Category Archives: Kanyakumari


NRKAfter my rather depressing post last time, I wanted to post something happy. Immediately my mind went to this song that I love in Raga Nalinakanti, a most cheerful sounding piece of music.

As I pored over the translation, my mind wandered off in a tangent with the pallavi line itself. ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to my appeal?’ says Tyagaraja. This device of addressing one’s own mind occurs in music and literature often enough for us not to be surprised by it. But today I asked myself ‘Who is the addresser and who is the addressed?’.

I was first reminded of the mindfulness exercises in some meditative techniques. One is supposed to watch the thoughts flow by without stopping them, just watching them stream past without reaction. A mind watching its own thoughts? ‘Who is the watcher?’ I wondered, ‘and who is the watched?’. I have tried this meditation technique myself and yes, it is quite possible to do this. And so another question arises – if the mind can split into the watcher and the watched, can it split into more parts?

I became engrossed in reading many articles on mind and consciousness, within Hindu thought or otherwise. But I couldn’t get any specific answers to my questions. Coming back to our song,  Tyagaraja says ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to the one who knows the compassionate heart of Sri Ramachandra? I am revealing all the secrets’.  Oh! So part of his mind knows secrets that the other part doesn’t know? I do know unhealthy minds can keep secrets –such as in amnesia- but can a healthy mind keep secrets from itself? I don’t think so. But the subconscious can and does keep secrets from the conscious mind. Is this intended to be a song from the subconscious to the conscious?

I know, some of you may well be thinking that I am making too much of this, that it is merely a literary device. That is probably very likely. Still, Tyagaraja was such an evolved soul; it behoves us to examine his words and make sure we look beyond the obvious and glean as much wisdom as we can from them. That said, this is such a lovely piece of music that one finds joy in the very flow of the notes. And sometimes that is more than enough.

For the last two days I have been hearing innumerable renditions of this song. There are so many beautiful renditions that it was a difficult choice for me. But when I heard this version by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy (1927-2014), I knew at once that this was IT! I missed honouring him when he passed away in December; I am happy to have the opportunity to feature this illustrious artist in my blog today. There is a wonderful shower of swaras following the song, I am literally dancing to them as I write this! My only complaint is the missing gamaka on the word ‘Tyagaraju’ which only TMK and SKR seem to include..I just adore that gamaka, always makes me melt to a puddle!

(There is a small glitch at 5:45, I assume it is from tape conversion, please ignore)

Alternate Link : Click here and download item 5 – free membership of Sangeethamshare is needed.

And if you want to listen to an outstanding violin rendition, listen to Kanyakumari  supported beautifully by Embar Kannan.

Alternate link : Click here and download item 9.


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Nalinakanti
Language : Telugu

Note – As I do not speak Telugu, the translation is heavily dependent on various web sources.

Transliteration in Devanagari


मनविनालकिञ्च रादटे मर्ममॆल्ल तॆल्पॆदने मनसा
(common alternate version of first word : मनव्याल)


घनुडैन (श्री) राम चन्द्रुनि करुणान्तरंगमु तॆलिसिन ना

कर्म काण्ड मताकृष्टुलै भव गहन चारुलै गासि जॆन्दग
कनि मानवा अवतारुडै कनिपिञ्चिनाडे नडत त्यागराजु

Transliteration in English

manavinAlakincha rAdaTE marmamella telpedanE manasA
(common alternate version of first word : manavyAla)

ghanuDaina (shrI) rAma chandruni karuNAntarangamu telisina nA

karma kANDa matAkRshTulai bhava gahana chArulai gAsi jendaga
kani mAnava avatAruDai kanipinchinADE naData tyAgarAju


Won’t (rAda) you (aTE) listen (Alakincha) to my appeal (manavini), O mind (manasA)? I am revealing (telpedanE) all (ella) the secrets (marmamu) .

Won’t You listen (implied) to my (nA) appeal, I (implied) who know (telisina) the compassionate (karuNA) heart (antarangamu) of the great (ghanuDaina) Sri Ramanchandra (rAma chandruni)?

Seeing (kani) those who, attracted (AkRshTulai) by the opinions (mata) of the ritualistic action (karma) section (kAnDa) of the Vedas (implied), suffer (gAsi jendaga) as wanderers (chArulai) in the forest (gahana) of worldly existence (bhava), the Lord having incarnated (avatAruDai) as a human being (mAnava) exemplified (kanipincinADE) the right conduct (naData). Therefore, O Mind, won’t you listen to the appeal (implied from pallavi) of this Tyagaraja (tyAgarAju)?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Embar S.Kannan, Kanyakumari, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Tyagaraja

Enna Tavam Seydanai

What penances did you do Yashoda that the ultimate Brahman who is everywhere called you ‘Mother’? What did you do that you could hold the One who created the fourteen worlds in your arms, loving Him, nursing Him, and rocking Him to sleep? Making even Brahma and Indra envious, you tied Krishna to the mortar and made Him beg you to release Him. What penances did you do, O Holy Mother, that you achieved with ease what the rishis achieved with great effort and yogic austerities?

Krishna Tied

He was a very naughty little boy, always getting into trouble. His mischief knew no bounds. His poor mother, Yashoda, had to listen to the complaints of the neighbourhood ladies every single day. She scolded Him, she begged Him– but all to no avail. He would turn his beautiful eyes on her and claim innocence, sure of his ability to twist His mother around his little finger. And did He listen to her entreaties? Oh no! He would get into the next scrape even before He was out of the first! What a handful! And yet, one cannot help laughing at His mischief, was there one as inventive as He?

One day while Yashoda was sitting churning butter, He came along demanding to be fed. She stopped her work and picked Him up with pleasure, feeding Him and loving Him. Noticing that the milk pot on the fire was about to overflow, she kept Him down half-way fed to attend to her work. The little scamp, enraged at being put down before He had His fill, broke the butter churn with a stone and started eating the butter. When Yashoda came back, He was feeding the rest of the butter to a monkey!

Always she had given in to His cajoling ways but today she had caught Him red-handed! Is it not the job of a mother to discipline as much as to love? Hardening her heart, she grabbed Him and looked for a rope to tie Him to the big stone mortar. The oddest thing was that whichever rope she found, it was always short by a two-finger length. Even when she tied all the ropes together, it was still short by the same two-finger length! The watching neighbourhood ladies, who had all suffered from Krishna’s mischief, laughed at her efforts which discomfited her. Seeing His mother’s discomfiture, Krishna allowed Himself to be tied. When she left Him, He dragged Himself, mortar and all, to the two trees which stood close by. Pulling the mortar between the trees, He uprooted them and released the curse on the two sons of Kubera who stood grateful before Him.

This story from Srimad Bhagavatam is the one that the poet-composer Papanasam Sivan refers to in my song choice of today, the charming Enna Tavam Seydanai set to raga Kapi. ‘What penances did you do Yashoda that the ultimate Brahman who is everywhere called you Mother?’ he asks. ‘What penances did you do that you could hold the One who created the fourteen worlds in your arms, loving Him, nursing Him, and rocking Him to sleep?’. We Hindus believe that good Karma is what gets us the privilege of a good life. But a life as the mother of God? Is it not beyond any good Karma that we can possibly do? ‘Making even Brahma and Indra envious, you tied Krishna to the mortar and made Him beg you to release Him’ he continues. For the full lyrics and translation, see footnote.

What exactly does this story indicate? It is true that the ultimate Brahman is beyond our grasp, our understanding even.  This is symbolised by the rope being too short in our story above. And yet when Krishna sees the mother who loves Him struggle to contain Him, He contains Himself and allows her to grasp Him. And likewise does the Nirguna Brahman who is beyond description takes form as the Saguna Brahman for the sake of those who love Him, a form which even our limited understanding can grasp. Yashoda’s love tied Krishna to the stone mortar, our love ties God to the stone or metal idols which we worship.

If you would like to know more about raga Kapi, click here.

Today I have chosen to present a couple of unusual performances. First listen to a light, non-classical approach by  talented playback singer Karthik, sung in a leisurely style.

For an instrumental version, I have chosen a more traditional approach by a couple of untraditional musicians – the two young ladies Lavanya & Subbalakshmi on the saxophone. Their brisk delivery is an interesting contrast to Karthik’s easy paced one. Click here to listen.

But I have to say that what gives me most pleasure is this beautifully calming version by Kanyakumari or this emotional rendition by Sudha Raghunathan. I am such a traditionalist!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

என்ன தவம் செய்தனை யசோதா
எங்கும் நிறை பரப்ரம்மம் அம்மா (வெ/)என்றழைக்க

ஈரேழு புவனங்கள் படைத்தவனை
கையில் ஏந்தி சீராட்டி பாலூட்டி தாலாட்ட, நீ

சரணம் 1
ப்ரம்மனும்(/பிரமனும்) இந்திரனும் மனதில் பொறாமை கொள்ள
உரலில் கட்டி வாய் பொத்தி கெஞ்சவைத்தாய், தாயே

சரணம் 2
சனக்காதியர் தவ யோகம் செய்து வருந்திச்
சாதித்ததை புனித மாதே எளிதில் பெற, நீ

Transliteration :

enna tavam seydanai yashOdA
engum niRai parabrahmam ammA (v)endrazhaikka

IrEzu bhuvanangaL paDaittavanai
kaiyil Endi shIraTTi pAlUTTi tAlATTa nI

charaNam 1
brahmanum (/biramanum) indranum manadil poRAmai koLLa
uralil kaTTi vAypotti kenjavaittAy tAyE

charaNam 2
sanakAdiyar tavayOgam seydu varundi
sAdittadai punida mAtE eLidil peRa

Translation :

What penances did you do Yashoda that
the ultimate Brahman who is everywhere called you Mother?

(What penances did you do that ) you could hold the One who created the fourteen worlds in your arms, loving Him, nursing Him, and rocking Him to sleep?

Making even Brahma and Indra envious, you tied Krishna to the mortar and made Him beg you (implied: to release Him)

(What penances did you do) O Holy Mother, that you achieved with ease what the Sanakadi* rishis achieved with great effort and yogic austerities?

*Sanakadi is the combined name for the four sons of Brahma, the rishis Sanak, Sanandana, Sanaatana and Sanatkumara, also knows as the Kumaras.  To read about them, click here.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kanyakumari, Karthik, Lavanya & Subbalakshmi, Papanasam Sivan

Edayya Gati

What refuge have I but you? My compassionate one ! Son of Shiva ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you! Accepting this ignorant person, why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary!

FutilityIt was in August last year. I was confidently striding towards my gate in San Francisco airport. I had had an enjoyable holiday and was feeling good about myself. 2011 had started badly for me. My pre-existing bad back, a slipped-disk in my lower back, had raised its ugly head and had crippled me at the start of the year. I was making a slow recovery from it when I twisted my ankle badly and tore a ligament. A couple of months later, I re-twisted the same ankle. So when in August I managed my rather demanding touristic visit without pain, I was very pleased with myself. ‘Maybe I can restart my fitness routines’ I told myself, aware of having gained a quite few of the inches that I had previously lost in my ongoing battle-of-the-bulge. I felt strong and able. And so I was striding confidently, just as I stated at the start of my tale.

It was therefore a shock when my feet slipped under me and I found myself dropping awkwardly to the floor. I felt something give as my knee twisted outwards at an unnatural angle. I finally saw the little pool of liquid that someone had dropped, a pool which was virtually invisible in the shiny black floor. Even as pain shot through me I wondered ‘Have we no control over our lives then? Here I was feeling so good about myself! How delusional am I!’.

Thus everyday everywhere people are striding along confidently when the rug is pulled under their feet. Are our ceaseless endeavours meaningless then? Are we no better than the hamsters who run ceaselessly to remain at the same place? It all seems so futile!!

Such were my thoughts as I struggled uphill in my latest quest towards fitness, my knee throbbing painfully. I know that something is wrong again and I dread a visit to the doctor. As I pondered my helplessness, the song playing in my ipod made utter sense. ‘What refuge have I but you?’ says Koteeswara Iyer in the exquisite pathos of Raga Chalanatta. ‘Why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me?’. Surely anything this futile can be nothing else but a game? For lyrics and translation of this short song, see footnote. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.

I have vacillated over my selection today, there are so many renditions I like! I especially enjoy the versions by Sanjay Subrahmanyan and Sikkil Gurucharan. But finally I could not move away from Tanjore S.Kalyanaraman’s wonderful presentation of this song. This is a live, amateur recording and the sound quality is poor. But do ignore the extraneous noise and focus on the music, it is such a treat!

And for an instrumental, listen to the speaking violin of A.Kanyakumari. I am a big fan of her music, she is an immense talent.


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language: Tamil

ஏதய்யா கதி எனக்-

மா தயாநிதி உமாபதி சுகுமார வரகுணநிதி
நீதான் அல்லது வேற் (ஏதய்யா)

பேதை   ஏற்க உன்னருள் காட்டாது
என்னோடேதைய்யா விளையாட்டா
பூதல சலநாட்டா நின் தாள் தான் கதி
புகழ் கவி குஞ்சர தாசனக்கு வேற் (ஏதய்யா)


EdayyA gati enakk-

mA dayAnidhi umApati sukumAra varaguNa nidhi nI dAn alladu vEr

pEdai Erkka un aruL kATTAdu ennODEdayyA vilaiyATTa
bhUtalA chalanATTa nin tAL tAn gati pugazh kavi kunjaradAsanukku vEr


What refuge have I but you?

My compassionate one ! Son of Uma’s husband (Shiva) ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you (are my refuge)!

In not showing your mercy in accepting this ignorant person, are you playing a game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary. For this poet Kunjaradasa who else but you (are my refuge)!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kanyakumari, Koteeswara Iyer, S.Kalyanaraman

Bhavayami Gopala Balam

Krishna BabyThe tradition of worshipping Krishna as a Bala Krishna or Bala Gopala (child Krishna) is an old one. There is evidence as early as 4th BC of this. The stories of his Leelas or miraculous play are widely known throughout India. In contrast to Rama, the previous avatar of Vishnu, who always followed rules and regulations, Krishna’s Leelas describe someone who broke many rules. While Rama’s life is about obligation, Krishna’s life is about play and delight.

I believe that the stories of Krishna’s play have deep symbolic meaning. For example, his love for butter symbolises God’s love for a pure and unsullied heart. His leela of duplicating himself for all the gopikas symbolises the multiplicity of God who is with every soul though he is One. Even keeping aside the symbolism, the endearing nature of the leelas allow us to bring forth the purest form of love that we human beings know – the love of a parent towards his/her small child – and allow us to transform that love into a love for the divine.

Today’s composition is by Annamacharya, set to Raga Yamuna Kalyani  by Kayanallur Venkataraman. The poet says ‘I meditate on the cowherd child’ and describes the beguiling form of the child who is ‘Glorious in a girdle inlaid with precious stones and small bells tied to his waist which rings with a multitude of sounds’. On listening to the song, my mind if filled with the image of my children as babies and these become indistinguishable from the image of baby Krishna as I am overwhelmed by the love for both Krishna and my children. To know more about this raga, click here.

One cannot think of this song without thinking of M.S.Subbulakshmi who had made this her own. However today I present a beautiful performance by Ranjani & Gayatri, the sisters with voices which synchronise so perfectly.

Alternate link : Click here.

For an instrumental version, listen below to Kanyakumari whose skills on the violin are truly impressive.

Alternate link : Click here.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

भावयामि गोपाल बालम्  मनः सेवितं
तत्पदं चिन्तयेयं सदा

कटि घटित मेखला खचित मणि घण्टिका
पटल निनदेन विभ्राजमानं
कुटिल पद घटित सङ्कुल शिञ्जिते नतं
चटुल नटना समुज्ज्वल विलासं

निरत कर कलित नवनीतं ब्रह्मादि
सुर निकर भावना शोंभित पदं
तिरुवेङ्कटाचल स्थितं अनुपमं हरिं
परम पुरुषं गोपाल बालम्

English Transliteration

bhAvayAmi gopAlabAlaM manaH sevitam
tatpadaM cintayeyaM sadA

kaTi ghaTita mekhalA khacita maNi ghaNTikA
paTala ninadena vibhrAjamAnam
kuTila pada ghaTita saMkula shinjite natam
caTula naTanA samujjvala vilAsam || 1 ||

nirata kara kalita navanItaM brahmAdi
sura nikara bhAvanA shobhita padam
tiruveNkaTAcala sthitaM anupamaM harim
parama puru.saM gopAlabAlam || 2 ||


I meditate upon (bhAvayAmi) the cowherd (gopAla) boy (bAlam) on whose feet ((tatpadam) my mind (manah) dwells (chintaYeyam)
always (sadA)

Glorious (vibhrAjamAnam) in a girdle (mekhala) inlaid (khachita) with precious stones (maNi) and small bells (ghaNtikA) tied to his waist (kati) which rings  with a multitude (patala) of sounds ((ninadEna)

With radiant (samujjwala) and lovable ((chaTula) appearance (vilAsam) while dancing (naTana), inclined (natam) with (sangkula) his curved (kuTita) pada (feet) tinkling (shinjita).

Hand (kara) engaged in (nirata) kalita (providing) butter (navanIta), feet (padam) made beautiful (shobhita) by the feelings (bhAvanA) of multitude (nikara) of gods (sura) like Brahma etc (brahmAdi)

Living (sthitam) in the hill (achala) of tiru (sacred in Tamil) vengkata, incomparable (anupam) Hari, supreme being (parama purusham), the cowherd boy (gopala bAlam)



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Kadayanallur Venkataraman, Kanyakumari, Ranjani Gayatri