Category Archives: Religious

Bhaja Govindam

Adi ShankaracharyaIt was more than a month ago. I had a call from an old friend in Dubai. ‘Suja, Ravi here. It’s bad news. Gautam is no more’. My mind went blank for a few minutes, I could not quite come to grips with the explanations that followed.

Through the next few days I learnt of more details. I struggled with my emotions, seemingly having lost control of my tear ducts which welled up during the most mundane activities in my life. My husband and I met Gautam in 1985 when we were all very young. There were times when we saw a lot of each other, there were times when we hardly met. Yet he was there. And now he was no more. He was only 53. Father to two beloved  sons, husband to a now desolate wife, he died alone in a hotel room while on a business trip in Singapore. I have taken it harder than I would have thought; after all, we did not live in each other’s pockets. Yet with him gone, I feel as if I have lost a part of the history of my life for he was very much part of it.

Two weeks back I flew into Australia. For those who are newcomers to my blog, my husband and I live in Switzerland, my two grown children live and work in Australia. Trying to live in perpetual summer, I almost always visit Australia in Dec-Jan. Meeting mutual friends of Gautam here was a heart-rending experience as we relived shared moments of our lives.

I tried to write this post a couple of weeks back but grief overcame me and I could not write sensibly at all. But even then a couple of verses from Bhaja Govindam kept running as a refrain in my head –  पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम् – Once again birth, once again death, once again lying down in the womb of a mother. How fragile life is, how uncertain. One day a man goes to work and the next day he is no more. It seems so unbelievable! Adi Shankaracharya (788-820?) advises us to worship Govinda, pointing out to us fools ‘मूढमते’,  the illusory nature of life on earth. I have heard this sung hundreds of times, I have myself recited it many times, but today I have finally come to grips with Shankaracharya’s verses.

Listen below to M.S.Subbulakshmi sing the version she made famous. She sings only 10 out of the 31 verses. See footnote for my translation of the verses which are sung. If you are interested, the words of the complete version can be found easily online.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

Note: I am giving below only the verses sung in M.S.Subbulakshmi’s rendition, with the actual verse number in the full version for reference.

Raga : Yamuna Kalyani

भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं गोविन्दं भज मूढमते ।
संप्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ् करणे ॥ १ ॥

bhaja gOvindam, bhaja gOvindam, gOvindam bhaja mUDHamatE samprAptE sannihitE kAlE nahi nahi rakshati DukR.nkaraNE   ॥ 1 ॥

Worship (bhaja) Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool (mUDHamatE)! On reaching (sampraptE) close to (sannihitE) the appointed time of death (kAlE, time, implies time of death), grammatical formulae (DukR.nkaranE) will not save you (nahi nahi rakshati).

Raga : Brindavana Saranga

मूढ जहीहि धनागमतृष्णां कुरु सद् बुद्धिम् मनसि  वितृष्णाम् ।
यल्लभसे निज कर्मोपात्तं वित्तं तेन विनोदय चित्तम् ॥ २ ॥

mUDHa jahIhi dhanAgamatRshNAm kuru sadbuddhim manasi vitRshNAm
yallabhasE nija karmOpAttam vittam tEna vinOdaya chittam ॥ 2॥

O Fool (mUDHa)! Abandon (jahI, verb jahita) the desire (tRshNA) for the acquisition (Agama) of wealth (dhana) now (iha)! In a mind without desire (manasi vitRshNAm), comprehend (kuru buddhim) the Truth (sat). That (yat) that you obtain (labhasE) as your own (nija) work’s (karma) gain (upAttam), delight (vinodaya) your mind (chittam) with that (tEna) wealth (vittam).

Raga: Pantuvarali

यावद्वित्तोपार्जन सक्तः तावन्निज परिवारो रक्तः ।
पश्चाज्जीवति जर्जर देहे वार्तां कोऽपि न पृच्छति गेहे ॥  ॥

yAvadvittOpArjana saktah tAvannija parivArO raktah
paschAjjIvati jarjara dEhE vArtAm kO’pi na pRchCHati gEhE ॥ 4॥

As long as (yAvat) one is engaged in (saktah) earning (upArjana) wealth (vitta), till that time (tAvat) one’s own (nija) family (parivAra) remains attached (raktah) (implied: to you). Later (pashchAt) while one lives on (jIvati) in a decrepit/aged (jarjara) body (dEha), no one (kah api) in the house (gEha) inquires (pRchCHa) of one’s news (vArtA).

Raga : Bageshri

मा कुरु धन जन यौवन गर्वं हरति निमेषात्कालः सर्वम् ।
मायामयमिदमखिलं हित्वा ब्रह्मपदं त्वं प्रविश विदित्वा ॥ 11 ॥

mA kutu dhana jana yauvana garvam harati nimEshAtkAlah sarvam
mAyAmaymidamakhilam hitvA brahmapadam tvam pravisha viditvA ॥ ११ ॥

Do not be (ma kuru = do not do) proud (garva) of wealth (dhana), tribe (jana) or youth (yauvana). Time (kAla) can take away (harati) everything (sarva) in a moment (nimEsha)! Abandoning (hitvA) this (idam)  illusory (mAyamayam) universe (akhilam), with realisation (viditvA), you (tvam) should (implied) resort to (pravisham) the place of Brahma (brahmapadam).

Raga : Behag

सुर मंदिर तरु मूल निवासः शय्या भूतलमजिनं वासः ।
सर्व परिग्रह भोग त्यागः कस्य सुखं न करोति विरागः ॥ १८  ॥

sura mandira taru mUla nivAsah shayyA bhUtala majinam vAsah
sarva parigraha bhOga tyAgah kasya sukham na karOti virAgah ॥ 18॥

Dwell (nivAsa) in the temple (mandira) of Gods (sura), in the roots (mUla) of trees (taru). Live (Vasah) with a deer skin (ajinam) on the earth (bhUtala) as bed (shayyA).  Renounce (tyAga) the claim on (parigraha) all (sarva) possessions/enjoyment (bhOga). Who (kasya) will not be (na karOti) happy (sukha) with such indifference to worldly things (virAga)?

Raga : Nadanamakriya

भगवद् गीता किञ्चिदधीता गङ्गा जल लव कणिका पीता ।
सकृदपि येन मुरारि समर्चा क्रियते तस्य यमेन न चर्चा ॥ २० ॥

bhagavad gItA kinchidaDHItA gangA jala lava kaNikA pItA
sakRdapi yEna murAri samarchA kriyatE tasya yamEna na charchA ॥ 20 ॥

Yama (Lord of Death) does not argue (kriyatE na charchA) with one who has read (adhITa) a little bit (kinchit) of the Bhagavat Gita, sipped (pIta) even a drop (kaNikA) of a bit of (lava) of water (jala) of the Ganges (gangA), by whom (yEna) Lord Krishna (murAri) has been worshipped (samarcha) even (api) once (sakRt).

Raga : Kapi

पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम् ।
इह संसारे बहुदुस्तारे कृपयाऽपारे पाहि मुरारे ॥ २१ ॥

punarapi jananam punarapi maraNam punarapi jananI jaTHarE shayanam
iha sa.msArE bahudustArE kRpayA’pArE pAhi murArE ॥ 21 ॥

Once again (punarapi) birth (jananam), once again (punarapi) death (maraNam), once again (punarapi) lying down (shayanam) in the womb (jaTHara) of a mother (jananI)….in this (iha) world (sa.msArE) which is so much (bahu) difficult to endure (dustAra), with boundless (apAra) compassion (kRpA), protect me (pAhi) O Krishna (murArE) !

Raga : Mohanam

गेयं गीता नाम सहस्रं ध्येयं श्रीपति रूपमजस्रम् ।
नेयं सज्जन सङ्गे चित्तं देयं दीनजनाय च वित्तम् ॥ २७ ॥

gEyam gItA nAma sahasram dhyEyam shrIpati rUpamajasram
nEyam sajjan sa.ngE chittam dEyam dInajanAya cha vittam ॥27॥

That which ought to be sung (gEyam) is the Gita and the thousand (sahasram) names of the Lord (nAma). That which ought to be meditated on (dhyEyam) endlessly (ajasram) is the form (rUpam) of Vishnu, the consort of Lakshmi (shrIpati). That to which the mind (chittam) ought to be led to (nEyam) is the company (sa.ngam) of virtuous people (sajjana). That which ought to be given (dEyam) is the wealth (vittam) to the wretched (dIna) people (jana).

Raga : Senjurutti

अर्थमनर्थं भावय नित्यं नास्ति ततः सुखलेशः सत्यम् ।
पुत्रादपि धन भाजां भीतिः सर्वत्रैषा विहिता रीतिः ॥ २९ ॥

arTHamanarTHam bhAvaya nityam nAsti tatah sukhalEshah satyam
putrAdapi dhana bhAjAm bhItih sarvatraishA vihitA rItih ॥ 29॥

There is no (na asti) true (satyam) divine (Esha) joy (sukha) resulting from (tatah) wealth (artha) on which one thinks of (bhAvaya) all the time (nityam) uselessly (anartha).  One fears (bhIti) sharing (bhAja) wealth (dhana) even (api) with one’s son (putrAt)! This (EshA) practice (rIti) is followed (vihita) everywhere (sarvatra).

Raga : Sindhu Bhairavi

गुरुचरणाम्बुज निर्भर भक्तः संसारादचिराद्भव मुक्तः ।
सेन्द्रियमानस नियमादेवं द्रक्ष्यसि निज हृदयस्थं देवम् ॥ ३१ ॥

gurucharaNambuja nirbhara bhaktah sa.msArAdachirAdbhava muktah
sEndriyamAnasa niyamAdEvam drashyasi nija hRdayastham dEvam
॥ 31 ॥

The devotee (bhakta) who relies on (nirbhara) on the lotus-feet (charaNa ambuja) of the Guru is soon (achirat) liberated (mukta) from being (bhava) in this cycle of worldly existence (sa.msAra). Indeed (Eva), with restraint/control (niyamat) of his senses (indriya) with (sa) his mind (mAnasa), he sees (drashyasi) the God (dEva) who is in his own (nija) heart (hRdayasTHa).

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Filed under Adi Shankaracharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Religious

Achyutam Keshavam

Krishna BabyHappy Janmashtami to all my readers!

Our celebrations are so often about food, decoration and socialising that we forget to be prayerful, do we not? Though I  start each day with prayers, I am not very religious, I confess. Even in those few moments of prayers, I sadly lack concentration. My mouth mumbles one prayer after another and often my mind wanders off to planning the day or reflecting on one matter or the other. I try to focus my mind but I fail most of the time.  Is it not pathetic? What use prayers then?

Today I wanted to recite some special ones for Lord Krishna. But knowing my sad deficiencies, I decided instead to spend some time just translating one stotra and thinking about it’s meaning. It is a beautiful one by Adi Shankaracharya (8th century AD) which I learnt in my childhood. I love these old hymns which have passed through so many centuries, sung by so many over time, each adding to the power of the hymn by their own belief in it. I too join the long line and, for a moment, I feel as if I am holding hands with an unending line of worshippers of Sri Krishna.

So here I am with the fruits of my labour.  The stotra is about Lord Krishna and by the many names by which he is invoked, we remember the many stories from his life. It also reminds us that he is an avatar of Narayana; we invoke Lord Rama as well. It goes beyond that, naming Him as Infinite, thus reminding us of the ultimate Brahman.

To present this stotra, I have chosen a beautiful version by Yesudas with good pronunciation (except for the word pAtu which he pronounces as pAdu), a good reference for those who wish to learn this hymn.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

अच्युतं केशवं राम नारायणं कृष्ण दामोदरं वासुदेवं हरिम् ।
श्रीधरं माधवं गोपिकावल्लभं जानकी नायकं रामचंद्रं भजे ॥१॥

अच्युतं केशवं सत्यभामाधवं माधवं श्रीधरं राधिकाराधितम् ।
इन्दिरामन्दिरं चेतसा सुन्दरं देवकी नन्दनं नन्दजं सन्दधे ॥२॥

विष्णवे जिष्णवे शङ्खिने चक्रिणे रुक्मिणि रागिने जानकी जानये ।
बल्लवी वल्लभायार्चितायात्मने कंस विध्वंसिने वंशिने ते नमः ॥३॥

कृष्ण गोविन्द हे राम नारायण श्रीपते वासुदेवाजित श्रीनिधे ।
अच्युतानन्त हे माधवाधोक्षज द्वारकानायक द्रौपदीरक्षक ॥४॥

राक्षस क्षोभितः सीतया शोभितो दण्डकारण्य भू पुण्यता कारणः ।
लक्ष्मणेनान्वितो वानरौः सेवितोऽगस्तसम्पूजितो राघव पातु माम् ॥५॥

धेनुकारिष्टकोऽनिष्टकृद्द्वेषिणां केशिहा कंस हृद्वंशिका वादकः ।
पूतना कोपकः सूरजा खेलनो बाल गोपालकः पातु मां सर्वदा ॥६॥

विद्युदुद्योतवानप्रस्फुरद्वाससं प्रावृडम्भोदवत्प्रोल्लसद्विग्रहम् ।
वन्यया मालया शोभितोरःस्थलं लोहिताङ्घ्रिद्वयं वारिजाक्षं भजे ॥७॥

कुञ्चितैः कुन्तलैर्भ्राजमानाननं रत्न मौलिं लसत्कुण्डलं गण्डयोः ।
हार केयूरकं कङ्कणप्रोज्ज्वलं किङ्किणीमञ्जुलं श्यामलं तं भजे ॥८॥

फलस्तुति
अच्युतस्याष्टकं यः पठेदिष्टदं प्रेमतः प्रत्यहं पूरुषः सस्पृहम् ।
वृत्ततः सुन्दरं कर्तृ विश्वंभरं तस्य वश्यो हरिर्जायते सत्वरम् ॥९॥

Transliteration

achyutam kEshavam rAma nArAyaNam
kRshNa dAmOdaram vAsudEvam harim
shrIdharam mAdhavam gOpikA vallabham
jAnakI nAyakam rAmachandram bhajE [1]

achyutam kEshavam satyabhAmAdhavam
mAdhavam shrIdharam rAdhikA rAdhitam
indirA mandiram chEtasA sundaram
dEvakI nandanam nandajam sandadhE [2]

vishNavE jishNavE shangkhinE chakriNE
rukmiNi rAginE jAnakI jAnayE
ballavI vallabhA-y-Archita-y-AtmanE
kamsa vidhvamsinE vanshinE tE namah [3]

kRshNa gOvinda hE rAma nArAyaNa
shrIpatE vAsudEvAjita shrInidhE
achyutAnanta hE mAdhavA-adhOkshaja
dvArakA nAyaka draupadI rakshaka [4]

rAkshasa kshObhita sItayA shobhitO
danDakAraNya bhU puNyatA kAraNa
lakshmaNEnAnvitO vAnarau sEvitO
agastasampUjitO rAghava pAtu mAm [5]

dhEnukA-arishtakO-anishTa-krid-dvEshiNam
kEshihA kansa-hrud vanshikA vAdakah
pUtanA kOpakah sUrajA khElanO
bAla gOpAlakah pAtu mAm sarvadA [6]

vidyut-(u)ddyOtavAna-prasphurad-vAsasam
prAvRD-ambOdhavat-prOllasat-vigraham
vanyayA mAlayA shObhitOrahsthalam
lOhitAnghri-dvayam vArijAksham bhajE [7]

kunchitaih kuntalai-r-bhrAjamAn-Ananam
ratna maulim lasat-kuNDalam gaNDayOh
hAra kEyUrakam kangkaNa prOjjvalam
kngkiNI manjulam shyAmalam tam bhajE [8]

phalastuti:

achyutAshTakam yah paTHEt prEmatah
pratyaham pUrushah saspRham
vRttatah sundaram kartR vishvambharas-tasya
vashyO harirjAyatE satvaram

Translation

I revere (bhaj) the dark-hued (krshNa) One called Damodara (refers to being tied at the waist by his mother Yashoda) who is imperishable (achyutam), with beautiful hair (kEshavam) (alternate: who killed the demon kEsI), who is Rama the incarnation of Nayarana, the son of vasudEva (vAsudEva), the one who will steal away our sins (harIm). I salute the descendent of Madhu (mAdhavam) who holds Lakshmi in his chest (srIdharam), beloved (mAdhavam) of the cowgirls of Brindavan (gOpikA), the husband (nAyakam) of  Janaki, Ramachandra.

I fix my mind (sandadhE) on the imperishable (achyutam) one with beautiful hair (kEshavam) (alternate: who killed the demon kEsI), who is adored (mAdhavam) by Satyabhama,  the beloved (mAdhavam) who holds Lakshmi in his chest (srIdharam), who is revered by (ArAdhitam) by Radhika, the dwelling (mandiram) of beauty (indirA), who is intelligent (chEtasA) and beautiful (sundaram), son (nandanam) of Devaki, son of Nanda (nandajam).

Salutations (tE namah) to Vishnu, the victorious (jishNu), the one who holds the conch (shankha) and discus (chakra), beloved (rAgiNE) of Rukmini, the reason for the birth (jAnayE) of Sita, the daughter of Janaka (jAnakI), beloved (vallabhA) to the cowherdesses (ballavI) and worshipped (archita) by their souls (AtmanE), destroyer (vidhvansinE) of Kamsa, player of the flute (vansha=flute).

O Krishna, the chief cowherd (gOvinda), O Rama the incarnation (implied) of Narayana, O Consort of Lakshmi (srIpatE), son of Vasudeva (vAsudeva), unconquerable (ajita), O receptacle of beauty (or Lakshmi) (srInidhE), O Imperishable One (achyuta), O Infinite (ananta), O descendent of Madhu (mAdhava), the one born in the month of Shravana (adhOkshaja), O Lord of Dwaraka, O Protector (rakshaka) of Draupadi.

Protect me (pAtu mAm) O Raghava (of the Raghu clan), who makes the demons (rAkshasa) tremble (kshobita), who is adorned by (shObhita) by Sita, the One who caused (kAraka) the land (bhU) of Dandakaranya to be sanctified (puNyatA), the One who is accompanied by (Anvita) by Lakshmana, who is served by (sEvita) apes (vAnara), who is greatly honoured by (sampUjita) by Agastya.

Protect me (pAtu mAm) always (sarvadA) O Young (bAla) cowherd (gOpalaka), O enemy of (dvEshiNa) of the evil-doing (anishTa krit) Dhenuka and Arishtaka, O Destroyer of Keshi (kEshihA),  who trapped (hrut) Kansa, player (vAdaka) of a flute (vanshikA), who shook (khElana) the angry Putana who was pretending to be (implied) born of the Devas (sUrajA) (unsure of this last line).

I revere (bhajE) the lotus-eyed One (vArija akshi) with clothing (vAsasam) which shine (prasfurat) like the rising (udyOta) lightning (vidyut), with a body (vigraha) like (vat) the cloud (ambhOda) after the rainy season (prAvrD) which shines brightly (prOllas), with the chest (urahsthalam) adorned by (shObhita) garlands (mAla) of wild flowers (vanya), with a pair (dvaya) of red (lOhita) feet (anGri).

I revere (bhajE) that dark-hued One (shyAmala) who has curly (kunchita) locks of hair (kuntala), a shining (bhrAja) face (Anana), a jewel (ratna) on the topknot (mauli), whose sides of the face (gaNDa) glitter (lasat) with earrings (kuNDala), and who glitters with garlands (hAra), armlets (kEyUra), bangles (kangkaNa) and pleasing (manjula) small-bells (kingkiNI).

Rewards of reciting the hymn:

He will give (da) that which is wished for (ishTa) to those people (purusha) who, filled with longing (sasprha), recite (paTHEt) this hymn (achyutAshtakam) everyday (pratyaha) with love (prEma). They will quickly (satvaram) become (jAyatE) obedient to Hari, the (beautiful (sundara) all-sustaining (vishvambara) creator of the world (kartR).

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Aaditya Hrudayam

Pongal greetingsA very happy Pongal and Shankaranti to all my readers !! I hope you are celebrating with your families and enjoying some tasty chakkarai pongal today. For those unfamiliar with this festival, this ancient celebration marks the new harvest but also uttarayana, the northward movement of the sun. The festival is dedicated to Surya, the Sun God. It is appropriate therefore to mark the day with a recitation of Aaditya Hrudayam, the most powerful stotra dedicated to Surya.

Found in the 107th sarga of Yuddha Kanda in Valmiki Ramayana, the stotra is preached to Sri Rama by the sage Agastya. Tired mentally and physically with his war with Ravana and worried about Ravana’s Maya Shakti, Rama is adviced by sage Agastya to recite this ancient stotra three times to gain renewed energy and strength.

Aaditya Hrudayam is in other words ‘aaditasya hrudayam’ or the essence of the Sun God.  In a spiritual sense, the essence or the innate qualities of the sun such as self-luminosity (swatejas), all pervading presence (sarvavyapi), witnessing without being involved (sakshi swaroopa) reflect the qualities of Brahman or the ultimate God (Reference: paper by Dileep Bellave , 2004)

Recitation of this beautiful and powerful stotra is said to give devotees strength to face difficulties and it also illuminates the mind. Who can say no to blessings such as these?

The stotra starts with describing the setting – Lord Rama’s state of mind and an introduction by sage Agastya.
सर्वमङ्गलमाङ्गल्यं सर्वपापप्रणाशनम्। चिन्ताशोकप्रशमनम् आयुर्वर्धनमुत्तमम्॥ ५॥
This hymn is supreme and is a guarantee of complete prosperity and is the destroyer of sin, anxiety, anguish and is the bestower of longevity.

Then the qualities of the Sun God are described; these mirror the qualities of Brahman.  After this salutations are addressed to the God. The sage says तमोघ्नाय हिमघ्नाय शत्रुघ्नायामितात्मने। Salutations to the transcendental atman that dispels darkness, drives away all fear, and destroys all foes. This in essence is the power of the stotra. The last section describes the phalastuti or  ‘fruits of reciting’.

For the lyrics in Sanskrit, transliteration and translation, click here.

Listen below to S.P.Balasubramaniam’s beautiful recital of the stotra.

To learn, it is easier with subtitled recitations on youtube like this.

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Madhurashtakam

Govardhana GiridharVallabhacharya (1479-1531) was born in Champaran near Raipur.  His family was Telugu speaking and came from Andhra Pradesh. He was a scholar, philosopher and a great devotee of Lord Krishna and wrote stotras and commentaries on Bhagawata Purana. There is a good article on Vallabhacharya here.

One of his most beautiful poetry is Madhurashtakam, the sweetest of prayers for the sweetest of Gods. I have always loved this prayer, in fact I associate the word Madhura (sweet) with Lord Krishna because of this stotra. Of all the Hindu Gods, Krishna is perhaps the most captivating, especially to a woman. From time immemorial, he has been depicted with his Gopis (cowherdesses), enchanting one and all with his amorous play. If one needs a reason for worshipping a Saguna Brahman (The Absolute with qualities, the definable Absolute), surely this prayer gives you one? How can one say nay to a so irresistible Lord of Sweetness?

I have poured over many translations and dictionaries. I am quite convinced that the translations are watered-down, taking away the sheer erotic imagery of the poet. I can understand that; Hinduism, which once did not hesitate to associate eroticism with divinity, has put on a mantle of Victorian morality for a long time now. We still sing Jayadeva’s verses but not the most explicit ones. We look blankly past erotic sculptures on hallowed grounds. And this, Vallabhacharya’s Madhurastkam has developed a cloak of middle-class ‘respectability’. Pouring over the words, it seems to me that the poet describes not only the sweetness of Krishna but also the sweetness of his love-making. I give the first verse below, for the whole stotra and translation see footnote.

अधरं मधुरं वदनं मधुरं
नयनं मधुरं हसितं मधुरं |
हृदयं मधुरं गमनं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||१||

His lower lips are sweet, His face is sweet,
His eyes are sweet, His smile is sweet,
His heart is sweet, His gait is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

Listen to this beautiful stotra sung by Ashiwini Bhide in her inimitable style.


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation):

अधरं मधुरं वदनं मधुरं
नयनं मधुरं हसितं मधुरं |
हृदयं मधुरं गमनं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||१||

His lower lips are sweet, His face is sweet,
His eyes are sweet, His smile is sweet,
His heart is sweet, His gait is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

वचनं मधुरं चरितं मधुरं
वसनं मधुरं वलितं मधुरं |
चलितं मधुरं भ्रमितं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||२||

His words are sweet, His character is sweet,
His clothing is sweet, His posture is sweet,
His movements are sweet, His wandering is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

वेणुर्मधुरो रेणुर्मधुरः
पाणिर्मधुरः पादौ मधुरौ ||
नृत्यं मधुरं सख्यं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||३||

His flute-playing is sweet, His foot-dust is sweet,
His hands are sweet, His feet are sweet,
His dancing is sweet, His friendship is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

गीतं मधुरं पीतं मधुरं
भुक्तं मधुरं सुप्तं मधुरं |
रूपं मधुरं तिलकं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||४||

His song is sweet, His drinking is sweet,
His eating is sweet, His sleeping is sweet,
His form is sweet, His Tilakam is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

करणं मधुरं तरणं मधुरं
हरणं मधुरं रमणं मधुरं |
वमितं मधुरं शमितं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||५||

His deeds are sweet, His conquest is sweet,
His seizing  is sweet, His loving is sweet,
His ejecting is sweet, His appeasement is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness

गुञ्जा मधुरा माला मधुरा
यमुना मधुरा वीचि मधुरा |
सलिलं मधुरं कमलं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||६||

His posy is sweet, His garland is sweet,
The river is sweet, the ripples are sweet,
the surge is sweet, the desire is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

गोपी मधुरा लीला मधुरा
युक्तं मधुरं मुक्तं मधुरं |
दृष्टं मधुरं शिष्टं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||७||

His gopis (cowherd girls) are sweet, His play is sweet,
His union is sweet, His release is sweet,
To be seen by him is sweet, His courtesy is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

गोपा मधुरा गावो मधुरा
यष्टिर्मधुरा सृष्टिर्मधुरा |
दलितं मधुरं फलितं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||८||

His herdsmen are sweet, His cows are sweet,
His staff is sweet, His creation is sweet,
His crushing  is sweet, To be fruitful is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

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Ya Kundendu

Saraswati1

Celebrating the seventh day of Navaratri, I at last turn to the third of the trinity of Goddesses I worship during these nine days.  Saraswati, She, who blesses us with knowledge, music and the arts, is especially dear to me. My respect for knowledge and my love for the arts is what defines me as a person. Everyday I thank Her for the gift of appreciation when my eyes melt at a beautiful piece of music, the resonance of one colour against another in a painting or the perfection of a word when it is placed just so in prose, poetry or song. My everyday prayer to her is one which is repeated in many homes in India :

या कुन्देन्दु तुषारहार धवला या शुभ्र वस्त्रावृता |
या वीणा वरदण्ड मन्डित करा या श्वेत पद्मासना |
या ब्रह्माच्युत शंकर प्रभृतिभिर्देवैः सदा  वन्दिता  |
सा मां पातु सरस्वती भगवती निःशेष जाड्यापहा ||

yA kundEndu tushArahAra DHavalA yA shuBHra vastAvritA
ya veeNA varadanDa maNDita karA yA shwEta padmAsanA
yA brahmAchyuta shankara praBHRitibhir dEvai sadA vanditA
sA mAm pAtu saraswatI bhagavatI nihshEsha jAdyapahA

She (या) who is as dazzlingly white or fair (धवल) as a jasmine flower (कुन्द), the moon (इंदु) or a garland (हार ) of snow flakes (तुषार), She who wears white (शुभ्र) clothes (वस्त्र ), She whose hands (कर) are adorned (मण्डित) by Veena and a boon-giving (वर) staff (दण्ड), She whose seat (आसन) is a white lotus (श्वेत पद्म), She  to whom Brahma, Achyuta (name for Krishna, form of Vishnu), Maheshwara (name of Shiva) always (सदा) worship/adore (वन्दित) from the beginning (प्रभृति), That (सा) Saraswati please protect (पातु) me (मां) and remove (अपह ) my endless (निःशेष)  ignorance/apathy (जाड्य ).

This beautiful prayer is written by Sage Agastya. Sage Agastya lived in the times of Lord Rama, in the Treta Yuga, about 5000 BCE. He was the author of the many hymns in the first mandala of the Rigveda, the most ancient and sacred of Hindu texts. The Aditya Hridayam, the prayer to the Sun God recited by Agastya to Lord Rama in the battlefield, is part of the Yuddha Kanda (Book 6) of Ramayana by Valmiki (500/400 BCE).  Agastya is a very interesting and colourful character who is said to have been the first Aryan to have lead a group of migrants over the Vindhya mountains to the Dravidian South. He is mentioned both in Aryan literature and ancient Tamil (Dravidian) literature; in fact the Tamils have adopted Agastya as their own. His stories are told as far as Indonesia. The star Canopus is named Agastya in India. There is an interesting paper linking legends of Agastya with astronomy in this paper.

Each time we recite Ya Kundendu, which was written about 7000 years back, we not only pray to Goddess Saraswati but are in direct communion with our history, our ancestors from milleniums past. In this knowledge and information driven world, this prayer should be in your daily recitation list as well. Listen below for the pronunciation.

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Sumanasa Vandita

Ashtalakshmi

Today is sashti, the sixth day of Navaratri. Following my South Indian heritage I continue my homage to Goddess Lakshmi today.

We Hindus are so accepting of plurality in singularity and vice versa that I forget how alien the concept must seem to the rest of the world! We accept that the ultimate Brahman, has no form yet we are happy to worship God in innumerable forms. We invoke the same Gods by many names and sometimes in many forms. It is as if we can merge the many into one and see the one as many with no trouble at all!! How wonderful is that!!

Hinduism has succeeded in flourishing over the millenniums because of its ability to adapt and evolve, retaining the old yet adding facets and nuances which keep it alive. Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, has been worshipped for thousands of years but its only in recent times, the past 40 years or so, that we worship her in the eight forms called Ashtalakshmi अष्टलक्ष्मी. The eight forms seem to vary from region to region but the most accepted are the ones in the Ashtalakshmi Stotram, a prayer addressed to each of these forms written in the 1970’s by Mukkur Srinivasa Varadachariyar. For the lyrics, see footnote. The eight forms are :

  • Aadi Lakshmi आदि लक्ष्मी The Primeval Lakshmi.
  • Dhaanya Lakshmi धान्य लक्ष्मी The Lakshmi of Grain. Grain represents food here so it is She who is the provider of all sustenance.
  • Dhairya Lakshmi धैर्य लक्ष्मी The Lakshmi of Courage. She who gives us the courage to succeed for such courage is worth its weight in gold.
  • Gaja Lakshmi गज लक्ष्मी The Lakshmi of the Elephant. The elephant represents wealth in livestock.
  • Santaana Lakshmi संतान लक्ष्मी  The Lakshmi of the Progeny. She who provides us with the incomparable wealth of children.
  • Vijaya Lakshmi विजय लक्ष्मी The Lakshmi of Victory. She who blesses us to succeed.
  • Vidyaa Lakshmi विद्या लक्ष्मी The Lakshmi of Knowledge. She who blesses us with the knowledge required to attain prosperity.
  • Dhana Lakshmi धन लक्ष्मी The Lakshmi of Wealth. She who blesses us with wealth. A very popular form for worship.

Bombay Jayashri has sung the first verse of this stotram in her album Anubhavam. Listen below to Sumanasa Vandita in Raga Revati below. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

Allternate link : Click here.

To listen to the full stotram, click here.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

अष्टलक्ष्मी स्तोत्रं

आदि लक्ष्मी
सुमनस वन्दित सुन्दरि माधवी चन्द्र सहोदरी हेममये |
मुनिगण वन्दित मोक्ष प्रदायिनी मंजुल भाषिणि वेदनुते ||
पङ्कज वासिनि देव सुपूजित सद्गुण वर्षिणी शांतियुते |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि आदिलक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम्||१||

धान्य लक्ष्मी
अयिकलि कल्मष नाशिनि कामिनी वैदिक रूपिणि वेदमये |
क्षीर समुद्भव मङ्गल रूपिणि मन्त्र निवासिनि मन्त्रनुते | |
मङ्गल दायिनि अम्बुज वासिनि देवगणाश्रित पादयुते |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि धान्यलक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम् || २||

धैर्य लक्ष्मी
जय वर वर्णिनी वैष्णवि भार्गवि मन्त्र स्वरूपिणि मन्त्र मये |
सुरगण पूजित शीघ्र फलप्रद ज्ञान विकासिनि शास्त्रनुते ||
भवभय हारिणि पाप विमोचनि साधुजनाश्रित पादयुते |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि धैर्यलक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम् ||३||

गज लक्ष्मी
जय जय दुर्गति नाशिनि कामिनि सर्व फलप्रद शास्त्रमये |
रथ गज तुरगपदादि समावृत परिजन मण्डित लोकनुते ||
हरिहर ब्रह्म सुपूजित सेवित ताप निवारिणि पादयुते |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि गजलक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम् ||४||

संतान लक्ष्मी
अयि खग वाहिनि मोहिनि चक्रिणि राग विवर्धनि ज्ञानमये |
गुणगण वारिधि लोक हितेषिनि स्वर सप्त भूषित गाननुते |
सकल सूरासुर देव मुनीश्वर मानव वन्दित पादयुते |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि संतान लक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम् || ५ ||

विजय लक्ष्मी
जय कमलासनि सत्गति दायिनि ज्ञान विकासिनि गानमये |
अनुदिनमर्चित कुङ्कुम धूसर भूषित वासित वाद्यनुते ||
कनक धरास्तुते वैभव वन्दित शंकर देशिक मान्य पदे |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि विजय लक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम् ||६ ||

विद्या लक्ष्मी
प्रणत सुरेश्वरी भारति भार्गवि शोक विनाशिनि रत्नमये |
मणिमय भूषित कर्ण विभूषण शान्ति समावृत हास्यमुखे ||
नवनिधि दायिनि कलिमल हारिणि कामित फलप्रद हस्तयुते |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि विद्या लक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम् ||७||

धन लक्ष्मी
धिमिधिमि धिम्धिमि धिम्धिमि धिम्धिमि दुन्धुभि नाद सुपूर्णमये |
घुमघुम घुङ्घुम घुङ्घुम घुङ्घुम शङ्ख निनाद सुवाद्यनुते ||
वेदपूराणेतिहास सुपूजित वैदिकमार्ग प्रदर्शयुते |
जय जय हे मधुसूदन कामिनि धन लक्ष्मी सदा पालय माम् || ८||

For transliterated lyrics and translation, click here.

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Mahalakshmi Ashtakam

Lakshmi2On this fourth day of Navaratri, chaturthi, I pay homage to Goddess Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To honour her, I offer the same prayer that I have recited every morning and evening for countless years, the Mahalakshmi Ashtakam. This prayer is from Padma Purana पद्म पुराण, a religious text dating roughly between the 8th and 11th centuries where this prayer is written as being chanted by Lord Indra.

I am happy to have found this exquisite dance set to this prayer. The lovely dancers  perform a Mohinattam, the classical dance form from Kerala. If you would like to learn to chant this sloka, click here.


Lyrics
:

महालक्ष्म्यष्टकं

नमस्तेऽस्तु महामाये श्रीपीठे सुरपूजिते
शङ्खचक्रगदाहस्ते महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (१)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who is the illusory power of the universe, who lives in riches and is worshipped by the divine beings, who holds a conch, discus and mace in her hands.
नमस्ते गरुडारूढे कोलासुरभयङ्करि
सर्वपापहरे देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (२)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who rides an eagle, who frightened the demon Kolasura, who can remove all sin.
सर्वज्ञे सर्ववरदे सर्वदुष्टभयङ्करि
सर्वदुःखहरे देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (३)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who knows everything, who can grant any boon, who is fearsome to the wicked, who removes all sorrow.
सिद्धिबुद्धिप्रदे देवि भुक्तिमुक्तिप्रदायिनि
मन्त्रमूर्ते सदा देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (४)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who grants intelligence and success, who gives enjoyment and salvation, whose very form is a mantra.
आद्यन्तरहिते देवि आद्यशक्तिमहेश्वरि
योगजे योगसम्भूते महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (५)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who neither has a beginning nor end, who is the primeval power, who is the greatest Goddess, who is Yoga and born of Yoga.
स्थूलसूक्ष्ममहारौद्रे महाशक्ति महोदरे
महापापहरे देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (६)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, Goddess of the macro and the micro world, who is supreme power and holds all within her, remover of the greatest sings.
पद्मासनस्थिते देवि परब्रह्मस्वरूपिणि
परमेशि जगन्माता महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (७)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who is seated on a lotus, who is the personification of the Supreme Spirit, who is the supreme ruler, who is the mother of the world.
श्वेताम्बरधरे देवि नानालङ्कारभूषिते
जगत्स्थिते जगन्मातर्महालक्ष्मि नमोऽस्तु ते (८)
Salutations to Mahalakshmi, who is clad in white, who is adorned with various ornaments, who is the mother of the world and resides in it.

फलश्रुति

महालक्ष्म्यष्टकस्तोत्रं यः पठेद्भक्तिमान्नरः
सर्वसिद्धिमवाप्नोति राज्यं प्राप्नोति सर्वदा ||
एककाले पठेन्नित्यं महापापविनाशनम्
द्विकालं यः पठेन्नित्यं धनधान्यसमन्वितः ||
त्रिकालं यः पठेन्नित्यं महाशत्रुविनाशनम्
महालक्ष्मीर्भवेन्नित्यं प्रसन्न वरदा शुभा ||

Benefits
Those believers who chant this prayer of eight verses will gain all success and sovereignty at all times. Those who recite it once a day will have their greatest sins removed. Those who recite it twice a day will be endowed with food and wealth (prosperity). Those who recite it thrice daily will have their greatest enemy (ego) destroyed and Mahalakshmi will always be with you, happily, and grace you with blessings .

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