Category Archives: Sikkil Gurucharan

Sri Kamalambikayam

Sri Yantra 7Happy Saptami to all of you! I started this series of posts on Prathami, trying to follow and understand Dikshithar’s Navavarana kritis which are based on the worship of Sri Yantra. Over the last seven days, I have read many texts and tried to understand Avarana after Avarana, giving you a summary in my posts. The texts all seem so complicated and convoluted! Yesterday I gave up, considering this quite beyond me. It is a veritable mountain of ideas in which I am quite lost.

Yet mountains too are climbed just one step at a time. So my question to myself today is simply this : what steps can I take today so that one day, in some future life, I will finally be upon the right path? Can we set measurable and achievable targets? Focusing only on the names of the Avaranas, I propose the following :

  1. Bhupuram : Trilokya Mohana Chakra, the outermost layer. Tied to the earth, as the name Bhupuram suggests, I prefer to think of it as the physical preparatory layer. Mountain climbers train, acclimatize. Olympians practice. Those on the quest of the Goddess should surely start with training their bodies and minds with discipline, yoga and meditation (long term goal). Let us all try and do yoga at least twice a week and meditate at least once a week (short term target).
  2. Sarvasa Paripooraka Chakra , the chakra where all desires are fulfilled. Is it ever possible to fulfil all desires? Isn’t the wish to fulfil all desires itself a desire? Desires come from discontent, if we remove discontent from out lives, all our desires will be fulfilled, will they not? So for me, the lesson of this chakra is to learn to be content (long term goal). Every morning, let us thank God for just one thing which makes us content with our lives; let us count our blessings (short term target).
  3.  Sarva Samkhsobhana Chakra, the chakra which agitates all. The law of inertia states that ‘An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.’ If we want to be different, we have to start doing something different! ‘Shake it up’ says this chakra to me, ‘start seeing the world with different eyes, the eyes of those on a quest’ (long term goal). Every month, let us teach ourselves one new thing in the spiritual realm from any religion of the world (short term target).
  4. Sarva Saubhagya Dayaka Chakra, the chakra which bestows all prosperity. What if we are not meant to be the receivers but instead are the providers? What is prosperity – health, wealth, happiness? We cannot provide physical health to others, but we can provide mental health by being loving, supportive, understanding and accepting. We cannot provide everyone with wealth but we can try and be generous and charitable (long term goals). We cannot make everyone happy but let us try and bring a little smile to someone, somewhere every single day – be it a text to a friend, a small charitable act, a lovingly cooked meal..anything (short term target).
  5. Sarvartha Saadhaka Chakra, the chakra which is the accomplisher of all objectives. Our schooling, our work, our life all tells us to set objectives and work towards achieving it. Let me tell you my experience : this is a whirlpool from which you will never emerge. Every objective achieved only paves the way for the next objective; it is an unending cycle. It tells me one thing very clearly – the objectives I am setting are wrong ones, they breed dissatisfaction, not satisfaction. So the lesson from this chakra is to set our objectives for those things which will bring us long time joy (long term goal). Let us think for the rest of this year and make a list of those things which will give us long term happiness (short term target).
  6. Sarva Rakshakara Chakra, the all protecting chakra. Protecting what? I ask myself. What is worth protecting in me? What is not already tainted? This is a hard question for it seems that all that is good within me has already been soiled by this life.  The lesson for me from this chakra is to protect diligently all that is worth protecting in all of us – honesty, honour, charitability, kindness, patience, gentleness, peacefulness, nobility etc..(long term goal). To do that, we must first go through mentally of all we have done by which we have let ourselves down and then forgive ourselves for those things (short term target).

    So we come to today’s Avaranam :

  7. Sarva Rogahara Chakra, the chakra which removes all diseases. ‘What is it which is diseased within me?’ I ask myself. Life sets the rot within us, does it not? Let us all examine ourselves, determining that which has started to rot in us and then heal ourselves, with kindness, with patience, but with determination as well (long term goal). Every third month, let us stop one bad habit, behaviour, or thought pattern which leads to the disease in our body, mind or soul (short term target).

Now this kind of practical steps sit much more easily with me than talk of worshipping hundreds of shaktis and yoginis with mantras and puja vidhi! Dikshithar’s kriti in honour of the seventh chakra is set to raga Sahana. It is presented today by Sikkil Gurucharan, an excellent young artist.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

पल्लवि
श्री कमलाम्बिकायां भक्तिं करोमि
श्रित कल्प वाटिकायां चण्डिकायां जगदम्बिकायाम्

अनुपल्लवि
राका चन्द्र वदनायां राजीव नयनायां
पाकारि नुत चरणायां आकाशादि किरणायाम्
ह्रींकार विपिन हरिण्यां ह्रींकार सु-शरीरिण्यां
ह्रींकार तरु मञ्जर्यां ह्रींकारेश्वर्यां गौर्याम्

चरणम्
शरीर त्रय विलक्षण सुख-तर स्वात्मानुभोगिन्यां
विरिञ्चि हरीशान हरि-हय वेदित रहस्य योगिन्याम्
परादि वाग्देवता रूप वशिन्यादि विभागिन्यां
चरात्मक सर्व रोग हर निरामय राज योगिन्याम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
कर धृत वीणा वादिन्यां कमला नगर विनोदिन्यां
सुर नर मुनि जन मोदिन्यां गुरु गुह वर प्रसादिन्याम्

Transliteration

pallavi
shrI kamalAmbikAyAm bhaktim karOmi
shrita kalpa vATikAyAm chaNDikAyAm jagadambikAyAm

anupallavi
rAkA chandra vadanAyAm rAjIva nayanAyAm
pAkAri nuta charaNAyAm AkAshAdi kiraNAyAm
hrImkAra vipina hariNyAm hrImkAra susharIriNyAm
hrImkAra taru manjaryAm hrImkArEshvaryAm gauryAm

charaNam
sharIra traya vilakshaNa sukha-tara svAtmAnubhOginyAm
virinchi harIshAna hari-haya vEdita rahasya yOginyAm
parAdi vAgdEvatA rUpa vashinyAdi vibhAginyAm
charAtmaka sarva rOga hara nirAmaya rAja yOginyAm
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
kara dhRta vINA vAdinyAm kamalA nagara vinOdinyAm
sura nara muni jana mOdinyAm guru guha vara prasAdinyAm

Translation

I give my devotion (bhaktim karOmi) to Kamalambika, to Her who is a a garden (vAtikA) of wish-giving trees (kalpa) to her worshippers (shrita), to Her who is Chandika (a rudra form of the Goddess), to Her who is the mother (ambikA) of the world (jagat).

To Her with a face (vadana) like the full moon (rAkAchandra), whose eyes (nayana) are like the lotus (rAjIva), whose feet (charaNa) are worshipped (nuta) by the enemy (ari) of the demon pAka (=Indra), who radiates (kiranAy) the skies (AkAsha) etc (Adi), who is the doe (hariNi) in the forest (vipina) of the sound hRIm, whose noble (prefix su) body (sharIra) is the embodiment of the sound hRIm, who is like the cluster of blossoms (manjara) of the tree (taru) called hRIm, who is the Goddess (IshvarI) of the sound hRIm, who is fair-skinned Goddess (gaurI).

To Her who enjoys (anubhOga) her own (svAtma) blissful self (sukha tara) which is manifold (vilakshaNa) and beyond (implied) the three (traya) bod-states (sharIra) (the causal, the subtle and the gross), who is the secret (rahasya) Yogini known (vEdita) to Brahma (virinchi), Shiva (Isha) Vishnu (hari) and Hayagreeva (harihaya), who is the embodiment (rUpa) of the deity (dEvata) of speech (vAk), who is differentiated (vibhAga) as Vashinis (deities of the 8-triangles, representing alphabets, pa ra etc (Adi)), who is the Raja Yogini who  removes (hara) all (sarva) communicable (chara-Atmaka, moving nature)diseases (rOga) causing good health (nirAmaya) , who plays (vAda) the Veena she holds (dhRta) her hands (kara), who takes pleasure (vinOda) in the Lotus-city (kamalA nagara), who delights (mOdin) the Gods (sura), men (nara) and sages (muni jana), who graces (prasAda) Kartikeya (guruguha, also signature of composer) with boons (vara).

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Rama Rama Guna Seema

Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! Rama! You are the delight of our hearts! Sita’s Rama! Your face  is like the moon! You are deeply dark ! Your clothes are golden! You are the cessation of enemies!

Happy Ramanavami to all my readers! How did you celebrate this occasion? I am sadly negligent; my festival days go by simply, with just a mental marking, an acknowledgement when I say my prayers. Is that enough? Should that not be enough?

I feel a twinge of guilt. I remember my childhood when my family would wear new clothes, go to the temple and then have a lovely feast to eat. Yet I ask – when we mark a festival with a feast, is it God we please or our own selves ? When we buy and wear new clothes, whom are we trying to please?

I guess you know what I think! Yet, these ways of marking festivals have an important part to play. In my childhood, because my parents bought me new clothes only for festival days, I didn’t even realise one could buy clothes for no reason! In a way, it made each garment I wore a kind of ‘prasAda’, a blessing from above. Now that my clothes are bought whenever I please, they have lost their specialness. Likewise, my mother prepared certain dishes only on certain feast days. The dishes somehow became enhanced by that. They became ‘prasAda’, a gift from God. By marking these feasts, we silently thank God for all that we have.

I have prepared no feast today. Instead, the prasAda that I prepare today is this post. One of my very favourite songs, it is very simply a list of ‘identifiers’ for Lord Rama. Nothing is asked, not even blessings. An acknowledgement, that is all it is. It is written in Sanskrit by Swathi Thirunal and set to raga Simhendra Madhyamam. To know more about this raga, click here.

I am especially fond of Sikkil Gurucharan’s rendition in his CD December Season 2005. It is available in Musicindiaonline; click here for the Alapana and here for the Kriti. In fact, I recommend that you buy this track from whichever online store you use, keep it on your mp3 player and listen very often! In the meanwhile, I found a rendition from this exceptionally talented young man in youtube, which I present to you here. Note the superbly talented S.Varadarajan on the violin; I really admire this young man!

Alapana (starts at 09:01)

Kriti :

Another young artist, Nisha Rajagopal, has also given a find rendition which I enjoyed very much. Listen below, Alapana from 16:25 and Kriti from 23:42.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

Note: This kriti has three charanams but I have heard only the third one sung. Therefore only that charanam is transcribed here.  Also note that the singers usually use the long A at the end of musical phrases. eg. dhAma is often sung as dhAmA. Lyrics are verified aurally, but I cannot guarantee correctness.

राम राम गुण सीमा राम ह्रुदयाभिराम सीता

सोमानन घनश्याम हेमाम्बरारि विराम –पट्टाभि (alt: लोकाभि)

दीनबन्धो मामव दश मुख विदलन विनत कल्पतरो वारिज नाभ
मुनि मानस धामा मृगमद सुललाम अवनिजापाङ्ग सुदाम वैदेहि सकाम

Transliteration

pallavi
rAma rAma guNasImA rAma hrdayAbhirAma sItA

anupallavi
sOmAnana ghanashyAma hEmAmbarAri virAma –paTTAbhi (alt: lOkAbhi)

charaNam
dInabandhO mAmava dasha mukha vidaLana
vinata kalpatarO vArija nAbha
muni mAnasa dhAma mrgamada sulalAma
avanijApAnga sudAma vaidEhi sakAma

Translation

Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! (guNa=virtue, sImA=boundary). Rama! You are the delight (abhirama=delightful) of our hearts (hrdaya)! Sita’s Rama!

Your face (Anana) is like the moon (sOma)! You are deeply (ghana) dark (shyAma) ! Your clothes (ambara) are golden (hEma)! You are the cessation (virAma) of enemies (ari)! O consecrated one (paTTAbhirAma) ! (alt: O the one loved by everyone! (lOkAbhirAma))

O my friend (bandhu) of the wretched (dIna)! You are the destroyer (vidalana=tear asunder) of the humbled (vinata) Ravana (dasha mukha=ten faced)! You are like a wish-fulfilling tree (kalpataru)! You have a lotus-navel (vArija nAbha) (also signature of Swati Thirunal)! You dwell in (dhAma) in the minds (mAnasa) of sages (muni)! You have a kasturi tilaka (su lalAma=beautiful mark on your forehead, mrga mada=deer musk)! Sita (vaidEhi), who is born from the earth (avani ja), looks at you, the one who gives bountifully (sudAma) with sidelong glaces (apAnga) filled with love (sakAma).

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Srinivasa Tiruvenkata

Srinivasa1

Sanctuary. It is a concept which is familiar to all of us. A sanctuary provides a safe haven when one is under threat, even if one is not in the right. A political refugee may seek sanctuary in countries where he will not be persecuted for his leanings. A tax refugee may seek sanctuary in a tax shelter where he can avoid paying high taxes. English law for many centuries allowed fugitives to seek sanctuary in churches and avoid prosecution as long as they remained within church property.

Abhaya mudraAnd so too in religion, the idea of sanctuary has existed for a long time. Most Hindu Gods are shown with their hands in abhaya hasta meaning without fear. In the picture on the right, the young dancer has her right hand in the abhaya hasta and her left hand in the varada or boon giving mudra typical of Goddess Lakshmi. The abhaya hasta indicates that God is a sanctuary that we can all take refuge in, without fear of anything. And just like in any other haven, when you give yourself up, it is a no-questions-asked sanctuary.

How then is one to seek that refuge? Herein comes the concept of Sharanagati or Unconditional Surrender. In Mahabharata, in the episode called Draupadi Vastrabharanam, Drapudi is humiliated in court when Dushasana tries to disrobe her in public. She cries for help but in this court of kings and noblemen, no man is noble enough to support her. As long as she tries to protect herself with her hands, there is no help for her. Finally she raises both hands and in despair calls out to Krishna seeking His help and a miracle happens.  Thus it is with unconditional surrender that you will find unconditional sanctuary says our scriptures.

All this to lead up to my song choice of the day! In this simple song by Papanasam Sivan (1890-1973) set to the melodious raga Hamsanandi, the poet salutes Lord Srinivasa and says ‘You who are famous as being the refuge of the helpless/wretched, where have you seen one more helpless than me? I seek the refuge of your feet, give me sanctuary!’. He, whose hands are held in the abhaya hasta, a constant re-assurance of sanctuary, how can He refuse so heartfelt a plea?  To see the full lyrics and translation, see footnote. To know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have found a very nice rendition by the young vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan. He starts the song with this beautiful viruththam (verse) from the Nalayira Divyaprabandam (verse 678).  1100 year old and it still speaks to us with such intensity! Such is true poetry.

ஆனாத செல்வத்து அரம்பையர்கள் தற்சூழ
வானாளும் செல்வமும்  மண்ணரசும்   யான் வேண்டேன்
தேனார் பூஞ்சோலைத் திருவேங்கடச் சுனையில்
மீனாய்ப் பிறக்கும்  விதியுடையேன்  ஆவேனே

I wish not for the immense wealth of ruling the heavens surrounded by celestial maidens, nor do I wish to rule the earth. I yearn merely to be a fish in a forest spring on the sacred Venkatam where honey scented flowers bloom.

Kulashekhara Azhwar, Chera King (9th Century)

Another rendition I like very much is that of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (1908-2003), one of the greatest and celebrated Carnatic vocalists of our times.

For an instrumental version, I present the very accomplished Iyer Brothers on the Veena. I take pride in the fact that they are from my home city of Melbourne, Australia.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
ஸ்ரீநிவாச திருவேங்கட முடையாய்
ஜெயகோவிந்த முகுந்தா அனந்தா

அனுபல்லவி
தீனஷரண்யன் எனும்பெயர் கொண்டாய்
தீனன் எனைப் போல் வேறெவர் கண்டாய்

சரணம்
ஜகம்புகழும் ஏழுமலை மாயவனே
திருமகள் அலர்மேல் மங்கை மணாளனே
ஜகன்னாதா சங்கு சக்ர தரணே
திருவடிக்கபயம் அபயம் ஐயா

Transliteration

pallavi
shrInivAsa tiru vEnkaTamuDaiyAi
jaya gOvinda mukunda anantA

anupallavi
dIna sharaNyan enum pugazh koNDaAi
dInan enaippOl vErevar kaNDAi

charaNam
jagam pugazhum Ezhumalai mAyavanE
tirumagaL alarmEl mangai maNALanE
jagannAtA shankha chakra dharanE
tiruvadik-kabhayam abhayamayyA

Translation

O Srinivasa (in whom Lakshmi dwells), lord of Venkatam, Victory to you. O Govinda, Mukunda (liberator), O Infinite one!

You are famous as the refuge of the helpless/wretched, where have you seen one more helpless than me?

O lord of the seven hills who is praised by all, O illusory one. O husband of Alamelu Mangai (name of Lakshmi). O lord of the universe who holds the wheel and the conch. I seek the refuge of your feet, give me sanctuary!

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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

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