Category Archives: Kadri Gopalnath

Nanaati Batuku

NDEMy head is swimming with the words of the book that I have just finished reading. I look at the world around me, wondering if it is all a mirage, as unreal as the dream I dreamt last night. Just as the sun dispels the early morning mist before me, will the blessing of God dispel the veil of Maya one day? Will I be able to see and feel the oneness of the universal consciousness then? I ask myself questions for which there are no certain answers.

My fey mood has been triggered by an account by Dr. Eben Alexander of his Near Death Experience (NDE) in his book called ‘Proof of Heaven’. I have long followed this genre of books; the first time I read on this subject was nearly 18 years ago and I have continued to read on and off since then.  These books are first-person accounts of people who have been close to death or have died and then been revived. They talk of their spiritual journey before and during their ‘death’.  What did they see? What did they experience? I am always fascinated by these accounts though I am far from being a morbid person. I wonder, am I looking for confirmation of my own beliefs in these books?

Obviously, NDE accounts vary in credibility. There are some which are self-glorifying (I was ‘the chosen one’ syndrome), others are too denominational to be credible (my faith gets into heaven, all else in hell syndrome). Then there are the scientific explanations which explain away NDEs as synapses firing in a dying brain, an alteration of brain chemistry. Still, the commonality of experiences often give me pause and I have always kept an open mind. This last book I read seems the most convincing because of the credibility of the witness, a Neurosurgeon from Harvard, and that when he was in a coma for a week with bacterial meningitis, his neocortex (the area of the brain responsible for conscious thought, sensory perception, language etc) was not functional.

So what did he experience? Many things, but some things resonated more with me than others. He says that in that other place ‘everything was distinct, yet everything was also part of everything else’. This is one of my core beliefs, that we are one and all is God Sarvam Brahmamayam. He describes the presence of a Being, ‘a brilliant orb’, which was ‘omniscient, omnipotent, and unconditionally loving’ and which was of ‘infinite vastness’. This resembles the ultimate Brahman of the Upanishads who is ‘eternal, omnipresent, free from all changes, self sufficient, not composed of parts, self-effulgent’  as explained by Adi Shankaracharya (8CE) in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. Dr.Alexander writes that there was a sound he heard which was associated with the Being and that it sounded like OM. Again, this matches Hindu thought as in this quote from Katha Upanishad ‘The syllable Om is Brahman’.

Dr Alexander’s concludes that the brain is not the source of consciousness, that consciousness exists beyond our physical selves. The scientific-rationalists of course think that consciousness is the product of the brain; when the brain is dead, the consciousness ceases to exist. Dr.Alexander proposes that the brain acts as a filter to keep out memories of the infinite. Is this not what we call Maya?

Do you wonder that with these thoughts in my mind, I chose to listen to Annamacharya’s exquisite kriti Nanaati Batuku in the most mystical of ragas Revati? And what a song! It strikes exactly the correct note for me today. Annamacharya says ‘This day to day existence is but a drama’ .  He stresses ‘To be born is real, to die is real, everything in between is just drama’. So what is real? ‘That which is beyond is liberation’ he says. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

One cannot think of this song without thinking of the wonderfully emotional renditions by M.S.Subbulakshmi. Yet today, it is to T.M.Krishna’s rendition that I am drawn and that is what I present to you. His beautiful voice adds even more beauty to this kriti.

[Alternate link (sorry, seems to have a scratchy sound here): http://mio.to/ybQ4 %5D

For an instrumental version, listen to Kadri Gopalnath on the Sax giving strength to the beseeching notes of Revati.

[Alternate link (not the same version) : click here ]


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

I do not speak Telugu so I have transcribed them in Devanagri script. The lyrics have been sourced from various sites on the internet and aurally verified. Special thanks to Sri Sistla for an excellent compilation of Annamacharya kritis.

