Category Archives: Sudha Raghunathan

Kanna Kattarul

Once there was a community called ‘The-Learned‘. They called the others ‘Not-The-Learned‘. I wonder, did the ‘Not-the-Learned‘ call themselves ‘The-Learned‘ amongst themselves? Who knows? Demonising the enemies is a well-known psychological tactic, isn’t it! Our protagonist belonged to the ‘Not-the-Learned‘ community though some say that he was born to ‘The-Learned‘ and went over to the other side. Some even say that he was son of the best amongst the ‘The-Learned‘ himself.

His mother prayed and sought the boon that he should live a long life and be all powerful. How can we know the power of a mother’s prayer? He went on to establish a powerful kingdom far to the east, in high lands after defeating a previous dynasty of ethnic origins, another community that ‘The-Learned‘ demonized. The three dynasties which followed him in that region trace their origins to him. They say he ruled for a long time, eons over different eras. Perhaps it was him, perhaps there were descendants of the same ilk. Let us not question that, stories lose their charm if examined too closely.

Our protagonist became more and more powerful, defeating enemies and enlarging his kingdom amongst the ‘Not-the-learned‘. Then his eyes turned towards the lands of ‘The-Learned‘. He defeated the ruler and took over those lands too. Powerful indeed! It is said that all the power went to his head, that he insulted a venerable lady of ‘The-Learned‘, that he kidnapped 16,000 women. Maybe true. Maybe an exaggeration. Stories are written by the victors, and in our story our protagonist is the not eventual victor. You remember that he was said to be fathered by one of ‘The-Learned‘? Tired of his atrocities, all ‘The-Learned‘ begged his father for assistance.

But there were his mother’s prayers to protect him, and more time passed. Finally, his father was re-born and grew up to marry his mother-re-born. Or perhaps it was his father’s descendants; it matters not to us. It is then that the venerable lady whom he had insulted went to his mother-re-born. Eons have passed, so I imagine that it is another such offended lady. Remember that ‘The-Learned‘ were now the subjugated community? A society which offers violence to women does not stop at one; violence against women, especially subjugated women, often becomes endemic in communities. It happens today. Anyway, it is said that his mother-re-born was offended by his treatment of women, and she herself went to his father-re-born for permission to wage war against her son. The war was furious, with many powerful weapons used by both parties. Finally our protagonist was defeated when he was beheaded by the discus weapon of his father-re-born.

It is this defeat of a powerful foe of ‘The-Learned‘ by the foremost amongst them that we celebrate on Kartika Amavasya, just before syzygy (showing off a new word I just learnt!) in the Oct-Nov lunar cycle. Or at least, one of the myriad reasons quoted by those in the know. I am, of course, talking about Deepavali/Diwali being the celebration of the destruction of Narakasura by Krishna.

As I browsed for ideas for a post today, I came upon this kriti in the auspicious raga Madhyamavati composed by Papanasam Sivan. Surprisingly, I don’t remember having heard it before though I see that there are a few renditions available online. I must also confess that I haven’t quite taken a liking to the song…I wonder why? Maybe you’ll like it better. But it’s still perfect for Deepavali as the lyrics honour the day. Here is a rendition by the evergreen Sudha Raghunathan. I’ve listened to her for close to 40 years and she still sounds good to me!

kriti from 3:00

Footnote ( Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Papanasam Sivan
Raga : Madhyamavati
Language: Tamil

கண்ணா காத்தருள் மேக வண்ணா
கடைக்கண் பார்த்தருள் -கமலக்

விண்ணாடரும் முனிவரும் வணங்கி வேண்ட
நரகாசுர வதம் செய்ய விரைந்து வந்த

பாமை வடிவான பூமிப்பிராட்டி
தேரோட்ட அசுரர் குலம் அழித்தவா
சக்ரபாணி உலகெலாம் மங்கள
தீபாவளி ஒளி வீச அருள் புரிந்த


kaNNa kAttaruL mEgha vaNNA
kaDaikkaN pArttaruL -kamalak

viNNADarum munivarum vaNangi vENDa
narakAsura vadam seyya viraindu vanda

bhAmai vaDivAna bhUmipiraTTi
tErOTTa asurar kulam azhittavA
chakrapANi ulagelAm mangaLa
dIpAvaLi oLi vIsa aruL purinda


O Lotus-Eyed Krishna (kamalak-kaNNA, also Kanna means Krishna) coloured (vaNNA) like the clouds (mEgha)! Bless (aruL) us (implied) with a glance (kaDaikkaN pArttu – literally looking from the corner of the eyes)!

When the celestial beings (viNNADar) and (-um) sages (munivar) worshipfully (vaNangi) requested (vENDa), you are the one (implied) who came (vanda) speedily (viraindu) to kill (vadam seyya) Narakasura.

With Bhudevi (bhUmi pirATTi) in her form (vaDivAna) as Satyabhama (bhamai) driving (OTTa) the chariot (tEr), you Krishna, the Discus-Holder (chakrapANi), are the one who destroyed (azhittavA) the demon (asura) clans (kulam). You are the one who graced (arUl purinda) us (implied) so that (implied) the auspicious (mangaLa) rows (Avali) of lamps (dIpa) shine brightly (oLi vIsa) worldwide (ulagelAm).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan, Sudha Raghunathan

Sendru Va Nee Radhe

Do go now Radha, go immediately! There is no time to think! You do not understand even if told, nor would you think of it by yourself. Don’t trust that Lord! After all, the promises of that illusionist  come from the mouth which ate mud!  For one who has measured  the earth , is it difficult to come to you and make up false stories? Even if Krishna came and told us a thousand things, is it really justified for us to believe it all?

In my last post, I talked of Sita, of her refusing to be left behind when Rama goes on exile. Krishna does not go on exile but He does leave Brindavan to complete all that He has to do in His incarnation. And Radha, His sweetheart, His love, is left behind.

What happens to Radha? In youthful love, she dances to His tune, both literally and metaphorically. In adulthood, she awaits her Lord for evermore while Krishna marries Rukmini and Satyabhama. Is she seen as the jilted sweetheart? But no! She is His eternal love and has a unique place in the Krishna story. She adorns many a Radha-Krishna temple in a status equal to that of the Lord. ‘Radhe-Krishna’ exclaim millions of Indians; naming Krishna as the one belonging to Radha.

Though Radha is sung of in many parts of India, there are hardly any Carnatic songs which feature her. Does the mystic love of Radha and Krishna not really capture the imagination of the more conservative Southerners? Whatever the case, I am pleased to offer for your listening pleasure this gem of a song by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer. I am not sure whether it should be classified as a nindA stuti (backhanded praise of the Lord); it does seem like it should. After all, when normally we are told ‘Trust in God’, the poet says ‘Don’t trust anything He says!’. You can find the lyrics and translation in the footnote. The words are such that we need to look beyond them for a meaningful interpretation.

Do go and find him immediately!’. Radha is urged by the poet to go and seek out Krishna. ‘There is no more time to think’, she is told. Who is Radha? She is but the representative of the jIvAtma, the soul which resides in each of us. The song is urging us all to seek Krishna.

Krishna is ever busy herding His cattle and paying attention to the crowds who seek Him, says the poet. Radha waits forever for her Krishna to come to her. Are we too waiting for the Lord to find us? The poet urges us instead to actively try and find Him. ‘You neither think of seeking Him yourself, nor do you understand when told by others’ says he. A little scolding for us all from the poet!

Don’t trust Him’, says the poet to Radha, and us. ‘After all, the promises of that illusionist come from the same mouth which once ate mud!’. This refers to the story of Krishna as a small child. He is caught eating mud by His mother Yashoda. When questioned, He denies it. She asks Him to open His mouth and sees the whole universe within it. Did He lie? Yes. He did eat mud. No. How can He ingest anything when all the universe is contained within Him? Krishna created illusions – but which was the illusion? That the universe was within His mouth? Or that He was a little child who ate mud? No, He is definitely not to be trusted!

‘For One who has measured the earth, is it difficult to come to you and make up false stories?’. The poet has cleverly used the two meanings of alappadu; this line always makes me smile! Referring to the vAmana avatAra when Lord Vishnu measured the whole world in one single step, the poet says that, in comparison, the task of making up tales is no great thing for the Lord. We have a hint for the interpretation by the poet’s use of mAyan or illusionist for referring to Krishna. The world is but a mAyA, an illusion, a falsehood made up by the Lord. ‘Even if Krishna  came and told a thousand things, is it really justified for us to believe it all?’. The Lord encompasses everything, both that which is within the bounds of Maya and that which is outside the bounds of Maya.  The poet says thatNot all that is contained within the Lord is true’. The Lord tells us a many a tale in this illusion of life that He has created, we should not believe it all!

In the last sentence, the poet hopes that the Lord will come to him. ‘If  He were only to come alone near our location today, our penances will bear fruit and the result of our sins be gone!’.  Here, the poet joins Radha and all of us as a fellow seeker awaiting the Lord’s union.

This beautiful song is a Ragamalika in ragas Kalyani, Kambhoji and Vasanta. Given that I love all these ragas, it is no surprise that the song appeals to me so much! I have heard very few renditions of this song. The one I am most familiar with is by the supremely talented Sudha Raghunathan.

Another interesting rendition is by T.N.Seshagopalan, to whom you can listen here.


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer
Raga : Ragamalika – Kalyani, Kambhoji, Vasanta
Language : Tamil

பல்லவி (கல்யாணி)
சென்று வா நீ ராதே இந்தப் போதே
இனி சிந்தனை செய்திட நேரமில்லையடி

அனுபல்லவி (கல்யாணி)
கன்று பசு மேய்க்கும் நாட்டத்திலே
அவரை காண வரும் ஆயர் கூட்டத்திலே
சற்று நின்று பேச என்றால் நேரமில்லையடி
நேரில் வர ஒரு தோதுமில்லையடி

சரணம் 1 (காம்போஜி)
சொன்னாலும் புரியாதே -உனக்கு
தன்னாலும் தோன்றாதே
அந்த மன்னனை நம்பாதே
அந்த மாயன் வாக்கு எல்லாம் மண் தின்ற வாய்தானே

சரணம் 2 (வசந்தா)
உலகை அளந்தோர்க்கு  உன்னிடம் வந்தொரு
பொய் மூட்டி அளப்பதும் பாரமா
கண்ணன் நலம் வந்து ஆயிரம் சொன்னாலும்
நாம் அதை நம்பிவிடல் ஞாயமா
ஆயர்குலத் திறைவன் நந்தகோபன் திருமகன்
கொள்வதெல்லாம்   (alt: சொல்வதெல்லாம்) உண்மையாகுமா
நம்  தலத்தருகே இன்று தனித்து வர என்றால்
தவப்பயன் ஆகுமே வினைப்பயன் போகுமே


pallavi (raga kalyANi)
senDRu vA nI rAdE indap-pOdE
ini sindanai seidiDa nEramillaiyaDi

anupallavi (raga kalyANi)
kanDRu pasu mEykkum nATTattilE
avarai kANa varum Ayar kUTTattilE
saTru ninDRu pEsa enDRAl nEramillaiyaDi
nEril vara oru tOdumillaiyaDi

charanam 1 (raga kambhOji)
sonnAlum puriyAdE unakku
tannAlum tOnDRAdE
anda mannanai nambAdE
anda mAyan vAkku ellAm maN tinDRa vAy dAnE

charaNam 2 (raga vasantA)
ulagai aLandOrkku unniDam vandoru
poi mUTTi aLappadum bAramA
kaNNan nalam vandu Ayiram sonnAlum
nAm adai nambiviDal nyAyamA
Ayar kulattiraivan nanda gOpan tirumagan
koLvadellAm uNmaiyAgumA
nam talattarugE inDRu tanittu vara enDRAl
tavap-payan AgumE vinaippayan pOgumE


Do go (senDRu vA) now Radha, go immediately (inda pOdE)! There is no time (nEralimmai) to think (sindanai seidiDa)!

In His concentration (nATTam) of herding (mEykkum) the cows (pasu) and calves (kanDRu), in the crowd (kUTTatile) of cowherds (Ayar) who come (varum) to see (kANa) Him (avarai), He has no time (nEramillai) to stand and talk (ninDRu pEsa) nor is it is appropriate (tOdu) for Him to come Himself (nEril vara).

You do not understand (puriyAdE) even if told (sonnAlum), nor would you think of it (tOnDRAdE) by yourself (tannAlum)! Don’t trust (nambAdE) that Lord (mannanai)! After all (implied in dAnE), all (ellAm) the promises (vAkku) of that illusionist (mAyan) come from the mouth (vAy) which ate (tinna) mud(maN).

For one who has measured (aLandOrkku) the earth (ulagai), is it difficult (bAramA) to come (vandu) to you (unniDam) and make up a story (poi mUTTi aLappadum)? Even if Krishna (kaNNan) fortunately came (nalam vandu) and told (sonnalum) a thousand things (Ayiram), is it really justified (nyAyamA) for us (nAm) to believe (nambiviDal) it all (adai)? Is everything (ellAm) accepted (koLvadu-koL is normally used as an auxiliary, here it is used as an independent verb which means hold, contain, have) by that divine (tiru) son (magan) of the Lord of the cowherds (Ayar kulattiraivan) Nandagopan become true (uNmayAgumA)? If (enDRAl) he were only to come alone (tanittu vara) near (arugE) our (nam) location (talam) today (inDRu), our penances (tavam) will bear fruit (payan Agume) and the result (payan) of our sins (vinai) be gone (pOgumE)!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Sudha Raghunathan, T.N.Seshagopalan

Karanam Kettu Vaadi

Please ask why my dear Lord Shiva has not not come yet, my friend. Why does the infinitely compassionate Lord test my patience by remaining invisible? Did I try to do something I ought not to do?

FootprintsWhy does God not respond to us? This is a question which dogs all true believers. God is compassionate we say. God forgives all our mistakes, we just have to ask, we say. God loves us, we say. We are God’s children and He will come running just as a mother runs to her child in need, we say. Yet in reality few of us have truly experienced this kind of instant response from God.  If all this is true, why does He not answer our call?

Even the most faithful are dogged with the question of why there is no visible response from God to all one’s pleas. Even I, who tend to be philosophical about life, have been known to pray ‘please, one sign, just one sign!’. This reminds me of the famous allegorical poem called Footprints in the Sand. As there is some dispute regarding authorship, I will leave it unsaid. The content is of more interest to us.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?’
The Lord replied,
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’

The poem reminds us that though it may seem that we have had no response, it may just be that we are too blind to see it.

These are my ruminations on the song choice of the day by Gopalakrishna Bharathi. In Karanam Kettu Vadi, the poet wonders what he has done that God does not hear his call. Comparing himself to all the great ones who transgressed but whose calls have indeed been answered, he asks his friend to go and demand of God himself what his reasons are for ignoring the poet’s pleas. Set to raga Purvikalyani which I quite adore, I am rather surprised at how rarely this song is sung in concerts today. It is in fact my reference song in Purvikalyani; the song I sing to myself to recognize the raga. I’ve fond memories of my mother singing it in my childhood. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. To know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I first give you a version I listen to often by Sudha Raghunathan, who has long reigned supreme in the field of Carnatic Music. With the instrumentation used, it almost becomes a piece of ‘light music’. I love the timbre of her voice!

Alternate Link : Click here.

The second version I present is traditional one by Trichur V.Ramachandran.  The Maestro has sung this beautifully; I am sure you will be as charmed as I am.

Alternate Link : Click here and download item 9. Needs free membership of

The third one if a joyful flight into Purvikalyani by the magnificent Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan on the violin.

Alternate Link : Click here.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Gopalakrishna Bharathi
Raga : Purvikalyani

Language : Tamil

காரணம் கேட்டு வாடி -சகி
காதலன் சிதம்பர நாதன் இன்னும் வராத (காரணம்)

பூரண தயவுள்ள பொன்னம்பல துரை  என்
பொறுமையை சோதிக்க மறைமுகம் ஆனதன் (காரணம்)

கல்லாலும் வில்லாலும் கட்டி அடித்தேனோ
கண்ணப்பன் செய்ததைக் கனவிலும் செய்தேனோ
செல்லா மனைக்குத் தூது சென்றுவா என்றேனோ
செய்யாத காரியம் செய்யவும் முயன்றேனோ (alt: துணிந்தேனோ)


kAraNam kETTu vADi -sakhi
kAdalan chidambara nAdan innum varAda

pUraNa dayavuLLa ponnambala durai en
porumaiyai sOdikka maRaimugam Anadan

kallAlum villAlum kaTTi aDittEnO
kaNNappan seidadai kanavinilum seidEnO
chellA manaikku tUdu senDRu vA enDREnO
seyyAda kAriyam seyya muyanDREnO (alt: tuNindEnO)


Please ask (kETTu vADi) why (kAraNam) my dear (kAdalan) Lord (nAdan) of Chidambaram (Lord Shiva) has not come (varAda) yet (innum), my friend (sakhI).

(Ask why does) the infinitely (pUraNa=completely) compassionate (dayavuLLa) Lord (dorai) of the Golden Temple (Chidambaram) (ponnambala) testing (sOdikka) my (en) patience (purumaiyai) in remaining (Anadan) invisible (maRaimugam).

Did I strike him (kaTTi aDittEnO) with stones (kallAlum) and bows (villAlum)? (refers to Arjuna facing Shiva as a hunter). Or did I even dream (kanavilum) of doing (seidEnO) what Kannappan did (seidadai) (Kannappa Nayanar put his foot on the Shiva Linga). Did I tell him (enDREnO) to go (senDRu vA) as a messenger (tUdu) to a house (manaikku) to which one should not go? (chellA) (The Lord went on behalf of Sundaramurti Nayanar to his first wife’s home). Or did I try (muyenDREnO) / dare (tuNindEnO) to do (seyya) something (kAriyam) which I ought not to do (seyyAda)?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, Sudha Raghunathan, Trichur V.Ramachandran

Asai Mugam

Alas, I have forgotten that beloved face! To whom shall I talk of it my friend? When my heart has not forgotten the love, how could I have forgotten the face? In my mind I see a form, yet it does not have the full beauty of Kannan And when I have a glimpse of a befitting face, I see not his beautiful smile.  Ah the sins that my eyes have committed that I have forgotten the form of my dearest Kannan! Amongst the ladies, have you seen someone as naive as me? I don’t even have a colour portrait of Him, how will I live now?

Krishna Baby2

Memory. Today I have landed upon this rather unusual topic for Carnatic Music. For people of my age group, growing into the autumn years of our lives, memory is an especially interesting topic given how often it fails us!

Is it not interesting that we remember emotions and sensations far better than facts? I have heard it said that emotion helps us retain and retrieve memory. But emotion also colours our memories so that what we consider facts are in all probability very inaccurate perceptions of reality. Actors use what is called sense memory, remembering emotions triggered by a memory of a sense-experience like a smell or a taste. Do we not all remember a favourite dish by our mother or our grandmother, and do we not have a rush of affection for them with the memory? How often do you smell a perfume or incense and get assailed with memories of another time, another place?

Yet these memories remain elusive, with an untouchable, dream-like quality. I remember the overwhelming rush of love I felt for my baby as she was put into my arms for the first time, but I cannot remember whether it was night or day. I remember the desolation of hearing that my mom passed away, but I cannot remember the date. I remember the despair of arguments with my husband, but not the reason.  Why is our memory so selective? But perhaps our brain is just being smart in remembering the essence of matters rather than the clutter which surrounds them.

That brings me to the poetry choice of today. Is it not the cleverness of a poet to write of what we understand and lead us towards what we do not?  As I listen to this beautiful song by the extraordinary thinker, activist and poet Subramanya Bharathi (1882-1921), I reflect on his words. Who knows what poets intend? One can only interpret based on our limited understanding of life.

Alas, I have forgotten that beloved face!’ laments the poet. ‘ When my heart has not forgotten the love, how could I have forgotten the face?’. The poet talks of his beloved Kannan, Lord Krishna, struggling to remember the form which just eludes him. ‘And when I have a glimpse of a befitting face, I see not his beautiful smile’.   We theists, is that what happens to us? Are we remembering the overwhelming love of God yet forgetting His form?

Ah the sins that my eyes have committed that I have forgotten the form of my dearest Kannan!’ despairs the poet. ‘Is there a bee which forgets honey? Or a flower which forgets sunlight?’   Should it not be as natural for us to remember God as it is for a bee to seek honey or a flower which seeks light? ‘If I forget Krishna’s face, what use having these eyes?’ says the poet. Yet he has remembered what is essential, the love of God – so I ask, what if our eyes have forgotten? Let our hearts not forget, that should be enough.

Set to Raga Jonpuri, the melody is simple and the stress is on the beauty of the words. I am indeed sorry if you do not understand Tamil for my translation does no justice at all to the beauty of the words. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.

My favourite version of this song is by Sudha Raghunathan, from a tape I have had for years. [Alternate link]

For a contrast, listen to this version by O.S.Arun who always imbibes his music with a lot of energy.



Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

ஆசை முகம் மறந்து போச்சே – இதை
ஆரிடம் சொல்வேனடி தோழி?
நேசம் மறக்கவில்லை நெஞ்சம் – எனில்
நினைவு முகம் மறக்கலாமோ?

கண்ணில் தெரியுதொரு தோற்றம் – அதில்
கண்ணன் அழகு முழுதில்லை;
நண்ணு முகவடிவு காணில் – அந்த
நல்ல மலர்ச்சிரிப்பைக் காணோம்.

ஓய்வு மொழிதலும் இல்லாமல் – அவன்
உறவை நினைத்திருக்கும் உள்ளம்;
வாயும் உரைப்பதுண்டு கண்டாய் – அந்த
மாயன் புகழினையெப் போதும்.

கண்கள் புரிந்துவிட்ட பாவம் – உயிர்க்
கண்ணன் உரு மறக்கலாச்சு;
பெண்களின் இடத்தில் இது போலே – ஒரு
பேதையை முன்பு கண்டதுண்டோ?

தேனை மறந்திருக்கும் வண்டும் – ஒளிச்
சிறப்பை மறந்துவிட்ட பூவும்
வானை மறந்திருக்கும் பயிரும் – இந்த
வையம் முழுதும் இல்லை தோழி.

கண்ணன் முகம் மறந்து போனால் – இந்தக்
கண்கள் இருந்தும் பயன் உண்டோ ?
வண்ணப் படமுமில்லை கண்டாய் – இனி
வாழும் வழி என்னடி தோழி?


Asai mugam marandu pochchE – idai AriDam solvEnaDi tOzhI?
nEsam marakkavillai nenjam – enil ninayvu mugam marakkalAmO?

kaNNil teriyudoru tOtram – adil kaNNan azhagu muzudillai
naNNu mugavaDivu kANil – anda nalla malarsirippay kANOm

Oyvu mozhidalum illamal – avan uRavai ninaiththirukkum uLLam
vAyum uraippudunDu kanDAy – anda mAyan pugazhiniyay pOdum

kaNgal purinduvitta pAvam – uyir kaNNan uru marakkalAchchu
peNgaLin iDattil idu pOlE – oru bEdaiyay munbu kanDadunDO?

tEnai maRandirukkum vanDum – olich-chirappai maranduvitta pUvum
vAnai marandirukkum payirum – inda vaiyam muzhudum illai tOzhi

kaNNan mugamarandu pOnAl – inda kaNgalirundum payan unDO?
vaNNap-paDamumillai kandAy  ini vAzhum vazhi ennaDi tOzhI?


Alas, I have forgotten that beloved face! To whom shall I talk of it my friend? When my heart has not forgotten the love, how could I have forgotten the face?

In my mind I see a form, yet it does not have the full beauty of Kannan
And when I have a glimpse of a befitting face, I see not his beautiful smile.

With neither rest nor speech, my thoughts are only of his love. You see how I speak ceaselessly in praise of that illusionist?

Ah the sins that my eyes have committed that I have forgotten the form of my dearest Kannan! Amongst the ladies, have you seen someone as naive as me?

Is there a bee which forgets honey? Or a flower which forgets sunlight? Oh my friend, is there any plant in the world which forgets the sky?

If I forget Krishna’s face, what use having these eyes? You see I don’t even have a colour portrait of Him, how will I live now?



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, O.S.Arun, Subramanya Bharathi, Sudha Raghunathan

Alai Payude Kanna

Radha in Viraha2The world is bathed in moonlight; this night is almost as bright as day. The breeze wafts in the sound of the flute being played, somewhere far away. A young woman stands in the meadows, peering into the distance, seeking her love, the flautist. Her mind is awash with misery and longing, as restless as the waves of the ocean. At times, she is stilled by the music, for it is enchanting, this music that the flute player plays. At times, her overwhelming love makes her wait unbearable. ‘Won’t you come and embrace me in a lonely grove and make me flower with sensations?’ she begs in her mind. At other times, her attachment makes her full of jealousy and doubt ‘While I cry out for you in despair, are you frolicking with other women? Is this just? Is this fair?’.  Her heart lurches from one thing to another as she awaits her lover. And like the ebb and flow of the waves, her heart too ebbs and flows with love, longing and despair.

What an evocative image the poet-composer Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer (c. 1700-1765)  has painted!! Oh the poignant grief of separation from one who is loved so very much! I have previously written a post on viraha bhava, which features often in Indian literature and music. Alai Payude Kanna, a well-known and well-loved kriti, is a superb example of this mood.  The poet writes of Radha’s wait for Krishna, but he also writes of the Bhaktas’ longing for union with the divine. Like the flautist who enchants and stills her, so too are we enchanted into the stillness of meditation and contemplation at times. As she begs for union, so too do we beg for Moksha, a release from this cycle of birth and death and union with the divine. As she despairs with jealousy and lack of faith, so too do we let doubts fill our mind causing our own grief. And always, like the restless waves of the ocean, our mind surges, forever seeking the Lord.

Set to Raga Kanada, a sad raga, the composer mimics the ebb and flow of the waves by the rise and fall of the melody. From a longing in the lower octaves, to a despairing cry for justice in the higher octaves, the speed changing to match the mood, and then back down the scales to a gentle sadness – it is very cleverly composed. When you listen, note the beautiful usage of the sounds of the words to show the urgency in the madhyamakala sangati. In the staccato sounds of ‘kaditta manattil urutti padattai’ , the alliteration of the ‘tt’ sound adds to the effect. To know more about the raga, click here.

Today I present Sudha Raghunathan’s version from her album Alaipayuthey Kanna which I bought in the early nineties as a casette tape. Formats have changed over the years but the music still remains very pleasing.

Mandolin Maestro U.Shrinivas is a musician whom I admire tremendously. Here is his excellent rendition of this kriti.


Footnote (lyrics) :

அலைபாயுதே கண்ணா, என் மனம் மிக அலைபாயுதே
(உன்) ஆனந்த மோகன வேணுகானம் அதில் (அலைபாயுதே)

நிலை பெயராது சிலை போலவே நின்று
நேரமாவதறியாமலே மிக விநோதமாக முரளீதரா
என் மனம் (அலைபாயுதே)

தெளிந்த நிலவு பட்டப்பகல் போல் எரியுதே
திக்கை நோக்கி என் இரு புருவம் நெரியுதே
கனிந்த உன் வேணுகானம் காற்றில் வருகுதே
கண்கள் சொருகி ஒரு விதமாய் வருகுதே

கதித்த மனத்தில் உருத்தி பதத்தை
எனக்கு அளித்து மகிழ்த்தவா
ஒரு தனித்த வனத்தில் அணைத்து எனக்கு
உணர்ச்சி கொடுத்து முகிழ்த்தவா
கனை கடல் அலையினில் கதிரவன் ஒளியென
இணையிரு கழலெனக்-அளித்தவா
கதறி மனமுருகி நான் அழைக்கவோ
இதர மாதருடன் நீ களிக்கவோ
இது தகுமோ, இது முறையோ, இது தருமம் தானோ?
குழலூதிடும் பொழுது ஆடிடும் குழைகள்
போலவே மனது வேதனை மிகவொடு (அலைபாயுதே)

For notation, click here.


alai pAyudE kaNNA en manam miga alai pAyudE
un Ananda mOhana vENugAnam adil

nilai peyarAdu silai pOlavE ninru
nEramAvadariyAmalE miga vinOdamAna muralIdharA en manam

teLinda nilavu paTTap-pagal pOl eriyudE
dikkai nOkki enniru puruvam neriyudE
kaninda un vENugAnam kATril varugudE
kaNgaL sorugi oru vidamAi varugudE
kaditta manattil urutti padattai enakku aLittu magizhtta vA
oru tanitta vanattil aNaittu enakku uNarchchi koDuttu mugizhtta vA
kanai kaDal alaiyinil kadiravan oLiyena iNaiyiru kazhal-enakkaLitta vA
kadari manam urugi nAn azhaikkavO
idara mAdaruDan nI kaLikkavO
idu tagumO! idu muraiyO! idu darumam dAnO!
kuzhal UdiDum pozhudu AdiDum kuzhaigaL
pOlavE manadu vEdanai migavoDu


My mind (en manam) is as restless as the waves (alai) in an ocean as I listen to the happy (ananda), bewitching (mohana) sound of the flute (venu) you play.

I stand transfixed  (nilai = place, peyarAdu = without moving) like a statue (silai pOlavE), unaware (ariyAmalE) of even of the passage of time (nEramAvadu), oh my mysterious (vinOdamAna) flautist (muralIdhara) !

The moon (nilavu) is clear (telinda) and shines (eriyudE) as bright as the day (pattap-pagal).  I seek you (implied in dikkai=direction nokki=looking), my brows  (iru=two, puruvam=brows) drawn (neriyudE). The breeze (kAtru) brings in the sound of your mellow (kaninda) flute music (vEnu gAnam) and my eyes (kaNgal) close involuntarily (sorugi) in ecstasy (implied in oru vidamAi= in a certain manner). Come, bless me (enakkau alittu=by giving me) with your feet (padam) and melt (urutti) my heavy (kaditta) heart (implied in manam=mind), filling me with happiness (magaizhtta)! Come (va), embrace (anaikka) me in a lonely (tanitta) grove  (vanam) and make me flower (mugiztta) with sensations (uNarchchi)! Come (Va) to the waves (alai) of the roaring (kanai=sound making) ocean (kadal) and give (aLittha) me your two (iru) feet (kazhal) which are equal (iNai) to the light (Oli) of the sun (kadiravan). While I call out (azhaikka) for you in despair (kadari, manam urugi=with melting heart), are you frolicking (kaLikka) with other (idara) women (mAdar)? Is this right (tagumo, muraiyo)? Is it fair (darumam)? Like your ear-ornaments (kuzhai) lurch (adidum) when you play (Udi) the flute (kuzhal), so too my mind lurches in grief (vedanai).



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Sudha Raghunathan, U.Srinivas

Sudha Raghunathan Live

Sudha R 002Live concerts are a rare treat in my life as there aren’t many Carnatic musicians who venture into Switzerland. Though I spend quite a few months in Melbourne each year, the timing has never been right for the big concerts held by CMC here. This trip has been better timed; I was happy to attend Sudha Raghunathan’s concert on Sunday but am rather sad to be missing Bombay Jayashri who comes in May.

On Sunday evening, at 7pm, I walked into the nearly full concert hall with keen anticipation. These occasions are a happy mix of culture, socialising and people watching. A young lady I met confessed to having not much interest in the music; she just wanted to check out who was wearing what! I was myself curious about Sudha Raghunathan’s sari, her collection being quite famous. She looked very nice in a golden yellow sari, I am happy to report!

She was accompanied this evening by B.V.Raghavendra Rao on the violin and Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan on the Mridangam. The concert was a solid 3.5+ hours with no intermission. Her selections were :

  • Innam En Manam in Charukesi, composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman.
  • Pranamamyaham Gowri Sutam in Gowla, composed by Mysore Vasudevachar.
  • Govinda Rajena Rakshitoham in Mecha Bauli, composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar.
  • Endraikku Shiva Krupai in Mukhari, composed by Neelakantha Sivan.
  • Bantureeti in Hamsanaadam, composed by Tyagaraja.
  • Mani Noopura Dhari in Neelambari, composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer.
  • Chesidanella in Todi, composed by Tyagaraja
  • Guruvayur Appane Appan in Ritigowla, composed by Ambujam Krishna.
  • RTP  in 5 ragas, pallavi : raghunAyakA (Hamsadhwani)  raghunandanA (Sahana) raghuvara (Pantuvarali)  ramAbhirAma (Darbar) nI samAna evaru rAmA (Kharaharapriya) raghunAykA
  • Bare Panduranga in Mand, an Abhang by Sant Tukaram.
  • Ayiram Ayiram Gopirgalodu in Charukesi, composed by Nila Ramamurthi.
  • Innudaya Barade in Kalyana Vasantam, composed by Purandaradasa.
  • Thillana in Behag, composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman.

My sister and brother-in-law did not like the concert at all. I don’t feel as negative but still, it didn’t leave me enthralled. Having limited technical knowledge, I can only judge a concert on how it makes me feel, how absorbed I get in the music and how it lingers in my mind.  Evidently, that depends as much on my mood as on the artist so it is all very subjective.

That said, I was disturbed by the choice of kritis and ragas. Bantureeti for example, I would have preferred 2 down or 3 down; after a peaceful Mukhari, I found the cheerful briskness of Hamsanaadam very disturbing. Neelambari that early in the concert felt equally disturbing – I prefer it in the post RTP spot, unless it is a varnam of course. Todi as the heavy piece was executed with ease and expertise; the post RTP choices were also good.

As to the RTP, though it is normally my favourite item in a concert, I did not take to it. RTPs are a vehicle for the artists to display their technical skills and this RTP definitely allowed them to show their vidvat. However, given my lack of knowledge, all I wish for is to drown myself in music. The 5-raga RTP actually never allowed me to get into the mood of any raga. The pallavi itself was clever, a mix of title-phrases from different Tyagaraja compositions, each sung in the raga of the source kriti. But I did not enjoy the mix. In fact, Hamsadhwani did not suit me this late in the concert at all. It all goes to show that I am a traditionalist, which rather surprises me!

I recorded some of the music in my handheld camera; there was no announcement to the contrary. Without a tripod to help, I am sad to say that the the results are too shaken to show you. The audio is not great either, there were children crying, people whispering etc. Still, its not too bad and if you wish, you can enjoy a listen below.

Pranamamyaham Gowri Sutam -10:18

Endraikku Shiva Krupai -9:38

RTP -46:51

Innudaya Barade -6:39

Thillana -4:15


Filed under Carnatic Music, Sudha Raghunathan

Pullay Piravi

Even if you give me many virtuous births, please let me be born as a blade of grass in Brindavan, O Krishna. But grass does not last for many days, therefore please let me be re-born as a small stone. As your flower like feet embrace me, I will be filled with joy and forget my existence!

GrassPlease let me be re-born as a blade of grass’ says the poet-composer Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer. What a hook!  Any listener would want to hear the rest of the song, just to know why! I am especially drawn to this composition because, like the poet-composer, I too am forever ‘designing’ my next birth!

Of all Hindu concepts, Reincarnation is something I find so very comforting. Simply stated, Hindus believe that the soul, which is indestructible,  is born again and again on this earth shedding bodies as one sheds one’s clothing. The concept of Karma is intertwined; we are tied by good deeds and bad deeds to the souls around us forever trying to erase this Karma debt we carry from life to life.   ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’ goes the saying. Apply it to multiple lives and everything at once makes sense, as all of us have known people who seem to sow and sow and never reap (and vice versa)!!

To what purpose then, all these births? It seems to me that each life is a made-to-order grade in a school where our souls come to learn new lessons. In some we succeed and in some we don’t; no matter, we can be born again as many times as is needed. There are no ‘punishments’ for mistakes, just harder lessons to learn. As the soul matures, it becomes ready for Moksha, the release from the cycle of birth and death. At that time, with the grace of God, we are released and our souls merge with God (Advaita philosophy).

So how are we to hasten through this seemingly never ending cycle of life and death? Surely good deeds tie us to this cycle as much as bad deeds, for even good deeds result in Karma debt? Well, we can follow Krishna’s advice to Arjuna

कर्मण्ये वाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भू: मा ते सङ्गोत्स्वकर्मणि ||

You have right only over the act, never over its fruits. Let not the fruits be your motive and yet don’t be attached to inaction.

And if we were to follow the principle of detached virtuous action as described above, perhaps we can hasten our way to Moksha. The only other way is to somehow find the grace of God and for that Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer has found a very innovative idea!

Let me born as a blade of grass or better, a stone in Brindavan’ says he to Lord Krishna in this song. ‘When your feet touch me, I will ascend at once in Moksha’.  What a clever idea! For the full lyrics and translation of this composition, see footnote. The song is set to Raga Senjurutti; to know more about this raga, click here.

I am very fond of Sudha Raghunathan’s rendition of this song from the album Alaipayuthe Kanna which you can listen to below.

Alternate link : Click here.

Another nice rendition is by T.N.Seshagopalan which you can download from here – song 11 (needs free membership of

Footnote (Lyrics) :

புல்லாய்ப் பிறவி தர வேணும் – கண்ணா
புனிதமான பலகோடி பிறவி தந்தாலும்
பிருந்தாவனம் இதிலொரு (புல்லாய்)

புல்லாகினும் நெடு நாள் நில்லாது – ஆதலினால்
கல்லாய்ப் பிறவி தரவேணுமே – ஒரு சிறு
கமல மலரிணைகள் அணைய எனதுள்ளம்
புலகிதமூற்றிடும் பவமற்றிடுமே

ஒருகணம் உன் பதம் படும் எந்தன் மேலே
மறுகணம் நான் உயர்வேன் மென்மேலே
(உன் ) திருமேனி என் மேலே அமர்ந்திடும் ஒருகாலே
திருமகளென மலரடி பெயர்ந்த உன்னைத்
தொடர்ந்த ராதைக்கு இடந்தருவேனே
திசை திசை எங்கணும் பரவிடும் குழலிசை
மயங்கி வரும் பல கோபியருடனே
சிறந்த ரசமிகு நடம் நீ ஆடவும்
சுருதியோடு  லயமிக கலந்து பாடவும்
திளைப்பிலே வரும் களிப்பிலே
எனக்கிணை யாரென மகிழ்வேனே
தவமிகு சுரரோடு முனிவரும் விய நான்
தனித்த பெரும் பேர் அடைவேனே
எவ்வுயிர்க்கும் உள்கலக்கும் இறைவனே
யமுனைத்துறைவனே எனக்கும் ஒரு (புல்லாய்)


pullAi piravi tara vENum-kaNNA
punidamAna palakOTi piravi tandAlum
brindAvanam idiloru


pullAginum neduNAL nillAdu-AdalinAl
kallAi piravi taravENumE-oru siru
kamala malariNaigaL aNaiya enaduLLam
pulakitamuTriDum bavamaTriDum ena oru


oru kaNam un padam paDum endan mElE
marukaNam nAn uyarvEn menmElE
tirumEni enmElE amarndiDum oru kAlE
tirumagaLena malaraDi peyarndu unai
toDarnda rAdhaikkum iDam taruvEnE
dishai dishai enkaNum paraviDum kuzhalisai
mayangi varum pala gOpiyaruDanE
shiranda rasam migu naTam nI ADavum
shrutiyoDu layamiga kalandu pADavum
tiLaippilE varum kaLippilE
enakku iNai yArena magizhvEnE
tavamigu surarodu munivarum iyalA
tanitta perumpEr aDaivEnE
evvuyirkkum uL kalakkum iraivanE
yamunaitturaivanE enakkumoru


Please let me be re-born as a blade of grass, O Krishna.
Even if you give me many virtuous births,
Let me be re-born in Brindavan (as a blade of grass).

But grass does not last for many days,
therefore please let me be re-born as a small stone.
As the flower like pair (of feet) embrace me ,
I will be filled with joy and forget my existence,
therefore (let me be born as a blade of grass).

The moment your feet touch me,
the moment your holy body sits on me,
I will ascend in salvation.
I will make place for Radha who follows you,
whose feet are like those of Lakshmi.

As  the Gopis come from all directions
drawn to the music from your flute,
as you dance with emotion
and at the same time sing tunefully in rhythm,
in the tiredness that comes with effort (implied: you will sit on me and )
I will think joyfully that none is equal to me,
As demi-Gods and sages in penance are amazed,
I will achieve this unique distinction.
Oh God,  you who are in all beings,
Oh Lord of Yamuna (river), please le me be re-born as a blade of

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Sudha Raghunathan, T.N.Seshagopalan

Aadi Kondar

Shiva TandavaWhat is it about the idea of Gods dancing which fascinates me so? Again and again I see myself drawn to the compositions which describe the primordial energy of the Tandava dance of Shiva or the elegance and beauty of the dance of Krishna. Why is that we want our Gods to dance?

Unlike other religions which see God as an awe-inspiring paternalistic figure who is quite removed from us mortals, we Hindus enjoy a vision of an accessible and participative God – in us, with us, around us. Why, I feel sometimes that I just need to extend my hand to touch the hand of God! Not like meeting ET as per the vision of Spielberg, for God is not alien. Not even like Michaelangelo’s remote God leaning down from heaven on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. No. Our Gods seem to reach out to us as a mother reaches out to a child or a child reaches out to its mother, familiar, comforting, very very near and dear.

These familiar and dear Gods seem to take an immense joy in their creation. And what better way to express their joy but by song and dance? Movement is so very fundamental to our world; galaxies move and suns and planets and electrons, and we move along with it all, dancing to an intricate step which, if stopped, will end this universe. This dance ties us all together with the universe, making us whole. It is not surprising therefore that we see the dance of Gods in all these movements.

My selection for today is a composition of the Tamil composer Muthu Thandavar (1560-1640, dates uncertain). He came from a family which played Nadaswaram but could not participate in the family’s musical profession due to sickness. Legends indicate that he was cured by divine intervention. He went from Sirkazhi, his hometown, to Chidambaram and composed many songs in praise of the deity there, Nataraja (Shiva as the Eternal Dancer). He is credited with developing the three-part (Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam) stucture of the kritis. Only 60 or so of his compositions are known today. They were set to music by Tiruppamburam Swaminatha Pillai (1899-1961).

Do we not need a thousand eyes to see the wonder of His dance?’ says the poet. He describes the Lord as He who resides in all those who seek him in prayer, thus making Him as accessible as can be. The poet’s description of Shiva is as rhythmic as the dance he describes, giving us a vision of great wonder. We do indeed need a thousand eyes to take it all in! See footnote for lyrics. The song has been set to Raga Mayamalavagowla. To know more about this raga, click here.

Continuing to listen to Jaya TV’s Margazhi Mahotsavam concerts, I came upon young Amrutha Venkatesh’s performance which inspired the post of today. Listen below to her energy-filled rendition:

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Sudha Raghunathan has an excellent version of this song with jatis for dancers; click here to listen.

I like this song in the voice of Sirkazhi Sivachidambaram whose voice has the typical timbre of the Dravidian heartland. I can well imagine that Muthu Thandavar had a similar voice when he sang his songs in the temples of Seerkazhi and Chidambaram.

Footnote (Lyrics):

ஆடிக் கொண்டார் அந்த வேடிக்கை காணக் கண் ஆயிரம் வேண்டாமோ

நாடித் துதிப்பவர் பங்கில் உறைபவர்
நம்பர் திருச்செம்பொன் அம்பலவாணர் (ஆடிக்)

சரணம் 1

பங்கயச் சிலம்பைந்தாடப் பாதச் சலங்கைகள் கிண் கிணென்றாடப்
பொங்குமுடனே உரித்து உடுத்த புலித்தோல் அசைந்தாட செங்கையில் ஏந்திய மான் மழுவாட
செம்பொற்குழை கண் முயலகனாட
கங்கை இளம்பிறை செஞ்சடையாடக்
கனக சபை தனிலே

சரணம் 2 – ஆற நவமணிமாலைகளாட
ஆடும் அரவம் படம் விரித்தாட
சீரணிக் கொன்றை மலர்த் தொடையாடச்
சிதம்பரத் தேராட
பேரணி வேதியர் தில்லை மூவாயிரம்
பேர்களும் பூசித்துக் கொண்டு நின்றாட
காரணி காளி எதிர்த்து நின்றாடக்
கனக சபை தனிலே

சரணம் 3

நிர்த்த கணபதி வேலர் நின்றாட
நின்றயன் மாலுடன் இந்திரன் ஆட
முப்பத்து முக்கோடி தேவருடனே முனிவரும் நின்றாட
மெய்ப் பத்தி மேவும் பதஞ்சலியாட
வியாக்ரம பாதரும் நந்தியும் ஆட
ஒப்பற்ற சிவகாமியம்மையும் கூடவே நின்றாட



ADikkoNDAr anda vEDikkai kANak kaN Ayiram vENDAmO

nADith tudippavar pangil uraibavar nambar thiruch-chem ponnambalavANar

charaNam 1
pangaya shilambaindADap pAda salangaigaL kiN kiNNenrADap-
pongumuDanE urittu udutta puliththOl asaindhADa
shengaiyil Endhiya mAn mazuvADa
shem-pork-kuzhai kaN muyalaganADa
gangai iLam pirai shen shaDaiyADak-
kanaka sabhai tanilE

charaNam 2
ARa navamaNi mAlaigaLADa
ADum aravam paDam virittADa
scIraNi kondrai malarth-toDaiyADac
chidambarat-tEr ADa
pEraNi vEdiyar tillai mUvAyiram
pErgaLum pUsittuk-konDu nindrADak-
kanaka sabai tanilE

caraNam 3
nirtta gaNapati vElar ninDrADa
ninDrayan mAluDan indiran ADa
muppattu mukkOTi dEvaruDanE munivarum ninDrADa
meippatti mEvum patanjali ADa
vyAgrama pAdarum nandiyum ADa
oppaTRa shivakAmiyammaiyum kUDavE ninDrADa



Will we not need a thousand eyes to see the wonder of the Lord dancing?

Anupallavi :

The gold-skinned dancer, always reliable, is the Lord who resides in those that seek him through prayer.

Charanam 1:
As he dances in the golden hall in Chidambaram, the ankle bells that adorn his lotus-like feet dance, the string of bells on his feet dance producing a tinkling sound, the tiger-skin that he tore and wore sways and dances, the deer and the battle-axe that he holds in His reddened hands dance, the red-eyed dwarf Muyalagan dances, the Ganges (on Shiva’s head) dances, His matted-locks dance.

Charanam 2:
As he dances in the Golden Hall in Chidambaram, the necklaces of nine-gems dance, the snake that adorns his neck dances with his hood spread, the Kondrai flowers dance, the chariot dances, the Vediyar priests and the three throusand people of Chidambaram dance the Perani and they offer prayers, and the purposeful Kali dances in front of Him.

Charanam 3:
As the lord dances in the golden hall of cidambaram, Ganapati and Kartikeya dance, Indira dances along with Brahma and Vishnu, the sages dance with many Gods, Patanjali who lives in Chidambaram dances, Vyagrahapada dances with Nandi, the incomparable mother Sivakami (Parvati) dances in unison.

Reference: forum.


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Sudha Raghunathan

Mamavatu Sri Saraswati

Saraswati3Today for this ninth day of Navaratri, Navami, and as my 100th post, I have chosen the beautiful composition of Mysore Vasudevachar, Mamavatu Sri Saraswati set in Raga Hindolam to pay homage to Goddess Saraswati. This song is specially meaningful to me. My sister learnt Carnatic Music for many years as a young girl and her lessons and her singing were one of the founding blocks of my love for this music. I cannot listen to this song without remembering her young and lovely voice singing this song while my mother kept talam in my childhood home.  In that home, where songs were sung and the listeners enraptured, Saraswati’s presence was all around us. As we worship our Goddess today, we should all remember that She exists not only in temples but in each home where the arts are practiced and loved, be it music, dance or fine arts. She exists in every home in which education is honoured and respected. She lives with us, in us, through us.

To present this song, here is a very nice performance by Sudha Raghunathan, with some lovely kalpanaswarams (improvisations). A special mention also for the violinist Embar S.Kannan whom I have come to appreciate very much. How I love Hindolam!! To know more about this raga, click here. The song is preceded by a short prayer :

सरस्वती नमस्तुभ्यं वरदे कामरूपिणी विद्यारम्भं करिष्यामि सिद्धिर भवतु मे सदा

Oh Saraswati, I salute you.  You who fulfil all desires, grant me a boon. I begin my studies today. Let me attain this knowledge successfully.

For lyrics of the song and the raga, see footnotes.

For an instrumental version, listen to the young musician A.N.Kishan on the Veena.


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Sanskrit

मामवतु श्री सरस्वती |
कामकोटि पीठ निवासिनी ||

कोमल कर सरोज धृत वीणा |
सीमातीत वर वाग्विभूषणा ||

राजाधिराज पूजित चरणा राजीव नयना रमणीय वदना |
सुजन मनोरथ पूरण चतुरा निजगल शोभित मणिमय हारा |
अजभव वन्दित वासुदेव चरणार्पित सकल वेद सारा ||


mAmavatu shrI sarasvatI
kAmakOti pITHa nivAsinI

kOmala kara sarOja dhRta vINA
sImAtIta vara vAgvibhUshaNA

rAjAdhirAja pUjita charaNA rAjIva nayanA ramaNIya vadanA

madhyamakAla sAhityam
sujana manOratha pUraNa chatura nijagala shObhita maNimaya hArA
aja bhava vandita vasudEva charaNARpita sakala Veda sARA


Protect (ava – root av) me (mAm) Shri Saravati ! The One who lives (nivAsinI) in the seat of Kamakoti.

Holding (dhRuta) a Veena in your gentle (kOmala) lotus-like (sarOja) hands (kara), beyond (atIta) limits (sImA), bestower (varada) of beauty (vibhUshana) to speech (vAk).

Whose feet (charaNa) are worshipped by (pUjita) kings (rAja) and emperors (adhirAja), with lotus-like (rAjiva) eyes (nayana) and a beautiful (ramaNiya) face (vadana). Swift (chatura) to fulfil (pUraNa) the wishes (manOratha) of the virtuous (sujana), whose own (nija) neck (gala) is adorned by (shobhita) a jewelled (maNimaya) necklace (hAra). Extolled (vandita) by Brahma (aja=unborn) and Shiva (bhava), the essence (sAra) of all (sakala) Vedas, ffered (arpita) to your feet (charaNa) by Vasudeva (name of poet-composer).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Embar S.Kannan, Mysore Vasudevachar, Sudha Raghunathan

Thaye Yashoda

Yashoda Krishna

Mother Yashoda’ complain the Gopikas, the ladies of the cowherd community, to Krishna’s mother, ‘Mother Yashoda, there isn’t a boy in this world like your son! Whew!’.

Thinking he is a young boy, I hugged him – instead, he kissed me on the mouth as if he were my husband! I am so embarrassed to talk of this publicly!’

The other day he stopped me to ask for directions and when I gave it, he then asked for kiss and that too loudly! Mother Yashoda, you have brought up your son badly!’

He asked for butter and when I gave it, he winked at me and asked for my daughter!!’

The poet-composer, Venkata Subbaiyar (c.1700-1765) of Oothukadu, describes in beautiful Tamil the litany of complaints against a young and very naughty Krishna. What imagination! How the poet plays with words! How very rhythmic! This superb composition is an old favourite with Carnatic music fans as well as Bharatanatyam fans as the song suits this dance form very well.

Krishna and his flirtations are depicted in Jayadeva’s (c.1200 AD) Gita Govinda in a far more explicit manner. Hindusim accepts erotic-mysticism as one of the many valid paths towards God.  This is in keeping with an important symbolism in Hinduism :  God as the masculine Purusha and the feminine principle, Prakrithi, being all of creation. Poets expressed this in romantic ways, but the idea was the same i.e. the longing of the feminine principle for the masculine representing the longing of us human beings to be united with God, the man-woman union representing the human-God union.

Coming back to Thaye Yashoda, the poet says in the last charanam (stanza) : ‘Yashoda, he is That God! When I picked him as a child and put him on my lap to admire his beautiful face, he opened his mouth and showed me the whole universe within it!’, establishing the symbolism in no uncertain fashion. The song is set to the beautiful raga Todi. Its interesting to me that Todi, a deep and mysterious raga which is  a ‘heavy’ raga and tests the singers mettle, is in this case used for a playfully worded song. To know more about this raga, click here.

Today I present the song sung by Sudha Raghunathan, a version I like very much indeed.

I also came upon this dance performance which unfortunately is incomplete but it is still interesting to see.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

There are so many variations sung! I am not at all certain as to what is the ‘true’ one; I have given a few of the variations I have heard. Thankfully the meaning remains essentially the same.

தாயே யசோதா (alt:யசோதே) உந்தன் ஆயர் குலத்துதித்த
மாயன் கோபால கிருஷ்ணன் செய்யும் ஜாலத்தை கேளடி

தையலை கேளடி உந்தன் பையனை போலவே இந்த
வையகத்தில் ஒரு பிள்ளை அம்மம்மா நான் கண்டதில்லை

காலினில் சிலம்பு  கொஞ்சக்-கைவளை குலுங்க – முத்து
மாலைகள் அசைய தெரு வாசலில் வந்தான்
வானோர்களெல்லாம் மகிழ மானிடரெல்லாம் புகழ
(alternate :காலசைவும் கையசைவும் தாளமோடிசைந்து (=தாளமோடு இசைந்து) வர)
நீல வண்ணக் (alt: மேக) கண்ணன் இவன் நர்த்தனம் (alt: நர்த்தம்) ஆடினான்

பாலன் என்று தாவி (alt: வாரி ) அணைத்தேன் -அணைத்த என்னை
மாலை இட்டவன் போல் வாயில் முத்தம் இட்டாண்டி
பாலன் அல்லடி உன் மகன் ஜாலம் மிக (alt: ஜாலமாக) செய்வதெல்லாம்
நாலு பேர்கள் கேட்கச் சொல்ல (alt: சொன்னால்) நாணம் மிக ஆகுதடி

முந்தாநாள் அந்தி நேரத்தில் சொந்தமுடன் கிட்டே வந்து
விந்தைகள் அனேகம் செய்து விளையாடினான் -ஒரு
பந்தளவாகிலும் வெண்ணை தந்தால் (alt: +தான்) விடுவேன் என்று
முந்துகிலைத் தொட்டிழுத்து (alt: பற்றிழுத்து) போராடினான்

அந்த வாசுதேவன் இவன்தான் -அடி யசோதா /யசோதே (alt: அந்த வாசுதேவனை நானும்)
மைந்தன் என்று எடுத்தணைத்து (alt: தொட்டிழித்து) மடிமேல் (alt :மடியில்) வைத்து
சுந்தர முகத்தைப் பார்க்கும் வேளையிலே வாய் திறந்து (alt: சுந்தர முகத்தை கண்டு சிந்தை மயங்கும் நேரம் )
இந்திரஜாலம் போலவே (alt:போலே/போல்)_இரெழுலகம் காண்பித்தான் (alt: அந்தரம் வைகுண்டமோடு எல்லாம் காட்டினான்)

Most of us are familiar only with the few stanzas above which are sung normally in performances; for those interested, the transliterated lyrics for the full song is available here.


tAyE yasOdA (alt: yasodE) undan Ayar kulattuditta
mAyan gOpAla krishNan seyyum jAlattai kELaDi

taiyalai kElaDi undan paiyanai pOlavE inda
vaiyagattil oru piLLai amamma nAn kaNDadillai

kAlinil silambu konjak-kaivaLai kulunga muttu-
mAlaigaL asaiya-teru vAsalil vandAn
vanOrgaLellAm magizha mAniDargaLellAm pugazha
(alt: kAlasaivum kaiyasaivum tALAmODisaindu vara)
nIla vaNNak kaNNan ivan narttanam (alt: narttam) ADinAn

bAlan endru tAvi (alt: vAri) aNaittEn aNaitta ennai
mAlaiy iTTavan pOl vAyil muttam iTTANDi
bAlan allaDi un magan jAlam miga (alt: jAlamAga) seyvadellAm
nAlu pErgal kETkak-cholla (alt: chonnAl) nANamiga AgudaDi

mundAnAL andi nErattil sondamuDan kiTTE vandu
vindailgaL anEgam seydu viLaiyADinAn -Oru
pandaLavAgilum veNNai tandAl (alt: +dAn) viDuvEnendru
mundukilait-toTTizhuttup (alt:paTRizhittup) pOrADinAn

anda vAsudEvan ivan dAn (alt: anda vAsudevanai nAnum) aDi yasOdA (alt: yasOdE)
maindan endru eduttaNaittu (alt: toTTizhuttu ) maDimEl (alt: maDiyil) vaittu
sundara mugattaip parkkum veLaiyilE vAy tirandu (alt: sundara mugattai kaNDu sindai mayangum nEram)
indirajAlam pOlavE (alt: pOlE / pOl) IrEzhulagam kANbittAn (alt: andaram vaikunTamoDu ellAm kATTinAn)


O Mother Yashoda! Listen to the tricks done by that illusionist, Krishna, born in your cowherd tribe.

O Lady (taiyalai), listen (kElaDi)! Whew (ammamma)! I have never seen (kanDadillai) a boy (paiyan) like (pOlavE) yours (undan) in this (inda) whole universe (vaiyagattil)!

With anklets (silambu) ringing (konja) in his feet (kAlinil), with bangles (kai vaLai) shaking (kulunga), with a pearl (muttu) necklace (mAlai) moving, he came (vandAn) to the street-front (teru vAsalil). As the heavenly beings (vAnOrgaL) became joyful (magizha) and all (ellAm) the earthly beings (mAniDargal) praised him, this (ivan) blue-skinned (nIla varNa) Krishna (kaNNan) danced (nartanam AdinAn).

Thinking him to be just an infant (bAlan endru) I gathered and hugged him (vAri aNaittEn). Like a husband (malai ittavan pOlE) he kissed me (muttam iTTAn) on the mouth (vAyil), I, who hugged him (aNaitta ennai)! Your son (un magan) is not an infant! If I were to hear (kEtka) people (nAlu pErgal) talk (cholla) about all the tricks he plays (jAlamAga seyvadellAm), I will be so embarrassed (nANamigu agudaDi!

At dusk (andi nErattil) day before yesterday (mundAnAL), he came proprietarily (sondamuDan) near (kiTTE vandu) me. He did many (anEgam seidu) amazing things (vindaigaL) and played (viLaiyADinAn). He struggled with me (pOrADinAn) by catching hold (paTri) and pulling (izhuttu) at the front of my sari (mundukilai – I guess) saying that he would only let go (viduven enDRu) if I gave (tandAl) him at least (Agilum) a ball sized (pandaLavu) roll of butter (veNNai) !

O Yashoda, verily, he (ivan dAn) is that (anda) Vasudeva himself! Thinking him to be my son (maindan endru), I lifted (eduttu) and hugged him (aNaittu) and placed him on my lap (maDi mEl). As I was looking (parkkum) at his beautiful (sundara) face (mugattai), he opened (tirandu) his mouth (vAy) and, like Indra’s magic (indirajAlam pOlE), he showed me (kANbittAn) the fourteen worlds (irEzhulagam)!

(Notation is available here :


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Sudha Raghunathan