Category Archives: Compositions in Telugu

Rama Ni Samanamevaru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Footnote : Lyrics

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

Sanskrit Transliteration :

पल्लवि
राम नी समानमॆवरु रघु वंशोद्धारक

अनुपल्लवि
भामा मरुवम्पु मॊलक भक्तियनु पञ्जरपु चिलुक

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

English Transliteration :

pallavi
rAma nI samAnamevaru raghu vamshOddhAraka

anupallavi
bhAmA maruvampu molaka bhaktiyanu panjarapu chiluka

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

Translation :

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

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

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

 

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

Nada Loludai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternate Link : Click here

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

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

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

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

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

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

पल्लवि
नाद लोलुडै ब्रह्मा-
नन्दमन्दवे मनसा

अनुपल्लवि
स्वादु फल प्रद सप्त
स्वर राग निचय सहित

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

Transliteration

pallavi
nAda lOluDai brahmA
nandamandavE manasA

anupallavi
svAdu phala prada sapta
svara rAga nichaya sahita

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

Translation

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

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

 

 

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

Shobhillu Sapta Svara

SaptasvaraHave you ever thought about how so many different cultures use music as a form of worship? We all know of the wonderful choral music traditions of the Christians, the chantings of the Buddhists, the kirtans of the Sikhs, the emotional outpourings of the Sufis and the many traditions of musical worship of the Hindus. Some are simply sacred music, like bhajans, their primary purpose being worship. Others, like Carnatic Music, have a deep thread of devotion running through them but retain an identity apart from their devotional roots. So yes, the use of music as a means of worship is common enough. But it is not very common to have music itself as the divinity being worshipped. That is the concept which I approach in my post today.

As a devotee of music, this concept pleases me greatly! To those of us who agree that divinity is omnipresent, this is no stretch of imagination. If divinity can be found everywhere, why not in music?  To those of us who search for that spiritual feeling in places of worship to allow us to connect with divinity, this makes it even easier. For music is there, real and accessible to most of us in one way or the other. We need not search for places of worship; we may worship the music right within us.

Sound as a divine principle comes to us Hindus from the Vedas. We all know the importance of AUM, I shall not venture there. The Vedas themselves are also called Shruti meaning ‘That which is heard‘,  emphasising both their divine origin and their oral tradition. Samaveda, in particular, ‘the Veda of Songs‘ includes notated music, perhaps the oldest surviving tunes of this world.  An interesting aside – the word vEd or knowledge comes from the Proto-Indo-Iranian word ‘weyd‘ meaning ‘to know, to see’.  The Latin videō meaning ‘to see, perceive, look comes from the same root word. So a sentence like ‘I have a video of the vedas‘ is etymologically quite amusing ! But I digress..

Coming back to the divinity of music, the Vedas refer to the divine nature of vAk वाक् or voice.  This divinity is said to be present in AUM. The Upanishads refer to Shabda-Brahman शब्दब्रह्मन् meaning The Cosmic Sound.  The word Nada-Brahman नादब्रह्मन् (nAda also means sound) is used instead of Shabda-Brahman in later treatises like Brihaddeshi by Matanga Muni (date unknown, speculated 6th-8th century CE). In this Nada is linked with various divinities.

न नादेन विना गीतं न नादेन विना स्वराः
न नादेन विना नृत्तं तस्मान् नादात्मकं जगत्
नादरुपः स्मृतो ब्रह्मा नाद रूपो जनार्दनः
नादरूपा पराशक्तिः नाद रूपो महेश्वरः

Without Nada, there is no music. Without Nada, there are no musical notes. Without Nada, there is no dance. Therefore the whole universe is composed of Nada. Brahma is known to be incarnate in Nada, as is Vishnu, Parashakti and Shiva.

In Sangeeta Makaranda by Narada (~11 century CE), there is an explanation of the passage of Nada through our body.

तम् नादम् सप्तधा कृत्वा तथा षड्जादिभिः स्वरैः
नाभी हृद् कण्ठ तालूषु नासादन्तोष्ठयोः क्रमात्
षड्जश्च .ऋषभ गान्धारौ मध्यमः पञ्चमस्तथा
धैवतश्च निशादश्च स्वराः सप्त प्रकीर्तिताः

that nAda, passing through the naval, heart, neck, tongue, nose, teeth, and lips, generates the seven svaras, shadjam, rishabham, gAndhAram, madhyamam, panchamam, dhaivatam and nishAdam.

-Article by P.P.Narayanaswami in Carnatica

There is a similar passage in Sangeetaratnakara by Saragadeva (13th century CE) in which the author links musical notes with Chakras (centres of spiritual centre within the body) and Nadis (subtle energy channels within the body), describing the passage of nAda through the body .

आत्मा विवक्षमाणोऽयम् मनः प्रेरयते , मनः |
देहस्थम् वह्निमाहन्ति स प्रेरयति मारुतम्  ||
ब्रह्मग्रन्थिस्थितः सोऽथ क्रमादूर्घ्वपथे चरन् |
नाभि हृत् कण्ठ मूर्धास्येष्वाविर्भावयति ध्वनिम् ||

Desirous of speech, the individuated being impels the mind, and the mind activates the battery of power stationed in the body, which in turns stimulates the vital force. The vital force stationed around the root of the navel, rising upwards gradually manifests nada in the navel, the heart, the throat, the cerebrum and the cavity of the mouth as it passes through them. 

from Sangita Ratnakara translation by R.K.Shringy

R.K.Shringy explains that ‘Nada is not merely an object of the sense of hearing. The concept of nada refers to the perception when subject and object are not differentiated‘. Normally when we name objects, we are naming the perception of that object in our consciousness. As such, the subject in our consciousness and the object outside have a relationship but are always apart. Nada on the other hand refers to the melding of the sound and its presence in our consciousness, when they become one. Nada is both the energy and its manifestation.

All this is but a lead up to my song choice of today. Tyagaraja has composed this masterpiece in homage to the divinity of music residing in the seven notes. He worships the divinities resident in the navel, heart, throat, tongue and nose, similar to the quotes from Sangeeta Makaranda and Sangeeta Ratnakara above. He refers to himself as the auspicious Tyagaraja; if for no other reason, surely the presence of the divinities within him makes this a just description! Set to the beautiful raga Jaganmohini (that which charms the universe), it is a favourite amongst Carnatic Music fans.

I have chosen this song today for a particular reason. When Dr.Balamuralikrishna passed away late last year, I was travelling and did not write a post in his honour. One of my readers wondered about it in a comment but it was not really forgetfulness on my part. You see, as I have mentioned in previous posts, my childhood home always rung out with Carnatic Music. Be it Semmangudi, Madurai Mani Iyer, G.N.Balasubramaniam, M.D.Ramanathan, M.S.Subbulakshami, S.Balachandar, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Balamuralikrishna and myriad others, they were all voices of my childhood, familiar and very very dear. Over the years, one after the other, they have passed away. With each passing it seems that I wave goodbye to one more dear one, to my past, to my history. Dr. BMK was particularly dear to me because he was my mother’s favourite. I can never listen to him without remembering my mother’s pleasure in his voice. His passing adds one more goodbye in my life and deepens the sorrow of my own losses. Sigh! Shobhillu Sapta Svara is a song I associate with him and I selected it as a tribute to a man who was the ultimate Nadopasaka, a devoted worshipper of the Nadabrahman.

Alternate link : Click here and choose song 2 (free membership of Sangeethapriya required)


Footnote : Lyrics

Language : Telugu
(Note – I do not speak Telugu; the translation here is from various internet resources)

पल्लवि
शोभिल्लु सप्त स्वर सुन्दरुल भजिम्पवे मनसा

अनुपल्लवि
नाभि हृत् कण्ठ रसन नासादुलयन्दु

चरणम्
धर ऋक् सामादुललो वर गायत्री हृदयमुन
सुर भूसुर मानसमुन शुभ त्यागराजुनियॆड

Transliteration

pallavi
shobhillu sapta svara sundarula bhajimpavE manasA

anupallavi
nAbhI hRt kaNTHa rasana nAsAdulayandu

charaNam
dhara Rk sAmAdulalO vara gAyatrI hRdayamuna
sura bhUsura mAnasamuna shubha tyAgarAjuniyeDa

Translation

Worship (bhajimpavE) the radiant (shObhillu) beautiful (sudurula) divinities (implied) of the seven (sapta) svara (notes), O mind (manasA)!

Worship the divinities glowing (implied) in (andu) navel (nAbhi), heart (hRt), throat (kaNTHa), tongue (rasana) and nose (nAsa) etc. (Adula).

Worship the divinities glowing in (implied) the sustaining (dhara) Vedas such as (implied) Rg, Sama etc. (Adulalo), in the heart (hRdayamuna) of the foremost (vara) gAyatrI mantra, in the minds (mAnasamuna) of the celestials (sura) and Brahmins (bhU-sura), and within (eDa) this auspicious (shubha) Tyagaraja (tyAgarAjuni) .

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Balamuralikrishna

Ninne Bhajana Seyu

Ananta shayanaAre you a one-God man/woman? Do you restrict yourself to praying to your One and no other?

I pray on an everyday basis to a number of Hindu deities. I do have my own One, the One who always listens with a sympathetic ear to whatever  I happen to go on about. I also have a Second-to-the-One for days when I am not on speaking terms with my One. What, you don’t have ‘I’m-SO-annoyed-with-you’ moments with your One? You must be much better tempered than I am!! Of course I also pray to different deities for their expertise in specific matters. I am most certainly not a one-God woman!

My meanderings arise from something I heard recently. I had mentioned a few weeks earlier that I have taken to listening to upanyasams (lectures on spiritual matters), mainly by Velukkudi Krishnan, Dushyant Sridhar and Visaka Hari. Velukkudi Krishnan is especially erudite; his depth of knowledge is quite astounding! Is it possible to learn this much in a lifetime? I am all admiration! Much as I admire his knowledge, I confess that at times I am confounded by some of his pronouncements!! For example, he says in one of his lectures that people should sleep in what they wear ‘normally’ and not change into night-clothes! Really??!! Leaving pronouncements such as this aside, there was one repeated advice which caught my attention. He says that if you serve Lord Vishnu, then you should pray to none other as otherwise He would be offended! Again – Really???? Surely these kind of feelings are human, not Divine? Velukkudi Krishnan does add that it is the same for whichever religion/deity you adhere to; ‘stick to your One’ he says.

I assume that these ideas are Sri Vaishnavite ones as proposed by Ramanuja, the extraordinary theologian and philosopher (11-12 CE). In his times, the Chola kings ruled in South India. Though the kings were predominantly Shaivite, the society was a secular one. Not only other Hindu sects but even Buddhists and Jains had many followers in those times. Under the circumstances, Ramanuja’s preaching that one must follow Lord Vishnu and none other was no doubt a way to preserve Sri Vaishnavism from all the other religious influences. Are his one-God-only ideas just part of the politics of religion?  Is this kind of thought even valid amongst today’s Hindus?  That said, I admit to total ignorance on the subject; I am merely thinking aloud…

I personally do not know even one single Hindu who prays to only one deity! When the Hindu pantheon offers a veritable smorgasbord of deities, each with their own domain expertise, is it not human nature to pray to as many of them as you can relate to? Leave alone Hindus, even in a strictly monotheistic religion like Christianity, prayers are offered to not just their God, but also to His messenger Jesus Christ and to his mother Mary as well as any number of Saints. Many of the Saints have their own speciality ‘domains’ too! I have visited many Catholic places of worship; there are as many candles in front of the Saints as there are in front of Jesus! Listening often to Sufi music, I see that even Muslims sing in praise of and in prayer to their many Saints. Many of us, it seems, spread our prayers wide!

Coming to Carnatic Music, our great composers wrote in praise of many different deities though they were known for their devotion to particular ones. For example, Tyagaraja was a devotee of Lord Rama, Dikshithar was a worshipper of Goddess Shakti, and Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer was entranced by the young Lord Krishna.  Yet in my song choice of today, Tyagaraja says ‘I am the one who chants only your name, I shall not beseech others!’. Set to Raga Natta, it is a lovely composition which appeals to me greatly. I always enjoy Natta with its vigorous and rousing feel. But today the first rendition I have chosen for you has a more contemplative mood. M.D. Ramanathan has a unique sound, one I enjoy immensely, especially in songs such as this. For your ease of listening, I have chosen the rendition loaded in YouTube. The sound quality is poor, but the music is anything but. Listen to my ‘Alternative’ for slightly better sound and a longer rendition.

Alternative : Click here and play song 2. Free membership needed to Sangeethapriya.

The second rendition I would like you to listen to is by Jayanthi Kumaresh on the Veena. I find that the  resonance of the instrument is particularly suited for Natta, don’t you? This talented artist has gifted us with a hypnotic rendition. Don’t miss this!

Alternate link : Click here and play song 1. You need free membership to Sangeethapriya.

And for a third, listen to this energetic and vibrant performance by Sikkil Gurucharan here.  I really enjoyed the kalpana swarams. Again, the recording quality is not the best.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
Please note that I do not speak Telugu; the lyrics and translations are credit to various online resources.

पल्लवि
निन्ने भजन सेयु वाडनु

अनुपल्लवि
पन्नग शायि परुल वेड लेनु

चरणम्
स्नानादि जप तप योग ध्यान
समाधि सुख प्रद
सीता नाथ सकल लोक पालक
त्यागराज सन्नुत

Transliteration

pallavi
ninnE bhajana sEyu vADanu

anupallavi
pannaga shAyi parula vEDa lEnu

charaNam
snAnaAdi japa tapa yOga dhyAna
samAdhi sukha prada
sItA nAtha sakala lOka pAlaka
tyAgarAja sannuta

Translation

I am a worshipper (bhajana sEyu vADanu) only of you (ninnE).

O One recumbent (shAyi) on a snake (pannaga)! I shall not (lEnu) plead (vEDa) to anyone else (paralu).

You are the provider (prada) of happiness and well-being (sukha) which come from (implied) bathing in holy waters (snAna), repeated prayers (japa), penance (tapa), Yoga, meditation (dhyAna), deep concentration leading to identification with the object of meditation (samAdhi) etc (Adi). O Consort (nAtha) of Sita! O Guardian (pAlaka) of the entire (sakala) world (lOka)! O One praised (sannuta) by Tyagaraja!

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Jayanthi Kumaresh, M.D.Ramanathan, Tyagaraja

Kamakshi Bangaru

KamakshiHappy Navaratri, Dussera and Durga Puja to all my readers! I hope you are all enjoying the festivities of this season!

I feel very blessed by the Goddesses this week; we’ve had some very good news in the family. My son has just been accepted into the College of Psychiatry, a dream he has had for a long time.  For those who haven’t read my occasional forays into personal life, my son (25) is a doctor currently working as a Resident. He has long dreamed of becoming a Psychiatrist. His getting a placement as a Psych Registrar is a very big step in the many steps that it has taken to embark on his chosen career. It feels especially good to get this news during Navaratri.

I believe he owes his success to his worship of the Goddesses, but not in any way you imagine. In fact, much to my distress, he claims to be somewhere between atheistic and agnostic. So why do I say that he worships the Goddesses? Is it possible to get blessings without a single shlOka or puja, without even acknowledging the existence of the Goddesses? Let me share my thoughts…(Note: I am in a mood to ramble, so if you want just the music, jump right ahead!)

