Happy Navaratri to all my readers! Though as I’ve been away so long from blogging, I am not certain if there are any readers left to see my greetings..
The thing is, I’ve not been listening to music and really, its quite impossible to be a music blogger if that’s the case! When I blogged regularly, I was listening to music all day long….when I walked, when I did my household chores, when I drove or pursued my artistic interests. But for quite a while I’ve been very distracted. First, by the stressful process of moving internationally, and then because my attention turned to spiritual matters. Music was replaced by lectures on topics related to the vedas, upanishads, itihasasas and mysticism. We live in lucky times with so many lectures available on YouTube and podcasts as well! I’m learning so much, and my mind is so very occupied that there hasn’t been much space left for music. For those who are wondering, I’ve listened to simply hours and hours of lectures by Swami Sarvapriyananda who is amazingly erudite and a wonderful speaker. But given that I cling to my devotion and advaita is not really my marga, I also listen to upanyasams by Velukkudi Krishnan swamigal, Dushyant Sridhar etc. Of course, music itself is divine and Carnatic Music is devotional in essence so I have not wandered too far from where I was!
I’ve also been busy with family. My grandson is a little bundle of energy, mischief, playfulness and above all, love. I cook for him, tell stories and sing songs, play lego, hide&seek, chase, digging in the backyard and myriad other games which keeps us both occupied all day. He has taken over my life and I feel so blessed to have him even as I lie exhausted after a day of baby sitting! Good karma there..
My daughter made me a grandmother again recently but both mother and child did not have it easy and we have been through some very worrying times. And I’ve had some niggling health issues as well. Life throws these challenges when you least expect them, doesn’t it! We all have to deal with our karma. Who knows what I did in my previous lives? Who can keep track of all the harm I have done in this life? How are we to escape from this never ending loop that we are stuck in?
That brings me to the song choice of today. I was listening to a kutcheri on YouTube yesterday when the musician sang Shivakama Sundari in Mukhari, composed by Papanasam Sivan. Though I have listened to and liked this song for longer than I remember, it was only yesterday that the words of the anupallavi struck a chord. ‘Bless me‘ says the poet-composer ‘to meditate on you so that my old karma does not cling to me‘. How interesting, I thought to myself, that I am searching in all those lectures for something that the music I have listened to all my life has always been saying!
I have to, of course, start with D.K.Pattammal’s rendition as she was famous for singing Papanasam Sivan’s many compositions. I admit that I have not done the due diligence of picking the best possible rendition; the one I found first is what I present below.
I also quite enjoyed Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s rendition which he sings with a lot of emotion. I hope you enjoy it too.
Footnote : Lyrics and Translation
Composer : Papanasam Sivan Raga : Mukhari Language : Tamil
anupallavi bhava rOgam aRa vERu marundEdu pazha vinaigaL toDarAmal unai bhajikka
charaNam kELAyO en muraigaL (tiru seviyil – for repetion) uyar sAma gIta vinOdini pOdum un sOdanai (ini) tALEnE agadi nAnE rAmadAsan paNiyum abhirAmi vAmi
Translation in English
pallavi Oh beautiful (sundarI) mother (ambA) of the world (jagat) who is desired (kAma) by Shiva, grace (aRul) me (implied) by coming (vandu) and giving (tandu) me (implied) your blessings (aruL).
anupallavi What else (vEru Edu) is the medicine/cure (marundu) to destroy (aRa) the disease (rOgam) of existence (bhava)? Bless me (implied by pallavi) to meditate on you (unai bhajikka) so that old (pazha) karma (vinai) does not cling/follow (todarAmal).
charaNam Do listen (kELAyO) (with your to divine ears (tiru seviyil)) my (en) complaints (muRaiyai – muRai is a rule, muRaiyIDu is a complaint against a rule, here the rule of karma), Oh Goddess (implied) who delights (vinOdini) in the great (uyar) music (gIta) of Sama Veda! Enough (pOdum) of your (un) trials (sOdanai), I cannot bear it (tALEnE); I am indeed (nAnE) helpless / with no other recourse (agadi), Oh Abhirami (Paravati-who is beautiful), Oh Vami (Parvati-who is the left half of Shiva) who is served by/bowed to by rAmadAsan (the signature of the composer) (paNiyum).
Once there was a community called ‘The-Learned‘. They called the others ‘Not-The-Learned‘. I wonder, did the ‘Not-the-Learned‘ call themselves ‘The-Learned‘ amongst themselves? Who knows? Demonising the enemies is a well-known psychological tactic, isn’t it! Our protagonist belonged to the ‘Not-the-Learned‘ community though some say that he was born to ‘The-Learned‘ and went over to the other side. Some even say that he was son of the best amongst the ‘The-Learned‘ himself.
His mother prayed and sought the boon that he should live a long life and be all powerful. How can we know the power of a mother’s prayer? He went on to establish a powerful kingdom far to the east, in high lands after defeating a previous dynasty of ethnic origins, another community that ‘The-Learned‘ demonized. The three dynasties which followed him in that region trace their origins to him. They say he ruled for a long time, eons over different eras. Perhaps it was him, perhaps there were descendants of the same ilk. Let us not question that, stories lose their charm if examined too closely.
Our protagonist became more and more powerful, defeating enemies and enlarging his kingdom amongst the ‘Not-the-learned‘. Then his eyes turned towards the lands of ‘The-Learned‘. He defeated the ruler and took over those lands too. Powerful indeed! It is said that all the power went to his head, that he insulted a venerable lady of ‘The-Learned‘, that he kidnapped 16,000 women. Maybe true. Maybe an exaggeration. Stories are written by the victors, and in our story our protagonist is the not eventual victor. You remember that he was said to be fathered by one of ‘The-Learned‘? Tired of his atrocities, all ‘The-Learned‘ begged his father for assistance.
But there were his mother’s prayers to protect him, and more time passed. Finally, his father was re-born and grew up to marry his mother-re-born. Or perhaps it was his father’s descendants; it matters not to us. It is then that the venerable lady whom he had insulted went to his mother-re-born. Eons have passed, so I imagine that it is another such offended lady. Remember that ‘The-Learned‘ were now the subjugated community? A society which offers violence to women does not stop at one; violence against women, especially subjugated women, often becomes endemic in communities. It happens today. Anyway, it is said that his mother-re-born was offended by his treatment of women, and she herself went to his father-re-born for permission to wage war against her son. The war was furious, with many powerful weapons used by both parties. Finally our protagonist was defeated when he was beheaded by the discus weapon of his father-re-born.
