband with bells around your waist, with rings on your fingers and your Vyjayanti garland around your neck, come soon! Dressed in saffron silk from Kashi, flute in hand, and body anointed with  sandalwood, come soon!’.

Who is not familiar with this well-loved image of Krishna? In this song, the poet brings to life our beloved Krishna with such exquisite simplicity that as I listen to the music, Krishna’s presence surrounds and permeates my world. To know more about the raga Yamuna Kalyani, click here.

Listen below to Aruna Sairam’s beautiful rendition of this song. She starts with a sloka from Krishna Karnamritam कृष्ण कर्णामृतं by Bilvamangala Swami (14th century).

बहुल चिकुर भारम् बद्ध पिञ्छावतंसम् चपल चपल नेत्रम् चारु बिम्बाधरोष्ठं
मधुर मृदुल हासम् मन्दरोदार लीलम् मृगयति नयनम् मे मुग्ध वेषम् मुरारेः

He who has His luxuriant tresses adorned with peacock feathers, with flashing eyes, with a delicate smile in his charming red lips, with very generous appearance – my eyes search for that Krishna with the youthfully attractive look.

For the lyrics and translation of the song, click here.

For an excellent instrumental version, I have of course chosen the flute. It is played by the superbly talented Maestro Shashank who enchanted me with this beautiful rendition.

I am reminded of the band Colonial Cousin and their fusion piece based on Krishna Nee Begane by a reader. Though in general I am not a fan of fusion, this is particularly well done and well worth a listen. I liked the video as well.



Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Kannada, Shashank, Vyasatirtha