Tag Archives: Maharajapuram Santhanam

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

Pariyachakama

Are my words ridiculous ? Is my public extolling of you ridiculous? If I see you always out of fear, out of doubt and out of grief, asking you for refuge, O Protector of those who seek your refuge, am I being ridiculous?

PersonasPersonas & Masks. Are you wondering how I have come upon this rather unlikely topic for Carnatic Music? Well, I was listening to this beautiful kriti by Tyagaraja in which he asks of his God  ‘Are you ridiculing me?’ and it struck me that prayer is something that strips us of all our masks, doesn’t it?

Saints or sinners, we will all admit to putting on one or more personas to get through life. Our work persona is quite different from our home persona which may again be different to our social persona. In fact, the Latin word persona means mask. Part of the need for masks is in response to society’s demands  that we are seen to be ‘normal’, ‘cultured’, ‘business like’, ‘civilized’, etc. Part of it is our own deep-seated insecurities and shortcomings.  Can we ever be our true selves even in front of our closest friends or family? I reckon not. Are we our true selves even in front of the mirror? Not always. There will always be some barrier, some veil behind which we hide.

Every now and then, when in deep grief and great fear, and especially in prayer, the veil drops and we are revealed for what or who we are. Even Meera sang once, साजि सिंगार बांधि पग घुंघरू लोक-लाज तजि नाची  ‘dressing up, tying bells on my feet, I danced without embarrassment (shame)’. She had let her veil drop, physically and metaphorically, in her quest for God. Society mocked her then but reveres her now.

In Tyagaraja’s composition today, he is aware of having dropped the mask but is still uncertain about how he will be perceived, not by society but by God.  ‘Are you ridiculing me?’ asks Tyagaraja to his Lord Rama. ‘Is my public extolling of you ridiculous?’.  There he is, singing song after song, laying his heart at the feet of God for all to see, what if he was just making himself an object of ridicule? ‘If out of fear, out of doubt or out of grief, seeking you if I ask for refuge, will you mock me?’ says Tyagaraja. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

I am very fond of this lovely composition, especially on the violin. But first listen to  the majestic voice of the Maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam.

For an instrumental, I will pick my favourite instrument-the violin, by my favourite Maestro, Lalgudi Jayaraman. I have also excellent renditions by Kanyakumari and a masterly performance on the Veena by Jayanthi Kumaresh which I enjoy very much.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

As I do not speak Telugu, the song is transcribed in Devanagari script. Lyrics are from multiple internet sources, aurally verified.

पल्लवि
परियाचकमा माट पदि गुरिलो पॊगडिनदि

अनुपल्लवि
वॆरपुननुमानम्बुन वॆसनम्बुन ने कोरि
शरणागत रक्षक निन्नु सन्ततमुनु शरणानग

चरणं
ऒक मुनिकै द्रौपदि द्वारक निलया शरणानग
ऒक माटकु विभीषणुडु ओर्व लेक शरणानग
सकलेश्वर प्रह्लादुडु  जालिचे  शरणानग
हित करुणडै ब्रोचितिवे त्यागराजुनि माट

Transliteration

pallavi
pariyAchakamA mATa padi gurilO pogaDinadi

anupallavi
verapunanumAnambuna vesanambuna nE kOri
sharaNAgata rakshaka ninnu santatamunu sharaNAnaga

charaNam
oka munikai draupadi dwAraka nilayA sharaNAnaga
oka mATaku vibhIshaNuDu Orva lEka sharaNAnaga
sakalEshwara prahlAduDu jAlichE sharaNAnaga
hita karuNaDai brOchitivE tyAgarAjuni mATa

Translation

(based on internet sources)

pallavi
Are my words ridiculous ? Is my public extolling of you ridiculous?

anupallavi
Out of fear, out of doubt and out of grief, seeking you always, if I say ‘give me refuge’ O Protector of those who seek your refuge, am I being ridiculous?

charanam

When Draupadi, fearing Durvasa, said ‘O resident of Dwaraka, give me refuge’, when Vibhishana, unable to bear the harsh words (implied, of Ravana his brother), said ‘Give me refuge’,  when Prahlada, out of grief, said ‘Give me refuge’, did you not benevolently protect them? If so, are the words of this Tyagaraja ridiculous?

