Tag Archives: Annamacharya

Nanaati Batuku

NDEMy head is swimming with the words of the book that I have just finished reading. I look at the world around me, wondering if it is all a mirage, as unreal as the dream I dreamt last night. Just as the sun dispels the early morning mist before me, will the blessing of God dispel the veil of Maya one day? Will I be able to see and feel the oneness of the universal consciousness then? I ask myself questions for which there are no certain answers.

My fey mood has been triggered by an account by Dr. Eben Alexander of his Near Death Experience (NDE) in his book called ‘Proof of Heaven’. I have long followed this genre of books; the first time I read on this subject was nearly 18 years ago and I have continued to read on and off since then.  These books are first-person accounts of people who have been close to death or have died and then been revived. They talk of their spiritual journey before and during their ‘death’.  What did they see? What did they experience? I am always fascinated by these accounts though I am far from being a morbid person. I wonder, am I looking for confirmation of my own beliefs in these books?

Obviously, NDE accounts vary in credibility. There are some which are self-glorifying (I was ‘the chosen one’ syndrome), others are too denominational to be credible (my faith gets into heaven, all else in hell syndrome). Then there are the scientific explanations which explain away NDEs as synapses firing in a dying brain, an alteration of brain chemistry. Still, the commonality of experiences often give me pause and I have always kept an open mind. This last book I read seems the most convincing because of the credibility of the witness, a Neurosurgeon from Harvard, and that when he was in a coma for a week with bacterial meningitis, his neocortex (the area of the brain responsible for conscious thought, sensory perception, language etc) was not functional.

So what did he experience? Many things, but some things resonated more with me than others. He says that in that other place ‘everything was distinct, yet everything was also part of everything else’. This is one of my core beliefs, that we are one and all is God Sarvam Brahmamayam. He describes the presence of a Being, ‘a brilliant orb’, which was ‘omniscient, omnipotent, and unconditionally loving’ and which was of ‘infinite vastness’. This resembles the ultimate Brahman of the Upanishads who is ‘eternal, omnipresent, free from all changes, self sufficient, not composed of parts, self-effulgent’  as explained by Adi Shankaracharya (8CE) in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. Dr.Alexander writes that there was a sound he heard which was associated with the Being and that it sounded like OM. Again, this matches Hindu thought as in this quote from Katha Upanishad ‘The syllable Om is Brahman’.

Dr Alexander’s concludes that the brain is not the source of consciousness, that consciousness exists beyond our physical selves. The scientific-rationalists of course think that consciousness is the product of the brain; when the brain is dead, the consciousness ceases to exist. Dr.Alexander proposes that the brain acts as a filter to keep out memories of the infinite. Is this not what we call Maya?

Do you wonder that with these thoughts in my mind, I chose to listen to Annamacharya’s exquisite kriti Nanaati Batuku in the most mystical of ragas Revati? And what a song! It strikes exactly the correct note for me today. Annamacharya says ‘This day to day existence is but a drama’ .  He stresses ‘To be born is real, to die is real, everything in between is just drama’. So what is real? ‘That which is beyond is liberation’ he says. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

One cannot think of this song without thinking of the wonderfully emotional renditions by M.S.Subbulakshmi. Yet today, it is to T.M.Krishna’s rendition that I am drawn and that is what I present to you. His beautiful voice adds even more beauty to this kriti.

[Alternate link (sorry, seems to have a scratchy sound here): http://mio.to/ybQ4 %5D

For an instrumental version, listen to Kadri Gopalnath on the Sax giving strength to the beseeching notes of Revati.

[Alternate link (not the same version) : click here ]

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

I do not speak Telugu so I have transcribed them in Devanagri script. The lyrics have been sourced from various sites on the internet and aurally verified. Special thanks to Sri Sistla for an excellent compilation of Annamacharya kritis.

नानाटि बतुकु (/ब्रतुकु ) नाटकमु
कानक कन्नदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 1
पुट्टुटयु निजमु पोवुटयु निजमु
नट्टनडिमी पनि नाटकमु ।
येट्ट नेदुट गलदी प्रपञ्चमु
कट्ट कडपटिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

चरणं 2
कुडिचेदन्नमु कोक चुट्टेडिदि
नडुमन्त्रपु पनि नाटकमु ।
वोडि गट्टुकोनिन वुभय कर्ममुलु
गडिदाटिनपुडे कैवल्यमु ॥
चरणं 3
तेगदु पापमु तीरदु पुण्यमु
नगि नगि कालमु नाटकमु ।
एगुवने श्री वेङ्कटेश्वरुडेलिक
गगनमु मीदिदि कैवल्यमु ॥

Transliteration :

nAnATi batuku (/bratuku) nATakamu
kAnaka kannadi kaivalyamu

Charanam 1
puTTuTayu nijamu pOvuTayu nijamu
naTTanaDimIpani nATakamu
yeTTaneduTa galadI prapanchamu
kaTTA kaDapaTidi kaivalyamu

Charanam 2
kuDichEdannamu kOka chuTTEDidi
naDumantrapu pani nATakamu
vOdi gaTTukOnina vubhaya karmamulu
gaDidATinapuDE kaivalyamu

Charanam 3
tegadu pApamu tIradu puNyamu
nagi nagi kAlamu nATakamu
eguvanE SrI vEnkaTEshvaruDElika
gaganamu mIdidi kaivalyamu

Translation :

This day to day existence is but a drama. That of which we have but a glimpse (is seen yet unseen) is liberation.

To be born and to die, these are real (truth). In between these two events, all that we do is drama. That which is right in front of us, is the universe. That which is the ultimate end, is salvation.

The food and drink we consume, the clothing we wear, this conjured up things we do is is all drama. When you cross beyond these, there is salvation.

Our sins never reduce. The good-deeds to be done are endless. All these laughable time-bound acts are drama.  The one who is in the higher place is Sri Venkateshwara, beyond the skies and the universe is salvation.



Filed under Annamacharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Kadri Gopalnath, T.M.Krishna

Ksheerabdhi Kanyakaku

Lakshmi2I continue today with my second post for Navaratri, my theme being thankfulness towards the Goddesses and their roles in our lives. My post today is dedicated to Mahalakshmi, She who is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Her name is also Shri, meaning auspiciousness and good fortune. She is represented with gold streaming from her hands, so naturally most people associate her with money. But wealth is far more than money and property, isn’t it?  An individual’s wealth is his or her unsullied honour. The wealth of parents are their children. The wealth of a family is its strong bonds of love. A country’s wealth is its land, its rivers, its mineral deposits, its clean air, its honourable and hard working citizens. Humanity’s wealth is its collective knowledge, its culture and peace.

I have listed what I think to be some of the greatest wealth enjoyed by us all; you may wish to add more. In my last post I proposed that Shakti is not just the provider of power & energy, but is power itself. So also I say that Mahalakshmi is that aspect of divinity which provides us with wealth in all its forms and She is also the wealth which is provided.  Given Her portfolio, it is no surprise that She enjoys great popularity in the prayers of millions! Unlike Shakti who is represented in both benign and terrifying forms, Mahalakshmi is always benign. For is not her absence terrifying enough?

Shakti Shri Saraswati

In my last post, I associated our Goddesses with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If Shakti provides us with physiological and some part of our safety needs, Mahalakshmi looks after the next few tiers from safety needs to the needs of belonging and esteem.  I believe that our Goddesses work in tandem, holding us up together. Today I would like to express my gratitude to Mahalakshmi for being in my life in innumerable ways and for the blessings that She continues to shower upon me. I bow down to you, my Goddess.

To celebrate Her presence amongst us, I have chosen Annamacharya’s aarati song for Mahalakshmi, Ksheerabdhi Kanyakaku set to Raga Kurinji. The sounds of kurinji remind me of days long long ago, during the Navaratris of my childhood, when my mother would seat my sister and me on a manai (wooden pedestal) putting nalangu (auspicious red decorations) on my feet, anointing me with kumkum (red powder) and chandanam (sandalwood paste), putting flowers in my braids and doing aarati while singing seeta kalyana vaibhogame in kurinji. What she did was anoint us with all the auspicious symbols of Mahalakshmi, worshipping the Goddess through us. She was not alone in doing that. In India, many ladies worship the Goddess within their little girls during this time.

Every time I hear kurinji, my mother’s love for me warms me to the core of my heart. Why did I never do this for my children? How will they remember my love for them without the sounds of kurinji to give it context and meaning? Ah the ties of love and devotion and music, all mixed in one!!! My son, who recently started learning to play the Veena, told me today that he dreamt my (late) mother was happy to know he learns Carnatic Music. So maybe he too will play kurinji one day and remember my love for him, for this music, for my mother and for my Goddess. To know a bit more about this raga, click here.

In memory of my mother, I have chosen a rendition by the great M.S.Subbulakshmi, whose voice used to echo in my childhood home.



Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Telugu

As I do not speak the language; below are the lyrics in devanagri script.

क्षीराब्धि कन्यकक्कु श्री महालक्ष्मिकिनि  |
नीरजालयक्कुनु नीराजनम् ||

जलजाक्षी मोमुनकु जक्कव कुचम्बुलकु |
नेलकोन्न कप्पुरप्पु नीराजनम् ||

अळिवेणि तुरुमुनकु हस्तकमलम्बुलकु |
निलुवु माणिक्यमुल नीराजनम् ||

पगटु श्री वेङ्कटेशु पट्टपुराणियै |
नेगडु सतिकळलक्कुनु  नीराजनम् ||

जगति अलमेलु मङ्ग त्सक्कदनमुलकेल्ल  |
निगुडु निज शोभनप्पु नीराजनम् ||


kshIrAbdhi kanyakakku shrI mahAlakshmikini
nIrajAlayakkunu nIrAjanam

jalajAkshi mOmunaku  jakkava kuchambulaku
nelakonna kappurappu nIrAjanam

aLivENi turumunaku hasta kamalambulaku
niluvu mANikyamula nIrAjanam

pagaTu SrI vENkaTEshu paTTapu rANIyai
negaDu sati kaLalakkunu neerAjanam

jagati alamElu manga tsakkadanamulakella
negaDu nija shObhanapu neerAjanam


Note: Sourced from various internet sites, not authenticated

note: Neerajanam = waving a light in front of an idol as an aarati to honour the God or Goddess.

Neerajanam to the daughter of the milky ocean, Shri Mahalakshmi, whose abode is a lotus.

Neerajanam with camphor to the lady with eyes like lotus petals and firm breasts.

Neerajanam with gems to the lady with hair thick as a swarm of dragonflies and with lotus-like hands.

Neerajanam to the  queen of the handsome Shri Venkatesha, She who is full of good qualities.



Filed under Annamacharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.S.Subbulakshmi

Bhavayami Gopala Balam

Krishna BabyThe tradition of worshipping Krishna as a Bala Krishna or Bala Gopala (child Krishna) is an old one. There is evidence as early as 4th BC of this. The stories of his Leelas or miraculous play are widely known throughout India. In contrast to Rama, the previous avatar of Vishnu, who always followed rules and regulations, Krishna’s Leelas describe someone who broke many rules. While Rama’s life is about obligation, Krishna’s life is about play and delight.

I believe that the stories of Krishna’s play have deep symbolic meaning. For example, his love for butter symbolises God’s love for a pure and unsullied heart. His leela of duplicating himself for all the gopikas symbolises the multiplicity of God who is with every soul though he is One. Even keeping aside the symbolism, the endearing nature of the leelas allow us to bring forth the purest form of love that we human beings know – the love of a parent towards his/her small child – and allow us to transform that love into a love for the divine.

Today’s composition is by Annamacharya, set to Raga Yamuna Kalyani  by Kayanallur Venkataraman. The poet says ‘I meditate on the cowherd child’ and describes the beguiling form of the child who is ‘Glorious in a girdle inlaid with precious stones and small bells tied to his waist which rings with a multitude of sounds’. On listening to the song, my mind if filled with the image of my children as babies and these become indistinguishable from the image of baby Krishna as I am overwhelmed by the love for both Krishna and my children. To know more about this raga, click here.

One cannot think of this song without thinking of M.S.Subbulakshmi who had made this her own. However today I present a beautiful performance by Ranjani & Gayatri, the sisters with voices which synchronise so perfectly.

Alternate link : Click here.

For an instrumental version, listen below to Kanyakumari whose skills on the violin are truly impressive.

Alternate link : Click here.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

भावयामि गोपाल बालम्  मनः सेवितं
तत्पदं चिन्तयेयं सदा

कटि घटित मेखला खचित मणि घण्टिका
पटल निनदेन विभ्राजमानं
कुटिल पद घटित सङ्कुल शिञ्जिते नतं
चटुल नटना समुज्ज्वल विलासं

निरत कर कलित नवनीतं ब्रह्मादि
सुर निकर भावना शोंभित पदं
तिरुवेङ्कटाचल स्थितं अनुपमं हरिं
परम पुरुषं गोपाल बालम्

English Transliteration

bhAvayAmi gopAlabAlaM manaH sevitam
tatpadaM cintayeyaM sadA

kaTi ghaTita mekhalA khacita maNi ghaNTikA
paTala ninadena vibhrAjamAnam
kuTila pada ghaTita saMkula shinjite natam
caTula naTanA samujjvala vilAsam || 1 ||

nirata kara kalita navanItaM brahmAdi
sura nikara bhAvanA shobhita padam
tiruveNkaTAcala sthitaM anupamaM harim
parama puru.saM gopAlabAlam || 2 ||


I meditate upon (bhAvayAmi) the cowherd (gopAla) boy (bAlam) on whose feet ((tatpadam) my mind (manah) dwells (chintaYeyam)
always (sadA)

Glorious (vibhrAjamAnam) in a girdle (mekhala) inlaid (khachita) with precious stones (maNi) and small bells (ghaNtikA) tied to his waist (kati) which rings  with a multitude (patala) of sounds ((ninadEna)

With radiant (samujjwala) and lovable ((chaTula) appearance (vilAsam) while dancing (naTana), inclined (natam) with (sangkula) his curved (kuTita) pada (feet) tinkling (shinjita).

Hand (kara) engaged in (nirata) kalita (providing) butter (navanIta), feet (padam) made beautiful (shobhita) by the feelings (bhAvanA) of multitude (nikara) of gods (sura) like Brahma etc (brahmAdi)

Living (sthitam) in the hill (achala) of tiru (sacred in Tamil) vengkata, incomparable (anupam) Hari, supreme being (parama purusham), the cowherd boy (gopala bAlam)



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Kadayanallur Venkataraman, Kanyakumari, Ranjani Gayatri

Sriman Narayana

Narayana (Vishnu) was the family God for my parents, our kula daivam, and His presence was always felt at home. ‘Narayana’ my father would say every time he sneezed or coughed. Or when he was tired. Or when he just wanted to exclaim.  कौसल्या सुप्रजा रामा पूर्वा संध्या प्रवर्तते M.S.Subbulakshmi’s voice would boom out early every weekend, singing Venkatesha Suprabhatam, the holy chant to wake Narayana. Morning did not start really without this music.

Thanks to this childhood conditioning, I associate Narayana with mornings and naturally this beautiful composition in the morning raga Bauli strikes a chord. To know more about the raga, click here. When I play Sriman Narayana by Annamacharya (1408-1503), it blows in the gentle breeze of days past long ago in the safe haven of my family home. The composition is in Telugu, click here for the lyrics, notation and translation.

Who else to present today but M.S.Subbulakshmi (1916-2004), the voice of Suprabhatam, one of the most respected Carnatic Music exponents we have had the privilege to co-exist in this world with.

While on this raga, I cannot but mention the ecstatic Brahmam Okate by the same composer, Annamacharya. As a great bhakta of Narayana, he composed many songs on Him. In Brahmam Okate, he declares that there is only one God, that He is present in each one of us, that everyone is equal. A 15th century composition which feels as meaningful today as it was then.  For the lyrics and meaning of this song, click here. I present this joyful song from the Telugu movie Annamayya (1997) sung by S.P.Balasubramaniam (unconfirmed).


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Filed under Annamacharya, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.S.Subbulakshmi