Sunday, March 3, 2013

cintaya mAkanda - Bhairavi

Three more months seem to have just flown by without me even noticing the turn of the new year. Thankfully, since the Mayans were wrong, I am back on this space, sharing my thoughts on life and music. Not much has changed in life has been very hectic although extremely productive, interesting and satisfying. The daily car drive to and from office has become my only source of listening to music even though I still contemplate about compositions and music whenever I get free. I have also been fortunate enough to gain a new friend in life who teaches music and is probably more passionate about it than anyone that I have seen so far. I am sure this satsangam is going to make me learn even more and share more interesting stuff on this forum :).

Since there is quite a lot to write about in this post, I will directly jump into it. I will try to give a brief intro to the Panchabhuta linga kritis, five beautiful gems composed by shri muthuswAmi dIkshitar and then proceed unto this beautiful kriti in Bhairavi. Writing about something as expansive as the five elements is going to be extremely challenging but I will give it my best shot. The dynamics of our planet (and universe) are governed by five elements - ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. While it is still debatable as to how each of these elements were created and whether the creation of one had any interdependency on the other, taittiriya upanishad seems to have a simple yet complicated answer. In the first anuvaka of the second valli (called Anandavalli) in the taittiriya upanishad, the origins of the five elements is directly attributed to the Brahman, the supreme being. It goes on to say that from the Brahman sprang AkASa (ether,the medium through which we hear). From AkASa, evolved vAyu (air, that which we hear and feel) and from vAyu, evolved agni (fire, that which we hear, feel and see). From vAyu and agni, evolved varuNa (water, that which we hear, feel, see and taste) and from water, sprang prithvi (earth, that which we hear, feel, see, taste and smell). So clearly, it establishes the evolution and the inter-relationships between these elements. It also directly links the 5 elements to the 5 primary senses of a living organism. And Shiva being the supreme being, embodies all these 5 elements and takes 5 different forms in 5 different temples, four in different locations in Tamil Nadu and one in Andhra Pradesh. There is also yet another popular stream of thought that the five downward pointing triangles in the shrI cakra representing shakti are the actual source of the five elements though I don't have much idea about this.

dIkshitar, being the eternal pilgrim, has travelled to all these shrines and composed some amazing music, rich in substance and resplendent in beauty. I will try to do justice to each of these five gems in my next five posts. The word "linga" itself means "mark" and technically, it neither has form nor is it formless. It is more of a symbol of the supreme being's divinity and acts more as a form of the formless and the omnipotent. This aspect of the formless and the "formful" can be seen at all of these five beautiful shrines which seem to have a special mysticism about them.

I would have ideally liked to take up the krithis in the same order of evolution mentioned above. But since the complexity of the compositions (and the elements they signify) increases tremendously as we move from earth to ether and since most of us are more comfortable dealing with abstractions of greater dimensions and gross substance, I thought it would be better to proceed from the simplest element Earth (with which we can relate with all our five senses) and slowly graduate up the pecking order. So here goes the "first" kriti in the panchabhuta linga set, "cintaya mAkanda" in Bhairavi set to rUpaka tALa and composed at the majestic EkAmranAthaswAmi temple in the divine town of kAncIpuram. There are some unique features about these five gems that dIkshitar has composed with each kriti exhaustively listing everything that is to be known about the temple, the significance etc. Musically, each kriti is embellished with beautiful phrases and lyrical content is of the highest order like majority of dIkshitar's kritis are. Each of these kritis enjoy the vintage dIkshitar trademarks such as witty usages of rAga mudra, complex and interesting references to temple folklore etc.   

A bit about the kSEtra before starting off on the composition. The ekAmrESwarar temple is set on a huge sprawling campus on the main temple veedhi of the town. The ekAmra translates to "one mango tree" and the Lord here gets his name directly from the sthala vriksha, the mango tree itself. There is a small temple near the mango tree itself in the temple complex and hence the Lord is also known as mAmUlanAtha. The mango tree is also considered to be an embodiment of the four vedas for it bears fruits of four different tastes each season. The presiding deity is worshipped as Prithvi lingam and there is a somaskanda panel featuring Shiva, Parvati and skanda near the mango tree. The legend has it that Parvati worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of a linga made out of sand and to test the strength of her devotion, the Lord ordered ganges to flood the area. Parvati is said to have hugged the linga in a bid to protect it. The Lord, pleased by this act, appeared in person to marry her. Also, another interesting point to note is that no Shiva temple in kAncIpuram has a sanctum for the Goddess and this holds true in the composition too as dIkshitar does not make a mention about the Lord's consort.

Now that enough background has been set, understanding the nuances of the kriti will be a relatively easy exercise. The pallavi goes as:


cintaya mA kanda mUlakandam cEtah shrI sOmAskandam


dIkshitar starts the kriti off adopting a tone of advice and sings "Oh mind! ("cEtah"), contemplate ("cintaya") on somAskanda, the one seated under the bulbous root ("mUlakandam") of the mango tree ("mA kanda")".

This pallavi is probably one of the greatest displays of dIkshitar's pAndityam. The restrained used of words with perfect yati, monai aspects while conveying all that is to convey about a temple, its deity, its sthala vriksha and all nicely packaged into a single line, like a beautiful sugar-coated pill directed not at the body but at one's mind. The fact that he refers to all with chaitanya (consciousness) is like a wake-up call for all sentient beings who have the power of thought to think beyond material aspects of life and discipline one's mind to focus on the supreme being.

He also brings in the sOmAskanda form of Shiva in which the Lord is accompanied by Parvati and SubrahmaNya ("sa+Uma+skanda"). As I had mentioned earlier in this post, this is the panel that is present in the temple near the mango tree itself. In the depiction of the somAskanda form, skanda sits in-between Shiva and Parvati. If one visits kAncIpuram, the temples of the three are also geographically located in the same way with the kumarakottam temple sandwiched between the ekAmranAtha and the kAmAkSi temples making kAncIpuram probably a perfect sOmAskanda spot in the true sense of the word.

Musically, I have heard slightly different versions of the pallavi with one school stressing on the Nishadam with heavy dhaivata influence and beginning the kriti with "nndpd" while yet another school starting off on a typical bhairavi avarOhaNa-type "Sndp" phrase for "cintaya mA". I am also more used to the rendition in which "cEtah shrI" is sung as "RS nd" with a kampitam on ni while the notations of SSP suggest a completely different shade dropping to the mandira sthAyi nishAda. Both have their own beauty and of course the various sangatis that have evolved over time at "sOmAskandam" (one should listen to the DKJ version of this kriti to experience this part) add so many shades of Bhairavi that the essence of this majestic raga is pretty much captured in this single line of the kriti. Moving on to the anupallavi,     


santatam akhaNDa saccitAnandam
sAmrAjyaprada caraNAravindam


dIkshitar begins to describe the Lord as "one who is immersed in a state of eternal ("santatam"), undivided ("akhaNDa") blissful consciousness ("saccitAnandam") and one whose lotus feet ("caraNAravindam") are capable of bestowing empires ("sAmrAjya prada") on his devotees".

Lyrically, the anupallavi is quite unlike a dIkshitar kriti because of its extreme simplicity. And this simplicity is probably what makes the anupallavi a very strong musical piece of the kriti for it offers ample scope for the musician to extrapolate and pretty much enshrine all the key phrases of Bhairavi. For example, if one listens to the DKJ version of the kriti, the way he expounds the first line of the anupallavi is brilliant. He embellishes it with so many beautiful phrases and also makes brilliant use of the rUpaka tALa when he sings it as "Anandam, citAnandam, saccitAnandam" in 4 Avartanams.

dIkshitar's reference to the Lord being capable of blessing his devotees with empires is a direct allusion to the vast, flourishing kingdoms of the Pallava dynasty. The "mNdpmgrs" at "prada caraNAra" is a treat to listen to and of course sing :). At this juncture, the kriti is nicely set up for a heavy caraNam to consolidate and establish and beautify the composition further. And whattay caraNam follows,


maHNgaLakara mandahAsa vadanam
mAnikyamaya kAncisadanam
angasaundarya vijita madanam
antaka sUdanam kunda radanam
uttuNga kamanIya vRSaturaNgam
bhairavi prasaNgam guruguhAntaraNgam pRthvIliNgam


dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "the one with a smiling countenance ("mandahAsa vadanam") who bestows welfare and prosperity ("maHNgaLakara") on his devotees. The one who resides ("sadanam") in the rich abode of kAnCi, filled with carbuncles ("mAnikyamaya"). The one whose splendorous body ("anga saundarya") surpasses ("vijita") that of cupid ("madana"). The one who is the destroyer ("sUdana") of Yama, the God of death ("antaka") and one with teeth as white as jasmine buds ("kunda radanam")".

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshitar sings the praises of the Lord as "the one who has the tall and beautiful ("uttuNga kamanIya") bull ("vRSa") as His vehicle and the one enjoys the company of ("prasaNgam") of Goddess Bhairavi (ugra version of Parvati). The one who resides in the interior essence ("antaraNgam") of guruguha and the one who exists in this kSEtra in the form of pRthvI liNgam, symbolizing the earth element.

A major part of the caraNam is quite easily understandable because most of the references are physical in nature and dIkshitar has chosen not to delve into esoteric or yogic references in this kriti. I guess this is in line with the fact that the Earth element itself is quite simple to understand and visualize (when compared to the air or the ether). Musically, the madhyamakAla sAhityam of this kriti is one of my all time favorite :). It pretty much is built like the bull's movement. The "uttuNga kamanIya" part is structured as if the bull jumps and gallops and then comes to a small stop at "vRSaturaNgam". He brings in the rAga mudra beautifully accompanied by a majestic "GRS" phrase. He concludes the kriti with a reference to the purANa of Parvati worshipping the Lord in the form of a sand linga.

There are many good renditions of the kriti available on the net sung by DKJ, Vijay Shiva and T.M.Krishna to name a few. While the DKJ school's rendition is chaste and pleasing, TMK's version has a more stronger adherence to the notations in the SSP and brings out some uncharacteristically beautiful phrases. In my next post, I will take up the beautiful "jambupathE" composed in yamunAkalyANi praising Lord JambukESwara at tiruvAnaikkAval symbolizing the water element. And I will try to ensure that I publish my next post very soon :). Till then, enjoy. Shri gurubhyO namah:    

Sunday, November 18, 2012

shrI rAjagOpAla - sAvEri

I can't believe that it has taken me two and half years to get back to blogging. Reasons for the long gap? Quite a few but primarily two..the rigorous academic schedule at IIM,Bangalore from June 2010 to March 2012 and some personal heart burns especially over the last year or so. The former is thankfully over but the latter continues to trouble me even today and will probably continue to do so till my last breath ;(. But one good thing about the long break has been the fact that my passion for music has grown tremendously and the fire to learn and the hunger to share more with my fellow rasikas has never been stronger. Over the last couple of years, there have been many requests from many different rasikas through e-mails and phone calls to resume blogging and so, here I am, back by popular demand.

Since the kriti I want to focus on today is jam-packed with details, I think I will jump straight into business. One of my closest friends requested for a post on this kriti and hence I am restarting the blog with this post. The main reasons for me to have waited so long to write about shrI rAjagOpAla, THE epic in sAvEri by dIkshitar are two-fold. One, I was waiting for my dear friend Shreekrishna to write about this krithi since his understanding and rendition(s) of this krii are extremely in-depth and two, I was (and still am) unsure whether I will be able to do justice to this magnum opus. I hope SK reads this and adds his thoughts at least in the comments section.

I think I will set the context for the krithi with a brief background on the origins of the rAga and a bit about the sthala purANa and significance of the deity at mannArguDi. The rAga gets special mention in many of the treatises on carnatic music, the earliest reference being Brihaddharma purAna (11th Century), mentioned as sauviri, a janya of gowLa. In the epic sangIta ratnAkara (13th Century) by sArangadEva, the raga is mentioned as sAvari. The antiquity of the rAga is well-established by the fact that pre-trinity composers such as PurandaradAsa and annamAchArya have composed in this scale. sAvEri's importance as a main raga is underlined by the fact that it is one of the 28 rAgas to have been handled by each of the trinity. The madhyama and the gAndhAra in this rAga are so special that one can uniquely identify the rAga just based on these two notes.

dIkshitar no wonder chose this beautiful rAga to sing the praises of the Lord who is considered one of the most beautiful deities every. The temple at mannArguDi was built in the later half of the 11th Century by the Cholas and the gOpuram is quite intimidating to say the least. It remains a mystery as to why the AzhvArs didn't perform mangaLa sAsanam here as a result of which, this temple is not one among the 108 divya dEsams. Prior to the construction of the temple, there used to be a forest of champaka plants here and hence appropriately, the sthala vriksha is champaka (shenbagha flower). Another very interesting point about the deity in the temple is that the utsava mUrti (with rukmiNi and satyabhAma) is more prominent than the mUlavar in the sannidhi which is why even dIkshitar mentions in the caraNam as "shrI rukmiNi satyabhAma shrita pArSva yugaLa".

The mUlavar is considered one of the most beautiful deities ever with the Lord wearing a half-dhoti, holding a whip in his right hand and in the company of calves. The esoteric significance of the deity at mannArgUDi is that the Lord here is worshipped as shrividyA rAjagOpala, shrI lalita and shri rAjagOpAla worshipped as one. dIkshitar is known to have had a special place in his heart for this shrine and has composed many krithis here. Both the dIkshitar kritis in khamAs (santAna gOpAlakRsNam and sArasa dhaLa nayana) are believed to have been composed here though there are no direct references in the compositions. Yet another majestic composition on the deity here is "shrIvidyA rAjAgOpalam" in the 38th mELa jaganmOhanam. The rendition by Vedavalli maami is a must hear. With that, I will jump into the composition itself. dIkshitar starts off with a very short pallavi which goes like:

SrI rAjagOpAla bAla SRngAralIla SritajanapAla

dIkshitar introduces Lord Krishna as the luminescent boy king of cowherds ("rAjagOpAla bAla") who indulges in divine romantic play ("SRngAralIla") and protects the devotees ("Sritajana pAla") who surrender onto him.

There are many interpretations of the SRngAralIla that dIkshitar mentions here, with some even bordering on comparing the divine rAsa lIla with lust. The adolescent love of the gOpis and the Lord usually depicted in art forms such as paintings is only a fantasy. In fact, Lord Krishna was only 8 years old when he left Brindavan to study under Rishi sandIpani. hence everything that happened between the Lord and the gOpis/Radha was when he was a child. Moreover, the Lord was fully aware that He was Vishnu and the gOpis were not ordinary women but rather, realized beings who were seeking the divine union with the paramAtma.
Lyrically, the antyAkshara prAsam and the crisp use of syllables along with the 2-kalai Adi tALa makes one wonder whether dIkshItar himself would have got goosebumps while composing the pallavi. Musically, starting at the upper Sadja, the "Sri" itself sets the tone of the kriti. The "SndSndp" at SRngAra followed by a killer "mgrs" at lIla by themselves are sweeter than the lIla that the Lord is probably engaging in. The pallavi is perhaps the best example of "calm before the storm". It is very deceiving in its appearance for the crisp and short pallavi does not even give a small hint as to the magnum opus that unfolds.

dhIrAgragaNya dhInaSaraNya
cAru campakAraNya dakSiNa-
dwArakApuri nilaya viSishTAdvaita-
advaita laya mAm pAlaya

The composer describes the Lord as the first among the dhIras ("dhIrAgragaNya"). The syllable "dhI" itself is a very powerful word that seen in many mUla mantras including the gAyatri mantra. dhI also refers to a unique combination of supreme intellect, patience and courage. Lord Krishna noted for all this is aptly referred to as the first among the dhIras here by dIkshitar. By virtue of being a dhIra, the Lord protects the weak who surrender to him ("dhIna SaraNya"). dIkshitar continues to describe the temple as a forest ("araNya") filled with beautiful ("cAru") campaka flowers. There is a tale that Goddess Lakshmi appeared at mannArgUDi in the form of fragrant campaka flower which is why She is sometimes also called as Shenbaghalakshmi. It is also said that even the bees at mannArgUDi refrain from drinking the honey from the campaka flowers here so that the flowers remain pure and unsoiled for decorating the Lord with.

The temple is also known as the southern counterpart of dwArakA, the city of Lord Krishna and this is aptly captured by dIkshitar here by calling the Lord as the one who resides in the dwArakA of South India ("dakSiNa dwArakApuri nilaya"). dIkshitar pleads with the Lord to protect him ("mAm pAlaya") and describes the Lord as the union of two streams of philosophies, qualified or attributive monism ("viSishTAdvaita") and monism ("advaita"). This once again comes back to visualizing the deity as shrIvidyA rAjagOpAla, a unique union of divine forces of both Lalita and Lord Krishna. This is also reflected in the slightly feminine posture of the main deity with an ear-ring on one ear and a dangling kundala on the other ear. This is what makes the deity incomparable in beauty in a physical sense and power in a metaphysical sense. dIkshitar being a shrividyA upAsaka would have feasted his visit to this kshetra.

Lyrically, one can see how dIkshitar toys with the words. While the regular prAsam, yati and mOnai aspects are beautifully preserved in the anupallavi, one can also see how the entire anupallavi is filled with complementary duality. dhIra and dhIna for example which are exact opposites in terms of meaning and of course bringing in the two streams of philosophies. The chitta swaram (usually sung at the end of both anupallavi and caraNam) brings the ultimate closure for it embellishes the beauty of sAvEri with prayOgams that pretty much exhausts the scope. The "sndr" phrase at the beginning of the second Avarthanam of the chitta swaram stirs the heart and brings about a feeling that is indescribable.

As one can clearly feel, there is a definite shift in the seriousness and complexity of the kriti moving from the pallavi to the anupallavi. dIkshitar changes to top gear in the caraNam and leaves the rasika floored.

smErAraNa sEvaka caturAnana nArAyaNa
tAraka divyanAma pArAyaNa kRta-
nAradAdi nuta sArasapada
sadAmOda nArIvEsha dhara vAmabhAga murArE
SrI vidyArAja harE SrI rUkmiNi satyabhAmAsrita
pArSva yugaLa kambujayagaLa
nIra sampUrNa haridrAnadi-
tIra mahOtsav vaibhava mAdhava
mArajanaka nata Suka sanaka janaka
vIra guruguha mahita ramA sahita

dIkshitar continues to describe the beauty of the Lord as one with a smiling countenance ("smErAraNa") and the one who is served by the four-headed Lord Brahma ("sEvaka caturAnana"). The sthala purAna says that Lord Brahma once became extremely arrogant and fell from his position of high stature. Upon the advice of sages Suka and sanaka, Brahma is supposed to have come to campakAraNya, meditated on the deity here with the dvAdasa-kshara mantra and was subsequently elevated to his old position by Lord Vishnu. dIkshitar then refers to the penance and service ("nuta") of devotees such as nArada ("nAradAdi") who constantly chant and spread the glory ("pArAyaNa kRta") of the Lord by chanting his auspicious name ("divyanAma"). Here dIkshitar describes the Lord's name ("nArAyaNa") as a tAraka mantra, a chant that will help one to cross the cycles of rebirth and attain the Lord's feet.

dIkshitar then goes on to describe the physical beauty of the deity as the one with lotus feet ("sArasapada") and the one in floating in eternal bliss ("sadAmoda"). He once again reiterates the ardhanArIshwara style of the Lord whose left-side of the body ("vAmabhAga") is adorned with feminity ("nAri vEsha dhara") and describes the Lord as the one who killed Mura ("murArE"). The composition kind of ends to exist on a physical plane at this point and takes off on a whole new dimension with the next few lines in some ephemeral space.

Foraying into the tAra sthAyi, dIkshitar directly addresses the Lord as the supreme form of shrIvidya ("SrividyArAja hArE") and describes Him as one who is flanked on both sides ("pArSva yugaLa") by Rukmini and SatyabhAma. The composer then pays tribute to the beauty of the deity by referring to Him as one with a neck ("gaLa"), the beauty of which surpasses ("jaya") that of a well-formed conch ("kambu").

No description of a temple is complete without mentioning its temple tank and dIkshitar starts of the madhyamakAla sAhityam by describing the temple tank, haridrA, as one filled with holy water ("nIra sampUrNa"). The tank is so huge that dIkshitar calls it as a river, haridrAnadi, and goes on to describe the Lord as the glorious ("vaibhava") Madhava who is carried along in the flotillas in the temple tank during the months of the great festivals ("mahOtsava") at the temple. dIkshitar once plays with the word "janaka" by addressing the Lord as the father of Manmatha ("mArajanaka") and by referring to sages suka, sanaka and janaka as the ones who praised ("nata") Him. dIkshitar waits till the last line to incorporate his composer mudra by describing the Lord as one who is praised ("mahita") by the valorous ("vIra") Lord Guruguha and the one who resides with Lakshmi ("ramA sahita").

The experience of listening to a nice rendition of this kriti or trying to render the kriti by oneself, I would describe it as physically and emotionally exhaustive. One can't help but feel completely overwhelmed by the beauty of this majestic composition. By the time the second round of chitta swarams come at the end of the caraNam one is completely drained and is saturated with the musical, lyrical, grammatical and literary genius of the nAdajyOti MuthuswAmi dIkshitar. Filled with intricate passages and prayOgams which exhaust the scope of a major rAga like sAvEri, this is definitely one of the biggest feathers in dIkshitar's cap. Until next time (hopefully very soon), a proud dIkshitar bhakta signing off by saying "shrI guruguhasya dAsOham".

Sunday, March 28, 2010

shrI guruguhamUrtE - udayaravicandrikA

I still don't know how an entire month has passed so quickly. And, as always, I have not been able to blog for quite a few reasons, some good and some bad. The good incidents give you a great feeling of high while the bad ones leave you with a taste of vitriolic bitterness and the oscillation between the two seem to make up what we call as life. Over the last month, these vicissitudes and vagaries of life have made me contemplate quite a lot about the startling difference between karma and free-will. Being an extremely open-minded person and an eternal optimist that I am, I still find it quite difficult to digest some of the events that happen in our lives quite frankly beyond our control and perhaps due to no mistake of ours. However much I isolate myself from this world, incidents like a dear one meeting with an accident rendering him paralyzed for a few months, a close friend getting hurt (physically/mentally) etc seem to have a great impact on me forcing me to go further into this cocoon that I create for myself quite often. I guess it is events like this that clearly show the evanescence of human life, shakes up one's life and makes him go in search of answers which this plane of existence can probably never offer. Anyway, I don't know how much of this makes sense or how much of this sounds like plain cribbing, but this is the contemplative state of mind I am in right now and where else can I vent such thoughts other than my personal blogspace :). May the supreme force help me overcome all these delusions and find the answers that I need.

I have been planning on yet another trip to tiruvArur and some temples in the vicinity (kIvalUr, nAgapattinam, kuzhikkarai etc) followed by a trip to ettayapuram (dIkshitar's final resting place) but certain incidents (the bad ones as I have ambiguously referred to in the above paragraph) in the last few weeks have thrown things completely out of gear, creating turbulence at home and hence preventing me from going on this pilgrimage. I guess its God's own way of telling me that it is not yet time to come and see Him. Well, I shall hope that the time comes soon and that I will be able to go on this journey that I so dearly want to. Anyway..I shall stop blabbering here and continue with the krithi that I will be taking up in this post. "shrI guruguhamurtE" in udayaravicandrika is dIkshitar's eighth and final krithi of the guruguha vibhakti series composed exclusively in the vocative case and set to rUpaka tALa. Before I get into the masterpiece, I would like to clarify a few confusions regarding the raga udayaravicandrika itself, the chief one being the claim that Suddha dhanyAsi and udayaravicandrika are one and the same.

Udayaravicandrika (referred to as URC henceforth) is cleverly classified as an upAnga janya of the 9th mELakartha dhunibhinnasadjam (dhEnuka as per the other school) with the scale: sgmpns;snpmgs. Hence, URC employs a kAkali niSAda. Suddha dhanyAsi (referred to as SD henceforth) on the other hand is classified as an upAnga janya of the 22nd mELa, shri rAga and hence makes use of the kaiSiki niSAda. This is the only significant difference between the 2 rAgas and SubbarAma dIkshitar highlights this clearly while explaining the rAga lakSaNa of SD in the SSP. URC is also known as Srothaswini. However, the fact that the tyAgarAja school also used the name URC while referring to SD complicated the matters and somehow this seems to have stuck with the people after the trinity's times and this niSAda disctinction between the 2 rAgas seems to have completely disappeared with people saying that URC and SD are one and the same. And with this beautiful composition of dIkshitar being neglected in the concert arena (except for a few artists like Vedavalli maami), the original URC as per the dIkshitar school has successfully been buried in its grave.

Anyway, I will now start with the krithi,


shrI guruguhamUrtE ciccaktti sphUrtE
ishya janAvana kIrtE sumuhUrtE jaya


dIkshitar addresses the Lord guruguha as "the one throbbing ("sphUrtE") with the power ("shakti") of consciousness ("cit"). The one who is renowned ("kIrtE") for protecting His disciples ("Sishya jana"). The one who is an embodiment of auspiciousness ("sumuhUrtE"). Victory ("jaya") to you."

The first thing that struck me when I listened to this krithi a few years back was the tone that dIkshitar uses throughout this composition. It sounds as if he has achieved or won something that he has been longing for. And he dedicates this victory to Lord Guruguha and hence he ends the pallavi, anupallavi as well as the caraNam hailing the Lord for his victory. It is said that dIkshitar performed austerities and deep meditation for forty days at tiruttani before the Lord appeared in front of him as an old man and put sugar crystals in his mouth after which dIkshitar straight away burst into music with the guruguha vibhakti series. Hence, one can assume that on a physical plane, dIkshitar was probably ecstatic on completing his first set of compositions. Of course, on having been able to visualize and interact with the Lord at higher spiritual realms, it is only appropriate that dIkshitar pays his respects and thanks to his guru and the Lord in this concluding piece of this set of compositions.

Another interesting point to note in the pallavi is the way dIkshitar describes guruguha as one vibrating with cit shakti, the power of consciousness. Shakti is believed to be the manifestation of the kinetic component of Brahman. Hence, it is Shiva (consciousness) who manifests as Shiva Shakti. Therefore Shakti is consciousness by itself. Once we understand this, we can attach two aspects to this Shakti, namely, cit shakti or vidyA shakti (the illuminating consciousness) and mAya shakti or avidyA shakti (the deluding/veiling consciousness). The two shaktis are conscious by themselves and are independent energy forces. But this mAya shakti itself is composed of the three gunas, rajas, tamas and sattva and by using these gunas it not only makes itself appear unconscious but also shrouds the vidyA shakti from the human mind. One has to hence first overcome this mAya shakti and then tap the cit shakti to attune to divine vibrations. dIkshitar here visualizes the Lord as the one who throbs with this cit shakti and by tapping into His divine consciousness for probably even just a second, one can get enlightened and free themselves from bondage. And imagining the dIkshitar's state of mind to even realize the Lord as this throbbing energy is scintillating :).

Coming to the musical aspects, dIkshitar clearly highlights the janTa prayOgams which gives jivAdAra to URC right at the beginning with the "sggmmpp" phrase at "shrI guruguhamUrtE". He also highlights the gAndAra with the "pmmG" prayogam at "sphUrtE". It is only in the second line that he brings in the niSAda and paints a complete picture of URC. It was only a couple of months ago that I completely realized the beauty of some phrases like "PmGmgs" at "kIrtE" when I heard my dear friend Lavanya Kothandaraman sing. Thanks for that laavi :). Moving on to the anupallavi,


yOginI hRdaya prakASa citta vRttE
yugapad-bhOga-yOga pradAna nipuNa SaktE
Agama rahasya tattvAnusandhAna yuktE
AnandAnuraktE ativiraktE jaya jaya


Here, dIkshitar describes the Lord as "the one who rejoices and delights ("hRdaya prakASa") the minds ("citta") of the yOginIs. The one with the power ("SaktE") that is an expert ("nipuNa") in giving ("pradAna") time-bound ("yugapad") material pleasures ("bhOga") as well as ageless spiritual bliss ("yOga"). The one who can be realized by following the truths ("tattvAnusandhAna") and expounding the secrets ("rahasya") of the Agamas. The one who is an embodiment of supreme bliss ("AnandAnuraktE") and (at the same time) completely detached and free of bondage ("ativiraktE"). Victory unto you ("jaya jaya")."

Now apart from the direct interpretation of yOginI hRdaya as given above, I must also mention the fact that yOginIhRdaya is one of the 64 tantras of the vAmAchara and the kauLAchAra paths of shrI vidyA sAdhana. Hence, the first line of the pallavi could also be interpreted as a description of Lord guruguha as "the one who enlightens the mind and shines forth through the yOginI hRdaya concept". dIkshitar also clearly displays his scholarly handling of Sanskrit grammar once again. While the antyAkshara prAsam utilizing the sambOdhana pratama vibhakti runs throughout the krithi beautifully, the yati and mOnai aspects of the grammar (yOginI-yugapad and Agama-Ananda pairs) are also showcased quite brilliantly. It all seamlessly blends in and only when we take out word by word can we even realize that it is like separate pearls making up a nice garland with a common thread running through :). dIkshitar finally describes the Lord as one who is full of bliss and at the same time devoid of any attachments. This concept (which could also be used to describe the ideal guru that a disciple wants to find in this world) strikes a remarkable similarity to the supreme lotus (quite aptly, the national flower of india) whose petals and leaves are never sullied even if it grows in a dirty pond.

Musically, the anupallavi is my favourite part of this krithi. He begins the anupallavi itself with unusual phrases like "PSn" and "pnPsGg" at "yOginI" and "hRdaya prakASa" respectively. He continues to milk the beauty of URC by employing zigzag vakra-ish phrases like "sgSmPpnS" at "yugapad bhOga yOga" and "nmpmnpp" at "nipuNa SaktE". I dont know if dIkshitar would have realized at the time of composing this krithi that URC would fade away into oblivion, but, it definitely does seem like this krithi is one hallmark composition in this rAga and it will hopefully withstand the onslaught of those repetitive kAmbhOjis and bhairavIs. Going to the caraNam,


Atma-ISvara jIva bhEdAvaraNa nivRttE
ASrita SishyAnugraha kAraNa pravRttE
AtmatattvAdi Sodhana sAdhana sampattE
Arakta-SvEta miSra caraNa pravRttE
Atma kOti bhaktE anAdi mAyOtpattE
AtmAnubhava sArasantRptE nirmuktE
AtmOdaya ravicandrikA sandIptE
paramAtma shrI cidAnandanAtha namastE jaya jaya


In the caraNa, dIkshitar continues to describes the Lord in his typical advaitin mode as "The one who removes ("nivRttE") the ignorant veil ("AvaraNa") of distinction ("bhEda") between the individual soul ("Atma jIva") and the supreme soul ("ISvara jIva"). The one whose divine nature is to bestow His grace and blessings ("ASrita anugraha") on His disciples ("SishyA"). The one who shows the path of noble tools and techniques ("sAdhana sampattE") and the means for testing ("Sodhana") and realizing the knowledge of one's own self ("Atmatattva"). The one whose feet ("caraNa") are a mixture ("miSra") of red ("Arakta") and white ("SvEta"). The one with crores of devotees ("kOti bhaktE") and the one who created ("utpattE") the delusion ("mAya") which has no origin ("anAdi"). The one who is completely satisfied ("santRptE") with the essence ("sAra") of experience of the self ("AtmAnubhava") and devoid of all attachments ("nirmuktE"). The one who lights the lamp ("sandIptE") of the soul ("Atma") in the rising sun ("udaya ravi") and the moon ("candrikA"). Oh supreme soul!! ("paramAtma"), the auspicious ("shrI") ruler of bliss of consciousness ("cidAnandanAtha"), prostrations ("namastE") and victory to thee ("jaya jaya")."

The steadfast advaitin that dIkshitar is comes to the forefront in the caraNa. He begins by describing the Lord as the one who removes the sheath that creates a sense of individuality and that ego called "I". I personally think that this where the distinction between the guru and the Lord completely vanishes. Since dIkshitar accepts Lord guruguha Himself as his guru, he attributes quite a lot of the characteristics that one would normally associate with a guru to describe the Lord Himself. You can actually see this in the first 3 lines of the caraNam where he describes the Lord as one who protects and guides His disciples and the one who is the means as well as the path of self-realization. These 3 lines, in my opinion perhaps are the climax of this series of krithis. It is quite clearly visible here that dIkshitar has attained great heights of spiritual maturity by the virtue of which He is not only able to see the Lord as His own guru but also is able to use the Lord Himself as his vehicle to reach self-realization. Now, that perhaps happens to only one in probably a million (even among the greatest of yogis). That's why I say that these 3 lines does it for me as far as the krithi goes. Ofcourse, dIkshitar continues to show his other faces in the following lines of the caraNam.

dIkshitar describes the Lord as one whose feet is a mixture of white and red. This is perhaps best understood as a reference to the union of Shiva and Shakti who are usually symbolized by white and red respectively. This is the reason why Vibhoothi (sacred ashes) which is white in color is splashed across the forehead and kumkum which is red in color is placed as a dot (a bindu) at the spot between the eyebrows (the location of the third eye and the Agnya cakra). Finally, dIkshitar seems to have merged with the Lord (his guru) when he sings "AtmAnubhava sAra santRptE". Here, he describes himself (his soul) as the one who has experienced this divine joy of realizing him"self" and hence becoming complete and achieving divine communion. He describes the essence of this divine journey as the Lord Himself. aahaa..what brilliance!! Brings tears to my eyes accompanied by instantaneous goosebumps.

Finally, dIkshitar the composer comes out in the madhyamakAla sAhityam where he slips the rAga mudra in without disturbing the serenity or the them of the krithi, rather, enhancing the effect further. He describes the Lord as the one who stimulates the divine urge in His disciples with the brightness of the sun and the moon and in the process incorporating the rAga mudra. What an audacious display of ingenuity. He ends the krithi by once again offering his salutations to the Lord. He probably couldn't have ended the krithi on a more appropriate note ("jaya jaya"). Composing such a magnum opus for his first ever set of compositions is not only a victory to dIkshitar but also to the divine Lord guruguha Himself and with this victorious beginning, dIkshitar never looked back, composing one masterpiece after another for the next 35 years of his life.

To describe the musical aspects of this caraNam (and that too only partially), I would need probably yet another blogpost. Hence, I feel it would be better to just leave it to the rasika to listen to this krithi and soak in the genius called dIkshitar. With this, I will close this vibhakti series. I know I have taken quite a long time to finish this series but I hope I have done justice to this wonderful set of compositions. In my next few posts, I will take up some long pending personal requests from people who follow this blog. Quite surprisingly some of these requests fit very nicely into the Guruguha theme that I have been writing about in the last set. Hence, I will first take up "SaravaNabhava guruguham" in the rAga rEvagupti, set to rUpaka tALa composed at tiruvAvinankudi. Till then, listen to URC and have fun!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

guruguha svAmini - bhAnumati

I believe it has been quite a long time since I blogged back to back. Well, as long as it is for the good, I am not going to complain. On a side note, it definitely seems like my friends are on a marriage mania rampage or something of that sorts. Between January 17th and February 25th, around 11 of my friends and 2 of my cousins have got/are getting married. It is quite funny to open your e-mail inbox and find an invitation every day :-). Anyway, I wish them all wonderful years of togetherness and joy. With nothing much to write about, I guess I will move on directly to the krithi that I will be taking up today.

"guruguha svAmini bhaktim karOmi" is the seventh krithi in the guru theme composed exclusively in the seventh/locative case in the rAga bhAnumati and set to khaNDa jAti tripuTa tALam. bhAnumati is the 4th rAga in the asampUrNa mELa scheme and is pretty much similar to its counterpart vanaspati (the rAga in which thyAgarAja composed the beautiful masterpiece "pariyAcakamA") in all aspects except for the fact that bhAnumati is gAndAra varjya in the ArOhaNam. dIkshitar clearly sticks to this idea and the way he handles the rishaba and especially the madhyama in both of his compositions (brhadambA madambA being the other composition), one actually never feels that the gAndAra is missing. It is phrases like "ndns, pmgrs and rmpnd" that give that extra beauty to this rAga. And unlike the other krithis in this theme we have seen so far where dIkshitar pays rich tributes to both his physical guru as well as Lord SubrahmaNya, dIkshitar seems to pretty much have gone into an even higher plane of existence and concentrate only on the Lord's attributes in this krithi. I will explain this as we go along in this post. I have to thank dear SK (co-author in this blogspace) for introducing me to this krithi back in december 2007 when he spent a magical, musical fortnight with me back in Austin, Texas. Good times..great times rather ;(. Anyway..the pallavi goes like,


guruguha svAmini bhaktim karOmi
nirupama svEmahimni paramdhAmni


dIkshitar sings "I am devoted ("bhaktim") to Lord guruguha, the one who possesses unsurpassed ("nirupama") glory by the virtue of His own self ("svEmahimni") and the one who resides in the eternal supreme state ("paramdhAmni")."

At the very beginning of this krithi itself, dIkshitar addresses his devotion towards the Lord Himself whom dIkshitar has accepted as his guru as well as the final destination that his soul wants to attain. He also describes the Lord as one who is in a supreme plane of consciousness and the one who he visualizes to be of infinite glory. This glory that dIkshitar is describing here is a direct result of the Lord's pure consciousness which has ascended to the highest plane and hence the Lord (SubrahmaNya in this case) is an embodiment of that paramAtma (supreme consciousness) that a yOgi (dIkshitar in this case) wishes to attain.

The musical aspect of the pallavi is something to be just experienced. dIkshitar starts the krithi off with the avarOhaNa and captures bhAnumati right there with defining phrases like "pmgrs" at "bhaktim karOmi" and "ndns" at "nirupama". And he uses the gAndAra varjya ArOhaNa prayOgam of "rmmp" at "svEmahimni". More than just the usage of notes, it is the way he employs the gamakas that is just brilliant. For example, in the "ndns" phrase at "nirupama", the first nishAda is flat whereas the second nishAda is a beautiful kampitam oscillating and entering into a wedlock with the Sadja. He caps off the pallavi with a "pSndn" at "paramdhAmni" to loop back to the pallavi beginning. Moving on to the anupallavi,


karuNAkara cidAnanda nAthAtmani
karacaraNAdyavayava pariNAmAtmani
taruNOllAsAdi pUjita svAtmani
dharaNyAdyakhila tatvAtItAtmani


dIkshitar describes the Lord as "the compassionate one ("karuNAkara") and the embodiment of eternal bliss ("cidAnanda"). The one who is responsible for the acquisition and transformation ("pariNAmAtmani") of the limbs ("avayava") such as hands, legs etc ("kara caraNAdi"). The one whose form ("svAtmani") is worshipped ("pUjita") to obtain happiness through various stages of sAdhana such as taruNa etc ("taruNOllAsAdi"). The one who transcends all 'realities' ("tatvAtItAtmani") associated with the world ("akhila") such as the earth, etc("dharaNyAdi")."

In the anupallavi, dIkshitar predominantly mentions the tatvAs ("truths") and the type of sAdhana that is characteristic of the kauLava mArga/school of thought. There are many schools and systems that have been in practice for spiritual awareness and progress. It is common practice in most of these schools to believe in the concept of tatvAs or realities. These realities are associated with the physical body of the yOgi and all the other material/gross objects of this world. One of the chief goals of any yOgi is to use certain techniques (this varies depending on the school one is associated with) to transcend all these 'realities' and move beyond this world into a higher plane of existence, a different world altogether. The "dharaNya" tatva that dIkshitar mentions here is classified under the pancabhUta category of realities which are to be overcome.

There are seven stages of knowledge known as gnAna bhUmikas through which a yOgi passes. These are subEccha ("the desire for enlightenment"), vicAraNa ("enquiry"), tanumAnasa ("tenuous mind"), satvapatti ("self-realization"), asamsakti ("non-attachment"), padArtabhAvana ("non-perception of objects") and turyaga ("transcendence"). Corresponding to these stages of knowledge, there are different stages in the practice ("sAdhana"). It is the first 5 stages of sAdhana that are very critical as it is in these 5 stages the mind has a tendency to wander and only under the strict guidance of a guru can it obtain the discipline that is needed to proceed further. dIkshitar mentions the second stage, taruNa or the youthfulness stage of this sAdhana. Only after completing the fifth stage called as praudhAnta ("end of maturity") is the disciple considered mature and the guru lets go of the disciple a bit as he enters the sixth stage of unmani ("mind-devoidness").

Coming to the musical aspects of the anupallavi, dIkshitar employs the mandira sthAyi quite beautifully with "sndnp ndns" at "karacaraNAdyavayava" and he uses the exquisite "rgrs" at "pariNAma" and "pUjita". He also gives a lot of importance to the "rmp" phrases right from the beginning of the anupallavi at "karuNA" to the end of the anupallavi at tatvA"tItAtmani". Moving on to the caraNam,


nijarUpa jita pAvakEndu bhAnumati
niratishayAnandE hamsO viramati
ajashikSaNa rakSaNa vicakSaNa sumati
harihayAdi dEvatA gaNa praNamati
yajanAdi karma nirata bhUsurahitE
yamaniyamAdyaSTAHNga yOga vihitE
vijayavallI dEvasEnA sahitE
vIrAdi sannutE vikalpa rahitE


dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "the one whose radiant form ("nijarUpa") outshines ("jita") the sun ("bhAnu"), the moon ("indu") and fire ("pAvaka"). The one who resides ("viramati") in the hearts of the supreme swan-like yOgis ("hamsO") who are immersed in eternal bliss ("niratishayAnanda"). The intelligent one ("vicakSaNa sumati") who punished ("shikSaNa") and also protected ("rakSaNa") Lord Brahma ("aja"). The one worshipped ("praNamati") by Lord Indra ("harihaya") and other dEvAs and celestial beings ("gaNa"). The one who is dear ("hitE") to the brAhmans ("bhUsura") who perform ("karma") sacrifices and other rituals ("yajanAdi"). The one perceived by practicing ("vihitE") the 8-fold path ("aSTAHNga") of yOga which is made up of components such as yama and niyama. The victorious one ("vijaya") accompanied ("sahitE") by Valli and dEvasEna. The one worshipped ("sannutE") by men of valour ("vIrAdi") and the one who is formless and hence beyond imagination ("vikalpa rahitE")."

He straightaway incorporates the rAga mudra by comparing the Lord's effulgence to that of a sun at the beginning of the caraNam. He continues to emphasize the significant role that Lord guruguha plays in the spiritual progress of a yogi (could be referring to himself here) and describes how the Lord resides in the hearts of those paramahansas, those supreme yOgis thereby making their heart caves as His shrine. dIkshitar then makes a reference to the incident in which Lord SubrahmaNya punishes Lord Brahma, the creator, for not being able to explain the meaning of the praNava mantra Om. He imprisons Lord Brahma for his ignorance and hence the whole process of creation comes to a full stop. After repeated appeals by the other celestial beings, Lord Siva approaches Lord SubrahmaNya and requests Him to release Brahma and forgive Him. Lord Siva also questions guruguha Himself if he knows the meaning of the praNava mantra to which Lord guruguha answers that He will explain the entire meaning to Lord Siva in His ears, climbs on his lap and speaks into His ear. Since Lord SubrahmaNya teaches His own father, He is known as swAminAtha and that's how the puNya kSEtra swAmimalai near kumbakonam gets it name. Finally, He also explains the meaning to Lord Brahma, forgives Him and releases Him.

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshitar refers to the Lord as one who is formless and beyond imagination. He also states that the way to perceive the Lord is through Patanjali's 8-fold yogic path. This eight limbs of this path are restraint and social discipline ("yama"), observance and individual discipline ("niyama"), posture ("Asana"), breath control ("prANAyAma"), sense withdrawal ("pratyahara"), concentration ("dhArana"), meditative absorption ("dhyAna") and blissful super-consciousness ("samAdi"). The first two limbs yama and niyama are once again extremely critical in the sAdhana of a yOgi. As the name suggests, yama refers to codes of conducts and it consists of 5 parts: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), AstEya (non-stealing), brahmacarya (the way of living in brahmA's perception) and aparigraha (non-covetousness). Niyama on the other hand refers to religious observances and self-discipline and consists of 5 parts, namely, Shaucha ("purity"), santOsha ("contentment"), tapas ("austerity"), svAdhyAya ("repitition of mantras and reading of scriptures") and IshvarapraNidhAna ("self-surrender to the Lord"). dIkshitar talks about the techniques in rAja yOga quite often in many of his compositions.

There are so many beautiful phrases that I could go on and on about but just to highlight a few, the special prayOgam that dIkshitar repeatedly uses in the caraNam is "spmp". He starts off the caraNam with this phrase at "nijarUpa", uses it again at "viramati" and once again as "sspmp" at "ajashikSaNa" although the three usages that I have cited have a completely different shade each time. Another prayOgam that I would like to mention is the "grgs" phrase at "harihayAdi". In addition to the already brilliant sound that this phrase has, if you replace the shabda 'ha' with 'ga', this becomes a beautiful svarAksharam too :). The madhyamakAlam is also full of some really shtud prayOgams from which one can learn a lot. Since it would anyway be futile on my part to try and explain these phrases, I request you to go to our website and listen to the krithi and just enjoy the experience :).

I guess that is pretty much it from me on this post. I can't think of anything else that I need to highlight. In my next post, I will take up the final krithi of this series, shrI guruguha mUrtE in the rAga udayaravicandrika. I will try my best to post it within a week. Till then, ciao!! :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

shrI guruguhasya dAsOham-pUrvi

Looks like it is me who is playing the visiting faculty now. Only after a friend of mine mentioned it yesterday that I actually realize it has been nearly 3 months since I posted anything here. And I guess there is no point in apologizing for this long break, for it has become something that I keep doing pretty often. And since the main reason for not posting anything has been Laziness with a capital L, I can't ensure that this won't repeat :-). Sad but true. However, the break has not been that uneventful either. I spent more than a week attending concerts during the December music season in chennai and had a ball of a time sabha-hopping and gorging on good grub :-). Thanks to jayaganesan (my friend from college days), the stay at triplicane was wonderful and I even got to play cricket at 6 am in royapettah ground with the fresh morning mArgazhi winds on my face..aah, pure bliss.

Perhaps the most spectacular part of me attending this year's music season was that I got to listen to some of the veterans live for the first time in my life :); grand artists from quite a few generations before like nEdanUri mAma, Vedavalli mAmi, rAma ravi mAmi and kalpakam swAminAthan mAmi. I have also been planning on my next pilgrimage tour (yet to decide on the destination(s)) though I have been a bit cash-strapped. The other notable event of the last 2 months is that I have been blessed enough to acquire around 70 new dIkshitar compositions :-). kOti namaskArams to shri bAla shrInivAsan sir for passing on these gems. We are just 9 short of completing the collection and I am absolutely ecstatic about it. I am still in the process of getting approval from the concerned sources for uploading this set of krithis on the sangeethapriya tribute website.

Moving on to the krithi of the day, shrI guruguhasya dAsOham in rAga pUrvi set to miSra cApu is the sixth krithi of the guruguha vibhakti series composed exclusively in the sixth declension (genitive case/SashTi vibhakti). The highlight of this krithi is perhaps the clear demarcation that dIkshitar draws between the disciple and the guru. The other fascinating aspect is the way dIkshitar describes the guru as an embodiment of the shrIcakram itself. The rAga pUrvi itself is a very special bhAshAnga janyam of mAyAmALavagOwLa and the fact that dIkshitar has handled this scale in just his 6th ever composition speaks volumes about his genius. Though the rAga scale is given as the sampUrNa MMG scale, the lakshaNam details shine through in prayOgams like nsggm, sgmg and pNDp and the life of pUrvi clearly revolves around the gandAram and the niSAdam. dIkshitar, in addition to employing all these prayOgams also makes sure that he sparingly uses straight-line ascending/descending prayOgams. For eg, there is not a single srgm prayOgam in this entire krithi. Anyway, I shall move on to the pallavi with this small introduction about the rAga, which in any case can only be understood by listening to the krithi and experiencing these prayOgams.


shrI guruguhasya dAsOham
nOcEt cidguruguha EvAham


dIkshitar sings "I am the humble servant ("dAsOham") of guruguha, else ("nOcEt") I am the form ("EvAham") of guruguha himself".

In shrI vidyA, the guru is not just a concept but has well-defined role as an individual. The guru is considered the most exalted individual and he is believed to be the supreme guide to a disciple- "na gurOr adhikam tattvam". The school considers Lord Shiva as the AdinAtha, the progenitor. The three pillars of this school are mantra which represents the mind ("manas"), dEvata, the idol which represents prAna, the vital force and finally the guru who represents the disciple's one self. The guru always sits on top of the sahasrAra cakra, the thousand petaled lotus and devotion to the guru strengthens the mind and purifies it. This idea is well-established by dIkshitar in the first krithi of this series itself, shrI nAthadi guruguhO in which he sings "mAya kAryA kalanA hInO; mAmaka sahasra kamalAsInO".

However, dIkshitar clearly states on many occasions that there is advaita bhAvam with the guru and that the disciple and the guru are never the same. The disciple shares advaita bhAvam only with the supreme consciousness and not with the guru. The guru is hence that enlightened soul which initiates the disciple into contacting the supreme consciousness and helps the disciple realize his/her own essential reality (svArtha-parArtha-prakaTana parO guruH). dIkshitar once agains brings out this idea clearly in the beautiful Anandabhairavi krithi "AnandEshvarENa samrakSitOham" where he refers to his guru initiating him into realizing the guruguha rUpam within himself- "jnAna pradAna guruguha rUpa". Hence just to emphasize this, dIkshitar sings in the pallavi that he is either a servant of his guru or else he is the form of the supreme soul, guruguha himself. dIkshitar identifies himself with the supreme soul in many krithis like "cidAnanda rUpOsmi brahmAnanda rUpOsmi" once again in "AnandEshvarENa" and "saccidAnanda paripUrNabrahmAsmi" in the shankarAbharaNam kamalAmba navAvaraNam.

Also, in my post on the krithi "guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya" in sAma belonging to this same set of krithis, I had mentioned that it is the only krithi as far as I know that has two guruguha mudras. Well, I have to take that statement back because even this krithi has two guruguha mudras right in the pallavi itself :). Musically, dIkshitar straight away gets into business, chiselling pUrvi with prayOgams like "nnnsggm" at "guruguhasya" and "gmpsnpm" at "cidguruguha". Overall, even though the pallavi looks small, dIkshitar has packed quite a punch in it. Moving on to the anupallavi,

bhOga mOkSAtmaka caraNasya bhUpurAdi navAvaraNasya
yOgibRndAntahkaraNasya yOga pIthAdi kAranasya


dIkshitar describes the Lord/guru as "the one whose feet ("caraNasya") bestows enjoyment ("bhOga") and salvation ("mOkSa"). The one who is the embodiment of the 9 sheaths ("navAvaraNasya") starting with the bhUpura. The one who resides in the hearts ("antahkaraNasya") of the groups of yOgis ("yOgibRnda") and the one who is the substratum of yOga pIthAs".

The Lord (actually Goddess ambAL because it is shrI vidyA upAsana) as well as the guru are both capable of giving enjoyment and salvation. There are actually quite a few occasions where the guru has been known to show the disciple the supreme soul and give him enlightenment. If I may relate the famous incident where svAmi vivEkAnanda as a young spiritual seeker went in search of a guru, asking people around if they have seen God and if they can show him. Being unsatisfied with answers from hundreds of enlightened souls, he finally reached the noble soul rAmakrSNa paramahamsa who, upon being asked the same question touched young vivEkAnanda's third eye between the eyebrows with his finger and by passing on some of his cosmic energy immediately raised the young man's kundalini for a second and made him experience the state of samAdi. However, one should clearly understand that the guru can only show his disciple a preview of what it is to enjoy samAdi and in order to stay in nirvikalpa samAdi forever, it is ultimately the disciple who has to put in his own efforts, progress spiritually and find God for himself.

dIkshitar further pays rich tributes to the guru soul and sings in the anupallavi that beginning with the bhUpura (the outer square), the 9 layers of the shrI cakra are itself the form of the guru. This is in sync with bhAvanOpanishad which says "shrI guru sarvakAraNa bhUta shaktiHtEna navarandha rUpO dEhaH navacakra rUpam shrI cakram" which in essence says that the guru's body itself is the shrI cakram and all the yOginIs guarding each strata are identified in the guru himself.

Musically, dIkshitar begins the anupallavi with the graceful "PgMGrsnsGm" prayOgam at "bhOgamOkSAtmaka caraNasya". He further embellishes the krithi and brings out the rAga bhAva with phrases like "NsND" at "yOgibRnda" and "NrNSm" at "yOgapIthAdi". He handles the rAga so beautifully and if it was not for krithis such as this, the rAga would have been long extinct (not that it is being sung all that regularly, but still..). The caraNam goes like,

sanakAdi pUrvika munigaNA sannutAnanda vigrahasya
vanajabhavAdi sakalasumanO vAHncitArthAnugrahasya

jananalayAdi rUpa prapaHncAjHnAna kArya nigrahasya
manana dhyAna samAdhiniSTha mahAnubhAva hRdgRhasya

dinakarakOTi vibhAsvarasya tEjomaya jagadIshvarasya

janaraHnjanakarasya varasya sarvasmAt parasya harasya


dIkshitar continues to describe Him in the caraNam as " the blissful form ("Ananda vigrahasya") who was worshipped ("sannuta") by ancient ("pUrvika") sages ("munigaNa") such as sanaka etc. The one who bestows grace ("anugrahasya") and grants the desires ("vAHncitArtha") of Lord Brahma, the lotus born ("vanaja bhavAdi") and other celestials ("sakala sumanO"). The one who removes ("nigrahasya") the ignorance ("ajHnAna") associated with the universe ("prapaHnca") which has both creation and destruction ("jananalayAdi"). The one who dwells in the hearts ("hRdgRhasya") of the noble sages ("mahAnubhAva") who practice contemplation ("manana"), meditation ("dhyAna") harmony with the supreme consciousness ("samAdhi") and a consummate state ("niSTha")".

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord/guru as "the one whose brilliance shines ("vibhAsvarasya") like crores of suns ("dinakarakOTi") and the effulgent one ("tEjomaya") who is the lord of the universe ("jagadIshvarasya"). The revered one ("varasya") who delights all people ("janaraHnjanakarasya"). The one who is above everything ("sarvasmAt parasya") and the one who removes ("harasya") all sins".

The first thing that strikes the rasika about the caraNam is the adyAkshara prAsam employed while still sticking to the genetic case using words ending with "asya". When this combines with the beautiful miSra cApu, the experience is something indescribable and the caraNam is a must listen even from the musical point of view. The second thing to be noted is the pun which dIkshitar employs while incorporating the rAga mudra. Its not exactly a complete slEsha usage my opinion its a semi-slEsha, if I may call it so to refer to the ancient sages as "pUrvika munigaNa" while bringing in the rAga mudra. dIkshitar once again brings in the significance of the guru in the line "jananalayAdi.." thereby highlighting a very important characteristic of the guru which is to help the disciple realize the evanescence of everything that makes up this world and hence seek something more eternal and transcendental.

Except for a brief reference to the samAdi niSTha, for a change, this is a not a typical dIkshitar type caraNam loaded with yOgic and tAntric references. It is quite simple in that aspect but he doesn't compromise on the usual grandeur that a dIkshitar krithi is filled with. Musically, the madhyamakAlam is perhaps the grandest of them all. dIkshitar has shown his complete understanding of the rAga by using swara triplets very effectively here. The way he uses the shadja, niSAda and the rishaba is marvellous. He uses the madhya and the mandira sthAyi triplet with "rrrsNs" at "dinakara kOTi" and the madhya and tAra sthAyis at "
janaraHnjanakarasya" with the "ssNsrrSs" prayOgam. It gels in so beautifully that one wouldn't even realize that it is just 3 swarams being used. And the goosebumping, killer phrase is the scintillating "dpdpdm" used at "tEjomaya". The prayOgam itself is effulgent corresponding to the sAhityam :-). He rounds the krithi off with a nice, polished "ssGmGm rSn" phrase at "sarvasmAtparasya harasya" and hence re-linking smoothly with shadja take-off for the pallavi.

As I finish this post and the eve of mahAshivarAtri descends, one can only hope that the performing artistes of our times spend some time learning this masterpiece and singing it more often, if not as a main piece, at least as a decent sub-main. I sincerely pray that a rAga like pUrvi doesn't disappear into the oblivion merely due to artistes being obsessed with the same old kAmbhOjis and the bhairavis. Its not like we don't have capable artistes who can render such masterpieces. I guess many artistes don't want to come out of the old mold that has been established and of course the rasikAs are to be blamed too. Anyway that's not something to be discussed in this blog..I should probably take this to a forum like

In my next post, I will take up the next krithi in this series, guruguha svAmini bhaktim karOmi in the 4th mElakarta bhAnumati. And I will promise that the next post will be published within a week's time :). Till then, happy shivarAtri..spend at least 10 mins meditating on the Lord. shrI gurubhyO namaH

Saturday, November 28, 2009

rAmachandrabhaktam bhaja mAnasa!

I am back to play the visiting faculty. It's the "turkey killing weekend" here in USA. So, I request all those who read this post to pray to their favorite Gods/Goddesses to grant mukti to all those millions of innocent turkeys which have been stuffed and devoured in the last few days, in the name of a "thanksgiving tradition".

Gripped by the recent mELakarta rAga exposition series being telecast on podhigai, and thanks to a samaritan (TVG)'s uploads on Sangeethapriya, I got to listen to Gayakapriya and vakuLAbharaNam a few days ago. That aroused in me, an enthusiastic urge to refurbish a rare gem that had rested deep in my memory for a long time, or so it seemed. Having refurbished the song reasonably satisfactorily over the last week and sung to a few of my very dear friends, I thought a blogpost is in order, for what is truly one of Dikshitar's MOST unique krithis (needless to say, amongst his rarest - we're yet to get hold of a recording for our tribute site).

The krithi in discussion is 'rAmachandra-bhaktam' in the rAga 'gEyahejjajji', the 13th rAgAnga rAgam, mELam, in the Dikshitar school. It is amongst the only four or five songs composed by Dikshitar on Lord AnjanEya (who's very close to my heart - being a dvaitin :P), and to my knowledge, probably the only composition of his having a swara-graham for chiTTaswarams - such is its uniqueness. More on that when I get there.

gEyahejjajji, the 13th mELam, is the Dikshitar equivalent of gAyakapriya. As per the SSP, it is a sAyankAlika rAgam, with shuddha Ri, antara Ga, shuddha Ma, shuddha Da and shuddha Ni - a vivAdi! Hence, close to heart, being the vivAdi-boy! :P . The asampoorNa mELam, as in many of the 1(mod 6) asampoorNa mELa rAgas (the geeky way of referring to the 1st rAgam of each chakram) is nishAdha-varjya (devoid of nishAdham) in the ArOhaNam. Specifically, SSP provides the ArOhaNam to be - "S R1 M1 G3 M1 P D1 S". The avarOhaNam is sampoorNam with "S N1 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S". Apparently, the "P D1 S", is to make it easy for the singer, without him/her having to accommodate the (I feel) rather troublesome and oddly located N1 in between D1 and S. However, the asampoorNattvam (incompleteness) makes manOdharmam a tight-rope walk, if ever one chooses to experiment with it!

The song is set to a rather "chuggy" Adi tALam (1 kaLai), and progresses at a quasi-madhyama kAlam pace ('chuggy' is again the right word!). A pleasure to sing in that oh-so-comfortable pace - that of calmness and quietude. In some sense, it befits the deity in whose praise the song is! Lord AnjanEya is known for his 'jitEndriyattva' - conquer over sensory perceptions, and has been portrayed in the purANas to be forever calm, stoic and humble, and subservient to his master, Lord rAma.

|| Pallavi ||
rAmachandra-bhaktam bhaja mAnasa!
rAkShasAntakam, hanUmantam, shrI ...

O mind (mAnasa), sing in praise (bhaja) of the foremost devotee of Lord rAmachandra (rAmachandra-bhaktam), the one who vanquishes evil (rAkShasAntakam), the one with a swollen chin (hanUmantam) .....

A superb way to introduce AnjanEya! "rAmachandra-bhaktam"! The perfect adjective, I'd say - what with AnjanEya being certainly the foremost amongs t the devotees of Lord rAmachandra! Dikshitar probably uses "rAmachandra bhaktam" in the more complete sense of "THE devotee of rAmachandra". It is like, say, the usage "geetA" to refer to bhagavadgeeta, or say "bhAratam" to refer to mahAbhAratam, or, in Vaishnavaite school, "sahasranAmam" to refer to "ViShNu-sahasranAmam". I've also seen Sanskrit scholars referring to "amarakOsha" as simply "kOsha". It kinda seems plenty to just refer to AnjanEya as "rAmachandra bhaktam"(in a similar vein as the above), with his "first-in-line" far ahead of all else obviating from the very reference! Well, Lord Rama himself praises hanUmAn to the skies in the 1st sarga of the yuddha-kANDam (see here)

Also, the term "hanUmAn", has been dealt with in paurANic interpretation to qualify AnjanEya as "the knower of all divine knowledge". The term "hanu" refers to "knowledge". This is a valid interpretation, given the shlOkam in 28th shlOkam of the 3rd sarga of the kiShkindAkANDam of rAmAyaNam - "nAnR^igvEda-vineetasya na ayajurvEdadhAriNaH ...." (see here) which goes on to describe hanUmAn as knowing all four vEdAs perfectly (in addition to other attributes). Lord rAma goes on to describe the impeccability of hanUmAn! In fact, it is said that 'hanUmAn' is still chanting the vEdAs and the brahmasUtras in kimpuruSha khaNDa to this date!

In the view of the above, the pallavi seems to be more than an enough description of the Lord AnjanEya.

The swarasthAnams in the pallavI are very interesting, and needless to say, extremely apt for the meaning. As mentioned earlier, the dominant rasa is 'shAnta' rasa - the 'emotion' of peace, notwithstanding, the tinge of 'uncertainty/fear' that 'shuddha niShAdha' is capable of adding. In the pallavi herein, the N1 appears in the mandram alone and contributes wholeheartedly to the lovely wave of peace that the rest of the pallavi brings about. I particularly love the 'flat' gAndhAram in 'rAkShasAntakam', that brings in a feeling of 'assurance' of hanumAn as the destroyer of all evil and hence keeping us safe. The phrase hanUmantam, ends the pallavi on a serious note with the G3 and M1 dominating.

|| samaShTI charaNam ||
AmishIkR^ita-divAkaram, gEyahejjajji-rAga-preetikaram
|MK| sAma-dAna-bhEda-daNDa-chaturam, sad-guruguha-sammOditam, varam ....

The one who attempted to gobble up the sun (AmishIkR^ita-divAkaram), the one who loves/can be loved by the rAga gEyahejjajji (gEyahejjajji-rAga-preetikaram), the one who is adept at sAma, dAna, bhEda, daNDa (to uplift beings) (sAma-dAna-bhEda-daNDa-chaturam), the one who brings pleasure to guruguha (by blessing him) (sad-guruguha-sammOditam), the respectable (varam).

A s such, the reference to the his gobbling up of the sun, can denote at least two things - (i) the famous, actual event, (ii) the fact that AnjanEya is more knowledgeable and hence brighter than the sun. I am unaware if the term 'gEyahejjajji' means something deeper. Anyone with an idea of the same should kindly add a note on that.

The charaNam starts with a 'tasty' "D, N D, PM", setting the tone for a beautiful charaNam. The lovely swaram for divAkaram as "D P, M G," really energizes me. That G, halt is SO wonderful! gEya starts off as 'M G M', in the last beat of the AditALam of the first Avartanam, adding beautiful variety in the laya pattern for the song. preetikaram comes as P D, D S , - the platform is very well set for the tArasthAyi.

"sA-ma" in the madhyama kAlam starts as a 'swarasAhityam' (sA ma). dAna uses G, R. The usage S, N N, D for bhEda daNDa, in concordance with the meter adds excellent symmetry between the swara and sAhitya, that which is preserved for the rest of the madhyamakAlam. The usage S, M G, R G M for sammOditam varam is a beautiful lead to the chittaswara, which is the most unique feature of this song!

Swara-graha :
The swara, in stead of the sAhitya, has a madhyama-graha of the swara, i.e., P is sung as the madhyama graha swara S. Sa as Ma, Ma as Ni etc. The swara S is sung at the position Pa, in the 'actual' shruti, but would be 'Sa' in the madhyama graha shruti. For example, for a singer singing at 1, Pa would be Sa in the madhyama graha of 1, which is 5. I know that this is a musicological idea, but I am unaware of the science, rules and the ramifications of this idea. Again, knowledgeable people should help me here.

Swara - P, P M G R R M G G R G R R S | S , N, D P D | S , S R M , G M ||
Graha - S, S N D P P N D D P D P P M | M , G , R S R | M, M P N, D N ||

Swara - P M G R S , N D P D S, R M G R | S , N, D P P , | M , G R S M G M ||
Graha - S N D P M , G R S R M, P N D P | M , G , R S S, | N, D P M N D N ||

Words fail me here to describe the genius of the nAdajyOti! Who else could think of SUCH a chittaswaram, whose graham is beautiful AND complicated at the same time. Needless to say, this would challenge the singer quite a lot, especially if the swara and graham are sung interchangeably! A novel concept! Beauty non-pareil, brought out even in an asampoorNa vivAdi mELam!

As I mentioned earlier, I seek further enlightenment on this graham aspect of it. But as a layman, this is astounding stuff. The mood I see in the tempo and effulgence of the swaram and its graham, is that of a troubled stream torn up in two opposite directions of confusion, so typical of samsAra, seeking refuge in AnjanEya, the one who is free from worldly attachments.

On a side note, as a dvaitin, I am also VERY tempted to argue that the "reflection" (actually translation, speaking strictly) of the swara to yield its 'graha', denotes the 'image-reflection' (bimba-pratibimba) nature of rAmachandra and his bhakta, AnjanEya - a kind perennial master-slave relationship, if you will! IShAvAsyOpaniShat says - tamEva bhAntam anubhAti sarvam, tasya bhAsA sarvam idam vibhAti - It is following Him, the self-shining supreme, that all shines (dependently). It is because of his shine that all else shines. The swara-graham, somehow, for me awakens and underlines in me, those golden words of the IshAvAsyOpaniShat. I may be extrapolating, but that's just what I feel. Opinions may differ!

In all, this song comes about a beautiful treatise on a very unheard, undealt with rAga. It is prudent to point out here, the genius of the vAggEyakAras who bring out different emotions with the same swarams. While Dikshitar exploits the asampoorNa mELam effectively to produce 'shAnta' rasa, peace, shyAmAshAstrI uses the same notes in kalgaDa (pArvati ninnu) to convey a sense of distress, fear and appeal for refuge in the divine Goddess.

Evidently, all we, as mere mortals, can do, is pray to such divine demigods to grant us more bhakti in AnjAnEya, and his master, Lord rAma.

rAmachandra-bhaktam bhaja mAnasa......hanUmantam SrI....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

guruguhAd anyam na jAnEham - balahamsA

I started writing this post on 10th September (as the date above indicates) and today is the 30th of November :(. I have not been able to post anything for the past 2 months because of some "logistic issues". My laptop blew its motherboard and it took over 40 days of ping-ponging between the computer repair guys and finally, my laptop is now running on a factory-refurbished motherboard (which I sincerely hope will not give me any more troubles for at least one more year). We also changed over from one internet plan to another and hence I have been stuck in cyber-graveyard (as my friend Srividya Angara termed it) for nearly 2 months now. Further, I have also been a bit busy preparing for a few exams I am taking in the next 10 to 15 days. My unsuccessful job hunt has come to a grinding halt, I feel pretty much lost and tired and I don't know what I am going to do next. I have to admit that the fears of a premature end to my professional career have been looming large, especially for the last 2 months or so.

Anyway, on a more cheerful note, I went on a nice trip with my cousins to a few places of attraction around 150 kms from Bangalore. First we went to the rAmapramEya swAmi temple in DoddamAlUr. The kSEtra is famous for the sannidhi of baby Lord Krishna crawling on his palms and knees and overwhelmed by this sight, shrI PurandaradAsa composed the beautiful krithi "jagadOdAraNa" in kApi. We then proceeded to TalakkAd, a nice hangout spot on the banks of kAvEri river where we dived into the river to cool off a bit :). The final stop for the day was Somnathpura which is home to an archaeological masterpiece, the kESava temple built by hOysAla kings in 12th century A.D. The artwork and sculptures were absolutely mesmerizing to say the least and we spent a good few hours just roaming around the temple with our eyes and jaws wide open in wonder. You may want to check out the pictures of this trip here. Other than that, life has been pretty peaceful with music and meditation as usual :).

Moving on to the krithi that I will be taking up today, it was out of pure curiosity that I actually ventured into listening to this krithi and understanding it. Probably around 1.5 years ago, while Hari (close friend and guru) and I were chatting on skype as usual, he mentioned this krithi is amazing and sang the pallavi for me. We were both a bit perplexed because we had not listened to anything in balahamsa and the scale sounded just like the kEdAragouLa-nArAyaNagouLa genre. I had just then learnt "mAmava raghuvIra" in mAhuri and that added further to my confusion for its based on pretty much the same scale :). To clear all this confusion, I sat down with our faithful SSP and spent time seeing how the gamakAs and distinguishing phrases work for these rAgas. After listening to the krithi a few times and the other sancAris in the SSP, I could finally get a decent picture of this beautiful rAga. balahamsa, classified as an upAnga janya of harikEdAragouLa (28th mELa) has "srgmpdS-Sndpmgrs" scale (though that doesn't help anyone at all). It is one of those really tough phrase based rAgas that I have come across and phrases like "srgmpmr" and "rsnpds" centered around the rishabha as jIva swara gives this rAga its unique flavor.

Unfortunately, the confusion comes in because one does not find the "srgm" phrase neither in this krithi nor in the gItams/tAna varNams in the SSP. It is always phrases like "srmp" or "srmgrr" which are repeatedly used and this gives a clear kEdAragouLa effect. Well, I guess listening to the krithi probably gives an OK idea of the rAga..probably we should request SRJ mama to elaborate on rAgas such as this and mAhuri to help us understand better. Enough about the rAga, moving on to the krithi now, dIkshitar exclusively uses the panCami vibhakti (fifth/ablative case) to beautifully continue the Lord/guru theme while employing a rare rAga. The fact that dIkshitar uses a rAga such as balahamsa in only his 5th composition ever speaks volumes about the great genius. The pallavi goes like,


guruguhAd anyam na jAnEham
guptAgamArta tatva prabOdhinO


dIkshitar confesses "I know ("jAnEham") of none other than ("anyam na") guruguha, the one who taught and brought to light ("prabOdhinO") the esoteric, hidden ("gupta") meanings ("arta") and principles ("tatva") of the Agamas".

The first thing I noticed after going through the krithi was that dIkshitar seems to have dwelled in a slightly higher meditative realm than the first four krithis of this series..atleast, thats how I felt. Also, one can notice that he successfully manages to further erase that thin line of demarcation between the Lord and the guru. In the pallavi itself, he extols the Lord/guru by addressing them as perhaps the most knowledgeable people he has come across. He clearly makes use of the tale in which Lord SubrahmaNya teaches his own father Lord Shiva and thereby highlights the AchArya amsha of the Lord. And if you see from a disciple's view point too, it is the guru who unravels the mysteries of the sacred texts and enlightens the student about the shAstrAs.

The Agamas are basically sacred texts giving details of certain techniques and modes of worship of Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu. Each Agama consist of 4 parts. The first part deals with philosophy and spiritual aspects. The second part usually talks about yogic techniques for controlling the mind and senses. The third part extensively deals with rules that need to be followed for construction of temples and sculpting idols and statues. The final part talks about rules one needs to observe while performing rituals and other ceremonies. So, dIkshitar clearly chalks out the idea behind this krithi while he attributes the "dispeller of ignorance" status to the Lord and the guru simultaneously.

Coming to the musical aspects, dIkshitar kick-starts the composition with the "srmp mgrr" phrase at "guruguhAd anyam" followed by the beautiful "rpmgrsr" phrase at "tatva prabO"dinO. We can also observe that he primarily deals with ArOhaNa phrases in both madhya and mandira stAyis and hence does not employ the niSAdam in the pallavi at all. Moving on to the anupallavi,


aruNOdayAnanda kOti braHmANDAkAra-
SivAdidharAnta tatva svarUpiNO


dIkshitar describes the Lord/guru as "the embodiment of ("svarUpiNO") thatness ("tatva") which pervades everything beginning from Lord Shiva ("SivAdi") and ending with the manifested worlds ("dharAnta") and the one whose form ("AkAra") is as resplendent as sunrise ("aruNOdaya") happening in crores of universe ("kOti braHmANDa") at the same time".

dIkshitar clearly shows his inclination to advaita vEdAnta in these lines of the anupallavi. He takes the Lord/guru theme to a new high when he describes the Lord as the embodiment of that universal truth which pervades everything right from the supreme consciousness (Shiva) to all the creations in this world and beyond, a clear allusion to the jivAtma-paramAtma concept. The guru too becomes a representation of that universal truth/consciousness which a disciple wishes to reach through continuous God-union and having attained a divine high position, the guru too resonates with the supreme consciousness and traverses everything from that paramAtma to individual jIvAtmas. dIkshitar further compares the resplendent form to the lustre of crores of sunrises. It makes me wonder as to the high levels of consciousness which dIkshitar must have ascended in order to give such a wonderful description.

Musically, in my opinion, it is this anupallavi which dIkshitar uses as a wonderful platform to completely exploit and milk the beauty of this rAga in its entirety. The anupallavi starts off with my most favourite phrase in this krithi, "mgRpM" at "aruNOdaya" followed by a simple yet compelling "PDPDS" phrase at "kOTi brahmANDa". He then smoothly slips into the tAra sthAyi and employs the "rgrsn" phrase at "AkAra SivA"di and by this time, dIkshitar has completely differentiated balahamsa from kEdAragowLa. And he hits the final nail in the coffin when he uses the killer phrase "mGrmggr" to finish the anupallavi. If someone wants to really get a good picture of this rAga, it is this anupallavi where one should start..just brilliant!! If the rasikA has still not had enough (in the good sense :)), the caraNam that ensues is a real treat. Oh, and here I must make a small mention about tyAgarAja swAmi's compostion "daNDamu peTTedanurA" in balahamsa. There are many striking similarities in the way the two geniuses have handled this delicate rAga starting with the strange coincidence (?) of tyAgarAja swAmi using the word "brahmANDa" in the anupallavi when he describes Lord Rama as brahmANDa nAyaka.

The fact that thyAgarAja has composed 2 krithis (incl ika gAvalasina) in this rAga and that dIkshitar has composed a major krithi in the guruguha vibhakti series clearly shows that balahamsa was quite a popular rAga in the good old times. Unfortunately, many such gems seem to have vanished into the horizon over time thanks to our excessive indulgence in the same old kAmbhOjis, bhairavIs and tODIs :(. Atleast for the sake of pains taken by these majestic composers, I sincerely hope some of the qualified musicians perform a balahamsa or a ghaNTA more frequently. Anyway, moving on to the caraNam,


sahasradaLa sarasija-madhya nivAsinaH
sakala candra bhAskara tEjaH prAkASinaH
sahajAnandastitha dAsa viSvAsinaH
saccit-sukhAtmaka viSvavilAsinO
aharahaH prabalahamsa prakASAtmanO
daharavidyA pradAyaka paramAtmanO
jahad-ajahallakSaNayA jIvaikyAtmanO
rahaHpujIta cidAnandAtmanO


dIkshithar continues to describe the Lord as "the one who resides ("nivAsinaH") in the middle ("madhya") of the thousand-petalled ("sahasradaLa") lotus ("sarasija"). The one who gives light ("tEjaH prakASinaH") to the suns ("bhAskara") and moons ("candra") of all the different worlds ("sakaLa"). The one who expresses faith ("viSvAsinaH") in those devotees ("dAsa") who are established ("stitha") in the bliss of sahaja ("sahajAnanda"). The one who manifests ("vilAsinO") in this world ("viSva") as truth, consciousness and bliss ("saccit-sukha")".

dIkshitar continues to waltz through the madhyamakAla sAhityam describing the Lord as "the one who again and again ("aharaha") reveals the form of the effulgent self ("prakAsAtmanO") to the famous ("prabala") yogis. The supreme soul ("paramAtmanO") who bestows ("pradAyaka") knowledge of dahara vidyA. The one who reveals the harmonious union of the individual soul with the supreme soul ("jIva+ikyAtmanO") through jahal and ajahal lakshanas. The one who is the form of cidAnanda, who is to be worshipped ("pUjita") in seclusion of the soul and by performing esoteric rituals ("rahaH")".

In typical dIkshitar-ish caraNam style, he directly jumps into the yogic aspects and further establishes the idea and the importance of a guru in a soul's spiritual progress. dIkshitar once again shows the meditative realm in which he exists by clearly describing his spiritual experiences in the caraNam. He describes the Lord as the one who dwells in the sahasrAra cakra and as the one who loves His devotees and their unconditional love. And simultaneously he weaves this magical fabric by employing phrases like "snpds" at "sakaLa candra" and "rgsr" at "prakASinO". It is with phrases such as this that dIkshitar brings out the jIva riSabha beautifully. He choreographs the ending of each line in the caraNam with delicate precision as he continues to employ some eye-popping phrases like "Spdnp"..amazing brilliance yet again from the genius. You can easily see that I have run out adjectives a long time back :P.

The madhyamakAla sAhityam is a stroke of genius once again. How else can you explain the way he embeds the rAga mudra balahamsa as prabalahamsa without distorting the meaning? Infact, he sort of kills 2 birds in 1 stone as he brings in the "famous swan" to emphasize the advaita relevance. dIkshitar continues to incorporate upanishadic references. He mentions dahara vidyA, one of the 32 vidyAs mentioned in the upanishads through which a soul can attain brahman. When one practises any of these 32 vidyAs, he/she perceives the brahman with certain qualities and attributes highlighted. For eg, chhAndokya upanishad describes the brahman as "the imperceptible ether within the heart" and this upanishad along with brihadAranyaka upanishad specifically dwells on characteristics of dahara vidyA.

dIkshitar then uses vEdAnta paribhAsha when he refers to jahallakSaNa and ajahalakSaNa in order to further establish the advaita philosophy of union of the supreme soul and the individual soul. vEdAnta paribhAsha is basically a treatise which discusses the origin, nature and validity of the knowledge as expressed in advaita vEdAnta. So, it basically is in-depth grammar. In short, the relationship between a word and its meaning is called vritti and is classified as either Sakti vritti and lakSaNa vritti. Sakti vritti as the name indicates refers to those relationships (between a word and its meaning) which can directly generate knowledge of the meaning of the word and the resulting meaning is called vAchyArtha. With the help of this vAchyArtha (direct meaning), we can derive implied meanings called as lakSaNa vritti.

This lakSaNa vritti is further classified as jahallakSaNa, ajahallakSaNa and jahadajahalakSaNa/bhagatyagalakSaNa. Since this post has already gone way beyond readable, digestible length, I request the readers to click here to understand these concepts in depth explained with clear examples. Musically, the madhyamakAla dispels the idea that this is a slow rAga. With audacious phrases such as "srgrgr" at "prakASAtmanO" and "pSpmgr" at "rahaHpUjita", dIkshitar beautifully captures the essence of the rAga and sort of gives a complete picture of this "rare" rAga. To further emphasize the delicate structure of the scale, dIkshitar caps it off with an awesome citta swara section. I have always felt that I am not good at notating (esp with the tools available in this blogspot) and thats why I abstain from posting citta swarams. And when you have a magnum opus such as the SSP which gives clear distinct notations, why should I bother. I request the readers to kindly look into the SSP and follow the citta swarams (please do check it out..shtud it is).

Sorry for being in a kind of hurry to finish this post (too long already as I mentioned above). Finally, I once again request all performing artists who grace this blogspace to learn this krithi and perform on stage and popularize this beautiful piece. Such gems should be cherished for our future generations and should not disappear into the dead. I shall next take up "shrI guruguhasya dAsOham" in pUrvi and continue with this vibhakti series. Till then, keep listening and have fun :). Salutations to the great gurus!!