Category Archives: Bombay Jayashri

Azhaga Azhaga

azhagar-koilAre Gods beautiful?

According to the great poets and songwriters of India, Gods are indeed beautiful. We even come across hymns and prayers from ancient times which describe the beauty of the Gods in extravagant terms.

But why do Gods need to be beautiful? This bothers me somewhat, especially in the climate of today where there is an obsession over beauty. I would like to think of Gods as being compassionate, loving, just, generous and forgiving. In comparison, beauty seems to be such an inessential quality! Surely this focus on beauty is worth questioning?

I guess we humans have always been drawn to beauty. We like to decorate ourselves with cosmetics, jewellery and garments in order to make ourselves more beautiful. I remember visiting archaeological museums and admiring the way even the most ancient of people made rings, necklaces and other such ornaments. Cosmetics aren’t anything new either; I believe it comes from the time of the ancient Egyptians. Still, I find that the world today has taken this pursuit of beauty to such extremes! Plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons has become so common. Why, I read recently of Far-Eastern ladies having surgery to make their eyes bigger, short (or not!) people deliberately having their legs broken and stretched so that they could be taller! I am rather horrified! Yet the practices such as lengthening the neck as practiced in some African tribes are no different and these practices have been around for years. Body piercing and tattooing too has been around for a long time. I guess my protests against this madness for beauty are a bit hypocritical; like many ladies, I too make attempts to present myself as well as I can. Still, I see beauty as no more than a superficial thing and giving it importance goes against my grain. So I come back to the question, why describe Gods as being beautiful?

TED lecture by neurobiologist Samir Zeki that I happened to watch gave me an interesting perspective; in fact, that is what prompted me to write this post. In his research, he has found that there are neural correlations between the subjective mental states of love and the experience of beauty. In effect, there is one common area of mental activity located in the medial orbital frontal cortex which is active when one experiences beauty and also happens to be the same area which is active when you look at the face of the person you love very much. Does it mean that we experience both emotions similarly, I wonder? Does an experience of beauty trigger us to love the object which gives us this experience and equally, do we see beauty in all that we love? I am just speculating but I wonder if Gods are described as beautiful to make it easy for us to love them?

Yesterday I was listening to a Podcast on aesthetics and there was a comment which caught my attention. The speaker talked about a ‘vocabulary cloud’ which links the words beauty, truth and goodness. I immediately thought of ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram’, not the movie, but the philosophy. I did a quick search to see if I could find the exact source, but I only found imprecise info linking it to the Upanishads (if you know the source, can you please add a comment with the info? Much obliged!). ‘What‘, I asked myself, ‘if it is only the presence of Satyam (Truth) and Shivam (Goodness) which brings about the quality of Sundaram (Beauty)‘?  I remember my university days when I used to find great beauty in the perfection of a well-solved mathematical problem, the perfect ratios in nature etc. I used to describe them as beautiful; and yes, there was truth in them, goodness in them. Now that kind of beauty truly attracts me; I am very comfortable associating such beauty with the Divine!

I chose the song which came first to my mind when I thought of this subject. Written in praise of the deity from Azhagar Koil (the temple of the Handsome One), it is written by Ambujam Krishna is a very emotive and personal style. Set to Shuddha Dhanyasi, a lyrically appealing Raga, it is a very beautiful song and I hope it pleases you as much as it pleases me. MLV was famous for this song and if you haven’t heard her as yet, be sure to listen here to one of her many renditions available freely on the net. There is also a very pleasing rendition by Bombay Jayashri which I like very much. But with an intention of listening to young artists whenever possible, here is a very nicely done rendition by Saketharaman.

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Footnote (Lyrics) 

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
அழகா அழகா என்றழைத்துக் கை தொழுது வந்தேன்
திருமாலிருஞ்சோலை உறையும் வடி  (வழகா)

அனுபல்லவி
வழுவாது திருப்பாதம் தொழுதேத்தும் அன்பர்க்கு
அருள் வாரிச் சொரிந்து அவர் உள்ளம் கவரும் கள்  (ளழகா)

சரணம்
நடந்து நடந்து உன் சன்னிதி வந்தேன்
நாதன் உன் நற்றால் நிழல் தாராயோ?
நாடி நாடி உன் புகழ் கேட்டு வந்தேன்
நாரணா என் குரல் செவியுரக் கேளாயோ?
அடைக்கலம் அடைக்கலம் என்றுனை அடைந்தேன்
அபயக் கரம் தந்து வினை தீராயோ?
பாடிப் பாடி உனைப் போற்றிப் பணியும் எனக்குப்
பவழ வாய் திறந்து அஞ்சேலென்று அருளாயோ?