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja

Durmarga Chara

TyagarajaHow many of us have sold out on our principles for surviving or progressing at work? or in life? I admit having much to be shamed of in this respect. I am ashamed to remember not having demurred when colleagues at work have chosen an unacceptable short-cut. I am ashamed to remember being silent in social or family situations for fear of conflict. I am ashamed to remember bowing my head to people unworthy of being bowed to.  I am ashamed, yes. Yet I view my behaviour as being ‘practical’. I suspect that I am not alone in either having such secret stories of shame or in defending such action as being pragmatic.

It is my song choice of today, Durmarga Chara by Tyagaraja (1767-1847), which has set me thinking about ideology and practice. Is it true that while we ordinary mortals cede to such practicalities of life, the great ones do not do so? Is that what sets them apart, I wonder? Today’s song does speak of devotion, but it is more to do with the poet than the God he worships, and as such rather an unusual piece of poetry for Carnatic Music. So it interests me, this rare glimpse into the uncompromising mind-set of Tyagaraja.

Tyagaraja refused to acknowledge any man as his Lord, reserving that title for God alone. It is said that in 1802 King Sarabhoji sent for Tyagaraja after hearing of his musical prowess. In those days musicians performed in court singing in praise of the King in return for royal gifts of gold and land. Tyagaraja  refused the invitation saying that he was already singing in the court of his Lord Rama and would not sing for any mortal. Takes a bit of courage to stand up to a king like that!

Durmarga Chara is set to the very enjoyable raga Ranjani. ‘I cannot call those wicked people who tread the path of vice as my Lord’ says Tyagarja. He acknowledges only God as the provider of grain and wealth. ‘I cannot praise those vile people who barter their knowledge (for wealth) and offer it to degenerate men at court’.  For lyrics and translation, see footnote. To know more about this raga, click here.

After listening to thirty odd renditions, I could not go past Maharajapuram Santhanam’s excellent one from 1981. As it is quite long, I have divided it into two sections, the alapanai and the kriti; those with limited time have the option to listen only to the latter.

For an instrumental one, I have chosen below an expert performance by M.S.Gopalakrishnan with his daughter Dr.M.Narmadha.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu, transcribed below in  Devanagari script.

पल्लवि
दुर्मार्ग चराधमुलनु दॊर नीवन जालरा

अनुपल्लवि
धर्मात्मक धन धान्यमु  दैवमु नीवै उण्डग

चरणं
पलुकु बोटिनि सभलोन पतित मानवुल कोसगे
खलुल नॆच्चट पॊगडनि श्रीकर त्यागराज विनुत / वन्दित

Transliteration :

pallavi
durmArga charAdhamulanu dora nIvana jAlarA

anupallavi
dharmAtmaka dhana dhAnyamu daivamu nIvai uNDaga

charaNam
paluku bOTini sabhalOna patita mAvanavula kOsagE
khalula nechchaTa pogaDani shrIkara tyAgarAja vinuta / vandita

Translation :

I cannot call those wicked people who tread the path of vice as my Lord.

O embodiment of virtue! As you are the dispenser of wealth and food (I cannot call….)

I cannot praise those vile people who barter their knowledge (for wealth) and offer it to degenerate men at court. Tyagaraja praised you who are the provider of prosperity.

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, M.Narmadha, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Tyagaraja

Paal Vadiyum Mugam

Krishna Baby2God is in everything. So say Hindu philosophers.  तत् त्वं असि – Thou art that, they say with great conviction. Poets have sung of this. सर्वं ब्रह्ममयं – everything is infused by God sang Sadashiva Brahmendra with even more conviction. Kabir has written that God is within each of us. जैसे तिल में तेल है, ज्यूं चकमक में आग , तेरा साईं तुझमे है, तू जाग सके तो जाग – Like there is oil inside the sesame seed, like there is fire within the flint stone, your God is within you, awake if you can wake. So if we look around us, we should see God in all and the great universality of everything in us and us in everything, right?

Easier said than done! I often wonder, how did the Saints do it? Is it like looking at the clouds and seeing shapes within? We look at the world around us and look for the shape of God to emerge? It seems doable with nature at times. When I see the beauty of great mountains, the sheer magnitude of the Niagara, the power of a thunderstorm – I can convince myself that I can see the hand of God.

It is even feasible to feel at one with inanimate things.  I sometimes confront the potato that I am chopping for dinner with a statement such as ‘what you call ‘I’ today, will soon be part of me, my body. You and I are one’. I am even known to declaim to the glass of water before I drink it ‘You were ocean, you were cloud, you were rain, you were other beings, and now you shall be me!’. And no, to those who are curious about the state of my sanity, neither the potato nor the glass of water have replied so far! So the inanimate, that I can do. But to see myself or God in all beings? Even in that idiot who took two parking places to park his tiny car so that I had to go in circles trying to find a spot? Is it possible? How did the Saints do it?

So it is with great interest that I pored over Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer’s song in which he says he sees Krishna everywhere. He writes ‘Whenever I see anything my thoughts go nowhere except your innocent face’. He provides examples : ‘When sometimes I am drawn to look at the line of the horizon, your tranquil face comes to mind!’ and ‘ Even when I find meaning in the song of a cuckoo, the music of your flute enchants me!’. So if I understand correctly, whatever he does, his mind and thoughts keep being drawn towards Krishna. He is not attesting to the fact that he sees Krishna everywhere, but to the fact that he himself can think of no other than Krishna. Is that the way then?

I will let you ponder the question if it interests you. For me, I will just take pleasure in this beautiful song, enjoying the enchanting and evocative images drawn by the poet-composer and marvelling at its foot-tapping brisk melody. Oh how I remember my mother today! She used to sing this song happily to herself while pottering busily in the kitchen. So it is my dearest mother I hear in this song, not the flute of Krishna! Set to raga Nattakurinji, this is a perennial favourite. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I  have chosen a rendition by the great Maharajapuram Santhanam.

For an instrumental version, listen to this interesting Veena rendition by R.Jayanthi with a flute interlude as well as solkattu (vocal percussion) in places.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

பல்லவி
பால்வடியும் முகம்
நினைந்து நினைந்தென் உள்ளம்
பரவச மிக வாகுதே (கண்ணா)

அனுபல்லவி
நீலக்கடல் போலும் நிறத்தழகா -கண்ணா
எந்தன் நெஞ்சம் குடி கொண்டு
அன்று முதல் இன்றும்
எந்த பொருள் கண்டும்
சிந்தனை    செல்லாதொழிய (பால்வடியும்)

சரணம்
வான முகட்டில் சட்று
மனம் வந்து நோக்கினும்
(உன்) மோன முகம் வந்து தோனுதே

தெளிவான தண்ணீர் தடத்தில்
சிந்தனை மாறினும்
(உன்) சிரித்த முகம் வந்து காணுதே

கானக் குயில் குரலில்
கருத்(து) அமைந்திடினும் (அங்கு)
உன் கான குழலோசை மயக்குதே

கருத்த குழலொடு நிறுத்த மயிலிற-
கிறுக்கி அமைத்த திறத்திலே
கான மயிலாடும் மோனக்குயில் பாடும்
நீல நதியோடும் வனத்திலே

குழல் முதல் எழிலிசை குழைய வரும் இசையில்
குழலொடு மிளிர் இளங் கரத்திலே
கதிரும் மதியும் என நயன விழிகள் இரு
நளினமான சலனத்திலே

காளிங்கன் சிரத்திலே
கதித்த  பதத்திலே
என் மனத்தை இருத்திக்
கனவு நினைவினோடு
பிறவி பிறவி தோறும்
கனிந்துருக வரம் தருக பரம் கருணை (பால்வடியும்)

Transliteration

Pallavi
pAl vaDiyum mugam
ninaindu ninainden uLLam
paravasa migavAgudE (kaNNA)

Anupallavi
nIlakaDal pOlum niRattazhgA – kaNNA
endan nenjam kuDi konDu
andRu mudal indRum
enda poRul kanDum
sindanai sellAdozhiya

Charanam
vAna mugaTTil chatRu
manam vandu nOkkinum
(un) mOna mugam vandu tonudE

teLivAna taNNIr taDattil
sindanai mARinum
(un) siritta mugam vandu kANudE

gAnak kuyil kuralil
karuttamaindiDinum
(un) gAna kuzhalOsai mayakkudE

karutta kuzhalodu niRutta mayiliRagiRukki amaitta tiRattilE
gAna mayilADum mOnakkuyil pADum nIla nadiyOdum vanattilE

kuzhal mudal ezhilisai kuzhaiya varum isaiyil
kuzhlodu miLir iLang-karattilE
kadirum madiyum ena nayana vizhigal iru
naLinamAna salanattilE

kaLinga sirattilE
kaditta padittilE
en manattai iruttik
kanavu ninaivinodu
piRavi piRavi tORum
kaninduruga varam taruga param karuNai

Translation

Note: I struggled over the translation of some bits and am not myself convinced that I have it right, my apologies.

