Category Archives: Unnikrishnan

Natha Hare

Why does some poetry last eight centuries in the memory of men while others last not even a generation? I don’t really have an answer. I am referring to Jayadeva’s epic work Gita Govinda. If a work’s success is to be measured by its longevity, this work from the 12th century surely meets its mark. It is sung and danced to in different parts of India, from its native Odisha to Kerala, a couple of thousand kilometres away. I have already featured one song from Gita Govinda in this blog; today I am exploring Natha Hare which is well known to Carnatic Music fans.

The song describes Radha in a state of viraha or abandonment by her beloved. She is a forlorn heroine and Jayadeva paints a pitiable picture of her. My last post on a Qawwali describing an intoxicated lover is not that different from this post featuring a lovelorn Radha. Both represent the longing of the soul (Jeevatma) for the Divine (Paramatma), both use the human emotion of romantic love as an analogy. The former shocks us with drunken revelry, the latter with erotic imagery. Poets always use a combination of imagination and life experiences to draw us into an emotional understanding of what they want to convey, and Jayadeva has done that with exquisite artistry.

That exquisite artistry is matched by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (1926-2004) in giving abhinaya (expression of the sentiment) to this beautiful song. I particularly chose an ashtapadi this week because I wanted to feature this revered Guru of the Odissi dance tradition. He was acknowledged with the Padma Vibhushan in 2000 for exceptional and distinguished contribution to the arts. A dancer from Odisha to give abhinaya for poetry from the same State seems apt! I particularly enjoyed his portrayal of Radha dressing herself and secretly leaving her house to meet Krishna.

There is a longer version here for those who are interested.

Natha Hare has been sung by Carnatic musicians in different ragas. However none of the many renditions I listened to were of the full song. If you would like to listen to some renditions, here are a couple of links :

  • A rendition by Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna in Darbari Kanada. His renditions are very well known of course. I am a bit surprised that he has sung it as ‘nAda harE’ instead of ‘nAtha harE’.
  • A rendition by Unnikrishnan in Madhuvanti. Both the softness of the raga and the silkiness of his voice match the mood of this poetry to perfection.

As with other long pieces, I have given a word for word translation and an interpretation based on my understanding, limited though it is.

पश्यति दिशि दिशि रहसि भवन्तम्।
तदधर मधुर मधूनि पिबन्तम्॥
नाथ हरे जगन्नाथ हरे।
सीदति राधा वासगृहे धृवम्॥

pashyati dishi dishi rahasi bhavantam
tadadhara madhura madhUni pibantam
nAtha harE jagannAtha harE
sIdati rAdhA vAsagRhE dhRvam

Radha is surely (dhRvam) pining (sIdati) in the bed-chamber (vAsagRhE), sucking at (pibantam=drinking) that (tat) sweet (madhura), honeyed (madhUni) lower lip (adhara), secretly (rahasi) looking (pashyati) in all directions (dishi dishi) for you (bhavantam), O Lord (nAtha) Hari (harE), O Lord of the Universe (jagat+nAtha)

Radha awaits Krishna for a union much as a devotee awaits a union with the Divine. She looks in all directions, not knowing where He is. This quest for God is described by many poets in many different ways. A song from an old Hindi film comes to mind – तू ढूंढता है जिसको बस्ती में या के बन में, वह साँवरा सलोना रहता है तेरे मन में – He, whom you search for in populated places or in forests, that beautiful dark skinned one lives in your heart. Radha, who has Krishna in her heart, still looks blindly for Him everywhere.

त्वदभिसरण रभसेन वलन्ती।
पतति पदानि कियन्ति चलन्ती॥
विहित विशद बिस किसलय वलया ।
जीवति परमिह तव रति कलया॥

dvadabhisaraNa rabhasEna valantI
patati padAni kiyanti chalantI
vihita vishada bisa kisalaya valayA
jIvati paramiha tava rati kalayA

She (implied) eagerly (rabhasEna) hastens (valantI) to your (tvad) rendezvous (abhisaraNa), walks (chalantI) a few (kiyanti) steps (padAni) and (implied) falls (patatI). Girdled (valayA) with the soft (vishada) sprout (kisalaya) of a lotus plant (bisa) (implication-in order to cool the heat of her desire), now (iha) henceforth (param) she (implied) lives (jIvati) by imagining (kalayA) the pleasure of your love-making (tava rati).

She is eager for the union but stumbles and falls as she hastens to meet Him. Shall we take it to imply that the path to our union with the Divine is not a straightforward one? We will have doubts, we will stumble and fall and sometimes all that will console us is imagining that one day we will be be one with God.

मुहुरवलोकित मण्डन लीला ।
मधुरिपुरहमिति भावन शीला॥
त्वरितमुपैति न कथमभिसारम् ।
हरिरिति वदति सखीमनुवारम्॥

mahuravalOkita maNDana lIlA
madhuripuhamiti bhAvana shIlA
tvaritamupaiti na kathamabhisAram
haririti vadati sakhImanuvAram

Adorning herself (lIlA-disguising or dressing as one’s paramour) with ornaments (maNDana) like that of Krishna (implied), she (implied) looks (avalokita) again and again (muhuh) at herself (implied) and is accustomed to imagining (bhAvanashIlA) ‘I am (aham) Krishna (madhu ripu=enemy of Ripu)’ . How is it (katham) that Hari doesn’t (na) swiftly (tvaritam) come towards (upaiti) the rendezvous (abhisAram), she (implied) says (vadati) to her friend (sakhi) time after time (anuvaram).

To take on the colours or the form of the beloved is a metaphor for drowning oneself in His love. Our beloved Meera said मैं तो सांवरे के रंग राची – I am dyed in the colour of the dark one. The wonderful Bulleh Shah said रांझा रांझा करदी नी मैं आपे रांझा होई । सद्दो नी मैनूं धीद्दो रांझा, हीर ना आखो कोई । – By repeatedly calling for Ranjha, I myself became Ranjha. Call me Ranjha from now, don’t call me Heer. Jayadeva, who predates both Meera and Bulleh Shah, has used a similar metaphor in these verses. ‘I am Him‘ is Vedantic thought isn’t it, no wonder we come across it in many forms! .

श्लिष्यति चुम्बति जलधरकल्पम् ।
हरिरुपगत इति तिमिरमनल्पम्॥
भवति विलम्बिनि विगलितलज्जा ।
विलपति रोदिति वासकसज्जा॥

shlishyati chumbati jaladharakalpam
harirupagata iti timiramanalpam
bhavati vilambini vigalitalajja
vilapati rOditi vAskasajja

Thinking (implied) that (iti) Krishna (harih) has arrived (upagata) she (implied) embraces (shlishyati) and kisses (chumbati) the vast (unalpam-not small) cloud-like (jaladhara=cloud, kalpam=similar to) darkness (timiram). Realising that he (implied) has become (bhavati) delayed (vilambini), Radha (implied), a woman ready to receive her beloved (vAsakasajja – vAsaka=home, sajja=decorated/prepared), wails (vilapati) and weeps (rOditi) without shame (vigalita lajja).

Radha takes the very darkness that surrounds her to be Krishna, the dark one. Darkness is often used to symbolise ignorance. Radha, who in her ignorance thinks she is separate from Krishna, weeps in despair.

श्रीजयदेव कवेरिदमुदितम् ।
रसिकजनम् तनुतामतिमुदितम्॥

shrI jayadEva kavEridamuditam
rasikajanam tanutAmatimuditam

May this (idam), which has been said (uditam) by the poet (kavi) Shri Jayadeva accomplish (tanutam from verb tanutE) great (ati) delight (muditam) in an appreciative (rasika) audience (jana=public).

Jayadeva signs off, hoping that his verses pleases his audience. To me, this is not a very meaningful or important verse, but this is the verse included by most musicians!

Image citation : Radha Pining for Krishna from a Gita Govinda manuscript, Freer Gallery of Art


Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit, Jayadeva, M.Balamuralikrishna, 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!

Reference Information :

Poetry : Thondaradippodi Azhwar
Raga : Hindolam


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 and Translation) :

Composer : Ambujam Krishna
Raga : Dharmavati
Language : Tamil

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 (enDRaizhaitu) 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