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

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

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

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)


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

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

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…..)


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)…..

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)

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).



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 ||


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.



Filed under Uncategorized

Shobhillu Sapta Svara

SaptasvaraHave you ever thought about how so many different cultures use music as a form of worship? We all know of the wonderful choral music traditions of the Christians, the chantings of the Buddhists, the kirtans of the Sikhs, the emotional outpourings of the Sufis and the many traditions of musical worship of the Hindus. Some are simply sacred music, like bhajans, their primary purpose being worship. Others, like Carnatic Music, have a deep thread of devotion running through them but retain an identity apart from their devotional roots. So yes, the use of music as a means of worship is common enough. But it is not very common to have music itself as the divinity being worshipped. That is the concept which I approach in my post today.

As a devotee of music, this concept pleases me greatly! To those of us who agree that divinity is omnipresent, this is no stretch of imagination. If divinity can be found everywhere, why not in music?  To those of us who search for that spiritual feeling in places of worship to allow us to connect with divinity, this makes it even easier. For music is there, real and accessible to most of us in one way or the other. We need not search for places of worship; we may worship the music right within us.

Sound as a divine principle comes to us Hindus from the Vedas. We all know the importance of AUM, I shall not venture there. The Vedas themselves are also called Shruti meaning ‘That which is heard‘,  emphasising both their divine origin and their oral tradition. Samaveda, in particular, ‘the Veda of Songs‘ includes notated music, perhaps the oldest surviving tunes of this world.  An interesting aside – the word vEd or knowledge comes from the Proto-Indo-Iranian word ‘weyd‘ meaning ‘to know, to see’.  The Latin videō meaning ‘to see, perceive, look comes from the same root word. So a sentence like ‘I have a video of the vedas‘ is etymologically quite amusing ! But I digress..

Coming back to the divinity of music, the Vedas refer to the divine nature of vAk वाक् or voice.  This divinity is said to be present in AUM. The Upanishads refer to Shabda-Brahman शब्दब्रह्मन् meaning The Cosmic Sound.  The word Nada-Brahman नादब्रह्मन् (nAda also means sound) is used instead of Shabda-Brahman in later treatises like Brihaddeshi by Matanga Muni (date unknown, speculated 6th-8th century CE). In this Nada is linked with various divinities.

न नादेन विना गीतं न नादेन विना स्वराः
न नादेन विना नृत्तं तस्मान् नादात्मकं जगत्
नादरुपः स्मृतो ब्रह्मा नाद रूपो जनार्दनः
नादरूपा पराशक्तिः नाद रूपो महेश्वरः

Without Nada, there is no music. Without Nada, there are no musical notes. Without Nada, there is no dance. Therefore the whole universe is composed of Nada. Brahma is known to be incarnate in Nada, as is Vishnu, Parashakti and Shiva.

In Sangeeta Makaranda by Narada (~11 century CE), there is an explanation of the passage of Nada through our body.

तम् नादम् सप्तधा कृत्वा तथा षड्जादिभिः स्वरैः
नाभी हृद् कण्ठ तालूषु नासादन्तोष्ठयोः क्रमात्
षड्जश्च .ऋषभ गान्धारौ मध्यमः पञ्चमस्तथा
धैवतश्च निशादश्च स्वराः सप्त प्रकीर्तिताः

that nAda, passing through the naval, heart, neck, tongue, nose, teeth, and lips, generates the seven svaras, shadjam, rishabham, gAndhAram, madhyamam, panchamam, dhaivatam and nishAdam.

-Article by P.P.Narayanaswami in Carnatica

There is a similar passage in Sangeetaratnakara by Saragadeva (13th century CE) in which the author links musical notes with Chakras (centres of spiritual centre within the body) and Nadis (subtle energy channels within the body), describing the passage of nAda through the body .

आत्मा विवक्षमाणोऽयम् मनः प्रेरयते , मनः |
देहस्थम् वह्निमाहन्ति स प्रेरयति मारुतम्  ||
ब्रह्मग्रन्थिस्थितः सोऽथ क्रमादूर्घ्वपथे चरन् |
नाभि हृत् कण्ठ मूर्धास्येष्वाविर्भावयति ध्वनिम् ||

Desirous of speech, the individuated being impels the mind, and the mind activates the battery of power stationed in the body, which in turns stimulates the vital force. The vital force stationed around the root of the navel, rising upwards gradually manifests nada in the navel, the heart, the throat, the cerebrum and the cavity of the mouth as it passes through them. 

from Sangita Ratnakara translation by R.K.Shringy

R.K.Shringy explains that ‘Nada is not merely an object of the sense of hearing. The concept of nada refers to the perception when subject and object are not differentiated‘. Normally when we name objects, we are naming the perception of that object in our consciousness. As such, the subject in our consciousness and the object outside have a relationship but are always apart. Nada on the other hand refers to the melding of the sound and its presence in our consciousness, when they become one. Nada is both the energy and its manifestation.

All this is but a lead up to my song choice of today. Tyagaraja has composed this masterpiece in homage to the divinity of music residing in the seven notes. He worships the divinities resident in the navel, heart, throat, tongue and nose, similar to the quotes from Sangeeta Makaranda and Sangeeta Ratnakara above. He refers to himself as the auspicious Tyagaraja; if for no other reason, surely the presence of the divinities within him makes this a just description! Set to the beautiful raga Jaganmohini (that which charms the universe), it is a favourite amongst Carnatic Music fans.

I have chosen this song today for a particular reason. When Dr.Balamuralikrishna passed away late last year, I was travelling and did not write a post in his honour. One of my readers wondered about it in a comment but it was not really forgetfulness on my part. You see, as I have mentioned in previous posts, my childhood home always rung out with Carnatic Music. Be it Semmangudi, Madurai Mani Iyer, G.N.Balasubramaniam, M.D.Ramanathan, M.S.Subbulakshami, S.Balachandar, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Balamuralikrishna and myriad others, they were all voices of my childhood, familiar and very very dear. Over the years, one after the other, they have passed away. With each passing it seems that I wave goodbye to one more dear one, to my past, to my history. Dr. BMK was particularly dear to me because he was my mother’s favourite. I can never listen to him without remembering my mother’s pleasure in his voice. His passing adds one more goodbye in my life and deepens the sorrow of my own losses. Sigh! Shobhillu Sapta Svara is a song I associate with him and I selected it as a tribute to a man who was the ultimate Nadopasaka, a devoted worshipper of the Nadabrahman.

Alternate link : Click here and choose song 2 (free membership of Sangeethapriya required)

Footnote : Lyrics

Language : Telugu
(Note – I do not speak Telugu; the translation here is from various internet resources)

शोभिल्लु सप्त स्वर सुन्दरुल भजिम्पवे मनसा

नाभि हृत् कण्ठ रसन नासादुलयन्दु

धर ऋक् सामादुललो वर गायत्री हृदयमुन
सुर भूसुर मानसमुन शुभ त्यागराजुनियॆड


shobhillu sapta svara sundarula bhajimpavE manasA

nAbhI hRt kaNTHa rasana nAsAdulayandu

dhara Rk sAmAdulalO vara gAyatrI hRdayamuna
sura bhUsura mAnasamuna shubha tyAgarAjuniyeDa


Worship (bhajimpavE) the radiant (shObhillu) beautiful (sudurula) divinities (implied) of the seven (sapta) svara (notes), O mind (manasA)!

Worship the divinities glowing (implied) in (andu) navel (nAbhi), heart (hRt), throat (kaNTHa), tongue (rasana) and nose (nAsa) etc. (Adula).

Worship the divinities glowing in (implied) the sustaining (dhara) Vedas such as (implied) Rg, Sama etc. (Adulalo), in the heart (hRdayamuna) of the foremost (vara) gAyatrI mantra, in the minds (mAnasamuna) of the celestials (sura) and Brahmins (bhU-sura), and within (eDa) this auspicious (shubha) Tyagaraja (tyAgarAjuni) .


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Balamuralikrishna

Ananda Natam Aduvar Thillai

Happy Shivaratri everybody! As music lovers, our worship is music, our prayer is music and our blessing is music, is it not? And so here I am, offering a song of the Dancing Lord in worship and in prayer, praying that I shall evermore have the blessing of a heart fulfilled by music.


Cosmic Microwave Map, can you spot the S and H?

It might seem strange to you but I always associate Lord Shiva with Cosmology! You see, the image I have in my mind is of Him dancing, galaxies streaming around Him, the background sound of OM keeping sruthi like a tanpura, His ascetical beautiful face blissful, His matted hair flying, the snakes on His neck swaying, the drum in Hand beating the beat of the world, His movements ecstatic, His contemplation the existence of the universe, His pulse its rhythm. So yes, I think of Cosmology when I think of Him. Knowing that Shivaratri was coming up, I picked a lecture to see from the Oxford University podcasts. I only understood parts of it but there was something there which made me laugh! Check out what the speaker shows at the 22nd minute. The letters ‘S’ and ‘H’ show up in the microwave map (see above), a cosmological message from the time the Universe was created! I wonder when they are going to find the ‘I’, ‘V’, and ‘A’!!! Lord Shiva’s signature on his handiwork, don’t you think? 🙂

There was something else which sparked my interest. The model which I had read before said that the universe was expanding like a balloon, but that the rate of expansion reduces as time passes. I had imagined that it would then attain some kind of stability. Instead, I understand (and I may be well have misunderstood!) that the expansion is in fact accelerating, and that the model that emerges is that of a universe which will expand faster and faster until it collapses into itself to become what it was before the Big Bang. And then perhaps it would start a new cycle again? Is that the cycle of destruction and creation which we ascribe to Lord Shiva? I must read up a bit more on this subject….

To remember Lord Shiva’s dance today, I have chosen a lovely song composed by Neelakanta Sivan in the raga Purvikalyani. I listened to many a rendition but this week, I couldn’t get past the old timers.. So first up is K.V.Narayanaswamy with a gorgeous rendition below.

Alternative Link : Click here and select song 3 (Free membership of Sangeethapriya required)

For a slightly longer version with an alapanai, here are the Hyderabad Brothers. I do like their singing, I should listen to them more often!

Alternate Link : Click here and select song 10 (free membership of Sangeethapriya required)

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

ஆனந்த நடம் ஆடுவார் தில்லை
அம்பலம் தன்னில் அடி பணிபவர்க்(கு)-அபஜெயமில்லை (ஆனந்த)

தானந்தம் இல்லாத ரூபன்
தஜ்ஜம் தகஜம் தகதிமி
தளாங்கு தக  தத்திங்கிணதோம்
தளாங்கு தக  தத்திங்கிணதோம்
தக திமி(alt:திகு) தக தத்திங்கிணதோம் (ஆனந்த)

பாதி மதி ஜோதி பளீர் பளீர் என
பாதச் சிலம்பொலி  கலீர் கலீர் என
ஆதிக் கறை உண்ட நீலகண்டம் மின்ன

(மத்தியம காலம் )
ஹரபுர ஹரசிவ சங்கர
அருள் வர குருபர சுந்தர (alt: அருள் குருபர சிவ சுந்தர )
அண்டமும் பிண்டமும் ஆடிட
எண்திசையும் புகழ் பாடிட

Ananda naTam ADuvAr tillai
ambalam tannil aDi paNIbavark-apajayam illai (Ananda)

tAnantam* illAda rUpan
tajjam takajam takadimi
taLAngu taka tatingiNatOm
taLAngu taka tatingiNatOm
taka dimi (alt: diku) taka tatingiNatOm (Ananda)

pAdi madi jyOti paLIr paLIr ena
pAda silamboli galIr galIr ena
Adi kaRai uNDa nIlakaNTam minna

(madhyama kAlam)
harapura hara shiva shankara
aruL vara gurupara sundara (alt: aruL gurupara shiva sundara)
aNDamum piNDamum ADiDa
eNdisaiyum pugazh pADiDa

*Note : தானந்தம் is pronounced as tAnandam by most singers, however as it is derived from Sanskrit word अन्त meaning end, the correct pronunciation would be tAnatam in my humble opinion.


The Lord (implied) will dance (ADuvAr) his Dance of Ecstacy (Ananda naTam) in the (tannil) temple (ambalam, normally hall or court) in Chidambaram (tillai) where, for those who worship (paNibavarkku) at His feet (aDi), there is no defeat (apajayam).

With an infinite/endless (tAnantam illAda) form (rUpan), with a beat (implied by the solkattu or beat-words) like (ena) tajjam-takajam…tatingiNatOm (..the Lord will dance)

With light (jyOti) flashing brilliantly (paLIr paLIr ena) from the crescent moon (pAdi = half, madi = moon), the sound (oli) of ankle-bells (silambu) on his feet (pAda) ringing sharply (galIr galIr ena), His (implied) blue-hued (nIla) throat (kanTam) which swallowed (uNDa) the primeval/ancient (Adi) impurity (kaRai) glittering (minna) (reference: Shiva drinking poison from the churning of the ocean).

‘O Auspicious One (shankara)!! O Benign One (shiva)!! O Destroyer (hara)!! (Not sure what harapura indicates here…) O Beautiful One (sundara)! O Benevolent One (aruL vara)!  O Ultimate (vara) Preceptor (guru)!! Thus do (implied) all eight directions (eNdisaiyum) sing (pADiDa) His praise (pugazh) while the whole globe (piNDam) and universe (aNDam) dance (ADiDa).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Hyderabad Brothers, K.V.Narayanaswamy, Neelakanta Sivan

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

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

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

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)


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

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

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)


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).

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).

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!)


Filed under Ambujam Krishna, Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, M.L.Vasanthakumari, Saketharaman, Uncategorized

Irakkam Varamal

nataraja1Is God really compassionate? I worry about this, the way I worry about so many unsolvable problems in the world. Is the compassion we ascribe to Him/Her just wishful thinking on our part? If you are a non-believer, this question is moot. But I am a die-hard believer; I hold the kind of belief which is beyond reason, beyond logic. So this question is important to me, especially because I stumble ever so often in my life and am very much in need of both compassion and forgiveness.

The thing is, I think that the qualities ascribed to God are determined by men; there can be no real proof to their veracity. The Hindu pantheon has evolved over the thousands of years from the time of Rig Veda. Some deities have gained importance; others have lost it. Their qualities, their functions, their stories, everything has changed, developed and evolved. Even die-hard believers have to agree that it is men who have ‘designed’ the qualities of Gods. And men, being so very fallible, may have added compassion to the list of Godly qualities because it suits us just fine! As the poet says in my song choice of today ‘பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும் பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம்’ (However many sins/errors I commit, Shiva of Chidambaram protects me). Wishful thinking?

I guess I’ll not have the answer to this question until I am past the stage of needing compassion. Still, I too, like the poet of this song, make a fundamental assumption that God is compassionate.  இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் ? The poet asks, ‘what is the reason that you have no compassion towards me?’ as if His/Her compassion were a right and not a privilege. ‘I have come to you having heard and believed that you are an ocean of compassion‘ he says. I guess we believers are all in the same boat – we have heard, we have believed and we pray for compassion. And so the song feels very real, very true and close to our heart.

This beautiful song is a composition of Gopalakrishna Bharati however I understand that the madhyamakala sahityam is not written by him. Set to Raga Behag, it pulls effortlessly at my heart. My love for Behag is endless; I can listen to this raga any number of times! There are many beautiful renditions of this song. One in particular I would like to recommend is KVN’s very simple and graceful one here (you need free membership of Sangeethapriya).

But today as I was playing catch-up with the Margazhi Maha Utsavam episodes on Youtube, I came upon this very nice version by Vignesh Ishwar. In fact I enjoyed the whole concert. He starts with leisurely chera rAvadE in Ritigowla, then a Begada alapana (09:02), innum parAmukham at 16:20 (very nice neraval!),  vazhi maraittirukkudE in Todi from 26:56 which I liked particularly  (TMK’s influence is clearly audible!) and of course irakkam varAmal from 38:40. I do like Vignesh Ishwar’s rendition;  perhaps I would have preferred a tad less ornamentation. He has a gentle and emotive voice, a very nice range and skills which will see him in good stead over the years to come. I like. A young man to watch.

irakkam varAmal from 38:40.

Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Tamil

இரக்கம் வராமல் போனதென்ன காரணம் என் சுவாமி (-க்கு)

கருணைக் கடல் என்று உன்னைக்
காதிற்/காதில்  கேட்டு நம்பி வந்தேன் (இரக்கம்)

ஆலம் அருந்தி அண்டர் உயிரை ஆதரித்த உமது கீர்த்தி
பாலகிருஷ்ணன் பாடி தினமும் பணிந்திடும் நடராஜ மூர்த்தி

பழி எத்தனை நான் செய்தினும்*
பாலித்திடும் சிவ சிதம்பரம் (alt: பாலித்திடும் சிதம்பரம் என )
மொழி கற்றவர் வழி உற்றுனை   (alt: வழி பெற்றவர்)
முப்பொழுதும் மறவேனே 
(இரக்கம் )


irakkam varAmal pOnadenna kAraNam en swAmi (-kku)

karuNai kaDal enDRu unnai
kAdiR/kAdil kETTu nambi vandEn (irakkam)

Alam arundi anDar uyirai Adaritta umadu kIrtti
bAlakrishNan pADi dinamum paNindiDum naTarAja mUrti

pazhi ettanai nAn seydinum*
pAlittiDum shiva chidambaram
mozhi kaTravar vazhi uTRunai (alt: vazhi peTravar)
muppozhudum maRavEnE

Note: I listened intently to a number of renditions; most singers say ‘seydiDum’ not ‘seydinum’. However KVN sings it as ‘seydinum’ or even ‘seyyinum’.  As this makes more grammatical sense, I am sticking with this!  


What is the reason (enna kAraNam) that you don’t feel (varamal ponadu) compassion (irakkam) towards me?

Having heard (kAdir kETTu) that you are an ocean (kaDal) of compassion (karuNai), I have come (vandEn) trusting (nambi) you (unnai).

It is your (umadu) fame (kIrtti) that you saved (Adaritta, literally supported) the lives (uyirai) of the celestials (anDar) by drinking (arundi) poison (Alam). (Note: This refers to the story of the churning of the oceans). You are the embodiment (mUrti) of Nataraja that Balakrishnan (signature of the poet) worships (paNindiDum) by singing (pADi) everyday (dinamum).

However many (ettanai) sins/errors (pazhi) I (nAn) commit (seydinum), Lord Shiva of Chidambaram is the one who protects (pAlittiDum). Closely following (uTRu) the way (vazhi) of those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) (I assume this implies the language of worship?), I will not forget (maRavEnE) you (unnai ) all day (muppozhudu – literally, the three parts of the day ie. Morning, Noon, Evening). [Alternate wording : Like (implied) those who have learnt (kaTravar) the language (mozhi) and have found (peTravar) the way (vazhi)]


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Vignesh Ishwar

A Few Days of the Music Season

Happy New Year to all my readers! My best wishes to your health and happiness!

Returning home to a freezing Switzerland after being three months away from home, I am faced with the endless chores of unpacking, house cleaning, kitchen re-stocking, unpaid bills and mountains of laundry. I tell myself that I need to devote time to my blog which has been sadly neglected all these months. I have so much buzzing around my head, so much music which needs to be explored, understood, shared, admired! But before I do that, I’ll start with a post which is only indirectly musical; I present my diary entries from the few days I spent in Chennai during the music season. I was like a kid in a lolly-shop; so many concerts, so little time! Here is my story.

An After-Note : Now that I have finished writing the post I am wondering why I have written it! ‘Who‘, I wonder ‘cares a whit about what I heard or didn’t hear? Why am I doing this?‘. I honestly don’t know!! I suppose the diary is for myself, to document my experiences. And perhaps for other NRIs if they are planning on venturing to Chennai during the season. So don’t apologise if you want to skip this post! Below is a list of concerts I attended with my reaction.

Lalgudi Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi – So nostalgic!
Abhishek Raghuram – Technical excellence
Amrutha Murali – Very good in parts
Sikkil Gurucharan – Deeply satisfying
Trichur Ramachandran – Moving
Trichur Brothers – Oh wow!
Mahati – sigh…
Malladi Brothers – Solid and reliable
Nisha Rajagopal – Melodious
Sandeep Narayan – Amazing! I declare myself a Fan!
Ashwath Narayanan – A young man to watch
Sanjay Subrahmanyan – Thalaiva!!!!!!!
Ramakrishna Murthy – Remarkable talent

16 December 2016

12:20 pm My flight lands in Chennai. I arrived two days ago in Mumbai and have had a hectic time so far. Crippled by jet lag, I have hardly slept. Tiredness aside, I am excited about this trip to Chennai and look forward to a musical feast over the next few days. From the airport, I take an Ola cab to New Woodlands in Mylapore where I am booked to stay for 6 nights.

1:45 pm I hurriedly settle myself in my room. Having skipped breakfast, I attack my lunch with gluttony; the food here is reliably good. Looking around me surreptitiously, I spot a number of NRI types, fellow music season attendees no doubt. Very often the clothes give us away, especially the ladies. There is rather an ill-fitted look about us. I catch a reflection of myself in a mirror. With my short bobbed hair and travel clothes of short kurta and jeans,  I am not going to fit in with the concert going mamis I fear. Never mind, I will do better tomorrow.

4:00 pm The Narada Gana Sabha is an easy 10 min walk from the hotel. I have prepared a list of concerts which interest me using online schedules. My first concert today is by Lalgudi Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi. I am glad that this is my first concert; Lalgudi Jayaraman’s music has enthralled me since the first time I heard it as a child and is responsible for my love of Carnatic Music. The tickets at Rs.100 for two concerts is a steal, yet there aren’t so many people in the audience. Why? Art forms which have survived in history have done so with sponsorship from the wealthy and audience support from the common folk. Why are these skilled musicians not filling halls?

I let myself drown in their music as they proceed from the lovely Cheta Sri in Dwijavanti to the beautifully rendered Narayana Ninna Namada in Shuddha Dhanyasi. When they play Inta Soukhyam in Kapi, I am strongly reminded of their father’s playing. Talli Ninnu in Kalyani is followed by a very hypnotic Tani; in my jet lagged state I nod off at intervals. Coming to, I embarrasedly look around me to see if anyone has noticed. I hope not!  As the concert finishes with Malai Pozhidinile and then the well-loved Thillana in Madhuvanti, I am pleasurably content.

7:00 pm I should have popped outside to get something to eat before the second concert but I am afraid of losing my nice seat. So I just sit right there, waiting for Abhishek Raghuram. I am rather excited as his voice sounds very pleasing to my ears. The empty seats start filling up and I am pleasantly surprised to see that there are a good number of youngsters in the audience.

Abhishek Raghuram’s voice sounds as good as I expected. His energy is immense. His vocal acrobatics are impressive but do they really contribute to the musicality? I am unsure. After a strong Ananda Natana Prakasham in Kedaram, he launches into an alapana of a raga I don’t quite recognize, I notice a couple of NRI youngsters puzzling about the raga, just as I am. I am pleased to see so much interest amongst the young ones. Abhishek announces the Raga as being Vardhani, setting our puzzlement to rest. The kriti is Manasa Mana Samarthyamemi by Tyagaraja; I make a note to look this up. There are a couple of shorter pieces ending with a brisk Manusuloni in Shuddha Hindolam. By the time this finishes I realise I am just too sleepy to pay attention to the music. I do have a 10 min walk back and also a few mins to grab something to eat. I reluctantly abandon the concert and head back.

17 December 2016

3:30 am I am up! I have been trying for some time to get back to sleep but I just can’t. Sigh!

7:30 am Being up so early means that I am simply starving by the time the restaurant opens for breakfast. Plus I miss my first-thing-in-the-morning cuppa. After breakfast, I make a deal with an auto driver to take me to Sri Parthsarathy Swamy temple and Kapali Koil. I realise later that the auto driver has soundly cheated me by charging me almost 3 to 4 times the price. It’s not a big deal, he is poor and it’s a mere nothing to me. But I am upset. Why is that? Is my spirit lacking in generosity? ‘Think of it as charity‘ I tell myself.

I am always reminded of my parents when I visit these temples. They both grew up around these areas and would have visited these temples almost daily. A sense of nostalgia overtakes me as I remember many childhood visits in these hallowed grounds.

I get the auto driver to drop me at Citibank. I have a number of old currency notes which I mean to deposit into my account. But after wasting an hour in lines and being shuffled between multiple people, I am told I cannot do it as I don’t have a PAN card. Frustrating! I stand in one more long line to withdraw some money for my trip as the ATMs are not working.

My next chore is to get to Vummidi. A diamond earring I bought last year for my son’s fiancée needs to be repaired. They don’t make things the way they used to, do they? I chat up the nice young man who is my auto driver, listening to his woes in sympathy. After my errand I head back to the Music Academy where I buy tickets for the evening.

1:00 pm A nice lunch and back in my room, I decide to have a nap. Perhaps it will help me from nodding off during concerts!

3:45 pm I head back to the Music Academy, ready to hear some good music. First on this evening is Amrutha Murali. After a very good Kamala Manohari and a sub-optimal Ananda Bhairavi and Bilahari, she launches into Sri Vishwanatham Bhajeham, a Ragamalika in 14 ragas. I have not heard this often; I absolutely love this. Note to myself : Must feature this in my blog! Her voice has set in very nicely by now and she sounds lovely while she does a very good execution of Enduku Daya Radu in Todi and then a RTP in Purvi Kalyani. As the concert comes to an end, I feel sense of contentment. Being here, this feels real good!

6:45 pm Sikkil Gurucharan starts his concert with the Sri Raga varnam. What a wonderful energy he has! Next is Mamava Sada Varade in Natakurinji. The brisk and interesting neraval is very enjoyable. I sit up straighter in my seat, this is sounding interesting! The transition to the sad notes of Bhavapriya and then to the peaceful ambience of Yamuna Kalyani keeps the mood varied. He totally comes into his own in Kambhoji delivering an excellent Sri Raghuvara Aprameya. I am drawn in totally, my mind focused almost to a pinpoint in which only the musicians exist. It feels like meditation. The Tani is especially good. At the end of it, I feel ‘full’, as if I have had a feast beyond compare. The RTP in Saramathi is interesting but I don’t really understand the complicated rhythmic patterns. As he finishes the concert with smaller pieces, I reflect happily that this concert really made all the travel worthwhile. Kambhoji continues to whisper in my ears as I head off back to my hotel for a late dinner and bed.

18 December 2016

3:00 am My sister’s sambandhi has offered to pick me up at 3:30 am so that we can visit the Srinivasar temple at opening time. It is no trouble waking at 3, my jet lag has a fine hold on me. In the shower I realise that the hot water is inexplicably not turned on. I have no option but to clench my teeth and bathe in cold water. If anyone wonders if it is at all possible to ever feel cold in Chennai, I say an emphatic ‘Yes‘!! At the temple, there is a young woman in nine yards of madisar busy with the kolams. A man urges a cow inside. The priests are busy with age-old rituals. It feels as if I am participating in living history; that in these grounds the yesterdays and the tomorrows have somehow merged into one another. It feels good to be part of this. ‘I belong here’ my soul says; my intellect laughs at this.  ‘You who question everything and have always been determined to find your own way, you who didn’t hesitate to join yourself in an inter-caste, interstate marriage, you  a techno-crazy-westernized woman who has even rejected wearing mangalsutras, you belong here?‘ it mocks me. ‘I belong here‘ my soul says stubbornly. Dichotomy.

8:45 am After a satisfying idli-vada-sambar breakfast, I am off to hear the veteran Trichur Ramachandran at the Music Academy. It is wonderful to sit in the premier front rows during these day time concerts! ‘Next time I should treat myself to decent tickets‘ I tell myself. He starts with a brisk Swami Natha Paripalaya in Natta, then goes on to a very stately Mundu Venuka in Darbar. I am enjoying this! Next is a gorgeous Sri Chakrapuri Vasini in Gamanshrama. I haven’t heard this raga much; I note that I must make myself a playlist in this raga. After an unfamiliar song in Bilahari, a solid Neelotpalambam in Nariritigowla (so google tells me, it sounded like Ritigowla to me!), and a quick Unnadiye Gati in Bahudari, he launches into a detailed Kalyani alapana which is brilliant in bits and sadly reflects ageing vocal cords at other times.  Enduko Ni Manasu is nicely presented followed by a good Tani. I abandon the concert here as I am meeting my sister’s sambandhi for lunch.

12:00 Noon. All the newspapers go on and on and about the sabha dining experiences. I can attest to the fact the full lunch at the Music Academy canteen is a treat! Mr.Padmanabhan, who has had the contract for this sabha for a long time, lives up to his excellent reputation. We listen to the last of the tukkadas while we eat.

1:30 pm I have heard the Trichur Brothers on the net and have really enjoyed their music so I am excited about this afternoon session. They do not disappoint. Starting with an energetic Namami Vighna Vinayaka in Hamsadhwani, they go on to a sweetly sung Gopalaka Pahimam in Bhupalam and then to an interestingly slow paced Tyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam in Ananda Bhairavi. Back again to a very brisk Dinamani Vamsa in Harikambhoji. When they launch into Varali, I know for sure that I like them a lot! Very nicely done alapana followed by Seshachala Nayakam. Many young people sing beautifully but let themselves down in the Neraval; I am happy to see how interesting the Trichur Brothers make theirs. There is a hypnotic quality about their music which keeps me enthralled. When they commence on their incredible alapana in Gamanashrama, a raga I am hearing for the second time today, I am totally wowed!! I leave when the tukkadas start as I need a short rest and freshening up before I head for my evening concerts.

4:00 pm I stand in front of Vani Mahal, defeated in my quest for tickets for this evening. I so want to listen to Ranjani & Gayatri but only the very expensive tickets remain. I hesitate; I can afford the higher-end tickets but I could probably buy their 4 CD collection for the same price. I google the offerings in the other sabhas and decide to head to Mylapore Fine Arts instead.

4:40 pm The kutcheri has already started by the time I slip into a seat. Mahati is in the middle of a Kalyani alapana. This has been a long day and I just want to relax into passive listening. But sadly, I am not really enjoying the concert. Many reasons, some to do with the environment (the seats are so uncomfortable!), others to do with the artist. Sigh! I think longingly of Ranjani & Gayatri!

7 pm I am excited to be listening live to the Malladi Brothers whose music I do admire! After a brisk varnam in Kedaragowla and an energetic Umayor Bhagane in Natta, they launch into a hauntingly beautiful Mapala Velasika in Asaveri. Next on the menu is a lovely Sriranjani alapana which lulls me into a happy relaxed state. So relaxed that I am close to sliding off my chair into a deep sleep. The jet lag and the long day has left my reserves very low. Paravata Raja Kumari follows. Their voices sound better and better but my level of concentration is hitting new lows. I shake myself out of my stupor when they launch into Amma Ravamma in Kalyani and then go on to a solid Dhanyasi. I finally give in to my need for sleep and head back to the hotel.

Google maps shows that it is not that far off so I start walking, the night air refreshing me a bit. The street I take is badly lit. There aren’t many people around. When I see a sturdy dog-walker who looks like an armed-forces type, I speed up to tag his heels for a bit of safety. It’s a good thing. A man on a motorcycle slows his speed as he comes close to me. The man with the dog barks out ‘Ennada‘ and the motorcyclist speeds off. ‘So the dog walker was aware of me‘, I think to myself. I thank him in my mind. By now I have reached an area where there is more traffic and activity and I reach my hotel in safety. Note to myself: Walk down only in main, well-lit roads at night-time.

19 December 2016

9 am. I set off this morning to see my aunt who lives in Besant Nagar. At 84, she is still sprightly and insists on cooking me lunch. Her sathumadu is just ambrosia! I wish I could cook like that! She is lonely, I can see. She talks almost non-stop about people and incidents from the past. I am often confused as she jumps seamlessly from 1950 to 1970 or 1990. She has so much more to express, I feel guilty having to say goodbye finally at 2 pm. She is jailed behind the grilled veranda as she waves me goodbye. My heart is heavy with the sorrow of the many goodbyes I have said to so many people close to me over the years.  I had said goodbye just like this to my mother, she too had waved goodbye from a veranda. ‘Eppo unnai pappeno‘ (who knows when I will see you again) she had said with sad eyes which could not hold back the stream of love pouring down her cheeks. ‘You know me Amma, I’ll be back in no time‘ I had said to cheer her up. I had looked back at her from the taxi, standing and waving as I drove away. That image is etched in my memory; she died a month later.

4 pm. I walk to the Music Academy and get tickets for this evening. The first concert is by Nisha Rajagopal. I had liked her voice on Youtube. I see that I like her voice even more in person. After my favourite Saveri varnam, she does a brisk Darbar before launching into a detailed Korinavaramu in Ramapriya. I am not much familiar with this Raga. Instead of enjoying the music, my mind goes all analytical, trying to find similarities and differences with other ragas it reminds me of.  I force myself to let go and just enjoy the music. She then goes on to Sri Kamalamba Jayati in Ahiri, a raga I love.  I reflect that Nisha’s voice doesn’t do justice in the mandra sthayi (lower octave). The RTP (ragamalika) is OK. The tukkadas which follow are excellent. This has been a good concert.

7 pm. Sandeep Nayaran‘s voice immediately makes me sit up and take notice. After an attention grabbing Brochevarevare in Sri Ranjani, he sings an amazing Azhi Mazhai Kanna in Varali. I really start taking notice. I’m not a fan of Begada but I quite like his Tyagaraja Namaste. I amuse myself by noting all his ‘Sanjayisms’!! After a quick Sevikka Vendum Ayya in Andolika he launches into an exceptional Bhairavi alapana. I am now sitting perched at the edge of my seat, not taking my eyes off him even for a second. The Upacharamu which follows is something I will remember for a long time. I lose myself in the wonder of the swarams that follow. When he finishes I am in an euphoric state; ‘this one song is worth my travelling all the way across the seas’ I think. The Charukesi alapana which follows starts gently, as soft as a breeze and then he adds more energy until it stands tall and strong. The RTP has a very modern feel, an approach which feels different to what he has sung so far. He has such an amazing vocal dexterity! Next is an excellent presentation of TNS’s Niroshta thillana. By the time the viruttam is sung and karpagame follows, I call myself a fan. I walk back to the hotel in a happy musical daze.

20 December 2016

Morning. I am thrilled, I actually slept till 6 am today! After breakfast I head back to Kapali Koil and then to the Bank of Baroda to see if I can deposit the old currency into my account even without a PAN card. It seems that I can but as of today, they allow only Rs. 5000 to be deposited! I barge into the manager’s office to do my best beg-and-plead act. Finally, after much negotiation, I am allowed to present a letter with a photocopy of the entry stamp in the passport attesting to my recent entry into India. I am then allowed to deposit whatever I have! I feel such a winner today! Next is a jewellery shop visit to buy gems for our new home foundation. Then a quick visit to a sari shop (I couldn’t quite resist!) before I head to Narada Gana Sabha.

12 noon. I meet my uncle and aunt for lunch at the canteen. It is kalanda sappadu; very tasty. My friend soon joins us as well. We get seated in the cozy Mini Hall just in time for Ashwath Narayanan‘s concert. I have been following this young man since I saw him in Carnatic Idol in 2008.  After the varnam he starts with Narada Gana Lola in Attana. Not my favourite raga. The Kamalamanohari which follows is much more to my taste. Next is the rather unfamiliar (to me) Lalitha Panchamam followed by a first class Kalyani. In the minor pieces there is sub-optimal Pibare Ramarasam and a very well sung Anandamaya Manave in Jyotiswaroopini. A good concert, I have enjoyed it. I look forward to listening to more of this young man as he matures. We all enjoy a nice coffee break in the canteen before I say goodbye to the others.

3.30 pm. I have come to Ethiraj Kalyana Nilayam to listen to Sanjay Subramanyan. I am a bit early; the very accomplished Vainika Geetha Krishnamurthy is still part way through her concert. I sit back under a fan and let the music wash over me. The drone of the Veena is very relaxing. I especially enjoy the Nalinakanti.

When Sanjay and his accompanists come on stage, I am disappointed to see that my very favourite S.Varadarajan is not on the violin today. Today is the first time I am sitting on numbered seating. Mine is not too bad visually but I don’t like the speakers blasting in my ears.  I am really put off by the loudness; I wish I was listening to Sanjay in another venue! It takes me a while to let my annoyance with the sound go and really start listening to the concert. After the varnam, there is a lovely Inta Paraka in Nadanamakriya. As I look at him, I am very taken by the incredible energy he exudes; I can almost see the beams of energy shoot out in all directions! As I let myself be drawn into the magic of his kalpana swarams which follow, I smile to myself. His each gesture, each syllable declare ‘I am the Boss!’!  The authority with which he sings the very familiar Ananda Bhairavi (Marivere) or the very unfamiliar Manavati is quite unmistakable. ‘Thalaiva!’ I whisper. I am enjoying this! I am sad he has chosen Begada for his main piece as this is not a raga I ‘feel’. Next is a crisp Pada Vendume in Hamsanadam. He does especially well with Tamil kritis, doesn’t he! An excellent RTP follows (my notes fail me, but I vaguely remember it as being Vasanta Bhairavi..I may be wrong). After the Tani, there is a short Nama Sudha Rasam in Kapi and a Senjurutti Thillana. I come out of the hall in a deep state if contentment.

21 December 2016

3.40 am. I am up early again, how sad is that! I read quietly in bed and plan my day. As this is my last day here I have many things on my to-do-list. There is not going to be much music today I guess.

7 pm. I’ve had a long day. Since breakfast I have been to Vummidi to collect an earring being repaired, to a costume jewellery shop in Pondy Bazzar to buy pearl and semi-precious strings for my daughter and future daughter-in-law, to an astrologer to see into the future, to Ratna stores to buy spice-boxes for my kids, back to the Music Academy to enjoy a full meal (yum!), waddled with an uncomfortably full belly to the hotel to freshen up, then waddled on to Fab India to buy my son some shirts, then a long walk to Citibank as I needed to change my pin (unsuccessful errand), then back to Mambalam and GRT where I bought a big something as my daughter’s wedding gift and a kadukkan for my son who has pierced his ears, to Nalli to buy some silk scarves as gifts, back to the junk jewellery shop as they said they would repair a broken string I had, then finally to the hotel to freshen up before walking to NGS and here I am all set for the concert. I am exhausted!

I am a bit late for the concert so I slide into a back seat. Ramakrishna Murthy has a big voice for a slight young man. He launches into a very nice Ritigowla and then into Talli Ninnu Nera Nammi in Kalyani. My concentration is poor; I have been running all day and now I just want to collapse into a boneless heap. I have not really been following Ramakrishna Murthy but I see that I have been missing out; this young man is very talented. I am also enjoying Sriram Kumar’s violin very much indeed. Next is a lovely Kalavati. An alapana in Harikambhoji leads into a tanam in multiple ragas and then an even more exhaustive list of ragas in a ragamalika. I am not really enjoying this; there are way too many ragas for my taste. Then there is a sweet Poonkuyil Koovum in Kapi followed by a Thillana. As I get up to leave, I am rather sad. It is my last concert for this trip. I wonder when I will come again? I have enjoyed this immersive experience though it has been rather full on. I make mental plans for future years as I walk back to the hotel.


Filed under Carnatic Music