Monday, August 6, 2007

soundararAjam AshrayE-brindAvana sArangA

I have been humming brindAvana sArangA for the past few days and I am in the best mood to write about this wonderful krithi. The week was pretty good at work. It was not hectic and at the same time I was not bored either. I booked tickets to go to Los Angeles for the Labor day weekend. I am extremely elated as I am finally going to meet some wonderful friends of mine at LA..Aishu, Vijay and i come :)..we will put live sessions finally!!! I am also happy that after 2 years in the US, I am at last going to the beautiful west coast. I would also get a chance to see the exquisite Self-Realization Fellowship temple at LA. Yesterday I had good sessions with Ramaa and shAmbhavi and that made my day a memorable one. And I also finally had the pleasure of hearing Aparna's voice for the first time :)..we have been chatting for more than a year now.

Now before I start off with this krithi, I would like to share some interesting correlations to recent happenings. This krithi adds a new dimension to the already multi-faceted of a scientologist :). The disastrous tsunami that hit the coramandel coast on 26th december, 2004 has a unique correlation to dIkshithar and tyAgarAjA. They both were known to have visited nAgapattinam, a temple town along the coast, which was one of the towns that was the hardest hit by the tsunami. In tyAgarAjA's beautiful krithi in sAveri, "karmamE balavanda mAyA", he sings "vAridi madi garvinchi yIvasudhaku tA rAnEnanchi ninnu" which means "when the sea spurred by arrogance, threatened to attack the land, you humbled his onslaught". And the great nAdhajyothi, in this krithi "soundararAjam AshrayE" sings "ambudhi garva nigraham" which means "suppressed the pride of the ocean". I dont know whether there was a similar tsunami in the late 1700's or early 1800's(highly unlikely), but both the geniuses have talked about the mighty ocean threatening the town..maybe there were huge cyclones. Nevertheless, an interesting info and I thought I will share it with you all :)

Going to the krithi itself, as I mentioned it was composed at the soundararAja perumAl swamy temple at nAgapattinam in the praise of Lord SoundararAja. The krithi is heavily loaded, capturing the expanse of this rAgA in its entirety. The pallavi starts off with a wonderful R M R S phrase and the rendu kalai rUpakam gets its beauty in this krithi. Every word falls beautifully in the samam and it is a real treat to sing. Please visit to listen to DKP's and Seshu's versions of this krithi. The rich gait is fully displayed by DKP's rendition and Seshu in his usual style presents a beautiful brindAvana sArangA including the kAkaLi nishAdham in his rendition and ofcourse the beautiful kalpanaswaras at the end of his rendition are just mind blowing.(typical seshu :))..real treats for the rasika.

SoundararAjam AshrayE gaja brindAvana sarAngA varadharAjam

DIkshithar sings "I seek the refuge("AshrayE") in Lord SoundararAja, the one who protected Lord Gajendra("gaja") in the beautiful forest("brindAvana") of elephants("sAranga") and the one who is the most superior("rAjam") in the bestowing boons("varadha")."

I would say it is one of the most toughest pallavis to sing. Though it may look like just one single line, the infinite scope with each word having so many sangathis and the single line running for 2 octaves makes the pallavi really tough to sing. It may take 3 to 5 minutes to sing all the different prayOgams for the pallavi which otherwise tends to leave a feeling of incompleteness. The repeated S N phrase at rAjam is just too good and it feels as if time stops there, giving a dhrupad effect of this hindustAni rAga :). Ofcourse, needless to say, dIkshithar once again shows his grammatical brilliance by beautifully bringing in the rAga mudhra in the very first lines of the krithi. If the pallavi doesnt give you the kicks, which I am sure is not the case, wait for the beautiful anupallavi and charanam that follow.

Nanda nandana rAjam nAgapattana rAjam
sundarI ramArAjam suravinuta mahi rAjam
mandasmitamukhAmbujam mandaradara karAmbujam
nandakaranayanAmbujam sundaratara padAmbujam

DIkshithar describes the Lord as "He is the dear son("nandana") of nanda and the ruler("rAjam") of nAgapattinam." He continues as "He is the husband("rAjam") of he beautiful("sundarI") Goddess Lakshmi("ramA"). He is the one worshipped("vinuta") by all the Gods("sura") and the master("rAjam") of the universe("mahi")." In the madhyamakAla sahityam (one of my favourites), dIkshithar beautifully describes the Lord as "The one whose lotus-like face("mukhAmbujam") is lit with smiles("mandhasmitha") and the one whose lotus hands("karAmbujam") holds("dhara") the mandara mountains. The one whose lotus-like eyes("nayanAmbujam") gives happiness and pleasure("nandakara") to everyone and the one who possesses beautiful("sundarathara") lotus-like feet("padAmbujam")."

An exquisite anupallavi..isnt it :). dIkshithar repeatedly uses the word rAjam in the first two lines employing the different meanings of the same word such as husband, ruler, superior etc. He then follows a similar pattern in the madhyamakAla sAhityam comparing the face, hands, eyes and feet of the Lord to the lotus flower and hence portrays Him as a very soft and delicate God :). The P M S N P M R M P phrase at "mandhasmithamukhAmbujam" is too good :). Simple and beautiful anupallavi is followed by a sweet and rich charanam.
shambhara vairi janakam sannuta shukha shounakam
ambarIshAdi viditham anAdhi guruguha muditham
ambujAsanAdi nutham amareshAdhi sannutam
ambudhi garva nigraham anritha jada dukhApaham
kambu vidambana kaNTam khaNDI kritha dashakaNTam
thumburunutha shrIkaNTam durithApaha vaikuNTam

DIkshithar as usual fills the charanam with lots of references and metaphors. He sings about the Lord as "the father("janakam") of the enemy("vairi") of Demon Sambhara ("shambhara")" referring to the incident in which Lord Krishna's son, Pradhyumna was kidnapped by SambharAsura and later vanquished by Pradhyumna himself. He continues to describe the Lord as " He is worshipped("sannuta") by shukha and sage shaunakha. He protects("viditham") devotees like ambarIsha, etc. and he epitomizes the eternal("anAdhi") joy("muditham") of guruguha. He is worshipped("nutham") by Lord Brahma, the one who is seated on the Lotus("ambujAsana") and others("Adi"). He is praised("sannutam") by Lord Indra("amaresha") and other celestials. He suppressed("nigraha") the pride("garva") of the ocean("ambudhi") and he is the destroyer("apaham") of all miseries("dukha") arising out of falsehood("anrutha") and ignorance("jada")." In the madhyamakAla sahityam, he starts of by describing His beauty as "the one whose beautiful neck("kaNTam") equals the beauty of a conch("kambu vidambana")". He portrays the fearsome face of the Lord when he says "he destroyed("kaNDikritha")the ten headed("dashakaNTam") rAvanA." dIkshithar finishes the charanam by singing "He is Lord shrIkaNTa, the one praised("nutha") by sage tumburu. He removes("apaha") all sorrows("duritha") and resides in vaikuNTam."

Ever since I was a kid, brindAvana sArangA has fascinated me. I first heard the rAgA in the form of the mahAbhAratha teleserial's title song and theme music. Ofcourse the other dIkshithar krithi "rangapuravihArA" is another masterpiece :) and when MSS sings it with all that devotion, I have seen people crying. A beautiful rAga completely portrayed and further beautified in this wonderful dIkshithar krithi. Though it is supposed to be a hindusthAni raga, dIkshithar has handled it so beautifully(especially with the extensive usage of the kaishiki nishAdham") that one doesnt get that feeling at all. He has made it completely carnatic. :). This will remain one of my all time favourite krithis forever.

I will take up the brilliant ranganAyakam composed in nAyaki next. That krithi does something to me each time I listen to it. The slow, subtle feel brought in each word of the krithi is just amazing..yet another gem from the great dIkshithar :)Thalaivar that he is..he never fails to satiate my hunger for rich, pure carnatic music :). shrI gurubyo namaha indeed!!


satya said...

Great analysis of "sri soundararAjam". Enjoyed every line of it. One MUST hear Sri DKJ sing this piece. Truly out-of-the-world. And as always, MD never ceases to fascinate me!!

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Satya,
Thanks a lot for your words of appreciation. It is indeed an amazing krithi and DKJ sir's version is trult mind blowing. dIkshithar is GOD!!period. :)
Please go thru my blogs when you find time and share your thoughts..thanks!!

Shankar Raman said...

I chanced upon this site when seeking to check the ragam for this song; I am listening to a superb rendition of this song, including raaga alapana by TN Seshagopalan; each time I listen to this, am amazed at the beauty of both the ragam and the song and the amazing virtuosity of TNS


Musical Scientist said...

Dear Shankar Raman sir,

TNS's rendition of the song is indeed amazing. Glad that you are enjoying it :)


Anonymous said...

the words describing the lord taming the ferocious sea and it's pride is associated with sri rama's anger on saagara during sethu nirmana. the saagara raja does not reply to sri rama;s incessant prayers which lasted for more than 3 days before the vanara sainya built sethu to lanka. then sri rama thought that saagara raja was very proud and wanted to use aagneya astram to dry the ocean. probably dikshitar might have correlated this incident with certain phrases in krithi soundararajam asraye

Sankara Daasa said...

Hi Musical Scientist,
Thank you for posting this wonderful composition of Dikshitar. Your explanation of the meaning of song is excellent.

The only suggestion I have is about "shambhara vairi janakam" here Dikshitar was referring to the Lord as "the father of the enemy" of "Sambhara". Sambhara was an asura who was killed by Pradymna, the son of Lord KrishNa. Pradyumna is none other than Manmadha. "Sambhu" is Lord Shiva but I think here "Sambhara" or "Sambharasura" was the bad guy who was killed by Pradyumna.

You can verify the same at

Thanks again for posting this.

Musical Scientist said...

@Sankara Daasa.. Thanks a lot for pointing that out. I stand corrected. I shall correct it right away so that people who read this post in the future aren't misguided.

Thanks once again.

Obuls Daddy said...

It is interesting to learn the meaning of Brindavana Saranga as Forest of Elephants. It seems to me the raga was named so since it mimics a chorus of trumpeting elephants. At least it feels that way when I hear Rangapuravihara song when it comes to the phrase, "...brindAvana sArangendra..."