Category Archives: Carnatic Music

Madhava Hrdi Khelini

Krishna-dancing.jpgHinduism is so very complex isn’t it! I call myself a Hindu but have only a limited understanding of all that it involves. It is such an inclusive religion, seemingly accepting quite contrary thoughts and ideas within itself! I picture Hinduism as a tree with the Vedas forming the strong roots of its philosophy. The trunk is made up of the scriptures such as the Upanishads, the Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Bhagawat Gita, all of which support and are supported by the Vedas. The trunk leads to many branches with their own scriptures. Though these branches may lead in different directions, they all belong together to form a whole. The tree being a living thing, it changes shape constantly as branches form and wither, and leaves grow and fall over time. But yet through all the changes, it remains the same.

In this ever-changing tableau, even the Gods have no permanence. For example, Indra is one the most prominent deities in the Rigveda but I don’t think any household altar in India today will have a place for him.  Krishna was not even mentioned in the Vedas; some scholars quote a single mention in the Chandogya Upanishad which may or may not refer to the same Krishna. The first mention seems to be in the Mahabharata. His story comes to us in fragments – his adulthood in Mahabharata (4 BC or earlier), his childhood in Harivamsa Purana (2 BC or earlier) and Srimad Bhagavata Purana (10 AD or earlier) and Krishna as an avatar in Vishnu Purana (1 AD or earlier). Of course dating these ancient works is futile as these were fluid works which were transmitted in an oral tradition, developing into their current known form over time. So even a deity as beloved as Krishna has no fixed reference for his story.

Coming to Radha, my subject for today, her arrival into the folds of Hindu thought is even more nebulous than most others. She is not mentioned in Mahabharata at all, nor in Srimad Bhagavata Purana.  There is a mention of her in Prakrit literature e.g. in Sattasai by Hala (6 AD or earlier), Gaudavaho by Vakpati (8 AD or earlier), Venisamhara  by Bhatta Narayana (9 AD or earlier) etc. There is also mention in some early works in Sanskrit such as Dasavatara Charita (11 AD) by Kshemendra. These early works may have inspired Jayadeva but it his Radha of Gita Govinda (12 AD) who is the Radha we know today. In the South, there is a stream of thought that Napinnai of Silappadikaram (6 AD or earlier) is the same as Radha. If that is true, then this may well be the earliest known mention of Radha.

There are many unanswered questions about Radha. Was Radha real or is she just a figment of a poet’s imagination? Weren’t Krishna and Radha just small children when Krishna lived in Vrindavan so why the eroticism? He went to Mathura to kill Kamsa when he was still a pre-teen, didn’t he? Some say that Radha was a teenager when Krishna was a baby, her love and affection for Krishna pure and platonic, very different to the erotic love in Gita Govinda. If Krishna loved her so much, why did he never send for her after he left Vrindavan?  Is Radha just an amsha of Krishna, a representation of one part of his nature? I have no answers. Personally, it makes no difference to my own beliefs but I do know that others may feel strongly one way or the other.

Whatever is the truth of Radha, it is Jayadeva’s poetry which led to her worship as a Goddess. Other poets continued what Jayadeva started, writing about the love of Radha and Krishna in local languages such as Govindadasa and Vidyapati in Bengali. As long as the monastic religions of Buddhism and Jainism had a stronghold, romantic desire was seen as something to be conquered. But by 12 AD, Buddhism was already in a decline in India. This was the world to which Jayadeva brought his highly erotic work about Radha and Krishna. With his songs gaining fame, sensuality came to be seen as one more path to spirituality. Slowly some parts of India, mainly along the Ganges, took to worshipping Radha as the consort of Krishna. Though not worshipped in the South of India, she is definitely accepted by Srivaishnavas as Vedanta Desika himself mentions Radha in Yadavabhyudaya.

What a long prologue I have given to my choice of song today! I found the subject interesting so got a bit carried away…

Today I bring to you a song about Radha written by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer (1700-1765). Rarely did Carnatic vaggeyakarakas dedicate songs to Radha so this song is rather unique.  While Jayadeva’s work is overtly erotic, the Kavi’s words are more subtle with a subtext of eroticism. Sanskrit is a great language for multiple meanings!  I find that Raga Kalyani is perfect for the sringara bhava of this song. I must mention that it is one of the poet’s Saptaratna Kritis. Surprisingly, this song doesn’t seem to be sung often by musicians. I have always loved Aruna Sairam’s renditions of this song, so it is her music that I present to you today.


Footnote (Lyrics and Meaning) :

पल्लवि
माधव हृदि खेलिनि
मधुरिपु समदन वदन मधुपे जय (माधव)

अनुपल्लवि
वीतोपमान वेणुगान नाद सुलय रसिके रसालये
(मध्यमकाल साहित्यम्)
नानाविध पुश्पिताग्र सुगन्ध लता निकुञ्ज मन्दिर सदने (माधव)

चरणम्
राधे रसयुत रास विलासे

स्वर साहित्यम् 1
श्री हरि प्रेमाखण्ड मण्डल साम्राज्य अधिपते (राधे)

स्वर साहित्यम् 2
सप्तविम्शति मुक्ता मालिक शोभित कन्धरे मधुकर (राधे)

स्वर साहित्यम् 3
निन्दित सारस रिपु किरण धवल रदन विकसितोज्ज्वलयुत मनसिज (राधे)

स्वर साहित्यम् 4
नगधर गोप वधूजन कुतुक नटनाद्भुत कम्प्रहार समान
चामीकर सरसिज करतल मृदु ताल कलकलरव मणि वलये (राधे)

स्वर साहित्यम् 5
करतल कमले रति समये जित माधव मणिमय कुण्डल खेलित सुकर्णिके
प्रपीत तत् सुभाषित श्रुति युगले सरस रस रसने (राधे)

स्वर साहित्यम् 6
समधिक नव नव व्रज तरुणीजन चलाचल नटन कोलाहल समये
कृत रूषित माधव सहिते मुनि मनसामपि कलिल तन्नटन
निरवधि सुखानन्द निमग्न हृदये सदये अति अद्भुतानङ्ग
केली विलास चतुरे भावित त्रिभुवन मधुरस रसिके मधुकर
राधे रसयुत रास विलासे
हरि स्मरण सुखवर प्रसादे
मनो मुदित लीला विनोदे
हरिणाम् उपकूहित
(मध्यमकाल साहित्यम्)
सङ्ग्रहीतम् अपि श्स्त्र जघन रुचिर कनक वसने मृदु वचने ((माधव)