மத்யமகால சாகித்தியம்

விரிஜ்யோதி கமலமென உன் முகத்தே திகழும்
இருவிழி அருள் தேனை அள்ளி அள்ளி உண்டு
மறை புகழும் திரு மார்பில் மன்னி என்று உரைந்திட
மன வண்டுன் புகழ் பாட மையலுடன் உனை நாடி   (அழகா)

Transliteration

pallavi
azhagA azhagA enDRazhaittuk kai tozhudu vandEn
tirumAlirunjchOlai uRaiyum vaDi (vazhagA)

anupallavi
vazhuvAdu tiruppAdam tozhudEttum anbarkku
aruL vArich chorindu avar uLLam kavarum kaL   (LazhagA)

charaNam
naDandu naDandu un sannidi vandEn
nAtan un naTRAl nizhal tArAyO?
nADi nADi un pugazh kETTu vandEn
nAraNA en kural seviyurak kELAyO?
aDaikkalam aDaikkalam enDRunai aDaindEn
abhayak karam tandu vinai tIrAyO?
pADip pADi unaip pOTRip paNiyum enakkup
pavazha vAy tiRandu anjElenDRu aruLAyO?

madyamakAla sAhityam

virijyOti kamalamena un mugattE tigazhum
iruvizhi aruL tEnai aLLi aLLi uNDu
maRai pugazhum tiru mArbil manni enDRu uraindiDa
mana vaNDun pugazh pADa maiyyaluDan unai nADi  (azhagA)

Translation

pallavi
Oh handsome one (azhagA)! Thus (enDRu) have I called out (azhaittu) as I have come (vandEn), hands (kai) held in worship (tozhudu). O One with the handsome form (vadivazhagA) who lives in (uRaiyum) Thirumalirunsolai (literally Tirumal=Vishnu, irum=residing in, solai=grove also called Sri Kallazhagar Perumal Temple or Azhagar Koil near Madurai).

anupallavi
For the devotees (anbar) who worshipfully praise (tozhudu=worship, Ettu=praise) the sacred feet (tiru+pAdam) which never fail us (vazhuvAdu), Kallazhagar (the name of the deity) attracts (kavarum) their hearts (uLLam) by showering them (chorindu) in a torrent (vAri) of blessings (aruL).

charNam
I have come walking (naDandu) a long way (implied by the second naDandu) to your sanctum (sannidhi). O Lord (nAtan), will you not give me (tArAyo) your protection/shelter (nizhal) out of your goodness (naTRAl)? Hearing of (kETTu) your glory (pugazh), I have come (vandEn) seeking (nADi nADi) O Narayana (nAraNA), do you not hear (kELAyO) my (en) loud (ura) voice (kuRal) ? Calling out (implied) ‘Sanctuary Sanctuary‘ (aDaikkalam)  thus (enDRu) I have approached you (aDaindEn), will you not bring an end to (tIrAyo) to my misfortune (vinai) by giving me (tandu) your gesture of fearlessness (abhaya karam, a mudra indicating protection)? Will you not open (tiRandu) your coral (pavazha) lips (vAy, literally mouth) and bless (aruLAyo) me (ennai) by saying ‘Do not fear‘ (anjEl enDRu), I who worship you (paNiyum) by singing (pADi) again and again (indicated by second pADi) in praise of (pOTRi) you (unai)?

My mind (mana) is like a bee (vaNDu) which seeks you (nADi) in attraction (maiyyaluDan) of the two eyes (iru vizhi) which are like luminous blooming (viri jyoti) lotuses (kamalam) in your face (mugattE tigazhum), to grab again and again (aLLi aLLi) the honey (tEnai) of your benevolence (aruL). Singing (pADa) your (un) praise (pugazh), and saying (uraindiDa)  ‘Forgive Me’ (manni) to the holy chest (tiru marbil)..(O Handsome one!)

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Filed under Ambujam Krishna, Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Saketharaman, Uncategorized

Kamakshi Bangaru

KamakshiHappy Navaratri, Dussera and Durga Puja to all my readers! I hope you are all enjoying the festivities of this season!

I feel very blessed by the Goddesses this week; we’ve had some very good news in the family. My son has just been accepted into the College of Psychiatry, a dream he has had for a long time.  For those who haven’t read my occasional forays into personal life, my son (25) is a doctor currently working as a Resident. He has long dreamed of becoming a Psychiatrist. His getting a placement as a Psych Registrar is a very big step in the many steps that it has taken to embark on his chosen career. It feels especially good to get this news during Navaratri.

I believe he owes his success to his worship of the Goddesses, but not in any way you imagine. In fact, much to my distress, he claims to be somewhere between atheistic and agnostic. So why do I say that he worships the Goddesses? Is it possible to get blessings without a single shlOka or puja, without even acknowledging the existence of the Goddesses? Let me share my thoughts…(Note: I am in a mood to ramble, so if you want just the music, jump right ahead!)

We believers think that our Gods and Goddesses are omnipresent. That they are present both in those who acknowledge them and those who don’t. Let us search for Shakti first. She is manifest as energy all around us. Touch your skin – even the warmth there is but a manifestation of the energy your cells create. But just as in a temple we need to perform a prANa pratishTHa to consecrate the idol and bring the power of the deity within it, we too need to ‘consecrate’ ourselves to let her manifest her powers within us. How can we do that? I have a theory..

Is Shakti not energy? So if we follow our goals with energy and vigour, surely it is a celebration of her! Shakti is prANa, the life energy itself. How better to worship her than by looking after the health of our bodies and minds? Shakti is courage. By developing our self-confidence and courage, we invite Her to take residence in our hearts. As a baby my son was afraid of the whole world. I could not even enter a lift if there were others there! It took years of coaxing for him to accept the world outside our family. As a boy, he was shy and retiring. He would hardly meet anyone’s eyes when he talked. I remember a moment of pride when at sixteen he voluntarily walked up to a visitor at home and introduced himself; it felt as if he had crossed an important threshold! When he bravely presented a research paper at a Psych conference at 21, almost a decade younger than the next youngest conference attendee, I was bursting with pride. I have seen him slowly build on his courage, his self-confidence to a level that he performs very well in interviews. If this is not the prANa pratishTHa  of Shakti, what is?

