Friday, April 20, 2007

shrI kamalAmbikayA katAkshithoham-Shankarabharanam

Hello all..long time no see. Sorry for the extensively long break I took from blogging. I went home to India :), met a few friends and now am back in the US. I had to move to Austin,Texas to take up work(for those who dont know..yes!!I finally got a job :)). So I was out of internet connection and all that.Anyway..after my trip to india, I feel rejuvenated and have become more can call me a qualified fanatic now :). I had the wonderful opportunity to Slan, Kavitha and a few other close school/college friends. And ofcourse I met fellow carnatic music enthusiasts- Shruthika Ananth(without whom my stay at bangalore would have been plain ennui ;)) and Ramaa Ramesh(the one and only RR who sang a brilliant kambhoji for me ;)). It was good fun and now am back. I learnt 2 new krithis-IshAnAdhishivAkAramanche(the best sahana i have heard in my life) and daNDAyudhapAnIM(anandabhairavi)-2 krithis about which i could rave on for hours..wouldve to write separate blogs soon to do justice to these two masterpieces. Anyway..I started writing about the next krithi- the navAvarnam in shankarAbharanam on april 20th and finished the pallavi and anupallavi but due to the circumstances explained above, I was unable to post it. So most of the information below would be outdated-bear with me for that. Whatever info i give after charanam are updated ones :) But ya..the fact remains..DIkshithar is GOD!! So read on..

I had a really nice week. Finally I have got a job offer with a company here in the U.S. and I am currently trying to find if I will be fortunate enough to travel to India before taking up the job. There are some visa issues to sort out. I had an enlightening music session with Hari and SK regarding grihabedhams. We stumbled across the grihabedham of natabhairavi leading to perhaps the "majorest" of all mElakarthAs like tODi, karaharapriyA, harikAmbhoji, shankarAbharanam and kalyAnI. Currently I am involved in finding out all the other possible grihabedhams and it is definitely interesting :). I got a chance to read some nice blogs by ramaa ramesh(RR)..a fellow dikshithar enthusiast and new family member ;). We have decided to join hands and spread the brilliant music this God has given humanity. You can read her blogs here

Last weekend was absolutely fabulous. I listened to 26 hours of brilliant music in 2 days at the cleveland thyagaraja aradhana. I hitchhiked the entire journey, stayed with unknown people-transformed to new friends and ofcourse drowned in the ocean of music. The highlights being concerts of TMK and seshu loaded with wonderful krithis, beautiful raga alApanas,neravals and unimaginable kanakkus. TMK's shrI rAjagopAla in sAveri is still ringing in my ears. So is Seshu's "diwAkara tanujam" aptly sung on saturday. One wholesome experience for sure. :) Now getting down to business, I will take up the beautiful third Avarana krithi in shankarAbharanam, shrI kamalAmbikayA katAkshithoham composed exclusively in the thrithiyA vibhakthi(instrumental case) on the sarva samkshobana chakra. As RR says very correctly in her blogs, dikshithar's compositions are basically hymns written with unbelievable meter, brillaintly fused with a wonderful display of the rAga bhAvams using both characteristic as well as uncharacteristic phrases of the rAga..each krithi being a masterpiece showcasing the pAndithyam of Dikshithar..grammatically perfect and musically unparalleled thereby stirring the soul directly. To put it in short..shtud_max/sAshtAnga namaskArams :)

The pallavi of the krithi is perhaps the best status message/signature a person can set on orkut/gtalk. DIkshithar starts off with the direct reference to the advaitha principles in the pallavi.
shri kamalAmbikayA katAkshithoham
sachchidhAnandha paripUrna brahmAsmi
As I mentioned earlier, Dikshithar seems to say-"Lets get down to business" with these lines. He sings "By the grace of the auspicious Goddess kamalAmbA, I("aham") am graced and protected("katAksha"). I am now identified("asmi") with the absolute("paripUrna") Brahman, the completeness of existence("sath"), consciousness("chith") and bliss("Anandha")." There is nothing much to interpret from these lines except for the direct meaning dikshithar conveys. The pallavi as usual is beautiful and has a wide scope for improvisation. Moving on to the anupallavi,
pAkashAsanAdhi sakala devathA sevithayA
pankajAsanAdhipancha krithyakrith bhAvithayA
shokahara chathurapadhayA mUkamukhyavAkpradhayA
kokanadhavijayapadhayA guruguhathathraipadhayA
Dikshithar sings "Lord Indra("pAkashAsana") and all other devAs worship("sevithayA") her. She is contemplated("bhAvithayA") by Lord Brahma("PankajAsanA"-the one who sits in the lotus) and others by whom the five cosmic acts("pancha krithya") are actually performed("krith"). Her feet("padha") are adept("chathura") in destroying("hara") grief and misery("shoka"). She restored("pradhayA") speech("vAk") in mUka and made him a poet. Her feet("padhaya") conquers("vijaya") the beauty of red lotuses("kokanadha"). She is the embodiment of the three-worded mantra tatva-tvam-asi("thathrai") given by Lord Guruguha."

One can clearly see the grammatic splendour as he sticks to the instrumental case with all words ending with "yA". He seems to reinforce the advaita fundamentals once throughout this krithi referring to tatva-tvam-asi("you are who you are") -ringing another bell, calling for self-realization. Moving on to the charanam,

ananga kusumAdhyashta shakthyAkArayA
arunavarna samkshobhana chakrAkArayA
ananthakotyAndanAyaka shankaranAyikayA
aShTavargAthmaka gupthatharayA varayA
anangAdhi upAsithayA aShTadhaLAbjasthithayA
dhanurbhANadharakarayA dhayAsudhAsAgarayA

Dikshithar refers to the Goddess as an embodiment("AkArayA") of anangakusuma and the other eight shakthis("anangakusuma+Adhi(others)+ashta(eight)"). He alludes to Her as the dawn("aruna(sun) varna(colour)"). Dikshithar employs a double entendre in "arunavarna" here. He sings "
arunavarna samkshobhana chakrAkArayA", i.e., "She is enshrined in the reddish samkshobhana chakrA". He continues to describe the Goddess as "the beloved("nAyikA") of Lord Shiva("shankarA-partial raga mudra") who is the master("nAyaka") of all the millions of universes("anantha(entire)+koti(crore)+anda(worlds)" ")". DIkshithar describes her as "the embodiment of the eight sets("aShTavarga") of alphabets" and says "she is more clandestine("guptha") than the previous chakra and is supremely divine("varayA")". A yogi would understand this perfectly. As he progresses spiritually, he slowly unlocks the mystery of each chakra. Dikshithar continues "She is worshipped("upAsithayA") by Lord kAmA("ananga") and others and she resides("sthithaya") in the eight petalled("ashta dhala") lotus("abja"). She carries("dhara") a bow("dhanu") and arrow("bAnA") in her hands("karayA") and she is a nectareous("sudhA") ocean("sAgara") of compassion and mercy("dhayA")."

While singing krithis of such pristine grammar filled with perfection in every sense, it just leaves me wondering how is it humanly possible for a mind to compose something like this which inevitably always leads to the most logical answer that "he must be HE, the God of music". If a rasika like me with limited technical knowledge and zero professional experience has so much to take from these krithis, I cant even imagine the pleasure a technically trained artiste would feel while rendering it..sheer bliss. But then again, how can a human mind not feel the bliss in listening and trying to learn these krithis. What can you do when you see such an authoritative display of control from someone? I feel helpless..all I can do is surrender myself and fall at His feet..the greatest composer to have walked on God's green earth. "Shri Gurubyo Namah".

