Category Archives: Madurai Mani Iyer

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

Ka Va Va

Murugan Vel

Invocation. As a child I remember listening with fascination to my mother’s explanation of how God can be invoked into a Kalasha filled with water, topped with mango leaves and a coconut. Once the invocation is done, the Kalasha is worshipped as the Goddess. ‘God is everywhere’ my mother said ‘but when we invoke His or Her presence, divine energy becomes concentrated in an idol or a symbolic representation like a Kalasha’.  Likewise an idol carved by the hands of men comes to sit in an altar somewhere and transforms from stone to God.

What causes the transformation? Invocation. Just invocation. Human beings have invoked the presence of God from time immemorial using ceremonies of all kinds. But finally it is just a simple call ‘Come’. My song choice of today is the essence of invocation. Addressed to Lord Muruga, the poet-composer Papanasam Sivan says ‘Come and protect me’. He identifies the divinity he invokes by different descriptions but the repeated ‘vA vA’ are the words we hear the most in this song, ‘Come, Come’.  Set to the beautiful raga Varali (click here for more information on this raga), this melodious supplication touches the hearts of all those who hear it. So how can Lord Muruga remain unmoved?

Here below is an excellent version by Madurai Mani Iyer (1912-1968) , one of the most respected and celebrated vocalists from the first half of the 20th century.

For an instrumental version, listen to the supremely talented violinists Ganesh and Kumaresh below :

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

கா வா வா கந்தா வா வா என்னை கா வா வேலவா
(முருகா வா கந்தா வா)
பழனி மலை உறையும் முருகா (வா வா)

தேவாதி தேவன் மகனே வா – பர
தேவி மடியில் அமரும் குஹனே வா
வள்ளி தெய்வயானை மணவாளா
சரவண பவ பரம தயாளா ஷண்முகா (வா வா)

ஆபத்திருளற அருள் ஒளி தரும்
அப்பனே அண்ணலே ஐயா வா வா
பாபத் திரள் தரும் தாபம் அகல வரும்
பழனி வளர் கருணை மழையே வா வா
தாபத்ரய வெயில் அற நிழல் தரும் வான்
தருவே என் குல குருவே வா
ஸ்ரீ பத்மனாபன் மருகா வா
ராம தாசன் பணியும் முத்தைய்யா (விறைவுடன் வா வா)

kA vA vA kanda vA vA Yennai kA vA vElavA
(murugA vAkandA vA)
pazhanimalaiyuraiyum murugA (vA vA)

devAdi dEvan maganE vA
para dEvi maDiyil amarum guhanE vA
vaLLi deivayAnai manavaLA (vA)
sharavana bhava parama dayalA (shanmugA)

aapath- iruLara aruloLi tarum appane annaLe ayya vA vA
pApa tiraL tarum tApam agala varum
pazhani valar karunai mazhayE vA vA
tApatraya veyilara nizhal tarum vAntharuve yen
kula guruvEe vaa
sri padmanAban marugA rAma dAsan vanangum mutaiyA

Oh Muruga, who lives in Pazhani malai, come to protect me.
Come, O son of Shiva.  Come, O Guha (the hidden one), who sits on Parvati’s lap.
Come, O husband of Valli and Deivayanai.
Come O Sharavana, the supremly kind being.
Come, you who bestow light to remove the darkness of danger.
Come, you who remove longing and sin, you the shower of kindness, who grew up in Pazhani.
Come, you who give shade to protect  me from the hot rays of intense  longing, you who are the Guru of our community.
Come, you who are the nephew of lord Vishnu, the one worshipped by Ramadasa, a gem like being.

For notation, click here.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Ganesh-Kumaresh, Madurai Mani Iyer, Papanasam Sivan