Category Archives: M.D.Ramanathan

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

Ananda Natana Prakasham

puzzlesI have a penchant for puzzles. It started with an addiction to the Times of India crossword puzzles eons ago, while I was still at high school. Since then I have amused myself with all kinds of puzzles, my current obsession being Sudoku.

The moment my husband walks in from work, I grab his Telegraph for my puzzle-fix. With the advent of an IPad into my home, I continue the evening doing tougher puzzles during the commercial breaks on the telly.  I love the logical structure of Sudoku. You work through it methodically, eliminate logically and voila, you have a perfect solution! What a pleasure that is!

While I do my Telegraph puzzle, I also finish the word game based on anagrams which is featured on the same page. Now this is a very different kettle of fish to Sudoku. The only way I can work out anagrams is to jumble up the letters, removing the linearity, then staring at them until the answer comes to mind. I love the magical ‘pop’ of the answer into my head! Though I have a very good success rate, I have no control over it. There is neither logic nor method in this.

But why is she going on about puzzles in a music blog?’ I’m sure you are puzzling over that right now! Well, there is a connection…..

We Carnatic Music rasikas have our own puzzles, you see. It is called ‘What raga is this?’! Whenever you hear a song, that is the first question that comes to mind. So what is it exactly that we recognize as a raga? Mind you, there is a difference between remembering and recognizing. If you hear a kriti and you know that it is of a certain raga, that is remembering. If you hear an improvised alapana or an unknown kriti, and then can name the raga, that is recognizing.

With the caveat that my knowledge is meagre indeed, I believe there are three major characteristic-sets to ragas:

  • The Notes : Arohanam and Avarohanam define the set of permitted notes. There are further conditions of use for these notes; for example, some are Jiva swaras or ‘life giving’ notes while others are Amsa Swaras, notes which occur frequently. As Carnatic Music uses a variable scale depending on the pitch of the musician, surely what our mind registers are the presence of frequency-intervals? To use these rules in raga recognition, you need to be able to translate a tune or an alapana to its notes on the fly. Sadly, I cannot.
  • The Ornamentation: Ragas have rules regarding gamakas or oscillations and slides between notes. Again, raga recognition by this is difficult for untrained rasikas as it demands you to recognize the notes as they are sung.
  • The Characteristic Phrases: Prayogas and Sancharas are essentially little micro-tunes made up of a few notes, a combination by which a raga can be identified.  Of the three, this is the easiest for a musically uneducated listener. If you have a mental database of what these characteristic phrases sound like, you could compare them to what you are listening. With my limited ability, I just cannot spot micro-tunes amongst the barrage of notes that the musician spouts out.

So what is my method? This is not a puzzle like Sudoko which I can approach in a methodical and logical manner. Instead, somewhat like my anagram puzzle, I have to wait for the answer to ‘pop’ into my mind. See, I told you there was a connection! My very unscientific method rests on listening to the alapana, waiting for my mind to have the incredible urge to belt out some kriti for which I already know the raga. Recognizing the raga is based solely on this urge! A method prone to errors, I assure you. Yet I can recognize many ragas based on this unscientific method!

So coming to my song choice of the day..

Last week I was listening to a nice kutcheri by Sanjay Subrahmanyan on youtube while rolling out the chapatis for dinner, head nodding, rolling-pin going back and forth in perfect tala, saying ‘besh besh’ when the music warranted it. I was a happy woman indeed! A new alapana started and as usual I waited for my mind to offer a raga-match. My mind obligingly offered up ‘Valachi Va-a-a-chi-i-i-i’ in a confident manner.  Now I knew that this varnam is a ragamalika but what is the first raga? For the life of me, I could not remember! You are no doubt sniggering at me now if you know the answer! I waited for an alternate kriti to pop out, getting more and more frustrated with myself for being so inept and clueless. The kriti started and this too was unfamiliar. I finally gave up and went back to enjoying the music. That’s when I heard myself mutter ‘Hmmmm not a bad Kedaram, maybe I should feature this in my next post?’.  I stopped short and grinned as my chapati burnt to a crisp. Puzzle solved!

For those who are new to Carnatic Music and for those who would like to train themselves in raga recognition, I propose a simple strategy here. If you would like to know more about Kedaram, click here.

Instead of presenting the song I was listening to, I am presenting a good reference song in Kedaram, the song which my mind should have logically ‘popped’ out. Muthuswami Dikshithar’s Ananda Natana Prakasham is a very interesting, and mystical song, I am doing it injustice by not discussing the lyrics in detail. Oh well, some other time maybe..

Since last week I have been listening to multiple versions of this song. Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s rendition in his CD Keshtra Chidambaram is gentle as a lullaby. T.M.Krisha’s rendition in his CD Panchabhutam brings out all it’s mysticism, this is available to listen in Spotify.   But there is no match, I think, for M.D.Ramanathan’s deep-voiced leisurely exploration of the song. Somehow MDR’s voice and style seem a perfect match for this song. What do you think?

Alternate Link : Sangeethapriya (free membership).


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

पल्लवि
आनन्द नटन प्रकाशं चित् सभेषम्
आश्रयामि शिवकामवल्लीशम्

अनुपल्लवि
भानु कोटि कोटि सङ्काशम्
भुक्ति मुक्ति प्रद दहराकाशम्
दीन जन संरक्षण चणम्

मध्यम काल साहित्यम्
दिव्य पतञ्जलि व्याघ्रपाद
दर्शित कुञ्चिताब्ज चरणम्

चरणम्
शीतांशु गङ्गा धरम्  नील कन्धरम्
श्री केदारदि क्षेत्राधारम्
भूतेशम् शार्दूल चर्माम्बरम् चिदम्बरम्
भूसुर त्रिसहस्र मुनीश्वरम् विश्वेश्वरम्
नवनीत हृदयम् सदय गुरुगुह तातमाद्यम्
वेद वेद्यम् वीत रागिणमप्रमेयाद्वैत प्रतिपाद्यम्
संगीत वाद्य विनोद ताण्डव जात बहुतर भेद चोद्यम्

Transliteration :

pallavi
Ananda naTana prakAsham chit sabhEsham
AshrayAmi shivakAmavallIsham

anupallavi
bhAnu kOTi kOTi sa.nkAsham
bhukti mukti prada daharAkAsham
dIna jana samrakshaNa chaNam

madhyama kAla sAhityam
divya patanjali vyAGra pAda
darshita kunchitAbja charaNam

charaNam
shIta.nshu gangA dharam nIla kandharam
shrI kEdArAdi kshEtrAdhAram
bhUtesham shArdUla charmAmbaram chidambaram
bhUsura trisahasra munIshvaram vishvEshvaram
navanIta hrudayam sadaya guruguha tAtamAdyam
vEda vEdyam vIta rAgiNampramEyAdvaita pratipAdyam
sangIta vAdya vinOda tAnDava jAta bahutara bhEda chOdyam

Translation:

Pallavi
He who is lustrous (prakAsham) with the dance (naTana) of bliss (Ananda), the   Lord (Isham) of the court (sabhA) of the soul (chit) [also Lord of Chidambaram]. I take refuge (AshrayAmi) in the Lord of Shivakamavalli [shivakAmasundari is the name of the Goddess at Chidambaram].

Anupallavi
His appearance (sa.nkAsham) is like millions (kOti kOti) of suns (bhAnu). He is the provider (prada) of pleasure (bhukti) and salvation (mukti). He is  the form of the yogic space of daharAkAsha (deep psychic world). [Yoga Upanishads talk of three etheric planes: chit-AkAsha=space of the mind, hrudaya-AkAsha=space of the heart and daharAkAsha=space of the psychic world. Note also that Chidambaram is the one which represents Akasha amongst the pancha-bhoota sthalams of Lord Shiva]. He is famed (chaNam) as the protector (samrakshaNam) of the wretched (dIna jana). His lotus-like (Abja) bent (raised?) (kunchita) feet (charaNam) are those seen by the divine (divya) Patanjali and Vyaghrapada [sages who were given a vision of the dancing Lord at Chidambaram].

Charanam

He who holds (dharam) the moon (shItAnshu) and the Goddess Ganga. He is blue (nIla) necked (kandharam). He is the foundation (AdhAram) of sacred places (kshEtra) such as (Adi) Kedara [note: also name of Raga]. He is the Lord (Isham) of all living beings (bhUta). His apparel (ambaram) is the skin (charma) of a tiger (shArdUla). He resides (implied)  in our consciousness (chit) and ether (ambara) [also temple of Chidambaram]. He is the Lord (Ishwaram) of the three thousand (thri-sahasra) Brahmin (bhUsura) sages (munI). He is the Lord (Ishwaram) of the universe (vishva). His heart (hrudayam) is soft as (implied) fresh butter (navanItam). He is the compassionate (sadaya) one, the father (tAtam) of Guruguha [Lord Subramanya, also signature of composer], He is the primal (Adyam). Celebrated (vEdyam) in the Vedas, He is dispassionate/calm (vItarAga). He is immeasurable (apramEya). He is expounded (pratipAdyam) in the Advaita philosophy.  He takes pleasure (vinOda) in music (sangIta), instrumental music (vAdya) and dance (tAnDava) causing (jAta) different kinds of (bhEda) great (bahutara) astonishment (chOdya). [there can be multiple interpretations of this last phrase; this is just one possibility.]

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.D.Ramanathan, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, T.M.Krishna

Chakkani Raja

O Mind, when a beautiful path to salvation is available, why should you take the by-lanesWhen thick creamy milk is there, why do you want toddy?

MDRIn a recent conversation with my sister, she mentioned that she very much enjoyed the Raga Kharaharapriya. It got me thinking. Why do we respond to certain ragas and not to others? There are ragas which still me, whatever I am doing. My family does not find it odd to find me standing in the middle of room, eyes far away, senses alert and focused as I let my spirit absorb a phrase, a note.  Some ragas catch my attention whenever they are played, others depends on my mood. I don’t always respond to Kharaharapriya but when it is sung well, it can be deeply moving. The raga demands an unhurried mind; the longer you listen to it, the better it feels. To know more about this raga, click here.

When the beautiful path to salvation is available, why should you take the by-lanes?’ says Tyagaraja. ‘When thick creamy milk is there, why do you want toddy?’  Is the poet-composer addressing the song to himself or us? He says ‘O Manasa’‘O Mind’ so perhaps it is addressed to himself but it is also addressed to to all of us who have strayed from the path of devotion and salvation. See footnote for lyrics and translation.

I will take this opportunity to present another great musician from yesteryears. M.D.Ramanathan (1923-1984). came from an illustrious Guru Parampara with an impeccable musical lineage. He was a gifted child and trained under his father until he went to Kalakshetra to train under Tiger Varadachariar. Later he was to become the principal of the same institute. He was also a composer, writing more than 300 kritis in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. He won many awards and accolades, including the Padmashri in 1974. His beautifully deep and resonant voice and a relaxed style of singing was unique. He is a voice of my childhood as my father enjoyed MDR’s music very much and his voice was often heard booming out of our tape recorder. For the sake of readers with limited time, I offer below only the sahityam performed by M.D.Ramanathan.

However, this raga is meant to be heard leisurely and I very much enjoy the 52 minute detailed rendition by Aruna Sairam. Click  here to listen.


Footnote (Lyrics) :
पल्लवी
चक्कनि राज मार्गमुलुण्डग
सन्दुल दूरनेल ओ मनसा

अनुपल्लवि
चिक्कनि पालु मीगडयुण्डग
छीयनु गंगा-सागरमेले

चरणं
कण्टिकि सुन्दर तरमगु रूपमे
मुक्कण्टि नोट चॆलगे नाममे
त्यागराजिण्टने नॆलकोन्नादि दैवमे
यिटुवण्टि श्री साकेत रामुनि भक्तियने

Pallavi
chakkani rAja mArgamuluNDaga
sandula dUranEla O manasA

Anupallavi
chikkani pAlu mIgaDayuNDaga
chIyanu gangA sAgaramElE

kaNTiki sundara taramagu rUpamE
mukkaNTi nOTa chelagE nAmamE
tyAgarAjiNTanE nelakonnAdi daivamE
yiTuvaNTi SrI sAkEta rAmuni bhaktiyanE

Translation :

O Mind, when the beautiful path to salvation is available, why should you take the by-lanes?

When thick creamy milk is there, why do you want toddy?

When you can feast your eyes on the beautiful  form of Sri Rama, when Lord Shiva himself is eternally chanting His name, the God who has graced the abode of Tyagaraja, to such a Lord of Saketa, (implied-there is a royal path) called devotion.

For notation and word by word translation, click here.

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Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.D.Ramanathan, Tyagaraja

Samaja Vara Gamana

O Lord whose princely gait is like an elephant! O Lord who protects the lotus like hearts of the pious people! O Lord whose fame transcends time! O Lord who is expert in the nectar-like music arising from the sAma veda! O Virtuous! O Compassionate! Protect me! O Lord who a lamp in the mountain that is music! O Lord in the Yadava clan! O Lord who plays the flute! O Lord who amuses himself by being enchanting! Protect me!

सामज वर गमन  ‘He who walks majestically like an elephant’ says Saint Tyagaraja. Like an elephant? It sounds strange in English. One hears of a leonine walk but not of an elephantine one without meaning something derogatory. Yet it seems so right in Sanskrit. A leonine walk implies leashed violence, while an elephant represents power without violence.

Saint Tyagaraja’s ishta devata (preferred God) was Rama but in this kriti  he is talking of Krishna. Written in Sanskrit, it is set to the Raga Hindolam (click here to know a bit more about this raga) and is a composition of extraordinary beauty. In a previous post, I had talked of Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. Here Tyagaraja describes Krishna as the Lord of Music. सामनिगमज सुधामय गान विचक्षण : He who is expert in the nectar like music arising from Sama Veda, the Veda (knowledge) of Song.

Tyagaraja goes on to say यादव कुल मुरली वादन विनोद मोहनकर  , he born in the Yadava race, player of the flute, who is extraordinarily enchanting. A God who plays enchanting music, how to describe him but in enchanting music? And who else to present but a flautist?

So today’s piece of music is from N.Ramani, flautist extraordinaire. There is a alapanai (improvised exploration of the raga) followed by the composition which starts min 12:12.

For a vocal version, listen to M.D.Ramanathan below. I think that his deep voice and extremely slow rendition suits this song very well indeed.

In the simply superb Telugu movie Shankarabharanam (1979), this song is presented with the pallavi and anupallavi (first part of song) from the original by Tyagaraja and the charanams (stanzas) written for the movie in Telugu by lyricist Veturi Sundararama Murthy (1936-2010). The singers are S.Janaki and S.P.Balasubramaniam. SPB sounds divine and won the National Award for another song in the same film.  K.V.Mahadevan, the music director, also won the National Award for his work in this film.

Samajavaragamana–S.Janaki, S.P.Balasubramaniam

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

सामज वर गमन साधु हृत्
सारसाब्ज पाल कालातीत विख्यात

साम निगमज  सुधामय गान विचक्षण
गुणशील दयालवाल माम् पालय

वॆदशिरॊ मातृज  सप्त स्वर
नादाचल दीप स्वीकृत
यादवकुल मुरली (गान)वादन
विनॊद मॊहन कर, त्यागराज वन्दनीय

Transliteration :
Pallavi:
sAmaja vara gamana sAdhu hrut
sArasAbja pAla kAlAtIta vikhyAta

Anupallavi
sAma nigamaja sudhAmaya gAna vichakshaNa
guNashIla dayAlavAla mAm pAlaya

Charanam:
veda shiro mAtRja sapta swara
nAdaachala dIpa svIkRta
yAdavakula muralI (gAna) vAdana
vinoda mohana kara tyAgarAja vandanIya

Translation

O Lord whose princely gait is like an elephant! O Lord who protects the lotus like hearts of the pious people! O Lord whose fame transcends time!

O Lord who is expert in the nectar-like music arising from the sAma veda! O Virtuous! O Compassionate! Protect me.

O Lord who a lamp in the mountain that is music, consisting of seven notes, born of Om (mother of the head of Vedas)! O Lord who accepted to be born in the Yadava clan! O Lord who plays the flute! O Lord who amuses himself by being enchanting! O Lord worshipped by Tyagaraja!

You can find the notation here.

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.D.Ramanathan, N.Ramani, S.P.Balasubramaniam, Tyagaraja