Sunday, August 19, 2007


A peaceful week at work followed by a nice, relaxing weekend. I got a lot of time to spend with music. Last week, I was exclusively in hEmavathi mood. Thanks to the infectious enthusiasm passed on by Aishu, I played and recorded a decent AlApana and was very satisfied with the outcome :). On friday night I had a really nice session with Vijay and shAmbhavi. We discussed some nice rAgams and my love for lathAngi, chakravAham and saraswathi grew to an obsession :). Especially the r R P M R S n d p phrase in saraswathi :) Total range it is. Today has been exclusively a tODi day. I started the day off by listening to koluvamaregatha sung by Sanjay sir. Also listened to some nice cine songs from the film bheemA and a low-budget film called Amirtham. IlayarAjA's compositions in this film are mind-blowing. A beautiful rIthigowLa and an enchanting naTabhairavi filled my saturday. So, musically it has been a nice week :). I am also feeling a lot confident playing the guitar these days as I am able to understand completely what I am playing..some definitely positive steps in the right direction for me :).

Coming to the krithi bAlagOpAla, it is a masterpiece which leaves me a little confused about what aspect of the krithi to praise and rave..whether the beauty of bhairavi or the brilliance of sAhityams or the divine bhakthi flowing through the krithi. I can see that dIkshithar himself is very proud about this composition because he ends the charanam with an authoritative reference to himself as "vainika gAyaka guruguha". Since I was in tODi mood today, I was singing the krithi in tODi :). It was funny but I was able to find some beautiful sanchArAs and prayOgams.

The krithi was composed by dIkshithar in praise of the Lord at the beautiful rAjagOpAlaswamy temple at mannArguDi. This puNya sthalam was visited by dIkshithar and he has further embellished the temple's beauty with 2 other masterpieces..shrI rAjagOpAla in sAveri(perhaps the best sAveri ever) and hiranmayIm lakshmIm(perhaps the best lalithA ever). mannArguDi is called "dakshina dwArakA" and is equivalent to being the birthplace of Lord Krishna. This shrine's specialty is that if you spend 1 night at this sthalam, you get the puNyam equivalent of giving a 1000 cows as dhAnam. Pulasthiyar explains this to bhIshma in the mahAbhAratha as "thathrOshya rAjanImaikAm go-sahasra balam bhavEthi". The famous OothukADu compositions are also in praise of the deity here.

Coming to the krithi itself, the pallavi is as usual a shtud one-liner in which dIkshithar captures the rAga bhAva in its entirety. The simple sAhityam fused with the rAga gives an artiste infinite scope to improvise and show all his/her skill and knowledge in just the pallavi itself.

bAlagOpAla pAlayAshu mAm bhaktavatsala kripAjaladhE hari

"Oh Lord bAlagOpAla, protect("pAlayashu") me("mAm"). You are the ocean of compassion and mercy("kripAjaladhE") guiding all your devotees and children("bhaktavatsala")."

Just a simple start from dIkshithar as usual. I can visualize this as if he is entering the temple and just throwing himself at the feet of the Lord seeking refuge. The kalAnidhi("treasure-house of arts") surrenders to the kripAnidhi("ocean of compassion"). A wonderful " S n S G R" start and when DKP sings this in her baritone, it is just pure bliss. Moving on to the anupallavi(which happens to be yet another of my favorites :))

nIla nIrada sharIra dhIratara nIrajakara nirUpamAnandakara
lIlaya gOpa vEshadhara muraLIdhara shrIdhara dAmOdara vara

dIkshithar starts of the anupallavi by describing the Lord and hence bringing Him right in front of your eyes. He sings "Your body("sharIra") is in dark blue colour("nIla") just like the rain-bearing clouds("nIrada") and you are the wisest("dhIrathara"). Your lotus-like("nIraja") hands("kara") bestow("kara") infinite, supreme and incomparable("nirUpama"-formless) bliss("Ananda"). The one who incarnated for the folklore("lIlAya") disguised as("vEsha dhara") as the cowherd("gOpa"). You are the one holding the flute("muralIdhara") and the one adorned by Goddess Lakshmi("shrIdhara"). You are dAmOdara, the precious one("vara")."

