Category Archives: Unnikrishnan

Pacchai Ma Malai

O Achyuta! With a body like a great green mountain, a mouth like coral, with eyes shaped like a red lotus, O Lord of the celestials! O tender sprig of the cowherds!’ Other than the pleasure of uttering these words, I want nothing, not even attaining  the experience of ruling the world of the celestials!

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklersIs it 2014 already? I cannot believe it! Decades seem to rush past, faster and faster, leaving me far behind. I feel as if I stand on a platform, with trains rushing past on either side of me, people hurrying from here to there, while I stare bewildered at them all.  When did I stop being a participant and become the audience instead? Is it perhaps that my children have grown and live far away with lives of their own? Is it maybe that my husband occupies the same physical space as I do but seems to live in a different mental space? When did I become so disassociated, disengaged, disjointed? What is the remedy?

ஊரிலேன் காணி இல்லை உறவு மற்றொருவர் இல்லை I sing quietly to myself. ‘I am of no town, I have no land, I have no other kin in this world’.  I am not in an unhappy place, but a place of stillness, a place removed. I think that perhaps we will all arrive in this place of one at sometime or the other. And in this place, the poetry that I have chosen for today seems so meaningful that it could have been written today, not 1200+ years back. Written by Thondaradippodi Azhwar (8th Century AD), Tirumaalai has 45 verses in devotion to Lord Ranganatha (Vishnu) of Srirangam. The two verses that are featured in today’s post are both from Tirumaalai; no Tamilian can remain untouched by these beautiful words.

பச்சை மாமலை போல் மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா! அமரர் ஏறே! ஆயர் தம் கொழுந்தே! என்னும்,
இச்சுவை தவிர யான் போய் இந்திர லோகம் ஆளும்,
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்க மா நகர் உளானே! (2)

pachchai mAmalai pOl mEni pavaLavAy kamalach-chengkaN
achchudA! amarar-ERE! Ayar tam kozhundE! ennum,
ichchuvai tavira yAn pOy indira lOkam ALum
achchuvai peRinum vENDEn aranga mA nagar-uLAnE!

‘O Achyuta! With a body like a great green mountain, a mouth like coral, with eyes shaped like a red lotus, O Lord of the celestials! O tender sprig of the cowherds!’ Other than the pleasure of uttering these words, I want nothing, not even the experience of ruling the world of the celestials, O Lord who lives in the great city of Arangama (SriRangam)!

The verse above is very famous and sung in many Vishnu temples during the daily rituals of worship. The Azhwar rejects even the pleasure of ruling heaven when compared to the pleasure of singing the praises of his dearest Lord Ranganatha.

ஊரிலேன் காணி இல்லை உறவு மற்றொருவர் இல்லை
பாரில் நின் பாத மூலம் பற்றிலேன் பரம மூர்த்தி
காரொளி வண்ணனே என் கண்ணனே கதறுகின்றேன்
ஆர் உளர் களைகண் அம்மா அரங்க மா நகருளானே (29)

UrilEn kANI illai uRavu maTRRovar illai
pAril nin pAda mUlam paTRRilEn parama mUrtti
kAroLi vaNNanE en kaNNane kadaRuginDREn
Ar uLar kaLaikaN ammA aranga mA nagaruLAnE

O Supreme Lord, I am of no town, I have no land, I have no other kin in this world. I have not even been able to access your feet! O Lord with the complexion of brightly lit clouds! O my Kanna (Krishna)! I cry in despair! Who is there to be support me like a mother! O Ranganatha!

In this second verse, the Azhwar says he has nothing and no one on this earth and cries in despair to the Lord to support him. To read the complete Tirumaalai, click here.

These verses are sung in exquisite Hindolam by Unnikrishnan. His voice is so gentle, so full of peace that I feel totally centred after listening to him. God bless him!

Tamilians of a certain age will no doubt remember the following brisker and stronger rendition by T.M.Sounderarajan in Thirumal Perumai (1968)

Happy New Year!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, T.M.Sounderarajan, Thondaradipodi Azhwar, Unnikrishnan

Ododi Vanden Kanna

Knowing the relationship between us, O Krishna, I came running! Having done millions of religious austerities, I came running to see you in Brindavanam!  Seeing the flute played with such beauty, the faces of the surrounding cowherdesses turn shy. As eyes full of love seek You, a smile curves at the edge of Your lips. Thus for eons and eons, as tone and tempo, the Lord of the world plays His music and the girls keep time.

Krishna and GopisCan one really fall in love with God in a romantic sense? And this love, is it to be called devotion then? Surprisingly enough, Hinduism accepts a purely romantic love for God as equal to any other form of Bhakti. Everyone knows the stories of Meera and Andal, but even outside of these famous examples, romantic verse for God abounds in our literature. Have we not heard of the beauty of His walk and Her eyes ? Of His feet and Her curls? Of His shoulders and Her smile? Why, I have even read some description of Goddesses which are almost risqué! Interestingly, even male poets take on a female persona to express their love for a masculine God.

While this romantic love for God may offend the sensibilities of other religions, it makes perfect sense to us Hindus. Romantic love enjoys a grand commonality, far beyond any borders and differences that we humans have imposed on ourselves. The call of the opposite sex is a powerful one, is it not? We should not underestimate the power of this force; people face up to extraordinarily difficult circumstances to achieve their desired ones. Why not channel this strong force towards God instead?

To illustrate poetry of this kind, I have chosen a beautiful song by Ambujam Krishna (1917-1989). ‘I came running’ says the poet ‘Knowing the relationship between us, I came running’. An alternate version can be translated as ‘Knowing that there is to be a liaison between us, I came running!’. The second version makes it more explicit that the relationship is romantic right from the beginning. The poet goes to on to describe Krishna, the player of the flute, and the adoring Gopis who dance around him; she seems to join this adoring mass. She goes on to say ‘Thus for eons and eons, as tone and tempo, the Lord of the world plays music and the girls keep time’.  Suddenly with this line we are taken away from the physical desire for an irresistibly handsome and alluring Krishna to his timeless divinity, the divinity which is like tone to our tempo, two aspects of the same music. A beautiful picture, is it not? She stresses the divinity with her words ‘The meaning of the Vedas dwell in union with you’. In one easy transition, we go from attraction to the form, to the realisation of Divinity and Divine knowledge. Set to raga Dharmavati (I think it is tuned by T.N.Seshagopalan but am unsure), enjoy this romantic song to God sung by the Master of mellifluous music, Unnikrishnan. To know more about this raga, click here.

(Alternate link : click here)


Footnote (Lyrics) :

ஓடோடி வந்தேன் கண்ணா நான்
உனக்கும் எனக்கும் உள்ள உறவை (alt: உறவினை) அறிந்து
Alternate : உனக்கும் எனக்கும் உள்ள உறவென்று அறிந்து

கோடானு கோடி தவம் செய்து உன்னை காண
கோவிந்தா என்றழைத்து பிருந்தாவனத்திடை

(கண்ணன்) குழல் ஊதும் எழில் காணவே
கூடும் கோபியர்கள் முகம் நாணவே
காதல் விழி உந்தன் முகம் நாடவே
முறுவல் இதழோரம் சுழித்தோடவே

(மத்யம கால சாகித்யம்)
(ஜகந்)நாதன் இசை பாட நங்கை ஜதி போட
கால காலமெல்லாம்   சுருதியும் லயமும் என
வேதப் (alt:வேதம்) பொருள் உந்நில்  ஒன்றி உறைந்திடவே
போதம் மிகு காதல் பொன் அடி தனில் கொண்டு


ODODi vandEn kaNNA nAn
unakkum enakkum uLLa uRavai aRrindu

kODAnu kODi tavam seidu unnai kANa
gOvindA enDRazhaittu brndAvanattiDai

(kaNNan) kuzhal Udum ezhil kANavE
kUDum gOpiyargaL mukham nANavE
kAdal vizhi undan mukham nADavE
muRuval idazhOram shuzhittODavE

(madhyamakAla sAhityam)

( jagan) nAthan isai pADa nangai jati pODa
kAla kAlamellAm shrutiyum layamum ena
vEdap-poRuL unnil onDRi uRaindiDavE
bOdam migu kAdal pon aDi tanil koNDu


Knowing (aRindu) the relationship (uRavu) between us (unakkum enakkum Ulla), O Krishna, I came running (ODODi vandEn)!

Having done (seidu) millions (kODAna kODi) of religious austerities (tavam), (I came) to see you (unnai kANa) in Brindavanam calling (enDRaizhaiitu) Govinda!

Seeing the flute (kuzhal) played (Udum) with such beauty (ezhil) , as the faces (mukham) of the surrounding (kUDum)  cowherdesses (gOpiyargaL) turn shy (nANavE). As eyes (vizhi) full of love (kAdal) seek (nADavE) your face (undan mukham), a smile (muRuval) curves (shuzhi) at the edge (Oram) of your lips (idazh).  Thus for eons and eons (kAla kAlamellam), as tone (shruti) and tempo (layam), the Lord of the world (jagan nAthan) plays music (isai pADa) and the girls (nangai) keeps time (jati pODa). The meaning (poRul) of the Vedas dwell (uRaindiDavE) in union (onDRi) with you (unnil). With wise (bOdam) love (kAdal) for your golden (pon) feet (aDi), (I came running…)



Filed under Ambujam Krishna, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Unnikrishnan

Pibare Ramarasam

RamaWhen a reader requested me to write on this song last week, it was easy for me to acquiesce. I have listened to and enjoyed Pibare Ramarasam for many years after all. I always prepare myself for writing a post by listening to multiple renditions of a song, both vocal and instrumental; I want the song to permeate my being, I want to absorb the words, the meaning, the sounds, the emotions and the moods invoked by a piece of music before being able to write of it. I also listened to a lot of Raga Ahir Bhairav in Hindustani Music and what a pleasure that was! To know more about this raga, click here.

Coming back to Pibare Ramarasam, I kept getting distracted by the mispronunciations of Sanskrit by almost all the vocalists. पिबरे (pibarE) pronounced as पिभरे (pibharE) is bad enough, but as बिबरे (bibarE)? I shudder!! Even the maestro who can normally be depended on to pronounce Sanskrit correctly slipped up; I distinctly heard पीठम्  (pITam) instead of  पीतम्  (pItam) which changes the meaning totally. As this hobby horse of mine threatened to take over this post, I have put my rants in a separate page, the better to refer to it in future posts when my annoyance at mispronunciations takes over everything else! To read my rants, click here; I need an audience for my rants and raves too!! In the meanwhile, I beg vocalists and students to please please learn Sanskrit compositions in Devanagari script and learn to pronounce the words properly. Please.

It is indeed appropriate to stress on pronunciation in relation to this song;  after all, the poet talks of the power of the name of Rama, the power of the sound itself. Sadasiva Brahmendra (17th-18th century)  was an avadhoota, an ascetic who had renounced everything, and who has contributed some beautiful and mystical works to Carnatic Music. ‘Drink the essence of the name of Rama, O tongue’, the poet extolls, ‘for it will keep you far from sins and fulfill you with many rewards’. This is not a reminder for the mind, but a reminder for the tongue. This is an acknowledgement of the power of the sound energy in the name of Rama. Hinduism has always recognized the power of sound. I had written of this in a post last year, of Mantras and Bija Mantras and the power they carry. Sadasiva Brahmendra says that so too is the power of the name of Rama. ‘The poet then goes on to describe the rewards, such as ‘removal of the grief of the birth-death cycle’, ‘purify even the worst of sinners’ etc.  For full lyrics and translation, see footnote.

This song used to be sung in Yamuna Kalyani but the great Maestro Balamuralikrishna has made his Ahir Bhairav version very popular. I have a great affection for this latter raga; the notes themselves seem to imbue the song with a deep mystical sense. There is no question about it, the Maestro’s version is the best, especially if you listen to the ones sung when his voice was at its peak. If you haven’t heard him, here is a link. But wanting to present an alternate version, I have selected a very pleasant and peaceful rendition by Unnikrishnan. Click here to listen.

For an instrumental version, there is this perfect little rendition by flute Maestro Shashank. Ahir Bhairav and the flute seem to have been made for each other!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit
Note: Its common to sing only lines 1,3 and 5 but I have heard a complete version too.

पिबरे राम रसम् रसने पिबरे राम रसम्
दूरीकृत पातक  संसर्गम्  पूरित नानाविध फल वर्गम्
जनन मरण भय शोक  विदूरम् सकल शास्त्र निगमागम सारम्
परिपालित सरसिज गर्भाण्डं   परम पवित्री कृत पाषाण्डम्
शुद्ध परमहम्स आश्रम / आश्रित  गीतं शुक शौनक कौशिक मुख पीतम्


pibarE rAma rasam rasanE pibarE rAmarasam
dUrIkrta pAtaka samsargam pUrita nAnAvidha phala vargam
janana maraNa bhaya shOka vidUram sakala shAstra nigamAgama sAram
paripAlita sarasija garbhANDam parama pavitrI krta pAshANDam
shuddha paramahamsa Ashrama gItam shuka shaunaka kaushika mukha pItam


Drink (verb piban) (implied: absorb) the essence (rasam) of the name of Rama, o tongue (rasana).
It will help you (implied) remove or be distant (doori krta) from association with sin(pAtaka) (or be distant from those who cause you to sin) and you will be fulfilled (poorita) with many kinds (nAnAvidha) and types (varga) of rewards/gains (phala).
It will help you be far removed (vidUram) from the grief (shOka) of the cycle of birth and death (jananamaraNa), it is the essence (sAram) of all (sakala) the religious treatises (shAstra), the Vedas (nigama) and sciences (Agama).
It protects (paripAlita) all creation. Brahma was born of a lotus (sarasija) from a golden egg (garbha anda, womb & egg) and then he created the whole universe. So this phrase implies that Rama nama protects the whole universe.  It will purify (pavitrI) even the most (parama) impious or heretic (pAshANDam).
It is the pure (shuddha) song (gItam) that paramahamsa (signature of poet) has taken refuge in (Ashrama/Ashrita), it is the same which has been drunk (pItam) by sages like Shuka, Shaunaka and Kaushika.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.Balamuralikrishna, Sadasiva Brahmendra, Shashank, Unnikrishnan