Category Archives: S.Kalyanaraman

Makelara Vicharamu

It is the season of big changes in my life. Here I was, happily chugging along in my ‘normal’ life, in a set, familiar pattern.  Then it was as if someone picked up the kaleidoscope of my life and gave it a good shake. For a while now there has just been a jumble of shapes and colours, in a movement too fast for a pattern to emerge. I know that soon it will settle down into a brand new pattern. I imagine our good Lord holding the kaleidoscope and smiling with mischief when he gives that one last whirl! But at the moment, like a piece of coloured glass being whirled around, I see nothing but a revolving world.

It all started early on Mar 30, 2018 when our daughter announced that we are to be grandparents by the end of the year. Our plan was always to return home to Australia when we become grandparents. My husband and I left India when we were very young. Our children were born overseas and though they saw their grandparents once a year or two, they never established a close relationship with them. “My children lost out on their grandparents“, I told myself, “but I will not do that to their children. I’ll be there for them.“. So with the news of impending grandparenthood, we set our plans in motion. We started putting our affairs in order and faced the prospect of a move back to Australia after 18 years of being away.

In December, we did become grandparents to a gorgeous little boy. It was with a heavy heart that I returned to Switzerland in March. Over the last few months I have missed his special achievements. I never saw the first time he turned over on his stomach, his achievements in commando-crawling, his growing dexterity etc. Sad. In the meanwhile, there has been much to do here. We are getting through it all step by step. Not long to go now; we’ll be home in early July.

While we did all the physical sorting and packing, I have had to do some mental sorting out as well. After all this time in Switzerland, I am bonded to this country. Even familiar sights take on a certain poignancy. I look at the lakes and mountains which surround me and think ‘I won’t see you again in my daily life‘. I thought I was reconciled but as I write this, involuntary tears run down my cheeks. How can I be sad when I have the most precious bundle to play with in Australia? Grief and joy disturbingly co-exist in my heart.

So back to my theme of ‘puppet on a string‘. When such massive changes take place in our lives, there is a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of being rushed headlong towards something, an inevitability, all of which may be attributed to fate and God’s hand as a puppeteer by those who believe in these things. I do.  This belief gives great comfort. When my stress levels become too high, I say to myself ‘Why should I worry? I will leave it all in God’s hands‘. For those who don’t believe, it may all seem a bit self-delusional! I too have my own doubts. Don’t our own actions chart the path of the future? Why would God bother about such a petty thing as my life? Still, my song choice of today reflects my need for believing in a God who will bother about me. Makelara Vicharamu is a composition of Tyagaraja set to raga Ravichandrika. The Saint refers to Lord Rama as the puppeteer who makes us dance in the drama of life.

I have listened to nothing but Makelara for the last few days! A popular kriti, there are many excellent renditions freely available online. I have chosen two interesting renditions for your listening pleasure. The first is by S.Kalyanaraman, a very clean, melodious rendition which sounds quite lovely to me. For some kritis, I like ‘drama’; for this one, I enjoyed the simplicity.

Click here to listen.

I think the lyrical beauty of the Raga is displayed very beautifully in this violin rendition by Ganesh & Kumaresh. I grew up listening to Lalgudi’s version of this song, so for me, the violin is just perfect for this kriti.

Footnotes (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Ravichandrika
Language : Telugu
Please note that I do not speak Telugu. The translations are sourced from various internet sources, which I have tried to verify using dicionaries.

Transliteration in Devanagari

माकेलरा विचारमु
मरुगन्न श्री राम चन्द्र

साकेत राज कुमार
सद्भक्त मन्दार श्रीकर

जत कूर्चि नाटक सूत्रमुनु
जगमॆल्ल मॆच्चग करमुननिडि
गति तप्पक आडिञ्चॆवु (alt: आडिञ्चॆदवु) सुमी
नत त्यागराज गिरीश विनुत


mAkElarA vichAramu
maruganna shrI rAma chandra

sAkEta rAja kumAra
sad bhakta mandAra shrI kara

jata kUrci nATaka sUtramunu
jagamella mechchaga karamunaniDi
gati tappaka ADinchevu (alt: Adinchendavu) sumI
nata tyAgarAja girIsha vinuta


Why (ElarA) should we (mAku) have worries (vichAramu) O Lord Rama (shrI rAma chandra), father of Manmatha (maruganna**)?
(**Note:  The site Tyagaraja Vaibhavam breaks this word as maruku – Cupid/Manmatha and anna – father. However, I could not verify maruku as Manmatha in any dictionary. Musicians sing it as maruganna. Marugu seems to be translated as something hidden. Is Cupid referred to as the hidden one? There is a comment by another blogger that mamuganna makes more sense, translated as ‘my father’.)

O Prince (rAja kumAra-son of king) of Ayodhya (sAkEta), the wish-fulfilling tree (mandAra, another name for Kalpavriksha) of true (sad) devotees (bhakta)! O One who bestows prosperity (shrI kara)!

Holding (-iDi) the strings (sUtramunu) of the puppets (implied) in the hands (karamunanu) and balancing (jata kUruchi) the drama (nAtaka) (implying the drama of life), you make us dance (ADinchevu) with an infallible (tappaka) pace (gati) to the extollation (mechchaga) of the whole world (jagamella), O Lord who is praised (vinuta) by Lord Shiva (girIsha), to whom this Tyagaraja bows (nata).


Filed under Compositions in Telugu, Ganesh-Kumaresh, S.Kalyanaraman, Tyagaraja

Edayya Gati

What refuge have I but you? My compassionate one ! Son of Shiva ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you! Accepting this ignorant person, why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary!

FutilityIt was in August last year. I was confidently striding towards my gate in San Francisco airport. I had had an enjoyable holiday and was feeling good about myself. 2011 had started badly for me. My pre-existing bad back, a slipped-disk in my lower back, had raised its ugly head and had crippled me at the start of the year. I was making a slow recovery from it when I twisted my ankle badly and tore a ligament. A couple of months later, I re-twisted the same ankle. So when in August I managed my rather demanding touristic visit without pain, I was very pleased with myself. ‘Maybe I can restart my fitness routines’ I told myself, aware of having gained a quite few of the inches that I had previously lost in my ongoing battle-of-the-bulge. I felt strong and able. And so I was striding confidently, just as I stated at the start of my tale.

It was therefore a shock when my feet slipped under me and I found myself dropping awkwardly to the floor. I felt something give as my knee twisted outwards at an unnatural angle. I finally saw the little pool of liquid that someone had dropped, a pool which was virtually invisible in the shiny black floor. Even as pain shot through me I wondered ‘Have we no control over our lives then? Here I was feeling so good about myself! How delusional am I!’.

Thus everyday everywhere people are striding along confidently when the rug is pulled under their feet. Are our ceaseless endeavours meaningless then? Are we no better than the hamsters who run ceaselessly to remain at the same place? It all seems so futile!!

Such were my thoughts as I struggled uphill in my latest quest towards fitness, my knee throbbing painfully. I know that something is wrong again and I dread a visit to the doctor. As I pondered my helplessness, the song playing in my ipod made utter sense. ‘What refuge have I but you?’ says Koteeswara Iyer in the exquisite pathos of Raga Chalanatta. ‘Why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me?’. Surely anything this futile can be nothing else but a game? For lyrics and translation of this short song, see footnote. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.

I have vacillated over my selection today, there are so many renditions I like! I especially enjoy the versions by Sanjay Subrahmanyan and Sikkil Gurucharan. But finally I could not move away from Tanjore S.Kalyanaraman’s wonderful presentation of this song. This is a live, amateur recording and the sound quality is poor. But do ignore the extraneous noise and focus on the music, it is such a treat!

And for an instrumental, listen to the speaking violin of A.Kanyakumari. I am a big fan of her music, she is an immense talent.


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language: Tamil

ஏதய்யா கதி எனக்-

மா தயாநிதி உமாபதி சுகுமார வரகுணநிதி
நீதான் அல்லது வேற் (ஏதய்யா)

பேதை   ஏற்க உன்னருள் காட்டாது
என்னோடேதைய்யா விளையாட்டா
பூதல சலநாட்டா நின் தாள் தான் கதி
புகழ் கவி குஞ்சர தாசனக்கு வேற் (ஏதய்யா)


EdayyA gati enakk-

mA dayAnidhi umApati sukumAra varaguNa nidhi nI dAn alladu vEr

pEdai Erkka un aruL kATTAdu ennODEdayyA vilaiyATTa
bhUtalA chalanATTa nin tAL tAn gati pugazh kavi kunjaradAsanukku vEr


What refuge have I but you?

My compassionate one ! Son of Uma’s husband (Shiva) ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you (are my refuge)!

In not showing your mercy in accepting this ignorant person, are you playing a game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary. For this poet Kunjaradasa who else but you (are my refuge)!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kanyakumari, Koteeswara Iyer, S.Kalyanaraman