Lakshmi too is ever present in our lives. Every time anything good has happened to you, every time you have felt lucky, every time you have enjoyed a sense of well-being and happiness, it is but Lakshmi kaTAksham – Her eye has fallen on you. Or so I believe. She may look in our direction but unless we have done the groundwork to receive it, her blessings may slip and fall from our fingers! In his last rotation, my son was lucky enough to have the Head of Psych Training of another leading hospital as his supervisor. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. She gave a glowing reference saying that ‘I’ll be happy to work with him as my colleague’! By working hard and well enough to gain such a reference, he prepared himself to receive Lakshmi’s blessings; I see it as Lakshmi pratishTHa.  At another conference he attended, he learnt that one of the interview panellists was there. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. He walked up to him and introduced himself, talking of the job he hoped to get. That is Lakshmi pratishTHa. A senior nurse he worked with happened purely by chance to meet one of the panellists. She remembered my son voluntarily and spoke well of him. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. That he had established a good relationship with the nursing staff, that is Lakshmi pratishTHA.

Where would we be without Saraswati? Knowledge governs our life at every turn. An infant who recognizes his mother as his source of nourishment and succour, even that infant has an important piece of knowledge. We are bombarded with information in this world, we absorb only a minute fraction of which even a smaller fraction gets converted into knowledge. As to wisdom, I don’t know how one gets that but I hope that one day our knowledge leads us to wisdom! Is not Saraswati in all sources of knowledge,  in all wisdom? When we convert information to knowledge and then into wisdom, what is it but Saraswati pratishTHa? Even with his limited income as an intern and a resident, my son made the effort to attend many seminars and conferences in Psychiatry over the past two years. I myself was surprised when I saw his CV – ‘When did he get the time to do all that?’ I wondered. When we pursue knowledge we are but paying homage to the Goddess!

I have rambled on a bit, haven’t I? But then a proud mama is allowed to gloat a while! But back now to music. My song choice today is a composition by Shyama Shastri in the Raga Varali. ‘Please protect me’ says the composer, invoking the many qualities and symbolisms of the Goddess. He was a priest at the Kamakshi temple in Tanjavur; his love for his Goddess is very evident in this composition. I present below this beautiful song in the mellifluous voice of Bombay Jayashri.

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Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

पल्लवि
कामाक्षि बङ्गारु कामाक्षि (अम्बा)
नन्नु ब्रोववे

अनुपल्लवि
तामसमेले रावे
साम गान लोले सुशीले

चरणम्
श्याम कृष्ण परिपालिनी
शुक श्यामळे  शिव शङ्करी
शूलिनी सदा शिवुनिकि राणी
विशालाक्षि  तरुणी  शाश्वत रूपिणी

स्वर  साहित्य
ना मनविनि विनु देवी
नीवे गतियनि नम्मिनानु
मायम्मा  वेगमे करुण जूडवम्मा
बङ्गारु बॊम्मा

Transliteration

pallavi
kAmAkshi bangAru kAmAkshi (ambA)
nannu brOvavE

anupallavi
tAmasamElE rAvE
sAma gAna lOlE sushIlE

charaNam
shyAma kRshNa paripAlinI
shuka shyAmaLE shiva shankarI
shUlinI sadA shivuniki rANI
vishAlAkshi taruNI shAshvata rUpiNI

svara sAhitya
nA manavini vinu dEvI
nIvE gatiyani namminAnu
mAyammA vEgamE karuNa jUDavammA
bangAru bommA

Translation :

Note : I do not speak Telugu; I have sourced the translation from multiple web sources.

O Kamakshi! O Golden (bangAru) Kamakshi! Please protect (brOvavE) me (nannu). Why (Ela) delay (tAmasam)? Please come (rAvE)!  O Enjoyer (lOlE) of recitation (gAna) of sAma vEda! O Virtuous One (sushIlE)!

O One who protects (paripAlinI) shyAma kRshNa (signature of composer)! O dark-skinned One (shyAmaLE) who holds a parrot (shuka)! O Consort of Shiva (shiva shankarI)! O One who holds a trident (shUlinI)! O Queen Consort (rANI) of shivA (shivuniki)! O Large-eyed One (visAlAkshi)! O youthful One (taruNI)! O One who is manifest (rUpiNI) eternally (shAshvata) !

O Goddess (dEvI)! Please listen (vinu) to my (nA) plea (manavini). I trust(namminAnu) you alone (nIvE) to be (ani) my refuge (gati)!! O my (mA) mother (ammA)! Quickly (vEgamE) show (jUDu) mercy (karuNa) O Mother (ammA)! O Golden (bangAru) Idol (bommA)!

