Tag Archives: M.Balamuralikrishna


Pancha BhootaToday’s lovely and deeply spiritual piece of music is Tyagaraja’s kriti in the mystical Raga Vagadeeshwari. I can imagine that he must have been in a meditative and blissful mood when he wrote this music as it draws us into a deeply contemplative state.

What an unusual composition this is! Instead of referring to any particular deity, Tyagaraja sings of the Supreme Consciousness (Nirguna Brahman).  He says ‘Know the grandeur with which the Supreme Lord is luminescent in Vishnu, Shiva, the celestials, men, millions of universes’ and goes on to point that the same Supreme Entity brilliantly shines in ‘animals, birds, mountains, trees which are made up of the five elements’.  This is not a song of prayer, but a song of affirmation from one who has seen and has known.

Following from Tyagaraja’s mention of the पञ्च भूत  (Pancha Bhoota) or the five elements decreed by the Vedic seers, I will dwell a bit on its significance. The Vedic sages nominated पृथिवी  (Earth), अप् (Water), वायु (Gas), तेजस् (Vital Power/Energy also Fire), आकाश (Vacuity, Ether, Absolute Brahman ब्रह्म) as the basic elements which make up this world. Three of these are in fact common with ancient Chinese thinking as well. My interpretation is that the first three represent all matter as they exist in one of the three states – Solids, Liquids or Gas. तेजस् (Energy/Fire) represents Energy which we know can convert to and be converted from Matter. This also represents Life Force; except for that, the first four Bhootas are governed by Physics. The fifth, आकाश represents Absolute Consciousness or ब्रह्म.

I recently read another non-traditional interpretation where the author equates the Pancha Bhootas as  Space (Akaasha), Planck’s energy (Vaayu), Newtonian energy (Agni), elemental atom (Jalam), and molecule and molecular aggregate (Prithvi). (Reference) Yet another interpretation is described here. Whatever the interpretation, the five Vedic elements cover both the physical and metaphysical world.

Coming back to our song of today, Tyagaraja brings our attention to the Brahman, the Absolute Consciousness, which shines out of all beings in the Universe (or multiple Universes). And in doing that, focuses our thoughts on how we all are part of the One. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. To read a bit more about this raga, click here.

Though I have heard so many singers perform this song, I find it difficult to get past the  great Maestro Balamurali Krishna. Here’s his rendition from the CD Tyagaraja Tattvabodha Kritis.

You can find here the full performance including the Raga Alapanai.

For an instrumental version, listen to the young and very talented Akkarai Subhalakshmi on the violin.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

परमात्मुडु वॆलिगे मुच्चट बाग तॆलुसुकोरे

हरियट हरुडट सुरुलट नरुलट
अखिलाण्ड कोटुलट अन्दरिलो (परमात्मुडु)

गगनानिल तेजो जल भूमयमगु
मृग खग नग तरु कोटुललो
सगुणमुलो विगुणमुलो सततमु
साधु त्यागराजादि आश्रितुललो (परमात्मुडु)

Translation :

Know unerringly the grandeur with which the Supreme Lord shines through!

In all and as all of Lord Vishnu, Lord Siva, celestials, men, entire millions of universes (the Supreme Lord is resplendent).

In millions of  animals, birds, mountains and trees which are made up of space, air, fire, water and earth, in the describable and the indescribable (the Supreme Lord is resplendent). And in this the good Tyagaraja and others have sought refuge.

For lyrics in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and word by word meaning, click here.



Filed under Akkarai Subhalakshmi, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Balamuralikrishna, Tyagaraja



Today, on the second day of Navaratri, I pay homage to Bhuvaneshvari, Supreme Goddess of the universe. I invoke the mystical mantra ह्रीं  (Hreem) which is her Bija Mantra.

How can a music blogger not acknowledge the power of sounds? Vedic thinking says that sounds have inherent strength and meaning, irrespective of the person who utters them. Mantras are such sacred sounds, with the power to transform, to shape, to influence. Mantras can be long or short, a detailed recital of qualities, a prayer, a plea, or a simple syllable. The most important are called Bija Mantras (Seed Mantras) which are just single-syllable immensely powerful sounds which exert their influence through sound vibrations.  This idea is not limited to Hindu thought. The Christians believe that ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. That Word, that sound, we Hindus call Om. Who doesn’t know the power of the Bija Mantra ॐ (Om), also called the Pranava, which is the Bija Mantra for the supreme Brahman, the formless Supreme Being.

The other important Bija Mantras are those of Shakti, whom we worship during these days of Navaratri.  Dr. David Frawley says ‘Shakti Bija Mantras carry the great forces of Nature such as the energies of the Sun and Moon, electricity and magnetism, not simply as outer factors but as inner potentials of Divine light, love and wisdom. Shakti mantras hold, resonate, and propel the Kundalini force, the higher evolutionary power of consciousness, to flow within us’. For further information, read this.

The Mantra ह्रीं (Hreem) is the prime mantra of the Great Goddess and invokes all her powers.  This is associated with Solar energy and the power of illumination (real and metaphoric). It awakens our soul and connects us with the Divine. It has the power of removing mental illusions and makes us open to wisdom and truth.

To invoke this Mantra, I present a song written by the Maestro Balamurali Krishna in a raga of his making, Lavangi. This raga is especially interesting because there are only four notes used (see footnote). The composition is small but powerful, just like a Bija Mantra. In the anupallavi, he refers to the Goddess as the form of Hreem(हृन्कार रूपिणी).

ओमकार आकारिणी मदहंकार वारिणी अवतुमां
हुंकार मात्र शत्रु दमनी हृन्कार रूपिणी रुद्राणी
मुरली सुधा लहरि विहारी
पुररिपु प्रेमित त्रिपुर सुन्दरी
करुणा रस भरित ललित लवङ्गी
वरदा अभयदा सकल शुभाङ्गी

For transliterated lyrics, see here.

Listen to the Maestro singing his own composition below. It is amazing what he can do with only four notes!

For those who have fallen in love with this song, here is a finer recording by the Maestro himself :

Footnote (Raga) :

The scales of Raga Lavangi are as follows :

Aarohanam: S R1 M1 D1 S’
Avarohanam: S’ D1 M1 R1 S

1-1 Lavangi

Lavangi is a janya raga, derived from Kanakangi (see below), 1st on the Melakarta scale.

1 Kanakangi

There is an interesting lecture-demo in English on this song by Prince Rama Varma. He also sings the chittaswarams which I had not heard before.

Note : The 12 notes in the octave are named as below. Please note that C is used as Sa for the sake of simplicity as the scale is relative in Carnatic Music. Also note that the scales paint only a superficial picture of the raga as the gamakas(ornamentations) are a very important part of a raga.



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

Nagumomu Ganaleni

Lord KrishnaKnowing my sorry plight, can’t you save me?’ begs Tyagaraja. The words of desperate but oh so beautifully set to music! The angst moves the composer who moves the air such that they shower emotions through our eardrums vibrating just so…

I wonder, did Krishna remain unmoved to Tyagaraja’s pleas? Then He is indeed made of stone, like the idols we worship….…but no, I am wrong. Even stone would melt, so beautiful is the composition.

My memories of this song is from early childhood.  My parents would take me to Carnatic Music concerts in R.R.Sabha in Kolkata where, after sitting for 15 minutes, I would beg to be allowed to play on the porch of the concert hall where all the other young ones would join me soon. One could still hear the music as there were loudspeakers outside. When I was tired I would come back to sit in my mother’s lap or sleep on my father’s shoulders. Its in that sleepy state that this divine music entered my soul where it still rules. My mother’s favourite vocalist was the incomparable Maestro Balamuralikrishna and of the songs he sang, Nagumomu was one of her favourites. So magical was his voice that even a child interested in play stopped to listen. Today when I listen to him singing Nagumomu, I feel the pleasure of my mother’s arms around me.

Click here for lyrics and translation and here for the notation. To know more about this raga, click here.

Whom else can I present but Balamuralikrishna ? He is famous for his expressive rendition of this song. This version is from the album Paddhati by Charsur Digital Workstation. The music was recorded in Bangalore in 1968. This then is the voice I remember.

Alternate link (not the same album) : Click here

For an instrumental version, listen to the extremely talented flute Maestro Shashank.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Balamuralikrishna, Shashank, Tyagaraja, Uncategorized

Janani Ninnuvina

‘Please protect me!’ begs the poet-composer Subbaraya Shastri, ‘I have placed my trust in you, who else is there for me?’. Did the Mother Goddess listen to his entreaties? Listening to the beautiful composition in Raga Ritigowla, I think that even the hardest of hearts would melt at his words.

Subbaraya Shastri (1803-1862) was the son of Shyama Shastri and went on to become the disciple of Tyagaraja.  He also worked with Muthuswami Dikshithar, and thus was in the enviable position of having learnt from all the members of the Carnatic Trinity. He also learnt Hindustani music from Maratha musicians who lived in the South. He composed only 20 or so kritis but there are gems amongst them, such as Janani Ninnuvina. He was a great devotee of the Goddess and his bhakti bhava (devotional mood) is very evident in this slow and restful composition. When the body or spirit needs healing, this is the song I reach for.

For lyrics, notation and translation click here. To know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have chosen renditions by two Maestros whom I respect above all – Balamuralikrishna whose magnificent voice enhances any music and Lalgudi Jayaraman whose strings speak a lyricism which have enchanted me always. Sometimes well loved old ‘voices’ are the only ones which seem right.
Lalgudi Jayaraman

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M.Balamuralikrishna, Subbaraya Shastri

Music in Mythological Films

I admit it. Indian Mythological films are often made for the lowest common denominator. Their special effects aren’t in the least special. There is a fair bit of melodrama. I watched the excruciatingly slow-moving Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and though I looked askance at the amateurish way many things were represented, I never thought of giving up.  And recently, when I was sick in bed, I turned to a number of my childhood favourites in Tamil. I cannot be critical of them, even though in certain bits they deserved criticism. When I watch them, I am transported once more in childish delight. So what draws me (and others with the same affliction)? Is it the familiarity of stories learnt from childhood? Is it just our ‘Harry Potter’ – a world of magical powers? Is it a form of piety? No answers…

So to celebrate the power of Mythological films, I present the following song from one of the best in this genre, a beloved & iconic film for Tamil viewers:

Album : Thiruvilayadal (1965)

Music : K.V.Mahadevan

Lyrics : Kannadasan

Song : Pattum Nane Bhavamum Naane

Singer : T.M.Sounderarajan



Pattum Nane–T.M.Sounderarajan


Sivaji Ganesan’s performance in this song makes me understand exactly why he was so well admired.

Below is the equally beloved other song from the same film, sung superbly by Carnatic music stalwart Dr. Balamuralikrishna :

Oru Naal Poduma–Balamuralikrishna


If you want to watch this old Tamil favourite, you can do so here.


Filed under Bollywood 60's Music, Carnatic Music, M.Balamuralikrishna, T.M.Sounderarajan, Tamil Film Music