Tag Archives: Muthuswami Dikshithar

Hiranmayim Lakshmim


On this fifth day of Navaratri (Panchami), I continue to pay homage to Goddess Lakshmi. Those who pray to Goddess Lakshmi hope to be blessed with material wealth and prosperity. Even her image is shown as pouring gold from her hands. Here the poet-composer Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) describes Lakshmi herself as being golden (Hiranmayeeem); she is the gold that he aspires for. There is an interesting story behind this song.

One day, it is said, Dikshithar’s wife longingly asked for some golden jewellery. Dikshithar was not in the financial situation to provide these for his wife. One of his disciples suggested to Dikshithar that if he were to go to the court and sing in praise of the king, the king would give him enough to buy some jewellery for his wife. Dikshithar refused and said that he would sing only in praise of his Goddess, never for a man! Then he created this beautiful composition, calling his Goddess the Golden One. That night, Diskhithar’s wife dreamt of the Goddess who came and poured gold on her and said, ‘there, are you satisfied?’. On waking up she apologized to Diskshithar for ever wanting any material wealth  when they were so blessed with Divine wealth.

For lyrics of this beautiful song, see footnote below. The song is set to Raga Lalita (see footnote).

To enjoy this beautiful song, here’s a performance by the young vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan.

For an instrumental version, listen to this beautiful performance on the Sax by the incomparable Kadri Gopalnath.

Edit : A few years have passed since I wrote this post. There is a version which I admire tremendously and hear often. It is T.M.Krishna’s version which you can listen here. His pace is leisurely and deeply meditative. I love Lalita in all forms but like this she is just exquisite. Lalita is also lovely in the mellifluous voices of Ranjani and Gayatri which I also urge you to listen here.


Footnote (Lyrics):


हिरण्मयीं लक्ष्मीं सदा भजामि |
हीन मानव आश्रयं त्यजामि ||


चिरतर संपत् प्रदां क्षीरंबुधि तनयां |
हरि वक्षथलालयं हरिणीं चरण किसलयां |
कर कमल धृत कुवलयां |
मरकतमनि मय वलयां ||


श्वेत दीप वासिनीं श्री कमलंबिकां परां |
भूत भव्य विलासिनीं भूसुर पूजितां वरां |
मातरं अब्ज मालिनीं माणिक्य आभरण धरां |
गीत वाद्य विनोदिनीं गिरिजाम्तां इन्दिरां ||
सीता किरण निभ वदनां श्रिता चिन्तामणि सदनां |
पीत वसनां गुरु गुह मातुल कान्तां ललितां ||

For transliterated lyrics, translation and notation click here.


Footnote (Raga) :

The scales of Raga Lalita are as follows :

Aarohanam (Ascending) : S R1 G3 M1 D1 N3 S’
Avarohanam (Descending) : S’ N3 D1 M1 G3 R1 S

15-2 Lalita

Lalita is a janya raga, derived from Mayamalavagowla (see below), 15th on the Melakarta scale. This is not related to the Hindustani Lalit. Nannu Brovu Lalita by Shyama Shastri  is another composition in Lalita which I enjoy very much.

15 Mayamalavagowla

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, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Ranjani Gayatri, Sikkil Gurucharan, T.M.Krishna

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.


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

महा गणपतिं  मनसा स्मरामि
वसिष्ट वामदेवादि वन्दित ||

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

A notation is available in this site.


mahA gaNapatim manasA smarAmi
vasishTa vAmadEvAdi vandita

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


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).


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

Vatapi Ganapatim

I beg forgiveness to my very dear Ganapati;  I should have started my blog with this post.  He is the God of beginnings;  His name is taken before starting any endeavour to reduce hindrances for he is Vighneshwara, the Lord of obstacles. Today I shall correct my lapse.

Many of the Hindu Gods are strongly associated with music and dance. I had mentioned Shiva, the eternal dancer and Krishna, the divine flautist, in earlier posts. Ganesha, as he is also called, is associated with poetry, literature and theatre. Not that far from music; all the Carnatic music songs I write about are poetry, aren’t they?

I honour Ganapati with this composition in Raga Hamsadhwani (click here for more information), a very well known song which is often sung at the start of performances. Written by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) it has a certain heraldic quality with its brisk and rhythmic passages; it seems to me like a call to wake up and concentrate! The raga is said to have been created by the composer’s father, Ramaswami Dikshithar (1735-1817). The transliterated lyrics of this song can be found here. I give below the lyrics in Sanskrit. Those interested in poetry will note how beautifully the poet uses alliteration.

वातापि गणपतिं भजेऽहं वारणास्यं वरप्रदं श्री
भूतादि संसेवित चरणं भूत भौतिक प्रपञ्च भरणं
वीतरागिनं विनतयोगिनं विश्वकारणम् विघ्नवारणं
पुरा कुम्भ संभव मुनिवर प्रपूजितं त्रिकोण मध्यगतं
मुरारी प्रमुखाद्युपासितं मूलाधार क्षेत्र स्थितं
परादि चत्वारि वागात्मकं प्रणव स्वरूप वक्रतुण्डं
निरन्तरं निटिल चन्द्रखण्डं निज वामकर विध्रुतेक्षु दण्डं
कराम्बुज पाश बीजापूरं कलुष विदूरम भूताकारं
हरादि गुरुगुह तोषित बिम्बं हम्सध्वनि भूषित हेरम्बं

As with most Hindu prayers, there really is not much of a request from Ganapati – in fact, there is none. Instead, the prayer lists the identification features of the God, for example, the one with the trunk shaped like Om, the one with the mark of the crescent moon on his forehead, the one who is in the Muladhara Chakra, the tantric chakra located at the base of the spine etc. To me, it reiterates the fact that prayer is not about asking, but about merging the divinity within us with the Other. Prayer songs are just a tools to focus our minds on the other divinity so that this merging can take place.

Here is the prayer sung by G.N.Balasubramaniam (1910-1965), in memory of my father who was very fond of this legendary musician. The quality of the recording is not good but it is evident why GNB was such a legend.

Raga Hamsadhwani has found its way North and is now sung by Hindustani Classical musicians as well.  For your interest, here is Vatapi Ganapatim performed by Channulal Mishra. Again, the quality is not good but its still interesting. I challenge you not to fall in love with Hamsadhwani after listening to the tarana. I wonder what makes something sound Carnatic or Hindustani? The raga is the same, the composition (in Sanksrit, our common heritage) is the same yet it is different! I love both Carnatic and Hindustani music; how lucky I am, for I have two wonderful worlds of music to take pleasure from!!



Filed under Carnatic Music, Channulal Mishra, Compositions in Sanskrit, G.N.Balasubramaniam, Muthuswami Dikshithar

Meenakshi Me Mudam


Madurai MeenakshiIn English we talk of almond-shaped eyes. In Sanskrit, it is instead referred to as fish-shaped eyes.  When I think of beautifully elongated eyes, I think of no other than Meenakshi (meena = fish, akshi = eye), the Goddess of Madurai. There has been a temple at this location for about 2000 years but the current structure, or most of it, was built in the 14th century after the older structure was destroyed by Muslim invaders. The deities in the temple, Shiva & Parvati, are called Sundareshwarar and Meenakshi. It is said that the idol of Meenakshi is made of emerald and so she is represented as a green-skinned Goddess.

How many Gods and Goddesses we Hindus have!! And to complicate matters, each God or Goddess has many avatars and ever more names! We should not forget however that Hinduism is a monotheistic religion, just with a polymorphic God.  There are many references in the Vedas which talk of one God but with many forms and names. If you then bring in the concept of Nirguna Brahman (God of No Attributes) and Saguna Brahman (God with attributes) and the different interpretations by Advaita & Dvaita philosophies,  we are in deep waters indeed.  I like to think of it in terms of refraction of light; though light is colourless, it is made up of so many colours! Like that, God though without attributes, is made up of many selves and attributes. So when our Saint composers sing of one deity or the other, each is a perfect description of one facet of God.

Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835), one of the important trinity of Carnatic music composers from the 18-19th century, composed close to 500 krithis (compositions).  Most of his compositions are in Sanskrit. It is said that he asked his students to sing this kriti while on his death-bed and died while listening to it. Composed in raga Purvikalyani, it has only one demand of the Goddess – Meenakshi, Me Mudam Dehi – Give me eternal bliss. The rest of the song describes Meenakshi in many ways.  What a beautiful song it is! Listen carefully and the raga will draw you in, to your centre, to a place of peace and bliss. To know more about the raga, click here.

Listen below to a wonderful rendition T.N.Seshagopalan. I listened to many renditions of this well known kriti, but I see myself keep coming back to this one with pleasure.

Alternate link : Click here.

For an instrumental, listen here to the great Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language: Sanskrit

मीनाक्षि मे मुदम् देहि
मेचकाङ्गि राज मातङ्गी

मानमातृ मेये माये मरकत  छाये शिवजाये
मीनलोचनी पाशमोचनी मानिनि कदम्बवन वासिनि

मधुरापुरि निलये मणि वलये
मलयध्वज पाण्ड्य राज तनये
विधुविलंबन वदने विजये
वीणा गान दश गमकक्रिये

मधु मद मोदित हृदये सदये
महादेव सुन्दरेश प्रिये
मधु मुररिपु सोदरि शातोदरि
विधि गुरुगुह वशङ्करि शङ्करि

Transliteration :

mInAkshi mE mudam dEhi
mEchakAngi rAja mAtangi

mAnamAtR mEyE mAyE
marakata CHAyE shiva jAyE
mIna lOchani pAsha mOchani
mAnini kadamba vana vAsini

madhurApuri nilayE maNi valayE
malayadhwaja pANdya rAja tanayE
vidhuvilamabana vadanE vijayE
vINA gAna dasha gamakakriyE

madhu mada mOdita hrdayE sadayE
mahAdEva sundarEsha priyE
madhu muraripu sOdari shAtOdari
vidhi guruguha vashankari shankari


O Meenakshi, O dark-hued one !(mechaka anga) [alternatively one who wears jewels on her limbs] O Raja Matangi (one of the forms of Devi) ! Give (dEhi) me (mE) bliss (mudam) !

The knower (mAtR) of the concept (mAna) as well as the object the knowledge (mEyE), and the limit of knowledge (mAyE), emerald (marakata) complexioned (CHAyE), the wife (jAyE) of Shiva, with eyes (lOchani) shaped like fish (mIna), the one who releases (mOchani) from bondage (pAsha), the respected one (mAnini), who lives (vAsini) in the kadamba forest (vana).

She who dwells (nilayE) in Madhurapuri, who wears gem-studded (maNi) bangles (valayE), who was the sister (tanayE) of the Pandya king (rAja), with a face (vadanE) which makes a mockery (viDambana) of the moon (vidhu), the victorious one (vijayE), the one who created (kriyE) the ten (dasha) modulations (gamaka) of Vina music (gAna), she who brings delight (modita) to one’s heart (hRdayE), the compassionate one (sadayE), the beloved of great God (mahAdEva) Sundaresha/Shiva, the enemy (ripu) of the demons Madhu and Mura, sister (sOdari) of Lord Vishnu (implied), slender-waisted (shAtOdari), she who captivates (vashankari) Lord Brahma (vidhi) and Lord Guruguha (also signature of composer), she is the auspicious one (shankari).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Muthuswami Dikshithar, T.N.Seshagopalan


Amma, Thayé, Akhilandeshwari’ – I take the name of Goddess Akhilandeshwari quite often, without thinking, as an interjection, as a groan, as a laughing complaint.  Thankfully there is no interdiction against us Hindus taking any of our God or Goddesses’ names in vain; on the contrary, I believe we are quite encouraged to do so.

I have never been to the temple of Goddess Akhilandeshwari which is near Srirangam. My father came from this town and in my childhood I remember paying visits to my grandparents’ house which was in the agraharam (the immediate surrounding lanes) of the famous Ranganathar Swami temple, in deep Iyengar territory. Coming from a Vaishnava family, I was never taken to the Akhilandeshwari temple. My father’s favourite interjection was ‘Narayana!!’. So where did I get this habit of invoking Akhilandeshwari instead? I don’t really know, but the good lady has been present in my vocabulary for a long time indeed.

So today, to honour Her and thank Her, I present a song which I love dearly. Written by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) in praise of this Goddess, the composition is in Raga Dwijavanti. To know more about this raga, click here. See footnote for lyrics in Sanskrit; click here for transliteration and meaning. It is sung below by Bombay S. Jayashri, she of the mellifluous voice.

Akhilandeshwari–Bombay S.Jayashri

Jayashri’s guru is Lalgudi Jayaraman and I clearly see his influence in the way she sings this song. Listen to his version played on the violin below. What a master he is of his instrument !!!

I have not heard very many detailed renditions of Dwijavanthi. If the raga pleases you, here is a Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi by T.V.Shankaranayanan to listen to.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

श्री अखिलाण्डेश्वरी रक्ष मां आगम संप्रदाय निपुणे श्री ||

निखिल लोक नित्यात्मिके विमले निर्मले श्यामले सकल कले ||

लम्बोदर गुरुगुह पूजिते लंबालकोद्भासिते हसिते ||
वाग्देवताराधिते वरदे वर शैल राज नुते शारदे ||
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
जम्भारि सम्भाविते जनार्दन नुते जुजावन्ति राग नुते ||
झल्ली मद्दळ झर्झर वाद्य नाद मुदिते ज्ञान प्रदे ||

For notation, click here.


akhilANDEshvari rakshamAm Agama sampradAya nipuNE shrI

nikhila lOka nityAtmikE vimalE nirmalE shyAmaLE sakala kalE

lambOdara guruguha pUjitE lambAlakOdbhAsitE hasitE
vAgdEvatArAdhitE varadE vara shaila rAjanutE shAradE
jambhAri sambhAvitE janArddana nutE jujAvanti rAganutE
jhallI maddaLa jharjhara vAdya nAda muditE jnAna pradE


O Akhiladeshwari, you who are skilled (nipuNa) in the traditional doctrines (sampradAya) Agamas, protect me (raksha mAm)

The entire (nikhila) world (lOka) is eternally (nitya) based on you (AtmikE).  You are impeccable (vimalE), unsullied (nirmalE).  You are dark coloured (shyAmalE) and are the embodiment (implied) of all arts (sakala kalE).

You are worshipped by (pUjitE) by Ganesha (lambOdara) and Murugan (guruguha). You are respendent with (udbhAsitE) with pendulous curls (lambAlaka). You have a smiling face (hasitE). You are worshipped by (ArAdhitE) by Saraswati (vAgdevatA). You are a bestower of boons (varadE). You are praised by (nuta) the king (rAja) of the supreme mountain (vara shaila) (this may be referring to Parvati being the daughter of King Himavan). You are Sharada (unsure of this, surely Sharada is the name of Saraswati?)

Adhered to (sambhAvitE) by Lord Indra (jambhAri – also means thunderbolt, which is a weapon of Durga), you are praised by (nutE) by Vishnu (janArdana), you are praised in Raga Jujavanti, You rejoice in (muditE) the sounds of (nAda) musical instruments (vAdya) like a jhalli (dictionary says jhallaki) , maddala and jharjhara (they are all drums, what is the significance of that?). You are the provider of (pradE) of knowledge (jnAna).


Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Muthuswami Dikshithar

Sri Satyanarayanam

Sri Satyanarayana is a form of Vishnu worshipped at auspicious occasions. So it is appropriate indeed that I start my blog with a prayer to Sri Satyanarayana.

If you are a Carnatic Music fan, you are perhaps wondering why I am starting with a rather minor raga with a not-often heard kriti. But what can I say, the heart likes what it likes! I recently came across an album called Ekaika Ragam by Aruna Sairam. It has just this one kriti, in two tracks. I was totally hooked after just one listen! Generally music is a private pastime for me, not a group activity. But while listening to this wonderful rendition, I so wanted to share it with someone else – anyone else. So on that impulse I have commenced on this blog.

What is it about the haunting notes of the Shubhapantuvarali raga? It has such a great appeal for me!  It is a somber and gentle raga, drawing me into a meditative state with ease. If you want to read more about this raga, click here.

Sri Satyanarayanam is composed by Muthuswami Dikshithar. Written in Sanskrit, it pays homage to the Lord of Badrinath. I have such lovely associations with Badri! I remember visiting it as a teenager with my parents, my grandmother, my sister and another family very close to us. I was perhaps 15. We went to Haridwar and Rishikesh, taking dips in the Ganges, walking across Lakshman Jhula, visiting temples and ashrams. Then we went on a bus to Badrinath and I lost my heart to the mountains. To this day, I love being amongst mountains and if the Alps that I see from my window in Switzerland are not quite as lofty as the Himalayas, they are equally beautiful. Our trip ended with a long trek to Kedarnath which remains, to this day, one of the best memories of my lifetime. When I listen to Sri Satyanarayanam, all of those wonderful memories come rushing back and I am lost in memories of days which will never come back again. See the footnote for lyrics and meaning of this song.

You can listen in to the album here . Track 1 is the alapana and taanam and track 2 is the kriti. I hope you enjoy listening to it as I much as I do.

Footnote (Lyrics ) :

Language : Sanskrit

श्री सत्यनारायणं उपास्महे नित्यं
सत्य ज्ञानानन्द मयं सर्वं विष्णु मयं

वासवादि पूजितं वर मुनि गण भावितं
दासजन परिपालितं भासमान बदरी स्थितं

वैश्य जाति कारणं वटु वेष धारिणं
कलियुग प्रसन्नं वसु प्रदान निपुणं
(मध्यमकाल साहित्यम्)
मत्स्य कूर्म वराहादि दशावतार प्रभावम्
शङ्ख चक्राब्ज हस्तं गुरुगुह नुत प्रसिद्धं

Transliteration :

shrI satyanArAyaNam upAsmE nityam
satya jnAnAnada mayam sarvam vishNu mayam

vAsavAdi pUjitam vara muni gaNa bhAvitam
dAsa jana paripAlitam bhAsamAna badari sthitam

vaishya jAti kAraNam vaTu vEsha dhAriNam
kali yuga prasannam vasu pradAna nipuNam
(madhyamakAla sAhityam)
matsya kUrma varahAdi dashAvatAra prabhAvam
shankha chakrAbja hastam guruguha nuta prasiddham

I always (nityam) worship (upAsmahE) Shri Satyanarayana. He is full of (-mayam) of truth (satya) and knowledge (jnAna). He is all things (sarvam), he is the essence of Vishnu (vishNumayam).

He is worshipped by (pUjitam) by Indra etc (vAsavAdi) (or the Vasus etc?). He is contemplated on (bhAvitam) by the foremost (vara) groups of sages (muni gaNa). He protects (parapAlitam) his devotees (dAsa jana). He is situated at (sthitam) as the lustrous (bhAsamAna) Badari (=Badrinath).

He is the creator (kAraNam) of the business community (vaishya jAti). He wore (dhAriNam) the disguise (vEsha) of a Brahmachari=young Brahmin (vaTu) (refers to Vamana avatara). He is kindly disposed towards (prasannam) the Kali yuga. He is expert (nipuNam) in providing (pradAna) wealth (vasu). He came forth (prabhAvam, from verb prabhavat) in the ten incarnations (dashAvatAra) like Matsya, Kurma and Varaha etc. He holds in his hand (hastam) a conch (shankha), a discus (chakra) and a lotus (abja). He is renowned (prasiddham) as being worshipped by guruguha (Dikshithar’s signature).

For notation click here.





Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Muthuswami Dikshithar