It is this defeat of a powerful foe of ‘The-Learned‘ by the foremost amongst them that we celebrate on Kartika Amavasya, just before syzygy (showing off a new word I just learnt!) in the Oct-Nov lunar cycle. Or at least, one of the myriad reasons quoted by those in the know. I am, of course, talking about Deepavali/Diwali being the celebration of the destruction of Narakasura by Krishna.
As I browsed for ideas for a post today, I came upon this kriti in the auspicious raga Madhyamavati composed by Papanasam Sivan. Surprisingly, I don’t remember having heard it before though I see that there are a few renditions available online. I must also confess that I haven’t quite taken a liking to the song…I wonder why? Maybe you’ll like it better. But it’s still perfect for Deepavali as the lyrics honour the day. Here is a rendition by the evergreen Sudha Raghunathan. I’ve listened to her for close to 40 years and she still sounds good to me!
kriti from 3:00
Footnote ( Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Papanasam Sivan Raga : Madhyamavati Language: Tamil
charaNam bhAmai vaDivAna bhUmipiraTTi tErOTTa asurar kulam azhittavA chakrapANi ulagelAm mangaLa dIpAvaLi oLi vIsa aruL purinda
O Lotus-Eyed Krishna (kamalak-kaNNA, also Kanna means Krishna) coloured (vaNNA) like the clouds (mEgha)! Bless (aruL) us (implied) with a glance (kaDaikkaN pArttu – literally looking from the corner of the eyes)!
When the celestial beings (viNNADar) and (-um) sages (munivar) worshipfully (vaNangi) requested (vENDa), you are the one (implied) who came (vanda) speedily (viraindu) to kill (vadam seyya) Narakasura.
With Bhudevi (bhUmi pirATTi) in her form (vaDivAna) as Satyabhama (bhamai) driving (OTTa) the chariot (tEr), you Krishna, the Discus-Holder (chakrapANi), are the one who destroyed (azhittavA) the demon (asura) clans (kulam). You are the one who graced (arUl purinda) us (implied) so that (implied) the auspicious (mangaLa) rows (Avali) of lamps (dIpa) shine brightly (oLi vIsa) worldwide (ulagelAm).
Happy Shivaratri everyone! May Lord Shiva bless us all!
As always, I want to celebrate the day with a post in Lord Shiva’s honour. I have chosen a song which I love for many reasons. Kana Kan Kodi Vendum is written by Papanasam Sivan in praise of the Lord Kapaleeshwarar. Mylapore, where the temple is located, was the poet’s home ground, as it was my father’s. I remember many a visit to this temple in my childhood, many a concert heard in its grounds. I can never visit Chennai without a visit to this temple where echoes of my childhood and the loving care of my parents can still be heard deep in my heart.
I love this song also because it is in Kambhoji, a raga dear to me. Why do some ragas resonate inside you like a reflection of an emotion you never knew you had? When Kambhoji is sung, not just my head but my whole being sways in time. I meet the characteristic phrases of the raga like I would a dear friend of long standing.
A reader had commented recently that he enjoys kritis in Tamil, a language which he feels to be his own. That made me think. I too, I realise, perk up a little when a kriti is in Tamil. There is an added pleasure to enjoying the lyrics when the consonants and vowels sit so very comfortably on my tongue! This is surprising, as I believe I am more competent in Hindi and I speak Bengali more often than I speak Tamil. Still, one’s mother tongue has a special place in one’s heart, does it not.
I also love the lyrics of songs which are descriptive in nature. That drew me to Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer who is adept at drawing a picture which feels so very real. Papanasam Sivan has proven that he too can do an admirable job of describing a scene. Do check out the lyrics in the footnote. In my mind, I substitute the utsava moorti (the processional idol) by our Lord Himself, dressed not in skins and coated with ashes, but resplendent with glittering ornaments and fragrant garlands, His Goddess and His sons following. I add to this imagery the sound of the Nayanars singing and Nandi playing his mridangam. Would not the hordes of devotees melt at this sight and fall to His feet as Papanasam Sivan describes? Would they not be simply enchanted? Imagery and visualisation are powerful tools used for goal setting, self-improvement and meditation. Lyrics which include wonderful imagery are good tools in our spiritual arsenal.
But you know, songs I like invariably become background music to my own life. It has just been a few weeks that my grandson has learnt to walk. He is still unsteady on his feet, his legs splayed wide for better balance. With his new skill, he sets out to explore the world with intrepidity! What a sight that is! The other day we set him loose in the park and he ventured courageously to explore his surroundings. My husband followed with the pram and the various paraphernalia that babies need, and I followed with my hands ready to grab the little one if needed. A little procession 🙂 And I said to myself ‘En kaNmaNiyin bavani kANa kaN koDi vENDum’ (One needs countless eyes to see my darling parading!). So there you are, I have brought the joy of the sacred to the profane, but the profane seems sacred to me now. Perhaps the separation between the two is not a chasm but just an ephemeral screen.
To present you this song, I bring to you a performance by Madurai Mani Iyer. My sister will no doubt laugh at me, as we were bombarded with his music in our childhood and have since kept quite away from it. I smile as I listen to it a number of times in the last few days, freely admitting that he is quite incomparable. I am remembering my father and his love for Madurai Mani’s music as I post this.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Papanasam Sivan
Raga : Kambhoji
Language : Tamil
காணக் கண் கோடி வேண்டும் கபாலியின் பவனி (காணக் )
அனுபல்லவி மாணிக்கம் வைரம் முதல் நவரத்னாபரணமும் மணமார் பற்பல மலர் மாலைகளும் முகமும்
மதியோடு தாராகணம் நிறையும் அந்தி
வானமோ கமல வனமோ என மனம்
மயங்க அகளங்க அங்கம் யாவும் இலங்க
அபாங்க அருள் மழை பொழி பவனி (காணக் )
மாலோடையன் பணியும் மண்ணும் விண்ணும் பரவும்
மறை ஆகமன் துதிக்கும் இறைவன் அருள் பெறவே
காலம் செல்லுமுன் கனதனமும் தந்தார்க்கு நன்றி
கருதிக் கண்ணாரக் கண்டுள்ளுருகிப் பணியப் பலர்
காண அறுமுகனும் கணபதியும் சண்டேச்வரனும்
சிவகணமும் தொடர கலைவாணி
திருவும் பணி கற்பக நாயகி வாமன்
அதிகாரநந்தி சேவைதனைக் (காணக் )
kANak kaN koDi vENDum kapAliyin bavani (kANak)
One needs (vENDum) countless (kODi – literally, a crore/10 million) eyes to see (kANa) the procession (bavani) of Lord Kapali (Lord Shiva of Kapali temple, Mylapore).
With His appearance (mugamum) decorated (implied) with ornaments (AbharaNamum) studded (implied) with the nine (nava) gems (ratnam) starting from (mudal) rubies (mANikkam) and diamonds (vairam), and garlands (mAlaugaLumum) of many (paRpala) flowers (malar) full of (Ar) fragrance (maNam), with all (yAvum) His unblemished (agaLanga) limbs (angam) shining brightly (ilanga), our minds (manam) become enchanted (mayanga) wondering if it is (ena) the twilight (andi) sky (vAnam) full of (niRaiyum) stars (tArAgaNam) along with (ODu) the moon (madi), or is it (implied) a lotus (kamala) forest (vanam) . One needs countless eyes to see (from pallavi) the procession (bavani) of the Lord (implied) who showers (mazhai pozhi) grace (aruL) with the corner of his eyes (apanga).
Before (mun) any further (implied) time (kAlam) passes (sellum), with the intention of (karudi) of gratitude (nanDRi) to the One who gave (tandArkku) gold (ghanam) and wealth (dhanam), and to get (peravE) His grace (aruL), let us (implied) bow down (paNIya) with a melting heart (uL=inside, uRugi=melting) after watching (kANDu) to the solace (ARa) of the eyes (kAN) the procession of the Lord (iRaivan) who is paid obeisance to by (paNiyum) Lord Vishnu (mAl) along with (ODu) Brahma (aiyan), and who is eulogised/praised (tudikkum) in the Vedas (maRai) and Agamas (Agaman) which are spread (paravum) throughout the world (maNNum) and heavens (viNNum). One needs countless eyes to see (implied) the service (sEvai danai) of Lord Shiva (vAman) on his vehicle with a bull’s face and body of a man (adikAranandi), along with Goddess Karpagambal (kaRpaga nAyaki) being served by (paNi) Goddess Saraswati (kalai vANi) and Goddess Lakshmi (tiruvum), followed by (toDara) Lord Subrahmanya (arumugamum), Lord Ganesha (gaNapatiyum), Lord Chandikeshwara (chandesvaranum), and the Ganas (shivagaNamum), while many (palar) watch (kANa).
A very happy Janmashtami (Gokulashtami, Sri Jayanti) to everybody!
This year is very special for me because I have my own Bala Gopala to play with! I am, of course, referring to my little grandson who is now 8 months old. The representation of Krishna crawling with butter in his hands, that would be about that age, wouldn’t it? You know that mischievous look that artists add to His eyes? Well, my little grandson has the very same look sometimes! The other day, I was tucking him into his bed for his nap. I neatly tucked in one side and walked around the cot to reach the other. By the time I did that, little Rohit had pulled the cover out and sat up, eyes twinkling and laughing at me! By the time I went from one side to another a few times, this had become the best of games 🙂 I finally told him firmly that he could sleep with no covers for a change and walked out of his room with a smile of my own, very proud of the little one’s bout of mischief! Ah, there you see is a conundrum of sorts, this pride in a child’s mischief, what’s that about? Is it because the mischief represents an agile mind and a sense of humour which we do take pride in?
My darling grandson has other tricks up his sleeve too! He has this way of looking away from me, as if gazing seriously at something far away. I would try to get his attention by making silly sounds or calling his name but he would keep his eyes averted. But I know his attention is on me as a little smile lifts one corner of his mouth 🙂 All the adults around him are totally attentive to him, so where did he learn this trick? Native mischievousness, that’s what! Oh the love I feel for him when he plays this game with me! My heart overflows!
This is the emotion that Oothukadu Venkata Kavi wants us to capture and direct towards our bala Gopala, the divine child who will play games with us forever. The Kavi has done a brilliant job in conveying the pride in Yashoda’s ‘voice’ even as she tells her friend, ‘Only you will praise Krishna!’ What a perfect balance between pride and frustration in Yashoda’s description of her son’s doings!! Set to Raga Sriranjani, this song is popular with dancers as there is a lot of scope for abhinaya.
To enjoy this song, please listen below to an old recording by T.N.Seshagopalan.
I am also very fond of this version by Maharajapuram Santanam.
I was really keen to include a dance video, but the best I found is this very short version by the talented Harinie Jeevitha. Hope you enjoy it!
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Oothukadu Venkata Kavi Raga : Sriranjani Language : Tamil
பல்லவி நீதான் மெச்சிக் கொள்ள வேண்டும் (alt: வேணும் ) எங்கள் நீல நிற மேனி மாதவன் செய்வது நிமிஷம் போவது யுகமாய் ஆகுது
காதாரக் குழலூதி கன்றோடு (alt: கன்றுடன் ) விளையாடி
கண் முன்னே வந்து நின்று ஆட்டமும் ஆடி
ஏதேதோ ஜாலங்கள் செய்வதும் ஓடி ஓடி
எழிலுரு மங்கையர் மனைதொறும் (alt: மனைதனில்) புகுந்து
களவாடிடும் எனதாருயிர் மகனை
செய்யும் துஷ்டத்தனத்திற்கோர் எல்லையே இல்லை
தேடிப் பிடிக்க என்றால் (alt: என்னால்) சக்தியும் இல்லை
கையும் களவுமாக (alt: களவுமாக்க ) காலமும் வல்லை
ஆனால் காலம் தவறாது கோள் சொல்ல வந்து நின்ற (alt: வந்த )
மாதர்க்கு விடை சொல்ல நேரமும் இல்லை
கட்ட எண்ணிக் கயிற்றைத் தேடியும் காணோம்
கைக்கான கயிறெல்லாம் அளவாகக் காணோம்
மட்டம் என உரலோடு கட்டிடத் தோணும் ஆனால்
மட மட எனும் ஒலி செவி புக வந்தால்
மருத மரம் இரண்டை காணவே காணோம்
nI dAn mechchi koLLa vENDum (alt: vENum)
engAL nIla nira mEni mAdavan seivadu
nimisham pOvadu yugamAy Agudu
kAdAra kuzhal Udi kanDRODu (alt: kanDRuDan) viLaiyADi
kaN munnE vandu ninDRu ATTamum ADi
EdEdO jAlangaL seivadum ODi ODi
ezhiluru mangaiyar manaitorum (alt: manaitanil) pugundu
kaLavADidum enadAruyir maganai
kaTTa eNNIk-kayiTRait-tEDiyum kANOm
kaikkAna kayirellAm aLavagak-kANOm
maTTam ena uralODu kaTTiDa tONum ANAl
maDa maDa enum oli sevi puga vandAl
maruda maram iraNDai kANavE kANOm
(note – the alternate word usages do not change the overall meaning so I have not translated them)
Only you (nI dAn) will praise (mechchi koLLa vENDum) Krishna (implied)! With the doings (seivadu) of our (engaL) blue-skinned (nIla nira mEni) Madhava, each moment (nimisham) which passes (pOvadu) becomes (Agudu) an eon (yugamAy)!
Only you will praise (implied from pallavi) my (en) dearest (Aruyir) son (maganai) who plays (Udi – literally, blows) the flute (kuzhal) to our heart’s content (kAdu Ara – literally, to the solace of the ear), who plays (viLayADi) with the calf (kanDRODu), who also (-um) comes to stand (vandu ninDRu) and dance (ATTam ADi) in front (munnE) of one’s eyes (kaN) , and who does (seivadum) all kinds of (EdEdO) magical things (jAlangal), who runs constantly (Odi Odi), getting into (pugundu) all the houses (manai+tOrum) of young women (mangai) with elegant (ezhil) forms (uru) and stealing (kaLavADum)!!
There is no (illai) limit (Or ellai) to the mischief (dushtatanattirku) he gets into (seyyum, literally does)! There is neither strength (shakti) nor has the time (kAlam) come (vallai, contraction of varavillai) if He is to be (endRAl) searched (tEDi) and caught (piDikka) red-handed (kaiyum kalavumAga)! Nor do I have the time (nEramum illai) to answer (viDai solla) the ladies (mAdar-kku) who never miss an opportunity (kAlam tavarAdu) to come (vandu niDRa) and complain (kOL solla)!
In spite of searching (tEDiyum) for a rope (kayiTRai) with the thought of (eNNik) of tying Him (kaTTa), it can’t be found (kANOm, literally-not seen)! And all (ellAm) the ropes (kayir) which are found at hand (kaikkAna) aren’t long enough (aLaVAga kANOm)! Finding (implied) something of the right measure (maTTam ena), the thought would come (tONum) to tie Him (kaTTiDa) to the mortar (uralODu). But then (AnAl) a rustling sound (maDa maDa enum oli) would be heard (sevi-ear puga-enter vandAl-come to), and the two (iraNDai) Indian Laurel trees (maruda maram) would be visible no more (kANavE kANOm)! [Note: This refers to an incident from Krishna’s childhood]
Don’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
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 and Translation) :
Composer : Neelakanta Sivan Raga : Kharaharapriya 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.
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
kETTum kanDum anubhavittum uNmai uNarA garvigaL veRum sAvi
vATTamillada gadi koDukkum nIlakanTanin anbillAr (alt: aruL illAr) perum pAvi (enDrum)
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).
NOTE : This is a note based on a comment by Mr.Lakshman Ragde, who is incomparable in his knowledge of Carnatic Music lyrics. He wrote
‘In the song navasiddhi peTrAlum, there are additional caraNAs. Here are the lyrics as found in the printed text book of N.Shivan’s compositions, edited by Saraswathi Ram’ .
navasiddhi peTrAlum. rAgA: kharaharapriyA. cApu tALA.
P: navasiddhi peTrAlum shiva bhakti illAda narargaL verum shAvi
evar budddhiyum taLLi suyabuddhiyum illAdu iruppavargaL perum pAvi
C1: nAthan aruL marandu bOdham illA kUttu naDippavar verum shAvi
NItmati aNiyum shivanai ninaiyAmal iruppavar perum pAvi
2: pApamum puNyamum keNiyAmal paNattirkkE parappavar verumshAvi
kOpamum lObhamum koNDu nalla guNattai kulaippavar perum pAvi
3: tAi tandai manam nOgha sheiginra guru drOhat-talaivargaL verum shAvi
nAi pOla evaraiyum shIri shaNDaiyiDum nalam keTTAr perum pAvi
4: kETTum kaNDum anubhavittum uNmai uNarA garvigaL verum shAvi
vATTamillA gati koDukkum nIlakaNTharin aruL illAr perum pAvi
Ah 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
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 and Translation) :
Composer : Papanasam Sivan Raga : Kurinji Language : Tamil
கண்ணே என் கண்மணியே கண்ணனே கண்வளராய்
மண்ணுலகில் என் வாழ்வு வளம் பெற வந்துதித்த
குயிலிசை குழலோசை உன் கொஞ்சுமொழிக்கிணையாமோ
கொண்ட மன சஞ்சலங்கள் பஞ்சாய் பறந்திடுமே
kaNNE en kaNmaNiyE kaNNanE kaNvaLarAi
maNNulgil en vAzhvu vaLam pera vanduditta
kuyilisai kuzhalOsai un konju-mozhik-kiNaiyAmO
koNDa mana sanchalangaL panjAi parandiDumE
tEDAda en nidhiyE tigaTTAda teLLamudE
vADAda men malarE manattuL inikkum tanittEnE
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 (teLamudE), O Unfading (vADada) soft (men) flower (malarE), O unique (tani) honey (tEnE) which sweetens (inikkum) inside (uL) my mind (mana)! Sleep (tAlElO)!
A 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.
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
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!
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 and Translation) :
Composer : Papanasam Sivan
Raga : Madhyamavati
Language : Tamil
கற்பகமே கண் பாராய்
கற்பகமே கடை (கருணை) கண் பாராய்
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)
karpagamE kaN pArAy
karpagamE kaDai (karuNai) kaN pArAy
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
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).
She sits under a tree, lost in her own misery. For ten months she has been in captivity, surrounded by her enemies. Her captor has given her twelve months to give in to him and become his consort. He has threatened death, he has tried temptation but she remains aloof and dismissive. But internally she has started despairing. Will her Lord be able to rescue her in time ? Her despair leads her to thoughts of giving up her life. Our Lord’s envoy finds her thus. He approaches her cautiously, gaining her trust in small steps. He offers to take her back but she refuses; she will allow only her Lord to rescue her. The Lord’s envoy bids her goodbye, causes as much havoc as he can in the enemy camp and returns to his Lord to bring glad tidings. Our Lord too has been suffering without his lady. He is desperate for news. His envoy greets him joyfully ”My Lord! Yes, I have seen her! Yes, she is still alive and chaste!”.
This is such a pivotal moment in the story, isn’t it! We have all followed this story innumerable times, through the innocence of our hero’s childhood, through his adolescent victories, the obedience of young adulthood, a comparatively uneventful exile and finally through the despair of loss. Through all this time our hero has just been a man in the making, at least to my eyes. Oh, he was mature enough in age. Married at 16, he lived at home under his father’s rule for 12 years when he was sent into exile. he would have been 28 then. His lady was captured after 13 years in exile so at this stage of the story, our hero is close to 42 years in age. But he has not yet fulfilled the role for which he was born, as man or as God. It is after this point that he rouses himself from despair and takes the steps to become the glorious, victorious one that we all greet him as when we say ‘Jai Jai Ram’.
So, as I said before, this point of the story is pivotal. Ramayana is a story which has been told countless times, in countless forms. There is no saying if Valmiki’s was the original one; who knows what stories were there before? Perhaps there was always a Ramayana, whether told or untold. Still, Valmiki’s is the story we refer to as the original version. Let us see what he says about this moment of the story.
अङ्गदे ह्यननुप्राप्ते सुग्रीवो वानराधिपः।
उवाच शोकोपहतं रामं कमललोचनम्।।5.64.24।।
समाश्वसिहि भद्रं ते दृष्टा देवी न संशयः।
नागन्तुमिह शक्यं तैरतीते समये हि नः।।5.64.25।।
Seeing the grief stricken, lotus eyed Rama, the lord of the vanaras Sugriva said this before the arrival of Angada : Trust me, Rama. Be blessed. The vanaras have seen the divine lady. There is no doubt. It is not possible for them to come here after exceeding the time limit (in their search for Sita).
Sugriva, Rama and Lakshmana watch the havoc created by the vanaras in Madhuvana from a distance. From the very celebratory behaviour of the vanaras, Sugriva guesses that they come with good news. So it is he who gives first intimation of the news by saying ‘the vanaras have seen the divine lady‘.
Valamiki gives further description of the approach of the vanaras and the exchange of greetings before coming to the salient point.
Having crossed the sea consisting of a hundred yojanas in quest of Vaidehi, I found her. On the southern shore of the ocean is situated the city of Lanka, ruled by the evil-minded Ravana. There, in the inner palace of Ravana, I saw your lovely wife Sita, with all her hopes pinned on you, giving up all other desires. I found her in the beautiful garden guarded by hideous ogresses threatening her again and again.
I have highlighted the phrase दृष्टा मया सीता as this is the closest to the title of our song today ‘Kanden Sitaiyai’. She is well but she is threatened. This will rouse our hero to immediate action.
Sita, who did not deserve and yet was full of grief was detained by Ravana in his inner palace, guarded by ogresses. She had a single braid (a sign of desolation), was pathetic, and totally absorbed in your thought. She was lying on bare ground with her limbs turned pale, like lotus in winter. She was averse to Ravana and was determined to commit suicide. She has only Rama in her mind. Somehow I found her.
Sita’s devotion to Rama and her determination to seek death rather than dishonour is the salient point here. Note how she is described as looking pale as a lotus in winter. When you come to the translation of our song, you will notice the same description there.
O Son of Dasaratha I will hold on to life for a month. Captured by the demons, I will not live for more than a month. With her limbs emaciated through austerities detained in Ravana’s inner palace, eyes wide open in fear, Sita said this to me.
Sita gives Rama a mere month to defeat Ravana and rescue her. I have read and heard Ramayana innumerable times but somehow missed this pertinent fact. So as Sita did not give up her life, I assume that less than 30 days passed between Hanuman bringing this news and Rama’s defeat of Ravana. Is that even possible? I have to do more research on that!
KAMBA RAMAYANAM , Sundara Kandam, 6028, 6031 and 6051
Hanuman having reached that place, without saluting the heroic Rama’s anklet clad feet, he saluted southwards towards where the Goddess, who, having abandoned the lotus flower and been born on this earth, was currently resident, by falling on earth, with his head and hands touching the earth and praised Sita lying there.
Kambar has Hanuman conveying the news in a more subtle manner. On gaining audience, Hanuman pays obeisance to Sita instead of saluting Rama and thus conveys the news of Sita’s well-being by gestures alone. Interestingly, Kambar stresses the divinity of Sita here by connecting her to Goddess Lakshmi.
கண்டனென், கற்பினுக்கு அணியை, கண்களால்,
தெண் திரை அலைகடல் இலங்கைத் தென் நகர்;
அண்டர் நாயக !இனி, துறத்தி, ஐயமும்
பண்டு உள துயரும்’என்று, அனுமன் பன்னுவான்
Hanuman looked at Rama and said ‘O Lord of Devas, in Lanka, a city in the South which is surrounded by clear, curling tides, I saw with my own eyes your Lady who is like an ornament to chastity. Therefore forget all the doubt (of whether she is chaste or not) and the sorrow thereof’. He continued to tell in more detail.
I included this verse because it is closest to the words ‘Kanden Sitaiyai’ . Kambar’s description of Sita is very evocative and poetic.
இங்கு உளதன்மை எல்லாம் இயைபுளி இயையக் கேட்டாள்; அங்கு உள தன்மைஎல்லாம் அடியனேற்கு அறியச் சொன்னாள்; “திங்கள் ஒன்றுஇருப்பென் இன்னே; திரு உளம் தீர்ந்தபின்னை, மங்குவென்உயிரோடு” என்று, உன் மலரடி சென்னி வைத்தாள்.
After hearing of all that occurred here, she told me of everything that had happened there in detail. ‘I will remain alive for only one more month’ she said. ‘If my Lord does not want to save me within that time, I will kill myself’ . She gestured as if she was saluting your divine feet.
Kambar’s Sita, like Valmiki’s Sita, gives her Lord only a month’s time to rescue her. Interesting is the wording here ‘If my Lord does not want to save mewithin that time’. Is there a doubt that he would want to save her or not? A hint of a future doubt over her chastity?
Ramacharitamanas, Sundara Kanda 5-29 and 5-30
Reference : http://www.ramcharitmanas.org
I could not find the equivalent of the words ‘Kanden Sitaiyai’ in Ramacharitmanas. It is Jambavan who speaks first to the Lord.
प्रभु कीं कृपा भयउ सबु काजू। जन्म हमार सुफल भा आजू॥2॥
नाथ पवनसुत कीन्हि जो करनी। सहसहुँ मुख न जाइ सो बरनी॥
पवनतनय के चरित सुहाए। जामवंत रघुपतिहि सुनाए॥3॥
सुनत कृपानिधि मन अति भाए। पुनि हनुमान हरषि हियँ लाए॥
कहहु तात केहि भाँति जानकी। रहति करति रच्छा स्वप्रान की॥4॥
‘Everything has turned out well by the grace of my Lord; it is only today that our birth has been consummated. The achievement of Hanuman (the son of the wind-god) cannot be described even with a thousand tongues’. Jambavan then related to the Lord of the Raghus the charming exploits of Hanuman. The All-merciful felt much delighted at heart to hear them and in His joy He clasped Hanuman once more to His bosom. ‘Tell me, dear Hanuman, how does Janaka’s daughter pass her days and sustain her life?’
This version of the meeting came across to me as more intimate somehow. Unlike the other two versions, there is no comment about Sita’s chastity. I will quote only one more verse for a comparison, a verse which gives Sita’s message to Rama.
मन क्रम बचन चरन अनुरागी। केहिं अपराध नाथ हौं त्यागी॥2॥
अवगुन एक मोर मैं माना। बिछुरत प्रान न कीन्ह पयाना॥
I am devoted to Your feet in thought, word and deed; yet for what offence, my lord, have You forsaken me? I do admit one fault of mine, that my life did not depart the moment I was separated from You.
Sita feels abandoned but she neither sets a deadline nor threatens suicide.
How many versions there are of the story! Is it really just one story? Prof. Ramanujan calls the various instances of the Ramayana story as ‘tellings’. In his essay titled 300 Ramayanas he says ‘Some shadow of a relational structure claims the name of Ramayana for all these tellings, but on a closer look one is not necessarily all that like another‘. I urge you to read this essay when you have some time; it is very interesting indeed.
Finally I come to the song I have chosen to present today (you may well sigh in relief !). The song is from Arunachala Kavi’s (1711-1779) Rama Natakam, his own telling of Ramayana. The song is a narration by Hanuman to Lord Rama; it is both beautiful and poignant. I have heard it sung in Bageshri and Vasanta but I believe it is also sung in Behag and Mukhari. I understand the tuning in Vasanta was by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar but I don’t know about the other versions. If you have links to a version in Behag or Mukhari, please can you add a link in the comments? Also, I have heard only the first two charanams sung, if you know of a rendition which includes all three charanams, I will be grateful.
Let us first listen to Sikkil Gurucharan in Vasanta. He sings only the first charanam. Vasanta is so cheerful, isn’t it! The jubilation in the words is nicely matched by the raga.
Next, here is a rendition by Bombay Jayashri. She sings only the second charanam. I love Bageshri and the song sounds quite beautiful to me.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Poetry : Arunachala Kavi Music : Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar (maybe) in Vasanta, others unknown to author Raga : Varies. Presented here are Vasanta and Bageshri Language : Tamil Note – you may note that the lyrics don’t match exactly with the renditions above. I have done my best to provide what I think is most accurate for the purpose of music appreciation. If you are a student, please refer to your guru.
காவி விழிகளில் உன் உருவெளி மின்னக்
கனி வாய் தனிலே உன் திரு நாமமே பன்ன
ஆவித்துணையைப் பிரிந்த மட அன்னம்
ஆனாள் நான் சொல்லுவதென்ன
பூவைத் திரிசடை நித்தம் நித்தம் சொன்ன
பக்தி வழியே தன் புத்தி நிலை மன்னப்-
பாவி அரக்கியர் காவல் சிறை துன்னப்-
பஞ்சு படிந்த பழம் -சித்திரம் என்ன
பனிக்கால வாரிஜம் போல் நிறங் கூசிப்
பகல் ஒரு யுகமாக கழித்தாளே பிரயாசி
நினைத்தங்கே ராவணன் அந்நாள் வரச் சீச்சி
நில்லடா (older version: சண்டாளா) என்று ஏசி
தனித்துத்-தன் உயிர்தனைத் -தான் விட மகராசி
சாடும் பொழுது காணும் சமயம் இதுவே வாசி
இனித் -தாமதம் செய்யல் ஆகாதென்றிடர் வீசி
ராமா ராமா ராமா என்றெதிர் பேசி
அடல் சேரும் வாலியை வானுலகிலே கூட்டி
அவனியை சுக்ரீவன் ஆள முடி சூட்டி
உடனே நீ தூது போ என்ற சொல் அமுதூட்டி
விட வந்த அனுமன்தன் நான் என்று சீராட்டி
விவரம் சொல்ல உயிர் கொண்டிருக்கிறாள் சீமாட்டி
திடமா லக்ஷ்மணன் செய்த பர்ணசாலை வீட்டில்
தேவாதி தேவா உன் திரு ஆழிதனைக்-காட்டி
kAvi vizhigaLil un uruveLi minnak
kanivAy danilE un tiru nAmamE panna
AvittuNaiyaip-pirinda maDa annam
AnAL nAn solluvadenna
pUvait-tirishaDai nittam nittam sonna
bhakti vazhiyE tan buddhi nilai mannap-
pAvi arakkiyar kAval siRai tunnap-
panju paDinda pazham-chittiram enna
panikkAla vArijam pOl nirang-kUsip-
pagal oru yugamAgak-kazhittALE prayAsi
ninaittangE rAvaNan annAL varach-chIchchi
nillaDA enDRU Esi
tanittut-tan uyirt-tanait-tAn viDa magarAsi
sADum pozhudu kANum samayam iduvE vAsi
init-tAmadam seyyal AgAdenRiDar vIsi
rAma rAma rAma enRedir pEsi
aDal sErum vAliyai vAnulagilE kUTTi
avaniyai sugrIvan ALa muDi sUTTi
uDanE nI tUdu pO enDRa sol amudUTTi
un ezhil pArATTi
viDa vanda anumantan nAn enDRu sIrATTi
vivaram solla uyir koNDirukkiRAL sImATTi
diDamA lakshmaNan seyda parNasAlai vITTil
dEvAdi dEvA un tiru Azhitanaik-kATTi
pallavi I have seen (kanDEn) Sita (sItaiyai), O Raghava!
anupallavi In the city (purattilE) of Lanka, a city not seen (kANAda) even by the Gods (anDarum) (implied meaning: A city more beautiful than the celestial cities), I saw Sita (the words of the pallavi), the mother (mAtAvai) who came (vanda) to give (tara) Brahma (aravinda vEda) . [*Note: I am very dissatisfied with the translation of the second line. I trolled the net to see what others think, but did not find anything convincing. Brahma is the son of Vishnu but only indirectly of Lakshmi. I would prefer to read it as ‘Lakshmi who sits (implied) on a lotus. After all Lakshmi is also known as Vedavalli, so could vEdA be a short version of that? If so, what has she come to give? Can it be read as something else? Your opinions are welcome!]
charaNam 1 With your (un) reflection (uruveLi) shining (minna) in her (implied) reddened (kAvi) eyes (vizhigaLil) (ie eyes reddened by tears), uttering (panna) only (-mE after nAmam) your (un) sacred (tiru) name (nAmam), she has become (AnAL) like (implied) a pen (female swan) (maDa annam) separated (pirinda) from her soul (Avi) companion (tuNaiyai), what (enna) shall I (nAn) say (solluvadu)! Keeping her state of mind (buddhi nilai) firmly constant (manna) by following (implied) the way (vazhiyE) of devotion (bhakti) as advised (sonna-told) daily (nittam nittam) by the lady (pUvai) Trijata (tirishaDai), while the sinful (pAvi) demonesses (arakkiyar) crowd close (tunna) guarding (kAval) her prison (siRai). She is like (enna) an old (pazham) painting (chittiram) which has become valueless (panju paTTa).
charaNam 2 Withdrawn (kUsi) with her colour (niram) pale (implied) like a lotus (vArijam) in winter (pani kAlam), the distressed lady (prayAsi) passed (kazhittaLE) each day (pagal) as if it was an eon (yugamAga). That day (annAL) when Ravana came (vara) there (angE) purposefully (ninaittu) , she (implied) reproached (Esi) him saying (eNDRu=thus) ‘chIchi’ (exclamation of disgust) Stop (nillaDa)!’. Alone and helpless (tanittu), the blessed woman (magarAsi) decided to (implied) give up (viDa) her own (tan) life (uyir tanai) herself (tAn). Seeing (kANum) the moment (pozhudu) of the decision (implied) of killing herself (sADum) and divining (vAsi) that this was (iduvE) the time (samayam), that (enDRu) delaying (tAmadam) further (ini) won’t do (seyyal AgAdu) , I interrupted (edir pEsi) by scattering (vIsI) the words (implied) ‘Rama Rama Rama’ .
Gathering (kUTTi) the murderous (aDal = murder, but why sErum? !) Vali (vAliyai) into the celestial world (vAnulagam) and crowning (muDi sUtti) Sugriva to rule (Ala) the world (avaniyai), he said (implied) ‘Go as my ambassador (tUdu pO)’, feeding (Utti) words (sol) of nectar (amudu) to me (implied). Praising (pArATTi and sIrATTi) your (un) grace (ezhil), I said (enDRu-thus, here indicates what is said), ‘ I (nAn) am Hanuman (anumantan), having come (vanda) to rescue you (viDa)’ . O Lord of Lords (dEvAdi dEva)! In the leafy hut/hermitage (paRNasAlai vITTil) built (seyda) by Lakshmana, [Note: In Kamba Ramayanam, Sita is captured along with their hut, thus protecting her chastity even further by her never having been touched by Ravana], as I explained (solla) the details (vivaram) and showed [kATTi] your (un) sacred (tiru) signet ring (Azhitanai), the lady (sImATTi) resolutely (diDamA) retains life (uyir koNDirukkiRAL) (ie. he has successfully stopped her from giving up her life).
Have you ever asked yourself ‘What if I am wrong in my beliefs? What if there is no God, no karma, no rebirth, nothing but nothingness when we are done here?‘. I don’t mean like a crisis of faith, but just those fleeting thoughts which linger, unanswered and unanswerable. The truth is, of course, we are all equally in the dark, the believers as well as the non-believers. Very often it is the non-believer’s arguments which seem more rational, more scientific. And even worse, the stories in the newspapers are of atrocities committed by believers, whatever genre their belief may be, rather than the non-believers. In this climate, it is hard not to eye the whole ‘belief’ thing with a certain wariness.
This struggle with belief is not new to Hinduism. You may already know of the Nasadiya Sukta नासदीय सूक्त (Hymn of Creation) of the Rigveda. The last two couplets are of particular interest, which I quote below.
को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः | अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥ इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न | यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥
But, after all, who knows, and who can say Whence it all came, and how creation happened? the gods themselves are later than creation, so who knows truly whence it has arisen? Whence all creation had its origin, he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, he, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows – or maybe even he does not know.
Rig Veda 10:129, Translation by A.L Basham (source)
It is so gloriously open-ended, isn’t it! These verses are about creation but there is something more fundamental, as if even the existence of the Gods and their power over creation is questioned. If even the Vedic seers had such questions in their minds, who will blame us if we do?
And yet there it is, my faith. Perhaps it is childhood indoctrination; in fact it almost certainly is that. However it has been such an old friend to me, has shaped my own character and the choices I have made in life so very much that it cannot be separated from me without causing grievous damage to all that I am. I very much identify with this quote by William Sloane Coffin Jr ‘I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings‘. It feels as if I leapt in my childhood, even before I knew I was leaping and over the course of my life my faith has grown wings. And like a kite it flies, tethered to anything rational by a mere thread.
But the questions remain.
And that is why I have chosen this beautiful composition by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer today. ‘Whatever anyone says, fear not, O brave heart, keep singing about the compassion of the Lord‘ says he. Why did he write this song, I wonder. What did people say to him that he responded with ‘Even if this world says a thousand things we should keep it aside thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’. The words seem to speak to me when questions cloud my mind. Set to raga Manirangu, it has all the spirit and lyrical beauty of Venkata kavi’s compositions. It makes me smile because he encourages everyone to sing and even dance if they can!
Please listen first to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s rendition. It has been a while since I featured him, hasn’t it! I hope you enjoy his simply brilliant voice as much as I do.
And the second rendition that caught my fancy today is by Shobana Vignesh. Very nicely sung indeed!
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer
Raga : Manirangu Language : Tamil
நாரத நாதமும் வேதமும் நாண
நாணக் குழல் ஒன்று ஊதுவான்
நீரதக் கழல் ஆட கோபியரும் பாட
நேர் நேர் என சொல்லித் தானாடுவான் – அந்த
அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு
தோலை அரிந்து கனி தூர எறிந்து
வெறுந் தோலைத் துணிந்தொருவன் தந்தானல்லவோ
மேலைப் பிடி அவலை வேணுமென்றே தெரிந்து
விரும்பி ஒருவன் அன்று தந்தானல்லவோ
காலமெல்லாம் தவம் இருந்து கனிந்து கனி
கடித்து சுவைத்தொருவள் தந்தாளல்லவோ – இந்த
ஞாலமும் ஆயிரம் சொன்னாலும் நாம் அதை
நமக்கெதற்கு என்று தள்ளி நாமமும் ஆயிரம் சொல்லிச் சொல்லி
(அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு)
Whatever (enna) anyone (yAr) says (sonnAlum), fear not, O heart (anjAdEnenjamE) [Alternative – O brave heart (anjAdanenjamE) ], sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan). Sing (pADu) with (ODu) elaborations (Alapanai) of the Raga. If you can (muDindAl), also dance (ADu) with (ODu) proper gestures and steps (aDavu). Even if you are given (tandAlum) many (pala) thousands (Ayiram) of precious (arumai) lives (piravigal), will this one come again (implied by varumO=will it come)? Therefore (Adalin)…..
He will play (ooduvAn, literally blow) a (onDRu) flute (kuzhal) such that (implied) it would put the music (nAdam) of Narada and the Vedas to shame (nANa). (Note : there is a second nANa in front of kuzhal, I don’t understand why. Is there another meaning to it? Or is it for emphasis?). With his cloud-like (nIrada) anklets (kazhal) jingling (ADa, literally dancing), and the cowherdesses (gOpiyar) singing (pADa), asking (solli, literally saying) to be face to face (nErnErena) He would dance (ADuvAn) himself (tAN) (I am a bit puzzled about the ‘nEr nEr ena’. Perhaps this is a reference to the episode where He duplicates Himself for each gopi and dances with each of them face to face?). Sing of his (His) compassion (pallavi line)
Didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), having cut (arindu) the peel (tOlai) and throwing away (dUra eRindu) the fruit (kani), presume to (tuNindu) give (tandAn) only (tani) the peel (tolai) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the episode when Vidura, in the excitement of having Krishna close by, peels bananas and offers the peels to the Lord instead of the fruit. Krishna too consumes it. Vidura on realising what he had done is horrified but Krishna says he would accept anything offered with love.] Further (mElai), didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), knowing (terindu) that it was wished for (vENum enDRu), lovingly (virumbi, with liking) give (tandAn) a handful (piDi) of flattened rice (aval) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the tale of Sudama]. Didn’t (allavO) a woman (oruvaL), having lived (irundu, literally been) lifelong (kAlamellam) in austerity, tenderly (kanindu) give (tandAL) a fruit (kani) after biting (kaDittu) and tasting (suvaittu) it? [Note: Refers to Shabari]. Even if this (inda) world (ñAlam) says (sonnAlum) a thousand things (Ayiram) we (nAm) should keep it aside (taLLi, literally push away) thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’ (nammakku edarkku enDru) and repeating (solli solli) His thousand (Ayiram) names (nAmam) sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan) (pallavi line).
Happy Shivaratri everybody! As music lovers, our worship is music, our prayer is music and our blessing is music, is it not? And so here I am, offering a song of the Dancing Lord in worship and in prayer, praying that I shall evermore have the blessing of a heart fulfilled by music.
Cosmic Microwave Map, can you spot the S and H?
It might seem strange to you but I always associate Lord Shiva with Cosmology! You see, the image I have in my mind is of Him dancing, galaxies streaming around Him, the background sound of OM keeping sruthi like a tanpura, His ascetical beautiful face blissful, His matted hair flying, the snakes on His neck swaying, the drum in Hand beating the beat of the world, His movements ecstatic, His contemplation the existence of the universe, His pulse its rhythm. So yes, I think of Cosmology when I think of Him. Knowing that Shivaratri was coming up, I picked a lecture to see from the Oxford University podcasts. I only understood parts of it but there was something there which made me laugh! Check out what the speaker shows at the 22nd minute. The letters ‘S’ and ‘H’ show up in the microwave map (see above), a cosmological message from the time the Universe was created! I wonder when they are going to find the ‘I’, ‘V’, and ‘A’!!! Lord Shiva’s signature on his handiwork, don’t you think? 🙂
There was something else which sparked my interest. The model which I had read before said that the universe was expanding like a balloon, but that the rate of expansion reduces as time passes. I had imagined that it would then attain some kind of stability. Instead, I understand (and I may be well have misunderstood!) that the expansion is in fact accelerating, and that the model that emerges is that of a universe which will expand faster and faster until it collapses into itself to become what it was before the Big Bang. And then perhaps it would start a new cycle again? Is that the cycle of destruction and creation which we ascribe to Lord Shiva? I must read up a bit more on this subject….
To remember Lord Shiva’s dance today, I have chosen a lovely song composed by Neelakanta Sivan in the raga Purvikalyani. I listened to many a rendition but this week, I couldn’t get past the old timers.. So first up is K.V.Narayanaswamy with a gorgeous rendition below.
Alternative Link : Click here and select song 3 (Free membership of Sangeethapriya required)
For a slightly longer version with an alapanai, here are the Hyderabad Brothers. I do like their singing, I should listen to them more often!
Alternate Link : Click here and select song 10 (free membership of Sangeethapriya required)
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Neelakanta Sivan Raga : Purvikalyani Language : Tamil
ஆனந்த நடம் ஆடுவார் தில்லை
அம்பலம் தன்னில் அடி பணிபவர்க்(கு)-அபஜெயமில்லை (ஆனந்த)
*Note : தானந்தம் is pronounced as tAnandam by most singers, however as it is derived from Sanskrit word अन्त meaning end, the correct pronunciation would be tAnatam in my humble opinion.
The Lord (implied) will dance (ADuvAr) his Dance of Ecstacy (Ananda naTam) in the (tannil) temple (ambalam, normally hall or court) in Chidambaram (tillai) where, for those who worship (paNibavarkku) at His feet (aDi), there is no defeat (apajayam).
With an infinite/endless (tAnantam illAda) form (rUpan), with a beat (implied by the solkattu or beat-words) like (ena) tajjam-takajam…tatingiNatOm (..the Lord will dance)
With light (jyOti) flashing brilliantly (paLIr paLIr ena) from the crescent moon (pAdi = half, madi = moon), the sound (oli) of ankle-bells (silambu) on his feet (pAda) ringing sharply (galIr galIr ena), His (implied) blue-hued (nIla) throat (kanTam) which swallowed (uNDa) the primeval/ancient (Adi) impurity (kaRai) glittering (minna) (reference: Shiva drinking poison from the churning of the ocean).
‘O Auspicious One (shankara)!! O Benign One (shiva)!! O Destroyer (hara)!! (Not sure what harapura indicates here…) O Beautiful One (sundara)! O Benevolent One (aruL vara)! O Ultimate (vara) Preceptor (guru)!! Thus do (implied) all eight directions (eNdisaiyum) sing (pADiDa) His praise (pugazh) while the whole globe (piNDam) and universe (aNDam) dance (ADiDa).
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