Thursday, April 12, 2007

kamalAmbAM bhajare-KalyAni

The twelfth night aptly begins by saying "If music be the food of love, play on". If you want to progress spiritually in life, professionally in music or just drown yourself in the infinite sAgaram of music, just listen to the stuff this man/God has given us. But then, I feel you dont need a reason to listen to thalaivar's krithis. The purpose is created automatically once you start listening to his krithis :)..such is the greatness of him. Further, he was by far the most dynamic of all the composers. The man has travelled as far as kathmandu in Nepal to compose music(PashupathIshwaram in shubhapanthuvarali). As I was telling Aishu the other day, He must have been the strongest dude ever to compose such brilliant music in all those kshetras :). I am currently in a state of total high listening to karikaLabhamukham in saveri rendered by my brother..thalaivar is the best!! :) I am really excited today as I am leaving for the cleveland aradhana in a few hours. I am going to listen to a concert live after 2 years. TMK,Seshu sir..aahaa..cleveland here I come :)

I will continue my attempt to explain in detail the wonderful Nava Avarna krithis . Today, I will handle the beautiful second Avarana krithi in kalyAni, kamalAmbAm bhajare written in the dwithiyA vibhakthi(accusative case) on the "sarvAshA paripUrnaka chakra". Hari says this is by far the best krithi ever composed in kalyAni,defining in entirety the beauty of this rAgA and I am sure all junta will agree on that. The pallavi starts off beautifully with a Ga Ma Pa phrase :). When listening to this pallavi, one realises that Dikshithar must have been in high spirits of union with God when he composed this krithi as he starts off by asking the mind to renounce worldly pleasures.

kamalAmbAM bhajare re mAnasa kalpithamAyAkAryaM thyaja re
As I mentioned earlier, Dikshithar sings " Oh("re") mind and heart!!("mAnasa") worship("bhajare") Goddess kamalAmbA and hence please abandon("thyaja re") the attachment to worldly desires which are illusory("kalpitha"+"mAyA"+"kAryam")."

It is a simple beginning stating the basic purpose of one's realize that this entire world is a mAyA and move on to the higher astral plane. Apart from the spiritual meaning, the wonderful NDMG DMGRS phrase of kalyAni is showcased while singing "kalpithamAyAkAryaM" sahithyam. On the whole, it is a nice pallavi and acts as a good platform on which he builds the anupallavi in which he describes the beauty of the Goddess.

kamalAvANisevithapArshvAM kambujayagrIvAM nathadevAM
kamalApurasadhanAM m.rdhugadhanAM kamanIyaradhanAM kamalavadhanAM
Dikshithar describes the Goddess as "She is flanked on both sides("pArshvAM") and served by("sevitha") Lakshmi("kamalA") and Saraswathi("vANi"). The beauty of her neck("grIvAM") surpasses("jaya") that of the conch("kambu") she holds. She is worshipped("natha") by the devAs("devAM") and resides("sadhanAM") in the lotus("kamalApura"). She is characterized by tender("mrdhu") speech("gadhanAM"), has charming and beautiful("kamanIya") teeth("radhanAM") and has a lotus-like("kamala") face("vadhanAM")."

I love this anupallavi..I personally feel it is the most beautiful part of the song. It is exquisite with characteristic kalyAni phrases and the sAhithyam just fuses amazingly with the thAlam and is a treat to sing/play. :). Dikshithar sings of the true beauty-portraying Goddess kamalAmbA as the mother of all mortals. One can vividly imagine the kamalAmbA sannidhi at the thiruvArUr temple listening to this anupallavi; which is yet another characteristic feature of all dikshithar krithis. In the charanam, as usual, Dikshithar delves into the deeper esoteric part of the krithi combined with some beautiful references to mythology. Things to look out for in the charanam are the mention of the chakra on which the krithi is composed and the mudhras. The second Avarana of the Sri chakra consists of a circular arrangement of 16 lotus petals. The sixteen yoginis residing in this chakra are called the gupta yoginis(hidden yoginis) and Dikshithar alludes to all this in the charanam.

sarvAshAparipUrakachakraswAminIM paramashivakAminIM
durvAsArchithaguptayoginIM dukhaddhwamsinIM hamsinIM
nirvANanijasukhapradhAyinIM nithyakalyAnIM kAthyAyanIM
sharvAnIM madhupavijayavenIM sadhguruguhajananIM niranjanIM
garvithabhaNDAsurabhanjanIM kAmAkarshiNyAdhiranjanIM
nirvisheshachaitanyarUpinIM urvIthathvAdhiswarUpinIM

Dikshithar describes kamalAmbA as the "Goddess of the sarvAshAparipUraka chakra". This is the second chakra in the sri chakra and on a word to word translation means the fulfiller of all the wishes("sarva"+"AshA"+"paripUraka"). He continues to describe Her as "the beloved("kAminIM") of the lord paramashiva". He says "She is the mystic("gupta") yogini worshipped by sage durvAsA. She destroys("DhwamsinIM") all sufferings and miseries("dhukka") and one who rides the swan("HamsinIM"). She is the bestower("pradhAyini") of true("nija") bliss("sukha") in the form of salvation("nirvANA"). She is forever("nithya") auspicious("kalyAnIM"-hence the rAga mudhra). She is the daughter of sage kAthyAyanA("kAthyAyanIM") and the consort of Lord shiva("sharvAnIM"). The beauty of her black hair("venIM") surpasses("vijaya") the blackness of a swarm of bees("madhupa"). She is the mother of the great guruguha("sadhguruguhajananIM"-also the mudhra) and one who is unblemished and unattached("niranjanIM"). She is the one who destroyed("bhanjanIM") the demon BhANDa, the one who was obsessed with vain glory and arrogance("garvitha"). She is the one who delights("ranjanIM") kAmAkarshini and other shakthis. She is the embodiment("rUpinIM") of the unqualified("nirvishesha"), infinite and supreme("chaitanya") consciousness and is the manifestation("swarUpinIM") of the elements of the earth etc.("urvi thathvaadhi").

The charanam is by far the most complete description of the Goddess I guess. The beautiful fashion in which he incorporates the raga mudhra referring to the Goddess as nithyakalyAni shows his skill at the language. The reference to the Goddess as "Hamsini"(the one who rides the swan") has deep meaning. As I once mentioned in my previous blogs, repeatedly uttering the word "hamso"(the root of hamsa), we get "so-ham" which stands for "I"(or the self). Goddess kamalAmbA hence rides the "hamsa"(soul) and is on top of the astral plane which is the final destination of a human being's soul. Personifying Her beauty by comparing Her tresses to the blackness of the swarm of bees shows Dikshithar's abilities to visualise and employ similes and metaphors once again displaying his vivid imagination and grasp of the sanskrit grammar. I love the "nirvisheshachaitanyaroopam" phrase in the charanam. On the whole a beautiful krithi embellishing the kalyAni raga. To conclude, I quote from the "Dikshithar kIrthana mAlA" which says that by singing this krithi, "one shall get the entire satisfaction of all desires, all auspicious things and ambAL's protection."

I am listening to the beautiful kotIshwara Iyer krithi in rishabhapriya called "Ghananaya Desika" rendered by my of my personal favourites. kotIshwara Iyer is another brilliant dude who has composed in all the 72 melas just like our thalaivar :). I love the charanam in this song which goes like "Shadja Rishabhapriya gAndhAra madhyama panchama deivata nishAdha priya" thereby incorporating the rAga mudhra with each word being sung in the corresponding swarasthAna. A wonderful composition indeed but there can be only one Dikshithar I guess :). The greatest ever. I will take up the beautiful third Avarana krithi in shankarAbharanam-"Shri kamalAmbikAyA katAkshithoham" in my next post. I will also blog about my cleveland experience and hopefully upload some mp3s too :). Till then,
may Goddess kamalAmbA protect the entire world as she has been for eternity and let some sanity return to the Indian cricket team. Shri Gurubhyo Namaha!!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

kamalAmbA samrakshathu-Anandhabhairavi

It was turning out to be a beautiful transition to spring at Ann Arbor until this cold wave came around and its back to the negatives and snow now and the forecasts for the week dont look any better. I have been in a trance since 7 a.m(EST) April 1st,2007. We(SK,Hari,Aishu,RR,Audi and me), the dikshithar gumbal had this enchanting session of the God's music which went on for some 7 or 8 hours. SK sang like a God and brought tears to my eyes..they were rolling down my cheeks unconsciously. Ahiri Navavarnam followed by a beautiful Lalitha(that first line of the anupallavi in Agastheeshwaram is still killing me) and one awesome this point I was begging SK to stop as it was too much to take for me and the session reached this high state of tension with everyone regaling in bliss. The after effects of the session were profound leading to 2 days of insomnia for me and all the members of the gumbal too..soul-stirring music indeed. I have become emotionally weaker these days because of the unique chords these dikshithar krithis strike with my soul and evoke the divine vibes within me which become too overpowering and overwhelming at times..sheer bliss. Thalaivar sings "Shri kamalAmbA jayathi"..thats the ultimate truth. She wins..we all lose..we all lose ourselves in Her!! My body still scintillates when I talk about that line even now. Thats the power of this man,rather God's, music. I have been seeing this video of Kalapakam maami playing dikshithar's "rAmachandrena samrakshithoham" in "mAnji". I have watched it atleast a 100 times now and I still cant get over the RGMGRS..awesome. :) Thalaivar Rocks indeed!!

Continuing with the the Nava Avarnams, I will take up the beautiful "kamalAmbA samrakshathu mAm" in Anandhabhairavi written in the prathamA vibhakthi(nominative case) on the "thrailokyamohana chakra". The extensive usage of the shuddha deivatham in this krithi adds to its grandeur. The pallavi goes like
kamalAmbA samrakshathu mAm hruth kamalAnagara nivAsini
The pallavi is simple to understand. It goes like "Let Goddess kamalAmbA, the one who resides("nivAsini") in the heart("hruth") of kamalAnagara(alluding to the lotus in which the Goddess sits) protect me("samrakshathu mAm")". The most striking and beautiful part of the pallavi is the Sa Ni Sa phrase at "Sam Ra" which keeps to oscillate for eternity before moving on to Ni Sa ma. Beauty defined at its best. Moving on to the anupallavi( favourite part of the song), we will find the right mix of the majestic(masculine) as well as the gentle and beautiful(feminine) parts of the rAgA.
SumanasArAdhithAbhjamukhi sundaramana-priyakarasakhi
kamalajAnandha bodhasukhi kAnthAThAra panjarashukhi
The anupallavi starts off with a gentle PMPSPNPMGM phrase which upon singing/playing yields that "high" and that "kick" which no earthly material can give. Dikshithar sings "Her lotus face("Abhja") is praised and worshipped("sArAdhitha") by all learned and virtuous people("sumana")." He continues to beautifully describe the Goddess as the dearest and beloved("mana-priya") consort("sakhi") of Lord Shiva("sundara"). He sings "She revels in the joy("Anandha") obtained from knowledge and wisdom("bodha")" and compares her beauty to the parrot once again as he describes her as the parrot("shukhi") in the cage("panjara") of life("ThAra").

The anupallavi is yet another display of this grammatical skills. He maintains the rhyme scheme with every word ending with a "khi" as mukhi,sakhi,sukhi and shukhi. The second line of the anupallavi has deep esoteric meanings once again. Notice how he describes the Goddess herself as the "bodhasukhi", the one who enjoys through wisdom, indicating how one can realize God within oneself through the "gnana mArga". He also compares Her beauty to the parrot and explicitly says She is the one around whom this entire world and life of ours revolves. He calls this world a cage thereby emphasizing on the necessity to reach the divine and hence realize this mAyA and escape from the rebirth cycles. You can(rather you must) watch this wonderful rendition of the pallavi and anupallavi sections by Hari on his electrical guitar. I promise to post a better quality video of the song played by him very soon. Moving on to the charanam now,
thripurAdhichakreshwarI animAdhisiddhIshwarI
nithyakAmeshwarI kshithipura thrailokyamohanachakravarthinI
prakatayoginI suraripu mahishAsurAdhimardhinI
Madhyamakala Sahithyam:
thripureshI guruguhajananI thripurabhanjanaranjanI
madhuripusahodharI thalodharI thripurasundharI maheshwarI
The charanam as usual comes with the right flavour of upanishidic and yogic references by Dikshithar. He describes Her as the queen("IshwarI") of the thripura and other("Adhi") chakras in the astral body" and the Goddess for all siddhi powers such as anima(the power by virtue of which a yogi can reduce his body's size to smaller than the smallest particle and hence go through matter like doors,walls,etc.). Dikshithar sings "She is eternal("nithya") and the beloved of Kameshwara. She is the ruler("varthini") of the earth("Kshithipura") and the thrailokyamohana chakra(literally translanting to the ring that is the reason for existence of mAyA in the three worlds). She is the manifestation of yogic power("prakatayogini") and the destroyer("mardhini") of the enemies("ripu") of the Gods("sura") such as Mahishasura and others. She is described completely("samvedhini") in the holy("nigama") scriptures("purAna"). She is the consort of Lord Shiva("thripureshi") and the mother of guruguha("guruguhajanani"). She rejoiced("ranjani") in the destruction("bhanjana") of thripura. She is the sister("sahodhari") of Lord Vishnu(the enemy("ripu") of the evil madhu). She is slender("thalodhari") and the spouse of Lord Maheshwara."

The charanam, as one can observe, has deep meanings and allusions to the path of kundalini yoga through which one attains self-realization and union with the divine. Siddhis like anima, lagna, prapthi etc. come along on the way as the yogi meditates and as the kundalini slowly ascends from the moolAdhAra chakraat the bottom of the spine, through the swAdhishtAna, manipUra, anAhitha, vishudha, AgnyA, finally culminating in the sahasrAra, the thousand petalled lotus in the head. Meditating on the devi seems to be the path which dikshithar used for self-realization. The seven swaras of carnatic music are supposed to stand for these seven chakras in the astral body. Thus, Dikshithar was truly in control of all his chakras both in the physical world(through his music) and in the astral plane(through his meditation and yogic life). Salute the great men who have become God like Dikshithar.

The exquisite usage of both the sAdhArana gAndhAram and the anthara gAndhAram adds a special grandeur to the charanam. Notice the absence of raga mudhra in this krithi though, unlike the dhyAna krithi where he doesnt use the raga mudhra at all, he uses a partial raga mudhra in "Anandha" in this krithi. The madhyamakalasahithyam starts off with a wonderful ss PP grrs sns phrase thereby setting a nice rhythm. Quoting the Dikshithar keerthanamAlA, " By singing this krithi, one shall achieve (i). The full mercy of Sri Lalita Mahatripurasundari
(ii). The captivation of Swarga, Madhya and PAthAla lokAs."

I will continue to explore the Nava Avarnas with the beautiful "kamalAmbAm Bhajare" krithi in kalyAni in my next post which I hopefully should put up in a few days. The dikshithar maniac in me seems to be growing infibounds everyday and with the wonderful association of friends with whom I continue to put sessions through the nights, I am very happy that I am heading in the right direction in life. Imagine..If i learn 2 krithis in 1 month(which seems to be a decent estimate), I should have learnt all the 481 krithis of dikshithar in 20 years. But more than the learning part, the listening and enjoying experience I get is immense and indescribable. All I can say is "Come, let us celebrate the beauty of carnatic music and revel and drown especially in the treasure of perhaps the greatest composer of all times and across all genres of music-Nadhajyothi Sri Muthuswami Dikshithar". See you all in the next blog. Shri Gurubhyo Namaha!!