We believers think that our Gods and Goddesses are omnipresent. That they are present both in those who acknowledge them and those who don’t. Let us search for Shakti first. She is manifest as energy all around us. Touch your skin – even the warmth there is but a manifestation of the energy your cells create. But just as in a temple we need to perform a prANa pratishTHa to consecrate the idol and bring the power of the deity within it, we too need to ‘consecrate’ ourselves to let her manifest her powers within us. How can we do that? I have a theory..

Is Shakti not energy? So if we follow our goals with energy and vigour, surely it is a celebration of her! Shakti is prANa, the life energy itself. How better to worship her than by looking after the health of our bodies and minds? Shakti is courage. By developing our self-confidence and courage, we invite Her to take residence in our hearts. As a baby my son was afraid of the whole world. I could not even enter a lift if there were others there! It took years of coaxing for him to accept the world outside our family. As a boy, he was shy and retiring. He would hardly meet anyone’s eyes when he talked. I remember a moment of pride when at sixteen he voluntarily walked up to a visitor at home and introduced himself; it felt as if he had crossed an important threshold! When he bravely presented a research paper at a Psych conference at 21, almost a decade younger than the next youngest conference attendee, I was bursting with pride. I have seen him slowly build on his courage, his self-confidence to a level that he performs very well in interviews. If this is not the prANa pratishTHa  of Shakti, what is?

Lakshmi too is ever present in our lives. Every time anything good has happened to you, every time you have felt lucky, every time you have enjoyed a sense of well-being and happiness, it is but Lakshmi kaTAksham – Her eye has fallen on you. Or so I believe. She may look in our direction but unless we have done the groundwork to receive it, her blessings may slip and fall from our fingers! In his last rotation, my son was lucky enough to have the Head of Psych Training of another leading hospital as his supervisor. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. She gave a glowing reference saying that ‘I’ll be happy to work with him as my colleague’! By working hard and well enough to gain such a reference, he prepared himself to receive Lakshmi’s blessings; I see it as Lakshmi pratishTHa.  At another conference he attended, he learnt that one of the interview panellists was there. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. He walked up to him and introduced himself, talking of the job he hoped to get. That is Lakshmi pratishTHa. A senior nurse he worked with happened purely by chance to meet one of the panellists. She remembered my son voluntarily and spoke well of him. That was Lakshmi kaTAksham. That he had established a good relationship with the nursing staff, that is Lakshmi pratishTHA.

Where would we be without Saraswati? Knowledge governs our life at every turn. An infant who recognizes his mother as his source of nourishment and succour, even that infant has an important piece of knowledge. We are bombarded with information in this world, we absorb only a minute fraction of which even a smaller fraction gets converted into knowledge. As to wisdom, I don’t know how one gets that but I hope that one day our knowledge leads us to wisdom! Is not Saraswati in all sources of knowledge,  in all wisdom? When we convert information to knowledge and then into wisdom, what is it but Saraswati pratishTHa? Even with his limited income as an intern and a resident, my son made the effort to attend many seminars and conferences in Psychiatry over the past two years. I myself was surprised when I saw his CV – ‘When did he get the time to do all that?’ I wondered. When we pursue knowledge we are but paying homage to the Goddess!

I have rambled on a bit, haven’t I? But then a proud mama is allowed to gloat a while! But back now to music. My song choice today is a composition by Shyama Shastri in the Raga Varali. ‘Please protect me’ says the composer, invoking the many qualities and symbolisms of the Goddess. He was a priest at the Kamakshi temple in Tanjavur; his love for his Goddess is very evident in this composition. I present below this beautiful song in the mellifluous voice of Bombay Jayashri.