Transliteration 

pallavi
mAdhava hRdI khElini
madhuripu samadana vadana madhupE jaya

anupallavi
vItOpamAna vENugAna nAda sulaya rasikE rasAlayE
(madhyamakAla sahityam-twice normal tempo)
nAnAvidha pushpitAgra sugandha latA nikunja mandira sadanE

charaNam
rAdhE rasayuta rAsa vilasE

svara sAhityam 1
shrI hari prEmAkhaNDa maNDala sAmrAjya adhipatE

svara sAhityam 2
saptavimshati muktA mAlika shObhita kandharE madhukara

svara sAhityam 3
nindita sArasa ripu kiraNa dhavala radana vikasitOjjvalayuta manasija

svara sAhityam 4
nagadhara gOpa vadhUjana kutuka naTnAdbhuta kamprahAra samAna
chAmIkara sarasija karatala mRdu tAla kalakalarava maNi valayE

svara sAhityam 5
karatala kamalE rati samayE jita mAdhava maNimaya kuNDala khElita sukarNikE
prapIta tat subhAshita shruti yugalE sarasa rasa rasanE

svara sAhityam 6
samadhika nava nava vraja taruNIjana chalAchala naTana kOlAhala samayE
kRta rUshita mAdhava sahitE muni manasAmapi kalila tannaTana
niravadhi sukhAnanda nimagna hRdayE sadayE ati adbhutAnanga
kElI vilAsa chaturE bhAvita tribhuvana madhurasa rasikE madhukara

rAdhE rasayuta rAsa vilAsE
hari smaraNa sukhavara prasAdE
manO mudita lIlA vinOdE hariNAm upakUhita
(madhyamakAla sAhityam-twice normal tempo)
sangrahItam api shastra jaghana ruchira kanaka vasanE mRdu vachanE

Translation

Pallavi
Victory to (jaya) she who dallies (khElinI) in the heart of (hRdI) of the intoxicated (madhupE) Krishna (madhuripu-enemy of Madhu) with the enamoured (samadana) face (vadana).

Anupallavi
She who is the very seat of all enjoyments (rasAlayE), who enjoys (rasikE) the beautiful rhythm (su-laya) of the incomparable (vItopamAna) sound (nAda) of flute-music (vENu gAna)
She who is the slender woman (latA) who lives in (sadanE)  a house (mandira) like an arbour (nikunja) covered to the tips (agra) with all kinds (nAnAvidha) of fragrant (sugandha) flowers and blossoms (pushpita).

Charanam
O Radha (rAdhE) who enjoys (vilAsE) the emotionally flavourful (rasayuta) Rasa* dance (rAsa) (Note* Rasa dance was a rustic dance of cowherds, the dance of Krishna and the Gopis).

Svara Sahityam 1
She who is the owner of (adhipatE) of the undivided (akhanDa) zone (maNDala) of Krishna’s (shrI harI) love (prEma).

Svara Sahityam 2
She who is free (muktA) of the twenty-seven (saptavimshati, unsure what this 27 refers to, some kind of shortcomings?), the lover (madhukarE) whose neck (kandhara) is adorned with (shObhita) a garland (malika).

Svara Sahityam 3
She whose loved one (manasija) is possessed with (yuta) an expanded (vikasita) splendour (ujjavala), with beautiful (dhavala) rays (kiraNa), who tore apart (radana) his enemy (ripu), the despicable (nindita) stork (sArasa, refers to Bakasura).

Svara Sahityam 4
She who is the woman (vadhUjana) of the one who held (dhara) the mountain (naga, referring to Govardhana), whose eager (kutuka) dance (naTana) with swinging (kampra) garlands (hAra) is extraordinary (adbhuta), who is like (samAna) a golden (chAmikara) lotus (sarasija), whose soft (mRdu) palms (karatala) beat (implied) a rhythm (tAla) while his gem-studded bangles (maNi valaya) jingle (kalakalarava, a confused noise).

Svara Sahityam 5
She with the beautiful ears (sukaRNikE) who has won over (jita) Krishna (mAdhava), she whose palms (karatala) are like a lotus (kamalE), whose gem-studded (maNImaya) earrings (kuNDala) move to and fro (khElita) at the time of (samayE) making love (rati), she with those (tat) eloquently (subhAshita) swollen (prapIta) pair (yugalE) of shruti (ears), she who savours (rasanE) passionate (sarasa) emotions (rasa).

Svara Sahityam 6
During (samayE) the hubbub (kOlahala) caused by (implied) a group (vraja) of many (samadhika) very young (nava nava) maidens (tarunIjana) in an ever-moving (chalAchala) dance (naTana), the well adorned (kRta rUshita) Krishna (mAdhava) along with (sahitE) holy men (muni) wholeheartedly (manasAm api) joined in (kalila) that (tat) dance (naTana). The clever one (chaturE) who created (bhAvita) the three (tri) worlds (bhuvana), the one who is fond of (rasikE) sweetness (madhurasa), that compassionate (sadayE) lover (madhukara) took pleasure (vilAsa) in the very (ati) extraordinary (adbhuta) amorous play (ananga kEli) giving (implied) infinite (nirvadhi) pleasure (sukha) and joy (Ananda) deep in (nimagna) the heart (hRdayE).

O Radha (rAdhE) who enjoys (vilAsE) the emotionally flavourful (rasayuta) dance of the cowherds (rAsa), who takes great (vara) comfort (sukha) in receiving (implied) the grace (prasAdE) of being in the mind  (smaraNa) of Krishna (Hari), who takes pleasure in (vinOdE) in the delightful (manO mudita) play (lIlA), who has been very much (upa) deceived (kUhita) by Hari (hariNAm) with all his praise (sangrahItam-collection, shastra-praise)(note: I’m uncertain about my translation of this sentence), whose beautiful (ruchira) hips (jaghana) are robed (vasanE) in gold (kanaka), who is soft (mRdu) spoken (vachanE)!

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Filed under Aruna Sairam, Compositions in Sanskrit, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer

Makelara Vicharamu

It is the season of big changes in my life. Here I was, happily chugging along in my ‘normal’ life, in a set, familiar pattern.  Then it was as if someone picked up the kaleidoscope of my life and gave it a good shake. For a while now there has just been a jumble of shapes and colours, in a movement too fast for a pattern to emerge. I know that soon it will settle down into a brand new pattern. I imagine our good Lord holding the kaleidoscope and smiling with mischief when he gives that one last whirl! But at the moment, like a piece of coloured glass being whirled around, I see nothing but a revolving world.

It all started early on Mar 30, 2018 when our daughter announced that we are to be grandparents by the end of the year. Our plan was always to return home to Australia when we become grandparents. My husband and I left India when we were very young. Our children were born overseas and though they saw their grandparents once a year or two, they never established a close relationship with them. “My children lost out on their grandparents“, I told myself, “but I will not do that to their children. I’ll be there for them.“. So with the news of impending grandparenthood, we set our plans in motion. We started putting our affairs in order and faced the prospect of a move back to Australia after 18 years of being away.

In December, we did become grandparents to a gorgeous little boy. It was with a heavy heart that I returned to Switzerland in March. Over the last few months I have missed his special achievements. I never saw the first time he turned over on his stomach, his achievements in commando-crawling, his growing dexterity etc. Sad. In the meanwhile, there has been much to do here. We are getting through it all step by step. Not long to go now; we’ll be home in early July.

