Sunday, December 16, 2007

ambA nIlAyatAkshi-nIlAmbari

I feel extremely bad to say this but I accept with a lot of shame that I have become too lazy these days :(. I have blogged just two posts in the last 2 and half months :(. This is absolutely unpardonable and I will make it up by being more regular in my posts from now on. The last month in short was punctuated with a trip to the beautiful west coast and some amazing fun with a few friends of mine at Sunnyvale, California. We went to the livermore temple where I had the pleasure of singing a few krithis at every sannidhi :). Work has been going good. A little hectic, but nothing out of the ordinary. Music has suffered a bit because of my laziness mainly. I dont know the reason, but I suddenly am missing home and people a lot more than usual which makes me less enthusiastic to sing or do anything useful. Anyway..I hope it is just a passing phase and I will revert to my usual self soon :).

Speaking of laziness and sleep brings me to the krithi I am going to discuss about today, the slow, serene and beautiful ambA nIlAyatAkshi in nIlAmbari. A masterpiece that is one of the best krithis in nIlAmbari showcasing some amazing and unbelievable prayOgams of this beautiful rAgA. The richness and the divinity pervading the krithi is indescribable. It is to be sung/played and experienced. I highly recommend listening to the TNS and DKJ versions of this krithi to get an idea of how beautiful dIkshithar has composed it. This krithi was composed by dIkshithar at the famous kAyArOhanEsha- nIlAyatAkshi amman kovil when he visited nAgapattinam as he clearly mentions in the krithi at "shivarAjadhAni" in the starting of the charanam. Please click here for more details on this puNyasthalam. Lord Shiva is called kAyArOhanEsha at this temple because of a story according to which, pleased by a sage's penance, Lord Shiva embraces him and liberates him of worldly bondages-kAya(body)+arohana(embracing)+Esha(Lord). A must visit temple filled with pure vibrations which cannot be explained.

Coming to the krithi, the already beautiful nIlAmbari (the one covered in resplendent blue) is embellished beyond words in this krithi by dIkshithar. To describe the shAnthaswarUpam of nIlAyatAkshi ambAl, dIkshithar aptly chooses the slow-flowing, peaceful nIlAmbari rAgA and portrays the shAntha and bhaktha rakshaka characteristics of the Goddess. The pallavi goes like:

ambA nIlAyatAkShI karuNAkaTAkShi
akhilalOkasAkShi kaTAkshi


dIkshithar addresses the Goddess as Mother("ambA"). He describes her eyes("akshi") as filled with mercy and compassion("karuNA"). Making full justice to the "ambA" he used in the first line, referring to the Goddess as the mother of all creations, he describes her as " the one who bears witness("sAkshi") to all the happenings in the worlds("akhilalOka")." dIkshithar seeks the blessings and the refuge of such a Goddess and asks her to shower her blessings("kaTAksha") on everyone.

Musically speaking, he starts off with this beautiful "s r M p m g m" phrase which sounds like falling at the feet of the Goddess and induces a feeling of complete surrender. Some of the prayOgams are extremely intricate and I unfortunately dont have the technical expertise to write them down. It is a krithi to be experience and a rAgam to be imbibed. The prAsam dIkshithar brings in at the pallavi continues and grows in strength through the anupallavi and the charanam.

Coming to the anupallavi,

bimbAdhari citpratibimbAdhari bindunAdavashaHNkari shaHNkari
ambujAramaNasOdari Adhari ambari kAdambari nIlAmbari


As I mentioned in the beginning itself, this krithi is completely describing the beauty and the compassionate nature of the ambA. dIkshithar beautifully describes the Goddess as "one with sweet lips("Adhari") which are red like the bimbA fruit". bimbA also means moon. So, it could also be interpreted as "the one wearing("dhari") the moon". Looking at the esoteric aspect of this line, if we can imagine the human souls to be images("bimba") of God
, then we can interpret this word as "the one who is responsible for these bimbas". dIkshithar further describes the Goddess as "the consciousness("chit") and its reflection("pratibimba")". I think dIkshithar is referring to the knowledge that accompanies consciousness when he says "pratibimba".

This is where dIkshithar brings in the deep, yogic text references when he says that the Goddess is "captivated("vashankari") by the sound("nAda") and the blue dot("bindu")". The first sound to have ever resonated on this earth is the mantra "Om". Thus, we associate this sound with God, the blessed supreme spirit Himself. The third eye between your eyebrows is the doorway thru which the yogi looks within himself and finds him"self". This third eye is represented as a 5 pointed star in a blue dot called the bindu. The Om mantra is the bIja mantra of the bindu which activates this third eye. Thus, when dIkshithar says that the Goddess is captivated by the nAda and the bindu, he is telling us that the only way to reach and captivate the heart of the Goddess is by using the nAda to activate the bindu. Now this is the beauty of dIkshithar's compositions.. It has taken me nearly ten lines to "try" to explain what dIkshithar is saying in one word and even after these ten lines, I am pretty sure I have not even scratched the surface..just amazing.

Ofcourse, since the Goddess is the consort of shankara, dIkshithar addresses Her as shaHNkari. The small madhyamakAlam employed in the anupallavi adds more beauty. dIkshitar describes Her as "the sister("sOdhari") of Lord viSHNu("ambujA("Goddess Lakshmi")+ramaNa("husband")") and the cause and reason("Adhari") for this world."

dIkshithar continues to describe Her beautifully as "ambari- the one who covers(pervades) all universe", "kAdambari-the one who loves the fragrance of the kAdambara flower and is garlanded with it" and "nIlAmbari- the one who is adorned with blue silk("nilAmbara")." dIkshithar thus effortlessly brings in the rAga mudhra here while describing the Goddess's beauty. It is just mind-boggling when you wonder how he chose his rAgams to sing on a particular deity..a topic which in itself deserves a few doctoral researches. The "G, m P sn P M - M P M, R G" phrase at "kAdambari nIlAmbari" is just too much to take.

As I mentioned in the pallavi, the prAsam keeps flowing throughout the krithi. The pallavi is filled with all "KShi"'s, the anupallavi is embellished with "ari" rhyme scheme and now comes a monster of a charanam adorned with "ini" patterns.

shivarAjadhAnIkSEtravAsini shritajanavishvAsini
shivakAyArOhaNEshOllAsini cidrUpavilAsini
navayOginicakravikAsini navarasadarahAsini
suvarNamayavigrahaprakAshini suvarNamayahAsini
bhuvanOdaya sthitilaya vinOdini bhuvanEshvari kSipra prasAdini
navamANikya vallakI vAdini bhavaguruguha vEdini sammOdini

In the first line of the charanam, dIkshithar names the place where he composed this krithi, nAgapattinam as "shivarAjadhAnIkSEtra-the place under Lord Shiva's rule" and describes the Goddess as the one who lives("vAsini") here. To portray the trust of Her devotees which She always upholds, dIkshithar sings "the one who protects those devotees("Ashritajana") who take refuge in her("viSvAsini")". dIkshithar once again employs a beautiful portrayal of the Goddess as "shivakAyArOhaNEshOllAsini". This can be interpreted in two ways. One is the physical, gross meaning as " the consort of kAyArOhaNesha". The other( in my mind a better) interpretation would be to see this description as "the one who shares her body("kAyA") with Lord Shiva(the supreme spirit) and shines in resplendence("rohanE") as his consort and power(the shiva-shakthi concept which is the quintessence of all creation)". What perception and devotion dIkshithar should have had to write this word..aahaa.

dIkshithar continues to praise the Goddess as the "form("rUpa") in which consciousness("chit") dwells("vilAsini")". Further yogic references (characteristics of most charanams of dIkshithar krithis) ensues when he describes the ambA as "the one who is seated("vikAsini") in the shrI chakra along with the nine yOginis". For detailed explanations on the yOginis, the shrI chakram and how the divine mother is the embodiment of all this, please refer to my posts explaining the navAvarNams in general and on the 11 navAvarNams themselves in particular. dIkshithar, in my opinion gives the highest compliment to the Goddess by describing the beautiful smile ("hAsini") She wears("dhara") on her face as one that reveals all the 9 rasAs(aesthetics) of shrngAram(love), hAsyam(pleasantness), karuNam(compassion), raudram(anger), vIram(valour), bhayAnakam("terrifying/fear inducing"), bIbatsam(odious/hate), adbutam(wonder/marvel) and shAntam(peace/tranquility). dIkshithar further describes this smile("hAsini") as resplendent as gold("suvarnamaya") and he describes the Goddess's beauty by saying that her form("vigraha") scintillates and shines("prakAshini") like gold.

Till now, the guruguha mudra has not come in the krithi. The madhyamakAla sAhityam delivers that final punch to this krithi which leaves you in tears and on your knees yearning for more. dIkshithar continues to describe Her as "the unique one("vinOdhini") who is responsible for the creation("udaya") and sustenance("sthithilaya") of this world("bhuvana") and thus the Queen/ruler("Ishwari") of this world". dIkshithar portrays the sweet, motherly love which She gives to all her children by saying that "she is very easily("kshipra") pleased and delighted("prasAdini")" and thus shows how compassionate and merciful She is.

dIkshithar possibly recalls a divine vision when he describes the Goddess as "the one who is playing("vAdini") the vallakavINA which is adorned with nine gems("navamAnikya")." dIkshithar incorporates the composer's mudra in the last word of the charanam by singing " She is understood completely("vEdini"-possible to interpret as the one from whom the vEdAs originated??) by the supreme spirit("bhava") and guruguha and she is always happy and at peace("sammodini")".

The phrases employed in the charanam are just beyond words, especially phrases like "G M P N D N" at bhava guruguha is just too much to take as a rasika. You practically give up on whatever you have imagined as beauty till that instant..just amazing. Yet another masterpiece and somehow, this blog post seems to leave me with that incomplete feeling as usual. I hope dIkshithar, looking down from the heavens is pleased with whatever small explanations this mere mortal is trying to give to his gems such as this. If not, I beg for his forgiveness.

After listening to and researching on the abhayAmbA krithis, I feel that I am now equipped with decently enough knowledge to take up the abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis which are marvellous creations of the genius. I will start off with the dhyAna krithi in my next post and with God's will and Gawd's blessings, I will be able to go through the entire set pretty soon. Since I have been very lazy in posting only 2 krithis(now 3) in the last 3 months, I am going to start off with the abhayAmba krithis tomorrow itself. Till then, keep singing/playing/listening and learning the divine art. shrI gurubhyO nama:


Aparna said...

Wow! Excellent post! :) I recently heard TMK sing it in a concert. He sang it slowly with so much bhava. It was awesome. I wish you had made this post earlier so that I would have appreciated it even more ;)

//What perception and devotion dIkshithar should have had to write this word..aahaa.//
What perception you must have to interpret the meaning and help people like me enjoy the kriti even more by knowing the meaning ;)

// I am going to start off with the abhayAmba krithis tomorrow itself//
I want to know which tomorrow you are referring to :P

//Music has suffered a bit because of my laziness mainly.//

Musical Scientist said...

Thanks a lot for your quick comments Aparna. Ya..i solely blame my laziness to sit and type this..thats the only reason for the delay..hereafter I will try my best to publish atleast one post per week.

And perception laam onnume illa..Ellaam thalaivar, kadavul and unna maadhri friends oda kripai :).

ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ Hamsanandi said...

Hey MS

U r blogrolled :)

ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ Hamsanandi said...

And I might have almost seen you singing at Livermore, had we stuck to our original plan of going there last weekend!

Musical Scientist said...

Haha..I missed you at the livermore temple by a week eh :(..thats bad. FYI, I dont sing and I have not learnt CM beyond the sarali varisai when I was 6 yrs old. So, basically..u didnt miss much by not listening to all those krithis I sang at livermore :). But is a really soul-stirring experience to sing at a temple with all the devotion :).

ramaa said...


Padma said...

I am just hooked to your blog...In the very first line you said that the phrase that MD uses is unbelievable. But trust me my guru used to say that the gamakas that you incorporate while playing his krithis on the veena resembles the mood. Like the first phrase in this krithi to get the essence of nilambari the Ma on the veena needs to put in Ga and then
G, m P sn P M - M P M, R G, as you said is just too much and least you can do is imagine the beautiful temple and the goddess while playing and its bliss...

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Padma, thanks a lot for those beautiful words. It is indeed an amazing krithi and the G, m P sn P M-M P M, R G, phrase at kAdambari nIlAmbari is just out of this world..there cannot be a better phrase to bring the rAga chAya and fusing it with the rAga mudrA. He is GOD..thats it :).
Please keep reading and posting your valuable expert opinion from a vainikA..what more could I want for my blog :). Thank you

Padma said...

Haha am no expert vainika...Just sharing what i learnt from my guru...

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Obuls Daddy said...

On the use of Hindustani ragas, a tidbit to add from the tamil book Sri Muthuswami Dikshithar Keerthanaigal (http://www/ It seems Dikshithar had a formal training in Hindustani music as well at Varanasi. Also, his father Ramaswamy Dikshithar is credited to have first introduced "Hamsadhwani" raga to Carnatic music.

Brindavana Saranga is probably another example of the dual krithis composed by Dikshithar in Hindusthani raga. Ranga Pura Vihara and Swaminathena Samrakshithoham krithis, though I can't tell which is madi and ammadi!