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Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

पल्लवि
कामाक्षि बङ्गारु कामाक्षि (अम्बा)
नन्नु ब्रोववे

अनुपल्लवि
तामसमेले रावे
साम गान लोले सुशीले

चरणम्
श्याम कृष्ण परिपालिनी
शुक श्यामळे  शिव शङ्करी
शूलिनी सदा शिवुनिकि राणी
विशालाक्षि  तरुणी  शाश्वत रूपिणी

स्वर  साहित्य
ना मनविनि विनु देवी
नीवे गतियनि नम्मिनानु
मायम्मा  वेगमे करुण जूडवम्मा
बङ्गारु बॊम्मा

Transliteration

pallavi
kAmAkshi bangAru kAmAkshi (ambA)
nannu brOvavE

anupallavi
tAmasamElE rAvE
sAma gAna lOlE sushIlE

charaNam
shyAma kRshNa paripAlinI
shuka shyAmaLE shiva shankarI
shUlinI sadA shivuniki rANI
vishAlAkshi taruNI shAshvata rUpiNI

svara sAhitya
nA manavini vinu dEvI
nIvE gatiyani namminAnu
mAyammA vEgamE karuNa jUDavammA
bangAru bommA

Translation :

Note : I do not speak Telugu; I have sourced the translation from multiple web sources.

O Kamakshi! O Golden (bangAru) Kamakshi! Please protect (brOvavE) me (nannu). Why (Ela) delay (tAmasam)? Please come (rAvE)!  O Enjoyer (lOlE) of recitation (gAna) of sAma vEda! O Virtuous One (sushIlE)!

O One who protects (paripAlinI) shyAma kRshNa (signature of composer)! O dark-skinned One (shyAmaLE) who holds a parrot (shuka)! O Consort of Shiva (shiva shankarI)! O One who holds a trident (shUlinI)! O Queen Consort (rANI) of shivA (shivuniki)! O Large-eyed One (visAlAkshi)! O youthful One (taruNI)! O One who is manifest (rUpiNI) eternally (shAshvata) !

O Goddess (dEvI)! Please listen (vinu) to my (nA) plea (manavini). I trust(namminAnu) you alone (nIvE) to be (ani) my refuge (gati)!! O my (mA) mother (ammA)! Quickly (vEgamE) show (jUDu) mercy (karuNa) O Mother (ammA)! O Golden (bangAru) Idol (bommA)!

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Shyama Shastri

Manavinalakincha

NRKAfter my rather depressing post last time, I wanted to post something happy. Immediately my mind went to this song that I love in Raga Nalinakanti, a most cheerful sounding piece of music.

As I pored over the translation, my mind wandered off in a tangent with the pallavi line itself. ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to my appeal?’ says Tyagaraja. This device of addressing one’s own mind occurs in music and literature often enough for us not to be surprised by it. But today I asked myself ‘Who is the addresser and who is the addressed?’.

I was first reminded of the mindfulness exercises in some meditative techniques. One is supposed to watch the thoughts flow by without stopping them, just watching them stream past without reaction. A mind watching its own thoughts? ‘Who is the watcher?’ I wondered, ‘and who is the watched?’. I have tried this meditation technique myself and yes, it is quite possible to do this. And so another question arises – if the mind can split into the watcher and the watched, can it split into more parts?

I became engrossed in reading many articles on mind and consciousness, within Hindu thought or otherwise. But I couldn’t get any specific answers to my questions. Coming back to our song,  Tyagaraja says ‘O Mind, won’t you listen to the one who knows the compassionate heart of Sri Ramachandra? I am revealing all the secrets’.  Oh! So part of his mind knows secrets that the other part doesn’t know? I do know unhealthy minds can keep secrets –such as in amnesia- but can a healthy mind keep secrets from itself? I don’t think so. But the subconscious can and does keep secrets from the conscious mind. Is this intended to be a song from the subconscious to the conscious?

I know, some of you may well be thinking that I am making too much of this, that it is merely a literary device. That is probably very likely. Still, Tyagaraja was such an evolved soul; it behoves us to examine his words and make sure we look beyond the obvious and glean as much wisdom as we can from them. That said, this is such a lovely piece of music that one finds joy in the very flow of the notes. And sometimes that is more than enough.

For the last two days I have been hearing innumerable renditions of this song. There are so many beautiful renditions that it was a difficult choice for me. But when I heard this version by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy (1927-2014), I knew at once that this was IT! I missed honouring him when he passed away in December; I am happy to have the opportunity to feature this illustrious artist in my blog today. There is a wonderful shower of swaras following the song, I am literally dancing to them as I write this! My only complaint is the missing gamaka on the word ‘Tyagaraju’ which only TMK and SKR seem to include..I just adore that gamaka, always makes me melt to a puddle!

(There is a small glitch at 5:45, I assume it is from tape conversion, please ignore)

Alternate Link : Click here and download item 5 – free membership of Sangeethamshare is needed.

And if you want to listen to an outstanding violin rendition, listen to Kanyakumari  supported beautifully by Embar Kannan.

Alternate link : Click here and download item 9.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

Note – As I do not speak Telugu, the translation is heavily dependent on various web sources.

Transliteration in Devanagari

पल्लवि

मनविनालकिञ्च रादटे मर्ममॆल्ल तॆल्पॆदने मनसा
(common alternate version of first word : मनव्याल)

अनुपल्लवि

घनुडैन (श्री) राम चन्द्रुनि करुणान्तरंगमु तॆलिसिन ना

चरणम्
कर्म काण्ड मताकृष्टुलै भव गहन चारुलै गासि जॆन्दग
कनि मानवा अवतारुडै कनिपिञ्चिनाडे नडत त्यागराजु

Transliteration in English

pallavi
manavinAlakincha rAdaTE marmamella telpedanE manasA
(common alternate version of first word : manavyAla)

anupallavi
ghanuDaina (shrI) rAma chandruni karuNAntarangamu telisina nA

charaNam
karma kANDa matAkRshTulai bhava gahana chArulai gAsi jendaga
kani mAnava avatAruDai kanipinchinADE naData tyAgarAju

Translation

Won’t (rAda) you (aTE) listen (Alakincha) to my appeal (manavini), O mind (manasA)? I am revealing (telpedanE) all (ella) the secrets (marmamu) .

Won’t You listen (implied) to my (nA) appeal, I (implied) who know (telisina) the compassionate (karuNA) heart (antarangamu) of the great (ghanuDaina) Sri Ramanchandra (rAma chandruni)?

Seeing (kani) those who, attracted (AkRshTulai) by the opinions (mata) of the ritualistic action (karma) section (kAnDa) of the Vedas (implied), suffer (gAsi jendaga) as wanderers (chArulai) in the forest (gahana) of worldly existence (bhava), the Lord having incarnated (avatAruDai) as a human being (mAnava) exemplified (kanipincinADE) the right conduct (naData). Therefore, O Mind, won’t you listen to the appeal (implied from pallavi) of this Tyagaraja (tyAgarAju)?

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Embar S.Kannan, Kanyakumari, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Tyagaraja

Challare Ramachandruni

RamaHappy Ramanavami to all my readers. Today is a day of worship. There are those who worship with prayers and offerings but in this blog, I offer worship just with music.  With my song choice of today, with the words of Tyagaraja and the voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi, I shower Lord Rama with champaka, lotus, jasmine and parijata flowers.

The thing is, I have been terribly distressed this week and not in the right state of mind for worship. I had been pouring out my confusion and distress into a post which I had intented to post today, in spite of it being Ramanavami. ‘How can I think of worship when my heart is so heavy?’ I had thought. ‘This blog reflects the music of my heart, and if it has a note of dissonance today, so be it’.

When I woke this morning and ambled bleary eyed to my prayer alcove to say ‘Good Morning’, that was still my intention. But as I stood there, a sort of acceptance washed over me. And so I have kept aside my other post and here I am in a state of worship after all.

Let us shower flowers on Sri Ramachandra with a joyous mind says Tyagaraja.  My mind is not joyous today, I have to work at it. Setting aside ignorance and observing self restraint, let us shower lotus flowers on Him. Is grief for worldly matters also just ignorance? Is giving into distress a lack of self restraint? Perhaps this song is addressed to me after all.. Let us whole heartedly worship Sri Ramachandra so that there are not countless births and deaths. Today, with my heavy heart, I see the beasts hidden in the hearts of men..and if prayers can get me away from this cycle, I will pray with all my heart.

I present you M.S.Subbulakshmi who wrings every possible emotion out of Ahiri.


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Telugu

Note: MS sings only a subset of the charanams which I have marked in blue. As I do not speak Telugu, the translation relies on various web resources (tyagaraja vaibhavam, sahityam, karnatik).

Transliteration in Devanagari

पल्लवि
चल्लरे रामचन्द्रुनिपैनि पूल

चरणं 1
सॊम्पैन मनसुतो इम्पैन बंगारु
गम्पलतो मञ्चि चम्पकमुलनु

चरणं 2

पामरमुलु मानि नेममुतोनु
रमा मनो-हरुनि पैनि तामर पूल

चरणं 3

ई जगतिनि देव पूजार्हमौ पूल
राजिलो मेलैन जाजि सुममुल

चरणं 4
अमित पराक्रम द्युमणि कुलार्णव
विमल चन्द्रुनिपै हृत्कुमुद सुममुल

चरणं 5

धात विनुतुडैन सीता पति पैनि
चेतुलतो पारिजात सुममुल

चरणं 6
ऎन्न रानि जनन मरणमुलु लेकुण्ड
मनसार त्यागराज नुतुनि पैनि पूल

Transliteration in English

pallavi
challarE rAmachandrunipaini pUla

charaNam 1
sompaina manasutO impaina bangAru
gampalatO manchi champakamulanu

charaNam 2
pAmaramulu mAni nEmamutOnu
ramA manOharuni paini tAmara pUla

charaNam 3
I jagatini dEva pUjArhamau pUla
rAjilO mElaina jAji sumamula

charaNam 4
amita parAkrama dyumaNi kulArNava
vimala chandrunipai hRt kumuda sumamula

charaNam 5
dhAta vinutuDaina sItA pati paini
cEtulatO pArijAta sumamula

charaNam 6
enna rAni janana maraNamulu lEkuNDa
manasAra tyAgarAja nutuni paini pUla

Translation

Let us shower (challarE) flowers (pUla) on (paini) Lord Ramachandra (ramachandruni).

With a joyous (sompaina) mind (manasutOnu), let us shower (implied) nice (manchi) champaka flowers (champakamulanu) from beautiful (impaina) golden (bangaru) baskets (gampalatO) .

Abandoning (mAni) ignorance (pAmaramulu) and observing self-restraint (nEmamutO), let us shower (implied) lotus (tAmara) flowers (pUla) on (paini) He who is beloved (manO haruni) to Lakshmi (ramA).

Let us shower (implied) jasmine (jAji) flowers (sumamula), the best (mElaina)  amongst all the flowers (rAjilO pUla) fit for (arhamau) worship (pUjArhamau) of the Gods (dEva) in this world (jagatini).

Let us shower (implied) the lotus  (kamala) flowers (sumamula) of our hearts (hRt) on the spotless (vimala) moon (chandra) of the ocean (arNava) of the Solar (mani=jewel, dyu=sky) dynasty (kula) with infinitely (amita) mighty(parAkrama).

Let us shower (implied) pArijata flowers (sumamula) with our hands (chEtulatO) on (paini) the consort (pati) of Sita, praised (vinutuDaina) by Brahma (dhAta).

Let us wholeheartedly (manasAra) shower (implied) flowers (pUla)  on He is who is worshipped (nutuni) by this Tyagaraja so that there are no more (lEka uNDa) countless (enna rAni) births (janana) and deaths (maraNamulu).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Tyagaraja