Category Archives: U.Srinivas

Just Listening 1


I have such good intentions! I tell myself, I need to post more often. It’s not that I don’t listen as often to music, or that I don’t have as many ideas. It is time that is missing. My life has become more and more a whirlwind of movement. Days, weeks and months rush by without my even registering their existence. The few periods of stability are taken up with unavoidable (and boring) chores. It doesn’t help that I have a number of hobbies which take up my free time. I have been walking ten kilometres a day for almost a year now, missing just a few days when I have been travelling. My fitbit tells me that I have walked 3675 km and climbed 9719 floors since last November! I amaze myself! I am very much into photography and digital scrapbooking. I read at least a few hours everyday. I travel often..since the start of this year I have travelled to Australia, Dubai, India, back to Australia, the Lombardy region of Italy, Copenhagen, the Greek isles, Umbria and Le Marche in Italy. I am off in two weeks to Krakow, then to Australia. From there to India and then back to Australia before I return to Switzerland in January! I blog about my travels when I can. But music is a primary food for my soul and I do enjoy blogging about it; I don’t want to give it up. A post which includes translation takes at least four or five hours so I am inhibited even before I start! So I thought, why not just post music that I have enjoyed listening without delving too deeply into meaning, associations and such? So here I am with the first of such posts. My idea is just to give you some interesting additions for your playlist for this week. I will, of course, continue my old style of posts and translations as time permits.

On one of my walks recently, I was listening to this RTP by U.Srinivas in the Raga Vakulabharanam. Those who have heard this Raga before will know how very Arabic/Middle-Eastern the sounds are. It struck me that the Mandolin is an excellent instrument for this Raga, enhancing its Arabic feel to new heights.

RTP in Vakulabharanam – U.Srinivas (Mandolin), P.Sunderajan (Violin), K.V.Prasad (Mridangam) – The Magical Fingers of U.Srinivas by Oriental Records.

This reminded me of a video I had seen on youtube by Prince Rama Varma. I went in search of it and here it is. Saadhu Tada is by Swati Thirunal. I believe this has been set to music by Prince Rama Varma himself (unsure of this).

Enjoyable, isn’t it!

I wondered if it exists in Hindustani music and found a good article on the subject. Basant Mukhari is described as the closest equivalent.  I found a good recording of Ali Akhbar Khan’s rendition of Basant Mukhari but somehow it didn’t give me the level of Middle-Eastern feel that Vakulabharanam does. What do you think?

Remembering how very Middle-Eastern sounding Dua Kar Gham-e-Dil from Anarkali was, especially the start, I went to listen to that again.

It is not Basant Mukhari but Bhairav, the equivalent of which is Mayamalavagowla in Carnatic Music. Lata does give it a lovely quavering Middle-Eastern touch doesn’t she!

Some browsing gave me the info that Hijaz is the Maqam (definition: a set of notes with traditions that define relationships between them, habitual patterns, and their melodic development. Wonder if it’s the equivalent of the word Raga?) which is closest to Vakulabharanam. I found this site in which samples are available and yes, it does sound remarkably alike! Try for yourself; select the ‘oud in A’ . Try some of the recording samples too, they sound so good!

Having started my journey with the Mandolin, I was interested in listening to a rendition on the Oud. I found this site with some rare recordings and was pleased to find a lovely rendition of Hijaz. Click here to listen.

Looking for some vocals, I found a very enjoyable version which had me swaying happily in no time! Hope you find it as appealing. The title says ‘turk’ so I assume it is from Turkey. Excellent music!

And so I whiled away an afternoon, following a link from Vakulabharanam to Turkish music. Hope you enjoyed the journey too!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Just Listening, Rama Varma, Swathi Thirunal, U.Srinivas, Uncategorized

Kamalambam Bhajare

Sri Yantra 2So tell me, when you see a strange esoteric diagram and are told that each layer of it is guarded by so many deities, do you secretly think that this is all weird mumbo-jumbo? Do you tell yourself that yes, there may well be a God, but all these strange tantric ideas are not quite your thing? That you are too scientific or practical minded to think that the Goddess is in a bindu surrounded by nine layers in a diagram, each layer guarded by many more deities?

I am, of course, talking of the Sri Chakram that I referred to in my first post for Navaratri yesterday. The thing is, I quite sympathise with you if you find it a bit difficult to relate to.  I too am of a scientific bent with a questioning, logical and rational way of thinking, with a mind which is often taken aback at some concepts and ideas which are well within these diverse set of beliefs which we call Hinduism.  But let me offer you something to think about today. I present to you the PluChakram below where there are seven Avaranams (enclosures) guarded by 94 gupta (secretive) devis who Plutoniumare forever moving.  At the centre are 94 Shaktis, matched by 150 Shivas. When separated, they become their rudra or angry form capable of destroying the earth. Well, what do you think? Am I talking mumbo-jumbo? Not really. This is just the structure of Plutonium (reference) described with a bit of artistic license! I am, of course, talking of electrons and orbits, of protons and neutrons and nuclear energy.  Is it any less of a truth just because it is thus presented? I just want to make the point that the Sri Chakra too is a diagram representing a powerful force. Perhaps we don’t understand it too well but that doesn’t mean we should reject it either.

So we come to today’s kriti, in honour of the second Avaranam, a lotus shaped enclosure with 16 petals called the सर्वाशा परिपूरक चक्र Sarvasha Paripooraka Chakra (the fulfiller of all desires). The presiding deity is Tripureshi and there are 16 Devis who rule this Avarana. Dikshithar’s kriti in honour of this Avarana is set to the very beautiful Kalyani raga. Presenting this kriti is the young Sriranjani Santhanagopalan (from 8:57).

I would also like to present U.Srinivas’s beautiful rendition in his memory; his loss weighs heavily on my heart.

Alternate link : Click here


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Muthuswami Dikshithar
Raga : Kalyani
Language : Sanskrit

कमलाम्बां भजरे रे मानस कल्पित माया कार्यं त्यज रे

कमला वाणी सेवित पार्श्वां कम्बु जय ग्रीवां नत देवां
कमला पुर सदनां मृदु गदनां कमनीय रदनां कमल वदनाम्

सर्वाशा परिपूरक चक्र स्वामिनीं परमशिव कामिनीं
दुर्वासार्चित गुप्त योगिनीं दुःख ध्वंसिनीं हंसिनीम्
निर्वाण निज सुख प्रदायिनीं नित्य कल्याणीं कात्यायनीं
शर्वाणीं मधुप विजय वेणीं सद् गुरु गुह जननीं निरञ्जनीम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
गर्वित भण्डासुर भञ्जनीं कामाकर्षिण्यादि रञ्जनीं
निर्विशेष चैतन्य रूपिणीं उर्वी तत्वादि स्वरूपिणीं


kamalAmbAM bhajarE rE mAnasa kalpita mAyA kAryaM tyaja rE

kamalA vANI sEvita pArshvAm kambu jayagrIvAm nata dEvAm
kamalA pura sadanAm mRdu gadanAm kamanIya radanAm kamala vadanAm

sarvAshA paripUraka chakra svAminIm parama shiva kAminIm
durvAsArchita gupta yOginIm du.Hkha dhvamsinIm hamsinIm
nirvANa nija sukha pradAyinIm nitya kalyANIm kAtyAyanIm
sharvANIm madhupa vijaya vENIm sad guru guha jananIm niranjanIm
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
garvita bhaNDAsura bhanjanIm kAmAkarshiNyAdi ranjanIm
nirvishEsha chaitanya rUpiNIm urvI tatvAdi svarUpiNIm


Worship (bhajarE) Goddess Kamalamba and abandon (tjajarE) all that is the imaginary (kalpita) result (kAryam) of illusion (mAya) , O Mind (mAnasa)!

She is paid homage to (sEVita) by Lakshmi (kamalA) and Saraswati (vEnI) beside her (pArshvam).  The beauty (implied) of her neck (grIvAm) surpasses (jaya) that of a conch (kambu). She is bowed to (nata) by the Devas. She resides (sadanAm) in Kamalapura, the lotus-city.  Her speech (gadanaAm) is gentle(mRdu). She has beautiful (kamanIya) teeth (radanAm). Her face (vadanAm) is like a lotus (kamala).

She is the mistress (svAminIm) of the Chakra which fulfills all desires (sarVasha paripUraka chakra). She is beloved to (kAminIm) to supreme (parama) Lord Shiva. She is the secret (gupta) Yogini worshipped by (archita) by Sage Durvasa. She is the destroyer (dhvamsinIm) of sorrow (duhkha). She contains the universal soul (hamsinIm). She is the bestower (pradAyinIm) of true (nija) bliss (sukha) in the form of salvation (nirvAna). She is the ever (nitya) auspicious one (kalyAnIm). She is also Katyayani (the sixth form of Durga born as the daughter of Sage Katyayana) amd Sharvani (consort of sharva=Shiva). Her (vEnI) is darker than (vijaya=conquers) the colour (implied) of bees (madhupa). She is the mother (jananI) of the good (sad) Lord Guruguha (Kartikeya, also signature of composer). She is the unblemished one (niranjanI).

She is one who destroyed (bhanjanI) of the egoistic (garvita) demon (asura) Bhanda. She delights (ranjanI) deities such as (Adi) Kamakarshini. She is the embodiment (rUpinI) of the absolute (nirvisEsha) consciousness (chaitanya). She is the manifestation (svarUpinI) of heaven &earth (urvI), reality (tatva) etc (Adi).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, U.Srinivas

Teliyaleru Rama

People do not have the knowledge, O Rama, of the path of devotion. They wander all over the world babbling but they do not have the knowledge of devotion. They get up early, take a dip in the water, smear themselves with sacred ash, count their prayer beads with their fingers, outwardly very praiseworthy! Inwardly they are dedicated to making money. But..they do not have the knowledge of the path of devotion.

BhaktiI am an atheist’ my son tells me.

It is Deepavali day and we are at the temple. My son’s statement is not a surprise; I am aware of his thoughts. Yet..

It makes me so sad’ I say.

Generally speaking, my tendency is to say ‘each to his own’. I feel very unqualified to judge people for the choices they make. Who is to know what is right? Yet in this case, it feels different. I see this as a my failure. As a mother, I should have made a better effort to teach him of a belief system which has given me much succour over my lifetime. I say as much to him.

Are you so sure of being right then? What if you are wrong?’ he asks.

I acknowledge that it is not really possible to prove the existence of God. At some stage, one has to take a leap of faith. Yet there is this feeling… I think it is like music appreciation. There is all this wonderful music, soul touching music, our world of Carnatic Music. Thousands pass by its path, unaware, untouched. Even amongst those who listen with great interest, only rarely does the music ‘speak’ in such a way that one’s soul merges with the music. The transmission may be there, but if one doesn’t have a receiver, one hears nothing! For music and for devotion, one needs a receiver within oneself, or so I think.

‘teliyalEru rama bhakti mArgamunu’ I tell myself as the title of the song comes to mind. I search for a translation to see that Tyagaraja speaks of something a bit different – not about the lack of faith, but about putting on a grand but false show of faith. Tyagaraja seems saddened.  ‘They can never know, O Rama, the true path of Bhakti’ he says. ‘They get up early, take a dip in water, smear themselves with ash, count their prayers on their fingers, but all a grand show for appearances’ says he. It seems far worse than a honestly stated atheism, doesn’t it? For full lyrics and translation, see footnote. The song is set to raga Dhenuka; to know more about this raga, click here.

I have been in the mood of yesteryear greats as last week’s post demonstrates. I have listened to many renditions these past few days but keep going back to the one by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer which I present below. Sound quality is not very good but the music is exceptional.

Alternate Link : Click here and download song 3 (need free membership of

For an instrumental version, here is a elaborated rendition of this song by U.Shrinivas. I found it very interesting as elaborations of this raga are rare. Again sound quality is below par but definitely worthy of your attention.

Alternate Link : Click here and download song 2 (need free membership of


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Dhenuka
Language : Telugu

Note – I do not speak Telugu. I am indebted to various internet resources for the lyrics and translation below.

Transliteration in Devanagari

तॆलिय लेरु राम भक्ति मार्गमुनु

इलनन्तट तिरुगुचुनु
कलुवरिञ्चेरे कानि (alternate: कलुवरिञ्चुत ?)

वेग लेचि नीट मुनिगि भूति पूसि
वेळ्ळनॆञ्चि वॆलिकि श्लाघनीयुलै
बाग पैकमार्जन लोलुलै
रे कानि त्यागराज विनुत

Transliteration in English

(note: k and g seemed to be used interchangeably in most sites I referenced)

teliya lEru rAma bhakti mArgamunu

ilanantaTa tiruguchunu
kaluvarinchErE kAni (alt:kaluvarinchuta)

vEga lEchi nITa munigi bhUti pUsi
vELLanenchi veliki shlAghanIyulai
bAga paikamArjana lOlulai
rE kAni tyAgarAja vinuta


People do not have the knowledge, O Rama, of the path of devotion.

People wander all over the earth babbling, but (they do not have the knowledge….)

People get up early, take a dip in the water, smear sacred ash, count the prayer beads (implied) with their fingers, outwardly being praiseworthy. Inwardly (implied) they are dedicated to earning money. But, O Lord praised by Tyagaraja, (they do not have the knowledge of the path of devotion).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Tyagaraja, U.Srinivas


Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Vinayak Nagraj@flickrOne of my earliest memories of Carnatic Music is from the temple grounds of Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore, Chennai. I must have been less than five years old, I reckon. I remember playing in the sand under the stars while my parents listened to the musical outpourings of the maestros who ruled Carnatic Music at that time. When I went back to the Kapali koil many years later I looked for the sandy areas inside the walls but there were none…is it something I have imagined? Too many years have passed for my memory to retain facts other than a deep sense of contentment I felt in the holy grounds of the temple. I wonder, did the music conjure up images of the Divine for the listeners as potently as the idols within the temple do for the worshippers? Did they feel as blessed as I feel when I listen to music?

Busy with my guests yesterday, I missed marking Shivaratri in any way. This morning I feel guilty, for yesterday should have been a day when my mind focused on the dancing Lord. I make up for it today for my guests have left. I listen non-stop to music, as a prayer, as a meditation, as a worship and I write this 200th post of mine in his honour. Listening to Kapali by Papanasam Sivan takes me to the hallowed grounds of the Kapaleeshwarar temple. Those far off memories are joyful ones for me, and this joy is echoed in the happy notes of Raga Mohanam in which the song is set.

Who is He? Papanasam Sivan describes the Lord as the one with matted hair who is adorned by a snake, with a garland of skulls, wearing tiger skin, His body covered by ash.  He is Kapali, meaning the one who holds a skull. Should not such an image be terrifying? But no! He who dances the dance of Time, His drum keeping the beat, His matted hair flying, His eyes flashing is the most attractive God of all!  Though He is the God of destruction, He is life itself for does not each moment of our life die almost as we live it? There is much symbolism in the depiction of Shiva; I will leave that discussion for another day.

The composer makes it clear that he too finds the Lord enchanting by setting the song in joyful Mohanam and saying in the last line of the song that ‘this enchanter captures the heart of all women who come before Him! I love the contrast of the rather frightening form of the Lord to the soft and lyrical notes of Mohanam. As a woman who has come before Him, I too have lost my heart to Him!

If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.

It is a struggle to decide which rendition to present to you because there are many excellent renditions of this kriti. I have finally decided on the one by D.K.Jayaraman (1928-1991) because in addition to being a wonderful listen, it is also a rare good quality video of a yesteryear artist from the eighties which is very much worth your attention.

I am also very fond of Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s rendition (21 mins, I have not loaded the alapana) from the album Live at Gokhale Hall.

For an instrumental version, I enjoyed U.Srinivas’s very pleasant 30 min rendition on the mandolin.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

காபாலி கருணை நிலவு பொழி வதன மதியனொரு

ஆபால கோபாலம் ஆழி சூழ் தலத்தவரும்
பூபாலரும் அஷ்ட திக் பாலரும் போற்றும் அற்புத

மதி புனல் அரவு கொன்றை தும்பை அருகுமத்தை புனை மாசடையான்
விதி தலை மாலை மார்பன் உரித்த கரிய வெம்புலியின் தோலுடையான்
அதிர முழங்கும் உடுக்கையும் திரிசூலமும் அங்கியும் குரங்கமும் இலங்கிடும் கையான்
துதி மிகு திருமேனி முழுதும் சாம்பல் துலங்க எதிர் மங்கையர் மனம் கவர் ஜகன் மோகன


kApAli karuNai nilavu pozhi vadana madiyan oru

AbAla gopAlam Azhi shUz dalattavarum
bhUpAlarum ashTa dik pAlarum poTrum adbhuta

madi punal aravu konDrai tumbai arugumattai punai mAsaDaiyAn
vidi talai mAlai mArban uritta kariya vempuliyin tOluDaiyAn
adira muzhangum uDukkaiyum tirushUlamum angiyum kurangamum ilangiDum kaiyyAn
tudi migu tirumEni muzhudum sAambal tulanga edir mangaiyar manam kavar jagan mOhana

For notation, click here.


His compassion (karuNai) pours (pozhi) like moonlight (nilavu), his face (vadana) is like a moon (madiyam) (=handsome), the one who holds a skull (kApAli).

The marvellous (arpuda) one who is worshipped by (pOtrum) by the young (bAla) cowherd gOpAlam) (= Krishna?), those from the place (dalattavar) surrounded (shUzh) by the ocean (Azhi), the kings (bhUpAlar) and the keepers (pAlar) (= deities) of the eight (ashta) directions (dik).

He whose matted hair (masadaiyAn) is adorned (punai) with the moon (madi), the river (punal) (=Ganga), the snake (aravu), kondrai flower (=Indian laburnum, a yellow flower), tumbai flower (=leucas, a white wildflower), arugam grass and Umattai flower (=datura, a purple flower). He whose chest (mArbAn) is adorned by a garland (mAlai) of Brahma’s (vidi) head (talai), he who wears a skin (tOluDaiyAn) skinned (uritta) from a dark (kariya) [alternate : kariyin=of an elephant) mighty tiger (vem puli) . With his hands (kai) shining (ilangidum) with a drum (uDukkai) which makes a startling (adira) loud noise (muzhangum), a trident (tirushUlam), fire (angi) and a deer (kurangam). Worship well (tudi migu) the One who enchants the world (jagan mohana),  his sacred body (tiru mEni) shining (tulanga) with ashes (sAmbal), who captures the heart of (manam kavar) the women (mangaiyar) who come before him (edir).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, D.K.Jayaraman, Papanasam Sivan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, U.Srinivas

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

Maha Ganapathim

I meditate upon the supreme Ganapati who is worshipped by Vasishta, the Vamadevas, etc. He is the son of Lord Shiva, is praised by Guruguha. He shines bright like millions of cupids. He is tranquil. He loves great poetry, drama, etc. He loves the sweet Modaka. His mount is a mouse.


Happy Vinayaka Chaturthi to all ! Today is the most important day for the worshippers of Vinayaka, also known as Ganapathi, Ganesha, Vigneshwara etc. The beloved elephant headed God is worshipped all-over India but is especially beloved to the people of Maharashtra and South India. An ancient God, there are indications that He was worshipped as early as in 1200 BC.

वक्रकुण्ड महाकाय कोटि सूर्य समप्रभ |
निर्विघ्नं कुरु म देव शुभ कार्येषु सर्वदा ||

Thus I pray every morning :
“You of the twisted trunk and massive body with the dazzle of millions of suns, Lead me Lord on a path that has no obstacles or hindrances in all my good endeavours”.

Ganapathi is worshipped in 32 different forms such as Bala Ganapathi (child God), Veera Ganapathi (Warrior God), Siddhi Ganapathi (God of Achievement) etc. My personal favourite, given my love of music and dance, is Nritya Ganapathi (the Dancing God), whose picture adorns today’s post. Much as the rotund form of Ganesha is beloved to us, today we should look beyond the obvious into the symbolism of this form.

  • His large and rounded body denotes the entire universe. He is the embodiment of all.
  • The Elephant, which is a vegetarian and doesn’t kill to eat, signifies gentle strength. An elephant also responds to love and affection as God will respond to our love.
  • The large head symbolises wisdom. The large ears sift truths from untruths.
  • The curved trunk denotes the primal sound, the mystic OM. This symbol in Sanskrit ॐ resembles an elephant and his trunk; the Tamil ஓ resembles the head and trunk.
  • The trunk also is a symbol of discrimination – the same trunk has the strength to pull up a tree or pick delicately at the smallest of things.
  • The great stomach symbolises that Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the universe and protects the world.
  • The mouse which is underfoot symbolises the petty desires and ego of man which needs to be vanquished.
  • Ganesha is shown to hold different items in his hands, about 40 different ones being common. Each represents an attribute. In the picture above, one hand in the Abhaya pose says ‘Don’t fear, I am here’.
  • A hand holds the double headed axe to symbolise his destruction of impediments and evil.
  • A hand holds the lotus flower, which indicates purity as the flower grows unsullied even in the dirtiest of ponds.
  • The fourth hand holds Modaks, the sweet dear to Him. Today thousands of worshippers will offer these sweets to their dear deity. Modakam in Sanskrit means that which gives joy and pleasure (Moda); just as this sweet gives us joy, Ganesh too blesses us with joy.

In honour of Ganapathi, I present the short invocation Maha Ganapathim Manasa Smarami (I meditate on the great Ganapathi) written by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) and set to raga Natta (to know more about this raga, click here). This familiar and well-loved song is very often sung at the start of Carnatic Music concerts, as all good tasks should be started by invoking His name.

To present this song, let us start with the gentle voice of Yesudas singing in the film Sindhu Bhairavi.

For an instrumental version, listen to U.Srinivas on the Mandolin here .

Lastly, listen to this vocal version by the Maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam :

Which one do you like best?

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

महा गणपतिं  मनसा स्मरामि
वसिष्ट वामदेवादि वन्दित ||

महादेवसुतं गुरुगुहनुतं
मार कोटि प्रकाशं शान्तं
महाकाव्य नाटकादि प्रियं
मूषिक वाहन मोदक प्रियं

A notation is available in this site.


mahA gaNapatim manasA smarAmi
vasishTa vAmadEvAdi vandita

mahA dEva sutam guruguha nutam
mAra kOTi prakAsham shAntam
mahA kAvya nATakAdi priyam
mUshika vAhana mOdaka priyam


I meditate (smarAmi) on the supreme (mahA) Ganapati who is worshipped (vandita) by Vasishta, the Vamadevas, etc (Adi). He, the son (sutam) of Lord Shiva (mahAdEvA), is praised (nutam) by Guruguha. He shines bright (prakAsham) like millions (kOti) of cupids (mAra). He is tranquil (shAntam). He loves (priyam) great poetry (mahA kAvya), drama (nAtaka), etc (Adi). He loves (priyam) the sweet Modaka. His mount (vAhanam) is a mouse (mUshika).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Muthuswami Dikshithar, U.Srinivas


Mysore VasudevacharyaWhat imbues certain songs with an incredible sweetness which lingers forever in memory? What makes certain compositions much much more than the sum total of their ‘ingredients’ of notes, words and rhythm? I don’t know but Mysore Vasudevachar (1865-1961) sure did when he composed this beautiful song!

Vasudevachar belonged to the direct line of Tyagaraja’s disciples and therefore of impeccable musical lineage. His gurus were Veena Padmanabhayya of Mysore and Patnam Subramania Iyer of Tiruvaiyaru. He became the asthana vidwan of the Royal Court of Mysore.  Much later in life he joined the faculty of Kalakshetra School of Music and Dance, finally becoming its principal. He composed more than 200 compositions in Telugu and Sanskrit. A list of his compositions is available here.

Brochevarevarura is composed in Telugu in Raga Kamas (click here to read more about this raga). Like so many bhaktas before him, and so many after him, the poet begs of Rama ‘O Sita’s husband, don’t you have regard for me? Can’t you listen to my pleas? Aren’t you Vasudeva who rushed to rescue the king of elephants. Dispel my sins, hold my hand and do not let go’.  As I listen to this beautiful song, I too pray ‘Rama, I have neither beautiful words nor melody, but I plead the same; Please don’t let go of me’ !! See footnote for lyrics and translation.

Today I present an instrumental version of this song by the wonderfully talented Maestro U.Shrinivas (1969) on Mandolin.

For a vocal version, listen to this excerpt from a full concert by the Malladi brothers. I like their voice quality very much indeed.

I cannot finish this post without mentioning Brochevarevarura sung by S.P.Balasubramaniam and Vani Jayaram for the film Shankarabharanam (1979). Somayajulu as the Maestro emotes very convincingly and Manju Bhargavi shows that neither a stage nor expensive clothes and jewellery are needed to dance as our classics are meant to be danced!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Telugu

As I do not speak Telugu, I have transcribed the song in Devanagari script. The translation is heavily dependent on multiple online sources.

ब्रोचेवारेवरुरा निन्नु विना रघुवरा ननु
नी चरणाम्बुजमुनु ने विडजाल करुणालवाल

ओ चतुराननादि वन्दित नीकु पराकेलनय्या
नी चरितमु पोगड लेनु ना
चिन्त दीर्च्चि वरमुलिच्चि वेगमे

सीतापते नापै नीकभिमानमु लेदा
वातात्मजाश्रित (alternate वातात्मजार्चित) पाद नामोरलनु विनरादा
आतुरमुग करिराजुनु ब्रोचिन
वासुदेवुडवु (alternate : वासुदेवुडे ) नीवु गदा
ना पाद कामेल्ल पोगोट्टि गड्डिग
ना चेय् बट्टि विडुवग

For notation, click here.


brOchEvArevarurA ninnu vina raghuvarA nanu
nI charaNAmbujamunu nE viDajAla karuNAlavAla

O chaturA nanAdi vandita nIku parAkElanayya
nI charitamu pogaDa lEnu nA
chinta dIrchchi varamulichchi vEgamE


sItApatE nApai nIkabhimAnamu lEdA
vAtAtmajAsrita (alternate: vAtAtmajArchita) pAda nAmoralanu vinarAdA
Aturamuga karirAjunu brOchina
vAsudEvuDavu (alternate: vAsudevuDE) nIvu gadA
nA pAdakamella pOgoTTi gaDDiga
naa  chei baTTi viDuvaga


O Rama, descendent of Raghu, who will save me other than you? O compassionate one, I cannot leave your lotus-like feet.

O Who is worshipped by the four-faced one (Brahma) etc, why are you so aloof sir? I am not competent enough to (assumed sing) your story. Please grant me a remedy quickly.

O Lord of Sita, don’ you have affection for me? O the one at whose feet stays (worships) Hanuman, cannot you hear my pleas? Aren’t you Vasudeva who saved the King of elephants?  (refers to Gajendra moksha). Cleansing me of all sins, will you not hold my hand firmly?



Filed under Bollywood 70's Music, Carnatic Music, Malladi Brothers, Mysore Vasudevachar, S.P.Balasubramaniam, U.Srinivas, Vani Jayaram

Pancharatna Kritis 2 – Dudukugala

I continue today with my posts on Pancharatna Kritis. For those landing on my blog for the first time, the first section is here.

Dudukugala is composed in the Raga Gowla  in the Telugu language. In this composition, the poet paints himself as a sinner, which is surprising because he seems to have led a fairly blameless life. But does not the best of poetry arise from personal angst? Tyagaraja says in one charanam ‘ Not realising that the human form is difficult to obtain, I didn’t strive for Supreme Bliss but instead became a slave to arrogance, jealousy, lust, avarice and infatuation, and went to ruin’. And so has every Saint lamented from time immemorial; the battle of Sainthood seems to be the battle with one’s own self. For a full translation, see here.

Tyagaraja’s works can be appreciated on so many levels – for the beauty of the poetry, for the lyricism of his compositions, for his scholarship in the development of ragas and structures in Carnatic music, for his lighting the way in Bhakti marga (the way of devotion). I have but limited understanding yet I find much to marvel at and enjoy in his works.

In paintings, one works to achieve both contrast and similarity. In the Raga structure of Indian music, one plays with what would be called a limited palette in art i.e.. only a certain subset of possible notes. This limited palette can be chiaroscuro with great variations in tone (term used in visual art), like most of Rembrandt’s works. Or they can be high-key impressionistic works like Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, West Facade in Sunlight, where there is very little variation in tone. Both are beautiful, but in different ways. There may be drama in chiaroscuro, but there is peace and resonance in low-contrast works.  The same beauty can be found in low-key works, again of little contrast but with a play in slight variations which is so pleasurable to the senses.

In Dudukugala, in the second charanam (stanza), the notes r r s s ; r s r M m s r M | ns r g M – sr G , m r r s s  dance around in the lower half of the octave with the next charanam playing a variation in the same playing field. Not chiaroscuro, but impressionism! Ah, what a nectar to my ears this music is!! To more about this raga, click here.

Watch below Dudukugala as sung in the festival at Thiruvaiyaru to celebrate this Saint-poet.

Dudukugala–Tyagaraja Aradhana

To appreciate the beauty of the musical notes, listen to the instrumental version by child-prodigy turned Maestro U.Shrinivas  on the Mandolin.

Click here to read the next post on Pancharatna Kritis.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Tyagaraja, U.Srinivas