Category Archives: Jayanthi Kumaresh

Sri Varalakshmi Namastubhyam

I wish you all a very happy Deepavali / Deewali! May the Gods all enlighten us just as the fireworks light up the skies around the world!

Checking back on old posts, I see that I have celebrated the stories of the destruction of Narakasura by Krishna, and the return of Rama to Ayodhya. So this year, my homage is to Goddess Lakshmi who is worshipped during this festival in many parts of India. It is said that Deepavali is the day she was born from the oceans. I am sure all of you know the story, but allow me to tell it again.

It is the story of समुद्र मन्थन (Samudra Manthana) from the Bhagavata Purana (Canto 8, chapters 7-8-9) , Mahabharata (Astika Parva XVIII) and Vishnu Purana (Chapter IX). Due to a curse by sage Durvasa, the Devas led by Indra were defeated by the Asuras who then ruled the universe. The Devas approached Lord Vishnu for help. He advised them to churn the ocean of milk (क्षीर सागर) for Amrita which would make them strong enough to defeat the Asuras. The catch was that they needed the help of the Asuras to churn the ocean! Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod, and the great serpent Vasuki as the churning rope. Lord Vishnu, in his form as the tortoise of the Kurma Avatara supported the Mount Mandara on his back. This churning yielded many different things, some examples are

  • Halahala / Kalakuta, the poison swallowed by Lord Shiva in order to protect the world
  • Airavata, the elephant taken by Indra
  • Kaustubha, the jewel worn by Lord Vishnu
  • Parijata, the divine flower, taken by the Devas
  • Apsaras, who went to the Deva loka, the land of the Devas
  • Chandra, the moon, which adorns Shiva’s hair
  • Kamadhenu, the wish fulfilling cow, taken by Brahma and given to the sages
  • Dhanavantri, the God of medicine who came with-
  • Amrita, swallowed by the Devas

My list is very much incomplete. Here is a link to an illustrated account of the story. The point to the story for us today is that churning of the ocean also drew forth Goddess Lakshmi, who immediately chose Lord Vishnu as her consort. Deepavali is a celebration of this event.

Like so many mythological tales, there is deep significance to this story. Here is one interpretation. The Ocean of Milk represents human consciousness and Mount Mandara stands for a steady contemplation of God. The sum total of our senses is Vasuki the serpent, held by both our good impulses (Devas) and bad impulses (Asuras). Both pull at our senses, churning the ocean of our consciousness for their own desired outcomes. Wisdom says that we must hold steady the ‘mountain of contemplation’ on Lord Vishnu and allow all the ‘poison’ which emerges in the process to be destroyed by Lord Shiva. All kind of siddhis or powers may be realised by such contemplation. Be patient, say the wise, and wait for the emergence of Amrita to make us stronger in the battle with the demons within ourselves and finally be blessed by the appearance of Goddess Lakshmi. It is She who will facilitate our way to salvation (mukti) and to merge ourselves with God just as she seated herself in his vaksha sthala. Our celebration of Deepavali is the celebration of such an event.

I have chosen the beautiful composition Sri Varalakshmi Namastubhyam as a prayer song to the boon-giving Goddess Lakshmi so that she allows herself to appear within all of us one day. Set in the very appropriate raga Sri (one of Her names), it is a composition of Muthuswami Dikshithar. Note the Gopuccha Yati (Cow’s Tail Arrangement of syllables) in the pallavi starting from sArasa padE).

After a very long time, I am featuring Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna in memory of my mother, who loved his voice above all. It is an interesting presentation which I hope you will enjoy!

And for an instrumental version, here is Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh on the Veena. She is so good, isn’t she! It soothes me as I add finishing touches to this post. It was a busy week for me, a tiring one too. I had half-written this last weekend but did not find time to look at it until just now. It’s been a long day and it was past 9:30 pm when I sat down to complete this article. Well, I’m posting it now at almost 11 pm here, but well within the Deepavali day for the rest of the world 🙂


Footnote : Lyrics and Translation

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
श्री वर लक्ष्मि नमस्तुभ्यं वसु प्रदे
श्री सारस पदे रस पदे सपदे पदे पदे

अनुपल्लवि
भावज जनक प्राण वल्लभे सुवर्णाभे
भानु कोटि समान प्रभे भक्त सुलभे
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
सेवक जन पालिन्यै श्रित पङ्कज मालिन्यै
केवल गुण शालिन्यै केशव हृत्खेलिन्यै

चरणम्
श्रावण पौर्णमी पूर्वस्थ शुक्रवारे –
चारुमती प्रभृतिभिः पूजिताकारे
देवादि गुरु गुह समर्पित मणिमय हारे
दीन जन संरक्षण निपुण कनक धारे
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
भावना भेद चतुरे भारती सन्नुत वरे
कैवल्य वितरण परे काङ्क्षित फल प्रद करे

Transliteration

pallavi
shrI vara lakshmi namastubhyam vasu pradE
shrI sArasa padE rasa padE sapadE padE padE

anupallavi
bhAvaja janaka prANa vallabhE suvarNAbhE
bhAnu kOTi samAna prabhE bhakta sulabhE
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
sEvaka jana pAlinyai shrita pankaja mAlinyai
kEvala guNa shAlinyai kEshava hRtkhElinyai

charaNam
shrAvaNa paurNamI pUrvastha shukravArE –
chArumatI prabhRtibhih pUjitAkArE
dEvAdi guru guha samarpita maNimaya hArE
dIna jana samrakshaNa nipuNa kanaka dhArE
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
bhAvanA bhEda chaturE bhAratI sannuta varE
kaivalya vitaraNa parE kA.ngkshita phala prada karE

Translation

I (implied) bow down to you (namastubhyam), O eminent (shrI) Goddess Lakshmi, the giver (implied) of boons (vara)! O bestower (prade) of fortunes (vasu)! O Sri (name of Lakshmi) with feet (padE) as soft (implied) as a lotus (sArasa), you (implied) are the bestower (pradE) of affection (rasa), be my companion (sa-pade) at every step (pade pade).

You are the one (implied) who is beloved (prANa vallabhE) to the father (janaka) of Bhavaja (=Manmatha, God of Love)! O Goddess (implied) with the golden (suvarNa) lustre (AbhE) and brilliance (prabhE) equivalent to (samAna) millions (kOTi) of suns (bhAnu)! O Goddess (implied) easily attained (sulabhE) by devotees (bhakta)! You are the one (implied) who protects (palinyai) your worshippers (sEvaka jana) who lean on you (shrita), who is garlanded (malinyai) with lotus flowers (pankaja), who is possessed of (shAlinyai) of only (kEvala) virtues (guNa), who sways (khelinyai) the heart (hRt) of Keshava.

You are the one (implied) with the form (AkArE) worshipped (pUjita) on the friday (shukravArE) prior (pUrvastha) to the full moon (paurNamI) in the month of ShrAvaNa, continuing from Charumathi (see legend of Varalakshmi Vratam). You are the one wearing (implied) a bejewelled (maNimaya) garland (hArE) given by (samarpita) Guruguha (=Kartikeya, also signature of composer), demi-Gods (dEva) and others (Adi). You are (implied) a shower (dhArA) of gold (kanaka) expert (nipuNa) in protecting (samrakshaNa) the wretched (dIna jana). You are (implied) clever (chaturE) at alterations (bhEda) of thoughts & attitudes (bhAvanA). You are the eminent one (varE) praised by (sannuta) Saraswati (bhAratI). You are the supreme one (parE) who bestows (vitaraNa) mukti/liberation/salvation (kaivalya). You bestow (prada karE) the longed for (kA.ngkshita) rewards (phala).

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Ninne Bhajana Seyu

Ananta shayanaAre you a one-God man/woman? Do you restrict yourself to praying to your One and no other?

I pray on an everyday basis to a number of Hindu deities. I do have my own One, the One who always listens with a sympathetic ear to whatever  I happen to go on about. I also have a Second-to-the-One for days when I am not on speaking terms with my One. What, you don’t have ‘I’m-SO-annoyed-with-you’ moments with your One? You must be much better tempered than I am!! Of course I also pray to different deities for their expertise in specific matters. I am most certainly not a one-God woman!

My meanderings arise from something I heard recently. I had mentioned a few weeks earlier that I have taken to listening to upanyasams (lectures on spiritual matters), mainly by Velukkudi Krishnan, Dushyant Sridhar and Visaka Hari. Velukkudi Krishnan is especially erudite; his depth of knowledge is quite astounding! Is it possible to learn this much in a lifetime? I am all admiration! Much as I admire his knowledge, I confess that at times I am confounded by some of his pronouncements!! For example, he says in one of his lectures that people should sleep in what they wear ‘normally’ and not change into night-clothes! Really??!! Leaving pronouncements such as this aside, there was one repeated advice which caught my attention. He says that if you serve Lord Vishnu, then you should pray to none other as otherwise He would be offended! Again – Really???? Surely these kind of feelings are human, not Divine? Velukkudi Krishnan does add that it is the same for whichever religion/deity you adhere to; ‘stick to your One’ he says.