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Shyama Shastri

Theerada Vilaiyattu Pillai

Krishna's MischiefCan one call oneself Tamil if one doesn’t know this song? This gem amongst the gems written by the great poet Subramanya Bharathi has such an extraordinary appeal! For one, we all love stories about the mischievous and quite irresistible  Lord Krishna, don’t we? And then there is the poet’s expertise in choosing words and metres which resonate so deeply with the audience.  However poetry by its very nature finds itself at a disadvantage crossing borders; for isn’t poetry about language at its very best, its very beautiful? Who but natives can really appreciate it? But once it has been sung as a song, it crosses borders so much more easily!

Popular as a ‘light’ piece in Carnatic Music, this song happily bridges the gap between the classical and the popular. I hope you will join me on a walk-through of this beautiful poem and its meaning. I limit myself only to the verses sung by Carnatic musicians.

Raga: Sindhu Bhairavi

தீராத விளையாட்டுப் பிள்ளை – கண்ணன்
தெருவிலே பெண்களுக்கோயாத தொல்லை

tIrAda viLaiyATTUp piLLai – kaNNan
teruvilE peNgaLukkOyAda tollai

Krishna (kaNNan) is such an endlessly (tIrAda) playful (viLaiyATTu) boy (piLLai)!! He is a ceaseless (OyAda) trouble (tollai) to the women (peNgaLukku) on the street (teruvilE)!

The first verse sets the scene perfectly. Such an endlessly mischievous lad, the poet says, that he is Trouble with a capital T to all the women on the street. Why women? Did He not direct any mischief towards the men? But no, He never did! He was the darling of the women and he loved them dearly; yet it is those very women He troubled! Our symbolism starts here..He is Parama Purusha, the supreme male aspect.  All creation, Prakriti, is the female aspect. We see this symbolism again and again in poetry from all around India.

Raga : Sindhu Bhairavi

தின்னப் பழம் கொண்டு தருவான் – பாதி
தின்கின்ற போதிலே தட்டிப் பறிப்பான்
என்னப்பன் என்னைய்யன் என்றால் – அதனை
எச்சிற்  படுத்திக் கடித்துக் கொடுப்பான்

tinnap pazham koNDu taruvAn – pAdi
tinginDRa pOdilE taTTip paRippAn
ennappan ennaiyyan enDRAl – adanai
echchiR paduttik kaDittuk koDuppAn

He will bring (konDu) and give (taruvAn) fruit (pazham) to eat (tinna). While (pOdilE) eating (pAdi =half, tinginDRa) he will grab it (taTTi paRippAn)! If (enDRAl) one cajoles him (ennappan, ennaiyyan as terms of endearment) – he will bite it (kaDittu) and contaminate it by eating (echchiR=jhUTA in hindi) and then give it back (koDuppAn).

What mischief! He grabs back the fruit he has given and takes a bite before giving it back! I wonder, is this concept of contamination by eating/saliva unique to India? In the olden days, at the wedding feast, a wife would eat off the plate eaten by her husband to denote the closeness of the new relationship. Sharing of food half eaten by others is a privilege limited to those who are near and dear. Here the poet wants to show how close the relationship is between the Lord and his subjects. Krishna is happy to eat the fruit half-eaten by his loved ones (remember Rama and Sabari?) and what He gives back we take as prasaadam. So what does the fruit denote? All that He gives us, of course! Perhaps the poet wants to say also that He who gives may equally take away.

Raga : Kamas

அழகுள்ள மலர் கொண்டு வந்தே (alt: வந்து ) – என்னை
அழ அழச் செய்தபின் கண்ணை மூடிக்கொள்
குழலிலே சூட்டுவேன் என்பான் – என்னைக்
குருடாக்கி மலரினைத் தோழிக்கு வைப்பான்

azhaguLLa malar koNDu vandE (alt: vandu) – ennai
azha azha seydapin kaNNai mUDikkoL
kuzhalilE sUTTuvEn enbAn – ennai
kuruDAkki malarinai tOzhikku vaippAn

He will bring (konDu vandE) a beautiful (azhaguLLa) flower (malar). After (pin)  making one cry (azha azha seyda) He will say (enbAn) ‘close (mUDikkoL) your eyes (kaNNai), I will adorn (sUTTuvEn) your braid (kuzhalilE) with it’. After making (Akki) me (ennai) blind (kuruDu), he will place (vaippAn) the flower (malarinai) on my friend (tOzhikku)!

Have you ever seen something you wanted very badly? Perhaps you begged and pleaded for it, perhaps you worked hard for it, but you thought you almost had it. And then when you relax for a moment, it is gone, given to some other. In real life this could be tragic. Imagine it is the promotion you worked hard for, the treat your parents promised you, the relaxed retirement you look for after a lifetime of work. And then circumstances occur when it seems to be snatched away from you. How frustrating it is, how depressing when it happens! If we can see it as no more than Krishna’s mischief, his leela, perhaps it will console us.

(Don’t miss the mridangam at this interval in the BJ performance, how good it sounds!!)

