Category Archives: Nithyasree Mahadevan

Theerada Vilaiyattu Pillai

Krishna's MischiefCan one call oneself Tamil if one doesn’t know this song? This gem amongst the gems written by the great poet Subramanya Bharathi has such an extraordinary appeal! For one, we all love stories about the mischievous and quite irresistible  Lord Krishna, don’t we? And then there is the poet’s expertise in choosing words and metres which resonate so deeply with the audience.  However poetry by its very nature finds itself at a disadvantage crossing borders; for isn’t poetry about language at its very best, its very beautiful? Who but natives can really appreciate it? But once it has been sung as a song, it crosses borders so much more easily!

Popular as a ‘light’ piece in Carnatic Music, this song happily bridges the gap between the classical and the popular. I hope you will join me on a walk-through of this beautiful poem and its meaning. I limit myself only to the verses sung by Carnatic musicians.

Raga: Sindhu Bhairavi

தீராத விளையாட்டுப் பிள்ளை – கண்ணன்
தெருவிலே பெண்களுக்கோயாத தொல்லை

tIrAda viLaiyATTUp piLLai – kaNNan
teruvilE peNgaLukkOyAda tollai

Krishna (kaNNan) is such an endlessly (tIrAda) playful (viLaiyATTu) boy (piLLai)!! He is a ceaseless (OyAda) trouble (tollai) to the women (peNgaLukku) on the street (teruvilE)!

The first verse sets the scene perfectly. Such an endlessly mischievous lad, the poet says, that he is Trouble with a capital T to all the women on the street. Why women? Did He not direct any mischief towards the men? But no, He never did! He was the darling of the women and he loved them dearly; yet it is those very women He troubled! Our symbolism starts here..He is Parama Purusha, the supreme male aspect.  All creation, Prakriti, is the female aspect. We see this symbolism again and again in poetry from all around India.

Raga : Sindhu Bhairavi

தின்னப் பழம் கொண்டு தருவான் – பாதி
தின்கின்ற போதிலே தட்டிப் பறிப்பான்
என்னப்பன் என்னைய்யன் என்றால் – அதனை
எச்சிற்  படுத்திக் கடித்துக் கொடுப்பான்

tinnap pazham koNDu taruvAn – pAdi
tinginDRa pOdilE taTTip paRippAn
ennappan ennaiyyan enDRAl – adanai
echchiR paduttik kaDittuk koDuppAn

He will bring (konDu) and give (taruvAn) fruit (pazham) to eat (tinna). While (pOdilE) eating (pAdi =half, tinginDRa) he will grab it (taTTi paRippAn)! If (enDRAl) one cajoles him (ennappan, ennaiyyan as terms of endearment) – he will bite it (kaDittu) and contaminate it by eating (echchiR=jhUTA in hindi) and then give it back (koDuppAn).

What mischief! He grabs back the fruit he has given and takes a bite before giving it back! I wonder, is this concept of contamination by eating/saliva unique to India? In the olden days, at the wedding feast, a wife would eat off the plate eaten by her husband to denote the closeness of the new relationship. Sharing of food half eaten by others is a privilege limited to those who are near and dear. Here the poet wants to show how close the relationship is between the Lord and his subjects. Krishna is happy to eat the fruit half-eaten by his loved ones (remember Rama and Sabari?) and what He gives back we take as prasaadam. So what does the fruit denote? All that He gives us, of course! Perhaps the poet wants to say also that He who gives may equally take away.