I assume that these ideas are Sri Vaishnavite ones as proposed by Ramanuja, the extraordinary theologian and philosopher (11-12 CE). In his times, the Chola kings ruled in South India. Though the kings were predominantly Shaivite, the society was a secular one. Not only other Hindu sects but even Buddhists and Jains had many followers in those times. Under the circumstances, Ramanuja’s preaching that one must follow Lord Vishnu and none other was no doubt a way to preserve Sri Vaishnavism from all the other religious influences. Are his one-God-only ideas just part of the politics of religion?  Is this kind of thought even valid amongst today’s Hindus?  That said, I admit to total ignorance on the subject; I am merely thinking aloud…

I personally do not know even one single Hindu who prays to only one deity! When the Hindu pantheon offers a veritable smorgasbord of deities, each with their own domain expertise, is it not human nature to pray to as many of them as you can relate to? Leave alone Hindus, even in a strictly monotheistic religion like Christianity, prayers are offered to not just their God, but also to His messenger Jesus Christ and to his mother Mary as well as any number of Saints. Many of the Saints have their own speciality ‘domains’ too! I have visited many Catholic places of worship; there are as many candles in front of the Saints as there are in front of Jesus! Listening often to Sufi music, I see that even Muslims sing in praise of and in prayer to their many Saints. Many of us, it seems, spread our prayers wide!

Coming to Carnatic Music, our great composers wrote in praise of many different deities though they were known for their devotion to particular ones. For example, Tyagaraja was a devotee of Lord Rama, Dikshithar was a worshipper of Goddess Shakti, and Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer was entranced by the young Lord Krishna.  Yet in my song choice of today, Tyagaraja says ‘I am the one who chants only your name, I shall not beseech others!’. Set to Raga Natta, it is a lovely composition which appeals to me greatly. I always enjoy Natta with its vigorous and rousing feel. But today the first rendition I have chosen for you has a more contemplative mood. M.D. Ramanathan has a unique sound, one I enjoy immensely, especially in songs such as this. For your ease of listening, I have chosen the rendition loaded in YouTube. The sound quality is poor, but the music is anything but. Listen to my ‘Alternative’ for slightly better sound and a longer rendition.

Alternative : Click here and play song 2. Free membership needed to Sangeethapriya.

The second rendition I would like you to listen to is by Jayanthi Kumaresh on the Veena. I find that the  resonance of the instrument is particularly suited for Natta, don’t you? This talented artist has gifted us with a hypnotic rendition. Don’t miss this!

Alternate link : Click here and play song 1. You need free membership to Sangeethapriya.

And for a third, listen to this energetic and vibrant performance by Sikkil Gurucharan here.  I really enjoyed the kalpana swarams. Again, the recording quality is not the best.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
Please note that I do not speak Telugu; the lyrics and translations are credit to various online resources.

पल्लवि
निन्ने भजन सेयु वाडनु

अनुपल्लवि
पन्नग शायि परुल वेड लेनु

चरणम्
स्नानादि जप तप योग ध्यान
समाधि सुख प्रद
सीता नाथ सकल लोक पालक
त्यागराज सन्नुत

Transliteration

pallavi
ninnE bhajana sEyu vADanu

anupallavi
pannaga shAyi parula vEDa lEnu

charaNam
snAnaAdi japa tapa yOga dhyAna
samAdhi sukha prada
sItA nAtha sakala lOka pAlaka
tyAgarAja sannuta

Translation

I am a worshipper (bhajana sEyu vADanu) only of you (ninnE).

O One recumbent (shAyi) on a snake (pannaga)! I shall not (lEnu) plead (vEDa) to anyone else (paralu).

You are the provider (prada) of happiness and well-being (sukha) which come from (implied) bathing in holy waters (snAna), repeated prayers (japa), penance (tapa), Yoga, meditation (dhyAna), deep concentration leading to identification with the object of meditation (samAdhi) etc (Adi). O Consort (nAtha) of Sita! O Guardian (pAlaka) of the entire (sakala) world (lOka)! O One praised (sannuta) by Tyagaraja!

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Jayanthi Kumaresh, M.D.Ramanathan, Tyagaraja