Category Archives: Maharajapuram Santhanam

Nanda Gopala

Happy Janmashtami to everyone! May Lord Krishna shower us all with his blessings!

I write so very rarely here that my readers have surely abandoned me! But I could not let this day pass without at least a simple offering from my part. You see, our own Gopala has come calling upon us! My daughter-in-law and son have presented me with a grandson who arrived just a few days ago. It seemed right to celebrate this happy occasion with a post to honour Janmashtami. The good God has showered me with the best of blessings, the chance to dote upon another little grandchild.

A few weeks ago I had a very lucid dream, a dream in which I was half-aware of dreaming. In that dream, Goddess Durga came to me, tall and beautiful, clad in red. She handed a child in my arms and leant down to hug me. She was a Goddess, I should have been looking at her, I should have fallen at her feet. Instead, in my dream, I stare down in fascination at the little child in my arms, who stares back at me with wide, beautiful eyes. I don’t know if it was a figment of my imagination, or the Goddess came in truth. But it is clear that all the lectures I hear on vedanta, on remaining unattached, have failed!! My grandchildren have tied me up in their web of love…

This is my life.

Last week, I am telling my first grandson about the baby in his aunt’s belly who is soon to arrive. He looks at his soft, 3 year old belly and back up at me.

When will I have a baby in my tummy, Patti ?‘ he asks.

Boys don’t get babies in their tummy. One day, you will find a nice girl who will be your wife and then she will have your baby in her tummy‘. I explain. He looks nonplussed.

Where will I find her ?‘ he asks in puzzlement. I smile and say not to worry, he will find her when the time is right. But my little fellow has a plan.

‘Will you be my wife Patti ?‘ he asks trustingly.

I laugh. ‘No my Bajji, you have to find someone your own age‘.

But why Patti, I love you best!’ he protests.

I melt into a puddle for this wonderous little fellow I have the privilege to love.

Then there is the little one, almost one. I sit on the floor, watching him while he crawls around exploring our rather large home. Every now and then, he crawls back to me, smiling his gummy smile while drool dribbles onto his already soaking wet bib. Climbing onto my lap, he rests his head on my chest and sucks his thumb with a contended sigh. That contentment passes on to me as I too sit quietly, gently rocking his soft, warm body. I don’t know what you all call joy, but that moment, for me, defines joy.

Yesterday, I met my third grandchild for the first time. Covid rules here don’t allow hospital visits; he is already 2 days old when I hold him. His weight is like nothing in my hands, yet it is everything at the same time. I stare at his well defined features, his dark hair, his rosebud mouth. Emotion wells up in me, tears stream down my face as I take in this new love of my life. He sleeps through it all; I have yet to see the eyes I saw in my dream.

We are going to be the best of friends‘ I whisper to him. His lips curl up.

Look, look, he is smiling for me‘ I exclaim to my son.

He’s just scrunching his face‘ laughs my son. But I know better. We are going to be the best of friends.

So it is in joy that I offer this lovely song by Muthuswami Dikshithar (this attribution is questioned by some people) in the soft, melodious raga Yamuna Kalyani. As I translate it, it sounds more like a bhajan, just a string of words in praise of the blue-hued one. Presented below is the great Maharajapuram Santhanam whose rendition is both familiar and beloved.

For an instrumental version, here is the very talented flautist Jayanth with his lovely rendition.

Footnote : Lyrics

Language : Sanskrit
Raga : Yamuna Kalyani

नन्द गोपाल मुकुन्द
गोकुल नन्दन यमुना तीर विहार

मन्दर गिरि धर मामव माधव
मुरळी धर मधु सूदन हरे

मन्द हास वदन मञ्जुळ चरण
अरविन्द लोचन आश्रित रक्षण
पीताम्बर धर पन्नग शयन
कलि कल्मष हरण करुणा पूरण
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
वन्दित मुनि वृन्द गुरु गुहानन्द
वैकुण्ठ स्थितानन्द कन्द
गोवर्धनोद्धार गोप स्त्री जार गोविन्द

Transliteration in English :

nanda gOpAla mukunda
gOkula nandana yamunA tIra vihAra

mandara giri dhara mAmava mAdhava
muraLI dhara madhu sUdana harE

manda hAsa vadana manjuLa charaNa
aravinda lOchana ASHrita rakshaNa
pItAmbara dhara pannaga shayana
kali kalmasha haraNa karuNA pUraNa
vandita muni vRnda guru guhaAnanda
vaikuNTHa sthitAnanda kanda
gOvardhanOddhAra gOpa strI jAra gOvinda

Translation :

O cowherd (gOpala) of Nanda! O giver (da) of liberation (muku)! O One in whom Gokula rejoices (nandana)! O One who takes pleasure (vihAra) on the banks (tIra) of Yamuna!

O One who holds (dhara) the Mandara hill! O Madhava! O One who holds (dhara) a flute (muraLI)! O One who destroyed (sUdana) Madhu! O Hari! Protect (ava from verb av) me (mAm)!