Immersed in the thought of that innocent face, my heart  reaches heights of ecstasy!

You, who are beautiful with skin the colour  of the  blue  ocean, have taken residence  in my heart from  that day to this day. Whenever I see  anything my thoughts go nowhere  except  (your innocent face).

When sometimes I am drawn to look at the line of the horizon, your tranquil face comes to mind! When my thoughts change at a track of clear still water, your smiling face appears before me! Even when I find meaning in the song of a cuckoo, the music of your flute enchants me!

In the expertise with which the dark flute with a peacock feather stopper is made, in the forest where the peacock dances, the cuckoo sings and a blue river runs,

In the glint/flash of the flute held in young hands from which meltingly exquisite music comes, in the flashing movement of your two eyes,

In the fast-moving feet on the head of the snake Kalinga, you still my mind. With the greatest of compassion, please give me the boon that in birth after birth I should melt (for you) with my dreams and memories intact.

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer, R.Jayanthi

Two Thillanas in Misra Shivaranjani

Those who have been following my posts know that I have been haunted by Shivaranjani this week. I am still not ready to move on, so here are two Thillanas in this raga of pathos. These are compositions of two musicians I admire tremendously. For those unfamiliar with Carnatic Music, a Thillana is a form of composition, very rhythmic in nature and well suited to classical dancing.

Lalgudi2Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930) is my first love and probably will remain my last. This is an enchantment which has lasted a lifetime. I strongly believe that his music comes as close to Divine as music can.  I have always imagined his music to be like a channel, a wormhole in spacetime, which allows the listener to travel from this mortal world to other mysterious and heavenly places. Playing concerts from when he was just 12 years old (he is 81 this year), his life has been dedicated to music. He says ‘I am nothing without Music. Even in all my future births I want to be born only as a musican’ (quote).  I pray that I am born wherever he is and get to keep enjoying his music.

SanthanamMaharajapuram Santhanam (1928-1992) was blessed with a voice which would make anyone pause and take note. In the mid-seventies, when he came to Delhi for a concert, he stayed in our friend and neighbour’s home. I remember sitting in their living room, listening to him practice and sing to the family.  He was a man with an impressive girth and a larger-than-life presence. His voice had such resonating force and beauty that it left an indelible impression in me. A truly amazing artist. I remember attending his concert that evening as if it were just yesterday. The magic of his voice lends strength to these memories from long ago.

Both these amazing musicians have composed Thillanas in  Misra Shivaranjani (click here for more on this raga). Today I present you these Thillanas performed by the maestros themselves.

First listen to Lalgudi Jayaraman’s rare recording of a life performance of his own composition with  his son G.J.R.Krishnan, starting from 22:20.

Was that not exquisite? I wept when I heard it first; I still find it heartrendingly beautiful. For the pallavi and its translation, see footnote.

Don’t miss listening to this vocal version by Bombay Jayashri, whose voice, I think, is closest to the lyrical sounds of her Guru’s strings. She is quite outstanding, do listen:

Alternate link : Click here

Now listen to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s performance of his own composition with (I think) his son Maharajapuram Ramachandran.

Alternate link.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

The Lalgudi Thillana has a lyrical pallavi which perfectly mirrors the mood of the raga.

மானைத் தேடி வந்த தேனை உண்டு வள்ளி மானை மணந்த மயில் வாகனா நானோ நின்னை (?நினை?) எண்ணி நாளும் ஏங்கி வாட ஏனோ இன்னும் என்மேல் இந்த பராமுகம்

mAnait-tEDi vanda tEnai uNDu vaLLi mAnai maNanda mayil vAhanA nAnO ninnai (?ninai?) eNNi nALum Engi vADa EnO innum enmEl inda parAmugam

O Rider of the peacock who came searching for a deer, ate some honey and married the deer like Valli! As for me, I languish thinking of you all day, why do you still neglect me?

The Maharajapuram Santhanam Thillana is beautifully rhythmic and the alliteration of ‘va’ in the first line is very pleasing.

