Category Archives: Compositions in Telugu

Dhyaname Varamaina

Meditation is verily the sacred dip in the Ganges. Can the mental stains of deception and treachery be washed away by dipping in rain water?

Dip in GangesAre you a Hindu? If so, do you believe that a dip in the Ganges will relieve you of your sins? If you say yes, you are in good company. Merely go to any ghat on the Ganges, be it Haridwar or Badrinath, Varanasi or Allahabad; you just have to look at the millions who take a dip in this holiest of rivers of India to know how strongly this belief is held on to.

Hinduism is not the only religion to offer a sin-wash. Catholicism, for example, offers absolution by confession. In Islam, there is Istighfar. Psychologically, if we have accepted the existence of sin, it is good to accept a kind of ‘escape clause’ as well otherwise the burden would be too heavy to bear, would it not?

I am a woman of strong faith but in this matter I do have some reservations. Let me take the most extreme of examples: think of the worst of sinners – murderers, rapists, paedophiles – and imagine that one stays next to the Ganges. He takes a daily dip. Can he live on in his depravity and be washed of sin on a daily basis? I cannot quite accept that! My sense of justice demands ‘karma phala’, a karmic debt. Does this mean that I don’t believe in the sanctity of the Ganges? But I do! A dip in the Ganges for me is symbolic – a physical ritual to represent a mental cleansing by way of prayer, repentance and a change of attitude and behaviour. The ritual without the attitude is not good enough. I probably sound sacrilegious to some…oh well!

On an aside, those of you who have the right to vote in India, would you please demand that your chosen politicians include the environmental protection of the Ganges in their agenda?

My ruminations are triggered by my song choice of the day. In  Dhyaname, Tyagaraja says that ‘meditation is like a sacred dip in the Ganges’, thus asserting to the holiness of both. But then he asks ‘can the stains of deception and treachery be washed way by dipping in rain water?’. Isn’t Ganges sourced by melting snow from the Himalayas? And isn’t snow just another form of rain? Is Tyagaraja too questioning the ritual? I cannot quite believe it…

Tyagaraja is not the only one who questions the cleansing of the body while the mind is unclean. There is a well known bhajan मन मैला और तन को धोये the mind is unclean and he washes his body’.  In a similar vein, Kabir says

मल मल धोये दाग़ न छूटे ग्यान का साबुन लाये पिया
कहत कबीर दाग़ तब छुटि है जब साहब अपनाय लिया
I rub and wash (my shawl) but cannot remove the stains. My beloved brought me the soap of knowledge. Kabir says the stain will lift when my Lord makes me his own.

Dhyaname is set to the raga Dhanyasi; to read more about this raga, click here. To present this song, I have a rendition by Malladi Brothers which I heard on a webcast last Sunday. I learnt about these webcasts from www.paalam.in but recently. Every Sunday, at 6:05 pm Indian time, they do a free webcast of music, dance, lecdems etc. I believe this was on for all of 2013 and I never knew! I hope this post brings this to the attention of others who may enjoy such webcasts. There is a bit of noise in the transmission and also a tiny gap when it failed; I hope you enjoy the song nonetheless. You can download my recording from the links below (almost an hour in all).

Alapana : click here
Kriti : click here
Thani : click here


 

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
I am not a Telugu speaker; the following relies heavily on various web sources. I verified the lyrics aurally as well.

पल्लवि
ध्यानमे वरमैन गङ्गा स्नानमे मनसा

अनुपल्लवि
वान नीट मुनुग मुनुग लोनि वञ्चन द्रोहमनु कर पोना (alt: पोवुना )

चरणम्
पर धन नारी मणुलनु दूरि पर निन्दल पर हिंसल मीरि
धरनु वॆलयु श्री रामुनि कोरि त्यागराजु तॆलुसुकॊन्न राम

Transliteration

pallavi
dhyAnamE varamaina gangA snAnamE manasA

anupallavi
vAna nITa munuga munuga lOni
vanchana drOhamanu kara pOnA (alt: pOvunA)

charaNam
para dhana nArImaNulanu dUri
para nindala para himsala mIri
dharanu velayu shrI rAmuni kOri
tyAgarAju telusukonna rAma

Translation

O Mind! Meditation is verily the sacred dip in the Ganges.

Can the mental stains of deception and treachery be washed away by dipping again and again in rain water?

Spurning the wealth and women of others, overcoming slandering and causing harm to others, seeking the glorious Lord Rama on this earth and meditating on Rama is the true dip in the Ganges, as realised by this Tyagaraja.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Malladi Brothers, Tyagaraja

Endaro Mahanubhavulu

There are so many great ones! My salutations to them all ! To all those who experience the eternal bliss of seeing Him whose complexion is like the moon in the lotus of their hearts, salutations! To all the best amongst the blessed, whose hearts have become beautiful by being immersed in the singing of Sama Veda, salutations!

Tyagaraja

Humility : ‘the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance’. So says the dictionary.

I admit, I really struggled with this concept in my youth. ‘Why is it considered good?’ I would wonder. When we think less of others, it is belittling them – a decidedly negative thing. Why does it become noble just because it is applied to oneself? My argument was that  humility presupposes the existence of a superior quality. A person with no good qualities cannot be called humble. Then, if a person is unaware or downplaying this superior quality, they have either insufficient self-appraisal and self-valuation skills or they are pretending. Ergo, there is nothing admirable in humility!

It is only with maturity that I understood that humility is the only possible result of a true and rational appraisal of one’s qualities, of gaining perspective of one’s true place in the time and space continuum of the universe.

As an example, I can confidently say that I draw well; if you took a random sample, I might well fall within the top 10% for drawing skills. Humility is not being unaware of this quality or about pretending to be less than one is. It is in understanding that the distribution of skills is a bell curve; the top 0.1% is so sparsely populated that to get from being in the 90th percentile to the 99.9th percentile is improving my skills not by 9.9% but by an unquantifiable large ratio. It is also understanding that my skills as they stand are the result of influence from many artists before me, from cave painters to modern masters. It is to be grateful to the genes passed on to me. It is to be grateful to my mother and my teachers who encouraged me. It is to do with so many factors outside myself that humble is the only way to be! In fact I feel rather embarrassed even mentioning my drawing skills but I do want to illustrate my change of mind about the concept of humility so I will leave it in.

And so I come to my song choice of today which clearly demonstrates the humility of the great saint-poet-composer Tyagaraja, who is, I can say without hesitation, one of the most important figures in the musical history of India. Last week I listened to the music from the 167th Tyagaraja Aradhana and today I commemorate this event with this post.

There are so many great ones!’ he says in this song. ‘My salutations to all of them!’. Who all does he acknowledge? It is not a random salutation to all the greats in all spheres of life. Instead, it is a salutation to the those worthy of his salutation in his own sphere of greatness. By choosing to salute those who have excelled in his own strengths of music, devotion, spirituality and esoteric knowledge, it is clear to me that he was well aware of his own qualities.

For music, he salutes Narada, Tumburu, to those immersed in the singing of Sama Veda, to those who sing in praise of the Lord with raga and laya, those who do nama-sankirtana, and those who understand the happiness of listening to music with bhava-raga-laya.

For devotion and spirituality, he salutes those who see the Lord in meditation,  those who keep Him in their hearts, those who surrender to Him, those who view the world with love and compassion and those who have become true servants of the Lord.

