Category Archives: Sadasiva Brahmendra

Sthirata Nahi Nahi Re

Bhagavat Gita 1

I was seven or eight when I first heard of the Bhagavat Gita. My mother registered my sister and me into Chinamaya Mission’s program for young ones. Chanting the Gita was one of the activities. I even learnt the whole of chapter 7 by heart for a competition, and what’s more, I won a prize for it too!

Not that I understood anything much at that time. Subsequently I have read some summaries and heard some lectures but have not really delved into the Gita. I would tell myself ‘I really should read it at least once from end to end’  but I never got around to it. Well, last week I finally embarked on my long time goal. I hope to have the two-fold benefit of understanding the basic ideas of the Gita and improving my Sanskrit at the same time. I am not going to rush through it, after all, what is the hurry?

Why am I telling you all this? Well, if you see me quote from the Gita every now and then, don’t take me for some erudite vidushi! I am just stumbling along my first word-for-word read of the Gita and no doubt it will filter down into this blog as well.

For those who do not have the time to read it, here is the gist of Chapter 1 which I have just finished. Sanjaya, the charioteer and seer for Dhritarashtra is our narrator. Dhritarashtra asks in the first verse of his seer, ‘What’s up in the battleground ?’. Or rather, he says elegantly in Sanskrit

धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः |
मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ||१- १||

What did Pandu’s son and my sons do when they assembled on the sacred (Dharmic) plain of Kurukshetra, eager for battle, O Sanjaya?

Note how he refers to the battleground as धर्म क्षेत्र  or the field of Dharma, a word which encompasses so much from righteousness, duty, religion, virtue, justice, morality, propriety to law. That is the field for which the Gita was written.

The theme of this chapter is Arjuna’s grief. Those who know the Mahabharata know that the Pandavas had come upon this point after many years of injustice, treachery, insults and even murder attempts. They had not lightly decided on this course of war with their kin. Yet when Arjuna sees his grandfather, uncles, gurus, sons, grandsons, in-laws, cousins and friends arrayed before him on either side of the battlefield, he is overcome with the magnitude of what is happening. ‘What am I doing it all for?’, he seems to ask Krishna, his charioteer, in this verse.

न काङ्क्षे विजयं कृष्ण न च राज्यं सुखानि च |
किं नो राज्येन गोविन्द किं भोगैर्जीवितेन वा ||१- ३२||

I desire not victory, O Krishna, nor kingdom, nor pleasures. Of what avail is dominion to us, O Govinda? Of what avail are pleasures and even life?*

He is a shaken man. His limbs tremble, his skin feels as if it burns, his mouth is dry. We can hardly recognize the great and experienced warrior that he was in these descriptions. His main fear seems to be that of accumulating the great sin of destroying his family.

अहो बत महत्पापं कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम् |
यद्राज्यसुखलोभेन हन्तुं स्वजनमुद्यताः ||१- ४५||

Alas! We have resolved to commit a great sin, inasmuch as we are endeavouring to slay our kinsmen out of craving for the pleasures of dominion.

It seems to me that he was more worried about gathering sins than the loss of dear ones. Whatever it was, I feel most sympathetic with him and wonder how the story would have gone if he had walked away from the battlefield then?

There are some verses (40-48) which I found rather objectionable in this chapter. His idea of a adharmic future is the impiety of women (not men!), the intermingling of castes due to which all the forefathers will go to hell without offerings of pinda and water! I suppose it struck at me personally as a woman who not only married outside her caste but also outside her region. To be accused of impiety and the ‘sin of intermingling of castes’ seems rather harsh! What can be wrong about the intermingled origins of my two wonderful children? Two such intelligent and empathetic citizens of the world, both doctors who aid people everyday, surely the Gita does not question the propriety of their existence? Ah well, different times, different mores. I am not one to take the scriptures too literally…

The theme song of the day? What came to mind immediately was ‘Sthirata Nahi Nahi Re’ by Sadasiva Brahmendra. ‘There is no stability of mind’ says the poet. ‘We are engrossed in this ocean of three kinds of sorrow, caged by arrogance and egotism’ he says. Arjuna too felt deep sorrow at his situation, a situation which came about partly by arrogance and egotism as well. ‘Minds wrapped up with the bond of things, perplexed by wrong or contrary knowledge’.  Interesting that vishaya can be interpreted as objects but also as country or land. Is that not what the Pandaves were, bound to their desire for land? For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

The song was made his own by the incomparable Maestro Balamuralikrishna. I believe it was set to music by him for the film Dharma Nirnayam but I cannot confirm this.  It is set to Raga Amrutavarshini here but this poem has been sung in different ragas by different artists. To know more about this raga, click here.

Alternate link : Click here

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Poetry : Sadasiva Brahmendra
Raga : Amrutavarshini
Language : Sanskrit

स्थिरथा नहि नहि रे मानस ।
स्थिरथा नहि नहि रे ॥

तापत्रय सागर मग्नानाम् दर्पाहन्कार विलग्नानाम्  ॥

विषय पाश वेष्टित चित्तानाम् विपरीत ज्ञान विमत्तानाम्  ॥

परमहंस योग विरुद्धानाम् बहु चन्चलतर सुख सिद्धानाम्  ॥

Transliteration :

sthiratA nahi nahi rE mAnasa
sthiratA nahi nahi rE

tApatraya sAgara magnAnam darpAhankAra vilagnAnAm

vishaya pAsha veshTita chittAnAm viparIta jnAna vimattAnAm

paramahamsa yOga viruddhAnAm bahu chanchalatara sukha siddhAnAm

Translation :

O listen (implied by rE, interjection of calling)! The mind (mAnasa) does verily not (nahi nahi) stabilize (sthiratA).

We are engrossed (magnAnam) in this ocean (sAgara) of three kinds of sorrow (tApatraya) (note: Adidaivika (Divine), Adhibhoutika (of the body) and Adhyatmika (of the soul)), caged (vilagnAnAm) by arrogance (darpa) and egotism (ahankAra).

Minds (chittAnAm) wrapped up (vEshTita) with the bond (pAsha) of things (vishaya), perplexed (vimattAnAm) by wrong or contrary (viparIta) knowledge (jnAna).

Opposed (viruddhAnAm) to union (yOga) with ascetics (paramahamsa). So (implied) achieving (achieving) of joy (sukha) is very (bahu) uncertain (chanchalatara).



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.Balamuralikrishna, Sadasiva Brahmendra

Pibare Ramarasam

RamaWhen a reader requested me to write on this song last week, it was easy for me to acquiesce. I have listened to and enjoyed Pibare Ramarasam for many years after all. I always prepare myself for writing a post by listening to multiple renditions of a song, both vocal and instrumental; I want the song to permeate my being, I want to absorb the words, the meaning, the sounds, the emotions and the moods invoked by a piece of music before being able to write of it. I also listened to a lot of Raga Ahir Bhairav in Hindustani Music and what a pleasure that was! To know more about this raga, click here.

Coming back to Pibare Ramarasam, I kept getting distracted by the mispronunciations of Sanskrit by almost all the vocalists. पिबरे (pibarE) pronounced as पिभरे (pibharE) is bad enough, but as बिबरे (bibarE)? I shudder!! Even the maestro who can normally be depended on to pronounce Sanskrit correctly slipped up; I distinctly heard पीठम्  (pITam) instead of  पीतम्  (pItam) which changes the meaning totally. As this hobby horse of mine threatened to take over this post, I have put my rants in a separate page, the better to refer to it in future posts when my annoyance at mispronunciations takes over everything else! To read my rants, click here; I need an audience for my rants and raves too!! In the meanwhile, I beg vocalists and students to please please learn Sanskrit compositions in Devanagari script and learn to pronounce the words properly. Please.

It is indeed appropriate to stress on pronunciation in relation to this song;  after all, the poet talks of the power of the name of Rama, the power of the sound itself. Sadasiva Brahmendra (17th-18th century)  was an avadhoota, an ascetic who had renounced everything, and who has contributed some beautiful and mystical works to Carnatic Music. ‘Drink the essence of the name of Rama, O tongue’, the poet extolls, ‘for it will keep you far from sins and fulfill you with many rewards’. This is not a reminder for the mind, but a reminder for the tongue. This is an acknowledgement of the power of the sound energy in the name of Rama. Hinduism has always recognized the power of sound. I had written of this in a post last year, of Mantras and Bija Mantras and the power they carry. Sadasiva Brahmendra says that so too is the power of the name of Rama. ‘The poet then goes on to describe the rewards, such as ‘removal of the grief of the birth-death cycle’, ‘purify even the worst of sinners’ etc.  For full lyrics and translation, see footnote.

This song used to be sung in Yamuna Kalyani but the great Maestro Balamuralikrishna has made his Ahir Bhairav version very popular. I have a great affection for this latter raga; the notes themselves seem to imbue the song with a deep mystical sense. There is no question about it, the Maestro’s version is the best, especially if you listen to the ones sung when his voice was at its peak. If you haven’t heard him, here is a link. But wanting to present an alternate version, I have selected a very pleasant and peaceful rendition by Unnikrishnan. Click here to listen.

For an instrumental version, there is this perfect little rendition by flute Maestro Shashank. Ahir Bhairav and the flute seem to have been made for each other!

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit
Note: Its common to sing only lines 1,3 and 5 but I have heard a complete version too.

पिबरे राम रसम् रसने पिबरे राम रसम्
दूरीकृत पातक  संसर्गम्  पूरित नानाविध फल वर्गम्
जनन मरण भय शोक  विदूरम् सकल शास्त्र निगमागम सारम्
परिपालित सरसिज गर्भाण्डं   परम पवित्री कृत पाषाण्डम्
शुद्ध परमहम्स आश्रम / आश्रित  गीतं शुक शौनक कौशिक मुख पीतम्


pibarE rAma rasam rasanE pibarE rAmarasam
dUrIkrta pAtaka samsargam pUrita nAnAvidha phala vargam
janana maraNa bhaya shOka vidUram sakala shAstra nigamAgama sAram
paripAlita sarasija garbhANDam parama pavitrI krta pAshANDam
shuddha paramahamsa Ashrama gItam shuka shaunaka kaushika mukha pItam


Drink (verb piban) (implied: absorb) the essence (rasam) of the name of Rama, o tongue (rasana).
It will help you (implied) remove or be distant (doori krta) from association with sin(pAtaka) (or be distant from those who cause you to sin) and you will be fulfilled (poorita) with many kinds (nAnAvidha) and types (varga) of rewards/gains (phala).
It will help you be far removed (vidUram) from the grief (shOka) of the cycle of birth and death (jananamaraNa), it is the essence (sAram) of all (sakala) the religious treatises (shAstra), the Vedas (nigama) and sciences (Agama).
It protects (paripAlita) all creation. Brahma was born of a lotus (sarasija) from a golden egg (garbha anda, womb & egg) and then he created the whole universe. So this phrase implies that Rama nama protects the whole universe.  It will purify (pavitrI) even the most (parama) impious or heretic (pAshANDam).
It is the pure (shuddha) song (gItam) that paramahamsa (signature of poet) has taken refuge in (Ashrama/Ashrita), it is the same which has been drunk (pItam) by sages like Shuka, Shaunaka and Kaushika.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.Balamuralikrishna, Sadasiva Brahmendra, Shashank, Unnikrishnan