Category Archives: Iyer Brothers

Rave Himagiri

Kanchi KamakshiYou are what you are eat’ , so say the wise ones. The tradition of watching what you eat is an old one in India. According to Ayurveda, our bodies have vata, kapha or pitta doshas, or a combination thereof. For good health, we should eat that which stablizes the imbalance between the three doshas in our body. This has been a proven health system, surviving for centuries in India.

What about the makeup of our minds? Our minds are a combination of sattvik, rajasik and tamasik gunas, says Ayurveda. The gunas associated with what we eat affect our mind. For good mental health and well being, we need to ingest lots of sattvik food, less of rajasik food and avoid tamasik food.

But I ask, why consider only the food we eat? True, the body ingests only food. But does not the mind ingest so much more? What we see, what we read, what we hear – they all form food for the mind, do they not? Should we not watch out what we ingest mentally as well as physically?

It amazes me that the young ones, even those who are careful about their health, listen frequently to loud, throbbing music with lyrics which are often very passionate. The films they watch are much of the same, with added violence. Will these types of ‘ingestion’ not lead to future generations of people who are strongly rajasik or tamasik? Where are they getting their daily does of sattvik food for the mind?

I assure you that I am not deaf to the talent and music which exist outside the Carnatic world. I am known to hum along with Bollywood songs, not just the classically based ones, but even foot-tapping ones such as Piya tu ab to aajaa  from olden times to even Kajra Re, Munni Badnam Hui and Sheela Ki Jawani! There, I have shocked you, I know!  I admire the talent of the singers and the music directors who have created songs which find such mass appeal. I am not deaf even to Beyoncé gyrating to Put a ring on it  or Shakira declaring that Hips don’t lie (wow!); they are both such incredible singers and dancers! So yes, there is interesting music everywhere but is it sattvik music? Far from it!

Carnatic Music is on the whole sattvik, but some compositions epitomize that. So today, my music has been selected to balance all the rajasik and tamasik qualities that our minds ingest from the world around us. I had the pleasure of listening to a performance by the Iyer Brothers on the Veena in Melbourne last October. They played Rave Himagiri, a swarajati in Raga Todi composed by Shyama Shastri. It is a prayer for blessings addressed to the Goddess Kamakshi. A truly wonderful composition, it is stately in pace, deep in tone, quiet in its quest.  I never appreciated the full beauty of it until I listened to this performance by the Iyer Brothers. In the reverberating tones of the strings, the composition becomes the resonance of the universe, a pranava mantra in many syllables. A wonderful sattvik feast for your mind. I hope you love it as much as I do!

For a vocal version, I feature a unique combination of voices – Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer singing along with M.S.Subbulakshmi, two of the greatest musicians of the Carnatic world.

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Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
Note: I do not speak Telugu. The lyrics from multiple internet sources were verified / corrected by listening to many renditions by different artists. The translation is sourced from the web.

पल्लवि
रावे हिमगिरि कुमारी कञ्चि कामाक्षि वरदा
मनवि विनवम्म शुभमिम्म मायम्म

चरणम् 1
नतजन परिपालिनि वनुचु नम्मितिनि सदा ब्रोव (alt: ब्रोवु )

चरणम् 2
मदमत्त महिष दानव मर्दिनि वेतदीर्चवे दूरमुगनु

चरणम् 3
काम पालिनि नीवे गतियनि कोरिति कोनियाडिति वेडिति

चरणम् 4
कामितार्थ फलदायकीयनेटि बिरुदु महिलो नीके तगु

चरणम् 5
कमल मुखी दरगळ घन नील कच भरा मृग विलोचन मणि रदना
गज गमना मदिलो निन्नु सदा दलचुकोनि नी ध्यानमे तल्लि

चरणम् 6
श्याम कृष्ण नुत विनु नाचिन्तनु वेवेग दीर्चभयमिय्यवे (दीर्चि अभयमिय्यवे)
कल्याणि कञ्चि कामाक्षि नी पादमे दिक्कु

For notation click here

Transliteration :

pallavi
rAvE himagiri kumArI kanchi kAmAkshi varadA
manavi vinamma shubhamimma mAyamma

charaNam 1
natajana paripAlini vanachu nammitini sadA brOva (alt: brOvu)

charaNam 2
madamatta mahisha dAnava mardini vEtadIrchavE dUrmuganu

charaNam 3
kAma pAlini nIvE gatiyani kOriti kOniyADiti vEDiti

charaNam 4
kAmitArtha phaladAyakIyanETi birudu mahilO nIkE tagu

charaNam 5
kamala mukhI daragaLa ghana nIla kacha bharA mrga vilOchana maNi radanA
gaja gamanA madilO ninnu sadA dalachukOni nI dhyAnamE talli

charaNam 6
shyAma krishNa nuta vinu nAchintanu vEvEga dIrchbhayamiyyavE
kalyANi kanchi kAmAkshi nI pAdamE dikku

Translation

O Kamakshi of Kanchi! O daughter of the snow clad mountains! O bestower of boons! Please come! O mother mine! Listen to my prayers and grant me welfare!

Protector of all those who bow to you! I believe in you only to protect me always.

O destroyer of the arrogant demon Mahisha! Please dispel my agony.

O protector of Cupid! You are my sole refuge. I praise you and  beseech you (to protect me). There is no equal to you in all the worlds. Listen to my entreaties.

O lotus-faced one with a neck like a conch shell, thick dark hair, eyes like a deer, teeth like pearls, with a gait as majestic as an elephant! I always reflect upon you and meditate upon you !

O the one worshipped by Shyamakrishna (signature of the poet)! Quickly dispel my worries and bestow me with fearlessness. O auspicious one! O Kamakshi of Kanchi! Your feet are my only refuge.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Iyer Brothers, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Shyama Shastri

Srinivasa Tiruvenkata

Srinivasa1

Sanctuary. It is a concept which is familiar to all of us. A sanctuary provides a safe haven when one is under threat, even if one is not in the right. A political refugee may seek sanctuary in countries where he will not be persecuted for his leanings. A tax refugee may seek sanctuary in a tax shelter where he can avoid paying high taxes. English law for many centuries allowed fugitives to seek sanctuary in churches and avoid prosecution as long as they remained within church property.

Abhaya mudraAnd so too in religion, the idea of sanctuary has existed for a long time. Most Hindu Gods are shown with their hands in abhaya hasta meaning without fear. In the picture on the right, the young dancer has her right hand in the abhaya hasta and her left hand in the varada or boon giving mudra typical of Goddess Lakshmi. The abhaya hasta indicates that God is a sanctuary that we can all take refuge in, without fear of anything. And just like in any other haven, when you give yourself up, it is a no-questions-asked sanctuary.

How then is one to seek that refuge? Herein comes the concept of Sharanagati or Unconditional Surrender. In Mahabharata, in the episode called Draupadi Vastrabharanam, Drapudi is humiliated in court when Dushasana tries to disrobe her in public. She cries for help but in this court of kings and noblemen, no man is noble enough to support her. As long as she tries to protect herself with her hands, there is no help for her. Finally she raises both hands and in despair calls out to Krishna seeking His help and a miracle happens.  Thus it is with unconditional surrender that you will find unconditional sanctuary says our scriptures.

All this to lead up to my song choice of the day! In this simple song by Papanasam Sivan (1890-1973) set to the melodious raga Hamsanandi, the poet salutes Lord Srinivasa and says ‘You who are famous as being the refuge of the helpless/wretched, where have you seen one more helpless than me? I seek the refuge of your feet, give me sanctuary!’. He, whose hands are held in the abhaya hasta, a constant re-assurance of sanctuary, how can He refuse so heartfelt a plea?  To see the full lyrics and translation, see footnote. To know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have found a very nice rendition by the young vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan. He starts the song with this beautiful viruththam (verse) from the Nalayira Divyaprabandam (verse 678).  1100 year old and it still speaks to us with such intensity! Such is true poetry.

ஆனாத செல்வத்து அரம்பையர்கள் தற்சூழ
வானாளும் செல்வமும்  மண்ணரசும்   யான் வேண்டேன்
தேனார் பூஞ்சோலைத் திருவேங்கடச் சுனையில்
மீனாய்ப் பிறக்கும்  விதியுடையேன்  ஆவேனே

I wish not for the immense wealth of ruling the heavens surrounded by celestial maidens, nor do I wish to rule the earth. I yearn merely to be a fish in a forest spring on the sacred Venkatam where honey scented flowers bloom.

Kulashekhara Azhwar, Chera King (9th Century)

Another rendition I like very much is that of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (1908-2003), one of the greatest and celebrated Carnatic vocalists of our times.

For an instrumental version, I present the very accomplished Iyer Brothers on the Veena. I take pride in the fact that they are from my home city of Melbourne, Australia.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
ஸ்ரீநிவாச திருவேங்கட முடையாய்
ஜெயகோவிந்த முகுந்தா அனந்தா

அனுபல்லவி
தீனஷரண்யன் எனும்பெயர் கொண்டாய்
தீனன் எனைப் போல் வேறெவர் கண்டாய்

சரணம்
ஜகம்புகழும் ஏழுமலை மாயவனே
திருமகள் அலர்மேல் மங்கை மணாளனே
ஜகன்னாதா சங்கு சக்ர தரணே
திருவடிக்கபயம் அபயம் ஐயா

Transliteration

pallavi
shrInivAsa tiru vEnkaTamuDaiyAi
jaya gOvinda mukunda anantA

anupallavi
dIna sharaNyan enum pugazh koNDaAi
dInan enaippOl vErevar kaNDAi

charaNam
jagam pugazhum Ezhumalai mAyavanE
tirumagaL alarmEl mangai maNALanE
jagannAtA shankha chakra dharanE
tiruvadik-kabhayam abhayamayyA

Translation

O Srinivasa (in whom Lakshmi dwells), lord of Venkatam, Victory to you. O Govinda, Mukunda (liberator), O Infinite one!

You are famous as the refuge of the helpless/wretched, where have you seen one more helpless than me?

O lord of the seven hills who is praised by all, O illusory one. O husband of Alamelu Mangai (name of Lakshmi). O lord of the universe who holds the wheel and the conch. I seek the refuge of your feet, give me sanctuary!

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Iyer Brothers, Papanasam Sivan, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Sikkil Gurucharan