Raga : Shanmukhapriya

பின்னலைப் பின்னின்றிழுப்பான் -தலை
பின்னே திரும்பு(ம்) முன்னே சென்று மறைவான்
வண்ணப் புதுச் சேலை தனிலே -புழுதி
வாரிச் சொரிந்தே வருத்திக் குலைப்பான்

pinnalaip pinninDRizhuppAn – talai
pinnE tirumbu(m ) munnE chenDRu maRaivAn
vaNNap puduch chElai tanilE – puzhudi
vArich chorindE varuttik kulaippAn

He will pull (izhuppAn) one’s braid (pinnalai) while standing behind (pin ninDru). Before (munnE) one can turn (tirumbum) one’s head (talai) back (pinnE) He will disappear (chenDRu maRaivAn)! He will make one sorrowful (varutti) and agitated (kulaippan) by throwing (vAri) dust (puzhudi) on (tanilE) one’s new (pudu) colourful (vaNNa) sari (sElai).

Krishna pulling at a Gopi’s hair and disappearing – isn’t it a disarming portrayal of our mischief making Lord? Has your metaphorical braid been pulled by someone or something at any time? How frustrating not to be able to pinpoint who did it! And what about your metaphorical new clothes? Has someone thrown dust as it?  These are common life occurrences, aren’t they! They sadden us, agitate us, disturb us. And yet we smile when we think of Krishna and his mischief. That too is a leela.

Raga : Mand

புல்லாங்குழல் கொண்டு வருவான் – அமுது
பொங்கித் ததும்ப நற்கீதம் படிப்பான்
கள்ளால் மயங்குவது போலே – அதனை  (alt:அதைக்)
கண் மூடி வாய் திறந்தே கேட்டிருப்போம்

pullAnguzhal konDu varuvAn – amudu
pongit tadumba naRgItam paDippAn
kaLLAl mayanguvadu pOlE – adanai (alt:adai)
kaN mUDi vAy tiRandE kETTiruppOm

He will bring (konDu varuvAn) a flute (pullAnguzhal). He will recite (paDippAn) good (nal) songs (gItam) which overflow (pongi tadumba) with nectar (amudu). And like (pOlE) one gets intoxicated (mayanguvadu) with liquor (kaLLAl), we would be listening (kETTiruppOm) with closed (mUDi) eyes (kaN) and open (tirandE) mouths (vAy)!

This is a lovely verse where Krishna is portrayed as the enchanter that He is. And oh, how I love Raga Mand! In the other verses the poet talks of how He troubles and agitates the women. In contrast, this verse is about how he fascinates with his playing of a different kind. What is Krishna’s song in your lives? What is that which enchants you, intoxicates you, absorbs you? As to me, I hear Krishna’s song in so many things – in the light which reflects off the lake I see from my window, in that pause between two notes when Lalgudi plays Mohanam in a CD I have, in the perfection of Vermeer’s Milkmaid, in that smell of the earth just after it rains, in the memory of cuddling my children when they were babies and a million other things besides.  These are indeed nectarine as the poet says. After listing all the mischief the Lord plays on us, it is good of the poet to remind us of how He plays his music for us too!

To present this song, I have chosen renditions by two divas of the Carnatic Music world, Bombay Jayashri and Nithyasree Mahadevan. I have always loved Bombay Jayashri’s voice and in this recording it sounds warm and lovely, as smooth as honey.

Alternative Link : Click Here

It is Nithyasree Mahadevan’s crisp enunciation which attracts me to this performance. This is poetry as it should sound!

Alternative Link : Click Here

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Subramanya Bharathi

Innu Daya Barade

NarayanaDo you still not have compassion for me?’ asks Purandara Dasa (1484–1564)  in this beautifully melodious song of his ishta daivam (God of choice) Vitthala. ‘I have been re-born in many countries, in many periods of time, in many wombs. Having fallen in the hell of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, (do you not have compassion) for this devotee who believes that you are the only refuge?’.

Purandara Dasa talks of reincarnation and Karma in this song. Did you know that reincarnation is not Vedic thinking but comes somewhat afterwards? It starts getting mentioned in the Upanishads period (around 700 BC) but is most clearly stated later, in the Bhagavat Geeta (around 200 BC or later).  Below is the oft-quoted verse which serves as a definition of reincarnation.

वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि।
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही।।

vAsAnsi jIrNAni yathA vihAya navAni grihNati narOparANi
taTHA shaRIrANi vihAya jIRNanyanyAni samyAti navAni dEhI

Just as (yathA) people (nara=individual and aparANi=others) discard (vihAya) old (jIrNa=old) clothes (vAsa) and put on (verb graha) new (nava) ones, so do (taTHA) the souls (dEhI=the embodied soul) discard  (vihAya) old (jIrNa) bodies (sharIra) and come into (samyAti) many different (anya anya) new (navA) bodies .

Reincarnation is the natural progression of a couple of ideas a few thousand years older. These ideas are like the building blocks of Hinduism. The first one is the idea of body and soul. The Atman (soul) which lives in the sharIra (body) is eternal, immutable, is neither born nor can it die. It is due to avidyA (ignorance) that the soul gets caught up in a body. ‘Ignorance of what?’ you may ask. Ignorance of the fact the the soul is indeed Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness. When the Atman gives up its false individuality and realises that it is Brahman (aham brahmAsmi=I am Brahman, from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, app. 1000 BC), it is then ready to merge with the ultimate divinity.

The second important idea which led to the principle of reincarnation is that of Karma. It is the law of cause and effect which applies to each individual. Every action, good or bad, produces consequences which the individual will need to experience. The difficulty of fitting all the consequences in one life led to the idea of reincarnation.

Yet it is easily evident that when the individual is in the process of experiencing one set of consequences, he or she is doing other actions in the meanwhile so this cause-effect can never be terminated, even with multiple births! Here then, we need Divine intervention for Moksha (release from this cycle of reincarnation), for once we realise that the Atman is indeed the Brahman, what need to we have to continue this never ending cycle ?

Coming back to my song choice of the day, if we look at the lyrics with the above ideas,  we can better understand what Purandara Dasa was talking about. After mentioning his rebirths, he says that he finds himself in the hell of ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Attachments and ego are causes of accruing more Karma debt thus forcing us into further lives; if one knows that one can merge into Brahman, then life will seem like hell and attachments seen as ropes which tie us to this hell.

Purandara Dasa then does a very clever thing, he says ‘Whatever I have done by mind, body and spirit, I offer to You’. If he offers to God all his actions, then doesn’t he also offer God all the Karma debt which arise from it? This is an acknowledgement that eventually the only way to escape this cycle of life and death is by Divine intervention.

The same thought is expressed by the sloka I recite as a sign-off at the end of my everyday prayers, as do thousands of others like me :

कायेन वाचा मनसेन्द्रियैर्वा बुध्यात्मना वा प्रकृतेः स्वभावात् |
करोमि यद्यत् सकलं परस्मै नारायणायेति समर्पयामि ।।

kAyEna vAcha manasEndriyairvA budhyAtmanA va  prakRutE svabhAvAt
karOmi yadyat sakalam parasmai narAyaNAyEti samarpayAmi

Whatever I do with my body (kAya), speech (vAcha), mind (manasa) , senses (indriya), intellect (budhdhi) and soul (Atma), or with my   innate natural (prakRuti)  tendencies (svabhAva), I do (karOmi) them all for others (para asmai) and offer/dedicate (samarpayAmi) everything to Lord Narayana!

This song has been set to the very pleasant raga Kalyana Vasantam. To know more about this raga, click here.

To present this song, I have chosen a rendition by Bombay Jayashri whose voice quality always leaves me in awe.

For an instrumental version, I really enjoy Kadri Gopalnath’s rendition on the sax.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Kannada
As I do not speak Kannada, I have transcribed the song in Devanagari script using internet resources and listening carefully to multiple versions of the song. Translation is based mainly on various internet resources, so I am unsure of accuracy.

इन्नु दय बारदे दासन मेले
पन्नग शयन श्री परम पुरुष हरिये

नाना देशगळल्ली नाना कालगळल्ली  (/बन्तुगळल्ली)
नाना योनिगळल्ली नलिदुपुट्टि
नानु नन्नदुयेम्ब नरक दोळगे बिद्दु
नीने गतियेन्दु नम्बिद दासन मेले

मनो वाक्कायदिन्द माडिद ( / माडुव ) कर्मगळेल्ल
दानवान्तक निन्नगे दानवित्ते
एनु माडिदरेनु प्राण निन्नदु स्वामि
श्री नाथ पुरन्दर विठ्ठल दासन मेले

Transliteration:

innU dayabArade dAsana mEle
pannaga shayana srI parama purusha hariyE

nAnA dEshagaLalli nAnA kAlagaLalli
nAnA yOnigaLalli nalidupuTTi
nAnu nannaduyemba naraka doLage biddu
nInE gatiyendu nambida dAsana mEle

mAnO vAkkayadinda dADida karmagaLelle
dAnavAntaka ninnage dAnavittE
Enu mADidarEnu prANa ninnadu svAmi
srI nAtha purandara viTTala dAsana mEle

Translation:

Do you still not have compassion for this devotee (literally slave, servant) O Hari, the supreme Lord who lies on the serpent-bed.

I have been re-born in many countries, in many times, in many wombs. Having fallen in the hell of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, (do you not have compassion) for the devotee who believes that you are the only refuge.

I offer to you all that I have done by mind, speech and body,  O slayer of demons. Whatever I do, my soul is yours, o Lord, consort of Sri (Lakshmi), (do you not have compassion) on this devotee of Purandara Vitthala.

 

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Kannada, Kadri Gopalnath, Purandaradasa

Kanda Naal Mudalaay

Murugan3It was in December. My sister and her husband had come for a visit and we had gone to see the Christmas markets in Nuremberg and Munich. It was a long drive back and I fell asleep in the car. When I woke, I found myself humming ‘Kanda Naal Mudalaay’.

My sister said  “ Oh, so you were not asleep after all?”.

I replied, still dazed by my deep sleep “But I was fast asleep! Was this song playing ?” .

It wasn’t. But they had been playing some other song in the same Raga Madhuvanti. Even in my sleep, the raga had infiltrated my subconscious and left me with a very strong urge to listen to Kanda Naal Mudalaay. In fact, the first thing I did the next morning was to search out the song on my music player to listen to it a few times until the urge was satiated! How strangely the mind works!

I will take the opportunity today to bring your attention to an interesting literary device, the Sakhi. It is quite common in Indian literature for the Nayika, the heroine, to express her emotions to a Sakhi, a female friend. These female friends of the heroine often play an important role. Within the fiction, they play the role of a playmate, friend and advisor, acting at times as a go-between for the heroine and the hero. They also act as a support for the heroine when she is troubled.  As a literary device, they are important for us – the audience – to know the thoughts of the heroine, especially in plays. In a spiritual context, the Sakhi is seen as the bridge between us humans and the divine.

In this song, though the word Sakhi is not used, it is evident by the form of the verb that the Nayika is telling the story of her love at first sight to a female friend. “From the day I saw him”, she says “my love overflows for  Kandan, my beloved, who gave me such pleasure in the spring garden where the bees were buzzing”.  Note the beautiful alliteration used by the poet here with Kandan and Kaanthan. The Nayika goes on to say “My heart has not forgotten the blue peacock (which Lord Murugan rides) nor has that love mixed with affection faded”. How romantic! For full lyrics, see footnote.

The song is composed by N.C.Chidambaram in the Raga Madhuvanti (click here to know more about this raga). I have chosen a rendition by Bombay Jayashri whose lovely voice suits sweet and romantic songs like this.



Footnote (Lyrics) :

கண்ட நாள் முதலாய் காதல் பெறுகுதடி
கையினில் வேல் பிடித்த கருணை சிவ பாலனை (கண்ட நாள்)

வண்டிசை பாடும் எழில் வசந்த பூங்காவில்
அந்த/வந்து சுகம் தந்த கந்தனை (என்) காந்தனை (கண்ட நாள்)

நீல மயில்தனை நெஞ்சமும் மறக்கவில்லை
நேசமுடன் கலந்த/தந்த பாசமும் மறையவில்லை
கோல குமரன் மன கோயிலில் இறங்கி விட்டான்
குறு நகை தனை காட்டி நறு மலர் சூட்டி விட்டான் (கண்ட நாள்)

Transliteratiom

pallavi
kaNDa naaL mudalaay kaadal perugudaDi
kaiyinil vEl piDitta karuNai shiva baalanai (kaNDa naaL)

anupallavi

vanDisai paaDum ezhil vasanta poongavil
anda/vandu sugam tanda kandanai en kaantanai (kaNDa naaL)

charaNam

neelamaiyil tanai nenjamum marakkavillai
nEsamudan kalanda/tanda paasamum maraiyavillai
kOla kumaran mana kOyilil irangi viTTan
kurunagai tanai kaaTTi naru malar sooTTi viTTaan (kaNDanaaL)

Translation

Since the day I saw him, my love overflows for him who holds the spear in his hand, the son of the compassionate Shiva.

He, my beloved, who gave me such pleasure in the spring garden where the bees were buzzing.

Neither has my heart forgotten the blue peacock (the one that Lord Murugan rides), nor has the love mixed with affection faded. He has settled into the temple of my heart and with just a small smile, he has placed a fragrant flower (of love) on me.

 

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Pozhudu Miga Achchude

Radha in VirahaViraha bhava or the mood of pain caused by separation is very popular in Indian poetry and music. The anxiety faced by the nayika (female protagonist) when separated from her beloved, her suffering and her intense need for reunion is featured again and again in Indian literature.

Seemingly, there is no gender equality here as mostly the poetry or prose depicts the nayika  as the one who suffers. This may well be because this pain of separation is also associated with the women who leave their maternal homes after being wed. The songs of bidai, the ceremony to bid farewell to the bride, sing of viraha bhava as well.

In the spiritual world, Viraha is one of the nine paths of Bhakti listed in Narada Sootra. It is defined as the love within the intense pain of separation from God. Very popular in the Krishna cult, it is Radha’s suffering when separated from Krishna which the devotee experiences. Is this pain not just the longing for completeness? Hinduism often portrays the Ultimate as a male-female duality. Vishnu encompasses Lakshmi whom he holds in His vakshasthalam – in His chest close to his heart. Shiva and Shakti are often shown as two halves of the whole – as Ardhanarishwarar. Sankhya philosophy proposed by Sage Kapila talks of Purusha-Prakriti,  consciousness and matter, the experiencer and the experienced. Is it a coincidence that Purusha also means a man, and Prakriti a woman?  Just as Vishnu is incomplete without Lakshmi, Shiva without Shakti and Purusha without Prakriti, the bhakta is incomplete without his Lord. In fact, Viraha is welcomed by the bhakta as it acknowledges his oneness with God and the union which is to come.

Many poets have written on this theme of viraha. Today I have chosen a beautiful song written by Ambujam Krishna(1917-1989). She says ‘It becomes late, why has Krishna, who left me alone, not come back yet?  Perhaps the ladies who gathered around him when they heard his flute have cast a net with their glances and drawn him away? While I lament and writhe in agony like a worm here, is he talking and laughing with the women? Has he forgotten his words to me – ‘My parrot (a term of endearment), I’ll not leave you even for a moment!’ ? Has he abandoned this naive woman?’. Ambujam Krishna  writes words which ring true. Her viraha bhava is tinged with jealousy and doubt. If you would like to know more about this poet, read this nice tribute published in the Hindu in 2004. She did not set her poetry to music. I am unsure who did set this song to the raga Revati but it suits it so very well. To know more about the raga Revati, click here.

