Category Archives: Ambujam Krishna

Azhaga Azhaga

azhagar-koilAre Gods beautiful?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Footnote (Lyrics) 

Language : Tamil

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

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

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

மத்யமகால சாகித்தியம்

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

Transliteration

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

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

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

madyamakAla sAhityam

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

Translation

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

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

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

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

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

Ododi Vanden Kanna

Knowing the relationship between us, O Krishna, I came running! Having done millions of religious austerities, I came running to see you in Brindavanam!  Seeing the flute played with such beauty, the faces of the surrounding cowherdesses turn shy. As eyes full of love seek You, a smile curves at the edge of Your lips. Thus for eons and eons, as tone and tempo, the Lord of the world plays His music and the girls keep time.

Krishna and GopisCan one really fall in love with God in a romantic sense? And this love, is it to be called devotion then? Surprisingly enough, Hinduism accepts a purely romantic love for God as equal to any other form of Bhakti. Everyone knows the stories of Meera and Andal, but even outside of these famous examples, romantic verse for God abounds in our literature. Have we not heard of the beauty of His walk and Her eyes ? Of His feet and Her curls? Of His shoulders and Her smile? Why, I have even read some description of Goddesses which are almost risqué! Interestingly, even male poets take on a female persona to express their love for a masculine God.

While this romantic love for God may offend the sensibilities of other religions, it makes perfect sense to us Hindus. Romantic love enjoys a grand commonality, far beyond any borders and differences that we humans have imposed on ourselves. The call of the opposite sex is a powerful one, is it not? We should not underestimate the power of this force; people face up to extraordinarily difficult circumstances to achieve their desired ones. Why not channel this strong force towards God instead?

To illustrate poetry of this kind, I have chosen a beautiful song by Ambujam Krishna (1917-1989). ‘I came running’ says the poet ‘Knowing the relationship between us, I came running’. An alternate version can be translated as ‘Knowing that there is to be a liaison between us, I came running!’. The second version makes it more explicit that the relationship is romantic right from the beginning. The poet goes to on to describe Krishna, the player of the flute, and the adoring Gopis who dance around him; she seems to join this adoring mass. She goes on to say ‘Thus for eons and eons, as tone and tempo, the Lord of the world plays music and the girls keep time’.  Suddenly with this line we are taken away from the physical desire for an irresistibly handsome and alluring Krishna to his timeless divinity, the divinity which is like tone to our tempo, two aspects of the same music. A beautiful picture, is it not? She stresses the divinity with her words ‘The meaning of the Vedas dwell in union with you’. In one easy transition, we go from attraction to the form, to the realisation of Divinity and Divine knowledge. Set to raga Dharmavati (I think it is tuned by T.N.Seshagopalan but am unsure), enjoy this romantic song to God sung by the Master of mellifluous music, Unnikrishnan. To know more about this raga, click here.

(Alternate link : click here)

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

பல்லவி
ஓடோடி வந்தேன் கண்ணா நான்
உனக்கும் எனக்கும் உள்ள உறவை (alt: உறவினை) அறிந்து
Alternate : உனக்கும் எனக்கும் உள்ள உறவென்று அறிந்து

அனுபல்லவி
கோடானு கோடி தவம் செய்து உன்னை காண
கோவிந்தா என்றழைத்து பிருந்தாவனத்திடை

சரணம்
(கண்ணன்) குழல் ஊதும் எழில் காணவே
கூடும் கோபியர்கள் முகம் நாணவே
காதல் விழி உந்தன் முகம் நாடவே
முறுவல் இதழோரம் சுழித்தோடவே

(மத்யம கால சாகித்யம்)
(ஜகந்)நாதன் இசை பாட நங்கை ஜதி போட
கால காலமெல்லாம்   சுருதியும் லயமும் என
வேதப் (alt:வேதம்) பொருள் உந்நில்  ஒன்றி உறைந்திடவே
போதம் மிகு காதல் பொன் அடி தனில் கொண்டு

Transliteration

pallavi
ODODi vandEn kaNNA nAn
unakkum enakkum uLLa uRavai aRrindu

anupallavi
kODAnu kODi tavam seidu unnai kANa
gOvindA enDRazhaittu brndAvanattiDai

charaNam
(kaNNan) kuzhal Udum ezhil kANavE
kUDum gOpiyargaL mukham nANavE
kAdal vizhi undan mukham nADavE
muRuval idazhOram shuzhittODavE

(madhyamakAla sAhityam)

( jagan) nAthan isai pADa nangai jati pODa
kAla kAlamellAm shrutiyum layamum ena
vEdap-poRuL unnil onDRi uRaindiDavE
bOdam migu kAdal pon aDi tanil koNDu

Translation

Knowing (aRindu) the relationship (uRavu) between us (unakkum enakkum Ulla), O Krishna, I came running (ODODi vandEn)!

Having done (seidu) millions (kODAna kODi) of religious austerities (tavam), (I came) to see you (unnai kANa) in Brindavanam calling (enDRaizhaiitu) Govinda!

Seeing the flute (kuzhal) played (Udum) with such beauty (ezhil) , as the faces (mukham) of the surrounding (kUDum)  cowherdesses (gOpiyargaL) turn shy (nANavE). As eyes (vizhi) full of love (kAdal) seek (nADavE) your face (undan mukham), a smile (muRuval) curves (shuzhi) at the edge (Oram) of your lips (idazh).  Thus for eons and eons (kAla kAlamellam), as tone (shruti) and tempo (layam), the Lord of the world (jagan nAthan) plays music (isai pADa) and the girls (nangai) keeps time (jati pODa). The meaning (poRul) of the Vedas dwell (uRaindiDavE) in union (onDRi) with you (unnil). With wise (bOdam) love (kAdal) for your golden (pon) feet (aDi), (I came running…)

 

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Filed under Ambujam Krishna, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Unnikrishnan

Pozhudu Miga Achchude

Radha in VirahaViraha bhava or the mood of pain caused by separation is very popular in Indian poetry and music. The anxiety faced by the nayika (female protagonist) when separated from her beloved, her suffering and her intense need for reunion is featured again and again in Indian literature.

Seemingly, there is no gender equality here as mostly the poetry or prose depicts the nayika  as the one who suffers. This may well be because this pain of separation is also associated with the women who leave their maternal homes after being wed. The songs of bidai, the ceremony to bid farewell to the bride, sing of viraha bhava as well.

In the spiritual world, Viraha is one of the nine paths of Bhakti listed in Narada Sootra. It is defined as the love within the intense pain of separation from God. Very popular in the Krishna cult, it is Radha’s suffering when separated from Krishna which the devotee experiences. Is this pain not just the longing for completeness? Hinduism often portrays the Ultimate as a male-female duality. Vishnu encompasses Lakshmi whom he holds in His vakshasthalam – in His chest close to his heart. Shiva and Shakti are often shown as two halves of the whole – as Ardhanarishwarar. Sankhya philosophy proposed by Sage Kapila talks of Purusha-Prakriti,  consciousness and matter, the experiencer and the experienced. Is it a coincidence that Purusha also means a man, and Prakriti a woman?  Just as Vishnu is incomplete without Lakshmi, Shiva without Shakti and Purusha without Prakriti, the bhakta is incomplete without his Lord. In fact, Viraha is welcomed by the bhakta as it acknowledges his oneness with God and the union which is to come.

Many poets have written on this theme of viraha. Today I have chosen a beautiful song written by Ambujam Krishna(1917-1989). She says ‘It becomes late, why has Krishna, who left me alone, not come back yet?  Perhaps the ladies who gathered around him when they heard his flute have cast a net with their glances and drawn him away? While I lament and writhe in agony like a worm here, is he talking and laughing with the women? Has he forgotten his words to me – ‘My parrot (a term of endearment), I’ll not leave you even for a moment!’ ? Has he abandoned this naive woman?’. Ambujam Krishna  writes words which ring true. Her viraha bhava is tinged with jealousy and doubt. If you would like to know more about this poet, read this nice tribute published in the Hindu in 2004. She did not set her poetry to music. I am unsure who did set this song to the raga Revati but it suits it so very well. To know more about the raga Revati, click here.

Listen to Bombay Jayashri’s very pleasant rendition here.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Tamil

பல்லவி
பொழுது மிகவாச்சுதே
என்னை விட்டுப் போன கண்ணன்
வரக் காணேனே -சகி

அனுபல்லவி
குழலோசை கேட்டு கூடிடும் மங்கையர்
விழியால் வலை வீசி அழைத்து சென்றனரோ

சரணம்
புழுவென நான் இங்கு புலம்பி துடிக்கையிலே
பூவையுரடன் அங்கு பேசிச் சிரிக்கப்போ ?
பைங்கிளி உன்னை கணம் பிரிகிலேன் என்ற
பேச்சும் மறந்தானோ பேதையை துறந்தானோ ?

Transliteration

Pallavi
pozhudu migavAchchudE ennai viTTup-pOna kaNNan varak kANEnE sakI

Anupallavi
kuzhalOsai kETTu kUDiDum mangaiyar vizhiyaAl valai veesi azhaittu sendranarO

Charanam
puzhuvena nAn ingu pulambi tuDikkayile pUvaiyaruDan angu pEsi sirikkappO
paingiLi unnaik-kaNam pirigilEn endra pEchchum marandAnO pEdaiyait-turandAnO

Translation

It becomes late, why has Krishna, who left me alone, not come back yet? Perhaps the ladies who gathered around him when they heard his flute have cast a net with their glances and drawn him away? While I lament and writhe in agony like a worm here, is he talking and laughing with the women? Has he forgotten his words to me – ‘My parrot (a term of endearment), I’ll not leave you even for a moment!’ ? Has he abandoned this naive woman?’

 

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Filed under Ambujam Krishna, Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil