Category Archives: M.S.Gopalakrishnan

Surya Murte Namostute

Salutations to the embodiment of the Sun, Lord of the beautiful Goddess Chaya. He who is causative of all deeds, who illuminates the earth and is the Lord of Leo, He is paid homage to by noble people, throbbing with brilliance, famed as giver of boons, such as good health.

SuryaBelated Shankaranti/Pongal greetings to all of you! May all your wishes come to fruition!

Come Pongal, I cannot but think longingly of my mother’s wonderful Chakkarai Pongal (sweet jaggery rice). She was indeed a master of this dish; she had it perfected to a T. Actually I have what I think is her recipe but I can never get it to taste like hers. Too bad! Hmm…Is it only me who thinks of food at the thought of festivals before I think of the spiritual significance of the occasion? Sigh! Will I ever gain spiritual maturity?

As a harvest festival, Pongal acknowledges and celebrates the bounty of nature. Though I do not remember my parents saying special prayers for Surya, the Sun God, it is to Him that we must address our thanks on this occasion. We mustn’t think of the sun as just the star around which our home planet revolves but see it as a symbol of the force which provides all that we need to create and sustain life. The sun illuminates our physical world, God illuminates our metaphysical world. The sun sustains life on earth, God sustains our bodies and souls. The sun is the anchor around which we revolve in the physical world, it is God who plays that role in the metaphysical world. The sun is a wonderful metaphor for God and in worshipping Surya, we pay homage to that aspect of the infinite Brahman which we are reminded of by our own star.

To celebrate the day, I have chosen one of the Navagraha Kiritis by Muthuswami Dikshithar. These 9 Kritis are said to have great curative properties, both for health and the ailments of life. To read more about these Kritis, click here. In this Kriti set to the Raga Saurashtram, the poet-composer pays homage to Surya by naming His many qualities. My attention was grabbed especially by the poet’s reference to Surya as  ‘karma kAranAtmaka’  ‘He who is causative of all deeds’. As I ponder over this, I think that yes, aren’t all physical processes on earth caused and controlled by the sun, directly or indirectly? From the creation of Earth, to the Physics, Chemistry and Biology of whatever happens on Earth, all are irrevocably connected to the sun.  So Surya can be seen as causative of all deeds. There is another reference to Karma  – ‘karma sAkshinE’ ‘Witness to all deeds’ says the poet. God is indeed a witness to all our actions, actions for which we need to give account one day. But invisible as he is, it cannot be only me who finds it easy to ignore His presence and go about my merry (and often wrong) way. The sun as a witness is a better concept, for it always makes its presence felt, even at night by its reflection on the moon. Perhaps thinking of the sun as a physical witness to our deeds will enable us to follow better the right path. For the lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have chosen a rendition by the great Madurai Mani Iyer.  I understand that he was a great believer in the powers of the Navagraha Kritis. He is said to have sung them everyday as part of his daily prayer ritual. After 1950, his concerts would also include the  the song appropriate for the day of the week.  Listen below to his rendition :

For an instrumental version, I have the violin maestro M.S.Gopalakrishnan presenting the song for you :


Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Sanskrit

सूर्यमूर्ते नमोस्तुते सुन्दर छायाधिपते

कार्य कारणात्मक जगत् प्रकाश सिंह राश्याधिपते
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम् )
आर्य विनुत तेजःस्फूर्ते आरोग्यादि फलद कीर्ते

सारस मित्र मित्र भानो सहस्र किरण कर्णसूनो
क्रूर पापहर कृशानो गुरुगुह मोहित/मोदित  स्वभानो
सूरिजनेडित सुदिन मणे सोमादि ग्रह शिखामणे
धीरार्चित कर्म साक्षिणे दिव्यतर सप्ताश्व रथिने
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम् )
सौराष्टार्ण मन्त्रात्मने सौवर्ण स्वरूपात्मने
भारतीश हरि-हरात्मने भुक्ति मुक्ति वितरणात्मने


sUryamUrtE namostutE sundara CHAyAdhipatE

kArya kAranAtmaka jagat prakAsha simha rAshyAdhipatE
Arya vinuta tejahsphoortE ArogyAdi phalada kIrtE

sArasa mitra mitra bhAno sahasra kiraNa karNasUnO
krUra pApahara krshAnO guruguha mOhita/modita svabhAnO
sUrijanEDita sudina maNE sOmadi graha shikhAmaNE
dhIrArchita karma sAkshiNE divyatara saptAshva rathinE
saurAshtArNa mantrAtmanE sauvarNa svarUpAtmanE
bhAratIsha hari harAtmanE bhukti mukti vitaraNAtmane


(I am a bit doubtful about some parts, they are marked in red)

Salutations (namOsutE) to the embodiment of the Sun,  Lord of the beautiful CHAyA (Goddess ‘Shadow’, consort of Surya).

He who is causative (kAraNAtmaka) of all deeds (kArya), who illuminates (prkAsha) the earth (jagat) and is the Lord (adhipatE) of Leo (astrological sign) (simha rAshi), He is paid homage to (vinuta) by noble (or wise) people (Arya), throbbing (sphUrta) with brilliance (tEjas), famed (kIrta) as giver of boons (phalada) such as good health (Arogya).

Friend (mitra) of the moon (sArasa), Lord Surya (mitra and bhAnu are names of sUrya), of many (sahasra) rays (kiraNa), father of Karna (karNasU), the fire (krshAnu) which destroys (hara) cruel (krUra) vices (pApa), the self-luminous (svabhAnu) one who enchants (mOhita) Guruguha (signature of poet), Lord (sUri) of the people (jana), gem (maNi) of an auspicious day (sudina), crest-jewel (shikhAmaNi) of planets and satellites (graha) such as (Adi) the Moon (chandra), worshipped (archita) by the brave (dhIra), witness (sAkshin) to all deeds (karma), carrier (tara) of the celestials (divya), He who has a chariot (ratha) driven by seven (sapta) horses (ashva), essence of the ashtArna or eight-part hymn of Surya (saura=solar)(which one is this referring to?), golden (sauvarna) formed (svaroopa), whose essence (Atman) is Brahma (bhArati Isha=Lord of Saraswati), Vishnu (hari) and Shiva (hara), bestower (vitarana Atman) of both worldly enjoyment (bhukti) and salvation (mukti).



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Madurai Mani Iyer, Muthuswami Dikshithar

Durmarga Chara

TyagarajaHow many of us have sold out on our principles for surviving or progressing at work? or in life? I admit having much to be shamed of in this respect. I am ashamed to remember not having demurred when colleagues at work have chosen an unacceptable short-cut. I am ashamed to remember being silent in social or family situations for fear of conflict. I am ashamed to remember bowing my head to people unworthy of being bowed to.  I am ashamed, yes. Yet I view my behaviour as being ‘practical’. I suspect that I am not alone in either having such secret stories of shame or in defending such action as being pragmatic.

It is my song choice of today, Durmarga Chara by Tyagaraja (1767-1847), which has set me thinking about ideology and practice. Is it true that while we ordinary mortals cede to such practicalities of life, the great ones do not do so? Is that what sets them apart, I wonder? Today’s song does speak of devotion, but it is more to do with the poet than the God he worships, and as such rather an unusual piece of poetry for Carnatic Music. So it interests me, this rare glimpse into the uncompromising mind-set of Tyagaraja.

Tyagaraja refused to acknowledge any man as his Lord, reserving that title for God alone. It is said that in 1802 King Sarabhoji sent for Tyagaraja after hearing of his musical prowess. In those days musicians performed in court singing in praise of the King in return for royal gifts of gold and land. Tyagaraja  refused the invitation saying that he was already singing in the court of his Lord Rama and would not sing for any mortal. Takes a bit of courage to stand up to a king like that!

Durmarga Chara is set to the very enjoyable raga Ranjani. ‘I cannot call those wicked people who tread the path of vice as my Lord’ says Tyagarja. He acknowledges only God as the provider of grain and wealth. ‘I cannot praise those vile people who barter their knowledge (for wealth) and offer it to degenerate men at court’.  For lyrics and translation, see footnote. To know more about this raga, click here.

After listening to thirty odd renditions, I could not go past Maharajapuram Santhanam’s excellent one from 1981. As it is quite long, I have divided it into two sections, the alapanai and the kriti; those with limited time have the option to listen only to the latter.

For an instrumental one, I have chosen below an expert performance by M.S.Gopalakrishnan with his daughter Dr.M.Narmadha.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu, transcribed below in  Devanagari script.

दुर्मार्ग चराधमुलनु दॊर नीवन जालरा

धर्मात्मक धन धान्यमु  दैवमु नीवै उण्डग

पलुकु बोटिनि सभलोन पतित मानवुल कोसगे
खलुल नॆच्चट पॊगडनि श्रीकर त्यागराज विनुत / वन्दित

Transliteration :

durmArga charAdhamulanu dora nIvana jAlarA

dharmAtmaka dhana dhAnyamu daivamu nIvai uNDaga

paluku bOTini sabhalOna patita mAvanavula kOsagE
khalula nechchaTa pogaDani shrIkara tyAgarAja vinuta / vandita

Translation :

I cannot call those wicked people who tread the path of vice as my Lord.

O embodiment of virtue! As you are the dispenser of wealth and food (I cannot call….)

I cannot praise those vile people who barter their knowledge (for wealth) and offer it to degenerate men at court. Tyagaraja praised you who are the provider of prosperity.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Narmadha, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja


ardhanariReading Yves’s recent movie review had me thinking about Ardhanareeshwara. Is it not odd, I thought quite irreverently, that a culture, whose treatment of  gender-confused individuals may be considered quite inhumane, worships God in a half-male, half-female form?

I was, of course, being too literal. We must always remember that the Hindu Gods are representations of a concept and should be considered allegorical, even though we worship the representation rather than the concept.

The concept of divinity with both male and female aspects permeates throughout Hinduism. Take, for example, the Purusha-Prakriti (Consciousness-Matter) duality. Without going deep into the matter, the word Purusha itself means man and prakriti is seen as woman. The duality represents the experiencer and the experienced, the concept and the conceptualisation, the doer and the deed.

Have you ever wondered about our Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva trinity and the appropriateness of their consorts? Brahma, the creator, has as consort Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and arts, the manifestation of creativity. Vishnu, he who sustains, is joined by Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, the means of sustenance. Shakti is the consort of Shiva the destroyer, the Goddess of energy and power, the means of destruction and recreation. So we have the Trinity as Creation-Creativity, Sustenance-Wealth & Prosperity, Destruction-Power. Have you noticed that in each pairing, it is again the mating of concept to manifestation?

Magnetic fieldsIn essence, Divinity, though neutral, polarises into a male-female form to become the doer and the deed but they remain two halves of a whole and will eventually merge into one. I like to visualise these male-female divinities as magnets, the two polarities intensely attractive to each other, one but yet separate, with those beautiful fields of attraction and magnetism surrounding them. And I see myself as a happy little iron filing, comfortably aligning myself to these lines of attraction. No doubt I am quite incomprehensible to those who haven’t played with magnets and iron filings (see pic above)!

Shiva’s form of Ardhanareeshwara is a visualisation of that idea, of the polarity between the male and female aspects of Divinity. There is a famous temple in Tirchengode  to this form of Shiva-Shakti. My song choice of today is composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) in praise of Ardhanareeshawara  and is set to the raga Kumudakriya. The lyrics are just a simple invocation; the beauty of the composition to my mind is the excellent use of madhyamakala sahityam ie. lyrics set to double the basic tempo. In this composition, there is a speed change in all three sections, pallavi, anupallavi and charanam, giving an overall effect of power and energy, which by definition is Shakti. To know a bit more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have chosen a wonderful rendition by one of the most respected senior artists of today, T.N.Seshagopalan (born 1948).

There is more detailed rendition by TNS which you can download here, song 3 (free membership needed at Sangeethapriya)

And as we are on the subject of senior Maestros, here is a scintillating performance by the violinist M.S.Gopalakrishnan (born 1931).

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

अर्ध नारीश्वरम् आराधयामि सततं
(मध्यम काल साहित्यं )
अत्रि बृगु वसिष्टादि मुनि बृन्द वन्दितं

अर्ध याम अलङ्कार विशेष प्रभावं
(मध्यम काल साहित्यं )
अर्ध नारीश्वरी प्रियकरं अभय करं शिवं

नागेन्द्र मणि भूषितं नन्दी तुरगारोहितं
श्री गुरुगुह पूजितं कुमुदक्रिया रागनुतं
(मध्यम काल साहित्यं )
आगमादि सन्नुतं अनन्त वेद घोषितं
अमरेशादि सेवितं आरक्त वर्ण शोभितं


ardha narIshwaram ArAdhayAmi satatam
(madhyama kala sAhityam)
atri bRgu vasishtAdi muni bRnda vanditam

ardha yAma alangkAra vishEsha prabhAvam
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
ardha nArIshvarI priyakaram abhaya karam shivam

nagEndra maNi bhUshitam nandI turagArohitam
sri guruguha pUjitam kumudakriyA rAganutam
(madhyama kAla sahityam)
AgamAdi sannutam ananta vEda ghOshitam
amarEshAdi sEvitam Arakta varNa shobhitam


I offer my prayers (ArAdhayami) to Lord Ardhanareeshvara all the time (satatam). He is extolled (vanditam) by many (a group of, assuming bRnda is another form of vRnda) sages such as Atri, BRgu, and Vasishta.

His decoration (alangkAra) for the puja at night (ardhayama literally is half-watch) is specially (vishesha) splendorous (prabhavam). He is beloved (priyakaram) of Ardhanareeshwari . He gets rid of our fears (abhaya=without fear, karam=does), he is Shiva (the auspicious, the benevolent).

He is adorned (bhUshitam) by the king of serpents (nagEndra) as ornament (maNi). [ Alternatively, he is adorned with the jewel Nagendramani ] He rides (verb Arohati)  Nandi as mount (turaga=horse or mount). He is worshipped (pUjita) by Guruguha (Subrahmanya, but here it is the signature of the composer), he is praised / worshipped (verb nuti) in raga kumudakriya. Well praised (sannuta) in the Agamas etc (Agama Adi), he is proclaimed (verb ghush) in all the vedas. He is worshipped (sevitam) by Gods such as Indra (amarEsh Adi=etc).  He is splendorous (shObhitam) with a reddish colour (Arakta varNa).



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Muthuswami Dikshithar, T.N.Seshagopalan