Listen to Bombay Jayashri’s very pleasant rendition here.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Tamil

பல்லவி
பொழுது மிகவாச்சுதே
என்னை விட்டுப் போன கண்ணன்
வரக் காணேனே -சகி

அனுபல்லவி
குழலோசை கேட்டு கூடிடும் மங்கையர்
விழியால் வலை வீசி அழைத்து சென்றனரோ

சரணம்
புழுவென நான் இங்கு புலம்பி துடிக்கையிலே
பூவையுரடன் அங்கு பேசிச் சிரிக்கப்போ ?
பைங்கிளி உன்னை கணம் பிரிகிலேன் என்ற
பேச்சும் மறந்தானோ பேதையை துறந்தானோ ?

Transliteration

Pallavi
pozhudu migavAchchudE ennai viTTup-pOna kaNNan varak kANEnE sakI

Anupallavi
kuzhalOsai kETTu kUDiDum mangaiyar vizhiyaAl valai veesi azhaittu sendranarO

Charanam
puzhuvena nAn ingu pulambi tuDikkayile pUvaiyaruDan angu pEsi sirikkappO
paingiLi unnaik-kaNam pirigilEn endra pEchchum marandAnO pEdaiyait-turandAnO

Translation

It becomes late, why has Krishna, who left me alone, not come back yet? Perhaps the ladies who gathered around him when they heard his flute have cast a net with their glances and drawn him away? While I lament and writhe in agony like a worm here, is he talking and laughing with the women? Has he forgotten his words to me – ‘My parrot (a term of endearment), I’ll not leave you even for a moment!’ ? Has he abandoned this naive woman?’

 

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Two Thillanas in Misra Shivaranjani

Those who have been following my posts know that I have been haunted by Shivaranjani this week. I am still not ready to move on, so here are two Thillanas in this raga of pathos. These are compositions of two musicians I admire tremendously. For those unfamiliar with Carnatic Music, a Thillana is a form of composition, very rhythmic in nature and well suited to classical dancing.

Lalgudi2Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930) is my first love and probably will remain my last. This is an enchantment which has lasted a lifetime. I strongly believe that his music comes as close to Divine as music can.  I have always imagined his music to be like a channel, a wormhole in spacetime, which allows the listener to travel from this mortal world to other mysterious and heavenly places. Playing concerts from when he was just 12 years old (he is 81 this year), his life has been dedicated to music. He says ‘I am nothing without Music. Even in all my future births I want to be born only as a musican’ (quote).  I pray that I am born wherever he is and get to keep enjoying his music.

SanthanamMaharajapuram Santhanam (1928-1992) was blessed with a voice which would make anyone pause and take note. In the mid-seventies, when he came to Delhi for a concert, he stayed in our friend and neighbour’s home. I remember sitting in their living room, listening to him practice and sing to the family.  He was a man with an impressive girth and a larger-than-life presence. His voice had such resonating force and beauty that it left an indelible impression in me. A truly amazing artist. I remember attending his concert that evening as if it were just yesterday. The magic of his voice lends strength to these memories from long ago.

Both these amazing musicians have composed Thillanas in  Misra Shivaranjani (click here for more on this raga). Today I present you these Thillanas performed by the maestros themselves.

First listen to Lalgudi Jayaraman’s rare recording of a life performance of his own composition with  his son G.J.R.Krishnan, starting from 22:20.

Was that not exquisite? I wept when I heard it first; I still find it heartrendingly beautiful. For the pallavi and its translation, see footnote.

Don’t miss listening to this vocal version by Bombay Jayashri, whose voice, I think, is closest to the lyrical sounds of her Guru’s strings. She is quite outstanding, do listen:

Alternate link : Click here

Now listen to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s performance of his own composition with (I think) his son Maharajapuram Ramachandran.

Alternate link.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

The Lalgudi Thillana has a lyrical pallavi which perfectly mirrors the mood of the raga.

மானைத் தேடி வந்த தேனை உண்டு வள்ளி மானை மணந்த மயில் வாகனா நானோ நின்னை (?நினை?) எண்ணி நாளும் ஏங்கி வாட ஏனோ இன்னும் என்மேல் இந்த பராமுகம்

mAnait-tEDi vanda tEnai uNDu vaLLi mAnai maNanda mayil vAhanA nAnO ninnai (?ninai?) eNNi nALum Engi vADa EnO innum enmEl inda parAmugam

O Rider of the peacock who came searching for a deer, ate some honey and married the deer like Valli! As for me, I languish thinking of you all day, why do you still neglect me?

The Maharajapuram Santhanam Thillana is beautifully rhythmic and the alliteration of ‘va’ in the first line is very pleasing.

வா வேலவா வடி வேலவா மயில் மீது நீ வா குமரா வா வரம் அருள வா தாமதம் ஏன் தயை புரிய தருணம் இது  மகராஜன் பணிந்திடும் மயில் வாகனா

vA vElavA vaDi vElavA mayil mIdu nI vA kumarA vA varam aruLa vA tAmadam En dayai puriya taruNam idu maharAjan paNindiDum mayil vAhanA

Come O spear-holder! One whose spear is sharp! Come on a peacock! O Kumara, come to grant me boons! Why the delay? This is the time to show compassion! O Peacock-rider who who is venerated by Maharajan (signature of poet).  

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam