Category Archives: Trichur V.Ramachandran

Tatvamariya Tarama

GaneshaToday my thoughts are running to a war that millions of people wage with themselves; a secret war, unspoken of, which every one of us has faced at one time or the other. I am speaking of our battles against a sense of inadequacy. Falling short of other people’s expectations is bad enough but when we fall short of our own standards, that is really difficult to deal with. The nature of such failure is that it can be seldom talked about openly; it lies dormant, a dirty secret which poisons our thoughts and behaviour in innumerable ways.

Take the inadequacy that millions feel regarding the way they look. Shallow, perhaps. but so very core to the sense of ‘I’ in all of us. I consider myself to be not at all superficial, but I can’t remember a day in my adult life when I have not worried about my rather plump form and ways to shed the ever-increasing excess weight. I doubt if I am alone in this. When this sense of inadequacy blows out of proportion, it leads to problems like bulimia or anorexia, self-mutilation, seeking the plastic surgeon’s scalpel etc. Most people however just learn to live with this feeling of inadequacy.

The same sense of being suboptimal regarding one’s financial, social or academic status is, no doubt, equally prevalent. I guess a certain level of insecurity acts as an incentive to work harder, to strive and achieve. But is it not also the seed which turns some others into crooked ways, be it cheating or bribery, embezzlement or plain thievery? The same sense of inadequacy turns some into snobs and others into sycophants, some into bullies and other into the bullied.

What about moral inadequacy? How many of us tell ourselves that we are not ‘good’ enough? How many constantly bring up their old wrongdoings in their mind, never forgiving themselves for their own slips?

Let me present an imagined scale of human morality Morality Scaleas a bell curve. At the bottom end, section 1 is filled with the pits of humanity, from ethnic cleansers like Hitler, pillagers like Attila the Hun, murderers, violent dacoits, rapists, child molesters, torturers and all those who thrive on violence. Section 2 is more populous, made of non-violent criminals, bribe takers, dirty and greedy politicians, con artists and such. Section 3 is the most populous with ordinary people who are saddled with the common human weaknesses such as greed, selfishness, envy, anger and laziness. All these weaknesses are still capable of harming others. Section 4 are the ones who have controlled these weaknesses to a large extent and also strive to help others, are thoughtful, charitable, forgiving, ethical, moral. Section 5 are those who devote themselves to the betterment of humanity in any way they can, either through charitable work, intellectual and creative endeavours or devotion to God. Where do you stand on the scale? I ask myself this question when a sense of moral inadequacy overtakes me. And I tell myself, ‘Average+ is ok! There is hope!’. But the truth is, I think I was a better human being at 10 than I am 55. So was this life a waste? sigh!

So you see, I am in perfect sympathy with Papanasam Sivan when he writes ‘Am I worthy of understanding your reality?’. Calling himself a hard hearted villain and saying that he has no Satvik qualities seems a bit harsh though. Seems to me that he is suffering from a bout of moral inadequacy! He seems to forget what our scriptures and epics say again and again – that it is possible for the basest of beings to achieve the grace of God. Think of Valmiki, surely he belonged to the bottom pile of my bell-curve before he redeemed himself? Whatever the sense of inadequacy we all battle with, we are ALL still in the running for God’s forgiveness and grace, and with that, the understanding of His truth. See footnote for lyrics and translation.

To present this wonderful song in Raga Ritigowla, I have selected two renditions for you to listen to. The first is by Trichur Ramachandran whose unique voice adds even more beauty to Ritigowla.

Alternate Link : Click here

The second is by O.S.Thyagarajan. I noticed that I had not featured this illustrious artist so far, a sad oversight on my part. So here he is.

Alternate Link : Click here and download song number 2 (needs free membership to Sangeethamshare.org)

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
தத்வமரிய தரமா (நின் )
மூலாதார கணபதே சுரபதே உனது

அனுபல்லவி
சத்வ குணமும் ஜீவ தயையும் ஞானமும்
சற்றும் இல்லாத  கிராதனுக்கு உனது

சரணம்
மதுர பரிபூர்ண மோதக கரனே
மகா விக்ன வன குடார வரனே
நிதியோன்பதும் அன்பர்க்கருள் பரனே
நிகில சராசர பீஜான்குரனே
மதிசேகரன் மகனே சுமுகனே
மத வாரண  முகனே
சுருதி  முடி  உணர்வருள் சித்பரனே*
குக சோதரனே  ராமதாசனக்குனது

* uncertain about this line

Transliteration

Note : For some Sanskrit words are used, I have preferred to transliterate them in their original Sanskrit pronunciation rather than the Tamil one in common usage!

pallavi
tatvamariya taramA (nin)
mUlAdhAra gaNapatE surapatE unadu

anupallavi
satva guNamum jIva dayaiyum jñAnamum
saTTRum illAda kirAdanukku unadu

charaNam
madhura paripUrNa mOdaka karanE
mahA vighna vana kuTHAra varanE
nidhiyonbadum anbarkkaruL paranE
nikhila charAchara bIjAnkuranE
madishEkharan maganE sumuganE
madavAraNa muganE
shruti muDi uNarvaruL chitparanE
guha sOdaranE rAmadAsanukkunadu

Translation

Am I worthy (taramA) of understanding (ariya)  your (nin)  truth / reality (tatvam)? Oh Lord of the Ganas (gaNa patE), Lord of the Suras (sura patE), O Lord of the Mooladhara chakra (or the support (AdhAra) for the origin (mUla)), your (unadu) truth (continuation meaning from first line).

Is this hard-hearted villain (kirAtan)  who is totally without (chaTRum illAda) Satvik qualities (satva guNam), compassion (dayA) for other (implied) beings (jIva) and higher knowledge (jñAna) worthy of understanding your truth (from pallavi)?

O one who holds (karanE) the Modaka sweetmeat which is saturated (paripUrNa) with sweetness (madhura)! O the excellent (varanE) wielder (implied) of the axe (kuTHAra) against (implied) the great (mahA) forest (vana) of obstacles (vighna)! O God (paranE) who blesses (aruL) his devotees (aNbar) with the nine (onbadu) treasures (nidhi) (this refers to the nine treasures of Kubera)! O Seed and Sprout (bIjAnkura) of the entire (nikhila) world (charAchara, literally that which moves (chara) and that which does not (achara))! O son (maganE) of Shiva (madishEkhara)! O benign one (sumuganE) ! O one with the face (muganE) of a proud (mada) elephant (vAraNa)! O Supreme Spirit (chitparanE) who blesses with the realisation of (uNar varRuL) the last sound (shruti muDi) (I am uncertain about shruti muDi). O brother (sOdaranE) of Guha! Is this (implied) RamadAsan (signature) worthy of understanding (implied from pallavi) your (unadu) truth/reality (from pallavi).

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Filed under Artist, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, O.S.Thyararajan, Papanasam Sivan, Trichur V.Ramachandran

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 Sangeethapriya.org.

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

Alternate Link : Click here.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

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

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

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

Transliteration

pallavi
kAraNam kETTu vADi -sakhi
kAdalan chidambara nAdan innum varAda

anupallavi
pUraNa dayavuLLa ponnambala durai en
porumaiyai sOdikka maRaimukham Anadan

charaNam
kallAlum villAlum kaTTi aDittEnO
kaNNappan seidadai kanavinilum seidEnO
chella manaikku tUdu sendRu vA enREnO
seyyAda kAriyam seyya muyandREnO (alt: tuNindEnO)

Translation

Please ask why my dear Lord of Chidambaram (Lord Shiva) has not not come yet, my friend.

(Ask why does) the infinitely compassionate Lord of the Golden Temple (Chidambaram) testing my patience in remaining invisible.

Did I strike him with stones and bows? (refers to Arjuna facing Shiva as a hunter). Or did I even dream of doing what Kannappan did (Kannappa Nayanar put his foot on the Shiva Linga). Did I send him as a messenger to a house to which one should not go? (The Lord went on behalf of Sundaramurti Nayanar to his first wife’s home). Or did I try (/dare) to do something which I ought not to do?

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

Rama Katha Sudha

Diwali

Happy Deepavali to all my readers! May the lamps you light enlighten your minds, may the sweets you eat sweeten your thoughts and words!

Lord Rama has been resident in my mind this whole week. Though the significance of Deepavali is region dependent, it is the story of Lord Rama’s return from the forest which lingers in my mind. Like everyone else in India, I learnt the stories from numerous sources. In childhood, my grandmother and my mother would tell the stories with great verve and energy. A little older, I read my own first version by C.Rajagopalachari which I enjoyed very much. I learnt so much from that book! I’ve read a few more versions since then but they never had the impact that the first book did. When I had kids of my own, I bought the comic book series from Amar Chitra Katha and read them along with my children. At the same time, we also saw the highly popular but atrociously made televised series by Ramanand Sagar. I also remember street performance of Ram Lila, upanyasams at temple grounds, Katha Kali performances…oh so many versions! The Ramayana in my mind is a mishmash from all these sources, with background music to match!

‘What would be the right song to celebrate His return from the forest?’ I ask myself. Something mangalakaram, in madhyamavati or kurinji I tell myself, though I have already featured these ragas. A mangalam perhaps? Surely He would have been invited back with a nice aarati? Sri Rama Chandranukku comes to mind. Yet..I don’t want to sing mangalam in this blog as yet (for the uninitiated, it indicates an end of a concert).  To find inspiration, I let my mind wander from story to story. Images flash past one after the other. Rama as a child, the treasured prince. Rama as a young man called to take up arms for Vishwamitra. Rama’s first sight of Sita. Kaikeyi’s jealousy. The banishment. Life in Chitrakoot. Shurpanakha’s nose. The golden deer. Lakshman’s rekha. Sita’s abduction. Garuda’s death. The heartbreak of Rama. Sugreeva and Bali. Questionable warfare. Hanuman. Sita amongst Ashoka trees. Vibheeshana’s defection. Hanuman’s burning tail. The bridge across the ocean. Waking Kumbhakarna. Indrajit’s magic. Lakshmana’s fall. Sanjeevani. Ravana’s ten heads. Victory. The triumphant return. Deepavali. Ah, how I take my pleasure in this old tale of Gods and sages, of demons and kings, of men who are animals and animals who are Gods. And I have my song for this post!

To drink the nectar like essence of the story of Rama is equal to ruling a kingdom’ says Tyagaraja. I hope you too have remembered the story of Rama along with me on this holy day and enjoyed its essence. ‘It is indeed the boat which enables us to cross the flaming ocean of existence in which we are bound by karma’ says the Saint. To see full lyrics and translation, see footnote.

On an aside, I remember a time, a long time ago, when I did not really appreciate Madhyamavati. It used to feel somewhat staid to me. Now I am amazed at how blind – or rather deaf – I was! This beautiful raga pours well-being into one’s soul; I will adopt Tyagaraja’s words and call this sudha rasa – the essence of nectar. To know more about this raga, click here.

When it comes to presenting this song, I am overwhelmed by the riches available to me. After listening to many hours of music, I have selected the confident and melodious version by Trichur V.Ramachandran (1940-), an artist I am featuring for the first time in my blog. A holder of all the prestigious awards (Sangeet Natak Academy, Padma Bhushan, Sangeetha Kalanidhi), he was for fortunate in having both the great G.N.Balasubramaniam and M.L.Vasanthakumari as his gurus.

If you have the time, I urge you to also listen to the versions by his Gurus as well. G.N.Balasubramaniam (1910-1965) sings in his inimitable style, with his strong and pure voice while M.L.Vasanthakumari’s (1928-1990) version is both melodious and energetic. While you are in the mood for yesteryear greats, perhaps you would like to watch a video of this rare live performance by the greatest of them all, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (1908-2003).

For an instrumental version, I offer a rendition by the greatest of violinists, Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930-2013), a rendition which I love and listen to often. It has a wonderful call-and-answer with his son, G.J.R.Krishnan. Do not miss!

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

I do not speak Telugu and am indebted to various internet sites for the lyrics below.

Transliteration in Devanagri

राम कथा सुधा रस पानम् ओक राज्यमु जेसुने

भामा मणि जानकी सौमित्री
भरतादुलतो भूमि वेलयु श्री

धर्माद्यखिल फलदमे मनसा
धैर्यानन्द सौख्य निकेतनमे
कर्म बन्ध ज्वालन अब्धि नावमे
कलि हरमे त्यागराज विनुतुडगु

Transliteration in English

pallavi
rAma kathA sudhA rasa pAnam oka rAjyamu jEsunE

anupallavi
bhAmA maNi jAnakI saumitrI
bharatAdulatO bhUmi vElayu shrI

charanam
dharmAdyakhila phaladamE manasA
dhairyAnanda saukhya nikEtanamE
karma bandha jvAlana abdhi nAvamE
kali haramE tyAgarAja vinutuDagu

Translation

Drinking the nectar like essence of Sri Rama’s story is equal to ruling a kingdom.

He who shines on this earth along with the jewel amongst women, Janaki, the son of Saumitra (Lakshmana), Bharata and others.

Oh my mind! (Drinking the essence of Sri Rama’s story) bestows the fruit of everything like Dharma etc. It is the abode of courage, bliss and well-being. It is the boat which enables us to cross the burning ocean of existence to which we are bound by karma. It is the destroyer of kali yuga. The Lord who is praised by Tyagaraja.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, G.N.Balasubramaniam, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Trichur V.Ramachandran, Tyagaraja