O inhabitant of Rangapura! Victory to you who incarnated as the warrior Rama in the Raghu dynasty, wielding the bow Kodanda. O beloved of Ramaa, you are the father of cupid. You are swift like king of deers in giving boons to the to celestials. You who have Garuda as your mount, you are dark-skinned, whose sidelong glances are compassionate, who is present in good company.
The summers of my childhood were heralded by an annual migration to the South. Once schools closed, we would board the train – my mother, my sister and I – with a large number of steel trunks, bed rolls and food to feed an army. I always looked forward to these 2-night train trips. There would be yummy treats and kalanda sadam to eat, window seats and books and berths to be fought over, interestingly named stations to be stared at, vendors shouting ‘chai…garam chai’ and selling foodstuff to be drooled over and the varied landscape of India to be viewed from the window.
Our destination was Chennai, our maternal grandmother’s home. There in the heat of the Tropic of Cancer our summer would pass idly by. Until our father came for a visit.
That meant packing again and heading off to Srirangam to visit my paternal grandparents. This induced terror to the point of hysteria in me!! My grandfather was a fearsome man who would have put Atilla to shame. My grandmother was a sweet lady but was a silent presence, probably to try and escape the household autocrat’s gaze! The house itself was fear-inducing. The granary with its huge sack of rice reaching the high ceilings was the hiding place of scorpions. The bathroom was outside, in the backyard by the well and that was where my sister once surprised a giant cobra in a pail of bathwater! Needless to say, after that I trembled at the though of bathing!
This home was in the agraharam surrounding the most important temple for the Vaishnavas, the devotees of Vishnu. This enormous temple spans 156 acres, surrounded by 7 concentric walls, with 21 Gopurams (towers), a 1000 pillared hall and over 50 shrines! It is ancient; it has been praised in literature from the 6th century onwards but the oldest inscriptions are from the 10th century. After being badly damaged by Muslim invaders, it was rebuilt by successive rulers of Vijayanagara and Nayak dynasties between the 14th and 17th centuries.
On those summer days years ago, we would visit the temple morning and evening and I have played in its grounds without realising its importance. My grandfather passed away when I was 10 and after that my grandmother lived in my uncles’ homes and our home in turn. I never went back to Srirangam.
My song choice of today is in praise of the Lord of Srirangam; a song which transports me back to the summers of my childhood. Note how beautifully the composer Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) has used alliteration; the repeated sound ‘nga’ and ‘nka’ adds a most pleasing effect to the lyrics. It is set to the wonderful raga Brindavana Saranga. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.
The song is strongly associated with late M.S.Subbulakshmi, surely you have already heard her rendition many times over? Today I present a very nice rendition by Nisha Rajagopal.
Alternate Link : Click here and select song 2 (needs free membership to Sangeethapriya.org)
Footnote (Lyrics) :
रङ्गपुरविहार जय कोदण्ड रामावतार रघुवीर श्री
अङ्गज जनक देव बृन्दावन सारङ्गेन्द्र वरद रमान्तरङ्ग
श्यामळाङ्ग विहङ्ग तुरङ्ग सदयापाङ्ग सत्सङ्ग (रङ्गपुरविहार)
पङ्कजाप्त कुल जलनिधि सोम
वर पङ्कज मुख पट्टाभि राम
पद पङ्कज जितकाम रघुराम
वामाङ्ग गत सीता वर वेश
सेशाङ्ग शयन भक्त संतोष
एणाङ्क रवि नयन मृदुतर भाष
अकळङ्क दर्पण कपोल विशेष
मुनि सङ्कट हरण गोविन्द वेङ्कट रमण मुकुन्द
सङ्कर्षण मूल कन्द शङ्कर गुरुगुहानन्द
For notation, click here.
raNgapura vihAra jaya kOdaNDa rAmAvatAra raghuvIra shrI
angaja janaka dEva bRndAvana sArangEndra varada ramAntaranga
shyAmalAnga vihanga turanga sadayApAnga satsanga (rangupura)
pankajApta kula jalanidhi sOma
vara pankaja mukha paTTAbhirAma
padapankaja jitakAma raghurAma
vAmAnga gata sItA vara vEsha
sEshAnga shayana bhakta santOsha
ENAnkaravinayana mRdutara bhASa
akaLanka darpaNa kapOla vishEsha
muni sankaTa haraNa gOvinda vEnkaTa ramaNa mukunda
sankarshaNa mUla kanda shaNkara guruguhAnanda
O inhabitant of Rangapura! Victory to you who incarnated as the warrior (vIra) Rama (ramavatAra) in the Raghu dynasty, wielding the bow Kodand.
O beloved (antarangA) of Ramaa (name of Laxmi), you are the father (janaka) of cupid (angaja). You are swift (implied) like king of deers (sAranga indra) in giving boons (varada) to the to celestials (deva). (Some translators thing it has a reference to Gajendra moksham). You who have Garuda (vihanga) as your mount (turanga, literally horse), you are dark-skinned (shyAmala anga), whose sidelong glances (apAnga) are compassionate (sadaya), who is present in good company (sat sanga).
O moon (soma) of the ocean (jalanidhi) which is the Sun Clan (pankaja apta kula, literally friend of the Lotus, as the lotus blooms on seeing the sun)! O Rama who was consecrated as King (pattabhirAma), face (mukha) blooming like a lotus (pankaja)! O Rama of the clan Raghu, you vanquished cupid (jita kAmA) (implied: in beauty) by the lotus-like (pankaja) beauty of his feet (pAda) alone! You who are dressed as the bridegroom (vara Vesha) of Sita who is on the left (vAmana anga) ! You who recline (shayana) on the great serpent Sesha ! Delight (santOsha) of devotees (bhakta)! Your eyes (nayana) are the Sun (ravi) and the moon (ENanka)! Your are soft spoken (mrudutara bhAsha)! Your forehead (kaPola) is like an unblemished (akaLanka) mirror (darpaNa)! O Lord Govinda, you are remover (hara) of the sufferings (sankata) of sages (muni)! Venkataramana! Mukunda! Sankarshana! O Primordial being (literally mUla=source, kAnda=stem/trunk)! You who provide joy (sham kara)! You who make Subramanya (=Guruguha, His newphew, also signature of the composer) happy (ananda)!