While we did all the physical sorting and packing, I have had to do some mental sorting out as well. After all this time in Switzerland, I am bonded to this country. Even familiar sights take on a certain poignancy. I look at the lakes and mountains which surround me and think ‘I won’t see you again in my daily life‘. I thought I was reconciled but as I write this, involuntary tears run down my cheeks. How can I be sad when I have the most precious bundle to play with in Australia? Grief and joy disturbingly co-exist in my heart.

So back to my theme of ‘puppet on a string‘. When such massive changes take place in our lives, there is a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of being rushed headlong towards something, an inevitability, all of which may be attributed to fate and God’s hand as a puppeteer by those who believe in these things. I do.  This belief gives great comfort. When my stress levels become too high, I say to myself ‘Why should I worry? I will leave it all in God’s hands‘. For those who don’t believe, it may all seem a bit self-delusional! I too have my own doubts. Don’t our own actions chart the path of the future? Why would God bother about such a petty thing as my life? Still, my song choice of today reflects my need for believing in a God who will bother about me. Makelara Vicharamu is a composition of Tyagaraja set to raga Ravichandrika. The Saint refers to Lord Rama as the puppeteer who makes us dance in the drama of life.

I have listened to nothing but Makelara for the last few days! A popular kriti, there are many excellent renditions freely available online. I have chosen two interesting renditions for your listening pleasure. The first is by S.Kalyanaraman, a very clean, melodious rendition which sounds quite lovely to me. For some kritis, I like ‘drama’; for this one, I enjoyed the simplicity.

Click here to listen.

I think the lyrical beauty of the Raga is displayed very beautifully in this violin rendition by Ganesh & Kumaresh. I grew up listening to Lalgudi’s version of this song, so for me, the violin is just perfect for this kriti.

 


Footnotes : Lyrics and Translation

Language : Telugu
Please note that I do not speak Telugu. The translations are sourced from various internet sources, which I have tried to verify using dicionaries.

Transliteration in Devanagari

पल्लवि
माकेलरा विचारमु
मरुगन्न श्री राम चन्द्र

अनुपल्लवि
साकेत राज कुमार
सद्भक्त मन्दार श्रीकर

चरणम्
जत कूर्चि नाटक सूत्रमुनु
जगमॆल्ल मॆच्चग करमुननिडि
गति तप्पक आडिञ्चॆवु (alt: आडिञ्चॆदवु) सुमी
नत त्यागराज गिरीश विनुत

Transliteration

pallavi
mAkElarA vichAramu
maruganna shrI rAma chandra

anupallavi
sAkEta rAja kumAra
sad bhakta mandAra shrI kara

charaNam
jata kUrci nATaka sUtramunu
jagamella mechchaga karamunaniDi
gati tappaka ADinchevu (alt: Adinchendavu) sumI
nata tyAgarAja girIsha vinuta

Translation

Why (ElarA) should we (mAku) have worries (vichAramu) O Lord Rama (shrI rAma chandra), father of Manmatha (maruganna**)?
(**Note:  The site Tyagaraja Vaibhavam breaks this word as maruku – Cupid/Manmatha and anna – father. However, I could not verify maruku as Manmatha in any dictionary. Musicians sing it as maruganna. Marugu seems to be translated as something hidden. Is Cupid referred to as the hidden one? There is a comment by another blogger that mamuganna makes more sense, translated as ‘my father’.)

O Prince (rAja kumAra-son of king) of Ayodhya (sAkEta), the wish-fulfilling tree (mandAra, another name for Kalpavriksha) of true (sad) devotees (bhakta)! O One who bestows prosperity (shrI kara)!

Holding (-iDi) the strings (sUtramunu) of the puppets (implied) in the hands (karamunanu) and balancing (jata kUruchi) the drama (nAtaka) (implying the drama of life), you make us dance (ADinchevu) with an infallible (tappaka) pace (gati) to the extollation (mechchaga) of the whole world (jagamella), O Lord who is praised (vinuta) by Lord Shiva (girIsha), to whom this Tyagaraja bows (nata).

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Filed under Compositions in Telugu, Ganesh-Kumaresh, S.Kalyanaraman, Tyagaraja

Navasiddhi Petralum

Lord ShivaDon’t you find people with absolute beliefs quite intriguing? I do!  How do they arrive at it, I wonder? I refer to opinions, morality, beliefs and such, not to, for example mathematics, which I believe is absolute. Mathematicians may demur. In the world of thoughts and beliefs, I seem to be always in a twilight-zone where everything seems to shape-shift, with no absolutes.

My parents brought me up well, trying their best to teach me to distinguish between the good and the bad, setting me up with an understanding of our religion and moral standards without being prescriptive. But when I came out into the world, it did not quite match what I was taught. I saw people around me practicing what was questionable under my ‘rules’ yet they were good people, just people with a different set of standards, of morality, of religion and beliefs. ‘Ah‘, I thought, ‘What I was taught is a set of rules that applies just to the group I belong to‘. Like a Venn diagram, these sets have points of intersections, the commonality of values. ‘Perhaps these commonalities are the absolutes?‘ I wondered. Thou shalt not kill. Is that a commonality which is absolute? But hang on, when Arjuna hesitated in the battlefield did not Lord Krishna encourage him to do his duty? So even ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has exceptions, doesn’t it?

So slowly over a lifetime of seeing, experiencing and thinking, one by one my absolutes have dissolved to a great extent. Of course some absolutes remain. No Torture. No Child Abuse. No Rape. These are absolutes I believe in. There are others. But when it comes to religious, moral or social issues, my absolutes have melted away with the tide of time.

So it is with interest that I examined the lyrics of Navasiddhi Petralum by Neelakanta Sivan in raga Kharaharapriya. He has such definite views! So many absolute sounding statements! He classifies people as ‘chaff’ i.e. people without substance, and sinners. I have tabulated his thoughts, wondering how many of these I would agree with. Detailed lyrics and word by word translations are in the footnote. Have a look at the table and see where you stand. What if a person has devotion to Gods other than Lord Shiva, are they really sinners? What if people have limited intellectual capacity and wisdom but are kind and good? One should respect good parents, surely yes, but what about abusive ones? I think it is a good exercise to examine one’s own beliefs against those set by others, it makes one’s own stand more clear to oneself. And perhaps arrive at one’s own set of absolutes.

People without substance Sinners
Those who are without devotion to Lord Shiva Those who neither listen to the wisdom of others nor have their own
Those who frolic around forgetting the grace of God Those who do not meditate upon Lord Shiva
Those who avidly pursue money without counting sins and merits Those who destroy their own good character with anger and greed
Those who cause grief to their parents Those bad people who hiss and taunt everybody to fight
Those egoistic people who do not realise the truth even after having heard, seen and experienced it Those without the grace of Lord Shiva who gives us an everlasting state

I came to this song by way of listening to a marvellous concert called Thamizhum Naanum by Sanjay Subrahmanyan in which he sang this song. The concert is available at the Yuv site where, for a nominal fee, they are video offering a concert every week. This was the first. The audio and video quality were impeccable. This blog is not a commercial site and I hesitate to promote any commercial offering fearing that people may think I profit in some way. I don’t. But if you are interested in Carnatic Music, it may be worth your while to check out this site.

The first and foremost of the renditions I present today is by Semmangudi Srinavasa Iyer, whose rendition, I believe,  is a benchmark for this song.

I also like Kharaharapriya in the voice of Ranjani & Gayatri whose soft and smooth transitions from note to note is very pleasing to my ears.

 


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language: Tamil
Note : There are a number of variations to the lyrics in the renditions I listened to while writing this post, most minor. I have given below the version sung by Semmangudi with a few common variations I found in other renditions.

நவசித்தி பெற்றாலும் சிவ பக்தி இல்லாத நரர்கள் வெறும் சாவி (சம்போ)
எவர் புத்தியும் தள்ளி சுயபுத்தியும் இல்லாது இருப்பவர் பெரும் பாவி

நாதன் அருள் மறந்து போதம் இல்லாக் கூத்து நடிப்பவர் வெறும் சாவி (ஜகன்/தில்லை)
சீதமதி அணியும் சிவனை நினையாமல் இருப்பவர் பெரும் பாவி

தாய் தந்தை மனம் நோக செய்கின்ற குரு துரோகத் தனைவர்கள்(*) வெறும் சாவி
நாய் போல எவரையும் சீறி சண்டைபோடவே (alt: சண்டையிடும்) நலம் கெட்டார் (இல்லார்) பெரும் பாவி

பாபமும் புண்ணியமும் கணியாமல் பணத்திற்கே பறப்பவர் வெறும் சாவி
கோபமும் லோபமும் கொண்டு நல்ல குணத்தை குலைப்பவர் (தொலைப்பவர் ) பெரும் பாவி

கேட்டும் கண்டும் அனுபவித்தும் உண்மை உணரா கர்விகள் வெறும் சாவி
வாட்டமில்லாத கதி கொடுக்கும் நீலகண்டனின் அன்பில்லார் (அருள் இல்லார்) பெரும் பாவி (என்றும்)

(*) It sounded to me like தலைவர்கள் but the alternate தனைவர்கள் seemed more fitting. I do not know if this is correct.

Transliteration

navasiddhi peTRAlum shiva bhakti illAda narargaL veRum sAvi (shambhO)
evar buddhiyum taLLi suya buddhiyum illAdu iRuppavar perum pAvi

nAdhan aRuL maRandu bOdam illA kUttu naDippavar veRum sAvi (jagan/tillai)
sItamadi aNiyum shivanai ninaiyAmal iruppavar perum pAvi

tAy tandai manam nOga seiginDRa guru drOgattanivargaL veRum sAvi
nAy pOla evaraiyum shIRi sanDaipODa nalam keTTar perum pAvi

pApamum puNNiyum gaNiyAmal  paNattiRkE paRappavar veRum sAvi
kObamum lObhamum koNDu nalla guNattai kulaippavar perum pAvi

kETTum kanDum anubhavittum uNmai uNarA garvigaL veRum sAvi
vATTamillada gadi koDukkum nIlakanTanin anbillAr (alt: aruL illAr) perum pAvi (enDrum)

Translation

Even if they have achieved (peTRAlum) the nine (nava) extraordinary powers of the soul (siddhi), men (narargaL) without (illAda) devotion (bhakti) towards Lord Shiva are mere (veRum) chaff (sAvi) . Those who reject (taLLi) the wisdom (buddhi, literally intellect) of others (evar) and are (iruppavar) without (illAdu) wisdom (buddhi) of their own (suya) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).

Those who, forgetting (maRandu) the grace (aRul) of the Lord (nAdan), foolishly frolic (kUttu naDippavar, literally play act) even without (illa) intoxication (bOdam) are mere (veRum) chaff (sAvi). Those who exist (iruppavar) without thinking (ninaiyAmal) of Lord Shiva who wears (aNiyum) the cool moon (sitamadi) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).

Those sons (tanaivargaL) who cause distress (manam nOga) to their parents (tAy tandai-mother, father), committing the sin of harm to one’s teachers (guru drOgam), are mere (verum) chaff (sAvi). (Note-Parents are our first teachers) Those without (keTTAr) goodness (nalam), who like (pOla) dogs (nAy), hiss at (shIri) and fight (sanDaipODa) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).

Those who, without counting (gaNiyamal) sins (pApamum) and merits (puNNiyamum), avidly pursue (paRappavar) only money (paNattiRkE) are mere (veRum) sAvi (chaff). Those who, due to (kONDu, literally having) anger (kObam) and greed (lObham) destroy (kulaippavar) their own (implied) good (nalla) character (guNam) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).

Those egoists (garvigaL) who, despite having heard (kETTum), seen (kaNDum) and experienced (anubhavittum), do not realise (uNarA) the truth (uNmai) are mere (veRum) chaff (sAvi). Those without the grace (aRuL illAr) of the Lord Shiva (nIla kaNTan, literally the one with the blue throat) who gives the everlasting (vATTam illAda, literally unfading) state (gadi) (ie. Moksha).

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Neelakanta Sivan, Ranjani Gayatri, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Uncategorized

Kanne En Kanmaniye

Rohit1Ah readers what joy I take in announcing that I am now a grandmother! A little boy has come into our family, a boy whom I am already besotted with! He is less than 3 days old when I write this, a little scrap of a baby, all pink and wrinkled but oh so heartbreakingly beautiful! Birth is an everyday miracle that we take for granted, but it is so very awe-inspiring just the same!

Last week I went to the temple to pray for the safe delivery of my daughter. The Shiva Vishnu temple in Melbourne has always been dear to me, there is a certain something I find here which I don’t find always in other temples. As I parked my car and headed to the Vinayaka sannidhi outside the main temple, I talked to Him as I always do.
I come to you first, you who remove obstacles. Please can you take care of my child so that her child can be delivered safely?‘ I prayed.
Just as I exited the sannidhi, I saw a young woman with a small infant enter.
Such a good sign!!‘ I thought and waited to speak to her.
You are a very good omen for me‘ I told her smilingly, ‘I was praying for my daughter’s delivery just as you came by with your baby, it feels like such a good sign to me!‘.
She smiled back and gave me her little boy to hold for a few minutes. I gave her and her child my heartfelt aashirwadams and went into the main temple.

My heritage always draws me to Lord Narayana first and it is to his sannidhi I went first to perform an archana.  Next I went to Goddess Lakshmi’s sannidhi beside that of Lord Narayana. I have prayed to Her for simply years, I totally believe that all well-being in our family comes from Her.
I closed my eyes, held my palms together and said ‘Lakshmi amma, I pray like this from sannidhi to sannidhi, not knowing whether my words bounce off ears of stone or reach your ears. I offer my prayers to you, believing I am heard though you give no response. But today I need a miracle, a little sign, for it is my daughter and I worry for her. You, yourself a mother, will understand how I feel. Please, a miracle for me‘.
How many others have begged like this with no response? Millions no doubt. But that day when I opened my eyes, a young girl stood beside me, heavily pregnant and ready to deliver very soon.
My eyes pooled and I said to myself ‘Yes, that is a sign, I have been heard‘.

But still, as I walked towards Lord Rama’s sannidhi, a little voice said ‘A lovely coincidence, but a coincidence.’. My faith is strong, yes, but I have no right to be heard when millions on earth suffer so very much and would dearly appreciate any help, however small. It’s selfish to demand God’s attention like this, isn’t it? But I am a mother, worried about my child and her child, so I went to Lord Rama and closed my eyes again.
Oh God, please please look after my daughter. I don’t know if that pregnant girl was a coincidence or a sign, but I hope you have heard nonetheless‘ I prayed silently.
When I opened my eyes, there was another very pregnant girl standing right next to me. ‘Oh I have been heard for sure‘ I thought, my eyes streaming. She said she was due in a few weeks. I told her of my experience and said that I was sure that God was listening to our prayers. That day as I circumambulated sannidhi after sannidhi, I felt the presence of God close enough to touch.

I sat afterwards for a long time in a very emotional state. Now looking back I wonder. Is this how we fool ourselves? Why would God listen to this useless person when millions far more deserving need His care? But somehow my heart was eased. I did not worry one little bit after that, not even when my daughter laboured on and on for 41 hours. She was in God’s care.

When my daughter said that she and her husband had decided that the little one would have an Indian first name and his father’s Polish last name, I quietly went through Vishnu sahasranama to offer her all the short one or two-syllable names I could find. But when she refused them all, I trolled the net for other baby names. None pleased her so I gave up. How does it matter what he is called? I told myself, ‘to me he will just be my kaNmaNi (a term of endearment equivalent to apple of my eye)’.  Later my daughter said that they had found a name but were keeping it a secret till the baby was born. On Monday, when I met my little grandson Rohit, I was very pleased with their choice. But it was only later that I discovered that it is also a name of Vishnu from the sahasranama (verse 40) that I had somehow missed!  His middle name is Kamil (a Polish name) and it does sound similar to Kamal, a lotus, which is associated with Goddess Lakshmi, so the name seems perfect to me!

 For this post, I just had to feature this very obvious but precious song choice of ‘Kanne en Kanmaniye‘ by Papanasam Sivan. A beautiful lullaby in the oh so soothing raga Kurinji, I am sure I will play it for little Rohit in the years to come. The words are so very gentle and every word rings true to me. In Bombay Jayashri’s mellifluous voice, it sounds simply lovely. She starts the rendition with a viruttam from the Nalayira Divyaprabhandam, a lullaby for Lord Krishna.

மாணிக்கம் கட்டி வயிரம் இடை கட்டி
ஆணிப் பொன்னால் செய்த வண்ணச் சிறுத்தொட்டில்
பேணி உனக்குப் பிரமன் விடுதந்தான்
மாணிக் குறளனே தாலேலோ
வையம் அளந்தானே தாலேலோ

mANIkkam kaTTi vayiram iDai kaTTi
ANip ponnAl seida vaNNach-chirutoTTil
pENi unakkup-brahman viDutandAn
mAnik-kuRaLanE tAlElO
vaiyam aLandAnE tAlElO

Lord Brahma ( Brahman) chose (pENi) and sent (viDutandAn) you (unakku) a small (siru) beautiful (vaNNa) cradle (toTTil) made of (seida) superior (ANi) gold (pon), strung (kaTTi) with rubies (mANikkam) and diamonds (vayiram) strung (katti) in between (iDai). O Lord who was born as Vamana (mAni kuRaLanE), sleep (tAlElo)! O Lord who measured (aLandAnE) the word (vaiyam), sleep (tAlElO)!


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Tamil

கண்ணே என் கண்மணியே கண்ணனே கண்வளராய்
மண்ணுலகில் என் வாழ்வு வளம் பெற வந்துதித்த
தாலேலோ

குயிலிசை குழலோசை உன் கொஞ்சுமொழிக்கிணையாமோ
கொண்ட மன சஞ்சலங்கள் பஞ்சாய் பறந்திடுமே
தாலேலோ

தேடாத என் நிதியே திகட்டாத தெள்ளமுதே
வாடாத மென் மலரே மனத்துள் இனிக்கும் தனித்தேனே
தாலேலோ

Transliteration

kaNNE en kaNmaNiyE kaNNanE kaNvaLarAi
maNNulgil en vAzhvu vaLam pera vanduditta
tAlElO

kuyilisai kuzhalOsai un konju-mozhik-kiNaiyAmO
koNDa mana sanchalangaL panjAi parandiDumE
tAlElO

tEDAda en nidhiyE tigaTTAda teLLamudE
vADAda men malarE manattuL inikkum tanittEnE
tAlElO

Translation

Sleep (kaNvaLarAy), O precious one (kaNNE, literally eyes), the apple of my eyes (kaNmaNiyE), O Krishna (kaNNanE), the one who has come (vandu) to be born (uditta literally appear) on this earth (maNNulagil) so that my (en) life (vAzhvu) gets (pera) fullness/abundance (vaLam).

How can even the song (isai) of the cuckoo (kuyil) or the music (isai) of a flute (kuzhal) compare (iNai) with your (un) childish babble (konju mozhi)? All the troubles/sorrows (sanchalangaL) which occupy (koNDa) my mind (mana) will fly off (parandiDumE) like cotton (panjAi)! Sleep (tAlElO)!

O my (en) unearned (tEDada) treasure (nidiyE), O uncloying (tigaTTAda) clear honey (teL amudE), O Unfading (vADada) soft (men) flower (malarE), O unique (tani) honey (tEnE) which sweetens (inikkum) inside (uL) my mind (mana)! Sleep (tAlElO)!

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan

Karpagame Kan Parai

Kapali templeA very happy Navaratri to all of you! Let us all pray to the good Goddesses to cast their eyes our way and bless us with wisdom, compassion and devotion. What better way to ask for blessings than by song? My choice today honours Shakti in the form Karpagambal, the Goddess at Kapaleeswarar Kovil in Mylapore. This temple is rather dear to me; both my parents spent their youth in and around the area. Some of my earliest musical memories include listening to concerts in the temple. Do people leave imprints of themselves in the places dear to them? I’ll like to think so. I’ll like to think that the prayers of my parents still remain suspended in the air around the temple, as a murmur of the temple bells, as an echo of footfalls in the prakaram.

