Happy Shivaratri everyone! May Lord Shiva bless us all!
As always, I want to celebrate the day with a post in Lord Shiva’s honour. I have chosen a song which I love for many reasons. Kana Kan Kodi Vendum is written by Papanasam Sivan in praise of the Lord Kapaleeshwarar. Mylapore, where the temple is located, was the poet’s home ground, as it was my father’s. I remember many a visit to this temple in my childhood, many a concert heard in its grounds. I can never visit Chennai without a visit to this temple where echoes of my childhood and the loving care of my parents can still be heard deep in my heart.
I love this song also because it is in Kambhoji, a raga dear to me. Why do some ragas resonate inside you like a reflection of an emotion you never knew you had? When Kambhoji is sung, not just my head but my whole being sways in time. I meet the characteristic phrases of the raga like I would a dear friend of long standing.
A reader had commented recently that he enjoys kritis in Tamil, a language which he feels to be his own. That made me think. I too, I realise, perk up a little when a kriti is in Tamil. There is an added pleasure to enjoying the lyrics when the consonants and vowels sit so very comfortably on my tongue! This is surprising, as I believe I am more competent in Hindi and I speak Bengali more often than I speak Tamil. Still, one’s mother tongue has a special place in one’s heart, does it not.
I also love the lyrics of songs which are descriptive in nature. That drew me to Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer who is adept at drawing a picture which feels so very real. Papanasam Sivan has proven that he too can do an admirable job of describing a scene. Do check out the lyrics in the footnote. In my mind, I substitute the utsava moorti (the processional idol) by our Lord Himself, dressed not in skins and coated with ashes, but resplendent with glittering ornaments and fragrant garlands, His Goddess and His sons following. I add to this imagery the sound of the Nayanars singing and Nandi playing his mridangam. Would not the hordes of devotees melt at this sight and fall to His feet as Papanasam Sivan describes? Would they not be simply enchanted? Imagery and visualisation are powerful tools used for goal setting, self-improvement and meditation. Lyrics which include wonderful imagery are good tools in our spiritual arsenal.
But you know, songs I like invariably become background music to my own life. It has just been a few weeks that my grandson has learnt to walk. He is still unsteady on his feet, his legs splayed wide for better balance. With his new skill, he sets out to explore the world with intrepidity! What a sight that is! The other day we set him loose in the park and he ventured courageously to explore his surroundings. My husband followed with the pram and the various paraphernalia that babies need, and I followed with my hands ready to grab the little one if needed. A little procession 🙂 And I said to myself ‘En kaNmaNiyin bavani kANa kaN koDi vENDum’ (One needs countless eyes to see my darling parading!). So there you are, I have brought the joy of the sacred to the profane, but the profane seems sacred to me now. Perhaps the separation between the two is not a chasm but just an ephemeral screen.
To present you this song, I bring to you a performance by Madurai Mani Iyer. My sister will no doubt laugh at me, as we were bombarded with his music in our childhood and have since kept quite away from it. I smile as I listen to it a number of times in the last few days, freely admitting that he is quite incomparable. I am remembering my father and his love for Madurai Mani’s music as I post this.
Language : Tamil
காணக் கண் கோடி வேண்டும் கபாலியின் பவனி (காணக் )
அனுபல்லவி மாணிக்கம் வைரம் முதல் நவரத்னாபரணமும் மணமார் பற்பல மலர் மாலைகளும் முகமும்
மதியோடு தாராகணம் நிறையும் அந்தி
வானமோ கமல வனமோ என மனம்
மயங்க அகளங்க அங்கம் யாவும் இலங்க
அபாங்க அருள் மழை பொழி பவனி (காணக் )
மாலோடையன் பணியும் மண்ணும் விண்ணும் பரவும்
மறை ஆகமன் துதிக்கும் இறைவன் அருள் பெறவே
காலம் செல்லுமுன் கனதனமும் தந்தார்க்கு நன்றி
கருதிக் கண்ணாரக் கண்டுள்ளுருகிப் பணியப் பலர்
காண அறுமுகனும் கணபதியும் சண்டேச்வரனும்
சிவகணமும் தொடர கலைவாணி
திருவும் பணி கற்பக நாயகி வாமன்
அதிகாரநந்தி சேவைதனைக் (காணக் )
kANak kaN koDi vENDum kapAliyin bavani (kANak)
One needs (vENDum) countless (kODi – literally, a crore/10 million) eyes to see (kANa) the procession (bavani) of Lord Kapali (Lord Shiva of Kapali temple, Mylapore).
With His appearance (mugamum) decorated (implied) with ornaments (AbharaNamum) studded (implied) with the nine (nava) gems (ratnam) starting from (mudal) rubies (mANikkam) and diamonds (vairam), and garlands (mAlaugaLumum) of many (paRpala) flowers (malar) full of (Ar) fragrance (maNam), with all (yAvum) His unblemished (agaLanga) limbs (angam) shining brightly (ilanga), our minds (manam) become enchanted (mayanga) wondering if it is (ena) the twilight (andi) sky (vAnam) full of (niRaiyum) stars (tArAgaNam) along with (ODu) the moon (madi), or is it (implied) a lotus (kamala) forest (vanam) . One needs countless eyes to see (from pallavi) the procession (bavani) of the Lord (implied) who showers (mazhai pozhi) grace (aruL) with the corner of his eyes (apanga).
Before (mun) any further (implied) time (kAlam) passes (sellum), with the intention of (karudi) of gratitude (nanDRi) to the One who gave (tandArkku) gold (ghanam) and wealth (dhanam), and to get (peravE) His grace (aruL), let us (implied) bow down (paNIya) with a melting heart (uL=inside, uRugi=melting) after watching (kANDu) to the solace (ARa) of the eyes (kAN) the procession of the Lord (iRaivan) who is paid obeisance to by (paNiyum) Lord Vishnu (mAl) along with (ODu) Brahma (aiyan), and who is eulogised/praised (tudikkum) in the Vedas (maRai) and Agamas (Agaman) which are spread (paravum) throughout the world (maNNum) and heavens (viNNum). One needs countless eyes to see (implied) the service (sEvai danai) of Lord Shiva (vAman) on his vehicle with a bull’s face and body of a man (adikAranandi), along with Goddess Karpagambal (kaRpaga nAyaki) being served by (paNi) Goddess Saraswati (kalai vANi) and Goddess Lakshmi (tiruvum), followed by (toDara) Lord Subrahmanya (arumugamum), Lord Ganesha (gaNapatiyum), Lord Chandikeshwara (chandesvaranum), and the Ganas (shivagaNamum), while many (palar) watch (kANa).
Ah readers what joy I take in announcing that I am now a grandmother! A little boy has come into our family, a boy whom I am already besotted with! He is less than 3 days old when I write this, a little scrap of a baby, all pink and wrinkled but oh so heartbreakingly beautiful! Birth is an everyday miracle that we take for granted, but it is so very awe-inspiring just the same!
Last week I went to the temple to pray for the safe delivery of my daughter. The Shiva Vishnu temple in Melbourne has always been dear to me, there is a certain something I find here which I don’t find always in other temples. As I parked my car and headed to the Vinayaka sannidhi outside the main temple, I talked to Him as I always do.
‘I come to you first, you who remove obstacles. Please can you take care of my child so that her child can be delivered safely?‘ I prayed.
Just as I exited the sannidhi, I saw a young woman with a small infant enter.
‘Such a good sign!!‘ I thought and waited to speak to her.
‘You are a very good omen for me‘ I told her smilingly, ‘I was praying for my daughter’s delivery just as you came by with your baby, it feels like such a good sign to me!‘.
She smiled back and gave me her little boy to hold for a few minutes. I gave her and her child my heartfelt aashirwadams and went into the main temple.
My heritage always draws me to Lord Narayana first and it is to his sannidhi I went first to perform an archana. Next I went to Goddess Lakshmi’s sannidhi beside that of Lord Narayana. I have prayed to Her for simply years, I totally believe that all well-being in our family comes from Her.
I closed my eyes, held my palms together and said ‘Lakshmi amma, I pray like this from sannidhi to sannidhi, not knowing whether my words bounce off ears of stone or reach your ears. I offer my prayers to you, believing I am heard though you give no response. But today I need a miracle, a little sign, for it is my daughter and I worry for her. You, yourself a mother, will understand how I feel. Please, a miracle for me‘.
How many others have begged like this with no response? Millions no doubt. But that day when I opened my eyes, a young girl stood beside me, heavily pregnant and ready to deliver very soon.
My eyes pooled and I said to myself ‘Yes, that is a sign, I have been heard‘.
But still, as I walked towards Lord Rama’s sannidhi, a little voice said ‘A lovely coincidence, but a coincidence.’. My faith is strong, yes, but I have no right to be heard when millions on earth suffer so very much and would dearly appreciate any help, however small. It’s selfish to demand God’s attention like this, isn’t it? But I am a mother, worried about my child and her child, so I went to Lord Rama and closed my eyes again.
‘Oh God, please please look after my daughter. I don’t know if that pregnant girl was a coincidence or a sign, but I hope you have heard nonetheless‘ I prayed silently.
When I opened my eyes, there was another very pregnant girl standing right next to me. ‘Oh I have been heard for sure‘ I thought, my eyes streaming. She said she was due in a few weeks. I told her of my experience and said that I was sure that God was listening to our prayers. That day as I circumambulated sannidhi after sannidhi, I felt the presence of God close enough to touch.
I sat afterwards for a long time in a very emotional state. Now looking back I wonder. Is this how we fool ourselves? Why would God listen to this useless person when millions far more deserving need His care? But somehow my heart was eased. I did not worry one little bit after that, not even when my daughter laboured on and on for 41 hours. She was in God’s care.
When my daughter said that she and her husband had decided that the little one would have an Indian first name and his father’s Polish last name, I quietly went through Vishnu sahasranama to offer her all the short one or two-syllable names I could find. But when she refused them all, I trolled the net for other baby names. None pleased her so I gave up. How does it matter what he is called? I told myself, ‘to me he will just be my kaNmaNi (a term of endearment equivalent to apple of my eye)’. Later my daughter said that they had found a name but were keeping it a secret till the baby was born. On Monday, when I met my little grandson Rohit, I was very pleased with their choice. But it was only later that I discovered that it is also a name of Vishnu from the sahasranama (verse 40) that I had somehow missed! His middle name is Kamil (a Polish name) and it does sound similar to Kamal, a lotus, which is associated with Goddess Lakshmi, so the name seems perfect to me!
For this post, I just had to feature this very obvious but precious song choice of ‘Kanne en Kanmaniye‘ by Papanasam Sivan. A beautiful lullaby in the oh so soothing raga Kurinji, I am sure I will play it for little Rohit in the years to come. The words are so very gentle and every word rings true to me. In Bombay Jayashri’s mellifluous voice, it sounds simply lovely. She starts the rendition with a viruttam from the Nalayira Divyaprabhandam, a lullaby for Lord Krishna.
மாணிக்கம் கட்டி வயிரம் இடை கட்டி
ஆணிப் பொன்னால் செய்த வண்ணச் சிறுத்தொட்டில்
பேணி உனக்குப் பிரமன் விடுதந்தான்
மாணிக் குறளனே தாலேலோ
வையம் அளந்தானே தாலேலோ
Lord Brahma ( Brahman) chose (pENi) and sent (viDutandAn) you (unakku) a small (siru) beautiful (vaNNa) cradle (toTTil) made of (seida) superior (ANi) gold (pon), strung (kaTTi) with rubies (mANikkam) and diamonds (vayiram) strung (katti) in between (iDai). O Lord who was born as Vamana (mAni kuRaLanE), sleep (tAlElo)! O Lord who measured (aLandAnE) the word (vaiyam), sleep (tAlElO)!
Language : Tamil
கண்ணே என் கண்மணியே கண்ணனே கண்வளராய்
மண்ணுலகில் என் வாழ்வு வளம் பெற வந்துதித்த
குயிலிசை குழலோசை உன் கொஞ்சுமொழிக்கிணையாமோ
கொண்ட மன சஞ்சலங்கள் பஞ்சாய் பறந்திடுமே
kaNNE en kaNmaNiyE kaNNanE kaNvaLarAi
maNNulgil en vAzhvu vaLam pera vanduditta
kuyilisai kuzhalOsai un konju-mozhik-kiNaiyAmO
koNDa mana sanchalangaL panjAi parandiDumE
tEDAda en nidhiyE tigaTTAda teLLamudE
vADAda men malarE manattuL inikkum tanittEnE
Sleep (kaNvaLarAy), O precious one (kaNNE, literally eyes), the apple of my eyes (kaNmaNiyE), O Krishna (kaNNanE), the one who has come (vandu) to be born (uditta literally appear) on this earth (maNNulagil) so that my (en) life (vAzhvu) gets (pera) fullness/abundance (vaLam).
How can even the song (isai) of the cuckoo (kuyil) or the music (isai) of a flute (kuzhal) compare (iNai) with your (un) childish babble (konju mozhi)? All the troubles/sorrows (sanchalangaL) which occupy (koNDa) my mind (mana) will fly off (parandiDumE) like cotton (panjAi)! Sleep (tAlElO)!
O my (en) unearned (tEDada) treasure (nidiyE), O uncloying (tigaTTAda) clear honey (teLamudE), O Unfading (vADada) soft (men) flower (malarE), O unique (tani) honey (tEnE) which sweetens (inikkum) inside (uL) my mind (mana)! Sleep (tAlElO)!
A very happy Navaratri to all of you! Let us all pray to the good Goddesses to cast their eyes our way and bless us with wisdom, compassion and devotion. What better way to ask for blessings than by song? My choice today honours Shakti in the form Karpagambal, the Goddess at Kapaleeswarar Kovil in Mylapore. This temple is rather dear to me; both my parents spent their youth in and around the area. Some of my earliest musical memories include listening to concerts in the temple. Do people leave imprints of themselves in the places dear to them? I’ll like to think so. I’ll like to think that the prayers of my parents still remain suspended in the air around the temple, as a murmur of the temple bells, as an echo of footfalls in the prakaram.
This Navaratri comes with its own excitement for me. I have such good news to share with you! Regular readers will remember my post about my daughter’s wedding in January. With God’s blessings, she and her husband are making me a grandmama! The little boy is to arrive by early December. I smile as I write this, I cannot quite contain my joy!
As I think of becoming a grandmother, I think of my own grandmothers. They were two very different women. My mother’s mum was a clever, extremely competent, strong-minded woman who ruled her household with a will of iron. A short, well-rounded woman with very dark skin, her eyes gleamed with intelligence, a gleam brighter than the large diamonds on her nose and ears. Widowed with a young family to bring up and few resources, she had to become one tough lady. I confess I found her somewhat intimidating! I saw her each summer during my school years when we went to spend our summer holidays in Chennai with her. My best memory of her was sitting around her with my sister and cousins in the mittam, the courtyard next to the well, on moonlit nights. She would regale us with stories while rolling balls of kalanda sadam (flavoured rice) into our outstretched hands. Love, entertainment and nourishment all rolled into one! And yes, her sattumadu made in her eeya sombu was pure ambrosia!
My father’s mother was totally different. So thin that she was just skin and bones, she had a very pale complexion and hazel eyes. She gave me the colour of my own eyes; whenever I see them in the mirror I think of her older and kinder ones. Gentle as a new-born lamb, she had no defence against her own difficult life. If my other grandmother had been forged to steel by life, this one became a gentle ghost, a presence almost not there. She lived to be over 90 but her stories were always of the first 10-12 years of her life, as if the rest need not be thought of. I remember her standing shivering in the Delhi winter on our terrace, performing her dawn prayer rituals in her wet clothes. My mother would urge her to come back in, saying she would get pneumonia, but her faith held her strong.
So what kind of grandmother would I be? I want to be both my grandmothers rolled into one. One day when my little grandson remembers his own grandmother as I remember mine, I want him to think of me as being kind and gentle, but equally strong and capable. I want him to remember me showering love and nourishment into his outstretched hands, I want him to say my eyes looked at him with a softness that he will not forget.
On this Navaratri day, this beautiful song is my prayer to the Goddess to bless my daughter and welcome my grandson-to-be. My readers, please can you add your prayers to mine to bless them for a safe delivery? Written by Papanasam Sivan, who himself had a very strong attachment to this temple and the deities, Karpagame is set in the most auspicious of ragas, Madhyamavati. Why this song you ask? Besides the auspiciousness of the raga, and the prayer for the Goddess to cast her eye our way, there is a reference to ‘வர சந்தான சௌபாக்ய’ (vara santAna saubhAgya), the blessing of progeny so it seemed very fitting!
Some songs are just ‘owned’ by some artists, aren’t they? So I cannot possibly present anyone else but Madurai Mani Iyer who renders this song with brisk efficiency and unsurpassed musicality.
For a version from the current times, I present Sanjay Subrahmanyan who sings this song with an authority and ease which is hard to surpass. In the rendition below, he sings a viruttam, two pieces of poetry which are very well suited to the song. The first is a verse from the superbly beautiful அபிராமி அந்தாதி Abhirami Anthadi by Abhirami Bhattar (18th century). I could not find the authorship of the second verse but one website mentioned that it is from an inscription found on the walls of the Kapaleeswarar Temple, a fact I could not verify.
பூத்தவளே புவனம் பதினான்கையும் பூத்த வண்ணம்
காத்தவளே பின் கரந்தவளே கறை கண்டனுக்கு
மூத்தவளே என்றும் மூவா முகுந்தற்கு இளையவளே
மாத்தவளே உன்னை அன்றி மற்றோர் தெய்வம் வந்திப்பதே
She who gave birth (pUttavaLE – literally, flowered) to all the fourteen (padinAngaiyum) worlds (buvanam), She who protected (kattavaLE) in the same way as (-vaNNam) she bore them (pUtta), then (pin) who hid them (karandavaLE – கரந்த means மறைந்த), She who is older (mUttavaLE) to Shiva (He whose neck (kanDam) is stained (kaRai which also means poison)), She who is younger to (iLaiyavaLE) to the always (enDRum) young (mUvA, மூவு means end but here it means ageing) Vishnu (mukundar), She who has done great (mA) penance (tavam), why should I worship (vandippadE) any other (maTROr) God (deivam) except (anDRi) you (unnai)?
ஆடும் மயிலாய் உருவெடுத்து அன்று இறைவன் திருத்தாள் நாடி
அர்ச்சித்த நாயகியாய் அம்மா உனது திரு நாமங்களைப் பாடி பாடி
உருகிப் பரவசம் மிகு அப்பாங்கு நீ எனக்கு அருள்வாய்
காடெனவே பொழில் சூழ் திரு மயிலாபுரி கற்பகமே!
O Karpagambal (karpagamE) of holy (tiru) Mayilapuri which is surrounded (sUzh) by a grove (pozhil) as large as (enavE – like, perhaps implying largeness) a forest (kADu)! O Mother (ammA) we worship you (implied) as the Goddess (nayakiyAy) who at one time (anDRu), having taken the form (uruveDuttu) of a dancing (aDum) peacock (mayil), sought (nADi) and worshipped (architta) the holy (tiru) feet (tAL) of our Lord (iRaivan)! May you (nI) bless (aruLvAy) me (enakku) in a way that (appAngu) I (implied) become very (migu) ecstatic (paravasam Agum) and emotionally melt (urugi) by singing (pADi) again and again (pADi repeated) your (nin) holy (tiru) names (nAmangal).
Afterthought : A reader has correctly observed that I should have mentioned Lalgudi and he is right. Lalgudi Jayaraman is always amazing but with Karpagame he is magical. His violin speaks as no voice can. There is a link provided by the reader in the comments section. Another one is here. I hope you enjoy the music!
Footnote : Lyrics
Language : Tamil
கற்பகமே கண் பாராய்
கற்பகமே கடை (கருணை) கண் பாராய்
சத்து சிதாநந்தமதாய் சகல உயிருக்குயிராயவள் நீ
தத்துவமஸ்யாதி மஹா வாக்கிய தத்பர வஸ்துவும் நீ
சத்துவ குணமோடு பக்தி செய்பவர் பவ தாபமும்
பாபமும் அற இம்மையில் வர
சந்தான சௌபாக்ய சம்பத்தோடு
மறுமையில் நிரதிசய இன்பமும் தரும் (கற்பகமே)
karpagamE kaN pArAy
karpagamE kaDai (karuNai) kaN pArAy
sattu-chidAnandamadAy sakala uyirukkuyirAyavaL (uyirukku-uyirAyval) nI
tattuvamasyadi mahA vAkkiya tatpara vastuvum nI
sattuva guNamODu bhakti seybavar bhava tApamum
pApamum aRa immayil vara
santAna saubhagya sampattODu
maRumaiyil niradisaya inbamum tarum
O Karpagambika (karpagamE) of the holy (tiru) town of Mayilai, cast a compassionate (karuNai) glance upon me (literally, look at me (pArAy) with the corner (kaDai) of your eyes (kaN)).
She who aids (udavu) with a boon (varam) of what is considered (karudum) holy (tiru) wealth (uDai) by ascetics (yOgiyar) with extended (para) consciousness (chit), mystics (siddargaL), wise/sage people (ñaniyar), and devotees (aDiyavar), she who is extolled (paravu) by Lakshmi (tirumagaL) and Saraswati (kalaimagaL)..
As that very (adAy) truth-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-Anandam), you are (nI) She (avaL) who is like the life-force (uyirAy) of all lives (sakala uyirukku). You (nI) are also the object (vastuvum) of the true intent (tatpara) of great (mahA) pronouncements (vAkkiya) such as (Adi) ‘thou art that’ (tat-tvam-asi from the Upanishads). You are She who (implied) remove (aRa) the sorrow (tApamum) and sins (pApamum) of existence (bhava) of those who follow (seibavar) devotion (bhakti) with (-ODu) good (sattuva) character (guNam) in this birth (immaiyil) and bless them (vara) with the good fortune (saubhAgya) of progeny (santAna) and with (-ODu) wealth (sampattu). You are She who (implied) gives (tarum) unsurpassed (niradisaya) happiness (inbam) in the next life (marumaiyil).
Maha Shivaratri is almost upon us and so, of course, my mind is on the Dancing Lord, our ADum deivam. So here I am, back to this blog to share a nice Tamil lore with you. And of course, a song too!
There are many versions of the story I am sharing, I just picked one of them. I also tried to find references to see where the story comes from, but I couldn’t find anything definitive. So just take it as a lore…
Goddess Kali is on a war path. Created to destroy demons, she is a destructive force par none. But even after she vanquishes the demons, she continues to ravage all in her path. The Gods, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, approach Lord Shiva to calm his consort. Lord Shiva blocks the Goddess and challenges her to a dance contest. In some versions of the story, Lord Vishnu is called upon to act as the judge. The Goddess turns all her energies to the dance. They are evenly matched. She can match his every movement, he can match her every pose. They dance thus for eons. The universe trembles with the force of their stamping feet and their passionate movements. Some say that it is Lord Vishnu who makes a sign to Lord Shiva on how to win. Lord Shiva pretends that his earrings have dropped to the ground. Picking his earring with his feet, he raises it to his ear. This pose is called Urdhva tAnDava. To protect her feminine modesty, the Goddess smilingly concedes defeat. Her ferocity is gone and she is once more the peaceful and compassionate Goddess. Shiva is given the title of Lord of Dance or Nataraja. This is supposed to have happened in the forests of Tillai. Lord Nataraja rests in Tillai as does the dance ‘judge’ Lord Vishnu as Govindarajan. The Goddess retreats to Tiruvalankadu which is also associated with the same lore.
How wonderful are our stories, aren’t they! I can almost see it before me – Shakti, she who is power, unleashed upon the world..is it a nuclear holocaust? Tsunamis, volcanoes or earthquakes? The start of ice age or the end of one? She is destruction incarnate. It is Shiva, our dancing Lord, the other half of her, who must dance with her and drain her fury so that she becomes once more the loving Mother Goddess that she is. It is interesting that it is He we call the Destroyer! What does he destroy then? He is destroyer of the darkness within us, the darkness which lashes out like Kali in her rage. May he always dance the Tandava within our hearts to destroy the tsunamis and earthquakes which we create to destroy ourselves.
This wonderful lore is mentioned in my song choice of today. ADum deivam is written by Papanasam Sivan in raga Kambhoji. There is something about Kambhoji – the more I live, the more I listen, the more my soul sways to the mood of this raga. Listen below to Sanjay Subrahmanyan prove why he richly deserves the title of Sangita Kalanidhi. I have a really soft spot for S.Varadajan on the violin.
Raga Alapanai (exploration of the raga without words)
You can download another beautiful version by Sanjay Subrahmanyan here. You will need a free membership to Sangeethapriya.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Tamil
ஆடும் தெய்வம் நீ அருள்வாய் இடது பாதம் தூக்கி (ஆடும்)
சுபம் சேர் காளியுடன் ஆடிப் படு தோல்வி அஞ்சி திருச் செவியில் அணிந்த-மணித்
தோடு விழுந்ததாக மாயம் காட்டியும் தொழும் பதம் உயரத் தூக்கியும் – விரி
பிரபஞ்சம் முழுதும் ஆட்டும் நின் திருப் பதம் தஞ்சம் என உன்னை அடைந்தேன்
பரிந்தென் திண்டாட்டம் கண்டு பரிசு தரும் துரையே சபை நடுவில் தத்திமி என்று (ஆடும்)
shubham sEr kALiyuDan ADi paDu tOlvi anji tiruch cheviyil aNinda -maNit
tODu vizhundadAga mAyam kATTiyum tozhum padam uyarat tUkkiyum-viri
prapancham muzhudum ATTum nin tirup padam tanjam ena unnai aDaindEn
parinden tinDATTam kanDu parisu tarum duraiyE sabai naDuvil taddimi enDRu
O Lord (deivam) who dances (ADum) with your left (iDadu) foot (pAdam) raised (tUkki), bless me (ArulvAy)!
O Compassionate one (karuNai nidi (nidi=character, attribute)) who removes/expunges (aRa) the sorrow (tuyar) of birth (piravi) and provides (tarum) shelter (vIDum) for the devotees (aDiyar) who seek you (nADum), who dances (ADum – from pallavi) the dance (naTam)….
While dancing (ADi) with Kali, who is associated (sEr) with auspiciousness (shubham), fearing (anji) total defeat (paDu tOlvi), you created an illusion (mAyam kATTiyum) that (Aga) the gem-studded (maNi) earring (tODu) which you wore (aNinda) on your sacred (tiru) ear (cheviyil) fell (vizhundadu) and you raised (tUkki) your venerated (tozhum) foot (padam) high (uyara). Knowing (implied by ena=as) that your (nin) sacred (tiru) feet (padam) makes the expanse of (viri) the universe (prapancham) move/dance (ATTum) , I sought refuge (tanjamaDaindEn) in you (unnai). O Lord (durai) who, on seeing my (en) misery/struggles (tinDATTam), shows mercy (parindu) and bestows (tarum) the gift (parisu) of seeing (?implied? not sure) you dance (implied by taddimi enDRu=to the rhythm of ‘ta ti mi’) in the middle (naDuvil) of the assembly room (sabai).
Today I have a sad story to tell you..in fact, a horrific story. If you are new to my blog, you may wonder what horrific stories have to do with music? Me, I see life weaving into music and music weaving into life; if horrid things happen in life, I look for a reflection of that in music as well.
This is about a couple I know for many years now. They are what I would call social friends – people one meets rarely and mostly in the company of others, with whom you may share a drink, a meal, a conversation and a few good laughs. H (49) is Irish, G (46) from Kazakhstan. They have no children. Both of them have had good careers; they belong to the educated, well-to-do, well travelled society that career expats often enjoy. H cooks well and has a lovely sense of humour. G always reminded me of a Russian doll- round-faced, placid, gentle. A few years back she was diagnosed with cancer. She was very ill for a while but recovered with treatment. I thought that was the great trauma of her life. I thought wrong.
On the 23rd of March, H picked up a knife and stabbed G more than 50 times. She must have tried to run and escape for there was blood all over their apartment, the apartment which was beautifully refurbished with great attention to detail and decorated tastefully and luxuriously. I remember their house-warming party, remember admiring their taste. It was in that apartment that G lay dead in a pool of blood and H lay unconscious beside her, having tried to kill himself with medication and alcohol. He recovered in a couple of days, confessing to the crime. All that the newspapers say is that the murder occurred after a domestic dispute.
How could I have known, I wonder, how could I have seen that there was this monster inside a man whose cooking I have enjoyed, whose jokes I have laughed at, whom I thought of as genial gentleman ? How could he possibly have picked up a knife and sunk it into the soft flesh of his wife of many years, not once, but more than 50 times? Surely she must have begged him to stop. Did he not hear her? What could she possibly have done which deserved this frenzied massacre ?
G is not the first to be attacked by the one who should have loved her most. The statistics on domestic violence is mind boggling. It is across countries, social status, educational levels, religions. Some shocking statistics here (source: United Nations website) :
In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, 40 to 70 per cent of female murder victims were killed by their partners.
Several global surveys suggest that half of all women who die from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.
It is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.
I am sure that stats in India would be even more frightening. There is a BBC article here, but they talk of crimes reported. We all know that most crimes against women just goes unreported so these stats are way off the mark. In a survey of 9938 women in the late nineties, one in 4 women were either slapped, kicked, hit, beaten, threatened or raped within a year of the survey. Reasons include ‘not cooking properly’, ‘not attending household’, ‘talking to neighbours’….!!!!!!!
If you think this has nothing to do with you – look around you. Do you know four women in your family, mothers, sisters, cousins? One of them may well be abused. Do you know four men, friends, colleagues, relatives? One of them may be abusing his wife, his daughter, his girl-friend.
This touches us all.
This is criminal, cruel.
This is unjust in the eyes of man and God.
This must stop.
And so I come to my song choice of today. In this song Papanasam Sivan talks of himself as ‘a cruel man more wicked than a wicked tiger’. I do not understand why he calls himself that, but his words were what I remembered when I heard of the rabid-animal like behaviour of H. He goes on to say ‘I will not kill the fury of lust and anger which rise within me’. Is not the lack of control of that fury which makes a man into an animal? The song has very strong lyrics, check the footnote if interested. Set to Mayamalavagowla, it sounds best when sung in a brisk pace. I present to you this very nice performance by Sandeep Narayan, accompanied by Mysore V.Srikanth on the violin and Neyveli B.Venkatesh on the Mridangam (I so admire him!).
un nAmam en nAvAlum solla mATTEn
uLLezhum kAma krOda madam koLLa mATTEn
ennALum mUvAsaiyai vella mATTEn
en aiyan un AlayattuL sella mATTEn
O Lord Shiva (shambhO), why (En) did you create me (paDaittAy) in this world (bhuvitanil), a cruel man (koDiyan) more wicked (pollA) than a wicked tiger (pollA puliyinum)?
I will not approach (naNuga mATTEn) good people (nallOr) even in my dreams (kanavilum). Even if good things (nalladu) were told to me (sonnAlum), I will not listen (kETka mATTEn).
I will not utter (solla mATTEn) your name (un nAmam) even with my tongue (nAvAlum). I will not kill (kolla mATTEn) the fury/passion (madam) of lust (kAma) and anger (krOda) which rise within me (uLLezhum). I will never (ennALum) subdue/win over (vella mATTEn) the three passions (mUvAsai) (these are மண்ணாசை பெண்ணாசை பொன்னாசை, the desire for land, for women, for gold). My master (aiyan), I will not go (sella mATTEn) into (uL) your temple (Alayam).
Today my thoughts are running to a war that millions of people wage with themselves; a secret war, unspoken of, which every one of us has faced at one time or the other. I am speaking of our battles against a sense of inadequacy. Falling short of other people’s expectations is bad enough but when we fall short of our own standards, that is really difficult to deal with. The nature of such failure is that it can be seldom talked about openly; it lies dormant, a dirty secret which poisons our thoughts and behaviour in innumerable ways.
Take the inadequacy that millions feel regarding the way they look. Shallow, perhaps. but so very core to the sense of ‘I’ in all of us. I consider myself to be not at all superficial, but I can’t remember a day in my adult life when I have not worried about my rather plump form and ways to shed the ever-increasing excess weight. I doubt if I am alone in this. When this sense of inadequacy blows out of proportion, it leads to problems like bulimia or anorexia, self-mutilation, seeking the plastic surgeon’s scalpel etc. Most people however just learn to live with this feeling of inadequacy.
The same sense of being suboptimal regarding one’s financial, social or academic status is, no doubt, equally prevalent. I guess a certain level of insecurity acts as an incentive to work harder, to strive and achieve. But is it not also the seed which turns some others into crooked ways, be it cheating or bribery, embezzlement or plain thievery? The same sense of inadequacy turns some into snobs and others into sycophants, some into bullies and other into the bullied.
What about moral inadequacy? How many of us tell ourselves that we are not ‘good’ enough? How many constantly bring up their old wrongdoings in their mind, never forgiving themselves for their own slips?
Let me present an imagined scale of human morality as a bell curve. At the bottom end, section 1 is filled with the pits of humanity, from ethnic cleansers like Hitler, pillagers like Attila the Hun, murderers, violent dacoits, rapists, child molesters, torturers and all those who thrive on violence. Section 2 is more populous, made of non-violent criminals, bribe takers, dirty and greedy politicians, con artists and such. Section 3 is the most populous with ordinary people who are saddled with the common human weaknesses such as greed, selfishness, envy, anger and laziness. All these weaknesses are still capable of harming others. Section 4 are the ones who have controlled these weaknesses to a large extent and also strive to help others, are thoughtful, charitable, forgiving, ethical, moral. Section 5 are those who devote themselves to the betterment of humanity in any way they can, either through charitable work, intellectual and creative endeavours or devotion to God. Where do you stand on the scale? I ask myself this question when a sense of moral inadequacy overtakes me. And I tell myself, ‘Average+ is ok! There is hope!’. But the truth is, I think I was a better human being at 10 than I am 55. So was this life a waste? sigh!
So you see, I am in perfect sympathy with Papanasam Sivan when he writes ‘Am I worthy of understanding your reality?’. Calling himself a hard hearted villain and saying that he has no Satvik qualities seems a bit harsh though. Seems to me that he is suffering from a bout of moral inadequacy! He seems to forget what our scriptures and epics say again and again – that it is possible for the basest of beings to achieve the grace of God. Think of Valmiki, surely he belonged to the bottom pile of my bell-curve before he redeemed himself? Whatever the sense of inadequacy we all battle with, we are ALL still in the running for God’s forgiveness and grace, and with that, the understanding of His truth. See footnote for lyrics and translation.
To present this wonderful song in Raga Ritigowla, I have selected two renditions for you to listen to. The first is by Trichur Ramachandran whose unique voice adds even more beauty to Ritigowla.
Am I worthy (taramA) of understanding (ariya) your (nin) truth / reality (tatvam)? Oh Lord of the Ganas (gaNa patE), Lord of the Suras (sura patE), O Lord of the Mooladhara chakra (or the support (AdhAra) for the origin (mUla)), your (unadu) truth (continuation meaning from first line).
Is this hard-hearted villain (kirAtan) who is totally without (chaTRum illAda) Satvik qualities (satva guNam), compassion (dayA) for other (implied) beings (jIva) and higher knowledge (jñAna) worthy of understanding your truth (from pallavi)?
O one who holds (karanE) the Modaka sweetmeat which is saturated (paripUrNa) with sweetness (madhura)! O the excellent (varanE) wielder (implied) of the axe (kuTHAra) against (implied) the great (mahA) forest (vana) of obstacles (vighna)! O God (paranE) who blesses (aruL) his devotees (aNbar) with the nine (onbadu) treasures (nidhi) (this refers to the nine treasures of Kubera)! O Seed and Sprout (bIjAnkura) of the entire (nikhila) world (charAchara, literally that which moves (chara) and that which does not (achara))! O son (maganE) of Shiva (madishEkhara)! O benign one (sumuganE) ! O one with the face (muganE) of a proud (mada) elephant (vAraNa)! O Supreme Spirit (chitparanE) who blesses with the realisation of (uNar varRuL) the last sound (shruti muDi) (I am uncertain about shruti muDi). O brother (sOdaranE) of Guha! Is this (implied) RamadAsan (signature) worthy of understanding (implied from pallavi) your (unadu) truth/reality (from pallavi).
What penances did you do Yashoda that the ultimate Brahman who is everywhere called you ‘Mother’? What did you do that you could hold the One who created the fourteen worlds in your arms, loving Him, nursing Him, and rocking Him to sleep? Making even Brahma and Indra envious, you tied Krishna to the mortar and made Him beg you to release Him. What penances did you do, O Holy Mother, that you achieved with ease what the rishis achieved with great effort and yogic austerities?
He was a very naughty little boy, always getting into trouble. His mischief knew no bounds. His poor mother, Yashoda, had to listen to the complaints of the neighbourhood ladies every single day. She scolded Him, she begged Him– but all to no avail. He would turn his beautiful eyes on her and claim innocence, sure of his ability to twist His mother around his little finger. And did He listen to her entreaties? Oh no! He would get into the next scrape even before He was out of the first! What a handful! And yet, one cannot help laughing at His mischief, was there one as inventive as He?
One day while Yashoda was sitting churning butter, He came along demanding to be fed. She stopped her work and picked Him up with pleasure, feeding Him and loving Him. Noticing that the milk pot on the fire was about to overflow, she kept Him down half-way fed to attend to her work. The little scamp, enraged at being put down before He had His fill, broke the butter churn with a stone and started eating the butter. When Yashoda came back, He was feeding the rest of the butter to a monkey!
Always she had given in to His cajoling ways but today she had caught Him red-handed! Is it not the job of a mother to discipline as much as to love? Hardening her heart, she grabbed Him and looked for a rope to tie Him to the big stone mortar. The oddest thing was that whichever rope she found, it was always short by a two-finger length. Even when she tied all the ropes together, it was still short by the same two-finger length! The watching neighbourhood ladies, who had all suffered from Krishna’s mischief, laughed at her efforts which discomfited her. Seeing His mother’s discomfiture, Krishna allowed Himself to be tied. When she left Him, He dragged Himself, mortar and all, to the two trees which stood close by. Pulling the mortar between the trees, He uprooted them and released the curse on the two sons of Kubera who stood grateful before Him.
This story from Srimad Bhagavatam is the one that the poet-composer Papanasam Sivan refers to in my song choice of today, the charming Enna Tavam Seydanai set to raga Kapi. ‘What penances did you do Yashoda that the ultimate Brahman who is everywhere called you Mother?’ he asks. ‘What penances did you do that you could hold the One who created the fourteen worlds in your arms, loving Him, nursing Him, and rocking Him to sleep?’. We Hindus believe that good Karma is what gets us the privilege of a good life. But a life as the mother of God? Is it not beyond any good Karma that we can possibly do? ‘Making even Brahma and Indra envious, you tied Krishna to the mortar and made Him beg you to release Him’ he continues. For the full lyrics and translation, see footnote.
What exactly does this story indicate? It is true that the ultimate Brahman is beyond our grasp, our understanding even. This is symbolised by the rope being too short in our story above. And yet when Krishna sees the mother who loves Him struggle to contain Him, He contains Himself and allows her to grasp Him. And likewise does the Nirguna Brahman who is beyond description takes form as the Saguna Brahman for the sake of those who love Him, a form which even our limited understanding can grasp. Yashoda’s love tied Krishna to the stone mortar, our love ties God to the stone or metal idols which we worship.
If you would like to know more about raga Kapi, click here.
Today I have chosen to present a couple of unusual performances. First listen to a light, non-classical approach by talented playback singer Karthik, sung in a leisurely style.
For an instrumental version, I have chosen a more traditional approach by a couple of untraditional musicians – the two young ladies Lavanya & Subbalakshmi on the saxophone. Their brisk delivery is an interesting contrast to Karthik’s easy paced one. Click here to listen.
But I have to say that what gives me most pleasure is this beautifully calming version by Kanyakumari or this emotional rendition by Sudha Raghunathan. I am such a traditionalist!
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Tamil
என்ன தவம் செய்தனை யசோதா
எங்கும் நிறை பரப்ரம்மம் அம்மா (வெ/)என்றழைக்க
ஈரேழு புவனங்கள் படைத்தவனை
கையில் ஏந்தி சீராட்டி பாலூட்டி தாலாட்ட, நீ
ப்ரம்மனும்(/பிரமனும்) இந்திரனும் மனதில் பொறாமை கொள்ள
உரலில் கட்டி வாய் பொத்தி கெஞ்சவைத்தாய், தாயே
சனக்காதியர் தவ யோகம் செய்து வருந்திச்
சாதித்ததை புனித மாதே எளிதில் பெற, நீ
enna tavam seydanai yashOdA
engum niRai parabrahmam ammA (v)endrazhaikka
IrEzu bhuvanangaL paDaittavanai
kaiyil Endi shIraTTi pAlUTTi tAlATTa nI
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