Tag Archives: Papanasam Sivan

Ka Va Va

Murugan Vel

Invocation. As a child I remember listening with fascination to my mother’s explanation of how God can be invoked into a Kalasha filled with water, topped with mango leaves and a coconut. Once the invocation is done, the Kalasha is worshipped as the Goddess. ‘God is everywhere’ my mother said ‘but when we invoke His or Her presence, divine energy becomes concentrated in an idol or a symbolic representation like a Kalasha’.  Likewise an idol carved by the hands of men comes to sit in an altar somewhere and transforms from stone to God.

What causes the transformation? Invocation. Just invocation. Human beings have invoked the presence of God from time immemorial using ceremonies of all kinds. But finally it is just a simple call ‘Come’. My song choice of today is the essence of invocation. Addressed to Lord Muruga, the poet-composer Papanasam Sivan says ‘Come and protect me’. He identifies the divinity he invokes by different descriptions but the repeated ‘vA vA’ are the words we hear the most in this song, ‘Come, Come’.  Set to the beautiful raga Varali (click here for more information on this raga), this melodious supplication touches the hearts of all those who hear it. So how can Lord Muruga remain unmoved?

Here below is an excellent version by Madurai Mani Iyer (1912-1968) , one of the most respected and celebrated vocalists from the first half of the 20th century.

For an instrumental version, listen to the supremely talented violinists Ganesh and Kumaresh below :

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Tamil

கா வா வா கந்தா வா வா என்னை கா வா வேலவா
(முருகா வா கந்தா வா)
பழனி மலை உறையும் முருகா (வா வா)

தேவாதி தேவன் மகனே வா – பர
தேவி மடியில் அமரும் குஹனே வா
வள்ளி தெய்வயானை மணவாளா
சரவண பவ பரம தயாளா ஷண்முகா (வா வா)

ஆபத்திருளற அருள் ஒளி தரும்
அப்பனே அண்ணலே ஐயா வா வா
பாபத் திரள் தரும் தாபம் அகல வரும்
பழனி வளர் கருணை மழையே வா வா
தாபத்ரய வெயில் அற நிழல் தரும் வான்
தருவே என் குல குருவே வா
ஸ்ரீ பத்மனாபன் மருகா வா
ராம தாசன் பணியும் முத்தைய்யா (விறைவுடன் வா வா)

kA vA vA kanda vA vA Yennai kA vA vElavA
(murugA vAkandA vA)
pazhanimalaiyuraiyum murugA (vA vA)

devAdi dEvan maganE vA
para dEvi maDiyil amarum guhanE vA
vaLLi deivayAnai manavaLA (vA)
sharavana bhava parama dayalA (shanmugA)

aapath- iruLara aruloLi tarum appane annaLe ayya vA vA
pApa tiraL tarum tApam agala varum
pazhani valar karunai mazhayE vA vA
tApatraya veyilara nizhal tarum vAntharuve yen
kula guruvEe vaa
sri padmanAban marugA rAma dAsan vanangum mutaiyA

Oh Muruga, who lives in Pazhani malai, come to protect me.
Come, O son of Shiva.  Come, O Guha (the hidden one), who sits on Parvati’s lap.
Come, O husband of Valli and Deivayanai.
Come O Sharavana, the supremly kind being.
Come, you who bestow light to remove the darkness of danger.
Come, you who remove longing and sin, you the shower of kindness, who grew up in Pazhani.
Come, you who give shade to protect  me from the hot rays of intense  longing, you who are the Guru of our community.
Come, you who are the nephew of lord Vishnu, the one worshipped by Ramadasa, a gem like being.

For notation, click here.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Ganesh-Kumaresh, Madurai Mani Iyer, Papanasam Sivan

Om Sharavanabhava

MuruganLord Skanda, the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and the brother of Lord Ganesh must have been worshipped all over India once upon a time. There is mention of Him in the Vedas and Puranas and in the Mahabharata as well. Archaeological findings related to Him point to His worship from 10 B.C. or before. But as time passed and worship patterns changed, His worship became more localised. In today’s India, He is most prevalent where there are Tamils.

Although my parents worshipped a pantheon of Gods, we did not have Lord Murugan in the altar at home. As a consequence, I was not much attached to this God who is most important to the Tamils, my people. As a Hindu, I believe that each of our Gods and Goddesses is a complete manifestation of the Divine. I quote the Shanti Mantra from Brihadaranyaka & Ishavasya Upanishad (4 BC), a mantra which I recite morning and evening :

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवा वशिष्यते ||
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ||

Om. That (Paramatma = God, the supreme being) is absolute (complete/perfect). This (Jeevatma = individual soul) is absolute. The absolute arises from the absolute. When the absolute is taken from the absolute, what remains is the absolute. Om Peace Peace Peace.

One of the earliest definition of Infinity (∞ – ∞ = ∞), the interpretation is that God being infinite, each manifestation of Him (including our souls) is also infinite and complete. Whichever God you choose to worship, you still worship the same Infinite.

It is thanks to Carnatic Music and the many songs devoted to Lord Murugan which have brought me to seek Him. How passionate the devotion of the Tamil poets is to Him! How beautifully they sing His praise!! One such song is what I am presenting today.

Sharavanabhava (Sanskrit: He who was born in a clump of reeds) refers to Lord Murugan. The six syllables haves deep esoteric significance as well and this is used as a Mantra by His devotees. This song is written by Papanasam Sivan (1890-1972) and is set to Raga Shanmukhapriya (meaning, the raga which pleases the God of Six Heads i.e. Lord Murugan). If you want to know more about the raga, click here. The lyrics are available here. The superbly talented sisters Ranjani & Gayatri sing this beautifully below  :

Alternate link : Click here.

Click here to listen to an excellent instrumental version played by the Sax Maestro Kadri Gopalnath.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Kadri Gopalnath, Papanasam Sivan, Ranjani Gayatri

Unnai Allal

I have no recourse but you, O Mother who has created the whole world! You have made me dance  on this stage of the drama of the world, where one ports different guises. I can dance no more!  For your divine heart to find the compassion to think ‘enough dancing’ and let me have a rest, what recourse do I have but you?

If  I had been born with the gift for words, this is the poetry I would have written. If I had been born with a Voice, this is the song I would have sung. Lacking both, I listen again and again to this beautiful composition by Papanasam Sivan (1890-1973) and lose myself in this most comforting of ragas, Kalyani.

Kalyani (Sanskrit) means auspicious, bringing good-fortune, beautiful. An important part of Carnatic music, this raga has Middle-Eastern origins. There are hundreds of compositions in this raga which are often sung as elaborate numbers in concerts. So of course I have heard it many times from childhood and find great comfort in its familiarity. Yet with certain compositions, there is something special. A matter of resonance I think – like a tuning fork, Unnai Allal makes me resonate in exactly the same frequency. To know more about this raga, click here.

This is a very cleverly written piece of poetry. The words are simple (see footnote) but it manages to encompasses many of basic Hindu beliefs – Maya and rebirth (the drama/theatre of the world where one ports many guises), Bhakti, surrender (no recourse except you), monotheistic-polymorphic God (many named and all pervading), Jeevatma-Paramatma link (resides in one’s heart/soul),  Mukti (allow to stop dancing). An excellent prayer song. See footnote for lyrics.

To present this song, I urge you to watch this video (from 0:31) of a very young Sanjay Subrahmanyan. How brilliant is he!! This is a video which I always watch with a great deal of pleasure and with sadness because I long to be there, at that temple, listening to Kalyani in those ancient corridors. Is Kalyani sanctified by the earth on which it is sung? Or is the earth sanctified by the sound of Kalyani? Both…both..My Tamil blood craves the feel of those temple grounds.

And if you fall in love with the song, like I did, listen below to a more elaborate and simply superb rendition by Aruna Sairam. It is from her excellent album Unnai Allal which I am happy to recommend to you.

Alternate link : This is available on online music sites such as Spotify and Gaana.com

Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Tamil

உன்னை அல்லால் வேறே கதி இல்லை அம்மா
உலகெல்லாம் ஈன்ற அன்னை (உன்னை அல்லால்)

என்னை ஒர் வேடமிட்டுலக நாடக அரங்கில் ஆட விட்டாய் ( வைத்தாய்?)
என்னால் இனி ஆட முடியாது
திருவுள்ளம் இறங்கி ஆடினது போதுமென்று ஓய்வளிக்க (உன்னை அல்லால்)

நீயே மீனாக்ஷி காமாக்ஷி நீலாயதாக்ஷி
என பல பெயருடன் எங்கும் நிறைந்தவள்
என் மனக் கோவிலிலும்  எழுந்தருளிய தாயே
திருமயிலை வளரும் (உன்னை அல்லால்)


unnai allAl vErE gati illai ammA
ulagellAm InDRa annai

ennai Or vEDamiTTulaga nAdaga arangil ADa  viTTAi (/vaiththai)
ennAl ini ADa muDiyAdu
tiruvuLLam irangi ADinadu pOdum enDRu OyvaLikka (unnai allAl)

nIyE mInAkshii kAmAkshi nIlAyatAkshi
ena pala peyaruDan engum niraindavaL
en manak kOvililum ezhundaruLiya tAyE
tirumayilai vaLarum (unnai allAl)


I have no (illai) recourse (vErE gati) but you (unnai allAl), O Mother (annai) who has created (InDRa) the whole world (ulagellAm)!

You have made (viTTai) me (ennai) dance (ADa) on this stage (arangil) of the drama (nAdaga) of the world (ulaga) where one ports (iTTu) different guises (veDam). I can (ennAl) dance (ADa) no more (ini muDiyAdu)!  For your divine heart (tiru uLLam) to find the compassion (irangi) to think ‘enough dancing’ (ADinadu pOdum ena) and let me have a rest (Oyvu aLikka), what recourse do I have but you?

You are indeed (nI dAn) present everywhere (engum niraidavaL) with many names (pala peyaruDan) such as (ena) Meenakshi, Kamakshi and Neelayadakshi. O Mother (tAyE) who has blessed me by residing (ezhudu aruLiya) even in the temple (kOvilum) of my heart (en mana)! O Mother who is in holy Mayilai (tiru mayilai), what recourse do I have but you?



Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan, Rama Varma, Sanjay Subrahmanyan