Category Archives: T.N.Seshagopalan

Balagopala

Krishna BabyA very happy Janmashtami to all my readers! May Lord Krishna’s grace always be with you!

Today is the perfect day to meditate upon Bala Gopala, the young Lord Krishna, the cowherd who charmed the Gopikas ages ago, and who continues to charm millions even today. Don’t you think that Krishna as a child is quite irresistible? Mischievous and endearing, he is both child and God. When He steals butter from his mother’s pantry, He is a child; when He opens His mouth to show the universe contained within, He is God. When He allows Himself to be tied by a rope to His waist in punishment for his mischief, He is a child; when He drags the mortar he is tied to and uproots two trees, He is God. When He dances and plays with his friends, He is a child; when He dances on the serpent Kalinga’s head, He is God. So it is that we, his devotees, love Him like a child but worship Him like a God.

Bala Gopala is a God that children are drawn to very easily. I remember how attached I was to Him as a child. I thought of Him almost as a playmate, as a friend. How close He seemed at that time! There is a story which illustrates just that feeling. In fact, as a child of seven or eight, I acted in a play put up by Chinmaya Mission which was based on this story.

Once upon a time there was a young lad from a very poor family. Since his father had died, he was brought up by his mother. They lived in a little hamlet at the edge of a forest. When he was about seven, he started school. There were no schools in his hamlet; he had to go across the forest to the town on the other side. There were many wild animals in the forest and our little friend was fearful every time he had to cross.

“Mother, I am so afraid of the forest! Can you not walk with me to school?” He asked her.

She smiled at him. “Don’t be afraid. Your brother Gopala grazes his cattle in the forest. Call out to him if you are afraid, He will take care of you” said the wise and devout lady.

The next day as he entered the forest he grew fearful as always. Remembering his mother’s words, he called out “Brother Gopala, where are you? I am afraid, will you not walk with me?”.

He heard a voice in response and soon a young cowherd joined him, a beautiful dark-skinned little boy in yellow clothes, a joyous visage and a peacock feather tucked jauntily in his hair. They laughed and played as little boys do.  At the other edge of the forest Gopala waved him goodbye. This continued until the end of the term when all the students gave a gift to the teacher to honour him. Our lad was much too poor to afford anything but still he asked his mother.

“I must take a gift for my teacher mother. Is there anything you can give me?”.

Shaking her head she said “No son, I have nothing worthy as a gift. Why don’t you ask your brother Gopala? I am sure he can find you something”.

Which he did. Gopala gave him a small pot of yoghurt to give to his teacher. At the school, our little boy hesitated as his gift looked not very impressive compared to the gifts of the other children. Still, when it was his turn, he gave the small pot of yoghurt to the teacher, saying that it was from his brother ‘Gopala’. The teacher took it with thanks and poured out the yoghurt into a bigger pot. Much to his surprise, the little pot refilled. He kept pouring it out and it kept refilling! Realising who his pupil’s ‘brother’ was, he asked to be taken to the forest so he could see for himself. But much to the little boy’s dismay, much as he called out to his brother, he didn’t appear.

Finally he cried out piteously “Brother Gopala, don’t you love me anymore?”

They heard a voice in response. “I will always love you. I will appear only for you, for only you are worthy of seeing me.”

Hearing this the teacher was moved to tears and embraced the boy, for thanks to him he had at least heard the Divine Cowherd’s voice!

I ponder on the tale today, wondering what lessons I can glean from it. God is very close to the innocent, is he not. The little boy was not even praying; nor did he call out to God. Then whose call was He answering? It seems to me it was the mother whose prayers were answered. She tied Lord Krishna to her boy with the deft knot of love and prayer just like Yashoda tied Him to the mortar with her own bonds of love. We who have lost our innocence, what is our recourse I wonder? Innocence once lost can never be regained, can it? Something to think about….

To celebrate the day, I have chosen a beautiful composition in Bhairavi by Muthuswami Dikshithar. The words describe Lord Krishna – his appearance, his actions, his qualities, his powers. You can use each line as a gateway to a meditation on who He is. Or you could forget it all and drown in the haunting notes of Bhairavi which takes you to exactly the same place in the presence of God.

There are so many beautiful renditions of this kriti that it is difficult for me to choose one! Since I decided on the music two days ago, I have listened to at least a dozen or so renditions and I like so many of them! So here are some of my recommendations :

T.N.Seshagopalan gives a very solid and energy filled performance in this CD from 1990.

M.Balamuralikrishna’s rendition is softer, smoother and very peaceful. A touch of sadness and pathos in his Bhairavi, don’t you think?

The third is by T.M.Krishna and he makes an interesting technical note about the Bhairavi he sings being the ‘original’ of Muthuswami Dikshithar school. I also like his neraval very much. It is from the album December Season 2009 and is available in Dunya and Spotify for online listening (needs registration).

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
बाल गोपाल पालयाशु माम्
भक्त वत्सल कृपा जलधे हरे

अनुपल्लवि
नील नीरद शरीर धीर तर
नीरज कर निरुपम आनन्द कर
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
लीलया गोप वेष धर मुरळी धर
श्री धर दामोदर वर

चरणम्
चाणूर मल्ल हरण निपुण तर
चरण निहत शकटासुर मुर हर
माणिक्य मकुट हार वलय धर
मत्तेभ कुम्भ भेदन पटु तर
वाणीशार्चित पीताम्बर धर **
वैजयन्ती वन माला धर **
आणवादि विजय मानसाकर
अपहत कंसासुर नत भूसुर
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
द्रोण कर्ण दुर्योधनादि हर
द्रौपदी मान संरक्षण कर
वैणिक गायक गुरु गुह नुत
पुर वैरि विहित (alt: विनुत ) गोपिका मनोहर

** these two lines don’t seem to be sung..

Transliteration in English :

pallavi
bAla gOpAla pAlayAshu mAm
bhakta vatsala kRpA jaladhE harE

anupallavi
nIla nIrada sharIra dhIra tara
nIraja kara nirupamAnanda kara
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
lIlayA gOpa vEsha dhara muraLI dhara
shrI dhara dAmOdara vara

charaNam
chANUra malla haraNa nipuNa tara
charaNa nihata shakaTAsura mura hara
mANikya makuTa hAra valaya dhara
mattEbha kumbha bhEdana paTu tara
vANIshArchita pItAmbara dhara **
vaijayantI vana mAlA dhara **
ANavAdi vijaya mAnasAkara
apahata kaMsAsura nata bhUsura
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
drONa karNa duryOdhanAdi hara
draupadI mAna saMrakshaNa kara
vaiNika gAyaka guru guha nuta
pura vairi vihita (alt: vinuta) gOpikA manOhara

** these two lines don’t seem to be sung..

Translation :

pallavi

O The Child (bAla) Cowherd (gOpAla), protect (pAlayAshu) me (mAm)! O Hari (harE), you are dear (vatsala) to your devotees (bhakta), an ocean (jaladhi) of mercy (kRpA).

anupallavi

With a body (sharIra) like (here it means the colour of) blue (nIla) rain clouds (nIrada), you are most wise (dhIra tara). Your hands (kara) are like a lotus (nIraja). You bestow (kara=the one who causes) incomparable (nirupama) bliss (Ananda). You assumed the appearance (vesha dhara) of a cowherd (gOpa) by divine sport (lIlayA). You hold (dhara) a flute (muraLI). You are bearer of fortune (shrI dhara, name of Vishnu, also means He who holds Lakshmi). You are excellent (vara) Damodara, one whose waist was tied with a rope (from the Damodara Lila).

charaNam

You are the one who destroyed (haraNa) the wrestler (malla) Chanura with great skill (nipuNa tara). You slew (nihata) Shakatasura with your feet (charaNa). You are the destroyer (hara) of Mura. You are wearing (suffix dhara) crown (mukuTa) of rubies (mAnikya), garlands (hAra) and armlets/bangles (valaya). You very skilfully (paTu tara) fractured/broke (bhEdana) the high forehead (kumbha) of a mad /furious (matta) elephant (ibha) (from the story of the killing of the elephant Kuvalayapida). You are worshipped (archita) by Brahma, husband (Isha) of Saraswati (vANI). You wear (suffix dhara) yellow (pIta) garments (ambara). You wear (suffix dhara) a garland (mAlA) of forest (vana) flowers (vaijayantI, a kind of forest flower). You are victorious (vijaya) over egoism (ANava) etc (Adi) by his excellent (Akara) mental powers (mAnasa). You destroyed (apahita) the demon (asura) Kamsa. You are worshipped (nata) by Brahmanas (bhUsura). You defeated (hara) Drona, Karna, Duryodhana etc (Adi). You protected (samrakshaNa kara) Drapadi’s honour (mAna). You are praised (nuta) by the Veena player (vaiNika) and singer / musician (gAyaka) Guruguha (signature of the composer). You put in order (vihita) the enemies (vairi) of the town (pura) [does this refer to His protecting Dwaraka? I am unsure about this. The alternate word vinuta is translated often as praised so here it could mean ‘praised by the enemies ‘]. You are the enchanter (manOhara) of the cowherdesses (gOpikA).

 

 

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, M.Balamuralikrishna, T.M.Krishna, T.N.Seshagopalan, Uncategorized

Siddhi Vinayakam Anisham

ashtasiddhiHappy Vinayaka Chaturthi everybody! I hope you had a few moments to offer prayers to Vinayaka today; if not, the song I have chosen is a prayer in itself.

But I am running ahead of myself. We all know that one prays to Vinayaka for the achievement of goals, for success. The word siddhi which we use to preface His name translates to exactly that.  Who amongst has not demanded that Vinayaka help us pass our exams, get through that interview, get the promotion we are aiming for? I know even some people who claim to be agnostic sending up a ‘just in case’ prayer if the goal seems important enough! But these goals give us but momentary satisfaction, forgotten even as we set the next possible goal.  I wonder, are we wasting the good Lord’s time by asking for things which are too easy to deliver? Should we not be setting Him some stretch targets?

Vinayaka is also the Lord of the eight Siddhis (occult Yogic powers) referred to by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra. These are indeed amazing powers!

  • अणिमा aNimA : Power to become subatomic
  • महिमा mahimA : Power of become infinitely large
  • लघिमा laghimA – Power to become infinitely light
  • गरिमा garimA – Power to become infinitely heavy
  • प्राप्ति prApti – Power of attaining any objective
  • प्राकाम्य prAkAmya – Power of transmigration
  • ईशित्व Ishitva – Godlike power to create and rule
  • वशित्व vashitva – Power to control/subdue all matter

Vinayaka has the power to bestow the yogin with all of these occult powers. They sound rather dangerous, don’t they? Instead I think about the words metaphorically and I offer you alternate meanings to reflect upon.

  • अणिमा aNimA : The ability to concentrate such that we can focus our mind to a pinpoint.
  • महिमा mahimA : The ability to have such a broad world-view that we can encompass all.
  •  लघिमा laghimA : The ability to let go everything, all maya, so they we are weightless.
  • गरिमा garimA : The ability to absorb all challenges we face with the stability of the infinitely heavy.
  •  प्राप्ति prApti : The ability to stick to an objective until we achieve it.
  • प्राकाम्य prAkAmya : The ability to empathise so well with others that we virtually transmigrate into them.
  • ईशित्व Ishitva : The ability to create beauty and joy.
  • वशित्व vashitva : The power to rule over our weaknesses, to control our needs and subdue our passions.

Now, these siddhis are worth praying for, don’t you think? My song today is addressed to Siddhi Vinayaka, set to the beautiful raga Shanmukhapriya (Chamaram) and composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar. It is a song of praise, reminding us that He is the bestower of whatever we desire. The Yogic theme for today was inspired by the words reminding us that Vinayaka is present in the Mooladhara Chakra, that which much be awakened if we are to reach a higher state of being. For lyrics and translation, see footnote below.

There are so many nice performances of this popular kriti that I had some trouble choosing the one to present to you. The first one I would like you to hear is this excellent rendition by T.N.Seshagopalan (live, 1975). He is accompanied by V.V.Subramaniam and Trichy Shankaran.  I do have a weakness for TNS from that era!! (Alapana and Kriti)

Alternate link : Click here and download items 2 and 3 (need free membership to  Sangeethapriya.org)

I could not look past Pattabhirama Pandit for his most energetic and creative performance (Alapana and Kriti). He is accompanied by Mysore Srikanth, H.S.Sudhindra and Giridhar Udupa.

Alternate link : Click here and download items 5 and 6 (need free membership to Sangeethapriya.org)

If you have a taste for more, check out this lovely performance by MDR (item 7) and another very good one by Sumithra Vasudev (item 2).

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
सिद्धि विनायकं अनिशं चिन्तयाम्यहम्
प्रसिद्ध गण नायकम् विशिष्टार्थ दायकम् वरम्

अनुपल्लवि
सिद्ध यक्ष किन्नरादि सेवितम्
अखिल जगत्प्रसिद्धम्
मूल पङ्कज मध्यस्थं मोदक हस्तम्

चरणम्
भाद्र पद मास चतुर्थ्याम् ब्राह्मणादि पूजितम्
पाशाङ्कुश धरम् छत्र चामर परिवीजितम्
रौद्र भाव रहितम् दास जन हृदय विराजितम्
रौहिणेयानुजार्चितम् ईहना वर्जितम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
अद्रि राज सुतात्मजम् अनन्त गुरु गुहाग्रजम्
भद्र प्रद पदाम्बुजम् भासमान चतुर्भुजम्

Transliteration

pallavi
siddhi vinAyakam anisham chintayAmyaham
prasiddha gaNa nAyakaM vishishTArtha dAyakam varam

anupallavi
siddha yaksha kinnarAdi sEvitam
akhila jagat prasiddham
mUla pankaja madhyastham mOdaka hastam

charaNam
bhAdra pada mAsa chaturthyAm brAhmaNAdi pUjitam
pAshAnkusha dharam CHatra chAmara parivIjitam
raudra bhAva rahitam dAsa jana hRdaya virAjitam
rauhiNEyAnujArchitam IhanA varjitam

(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
adri rAja sutAtmajam ananta guru guhAgrajam
bhadra prada padAmbujam bhAsamAna chaturbhujam

Translation

I (aham) incessantly (anisham) meditate (chintayAmi) upon Siddhi Vinayaka. He is the Lord (nAyakam) of the famous (prasiddha) Ganas, the foremost (varam) bestower (dAyakam) of the specific (vishishTa) object of desire (artha).

He is worshipped (sEvitam) by Siddhas, Yakshas, Kinnaras etc (Adi). He is renowned (prasiddha) in the whole (akhila) world (jagat). He is in the middle of (madhyashtha) the lotus (pankaja) of Mooladhara Chakra (mUla). He has the Modaka sweetmeat in his hand (hastam).

He is worshipped (pUjitam) by the Brahmanas etc (Adi) on the fourth day of the lunar cycle (chaturthi) of the month (mAsa) of Bhadrapada. He is the holder (dharam) of a noose (pAsha) and goad (ankusha). He is cooled (parivIjitam) by an umbrella (CHatra) and a chowrie (chAmara). He is devoid of (rahitam) violent or angry (raudra) emotions (bhAva). Who is resplendent (virAjita) in the hearts (hRdaya) of his servants (dAsajana). He is praised (architam) by Krishna (the younger brother (anuja) of the son of Rohini (Balarama)). He is without (varjitam) of desire (Iha).

He is the grandson (sutAtmaja) of king (rAja) of the mountains (adri). He is the elder-brother (agraja) of the eternal (ananta) Guruguha (=Kartikeya). His are the lotus-feet (pada ambujam) which bestow (prada) welfare/prosperity (bhadra). He is the four-handed one (chatur bhujam) who dwells (mAnam) in lustre/light (bhAsa).

14 Comments

Filed under Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, T.N.Seshagopalan

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) :

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

Transliteration

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

Translation

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)!

7 Comments

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

Gana Moorte

20130215 Lulu

Please meet the newest entrant to our family, my grand-niece whom I affectionately call Lulu. She is 4 months old and is a Carnatic Music connoisseur.  Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing her for her thoughts on this form of music.

Welcome to our family. I see that you are already a dedicated Carnatic music fan. Can you tell me how it came about?’, I ask curiously.

It is all about exposure’ she says with confidence ‘I did hear a bit of it when I was in my mummy’s tummy, but I am not sure how much attention I paid to it. But since I was born, my grandma has played this music often for me and now it is as precious as milk!’. She gurgles, blowing a milk-bubble in illustration.

Why do you like Carnatic music?’ I am interested. ‘How does it make you feel?’.

She smiles at her mom who is standing across the room and her brilliant big eyes follow her mom’s movements without blinking.

Ma’am?’ I draw attention back to myself, waving a soft toy in front of her eyes.

She blinks her eyes and stares at me with intelligent eyes. ‘It is so soothing!’ Her lips have a hint of a smile. ‘See, when I want my mommy but she is not there, or when my tummy aches with a burp which I just cannot get out, or when I am sleepy but can’t seem to close my eyes or stop my busy mind, I find that Carnatic Music lulls me into a happy and restful state’.

Having had enough of this interview, she fills her lungs to their fullest extent and demands in the most princess-like style that her mom attend to her at once.

Please ma’am, I would like you to recommend a restful playlist for my readers, especially for those who have a child or a grandchild to soothe.’ I beg.

She pauses for a moment and nods her head. ‘Check out my ipad.’ She dismisses me and deigns to smile at her mom, who has come running to do her bidding. The interview is closed.

This then is Lulu’s playlist of favourites.

1. Krishna Nee Begane by K.S.Chitra (too light for me, but Lulu adores this)
2. Gana Moorte by Nisha Rajagopal (Well sung, but video removed now)
3. RTP in Brindavana Saranga by O.S.Arun (I heard for the first time today, its very good! Do listen.)
4. Jo Jo Rama by Bombay Jayashri (from Vatsalyam, a CD of lullabys, very soothing)
5. Shlokas on Shri Venkatesha by Aruna Sairam (I am a fan, but video removed now)

As I have already featured the song Krishna Nee Begane in my blog, I have chosen Gana Moorte by Tyagaraja to feature in my post today. Set to the unusual Raga Ganamoorti, it is in praise of Lord Krishna. If you would like to know a bit more about the raga, click here.  Like a number of kritis, the lyrics list ‘identifiers’ for Lord Krishna. A great prayer song, it brings the mind to focus on who He is. For those who know the associated stories, it brings along a vivid imagery, allowing the mind’s eye to wonder at the leelas of Lord Krishna. As my grand-niece’s favourite rendition by Nisha Rajagopal has been removed in Youtube, I offer instead T.N.Seshagopalan’s version here.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
गान मूर्ते श्री कृष्ण वेणु गान लोल त्रिभुवन पाल पाहि

अनुपल्लवि
मानिनी मणि श्री रुक्मिणी मानसापहार मार जनक दिव्य

चरणम्
नवनीत चोर नन्द सत्किशोर नर मित्र धीर नर सिंह शूर
नव मेघ तेज नगजा सहज नरकान्तकाज नत त्यागराज

Transliteration

pallavi
gAna mUrtE shrI krshNa vENu gAna lOla tri bhuvana pAla pAhi

anupallavi
mAninI maNi shrI rukmiNi mAnasApahAra mAra janaka divya

charaNam
navanIta chOra nanda satkishOra nara mitra dhIra nara simha shUra
nava mEgha tEja nagajA sahaja narakAntakAja nata tyAgarAja

Translation

O Embodiment (mUrtE) of Music (gAna), Lord Krishna! O He who longs for (lOla) Music (gAna) ! O Protector (pAla) of the three worlds (tri bhuvana), protect me (pAhi) !

O Stealer (apahAra) of the mind (mana) of the gem (maNi) of a proud woman (mAnini) Rukmini ! O divine (divya) father (janaka) of mAra (the God of love) !

O Stealer (chOra) of butter (navanIta) ! O good son (sat kishOra) of Nanda ! O friend (mitra) of man (nara) ! O brave (dhIra) hero (shUra), Narasimha ! O He who is radiant (tEja) as fresh (nava) clouds (mEgha)! O brother (sahaja) of Parvati (nagajA=daughter of mountain)! O destroyer of the demon naraka (narakAntaka)! O unborn (aja) ! O Lord saluted by (nata) tyagarAja !

 

14 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, T.N.Seshagopalan, Tyagaraja

Soundara Rajam Ashraye

I seek refuge in the beautiful Lord, the Lord who blessed the elephant in the forest of elephants. He is the dear son of Nanda, He is the ruler of Nagapattanam. He is the Lord of beautiful Rama. He is the great Lord praised by the divinities. He has a gently smiling lotus-like face, in his lotus-like hands he holds the Mandara mountain, his lotus-like eyes give delight, and he has even more beautiful lotus-like feet.

Gajendra MokshamA Very Happy New Year to all my readers! I wish 2013 brings out the best for us and the best in all of us.

Today I have a story for you, a very well-known story from the Hindu scriptures. Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there lived an elephant called Gajendra. His name means ‘King of Elephants’ and he was indeed the king of his group of elephants. He lived happily in a wonderful garden called Rumak on the beautiful mountains of Trikuta (considered by some to to be in current day Sri Lanka and at Kapisthalam, Tamil Nadu by others). He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Everyday he would pick a lotus from a pond and lay it at the feet of Lord Vishnu at the temple. One such day, when he went to the pond as always, his foot was caught by a crocodile. Much as he struggled, he could not free himself. He struggled long and hard; some say that he struggled for a thousand years. Finally, he could struggle no more and surrendered himself to Lord Vishnu. When Lord Vishnu heard his pleas, he hurried to help and killed the crocodile with his Sudarshana Chakra. In his previous life, Gajendra had been King Indradymna of the Pandya dynasty, a great devotee of Vishnu. He had been cursed by Sage Agastya for some disrespect to him. Lord Vishnu freed Gajendra and blessed him with Moksha, a release from the cycle of birth and death, as he had finally given up his pride and surrendered himself to God.

What are the metaphoric lessons that we may take from this story? An elephant represents majesty, strength and wisdom; he is a gentle giant who is not drawn to violence. Gajendra in particular was a devout elephant. Yet he finds himself caught in a way where all his strength and abilities cannot rescue him. The crocodile  is a creature of our nightmares, waiting in hiding to attack and maim. A creature from the underworld representing our base nature as well as the evil around us. Our lesson is that even the best amongst us may find ourselves caught in traps from which we cannot release ourselves unless we surrender ourselves to God. It is interesting that the crocodile-catching-a-leg story occurs in one other very inspiring story, that of Adi Shankaracharya. It was by adopting sanyasa (monkhood) that he could get the crocodile, who represents worldly desires which tie us to this earth, to release him.

My recounting of the story of Gajendra was inspired by the song Soundara Rajam Ashraye which I have been addicted to all this week. Written and composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar, it is set to the Raga Brindavani, also called Brindavana Saranga (The forest of elephants) by some (see footnote). There is a reference to Gajendra Moksham in the first line of the song and even the name of the raga evokes the thought of green and  cool forests with dappled sunlight and rippling pools of water, humming with the presence of elephants all around. Like many other Carnatic Kritis, the song is a just a list of identifiers for Vishnu to whom this prayer is addressed (see footnote for lyrics and translation). The beauty of the song is in the raga and the melody. If you allow yourself the leisure of listening to a slow and elaborate rendition, divorcing your mind from your everyday concerns, it is as close to meditation as listening to music can be. After listening to at least ten different renditions, I go back to the one that I have always loved best, a 21 minute rendition by T.N.Seshagopalan. Ah the soothing pleasure of Brindavana Saranga weaving its magic into my soul!! If you would like to read more about this raga, click here.

Alapana :

Kriti :

Alternate Link

 


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवी
सौन्दरराजं आश्रये गज बृन्दावन सारङ्ग वरद राजम्  (श्री )

अनुपल्लवि
नन्द नन्दन राजम्  नागपत्तन राजम्
सुन्दरी रमा राजम् सुर विनुत महिराजम्
(मध्यमकाल साहित्यम्)
मन्दस्मित मुखाम्बुजं मन्दर धर कराम्बुजम्
नन्दकर नयनाम्बुजं सुन्दर तर पदाम्बुजम्

चरणम्
शंभर वैरी जनकं सन्नुत शुक शौनकम्
अम्बरीषादि विदितं अनादि गुरुगुह मुदितम्
अम्बुजासनादि नुतं अमरेशादि सन्नुतम्
अम्बुधि गर्व निग्रहं अनृत जड दुःखापहम्
(मध्यमकाल साहित्यम्)
कम्बु विडम्बन कण्ठं खण्डी कृत दश कण्ठं
तुम्बुरुनुत श्री कण्ठं दुरितापह वैकुण्ठं

Transliteration

pallavi
saundara rAja mAshrayE gaja bRndAvana sAraHNga varada rAjam

anupallavi
nanda nandana rAjam nAga pattana rAjam
sundari ramA rAjam sura vinuta mahirAjam
mandasmita mukhAmbujam mandaradhara karAmbujam
nandakara nayanAmbujam sundaratara padAmbujam

charanam
shambara vairi janakam sannuta shuka shaunakam
ambarISAdi viditam anAdi guruguha muditam
ambujAsanAdi nutam amarEshAdi sannutam
ambudhi garva nigraham anRta jaDa duhkhApaham
kambu viDambana kaNTham khaNDIkRta dasha kaNTham
tumburu nuta shrIkaNTham duritApaha vaikuNTham

Translation

I seek refuge (AshrayE) in the beautiful Lord (sowndara rAjam), the Lord (rAjam) who blessed (gave a boon to) the elephant (gaja) in the forest of elephants (brindAvana sAranga).

He is the dear son (nandana) of Nanda, He is the ruler (rAjam) of Nagapattanam. He is the Lord (rAjam) of the beautiful Rama (name of Lakshmi). He is the great (mahi) Lord (rAjam) praised (vinuta) by the divinities (sura).

He has a gently smiling (mandasmita) lotus-like (ambujam) face (mukha), in his lotus-like (ambujam) hands (kara) he holds (dhara) the Mandara mountain, his lotus-like (ambujam) eyes (nayana) give delight (nandana kara), and he has even more beautiful (sundaratara) lotus-like (ambujam) feet (pada).

He is the father (janakam) of the enemy (vairI) of Shiva (shambhara) [alludes to Madana]. He is worshipped (sannuta) by Shuka and Shaunaka. He is understood (viditam) by sages such as Ambarishi. He is the eternet (anAdi) joy (muditam) of Guruguha (signature of Dikshithar).

He is worshipped (nutam) by the Lotus-seated one (ambujAsanA) [refers to Lakshmi? or Brahma?) etc (Adi). He is praised (sannutam) by Indra (amarEsha) etc (Adi). He subjugated (nigraham) the pride (garva) of the ocean (ambudhi). He removes (apaham) the sorrow (dukha) arising from falsehood (anrta) and stupidity (jada).

His neck (kanTam) is like (vidambana) a conch (kambu). He tore into pieces (khandIkrta) the ten-necked one (dasha kanTam) [alludes to Ravana]. He is worshipped (nutam) by Tumburu (a greet seer and singer). He is the destroyer (apaha) of sins (durita). He resides (implied) in VaikunTam (Vishnu’s heaven).

 

7 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, T.N.Seshagopalan

Ardhanareeshwaram

ardhanariReading Yves’s recent movie review had me thinking about Ardhanareeshwara. Is it not odd, I thought quite irreverently, that a culture, whose treatment of  gender-confused individuals may be considered quite inhumane, worships God in a half-male, half-female form?

I was, of course, being too literal. We must always remember that the Hindu Gods are representations of a concept and should be considered allegorical, even though we worship the representation rather than the concept.

The concept of divinity with both male and female aspects permeates throughout Hinduism. Take, for example, the Purusha-Prakriti (Consciousness-Matter) duality. Without going deep into the matter, the word Purusha itself means man and prakriti is seen as woman. The duality represents the experiencer and the experienced, the concept and the conceptualisation, the doer and the deed.

Have you ever wondered about our Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva trinity and the appropriateness of their consorts? Brahma, the creator, has as consort Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and arts, the manifestation of creativity. Vishnu, he who sustains, is joined by Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, the means of sustenance. Shakti is the consort of Shiva the destroyer, the Goddess of energy and power, the means of destruction and recreation. So we have the Trinity as Creation-Creativity, Sustenance-Wealth & Prosperity, Destruction-Power. Have you noticed that in each pairing, it is again the mating of concept to manifestation?

Magnetic fieldsIn essence, Divinity, though neutral, polarises into a male-female form to become the doer and the deed but they remain two halves of a whole and will eventually merge into one. I like to visualise these male-female divinities as magnets, the two polarities intensely attractive to each other, one but yet separate, with those beautiful fields of attraction and magnetism surrounding them. And I see myself as a happy little iron filing, comfortably aligning myself to these lines of attraction. No doubt I am quite incomprehensible to those who haven’t played with magnets and iron filings (see pic above)!

Shiva’s form of Ardhanareeshwara is a visualisation of that idea, of the polarity between the male and female aspects of Divinity. There is a famous temple in Tirchengode  to this form of Shiva-Shakti. My song choice of today is composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) in praise of Ardhanareeshawara  and is set to the raga Kumudakriya. The lyrics are just a simple invocation; the beauty of the composition to my mind is the excellent use of madhyamakala sahityam ie. lyrics set to double the basic tempo. In this composition, there is a speed change in all three sections, pallavi, anupallavi and charanam, giving an overall effect of power and energy, which by definition is Shakti. To know a bit more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have chosen a wonderful rendition by one of the most respected senior artists of today, T.N.Seshagopalan (born 1948).

There is more detailed rendition by TNS which you can download here, song 3 (free membership needed at Sangeethapriya)

And as we are on the subject of senior Maestros, here is a scintillating performance by the violinist M.S.Gopalakrishnan (born 1931).


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

पल्लवि
अर्ध नारीश्वरम् आराधयामि सततं
(मध्यम काल साहित्यं )
अत्रि बृगु वसिष्टादि मुनि बृन्द वन्दितं

अनुपल्लवि
अर्ध याम अलङ्कार विशेष प्रभावं
(मध्यम काल साहित्यं )
अर्ध नारीश्वरी प्रियकरं अभय करं शिवं

चरणं
नागेन्द्र मणि भूषितं नन्दी तुरगारोहितं
श्री गुरुगुह पूजितं कुमुदक्रिया रागनुतं
(मध्यम काल साहित्यं )
आगमादि सन्नुतं अनन्त वेद घोषितं
अमरेशादि सेवितं आरक्त वर्ण शोभितं

Transliteration

pallavi
ardha narIshwaram ArAdhayAmi satatam
(madhyama kala sAhityam)
atri bRgu vasishtAdi muni bRnda vanditam

anupallavi
ardha yAma alangkAra vishEsha prabhAvam
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
ardha nArIshvarI priyakaram abhaya karam shivam

charaNam
nagEndra maNi bhUshitam nandI turagArohitam
sri guruguha pUjitam kumudakriyA rAganutam
(madhyama kAla sahityam)
AgamAdi sannutam ananta vEda ghOshitam
amarEshAdi sEvitam Arakta varNa shobhitam

Translation

Pallavi
I offer my prayers (ArAdhayami) to Lord Ardhanareeshvara all the time (satatam). He is extolled (vanditam) by many (a group of, assuming bRnda is another form of vRnda) sages such as Atri, BRgu, and Vasishta.

Anupallavi
His decoration (alangkAra) for the puja at night (ardhayama literally is half-watch) is specially (vishesha) splendorous (prabhavam). He is beloved (priyakaram) of Ardhanareeshwari . He gets rid of our fears (abhaya=without fear, karam=does), he is Shiva (the auspicious, the benevolent).

Charanam
He is adorned (bhUshitam) by the king of serpents (nagEndra) as ornament (maNi). [ Alternatively, he is adorned with the jewel Nagendramani ] He rides (verb Arohati)  Nandi as mount (turaga=horse or mount). He is worshipped (pUjita) by Guruguha (Subrahmanya, but here it is the signature of the composer), he is praised / worshipped (verb nuti) in raga kumudakriya. Well praised (sannuta) in the Agamas etc (Agama Adi), he is proclaimed (verb ghush) in all the vedas. He is worshipped (sevitam) by Gods such as Indra (amarEsh Adi=etc).  He is splendorous (shObhitam) with a reddish colour (Arakta varNa).

 

6 Comments

Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Muthuswami Dikshithar, T.N.Seshagopalan

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 Sangeethamshare.org).


Footnote (Lyrics) :

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

அனுபல்லவி
புல்லாகினும் நெடு நாள் நில்லாது – ஆதலினால்
கல்லாய்ப் பிறவி தரவேணுமே – ஒரு சிறு
(மத்யமகாலம்)
கமல மலரிணைகள் அணைய எனதுள்ளம்
புலகிதமூற்றிடும் பவமற்றிடுமே
(புல்லாய்)

சரணம்
ஒருகணம் உன் பதம் படும் எந்தன் மேலே
மறுகணம் நான் உயர்வேன் மென்மேலே
(உன் ) திருமேனி என் மேலே அமர்ந்திடும் ஒருகாலே
(மத்யமகாலம்)
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)

pallavI:

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

anupallavI:

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

charaNam:

oru kaNam un padam paDum endan mElE
marukaNam nAn uyarvEn menmElE
tirumEni enmElE amarndiDum oru kAlE
(madhyamakalam)
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

Meaning:

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
grass.

Leave a comment

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