Category Archives: Classical Dance

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


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.



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

Ananda Nartana Ganapatim

I meditate upon the joyously dancing Ganapati. He is Spirit incarnate, he is the origin and the foundation, the form of Om, elephant faced, the greatest! He is praised by the joyful chiefs of sages. He lies hidden in the mind of Shiva Shankara.  He dwells as the reverberations when celestial musicians endowed with the lute and rhythm  strike a note. He is heaven for the wretched. He dwells with beauty in an incomparible divine kalEbara.  He dwells in light. He is incomparable. He is fitting. He is honoured by his devotees.

Narthana GanapatiHappy Ganesh Chaturthi to all of you!

Pillaiyar (His Tamil name) and I share a very amicable relationship. I think of Him as my friend and look often to Him to share the ups and downs of life with me. It wasn’t always so. Brought up in a Vaishnavaite family, He existed only vaguely in my peripheral vision. Naturally, when I married, left India and marked out one corner of my kitchen bench top as the altar of my new home, I did not look for a picture or idol to represent Him. Thus I reached the ripe age of 29 without really integrating Pillaiyar into my life.

Then in my 29th year something strange happened. Pillaiyar started invading my home. First it was a friend who came to visit and gave a little pencil holder carved with His form. Then came another friend from India who gave me a small idol which I placed in my altar. A friend from Bombay sent me prasad from a Vinayaka temple and yet another idol. My sister-in-law sent along a wall hanging in Batik, another Pillaiyar.  My mother sent a pocket calendar with a picture of Ganesh. Ah, I forgot to say – all this was over just a couple of weeks.

Very soon after that I had a psychic experience, an experience which gives me goosebumps even now. Don’t mistake me. I am just an ordinary woman. But very rarely in one’s life extraordinary things can and do happen. And so an extraordinary thing happened to me. After the experience I was left with an unassailable conviction that Pillaiyar had blessed me with a son. As we had not even contemplated having a second child, my husband looked at me with great disbelief when I shared my experience with him that evening. But a visit to the doctor a few weeks later confirmed it, and 40 weeks later I had a beautiful son to nestle in my arms. Now 22 years later, as I look at him sitting across the room engrossed in his book, I remember that day and the wonderful blessing I was given. And on this Pillaiyar Chaturthi day, I once again thank Him for sending me my son.  Needless to say, since that day so many years ago, Pillaiyar’s presence abounds in my heart and my home.

So what music did I pick for Him today? Those who follow my blog know how much pleasure I take in dancing Gods. And what can be more wonderful that a dancing Pillaiyar? In this wonderfully rhythmic song set to Raga Natta (click here to know a bit more about this raga), Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyar prays to Vinayaka while he dances his divine dance. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

To present this song, I went for the obvious choice of a dance. In the video below, watch Padmashri and Sangeet Natak Academy winner Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant give meaning to this song with her beautiful Bharatanatyam movements.


Click here to listen to an energetic rendition by Aruna Sairam, with slightly different jatis.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

Note: I have transcribed the jatis as it has been sung for the dance video. It seems as if different musicians add their own jatis as I have heard a few different versions.

आनन्द नर्तन गणपतिं भावये – (परम् / सदा )
चिदाकार मूलाधार ॐ कार गजवदनं परमम् परम् (आनन्द)

सानन्द मुनीन्द्र गणनुत शिव शङ्कर मानस निलीयमानं
तन्त्रीलय समन्वित गन्धर्व सारण वरानुगीय मानं
दीन जन मन्दारं अनुपम दिव्य कलेबर शोभाय  मानं
भासमानं असमानं भजमानं भक्तजन सम्मानं

पा म ग मा रि सा स रि सा
तकदिमि तकजणु किट तडान्गु तक
दीम् त दीम् त ता तैय्य ताम्
ता तडम्तरि ता  तक तडं तडं तरि तै
तरि तरि तरि त  दिमि दिमि दिमि त
जडु जडु जडु त  दिमि दिमि किट त
किट किट किट जण जण जण

दिविपतिनुतं  पदसरिसजं
म ग प म नि प मरकत निभं
मदकरिमुखं प्रणव निनदं
अजितं अनघं शुभदं परमम्

कनकाम्बर धरणं एक रदनं / दन्तं

तक तडं तकत तरि दित्
तक तडं तकत तरि तक तडं तकत तरि ताम्
दित् तक तडं तकत तरि दित्
तक तडं तकत तरि तक तडं तकत तरि तै
तत् दित् तक तडं तकत तरि दित्
तक तडं तकत तरि तक तडं तकत त


Ananda nartana gaNapatim bhAvayE
chidAkAra mUlAdhAra OmkAra gajavadanam paramam param (Ananda)

sAnanda munIndra gaNanuta shiva shankara mAnasa nilIyamAnam
tantrI laya samanvita gandharva sAraNa varAnugIya mAnam
dIna jana mandAram anupama divya kaLebara shObhAya mAnam
bhAsamAnam asamAnam bhajamAnam bhaktajana sammAnam

pa ma ga mA ri sa sA sa ri sA
takadimi takajaNu kiTa taDAngu taka
dIm ta dIm ta tA taiyya tAm
tA taDambari tA taka taDam taDam tari tai
tari tari tari ta dimi dimi dimi ta
jaDu jaDu jaDu ta dimi dimi kiTa ta
kiTa kiTa kiTa jaNa jaNa jaNa

divipatinutam pada sarisijam
ma ga pa ma ni pa marakata nibham
madakari mukham praNava ninadam
ajitam anagham shubadam paramam
kanakAmbara dharaNam Eka radanam (or eKa dantam)

taka taDam takata tari dit
taka taDam takata tari taka taDam taka tari tAm
dit taka taDam takata tari dit
taka taDam takata tari taka taDam taka tari tai
tat dit taka taDam takata tari dit
taka taDam takata tari taka taDam taka ta (Ananda)


I meditate (bhavayE) upon the joyously (Ananda) dancing (nartana) Ganapati. He is Spirit incarnate (chidAkara), he is the origin and the foundation (mUla AdhAra), the form of Om (OmkAra), elephant faced (gaja vadana), the greatest (paramam).

He is praised (nuta) by the joyful (sAnanda) group (gaNa) of chiefs of sages (munIndra). He lies hidden (nilIyamAnam) in the mind (manasa) of Shiva Shankara.  He dwells (mAnam) as the after-song (reverberations?) (anugIta) (note: unsure if anugIya comes from anugIta) when celestial musicians (gandharva) endowed with the lute and rhythm (tantrI laya) strike a note (sAraNa). He is heaven (mandAra) for the wretched (dIna jana). He dwells (mAnam) with beauty (shObhAya) in an incomparible (anupama) divine (divya) kalEbara (body).  He dwells (mAnam) in lustre/light (bhAsa). He is incomparable (asamAnam). He is fitting (bhajamAnam). He is honoured (sammAnam) by his devotees (bhakta jana).

He is praised (nutam) by the Lord (pati) in Heaven (divi) (meaning Indra I think). His feet (pada) are like the lotus (sarasijam). He resembles (nibham) an emerald (marakata). He has a face (mukham) of an elephant (madakari is an elephant in rut, but here perhaps it just means elephant. Unsure). He is the sound (ninadam) of Om (pranava). He is unsurpassed (ajitam). He is faultless (anagham). He is the giver (-da as suffix) of welfare (shubha).  He is the supreme (paramam). He wears (dhAranam) golden (kanaka) clothes (ambara). He has one (Eka) radanam or dantam (tusk).



Filed under Ananda Shankar Jayant, Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer

Netru Varen Endru

Sorry, this post has been invalidated because the video I featured has been removed from Youtube for copyright infringement and I cannot find a replacement. I would like to note how disappointed I am with the copyright owners for this. Surely there is no great loss in revenue for them if extracts from old TV programs are recorded and shown by others? What use are they making of this video now? It is just gathering dust in some archive, and will remain unseen forever. Instead it could have given pleasure to so many. Disappointing! The lyrics are still valid and I suggest you listen to Bombay Jayashri’s extraordinarily beautiful rending here.

Bhargavi Gopalan Netru Varen

Seeing that I have not featured a dance song for a long time, I have selected this lovely Padam to present to you today.

Padams are a form of Telugu and Tamil musical compositions which are romantic and beautifully descriptive.   As with Bhakti music, the songs are written from a female perspective,  the Nayika representing a devotee with God as her lover.   While Bhakti poetry tends to be about the viraha bhava, the grief, the torment and the desperation of a woman who waits for union with her love, Padams are about a woman who has experienced an erotic union and expresses it boldly. She might be a courtesan or a woman having an extra-marital fling or even a wife but she is always sensual and passionate, more open and powerful than the nayika of Bhakti music, more in control. In fact it is God, the nayaka, who seems less in control. While the Padams from 16th-17th century tend to be openly erotic, the Padams from 18th-19th century tend to be less explicit.

Generally Padams are sung in a slow tempo with a lot of emotion. They are ideal for Bharatnatyam; the dancer has the opportunity to display her skills in the Nritya aspect of dancing i.e. focusing on expressing sentiment and mood.

Netru Varen Endru is  a Tamil Padam by the late 19th century poet Subbarama Iyer. It is set to one of my favourite ragas, Pantuvarali, also called Kamavardani. In this Padam, the Nayika is talking to her female friend and confidante. She says  ‘He who told me so sweetly that  that he would come yesterday, has yet to come even today! How I regret not taking full advantage of his presence the other day, my friend! At dusk the other day, when I was beside the stream, he came and surprised me in an embrace. On seeing his flawless red-gold body, I was enchanted into ecstasy, my friend’.

To know more about this raga, click here.

I present you with Bhargavi Gopalan’s interpretation of this song in the video below. For the sake of those not versed with the symbolisms of Bharatanatyam, here is a description of the dance.

The Nayika is stringing together a garland of flowers, and garland in hand, she awaits her lover. Garlanding a man is a symbol of a woman choosing her mate; this Nayika has chosen her man. It is dusk, she sets a lamp and waits. Why hasn’t he come? She puzzles. Evening has come and the birds are flying past, and he is still not there. Remembering the other day when they met, the dancer takes in turn the part of the Nayika, a little shy and sweet, her head shaking a ‘no’  but her eyes saying a ‘ yes’, and the Nayaka, confident, direct, seductive. She remembers asking him to promise to come back, holding out her hand, and he claps his hand on hers, sealing the promise. She remembers when she went to the stream, holding a water-pot to her side. Pushing away the stagnant water with her foot, she bends to fill her pot. She is distracted with the lotuses and is playing with the flowers when he comes from behind and embraces her. On seeing his beautiful body, she rubs her eyes in disbelief – how flawless is he! She embraces him and  and  loses herself in ecstasy. As she awaits him today, she thinks that when he comes, she would draw him to sit down, fan him and give him a drink. But why isn’t he coming? She waits.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

(As I did not find a reliable reference, I have transcribed from the performance above and verified with Bombay Jayashri’s detailed rendition. As always there are differences and I have transcribed both versions below.)

நேற்று வரேன் என்று நயமிகப் பேசினவன்  ( /பேசி அவன் )
இந்நாளும் வரக் காணேனே – என் தோழி

காற்றுள்ள போதே நான் தூற்றிக் கொள்ளாமலே
தோற்றம் மறைந்த பின் திகைக்கின்றேன் (/திகைக்கிறேன்)  – என் தோழி

சரணம் 1
ஆற்றம் கறை தனிலே அந்திப் பொழுதினிலே
யாரும் அறியாமலே அணைத்தான் என் தேவன்  (/அணைத்தார் அடி என் தோழி )

சரணம் 2
மாசில்லா (/மாற்றறியா) செம் பொன் மேனியைக் கண்டு (நான்)
மயங்கி பரவசம் அடைந்தேன் (/அவர் கைவசம் ஆனேனே  ) – என் தோழி

Transliteration :

nETru varEn endru nayamigap-pEsinavan (/ pesi avan)
innALum varak-kANEne, en tOzhi
kaTruLLa pOde nAn tUTrik-koLLAmalE
tOTram marainda pin tigaikkindrEn (/tigaikkiren) en tOzhi
Charanam 1
ATram karai tanilE andip-pozhudinile
yArum ariyAmale aNaittAn en dEvan (/aNaittar en dEvan)
Charanam 2
masilla (/maTrariya) sempon mEniyaik-kaNDu (nAn)
mayangi paravasam adaindEn (avar vasam anEnE) en tOzhi

Translation :

Having said that he would come yesterday, he has yet to arrive, my friend.

Not having taken advantage when he was here, (literally : instead of winnowing when the wind was there ie. making hay when the sun shines) how I suffer now!

At dusk, beside the stream, he came and embraced me without anyone knowing.

Seeing his flawless red-gold body, I lost myself in ecstasy (alternate : I became his)


Filed under Bhargavi Gopalan, Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Tamil, Subbarama Iyer

Namami Vighnaraja Tvam

Sujata MohapatraOdissi is the classical dance form of Orissa. An ancient dance form, it has been mentioned in the Natya Shastra written in about 200BC; the dance form was then called Odra-Magadhi. Odissi  has a very lyrical, free-flowing effect enhanced by the dancer’s independent movement of the head, chest and feet.

In the clip I have chosen for you today, the dancer  first starts with a short salutation to Jagannatha, the presiding God of Orissa. The dancer then salutes Ganesha. It is interesting to note that in the shloka, Ganesha is called an expert in dance like his father Shiva. One of my favourite forms of Ganesha is the dancing Ganesha so this invocation pleases me very much.

नमामि विघ्नराज त्वम् कल्पवृक्ष स्थल स्थितं
उमा पुत्रं महाकायं दन्तिकं नृत्य कोविदं
ताण्डव प्रिय पुत्राय ताण्डव प्रिय रूपिणं
नमो चिन्तामणि  नित्यं शुद्ध बुद्धि प्रदायकम 

namAmi vighnarAja tvam
kalpavriksha sthala- sthitam
umA putram mahakAyam
dantikam nritya kOvidam
tANDava priya putrAya
tANDava priya rUpiNam
namO chintAmaNi nityam
shuddha buddhi pradAyakam

I have not heard this salutation before. I have attempted a translation so that you can appreciate the dance mudras (gestures).

I salute you, Vighnaraja (Ganesha) , who resides where the Kalpavriksha (boon giving tree) is. Who is the son of Uma (Shakti), who has an immense body, who is tusked, who is a skilled dancer, son of the One who loves the Tandava dance (Shiva), who is a form of Shiva. Salutations always to you, the boon-bestowing gem, who blesses us with a clear intellect.

Here is Sujata Mohapatra dancing the Managalacharan.

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Filed under Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit

Mahalakshmi Ashtakam

Lakshmi2On this fourth day of Navaratri, chaturthi, I pay homage to Goddess Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To honour her, I offer the same prayer that I have recited every morning and evening for countless years, the Mahalakshmi Ashtakam. This prayer is from Padma Purana पद्म पुराण, a religious text dating roughly between the 8th and 11th centuries where this prayer is written as being chanted by Lord Indra.

I am happy to have found this exquisite dance set to this prayer. The lovely dancers  perform a Mohinattam, the classical dance form from Kerala. If you would like to learn to chant this sloka, click here.

Lyrics :


नमस्तेऽस्तु महामाये श्रीपीठे सुरपूजिते
शङ्खचक्रगदाहस्ते महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (१)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who is the illusory power of the universe, who lives in riches and is worshipped by the divine beings, who holds a conch, discus and mace in her hands.
नमस्ते गरुडारूढे कोलासुरभयङ्करि
सर्वपापहरे देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (२)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who rides an eagle, who frightened the demon Kolasura, who can remove all sin.
सर्वज्ञे सर्ववरदे सर्वदुष्टभयङ्करि
सर्वदुःखहरे देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (३)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who knows everything, who can grant any boon, who is fearsome to the wicked, who removes all sorrow.
सिद्धिबुद्धिप्रदे देवि भुक्तिमुक्तिप्रदायिनि
मन्त्रमूर्ते सदा देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (४)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who grants intelligence and success, who gives enjoyment and salvation, whose very form is a mantra.
आद्यन्तरहिते देवि आद्यशक्तिमहेश्वरि
योगजे योगसम्भूते महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (५)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who neither has a beginning nor end, who is the primeval power, who is the greatest Goddess, who is Yoga and born of Yoga.
स्थूलसूक्ष्ममहारौद्रे महाशक्ति महोदरे
महापापहरे देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (६)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, Goddess of the macro and the micro world, who is supreme power and holds all within her, remover of the greatest sings.
पद्मासनस्थिते देवि परब्रह्मस्वरूपिणि
परमेशि जगन्माता महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (७)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who is seated on a lotus, who is the personification of the Supreme Spirit, who is the supreme ruler, who is the mother of the world.
श्वेताम्बरधरे देवि नानालङ्कारभूषिते
जगत्स्थिते जगन्मातर्महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (८)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who is clad in white, who is adorned with various ornaments, who is the mother of the world and resides in it.


महालक्ष्म्यष्टकस्तोत्रं यः पठेद्भक्तिमान्नरः
सर्वसिद्धिमवाप्नोति राज्यं प्राप्नोति सर्वदा ||
एककाले पठेन्नित्यं महापापविनाशनम्
द्विकालं यः पठेन्नित्यं धनधान्यसमन्वितः ||
त्रिकालं यः पठेन्नित्यं महाशत्रुविनाशनम्
महालक्ष्मीर्भवेन्नित्यं प्रसन्न वरदा शुभा ||

Those believers who chant this prayer of eight verses will gain all success and sovereignty at all times. Those who recite it once a day will have their greatest sins removed. Those who recite it twice a day will be endowed with food and wealth (prosperity). Those who recite it thrice daily will have their greatest enemy (ego) destroyed and Mahalakshmi will always be with you, happily, and grace you with blessings .


Filed under Classical Dance, Religious

Bho Shambho

Sunday mornings my mother would hurry us up to get ready, my sister and I, to take us to the Chinmaya Mission classes. It was our equivalent of Sunday School. There we would hear stories from Hindu sacred texts,  memorize portions of  the Bhagawat Geeta  and learn other Shlokas.

सर्वे सुखिनो भवन्तु |
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ||
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु |
मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग् भवेत् ||
ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः ||

Let everyone be happy
Let everyone be without disease
Let everyone bear witness to good events
Let no-one have a share of sadness
Om Peace, Peace, Peace!!

What a good prayer! Those Vedic seers had vision – how can individual well-being stand on the shoulders of collective misery? Let us indeed pray for universal good!

What I learnt at 8, I still chant today. What has all this to do with the song ‘Bho Shambho’ ? Just that the song was written by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1930), a teacher of Vedanta, who had his roots in the Chinmaya Mission.  Subsequently, he founded the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and is to this day connected with this institution. Just as I learnt shlokas from the Chinmaya Mission, there are many young people learning Vedanta from his institutes today. I am so glad our ancient heritage continues to be taught.

His bhajans (devotional songs) have been sung and popularised by the Carnatic music maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam. I have always held a deep affection for the Maestro’s wonderful voice. Bho Shambho is set to the raga Revati (click here to know more about the raga) , a raga which always reduces me to tears and deep longing for I don’t even know what. Click below to listen :

Alternate link: Click here

For lyrics and meaning, see footnote.

There is a visual treat to follow : I present below a beautiful Bharatanatyam dance performance to this song by Croatian dancer Nikolina Nikoleski, student of Dr.Saroja Vaidyanathan. Her movements and postures bring to life this dance of Shiva, He who is the eternal dancer.

Footnote (Lyrics):

I have transcribed them in Sanskrit with an attempt at an accurate translation.

भो शम्भो शिव शम्भो स्वयंभो (= भु शम्भु शिव शम्भु स्वयम्भु )
bhO shambhO shiva shambhO svayambhO
being from whom all grace happens, Shiva, self-born
गङ्गाधर शंकर करुणाकर मामव भवसागर तारक
gangAdhara shankara karuNAkara mAmava bhavasAgar tAraka
source of the Ganges, the one who blesses (prefix शम् verb कृ ), he who is compassionate,  the boatman to cross the ocean of worldly existence
निर्गुण परब्रम्ह स्वरूप गमागम भूत प्रपन्च रहित
nirguNa parabramha swarUpa gamAgama bhUta prapancha rahita
supreme being who is attribute-less, who is beyond the past, present, the future and this world of five senses/five elements
निज गुह निहित नितान्त अनन्त आनन्द अतिशय अक्षय लिङ्ग
nija guha nihita nitAnta ananta Ananda atishaya akshaya linga
lives in depths of my heart yet in absolute infinity, blissful, unmatched, an eternal symbol
धिमित धिमित धिमि धिमिकिट किटतोम
dhimita dhimita dhimi dhimikiTa kiTatOm
rhythmic sounds of dance
तोम तोम तरिकिट तरिकिट किटतोम
tom tom tarikiTa tarikitA kiTatom
rhythmic sounds of dance
मतङ्ग मुनिवर वन्दित ईश
matanga munivara vandita Isha
Lord who is worshipped by the sage Matanga  (Matanga wrote a treatise on Indian music circa 6AD)
सर्व दिगम्बर वेष्टित वेष
sarva digambara vEshTita vEsha
he who is clothed in ‘sky’ = naked
नित्य निरञ्जन नित्य नटेश
nitya niranjana nitya naTesha
the one who is eternal, the cosmic dancer
ईश सबेष सर्वेश
Isha sabEsha sarvEsha
Lord, Lord of the stage, the Lord of the world



Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Swami Dayanand Saraswati

Shivaratri : Natanam Aadinar

Happy Shivaratri ! The Cosmic Dancer is very dear to me, especially as Nataraja, the Lord of dance & music. The idea of the eternal dance which keeps the rhythms of the universe is so alluring somehow. And to my art loving eyes, this form of Nataraja designed by sculptors of the Chola period (880-1279) is perfect. A beautiful synthesis of the active and the static, the circle representing both the whole and the infinite, Shiva perfectly balanced holding both symbols of destruction and  protection  – what a  perfect illustration of the concept of Shiva!!

I remember a book I read in my late teens called the Tao of Physics, which linked two worlds which fascinated me, Physics and Eastern Mysticism. The cover of the Indian edition of this book featured Shiva as Nataraja. The author Fritzof Capra says that “every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction…without end…For the modern physicists, then Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena.” For me, the macro world of the universe, the micro world of quantum physics, the subtle world of music and dance, the mysticism of Shiva’s Cosmic dance to the sound of the pranava – all these have merged into an intricately patterned whole.

To celebrate Shivaratri and his Cosmic Dance, I present the song Natanam Aadinar (He Danced) by Gopalakrishna Bharathi (1811-1896). The song is set to the raga Vasanta. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here. The lyrics are available on this site. As it is a traditional Bharatanatyam song, I went searching for a suitable clip and found this rather unusual street side performance. I hope you enjoy it !

Natanam Adinar–Raga Vasanta



Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi