God is in everything. So say Hindu philosophers. तत् त्वं असि – Thou art that, they say with great conviction. Poets have sung of this. सर्वं ब्रह्ममयं – everything is infused by God sang Sadashiva Brahmendra with even more conviction. Kabir has written that God is within each of us. जैसे तिल में तेल है, ज्यूं चकमक में आग , तेरा साईं तुझमे है, तू जाग सके तो जाग – Like there is oil inside the sesame seed, like there is fire within the flint stone, your God is within you, awake if you can wake. So if we look around us, we should see God in all and the great universality of everything in us and us in everything, right?
Easier said than done! I often wonder, how did the Saints do it? Is it like looking at the clouds and seeing shapes within? We look at the world around us and look for the shape of God to emerge? It seems doable with nature at times. When I see the beauty of great mountains, the sheer magnitude of the Niagara, the power of a thunderstorm – I can convince myself that I can see the hand of God.
It is even feasible to feel at one with inanimate things. I sometimes confront the potato that I am chopping for dinner with a statement such as ‘what you call ‘I’ today, will soon be part of me, my body. You and I are one’. I am even known to declaim to the glass of water before I drink it ‘You were ocean, you were cloud, you were rain, you were other beings, and now you shall be me!’. And no, to those who are curious about the state of my sanity, neither the potato nor the glass of water have replied so far! So the inanimate, that I can do. But to see myself or God in all beings? Even in that idiot who took two parking places to park his tiny car so that I had to go in circles trying to find a spot? Is it possible? How did the Saints do it?
So it is with great interest that I pored over Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer’s song in which he says he sees Krishna everywhere. He writes ‘Whenever I see anything my thoughts go nowhere except your innocent face’. He provides examples : ‘When sometimes I am drawn to look at the line of the horizon, your tranquil face comes to mind!’ and ‘ Even when I find meaning in the song of a cuckoo, the music of your flute enchants me!’. So if I understand correctly, whatever he does, his mind and thoughts keep being drawn towards Krishna. He is not attesting to the fact that he sees Krishna everywhere, but to the fact that he himself can think of no other than Krishna. Is that the way then?
I will let you ponder the question if it interests you. For me, I will just take pleasure in this beautiful song, enjoying the enchanting and evocative images drawn by the poet-composer and marvelling at its foot-tapping brisk melody. Oh how I remember my mother today! She used to sing this song happily to herself while pottering busily in the kitchen. So it is my dearest mother I hear in this song, not the flute of Krishna! Set to raga Nattakurinji, this is a perennial favourite. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.
To present this song, I have chosen a rendition by the great Maharajapuram Santhanam.
For an instrumental version, listen to this interesting Veena rendition by R.Jayanthi with a flute interlude as well as solkattu (vocal percussion) in places.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Tamil
நினைந்து நினைந்தென் உள்ளம்
பரவச மிக வாகுதே (கண்ணா)
நீலக்கடல் போலும் நிறத்தழகா -கண்ணா
எந்தன் நெஞ்சம் குடி கொண்டு
அன்று முதல் இன்றும்
எந்த பொருள் கண்டும்
சிந்தனை செல்லாதொழிய (பால்வடியும்)
வான முகட்டில் சட்று
மனம் வந்து நோக்கினும்
(உன்) மோன முகம் வந்து தோனுதே
தெளிவான தண்ணீர் தடத்தில்
(உன்) சிரித்த முகம் வந்து காணுதே
கானக் குயில் குரலில்
கருத்(து) அமைந்திடினும் (அங்கு)
உன் கான குழலோசை மயக்குதே
கருத்த குழலொடு நிறுத்த மயிலிற-
கிறுக்கி அமைத்த திறத்திலே
கான மயிலாடும் மோனக்குயில் பாடும்
நீல நதியோடும் வனத்திலே
குழல் முதல் எழிலிசை குழைய வரும் இசையில்
குழலொடு மிளிர் இளங் கரத்திலே
கதிரும் மதியும் என நயன விழிகள் இரு
என் மனத்தை இருத்திக்
பிறவி பிறவி தோறும்
கனிந்துருக வரம் தருக பரம் கருணை (பால்வடியும்)
pAl vaDiyum mugam
ninaindu ninainden uLLam
paravasa migavAgudE (kaNNA)
nIlakaDal pOlum niRattazhgA – kaNNA
endan nenjam kuDi konDu
andRu mudal indRum
enda poRul kanDum
vAna mugaTTil chatRu
manam vandu nOkkinum
(un) mOna mugam vandu tonudE
teLivAna taNNIr taDattil
(un) siritta mugam vandu kANudE
gAnak kuyil kuralil
(un) gAna kuzhalOsai mayakkudE
karutta kuzhalodu niRutta mayiliRagiRukki amaitta tiRattilE
gAna mayilADum mOnakkuyil pADum nIla nadiyOdum vanattilE
kuzhal mudal ezhilisai kuzhaiya varum isaiyil
kuzhlodu miLir iLang-karattilE
kadirum madiyum ena nayana vizhigal iru
en manattai iruttik
piRavi piRavi tORum
kaninduruga varam taruga param karuNai
Note: I struggled over the translation of some bits and am not myself convinced that I have it right, my apologies.
Immersed in the thought of that innocent face, my heart reaches heights of ecstasy!
You, who are beautiful with skin the colour of the blue ocean, have taken residence in my heart from that day to this day. Whenever I see anything my thoughts go nowhere except (your innocent face).
When sometimes I am drawn to look at the line of the horizon, your tranquil face comes to mind! When my thoughts change at a track of clear still water, your smiling face appears before me! Even when I find meaning in the song of a cuckoo, the music of your flute enchants me!
In the expertise with which the dark flute with a peacock feather stopper is made, in the forest where the peacock dances, the cuckoo sings and a blue river runs,
In the glint/flash of the flute held in young hands from which meltingly exquisite music comes, in the flashing movement of your two eyes,
In the fast-moving feet on the head of the snake Kalinga, you still my mind. With the greatest of compassion, please give me the boon that in birth after birth I should melt (for you) with my dreams and memories intact.