This year the Music Season in Chennai is online in a big way. Nothing can replace live concerts of course, but in a year of COVID, this is the responsible way to go for sure. For people like myself who do not get to attend the season often, this is an opportunity to hear more concerts than ever before. When I asked my sister yesterday, I was surprised that she really had not heard about most of these concerts. So I decided to write this small post to keep you all fellow rasikas aware of happenings.
The Federation of City Sabhas : This society includes well-known sabhas in Chennai like Brahma Gana Sabha, Karthik Fine Arts, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha etc. Together they are organising ‘Yours Truly, Margazhi’ , which includes 100+ performances. Tickets are available at Kalakendra (link below) and there is an early bird offer until 5th of December. Link below : https://kalakendra.com/yours-truly-margazhi/
Madrasana : They are presenting 6 concerts in the Madrasana Virtual Festival 2020. These are ticketed events; there is a season pass as well as individual tickets. Please read their FAQ as the concerts are available for different time zones and links will be timed as well. https://www.tikkl.com/madrasana/c/mvf2020-india
Mudhra : They are presenting 62 concerts in their 26th Virtual Fine Arts Festival in the month of December. Each day there will be one concert from their archives, and one recorded specifically for this occasion. The concerts will be streamed with a repeat telecast the next day at a different time. It is free of cost, but donations are welcome. Details in their youtube channel here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4t9lxibpCqK3koTkjf_OjQ/videos
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan : They seem to be the only ones offering live concerts this year. As always they are free. Their website does not make it clear but it looks like they will also be telecast. Check out the details at http://bhavanschennai.org/programmes.html
My thanks to Ramesh for forwarding a few of the above links. There may be other festivals I am not aware of; readers are welcome to provide links in their comments. As you can see, there is already plenty to keep us busy this season! Happy listening!
After many months of being away from this blog, I am finally back to wish you all a very happy Janmashtami–Krishnatashtami-Gokulashtami! I have been feeling so guilty about ignoring my blog, but I couldn’t help it; nothing really felt like Music to My Ears.
It started soon after the stories of Covid became public. For some undecipherable reason, I just couldn’t listen to music anymore! I wondered and wondered about it, I even tried to force myself to listen but there it was – there was no music in my soul. There was a sense of disturbance in my mind, of a kind which would not allow me to concentrate on anything. For some, music soothes all disturbances. For others, true music only exists when there is little disturbance, or the disturbances can be swept away. Sadly, I am of the latter type. Months went by and I listened only to snippets, and nothing really drew me in.
Then last month my daughter sent me a video of my little grandson dancing to music. His expression of enjoyment, his concentration and his movements were such a delight to watch! “There it is!!”, I thought, “That’s the joy I have lost!”. Since then I have been listening more often and with more joy. My grandson was here this morning, and we played music for him so I could record his reactions for you. Here he is demonstrating his signature moves – the sway, the spin, the bounce and the clap 🙂 Today’s play list included the Beatles, Bhupen Hazarika and Jitendra Abhisheki.
It took me only a few moments to decide on the song I would like to feature on this Janmashtami day. ‘Hari, you remove the woes of all people‘ says Meerabai in this lovely Bhajan. I wonder, is this a prayer as in ‘Please remove the woes‘, or a statement ‘You are the remover of all woes‘ ? It works as both, does it not, a statement of belief and a prayer for relief. This seems exactly the right prayer for the times we are in today.
There can be no other than M.S.Subbulakshmi’s rendition for has she not made this bhajan totally hers! The internet abounds with stories of Gandhiji’s love for this song and his request for her to sing it, so I shall not repeat them. It has been set to tune in Darbari Kanada by ‘Piano’ Vaidhayanathan.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Poetry : Meera Music : ‘Piano’ Vaidhayanathan Raga : Darbari Kanada Language : Braj Bhasha
The lyrics below are sourced from Bhajan Sangrah (Geeta Press) 1938. That matches closely with the 2015 Edition too.
हरि तुम हरो जन की भीर।
द्रौपदी की लाज राखी, तुरत बढ़ायो चीर॥
भगत कारण रूप नरहरि, धर्यो आप सरीर॥
हिरण्याकुस को मारि लीन्हो, धर्यो नाहिन धीर॥
बूड़तो गजराज राख्यो, कियौ बाहर नीर॥
दासी मीरा लाल गिरधर, चरण-कँवल पर सीर॥
The lyrics as sung by M.S.Subbulakshmi are slightly different as given below. I will stick to her version for a detailed translation. I used a Braj Bhasha dictionary; please excuse any errors.
Lyrics in Braj Bhasha
हरि तुम हरो जनकी भीर।
द्रौपदी की लाज राखी, तुम बढ़ायो चीर॥
भगत कारण रूप नरहरि, धर्यो आप शरीर।
हरिणकश्यप मार लीन्हो, धर्यो नाहिन धीर॥
बूड़ते गजराज राख्यो, कियो बाहर नीर।
दास मीरा लाल गिरधर, दु:ख जहाँ तहाँ पीर॥
hari tum harO jan kI bhIra
draupadI kI lAj rAkhI, tum baDHAyO chIra
bhagata kAraNa rUpa narahari, dharyO Apa sharIra
hariNakashyapa mAr lInho.n, dharyO nAhina dhIra
bUDatE gajarAja rAkhyO, kiyO bAhara nIra
dAsa mIrA lAla giradhara, dukkha jahA.n tahA.n pIra
Hari, you (tum) remove (harO) the woes (bhIr) of all people (jana).
You (tum) lengthened (baDHAyO) Draupadi’s garment (chIr) and protected her dignity/honour (lAj rAkhI – an idiom).
For the sake (kAraNa) of your devotee (bhagata), you (Apa) assumed (dharyO) a body (sharIr) in the form (rUpa) of Narasimha (narahari).
You killed (mAra lInhO.n) Hiranyakashipu. (Sorry, could not make sense of second half of this line. Dharyo-you took on, nAhina-negation, dhIra-courageous…what could this mean?)
You (impled) saved (rAkhE) the drowning (bUDatE) king of elephants (gaja rAja) by (implied) taking him out (kiyO bAhara) of the water (nIra).
Meera, the devotee (dAsa) of her beloved (lAla) Krishna (giri-dhara=holder of mountain) says (implied) “wherever (jahA.n) there is suffering (dukkha), there (tahA.n) comes (implied) a divine/holy person (pIra)”. (Note : pIra also means pain/difficulty/sorrow. Some people translate this last line as ‘wherever there is suffering, there is pain’. But that seems repetitive to me. Meera has given examples of how when there is suffering, a divinity comes to aid us. So I’ll go with the definition of divine/holy/siddha for pIra).
A very happy Janmashtami (Gokulashtami, Sri Jayanti) to everybody!
This year is very special for me because I have my own Bala Gopala to play with! I am, of course, referring to my little grandson who is now 8 months old. The representation of Krishna crawling with butter in his hands, that would be about that age, wouldn’t it? You know that mischievous look that artists add to His eyes? Well, my little grandson has the very same look sometimes! The other day, I was tucking him into his bed for his nap. I neatly tucked in one side and walked around the cot to reach the other. By the time I did that, little Rohit had pulled the cover out and sat up, eyes twinkling and laughing at me! By the time I went from one side to another a few times, this had become the best of games 🙂 I finally told him firmly that he could sleep with no covers for a change and walked out of his room with a smile of my own, very proud of the little one’s bout of mischief! Ah, there you see is a conundrum of sorts, this pride in a child’s mischief, what’s that about? Is it because the mischief represents an agile mind and a sense of humour which we do take pride in?
My darling grandson has other tricks up his sleeve too! He has this way of looking away from me, as if gazing seriously at something far away. I would try to get his attention by making silly sounds or calling his name but he would keep his eyes averted. But I know his attention is on me as a little smile lifts one corner of his mouth 🙂 All the adults around him are totally attentive to him, so where did he learn this trick? Native mischievousness, that’s what! Oh the love I feel for him when he plays this game with me! My heart overflows!
This is the emotion that Oothukadu Venkata Kavi wants us to capture and direct towards our bala Gopala, the divine child who will play games with us forever. The Kavi has done a brilliant job in conveying the pride in Yashoda’s ‘voice’ even as she tells her friend, ‘Only you will praise Krishna!’ What a perfect balance between pride and frustration in Yashoda’s description of her son’s doings!! Set to Raga Sriranjani, this song is popular with dancers as there is a lot of scope for abhinaya.
To enjoy this song, please listen below to an old recording by T.N.Seshagopalan.
I am also very fond of this version by Maharajapuram Santanam.
I was really keen to include a dance video, but the best I found is this very short version by the talented Harinie Jeevitha. Hope you enjoy it!
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Oothukadu Venkata Kavi Raga : Sriranjani Language : Tamil
பல்லவி நீதான் மெச்சிக் கொள்ள வேண்டும் (alt: வேணும் ) எங்கள் நீல நிற மேனி மாதவன் செய்வது நிமிஷம் போவது யுகமாய் ஆகுது
காதாரக் குழலூதி கன்றோடு (alt: கன்றுடன் ) விளையாடி
கண் முன்னே வந்து நின்று ஆட்டமும் ஆடி
ஏதேதோ ஜாலங்கள் செய்வதும் ஓடி ஓடி
எழிலுரு மங்கையர் மனைதொறும் (alt: மனைதனில்) புகுந்து
களவாடிடும் எனதாருயிர் மகனை
செய்யும் துஷ்டத்தனத்திற்கோர் எல்லையே இல்லை
தேடிப் பிடிக்க என்றால் (alt: என்னால்) சக்தியும் இல்லை
கையும் களவுமாக (alt: களவுமாக்க ) காலமும் வல்லை
ஆனால் காலம் தவறாது கோள் சொல்ல வந்து நின்ற (alt: வந்த )
மாதர்க்கு விடை சொல்ல நேரமும் இல்லை
கட்ட எண்ணிக் கயிற்றைத் தேடியும் காணோம்
கைக்கான கயிறெல்லாம் அளவாகக் காணோம்
மட்டம் என உரலோடு கட்டிடத் தோணும் ஆனால்
மட மட எனும் ஒலி செவி புக வந்தால்
மருத மரம் இரண்டை காணவே காணோம்
nI dAn mechchi koLLa vENDum (alt: vENum)
engAL nIla nira mEni mAdavan seivadu
nimisham pOvadu yugamAy Agudu
kAdAra kuzhal Udi kanDRODu (alt: kanDRuDan) viLaiyADi
kaN munnE vandu ninDRu ATTamum ADi
EdEdO jAlangaL seivadum ODi ODi
ezhiluru mangaiyar manaitorum (alt: manaitanil) pugundu
kaLavADidum enadAruyir maganai
kaTTa eNNIk-kayiTRait-tEDiyum kANOm
kaikkAna kayirellAm aLavagak-kANOm
maTTam ena uralODu kaTTiDa tONum ANAl
maDa maDa enum oli sevi puga vandAl
maruda maram iraNDai kANavE kANOm
(note – the alternate word usages do not change the overall meaning so I have not translated them)
Only you (nI dAn) will praise (mechchi koLLa vENDum) Krishna (implied)! With the doings (seivadu) of our (engaL) blue-skinned (nIla nira mEni) Madhava, each moment (nimisham) which passes (pOvadu) becomes (Agudu) an eon (yugamAy)!
Only you will praise (implied from pallavi) my (en) dearest (Aruyir) son (maganai) who plays (Udi – literally, blows) the flute (kuzhal) to our heart’s content (kAdu Ara – literally, to the solace of the ear), who plays (viLayADi) with the calf (kanDRODu), who also (-um) comes to stand (vandu ninDRu) and dance (ATTam ADi) in front (munnE) of one’s eyes (kaN) , and who does (seivadum) all kinds of (EdEdO) magical things (jAlangal), who runs constantly (Odi Odi), getting into (pugundu) all the houses (manai+tOrum) of young women (mangai) with elegant (ezhil) forms (uru) and stealing (kaLavADum)!!
There is no (illai) limit (Or ellai) to the mischief (dushtatanattirku) he gets into (seyyum, literally does)! There is neither strength (shakti) nor has the time (kAlam) come (vallai, contraction of varavillai) if He is to be (endRAl) searched (tEDi) and caught (piDikka) red-handed (kaiyum kalavumAga)! Nor do I have the time (nEramum illai) to answer (viDai solla) the ladies (mAdar-kku) who never miss an opportunity (kAlam tavarAdu) to come (vandu niDRa) and complain (kOL solla)!
In spite of searching (tEDiyum) for a rope (kayiTRai) with the thought of (eNNik) of tying Him (kaTTa), it can’t be found (kANOm, literally-not seen)! And all (ellAm) the ropes (kayir) which are found at hand (kaikkAna) aren’t long enough (aLaVAga kANOm)! Finding (implied) something of the right measure (maTTam ena), the thought would come (tONum) to tie Him (kaTTiDa) to the mortar (uralODu). But then (AnAl) a rustling sound (maDa maDa enum oli) would be heard (sevi-ear puga-enter vandAl-come to), and the two (iraNDai) Indian Laurel trees (maruda maram) would be visible no more (kANavE kANOm)! [Note: This refers to an incident from Krishna’s childhood]
Don’t you find people with absolute beliefs quite intriguing? I do! How do they arrive at it, I wonder? I refer to opinions, morality, beliefs and such, not to, for example mathematics, which I believe is absolute. Mathematicians may demur. In the world of thoughts and beliefs, I seem to be always in a twilight-zone where everything seems to shape-shift, with no absolutes.
My parents brought me up well, trying their best to teach me to distinguish between the good and the bad, setting me up with an understanding of our religion and moral standards without being prescriptive. But when I came out into the world, it did not quite match what I was taught. I saw people around me practicing what was questionable under my ‘rules’ yet they were good people, just people with a different set of standards, of morality, of religion and beliefs. ‘Ah‘, I thought, ‘What I was taught is a set of rules that applies just to the group I belong to‘. Like a Venn diagram, these sets have points of intersections, the commonality of values. ‘Perhaps these commonalities are the absolutes?‘ I wondered. Thou shalt not kill. Is that a commonality which is absolute? But hang on, when Arjuna hesitated in the battlefield did not Lord Krishna encourage him to do his duty? So even ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has exceptions, doesn’t it?
So slowly over a lifetime of seeing, experiencing and thinking, one by one my absolutes have dissolved to a great extent. Of course some absolutes remain. No Torture. No Child Abuse. No Rape. These are absolutes I believe in. There are others. But when it comes to religious, moral or social issues, my absolutes have melted away with the tide of time.
So it is with interest that I examined the lyrics of Navasiddhi Petralum by Neelakanta Sivan in raga Kharaharapriya. He has such definite views! So many absolute sounding statements! He classifies people as ‘chaff’ i.e. people without substance, and sinners. I have tabulated his thoughts, wondering how many of these I would agree with. Detailed lyrics and word by word translations are in the footnote. Have a look at the table and see where you stand. What if a person has devotion to Gods other than Lord Shiva, are they really sinners? What if people have limited intellectual capacity and wisdom but are kind and good? One should respect good parents, surely yes, but what about abusive ones? I think it is a good exercise to examine one’s own beliefs against those set by others, it makes one’s own stand more clear to oneself. And perhaps arrive at one’s own set of absolutes.
People without substance
Those who are without devotion to Lord Shiva
Those who neither listen to the wisdom of others nor have their own
Those who frolic around forgetting the grace of God
Those who do not meditate upon Lord Shiva
Those who avidly pursue money without counting sins and merits
Those who destroy their own good character with anger and greed
Those who cause grief to their parents
Those bad people who hiss and taunt everybody to fight
Those egoistic people who do not realise the truth even after having heard, seen and experienced it
Those without the grace of Lord Shiva who gives us an everlasting state
I came to this song by way of listening to a marvellous concert called Thamizhum Naanum by Sanjay Subrahmanyan in which he sang this song. The concert is available at the Yuv site where, for a nominal fee, they are video offering a concert every week. This was the first. The audio and video quality were impeccable. This blog is not a commercial site and I hesitate to promote any commercial offering fearing that people may think I profit in some way. I don’t. But if you are interested in Carnatic Music, it may be worth your while to check out this site.
The first and foremost of the renditions I present today is by Semmangudi Srinavasa Iyer, whose rendition, I believe, is a benchmark for this song.
I also like Kharaharapriya in the voice of Ranjani & Gayatri whose soft and smooth transitions from note to note is very pleasing to my ears.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Neelakanta Sivan Raga : Kharaharapriya Language: Tamil Note : There are a number of variations to the lyrics in the renditions I listened to while writing this post, most minor. I have given below the version sung by Semmangudi with a few common variations I found in other renditions.
நவசித்தி பெற்றாலும் சிவ பக்தி இல்லாத நரர்கள் வெறும் சாவி (சம்போ)
எவர் புத்தியும் தள்ளி சுயபுத்தியும் இல்லாது இருப்பவர் பெரும் பாவி
நாதன் அருள் மறந்து போதம் இல்லாக் கூத்து நடிப்பவர் வெறும் சாவி (ஜகன்/தில்லை)
சீதமதி அணியும் சிவனை நினையாமல் இருப்பவர் பெரும் பாவி
தாய் தந்தை மனம் நோக செய்கின்ற குரு துரோகத் தனைவர்கள்(*) வெறும் சாவி
நாய் போல எவரையும் சீறி சண்டைபோடவே (alt: சண்டையிடும்) நலம் கெட்டார் (இல்லார்) பெரும் பாவி
பாபமும் புண்ணியமும் கணியாமல் பணத்திற்கே பறப்பவர் வெறும் சாவி
கோபமும் லோபமும் கொண்டு நல்ல குணத்தை குலைப்பவர் (தொலைப்பவர் ) பெரும் பாவி
கேட்டும் கண்டும் அனுபவித்தும் உண்மை உணரா கர்விகள் வெறும் சாவி
வாட்டமில்லாத கதி கொடுக்கும் நீலகண்டனின் அன்பில்லார் (அருள் இல்லார்) பெரும் பாவி (என்றும்)
(*) It sounded to me like தலைவர்கள் but the alternate தனைவர்கள் seemed more fitting. I do not know if this is correct.
navasiddhi peTRAlum shiva bhakti illAda narargaL veRum sAvi (shambhO)
evar buddhiyum taLLi suya buddhiyum illAdu iRuppavar perum pAvi
nAdhan aRuL maRandu bOdam illA kUttu naDippavar veRum sAvi (jagan/tillai)
sItamadi aNiyum shivanai ninaiyAmal iruppavar perum pAvi
tAy tandai manam nOga seiginDRa guru drOgattanivargaL veRum sAvi
nAy pOla evaraiyum shIRi sanDaipODa nalam keTTar perum pAvi
kETTum kanDum anubhavittum uNmai uNarA garvigaL veRum sAvi
vATTamillada gadi koDukkum nIlakanTanin anbillAr (alt: aruL illAr) perum pAvi (enDrum)
Even if they have achieved (peTRAlum) the nine (nava) extraordinary powers of the soul (siddhi), men (narargaL) without (illAda) devotion (bhakti) towards Lord Shiva are mere (veRum) chaff (sAvi) . Those who reject (taLLi) the wisdom (buddhi, literally intellect) of others (evar) and are (iruppavar) without (illAdu) wisdom (buddhi) of their own (suya) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).
Those who, forgetting (maRandu) the grace (aRul) of the Lord (nAdan), foolishly frolic (kUttu naDippavar, literally play act) even without (illa) intoxication (bOdam) are mere (veRum) chaff (sAvi). Those who exist (iruppavar) without thinking (ninaiyAmal) of Lord Shiva who wears (aNiyum) the cool moon (sitamadi) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).
Those sons (tanaivargaL) who cause distress (manam nOga) to their parents (tAy tandai-mother, father), committing the sin of harm to one’s teachers (guru drOgam), are mere (verum) chaff (sAvi). (Note-Parents are our first teachers) Those without (keTTAr) goodness (nalam), who like (pOla) dogs (nAy), hiss at (shIri) and fight (sanDaipODa) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).
Those who, without counting (gaNiyamal) sins (pApamum) and merits (puNNiyamum), avidly pursue (paRappavar) only money (paNattiRkE) are mere (veRum) sAvi (chaff). Those who, due to (kONDu, literally having) anger (kObam) and greed (lObham) destroy (kulaippavar) their own (implied) good (nalla) character (guNam) are great (perum) sinners (pAvi).
Those egoists (garvigaL) who, despite having heard (kETTum), seen (kaNDum) and experienced (anubhavittum), do not realise (uNarA) the truth (uNmai) are mere (veRum) chaff (sAvi). Those without the grace (aRuL illAr) of the Lord Shiva (nIla kaNTan, literally the one with the blue throat) who gives the everlasting (vATTam illAda, literally unfading) state (gadi) (ie. Moksha).
NOTE : This is a note based on a comment by Mr.Lakshman Ragde, who is incomparable in his knowledge of Carnatic Music lyrics. He wrote
‘In the song navasiddhi peTrAlum, there are additional caraNAs. Here are the lyrics as found in the printed text book of N.Shivan’s compositions, edited by Saraswathi Ram’ .
navasiddhi peTrAlum. rAgA: kharaharapriyA. cApu tALA.
P: navasiddhi peTrAlum shiva bhakti illAda narargaL verum shAvi
evar budddhiyum taLLi suyabuddhiyum illAdu iruppavargaL perum pAvi
C1: nAthan aruL marandu bOdham illA kUttu naDippavar verum shAvi
NItmati aNiyum shivanai ninaiyAmal iruppavar perum pAvi
2: pApamum puNyamum keNiyAmal paNattirkkE parappavar verumshAvi
kOpamum lObhamum koNDu nalla guNattai kulaippavar perum pAvi
3: tAi tandai manam nOgha sheiginra guru drOhat-talaivargaL verum shAvi
nAi pOla evaraiyum shIri shaNDaiyiDum nalam keTTAr perum pAvi
4: kETTum kaNDum anubhavittum uNmai uNarA garvigaL verum shAvi
vATTamillA gati koDukkum nIlakaNTharin aruL illAr perum pAvi
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 and Translation) :
Composer : Papanasam Sivan
Raga : Madhyamavati
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).
A very happy Janmashtami to all of you! I hope that you joyfully celebrated the occasion with your families. Are you replete after having many lovely treats as ‘prasadam’? Our household Gopala is on a diet and gets only fruit even on his birthday!
Other than adding an extra something to my daily prayers or going to the temple, I am not in the habit of celebrating our various festivals. I guess it all started with being married outside my community; my husband has little interest in rituals. He also did not appreciate my kind of festival ‘feasts’ or sweets. In my need to ‘fit in’ at the start of our life together, I gave up most of what were my own cultural ways. But I didn’t pick up any of his cultural festivities either which is my own loss. We moved overseas within a year of being wed so familial influences were lost as well. The thing is, festivals are social occasions rather than religious ones, don’t you think? One needs a community to celebrate them well, or at least a partner of the same mind. My children have never known the pleasure of kneeling on the floor with their mother, painstakingly drawing ‘footprints’ of Gopala to lead from the front door to the Puja room. I remember doing that with my mother and the picture in my mind is of the house we lived in more than 50 years ago. So it is with that memory and my mother’s kind face smiling at me that I mark the festival today.
As for a musical offering, I have wandered away from my normal Carnatic Music posts to this beautiful piece of Hindustani music. In this song, the poet urges us to meditate upon the feet of the Lord to help us navigate this ocean of existence. ‘Those who meditate upon the Lord find reconciliation‘ says he. Are we not all in need of reconciliation? A composition in Shree by Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, it was made famous by the incomparable D.V.Paluskar. (Note to Carnatic Music fans: Shree Raga is quite different in the Hindustani system). In this version from a 78 RPM recording, Paluskar demonstrates ably why he lives long in the memory of his listeners. I find him simply incredible!
हरि के चरण कमल निसदिन सुमर रे
भाव धरकर (alt : धर सुधा) भीतर भव जलधी तर रे
जोई जोई धरत ध्यान पावत समाधान
‘हररंग’ कहे ज्ञान अबहु चित धर रे
hari kE charaNa kamala nisadina sumara
bhAva dharakara (alt: dhara sudhA) bhItara bhava jaladhi tara rE
jO’I jO’I dharata dhyAna pAvata samAdhana
hararang kahE gyAna, abahu chita dhara rE
Remember (sumara) the lotus-feet (charaNa-kamala) of (kE) Hari everyday (nisadina). Holding (dharakara) this emotion (bhAva) within (bhItara) and cross/swim (tara) the ocean (jaladhi) of existence (bhava) . Those (jO’I jO’I) who hold (dharata) in thought/meditation (dhyAnA) find/get (pAvata) reconciliation (samAdhAna). ‘Hararang’ (I think this may be the poet’s pseudonym) says (kahe) hold this wisdom (gyAna) in your mind (chita) from now (abahu).
I was reminded of this beautiful composition when I heard it ‘live’ in a webcast earlier this year. I had made note of it then, meaning to share it with you all. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande is a musician I have admired for a long time and I hope you enjoy her performance as much as I do.
Listen from 15:00 to about 1:02:00.
The Dhrut section reminds us that without a Guru, it is difficult to find a transcendental pathway.
गुरु बिन कौन बतावे बाट
भव सागर का लम्बा घाट
गुरु बिन ज्ञान नाही दूजा
ज्ञान बिना नहीं दीपक दूजा
दीप बिना कैसे देखूँ बाट
guru bin kaun batAvE bAT
bhava sAgar kA lambA ghAT
guru bin gyAn nAhI dUjA
gyAn binA nahIn dIpak dUjA
dIpa binA kaisE dekhU.n bAT
Who except a guru (guru bin) can teach (batAvE) the transcendental way (bAT)? Of the long (lambA) wharf (ghAT) of this ocean (sAgar) of existence (bhava) ? There is no other (nahin dUjA) knowledge (gyAn) without a (bin) Guru, and no other (nahIn dUjA) lamp (dIpak) without (bin) knowledge (gyAn). Without (binA) a lamp (dIpa), how (kaisE) will I see (dEkhU.n) the transcendental way (bAT)?
Yesterday I listened to two concerts on YouTube. Now this is a more momentous occasion than the statement reflects. I don’t often get time to listen non-stop to music so this was special. As usual my life feels like a runaway train with me hanging by my fingernails! But I’ll leave my life be for the moment. As I said, I was listening to concerts of two young men whose music I enjoy. Both have excellent gurus. Both have glorious voices, a remarkable stage presence and styles which have the mark of their guru on them. Actually, I find myself listening more and more often to young artists nowadays. I enjoy their energy and verve, and if they stumble now and then, they have a lifetime to fix it so I don’t worry about it.
The first concert I heard was by Sandeep Narayan. Since hearing him do a fantastic Bhairavi during the season in 2016, I have been clicking on his concerts online. This was a nice concert; I particularly liked the order and mix of kritis chosen which is a skill in itself. His dwijavanti was pleasing, his take on chalanatta was interesting and the hamsanandi thillana at the end and karpagame to conclude were both quite lovely. The main item on the menu was a solidly performed pakkala nilabadi in Kharaharapriya.
Next I turned to Vignesh Ishwar. I haven’t had the pleasure of listening to him live but I have really enjoyed a number of his concerts online. I was happily nodding to his singing when the young man launched into Kharaharapriya and I thought ‘Hey, I can do a one-to-one comparison now, can’t I!’. Alapana done, the kriti taken up was ‘Rama Ni Samanamevaru‘ which made me laugh. Here I was all set to do a comparison and there was Tyagaraja with ‘There is none to compare with you Rama!’. I was happy to find a theme for my blog post – our tendency to make comparisons. The rest of the concert was good. The main piece was in Begada, not my favourite raga, but I still enjoyed it.
The kriti set me thinking about how very judgemental we human beings are. We are forever judging others on the things they say and do, on their achievements and failures, on their character and abilities and so on. It is rather non-stop, isn’t it! Or is it only I? I talk confidently on a collective when all I am sure of is myself! I love my children equally, or so I hope, but I confess to comparing them especially when one of them makes me sad. ‘He is so oblivious to my needs‘ I’ll say to myself , ‘She would never have left me like this‘. Or ‘She is so sharp, are girls always this unkind? He is so much kinder‘. Of course, we also compare people to themselves. ‘He was so much better in his previous film‘. ‘Oh, she looked nicer in red than in green, didn’t she!‘. It is not always unkind or negative. We may as easily say ‘Amma, this is the best rasam you have ever made!‘ Still, the comparisons are more often negative than positive. Is it just our need to categorise and put things in order? As a Carnatic Music fan, I am often critical of performances. Even while I am listening to one musician, I may well be racking my brain thinking of some other artist, some other occasion when I felt a turn of a phrase may have sounded better! What a waste of time! Instead of being in the moment and enjoying the pleasure of what falls into my ears, my mind is scrambling elsewhere! Is it a common failing or is it just me? Whatever the case, it is high time to stop it I think…
As Vignesh Ishwar inspired this post, let us first listen to him singing Rama Nee Samanamevaru in Kharaharapriya. Alapana starts at 16:12 and the kriti at 28:15. Dr Hemalatha on the violin sounds very good.
And for a second rendition, who other than T.M.Krishna, who is Vignesh Ishwar’s guru. Maybe you will, like me, enjoy noting the stylistic similarities passed from guru to shishya.
And for an instrumental, I present the very talented vainikas from my own home town of Melbourne, the Iyer Brothers. The recording is a bit tinny but it is still enjoyable. They are accompanied by their daughters. The sound of four Veenas synchronised has such a majestic quality!
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Tyagaraja Raga : Kharaharapriya Language : Telugu (Note: I do not speak Telugu; the details below are based on a number of online resources)
paluku palukulaku tEneloluku mATalADu
sOdaralu gala hari tyAgarAja kula vibhUsha mRdu subhAsha
Who (evaru) is equal (samAnamu) to you (nI), O Rama, the uplifter (uddhAraka) of the Raghu dynasty (vamsha)?
Like a parrot (chiluka) in a cage (panjarapu) of devotion (bhaktiyanu) of your wife (bhAma) who is as gentle (implied) as the shoot (molaka) of sweet marjoram (maruvampu). (Note: There seem to be a number of interpretations of this line – is it Sita who is like a parrot in the cage or is it Rama? Who is enslaved by devotion? The devotee or the devoted?)
You (implied) who have (gala) brothers (sOdaralu) who speak (mATalADu) like honey (tEne) drips (oluku) at each word (paluku palukulaku)! You who youself (implied) are so gently well-spoken (mRudu subhAsha)! O Hari (name of Vishnu), you are (implied) the ornament (vibhUsha) of Tyagaraja’s family (kula)!!
A blogger’s world is rather an isolated one in general, mine is even more so. I live far away from the buzz of hotspots of Carnatic Music, listening almost exclusively to recorded music. The occasional live streaming is a treat for me. I don’t have anyone nearby who shares my interest and enthusiasm for this music; perhaps that is why I started blogging in the first place. In this isolated world, the comments left by readers of my blog always feel special. Ramesh has been my most regular commentator. He left his first comment on 20th of February, 2012. Since then, he has left me encouraging comments on almost every one of my posts, an encouragement I have been very grateful for. Though we have never met, this has been a virtual connection of more than six years. As my blog hardly ever features live events, I requested Ramesh to do a write-up of the Ramanavami concerts that he has attended during this period. Like me, Ramesh too is just an untutored rasika so his reactions and observations fit well into the theme of this blog. I hope you find his report as enjoyable as I do.
CLASSICAL MUSIC IS THRIVING IN BANGALORE
(Photo Credits : Ramaseva Mandali)
If it is Ramanavami time, then all roads lead to Bangalore, at least for those who are humming Kalyani under their breath! This is the Carnatic Music season in Bangalore, which has now become a centre second only to Chennai, for this genre of music. This year was a resounding success, keeping up with the trend that we have been seeing over the last 5 years. Crowds are getting bigger, younger people are coming to concerts, and, heartwarmingly, people are willing to buy tickets to kutcheris. It has been truly a lovely festival of music over the last month and a half.
There are half a dozen sabhas which conduct concerts daily for a month or so. The grand old daddy of them all is the Ramaseva Mandali at Fort High School. This is the 80th year the Mandali concerts are being held – from humble beginnings on the footpath of a side street to a massive pandal now at the Fort High School Grounds in Chamarajpet. Virtually every musician of note in both Carnatic and Hindustani music has performed here over the years and it is now the largest classical music event in India.
The old problems remain. Bangalore does not have a concert venue of note, other than Chowdiah Hall, which has now become unaffordable for any Sabha. Almost all kutcheris are held in pandals with the cacophony of Bangalore traffic as the sruti. The sound system at any venue is guaranteed to give trouble, as usual. Facilities are non-existent and commutes are long for any Bangalorean attending concerts. And yet, we went in droves. Season tickets at Fort High School were put up for sale online for the first time and all but the cheapest tickets were sold out even before the season started, unheard of for classical music. Traffic police had to be deployed for the most popular kutcheris. Wow! It is heartening to see the growing interest in classical music here. Not even in Chennai do we see such crowds.
The music was mostly wonderful. Kumaresh kicked off the season in more than one Sabha, with his wife Jayanthi in one and with his brother Ganesh in another. There were many violin concerts – Ganesh/Kumaresh, L Subramaniam, Kanyakumari & Embar Kannan, Nagaraj & Manjunath, Krishnan & Vijayalakshmi reflecting the fact that talent in violin is probably at its peak now. This year the Cleveland Music Festival was being held at the same time and whoever was not going to the US came to perform here. Regulars included Yesudas, Trichur Brothers, Kadri Gopalnath, Ranjani & Gayathri, Priya Sisters, U Rajesh, Shashank, Malladi Brothers, TM Krishna, Soumya, et all. Hindustani music stalwarts Ronu Majumdar, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Pravin Godkhindi were also here. This is largely a Carnatic music festival, but there is also a smattering of Hindustani music.
This year seemed to be the season of Todi. After listening to it for 6 times over 20 days, I am willing to give it a break for few years! Surprisingly Kalyani, Bhairavi, Abheri and Sankarabaranam were rare. There were multiple Dharmavatis, which competed with Todi for the title of the Raga of the season. Thankfully the very obscure ragas were hardly to be heard, reversing a trend from the last few years where we have heard ragas with unpronounceable names. The Ragam Thanam Pallavi continued to rule, much to my chagrin (Edit: Ramesh has a quite ununderstandable revulsion for RTPs!!). Freed from the shackles of a time bound 2.5 hour concert in Chennai, artistes let loose with elaborate RTPs, often starting at 9.00 PM !
Two concerts stood out for me and they will live long in memory. Trichur Brothers in Basaveshwara Nagar Sabha were at their absolute best. A short 2 hour and a bit concert featuring Sahana, Hamsadhwani, Reetigowlam, Pantuvarali, Kaapi, Sarasangi, Kaanada and Kurinji was mesmerising. They sang their main piece in Pantuvarali early on in the concert and after the thani avarthanam played a scintillating series of thukkadas to round-up the concert. The concert was such a brilliant one that even after the Mangalam, people were hesitant to leave.
The other was a majestic concert by Ranjani & Gayathri at Fort High School. The 3000 capacity pandal was full and people were standing in the aisles – such is their popularity here. And they delivered an absolutely divine RTP in Nalinakanthi. A complicated Pallavi and a thala structure, beautifully supported by the accompanying artistes was easily a classic for the ages. There were 1000 people at Mangalam time at 10.00 PM; I have never seen anything like this in any kutcheri ever.
In keeping with this blog’s style I will feature a krithi which perhaps symbolizes this year’s season simply because it was the most sung krithi, 3 times no less ! Todi it has to be and it is Shyama Sastri’s swarajati masterpiece Raave Himagiri Kumari.
The featured renditions of the Swarajathi that I have chosen are both for sentimental reasons. The vocal rendition is from the Bombay Sisters, C Saroja and C Lalitha who were awarded this years SV Narayanaswami Rao Award.
The Instrumental rendition I have chose is by Mandolin Srinivas, the legend who was a star performer at every Bangalore season for many years, and who often did not accept a fee from the sabha just to support them. His concerts always attracted huge crowds in Bangalore and every time Rajesh now performs , it is hard not to miss the prodigy.
(Edit : For Lyrics and Translation, please refer to my previous post on this composition Rave Himagiri )
A very Happy Ramanavami to all my readers! May God’s grace fall upon you all!
I have chosen a concise Ramayana for you to listen today as you meditate upon Lord Rama. When I use the word ‘meditate’, I use it loosely, Meditation need not always be in a lotus position, does it? For me, it is often with my head nodding under my headphones. I call that worship too!
As to the song, it is a Ragamalika composed by Swathi Thirunal. There are those amongst you who don’t appreciate ragamalikas; I bring this composition particularly to your attention. While the lyrics list the major events in each kandam (canto) of the epic, the ragas paint the emotion in parallel. Balakandam is in a calm and stable Nattakurinji reflecting the stability of Rama’s childhood. Ayodhyakandam in Dhanyasi resounds with a gentle sweetness. I don’t think this goes against the story as Rama is perfectly content even in exile. Aranyakandam is in a romantic Mohanam reflects the happy life Rama and Sita lead in the forest in spite of Shurpanakha et al. Kishkindakandam is in a grief stricken Mukhari as both Rama and Sita suffer, each in their own way. Sundarakandam follows in a more hopeful Purvikalyani though it is still infused with sadness thanks to the minor Ri. Yuddhakandam finishes in an auspicious Madhyamavati, the traditional raga for a happy conclusion. And the whole is tied together in a prayerful Saveri. I understand the original version was only in Saveri. It was Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who tuned it as a ragamalika, adding the chittaswarams as well. This is the version popularised by M.S.Subbulakshmi.
I have chosen a rendition by the young Trichur Brothers. I think they have done a very credible job indeed. There are of course some wonderful renditions by yesteryear greats. In my growing years my father used to play a tape by MS all the time; I still hear her voice in my head when I think of this song. And I just love MDR meandering through the composition in his inimitable style; I always take a particular pleasure in his re-catching Saveri at the end of every charanam; it’s almost a thrill to hear the switch to ga-ri-sa-da, ri-sa-da, sa-da 🙂 But there is also great enjoyment in listening to young voices sing these age-old songs with such conviction. Trichur Brothers start their rendition with the following shloka. They sing it also in a ragamalika like the main composition. (Note : If you are new to Raga recognition and distinction, this is a perfect opportunity to try your skills on this shloka as you know which ragas to expect).
With Sita (bhUmisuta-daughter of the earth) on the left (vAmE), and (cha) Hanuman in the front (puras), in the rear (pashchAt) Lakshmana (son (sutah) of Sumitra), surrounded by (pArshvadalayoH) Shatrughna and (cha) Bharata, and (cha) with Vayu etc (Adi) in the corners (kONEshu), with Sugriva and the young king (yuvarAj – don’t know why it is yuvarAt in the shloka) Vibhishana, the son (suta) of Tara i.e Angada, Jambavan and in the centre (madhyE) the gently (komala) handsome (ruchim) dark-hued (shyAmaLam) Rama looking like (implied) a blue lotus (nIla sarOja), whom I worship (bhajE) .
I meditate upon (bhAvayAmi) the delightful (ArAmam), gracious (bhavya) and virtous (suguNa) Lord Rama (rAmam) of the Raghu dynasty, who playing (lasitam) at his Divine Play (lIlA) bestows (vitaraNa) happiness (bhAvuka) to others (para) with just his sidelong glances (apAnga).
He who is the ornament (tilakam) of the sun (dinakara) lineage (anvaya), he who killed (vadham) the demons (implied) beginning with (mukha) Subahu while protecting (avana) the sacrifice (savana) performed by (rachita) the Vishwamitra (son (suta) of gAdhi), he who purified (pAvanam) Ahalya, he who broke (bhanga) the bow (chApa) of the sinless (anagham) Shiva (Isha), he who is the husband (prAnesha) of Sita (daughter (sutA) of Janaka), he who destroyed (haram) the pride (garva) of the profoundly (ghana) kupita (angry) Parashurama (bhRgurAma as he is a descendent of bhRigu), he who is from (ita) Ayodhya (sAkEtam).
He who went (gatam) to the forest (vipina) with (sahita) Sita and Lakshamana (saumitrI, son of Sumitra) at the word (vAchA) of his Lord (Arya) in spite of (atha) the destined (vihita) consecration (abhishEkam), he who was in the habit of (shIlam) being extremely calm (shAntatam), he who went (gatam) to the residence (nilaya) of Guha, he who went (gata) to Chitrakoota, he who gifted (datta) Bharata his esteemed (mahita), bejewelled (ratnamaya, studded with precious stones) sandals (pAdukam), he who has an intoxicatingly (madana) beautiful (sundara) body (angam).
vitata daNDkAraNya gata virAdha dalanam
sucharita ghaTaja dattAnupamita vaishNavAstram
patagavara jatAyu nutam panchavatI vihitAvAsam
ati ghOra shUrpaNakhA vachanAgata kharAdi haram
He who went (gata) to the vast (vitata) Dandaka forest (AraNya), he who destroyed (dalanam) Viradha, he who was gifted (datta) the matchless Vaishnava weapon (astram) by the virtuous (sucharita) Agastya (ghaTaja – born in a pot), he who is worshipped by (nutam) the chief of birds (patagavara) Jatayu, he whose abode (AvAsam) was put in order (vihita) in Panchavati, he who destroyed (haram) Khara etc (Adi) who came (Agata) on the word of (vachana) of the very (ati) horrible (ghOra) Shurpanakha.
He who killed (haram) the wicked (khala) Maricha who had worn (dhara) a form (rUpa) of a golden (kanaka) deer (mRga) here (iha), he who searched for (anvEsham) the daughter of Janaka (janakajA) who was seized (hRta) by Ravana (dasha – ten, Asya-face) who disregarded (vimata) the virtous (sujana), he who is sinless (anagham), he who, accompanied by (sangata) Hanuman (AnjanEya), made friends (sakhya karam) with Sugriva (son of (tanuja) the Sun (nabhOmaNi)), he who destroyed (dalanam) the body (tanu) of Vali, he who is supreme (Isham).
Charanam 5 (Purvikalyani) – Sundarakandam
वानरोत्तम सहित वायुसूनु करार्पित
भानुशत भास्वर भव्य रत्नाङ्गुलीयम् ।
तेन पुनरानीतान्यून चूडामणी दर्शनं
श्रीनिधिमुदधि तीरेश्रित विभीषण मिलितम् ॥
He who, accompanied by (sahita) the best (uttama) amongst the Vanaras, offered (arpita) in the hands (kara) of Hanuman (child (sUnu) of Vayu) the beautiful (bhavya) bejewelled (ratna) ring (angulIyam) which was lustrous (bhAsvara) like a hundred (shata) suns (bhAnu), he who saw (darshanam) the blemishless (anyUna) (crest jewel (chUDAmaNI) brought (AnIta) in turn (punah) by him (tEna ie hanuman), he who is the reservoir (nidhi) of auspiciousness (shrI), he who met (militam) Vibhishana who sought refuge (Ashrita) on the shores (tIrE) of the ocean (udadhi).
Charanam 6 (Madhyamavati) – Yuddhakadam
कलित वर सेतुबन्धं खल निस्सीम पिशिताशन
दलनम् उरु दश कण्ठ विदारणम् अति धीरम् ।
ज्वलन पूत जनक सुता सहितम् यात साकेतं
विलसित पट्टाभिषेकं विश्व पालं पद्मनाभम् ॥
kalita vara sEtubandham khala nissIma pishitAshana
dalanam uru dasha kaNTHa vidAraNam ati dhIram
jvalana pUta janaka sutA sahitam yAta sAkEtam
vilasita paTTAbhishEkam vishva pAlam padmanAbham
He who made (kalita) the best (vara) bridge (sEtubandham), he who killed (dalanam) numerous (nissIma-endless) wicked (khala) demons (pishitAshana-flesh eaters), he who crushed (vidaranam) the huge (uru) ten-headed (dasha kaNTHa) Ravana, he who is extremely (ati) dhIram (brave), he who, along with (sahita) Sita (janaka sutA-daughter of Janaka) who was purified (pUta) by fire (jvalana), proceeded to (yAta) Ayodhya (sAkEtam), he who shone (vilasita) in coronation (paTTAbhishEkam), he who protects (pAlam) the world (vishva), he who is the lotus-navelled one (padhanAbham).
January 27 2018 I wake up at 4:30 am after just a few hours of restless sleep. It will be dawn soon. The Australian sun is set to warm us to 38ºC today. I wince at the thought of sweltering inside my heavy Kancheepuram silk sari. But I have a hundred things to do before I get to that stage. I hurry to get ready and start the day with drawing a simple kolam on the porch. I bustle about getting things ready for the priest who comes in and sets the stage for the wedding on the deck outside our living room.
I look around our home. The furniture has been moved elsewhere; hired chairs and ottomans face the deck. The dining table rests in the garden while caterer’s tables take up the dining area. The kitchen bench is decorated with many vases of fresh flowers. Strands of fresh flowers decorate the entrance, strands that my sister and friends strung for hours yesterday. Strands of artificial marigold hang on balustrades inside and out. An arbor decorated with fresh flowers stands on the deck. Borrowed brass lamps decorate the hallway. A large colourful Rangoli that I painted on canvas decorates a corner of the living room. A hundred LED tea lights are arranged along the corridor and on the Rangoli. I think of all the friends and family who gathered yesterday to get our home decorated and I thank them silently.
October 2016 My daughter and her partner announce that they are engaged and would like to be married by the end of 2017. She is a senior paediatric registrar, half Tamil Iyengar, half Bengali, fully Australian. He is a psychologist, both Australian and Polish. She would like to get married at home, she tells me. I do not dissuade her but my mind races with questions. We have been working with a builder since March 2016 on a project to knock down and re-build our home in Melbourne. The project is scheduled for 2017. Will our new home be ready in time given the vagaries of Melbourne weather? Just to be safe, we move the wedding date to Jan 2018.
November-December 2016 My husband had waved goodbye to our old home in March 2016. He will come back only when our new home is ready. I’ve returned to Melbourne for finalising details with the builder and empty our home. I spend much of November sorting through years of gathered possessions and memories. I pack what needs keeping and discard as much as I can. This is such hard work! Finally everything is packed and sent off to storage. The empty shell of the home-that-was makes my heart ache. The house will come down by the end of Feb 2017; I shall be in Switzerland by then.
January 2017 ‘An hour‘ my daughter tells me ‘The rituals must be limited to an hour‘. I stare at her wordlessly. I think of how little control I had at my own wedding. I chose my husband but that is all the choice I made. My parents made all the decisions for the wedding as it was to be a Tamil one. Like all girls I had dreamt of a lovely wedding, instead it was a day of misery for me. All I remember of the day is my husband’s fury at being made to do rituals he had no belief in and no wish to do, my father’s fury at being forced to accept a Bengali son-in-law who did not value his culture, beliefs and his need for such rituals, my mother’s grief and fear for my future, my in-laws disappointment in having to deal with an alien culture, and above all, my shame at all the drama I had caused in my parents’ life. It was a traumatic day and I still cannot remember it without my eyes flooding rivers of sorrow. I know I don’t want that for my girl. If it is an hour-long wedding she wants, it is an-hour long wedding she will get. We have a meeting with Sriraman mama, the priest, and come up with a doable list. It ends up being an hour and a half but we are all content.
June-Aug 2017 I am back in Melbourne for another few months. We have made good progress with our new home. We have been lucky with the weather, the builders have lost only a few days for rain, less than expected. I had done a lot of running around in December, choosing bricks, outside paint colour, roof tiles, windows, doors, and the like. This trip is for choosing a zillion things for the indoors. Who would have thought that even a small thing like choosing the kitchen tap involves multiple trips to plumbing supplies stores, involving many woman-hours?!!! The light fittings are a great challenge thanks to the high roof of the cathedral ceiling. The kitchen design takes many iterations to get right.
In the meanwhile, plans for the wedding are going along well. We select a flower supplier, caterer, photographer and videographer. We’ll have to find someone to do the lighting. The guest list is ready; we are still working on the invitation card format. The celebration has grown to a party in Kolkata on the 13th for extended family and friends, a celebratory family trip to the Sunderbans, a registration wedding in Melbourne on the 25th followed by lunch for the immediate family, a Henna night, a Hindu ritual followed by lunch on the 27th, an Australian style event followed by dinner and dance that night. I have a created a spreadsheet for the task list, we would be lost without it.
November-December 2017 I am back in Melbourne for the final stages of the building. Even now, the builder calls me daily to make one decision or the other. With the time difference between Switzerland and Melbourne, I have often to make decisions without discussing with my husband. It is stressful. I consult YouTube and have a ‘do-it-myself-Grihapravesham’ ceremony on a ‘auspicious day’ even before the house is ready. Finally I can get my things back from storage. I work hard in unpacking and getting my house in order, including stocking up a minimal kitchen. I leave for India on the 5th of January, the house must be ready before then. The builders are still tinkering around doing the last bits of cabinetry etc before they leave for their Christmas break. I have a panic just after Christmas when the sewer blocks up. Everyone is away, it can’t be fixed now. I retreat back to my sister’s house, with the builder promising to get it fixed while we are in India.
My husband has taken responsibility for arranging the Kolkata get-together with the help of his cousin. He has also reviewed options for the Sunderbans trip; all I do is book it in. I have already arranged hotels in Kolkata. Tickets have been bought. My daughter has finalised the invitation and has posted them. RSVPs are being collected and collated with our list. I have fixed a Henna lady and arranged for dinner that night. I think the wedding plan seems sound.
January 27 2018 I watch as my Polish-Australian son-in-law ties an Iyengar Thali (Mangalsutra) around my daughter’s neck. Sriraman Mama has done very well, getting it all done in exactly the time promised. I throw akshata (yellowed raw rice) on their heads in blessing, praying that their marriage leads them to a lifetime of happiness. My sister and aunt whirl the aarati tray and we all join in singing ‘Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame‘. There is still the evening celebrations to follow. The couple will exchange vows which they have written themselves, there will be speeches from the family, the groom’s family will welcome the bride with a bread-salt-and-vodka ritual, they will dance a Polka with the groom’s family and a Bollywood medley by themselves. There will be cake cutting and eating and drinking and merry-making. But for me, with the singing of ‘Sita Kalyana’, the wedding has reached its completion.
February 12 2018 I’m still in Melbourne for another couple of weeks. My husband calls me from Switzerland to wish ourselves a happy anniversary. He is still on the 11th while I have rushed forward to the 12th. I let my mind wander to my daughter’s wedding and our own wedding 36 years ago. Ours has not been an easy marriage. The many differences in culture and beliefs, in temperament and tastes, in needs and wants…all the differences make many an ordinary thing into a matter of contention. But we have one most important thing in common – a shared value system. Perhaps in the end that is the only glue a marriage needs. I wonder what the thoughts of my daughter would be on her own 36th anniversary. And I lay prayers at the feet of all my Gods.
What else can I play on this day but Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame? This version by Dr.Balamuralikrishna is familiar and dear to me.
I also enjoyed listening to Mr & Mrs T.M.Krishna sing the version below.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Tyagaraja Raga: Kurinji / Shankarabharanam Language : Tamil pallavi, rest in Sanskrit
सीता कल्याण वैभोगमे
राम कल्याण वैभोगमे
पवनज स्तुति पात्र पावन चरित्र
रवि सोम वर नेत्र रमणीय गात्र
भक्त जन परिपाल भरित शरजाल
भुक्ति मुक्तिद लील भूदेव पाल
पामरासुर भीम परिपूर्ण काम
श्याम जगदभिराम साकेत धाम
सर्व लोकाधार समरैक वीर
गर्व मानव (alt:मानस ) दूर कनकाग धीर
Oh the grandeur (vaibhOgamE – from sanskrit vaibhava, the E at the end denotes an exclamation) of Sita’s wedding (kalyANa)! Oh the grandeur of Rama’s wedding (kalyANa)!
He who is the object (pAtra) of worship (stuti) by Hanuman, the son of Vayu (pavanaja), He whose character (charitra) is pure (pAvana), He whose excellent (vara) eyes (nEtra) are like the sun (ravi) and the moon (sOma), He who has a charming (ramaNiya) body (gAtra).
He who is the protector (paripAla) of his devotees (bhakta jana), He who is capable of shooting (bharita means filled which I have interpreted here as a capability) a multitude of arrows (sharajAla), bestower (da) of worldly possessions (bhukti) and salvation (mukti), He who is playful (lIla), He who is the protector (pAla) of Brahmanas (bhUdEva).
He who terrifies (bhIma) the wicked (pAmara) and the demons (asura), He who fulfils (paripUrNa) all desires (kAma), He who is dark-skinned (shyAma), He who is delightful (abhirAma) to the whole world (jagat), He who resides in (dhAma) in Ayodhya (sAkEta).
He who is the support (AdhAra) of all (sarva) mankind (lOka), He who is one (Eka) hero (Vira) of the battle (samara), He who keeps far (dUra) from arrogant (garva) people (mAnava) (alternate: arrogant minds (mAnasa)), He who is as strong and steadfast (dhIra) as Mount Meru (kanaka aga = golden mountain).
He who wanders (vihAra) in the vEdas (nigama) and the Agamas, He whose body (sharIra) is incomparable (nirupuma), He who holds (dhara) a mountain (naga), He who is a destroyer (vidAra) of evil (agha), He who is the support (AdhAra) of those people (lOka) who bow (nata) to him.
He who is sung (gIta) in praise (nuta) by Lord Shiva (paramEsha), He who is the ship (pOta) for crossing the Ocean (jaladhi) of existence (bhava), He who is well-born (sanjAta) of the Solar (taraNi) dynasty (kula), He who is praised (nuta) by Tyagaraja.
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