Category Archives: Tyagaraja

Teliyaleru Rama

People do not have the knowledge, O Rama, of the path of devotion. They wander all over the world babbling but they do not have the knowledge of devotion. They get up early, take a dip in the water, smear themselves with sacred ash, count their prayer beads with their fingers, outwardly very praiseworthy! Inwardly they are dedicated to making money. But..they do not have the knowledge of the path of devotion.

BhaktiI am an atheist’ my son tells me.

It is Deepavali day and we are at the temple. My son’s statement is not a surprise; I am aware of his thoughts. Yet..

It makes me so sad’ I say.

Generally speaking, my tendency is to say ‘each to his own’. I feel very unqualified to judge people for the choices they make. Who is to know what is right? Yet in this case, it feels different. I see this as a my failure. As a mother, I should have made a better effort to teach him of a belief system which has given me much succour over my lifetime. I say as much to him.

Are you so sure of being right then? What if you are wrong?’ he asks.

I acknowledge that it is not really possible to prove the existence of God. At some stage, one has to take a leap of faith. Yet there is this feeling… I think it is like music appreciation. There is all this wonderful music, soul touching music, our world of Carnatic Music. Thousands pass by its path, unaware, untouched. Even amongst those who listen with great interest, only rarely does the music ‘speak’ in such a way that one’s soul merges with the music. The transmission may be there, but if one doesn’t have a receiver, one hears nothing! For music and for devotion, one needs a receiver within oneself, or so I think.

‘teliyalEru rama bhakti mArgamunu’ I tell myself as the title of the song comes to mind. I search for a translation to see that Tyagaraja speaks of something a bit different – not about the lack of faith, but about putting on a grand but false show of faith. Tyagaraja seems saddened.  ‘They can never know, O Rama, the true path of Bhakti’ he says. ‘They get up early, take a dip in water, smear themselves with ash, count their prayers on their fingers, but all a grand show for appearances’ says he. It seems far worse than a honestly stated atheism, doesn’t it? For full lyrics and translation, see footnote. The song is set to raga Dhenuka; to know more about this raga, click here.

I have been in the mood of yesteryear greats as last week’s post demonstrates. I have listened to many renditions these past few  days but keep going back to the one by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer which I present below. Sound quality is not very good but the music is exceptional.

Alternate Link : Click here and download song 3 (need free membership of

For an instrumental version, here is a elaborated rendition of this song. I found it very interesting as elaborations of this raga are rare. Again sound quality is below par but definitely worthy of your attention.

Alternate Link : Click here and download song 2 (need free membership of


Footnote (Lyrics) :

I do not speak Telugu. I am indebted to various internet resources for the lyrics and translation below.

Transliteration in Devanagri

तॆलिय लेरु राम भक्ति मार्गमुनु

इलनन्तट तिरुगुचुनु
कलुवरिञ्चेरे कानि (alternate: कलुवरिञ्चुत ?)

वेग लेचि नीट मुनिगि भूति पूसि
वेळ्ळनॆञ्चि वॆलिकि श्लाघनीयुलै
बाग पैकमार्जन लोलुलै
रे कानि त्यागराज विनुत

Transliteration in English

(note: k and g seemed to be used interchangeably in most sites I referenced)

teliya lEru rAma bhakti mArgamunu

ilanantaTa tiruguchunu
kaluvarinchErE kAni (alt:kaluvarinchuta)

vEga lEchi nITa munigi bhUti pUsi
vELLanenchi veliki shlAghanIyulai
bAga paikamArjana lOlulai
rE kAni tyAgarAja vinuta


People do not have the knowledge, O Rama, of the path of devotion.

People wander all over the earth babbling, but (they do not have the knowledge….)

People get up early, take a dip in the water, smear sacred ash, count the prayer beads (implied) with their fingers, outwardly being praiseworthy. Inwardly (implied) they are dedicated to earning money. But, O Lord praised by Tyagaraja, (they do not have the knowledge of the path of devotion).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Tyagaraja, U.Srinivas

Rama Katha Sudha


Happy Deepavali to all my readers! May the lamps you light enlighten your minds, may the sweets you eat sweeten your thoughts and words!

Lord Rama has been resident in my mind this whole week. Though the significance of Deepavali is region dependent, it is the story of Lord Rama’s return from the forest which lingers in my mind. Like everyone else in India, I learnt the stories from numerous sources. In childhood, my grandmother and my mother would tell the stories with great verve and energy. A little older, I read my own first version by C.Rajagopalachari which I enjoyed very much. I learnt so much from that book! I’ve read a few more versions since then but they never had the impact that the first book did. When I had kids of my own, I bought the comic book series from Amar Chitra Katha and read them along with my children. At the same time, we also saw the highly popular but atrociously made televised series by Ramanand Sagar. I also remember street performance of Ram Lila, upanyasams at temple grounds, Katha Kali performances…oh so many versions! The Ramayana in my mind is a mishmash from all these sources, with background music to match!

‘What would be the right song to celebrate His return from the forest?’ I ask myself. Something mangalakaram, in madhyamavati or kurinji I tell myself, though I have already featured these ragas. A mangalam perhaps? Surely He would have been invited back with a nice aarati? Sri Rama Chandranukku comes to mind. Yet..I don’t want to sing mangalam in this blog as yet (for the uninitiated, it indicates an end of a concert).  To find inspiration, I let my mind wander from story to story. Images flash past one after the other. Rama as a child, the treasured prince. Rama as a young man called to take up arms for Vishwamitra. Rama’s first sight of Sita. Kaikeyi’s jealousy. The banishment. Life in Chitrakoot. Shurpanakha’s nose. The golden deer. Lakshman’s rekha. Sita’s abduction. Garuda’s death. The heartbreak of Rama. Sugreeva and Bali. Questionable warfare. Hanuman. Sita amongst Ashoka trees. Vibheeshana’s defection. Hanuman’s burning tail. The bridge across the ocean. Waking Kumbhakarna. Indrajit’s magic. Lakshmana’s fall. Sanjeevani. Ravana’s ten heads. Victory. The triumphant return. Deepavali. Ah, how I take my pleasure in this old tale of Gods and sages, of demons and kings, of men who are animals and animals who are Gods. And I have my song for this post!

To drink the nectar like essence of the story of Rama is equal to ruling a kingdom’ says Tyagaraja. I hope you too have remembered the story of Rama along with me on this holy day and enjoyed its essence. ‘It is indeed the boat which enables us to cross the flaming ocean of existence in which we are bound by karma’ says the Saint. To see full lyrics and translation, see footnote.

On an aside, I remember a time, a long time ago, when I did not really appreciate Madhyamavati. It used to feel somewhat staid to me. Now I am amazed at how blind – or rather deaf – I was! This beautiful raga pours well-being into one’s soul; I will adopt Tyagaraja’s words and call this sudha rasa – the essence of nectar. To know more about this raga, click here.

When it comes to presenting this song, I am overwhelmed by the riches available to me. After listening to many hours of music, I have selected the confident and melodious version by Trichur V.Ramachandran (1940-), an artist I am featuring for the first time in my blog. A holder of all the prestigious awards (Sangeet Natak Academy, Padma Bhushan, Sangeetha Kalanidhi), he was for fortunate in having both the great G.N.Balasubramaniam and M.L.Vasanthakumari as his gurus.

If you have the time, I urge you to also listen to the versions by his Gurus as well. G.N.Balasubramaniam (1910-1965) sings in his inimitable style, with his strong and pure voice while M.L.Vasanthakumari’s (1928-1990) version is both melodious and energetic. While you are in the mood for yesteryear greats, perhaps you would like to watch a video of this rare live performance by the greatest of them all, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (1908-2003).

For an instrumental version, I offer a rendition by the greatest of violinists, Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930-2013), a rendition which I love and listen to often. It has a wonderful call-and-answer with his son, G.J.R.Krishnan. Do not miss!


Footnote (Lyrics) :

I do not speak Telugu and am indebted to various internet sites for the lyrics below.

Transliteration in Devanagri

राम कथा सुधा रस पानम् ओक राज्यमु जेसुने

भामा मणि जानकी सौमित्री
भरतादुलतो भूमि वेलयु श्री

धर्माद्यखिल फलदमे मनसा
धैर्यानन्द सौख्य निकेतनमे
कर्म बन्ध ज्वालन अब्धि नावमे
कलि हरमे त्यागराज विनुतुडगु

Transliteration in English

rAma kathA sudhA rasa pAnam oka rAjyamu jEsunE

bhAmA maNi jAnakI saumitrI
bharatAdulatO bhUmi vElayu shrI

dharmAdyakhila phaladamE manasA
dhairyAnanda saukhya nikEtanamE
karma bandha jvAlana abdhi nAvamE
kali haramE tyAgarAja vinutuDagu


Drinking the nectar like essence of Sri Rama’s story is equal to ruling a kingdom.

He who shines on this earth along with the jewel amongst women, Janaki, the son of Saumitra (Lakshmana), Bharata and others.

Oh my mind! (Drinking the essence of Sri Rama’s story) bestows the fruit of everything like Dharma etc. It is the abode of courage, bliss and well-being. It is the boat which enables us to cross the burning ocean of existence to which we are bound by karma. It is the destroyer of kali yuga. The Lord who is praised by Tyagaraja.


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, G.N.Balasubramaniam, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Trichur V.Ramachandran, Tyagaraja

Adamodi Galade

Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of yours in not talking to me when I have held your feet with such devotion? O Merciful Lord! Is it not true that when the erudite Anjaneya saluted you, you asked your younger brother to convey the details to him? However, is this fair, this whim of yours in not replying to this Tyagaraja?

HanumanMost of us who have grown up in India have a special place in our hearts for the epic Ramayana. Our behaviour, our beliefs, our language – all this and more are influenced by this great epic. However, if we are asked if Ramayana is myth or history, if it is legend or reality, many amongst us will be conflicted. I am. My heart believes, but my mind questions many of the incredible occurrences. I try and add my own reasoning (totally unproven!) to make it real, for I want it to be real.

Take, for example, Lord Hanuman and the legions of Vanaras (apes) who have a starring role in Ramayana. ‘Talking apes? Really?’ My mind asks me. Given my beliefs, I feel both guilt and shame for asking such questions and then hasten to counter-ask myself ‘What if some Neanderthal men were still around at that time? Would they have been seen as another species i.e. as apes?’.  The dates don’t fit, but what if?

Evidently, I am not the only one who wants to find logic to fit the legends. I-Serve, the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas seems to be populated by exactly the same kind of people. They were much in the news last year when they used astronomical dating of planetary positions mentioned in the Ramayana to get dates for some important events. Lord Rama’s birthdate was 10 January, 5114 BC, they say with authority. Their paper is an interesting read for anyone interested in the Ramayana.

So when I came to the topic of today, the first meeting of Lord Hanuman with Lord Rama, I see it in my mind’s eye as a somewhat mythical history, but history nonetheless. Before we come to Sarga 3 of the Kishkinda Kanda of the Ramayana, Sita is already taken. Rama and Lakshmana are on her trail. Dressed simply like hermits, they still have the appearance of princes. It is at this time that Hanuman is sent as a messenger seeking help from them by Sugreeva, the younger brother of Vali, the Vanara ruler of the region, who has now become Sugreeva’s enemy.

Dressing himself as an ascetic in order not to alarm then, Hanuman approaches them. His speech is full of praise, as seems to be the polite form of address in those times, before introducing himself. Rama is well pleased with his greeting. Turning to Lakshmana, he praises Hanuman’s knowledge of grammar and the Vedas. But he does not speak directly to Hanuman, letting Lakshmana be his spokesperson. This is believed to be the protocol of those times in dealing with messengers. For the verses and the translation, read here.

Tyagaraja uses this incident in our song choice of today, Adamodi Galade, set to the charming Charukesi raga (to know more about this raga, click here). Tyagaraja asks Lord Rama if it is fair that he persists in his whim of not speaking to him and reminds him that it was thus with even Hanuman, that the Lord did not reply directly to him when spoken to. Does Tyagaraja imply that if the Lord would not speak to Hanuman himself, what chance did he have? Does he see himself as a loyal servitor of Lord Rama, just as Hanuman was and thus worthy of his love? He does seem to berate the Lord, calling him whimsical! For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

To present this song, I am in the mood for some legends today. To start with, I present a rare live presentation from the musician whose Charukesi I love better than anything else, the inimitable Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930-2013).

And for a vocal version, I can present no other than the Maestro with a voice like nectar, Dr.Balamuralikrishna (1930-). He was a man who pushed the boundaries of tradition in his time and is a living legend now.

Alternate link : in Sangeethapriya, accessible with a free account.

Next I would like to recommend a very interesting interpretation by the great Veena player, Chitti Babu (1936-1996). I was surprised to note the Vedic hymn style notes produced in the alapana and in the thanam as well, something I associate with Revati, not Charukesi. It ends abruptly, but still do listen, this raga sounds particularly beautiful on the Veena.

Alternate link : In Sangeethapriya, accessible with a free account.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu
I do not speak Telugu and have sourced the lyrics and translation from various internet sources, especially
Tyagaraja Vaibhavam. This I have calibrated against multiple performances and modified as seemed fit.

आड मोडि गलदा (alternate: गलदे) रामय्य माट(लाड मोडि )

तोडु नीड नीवे अनुचुनु (alt: यनुचुनु) भक्तितो गूडि (नी)
पादमु (alt: पादमुल) पट्टिन नातो माट(लाड मोडि )

चदुवुलन्नि तॆलिसि शंकरांशुडै
सदयुडाशुग सम्भवुडु म्रॊक्क
कदलु तम्मुनि पल्क जेसितिवि
गाकनु त्यागराजु आडिन माट(लाड मोडि )


ADa mODi galadA (alt: galadE) rAmayya mATa (lADa mODi)

tODu nIDa nIvE anuchunu (Alt: yanuchunu) bhaktito
gUDi (nI) pAdamu (pAdamula) paTTina nAtO mATa (lADa mODi)

chaduvulanni telisi shankarAnshuDai
sadayuDAshuga sambhavuDu mrokka
kadalu tammuni palka jEsitivi
gAkanu tyAgarAju ADina mATa (lADa mODi)

Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of yours in not talking to me? (Note: mODi has been translated as obstinacy, haughtiness etc. but I liked whimsical which is also a valid translation by the dictionary. You take your pick!)

Is it just, O Lord Rama, this whim of not talking to me who considers you alone to be as constant as a shadow, when I have held your feet with so much devotion?

O Merciful Lord! Is it not true that when the erudite Anjaneya, born of the Wind God, who is also an aspect of Lord Shiva, saluted you, you asked your younger brother to convey the details to him? However, is this whim of yours in not replying to this Tyagaraja just?


Filed under Carnatic Music, Chitti Babu, Compositions in Telugu, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M.Balamuralikrishna, Tyagaraja

Mundu Venuka

KavachWe humans are so vulnerable, are we not? Our bodies can be damaged, by accident or intent, and most certainly by time. Our minds get damaged every single day as violence abounds in the world around us. Knowing our own vulnerability, we use armour of different kinds to protect ourselves. There is armour for the body, be it a medieval steel body-suit, or the knee and elbow pads of skateboarders. The armour of the mind ranges from the ‘masks’ we put on to all kinds of behavioural changes in order to protect ourselves.

For those who believe in God, there is one armour which is above all else. We Hindus have special mantras, called kavacha (armour) which invoke the Gods to act as a shield for us. For myself, I use a visualisation technique in which I place myself in a cocoon of God’s power and inside, I feel invulnerable. Believers also wear talismans or amulets (காப்பு, தாயித்து, ताबीज/ताबीज़, कवच) to protect themselves. Do all these really work? I don’t know. Perhaps it is enough that we believe; perhaps the belief itself is our armour. And sometimes there are stories which make you pause..and think. Here is such a story.

It was a long time back, close to 40 years ago. In a little lane in North Calcutta there lived a kindly woman who was known for her generous alms-giving. Almost everyday somebody would knock at her door with a sad tale of want or perhaps just a silent plea and she would give whatever she could. She must also have been known in the Sadhu-Sanyasi grapevine for never turning away holy mendicants. Her children scolded her thinking that she was falling for cheats but she always did what she believed in.

One day when her son was playing cricket on the street, a sadhu-baba beckoned him and asked to meet his mother. When the boy took him home, his mother smilingly greeted the sadhu-baba and turned to get some alms for him. He stopped her saying ‘Ma, wait! I have something for you’.

Surprised she turned to him. Normally it was she who was the giver. Removing something from a knot in his garment, he put it in her hand. It was an amulet on a string.

This is for your son. Tie this around his neck. It will keep him safe, he is in danger’ . So saying he walked away without receiving any alms.

The lady had to force her rather disbelieving sixteen year old into wearing the amulet but he gave in to his mother’s pleading. A month later he fell under a bus and was in a coma for 3 months. The pelvic region was badly damaged and the doctors hardly expected him to live. Even if he lived, they told each other, he would never lead a normal life. For 4 months he lay in a hospital bed, struggling through operations and infections which ate away at his insides. But he fought. The next year he was at school and proceeded to live the normal life that all young men lead – studying, fooling around, getting into trouble and playing sports all day. Years later when his doctors saw him, they would still shake their heads in amazement. ‘It was a miracle’  they would say.

His mother always thought it was the talisman which protected him. And perhaps the young man did too.  Because, you see, forty years have passed and my husband still wears that talisman around his neck. The blessing of a holy man and the prayers of a mother together had been an armour which even the bus which ran over him could not penetrate.

For those who don’t know esoteric mantras and are not blessed with visits by mysterious sadhu-babas, what is the way? You can pray to God, like Tyagaraja did, for the Lord to be his ‘companion, in front, back and on both sides’. To be surrounded by God on all sides is the ultimate armour, isn’t it? The rest of the song is in praise of the Lord. Set to the majestic raga Darbar, this invitation to Lord Rama to be one’s armour is a beautifully composed and deeply meditative piece of music. I am especially touched by the entreaty in the words ‘rA rA’ (come, come) repeated throughout the composition. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

Today I have chosen a wonderful musician whom I have not featured before. The great Maestro Voleti Venkateswarulu (1928-1989) sings this song with astonishing ease, great bhava and does great justice to this composition.

For an alternate link (needs free membership to Sangeethapriya), click here.

Strangely, I have hardly heard many instrumental renditions of this song. I wonder why? However, here is a good rendition by the magician on the flute, S.Sashank.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As always, I note that I do not speak Telugu and I use various internet resources for the translation. I listened to multiple renditions of  the song to verify the lyrics and the pronunciation. This time, I had the support of a kind reader, Srinivas Vuruputuri, who verified the trasliteration and translation for me; my grateful thanks.

मुन्दु वॆनुक इरु पक्कल तोडै
मुर खर हर रा रा

एन्दु  कान नी अन्दमु वलॆ रघु-
नन्दन वेगमे रा रा

ओ गज रक्षक ओ राज कुमार
ओंकार सदन रा रा
भागवत प्रिय बाग (alternate: बागुग) ब्रोववय्य
त्यागराज नुत (alternate: त्यागराजार्चित ) रा रा



mundu vEnuka iru pakkala tODai
mura khara hara rA rA

endu kAna nI andamu vale raghu-
nandana vEgamE rA rA

O gaja rakshaka O rAja kumArA
OmkAra sadana rA rA
bhAgavata priya bAga (alternate: bAguga) brOvavayyA
tyAgarAja nuta (alternate: tyAgArchita) rA rA


Please come as my companion in front, in the back and at my two sides, O vanquisher of the Mura and Khara (note: these were two Rakshashas).

Nowhere is there someone as charming as you, O son of the Raghu dynasty.

O protector of the king of elephants, Oh Prince! You dwell in Omkara (the sound of Om), please come. O Lord who is dear to devotees, protect us well. O Lord worshipped by Tyagaraja, please come.


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Tyagaraja, Voleti Venkateswarulu

Gana Moorte

20130215 Lulu

Please meet the newest entrant to our family, my grand-niece whom I affectionately call Lulu. She is 4 months old and is a Carnatic Music connoisseur.  Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing her for her thoughts on this form of music.

Welcome to our family. I see that you are already a dedicated Carnatic music fan. Can you tell me how it came about?’, I ask curiously.

It is all about exposure’ she says with confidence ‘I did hear a bit of it when I was in my mummy’s tummy, but I am not sure how much attention I paid to it. But since I was born, my grandma has played this music often for me and now it is as precious as milk!’. She gurgles, blowing a milk-bubble in illustration.

Why do you like Carnatic music?’ I am interested. ‘How does it make you feel?’.

She smiles at her mom who is standing across the room and her brilliant big eyes follow her mom’s movements without blinking.

Ma’am?’ I draw attention back to myself, waving a soft toy in front of her eyes.

She blinks her eyes and stares at me with intelligent eyes. ‘It is so soothing!’ Her lips have a hint of a smile. ‘See, when I want my mommy but she is not there, or when my tummy aches with a burp which I just cannot get out, or when I am sleepy but can’t seem to close my eyes or stop my busy mind, I find that Carnatic Music lulls me into a happy and restful state’.

Having had enough of this interview, she fills her lungs to their fullest extent and demands in the most princess-like style that her mom attend to her at once.

Please ma’am, I would like you to recommend a restful playlist for my readers, especially for those who have a child or a grandchild to soothe.’ I beg.

She pauses for a moment and nods her head. ‘Check out my ipad.’ She dismisses me and deigns to smile at her mom, who has come running to do her bidding. The interview is closed.

This then is Lulu’s playlist of favourites.

1. Krishna Nee Begane by K.S.Chitra (too light for me, but Lulu adores this)
2. Gana Moorte by Nisha Rajagopal (Well sung, but video removed now)
3. RTP in Brindavana Saranga by O.S.Arun (I heard for the first time today, its very good! Do listen.)
4. Jo Jo Rama by Bombay Jayashri (from Vatsalyam, a CD of lullabys, very soothing)
5. Shlokas on Shri Venkatesha by Aruna Sairam (I am a fan, but video removed now)

As I have already featured the song Krishna Nee Begane in my blog, I have chosen Gana Moorte by Tyagaraja to feature in my post today. Set to the unusual Raga Ganamoorti, it is in praise of Lord Krishna. If you would like to know a bit more about the raga, click here.  Like a number of kritis, the lyrics list ‘identifiers’ for Lord Krishna. A great prayer song, it brings the mind to focus on who He is. For those who know the associated stories, it brings along a vivid imagery, allowing the mind’s eye to wonder at the leelas of Lord Krishna. As my grand-niece’s favourite rendition by Nisha Rajagopal has been removed in Youtube, I offer instead T.N.Seshagopalan’s version here.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

गान मूर्ते श्री कृष्ण वेणु गान लोल त्रिभुवन पाल पाहि

मानिनी मणि श्री रुक्मिणी मानसापहार मार जनक दिव्य

नवनीत चोर नन्द सत्किशोर नर मित्र धीर नर सिंह शूर
नव मेघ तेज नगजा सहज नरकान्तकाज नत त्यागराज


gAna mUrtE shrI krshNa vENu gAna lOla tri bhuvana pAla pAhi

mAninI maNi shrI rukmiNi mAnasApahAra mAra janaka divya

navanIta chOra nanda satkishOra nara mitra dhIra nara simha shUra
nava mEgha tEja nagajA sahaja narakAntakAja nata tyAgarAja


O Embodiment (mUrtE) of Music (gAna), Lord Krishna! O He who longs for (lOla) Music (gAna) ! O Protector (pAla) of the three worlds (tri bhuvana), protect me (pAhi) !

O Stealer (apahAra) of the mind (mana) of the gem (maNi) of a proud woman (mAnini) Rukmini ! O divine (divya) father (janaka) of mAra (the God of love) !

O Stealer (chOra) of butter (navanIta) ! O good son (sat kishOra) of Nanda ! O friend (mitra) of man (nara) ! O brave (dhIra) hero (shUra), Narasimha ! O He who is radiant (tEja) as fresh (nava) clouds (mEgha)! O brother (sahaja) of Parvati (nagajA=daughter of mountain)! O destroyer of the demon naraka (narakAntaka)! O unborn (aja) ! O Lord saluted by (nata) tyagarAja !



Filed under Carnatic Music, T.N.Seshagopalan, Tyagaraja


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

Kana Kana Ruchira

RamaIt has taken me a long time to continue with my posts on Tyagaraja’s Pancharatna Kritis that I started last year. If you are just catching up, here are the posts on Jagadananda Karaka, Dudukugala and Saadinchane.

Kana Kana Ruchira, like the other Ghana Raga Pancharatna Kritis, is familiar and well-loved by most Carnatic music fans.  It is set to Raga Varali, an ancient raga dating beyond 1300 years. Varali has a lulling quality which is so appropriate to devotional music and which I find very pleasing indeed. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.

This lovely composition is an outpouring of love for Lord Rama by Tyagaraja.  It the  pallavi  he says ‘The more I see you, the sweeter it is’ . This simple phrase is most evocative and sets the mood of the composition to an unalloyed sweetness. This is stressed by the anupallavi – dina dinamunu manasuna chanuvuna – ‘everyday, in my mind’s eye with love’.  Is that not the essence of Bhakti rasa?  To love one’s God so much that one is enthralled in gazing at God through the mind’s eye, all day, everyday? This mood of being enthralled is enhanced by the hypnotic quality of Raga Varali.

Tyagarja continues to describe and praise his Lord in many ways in the charanams; this composition stresses Rupa-Mahima or extolling the form.  I will leave it to another post to examine the concept of beauty in Divinity, a concept we come across very often in Hinduism. I love the sancharas in the purvanga (first half of octave) in Varali which are most soothing. See footnote for lyrics.

To present the song, I have chosen a rendition by the revered veteran vocalist and musicologist R.Vedavalli whose calm and crisp singing steeped in paddhati (classical method/system) is nonetheless full of emotion.

For an instrumental version, what better than the Veena, an ancient instrument to match this ancient raga? Listen below to a rendition by the talented musician E.Gayathri.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As I do not speak Telugu, here are the lyrics in Devanagri script. For notation, click here. :

कन कन रुचिरा कनक वसन निन्नु

दिन दिनमुनु मनसुन चनुवुन निन्नु

चरणं 1
पालु गारु मोमुन श्रीय
पार महिम तनरु निन्नु

चरणं 2
कलकलमनु मुख कल कलिगिन सीत
कुलुकुचु नोर कन्नुलनु जूचु निन्नु

चरणं 3
बालार्काभि सुचेल मणि मय मालालंकृत कन्धर सर-
सिजाक्ष वर कपोल सुरुचिर किरीट धर संततंबु मनसारग

चरणं 4
सा पत्नि मातयौ सुरुचिचे कर्ण शूल मैनमाट वीनुल
चुरुक्कन तालक श्री हरिनि ध्यानिन्चि सुखिम्पग लेदायटु

चरणं 5
मृग मद ललाम शुभ निटिल वर जटायु मोक्ष फ़लद पवमान
सुतुडु नीदु महिम तेल्प सीत तेलिसि वलचि सोक्क लेदा (आ ) रीति निन्नु

चरणं 6
सुखास्पद विमुखाम्बु धर पवन विदेह मानस विहारप्त सुर
भूज मानित गुणांक चिदानन्द खग तुरंग धृत रथांग पर-
म दयाकर करुणा रस वरुणालय भयापहर श्री रघुपते

चरणं 7
कामिञ्चि प्रेम मीर करमुल नीदु पाद कमलमुल पट्टुकॊनु
वाडु साक्षि राम नाम रसिकुडु कैलास सदनुडु साक्षि
मरियु नारद पराशर शुक शौनक पुरन्दर नगजा धरज
मुख्युलु साक्षि काद सुन्दरेश सुख कलशाम्बुधि वासाश्रितुलके

चरणं 8
सततमु प्रेम पूरितुडगु त्यागराज
नुत मुख जित कुमुद हित वरद निन्नु


kana kana rucirA kanaka vasana ninnu

dina dinamunu manasuna chanuvuna ninnu

Charanam 1
pAlu gAru mOmuna srIya
pAara mahima tanaru ninnu

Charanam 2
kalakalamanu mukha kala kaligina sIta
kulukuchunOra kannulanu jUchu ninnu

Charanam 3
bAlArkAbhi suchElA maNi maya mAlAlamkruta kandhara sara-
sijAksha vara kapOla surucira kirITa dhara santatambu manasAraga

Charanam 4
sA patni mAtayau suruchichE karNa shUlamaina mATa vInula
churukkana tALaka srI harini dhyAninchi sukhimpaga lEdAyaTu

Charanam 5
mruga-mada lalAma shubha niTila vara jatAyu mOksha phalada pavamAna sutudunIdu mahima telpa sIta telisi valachi sokka lEdA (A) rIti ninnu

Charanam 6
sukhAspada vimukhAmbu dhara pavana vidEha mAnasa viharApta sura
bhUja mAnita guNanka chidAnanda khaga turanga dhruta rathAnga para-
ma dayAkara karuNA rasa varuNAlaya bhayApahara srI raghupatE

Charanam 7
kAminchi prEma mIra karamula nIdu pAda kamalamula  pattukOnu
vADu sAkshi rAma nAma rasikuDu kailāsa sadanuDu sAkshi
mariyu nArada parAshara shuka shaunaka purandara nagajA dharaja
mukhyulu sAkshi kAda sundarEsha sukha kalashAmbudhi vAsAshritulakE

Charanam 8
satatamu prEma pUrituDagu tyAgarAja
– nuta mukha jita kumuda hita varada ninnu


O Golden-attired one, the more I behold you, the sweeter it is!

Every day in my mind, with love (I behold you)

Charanam 1
The charming face, glowing with prosperity and limitless glory

Charanam 2
Whom Sita, face glowing with happiness, looks at elegantly by side-glances

Charanam 3
Lord with the splendour of rising Sun, wearing fine garments!  One whose neck is adorned with gem studded necklace! O Lotus-eyed! One with beautiful cheeks! One wearing a brilliant crown! Unceasingly, to my heart’s content..

Charanam 4
Did not Dhruva, unable to bear the harsh words of his step-mother Suruchi attain comfort by meditating on Sri Hari? In the same manner..

Charanam 5
One whose auspicious forehead is adorned with a tilaka of musk! Bestower of emancipation on the blessed Jatayu! When Hanuman, son of the Wind God, described your glory, was not Sita enraptured with love by listening to it? In the same manner..

Charanam 6
O Abode of Comfort! O gale that scatters the cloud called enemies! One residing in the hearts of celestials! O Wish-tree of those dear to you! One with the mark of virtues! One effulgent as consciousness and bliss! One who speeds on Garuda! O Wielder of the discus! O Supremely compassionate one! O Ocean of the nectar of compassion!

Charanam 7
The one who holds your lotus-feet in his hands with overflowing love and longing [Hanuman] is a witness (to my words); [Siva] The enjoyer of Rama’s name and resident of Kailasa (Shiva) is a witness too. Further, personages like sages Narada, Parasara, Suka, Saunaka, Indra, Parvati and Sita are witnesses, aren’t they? O Lord of beauty! One comfortably residing in the Ocean of Milk! Those who have sought refuge in you ….

Charanam 8
O Lord who is praised by this Tyagaraja, who is ever-replete with love towards you!  O Lord whose face surpasses the lustre of moon! O Bestower of boons!



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, E.Gayathri, R.Vedavalli, Tyagaraja


Maha Vaidyanatha SivanIt was the year 1844. In Vaiyacheri, a small hamlet in Tanjore district of Tamizh Nadu, a family was blessed with their third son. Was it his good Karma that he was born to an accomplished musician? Or was the good Karma of the father that he was given a son of extraordinary musical talent? Perhaps both. The father had the knowledge to recognize talent and foster it. And so two of the four boys of the family became accomplished musicians at a tender age. This boy was only 7 and his brother 11 when they gave their first concert.

His fame grew quickly. From time to time this earth is blessed with young musicians who seem to know much more than it is possible to know at their age. Mozart composed at 5. Beethoven was 7 at the time of his first public performance. Lalgudi Jayaraman started his musical career at 12. Do you not think that their skills must have been honed in previous lives to achieve what they did at such young ages?

The hero of my story was blessed not only with vidwat (knowledge) but also a pleasing voice which ranged over three and a half octaves. In the year 1856, when he was 12 years old, he and his brother were staying with the pontif at Kalladurichi when a musical festival was held. He performed with other illustrious musicians of his times. But it was his solo performance of the composition of Tyagaraja, Sugunamule, in raga Chakravaham, which won most appreciation. The pontif bestowed the title ‘Maha’ (Great) to this young lad. The lad was henceforth called Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan.

He lived a life for music. He was only 49 when he passed away in 1893. He left behind a small body of compositions of which his magnum-opus was the 72 Mela Ragamalika.

To honour him today, I present Tyagaraja’s composition Sugunamule which earned him his title of greatness at so young an age. ‘Not knowing any other method, in the vain hope that this would make you come, I just keep talking of your virtues’ sings Tyagaraja to his ishta daivam, Lord Rama. I like the simplicity of the lyrics, it touches my heart. Are we not all in the same boat, we believers in whichever Gods we believe in? Do we not blindly pray, hoping, believing that He or She would be listening?

To know more about the raga Chakravaham, click here.

I have chosen a rendition by the inimitable Dr.Balamuralikrishna whose Chakravaham I like better than any other vocalist.

For an instrumental version, listen below to a lovely performance by Ganesh and Kumaresh on the violin.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

Transliteration in Devanagari

सुगुणमुले चॆप्पुकॊण्टि
सुन्दर रघुराम

वगलॆरुंग लेकयिटु
वत्तुवनुचु दुरासचे (सु)

स्नानादि सुकर्मम्बुलु
श्री नायक क्षमियिञ्चुमु
श्री त्यागराज नुत (सु)


suguNamulE cheppukoNTi
sundara raghu rAma

vagaleruNga lEkayitu
vattuvanuchu durAsachE (suguNa)

snAnAdi sukarmambulu
srI nAyaka kshmayinchumu
srI tyAgarAja nuta (suguNa)

O handsome Rama of the Raghu clan, I just keep talking of your virtues

Not knowing any other method, with the vain hope that at least by this way you would come (I just keep chanting your virtues)

I do not know to perform meritorious acts such as dips in holy rivers, recitation of the Vedas etc. Kindly forgive me, O consort of Lakshmi, O Lord praised by this Tyagaraja.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Ganesh-Kumaresh, M.Balamuralikrishna, Tyagaraja

Mara Vairi Ramani

Aiyaarappar Temple TiruvaiyaruI am haunted these last few days by this lovely composition in the uncommon Raga Nasikabhushani. It has taken root in my mind and I catch myself singing snatches to myself and swaying to its rhythm at unexpected times. This composition is attributed to Tyagaraja but there seems to be some doubt about it. No matter who has composed it, it gentles my soul and wraps me in its peace.

The poet-composer addresses Goddess Shakti in the form of Dharmasamvardhani, the deity at Tiruvaiyaru. The lyrics read as an attestation – This is Her, he says, and She is the one has bestowed me with gifts. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. Click here to know a bit more about the raga.

First listen to the composition played brilliantly by Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin.  He brings out the true beauty of the raga in such an elegant and effortless way!

Now listen to one of the few detailed renditions that I have heard of this raga (about 20 mins total with alapana, krithi and swarams). The vocals are by Raji Gopalakrishnan whom I came across but recently. I was immediately taken by the unusual timbre of her voice but even more by her relaxed style of delivery. A voice to hear when one is at peace with oneself. I shall try and get more of her music for I enjoyed her performance very much.

Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Sanskrit

मार वैरि रमणी मञ्जु भाषिणी
क्रूर दानवेभ वारणारि गौरी (मार वैरि)
कर्म बन्ध वारण निष्काम चित्त वरदे
धर्म (सम्) वर्धनि सदा वदन हासे शुभ फलदे (मार वैरी)

mAra vairi ramaNI manju bhAshiNI

krUra dAnavEbha vAraNAri gaurI (mAra)

karma (or kAma) bandha vAraNa nishkAma chitta varadE
dharma (saM)vardhani sadA vadana hAsE shubha phaladE (mAra)


O Beloved of Lord Shiva (the enemy of cupid), O Sweet Spoken one!
O Gauri, enemy of elephantine demons!
She who resists those tied by karma (or kAma=desires), She who blesses those with no desires, O Dharmasamvardhini (Goddess of Tiruvaiyaru), She who has an ever-smiling face, O giver of auspicious rewards.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Raji Gopalakrishnan, Tyagaraja