पल्लवि
नानाटि बतुकु (/ब्रतुकु ) नाटकमु
कानक कन्नदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 1
पुट्टुटयु निजमु पोवुटयु निजमु
नट्टनडिमी पनि नाटकमु ।
येट्ट नेदुट गलदी प्रपञ्चमु
कट्ट कडपटिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 2
कुडिचेदन्नमु कोक चुट्टेडिदि
नडुमन्त्रपु पनि नाटकमु ।
वोडि गट्टुकोनिन वुभय कर्ममुलु
गडिदाटिनपुडे कैवल्यमु ॥
चरणं 3
तेगदु पापमु तीरदु पुण्यमु
नगि नगि कालमु नाटकमु ।
एगुवने श्री वेङ्कटेश्वरुडेलिक
गगनमु मीदिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

Transliteration :

nAnATi batuku (/bratuku) nATakamu
kAnaka kannadi kaivalyamu

Charanam 1
puTTuTayu nijamu pOvuTayu nijamu
naTTanaDimIpani nATakamu
yeTTaneduTa galadI prapanchamu
kaTTA kaDapaTidi kaivalyamu

Charanam 2
kuDichEdannamu kOka chuTTEDidi
naDumantrapu pani nATakamu
vOdi gaTTukOnina vubhaya karmamulu
gaDidATinapuDE kaivalyamu

Charanam 3
tegadu pApamu tIradu puNyamu
nagi nagi kAlamu nATakamu
eguvanE SrI vEnkaTEshvaruDElika
gaganamu mIdidi kaivalyamu

Translation :

This day to day existence is but a drama. That of which we have but a glimpse (is seen yet unseen) is liberation.

To be born and to die, these are real (truth). In between these two events, all that we do is drama. That which is right in front of us, is the universe. That which is the ultimate end, is salvation.

The food and drink we consume, the clothing we wear, this conjured up things we do is is all drama. When you cross beyond these, there is salvation.

Our sins never reduce. The good-deeds to be done are endless. All these laughable time-bound acts are drama.  The one who is in the higher place is Sri Venkateshwara, beyond the skies and the universe is salvation.

 

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Filed under Annamacharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Kadri Gopalnath, T.M.Krishna

Eppadi Padinaro

How did they sing, O Lord Shiva? I too would like to sing like that! Just as the saints Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar sang of you with full knowledge, I too would like to sing like that!

KirtanPoetry. Music. Sainthood. Do these three words make a seamless connection in your mind? Perhaps not. Whichever part of the world you come from, I assume that Poetry and Music will seem intimately connected to you . But Sainthood?

Perhaps the first word-association with Saints would be to teaching and miracles. Christian Saints always remind me of martyrdom, as do the courageous Sikh Saints. Buddhist Saints remind me of detachment and compassion, of renunciation and self-realisation. Sufi Saints call to mind their mysticism.

But when we talk of Hindu Saints, my mind almost always jumps to poetry and music.  Be it Narada from mythical times, Valmiki from Vedic times, the Azhwars (6th-9th c.), the Nayanmars (5th-10th c.), Adi Shankara (8th c.), Namdev (14th c.),  Purandaradasa (15th c.), Meerabai (15th c.), Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15th c.), Tulsidas (16th c., Tukaram (17th c.), Tyagaraja (18th c.).…the list is endless..we associate so many of our most important Saints with song.

The list of poet-musician Saints is indeed so long and intimidating that any devotional poet-musician would be struck with a sense of inadequacy! How did they write such beautiful poetry that centuries afterwards we still talk of them with awe? How did they sing such that God himself descended to bless them, as legends tell us? How did they create music which leaves leaves us spellbound even after hundreds of years, even when the world has changed so much from the world in which the music was created?

A poet-composer of today has much to live up to, which is what my song choice of today is about. ‘How did they sing?’ Suddhananda Bharati (1897-1990) wonders. ‘I wish to sing in the same way!’. He goes on to say ‘Overflowing with compassion, heart melting with your love, how did they sing sweetly of you in chaste Tamil everyday ?’  For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

Though I knew of Suddhanada Bharati’s poetry, I knew little of his life.  I did some research online and found that he had led a very interesting life indeed. I have written a short synopsis for those who would like to know more of him. Click here to read.

Eppadi Padinaro is set to Raga Karnataka Devagandhari. To know a bit more about the raga, click here. From what I have read, Suddhananda Bharati was a poet. I could not verify if he set the song to music as well and if not, who did so.

To present this song, I have chosen a particularly pleasing rendition of a great musician from yesteryears, D.K.Pattammal (1919-2009).

For an instrumental version, listen below to Kadri Gopalnath on the Sax.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

எப்படி பாடினரோ அடியார்
அப்படிப் பாட நான்
ஆசை கொண்டேன் சிவனே !

அப்பரும் சுந்தரரும்
ஆளுடைப் பிள்ளையும்
அருள் மணி வாசகரும்
பொருளுணர்ந்து உன்னையே (எப்படி பாடினரோ)

குருமணி சங்கரரும்
அருமை தாயுமானாரும்
அருணகிரி நாதரும்
அருட்ஜோதி வள்ளலும்
கருணைக்கடல் பெருகி
காதலினால் உருகி
கனித்தமிழ் சொல்லினால்
இனிதுனை அனுதினம் (எப்படி பாடினரோ)

Translation

eppaDi pADinarO adiyAr
appaDi pADa nAn
Asai koNDEn shivanE (eppaDi)

apparum sundararum
ALuDai piLLaiyum
aruL maNi vAsakarum
poruLuNarndu unnaiyE (eppaDi)

gurumaNi shankararum
arumai tAyumAnArum
aruNagirinAdarum
arutjyOti vaLLalum
karuNaikkaDal perugi
kAdalinAl urugi
kanittamizh sollinAl
inidunai anudinam (eppaDi)

Translation

How did they sing, O Lord Shiva? I too would like to sing like that!

Just as the saints Appar, Sundararar, Aludai Pillai (another name for Sambandar) and Manikkavasagar sang of you with full knowledge/understanding (I too would like to sing like that).

Overflowing with compassion, hearts melting with your love, how did the great Guru Shankara, the dear Thaayumaanavar, Arunagirinathar and Vallalaar sing sweetly of you in chaste Tamil everyday? (I too would would like to sing like that).

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, D.K.Pattammal, Kadri Gopalnath, Suddhananda 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

Jagadodharana

Yashoda Krishna

Yashoda and Krishna – who doesn’t understand the bond between them? They stand as an example of the mother-child relationship and its innate divinity. Its interesting that we seldom mention Krishna’s birth mother Devaki as His mother. Motherhood is indeed far more than bearing a child in one’s womb.

What kind of mother was Yashoda? She loved her little Krishna, that goes without saying. She was strict at times, tying Him down when he was especially naughty. She turned a blind eye at other times, ignoring the butter He stole with his friends. She was supportive when needed, defending Him against the complaints of the other ladies of the community. And she let Him leave her and go far away when it was time to undertake what He needed to do. In effect, she was a mother like most mothers.

Did she know He was the Lord? How could she have missed it? He performed miracles like slaying demons when He was just a babe, showing the world in His mouth when she demanded to see if He was eating butter, by multiplying Himself to dance with all the Gopis. So she knew and yet she didn’t know, for when He behaved as a child, she treated Him as a child. That then is Maya, the illusion which we all suffer on earth. The same Maya which makes us ignore the divinity of each soul around us and the presence of God everywhere.

Yashoda is often cited as the epitome of Vatsalya Bhakti Bhava. Hindusim defines five forms of Bhakti or devotion to God. These are called Bhakti Bhavas. They are

  • शांत Shanta – Peaceful or placid devotion
  • दास्य  Dasya – Servile devotion
  • साख्य Sakhya – Friendly devotion
  • वात्सल्य  Vatsalya – Parental devotion
  • माधुर्य/कान्त/शृङ्गार  Madhurya/Kanta/Shringara – Romantic devotion

How reassuring to think that one can love God in the same manner as one loves one’s child!  Today I present a song which celebrates this maternal love.  It is also a commentary on Maya because even Yashoda was blinded by it.

Purandaradasa (1484-1564) writes ‘Yashoda played with the Lord of the Universe, thinking Him to be her son’.  The song is written in Kannada and is set to Raga Kapi.  If you would like to know more about this raga, click here. The song was made famous by the great vocalist M.S.Subbulakshmi. Today I present an instrumental version by the Saxophone Maestro, Kadri Gopalnath in a jugalbandi with Pravin Godkhindi on the Bansuri (flute).

Now listen to this rather modern vocal rendition by Bombay S.Jayashri whose voice is a great gift from God to us listeners.

Post Script: It has been a long time since I posted this but today I came upon this soulful live rendition by T.M.Krishna and felt that it too should be included in my post. There are songs which I like in a female voice and others in a male voice but for this song, I cannot quite make up my mind!


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Pallavi
jagadOddAraNa ADisidaLe yashOde

Anupallavi
jagadOddhAraNa maganendu tiLiyuta
suguNAnta ranganA AdisidaLe yashOde

Charanam

nigamakE silukada agaNita mahimana
magugaLe mANikyana ADisidaLe yashOde

aNOraNIyana mahatO mahImana
apramEyana na ADisidaLe yashOde

parama puruSana paravAsudEvana
purandara viThalana ADisidaLe yashOde

Translation

Yashoda played with the Savior of the world.

Thinking that the Savior of the world was her son, Yashoda played with embodiment of all great qualities.

The one whose greatness is infinite and beyond measure, Yashoda played with the gem amongst children.

The one who is smaller than the atom and bigger than infinity, Yashoda played with him.

The one who is the supreme being, son of Vasudeva, the Vitthala of Purandara (note: the composer’s signature), Yashoda played with him.

Click here for notation.

 

 

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Kannada, Kadri Gopalnath, Pravin Godkhinde, Purandaradasa, T.M.Krishna

Om Sharavanabhava

MuruganLord Skanda, the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and the brother of Lord Ganesh must have been worshipped all over India once upon a time. There is mention of Him in the Vedas and Puranas and in the Mahabharata as well. Archaeological findings related to Him point to His worship from 10 B.C. or before. But as time passed and worship patterns changed, His worship became more localised. In today’s India, He is most prevalent where there are Tamils.

Although my parents worshipped a pantheon of Gods, we did not have Lord Murugan in the altar at home. As a consequence, I was not much attached to this God who is most important to the Tamils, my people. As a Hindu, I believe that each of our Gods and Goddesses is a complete manifestation of the Divine. I quote the Shanti Mantra from Brihadaranyaka & Ishavasya Upanishad (4 BC), a mantra which I recite morning and evening :

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवा वशिष्यते ||
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ||

Om. That (Paramatma = God, the supreme being) is absolute (complete/perfect). This (Jeevatma = individual soul) is absolute. The absolute arises from the absolute. When the absolute is taken from the absolute, what remains is the absolute. Om Peace Peace Peace.

One of the earliest definition of Infinity (∞ – ∞ = ∞), the interpretation is that God being infinite, each manifestation of Him (including our souls) is also infinite and complete. Whichever God you choose to worship, you still worship the same Infinite.

It is thanks to Carnatic Music and the many songs devoted to Lord Murugan which have brought me to seek Him. How passionate the devotion of the Tamil poets is to Him! How beautifully they sing His praise!! One such song is what I am presenting today.

Sharavanabhava (Sanskrit: He who was born in a clump of reeds) refers to Lord Murugan. The six syllables haves deep esoteric significance as well and this is used as a Mantra by His devotees. This song is written by Papanasam Sivan (1890-1972) and is set to Raga Shanmukhapriya (meaning, the raga which pleases the God of Six Heads i.e. Lord Murugan). If you want to know more about the raga, click here. The lyrics are available here. The superbly talented sisters Ranjani & Gayatri sing this beautifully below  :

Alternate link : Click here.

Click here to listen to an excellent instrumental version played by the Sax Maestro Kadri Gopalnath.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kadri Gopalnath, Papanasam Sivan, Ranjani Gayatri

Together: Saxophone & Bansuri

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one name which any fan of Carnatic Music will think of if the Sax is mentioned is that of Kadri Gopalnath. I can’t quite remember when I first heard his music. But this I remember : I was immediately captivated. I had of course listened before to the Nadaswaram and the Shehnai, wind instruments which are used for auspicious music (e.g. for weddings) in the South and North respectively. The sound of Carnatic music on the sax sounded equally auspicious to me. In fact, Gopalnath’s initial training had been on the Nadaswaram, so this is not surprising.

I have always loved the Indian Bamboo flute, whether it be the Bansuri as played in the North or the slightly different Venu (Pullanguzhal) as played in the South of India. I have listened spellbound to Hariprasad Chaurasia’s music since childhood and from the South, stalwarts like T.R.Mahalingam and  N.Ramani. Sashank’s music has been a staple for me ever since he emerged into the Carnatic Music world. I believe that the lyricism of Indian Classical Music finds an appropriate voice on the flute.

All this to introduce one of my favourite albums !

I came upon this lovely CD about 20 years back in which Kadri Gopalnath & Ronu Mazumdar present an incomparable Jugalbandi.  And what a lovely marriage it is, the gutsy sound of the Sax with the seductive cooing of the Bansuri! The album has given me much pleasure over the years and now my son is equally fond of it. 20 dollars for 20 years of pleasure….it’s a good bargain indeed! You can listen to the album Together on Music India Online.

For those who prefer visuals, here is a playlist of some good music by this duo on Youtube.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Hindustani Classical Music, Kadri Gopalnath, Ronu Majumdar