Category Archives: Ranjani Gayatri

Shankari Shankuru

AkhilandeswariI am in Australia at the moment, enjoying the last traces of summer and the advent into autumn. On Sunday we set the clock back for daylight saving and I gratefully received the gift of an extra hour in the morning! The weather is perfect, neither warm nor cold but just right….Goldilocks would sure have been happy! This is such perfect weather for walking. I am a regular walker, doing a brisk 10 km everyday.  These two hours each day are precious to me as this is when I listen to music with the utmost concentration. However, for the last couple of months I have instead been listening to lectures on spiritual matters (upanyasam / hari katha). It has been educational though I find some ideas questionable and some simply appalling! But more about that some other time…

My interest in lectures has meant that I am a bit behind with catching up with the music available online. There is so much of it nowadays, don’t you think? Can anyone possibly keep up with it all? I am rather overwhelmed! My music listening experience has also changed because of this. There was a time when I had only a very limited number of tapes and then CDs. I listened to them so often that I would be pre-empting every note, every pause in my mind as I listened. Nowadays I am always listening to something new. Exciting but also a bit sad…I miss the familiarity and sense of homecoming I felt with my favourites.   As I was playing catch-up on YouTube last week, I came upon this excellent concert by Ranjani and Gayatri from which I have chosen a song to present to you today. If you have the time, do listen to the whole concert; the RTP is particularly good.

Shankari Shankuru is composed in Raga Saveri by Shyama Shastri. Like many songs of this genre, it is a simple prayer followed by many phrases to identify, describe and praise the Goddess. As we listen, the phrases invoke physical imagery  (e.g. slender-waisted Goddess). We are reminded of stories by some phrases (e.g. remembering how Manmatha became an enemy of Shiva) and are reassured of the grace of the Goddess by other phrases (e.g. she gives reward to her devotees).

Though I choose to concentrate on lyrics in this blog, renditions such as the one I have chosen are more about the raga and creativity than about the lyrics. In this piece, the total time of 36 minutes is composed of 26 minutes of improvisation and only 10 minutes of composed music. The improvisation is in the form of Raga Alapana (slow melodic improvisation without rhythm 42:31-56:23) by the vocalists and the violinist for 14 minutes, Neraval (melodic improvisation of a single phrase from the song within a set rhythm 1:00:35-1:07:48 )  and Kalpana Swarams (melodic improvisation using the Indian solfege within a set rhythm 1:07:49-1:13:03) for 5 minutes. So of a total of 36 minutes, 26 minutes is the creative component and only 10 minutes (27%) is the composed component.  So as much as I go on about words, meanings, inferences and associations, this music is more about creativity and setting the mood. Saveri is a raga which sounds like supplication, even if no word is uttered.  How beautiful are the phrases created by these two extraordinary sisters! I must especially mention the young violinist Vittal Rangan who demonstrates truly impressive skills!

Listen below to the Alapana from 42:31-56:23 and kriti from 56:51 to 1:13:03.

And those who have fallen in love with Saveri and would like to listen to another excellent rendition, here is R.Vedavalli doing an exceptional job of it.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

note – only third charanam is sung in concerts normally. Also though the long ‘I’ at the end of some words is shortened in songs, I have chosen to use the correct spelling in Sanskrit.

पल्लवि
शङ्करी  शङ्कुरु  चन्द्रमुखी अखिलाण्डेश्वरी (श्री)
शाम्भवी सरसिज भव वन्दिते गौरी (अम्ब)

अनुपल्लवि
सङ्कट  हारिणी रिपु विदारिणी कल्याणी
सदा नत फल दायिके (alt: दायकी ) हर नायिके  (alt: नायकी) जगत् जननी

चरणम् 1
जम्बुपति विलासिनी जगदवनोल्लसिनी
कम्बु  कन्धरे भवानी कपाल धारिणी शूलिनी

चरणम् 2

अङ्गज  रिपु तोशिनी अखिल  भुवन पोशिनी
मङ्गल  प्रदे मृदानी मराल संनिभ गमनी

चरणम् 3

श्याम कृष्ण सोदरी श्यामळे शातोदरी
सामगान  लोले बाले सदार्ति भञ्जन  शीले

Transliteration

pallavi
shankarI shankuru chandra mukhI akhilANDEshvarI
shAmbhavI sarasija bhava vanditE gauri amba

anupallavi
sankaTa hAriNI ripu vidAriNI kalyANI
sadA nata phala dAyikE hara nAyikE jagat jananI

charaNam 1
jambupati vilAsinI jagadavanOllAsinI
kambu kandharE bhavAnI kapAla dhAriNi shUlini

charaNam 2
angaja ripu tOshinI akhila bhuvana pOshinI
mangaLa pradE mRdAni marALa sannibha gamanI

charaNam 3
shyAma kRshNa sOdarI shyAmaLE shAtOdari
sAma gAna lOlE bAlE sadArti bhanjana shIlE

Translation

O Consort of Shankara/Shiva (shankarI)! Please create (kuru, literally do) tranquility (sham)! O Moon faced one (chandramukhI)! O Goddess (IshvarI) of the whole universe (akhilANDa) ! O ShambhavI (name of Parvati)! One worshipped (vanditE) by Brahma, the one born (bhava) in a lotus (sarasija)! O Mother (amba) Gauri (name of Parvati)!

One who removes/destroys (hAriNI) danger/crises (sangkaTa)! One who crushes (vidAriNI) enemies (ripu)! O Auspicious one (kalyANI)! One who gives (dAyikE) reward (phala) to those who always (sadA) bow to her (nata). O Consort (nayikE) of Shiva (hara)! O Mother (jananI) of the world (jagat)!

One who sports (vilAsinI) with Shiva (jambupati, from Jambukeshwara Temple of Tiruvanaikaval, where the Goddess is called Akhilandeshwari. This is one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams, representing water). One who takes joy (ullAsinI) in protecting (avana) the world (jagat)! One whose neck (kandhara) is like a conch (kambu)! O Bhavani (name of Parvati)! One who carries (dhAriNI) a skull (kapAla)! One who weilds a spear (shUlinI)!

One who pleases (tOshiNI) the enemy (ripu) of the God of Love (angaja)! One who nourishes (poshinI) the entire (akhila) world (bhuvana)! One who provides (pradE) good fortune/welfare/happiness (mangala)! O Consort of Shiva (mRda is a name of Shiva)! One who walks (gamanI) like (samnibha) a swan (marAla)!

O Sister (sOdarI) of the dark skinned Krishna (shyAma kRshNa) (also signature of the composer)! O Shyamala (name of Parvati)! One with a slender (shAta) belly/waist (udarI)! One who takes pleasure in (lOlE) the chanting (gAna) of Sama Veda! O Young one (bAlE)! One whose nature (shIla) is to always (sadA) dispel (bhanjana) grief (Arti)!

17 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, R.Vedavalli, Ranjani Gayatri, Shyama Shastri

Chandrashekhara

Shiva MeditatingI have come back to my blogging after a short hiatus; life just seemed to take over these past two months. While most Carnatic Music fans immersed themselves in music during this season, I switched of all music and concentrated on my family and friends.

But I am back now, trawling the web for everything I missed during my time-out. I landed immediately on Jaya TV’s Margazhi Maha Utsavam videos on Youtube and selected Ranjani and Gayatri’s performance for my first listen. It turned out to be a great choice, a very good concert with a nice variety. Their theme was ‘Ezhil Mozhi Ezhu Mozhi’. They presented songs in seven languages – Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi. Nice theme. Following is the song list with the start time in the videos :

1. Swaminatha Paripalaya (Sanskrit), Natta, Dikshithar (Part 1, 1:21)
2. Adedella (Kannada), Purvi Kalyani, Purandara Dasa (Part 1, 09:28)
3. Kantanodu (Malayalam), Neelambari, Swati Thirunal (Part 1,  34:06)
4. Viruttam (Ragamalika in Saveri-Kanada-Sindhu Bhairavi) (Part 1, 41:54)
5. Chandrashekara (Tamil), Sindhu Bhairavi, Anai Vaidyanatha Iyer (Part 1, 49:12)
6. Pakkala Nilabadi with Alapana (Telugu), Kharaharapriya, Tyagaraja (Part 2, 1:00)
6. Ram Nam Tu Japa (Hindi), Lalit (Hindustani), Khalis (?) (Part 2, 33:45)
7. Devar Varuga (Tamil), Ragamalika, Subramanya Bharathi (Part 2, 40:49)
8. Dhanya Dhanya Te Sharira (Abhang in Marathi), Durga, Sant Eknath (Part 2, 47:22)

Ranjani and Gayatri were accompanied on the violin by B.V.Ganesh Prasad, Mridangam by N.Manoj Siva and Ghatam by Chandrashekhar Sharma. Listening to music after a break, everything sounded good to my starved ears! I was especially taken by their Purvi Kalyani, being one of my favourite ragas as also the beautiful rendition in Lalit. But it was Sindhu Bhairavi which drew me back for an immediate second-helping and so that is what I shall offer you today.

Chandrashekhara was preceded by a viruttam consisting of two pieces of poetry from the tevarams. The first one by Tirumular திருமூலர் was sung in Saveri. It seems to have a simple message ‘God will reside in the hearts of those who seek him’.

நாடும் நகரமும் நற்றிருக் கோயிலும்
தேடித் திரிந்து சிவ பெருமான் என்று
பாடுமின் பாடிப் பணிமின் பணிந்தபின்
கூடிய நெஞ்சத்தைக் கோயிலாக் கொள்வனே  (திருமுறை 10)

nADum nagaramum naTRiruk kOyilum
tEDit tirindu siva perumAn enDRu
pADumin pADip paNImin paNindapin
kUDiya nenjattaik kOyilAk koLvanE

Wander you through town and villa
Seek Him through shrine and temple
Sing of Him as ‘Siva, Siva, my Lord’
And thus do you offer
worship meek,
And the Lord will make your heart His temple (source : thevaaram.org)

The second piece of poetry was written by Appar Tirunavukkarasar அப்பர் திருநாவுக்கரசர். It was sung in Kanada and Sindhu Bhairavi. What a marvellous bit of poetry! I sympathise if you don’t speak Tamil because the beauty of it is tied to the beauty of the language and much is lost in translation. Here Appar describes the Lord’s characteristics in poetic terms.

மண்ணாகி விண்ணாகி மலையுமாகி
வயிரமுமாய் மாணிக்கம் தானேயாகி
கண்ணாகி கண்ணுக்கோர் மணியுமாகி
கலையாகி கலைஞானம் தானேயாகி
பெண்ணாகி பெண்ணுக்கோர்  ஆணுமாகி
பிரளயத்துக் அப்பாற் ஓர் அண்டமாகி
எண்ணாகி எண்ணுக்கோர் எழுத்துமாகி
எழுஞ்சுடராய் எம்மடிகள்  நின்ற வாறே (திருமுறை 6.94.2)

maNNAgi viNNAgi malaiyAgi
vayiramumAi  mANikkam tAnEyAgi
kaNNAgi kaNNukkOr maNiyumAgi
kalaiyAgi kalai.nyanam tAnEyAgi
peNNAgi peNNukkOr ANumAgi
praLayattuk appAR Or anDamAgi
eNNAgi eNNukkOr ezhuttumAgi
ezhunchuDarAi emmaDigaL ninDRa vARE

As earth,
heaven and mountain,
As diamond and ruby itself,
As eye and pupil of eye,
As Sastras and the Sastraic Wisdom itself,
As woman,
and man for the woman,
As the universe beyond Dissolution,
As Thought and as letters therefore,
As rising radiance,
our God abides for ever  (source : thevaaram.org)

Chandrashekhara by Anai Vaidyanatha Iyer in set to raga Sindhu Bhairavi and has a very bhajan like feel. The sisters sang it just beautifully (except for that one moment in Kanada but I am just being picky), I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Viruttam starts at 41:51.

 

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :
பல்லவி
சந்திரசேகரா ஈசா  ஈசா  சுந்தரேச்வரா கௌரீசா சென்ஜடாதரா

சரணம்
அந்தி வண்ணனே சம்போ அருள் முக்கண்ணனே ச்வயம்போ
சிந்தை தீர்க்க வந்தாய் சிதம்பரேசா கைலாச வாசா

Transliteration

pallavi
chandrashEkharA IshA IshA sundareshvarA gaurIshA shenjaTAdharA

charanam
andI vaNNanE shambhO aruL mukkannanE svayambhO
chintai tIra vandAi chidambarEshA kailAsa vAsA

Translation

O Lord (IshA) Shiva (chandrashEkharA), O Beautiful (sundara) Lord (IshwarA), the Lord (IshA) of Parvati (gaurI), the one with reddish (செம்-shem) matted hair (jatAdharA).

O Shambho, coloured (vaNNanE) like dusk (andi)! O compassionate (aruL) three-eyed (mukkaNNanE) one! O self-born one (svayambhO)! You have come (vandAy) to relieve (tIrkka) us of our worries (chintai), O Lord (IshwarA) of Chidambaram, the one who resides (vAsA) in Kailasa!

6 Comments

Filed under Anai Vaidyanatha Iyer, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Ranjani Gayatri

Endraikku Shiva Krupai

When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace? When will this wretched person’s grief cease? When there is wealth, all kith and kin come to praise and serve. When there is a reduction of wealth they do not speak even when they see us! When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace to push away this wicked and villainous world and get liberation?

Neelakanta SivanSycophancy : A self-seeking, servile flattery towards people of power or influence in order to win favour or for personal gain.

I have recently returned from a very enjoyable holiday in India. As we were accompanied by some friends from Switzerland, I found it very interesting to see India and Indians through their eyes. My topic for the day is triggered by their observation about the excellent service we received at all the hotels we stayed at.

Though their comment was positive, and true, I often noted an obsequiousness which was distasteful to me. This, of course, excludes public servants who were surly and apathetic as always. This servility in India is markedly different to one’s experience in other countries. In Western Europe, for example, for the most part one is treated with distant civility with the exception of taxi drivers in Paris who treat everyone with an equal level of insolence. In Australia one is treated with a rather familiar friendliness. In USA, it ranges from sullen indifference to pushy forwardness. It is only in India that have I seen this particular servility.

If people are just simple and humble by nature, then it is of course praiseworthy. But this is not the case. The same service staff often display marked difference in manner when dealing with their colleagues. This servility is obviously in expectation of tips. In my song choice of today, Neelakanta Sivan condemns sycophancy towards the wealthy. I am however more sympathetic with it. When the tips that they hope to gain make so much of a difference, who can blame them? Is it not need which drives their behaviour? Should we not blame the disparity in society for their servility? If obsequiousness lets them survive, so be it. I tip them more than generously and hope that at least for that one day their life is easier to handle.

Of course Neelakanta Sivan is not talking of service staff. He talks of parasitic relatives. ‘When we have wealth, many kith and kin will come to praise and serve us. When wealth reduces, they will not even speak to us’. Does he speak from personal experience? It seems he was in a position of power and wealth which he resigned subsequently. Click here to read a short article about him. He calls this world ‘wicked and villainous’ and wonders when he will be blessed by Lord Shiva to  attain liberation. He is a bit harsh on the world, don’t you think? The song is lovely though. It is set to Raga Mukhari and its effect is sorrowful, devotional and introspective. To know more about this raga, click here.

To present the song, I have first chosen a lovely rendition by a maestro from yesteryears K.V.Narayanaswamy (1923-2002). The song is often sung starting at the anupallavi, so do not be surprised.

Alternate link : Click here and download song 7 (free membership needed to Sangeethapriya.org)

Another beautiful rendition is by the mellifluous sisters Ranjani-Gayatri. Mukhari is all about bhava or emotion and they bring that faultlessly into their performance.

Alternate link : Click  here

I am also very fond of the more leisurely rendition by T.M.Krishna in his CD Janaranjani. This is available on Spotify; needs free membership to listen.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil
I have noted whatever alternate words that I have heard in various renditions.

பல்லவி
என்றைக்கு சிவ கிருபை வருமோ – ஏழை என் மன சஞ்சலம் அறுமோ ?

அனுபல்லவி
கன்று (alt: கன்றின் ) குரலைக் கேட்டு கனிந்து வரும் பசு போல்
ஒன்றுக்கும் அஞ்சாத என் (alt: எந்தன் ) உள்ளத்  துயரம் தீர்க்க (alt: தீர / நீக்கி )

சரணம்
உண்டான போது வெகு  (alt: கோடி) உறமுறையோர்கள் வந்து
கொண்டாடி தொண்டாடிக் கொள்வார் – தனம்
குறைந்தால் கண்டாலும் பேசார் இந்த கைத்தவமான பொல்லாச்
சண்டாள உலகத்தை தள்ளி சத்கதி (alt: நற்கதி ) செல்ல

Transliteration

pallavi
enDRaikku shiva krupai varumO- Ezai
en mana sanchalam aRumO?

anupallavi
kanDRu (alt: kanDRin) kuralaik kETTu kanindu varum pashu pOl
onDRukkum anjAda en (alt: endan) uLLat-tuyaram tIrkka (alt: tIra / nIkki)

charaNam
uNDAna pOdu vegu (alt: kODi) uramuRaiyOrgaL vandu
koNDADi toNDADik koLvAr -danam
kuRaindAl kaNDAlum pEsAr inda kaittavamAna pollAch
chaNDALa ulagattai taLLi sadgati (alt: nargati) chella

Translation

When (enDraikku) will I receive (literally, will come varumO) Lord Shiva’s grace (krupai)? When will this wretched person’s (Ezai) grief (mana sanchalam) cease (aRumO)?

Just as (pOl) the cow (pashu) comes (varum) tenderly (manam kanindu) on hearing (kETTu) the voice (kural) of it’s calf, (When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace) to remove (tIrkka/nIkki) the grief (uLLat-tuyaram) of one who fears nothing (onDRukkum anjAda)? (unsure if it is the grief which fear’s nothing….)

When (pOdu) there is wealth (danam unDAna), all kith and kin (uramuRaiyOrgaL – short for for uravumuRaiyOrgal) come to praise and serve (konDADi-tonDADi). When there is a reduction of wealth (danam kuRaidAl) they do not speak (pEsAr) even when they see us (kanDAlum). (When will I receive Lord Shiva’s grace in order to) push away (taLLi) this abhorrent(kaittavamAna – unsure about this; kaittu is abhorrent, kaittavam I read in one translation as destined) wicked (polla) and villainous (chaNDALa) world (ulagam) and get liberation/moksha (nargati/sadgati chella-literally go to the ‘good destiny’) .

12 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, K.V.Narayanaswamy, Neelakanta Sivan, Ranjani Gayatri, T.M.Krishna

Idu Dano Thillai Sthalam

Ah! So this is the sacred site of Thillai! Alas, I did not really know it all these days! Like a madman I wandered wondering is it this? or is it that? He promised to show the way and beckoned me here. In Varanasi, I have heard everyone refer to it as Kailasa (the holy abode of Shiva) but (till now) I did not observe and really know it.

NatarajaEven the names of some places carry power, don’t you think? You hear the name Kashi and think of Lord Shiva, of salvation, of Adi Shankaracharya being asked by a Chandala ‘Who are you asking to move aside, the body or the Aatman?’. When you think of Srirangam, you think immediately of the immensity of Sri Vishnu, of the banks of Kaveri, of ancient shlokas and hymns which reverberate to this day. Such is also the power of the name Thillai. The Nataraja Temple is the most celebrated of temples for the worshippers of Lord Shiva. How many wonderful songs have been dedicated to the dancing Lord here! But I never had the opportunity to see it until last week. I was on a temple tour and the last stop was at Chidambaram. If you would like to read of my travel experiences, click here.

Ah finally’ I said to myself as we stepped into the temple. It was crowded where people stood peering into the sanctum from outside. We paid for the archana and were allowed into the hall in front of the sanctum. It was difficult to see the deity as He is much decorated with garlands and jewels. We arrived just in time for the Abhishekam of the crystal Lingam. The priest showered the icon with sandalwood paste, with curd, with rice and with ash. As I saw this, I was taken back to a memory from my teen years. We, as a family, were visiting the shores of Ganges close to Delhi for a dip. I asked my grandmother doubtfully ‘Truly? Our sins are all washed away?’ . That night as we camped near the river, I had a lucid dream of being showered by holy ashes as I sat still in lotus position. The dream was startling in its clarity; I can still picture it today. I felt washed of all evil, born anew. I woke the next morning and my dip in the Ganges felt like a confirmation of my dream.

All these thoughts flashed through my eyes as I watched the abhishekam conclude with the ashes. My sixteen year old self did not have many sins to wash out; my fifty-four year old self is burdened heavily indeed. As the icon was showered with ashes, I felt my soul being showered by them as well. Tears flowed from my eyes as as I watched, feeling the magic that is Thillai ambalam (temple). And I sang to myself இது தானோ தில்லை ஸ்தலம்- Ah, so this is the sacred site of Thillai!

This wonderful song by Gopalakrishna Bharathi is set to raga Behag. To know more about this raga, click here.

I would very much like that you hear both the versions I present below. The first version is by Ranjani and Gayatri. It is reverential, with a sense of amazement almost. This is how I felt when I stepped into the temple.

The second version by Abhishek Raghuram is joyous, elated. It is a discovery, a wonder, a celebration. This is what I felt as I sat amongst the old stone pillars afterwards, thinking of my experience. The young man is in superb voice, I feel joyful every time I listen to this song!

 


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language: Tamil

இது தானோ தில்லை ஸ்தலம்
இத்தனை நாளும் அறியேனே

அதுவோ இதுவோ என்று அலைந்திடும் பேயனை
கதி தருவேன் என்று கை காட்டி அழைத்திடும்

காசினியில் இதை கயிலை என்று எல்லோரும்
பேசக் கேட்டதே அன்றி பேணிப் பார்த்தறிந்திலேன் (alt: பார்த்தறிந்திடும் )

Transliteration :

idu dAno tillai sthalam
ittanai nALum aRiyEnE

aduvo iduvo endru alaindiDum pEyanai
gati taruvEn endru kai kATTI azhaittiDum

kAsiniyil idai kayilai endru ellOrum
pesak keTTadE andri pENip pArttaRindilEn (alt: pArttaRindiDum)

Translation:

Ah! So this is the sacred site of Thillai!
Alas, I did not really know it all these days!

Like a madman I wandered wondering is it this? or is it that?
He promised to show the way and beckoned me here.

I have heard everyone refer to it as Kailasa (the holy abode of Shiva) of this world but (till now) I did not observe and really know it.

Note: I am unsure how to translate the alternate version as the sentence feels incomplete.

13 Comments

Filed under Abhishek Raghuram, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Ranjani Gayatri

Vazhi Maraithirukkude

ThiruppungurBirth or Worth? Or neither? What criteria should open the doors of a temple? The answer seems self-evident to me yet it is still otherwise in practice in some temples in India. Is that not sad?

My thoughts today are triggered by the discussion with my readers in my last musical post. The late Jon Higgins, an American, and Yesudas, an Indian Christian are both well known names in the Carnatic Music arena. As Carnatic vocalists they cannot but sing in praise of Hindu Gods all the time. Even otherwise, if their lives’ work is not a worship of Goddess Saraswati then I don’t know what is! Yet both were denied entry to certain temples on account of their not being Hindu. Who could be more deserving? Anyway, if it depended on what we deserved, the halls of temples would be empty indeed!

In fact, even Hindus of the lowest-classes used to be denied entry into temples. A terrible thing, this injustice meted out in the name of caste. I have had non-Indians talk to me as if this was true of Indians alone, this class-based injustice. I think not; this kind of injustice is a disease of humankind. Did the people of Israel get just treatment from the ruling Egyptians at the time of Moses? Or the African-Americans get justice in their slavery? What of the Aboriginals in Australia hunted like animals? Or the ethnic cleansing in Serbia in recent history? Oh the shame of it!

Such was case of Nandanar who was born in servitude, at the bottom of the caste ladder. He lived around the 5th/6th AD in South India. His caste was such that he was denied even entry to the temples. Yet he was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva. Overcome with the desire to get just a glimpse of his Lord in the temple, he set off once to Thiruppungur. Standing outside the door, he tried to peer in to see the sanctum sanctorum but the great statue of Shiva’s bull, Nandi, blocked his view. It is said that on hearing his plea, the statue moved aside so that he could have a glimpse of the sanctum. Even now at this temple, Nandi is not in his usual place but a bit aside. This very Nandnar, denied even entry to temples, is now revered as one of the 63 Nayanmar saints whose statues decorate the halls of Shiva temples all over South India. What a come about!

One version of Nandanar’s life story was written as an upanyasam (musical discourse) by Gopalakrishna Bharathi (1811-1896). His songs were used in the film Nandanar made in 1942. If you enjoy Carnatic music, this is a recommended watch. In addition to songs by Gopalakrishna Bharathi, we also get to hear songs written by the great poet-composer Papanasam Sivan and Kothamangalam Subbu (1910-1974) of Thillana Mohanambal fame. The wonderful vocalist Dandapani Desikar plays the lead and impressive Serukalathur Sama plays his Brahmin overlord.  You can watch a good quality print of this film here (no subtitles).

My song choice of today is written by Gopalakrishna Bharathi in his Nandanar Charithram.  ‘Alas, my view is blocked by a mountain-like bull which is lying down’ says he. ‘Even after coming to this town, will not this sinner of Parayan caste have his sins pardoned?’ he goes on to ask.  He accepts that he cannot enter the temple. ‘It is enough if I can see you from the chariot stop, I will not enter the temple’ he says and begs ‘Will not your bull move just a little?’. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

The song is sung in Raga Todi in the film; I believe Gopalakrishna Bharathi composed it in Todi as well. The version I have chosen for you is presented in Nattakurinji by the melodious and incredibly talented sisters Ranjani & Gayathri. I find the slow and meditative quality of the song very touching indeed. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

In his next song in Nanadanar Charithram , Gopalakrishna Bharathi has Lord Shiva saying to Nandi – சற்றே விலகி இரும் பிள்ளாய் சந்நிதானம் மறைக்குதாமே ‘Do move a little, my son. It seems you are blocking the view of the sanctum’. And that is what I say to the priests of the temples who deny entry to anyone at all – சற்றே விலகியிரும், சந்நிதானத்தை மறைக்காதீர் ‘Move aside, don’t block the sanctum’.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
வழி மறைத்திருக்குதே மலை போலே
ஒரு மாடு படுத்திருக்குதே

அனுபல்லவி
பாவி பறையன் (Alternates : நந்தன், ஏழை ) இந்த ஊரில் வந்து என்ன (Alt: வந்தும் இவன்)
பாவம் தீரேனோ (உந்தன்) பாதத்தில் சேரேனோ ஏறேனோ சிவலோக நாதா (Alt: நாதன்)

சரணம்
தேரடியில் (Alt: தேரடியிலே) நின்று தரிசித்தாலும் போதும்
கோயில் (Alt: கோயிலில்) வர மாட்டேனே (Alt: மாட்டேன் ஐயே)
ஓர் அடி விலகினால் போதும் இங்கே நின்று
உற்று பார்க்க (alt: பார்க்கவே) சற்றே ஆகிலும் விலகாதோ உந்தன் மாடு

Transliteration :

pallavi
vazhi maraittirukkudE malai pOlE
oru mADu paDuttirukkudE

anupallavi
pAvi paraiyan (alt: nandan, Ezhai) inda Uril vandu enna (alt: vandum ivan)
pAvam tIrEnO (undan) pAdattil sErEnO ErEnO sivalOka nAdA

charaNam
tEraDiyil (alt: tEraDiyilE) inDRu darisittAl pOdum
koyil (alt: koyilil) vara mATTEnE (alt: mATTEn aiyyE)
Or aDi vilaginAl podum ingE nindRu uTRu pArkka (alt: pArkkavE)
chaTRE Agilum vilagAdO undan mADu

Translation :

Alas, my view is blocked by a mountain-like bull which is lying down!

Even after coming to this town, will not this sinner of Parayan caste have his sins pardoned? Will I not reach your feet? Will I not ascend to your abode, O Lord Shiva?

It is enough if I can see you from the chariot stop (note: this is outside the temple gates), I will not enter the temple. It is enough if your bull moves by one foot for me to peer from here today. Will not your bull move just a little?

 

20 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Dandapani Desikar, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Ranjani Gayatri

Bhavayami Gopala Balam

Krishna BabyThe tradition of worshipping Krishna as a Bala Krishna or Bala Gopala (child Krishna) is an old one. There is evidence as early as 4th BC of this. The stories of his Leelas or miraculous play are widely known throughout India. In contrast to Rama, the previous avatar of Vishnu, who always followed rules and regulations, Krishna’s Leelas describe someone who broke many rules. While Rama’s life is about obligation, Krishna’s life is about play and delight.

I believe that the stories of Krishna’s play have deep symbolic meaning. For example, his love for butter symbolises God’s love for a pure and unsullied heart. His leela of duplicating himself for all the gopikas symbolises the multiplicity of God who is with every soul though he is One. Even keeping aside the symbolism, the endearing nature of the leelas allow us to bring forth the purest form of love that we human beings know – the love of a parent towards his/her small child – and allow us to transform that love into a love for the divine.

Today’s composition is by Annamacharya, set to Raga Yamuna Kalyani  by Kayanallur Venkataraman. The poet says ‘I meditate on the cowherd child’ and describes the beguiling form of the child who is ‘Glorious in a girdle inlaid with precious stones and small bells tied to his waist which rings with a multitude of sounds’. On listening to the song, my mind if filled with the image of my children as babies and these become indistinguishable from the image of baby Krishna as I am overwhelmed by the love for both Krishna and my children. To know more about this raga, click here.

One cannot think of this song without thinking of M.S.Subbulakshmi who had made this her own. However today I present a beautiful performance by Ranjani & Gayatri, the sisters with voices which synchronise so perfectly.

Alternate link : Click here.

For an instrumental version, listen below to Kanyakumari whose skills on the violin are truly impressive.


Alternate link : Click here.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

पल्लवि
भावयामि गोपाल बालम्  मनः सेवितं
तत्पदं चिन्तयेयं सदा

चरणं
कटि घटित मेखला खचित मणि घण्टिका
पटल निनदेन विभ्राजमानं
कुटिल पद घटित सङ्कुल शिञ्जिते नतं
चटुल नटना समुज्ज्वल विलासं

निरत कर कलित नवनीतं ब्रह्मादि
सुर निकर भावना शोंभित पदं
तिरुवेङ्कटाचल स्थितं अनुपमं हरिं
परम पुरुषं गोपाल बालम्

English Transliteration

pallavi
bhAvayAmi gopAlabAlaM manaH sevitam
tatpadaM cintayeyaM sadA

caraNam
kaTi ghaTita mekhalA khacita maNi ghaNTikA
paTala ninadena vibhrAjamAnam
kuTila pada ghaTita saMkula shinjite natam
caTula naTanA samujjvala vilAsam || 1 ||

nirata kara kalita navanItaM brahmAdi
sura nikara bhAvanA shobhita padam
tiruveNkaTAcala sthitaM anupamaM harim
parama puru.saM gopAlabAlam || 2 ||

Translation

I meditate upon (bhAvayAmi) the cowherd (gopAla) boy (bAlam) on whose feet ((tatpadam) my mind (manah) dwells (chintaYeyam)
always (sadA)

Glorious (vibhrAjamAnam) in a girdle (mekhala) inlaid (khachita) with precious stones (maNi) and small bells (ghaNtikA) tied to his waist (kati) which rings  with a multitude (patala) of sounds ((ninadEna)

With radiant (samujjwala) and lovable ((chaTula) appearance (vilAsam) while dancing (naTana), inclined (natam) with (sangkula) his curved (kuTita) pada (feet) tinkling (shinjita).

Hand (kara) engaged in (nirata) kalita (providing) butter (navanIta), feet (padam) made beautiful (shobhita) by the feelings (bhAvanA) of multitude (nikara) of gods (sura) like Brahma etc (brahmAdi)

Living (sthitam) in the hill (achala) of tiru (sacred in Tamil) vengkata, incomparable (anupam) Hari, supreme being (parama purusham), the cowherd boy (gopala bAlam)

 

3 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Kadayanallur Venkataraman, Kanyakumari, Ranjani Gayatri

Hiranmayim Lakshmim

Lakshmi

On this fifth day of Navaratri (Panchami), I continue to pay homage to Goddess Lakshmi. Those who pray to Goddess Lakshmi hope to be blessed with material wealth and prosperity. Even her image is shown as pouring gold from her hands. Here the poet-composer Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) describes Lakshmi herself as being golden (Hiranmayeeem); she is the gold that he aspires for. There is an interesting story behind this song.

One day, it is said, Dikshithar’s wife longingly asked for some golden jewellery. Dikshithar was not in the financial situation to provide these for his wife. One of his disciples suggested to Dikshithar that if he were to go to the court and sing in praise of the king, the king would give him enough to buy some jewellery for his wife. Dikshithar refused and said that he would sing only in praise of his Goddess, never for a man! Then he created this beautiful composition, calling his Goddess the Golden One. That night, Diskhithar’s wife dreamt of the Goddess who came and poured gold on her and said, ‘there, are you satisfied?’. On waking up she apologized to Diskshithar for ever wanting any material wealth  when they were so blessed with Divine wealth.

For lyrics of this beautiful song, see footnote below. The song is set to Raga Lalita (see footnote).

To enjoy this beautiful song, here’s a performance by the young vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan.

For an instrumental version, listen to this beautiful performance on the Sax by the incomparable Kadri Gopalnath.

Edit : A few years have passed since I wrote this post. There is a version which I admire tremendously and hear often. It is T.M.Krishna’s version which you can listen here. His pace is leisurely and deeply meditative. I love Lalita in all forms but like this she is just exquisite. Lalita is also lovely in the mellifluous voices of Ranjani and Gayatri which I also urge you to listen here.


 

Footnote (Lyrics):

पल्लवि

हिरण्मयीं लक्ष्मीं सदा भजामि |
हीन मानव आश्रयं त्यजामि ||

अनुपल्लवि

चिरतर संपत् प्रदां क्षीरंबुधि तनयां |
हरि वक्षथलालयं हरिणीं चरण किसलयां |
कर कमल धृत कुवलयां |
मरकतमनि मय वलयां ||

चरणं

श्वेत दीप वासिनीं श्री कमलंबिकां परां |
भूत भव्य विलासिनीं भूसुर पूजितां वरां |
मातरं अब्ज मालिनीं माणिक्य आभरण धरां |
गीत वाद्य विनोदिनीं गिरिजाम्तां इन्दिरां ||
सीता किरण निभ वदनां श्रिता चिन्तामणि सदनां |
पीत वसनां गुरु गुह मातुल कान्तां ललितां ||

For transliterated lyrics, translation and notation 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. Nannu Brovu Lalita by Shyama Shastri  is another composition in Lalita which 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.

Scale

Leave a comment

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Ranjani Gayatri, Sikkil Gurucharan, T.M.Krishna