This Navaratri comes with its own excitement for me. I have such good news to share with you! Regular readers will remember my post about my daughter’s wedding in January. With God’s blessings, she and her husband are making me a grandmama! The little boy is to arrive by early December. I smile as I write this, I cannot quite contain my joy!

As I think of becoming a grandmother, I think of my own grandmothers. They were two very different women. My mother’s mum was a clever, extremely competent, strong-minded woman who ruled her household with a will of iron. A short, well-rounded woman with very dark skin, her eyes gleamed with intelligence, a gleam brighter than the large diamonds on her nose and ears. Widowed with a young family to bring up and few resources, she had to become one tough lady. I confess I found her somewhat intimidating! I saw her each summer during my school years when we went to spend our summer holidays in Chennai with her.  My best memory of her was sitting around her with my sister and cousins in the mittam, the courtyard next to the well, on moonlit nights. She would regale us with stories while rolling balls of kalanda sadam (flavoured rice) into our outstretched hands.  Love, entertainment and nourishment all rolled into one! And yes, her sattumadu made in her eeya sombu was pure ambrosia!

My father’s mother was totally different. So thin that she was just skin and bones, she had a very pale complexion and hazel eyes. She gave me the colour of my own eyes; whenever I see them in the mirror I think of her older and kinder ones. Gentle as a new-born lamb, she had no defence against her own difficult life. If my other grandmother had been forged to steel by life, this one became a gentle ghost, a presence almost not there.  She lived to be over 90 but her stories were always of the first 10-12 years of her life, as if the rest need not be thought of. I remember her standing shivering in the Delhi winter on our terrace, performing her dawn prayer rituals in her wet clothes. My mother would urge her to come back in, saying she would get pneumonia, but her faith held her strong.

So what kind of grandmother would I be? I want to be both my grandmothers rolled into one. One day when my little grandson remembers his own grandmother as I remember mine, I want him to think of me as being kind and gentle, but equally strong and capable. I want him to remember me showering love and nourishment into his outstretched hands, I want him to say my eyes looked at him with a softness that he will not forget.

On this Navaratri day, this beautiful song is my prayer to the Goddess to bless my daughter and welcome my grandson-to-be. My readers, please can you add your prayers to mine to bless them for a safe delivery? Written by Papanasam Sivan, who himself had a very strong attachment to this temple and the deities, Karpagame is set in the most auspicious of ragas, Madhyamavati. Why this song you ask? Besides the auspiciousness of the raga, and the prayer for the Goddess to cast her eye our way, there is a reference to ‘வர சந்தான சௌபாக்ய’ (vara santAna saubhAgya), the blessing of progeny so it seemed very fitting!

Some songs are just ‘owned’ by some artists, aren’t they? So I cannot possibly present anyone else but Madurai Mani Iyer who renders this song with brisk efficiency and unsurpassed  musicality.

Alternate Link : Click here and play item 16.

For a version from the current times, I present Sanjay Subrahmanyan who sings this song with an authority and ease which is hard to surpass. In the rendition below, he sings a viruttam, two pieces of poetry which are very well suited to the song. The first is a verse from the superbly beautiful அபிராமி அந்தாதி Abhirami Anthadi by Abhirami Bhattar (18th century). I could not find the authorship of the second verse but one website mentioned that it is from an inscription found on the walls of the Kapaleeswarar Temple, a fact I could not verify.

பூத்தவளே புவனம் பதினான்கையும் பூத்த வண்ணம்
காத்தவளே பின் கரந்தவளே கறை கண்டனுக்கு
மூத்தவளே என்றும் மூவா முகுந்தற்கு இளையவளே
மாத்தவளே உன்னை அன்றி மற்றோர் தெய்வம் வந்திப்பதே

pUttavaLE buvanam padinAngaiyum pUtta vaNNam
kAttavalE pin karandavaLE kaRai kaNDanukku
mUttavaLE enDRum mUvA mukundaRku iLaiyavaLE
mAttavaLE unnai anDRi maTROr deivam vandippadE

She who gave birth (pUttavaLE – literally, flowered) to all the fourteen (padinAngaiyum) worlds (buvanam), She who protected (kattavaLE) in the same way as (-vaNNam) she bore them (pUtta), then (pin) who hid them (karandavaLE – கரந்த means மறைந்த), She who is older (mUttavaLE) to Shiva (He whose neck (kanDam) is stained (kaRai which also means poison)), She who is younger to (iLaiyavaLE) to the always (enDRum) young (mUvA, மூவு means end but here it means ageing) Vishnu (mukundar), She who has done great (mA) penance (tavam), why should I worship (vandippadE) any other (maTROr) God (deivam) except (anDRi) you (unnai)?

ஆடும் மயிலாய் உருவெடுத்து அன்று இறைவன் திருத்தாள் நாடி
அர்ச்சித்த நாயகியாய் அம்மா உனது திரு நாமங்களைப் பாடி  பாடி
உருகிப் பரவசம் மிகு அப்பாங்கு நீ எனக்கு அருள்வாய்
காடெனவே பொழில் சூழ் திரு மயிலாபுரி கற்பகமே!

ADum mayilAy uruveDuttu anDRu iRaivan tiruttAL nADi
architta nAyakiyAy ammA unadu tiru nAmangaLai pADi pADi
urugi paravasam migu appANgu nI enakku arulvAY
kADenavE pozhil sUzh tiru mayilApuri karpagamE

O Karpagambal (karpagamE) of holy (tiru) Mayilapuri which is surrounded (sUzh) by a grove (pozhil) as large as (enavE – like, perhaps implying largeness) a forest (kADu)!  O Mother (ammA) we worship you (implied) as the Goddess (nayakiyAy) who at one time (anDRu), having taken the form (uruveDuttu) of a dancing (aDum) peacock (mayil), sought (nADi) and worshipped (architta) the holy (tiru) feet (tAL) of our Lord (iRaivan)! May you (nI) bless (aruLvAy) me (enakku) in a way that (appAngu) I (implied) become very (migu) ecstatic (paravasam Agum) and emotionally melt (urugi) by singing (pADi) again and again (pADi repeated) your (nin) holy (tiru) names (nAmangal).

Afterthought : A reader has correctly observed that I should have mentioned Lalgudi and he is right. Lalgudi Jayaraman is always amazing but with Karpagame he is magical. His violin speaks as no voice can. There is a link provided by the reader in the comments section. Another one is here. I hope you enjoy the music!


Footnote : Lyrics
Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
கற்பகமே கண் பாராய்
கற்பகமே கடை (கருணை) கண் பாராய்

அனுபல்லவி
சித்பர யோகியர் சித்தர்கள் ஞானியர்
திருவுடை அடியவர் கருதும் வரமுதவும்
திருமகளும் கலைமகளும் பரவு
திருமயிலைக் (கற்பகமே)

சரணம்
சத்து சிதாநந்தமதாய் சகல உயிருக்குயிராயவள் நீ
தத்துவமஸ்யாதி மஹா வாக்கிய தத்பர வஸ்துவும் நீ
சத்துவ குணமோடு பக்தி செய்பவர் பவ தாபமும்
பாபமும் அற இம்மையில் வர
சந்தான சௌபாக்ய சம்பத்தோடு
மறுமையில் நிரதிசய இன்பமும் தரும் (கற்பகமே)

Transliteration

pallavi
karpagamE kaN pArAy
karpagamE kaDai (karuNai) kaN pArAy

anupallavi
chitpara yogiyar siddargaL ñaniyar
tiruvuDai aDiyavar karudum varamudavum
tirumagaLum kalaimagaLum paravu
tirumayilai

charaNam
sattu-chidAnandamadAy sakala uyirukkuyirAyavaL (uyirukku-uyirAyval) nI
tattuvamasyadi mahA vAkkiya tatpara vastuvum nI
sattuva guNamODu bhakti seybavar bhava tApamum
pApamum aRa immayil vara
santAna saubhagya sampattODu
maRumaiyil niradisaya inbamum tarum

Translation

O Karpagambika (karpagamE) of the holy (tiru) town of Mayilai, cast a compassionate  (karuNai) glance upon me (literally, look at me (pArAy) with the corner (kaDai) of your eyes (kaN)).

She who aids (udavu) with a boon (varam) of what is considered (karudum) holy (tiru) wealth (uDai) by ascetics (yOgiyar) with extended (para) consciousness (chit), mystics (siddargaL), wise/sage people (ñaniyar), and devotees (aDiyavar), she who is extolled (paravu) by Lakshmi (tirumagaL) and Saraswati (kalaimagaL)..

As that very (adAy) truth-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-Anandam), you are (nI) She (avaL) who is like the life-force (uyirAy) of all lives (sakala uyirukku). You (nI) are also the object (vastuvum) of the true intent (tatpara) of great (mahA) pronouncements (vAkkiya) such as (Adi) ‘thou art that’ (tat-tvam-asi from the Upanishads). You are She who (implied) remove (aRa) the sorrow (tApamum) and sins (pApamum) of existence (bhava) of those who follow (seibavar) devotion (bhakti) with (-ODu) good (sattuva) character (guNam) in this birth (immaiyil) and bless them (vara) with the good fortune (saubhAgya) of progeny (santAna) and with (-ODu) wealth (sampattu). You are She who (implied) gives (tarum) unsurpassed (niradisaya) happiness (inbam) in the next life (marumaiyil).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Madurai Mani Iyer, Papanasam Sivan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Uncategorized

Rama Ni Samanamevaru

ScaleYesterday I listened to two concerts on YouTube. Now this is a more momentous occasion than the statement reflects. I don’t often get time to listen non-stop to music so this was special. As usual my life feels like a runaway train with me hanging by my fingernails! But I’ll leave my life be for the moment. As I said, I was listening to concerts of two young men whose music I enjoy. Both have excellent gurus. Both have glorious voices, a remarkable stage presence and styles which have the mark of their guru on them. Actually, I find myself listening more and more often to young artists nowadays. I enjoy their energy and verve, and if they stumble now and then, they have a lifetime to fix it so I don’t worry about it.

The first concert I heard was by Sandeep Narayan. Since hearing him do a fantastic Bhairavi during the season in 2016, I have been clicking on his concerts online. This was a nice concert; I particularly liked the order and mix of kritis chosen which is a skill in itself. His dwijavanti was pleasing, his take on chalanatta was interesting and the hamsanandi thillana at the end and karpagame to conclude were both quite lovely. The main item on the menu was a solidly performed pakkala nilabadi in Kharaharapriya.

Next I turned to Vignesh Ishwar. I haven’t had the pleasure of listening to him live but I have really enjoyed a number of his concerts online. I was happily nodding to his singing when the young man launched into Kharaharapriya and I thought ‘Hey, I can do a one-to-one comparison now, can’t I!’. Alapana done, the kriti taken up was ‘Rama Ni Samanamevaru‘ which made me laugh. Here I was all set to do a comparison and there was Tyagaraja with ‘There is none to compare with you Rama!’. I was happy to find a theme for my blog post – our tendency to make comparisons. The rest of the concert was good. The main piece was in Begada, not my favourite raga, but I still enjoyed it.

The kriti set me thinking about how very judgemental we human beings are. We are forever judging others on the things they say and do, on their achievements and failures, on their character and abilities and so on. It is rather non-stop, isn’t it! Or is it only I? I talk confidently on a collective when all I am sure of is myself! I love my children equally, or so I hope, but I confess to comparing them especially when one of them makes me sad. ‘He is so oblivious to my needs‘ I’ll say to myself , ‘She would never have left me like this‘.  Or ‘She is so sharp, are girls always this unkind? He is so much kinder‘.   Of course, we also compare people to themselves. ‘He was so much better in his previous film‘.  ‘Oh, she looked nicer in red than in green, didn’t she!‘. It is not always unkind or negative.  We may as easily say ‘Amma, this is the best rasam you have ever made!‘ Still, the comparisons are more often negative than positive. Is it just our need to categorise and put things in order? As a Carnatic Music fan, I am often critical of performances. Even while I am listening to one musician, I may well be racking my brain thinking of some other artist, some other occasion when I felt a turn of a phrase may have sounded better! What a waste of time! Instead of being in the moment and enjoying the pleasure of what falls into my ears, my mind is scrambling elsewhere! Is it a common failing or is it just me? Whatever the case, it is high time to stop it I think…

As Vignesh Ishwar inspired this post, let us first listen to him singing Rama Nee Samanamevaru in Kharaharapriya. Alapana starts at 16:12 and the kriti at 28:15. Dr Hemalatha on the violin sounds very good.

And for a second rendition, who other than T.M.Krishna, who is Vignesh Ishwar’s guru. Maybe you will, like me, enjoy noting the stylistic similarities passed from guru to shishya.

And for an instrumental, I present the very talented vainikas from my own home town of Melbourne, the Iyer Brothers. The recording is a bit tinny but it is still enjoyable. They are accompanied by their daughters. The sound of four Veenas synchronised has such a majestic quality!


Footnote : Lyrics

Language : Telugu
(Note: I do not speak Telugu; the details below are based on a number of online resources)

Sanskrit Transliteration :

पल्लवि
राम नी समानमॆवरु रघु वंशोद्धारक

अनुपल्लवि
भामा मरुवम्पु मॊलक भक्तियनु पञ्जरपु चिलुक

चरणम्
पलुकु पलुकुलकु तेनॆलॊलुकु माटलाडु
सोदरुलु गल हरि त्यागराज कुल विभूष मृदु सुभाष

English Transliteration :

pallavi
rAma nI samAnamevaru raghu vamshOddhAraka

anupallavi
bhAmA maruvampu molaka bhaktiyanu panjarapu chiluka

charaNam
paluku palukulaku tEneloluku mATalADu
sOdaralu gala hari tyAgarAja kula vibhUsha mRdu subhAsha

Translation :

Who (evaru) is equal (samAnamu) to you (nI), O Rama, the uplifter (uddhAraka) of the Raghu dynasty (vamsha)?

Like a parrot (chiluka) in a cage (panjarapu) of devotion (bhaktiyanu) of your wife (bhAma) who is as gentle (implied) as the shoot (molaka) of sweet marjoram (maruvampu). (Note: There seem to be a number of interpretations of this line – is it Sita who is like a parrot in the cage or is it Rama? Who is enslaved by devotion? The devotee or the devoted?)

You (implied) who have (gala) brothers (sOdaralu) who speak (mATalADu) like honey (tEne) drips (oluku) at each word (paluku palukulaku)!  You who youself (implied) are so gently well-spoken (mRudu subhAsha)!  O Hari (name of Vishnu), you are (implied) the ornament (vibhUsha) of Tyagaraja’s family (kula)!!

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Iyer Brothers, Sandeep Narayan, T.M.Krishna, Tyagaraja, Uncategorized, Vignesh Ishwar

Nada Loludai

Meditation MusicA Happy New Year to all those who celebrate it today! I wish you the very best for a year of personal, professional and spiritual achievement!

Can we divorce the musician from the music he/she creates? This question has been buzzing in my brain since I read some comments in a music group that I follow in Facebook. There were some pithy comments about the politics of a particular musician and the resulting rejection of his music by some. Others seemed to think that his politics had nothing to do with his music. As I walk the shores of Lake Léman on this cold spring day, this question seems an important one to address in this blog.

This is not a new question; it has arisen a number of times over the years. I remember my father making disparaging comments about a flautist from yesteryear whose love for alcohol was well-known. And yet, my father would never miss his concerts! I remember my own goggle-eyed reading of the crazy antics of a great Bollywood playback singer whom I admired very much. ‘How am I to see this man?‘ I used to wonder, ‘As a madman or a genius?‘. I remember my friend from Berlin describing her experiences with helping host very famous Hindustani musicians – the amazing vocalist who came so drunk to the stage that he almost fell off, the very senior maestro of the topmost echelon and his unusual sleeping arrangements with his much younger lady disciple and so on. ‘Stop‘, I had cried out to my friend ‘I don’t want to know!!‘.  I was right, every time I listen to their music I have this annoying niggle at the back of my mind which I just don’t want to have. And what of those wonderful musicians from the Western world of the sixties whose music came from a drug-induced haze? And then we come back to this musician whose politics and even ideas on music don’t sit well with me, but oh, his singing is so divine!

This is not limited to music alone, of course. Van Gogh is well-known for having insurmountable mental health issues. I still spent hours in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, drooling over his canvases. The great Michelangelo’s scorn and misbehaviour towards his young rival Raphael is well know, yet I worshipped at his creations as I did at Raphael’s. And who can top my very favourite Caravaggio who murdered someone and came to an untimely death!  But it was in front of his canvas that I unshamedly shed tears in appreciation to a master of his craft.

So it comes back to the question, can we admire the art without admiring the artist? It should be stressed that I am not making a quality judgement here in as to who is admirable and who is not; that is for you to decide. The pragmatic part of me thinks that only the most delusional amongst us can afford to cast the first stone. And where do we draw the line? Alcohol is ok but not drugs? Socialism is ok but communism is out? Are we not venturing into McCarthyism and the Hollywood Blacklist ? But what do we do with this feeling of distaste that we have for certain artists? I categorically refuse to watch Woody Allen films; I just cannot disassociate the art from the man.

Dear readers, don’t look to me for answers, I only have questions today! But for myself, I have a theory that the musician is just another instrument, a pathway between Nada Brahmam and the listener. The songs I hear have started their journey a long time back, as a germ in the mind of a composer, in a raga which may have originated hundreds of years before even he was born, a composition heard and sung by disciples generation after generation until finally it is there in front of me and I am listening to it. The creativity the musician adds to it is just one more step in a long process of creation. Inside my head, heart and soul it reaches completion, added on to all the music I have ever listened to, in this life and all the lives I have lived before, like a mountain stream which has joined the ocean. Who worries about what pen a story was written in? Why would I worry about the musician when all I wish to hear is the Nada? Tyagaraja says ‘Attain supreme bliss by being immersed in the Nada‘ in the composition I have selected to present today. I take his advice and concentrate on the Nada alone.

My first and last love in Carnatic Music will always be Lalgudi Jayaraman, who cajoles and beguiles with the violin which bows to his mastery. I fell for his Kalayana Vasantam eons ago and still turn to him for a ‘fix’ when I have a longing. Here is his short 7 min rendition.

Alternate Link : Click here

For an immersion in the beauty of Kalyana Vasantam for 30 minutes, listen to this vocal rendition by Maharajapuram Santhanam. The alapana gently sweeps and ushers us into the lyrical kriti. How can a voice be both majestic and sweet?

Alternate Link : Click here  (needs free membership to Sangeethamshare)

Lastly, any post on Kalyana Vasantam is incomplete without a rendition by Kadri Gopalnath who has made this raga his very own. On his Saxophone, the raga takes almost a strident note, demanding immediate attention.

Alternate rendition (I could not find my version online) : Click here 

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
(I do not speak Telugu and the information below is dependent on various web sources)

पल्लवि
नाद लोलुडै ब्रह्मा-
नन्दमन्दवे मनसा

अनुपल्लवि
स्वादु फल प्रद सप्त
स्वर राग निचय सहित

चरणम्
हरि हरात्म भूसुर पति
शर जन्म गणेशादि
वर मौनुलुपासिञ्च रे
धर त्यागराजु तॆलियु

Transliteration

pallavi
nAda lOluDai brahmA
nandamandavE manasA

anupallavi
svAdu phala prada sapta
svara rAga nichaya sahita

charaNam
hari harAtma bhUsura pati
shara janma gaNEshAdi
vara maunulupAsincha rE
dhara tyAgarAju teliyu

Translation

O Mind, attain (andavE) the rapture of absorbtion on the Brahman (brahmAnanda) by immersing (loluDai) in music (nAda, literally sound), which includes (sahita) the seven (sapta) svara (notes) and a multitide (nichaya) of ragas (rAga) that bestow (prada) sweet (svAdu) results (phala).

Vishnu (hari), Shiva (harA), Brahma (Atma bhU – self born), Indra (sura pati – Lord of the Gods), Kartikeya (shara janma – born in reeds), Ganesha, great sages (vara maunulu), etc (Adi) workship (upAsincha) nAda (implied), of this Tyagaraja is aware (teliyu) on this earth (dhara).

 

 

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Filed under Compositions in Telugu, Kadri Gopalnath, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja