Category Archives: Compositions in Tamil

Yaar Enna Sonnalum

Oothukkadu Kalinga Nartana KrishnaHave 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) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
யாரென்ன சொன்னாலும் அஞ்சாத/அஞ்சாதே  நெஞ்சமே
ஐயன் கருணையைப் பாடு – ராக
ஆலாபனமுடனும் பாடு – முடிந்தால்
அடவோடும் ஜதியோடும் ஆடு
அருமையென வந்தப் பிறவிகளோ பல
ஆயிரம் தந்தாலும் வருமோ ஆதலின்

அனுபல்லவி
நாரத நாதமும் வேதமும் நாண
நாணக் குழல் ஒன்று ஊதுவான்
நீரதக் கழல் ஆட கோபியரும் பாட
நேர் நேர் என சொல்லித் தானாடுவான் – அந்த
அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு

சரணம்
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)

Transliteration

pallavi
yArenna sonnAlum anjAdE (alt: anjAda) nenjamE
aiyan karuNaiyai pADu – rAga
AlApanamuDanum pADu – muDindAl
aDavODum jatiyODum ADu
arumaiyena vandap piRavigaLO pala
Ayiram tandAlum varumO Adalin

anupallavi
nArada nAdamum vEdamum nANa
nANak kuzhal onDRu ooduvan
nIradak kazhal ADa gOpiyarum pADa
nEr nEr ena sollit tAnADuvAn – anda
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)

charaNam
tOlai arindu kani dUra eRindu
veRun tOlait tuNindoruvan tandAnallavo
mElaip piDi avalai vENumenDRE terindu
virumbi oruvan anDRu tandAnallavo
kAlamellam tavam irundu kanindu kani
kaDittu suvaittoruvaL tandALallavo – inda
ñAlamum Ayiram sonnalum nAm adai
namak kedarku enDRu taLLi nAmamum Ayiram sollich-cholli
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)

Translation

Pallavi
Whatever (enna) anyone (yAr) says (sonnAlum), fear not, O heart (anjAdE nenjamE) [Alternative – O brave heart (anjAda nenjamE) ], 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)…..

Anupallavi
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 (nEr nEr ena) 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)

Charanam
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).

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Filed under Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Shobana Vignesh, Uncategorized

Ananda Natam Aduvar Thillai

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

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) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
ஆனந்த நடம் ஆடுவார் தில்லை
அம்பலம் தன்னில் அடி பணிபவர்க்(கு)-அபஜெயமில்லை (ஆனந்த)

அனுபல்லவி
தானந்தம் இல்லாத ரூபன்
தஜ்ஜம் தகஜம் தகதிமி
தளாங்கு தக  தத்திங்கிணதோம்
தளாங்கு தக  தத்திங்கிணதோம்
தக திமி(alt:திகு) தக தத்திங்கிணதோம் (ஆனந்த)

சரணம்
பாதி மதி ஜோதி பளீர் பளீர் என
பாதச் சிலம்பொலி  கலீர் கலீர் என
ஆதிக் கறை உண்ட நீலகண்டம் மின்ன

(மத்தியம காலம் )
ஹரபுர ஹரசிவ சங்கர
அருள் வர குருபர சுந்தர (alt: அருள் குருபர சிவ சுந்தர )
அண்டமும் பிண்டமும் ஆடிட
எண்திசையும் புகழ் பாடிட

pallavi
Ananda naTam ADuvAr tillai
ambalam tannil aDi paNIbavark-apajayam illai (Ananda)

anupallavi
tAnantam* illAda rUpan
tajjam takajam takadimi
taLAngu taka tatingiNatOm
taLAngu taka tatingiNatOm
taka dimi (alt: diku) taka tatingiNatOm (Ananda)

charaNam
pAdi madi jyOti paLIr paLIr ena
pAda silamboli galIr galIr ena
Adi kaRai uNDa nIlakaNTam minna

(madhyama kAlam)
harapura hara shiva shankara
aruL vara gurupara sundara (alt: aruL gurupara shiva sundara)
aNDamum piNDamum ADiDa
eNdisaiyum pugazh pADiDa

*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.

Translation

pallavi
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).

anupallavi
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)

charaNam
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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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Hyderabad Brothers, K.V.Narayanaswamy, Neelakanta Sivan

Azhaga Azhaga

azhagar-koilAre Gods beautiful?

According to the great poets and songwriters of India, Gods are indeed beautiful. We even come across hymns and prayers from ancient times which describe the beauty of the Gods in extravagant terms.

But why do Gods need to be beautiful? This bothers me somewhat, especially in the climate of today where there is an obsession over beauty. I would like to think of Gods as being compassionate, loving, just, generous and forgiving. In comparison, beauty seems to be such an inessential quality! Surely this focus on beauty is worth questioning?

I guess we humans have always been drawn to beauty. We like to decorate ourselves with cosmetics, jewellery and garments in order to make ourselves more beautiful. I remember visiting archaeological museums and admiring the way even the most ancient of people made rings, necklaces and other such ornaments. Cosmetics aren’t anything new either; I believe it comes from the time of the ancient Egyptians. Still, I find that the world today has taken this pursuit of beauty to such extremes! Plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons has become so common. Why, I read recently of Far-Eastern ladies having surgery to make their eyes bigger, short (or not!) people deliberately having their legs broken and stretched so that they could be taller! I am rather horrified! Yet the practices such as lengthening the neck as practiced in some African tribes are no different and these practices have been around for years. Body piercing and tattooing too has been around for a long time. I guess my protests against this madness for beauty are a bit hypocritical; like many ladies, I too make attempts to present myself as well as I can. Still, I see beauty as no more than a superficial thing and giving it importance goes against my grain. So I come back to the question, why describe Gods as being beautiful?

TED lecture by neurobiologist Samir Zeki that I happened to watch gave me an interesting perspective; in fact, that is what prompted me to write this post. In his research, he has found that there are neural correlations between the subjective mental states of love and the experience of beauty. In effect, there is one common area of mental activity located in the medial orbital frontal cortex which is active when one experiences beauty and also happens to be the same area which is active when you look at the face of the person you love very much. Does it mean that we experience both emotions similarly, I wonder? Does an experience of beauty trigger us to love the object which gives us this experience and equally, do we see beauty in all that we love? I am just speculating but I wonder if Gods are described as beautiful to make it easy for us to love them?

Yesterday I was listening to a Podcast on aesthetics and there was a comment which caught my attention. The speaker talked about a ‘vocabulary cloud’ which links the words beauty, truth and goodness. I immediately thought of ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram’, not the movie, but the philosophy. I did a quick search to see if I could find the exact source, but I only found imprecise info linking it to the Upanishads (if you know the source, can you please add a comment with the info? Much obliged!). ‘What‘, I asked myself, ‘if it is only the presence of Satyam (Truth) and Shivam (Goodness) which brings about the quality of Sundaram (Beauty)‘?  I remember my university days when I used to find great beauty in the perfection of a well-solved mathematical problem, the perfect ratios in nature etc. I used to describe them as beautiful; and yes, there was truth in them, goodness in them. Now that kind of beauty truly attracts me; I am very comfortable associating such beauty with the Divine!

I chose the song which came first to my mind when I thought of this subject. Written in praise of the deity from Azhagar Koil (the temple of the Handsome One), it is written by Ambujam Krishna is a very emotive and personal style. Set to Shuddha Dhanyasi, a lyrically appealing Raga, it is a very beautiful song and I hope it pleases you as much as it pleases me. MLV was famous for this song and if you haven’t heard her as yet, be sure to listen here to one of her many renditions available freely on the net. There is also a very pleasing rendition by Bombay Jayashri which I like very much. But with an intention of listening to young artists whenever possible, here is a very nicely done rendition by Saketharaman.

Alternate Link : Click here (free membership to Sangeethamshare is required)


Footnote (Lyrics) 

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
அழகா அழகா என்றழைத்துக் கை தொழுது வந்தேன்
திருமாலிருஞ்சோலை உறையும் வடி  (வழகா)

அனுபல்லவி
வழுவாது திருப்பாதம் தொழுதேத்தும் அன்பர்க்கு
அருள் வாரிச் சொரிந்து அவர் உள்ளம் கவரும் கள்  (ளழகா)

சரணம்
நடந்து நடந்து உன் சன்னிதி வந்தேன்
நாதன் உன் நற்றால் நிழல் தாராயோ?
நாடி நாடி உன் புகழ் கேட்டு வந்தேன்
நாரணா என் குரல் செவியுரக் கேளாயோ?
அடைக்கலம் அடைக்கலம் என்றுனை அடைந்தேன்
அபயக் கரம் தந்து வினை தீராயோ?
பாடிப் பாடி உனைப் போற்றிப் பணியும் எனக்குப்
பவழ வாய் திறந்து அஞ்சேலென்று அருளாயோ?

மத்யமகால சாகித்தியம்

விரிஜ்யோதி கமலமென உன் முகத்தே திகழும்
இருவிழி அருள் தேனை அள்ளி அள்ளி உண்டு
மறை புகழும் திரு மார்பில் மன்னி என்று உரைந்திட
மன வண்டுன் புகழ் பாட மையலுடன் உனை நாடி   (அழகா)

Transliteration

pallavi
azhagA azhagA enDRazhaittuk kai tozhudu vandEn
tirumAlirunjchOlai uRaiyum vaDi (vazhagA)

anupallavi
vazhuvAdu tiruppAdam tozhudEttum anbarkku
aruL vArich chorindu avar uLLam kavarum kaL   (LazhagA)

charaNam
naDandu naDandu un sannidi vandEn
nAtan un naTRAl nizhal tArAyO?
nADi nADi un pugazh kETTu vandEn
nAraNA en kural seviyurak kELAyO?
aDaikkalam aDaikkalam enDRunai aDaindEn
abhayak karam tandu vinai tIrAyO?
pADip pADi unaip pOTRip paNiyum enakkup
pavazha vAy tiRandu anjElenDRu aruLAyO?

madyamakAla sAhityam

virijyOti kamalamena un mugattE tigazhum
iruvizhi aruL tEnai aLLi aLLi uNDu
maRai pugazhum tiru mArbil manni enDRu uraindiDa
mana vaNDun pugazh pADa maiyyaluDan unai nADi  (azhagA)

Translation

pallavi
Oh handsome one (azhagA)! Thus (enDRu) have I called out (azhaittu) as I have come (vandEn), hands (kai) held in worship (tozhudu). O One with the handsome form (vadivazhagA) who lives in (uRaiyum) Thirumalirunsolai (literally Tirumal=Vishnu, irum=residing in, solai=grove also called Sri Kallazhagar Perumal Temple or Azhagar Koil near Madurai).

anupallavi
For the devotees (anbar) who worshipfully praise (tozhudu=worship, Ettu=praise) the sacred feet (tiru+pAdam) which never fail us (vazhuvAdu), Kallazhagar (the name of the deity) attracts (kavarum) their hearts (uLLam) by showering them (chorindu) in a torrent (vAri) of blessings (aruL).

charNam
I have come walking (naDandu) a long way (implied by the second naDandu) to your sanctum (sannidhi). O Lord (nAtan), will you not give me (tArAyo) your protection/shelter (nizhal) out of your goodness (naTRAl)? Hearing of (kETTu) your glory (pugazh), I have come (vandEn) seeking (nADi nADi) O Narayana (nAraNA), do you not hear (kELAyO) my (en) loud (ura) voice (kuRal) ? Calling out (implied) ‘Sanctuary Sanctuary‘ (aDaikkalam)  thus (enDRu) I have approached you (aDaindEn), will you not bring an end to (tIrAyo) to my misfortune (vinai) by giving me (tandu) your gesture of fearlessness (abhaya karam, a mudra indicating protection)? Will you not open (tiRandu) your coral (pavazha) lips (vAy, literally mouth) and bless (aruLAyo) me (ennai) by saying ‘Do not fear‘ (anjEl enDRu), I who worship you (paNiyum) by singing (pADi) again and again (indicated by second pADi) in praise of (pOTRi) you (unai)?

My mind (mana) is like a bee (vaNDu) which seeks you (nADi) in attraction (maiyyaluDan) of the two eyes (iru vizhi) which are like luminous blooming (viri jyoti) lotuses (kamalam) in your face (mugattE tigazhum), to grab again and again (aLLi aLLi) the honey (tEnai) of your benevolence (aruL). Singing (pADa) your (un) praise (pugazh), and saying (uraindiDa)  ‘Forgive Me’ (manni) to the holy chest (tiru marbil)..(O Handsome one!)

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Filed under Ambujam Krishna, Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Saketharaman, Uncategorized

Irakkam Varamal

nataraja1Is God really compassionate? I worry about this, the way I worry about so many unsolvable problems in the world. Is the compassion we ascribe to Him/Her just wishful thinking on our part? If you are a non-believer, this question is moot. But I am a die-hard believer; I hold the kind of belief which is beyond reason, beyond logic. So this question is important to me, especially because I stumble ever so often in my life and am very much in need of both compassion and forgiveness.

The thing is, I think that the qualities ascribed to God are determined by men; there can be no real proof to their veracity. The Hindu pantheon has evolved over the thousands of years from the time of Rig Veda. Some deities have gained importance; others have lost it. Their qualities, their functions, their stories, everything has changed, developed and evolved. Even die-hard believers have to agree that it is men who have ‘designed’ the qualities of Gods. And men, being so very fallible, may have added compassion to the list of Godly qualities because it suits us just fine! As the poet says in my song choice of today ‘பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும் பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம்’ (However many sins/errors I commit, Shiva of Chidambaram protects me). Wishful thinking?

I guess I’ll not have the answer to this question until I am past the stage of needing compassion. Still, I too, like the poet of this song, make a fundamental assumption that God is compassionate.  இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் ? The poet asks, ‘what is the reason that you have no compassion towards me?’ as if His/Her compassion were a right and not a privilege. ‘I have come to you having heard and believed that you are an ocean of compassion‘ he says. I guess we believers are all in the same boat – we have heard, we have believed and we pray for compassion. And so the song feels very real, very true and close to our heart.

This beautiful song is a composition of Gopalakrishna Bharati however I understand that the madhyamakala sahityam is not written by him. Set to Raga Behag, it pulls effortlessly at my heart. My love for Behag is endless; I can listen to this raga any number of times! There are many beautiful renditions of this song. One in particular I would like to recommend is KVN’s very simple and graceful one here (you need free membership of Sangeethapriya).

But today as I was playing catch-up with the Margazhi Maha Utsavam episodes on Youtube, I came upon this very nice version by Vignesh Ishwar. In fact I enjoyed the whole concert. He starts with leisurely chera rAvadE in Ritigowla, then a Begada alapana (09:02), innum parAmukham at 16:20 (very nice neraval!),  vazhi maraittirukkudE in Todi from 26:56 which I liked particularly  (TMK’s influence is clearly audible!) and of course irakkam varAmal from 38:40. I do like Vignesh Ishwar’s rendition;  perhaps I would have preferred a tad less ornamentation. He has a gentle and emotive voice, a very nice range and skills which will see him in good stead over the years to come. I like. A young man to watch.

irakkam varAmal from 38:40.


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் என் சுவாமி (-க்கு)

அனுபல்லவி
கருணைக் கடல் என்று உன்னைக்
காதிற்/காதில்  கேட்டு நம்பி வந்தேன் (இரக்கம்)

சரணம்
ஆலம் அருந்தி அண்டர் உயிரை ஆதரித்த உமது கீர்த்தி
பாலகிருஷ்ணன் பாடி தினமும் பணிந்திடும் நடராஜ மூர்த்தி

பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும்*
பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம் (alt: பாலித்திடும் சிதம்பரம் என )
மொழி கற்றவர் வழி உற்றுனை   (alt: வழி பெற்றவர்)
முப்பொழுதும் மறவேனே 
(இரக்கம் )

Transliteration

pallavi
irakkam varAmal pOnadenna kAraNam en swAmi (-kku)

anupallavi
karuNai kaDal enDRu unnai
kAdiR/kAdil kETTu nambi vandEn (irakkam)

charaNam
Alam arundi anDar uyirai Adaritta umadu kIrtti
bAlakrishNan pADi dinamum paNindiDum naTarAja mUrti

pazhi ettanai nAn seydinum*
pAlittiDum shiva chidambaram
mozhi kaTravar vazhi uTRunai (alt: vazhi peTravar)
muppozhudum maRavEnE

Note: I listened intently to a number of renditions; most singers say ‘seydiDum’ not ‘seydinum’. However KVN sings it as ‘seydinum’ or even ‘seyyinum’.  As this makes more grammatical sense, I am sticking with this!  

Translation

pallavi
What is the reason (enna kAraNam) that you don’t feel (varamal ponadu) compassion (irakkam) towards me?

anupallavi
Having heard (kAdir kETTu) that you are an ocean (kaDal) of compassion (karuNai), I have come (vandEn) trusting (nambi) you (unnai).

charaNam
It is your (umadu) fame (kIrtti) that you saved (Adaritta, literally supported) the lives (uyirai) of the celestials (anDar) by drinking (arundi) poison (Alam). (Note: This refers to the story of the churning of the oceans). You are the embodiment (mUrti) of Nataraja that Balakrishnan (signature of the poet) worships (paNindiDum) by singing (pADi) everyday (dinamum).

However many (ettanai) sins/errors (pazhi) I (nAn) commit (seydinum), Lord Shiva of Chidambaram is the one who protects (pAlittiDum). Closely following (uTRu) the way (vazhi) of those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) (I assume this implies the language of worship?), I will not forget (maRavEnE) you (unnai ) all day (muppozhudu – literally, the three parts of the day ie. Morning, Noon, Evening). [Alternate wording : Like (implied) those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) and have found (peTravar) the way (vazhi)]

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Vignesh Ishwar

Adum Deivam

Urdhva TandavaMaha Shivaratri is almost upon us and so, of course, my mind is on the Dancing Lord, our ADum deivam. So here I am, back to this blog to share a nice Tamil lore with you. And of course, a song too!

There are many versions of the story I am sharing, I just picked one of them. I also tried to find references to see where the story comes from, but I couldn’t find anything definitive. So just take it as a lore…

 Goddess Kali is on a war path. Created to destroy demons, she is a destructive force par none. But even after she vanquishes the demons, she continues to ravage all in her path. The Gods, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, approach Lord Shiva to calm his consort. Lord Shiva blocks the Goddess and challenges her to a dance contest. In some versions of the story, Lord Vishnu is called upon to act as the judge. The Goddess turns all her energies to the dance. They are evenly matched. She can match his every movement, he can match her every pose. They dance thus for eons. The universe trembles with the force of their stamping feet and their passionate movements. Some say that it is Lord Vishnu who makes a sign to Lord Shiva on how to win. Lord Shiva pretends that his earrings have dropped to the ground. Picking his earring with his feet, he raises it to his ear. This pose is called Urdhva tAnDava. To protect her feminine modesty, the Goddess smilingly concedes defeat. Her ferocity is gone and she is once more the peaceful and compassionate Goddess. Shiva is given the title of Lord of Dance or Nataraja. This is supposed to have happened in the forests of Tillai. Lord Nataraja rests in Tillai as does the dance ‘judge’ Lord Vishnu as Govindarajan. The Goddess retreats to Tiruvalankadu which is also associated with the same lore.

How wonderful are our stories, aren’t they! I can almost see it before me – Shakti, she who is power, unleashed upon the world..is it a nuclear holocaust? Tsunamis, volcanoes or earthquakes? The start of ice age or the end of one? She is destruction incarnate. It is Shiva, our dancing Lord, the other half of her, who must dance with her and drain her fury so that she becomes once more the loving Mother Goddess that she is. It is interesting that it is He we call the Destroyer! What does he destroy then? He is destroyer of the darkness within us, the darkness which lashes out like Kali in her rage. May he always dance the Tandava within our hearts to destroy the tsunamis and earthquakes which we create to destroy ourselves.

This wonderful lore is mentioned in my song choice of today. ADum deivam is written by Papanasam Sivan in raga Kambhoji. There is something about Kambhoji – the more I live, the more I listen, the more my soul sways to the mood of this raga. Listen below to Sanjay Subrahmanyan prove why he richly deserves the title of Sangita Kalanidhi. I have a really soft spot for S.Varadajan on the violin.

Raga Alapanai (exploration of the raga without words)

Kriti (song)

You can download another beautiful version by Sanjay Subrahmanyan here. You will need a free membership to Sangeethapriya.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
ஆடும் தெய்வம் நீ அருள்வாய் இடது பாதம் தூக்கி (ஆடும்)

அனுபல்லவி
நாடும் அடியர் பிறவித் துயரற வீடும் தரும் கருணை நிதியே  நடம் (ஆடும்)

சரணம்
சுபம் சேர் காளியுடன் ஆடிப் படு தோல்வி அஞ்சி திருச் செவியில் அணிந்த-மணித்
தோடு விழுந்ததாக மாயம் காட்டியும் தொழும் பதம் உயரத் தூக்கியும் – விரி
பிரபஞ்சம் முழுதும் ஆட்டும்  நின் திருப் பதம்  தஞ்சம்  என உன்னை அடைந்தேன்
பரிந்தென் திண்டாட்டம் கண்டு பரிசு தரும் துரையே சபை நடுவில் தத்திமி என்று (ஆடும்)

Transliteration

pallavi
ADum deivam nI aRulvAy iDadu pAdam tUkki

anupallavi
nADum aDiyar  piravit tuyaraRa vIDum tarum  karuNai nidiyE -naTam

charaNam
shubham sEr kALiyuDan ADi paDu tOlvi anji tiruch cheviyil aNinda -maNit
tODu vizhundadAga mAyam kATTiyum tozhum padam uyarat tUkkiyum-viri
prapancham muzhudum ATTum nin tirup padam tanjam ena unnai aDaindEn
parinden tinDATTam kanDu parisu tarum duraiyE sabai naDuvil taddimi enDRu

Translation

O Lord (deivam) who dances (ADum) with your left (iDadu) foot (pAdam) raised (tUkki), bless me (ArulvAy)!

O Compassionate one (karuNai nidi (nidi=character, attribute)) who removes/expunges (aRa) the sorrow (tuyar) of birth (piravi) and provides (tarum) shelter (vIDum) for the devotees (aDiyar) who seek you (nADum), who dances (ADum – from pallavi) the dance (naTam)….

While dancing (ADi) with Kali, who is associated (sEr) with auspiciousness (shubham), fearing (anji) total defeat (paDu tOlvi), you created an illusion (mAyam kATTiyum) that (Aga) the gem-studded (maNi) earring (tODu) which you wore (aNinda) on your sacred (tiru) ear (cheviyil) fell (vizhundadu) and you raised (tUkki) your venerated (tozhum) foot (padam) high (uyara). Knowing (implied by ena=as) that your (nin) sacred (tiru) feet (padam) makes the expanse of (viri) the universe (prapancham) move/dance (ATTum) , I sought refuge (tanjam aDaindEn) in you (unnai). O Lord (durai) who, on seeing my (en) misery/struggles (tinDATTam), shows mercy (parindu) and bestows (tarum) the gift (parisu) of seeing (?implied? not sure) you dance (implied by taddimi enDRu=to the rhythm of ‘ta ti mi’) in the middle (naDuvil) of the assembly room (sabai).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan

Theerada Vilaiyattu Pillai

Krishna's MischiefCan one call oneself Tamil if one doesn’t know this song? This gem amongst the gems written by the great poet Subramanya Bharathi has such an extraordinary appeal! For one, we all love stories about the mischievous and quite irresistible  Lord Krishna, don’t we? And then there is the poet’s expertise in choosing words and metres which resonate so deeply with the audience.  However poetry by its very nature finds itself at a disadvantage crossing borders; for isn’t poetry about language at its very best, its very beautiful? Who but natives can really appreciate it? But once it has been sung as a song, it crosses borders so much more easily!

Popular as a ‘light’ piece in Carnatic Music, this song happily bridges the gap between the classical and the popular. I hope you will join me on a walk-through of this beautiful poem and its meaning. I limit myself only to the verses sung by Carnatic musicians.

Raga: Sindhu Bhairavi

தீராத விளையாட்டுப் பிள்ளை – கண்ணன்
தெருவிலே பெண்களுக்கோயாத தொல்லை

tIrAda viLaiyATTUp piLLai – kaNNan
teruvilE peNgaLukkOyAda tollai

Krishna (kaNNan) is such an endlessly (tIrAda) playful (viLaiyATTu) boy (piLLai)!! He is a ceaseless (OyAda) trouble (tollai) to the women (peNgaLukku) on the street (teruvilE)!

The first verse sets the scene perfectly. Such an endlessly mischievous lad, the poet says, that he is Trouble with a capital T to all the women on the street. Why women? Did He not direct any mischief towards the men? But no, He never did! He was the darling of the women and he loved them dearly; yet it is those very women He troubled! Our symbolism starts here..He is Parama Purusha, the supreme male aspect.  All creation, Prakriti, is the female aspect. We see this symbolism again and again in poetry from all around India.

Raga : Sindhu Bhairavi

தின்னப் பழம் கொண்டு தருவான் – பாதி
தின்கின்ற போதிலே தட்டிப் பறிப்பான்
என்னப்பன் என்னைய்யன் என்றால் – அதனை
எச்சிற்  படுத்திக் கடித்துக் கொடுப்பான்

tinnap pazham koNDu taruvAn – pAdi
tinginDRa pOdilE taTTip paRippAn
ennappan ennaiyyan enDRAl – adanai
echchiR paduttik kaDittuk koDuppAn

He will bring (konDu) and give (taruvAn) fruit (pazham) to eat (tinna). While (pOdilE) eating (pAdi =half, tinginDRa) he will grab it (taTTi paRippAn)! If (enDRAl) one cajoles him (ennappan, ennaiyyan as terms of endearment) – he will bite it (kaDittu) and contaminate it by eating (echchiR=jhUTA in hindi) and then give it back (koDuppAn).

What mischief! He grabs back the fruit he has given and takes a bite before giving it back! I wonder, is this concept of contamination by eating/saliva unique to India? In the olden days, at the wedding feast, a wife would eat off the plate eaten by her husband to denote the closeness of the new relationship. Sharing of food half eaten by others is a privilege limited to those who are near and dear. Here the poet wants to show how close the relationship is between the Lord and his subjects. Krishna is happy to eat the fruit half-eaten by his loved ones (remember Rama and Sabari?) and what He gives back we take as prasaadam. So what does the fruit denote? All that He gives us, of course! Perhaps the poet wants to say also that He who gives may equally take away.

Raga : Kamas

அழகுள்ள மலர் கொண்டு வந்தே (alt: வந்து ) – என்னை
அழ அழச் செய்தபின் கண்ணை மூடிக்கொள்
குழலிலே சூட்டுவேன் என்பான் – என்னைக்
குருடாக்கி மலரினைத் தோழிக்கு வைப்பான்

azhaguLLa malar koNDu vandE (alt: vandu) – ennai
azha azha seydapin kaNNai mUDikkoL
kuzhalilE sUTTuvEn enbAn – ennai
kuruDAkki malarinai tOzhikku vaippAn

He will bring (konDu vandE) a beautiful (azhaguLLa) flower (malar). After (pin)  making one cry (azha azha seyda) He will say (enbAn) ‘close (mUDikkoL) your eyes (kaNNai), I will adorn (sUTTuvEn) your braid (kuzhalilE) with it’. After making (Akki) me (ennai) blind (kuruDu), he will place (vaippAn) the flower (malarinai) on my friend (tOzhikku)!

Have you ever seen something you wanted very badly? Perhaps you begged and pleaded for it, perhaps you worked hard for it, but you thought you almost had it. And then when you relax for a moment, it is gone, given to some other. In real life this could be tragic. Imagine it is the promotion you worked hard for, the treat your parents promised you, the relaxed retirement you look for after a lifetime of work. And then circumstances occur when it seems to be snatched away from you. How frustrating it is, how depressing when it happens! If we can see it as no more than Krishna’s mischief, his leela, perhaps it will console us.

(Don’t miss the mridangam at this interval in the BJ performance, how good it sounds!!)

Raga : Shanmukhapriya

பின்னலைப் பின்னின்றிழுப்பான் -தலை
பின்னே திரும்பு(ம்) முன்னே சென்று மறைவான்
வண்ணப் புதுச் சேலை தனிலே -புழுதி
வாரிச் சொரிந்தே வருத்திக் குலைப்பான்

pinnalaip pinninDRizhuppAn – talai
pinnE tirumbu(m ) munnE chenDRu maRaivAn
vaNNap puduch chElai tanilE – puzhudi
vArich chorindE varuttik kulaippAn

He will pull (izhuppAn) one’s braid (pinnalai) while standing behind (pin ninDru). Before (munnE) one can turn (tirumbum) one’s head (talai) back (pinnE) He will disappear (chenDRu maRaivAn)! He will make one sorrowful (varutti) and agitated (kulaippan) by throwing (vAri) dust (puzhudi) on (tanilE) one’s new (pudu) colourful (vaNNa) sari (sElai).

Krishna pulling at a Gopi’s hair and disappearing – isn’t it a disarming portrayal of our mischief making Lord? Has your metaphorical braid been pulled by someone or something at any time? How frustrating not to be able to pinpoint who did it! And what about your metaphorical new clothes? Has someone thrown dust as it?  These are common life occurrences, aren’t they! They sadden us, agitate us, disturb us. And yet we smile when we think of Krishna and his mischief. That too is a leela.

Raga : Mand

புல்லாங்குழல் கொண்டு வருவான் – அமுது
பொங்கித் ததும்ப நற்கீதம் படிப்பான்
கள்ளால் மயங்குவது போலே – அதனை  (alt:அதைக்)
கண் மூடி வாய் திறந்தே கேட்டிருப்போம்

pullAnguzhal konDu varuvAn – amudu
pongit tadumba naRgItam paDippAn
kaLLAl mayanguvadu pOlE – adanai (alt:adai)
kaN mUDi vAy tiRandE kETTiruppOm

He will bring (konDu varuvAn) a flute (pullAnguzhal). He will recite (paDippAn) good (nal) songs (gItam) which overflow (pongi tadumba) with nectar (amudu). And like (pOlE) one gets intoxicated (mayanguvadu) with liquor (kaLLAl), we would be listening (kETTiruppOm) with closed (mUDi) eyes (kaN) and open (tirandE) mouths (vAy)!

This is a lovely verse where Krishna is portrayed as the enchanter that He is. And oh, how I love Raga Mand! In the other verses the poet talks of how He troubles and agitates the women. In contrast, this verse is about how he fascinates with his playing of a different kind. What is Krishna’s song in your lives? What is that which enchants you, intoxicates you, absorbs you? As to me, I hear Krishna’s song in so many things – in the light which reflects off the lake I see from my window, in that pause between two notes when Lalgudi plays Mohanam in a CD I have, in the perfection of Vermeer’s Milkmaid, in that smell of the earth just after it rains, in the memory of cuddling my children when they were babies and a million other things besides.  These are indeed nectarine as the poet says. After listing all the mischief the Lord plays on us, it is good of the poet to remind us of how He plays his music for us too!

To present this song, I have chosen renditions by two divas of the Carnatic Music world, Bombay Jayashri and Nithyasree Mahadevan. I have always loved Bombay Jayashri’s voice and in this recording it sounds warm and lovely, as smooth as honey.

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It is Nithyasree Mahadevan’s crisp enunciation which attracts me to this performance. This is poetry as it should sound!

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Subramanya Bharathi

Pollap Puliyinum

TigerToday I have a sad story to tell you..in fact, a horrific story. If you are new to my blog, you may wonder what horrific stories have to do with music? Me, I see life weaving into music and music weaving into life; if horrid things happen in life, I look for a reflection of that in music as well.

This is about a couple I know for many years now. They are what I would call social friends – people one meets rarely and mostly in the company of others, with whom you may share a drink, a meal, a conversation and a few good laughs. H (49) is Irish, G (46) from Kazakhstan. They have no children. Both of them have had good careers; they belong to the educated, well-to-do, well travelled society that career expats often enjoy.  H cooks well and has a lovely sense of humour. G always reminded me of a Russian doll- round-faced, placid, gentle. A few years back she was diagnosed with cancer. She was very ill for a while but recovered with treatment. I thought that was the great trauma of her life. I thought wrong.

On the 23rd of March, H picked up a knife and stabbed G more than 50 times. She must have tried to run and escape for there was blood all over their apartment, the apartment which was beautifully refurbished with great attention to detail and decorated tastefully and luxuriously. I remember their house-warming party, remember admiring their taste. It was in that apartment that G lay dead in a pool of blood and H lay unconscious beside her, having tried to kill himself with medication and alcohol. He recovered in a couple of days, confessing to the crime. All that the newspapers say is that the murder occurred after a domestic dispute.

How could I have known, I wonder, how could I have seen that there was this monster inside a man whose cooking I have enjoyed, whose jokes I have laughed at, whom I thought of as genial gentleman ? How could he possibly have picked up a knife and sunk it into the soft flesh of his wife of many years, not once, but more than 50 times? Surely she must have begged him to stop. Did he not hear her? What could she possibly have done which deserved this frenzied massacre ?

G is not the first to be attacked by the one who should have loved her most. The statistics on domestic violence is mind boggling. It is across countries, social status, educational levels, religions. Some shocking statistics here (source: United Nations website) :

  • In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, 40 to 70 per cent of female murder victims were killed by their partners.
  • Several global surveys suggest that half of all women who die from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.
  • It is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
  • Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.

I am sure that stats in India would be even more frightening. There is a BBC article here, but they talk of crimes reported. We all know that most crimes against women just goes unreported so these stats are way off the mark. In a survey of 9938 women in the late nineties, one in 4 women were either slapped, kicked, hit, beaten, threatened or raped within a year of the survey. Reasons include ‘not cooking properly’, ‘not attending household’, ‘talking to neighbours’….!!!!!!!

If you think this has nothing to do with you – look around you. Do you know four women in your family, mothers, sisters, cousins? One of them may well be abused. Do you know four men, friends, colleagues, relatives? One of them may be abusing his wife, his daughter, his girl-friend.

This touches us all.

This is criminal, cruel.

This is unjust in the eyes of man and God.

This must stop.

And so I come to my song choice of today. In this song Papanasam Sivan talks of himself as ‘a cruel man more wicked than a wicked tiger’. I do not  understand why he calls himself that, but his words were what I remembered when I heard of the rabid-animal like behaviour of H. He goes on to say ‘I will not kill the fury of lust and anger which rise within me’. Is not the lack of control of that fury which makes a man into an animal? The song has very strong lyrics, check the footnote if interested. Set to Mayamalavagowla, it sounds best when sung in a brisk pace. I present to you this very nice performance by Sandeep Narayan, accompanied by Mysore V.Srikanth on the violin and Neyveli B.Venkatesh on the Mridangam (I so admire him!).

 Alternate rendition : Click here


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
பொல்லாப் புலியினும் பொல்லாக் கொடியன் என்னை
புவிதனில் ஏன் படைத்தாய் சம்போ

அனுபல்லவி
நல்லோரைக் கனாவினாலும் நணுக மாட்டேன்
நல்லது சொன்னாலும் கேட்க மாட்டேன்

சரணம்
உன் நாமம் என் நாவாலும் சொல்ல மாட்டேன்
உள்ளெழும் காமக்ரோத மதம் கொல்ல மாட்டேன்
எந்நாளும்  மூவாசையை வெல்ல மாட்டேன்
என் ஐயன் உன் ஆலயத்துள் செல்ல மாட்டேன்

Transliteration

pollAp-puliyinum pollAk-koDiyan ennai
bhuvitanil En paDaittAi, shambhO

nallOraik-kanAvilum naNuga mATTEn
nalladu sonnAlum kETka mATTEn

un nAmam en nAvAlum solla mATTEn
uLLezhum kAma krOda madam koLLa mATTEn
ennALum mUvAsaiyai vella mATTEn
en aiyan un AlayattuL  sella mATTEn

Translation

O Lord Shiva (shambhO), why (En) did you create me (paDaittAy) in this world (bhuvitanil), a cruel man (koDiyan) more wicked (pollA) than a wicked tiger (pollA puliyinum)?

I will not approach (naNuga mATTEn) good people (nallOr) even in my dreams (kanavilum). Even if good things (nalladu) were told to me (sonnAlum), I will not listen (kETka mATTEn).

I will not utter (solla mATTEn) your name (un nAmam) even with my tongue (nAvAlum). I will not kill (kolla mATTEn) the fury/passion (madam) of lust (kAma) and anger (krOda) which rise within me (uLLezhum).  I will never (ennALum) subdue/win over (vella mATTEn) the three passions (mUvAsai) (these are மண்ணாசை பெண்ணாசை பொன்னாசை, the desire for land, for women, for gold). My master (aiyan), I will not go (sella mATTEn) into (uL) your temple (Alayam).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan, Sandeep Narayan