I am in Australia at the moment, enjoying the last traces of summer and the advent into autumn. On Sunday we set the clock back for daylight saving and I gratefully received the gift of an extra hour in the morning! The weather is perfect, neither warm nor cold but just right….Goldilocks would sure have been happy! This is such perfect weather for walking. I am a regular walker, doing a brisk 10 km everyday. These two hours each day are precious to me as this is when I listen to music with the utmost concentration. However, for the last couple of months I have instead been listening to lectures on spiritual matters (upanyasam / hari katha). It has been educational though I find some ideas questionable and some simply appalling! But more about that some other time…
My interest in lectures has meant that I am a bit behind with catching up with the music available online. There is so much of it nowadays, don’t you think? Can anyone possibly keep up with it all? I am rather overwhelmed! My music listening experience has also changed because of this. There was a time when I had only a very limited number of tapes and then CDs. I listened to them so often that I would be pre-empting every note, every pause in my mind as I listened. Nowadays I am always listening to something new. Exciting but also a bit sad…I miss the familiarity and sense of homecoming I felt with my favourites. As I was playing catch-up on YouTube last week, I came upon this excellent concert by Ranjani and Gayatri from which I have chosen a song to present to you today.
Shankari Shankuru is composed in Raga Saveri by Shyama Shastri. Like many songs of this genre, it is a simple prayer followed by many phrases to identify, describe and praise the Goddess. As we listen, the phrases invoke physical imagery (e.g. slender-waisted Goddess). We are reminded of stories by some phrases (e.g. remembering how Manmatha became an enemy of Shiva) and are reassured of the grace of the Goddess by other phrases (e.g. she gives reward to her devotees).
Though I choose to concentrate on lyrics in this blog, renditions such as the one I have chosen are more about the raga and creativity than about the lyrics. In this piece by Ranjani and Gayatri, the total time of 31 minutes is composed of 26 minutes of improvisation and only 10 minutes of composed music. The improvisation is in the form of Raga Alapana (slow melodic improvisation without rhythm 0-13:50) by the vocalists and the violinist. Neraval (melodic improvisation of a single phrase from the song within a set rhythm 17:31-25:15 ) and Kalpana Swarams (melodic improvisation using the Indian solfege within a set rhythm) to 30:27. So of a total of 31.28 minutes, more than 26 minutes is the creative component. The composed content is just over 5 minutes. So as much as I go on about words, meanings, inferences and associations, this music is more about creativity and setting the mood. Saveri is a raga which sounds like supplication, even if no word is uttered. How beautiful are the phrases created by these two extraordinary sisters! I must especially mention the young violinist Vittal Rangan who demonstrates truly impressive skills!
And those who have fallen in love with Saveri and would like to listen to another excellent rendition, here is R.Vedavalli doing an exceptional job of it.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Shyama Shastri
Language : Sanskrit
Note – only the third charanam is sung in concerts normally. Also though the long ‘I’ at the end of some words is shortened in songs, I have chosen to use the correct spelling in Sanskrit.
शङ्करी शङ्कुरु चन्द्रमुखी अखिलाण्डेश्वरी (श्री)
शाम्भवी सरसिज भव वन्दिते गौरी (अम्ब)
सङ्कट हारिणी रिपु विदारिणी कल्याणी
सदा नत फल दायिके (alt: दायकी ) हर नायिके (alt: नायकी) जगत् जननी
जम्बुपति विलासिनी जगदवनोल्लसिनी
कम्बु कन्धरे भवानी कपाल धारिणी शूलिनी
अङ्गज रिपु तोशिनी अखिल भुवन पोशिनी
मङ्गल प्रदे मृदानी मराल संनिभ गमनी
श्याम कृष्ण सोदरी श्यामळे शातोदरी
सामगान लोले बाले सदार्ति भञ्जन शीले
shankarI shankuru chandra mukhI akhilANDEshvarI
shAmbhavI sarasija bhava vanditE gauri amba
sankaTa hAriNI ripu vidAriNI kalyANI
sadA nata phala dAyikE hara nAyikE jagat jananI
jambupati vilAsinI jagadavanOllAsinI
kambu kandharE bhavAnI kapAla dhAriNi shUlini
angaja ripu tOshinI akhila bhuvana pOshinI
mangaLa pradE mRdAni marALa sannibha gamanI
shyAma kRshNa sOdarI shyAmaLE shAtOdari
sAma gAna lOlE bAlE sadArti bhanjana shIlE
O Consort of Shankara/Shiva (shankarI)! Please create (kuru, literally do) tranquility (sham)! O Moon faced one (chandramukhI)! O Goddess (IshvarI) of the whole universe (akhilANDa) ! O ShambhavI (name of Parvati)! One worshipped (vanditE) by Brahma, the one born (bhava) in a lotus (sarasija)! O Mother (amba) Gauri (name of Parvati)!
One who removes/destroys (hAriNI) danger/crises (sangkaTa)! One who crushes (vidAriNI) enemies (ripu)! O Auspicious one (kalyANI)! One who gives (dAyikE) reward (phala) to those who always (sadA) bow to her (nata). O Consort (nayikE) of Shiva (hara)! O Mother (jananI) of the world (jagat)!
One who sports (vilAsinI) with Shiva (jambupati, from Jambukeshwara Temple of Tiruvanaikaval, where the Goddess is called Akhilandeshwari. This is one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams, representing water). One who takes joy (ullAsinI) in protecting (avana) the world (jagat)! One whose neck (kandhara) is like a conch (kambu)! O Bhavani (name of Parvati)! One who carries (dhAriNI) a skull (kapAla)! One who weilds a spear (shUlinI)!
One who pleases (tOshiNI) the enemy (ripu) of the God of Love (angaja)! One who nourishes (poshinI) the entire (akhila) world (bhuvana)! One who provides (pradE) good fortune/welfare/happiness (mangala)! O Consort of Shiva (mRda is a name of Shiva)! One who walks (gamanI) like (samnibha) a swan (marAla)!
O Sister (sOdarI) of the dark skinned Krishna (shyAma kRshNa) (also signature of the composer)! O Shyamala (name of Parvati)! One with a slender (shAta) belly/waist (udarI)! One who takes pleasure in (lOlE) the chanting (gAna) of Sama Veda! O Young one (bAlE)! One whose nature (shIla) is to always (sadA) dispel (bhanjana) grief (Arti)!