Monday, January 29, 2007

Thaayae Ezhaipaal

Monday morning and it is already friday..Damn that week ran fast. I was under attack by that terrible trio of cold,cough and fever. I have caught another fever these days- "Counterstrike"( a game for those who havent heard about it)..the whole apartment shakes when the LAN party is on. I have been on a high since morning listening to "Sri Viswanatham", a beautiful chaturdasha('fourteen') ragamalika composed by thalaivar. I think i will require two or three blogs to talk about this one song as it is filled with so much stuff. For now, I will stick to this wonderful and simple Tamil krithi by Papanasam Sivan(who has become my second thalaivar now :) ) called 'Thaayae Ezhaipaal' in 'Bhairavi'. I have heard a few beautiful versions of this song by Sanjay Subrahmanyan(click for the song). He mixes the words a bit in the anupallavi..a beautiful rendition nonetheless..sung with so much 'bhaavam 'and 'azhutham'. Papanasam Sivan sings about Goddess Shankari, another name for Goddess Durga. He seems to be suffering from a seriously beautiful case of self-pity :) as he always describes himself as 'ezhai'(poor) or something similar, always at the mercy of the God he is singing about. The lyrics are filled with devotion and overflowing with rhyme schemes. The pallavi goes like :
Thaayae Ezhaipaal Dhayai Seivaiye
Amba Dhayaapari Shankari Sakala Loka Naayaki
Sivan sings " Oh Divine Mother('Thaayae'), please show some mercy('Dhayai Seivaiye') on this clan of pitiful souls('ezhaipaal'). Goddess Shankari, the embodiment of compassion('Dhayaapari'), the queen/heroine('Nayaki') of the entire('Sakala') universe('Loka')." These few lines capture the essence of the "Bhairavi" raga with the proper use of both the dheivathams. In the anupallavi, Sivan imagines the Goddess as his own mother and sings with complete devotion asking her to grant him the great boon of attaining her feet.
Naayenum paalanri engae selvaen
Nalina Mrudhula Sukumara Manohara
Charnam yugalamarula tharunam idhuvae en..thaayae
Sivan combines tamil words for the rhyme scheme and to accomodate tala tolerances. He questions out of desperation "Where will i go('engae selvaen')? without('anri') the divine milk('paal') you feed me('Naan(me)+ye+num(your)')". He portrays himself as the child of the devi and here "milk" refers to the divine life force provided for humans. He continues to describe the beauty of the Godesses' legs which he wants to attain as graceful('Nalina'),tender('mrudhula'), beautiful('sukumara') and heart-pleasing('manohara') and he says " This is the time('Idhuvae Tharunam') to grant('arula') me the divine right to attain that pair('yugalam') of feet and surrender('charanam') myself, my('en') divine mother('thaayae')." The most beautiful aspect of his compositions are this sort of looping he brings in when he comes back from the anupallavi/charanam to the pallavi. When sung with full devotion, these lines make your hair stand up, scintillating with emotion.

Ennaadha Ennam ellaam Enni Enni
Etaadha Peraasai kotai Katti
Punnaaga Nenjam Pulambum Madam
Podhum ini mudiyaadhu unadhadi
podhumadaya idhu podhu varam aruli..thaayae
In the charanam, Sivan sings about the worthless materialistic desires of humans and how he wishes to attain the feet of God. He sings "Having all hazardous thoughts('enaadha ennam-referring to materialistic views') again and again('enni enni') and building('katti') castles('kotai') of unreachable('etaadha') greedy desires('Peraasai')." Unable to satisfy these desires, he sings, "The heart('Nenjam'), wounded('Punaaga') laments('Pulambum') that this is madness('Madam')." Having realised this, "Enough('Podhum')!! I cant take this anymore('ini mudiyaadhu'). So, this is the right time('idhu podhu') for you to grant('arul') the boon('varam') that I will attain('adaya') your('unadhu') feet('adi') daily('podhum-short for pozhudhum or epozhudhum')." These are beautiful words of Sivan hinting at the worthlessness of this human birth and how one should attain the 'paramaathma' through the 'Bhakthi marga'. Unfortunately, the beauty of these words cannot be expressed fully in the english language- due to the pitfalls of the language as well as the verbosity(or the lack thereof) of the blogger('me' :)).

Next on the list is another beautiful Papanasam Sivan krithi called "aadum deivam" in "kambhoji". A little hungry cutting short and running off to cook.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mahaganapathim and Vallabha Naayaksya

A wonderful sunday morning at Ann Arbor. I woke up today morning and opened the french windows at my house to see a beautiful covering of snow on my balcony floor and the frozen lake looked wonderful radiating the sun's light. I am having my morning coffee and listening to some interesting swaram patterns in karaharapriya brilliantly sung by Sanjay Subrahmanyan recorded by my friend Aparna who is extremely fortunate to be in chennai and she is my ear in chennai I should say :) Thanks Aparna!!! Meanwhile I am still under that sting of Kambojhi which is stubborn not to disappear. I listened to a jaw-dropping 'Sree Subrahmanyaya Namasthae' in Kambojhi(composed by thalaivar ofcourse) rendered by the great G.N.B. I was just blown away by the man's voice and shaasthriyam. Continuing in yesterday's spirits, I have managed to decipher more songs on Lord Ganesha by thalaivar Dikshithar. I will start off with 'Mahaganapathim' in Raga 'Naatai'. A small and very beautiful invocation krithi popularly being adopted into many tamil cine songs these days. The Pallavi describes the Lord as a center of meditation as
Mahaganapathim Manasa Smaraami
Vashista Vaamadevaadhi Vandhitha
Dikshithar starts off with a very small pallavi singing "I medidate and recite('Smaraami') with my whole heart('Manasa') on the supreme Lord Ganapathy, he who is worshipped by('Vandhitha') sage Vashista, Vaamadeva and others('aadhi')". Very simple but extremely open-ended for improvisation and I have heard so many different versions of the pallavi alone which once again is because of the flexibility characteristic of all dikshithar krithis. The entire scale and important phrases of the raga are brilliantly captured in the opening lines itself. Moving on to the samaashti charanam now,
Mahadevasutham Guruguhanutham
Maarakoti Prakaasham Shaantham
Madhyamakala Sahithyam:
Mahakaavya Naatakadhi priyam
Mooshika vaahana modhaka priyam
Dikshithar continues describing Lord Ganesha as "He is the son('sutham') of Lord Mahadeva, adored('nutham') by Guruguha. He shines('Prakaasham') like crores('koti') of cupids('maara') put together. He is the peaceful one('Shaantham') and loves('priyam') literary epics('Mahakaavya') and other arts like Drama('Naataka'). He uses a mouse('mooshika') as his vehicle('vaahana') and loves modhakam(a popular sweet)." Not much to explain in the charanam except for the beautiful inclusion of the raga mudhra ingeniously incorporated in the word 'Naataka' referring to drama. On the whole, a simple composition.(With all due respect to Lord Ganesha), maybe Dikshithar composed this while he was asleep or something :). The characteristic 'Sa Ri3' phrase embellishes this composition.

Now moving on to another short "samaashti charanam" krithi on Lord Ganesha by thalaivar. The song "Vallabha Naayaksya" in 'Begada' is yet another beautiful invocation krithi. It is yet another simple composition with lot of scope for improvization. The pallavi goes as
Vallabha Naayaksya Bhaktho Bhavaami Vaanchithaartha dhaayakasya Varamooshika Vaahanasya
Dikshithar sings "I became('Bhavaami') a devotee('bhaktho') of the hero/husband('Naayaka') of Vallabha who is the bestower('dhaayaka') of boons('vara') desired by devotees('vaanchithaartha') and uses the mouse('mooshika') as his vehicle('vaahana')." Thalaivar brings in some controversy by referring to Lord Ganesha as 'Vallabha Naayaka' because Lord Ganesha is supposed to be an ideal bachelor. However, he is also know to have had many consorts such as 'siddhi', 'buddhi'. Dikshithar refers to Lord Ganesha in a similar way in a few other krithis and I have to do more research to unearth more facts.
Pallavapadha mridhutharasya Paashaankushaadhi tharasya Mallikajaadhi Champaka harasya manimaalasya
Madhyamakala Sahithyam:
Valli Vivaaha kaaranasya Guruguha poojithasya Kaali Kalaamaalini Kamalaakshi Sannuthasya
Dikshithar describes the Lord beautifully as "His feet('padha') are as soft('pallava') as the tender shoots('mridhuthara'). He possesses a noose('paasha'), a goad('ankusha') and other weapons in his hand('tharasya'). He is ornated with garlands('harasya') of Jasmine('mallika') and champaka and is also decorated with necklace of gems('manimaala'). He is the cause('kaarana') of the marriage('vivaha') of Valli and is worshipped('poojitha') by Subrahmanya. He is adored('sannutha') by goddess Kaali, Saraswathi('kalaa+maalini') and the lotus('kamala')-eyed('aakshi') Lakshmi." Dikshithar talks about the delicate side of the Lord and his timely helping tendencies referring to his hand in the marriage of guha and valli. The best part of Dikshithar's compositions are the ways he refers to Gods metaphorically. Here, he calls Saraswathi as 'kalaamaalini', the goddess of arts and Lakshmi as 'kamalaakshi'. The madhyamakala sahithyam portrays the fast,racy phrases of 'Begada'. On the whole, yet another brilliant piece by dikshithar.

As the kambhoji bug continues to bite me, I am listening to a beautiful composition of Papanasam Sivan 'Aadum dheivam' rendered by Sriram Gangadharan in typical GNB style. I am starving now..guess i will go and grab some grub. In my next blog, I plan to talk about a few tamil krithis like 'Thayae Ezhaipaal' in 'Bhairavi' and 'Aadum Dheivam' in 'kambhoji' composed by the tamil thyaagaiyar Shri Paapanaasam sivan. A small break to thalaivar's krithis and I will pick up the next set of Dikshithar krithis with the awesome kamalaamba navaavarnams. Have a sooper sunday and a glorious week ahead.Cheers!!!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham

The snow is here..finally. Winter is setting in with temperatures in the negative. The past week, there were beautiful icicles hanging from everything. A treat for all those photographers here in Ann Arbor. A coating of ice over all the trees with the leaves,flowers and glittering ever so beautifully in the sunlight looking like beautiful crystals. As I am typing this, fresh snow is falling and covering the ground with and my face with cute crystals. I am listening to a wonderful song in Sahana "rama ika nannu" rendered by Sri Sanjay Subrahmanyan..intoxicating to say the least. Today, I will put some fundaes on that wonderful Hamsadhwani krithi which almost every other concert begins with. A salutation to Lord Ganesha to begin the concert with and ofcourse the brilliance shines through. My friend Hari(guitar god) says if you can play the song with all those nuances, you definitely are one of the best in the business. So here we go..

Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham
Vaaranaasyam Vara Pradham Sri
First of all, Vathapi(the modern day Badami of Bijapur district) is the place where Lord Ganesha is supposed to have been born to Lord Shiva and Parvathi. Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister Karunanidhi(being an atheist) uses this point to prove Lord Ganesha isnt a tamilian.Please see this article for further details about this episode.This is one of the 16 songs composed by Dikshithar on Lord Ganesha and since it is in the Raga Hamsadhwani, it is considered very apt to begin the concert with. The song has many "prayogams" that it is another great vocal exercise and hence acts as a good brisk voice opener for the vocalist. Now coming to the meaning of the pallavi, dikshithar sings
"I worship('Bhaje+aham') Lord Ganapathi hailing from Vathapi, he who has the face('haasyam') of an elephant('vaara') and showers('pradham') his devotees with boons('varam')". It is a simple pallavi with the first line starting with the characteristic "Ga Ri Sa" phrase of Hamsadhwani. Transcending generations, musicians have added numerous sangathis to these two lines of the song alone displaying the open ended flexibility characteristic of any dikshithar composition. Moving on to the Anupallavi,
Bhoothaadhi Samsevitha Charanam
Bhootha Bhautika Prapancha Bharanam
Madhyamakala Sahityam:
Veetharaaginam Vinutha Yoginam
Vishwakaaranam Vigna Vaaranam

Dikshithar sings "All the elements('bhoothas' as in panchabhoothas) worship('sevitha') his feet and surrender('charanam'). He pervades('Bharanam') the world consisting of the five elements('Prapanchabhootha bhauthika'). He is beyond('raaginam') desires('veetha') and is praised('vinutha') by all the yogis. He is the cause('kaaranam') of creation('vishwa' as in world) and is the destroyer('vaaranam') of all obstacles/sorrows('vigna')". Here again, one can the simplicity and beauty of the song and scope for a lot of sangathis. He employs an oxymoron referring to the Lord as both the creator and destroyer in the same line, just another display of his grammatical prowess. The charanam follows as
Puraa Kumbha Sambhava Munivara Prapoojitham Trikona Madhyagatham
Muraari Pramukhaadhyupaasitham Moolaadhaara Kshetrasthitham
Paraadhi Chathvaari Vaagaathmakam Pranava Swaroopa Vakrathundam
Nirantharam Nithila Chandrakandam Nijavaamakara Vidhrutekshu Dandam
Madhyamakala Sahithyam:
Karaambujapaasha Beejaapooram Kalushavidooram Bhoothaakaaram
Haraadhi Guruguha Toshitha Bimbam Hamsadhwani Bhooshitha Herambham
The Charanam is filled with upanishidhic references and beautiful description of Lord Ganesha. I will first explain the word by word meaning and then the fundaes behind each description. Dikshithar refers to sage agasthya in the first line of the charanam alluding to him as the sage('muni') born('sambhava') out of a jar of water('puraa kumbha') and sings "He(Lord Ganesha) is worshipped('prapoojitham') by sage agasthya(described as above). He resides in the middle of('madhyama') of the mystic triangle('trikona') and is praised and worshipped('upaasitham') by Lord vishnu('murari') and other important gods('pramukhaas'). He is present('sthitham') as an important deity('mooladhara') in all divine places('kshethrams'). Starting with 'paraa', he is present in the form('aathmakam') of the four varieties('chathwaari') of sounds('vaagaa'). He has a twisted trunk('Vakrathundam') and has on original form('swaroopam') of a 'pranavaa'. He always('Nirantharam') bears('Nithila') a crescent('Chandra') on his forehead('gandam') and possesses a sugar('ikshu') cane('dandam') on his left hand('vaama kara'). In his lotus-like('ambuja') hands('karam'), a noose('paasha'), a goad and fruits('beejapooram'). He drives away('vi+dhooram') all evils('kalusha') and has a gigantic form('bhoothaakaaram'). His form('bimbam') is adored('toshitha') by the gods like Hara,guruguha and all others. He is the Lord Heramba ornated('Bhooshitha') by the Raga Hamsadhwani."

The charanam in my opinion has so much depth that it could have been composed as another separate song itself. Dikshithar sings of Lord Ganesha as one who resides in the middle of the mystic triangle. Here, he is possibly referring to yogic practices. The first step towards meditation is concentrating on the space between the eyebrows which is also referred to as the mystic triangle, a source of infinte energy, also called as the 'agnyaa'(meaning command) chakra(in the astral body). Dikshithar also sings as Lord Ganesha to be present in all divine places which is very evident from the fact that whichever hindu temple you go to, there is always a 'sannidhi' for Lord Ganesha and this will be the first sannidhi you will pray to even before entering the 'praakaaram'.

The description of Lord Ganesha in the charanam is beautiful as he goes from top to bottom, completely describing all the things possessed by the Lord and his twisted trunk. Please see the picture above and you will be able to visualise the Lord perfectly. By describing the Lord to be in the form of 'pranavaa' he refers to the brahma mantra 'Om'. Many would have seen pictures of Lord Ganesha being portrayed as circumscribed by the symbol 'Om' and one can easily visualise the Lord as representing the divine brahman. Also, completing his reference to the mystic triangle(explained above) and pranavaa('om'), you can get the complete picture by looking at this image where the pranavaa('om') is considered as the beeja mantra of the mystic triangle of aathma(soul), shakthi(energy) and prakrithi(nature), repetition of which excites the aagnya chakra in the astral body(explained above). He concludes with the raga mudhra completing the music garland.

Overall, this easily becomes the best invocation song ever composed as it salutes the main deity(Lord Ganesha), composed in an auspicious raga and pretty challenging to sing, hence serving as a brisk throat-warming exercise. All I can do is stare with my mouth wide open as I continue to be amazed by the brilliance of Dikshithar and hence conclude that he's not mortal as usual. :) It has taken me one whole day just to explain this song, imagine how brilliant a mind with what great a 'paandithyam' could have compose 481 such masterpieces. Meanwhile, I have been stung by the kambhoji bug and am listening like a madcap to kambhoji for the past 2 days. Currently listening to "Evari Maata", a beautiful thyagaraajar krithi, rendered by my brother..pure bliss.

In the next blog, I plan to combine two more famous songs on Lord Ganesha by dikshithar..'Mahaganapathim' in raga 'Naatai' and 'Vallabha Naayakasya' in raga 'Begada' as both these songs are pretty small having what are called as "samaashti charanams". Signing off as usual with the traditional "thalaivar rocks"!!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Sri Lakshmi Varaham

The sun is shining beautifully with a cold breeze making my hair go crazy. It is a wonderful day at Ann Arbor. I am listening to a beautiful "Ninnu joochi" in raga Sowrashtram rendered by my brother in one of his concerts. I have a class to attend in 2 hours giving me ample time to put in a small blog on a beautiful krithi in one of my favourite ragas composed by the Nadhajyothi.

As titled, I am going to talk about the krithi "Sri Lakshmi Varaham" in the raga "Abhogi". Dikshithar composed this krithi when he visited the Lakshmi Varaha Swamy temple in Kallidaikurichi on the banks of river "Taamaraparani"(the river named so because it was supposed to be filled with lotuses). Incidentally, this is my grandmother's birthplace(and in some sense becomes mine too). It is a beautiful small village named aptly as kal+idai+kurichi translating to "town sandwiched between hills". The Lakshmi Varaha Sannidhi here is a world famous one and the sannidhi for Lord Kubera is supposed to be very special. With this introduction, I will start off with translating the entire krithi and explaining certain subtlities as I progress.
Shree Lakshmi Varaaham Bhajeham
Shree Lakshmi Sahitham Srithajana Shubha Pradham
Dikshithar sings "I worship("Bhaja"+"aham") Lord Lakshmi Varaha, who is in the company("Sahitham") of Goddess Lakshmi and gives happiness and proseperity("Shubha pradham") to those who take refuge in him("Srithajana")."
Once again we can observe the simplicity of his composition. The pallavi goes as "Sa Dha Ma Ga Ri Sa" which is the descending part(avarohanam) of abhogi raga scale. Also, the "Sa Dha Ma" notes are sung flat and simple but the sangathi sounds so beautiful and ornamented. That is the beauty of the great composer. The pallavi is a wonderful introduction to the song. In the Anupallavi he embellishes the Lord further.


Neela Megha Ghana Shyamala Gaathram
Neela Bhudevi Sthuthi Paathram
Neelakanta Shiva Guruguha Mithram
Nikhila Bhaktha Jana Bhayaarthi Daathram

Dikshithar beautifully describes the Lord as follows: " Whose body("Gaathram") is a dark blue-black("Shyamala") colour resembling the dark rain-bearing clouds("Neela Megha"), who is the object of praise("Stuthi Paathram") of Niladevi and Bhudevi. He is the friend("Mithram") of the blue necked("Neela kanta") Lord Shiva and Lord Subrahmanya. He removes("Daathram") fears and miseries("Bhayaarthi") of all his devotees("Nikhila Bhaktha Jana")."

In the anupallavi, there is an explicit reference of the Lord's skin colour to the dark rain clouds. We may also interpret this as an implicit reference to the Lord's love which he showers on his devotees just like rain from the clouds. Further, we can observe the mudhra "guruguha" beautifully intertwined as he refers to Lord Subrahmanya.


Mangalaalayaa Abhogi nutha Padam
Pungava Budhajana Natham Vedanutham
Shankara Priya karam Kubera Pratheeshtitham
Shanka Chakra Dharam Krupaakaram


Pankajaasana Pramukha Sevitham
Pankaja Mukha Bhaargavee Bhaavitham
Bhanga Hara Thaamraparnee Theerastham
Sankata hara Sadaananda Sahitham


He refers to the Lord as One who's feet("Padham") is ornated by the auspicious("mangalaalaya") Raga Abhogi, as one praised by the Virtuous and knowledgable("Budhajana") and the Vedas and scriptures. He pleases Lord Shankara("Shankarapriya karam") and enriches the wealth of Lord Kubera. He is also the bearer of the conch and the divine disc("Shankachakradhara"). Worshipped and served("Sevitham") by Lord Brahma("Pankajaasana"-the one sitting on lotus) and other important Gods("Pramukha"); Meditated upon("Bhaavitham") by the Lotus-faced("Pankajamukha") Goddess Lakshmi("Bhargavi"). Along the banks of the river Tamaraparanee, the Lord removes("Hara") all the obstacles and worries("Sankata") and is always("Sadha") filled with("sahitham") bliss("aanandham").

The charanam is brilliant description of the Lord. Dikshithar beautifully brings in the Raga mudhra in the first line of the charanam and refers to the auscpicious quality of the raga. He also makes sure he includes the reference to the special sannidhi to Kubera swamy in the temple. The madhyamakala sahithyam is another good vocal exercise to the singer. On the whole, the krithi is filled with simplicity but beautiful at the same time, a quality of all Dikshitar krithis.

I have one more hour to go for my class. My interest to learn control systems is forcing me to sit through this class though I graduated a few weeks back. The breeze is still blowing and is an unusually beautiful winter day at Ann Arbor. I think I will enjoy sitting under a tree now and listen to a wonderful "Ramaabhi Rama" in raga "Darbar" by my brother in one of his All India Radio broadcasts. Next, I am planning to take up some popular krithis on Lord Ganesha like "Vaathapi" in Hamsadhwani and "Mahaganapthim" in Naatai by thalaivar Dikshithar. These krithis are popular invocations without which no concert begins. Salutations to the great "Nadhajyothi"-Vaazhga Thalaivaa!!