For  esoteric knowledge he salutes the great sages and those who have understood the core knowledge of our great scriptures.

As to the composition, it is just a magnificent piece of music which one never tires of, however many times one hears it. Set to raga Sri, the sounds are dignified, contemplative, quiet. To know more about the raga, click here.

It is difficult to choose a rendition for you today. I have listened to so many renditions- voices old and young, male and female, brisk and meditative, stentorian and gently graceful, stylistic and straight-forward. To my ears today, what feels most ‘humble’ – my theme of the day – is T.M.Krishna’s simple rendition of this timeless kriti. Hope you enjoy it too!

You can download all the pancharatna kritis sung by TMK from this site.

For an instrumental version, I could not walk past this rare live video of the great Veena maestro from yesteryears, Chitti Babu. Is it not hypnotic? They say that Veena is the instrument best suited to display the beauty of Carnatic Music. What do you think?

For a more in-depth look at this kriti, listen to this interesting lecdem . The sound quality is unfortunately not so good but the content is excellent.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As I am not a Telugu speaker. I am indebted to multiple web sources for meaning of words. I have reworded the translations I found for language and readability. For notation, click here.

Transliteration in Devanagari

पल्लवि
ऎन्दरो महानुभावुलु अन्दरिकि वन्दनमुलु

अनुपल्लवि
चन्दुरु वर्णुनि अन्द चन्दमुनु हृदया-
अरविन्दमुन जूचि ब्रह्मानन्दमनुभविन्चु वार-

चरणम् 1
साम गान लोल मनसिज  लावण्य धन्य मूर्धन्युल-

चरणम् 2
मानस वनचर वर सञ्चारमु निलिपि मूर्ति बागुग पॊगडने वार-

चरणम् 3
सरगुन पादमुलकु स्वान्तमनु सरोजमुनु समर्पणमु सेयु वार-

चरणम् 4
पतित पावनुडने परात्परुनि  गुरिञ्चि परमार्थमगु निज मार्ग-
मुतोनुपाडुचुनु सल्लापमुतो स्वर लयादि रागमुलु (alt:रागमुलनु ) तॆलियु वार-

चरणम् 5
हरि गुण मणिमय सरमुलु गळमुन शोभिल्लु भक्त कोटुलिललो
तॆलिवितो चॆलिमितो करुण गल्गि जगमॆल्लनु सुधा दृष्टिचे ब्रोचु वार-

चरणम् 6
हॊयलु मीर नडलु गल्गु सरसुनि सदा कनुल जूचुचुनु पुलक शरीरुलै
आनन्द पयोधि निमग्नुलै मुदम्बुननु यशमु गल वार-

चरणम् 7
परम भागवत मौनि वर शशि विभाकर सनक सनन्दना
दिगीश सुर किम्पुरुष कनक कशिपु सुत नारद तुम्बुरु
पवन सूनु बाल चन्द्र धर शुक सरोज भव भूसुर वरुलु
परम पावनुलु घनुलु शाश्वतुलु कमल भव सुखमु सदानुभवुलु गाक

चरणम्  8
नी मेनु नाम वैभवम्बुलनु नी पराक्रम धैर्यमुल
शान्त मानसमु नीवुलनु वचन सत्यमुनु रघुवर नीयॆड
सद्भक्तियु जनिञ्चकनु दुर्मतमुलनु कल्ल जेसिनट्टि नी
मदि नेरिङ्गि सन्तसम्बुननु गुण भजनानन्द कीर्तनमु सेयु वार-

चरणम्  9
भागवत रामायण गीतादि श्रुति शास्त्र पुराणपु
मर्ममुल शिवादि षण्मतमुल गूढमुलन मुप्पदि
मुक्कोटि सुरान्तरङ्गमुल भावम्बुल नॆरिंगि भाव राग लयादि सौख्य
-मुचे चिरायुवुल् गलिगि निरवधि सुखात्मुलै
त्यागराजाप्तुलैन वार-

चरणम्  10
प्रेम मुप्पिरिकॊनु वेळ नाममु दलचे वारु
राम भक्तुडैन त्यागराजनुतुनि निज दासुलैन वार

Transliteration

pallavi
endarO mahAnubhAvulu andariki vandanamulu

anupallavi
chanduru varNuni anda chandamunu hrdayA-
aravindamuna jUchi brahmAnandam anubhavinchu vAr-

charaNam 1
sAma gAna lOla manasija lAvaNya dhanya mUrdhanyul-

charaNam 2
mAnasa vanachara vara sanchAramu nilipi mUrti bAguga pogaDanE vAr-

charaNam 3
saraguna pAdamulaku svAntamanu sarOjamunu samarpaNamu sEyu vAr-

charaNam 4
patita pAvanuDanE parAtparuni gurinchi paramArthamagu nija
mArgamutOnupADuchunu sallApamutO svara layAdi rAgamulu (alt:rAgamulanu) teliyu vAr-

charaNam 5
hari guNa maNimaya saramulu gaLamuna shObhillu bhakta kOTulilalO
telivitO chelimitO karuNa galgi jagamellanu sudhA dRshTichE brOchu vAr-

charaNam 6
hoyalu mIra naDalu galgu sarasuni sadA kanula jUchuchunu pulaka sharIrulai
Ananda payOdhi nimagnulai mudambunanu yashamu gala vAr-

charaNam 7
parama bhAgavata mauni vara shashi vibhAkara sanaka sanandanA
digIsha sura kimpurusha kanaka kashipu suta nArada tumburu
pavana sUnu bAla chandra dhara shuka sarOja bhava bhUsura varulu
parama pAvanulu ghanulu shAshvatulu kamala bhava sukhamu sadAnubhavulu gAka

charaNam 8
nI mEnu nAma vaibhavambulanu nI parAkrama dhairyamula shAnta mAnasamu nIvulanu vachana satyamunu raghuvara nIyeDa
sadbhaktiyu janinchakanu durmatamulanu kalla jEsinaTTi nI madineringi santatambunanu guNa bhajanAnanda kIrtanamu sEyu vAr-

charaNam 9
bhAgavata rAmAyaNa gItAdi shruti shAstra purAnamu marmamula shivAdi shanmatamula gUDhamulan muppadi mukkOTi surAntarangamula bhAvambula nerigi bhava rAga layAdi saukhya
muchE chirAyuvul galigi niravadhi sukhAtmulai tyAgarAjAptulai na vAr-

charaNam 10
prEma muppiri konu vELa nAmamu dalachEvAru
rAma bhaktuDaina tyAgarAjanutuni nija dAsulaina vAr-

Translation

pallavi
There are so many great ones! My salutations to them all !

anupallavi
To all those who experience the eternal bliss of seeing Him whose complexion is like the moon in the lotus of their hearts (salutations..)

charaNam 1
To all the best amongst the blessed, whose hearts have become beautiful by being immersed in the singing of Sama Veda (salutation..)

charaNam 2
To all those who clearly see the form of the Lord by stopping the monkey like wanderings of the mind (salutations…)

charaNam 3
To all those who immediately surrender the lotus of their hearts at the feet of the Lord (salutations…)

charaNam 4
To all those who, cognizant of the true path which leads to the ultimate knowledge,  joyously sing about the supreme Lord who sanctifies the wretched, in ragas which arise from the seven notes and rhythm (salutations..)

charaNam 5
To all those countless devotees whose necks are adorned with the precious garland of divine qualities, who protect the world with their sweet glances filled with understanding, love and compassion (salutations..)

charaNam 6
To all those who are famous for remaining joyfully immersed in the ocean of bliss and ecstacy by always seeing with their (mind’s) eyes the beautiful Lord with his charming gait (salutations…)

charaNam 7
To all the great sages who are devotees of the Lord, to the Moon, the Sun, sage Sanaka, sage Sanandana, the Lords of the four quarters, the celestials, the kimpurusha, to Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada,  to Narada, the celestial musician Tumburu, to Hanuman, to Lord Shiva, sage Suka, Lord Brahma, the Brahmanas, the great holy ones, the eminent ones, the eternal ones, to all those who have experienced bliss (salutations..)

charaNam 8
To all those who, knowing your disaproval of wrong paths, in order to generate true devotion towards you, always sing joyful chants in your praise,  about the glory of your body, your name, your valour, your courage, your fortitude, your serenity of mind and the truth of the words uttered by you (salutations..)

charaNam 9
To all those benefactors of Tyagaraja who understand the core of (the hidden meaning of) Bhagavatam, Ramayanam, Gita, the Vedas, the Shastras, the ancient lores, the six schools of religious worship like Shaivism, the mindset of  thirty three crores of celestials, the happiness of (implied:music) with emotion, melody and rhythm, and have attained a long life of uninterrupted joy (salutations..)

charaNam 10
To all those who meditate on the name of the Lord at the time when love multiplies and have become true servants of the Lord praised by this Tygaraja, a true devotee of Lord Rama (salutations…)

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Chitti Babu, Compositions in Telugu, T.M.Krishna

Teliyaleru Rama

People do not have the knowledge, O Rama, of the path of devotion. They wander all over the world babbling but they do not have the knowledge of devotion. They get up early, take a dip in the water, smear themselves with sacred ash, count their prayer beads with their fingers, outwardly very praiseworthy! Inwardly they are dedicated to making money. But..they do not have the knowledge of the path of devotion.

BhaktiI am an atheist’ my son tells me.

It is Deepavali day and we are at the temple. My son’s statement is not a surprise; I am aware of his thoughts. Yet..

It makes me so sad’ I say.

Generally speaking, my tendency is to say ‘each to his own’. I feel very unqualified to judge people for the choices they make. Who is to know what is right? Yet in this case, it feels different. I see this as a my failure. As a mother, I should have made a better effort to teach him of a belief system which has given me much succour over my lifetime. I say as much to him.

Are you so sure of being right then? What if you are wrong?’ he asks.

I acknowledge that it is not really possible to prove the existence of God. At some stage, one has to take a leap of faith. Yet there is this feeling… I think it is like music appreciation. There is all this wonderful music, soul touching music, our world of Carnatic Music. Thousands pass by its path, unaware, untouched. Even amongst those who listen with great interest, only rarely does the music ‘speak’ in such a way that one’s soul merges with the music. The transmission may be there, but if one doesn’t have a receiver, one hears nothing! For music and for devotion, one needs a receiver within oneself, or so I think.

‘teliyalEru rama bhakti mArgamunu’ I tell myself as the title of the song comes to mind. I search for a translation to see that Tyagaraja speaks of something a bit different – not about the lack of faith, but about putting on a grand but false show of faith. Tyagaraja seems saddened.  ‘They can never know, O Rama, the true path of Bhakti’ he says. ‘They get up early, take a dip in water, smear themselves with ash, count their prayers on their fingers, but all a grand show for appearances’ says he. It seems far worse than a honestly stated atheism, doesn’t it? For full lyrics and translation, see footnote. The song is set to raga Dhenuka; to know more about this raga, click here.

I have been in the mood of yesteryear greats as last week’s post demonstrates. I have listened to many renditions these past few  days but keep going back to the one by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer which I present below. Sound quality is not very good but the music is exceptional.

Alternate Link : Click here and download song 3 (need free membership of Sangeethapriya.org)

For an instrumental version, here is a elaborated rendition of this song. I found it very interesting as elaborations of this raga are rare. Again sound quality is below par but definitely worthy of your attention.

Alternate Link : Click here and download song 2 (need free membership of Sangeethapriya.org)

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

I do not speak Telugu. I am indebted to various internet resources for the lyrics and translation below.

Transliteration in Devanagri

पल्लवी
तॆलिय लेरु राम भक्ति मार्गमुनु

अनुपल्लवी
इलनन्तट तिरुगुचुनु
कलुवरिञ्चेरे कानि (alternate: कलुवरिञ्चुत ?)

चरणम्
वेग लेचि नीट मुनिगि भूति पूसि
वेळ्ळनॆञ्चि वॆलिकि श्लाघनीयुलै
बाग पैकमार्जन लोलुलै
रे कानि त्यागराज विनुत

Transliteration in English

(note: k and g seemed to be used interchangeably in most sites I referenced)

pallavi
teliya lEru rAma bhakti mArgamunu

anupallavi
ilanantaTa tiruguchunu
kaluvarinchErE kAni (alt:kaluvarinchuta)

charaNam
vEga lEchi nITa munigi bhUti pUsi
vELLanenchi veliki shlAghanIyulai
bAga paikamArjana lOlulai
rE kAni tyAgarAja vinuta

Translation

People do not have the knowledge, O Rama, of the path of devotion.

People wander all over the earth babbling, but (they do not have the knowledge….)

People get up early, take a dip in the water, smear sacred ash, count the prayer beads (implied) with their fingers, outwardly being praiseworthy. Inwardly (implied) they are dedicated to earning money. But, O Lord praised by Tyagaraja, (they do not have the knowledge of the path of devotion).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Tyagaraja, U.Srinivas

Rama Katha Sudha

Diwali

Happy Deepavali to all my readers! May the lamps you light enlighten your minds, may the sweets you eat sweeten your thoughts and words!

Lord Rama has been resident in my mind this whole week. Though the significance of Deepavali is region dependent, it is the story of Lord Rama’s return from the forest which lingers in my mind. Like everyone else in India, I learnt the stories from numerous sources. In childhood, my grandmother and my mother would tell the stories with great verve and energy. A little older, I read my own first version by C.Rajagopalachari which I enjoyed very much. I learnt so much from that book! I’ve read a few more versions since then but they never had the impact that the first book did. When I had kids of my own, I bought the comic book series from Amar Chitra Katha and read them along with my children. At the same time, we also saw the highly popular but atrociously made televised series by Ramanand Sagar. I also remember street performance of Ram Lila, upanyasams at temple grounds, Katha Kali performances…oh so many versions! The Ramayana in my mind is a mishmash from all these sources, with background music to match!

‘What would be the right song to celebrate His return from the forest?’ I ask myself. Something mangalakaram, in madhyamavati or kurinji I tell myself, though I have already featured these ragas. A mangalam perhaps? Surely He would have been invited back with a nice aarati? Sri Rama Chandranukku comes to mind. Yet..I don’t want to sing mangalam in this blog as yet (for the uninitiated, it indicates an end of a concert).  To find inspiration, I let my mind wander from story to story. Images flash past one after the other. Rama as a child, the treasured prince. Rama as a young man called to take up arms for Vishwamitra. Rama’s first sight of Sita. Kaikeyi’s jealousy. The banishment. Life in Chitrakoot. Shurpanakha’s nose. The golden deer. Lakshman’s rekha. Sita’s abduction. Garuda’s death. The heartbreak of Rama. Sugreeva and Bali. Questionable warfare. Hanuman. Sita amongst Ashoka trees. Vibheeshana’s defection. Hanuman’s burning tail. The bridge across the ocean. Waking Kumbhakarna. Indrajit’s magic. Lakshmana’s fall. Sanjeevani. Ravana’s ten heads. Victory. The triumphant return. Deepavali. Ah, how I take my pleasure in this old tale of Gods and sages, of demons and kings, of men who are animals and animals who are Gods. And I have my song for this post!

To drink the nectar like essence of the story of Rama is equal to ruling a kingdom’ says Tyagaraja. I hope you too have remembered the story of Rama along with me on this holy day and enjoyed its essence. ‘It is indeed the boat which enables us to cross the flaming ocean of existence in which we are bound by karma’ says the Saint. To see full lyrics and translation, see footnote.

On an aside, I remember a time, a long time ago, when I did not really appreciate Madhyamavati. It used to feel somewhat staid to me. Now I am amazed at how blind – or rather deaf – I was! This beautiful raga pours well-being into one’s soul; I will adopt Tyagaraja’s words and call this sudha rasa – the essence of nectar. To know more about this raga, click here.

When it comes to presenting this song, I am overwhelmed by the riches available to me. After listening to many hours of music, I have selected the confident and melodious version by Trichur V.Ramachandran (1940-), an artist I am featuring for the first time in my blog. A holder of all the prestigious awards (Sangeet Natak Academy, Padma Bhushan, Sangeetha Kalanidhi), he was for fortunate in having both the great G.N.Balasubramaniam and M.L.Vasanthakumari as his gurus.

If you have the time, I urge you to also listen to the versions by his Gurus as well. G.N.Balasubramaniam (1910-1965) sings in his inimitable style, with his strong and pure voice while M.L.Vasanthakumari’s (1928-1990) version is both melodious and energetic. While you are in the mood for yesteryear greats, perhaps you would like to watch a video of this rare live performance by the greatest of them all, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (1908-2003).

For an instrumental version, I offer a rendition by the greatest of violinists, Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930-2013), a rendition which I love and listen to often. It has a wonderful call-and-answer with his son, G.J.R.Krishnan. Do not miss!

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

I do not speak Telugu and am indebted to various internet sites for the lyrics below.

Transliteration in Devanagri

राम कथा सुधा रस पानम् ओक राज्यमु जेसुने

भामा मणि जानकी सौमित्री
भरतादुलतो भूमि वेलयु श्री

धर्माद्यखिल फलदमे मनसा
धैर्यानन्द सौख्य निकेतनमे
कर्म बन्ध ज्वालन अब्धि नावमे
कलि हरमे त्यागराज विनुतुडगु

Transliteration in English

pallavi
rAma kathA sudhA rasa pAnam oka rAjyamu jEsunE

anupallavi
bhAmA maNi jAnakI saumitrI
bharatAdulatO bhUmi vElayu shrI

charanam
dharmAdyakhila phaladamE manasA
dhairyAnanda saukhya nikEtanamE
karma bandha jvAlana abdhi nAvamE
kali haramE tyAgarAja vinutuDagu

Translation

Drinking the nectar like essence of Sri Rama’s story is equal to ruling a kingdom.

He who shines on this earth along with the jewel amongst women, Janaki, the son of Saumitra (Lakshmana), Bharata and others.

Oh my mind! (Drinking the essence of Sri Rama’s story) bestows the fruit of everything like Dharma etc. It is the abode of courage, bliss and well-being. It is the boat which enables us to cross the burning ocean of existence to which we are bound by karma. It is the destroyer of kali yuga. The Lord who is praised by Tyagaraja.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, G.N.Balasubramaniam, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Trichur V.Ramachandran, Tyagaraja

Adamodi Galade

Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of yours in not talking to me when I have held your feet with such devotion? O Merciful Lord! Is it not true that when the erudite Anjaneya saluted you, you asked your younger brother to convey the details to him? However, is this fair, this whim of yours in not replying to this Tyagaraja?

HanumanMost of us who have grown up in India have a special place in our hearts for the epic Ramayana. Our behaviour, our beliefs, our language – all this and more are influenced by this great epic. However, if we are asked if Ramayana is myth or history, if it is legend or reality, many amongst us will be conflicted. I am. My heart believes, but my mind questions many of the incredible occurrences. I try and add my own reasoning (totally unproven!) to make it real, for I want it to be real.

Take, for example, Lord Hanuman and the legions of Vanaras (apes) who have a starring role in Ramayana. ‘Talking apes? Really?’ My mind asks me. Given my beliefs, I feel both guilt and shame for asking such questions and then hasten to counter-ask myself ‘What if some Neanderthal men were still around at that time? Would they have been seen as another species i.e. as apes?’.  The dates don’t fit, but what if?

Evidently, I am not the only one who wants to find logic to fit the legends. I-Serve, the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas seems to be populated by exactly the same kind of people. They were much in the news last year when they used astronomical dating of planetary positions mentioned in the Ramayana to get dates for some important events. Lord Rama’s birthdate was 10 January, 5114 BC, they say with authority. Their paper is an interesting read for anyone interested in the Ramayana.

So when I came to the topic of today, the first meeting of Lord Hanuman with Lord Rama, I see it in my mind’s eye as a somewhat mythical history, but history nonetheless. Before we come to Sarga 3 of the Kishkinda Kanda of the Ramayana, Sita is already taken. Rama and Lakshmana are on her trail. Dressed simply like hermits, they still have the appearance of princes. It is at this time that Hanuman is sent as a messenger seeking help from them by Sugreeva, the younger brother of Vali, the Vanara ruler of the region, who has now become Sugreeva’s enemy.

Dressing himself as an ascetic in order not to alarm then, Hanuman approaches them. His speech is full of praise, as seems to be the polite form of address in those times, before introducing himself. Rama is well pleased with his greeting. Turning to Lakshmana, he praises Hanuman’s knowledge of grammar and the Vedas. But he does not speak directly to Hanuman, letting Lakshmana be his spokesperson. This is believed to be the protocol of those times in dealing with messengers. For the verses and the translation, read here.

Tyagaraja uses this incident in our song choice of today, Adamodi Galade, set to the charming Charukesi raga (to know more about this raga, click here). Tyagaraja asks Lord Rama if it is fair that he persists in his whim of not speaking to him and reminds him that it was thus with even Hanuman, that the Lord did not reply directly to him when spoken to. Does Tyagaraja imply that if the Lord would not speak to Hanuman himself, what chance did he have? Does he see himself as a loyal servitor of Lord Rama, just as Hanuman was and thus worthy of his love? He does seem to berate the Lord, calling him whimsical! For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

To present this song, I am in the mood for some legends today. To start with, I present a rare live presentation from the musician whose Charukesi I love better than anything else, the inimitable Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930-2013).

And for a vocal version, I can present no other than the Maestro with a voice like nectar, Dr.Balamuralikrishna (1930-). He was a man who pushed the boundaries of tradition in his time and is a living legend now.

Alternate link : in Sangeethapriya, accessible with a free account.

Next I would like to recommend a very interesting interpretation by the great Veena player, Chitti Babu (1936-1996). I was surprised to note the Vedic hymn style notes produced in the alapana and in the thanam as well, something I associate with Revati, not Charukesi. It ends abruptly, but still do listen, this raga sounds particularly beautiful on the Veena.

Alternate link : In Sangeethapriya, accessible with a free account.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
I do not speak Telugu and have sourced the lyrics and translation from various internet sources, especially
Tyagaraja Vaibhavam. This I have calibrated against multiple performances and modified as seemed fit.

पल्लवि
आड मोडि गलदा (alternate: गलदे) रामय्य माट(लाड मोडि )

अनुपल्लवि
तोडु नीड नीवे अनुचुनु (alt: यनुचुनु) भक्तितो गूडि (नी)
पादमु (alt: पादमुल) पट्टिन नातो माट(लाड मोडि )

चरणं
चदुवुलन्नि तॆलिसि शंकरांशुडै
सदयुडाशुग सम्भवुडु म्रॊक्क
कदलु तम्मुनि पल्क जेसितिवि
गाकनु त्यागराजु आडिन माट(लाड मोडि )

Transliteration

pallavi
ADa mODi galadA (alt: galadE) rAmayya mATa (lADa mODi)

anupallavi
tODu nIDa nIvE anuchunu (Alt: yanuchunu) bhaktito
gUDi (nI) pAdamu (pAdamula) paTTina nAtO mATa (lADa mODi)

charanam
chaduvulanni telisi shankarAnshuDai
sadayuDAshuga sambhavuDu mrokka
kadalu tammuni palka jEsitivi
gAkanu tyAgarAju ADina mATa (lADa mODi)

Translation
Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of yours in not talking to me? (Note: mODi has been translated as obstinacy, haughtiness etc. but I liked whimsical which is also a valid translation by the dictionary. You take your pick!)

Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of not talking to me who considers you alone to be as constant as a shadow, when I have held your feet with so much devotion?

O Merciful Lord! Is it not true that when the erudite Anjaneya, born of the Wind God, who is also an aspect of Lord Shiva, saluted you, you asked your younger brother to convey the details to him? However, is this whim of yours in not replying to this Tyagaraja just?

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Chitti Babu, Compositions in Telugu, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M.Balamuralikrishna, Tyagaraja

Shiva Deeksha

APOLOGIES! This video has been removed from Youtube. As I cannot find an alternate site which features this video, I am afraid this post has been mostly invalidated, however I have links for excerpts.

I have been initiated into Shiva’s worship, I cannot forgo my virtue the least bit. I will not disobey my Guru’s command to take Shiva’s name, I will not join with a Sri Vaishnava. Do not come rushing into the monastery, do not open the door when I am worshipping Shiva. Do not fumble with my ceremonially purified saffron robes, do not keep silencing me.

Shiva Deeksha

Seduction, the act of causing someone to do something that they would not usually consider doing by being very attractive and difficult to refuse, from the Latin seducere.

Today, my topic is this rather unusual one for Carnatic Music.  Though there are sub-genres like Javalis which have non-devotional themes, most of Carnatic Music is indeed devotional. Seduction has no part in it. Today, however, I have selected a song which uses the theme of seduction to convey a devotional message.  And why not? After all, is this not one of the great common experiences of life?  Who amongst us has not been seduced at least once in their life by someone or something? In today’s song, Ghanam Seenayya (~1704-1731) cleverly uses this common experience to bring home a rather cheeky point.

To present this song, I am featuring the brilliant dancer Priyadarshini Govind. In fact, this post is to honour her recent appointment as the director of the venerable institution Kalakshetra.

Interpreting the dance is superfluous because it is self-evident. Yet there are many cultural connotations (for example, worship in wet clothes) which may make it inaccessible to those unfamiliar with Indian culture or with Bharatanatyam. For this reason, I shall attempt to do a ‘walk through’ of the dance for you.

Our Nayika, the heroine, is a sanyasini, a monk who has taken deeksha or initiation in Shiva worship. Collecting her water pot, she goes for her ritual bath to the river where she will also collect water for her worship. Testing the water carefully with her feet, she takes a dip, wrings her hair and robes and returns with her now filled pot.  As per tradition, she is now ‘cleansed’ for performing her rituals. With great devotion, she performs the abishekam (pouring of water) and then decorates her deity, a Shiva Linga (the dancer shows us the mudra ie. a gesture). When she starts her devotions, she is disturbed by someone who enters the monastery. Who is it? He is so attractive that she can hardly turn her eyes aside. Her hands shoo him away but her eyes…ah, her eyes tell another tale. She is as taken by him as he is with her. ‘I am initiated in Shiva worship’ she tells him, ‘I cannot join with a Sri Vaishnava’ (note the mudra of the Shankha & Chakra). She tries to convince him to leave, but is she convincing him or herself ? We catch a momentary glimpse of him as eyes twinkling, he nods suggestively at her. Her words do not work. First he grabs her hand, but when she pries herself loose, he grabs her clothes. There is pleasure in his touch, yet she denies him. She wraps herself once more in her saffron robes. How conflicted she is as she sends him away and closes the door on him! Both pain and determination flashes through her face. She tries to concentrate on her worship but she cannot, for though she has denied him, she is seduced. Seduction is, after all, a state of the mind and not that of the body.

Who is her seducer? None other than Lord Vishnu himself in the form of Mannaru Ranga, the preferred deity of Ghanam Seenayya. Cheekily, the poet has our Lord himself seduce the Nayika who is a Shiva worshipper. Historically there has always been a certain – shall we say competitiveness? – between the Vaishnavaites and Shaivaites. This surfaces in stories and myths, and in songs such as this one. Written in the early 18th century, the words of this padam are actually quite racy, especially the unsung charanams the translation of which I have read some time back. The song is set to Raga Kurinji, a raga I least associate with raciness of any sort!

To know more about raga Kurinji, click here.

How graceful is Priyadarshini! Each movement has meaning,  each expression tells a story. There are so many small details she adds to make it all so interesting and convincing. The shift in her shoulder as she lifts a heavy water-pot, the adjustment of her clinging robes before she sits down- these may be small but they make the story real. And her expressions! Her wide-eyed shake of her head when first accosted (4:30), the first signs of attraction with a sidelong glace (4:38), a minute smile (4:54), her determination to be strong (5:05), a shake of denial to herself (5:15) – we are almost seduced along with her! When she momentarily plays Lord Vishnu (9:03), she transforms herself in front of our eyes. Look at her face when He grabs and pulls her clothes (09:30), such a mix of confusion, hesitation, shyness, pleasure..this is abhinaya at its best!

Note: The video on which this blog was based has been removed from youtube. Below are excerpts from other sources.

Only Pallavi and Anupallavi, from another rendition : See below 7:05

 A small excerpt from the featured rendition :


Footnote (Lyrics) :

I am sorry to say that I could not find a reliable source for the lyrics as yet. I am trying to source them and shall update this once I get the lyrics authenticated. The song has many charanams, I give below only what has been sung in the performance above. I am not a Telugu speaker and am grateful to my friends who have helped with the translation.

Language : Telugu

Transliteration in Devanagari

शिव दीक्षा परुरालनुरा ने शीलमिन्तैन विडुवजालनुरा
शिव शिव गुरुनाज्ञ मीरनुरा ने श्री वैष्णवुडण्टे चेरनुरा

वडिग वच्चि मठमु जोरवकुरा शिवार्चन वेळ तलुपु तेरुवकुरा
मडुगु कावि चेरगु दीयकुरा नन्नु माटिमाटिकि नोरु मुय्यकुरा

Transliteration in English

shiva dIkshA parurAlanurA nE shIlamintaina viDuvajAlanurA
shiva shiva gurunAjna mIranurA nE shrI vaishNavuDantE chEranurA

vaDiga vachchi maTHamu joravakurA shivArchana vELa talupu teravakurA
maDugu kAvi cheragu dIyakurA nannu mATimATiki nOru mUyyakurA

Translation

I have been initiated into Shiva’s worship, I cannot forgo my virtue the least bit. I will not disobey my Guru’s command to take Shiva’s name, I will not join with a Sri Vaishnava.

Do not come rushing into the monastery, do not open the door when I am worshipping Shiva. Do not fumble with my ceremonially purified saffron robes, do not keep silencing me.

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Telugu, Ghanam Seenayya, Priyadarshini Govind

Venkata Shaila Vihara

Oh Venkatesa you are my sole refuge, please come to protect me. Lord Brahma and Lord Indra worship your feet. You are the saviour of your devotees afflicted with a multitude of sufferings. I heard the stories of your greatness and was eager to worship you. I saw the hills, the towers and the pavilions studded with gems. I have become your devotee.

VenkateshwaraTirupati Sri Venkateshwara has been on my mind for a while. There is a quiet desire to go visit the temple once more. Yet this is one God who will never miss me; is the temple not one of the most visited sacred sites in the world? Why would He even notice one amongst the 10-12 million who visit each year?  But yet…there is this call I feel.

In my childhood, Tirupati visits were an almost annual affair. My father held a lot of faith in the power of the Lord of the Seven Hills; He is the kula daivam of my birth family, the special God of our clan. My father would undertake sankalpams or special vows every now and again. He made vows to climb the hill on foot, all 3400 steps over 11 kms. He made vows of donation. He took vows to shave his hair. Once he took a vow for angapradakshinam or rolling bodily around the circumference of the temple. This is a physically demanding vow and I remember watching with both fascination and sympathy as he rolled in prayer, in wet clothes in the pre-dawn darkness. It induced terrible nausea but he went on; belief kept him strong.

In my own adult life I have been but a couple of times. It is odd to think that I might have been to Tirupati 20 times during the first 20 years of my life and only 2 or 3 times for the next 30+ years. My mother would say எல்லாம் கொடுத்து வெச்சிருக்கணம், one must have enough good karma to get even the opportunity to visit the temple. Have I run out of good karma then?

Yet the thought of long queues is so off-putting. The alternative, paying to get ahead in the queues, leaves me feeling guilty about my wealth. Should we not be all equal before God? Yet I have been softened by the very wealth that the good God has bestowed upon us. I am unable to withstand the discomforts of long waits under a hot sun. Is this physical discomfort part of what we offer up to God? This theme of physical discomfort as an offering to God has always made me uncomfortable. I could not watch the the kavadi carriers hook themselves to their loads, I could not watch the Muslim faithful lashing themselves at Muharram or the thought of Christian mortification of the flesh, even in film.  I could not even watch with ease my father throwing up as he rolled around the temple, body bare to the rough stone below. Of course all this is much more extreme than standing in long queues under a hot sun, still the principle is the same. Does God want you to torture yourself in faith?

All my instincts shout NO! Is God not like a the kindest of parents, the dearest of friends, the love of your heart? How could He even bear to watch us hurt? But what about all the difficult sankalpams people take up, both in our faith and others? It is all so confusing!

So for the moment, not knowing when/how/if I shall make it to Tirupati again, I lose myself in the Raga that reminds me most of Sri Narayana. Hameer Kalyani is a lovely, gentle raga and Subbaraya Shastri has created a beautiful composition in his Venkata Shaila Vihara. To know more about this raga, click here.

In honour of my father for the father’s day which just passed, I am featuring the great Maestro of yesteryears Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar whose music my father enjoyed and like whom he too proudly wore his thiruman and srichurnam all his life. The sound quality is not very good but the music is still good.

Alternate link here (song 10)

I very much like Malladi Brothers’ rendition in their CD called December Season 2000 (Charsur). Unfortunately disk 2  as loaded in Music India Online doesn’t work so I cannot provide a link. If you live outside India and have access to Spotify, you can find the album there.

 


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Telugu

I was aided in transliteration and translation by a native speaker. As I do not speak Telugu, I have transcribed it in Devanagari script below.

वेङ्कट शैल विहारा
नीवे गति ब्रोव रादा  (श्री)

पङ्कज भव सुरपति नुत चरणा
किङ्कर संकुल संकट हरणा  (श्री)

विन्टिनिने नी वरगुण कथलनु
वीनुलकेन्तो आनन्दमुग (alternate : युण्टिनि एपुडु सेविन्तुननि)
गण्टिनि गिरिनि गोपुरमुल मणिमय
मण्टपमुल(नु) ने बण्टुड नैति नी

Translation

pallavi

venkaTa shaila vihArA
nIvE gati brOva rAdA (shrI)

anupallavi

pankaja bhava surapati nuta charanA
kinkara sankula sankaTa haraNA (shrI)

charaNam

viNTininE nI varaguNa kathalanu
vInulakentO Anandamuga (alternate : yunTini epuDu sEvintunani)
gaNTini girini gOpuramula maNimaya
maNTapamula (/mulanu) nI baNTuDa naiti nI

Translation

Oh Venkatesa who dwells on the Venkata mountain, you are my sole refuge, please come to protect me.

The Lotus Born (Brahma) and the Lord of Devas (Indra) worship your feet. You are the saviour of your servants (should be read as devotee here) afflicted with multitude of sufferings.

I heard the stories of your greatness that are so pleasing to the ears (alternate: I heard the stories of your greatness and I was eager to worship you) I saw the hills, the gopuras (towers) and mantapas (pavilions) studded with gems. I have become your servant/devotee.

 

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Filed under Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Malladi Brothers, Subbaraya Shastri

Mundu Venuka

KavachWe humans are so vulnerable, are we not? Our bodies can be damaged, by accident or intent, and most certainly by time. Our minds get damaged every single day as violence abounds in the world around us. Knowing our own vulnerability, we use armour of different kinds to protect ourselves. There is armour for the body, be it a medieval steel body-suit, or the knee and elbow pads of skateboarders. The armour of the mind ranges from the ‘masks’ we put on to all kinds of behavioural changes in order to protect ourselves.

For those who believe in God, there is one armour which is above all else. We Hindus have special mantras, called kavacha (armour) which invoke the Gods to act as a shield for us. For myself, I use a visualisation technique in which I place myself in a cocoon of God’s power and inside, I feel invulnerable. Believers also wear talismans or amulets (காப்பு, தாயித்து, ताबीज/ताबीज़, कवच) to protect themselves. Do all these really work? I don’t know. Perhaps it is enough that we believe; perhaps the belief itself is our armour. And sometimes there are stories which make you pause..and think. Here is such a story.

It was a long time back, close to 40 years ago. In a little lane in North Calcutta there lived a kindly woman who was known for her generous alms-giving. Almost everyday somebody would knock at her door with a sad tale of want or perhaps just a silent plea and she would give whatever she could. She must also have been known in the Sadhu-Sanyasi grapevine for never turning away holy mendicants. Her children scolded her thinking that she was falling for cheats but she always did what she believed in.

One day when her son was playing cricket on the street, a sadhu-baba beckoned him and asked to meet his mother. When the boy took him home, his mother smilingly greeted the sadhu-baba and turned to get some alms for him. He stopped her saying ‘Ma, wait! I have something for you’.

Surprised she turned to him. Normally it was she who was the giver. Removing something from a knot in his garment, he put it in her hand. It was an amulet on a string.

This is for your son. Tie this around his neck. It will keep him safe, he is in danger’ . So saying he walked away without receiving any alms.

The lady had to force her rather disbelieving sixteen year old into wearing the amulet but he gave in to his mother’s pleading. A month later he fell under a bus and was in a coma for 3 months. The pelvic region was badly damaged and the doctors hardly expected him to live. Even if he lived, they told each other, he would never lead a normal life. For 4 months he lay in a hospital bed, struggling through operations and infections which ate away at his insides. But he fought. The next year he was at school and proceeded to live the normal life that all young men lead – studying, fooling around, getting into trouble and playing sports all day. Years later when his doctors saw him, they would still shake their heads in amazement. ‘It was a miracle’  they would say.

His mother always thought it was the talisman which protected him. And perhaps the young man did too.  Because, you see, forty years have passed and my husband still wears that talisman around his neck. The blessing of a holy man and the prayers of a mother together had been an armour which even the bus which ran over him could not penetrate.

For those who don’t know esoteric mantras and are not blessed with visits by mysterious sadhu-babas, what is the way? You can pray to God, like Tyagaraja did, for the Lord to be his ‘companion, in front, back and on both sides’. To be surrounded by God on all sides is the ultimate armour, isn’t it? The rest of the song is in praise of the Lord. Set to the majestic raga Darbar, this invitation to Lord Rama to be one’s armour is a beautifully composed and deeply meditative piece of music. I am especially touched by the entreaty in the words ‘rA rA’ (come, come) repeated throughout the composition. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

Today I have chosen a wonderful musician whom I have not featured before. The great Maestro Voleti Venkateswarulu (1928-1989) sings this song with astonishing ease, great bhava and does great justice to this composition.

For an alternate link (needs free membership to Sangeethapriya), click here.

Strangely, I have hardly heard many instrumental renditions of this song. I wonder why? However, here is a good rendition by the magician on the flute, S.Sashank.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As always, I note that I do not speak Telugu and I use various internet resources for the translation. I listened to multiple renditions of  the song to verify the lyrics and the pronunciation. This time, I had the support of a kind reader, Srinivas Vuruputuri, who verified the trasliteration and translation for me; my grateful thanks.

पल्लवि
मुन्दु वॆनुक इरु पक्कल तोडै
मुर खर हर रा रा

अनुपल्लवि
एन्दु  कान नी अन्दमु वलॆ रघु-
नन्दन वेगमे रा रा

चरणं
ओ गज रक्षक ओ राज कुमार
ओंकार सदन रा रा
भागवत प्रिय बाग (alternate: बागुग) ब्रोववय्य
त्यागराज नुत (alternate: त्यागराजार्चित ) रा रा

Transliteration

pallavi

mundu vEnuka iru pakkala tODai
mura khara hara rA rA

anupallavi
endu kAna nI andamu vale raghu-
nandana vEgamE rA rA

charanam
O gaja rakshaka O rAja kumArA
OmkAra sadana rA rA
bhAgavata priya bAga (alternate: bAguga) brOvavayyA
tyAgarAja nuta (alternate: tyAgArchita) rA rA

Translation

Please come as my companion in front, in the back and at my two sides, O vanquisher of the Mura and Khara (note: these were two Rakshashas).

Nowhere is there someone as charming as you, O son of the Raghu dynasty.

O protector of the king of elephants, Oh Prince! You dwell in Omkara (the sound of Om), please come. O Lord who is dear to devotees, protect us well. O Lord worshipped by Tyagaraja, please come.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Tyagaraja, Voleti Venkateswarulu

Nanaati Batuku

NDEMy head is swimming with the words of the book that I have just finished reading. I look at the world around me, wondering if it is all a mirage, as unreal as the dream I dreamt last night. Just as the sun dispels the early morning mist before me, will the blessing of God dispel the veil of Maya one day? Will I be able to see and feel the oneness of the universal consciousness then? I ask myself questions for which there are no certain answers.

My fey mood has been triggered by an account by Dr. Eben Alexander of his Near Death Experience (NDE) in his book called ‘Proof of Heaven’. I have long followed this genre of books; the first time I read on this subject was nearly 18 years ago and I have continued to read on and off since then.  These books are first-person accounts of people who have been close to death or have died and then been revived. They talk of their spiritual journey before and during their ‘death’.  What did they see? What did they experience? I am always fascinated by these accounts though I am far from being a morbid person. I wonder, am I looking for confirmation of my own beliefs in these books?

Obviously, NDE accounts vary in credibility. There are some which are self-glorifying (I was ‘the chosen one’ syndrome), others are too denominational to be credible (my faith gets into heaven, all else in hell syndrome). Then there are the scientific explanations which explain away NDEs as synapses firing in a dying brain, an alteration of brain chemistry. Still, the commonality of experiences often give me pause and I have always kept an open mind. This last book I read seems the most convincing because of the credibility of the witness, a Neurosurgeon from Harvard, and that when he was in a coma for a week with bacterial meningitis, his neocortex (the area of the brain responsible for conscious thought, sensory perception, language etc) was not functional.

So what did he experience? Many things, but some things resonated more with me than others. He says that in that other place ‘everything was distinct, yet everything was also part of everything else’. This is one of my core beliefs, that we are one and all is God Sarvam Brahmamayam. He describes the presence of a Being, ‘a brilliant orb’, which was ‘omniscient, omnipotent, and unconditionally loving’ and which was of ‘infinite vastness’. This resembles the ultimate Brahman of the Upanishads who is ‘eternal, omnipresent, free from all changes, self sufficient, not composed of parts, self-effulgent’  as explained by Adi Shankaracharya (8CE) in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. Dr.Alexander writes that there was a sound he heard which was associated with the Being and that it sounded like OM. Again, this matches Hindu thought as in this quote from Katha Upanishad ‘The syllable Om is Brahman’.

Dr Alexander’s concludes that the brain is not the source of consciousness, that consciousness exists beyond our physical selves. The scientific-rationalists of course think that consciousness is the product of the brain; when the brain is dead, the consciousness ceases to exist. Dr.Alexander proposes that the brain acts as a filter to keep out memories of the infinite. Is this not what we call Maya?

Do you wonder that with these thoughts in my mind, I chose to listen to Annamacharya’s exquisite kriti Nanaati Batuku in the most mystical of ragas Revati? And what a song! It strikes exactly the correct note for me today. Annamacharya says ‘This day to day existence is but a drama’ .  He stresses ‘To be born is real, to die is real, everything in between is just drama’. So what is real? ‘That which is beyond is liberation’ he says. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

One cannot think of this song without thinking of the wonderfully emotional renditions by M.S.Subbulakshmi. Yet today, it is to T.M.Krishna’s rendition that I am drawn and that is what I present to you. His beautiful voice adds even more beauty to this kriti.

[Alternate link (sorry, seems to have a scratchy sound here): http://mio.to/ybQ4 %5D

For an instrumental version, listen to Kadri Gopalnath on the Sax giving strength to the beseeching notes of Revati.

[Alternate link (not the same version) : click here ]


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

I do not speak Telugu so I have transcribed them in Devanagri script. The lyrics have been sourced from various sites on the internet and aurally verified. Special thanks to Sri Sistla for an excellent compilation of Annamacharya kritis.

पल्लवि
नानाटि बतुकु (/ब्रतुकु ) नाटकमु
कानक कन्नदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 1
पुट्टुटयु निजमु पोवुटयु निजमु
नट्टनडिमी पनि नाटकमु ।
येट्ट नेदुट गलदी प्रपञ्चमु
कट्ट कडपटिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 2
कुडिचेदन्नमु कोक चुट्टेडिदि
नडुमन्त्रपु पनि नाटकमु ।
वोडि गट्टुकोनिन वुभय कर्ममुलु
गडिदाटिनपुडे कैवल्यमु ॥
चरणं 3
तेगदु पापमु तीरदु पुण्यमु
नगि नगि कालमु नाटकमु ।
एगुवने श्री वेङ्कटेश्वरुडेलिक
गगनमु मीदिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

Transliteration :

nAnATi batuku (/bratuku) nATakamu
kAnaka kannadi kaivalyamu

Charanam 1
puTTuTayu nijamu pOvuTayu nijamu
naTTanaDimIpani nATakamu
yeTTaneduTa galadI prapanchamu
kaTTA kaDapaTidi kaivalyamu

Charanam 2
kuDichEdannamu kOka chuTTEDidi
naDumantrapu pani nATakamu
vOdi gaTTukOnina vubhaya karmamulu
gaDidATinapuDE kaivalyamu

Charanam 3
tegadu pApamu tIradu puNyamu
nagi nagi kAlamu nATakamu
eguvanE SrI vEnkaTEshvaruDElika
gaganamu mIdidi kaivalyamu

Translation :

This day to day existence is but a drama. That of which we have but a glimpse (is seen yet unseen) is liberation.

To be born and to die, these are real (truth). In between these two events, all that we do is drama. That which is right in front of us, is the universe. That which is the ultimate end, is salvation.

The food and drink we consume, the clothing we wear, this conjured up things we do is is all drama. When you cross beyond these, there is salvation.

Our sins never reduce. The good-deeds to be done are endless. All these laughable time-bound acts are drama.  The one who is in the higher place is Sri Venkateshwara, beyond the skies and the universe is salvation.

 

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Filed under Annamacharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Kadri Gopalnath, T.M.Krishna

Pariyachakama

Are my words ridiculous ? Is my public extolling of you ridiculous? If I see you always out of fear, out of doubt and out of grief, asking you for refuge, O Protector of those who seek your refuge, am I being ridiculous?

PersonasPersonas & Masks. Are you wondering how I have come upon this rather unlikely topic for Carnatic Music? Well, I was listening to this beautiful kriti by Tyagaraja in which he asks of his God  ‘Are you ridiculing me?’ and it struck me that prayer is something that strips us of all our masks, doesn’t it?

Saints or sinners, we will all admit to putting on one or more personas to get through life. Our work persona is quite different from our home persona which may again be different to our social persona. In fact, the Latin word persona means mask. Part of the need for masks is in response to society’s demands  that we are seen to be ‘normal’, ‘cultured’, ‘business like’, ‘civilized’, etc. Part of it is our own deep-seated insecurities and shortcomings.  Can we ever be our true selves even in front of our closest friends or family? I reckon not. Are we our true selves even in front of the mirror? Not always. There will always be some barrier, some veil behind which we hide.

Every now and then, when in deep grief and great fear, and especially in prayer, the veil drops and we are revealed for what or who we are. Even Meera sang once, साजि सिंगार बांधि पग घुंघरू लोक-लाज तजि नाची  ‘dressing up, tying bells on my feet, I danced without embarrassment (shame)’. She had let her veil drop, physically and metaphorically, in her quest for God. Society mocked her then but reveres her now.

In Tyagaraja’s composition today, he is aware of having dropped the mask but is still uncertain about how he will be perceived, not by society but by God.  ‘Are you ridiculing me?’ asks Tyagaraja to his Lord Rama. ‘Is my public extolling of you ridiculous?’.  There he is, singing song after song, laying his heart at the feet of God for all to see, what if he was just making himself an object of ridicule? ‘If out of fear, out of doubt or out of grief, seeking you if I ask for refuge, will you mock me?’ says Tyagaraja. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

I am very fond of this lovely composition, especially on the violin. But first listen to  the majestic voice of the Maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam.

For an instrumental, I will pick my favourite instrument-the violin, by my favourite Maestro, Lalgudi Jayaraman. I have also excellent renditions by Kanyakumari and a masterly performance on the Veena by Jayanthi Kumaresh which I enjoy very much.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As I do not speak Telugu, the song is transcribed in Devanagari script. Lyrics are from multiple internet sources, aurally verified.

पल्लवि
परियाचकमा माट पदि गुरिलो पॊगडिनदि

अनुपल्लवि
वॆरपुननुमानम्बुन वॆसनम्बुन ने कोरि
शरणागत रक्षक निन्नु सन्ततमुनु शरणानग

चरणं
ऒक मुनिकै द्रौपदि द्वारक निलया शरणानग
ऒक माटकु विभीषणुडु ओर्व लेक शरणानग
सकलेश्वर प्रह्लादुडु  जालिचे  शरणानग
हित करुणडै ब्रोचितिवे त्यागराजुनि माट

Transliteration

pallavi
pariyAchakamA mATa padi gurilO pogaDinadi

anupallavi
verapunanumAnambuna vesanambuna nE kOri
sharaNAgata rakshaka ninnu santatamunu sharaNAnaga

charaNam
oka munikai draupadi dwAraka nilayA sharaNAnaga
oka mATaku vibhIshaNuDu Orva lEka sharaNAnaga
sakalEshwara prahlAduDu jAlichE sharaNAnaga
hita karuNaDai brOchitivE tyAgarAjuni mATa

Translation

(based on internet sources)

pallavi
Are my words ridiculous ? Is my public extolling of you ridiculous?

anupallavi
Out of fear, out of doubt and out of grief, seeking you always, if I say ‘give me refuge’ O Protector of those who seek your refuge, am I being ridiculous?

charanam

When Draupadi, fearing Durvasa, said ‘O resident of Dwaraka, give me refuge’, when Vibhishana, unable to bear the harsh words (implied, of Ravana his brother), said ‘Give me refuge’,  when Prahlada, out of grief, said ‘Give me refuge’, did you not benevolently protect them? If so, are the words of this Tyagaraja ridiculous?

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja