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Sita Kalyana Vaibhogame

Kalyanam

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

Language : All except the pallavi is Sanskrit

पल्लवि
सीता कल्याण वैभोगमे
राम कल्याण वैभोगमे

चरणम् 1
पवनज स्तुति पात्र पावन चरित्र
रवि सोम वर नेत्र रमणीय गात्र

चरणम् 2
भक्त जन परिपाल भरित शरजाल
भुक्ति मुक्तिद लील भूदेव पाल

चरणम् 3
पामरासुर भीम परिपूर्ण काम
श्याम जगदभिराम साकेत धाम

चरणम् 4
सर्व लोकाधार समरैक वीर
गर्व मानव (alt:मानस ) दूर कनकाग धीर

चरणम् 5
निगमागम विहार निरुपम शरीर
नग धराघ विदार नत लोकाधार

चरणम् 6
परमेश नुत गीत भव जलधि पोत
तरणि कुल सञ्जात त्यागराज नुत

English Transliteration

pallavi
sItA kalyANa vaibhOgamE
rAma kalyANa vaibhOgamE

charaNam 1
pavanaja stuti pAtra pAvana charitra
ravi sOma vara nEtra ramaNIya gAtra

chharaNam 2
bhakta jana paripAla bharita sharajAla
bhukti muktida lIla bhUdEva pAla

charaNam 3
pAmarAsura bhIma paripUrNa kAma
shyAma jagadabhirAma sAkEta dhAma

charaNam 4
sarva lOkAdhAra samaraika vIra
garva mAnava (alt: mAnasa) dUra kanakAga dhIra

charaNam 5
nigamAgama vihAra nirupama sharIra
naga dharAgha vidAra nata lOkAdhAra

charaNam 6
paramEsha nuta gIta bhava jaladhi pOta
taraNi kula sanjAta tyAgarAja nuta

Translation

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)!

charaNam 1
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).

charaNam 2
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).

charaNam 3
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).

charaNam 4
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).

charaNam 5
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.

charaNam 6
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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Filed under Carnatic Music, M.Balamuralikrishna, T.M.Krishna, Tyagaraja, Uncategorized

Yaar Enna Sonnalum

Oothukkadu Kalinga Nartana KrishnaHave you ever asked yourself ‘What if I am wrong in my beliefs? What if there is no God, no karma, no rebirth, nothing but nothingness when we are done here?‘. I don’t mean like a crisis of faith, but just those fleeting thoughts which linger, unanswered and unanswerable. The truth is, of course, we are all equally in the dark, the believers as well as the non-believers. Very often it is the non-believer’s arguments which seem more rational, more scientific. And even worse, the stories in the newspapers are of atrocities committed by believers, whatever genre their belief may be, rather than the non-believers. In this climate, it is hard not to eye the whole ‘belief’ thing with a certain wariness.

This struggle with belief is not new to Hinduism.  You may already know of the Nasadiya Sukta नासदीय सूक्त (Hymn of Creation) of the Rigveda. The last two couplets are of particular interest, which I quote below.

को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |
अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥
इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |
यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥

But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know.

Rig Veda 10:129, Translation by A.L Basham (source)

It is so gloriously open-ended, isn’t it! These verses are about creation but there is something more fundamental, as if even the existence of the Gods and their power over creation is questioned. If even the Vedic seers had such questions in their minds, who will blame us if we do?

And yet there it is, my faith. Perhaps it is childhood indoctrination; in fact it almost certainly is that. However it has been such an old friend to me, has shaped my own character and the choices I have made in life so very much that it cannot be separated from me without causing grievous damage to all that I am. I very much identify with this quote by William Sloane Coffin Jr ‘I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings‘. It feels as if I leapt in my childhood, even before I knew I was leaping and over the course of my life my faith has grown wings. And like a kite it flies, tethered to anything rational by a mere thread.

But the questions remain.

And that is why I have chosen this beautiful composition by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer today.  ‘Whatever anyone says, fear not, O brave heart, keep singing about the compassion of the Lord‘ says he. Why did he write this song, I wonder. What did people say to him that he responded with ‘Even if this world says  a thousand things  we  should keep it aside thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’.  The words seem to speak to me when questions cloud my mind. Set to raga Manirangu, it has all the spirit and lyrical beauty of Venkata kavi’s compositions. It makes me smile because he encourages everyone to sing and even dance if they can!

Please listen first to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s rendition. It has been a while since I featured him, hasn’t it! I hope you enjoy his simply brilliant voice as much as I do.

And the second rendition that caught my fancy today is by Shobana Vignesh. Very nicely sung indeed!


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
யாரென்ன சொன்னாலும் அஞ்சாத/அஞ்சாதே  நெஞ்சமே
ஐயன் கருணையைப் பாடு – ராக
ஆலாபனமுடனும் பாடு – முடிந்தால்
அடவோடும் ஜதியோடும் ஆடு
அருமையென வந்தப் பிறவிகளோ பல
ஆயிரம் தந்தாலும் வருமோ ஆதலின்

அனுபல்லவி
நாரத நாதமும் வேதமும் நாண
நாணக் குழல் ஒன்று ஊதுவான்
நீரதக் கழல் ஆட கோபியரும் பாட
நேர் நேர் என சொல்லித் தானாடுவான் – அந்த
அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு

சரணம்
தோலை அரிந்து கனி தூர எறிந்து
வெறுந் தோலைத் துணிந்தொருவன் தந்தானல்லவோ
மேலைப் பிடி அவலை வேணுமென்றே தெரிந்து
விரும்பி ஒருவன் அன்று தந்தானல்லவோ
காலமெல்லாம் தவம் இருந்து கனிந்து கனி
கடித்து சுவைத்தொருவள் தந்தாளல்லவோ – இந்த
ஞாலமும் ஆயிரம் சொன்னாலும் நாம் அதை
நமக்கெதற்கு என்று தள்ளி நாமமும் ஆயிரம் சொல்லிச் சொல்லி
(அய்யன் கருணையைப் பாடு)

Transliteration

pallavi
yArenna sonnAlum anjAdE (alt: anjAda) nenjamE
aiyan karuNaiyai pADu – rAga
AlApanamuDanum pADu – muDindAl
aDavODum jatiyODum ADu
arumaiyena vandap piRavigaLO pala
Ayiram tandAlum varumO Adalin

anupallavi
nArada nAdamum vEdamum nANa
nANak kuzhal onDRu ooduvan
nIradak kazhal ADa gOpiyarum pADa
nEr nEr ena sollit tAnADuvAn – anda
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)

charaNam
tOlai arindu kani dUra eRindu
veRun tOlait tuNindoruvan tandAnallavo
mElaip piDi avalai vENumenDRE terindu
virumbi oruvan anDRu tandAnallavo
kAlamellam tavam irundu kanindu kani
kaDittu suvaittoruvaL tandALallavo – inda
ñAlamum Ayiram sonnalum nAm adai
namak kedarku enDRu taLLi nAmamum Ayiram sollich-cholli
(aiyan karuNaiyai pADu…..)

Translation

Pallavi
Whatever (enna) anyone (yAr) says (sonnAlum), fear not, O heart (anjAdE nenjamE) [Alternative – O brave heart (anjAda nenjamE) ], sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan). Sing (pADu) with (ODu) elaborations (Alapanai) of the Raga. If you can (muDindAl), also  dance (ADu) with (ODu) proper gestures and steps (aDavu). Even if you are given (tandAlum) many (pala) thousands (Ayiram) of precious (arumai) lives (piravigal), will this one come again (implied by varumO=will it come)? Therefore (Adalin)…..

Anupallavi
He will play (ooduvAn, literally blow) a (onDRu) flute (kuzhal) such that (implied) it would put the music (nAdam) of Narada and the Vedas to shame (nANa). (Note : there is a second nANa in front of kuzhal, I don’t understand why. Is there another meaning to it? Or is it for emphasis?).  With his cloud-like (nIrada) anklets (kazhal) jingling (ADa, literally dancing), and the cowherdesses (gOpiyar) singing (pADa), asking (solli, literally saying) to be face to face (nEr nEr ena) He would dance (ADuvAn) himself (tAN) (I am a bit puzzled about the ‘nEr nEr ena’. Perhaps this is a reference to the episode where He duplicates Himself for each gopi and dances with each of them face to face?). Sing of his (His) compassion (pallavi line)

Charanam
Didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), having cut (arindu) the peel (tOlai) and throwing away (dUra eRindu) the fruit (kani),  presume to (tuNindu) give (tandAn) only (tani) the peel (tolai) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the episode when Vidura, in the excitement of having Krishna close by, peels bananas and offers the peels to the Lord instead of the fruit. Krishna too consumes it. Vidura on realising what he had done is horrified but Krishna says he would accept anything offered with love.] Further (mElai), didn’t (allavO) a man (oruvan), knowing (terindu) that it was wished for (vENum enDRu),  lovingly (virumbi, with liking) give (tandAn) a handful (piDi) of flattened rice (aval) to Him (implied)? [Note: This refers to the tale of Sudama]. Didn’t (allavO) a woman (oruvaL), having lived (irundu, literally been) lifelong (kAlamellam) in austerity, tenderly (kanindu) give (tandAL) a fruit (kani) after biting (kaDittu) and tasting (suvaittu) it? [Note: Refers to Shabari]. Even if this (inda) world (ñAlam) says (sonnAlum) a thousand things (Ayiram) we (nAm) should keep it aside (taLLi, literally push away) thinking ‘what is it to do with us?’ (nammakku edarkku enDru) and repeating (solli solli) His thousand (Ayiram) names (nAmam) sing (pADu) about the compassion (karunaiyai) of the Lord (aiyyan) (pallavi line).

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Filed under Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, Shobana Vignesh, Uncategorized

Jaagiye Raghunath Kunvara

Rama_thumb.jpgHappy Ramanavami to all my readers! May the Lord’s blessings shine on all of you!

On this auspicious day, I have chosen for your listening pleasure a wonderful bhajan by Tulasi dasa in the voices of Rajan and Sajan Mishra. This is from a set of CDs by Musictoday called Bhaktimala which I have since the eighties. It’s an excellent set with some beautiful music by myriad artists whom I have listened to innumerable times.

Tulasi dasa has written this poetry as being recited by Vishwamitra when he wakes the young Rama and Lakshmana. We are all very familiar with verses in Valmiki’s Ramayana, set to the same scene.

कौसल्या सुप्रजा राम पूर्वा संध्या प्रवर्तते ।
उत्तिष्ठ नरशार्दूल कर्त्तव्यं दैवमाह्निकम् ||

kausalya suprajA rAma pUrvA sandhyA pravartati.
uttiSHTHA narashArdUla kartavyam daivamAhnikam.

O Rama, the noble son of Kausalya! Dawn has commenced in the East. O Best amongst men! Wake up, the daily rituals have to be performed!

These words in the golden voice of M.S.Subbalakshmi are etched in all our hearts, aren’t they! I always smile when I imagine the scene. I can well visualise Vishwamitra coaxing young Rama and Lakshmana, who were but boys at that time, just as I had to coax my son out of bed to get to school when he was their age!

I have listened to Rajan and Sajan Mishra’s music for many years; they are amazing musicians whom I intended to feature again in the future. In this rendition, they start with an invocation to the Sun God.

आदिदेव नमस्तुभ्यं प्रसीद मम भास्कर
दिवाकर नमस्तुभ्यं प्रभाकर नमोऽस्तु ते

AdidEva namastubhyam prasIda mama bhAskara.
divAkara namastubhyam prabhAkara namOstu tE.

Salutations to O Primal God ! Please be gracious to me, O Effulgent One!
Salutations to the Day-Maker! Salutations to the Maker of Light!

-First verse of Suryashtakam from the Samba Puranas

In Ramayana, divinities descend on earth in human form and thus Vishwamitra awakening them is nothing extraordinary. But who are we singing to when we awaken God? Is He not always awake? Yes, of course He is. When we sing suprabhatam or songs of awakening, we sing to the God within us, urging Him/Her to awaken from the cloud of Maya which keeps the divinity inside us in a state of sleep. With this song, we urge our own divinity, our soul to wake up to and understand its own Truth.

This song was often sung in Gandhiji’s ashram. He translated it for Mirabehn; that is the translation I have given below in the footnote.

So here are Rajan and Sajan Mishra with Jagiye Raghunatha Kunwara.


Footnote : Lyrics and Translation

Language : Awadhi, a dialect of Hindi

 

जागिये रघुनाथ कुंवर, पंछी बन बोले |

चंद्र किरण शीतल भई, चकई पिय मिलन गई |
त्रिविधमंद चलत पवन, पल्लव द्रुम डोले ||

प्रातः भानु प्रकट भयो, रजनी को तिमिर गयो |
भृंग करत गुंजगान, कमलन दल खोले ||

ब्रह्मादिक धरत ध्यान, सुर नर मुनि करत गान |
जागन की बेर भई, नैन पलक खोले ||

तुलसीदास अति अनन्द, निरख के मुखारबिन्द |
दीनन को देत दान, भूषण बहु मोले ||

Transliteration

jAgiyE raghunAtha ku.nvara, panchI bana bOlE.

chandra kiraNa shItala bhayI, chakayI piya milana gayI,
trividhama.nda chalaya pavana, pallava druma DOlE.

prAtah bhAnu prakaTa bhayO, rajanI kO timira gayO,
bhringa karata gunjagAna, kamalana dala khOlE.

brahmAdika dharata dhyAna, sura nara muni karata gAna,
jAgana kI bEra bhayI, naina palaka khOlE.

tulasIdAsa ati ananda, nirakha kE mukhArabinda,
dInana kO dEta dAna, bhUshaNa bahu mOlE.

Translation (by Gandhiji)

O Prince of the Raghus, wake up; the birds are singing in the grove. The moon will disappear presently, the chakravaka bird is off to meet her lord. The threefold breeze is gently blowing, the leaves are rustling. The morning sun is on the horizon, darkness of the night is gone. The bees are humming, the lotus has opened its leaf. Brahma and others are in meditation; the gods, common people and sages are singing hymns of praise. Thus when it was rising time Rama opened his eyes. Tulsidas is overjoyed to see the lotus face of Rama who gives valuables as gifts to the poor.

 

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Azhaga Azhaga

azhagar-koilAre Gods beautiful?

According to the great poets and songwriters of India, Gods are indeed beautiful. We even come across hymns and prayers from ancient times which describe the beauty of the Gods in extravagant terms.

But why do Gods need to be beautiful? This bothers me somewhat, especially in the climate of today where there is an obsession over beauty. I would like to think of Gods as being compassionate, loving, just, generous and forgiving. In comparison, beauty seems to be such an inessential quality! Surely this focus on beauty is worth questioning?

I guess we humans have always been drawn to beauty. We like to decorate ourselves with cosmetics, jewellery and garments in order to make ourselves more beautiful. I remember visiting archaeological museums and admiring the way even the most ancient of people made rings, necklaces and other such ornaments. Cosmetics aren’t anything new either; I believe it comes from the time of the ancient Egyptians. Still, I find that the world today has taken this pursuit of beauty to such extremes! Plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons has become so common. Why, I read recently of Far-Eastern ladies having surgery to make their eyes bigger, short (or not!) people deliberately having their legs broken and stretched so that they could be taller! I am rather horrified! Yet the practices such as lengthening the neck as practiced in some African tribes are no different and these practices have been around for years. Body piercing and tattooing too has been around for a long time. I guess my protests against this madness for beauty are a bit hypocritical; like many ladies, I too make attempts to present myself as well as I can. Still, I see beauty as no more than a superficial thing and giving it importance goes against my grain. So I come back to the question, why describe Gods as being beautiful?

TED lecture by neurobiologist Samir Zeki that I happened to watch gave me an interesting perspective; in fact, that is what prompted me to write this post. In his research, he has found that there are neural correlations between the subjective mental states of love and the experience of beauty. In effect, there is one common area of mental activity located in the medial orbital frontal cortex which is active when one experiences beauty and also happens to be the same area which is active when you look at the face of the person you love very much. Does it mean that we experience both emotions similarly, I wonder? Does an experience of beauty trigger us to love the object which gives us this experience and equally, do we see beauty in all that we love? I am just speculating but I wonder if Gods are described as beautiful to make it easy for us to love them?

Yesterday I was listening to a Podcast on aesthetics and there was a comment which caught my attention. The speaker talked about a ‘vocabulary cloud’ which links the words beauty, truth and goodness. I immediately thought of ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram’, not the movie, but the philosophy. I did a quick search to see if I could find the exact source, but I only found imprecise info linking it to the Upanishads (if you know the source, can you please add a comment with the info? Much obliged!). ‘What‘, I asked myself, ‘if it is only the presence of Satyam (Truth) and Shivam (Goodness) which brings about the quality of Sundaram (Beauty)‘?  I remember my university days when I used to find great beauty in the perfection of a well-solved mathematical problem, the perfect ratios in nature etc. I used to describe them as beautiful; and yes, there was truth in them, goodness in them. Now that kind of beauty truly attracts me; I am very comfortable associating such beauty with the Divine!

I chose the song which came first to my mind when I thought of this subject. Written in praise of the deity from Azhagar Koil (the temple of the Handsome One), it is written by Ambujam Krishna is a very emotive and personal style. Set to Shuddha Dhanyasi, a lyrically appealing Raga, it is a very beautiful song and I hope it pleases you as much as it pleases me. MLV was famous for this song and if you haven’t heard her as yet, be sure to listen here to one of her many renditions available freely on the net. There is also a very pleasing rendition by Bombay Jayashri which I like very much. But with an intention of listening to young artists whenever possible, here is a very nicely done rendition by Saketharaman.

Alternate Link : Click here (free membership to Sangeethamshare is required)


Footnote (Lyrics) 

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
அழகா அழகா என்றழைத்துக் கை தொழுது வந்தேன்
திருமாலிருஞ்சோலை உறையும் வடி  (வழகா)

அனுபல்லவி
வழுவாது திருப்பாதம் தொழுதேத்தும் அன்பர்க்கு
அருள் வாரிச் சொரிந்து அவர் உள்ளம் கவரும் கள்  (ளழகா)

சரணம்
நடந்து நடந்து உன் சன்னிதி வந்தேன்
நாதன் உன் நற்றால் நிழல் தாராயோ?
நாடி நாடி உன் புகழ் கேட்டு வந்தேன்
நாரணா என் குரல் செவியுரக் கேளாயோ?
அடைக்கலம் அடைக்கலம் என்றுனை அடைந்தேன்
அபயக் கரம் தந்து வினை தீராயோ?
பாடிப் பாடி உனைப் போற்றிப் பணியும் எனக்குப்
பவழ வாய் திறந்து அஞ்சேலென்று அருளாயோ?

மத்யமகால சாகித்தியம்

விரிஜ்யோதி கமலமென உன் முகத்தே திகழும்
இருவிழி அருள் தேனை அள்ளி அள்ளி உண்டு
மறை புகழும் திரு மார்பில் மன்னி என்று உரைந்திட
மன வண்டுன் புகழ் பாட மையலுடன் உனை நாடி   (அழகா)

Transliteration

pallavi
azhagA azhagA enDRazhaittuk kai tozhudu vandEn
tirumAlirunjchOlai uRaiyum vaDi (vazhagA)

anupallavi
vazhuvAdu tiruppAdam tozhudEttum anbarkku
aruL vArich chorindu avar uLLam kavarum kaL   (LazhagA)

charaNam
naDandu naDandu un sannidi vandEn
nAtan un naTRAl nizhal tArAyO?
nADi nADi un pugazh kETTu vandEn
nAraNA en kural seviyurak kELAyO?
aDaikkalam aDaikkalam enDRunai aDaindEn
abhayak karam tandu vinai tIrAyO?
pADip pADi unaip pOTRip paNiyum enakkup
pavazha vAy tiRandu anjElenDRu aruLAyO?

madyamakAla sAhityam

virijyOti kamalamena un mugattE tigazhum
iruvizhi aruL tEnai aLLi aLLi uNDu
maRai pugazhum tiru mArbil manni enDRu uraindiDa
mana vaNDun pugazh pADa maiyyaluDan unai nADi  (azhagA)

Translation

pallavi
Oh handsome one (azhagA)! Thus (enDRu) have I called out (azhaittu) as I have come (vandEn), hands (kai) held in worship (tozhudu). O One with the handsome form (vadivazhagA) who lives in (uRaiyum) Thirumalirunsolai (literally Tirumal=Vishnu, irum=residing in, solai=grove also called Sri Kallazhagar Perumal Temple or Azhagar Koil near Madurai).

anupallavi
For the devotees (anbar) who worshipfully praise (tozhudu=worship, Ettu=praise) the sacred feet (tiru+pAdam) which never fail us (vazhuvAdu), Kallazhagar (the name of the deity) attracts (kavarum) their hearts (uLLam) by showering them (chorindu) in a torrent (vAri) of blessings (aruL).

charNam
I have come walking (naDandu) a long way (implied by the second naDandu) to your sanctum (sannidhi). O Lord (nAtan), will you not give me (tArAyo) your protection/shelter (nizhal) out of your goodness (naTRAl)? Hearing of (kETTu) your glory (pugazh), I have come (vandEn) seeking (nADi nADi) O Narayana (nAraNA), do you not hear (kELAyO) my (en) loud (ura) voice (kuRal) ? Calling out (implied) ‘Sanctuary Sanctuary‘ (aDaikkalam)  thus (enDRu) I have approached you (aDaindEn), will you not bring an end to (tIrAyo) to my misfortune (vinai) by giving me (tandu) your gesture of fearlessness (abhaya karam, a mudra indicating protection)? Will you not open (tiRandu) your coral (pavazha) lips (vAy, literally mouth) and bless (aruLAyo) me (ennai) by saying ‘Do not fear‘ (anjEl enDRu), I who worship you (paNiyum) by singing (pADi) again and again (indicated by second pADi) in praise of (pOTRi) you (unai)?

My mind (mana) is like a bee (vaNDu) which seeks you (nADi) in attraction (maiyyaluDan) of the two eyes (iru vizhi) which are like luminous blooming (viri jyoti) lotuses (kamalam) in your face (mugattE tigazhum), to grab again and again (aLLi aLLi) the honey (tEnai) of your benevolence (aruL). Singing (pADa) your (un) praise (pugazh), and saying (uraindiDa)  ‘Forgive Me’ (manni) to the holy chest (tiru marbil)..(O Handsome one!)

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Just Listening 1

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I have such good intentions! I tell myself, I need to post more often. It’s not that I don’t listen as often to music, or that I don’t have as many ideas. It is time that is missing. My life has become more and more a whirlwind of movement. Days, weeks and months rush by without my even registering their existence. The few periods of stability are taken up with unavoidable (and boring) chores. It doesn’t help that I have a number of hobbies which take up my free time. I have been walking ten kilometres a day for almost a year now, missing just a few days when I have been travelling. My fitbit tells me that I have walked 3675 km and climbed 9719 floors since last November! I amaze myself! I am very much into photography and digital scrapbooking. I read at least a few hours everyday. I travel often..since the start of this year I have travelled to Australia, Dubai, India, back to Australia, the Lombardy region of Italy, Copenhagen, the Greek isles, Umbria and Le Marche in Italy. I am off in two weeks to Krakow, then to Australia. From there to India and then back to Australia before I return to Switzerland in January! I blog about my travels when I can. But music is a primary food for my soul and I do enjoy blogging about it; I don’t want to give it up. A post which includes translation takes at least four or five hours so I am inhibited even before I start! So I thought, why not just post music that I have enjoyed listening without delving too deeply into meaning, associations and such? So here I am with the first of such posts. My idea is just to give you some interesting additions for your playlist for this week. I will, of course, continue my old style of posts and translations as time permits.

On one of my walks recently, I was listening to this RTP by U.Srinivas in the Raga Vakulabharanam. Those who have heard this Raga before will know how very Arabic/Middle-Eastern the sounds are. It struck me that the Mandolin is an excellent instrument for this Raga, enhancing its Arabic feel to new heights.

RTP in Vakulabharanam – U.Srinivas (Mandolin), P.Sunderajan (Violin), K.V.Prasad (Mridangam) – The Magical Fingers of U.Srinivas by Oriental Records.

This reminded me of a video I had seen on youtube by Prince Rama Varma. I went in search of it and here it is. Saadhu Tada is by Swati Thirunal. I believe this has been set to music by Prince Rama Varma himself (unsure of this).

Enjoyable, isn’t it!

I wondered if it exists in Hindustani music and found a good article on the subject. Basant Mukhari is described as the closest equivalent.  I found a good recording of Ali Akhbar Khan’s rendition of Basant Mukhari but somehow it didn’t give me the level of Middle-Eastern feel that Vakulabharanam does. What do you think?

Remembering how very Middle-Eastern sounding Dua Kar Gham-e-Dil from Anarkali was, especially the start, I went to listen to that again.

It is not Basant Mukhari but Bhairav, the equivalent of which is Mayamalavagowla in Carnatic Music. Lata does give it a lovely quavering Middle-Eastern touch doesn’t she!

Some browsing gave me the info that Hijaz is the Maqam (definition: a set of notes with traditions that define relationships between them, habitual patterns, and their melodic development. Wonder if it’s the equivalent of the word Raga?) which is closest to Vakulabharanam. I found this site in which samples are available and yes, it does sound remarkably alike! Try for yourself; select the ‘oud in A’ . Try some of the recording samples too, they sound so good!

Having started my journey with the Mandolin, I was interested in listening to a rendition on the Oud. I found this site with some rare recordings and was pleased to find a lovely rendition of Hijaz. Click here to listen.

Looking for some vocals, I found a very enjoyable version which had me swaying happily in no time! Hope you find it as appealing. The title says ‘turk’ so I assume it is from Turkey. Excellent music!

And so I whiled away an afternoon, following a link from Vakulabharanam to Turkish music. Hope you enjoyed the journey too!

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Balagopala

Krishna BabyA very happy Janmashtami to all my readers! May Lord Krishna’s grace always be with you!

Today is the perfect day to meditate upon Bala Gopala, the young Lord Krishna, the cowherd who charmed the Gopikas ages ago, and who continues to charm millions even today. Don’t you think that Krishna as a child is quite irresistible? Mischievous and endearing, he is both child and God. When He steals butter from his mother’s pantry, He is a child; when He opens His mouth to show the universe contained within, He is God. When He allows Himself to be tied by a rope to His waist in punishment for his mischief, He is a child; when He drags the mortar he is tied to and uproots two trees, He is God. When He dances and plays with his friends, He is a child; when He dances on the serpent Kalinga’s head, He is God. So it is that we, his devotees, love Him like a child but worship Him like a God.

Bala Gopala is a God that children are drawn to very easily. I remember how attached I was to Him as a child. I thought of Him almost as a playmate, as a friend. How close He seemed at that time! There is a story which illustrates just that feeling. In fact, as a child of seven or eight, I acted in a play put up by Chinmaya Mission which was based on this story.

Once upon a time there was a young lad from a very poor family. Since his father had died, he was brought up by his mother. They lived in a little hamlet at the edge of a forest. When he was about seven, he started school. There were no schools in his hamlet; he had to go across the forest to the town on the other side. There were many wild animals in the forest and our little friend was fearful every time he had to cross.

“Mother, I am so afraid of the forest! Can you not walk with me to school?” He asked her.

She smiled at him. “Don’t be afraid. Your brother Gopala grazes his cattle in the forest. Call out to him if you are afraid, He will take care of you” said the wise and devout lady.

The next day as he entered the forest he grew fearful as always. Remembering his mother’s words, he called out “Brother Gopala, where are you? I am afraid, will you not walk with me?”.

He heard a voice in response and soon a young cowherd joined him, a beautiful dark-skinned little boy in yellow clothes, a joyous visage and a peacock feather tucked jauntily in his hair. They laughed and played as little boys do.  At the other edge of the forest Gopala waved him goodbye. This continued until the end of the term when all the students gave a gift to the teacher to honour him. Our lad was much too poor to afford anything but still he asked his mother.

“I must take a gift for my teacher mother. Is there anything you can give me?”.

Shaking her head she said “No son, I have nothing worthy as a gift. Why don’t you ask your brother Gopala? I am sure he can find you something”.

Which he did. Gopala gave him a small pot of yoghurt to give to his teacher. At the school, our little boy hesitated as his gift looked not very impressive compared to the gifts of the other children. Still, when it was his turn, he gave the small pot of yoghurt to the teacher, saying that it was from his brother ‘Gopala’. The teacher took it with thanks and poured out the yoghurt into a bigger pot. Much to his surprise, the little pot refilled. He kept pouring it out and it kept refilling! Realising who his pupil’s ‘brother’ was, he asked to be taken to the forest so he could see for himself. But much to the little boy’s dismay, much as he called out to his brother, he didn’t appear.

Finally he cried out piteously “Brother Gopala, don’t you love me anymore?”

They heard a voice in response. “I will always love you. I will appear only for you, for only you are worthy of seeing me.”

Hearing this the teacher was moved to tears and embraced the boy, for thanks to him he had at least heard the Divine Cowherd’s voice!

I ponder on the tale today, wondering what lessons I can glean from it. God is very close to the innocent, is he not. The little boy was not even praying; nor did he call out to God. Then whose call was He answering? It seems to me it was the mother whose prayers were answered. She tied Lord Krishna to her boy with the deft knot of love and prayer just like Yashoda tied Him to the mortar with her own bonds of love. We who have lost our innocence, what is our recourse I wonder? Innocence once lost can never be regained, can it? Something to think about….

To celebrate the day, I have chosen a beautiful composition in Bhairavi by Muthuswami Dikshithar. The words describe Lord Krishna – his appearance, his actions, his qualities, his powers. You can use each line as a gateway to a meditation on who He is. Or you could forget it all and drown in the haunting notes of Bhairavi which takes you to exactly the same place in the presence of God.

There are so many beautiful renditions of this kriti that it is difficult for me to choose one! Since I decided on the music two days ago, I have listened to at least a dozen or so renditions and I like so many of them! So here are some of my recommendations :

T.N.Seshagopalan gives a very solid and energy filled performance in this CD from 1990.

M.Balamuralikrishna’s rendition is softer, smoother and very peaceful. A touch of sadness and pathos in his Bhairavi, don’t you think?

The third is by T.M.Krishna and he makes an interesting technical note about the Bhairavi he sings being the ‘original’ of Muthuswami Dikshithar school. I also like his neraval very much. It is from the album December Season 2009 and is available in Dunya and Spotify for online listening (needs registration).

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
बाल गोपाल पालयाशु माम्
भक्त वत्सल कृपा जलधे हरे

अनुपल्लवि
नील नीरद शरीर धीर तर
नीरज कर निरुपम आनन्द कर
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
लीलया गोप वेष धर मुरळी धर
श्री धर दामोदर वर

चरणम्
चाणूर मल्ल हरण निपुण तर
चरण निहत शकटासुर मुर हर
माणिक्य मकुट हार वलय धर
मत्तेभ कुम्भ भेदन पटु तर
वाणीशार्चित पीताम्बर धर **
वैजयन्ती वन माला धर **
आणवादि विजय मानसाकर
अपहत कंसासुर नत भूसुर
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
द्रोण कर्ण दुर्योधनादि हर
द्रौपदी मान संरक्षण कर
वैणिक गायक गुरु गुह नुत
पुर वैरि विहित (alt: विनुत ) गोपिका मनोहर

** these two lines don’t seem to be sung..

Transliteration in English :

pallavi
bAla gOpAla pAlayAshu mAm
bhakta vatsala kRpA jaladhE harE

anupallavi
nIla nIrada sharIra dhIra tara
nIraja kara nirupamAnanda kara
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
lIlayA gOpa vEsha dhara muraLI dhara
shrI dhara dAmOdara vara

charaNam
chANUra malla haraNa nipuNa tara
charaNa nihata shakaTAsura mura hara
mANikya makuTa hAra valaya dhara
mattEbha kumbha bhEdana paTu tara
vANIshArchita pItAmbara dhara **
vaijayantI vana mAlA dhara **
ANavAdi vijaya mAnasAkara
apahata kaMsAsura nata bhUsura
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
drONa karNa duryOdhanAdi hara
draupadI mAna saMrakshaNa kara
vaiNika gAyaka guru guha nuta
pura vairi vihita (alt: vinuta) gOpikA manOhara

** these two lines don’t seem to be sung..

Translation :

pallavi

O The Child (bAla) Cowherd (gOpAla), protect (pAlayAshu) me (mAm)! O Hari (harE), you are dear (vatsala) to your devotees (bhakta), an ocean (jaladhi) of mercy (kRpA).

anupallavi

With a body (sharIra) like (here it means the colour of) blue (nIla) rain clouds (nIrada), you are most wise (dhIra tara). Your hands (kara) are like a lotus (nIraja). You bestow (kara=the one who causes) incomparable (nirupama) bliss (Ananda). You assumed the appearance (vesha dhara) of a cowherd (gOpa) by divine sport (lIlayA). You hold (dhara) a flute (muraLI). You are bearer of fortune (shrI dhara, name of Vishnu, also means He who holds Lakshmi). You are excellent (vara) Damodara, one whose waist was tied with a rope (from the Damodara Lila).

charaNam

You are the one who destroyed (haraNa) the wrestler (malla) Chanura with great skill (nipuNa tara). You slew (nihata) Shakatasura with your feet (charaNa). You are the destroyer (hara) of Mura. You are wearing (suffix dhara) crown (mukuTa) of rubies (mAnikya), garlands (hAra) and armlets/bangles (valaya). You very skilfully (paTu tara) fractured/broke (bhEdana) the high forehead (kumbha) of a mad /furious (matta) elephant (ibha) (from the story of the killing of the elephant Kuvalayapida). You are worshipped (archita) by Brahma, husband (Isha) of Saraswati (vANI). You wear (suffix dhara) yellow (pIta) garments (ambara). You wear (suffix dhara) a garland (mAlA) of forest (vana) flowers (vaijayantI, a kind of forest flower). You are victorious (vijaya) over egoism (ANava) etc (Adi) by his excellent (Akara) mental powers (mAnasa). You destroyed (apahita) the demon (asura) Kamsa. You are worshipped (nata) by Brahmanas (bhUsura). You defeated (hara) Drona, Karna, Duryodhana etc (Adi). You protected (samrakshaNa kara) Drapadi’s honour (mAna). You are praised (nuta) by the Veena player (vaiNika) and singer / musician (gAyaka) Guruguha (signature of the composer). You put in order (vihita) the enemies (vairi) of the town (pura) [does this refer to His protecting Dwaraka? I am unsure about this. The alternate word vinuta is translated often as praised so here it could mean ‘praised by the enemies ‘]. You are the enchanter (manOhara) of the cowherdesses (gOpikA).

 

 

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In Mourning for U.Srinivas

US RIP

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