The beauty of the anupallavi according to me is the tight rhythm maintained by the exquisite rhyme scheme of the sAhityams which just fuse into the rAga and the rendu kalai Adi tAlam gets its own beauty in these lines :). dIkshithar once again displays his grammatical acumen and authoriy with metaphors while describing the Lord's body and rhythmic patterns by repeatedly employing kara and dhara. The phrase "muraLIdhara shrIdhara dAmOdara vara" becomes a sort of unintended madhyamakAla sAhityam and the word "dAmOdara" is sung in such a beautiful way which signifies the meaning of the name. dAmOdara(367th name of the Lord in viShNu sahasranAma) has different explanations regarding the origin. Many believe it is a reference to mother yashOdA tying the Lord with a cord("dAma") around his waist("udara"). Spiritualists define the name's origin as "one who can be recognized only through a mind purified("udara") by means of self control("dAma"). The way the rAga bhava is brought out when dAmOdara is sung is as if someone is tying with a rope, completely signifying the action and the name. What can we has to go on and hence I move on to the charanam :)

chAnUra mallahara nipuNathara charana nihata shakaTAsura murahara
mAnikya makuTa hAravalayadhara mathebha kumba bhEdana patutara
vANIsha architha pIthAmbaradhara vaijayanthi vanamAladhara
ANavAdi vijaya mAnasakara apahata kamsAsura nathabUsura
drONakarna duryOdhanAdhihara draupadI mAna samrakshanakara
vainika gAyaka guruguha nutha pura vairivihita gOpikA manOhara

dIkshithar portrays the ugra face of the Lord in the first lines of the charanam by describing him as "the one who skillfully("nipuNathara") destroyed("hara") chAnUra and malla, the one who destroyed shakaTAsura with his foot("charana nihata") and the one who killed mura." dIkshithar then describes the Lord's beauty as "the one who is adorned by("dhara") by a crown("makuTa") studded with ruby("mAnikya"), necklace("hAra") and bracelet("valaya")". Then dIkshithar beautifully brings in the divine aspect of the Lord which every devotee seeks..the Lord as the end and means to the search of the ultimate truth, by singing "He is adept in breaking open("bhedana") the pot-like head("patutara") and liberating the mind of the intoxicated("mattebha") elephant("kumbha")." Here dIkshithar is referring to the omni-pervading mAyA in this world and the Lord reveals the truth to the mind and unveils a human's delusion. dIkshithar continues "He is worshipped("archita") by Goddess Saraswathi("vANI") and he is adorned by the yellow,silky veil("pIthAmbara") and the victorious garland of forest flowers("vaijayanthi vana mAla"). He is the embodiment("AkAra") of the divine mind("mAnasa") that conquers("vijaya") arrogance("ANava") and other bad thoughts("Adi"). He is the one who destroyed("apahara") demons like kamsa and he is the one who is worshipped("nuta") by all the kings and celestials("bhUsura")."

The madhyamakAla sAhityam is a real gem which of taut sAhityams fused in a mellifluous bhairavi. It goes like "He is one who killed("hara") drona, karna and duryOdhana. He is the one who saved("samrakshana") the honour("mAna") of draupadi. He is praised and worshipped("nuta") by all the veena players("vainika"), singers("gAyaka") and Lord guruguha. He is equally disposed("vihita") with friends and foes("vairi") alike and he is the heartthrob("manOhara") of all the gOpikAs."

The charanam, filled with prAsam, bhakthi and vEdAnta, according to me could have very well been a small krithi with a samAshTi charanam on its own. I have even heard that there is a version in which there are 2 more lines in this krithi which was found by Ambi dIkshithar in the later years and added to the krithi's charanam but by then the version which is sung now had become popular. The TNS and DKP versions of this krithi once again present some interestingly different facets of the krithi and both are beautiful in their own ways.

Due to my current obsession with hEmavathi and chakravAham, I will take up two cute, kutti krithis of the nAdhajyothi in my next blog- "shrI kAnthimatIm" and "gajAnanayutham"( an enchanting vegavAhini). In less than 2 weeks I will be meeting some of my most wonderful and cherished friends in LA- aishu, vijay and SK and ofcourse we will have some nice live sessions :) :). I also will get to go to the self-realization fellowship temple :). My boss had gone there for the past 2 weeks and he has bought me this wonderful gift- A 2 volume epic called "God Talks with Arjuna" in which shrI paramahansa yOgAnandA beautifully explains the bhagavad gIta :). The next few weeks are going to be filled with bliss for body, mind and soul :) and I cant wait. Wishing you all a very happy, fun-filled week ahead too. Take care, God bless and always remember "shrI kamalAmbA jayathi"!! :)


Shreekrishna said...

Nice_max Sai :)

One comment - It is a common mistake that ChakravAkam (which is actually a bird) is written as chakravAham due to the impairment of certain syllables in Tamil. I feel it is essential to highlight this point even to big musicians, lest the real name be distorted due to lingual deficiencies.


Musical Scientist said...

Wow..SK..I didnt know that pa..thanks a lot :). Makes a lot of sense indeed. And I noticed that you have started publishing your posts..cant wait to read and comment so excited :) :).

Padma said...

Balagopala is like a magnum opus...I personally like the first phrase of the anupallavi...Well i am a little partial towards swaraksha usages...and this phrase does have it and is just out of the world...carry on good work...

Musical Scientist said...

Thanks a lot for your comments Padma. It is one of my favorite krithis too. I love the anupallavi :).