Raga : Kamas

அழகுள்ள மலர் கொண்டு வந்தே (alt: வந்து ) – என்னை
அழ அழச் செய்தபின் கண்ணை மூடிக்கொள்
குழலிலே சூட்டுவேன் என்பான் – என்னைக்
குருடாக்கி மலரினைத் தோழிக்கு வைப்பான்

azhaguLLa malar koNDu vandE (alt: vandu) – ennai
azha azha seydapin kaNNai mUDikkoL
kuzhalilE sUTTuvEn enbAn – ennai
kuruDAkki malarinai tOzhikku vaippAn

He will bring (konDu vandE) a beautiful (azhaguLLa) flower (malar). After (pin)  making one cry (azha azha seyda) He will say (enbAn) ‘close (mUDikkoL) your eyes (kaNNai), I will adorn (sUTTuvEn) your braid (kuzhalilE) with it’. After making (Akki) me (ennai) blind (kuruDu), he will place (vaippAn) the flower (malarinai) on my friend (tOzhikku)!

Have you ever seen something you wanted very badly? Perhaps you begged and pleaded for it, perhaps you worked hard for it, but you thought you almost had it. And then when you relax for a moment, it is gone, given to some other. In real life this could be tragic. Imagine it is the promotion you worked hard for, the treat your parents promised you, the relaxed retirement you look for after a lifetime of work. And then circumstances occur when it seems to be snatched away from you. How frustrating it is, how depressing when it happens! If we can see it as no more than Krishna’s mischief, his leela, perhaps it will console us.

(Don’t miss the mridangam at this interval in the BJ performance, how good it sounds!!)

Raga : Shanmukhapriya

பின்னலைப் பின்னின்றிழுப்பான் -தலை
பின்னே திரும்பு(ம்) முன்னே சென்று மறைவான்
வண்ணப் புதுச் சேலை தனிலே -புழுதி
வாரிச் சொரிந்தே வருத்திக் குலைப்பான்

pinnalaip pinninDRizhuppAn – talai
pinnE tirumbu(m ) munnE chenDRu maRaivAn
vaNNap puduch chElai tanilE – puzhudi
vArich chorindE varuttik kulaippAn

He will pull (izhuppAn) one’s braid (pinnalai) while standing behind (pin ninDru). Before (munnE) one can turn (tirumbum) one’s head (talai) back (pinnE) He will disappear (chenDRu maRaivAn)! He will make one sorrowful (varutti) and agitated (kulaippan) by throwing (vAri) dust (puzhudi) on (tanilE) one’s new (pudu) colourful (vaNNa) sari (sElai).

Krishna pulling at a Gopi’s hair and disappearing – isn’t it a disarming portrayal of our mischief making Lord? Has your metaphorical braid been pulled by someone or something at any time? How frustrating not to be able to pinpoint who did it! And what about your metaphorical new clothes? Has someone thrown dust as it?  These are common life occurrences, aren’t they! They sadden us, agitate us, disturb us. And yet we smile when we think of Krishna and his mischief. That too is a leela.

Raga : Mand

புல்லாங்குழல் கொண்டு வருவான் – அமுது
பொங்கித் ததும்ப நற்கீதம் படிப்பான்
கள்ளால் மயங்குவது போலே – அதனை  (alt:அதைக்)
கண் மூடி வாய் திறந்தே கேட்டிருப்போம்

pullAnguzhal konDu varuvAn – amudu
pongit tadumba naRgItam paDippAn
kaLLAl mayanguvadu pOlE – adanai (alt:adai)
kaN mUDi vAy tiRandE kETTiruppOm

He will bring (konDu varuvAn) a flute (pullAnguzhal). He will recite (paDippAn) good (nal) songs (gItam) which overflow (pongi tadumba) with nectar (amudu). And like (pOlE) one gets intoxicated (mayanguvadu) with liquor (kaLLAl), we would be listening (kETTiruppOm) with closed (mUDi) eyes (kaN) and open (tirandE) mouths (vAy)!

This is a lovely verse where Krishna is portrayed as the enchanter that He is. And oh, how I love Raga Mand! In the other verses the poet talks of how He troubles and agitates the women. In contrast, this verse is about how he fascinates with his playing of a different kind. What is Krishna’s song in your lives? What is that which enchants you, intoxicates you, absorbs you? As to me, I hear Krishna’s song in so many things – in the light which reflects off the lake I see from my window, in that pause between two notes when Lalgudi plays Mohanam in a CD I have, in the perfection of Vermeer’s Milkmaid, in that smell of the earth just after it rains, in the memory of cuddling my children when they were babies and a million other things besides.  These are indeed nectarine as the poet says. After listing all the mischief the Lord plays on us, it is good of the poet to remind us of how He plays his music for us too!

To present this song, I have chosen renditions by two divas of the Carnatic Music world, Bombay Jayashri and Nithyasree Mahadevan. I have always loved Bombay Jayashri’s voice and in this recording it sounds warm and lovely, as smooth as honey.

Alternative Link : Click Here

It is Nithyasree Mahadevan’s crisp enunciation which attracts me to this performance. This is poetry as it should sound!

Alternative Link : Click Here

For Reference :
Poetry : Subramanya Bharathi
Raga : Ragamalika – Sindhu Bhairavi, Kamas, Shanmukhapriya, Mand
Language : Tamil


Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Subramanya Bharathi


KalpataruDo you know the story of the time when the Gods and Demons churned the primeval ocean of milk? No? Well, you’ll have to wait for another time, for I know exactly which song I wish to write that story for! Today I shall write of one of the gifts the ocean gave forth when churned, the wish-fulfilling tree called a Kalpavriksha or Kalpataru. This tree was taken by the King of the Gods, Indra, and planted in heaven.

I quite like the fact that trees and plants have a sacred place in Hinduism; I am quite fond of trees! We have of course the Banyan tree, which is ideal for meditating under. We use various leaves and flowers for worship, like the Tulasi leaves for Vishnu or the Bilva for Shiva, the Hibiscus for Shiva and Lotus for Vishnu.  But the most special plant of all is the mythical Kalpataru. This wish-fulfilling tree has been mentioned both in our ancient Puranas and in the Mahabharata. One has but to sit under this tree and wish, and our wishes will be fulfilled immediately!

But what a dangerous tree it would be! We, who have so much difficulty in controlling our minds, could we possibly trust that no stray bad thoughts come when we are under that tree? And even if we make what we think to be a good wish, what do we know of the repercussions? For a couple of decades now, knowing that my wishes turned out at times to be a bad choice, I have stopped praying for anything concrete. The well-being of my family and friends, peace and good health and most of all the guidance and wisdom to choose the correct path seem more than enough to wish for.

I was reminded of the Kalpataru by my song choice of today. The poet-composer, Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) sings the praises of Lord Shiva in the form of Sadachaleshwara, the deity of Tiruvarur.  ‘Like a Kalpa tree, He is always a refuge  for everyone including the celestials who seek sanctuary’  the poet-composer says.  He goes on to say that ‘Like a bee  which hovers over a lotus, He hovers over the hearts  of good people who are tranquil and self-controlled…’.  What use a Kalpataru for those who are neither tranquil, nor self-controlled? They will only harm themselves, will they not? So the good Lord Shiva is a Kalpataru only for those who have learnt to control their senses. This beautiful song set to Raga Bhoopalam is beautifully crafted and will not fail to touch your heart, so I believe. To know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have selected a nice rendition by Nithyasree Mahadevan; the brisk kalpanaswarams after the kriti are especially enjoyable. Click here to listen.

Thanks to a reader, I have just been introduced to an excellent rendition by the Hyderabad Brothers, which I have now included for your listening pleasure.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language – Sanskrit

सदाचलेश्वरम् भावयेऽहं चमत्कारपुर गेहं गिरिजा मोहम्

सदाश्रित कल्प वृक्ष समूहं शरणागत  देवता समूहं
(मध्यमकाल साहित्यं )
उदाज्य कृत नामधेयवाहं चिदानन्दामृत प्रवाहं

चमत्कार भुपालादि प्रसाद करण निपुण महालिङ्गं
छाया रहित दीप प्रकाश गर्भ गृह मध्य रङ्गं
समस्त दुःखादि हेतु भूत संसार सागर भय भङ्गं
शमदमो पवृत्यादि संयुक्त सादुजन हृदय सरसिज भृङ्गं
(मध्यमकाल साहित्यं)
कमल विजयकर विधृत कुरङ्गं करुणारस सुधामव तरङ्गं
कमलेश विनुत वृषभतुरङ्गं कमल वदन गुरुगुहान्तरङ्गं

For notation, click here.


sadAchalEshvaram bhAvayEham chamatkArapura gEham girijA mOham

sadAshrita kalpa vRksha samUham sharaNAgata dEvatA samUham
udAjya kRta nAmadhEyavAham chidAnandAmRta pravAham

chamatkAra bhUpAlAdi prasAda karaNa nipuNa mahAlingam
chAyA rahita dIpa prakAsha garbha gRha madhya rangam
samasta duhkhAdi hEtu bhUta samsAra sAgara bhaya bhangam
shamadamO pavRtyAdi samyukta sAdujana hRdaya sarasija bhRngam
kamala vijayakara vidhRta kurangam karuNArasa sudhAmava tarangam kamalEsha vinuta vRshabhaturangam kamala vadana guruguhAntarangam


I meditate (bhAvayEham) on Lord Sadachaleshvara, He who has his abode (geham) in Chamatkarapura, and is the beloved (moham) of Girija.

Like a Kalpa tree (vrksha), He is always (sadA) a refuge (Ashrita) for everyone(samUham=group), including the  celestials (dEvatA  samUham) who seek sanctuary(sharanAgata = literally, they who come to His feet), he who is known (nAmadhEya, literally titled) as the one who turned water (uda) to ghee (Ajya), he is like a flow (pravAham) of nectar (amrtam)  of bliss (chidAnanda).

He is Mahalinga (shiva) who causes (karaNa) the well-being (prasAda) of king (bhUpAla) Chamatkara etc (Adi). His shadow-less (chAyA rahita) sanctum (garbhagRha madhya rangam=the inner room in the middle of the house) is lit by a lamp (dIpa prakAsha).  He removes (hetu bhoota, literally causes to be past) all sorrows (dukha) etc (Adi) and removes fear (bhaya bhanga) of this ocean (sAgaram)  like life (samsAra). Like a bee (bhRnga) which hovers (implied) over a lotus (sarasija), He hovers  over the hearts (hrdaya) of good people (sAdu jana) who are tranquil (shama) and self-controlled (dama), senses etc (unsure: cannot findpavrti in dictionary)  in unison (samyukta). His lotus-like (kamala) victory-giving (vijaya kara) hands (implied) holds (vidhRta) a deer (kurangam), he is like a nectar-filled (sudha maya) wave (taranga) of compassion (karuna rasa). He is worshipped (vinuta) by Vishnu (kamalesha), he is mounted (turangam) on a bull (vRshabha), he is dear to the lotus-faced (kamala vadana) Guruguha (subrahmanya).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Nithyasree Mahadevan

Nannu Brovu Lalita


On this third day of Navaratri, I pay homage to Goddess Lalita, Tripura Sundari, a form of Goddess Shakti. What better way than to sing her praise? For today’s prayer, I have chosen one of Shyama Shastri’s (1762-1827) songs from Navaratnamalika, his nine gems in praise of Goddess Meenakshi in her many forms.  This song is most appropriate not only because it sings Her praise but even the name of the Raga is Her name. Lalita – what a lovely name! As an adjective, it can mean any or all of innocent, charming, lovely, gentle, pleasing, desired, elegant etc.  A Goddess who is all that and more, who can resist Her? The Raga Lalita is equally pleasing, as feminine as the Goddess.

To present this song, here is a clip by Nithyasree Mahadevan.

I must also urge you to listen to a beautiful rendition by T.N.Seshagopalan which you can listen here

Footnote (lyrics) :

This is a Telugu song but as I don’t know the language, I give below the song in Devanagari script.

नन्नु ब्रोवु ललिता वेगमे
चाल निन्नु नॆर नम्मियुन्न वाडु गदा
भक्त कल्पकलता

निन्नु विना एवरुन्नारु गति जननी
अति वेगमे वच्चि (नन्नु)

चरणम् 1
पराकु सेयकने वच्चि  कृप सलुप रादा मॊर विनवा (or विनदा)
पराशक्ति गीर्वाणि वन्दित पदा
नी भक्तुडनम्मा सन्ततमु (नन्नु)

चरणम् 2
सरोज भव कमल नाभ शङ्कर सुरेन्द्रनुत चरिता
पुराणी वाणी इन्द्राणी वन्दित
राणी अहिभूषणुनि राणी (नन्नु)

चरणम् 3
मदात्मुलैन दुरात्म जनुलनु कथलनु पॊगडि
सदा ने वारल चुट्टि तिरिगिति
वॆतल नॆल्ल दीर्चि वरमॊसगि (नन्नु)

चरणम् 4
सुमेरु मध्य निलये श्याम कृष्णुनि सोदरी कौमारी
उमा श्री मीनाक्षम्मा शङ्करी
ओ महा राज्ञी रक्षिम्प समयमिदे (नन्नु)

For transliteration and translation click here.

Footnote (Raga) :

The scales of Raga Lalita are as follows :

Aarohanam (Ascending) : S R1 G3 M1 D1 N3 S’
Avarohanam (Descending) : S’ N3 D1 M1 G3 R1 S

15-2 Lalita

Lalita is a janya raga, derived from Mayamalavagowla (see below), 15th on the Melakarta scale. This is not related to the Hindustani Lalit. Hiranmayim by Muthuswami Dikshithar is another composition in Lalitawhich I enjoy very much.

15 Mayamalavagowla

Note : The 12 notes in the octave are named as below. Please note that C is used as Sa for the sake of simplicity as the scale is relative in Carnatic Music. Also note that the scales paint only a superficial picture of the raga as the gamakas(ornamentations) are a very important part of a raga.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Shyama Shastri, T.N.Seshagopalan

Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma

Oh, Goddess of Fortune ! Lakshmi Devi ! Please come! Slowly and surely, like butter coming out of buttermilk, come placing one feet after the other, your anklets ringing. O Daughter of Janaka who shines like countless suns, shower us with a rain of gold and fullfill our wishes. Without moving around, stay forever in your devotees’ houses, receiving daily services and worship.

Lakshmi2Welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of Fortune’ Purandaradasa (1484-1564) says.  Who would not welcome this Goddess who brings prosperity, wealth and good fortune to us? For 20 years or so I have been reciting the MahaLakshmi Ashtakam every morning and evening. I am convinced that it is this, my invoking Her name, which brings whatever good fortune that has come into my household. It is my mother who advised me to say prayers to Her; the picture above is the one which hung in my mother’s prayer room. My mother is gone now and as I sing the names of one mother, I remember the other as well.  In these neural pathways I call my mind, there is an intricate web made of musical notes and when this web is cast, it captures  memories and beliefs, love and worship. It captures life.

Purandaradasa is considered to be the father of Carnatic Music. He composed mostly in Kannada, like the song featured today. He too worshipped at the portals of Lakshmi, being a rich pawnbroker and jewel merchant until he was 30 when realisation dawned and he gave it all away to become a wandering minstrel. Purandaradasa was the guru of Swami Haridas, who was the teacher of the great Tansen, musician extraordinaire of the Mughal court, as well as Baiju, another great musician of the Hindustani tradition. This  shows the strong links between Carnatic and Hindustani music sampradaya in those times.

In spirit with this harmony between the North & the South, I present the song in both Carnatic & Hindustani styles.  The first clip is by M.S.Subbulakshmi, and the song is rendered in Carnatic tradition in Raga Madhyamavati. To know more about this raga, click here.

The second clip is by Nithyasree Mahadevan in Raga Bauli. I have a great liking for this raga! To know more about this raga, click here.

The third clip is from the Kannada movie Nodi Swamy Navirodu Heege (1983) sung by Hindustani Music stalwart Bhimsen Joshi. (Sorry, I could not find a better quality video). What a mastery he has over whatever he sings!! Ah, I still mourn his loss.

Something that caught my attention : the actress in this clip is the appropriately named Lakshmi!

Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Kannada. As I do not speak the language, find below the lyrics in devanagri script. I have consulted sources, listened carefully and transcribed as best as I can but I am unsure of accuracy, given the difference in vowels and  pronunciations.

भाग्यदा लक्ष्मी बारम्मा, नम्मम्मा नी सौ |

गेज्ज काल्गळा ध्वनिय तोरुता हेज्जय मेले हेज्जय निक्कुत |
सज्जन साधु पूजय वेळगे मज्जिगे-ओळगिन बेण्णयन्ते ॥

कनक वृष्टिया करेयुत बारे  मनकामनया सिद्धिय तॊरॆ ।
दिनकर कॊटि तॆजदि  होळयुव जनकरायन कुमारि बेगा ||

अत्तित्तलगलद भक्तर  मनयलि नित्य महॊत्सव नित्य सुमंगळ ।
सत्यवतॊरुव साधु-सज्जनर चित्तदि होळेवापुत्तळिबोंबे ||

संख्येइल्लद भाग्यव कोट्टु कंकण कैया तिरुवुत बारे ।
कुंकुमान्किते पंकज लॊचने वेंकटरमणन बिन्कद राणी ||

सक्करे तुप्पद कालुवे हरिसि शुक्रवारद पूजय वॆळगे ।
अक्करे-उळ्ळ अळगिरि रंगन चोक्क पुरंदर-विट्ठलन राणी ||

Transliteration :

bhAgyada laxmI bArammA nammammA nI sau (bhAgyada)

charaNam 1
gejje kAlgaLA dhvaniya tOrutA
hejjaya mele hejjeya nikkuta
sajjana sAdhu pUjeya vELegE
majjige oLagina beNNeyante (bhAgyada)

charaNam 2
kanaka vrushTiyA kareyuta bArE
manakAmanaya siddhiya tOrE
dinakara kOTi tEjadi hoLeyuva
janakarAyana kumAri bEgA (bhAgyada)

charaNam 3
atthitthalagalade bhaktara maneyali
nitya mahOtsava nitya sumangaLa
satyava tOruva sAdhu sajjanara
chittadi hoLeva putthaLi bombe (bhAgyada)

charaNam 4
sankhye illada bhAgyava koTTu
kankaNa kaiyyA tiruvuta bAre
kunkumAnkita pankaja lOchane
venkaTaramaNana binkada rANI (bhAgyada)

charaNam 5
sakkare tuppada kAluve harisi
shukravArada pUjeya vELage
akkareyuLLa aLagiri rangana
chokka purandara viThalana rANI (bhAgyada)

Oh, Goddess of Fortune ! Lakshmi Devi ! Please come (implied: to my house).

Like butter coming out of buttermilk (slowly but surely), come, placing one feet after the other, your anklets ringing.

O Daughter of Janaka who shines like countless suns, shower us with a rain of gold and fullfill our wishes.

Without moving around, stay forever in your devotees’ houses, receiving daily services and worship. You shine like a beautiful doll in the minds of saints.

O elegant queen of Venkateshwara (Vishnu)! O Lotus eyed one!  You who wear golden bracelets and are decorated with Kumkum, please come and bless with infinite prosperity.

O Consort of PurandaraviTala! O Queen of Alagiri Ranga! You who shine in the hearts of safes! Come to our Friday worship when streams of ghee and sugar will flow!


Filed under Bhimsen Joshi, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Kannada, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Purandaradasa