Category Archives: Koteeswara Iyer

Velum Mayilume

Only the spear and the peacock will be victorious at all times ! O Mind, worship Lord Murugan day and night! Even when the God of Death comes, the spear and peacock will be victorious.

Velum MayilumThis has been a long-distance house hunting week for me. In 2014, my son is starting his medical career with an internship at the hospital in Bendigo, a city which is about 170 kms from where we live. Though unsuccessful in finding a suitable home, we both enjoyed the eight hours of music we heard on our two trips this week. I never realised how lonesome I normally get in this musical world of mine; my husband does not share my passion. My son, however, loves it like I do. To share the pleasure in a particular sangati, to nod heads in unison to a well-executed neraval, to gasp at an intricately woven kalpana swaram –all this very much enhanced my listening pleasure.

While discussing different ragas with my son, it occurred to me that one could categorize ragas in the same way as we categorize astrological signs or rashis into the four elements – Earth, Air, Water and Fire. We have ragas like Kambhoji, Madhyamavati and Darbar which are strong but peaceful, earthed, stable. We have ragas like Hindolam, Sindhu Bhairavi, Brindavana Saranga, and Madhuvanti which weave and flow airily like colourful kites on a windy day. We have ragas like Shubhapantuvarali, Kapi, Shivaranjani and Nilamani which can be like deep dark still water or ripple like a brook. We have ragas like Atana, Bhairavi, Gambheera Natta and Gowla  which are forceful, crackling like a forest fire at times, burning fierce at others. Depending on our mood, we are drawn to one or the other; or vice versa, we are drawn into that mood by the raga. I proposed this classification to my son and we had great fun arguing over the mood of each raga we heard!

To test whether we all react to notes in similar ways, I have a little game for us today. I am presenting an interesting and rare raga today, perhaps something you have not heard much before. A vivadi raga with two sets of notes which are very close together, it has a unique sound. So tell me, in which of our four classifications would you say it belongs?

To present Velum Mayilume in Sucharitra by Koteeswara Iyer, here is a rendition by Sanjay Subrahmanyan. And don’t forget to leave a comment with your classification of this raga – Earth, Water, Air or Fire? To know more about the raga, click here.

Alternate Link : Click here, song 3 (Needs free membership of There is also a live video recording from a different performance here.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

My gratitude to Mr.Lakshman Ragde for help with the lyrics.

Composer : Koteeswara Iyer
Raga : Sucharitra

Language : Tamil

வேலும் மயிலுமே எவ்வேளையிலுமே வெல்லுமே -வெற்றி
(note: original lyrics say வேலு not வேலும் though its sung as the latter)

காலை மாலையுமே மனமே துதி (alt: துது )(கந்தனை)
காலன் வரினுமே -கந்தன்

சித்ரகவி நக்கீரன் தத்தை தவிர்த்த தீரன்
கஜவத்ர வீரபத்ர வீரபாகு சோதரன்
ஆறு வத்ர வசிகரன் சுசரித்ர சுசிகரன்
விசித்ர கவி குஞ்சரதாச மித்ர ருசீகரன் – சக்தி


vElum mayilumE evvELaiyilumE vellumE -veTri
(note: original lyrics say vElu not vElum, but its sung as the latter)

kAlai mAlaiyumE manamE tudi (alt: tudu) (kandanai)
kAlan varinumE -kandan

chitrakavi nakkIran tattai tavirtta dhIran
gajavatra vIrabhadra vIrabAhu sOdaran
Aruvatra vasikaran sucharitra susikaran
vichitra kavi kunjaradAsa mitra ruchIkaran -shakti


Only the spear (vEl) and the peacock (mayil) will be victorious (vellumE) at all times (evvElaiyulE)!

O Mind, (manamE) worship (tudi) (alt: make a close search into (tudu)) Kandan day (kAlai) and night (mAlai)! Even when the God of Death (kAlan)comes (varinumE), (the spear and peacock will be victorious).

He is the courageous one (dhIran) who relieved (tavirtta) the peril (tattai) to the poet Nakkeeran. He is the brother of the elephant-faced one (gaja vatra), Veerabhadra and Veerabahu. He is the six-faced one (Aru vatra), most charming (vasikaran), pure (susikaran) one with good conduct (sucharitra in Sanskrit, also name of Raga) . He is the friend (mitra) of the poet (vichitra kavi kunjaradAsa, signature of poet) and gives him much pleasure (ruchikaran).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Koteeswara Iyer

Edayya Gati

What refuge have I but you? My compassionate one ! Son of Shiva ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you! Accepting this ignorant person, why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary!

FutilityIt was in August last year. I was confidently striding towards my gate in San Francisco airport. I had had an enjoyable holiday and was feeling good about myself. 2011 had started badly for me. My pre-existing bad back, a slipped-disk in my lower back, had raised its ugly head and had crippled me at the start of the year. I was making a slow recovery from it when I twisted my ankle badly and tore a ligament. A couple of months later, I re-twisted the same ankle. So when in August I managed my rather demanding touristic visit without pain, I was very pleased with myself. ‘Maybe I can restart my fitness routines’ I told myself, aware of having gained a quite few of the inches that I had previously lost in my ongoing battle-of-the-bulge. I felt strong and able. And so I was striding confidently, just as I stated at the start of my tale.

It was therefore a shock when my feet slipped under me and I found myself dropping awkwardly to the floor. I felt something give as my knee twisted outwards at an unnatural angle. I finally saw the little pool of liquid that someone had dropped, a pool which was virtually invisible in the shiny black floor. Even as pain shot through me I wondered ‘Have we no control over our lives then? Here I was feeling so good about myself! How delusional am I!’.

Thus everyday everywhere people are striding along confidently when the rug is pulled under their feet. Are our ceaseless endeavours meaningless then? Are we no better than the hamsters who run ceaselessly to remain at the same place? It all seems so futile!!

Such were my thoughts as I struggled uphill in my latest quest towards fitness, my knee throbbing painfully. I know that something is wrong again and I dread a visit to the doctor. As I pondered my helplessness, the song playing in my ipod made utter sense. ‘What refuge have I but you?’ says Koteeswara Iyer in the exquisite pathos of Raga Chalanatta. ‘Why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me?’. Surely anything this futile can be nothing else but a game? For lyrics and translation of this short song, see footnote. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.

I have vacillated over my selection today, there are so many renditions I like! I especially enjoy the versions by Sanjay Subrahmanyan and Sikkil Gurucharan. But finally I could not move away from Tanjore S.Kalyanaraman’s wonderful presentation of this song. This is a live, amateur recording and the sound quality is poor. But do ignore the extraneous noise and focus on the music, it is such a treat!

And for an instrumental, listen to the speaking violin of A.Kanyakumari. I am a big fan of her music, she is an immense talent.


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language: Tamil

ஏதய்யா கதி எனக்-

மா தயாநிதி உமாபதி சுகுமார வரகுணநிதி
நீதான் அல்லது வேற் (ஏதய்யா)

பேதை   ஏற்க உன்னருள் காட்டாது
என்னோடேதைய்யா விளையாட்டா
பூதல சலநாட்டா நின் தாள் தான் கதி
புகழ் கவி குஞ்சர தாசனக்கு வேற் (ஏதய்யா)


EdayyA gati enakk-

mA dayAnidhi umApati sukumAra varaguNa nidhi nI dAn alladu vEr

pEdai Erkka un aruL kATTAdu ennODEdayyA vilaiyATTa
bhUtalA chalanATTa nin tAL tAn gati pugazh kavi kunjaradAsanukku vEr


What refuge have I but you?

My compassionate one ! Son of Uma’s husband (Shiva) ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you (are my refuge)!

In not showing your mercy in accepting this ignorant person, are you playing a game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary. For this poet Kunjaradasa who else but you (are my refuge)!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kanyakumari, Koteeswara Iyer, S.Kalyanaraman

Arul Seiyya Vendum Ayya

Svanubhava JaffnaI have been admiringly following T.M.Krishna’s cultural initiative Svanubhava for the last couple of years. His initiative aims to contribute towards the further education of the students of  performing arts of India. It was inaugurated in Chennai in 2008 and since then there has been a festival each year with free concerts, lecture demonstrations and discussions at Kalakshetra. Last year the programs were webcast so I had the pleasure of watching them all the way from Switzerland. In 2011 the festival was taken to Delhi and this year they had a festival in Jaffna, Sri Lanka last week. The programs are being webcast this week, each for a 24-hr period, and I have been following them. To learn more about Svanubhava events, join their community in facebook. It is indeed a praiseworthy initiative; my heartfelt admiration to T.M.Krishna and his team!

Today I watched the lecdem by the accompanying violin artist Nagai Sriram and percussion artists Ganapathy Raman and Papanasam Sethuraman on the intricacies of supporting the principal artist. It was quite interesting. This was followed by a short kutcheri by T.M.Krishna. He started with a very brisk and scintillating Arul Seiyya Vendum Ayya in the rare Melakarta Raga Rasikapriya and then continued with the short Sevikka Vendum Aiyya in Andolika. His main piece was Kana Kan Kodi Vendum in Kamboji. I especially enjoyed the neraval which TMK performed with verve and energy. This was followed by  Eppo Varuvaro, a Thillana in Behag and Parukulle Nalla Nadu. All his music selection was in Tamil, quite logical considering the audience in Jaffna. If you have the time today, you may be able to view the concert yourself.

The composer Koteeswara Iyer (1870-1936) is well-known for the fact that he composed in each of the 72 Melakartas. To know more about the raga Rasikapriya, click here. In this composition, he prays for the blessings of Lord Muruga. ‘What is this illusion which makes us think of instable body as being immortal? Bless me that I may live thinking only of you as being everlasting’ he says. To see lyrics and translation, see footnote.

Listen to T.M.Krishna’s wonderfully lively performance below :

To listen to an instrumental version, I found only one in my collection showing how rarely this song is performed! Here is GJR Krishnan on the violin.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

அருள் செய்ய வேணும்/வேண்டும் அய்யா- அரசே முருகய்யா நீ
அருள் செய்ய வேணும்/வேண்டும் அய்யா

மருளுரவே என்னை மயக்கிடும் மாய வல்
இருள் அறவே ஞான சூரியன் என வந்தோர் சொல் (அருள்)

நிலையா காயம் இலையே இதனை
நிலையென்று எண்ணுவதென்ன மாயம்
நிலையென்று உனையே  நினைந்து நான் உய்ய
alternate: நிலையின் துணையே நினைந்து நான் உய்ய
நேச கவி குஞ்சரதாச ரசிகப்பிரியா (அருள்)

aruL seiyya vEnum/vENDum ayyA -arasE murugayyA nI
aruL seiyya vEnum/vENDum ayyA

maruL uravE ennai mayakkiDum mAya val
iruL aRavE jnAna sUriyan ena vandOr sol (arul)

nilaiyA kAyam ilaiyE idanai
nilai enDru eNNuvadenna mAyam
nilaiyenDru unaiyE ninaindu nAn uyya
alternate: nilaiyin tuNaiyE ninaindu nAn uyya
nEsa kavi kunjaradAsa rasikapriya (arul)


Please bless me, O Lord Muruga!

I am deluded by liquor which is but poison and gambling (deceitful dice). It is said that you are the remover of darkness, O effulgent abode of knowledge, so bless me O Lord Muruga.

What is this illusion which makes us think of instable body as being immortal? Bless me that I may live thinking only of you as being everlasting. Your loving devotee Kunjara Dasa (signature) in Rasikapriya raga.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Koteeswara Iyer, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, T.M.Krishna