வா வேலவா வடி வேலவா மயில் மீது நீ வா குமரா வா வரம் அருள வா தாமதம் ஏன் தயை புரிய தருணம் இது  மகராஜன் பணிந்திடும் மயில் வாகனா

vA vElavA vaDi vElavA mayil mIdu nI vA kumarA vA varam aruLa vA tAmadam En dayai puriya taruNam idu maharAjan paNindiDum mayil vAhanA

Come O spear-holder! One whose spear is sharp! Come on a peacock! O Kumara, come to grant me boons! Why the delay? This is the time to show compassion! O Peacock-rider who who is venerated by Maharajan (signature of poet).  

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam

Maha Ganapathim

I meditate upon the supreme Ganapati who is worshipped by Vasishta, the Vamadevas, etc. He is the son of Lord Shiva, is praised by Guruguha. He shines bright like millions of cupids. He is tranquil. He loves great poetry, drama, etc. He loves the sweet Modaka. His mount is a mouse.

Ganesh

Happy Vinayaka Chaturthi to all ! Today is the most important day for the worshippers of Vinayaka, also known as Ganapathi, Ganesha, Vigneshwara etc. The beloved elephant headed God is worshipped all-over India but is especially beloved to the people of Maharashtra and South India. An ancient God, there are indications that He was worshipped as early as in 1200 BC.

वक्रकुण्ड महाकाय कोटि सूर्य समप्रभ |
निर्विघ्नं कुरु म देव शुभ कार्येषु सर्वदा ||

Thus I pray every morning :
“You of the twisted trunk and massive body with the dazzle of millions of suns, Lead me Lord on a path that has no obstacles or hindrances in all my good endeavours”.

Ganapathi is worshipped in 32 different forms such as Bala Ganapathi (child God), Veera Ganapathi (Warrior God), Siddhi Ganapathi (God of Achievement) etc. My personal favourite, given my love of music and dance, is Nritya Ganapathi (the Dancing God), whose picture adorns today’s post. Much as the rotund form of Ganesha is beloved to us, today we should look beyond the obvious into the symbolism of this form.

  • His large and rounded body denotes the entire universe. He is the embodiment of all.
  • The Elephant, which is a vegetarian and doesn’t kill to eat, signifies gentle strength. An elephant also responds to love and affection as God will respond to our love.
  • The large head symbolises wisdom. The large ears sift truths from untruths.
  • The curved trunk denotes the primal sound, the mystic OM. This symbol in Sanskrit ॐ resembles an elephant and his trunk; the Tamil ஓ resembles the head and trunk.
  • The trunk also is a symbol of discrimination – the same trunk has the strength to pull up a tree or pick delicately at the smallest of things.
  • The great stomach symbolises that Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the universe and protects the world.
  • The mouse which is underfoot symbolises the petty desires and ego of man which needs to be vanquished.
  • Ganesha is shown to hold different items in his hands, about 40 different ones being common. Each represents an attribute. In the picture above, one hand in the Abhaya pose says ‘Don’t fear, I am here’.
  • A hand holds the double headed axe to symbolise his destruction of impediments and evil.
  • A hand holds the lotus flower, which indicates purity as the flower grows unsullied even in the dirtiest of ponds.
  • The fourth hand holds Modaks, the sweet dear to Him. Today thousands of worshippers will offer these sweets to their dear deity. Modakam in Sanskrit means that which gives joy and pleasure (Moda); just as this sweet gives us joy, Ganesh too blesses us with joy.

In honour of Ganapathi, I present the short invocation Maha Ganapathim Manasa Smarami (I meditate on the great Ganapathi) written by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) and set to raga Natta (to know more about this raga, click here). This familiar and well-loved song is very often sung at the start of Carnatic Music concerts, as all good tasks should be started by invoking His name.

To present this song, let us start with the gentle voice of Yesudas singing in the film Sindhu Bhairavi.

For an instrumental version, listen to U.Srinivas on the Mandolin here .

Lastly, listen to this vocal version by the Maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam :

Which one do you like best?


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
महा गणपतिं  मनसा स्मरामि
वसिष्ट वामदेवादि वन्दित ||

समष्टिचरणं
महादेवसुतं गुरुगुहनुतं
मार कोटि प्रकाशं शान्तं
महाकाव्य नाटकादि प्रियं
मूषिक वाहन मोदक प्रियं

A notation is available in this site.

Transliteration

pallavi
mahA gaNapatim manasA smarAmi
vasishTa vAmadEvAdi vandita

samashticharanam
mahA dEva sutam guruguha nutam
mAra kOTi prakAsham shAntam
mahA kAvya nATakAdi priyam
mUshika vAhana mOdaka priyam

Translation

I meditate (smarAmi) on the supreme (mahA) Ganapati who is worshipped (vandita) by Vasishta, the Vamadevas, etc (Adi). He, the son (sutam) of Lord Shiva (mahAdEvA), is praised (nutam) by Guruguha. He shines bright (prakAsham) like millions (kOti) of cupids (mAra). He is tranquil (shAntam). He loves (priyam) great poetry (mahA kAvya), drama (nAtaka), etc (Adi). He loves (priyam) the sweet Modaka. His mount (vAhanam) is a mouse (mUshika).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Muthuswami Dikshithar, U.Srinivas

Bho Shambho

Sunday mornings my mother would hurry us up to get ready, my sister and I, to take us to the Chinmaya Mission classes. It was our equivalent of Sunday School. There we would hear stories from Hindu sacred texts,  memorize portions of  the Bhagawat Geeta  and learn other Shlokas.

सर्वे सुखिनो भवन्तु |
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ||
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु |
मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग् भवेत् ||
ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः ||

Let everyone be happy
Let everyone be without disease
Let everyone bear witness to good events
Let no-one have a share of sadness
Om Peace, Peace, Peace!!

What a good prayer! Those Vedic seers had vision – how can individual well-being stand on the shoulders of collective misery? Let us indeed pray for universal good!

What I learnt at 8, I still chant today. What has all this to do with the song ‘Bho Shambho’ ? Just that the song was written by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1930), a teacher of Vedanta, who had his roots in the Chinmaya Mission.  Subsequently, he founded the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and is to this day connected with this institution. Just as I learnt shlokas from the Chinmaya Mission, there are many young people learning Vedanta from his institutes today. I am so glad our ancient heritage continues to be taught.

His bhajans (devotional songs) have been sung and popularised by the Carnatic music maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam. I have always held a deep affection for the Maestro’s wonderful voice. Bho Shambho is set to the raga Revati (click here to know more about the raga) , a raga which always reduces me to tears and deep longing for I don’t even know what. Click below to listen :

Alternate link: Click here

For lyrics and meaning, see footnote.

There is a visual treat to follow : I present below a beautiful Bharatanatyam dance performance to this song by Croatian dancer Nikolina Nikoleski, student of Dr.Saroja Vaidyanathan. Her movements and postures bring to life this dance of Shiva, He who is the eternal dancer.


Footnote (Lyrics):

I have transcribed them in Sanskrit with an attempt at an accurate translation.

भो शम्भो शिव शम्भो स्वयंभो (= भु शम्भु शिव शम्भु स्वयम्भु )
bhO shambhO shiva shambhO svayambhO
being from whom all grace happens, Shiva, self-born
गङ्गाधर शंकर करुणाकर मामव भवसागर तारक
gangAdhara shankara karuNAkara mAmava bhavasAgar tAraka
source of the Ganges, the one who blesses (prefix शम् verb कृ ), he who is compassionate,  the boatman to cross the ocean of worldly existence
निर्गुण परब्रम्ह स्वरूप गमागम भूत प्रपन्च रहित
nirguNa parabramha swarUpa gamAgama bhUta prapancha rahita
supreme being who is attribute-less, who is beyond the past, present, the future and this world of five senses/five elements
निज गुह निहित नितान्त अनन्त आनन्द अतिशय अक्षय लिङ्ग
nija guha nihita nitAnta ananta Ananda atishaya akshaya linga
lives in depths of my heart yet in absolute infinity, blissful, unmatched, an eternal symbol
धिमित धिमित धिमि धिमिकिट किटतोम
dhimita dhimita dhimi dhimikiTa kiTatOm
rhythmic sounds of dance
तोम तोम तरिकिट तरिकिट किटतोम
tom tom tarikiTa tarikitA kiTatom
rhythmic sounds of dance
मतङ्ग मुनिवर वन्दित ईश
matanga munivara vandita Isha
Lord who is worshipped by the sage Matanga  (Matanga wrote a treatise on Indian music circa 6AD)
सर्व दिगम्बर वेष्टित वेष
sarva digambara vEshTita vEsha
he who is clothed in ‘sky’ = naked
नित्य निरञ्जन नित्य नटेश
nitya niranjana nitya naTesha
the one who is eternal, the cosmic dancer
ईश सबेष सर्वेश
Isha sabEsha sarvEsha
Lord, Lord of the stage, the Lord of the world

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Swami Dayanand Saraswati