O One with a gentle smile (manda-hAsa) on his face (vadana)! O One with beautiful (manjuLa) feet (charaNa)! O One with eyes (lochana) like a lotus (aravinda)! O One who protects (rakshaNa) those who seek refuge (Ashrita)! O One who wears (dhara) yellow (pIta) garments (ambara)! O One who reclines (shayana) on a serpent (pannaga)! O One who removes (haraNa) the sins/wickedness/impurities (kalmasha) of the Kali Yuga! O One who is full of (pUraNa) compassion (karuNA)! O One who is praised (vandita) by a numerous (vRnda) sages (muni)! O One who delights (Ananda) Guruguha (the composer’s mudra/signature)! O One who resides (sthita) in Vaikuntha! O the root-source (kanda) of bliss (Ananda)! O One who held up/raised (uddhAra) the Govardana hill! O Paramour (jAra) of the herdswomen (gOpa strI)! O Govinda!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Muthuswami Dikshithar

Sudhamayi Sudhanidhi

kadri-gopalnathWhat a great loss we Carnatic Music lovers have had this past week! Kadri Gopalnath, the saxophonist par excellence, is no more. A man who bent his will over the saxophone such that it blew to his tune, a man who paved an untrodden path to show that the saxophone is an instrument of choice for Carnatic Music, a man of immense talent that we have all admired over many years, he is a man who will never be forgotten. I dedicate this post to this man and his music. May he play his sax in celestial spheres for evermore.

In selecting a song to honour Kadri Gopalnath, I have chosen a devi kriti. Navaratri has passed by without my having made a single post.  This is my first miss for Navaratri since I started this blog in 2011. I cannot believe that one year I had even managed nine kritis for the nine days of Navaratri! So very belatedly, I am presenting this beautiful song to honour Goddess Ambika. This song is particularly suitable as the poet-composer Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar describes the Goddess as being ornamented with beautiful ragas. A post to honour a musician who created beautiful music and a Goddess who is adorned with the same is a good match, don’t you think! I also felt that a raga which is called Amrutavarshini or ‘she who showers the ambrosia of immortality’  is a good choice to honour a man whose music will remain immortal. At times, when I have listened to his music, when notes follow cascading notes, I have felt bathed in the beauty of music. The man who made the music has passed as I too will one day, but I imagine those moments of beauty remaining suspended little gems floating in the atmosphere for eternity.

Out of nostalgia, I am presenting a rendition from an old recording of Kadri Gopalnath from 1985, a rendition which is so very familiar to me.

Alternate link : Click here 

For a vocal version, I have chosen a recording from the same era. I have always had a great liking for Maharajapuram Santhanam who sings Sudhamayee with an effortless charm which I am sure you will appreciate.

Start video at 45:11.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar
Raga : Amrutavarshini
Language : Sanskrit

सुधामयी सुधानिधि सुमशरेक्षु कोदण्डे

विधीन्द्र नुत विमले सलहौ वेद सारे विजयाम्बिके

सरसिजाक्षि जगन्मोहिनी सरसराग मणि भूषणी
हरिकेश प्रिय कामिनी आनन्दामृत वर्षिणी (alt: कर्षिणी )

sudhAmayI sudhAnidhi sumasharEkshu kOdanDE

vidhIndra nuta vimalE salahau vEda sArE vijayAmbikE

sarasijAkshi jaganmOhinI sarasarAga maNi bhUshaNI
harikEsha priya kAminI AnandAmRuta varshiNI (alt: karshiNI)


O Goddess (implied) who is imbued with (-mayI) and is a reservoir (nidhi) of nectar (sudhA), O Goddess (implied) who holds a bow (kOdanDE) made of sugarcane (ikshu) with arrows (shara) of flowers (suma).

O Goddess Vijambika who is praised (nuta) by Brahma (vidhi) and Indra, O Pure  One (vimalE)! O Goddess (implied) who is the essence (sArE) of the Vedas! Protect me (salahau – this word is in Kannada, not Sanskrit)!

O Lotus-eyed one (sarasija-Lotus, akshi-Eyes)!! O Goddess (implied) who fascinates (mohini) the whole world (jagat)! She who is decorated (bhUshaNI) by the gems (maNi) of beautiful (sarasa) ragas. The loving woman (kaminI) who is dear to (priya) Lord Shiva (harikEsha which is also the poet’s signature), She who showers (varshiNI) us (implied) with the ambrosia of immortal (amRuta) bliss (Ananda) [I’m unsure of the translation of the alternative version]

Note about translation : The lyrics were easy to translate except for the word Salahau. I looked up multiple dictionaries but could not find this word. Is it a typo, I wondered. Or perhaps a declension of some other word? Checking declension tables did not help. I searched for other uses of this word, but only MB seems to have used this word in his kritis. There was no trace of this word in kritis by any other composers. How odd, I thought! I have had a cataract operation only day before yesterday and am still struggling with my eyesight so all this computer work made me quite dizzy. I was almost giving it up after more than 2 hours of searches when I finally found a mention in an old article in Carnatica that this word is in Kannada and the Bhagavatar has often thrown in a few Kannada words into his Sanskrit compositions. Finally the mystery was resolved! All of you Kannada speakers are no doubt wondering at my ignorance!


Filed under Compositions in Sanskrit, Kadri Gopalnath, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Muthiah Bhagavatar

Needaan Mechchi Kolla Vendum

Bala GopalaA very happy Janmashtami (Gokulashtami, Sri Jayanti) to everybody!

This year is very special for me because I have my own Bala Gopala to play with! I am, of course, referring to my little grandson who is now 8 months old. The representation of Krishna crawling with butter in his hands, that would be about that age, wouldn’t it? You know that mischievous look that artists add to His eyes? Well, my little grandson has the very same look sometimes! The other day, I was tucking him into his bed for his nap. I neatly tucked in one side and walked around the cot to reach the other. By the time I did that, little Rohit had pulled the cover out and sat up, eyes twinkling and laughing at me! By the time I went from one side to another a few times, this had become the best of games 🙂 I finally told him firmly that he could sleep with no covers for a change and walked out of his room with a smile of my own, very proud of the little one’s bout of mischief! Ah, there you see is a conundrum of sorts, this pride in a child’s mischief, what’s that about? Is it because the mischief represents an agile mind and a sense of humour which we do take pride in?

My darling grandson has other tricks up his sleeve too! He has this way of looking away from me, as if gazing seriously at something far away. I would try to get his attention by making silly sounds or calling his name but he would keep his eyes averted. But I know his attention is on me as a little smile lifts one corner of his mouth 🙂 All the adults around him are totally attentive to him, so where did he learn this trick?  Native mischievousness, that’s what! Oh the love I feel for him when he plays this game with me! My heart overflows!

This is the emotion that Oothukadu Venkata Kavi wants us to capture and direct towards our bala Gopala, the divine child who will play games with us forever. The Kavi has done a brilliant job in conveying the pride in Yashoda’s ‘voice’ even as she tells her friend, ‘Only you will praise Krishna!’  What a perfect balance between pride and frustration in Yashoda’s description of her son’s doings!! Set to Raga Sriranjani, this song is popular with dancers as there is a lot of scope for abhinaya.

To enjoy this song, please listen below to an old recording by T.N.Seshagopalan.

I am also very fond of this version by Maharajapuram Santanam.

I was really keen to include a dance video, but the best I found is this very short version by the talented Harinie Jeevitha. Hope you enjoy it!

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Oothukadu Venkata Kavi
Raga : Sriranjani
Language : Tamil

நீதான் மெச்சிக் கொள்ள வேண்டும் (alt: வேணும் )
எங்கள் நீல நிற மேனி மாதவன் செய்வது
நிமிஷம் போவது யுகமாய் ஆகுது

காதாரக் குழலூதி கன்றோடு (alt: கன்றுடன் ) விளையாடி
கண் முன்னே வந்து நின்று ஆட்டமும் ஆடி
ஏதேதோ ஜாலங்கள் செய்வதும் ஓடி ஓடி
எழிலுரு மங்கையர் மனைதொறும்  (alt: மனைதனில்)  புகுந்து
களவாடிடும் எனதாருயிர் மகனை

செய்யும் துஷ்டத்தனத்திற்கோர் எல்லையே இல்லை
தேடிப் பிடிக்க என்றால் (alt: என்னால்) சக்தியும் இல்லை
கையும் களவுமாக (alt: களவுமாக்க ) காலமும் வல்லை
ஆனால் காலம் தவறாது கோள் சொல்ல வந்து நின்ற (alt: வந்த )
மாதர்க்கு விடை சொல்ல நேரமும் இல்லை

கட்ட எண்ணிக் கயிற்றைத் தேடியும் காணோம்
கைக்கான கயிறெல்லாம் அளவாகக் காணோம்
மட்டம் என உரலோடு கட்டிடத் தோணும் ஆனால்
மட மட எனும்  ஒலி செவி புக வந்தால்
மருத மரம் இரண்டை காணவே காணோம்


nI dAn mechchi koLLa vENDum (alt: vENum)
engAL nIla nira mEni mAdavan seivadu
nimisham pOvadu yugamAy Agudu

kAdAra kuzhal Udi kanDRODu (alt: kanDRuDan) viLaiyADi
kaN munnE vandu ninDRu ATTamum ADi
EdEdO jAlangaL seivadum ODi ODi
ezhiluru mangaiyar manaitorum (alt: manaitanil) pugundu
kaLavADidum enadAruyir maganai

seyyum dushTattanattiRkOr ellaiyE illai
tEDip piDikka enDRAl shaktiyum illai
kaiyum kaLavumAga kAlamum vallai
AnAl kAlam tavarDadu kOL solla vandu ninDRa (alt: vanda)
mAdarkku viDai solla nEramum illai

kaTTa eNNIk-kayiTRait-tEDiyum kANOm
kaikkAna kayirellAm aLavagak-kANOm
maTTam ena uralODu kaTTiDa tONum ANAl
maDa maDa enum oli sevi puga vandAl
maruda maram iraNDai kANavE kANOm


(note – the alternate word usages do not change the overall meaning so I have not translated them)

Only you (nI dAn) will praise (mechchi koLLa vENDum) Krishna (implied)! With the doings (seivadu) of our (engaL) blue-skinned (nIla nira mEni) Madhava, each moment (nimisham) which passes (pOvadu) becomes (Agudu) an eon (yugamAy)!

Only you will praise (implied from pallavi) my (en) dearest (Aruyir) son (maganai) who plays (Udi – literally, blows) the flute (kuzhal) to our heart’s content (kAdu Ara – literally, to the solace of the ear), who plays (viLayADi) with the calf (kanDRODu), who also (-um) comes to stand (vandu ninDRu) and dance (ATTam ADi) in front (munnE) of one’s eyes (kaN) , and who does (seivadum) all kinds of (EdEdO) magical things (jAlangal), who runs constantly (Odi Odi), getting into (pugundu) all the houses (manai+tOrum) of young women (mangai) with elegant (ezhil) forms (uru) and stealing (kaLavADum)!!

There is no (illai) limit (Or ellai) to the mischief (dushtatanattirku) he gets into (seyyum, literally does)! There is neither strength (shakti) nor has the time (kAlam) come (vallai, contraction of varavillai) if He is to be (endRAl) searched (tEDi) and caught (piDikka) red-handed (kaiyum kalavumAga)! Nor do I have the time (nEramum illai) to answer (viDai solla) the ladies (mAdar-kku) who never miss an opportunity (kAlam tavarAdu) to come (vandu niDRa) and complain (kOL solla)!

In spite of searching (tEDiyum) for a rope (kayiTRai) with the thought of (eNNik) of tying Him (kaTTa), it can’t be found (kANOm, literally-not seen)! And all (ellAm) the ropes (kayir) which are found at hand (kaikkAna) aren’t long enough (aLaVAga kANOm)!  Finding (implied) something of the right measure (maTTam ena), the thought would come (tONum) to tie Him (kaTTiDa) to the mortar (uralODu). But then (AnAl) a rustling sound (maDa maDa enum oli) would be heard (sevi-ear puga-enter vandAl-come to), and the two (iraNDai) Indian Laurel trees (maruda maram) would be visible no more (kANavE kANOm)! [Note: This refers to an incident from Krishna’s childhood]


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, T.N.Seshagopalan, Uncategorized

Nada Loludai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternate Link : Click here

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

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

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

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

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Kalyana Vasantam
Language : Telugu
(I do not speak Telugu and the information below is dependent on various web sources)

नाद लोलुडै ब्रह्मा-
नन्दमन्दवे मनसा

स्वादु फल प्रद सप्त
स्वर राग निचय सहित

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


nAda lOluDai brahmA
nandamandavE manasA

svAdu phala prada sapta
svara rAga nichaya sahita

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


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

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


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

Yaar Enna Sonnalum

Oothukkadu Kalinga Nartana KrishnaHave you ever asked yourself ‘What if I am wrong in my beliefs? What if there is no God, no karma, no rebirth, nothing but nothingness when we are done here?‘. I don’t mean like a crisis of faith, but just those fleeting thoughts which linger, unanswered and unanswerable. The truth is, of course, we are all equally in the dark, the believers as well as the non-believers. Very often it is the non-believer’s arguments which seem more rational, more scientific. And even worse, the stories in the newspapers are of atrocities committed by believers, whatever genre their belief may be, rather than the non-believers. In this climate, it is hard not to eye the whole ‘belief’ thing with a certain wariness.

This struggle with belief is not new to Hinduism.  You may already know of the Nasadiya Sukta नासदीय सूक्त (Hymn of Creation) of the Rigveda. The last two couplets are of particular interest, which I quote below.

को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |
अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥
इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |
यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥

But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know.

Rig Veda 10:129, Translation by A.L Basham (source)

It is so gloriously open-ended, isn’t it! These verses are about creation but there is something more fundamental, as if even the existence of the Gods and their power over creation is questioned. If even the Vedic seers had such questions in their minds, who will blame us if we do?

And yet there it is, my faith. Perhaps it is childhood indoctrination; in fact it almost certainly is that. However it has been such an old friend to me, has shaped my own character and the choices I have made in life so very much that it cannot be separated from me without causing grievous damage to all that I am. I very much identify with this quote by William Sloane Coffin Jr ‘I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings‘. It feels as if I leapt in my childhood, even before I knew I was leaping and over the course of my life my faith has grown wings. And like a kite it flies, tethered to anything rational by a mere thread.

But the questions remain.

And that is why I have chosen this beautiful composition by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer today.  ‘Whatever anyone says, fear not, O brave heart, keep singing about the compassion of the Lord‘ says he. Why did he write this song, I wonder. What did people say to him that he responded with ‘Even if this world says  a thousand things  we  should keep it aside thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’.  The words seem to speak to me when questions cloud my mind. Set to raga Manirangu, it has all the spirit and lyrical beauty of Venkata kavi’s compositions. It makes me smile because he encourages everyone to sing and even dance if they can!

Please listen first to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s rendition. It has been a while since I featured him, hasn’t it! I hope you enjoy his simply brilliant voice as much as I do.

And the second rendition that caught my fancy today is by Shobana Vignesh. Very nicely sung indeed!

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer
Raga : Manirangu
Language : Tamil

யாரென்ன சொன்னாலும் அஞ்சாத/அஞ்சாதே  நெஞ்சமே
ஐயன் கருணையைப் பாடு – ராக
ஆலாபனமுடனும் பாடு – முடிந்தால்
அடவோடும் ஜதியோடும் ஆடு
அருமையென வந்தப் பிறவிகளோ பல
ஆயிரம் தந்தாலும் வருமோ ஆதலின்

நாரத நாதமும் வேதமும் நாண
நாணக் குழல் ஒன்று ஊதுவான்
நீரதக் கழல் ஆட கோபியரும் பாட
நேர் நேர் என சொல்லித் தானாடுவான் – அந்த
அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு

தோலை அரிந்து கனி தூர எறிந்து
வெறுந் தோலைத் துணிந்தொருவன் தந்தானல்லவோ
மேலைப் பிடி அவலை வேணுமென்றே தெரிந்து
விரும்பி ஒருவன் அன்று தந்தானல்லவோ
காலமெல்லாம் தவம் இருந்து கனிந்து கனி
கடித்து சுவைத்தொருவள் தந்தாளல்லவோ – இந்த
ஞாலமும் ஆயிரம் சொன்னாலும் நாம் அதை
நமக்கெதற்கு என்று தள்ளி நாமமும் ஆயிரம் சொல்லிச் சொல்லி
(அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு)


yArenna sonnAlum anjAdE (alt: anjAda) nenjamE
aiyan karuNaiyai pADu – rAga
AlApanamuDanum pADu – muDindAl
aDavODum jatiyODum ADu
arumaiyena vandap piRavigaLO pala
Ayiram tandAlum varumO Adalin

nArada nAdamum vEdamum nANa
nANak kuzhal onDRu ooduvan
nIradak kazhal ADa gOpiyarum pADa
nEr nEr ena sollit tAnADuvAn – anda
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)

tOlai arindu kani dUra eRindu
veRun tOlait tuNindoruvan tandAnallavo
mElaip piDi avalai vENumenDRE terindu
virumbi oruvan anDRu tandAnallavo
kAlamellam tavam irundu kanindu kani
kaDittu suvaittoruvaL tandALallavo – inda
ñAlamum Ayiram sonnalum nAm adai
namak kedarku enDRu taLLi nAmamum Ayiram sollich-cholli
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)


Whatever (enna) anyone (yAr) says (sonnAlum), fear not, O heart (anjAdE nenjamE) [Alternative – O brave heart (anjAda nenjamE) ], sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan). Sing (pADu) with (ODu) elaborations (Alapanai) of the Raga. If you can (muDindAl), also  dance (ADu) with (ODu) proper gestures and steps (aDavu). Even if you are given (tandAlum) many (pala) thousands (Ayiram) of precious (arumai) lives (piravigal), will this one come again (implied by varumO=will it come)? Therefore (Adalin)…..

He will play (ooduvAn, literally blow) a (onDRu) flute (kuzhal) such that (implied) it would put the music (nAdam) of Narada and the Vedas to shame (nANa). (Note : there is a second nANa in front of kuzhal, I don’t understand why. Is there another meaning to it? Or is it for emphasis?).  With his cloud-like (nIrada) anklets (kazhal) jingling (ADa, literally dancing), and the cowherdesses (gOpiyar) singing (pADa), asking (solli, literally saying) to be face to face (nEr nEr ena) He would dance (ADuvAn) himself (tAN) (I am a bit puzzled about the ‘nEr nEr ena’. Perhaps this is a reference to the episode where He duplicates Himself for each gopi and dances with each of them face to face?). Sing of his (His) compassion (pallavi line)

Didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), having cut (arindu) the peel (tOlai) and throwing away (dUra eRindu) the fruit (kani),  presume to (tuNindu) give (tandAn) only (tani) the peel (tolai) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the episode when Vidura, in the excitement of having Krishna close by, peels bananas and offers the peels to the Lord instead of the fruit. Krishna too consumes it. Vidura on realising what he had done is horrified but Krishna says he would accept anything offered with love.] Further (mElai), didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), knowing (terindu) that it was wished for (vENum enDRu),  lovingly (virumbi, with liking) give (tandAn) a handful (piDi) of flattened rice (aval) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the tale of Sudama]. Didn’t (allavO) a woman (oruvaL), having lived (irundu, literally been) lifelong (kAlamellam) in austerity, tenderly (kanindu) give (tandAL) a fruit (kani) after biting (kaDittu) and tasting (suvaittu) it? [Note: Refers to Shabari]. Even if this (inda) world (ñAlam) says (sonnAlum) a thousand things (Ayiram) we (nAm) should keep it aside (taLLi, literally push away) thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’ (nammakku edarkku enDru) and repeating (solli solli) His thousand (Ayiram) names (nAmam) sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan) (pallavi line).


Filed under Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Shobana Vignesh, Uncategorized


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.

परियाचकमा माट पदि गुरिलो पॊगडिनदि

वॆरपुननुमानम्बुन वॆसनम्बुन ने कोरि
शरणागत रक्षक निन्नु सन्ततमुनु शरणानग

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


pariyAchakamA mATa padi gurilO pogaDinadi

verapunanumAnambuna vesanambuna nE kOri
sharaNAgata rakshaka ninnu santatamunu sharaNAnaga

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


(based on internet sources)

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

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?


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?


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

Durmarga Chara

TyagarajaHow many of us have sold out on our principles for surviving or progressing at work? or in life? I admit having much to be shamed of in this respect. I am ashamed to remember not having demurred when colleagues at work have chosen an unacceptable short-cut. I am ashamed to remember being silent in social or family situations for fear of conflict. I am ashamed to remember bowing my head to people unworthy of being bowed to.  I am ashamed, yes. Yet I view my behaviour as being ‘practical’. I suspect that I am not alone in either having such secret stories of shame or in defending such action as being pragmatic.

It is my song choice of today, Durmarga Chara by Tyagaraja (1767-1847), which has set me thinking about ideology and practice. Is it true that while we ordinary mortals cede to such practicalities of life, the great ones do not do so? Is that what sets them apart, I wonder? Today’s song does speak of devotion, but it is more to do with the poet than the God he worships, and as such rather an unusual piece of poetry for Carnatic Music. So it interests me, this rare glimpse into the uncompromising mind-set of Tyagaraja.

Tyagaraja refused to acknowledge any man as his Lord, reserving that title for God alone. It is said that in 1802 King Sarabhoji sent for Tyagaraja after hearing of his musical prowess. In those days musicians performed in court singing in praise of the King in return for royal gifts of gold and land. Tyagaraja  refused the invitation saying that he was already singing in the court of his Lord Rama and would not sing for any mortal. Takes a bit of courage to stand up to a king like that!

Durmarga Chara is set to the very enjoyable raga Ranjani. ‘I cannot call those wicked people who tread the path of vice as my Lord’ says Tyagarja. He acknowledges only God as the provider of grain and wealth. ‘I cannot praise those vile people who barter their knowledge (for wealth) and offer it to degenerate men at court’.  For lyrics and translation, see footnote. To know more about this raga, click here.

After listening to thirty odd renditions, I could not go past Maharajapuram Santhanam’s excellent one from 1981. As it is quite long, I have divided it into two sections, the alapanai and the kriti; those with limited time have the option to listen only to the latter.

For an instrumental one, I have chosen below an expert performance by M.S.Gopalakrishnan with his daughter Dr.M.Narmadha.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu, transcribed below in  Devanagari script.

दुर्मार्ग चराधमुलनु दॊर नीवन जालरा

धर्मात्मक धन धान्यमु  दैवमु नीवै उण्डग

पलुकु बोटिनि सभलोन पतित मानवुल कोसगे
खलुल नॆच्चट पॊगडनि श्रीकर त्यागराज विनुत / वन्दित

Transliteration :

durmArga charAdhamulanu dora nIvana jAlarA

dharmAtmaka dhana dhAnyamu daivamu nIvai uNDaga

paluku bOTini sabhalOna patita mAvanavula kOsagE
khalula nechchaTa pogaDani shrIkara tyAgarAja vinuta / vandita

Translation :

I cannot call those wicked people who tread the path of vice as my Lord.

O embodiment of virtue! As you are the dispenser of wealth and food (I cannot call….)

I cannot praise those vile people who barter their knowledge (for wealth) and offer it to degenerate men at court. Tyagaraja praised you who are the provider of prosperity.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Narmadha, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja

Paal Vadiyum Mugam

Krishna Baby2God is in everything. So say Hindu philosophers.  तत् त्वं असि – Thou art that, they say with great conviction. Poets have sung of this. सर्वं ब्रह्ममयं – everything is infused by God sang Sadashiva Brahmendra with even more conviction. Kabir has written that God is within each of us. जैसे तिल में तेल है, ज्यूं चकमक में आग , तेरा साईं तुझमे है, तू जाग सके तो जाग – Like there is oil inside the sesame seed, like there is fire within the flint stone, your God is within you, awake if you can wake. So if we look around us, we should see God in all and the great universality of everything in us and us in everything, right?

Easier said than done! I often wonder, how did the Saints do it? Is it like looking at the clouds and seeing shapes within? We look at the world around us and look for the shape of God to emerge? It seems doable with nature at times. When I see the beauty of great mountains, the sheer magnitude of the Niagara, the power of a thunderstorm – I can convince myself that I can see the hand of God.

It is even feasible to feel at one with inanimate things.  I sometimes confront the potato that I am chopping for dinner with a statement such as ‘what you call ‘I’ today, will soon be part of me, my body. You and I are one’. I am even known to declaim to the glass of water before I drink it ‘You were ocean, you were cloud, you were rain, you were other beings, and now you shall be me!’. And no, to those who are curious about the state of my sanity, neither the potato nor the glass of water have replied so far! So the inanimate, that I can do. But to see myself or God in all beings? Even in that idiot who took two parking places to park his tiny car so that I had to go in circles trying to find a spot? Is it possible? How did the Saints do it?

So it is with great interest that I pored over Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer’s song in which he says he sees Krishna everywhere. He writes ‘Whenever I see anything my thoughts go nowhere except your innocent face’. He provides examples : ‘When sometimes I am drawn to look at the line of the horizon, your tranquil face comes to mind!’ and ‘ Even when I find meaning in the song of a cuckoo, the music of your flute enchants me!’. So if I understand correctly, whatever he does, his mind and thoughts keep being drawn towards Krishna. He is not attesting to the fact that he sees Krishna everywhere, but to the fact that he himself can think of no other than Krishna. Is that the way then?

I will let you ponder the question if it interests you. For me, I will just take pleasure in this beautiful song, enjoying the enchanting and evocative images drawn by the poet-composer and marvelling at its foot-tapping brisk melody. Oh how I remember my mother today! She used to sing this song happily to herself while pottering busily in the kitchen. So it is my dearest mother I hear in this song, not the flute of Krishna! Set to raga Nattakurinji, this is a perennial favourite. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I  have chosen a rendition by the great Maharajapuram Santhanam.

For an instrumental version, listen to this interesting Veena rendition by R.Jayanthi with a flute interlude as well as solkattu (vocal percussion) in places.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பால்வடியும் முகம்
நினைந்து நினைந்தென் உள்ளம்
பரவச மிக வாகுதே (கண்ணா)

நீலக்கடல் போலும் நிறத்தழகா -கண்ணா
எந்தன் நெஞ்சம் குடி கொண்டு
அன்று முதல் இன்றும்
எந்த பொருள் கண்டும்
சிந்தனை    செல்லாதொழிய (பால்வடியும்)

வான முகட்டில் சட்று
மனம் வந்து நோக்கினும்
(உன்) மோன முகம் வந்து தோனுதே

தெளிவான தண்ணீர் தடத்தில்
சிந்தனை மாறினும்
(உன்) சிரித்த முகம் வந்து காணுதே

கானக் குயில் குரலில்
கருத்(து) அமைந்திடினும் (அங்கு)
உன் கான குழலோசை மயக்குதே

கருத்த குழலொடு நிறுத்த மயிலிற-
கிறுக்கி அமைத்த திறத்திலே
கான மயிலாடும் மோனக்குயில் பாடும்
நீல நதியோடும் வனத்திலே

குழல் முதல் எழிலிசை குழைய வரும் இசையில்
குழலொடு மிளிர் இளங் கரத்திலே
கதிரும் மதியும் என நயன விழிகள் இரு
நளினமான சலனத்திலே

காளிங்கன் சிரத்திலே
கதித்த  பதத்திலே
என் மனத்தை இருத்திக்
கனவு நினைவினோடு
பிறவி பிறவி தோறும்
கனிந்துருக வரம் தருக பரம் கருணை (பால்வடியும்)


pAl vaDiyum mugam
ninaindu ninainden uLLam
paravasa migavAgudE (kaNNA)

nIlakaDal pOlum niRattazhgA – kaNNA
endan nenjam kuDi konDu
andRu mudal indRum
enda poRul kanDum
sindanai sellAdozhiya

vAna mugaTTil chatRu
manam vandu nOkkinum
(un) mOna mugam vandu tonudE

teLivAna taNNIr taDattil
sindanai mARinum
(un) siritta mugam vandu kANudE

gAnak kuyil kuralil
(un) gAna kuzhalOsai mayakkudE

karutta kuzhalodu niRutta mayiliRagiRukki amaitta tiRattilE
gAna mayilADum mOnakkuyil pADum nIla nadiyOdum vanattilE

kuzhal mudal ezhilisai kuzhaiya varum isaiyil
kuzhlodu miLir iLang-karattilE
kadirum madiyum ena nayana vizhigal iru
naLinamAna salanattilE

kaLinga sirattilE
kaditta padittilE
en manattai iruttik
kanavu ninaivinodu
piRavi piRavi tORum
kaninduruga varam taruga param karuNai


Note: I struggled over the translation of some bits and am not myself convinced that I have it right, my apologies.

Immersed in the thought of that innocent face, my heart  reaches heights of ecstasy!

You, who are beautiful with skin the colour  of the  blue  ocean, have taken residence  in my heart from  that day to this day. Whenever I see  anything my thoughts go nowhere  except  (your innocent face).

When sometimes I am drawn to look at the line of the horizon, your tranquil face comes to mind! When my thoughts change at a track of clear still water, your smiling face appears before me! Even when I find meaning in the song of a cuckoo, the music of your flute enchants me!

In the expertise with which the dark flute with a peacock feather stopper is made, in the forest where the peacock dances, the cuckoo sings and a blue river runs,

In the glint/flash of the flute held in young hands from which meltingly exquisite music comes, in the flashing movement of your two eyes,

In the fast-moving feet on the head of the snake Kalinga, you still my mind. With the greatest of compassion, please give me the boon that in birth after birth I should melt (for you) with my dreams and memories intact.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, R.Jayanthi

Two Thillanas in Misra Shivaranjani

Those who have been following my posts know that I have been haunted by Shivaranjani this week. I am still not ready to move on, so here are two Thillanas in this raga of pathos. These are compositions of two musicians I admire tremendously. For those unfamiliar with Carnatic Music, a Thillana is a form of composition, very rhythmic in nature and well suited to classical dancing.

Lalgudi2Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930) is my first love and probably will remain my last. This is an enchantment which has lasted a lifetime. I strongly believe that his music comes as close to Divine as music can.  I have always imagined his music to be like a channel, a wormhole in spacetime, which allows the listener to travel from this mortal world to other mysterious and heavenly places. Playing concerts from when he was just 12 years old (he is 81 this year), his life has been dedicated to music. He says ‘I am nothing without Music. Even in all my future births I want to be born only as a musican’ (quote).  I pray that I am born wherever he is and get to keep enjoying his music.

SanthanamMaharajapuram Santhanam (1928-1992) was blessed with a voice which would make anyone pause and take note. In the mid-seventies, when he came to Delhi for a concert, he stayed in our friend and neighbour’s home. I remember sitting in their living room, listening to him practice and sing to the family.  He was a man with an impressive girth and a larger-than-life presence. His voice had such resonating force and beauty that it left an indelible impression in me. A truly amazing artist. I remember attending his concert that evening as if it were just yesterday. The magic of his voice lends strength to these memories from long ago.

Both these amazing musicians have composed Thillanas in  Misra Shivaranjani (click here for more on this raga). Today I present you these Thillanas performed by the maestros themselves.

First listen to Lalgudi Jayaraman’s rare recording of a life performance of his own composition with  his son G.J.R.Krishnan, starting from 22:20.

Was that not exquisite? I wept when I heard it first; I still find it heartrendingly beautiful. For the pallavi and its translation, see footnote.

Don’t miss listening to this vocal version by Bombay Jayashri, whose voice, I think, is closest to the lyrical sounds of her Guru’s strings. She is quite outstanding, do listen:

Alternate link : Click here

Now listen to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s performance of his own composition with (I think) his son Maharajapuram Ramachandran.

Alternate link.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

The Lalgudi Thillana has a lyrical pallavi which perfectly mirrors the mood of the raga.

மானைத் தேடி வந்த தேனை உண்டு வள்ளி மானை மணந்த மயில் வாகனா நானோ நின்னை (?நினை?) எண்ணி நாளும் ஏங்கி வாட ஏனோ இன்னும் என்மேல் இந்த பராமுகம்

mAnait-tEDi vanda tEnai uNDu vaLLi mAnai maNanda mayil vAhanA nAnO ninnai (?ninai?) eNNi nALum Engi vADa EnO innum enmEl inda parAmugam

O Rider of the peacock who came searching for a deer, ate some honey and married the deer like Valli! As for me, I languish thinking of you all day, why do you still neglect me?

The Maharajapuram Santhanam Thillana is beautifully rhythmic and the alliteration of ‘va’ in the first line is very pleasing.

வா வேலவா வடி வேலவா மயில் மீது நீ வா குமரா வா வரம் அருள வா தாமதம் ஏன் தயை புரிய தருணம் இது  மகராஜன் பணிந்திடும் மயில் வாகனா

vA vElavA vaDi vElavA mayil mIdu nI vA kumarA vA varam aruLa vA tAmadam En dayai puriya taruNam idu maharAjan paNindiDum mayil vAhanA

Come O spear-holder! One whose spear is sharp! Come on a peacock! O Kumara, come to grant me boons! Why the delay? This is the time to show compassion! O Peacock-rider who who is venerated by Maharajan (signature of poet).  


Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam

Maha Ganapathim

I meditate upon the supreme Ganapati who is worshipped by Vasishta, the Vamadevas, etc. He is the son of Lord Shiva, is praised by Guruguha. He shines bright like millions of cupids. He is tranquil. He loves great poetry, drama, etc. He loves the sweet Modaka. His mount is a mouse.


Happy Vinayaka Chaturthi to all ! Today is the most important day for the worshippers of Vinayaka, also known as Ganapathi, Ganesha, Vigneshwara etc. The beloved elephant headed God is worshipped all-over India but is especially beloved to the people of Maharashtra and South India. An ancient God, there are indications that He was worshipped as early as in 1200 BC.

वक्रकुण्ड महाकाय कोटि सूर्य समप्रभ |
निर्विघ्नं कुरु म देव शुभ कार्येषु सर्वदा ||

Thus I pray every morning :
“You of the twisted trunk and massive body with the dazzle of millions of suns, Lead me Lord on a path that has no obstacles or hindrances in all my good endeavours”.

Ganapathi is worshipped in 32 different forms such as Bala Ganapathi (child God), Veera Ganapathi (Warrior God), Siddhi Ganapathi (God of Achievement) etc. My personal favourite, given my love of music and dance, is Nritya Ganapathi (the Dancing God), whose picture adorns today’s post. Much as the rotund form of Ganesha is beloved to us, today we should look beyond the obvious into the symbolism of this form.

  • His large and rounded body denotes the entire universe. He is the embodiment of all.
  • The Elephant, which is a vegetarian and doesn’t kill to eat, signifies gentle strength. An elephant also responds to love and affection as God will respond to our love.
  • The large head symbolises wisdom. The large ears sift truths from untruths.
  • The curved trunk denotes the primal sound, the mystic OM. This symbol in Sanskrit ॐ resembles an elephant and his trunk; the Tamil ஓ resembles the head and trunk.
  • The trunk also is a symbol of discrimination – the same trunk has the strength to pull up a tree or pick delicately at the smallest of things.
  • The great stomach symbolises that Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the universe and protects the world.
  • The mouse which is underfoot symbolises the petty desires and ego of man which needs to be vanquished.
  • Ganesha is shown to hold different items in his hands, about 40 different ones being common. Each represents an attribute. In the picture above, one hand in the Abhaya pose says ‘Don’t fear, I am here’.
  • A hand holds the double headed axe to symbolise his destruction of impediments and evil.
  • A hand holds the lotus flower, which indicates purity as the flower grows unsullied even in the dirtiest of ponds.
  • The fourth hand holds Modaks, the sweet dear to Him. Today thousands of worshippers will offer these sweets to their dear deity. Modakam in Sanskrit means that which gives joy and pleasure (Moda); just as this sweet gives us joy, Ganesh too blesses us with joy.

In honour of Ganapathi, I present the short invocation Maha Ganapathim Manasa Smarami (I meditate on the great Ganapathi) written by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) and set to raga Natta (to know more about this raga, click here). This familiar and well-loved song is very often sung at the start of Carnatic Music concerts, as all good tasks should be started by invoking His name.

To present this song, let us start with the gentle voice of Yesudas singing in the film Sindhu Bhairavi.

For an instrumental version, listen to U.Srinivas on the Mandolin here .

Lastly, listen to this vocal version by the Maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam :

Which one do you like best?

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

महा गणपतिं  मनसा स्मरामि
वसिष्ट वामदेवादि वन्दित ||

महादेवसुतं गुरुगुहनुतं
मार कोटि प्रकाशं शान्तं
महाकाव्य नाटकादि प्रियं
मूषिक वाहन मोदक प्रियं

A notation is available in this site.


mahA gaNapatim manasA smarAmi
vasishTa vAmadEvAdi vandita

mahA dEva sutam guruguha nutam
mAra kOTi prakAsham shAntam
mahA kAvya nATakAdi priyam
mUshika vAhana mOdaka priyam


I meditate (smarAmi) on the supreme (mahA) Ganapati who is worshipped (vandita) by Vasishta, the Vamadevas, etc (Adi). He, the son (sutam) of Lord Shiva (mahAdEvA), is praised (nutam) by Guruguha. He shines bright (prakAsham) like millions (kOti) of cupids (mAra). He is tranquil (shAntam). He loves (priyam) great poetry (mahA kAvya), drama (nAtaka), etc (Adi). He loves (priyam) the sweet Modaka. His mount (vAhanam) is a mouse (mUshika).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Muthuswami Dikshithar, U.Srinivas