Monday, December 24, 2007
cEtah shrI bAlakRSNam-jujAvanti
On this beautiful Sunday, I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas :). I went to yet another blissful sunday morning meditation session at the Self-Realization Fellowship and we all payed our respects to the great guru, Jesus Christ. I spent most of last week looking forward to this weekend. But I must say it was a kind of weird situation because, I wanted a break but had nothing to do during the break anyway. Even though I have no one to talk to or have fun with here at Round Rock, a nice long weekend such as this one always opens up avenues for listening to and playing/singing more music :). Ofcourse, there are some wonderful friends with whom I have had the pleasure to catch up over the last 2 days :).
I started off on Saturday morning with a very peaceful skype session with my good friend(more like a kutti sister), Shambhavi in Chennai. The afternoon and the evening were well-utilized in practicing and learning stuff from Hari, to whom, I am grateful for life. He is a wonderful friend and a great guru :). But by far, the best thing that happened in the last 2 days is that my close friend, Shreekrishna a.k.a. SK is coming here and is going to stay with me in what promises to be a magical 3 days of pure, unadulterated carnatic music with 2 dIkshithar maniacs entertaining each other with discussions on music, life and everything else :).
Coming back to jujAvanti and dIkshithar's treatment of this rAga, cEtah shrI bAlakRSNam is perhaps the best ever krithi composed in this rAga. The way dIkshithar employs the scale of the rAga and fuses it with the sAhityams is so unbelievably carnatic that a rasika would not even know it is an hindusthAni rAga. The slow, chouka kAla composition just exudes with soukhya rasam and the bhakthi and beauty are indescribable. Lord Krishna, the shyAma sundaran he already is, his beauty is further embellished by this wonderful krithi. I dont know at which kshEtra dIkshithar composed this krithi. If anyone who reads this does, please share the information with me. I personally recommend the extremely slow and sweet version of the krithi sung by TMK to feel the beauty of the krithi. Also, simply because of the amazing swarams, I recommend rasikas to listen to the version by SSI. Both these krithis are available at our dIkshithar website. The pallavi goes like:
cEtah shrI-bAlakRSNam bhaja rE rE
dIkshithar instructs every human soul- "Oh mind("cEtah"), worship and sing the praises("bhaja") of Lord bAlakRSNa. He is Mukunda("the bestower of freedom") and by worshipping his lotus-like("aravindam") feet("caraNa"), his bhaktAs will be bestowed with("prada") all the boons they can think of("cintita-arttha")."
The "R, R ,R" start for the krithi in itself tells you what a masterpiece you are looking at. The "m p d S" prayOgam at "prada-cara" exposes the beautiful link existing between jujAvanti and yadhukulakAmbOji. Look at the words dIkshithar uses to command..the sAhityams obviously demand an esoteric interpretation. Here, he is addressing Lord Krishna as Mukunda, the one who gives his devotees freedom from this cycle of birth and re-birth. The slEsham here is that mukunda is the name of a precious gem. The third eye located between the eyebrows is sometimes referred to as Mukunda maNi, the blue bindu encompassing the penta-pointed star which the yOgi sees when he meditates. This is why dIkshithar addresses the citta(consciousness) and the cEtah(mind) here and in these few lines of the pallavi, stresses the importance of bhakthi and yOga and how discipline and devotion are keys to the path of kaivalyam. The pallavi sets it up nicely for the vocalist/instrumentalist to buckle up and be ready for the amazing rides in the form of the anupallavi and the charaNam.
pIta-vasana-dharam kambu-kandharam giri-dharam
dIkshithar describes the physical beauty of the Lord by using metaphors. He says that the Lord's body("sharIram") is as dark("sadRsha") as a new("nUtana"), rain-bearing cloud("nIrada"). He sings "The young boy("kishOra") of the nanda clan is adorned("dharam") with yellow("pIta") silk robe("vasana"). He has a conch-shaped("kambu") neck("kandharam") and He lifted the govardhana mountains("giri")". Time and time again, I have always wondered what kind of a pure soul dIkshithar must have been to be able to visualize the Gods and Goddesses and describe them with such pristine depictions and to do that in their own language("dEvanAgari-Language of the Gods"). He definitely was a puNya Atma. The smooth transition from keezh Shadjamam to mEl shadjamam at nUtana nIrada is pure bliss to sing/play and the slow " n s d" at sharI"ram" is amazingly beautiful.
In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshithar sings "He destroyed("samhAram") the demon pUthana and others. He is an incarnation("avatAram") of the supreme soul, the most supreme among men("purushOttama"). He resides("vihAram") in the tender and soothing("shItaLa") hearts("hRdaya") of his devotees and He is the spouse("dAram") of the auspicious Goddess Rukmini".
Even in the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshithar beautifully preserves the traditional gait he introdoced at the starting of the krithi. The similarity in structure between "nUtana" and "pUtana" with respect to prAsam as well as the swarasthAnas is a classic example of dIkshithar's mastery. He once again brings in the yadhukulakAmbOji effect by using the "p d s" phrase at "shrI" rukmini and perfectly blends the end of the anupallavi "r m g s" at "dAram" and the rUpaka tALam thattu to take-off at Rishabham for the pallavi. Just amazing. The Rishabham at "cEtah" is as if dIkshithar is cajoling the soul. These effects must be heard, felt and experienced and cannot be described in limited language. The "am" prAsam continues to flow through the charaNam and it acts like a beautiful thread embroidering the already well-printed silk cloth.
Actually, whenever you think of Lord Krishna as a kutti kid, what instantly comes to your mind is a physical form which is young, beautiful, energetic, mischievous and all that sorts. Hence, very appropriately, dIkshithar continues to talk about the physical beauty of the Lord and describes Him as "the one whose face("vadanam") smells("gandha") like("vAha") fresh butter("navanIta") and one whose speech("gadanam") is soft and tender("mRdu")". The physical descriptions becoming extremely descriptive as dIkshithar sings "His eyes("nayanam") are like petals("patra") of the graceful lotus("naLina") and he rests("shayanam") on a banyan("vaTa") leaf("patra"). His nose("nAsikam") is like a fresh champaka flower("nava-champaka") and a wonderful fragrance("suma bhAsakam") of tuLasi("athasI") emanates from his body. He is worshipped("nata") by Indra and other lOkapAlakAs. He wears the kastUri("mRgamada") tilakam."
The madhyamakAla sAhityam goes like "He is adorned with garlands("vana-mAlam") of fresh("nava") tuLasi leaves and he is served("jAlam") by nArada and other sages("muni"). He is the protector("paripAlam") of all the worlds("kuvalayAdi") and He is worshipped("nuta") by guruguha and He is gOpala."
The charaNam is, for the lack of better words, beautiful and very soothing. If you observe, he describes the tender features of the Lord so beautifully with all the tender and soft phrases of jujAvanti. The " s n d p" at "mRdu" is in itself so mRdu and touching. The "r g m p" phrase at "naLina" is just too much to take and your heart melts there and the dIrga "g r s" complementary phrase at "vaTa" shows how smooth the rAga flows while going up as well as going down the scale, just like how soft and smooth the Lord's body is. The "p p G R" take off at "nava-champaka" is perhaps the best transition to the tAra sthAyi ever..aahaa..what beauty. And ofcourse, the "nd,dp,pm,gmr" at "mR-ga-ma-da" is the epitome of beauty. The madhyamakAla sAhityam begins with the incorrigibly goosebumping "r g m p d" phrase and ends with yet another beautiful pattern of " rs, nd, dp" at "guru-guha-nuta".
On the whole, it is a krithi to be submerged in and the exquisite beauty is beyond description. The krithi leaves you haunted and wanting for more. As a rasika, I am just spellbound each time I listen to this krithi. I am not able to comprehend how it is humanly possible to compose such masterpieces and as ever, I console my mind with the "dIkshithar is God" funda. I am going to end this post abruptly because I find myself at an absolute paucity of words. If you have not heard this krithi, you are missing something wonderful in life and hence I request you to please listen to it at the earliest. I will now peacefully take up the abhayAmbA vibhakti krithis and over the next month, I will try and complete the entire set. Happy Holidays to everyone..stay warm and have fun.
vAzhga dIkshitharin pugazh, vaLarga karnAtaka sangIthathin mahatthuvam!!