Sunday, December 21, 2008

A trip to remember-Part2


(Continued from previous post)
I just came back from the music season in Chennai and hence the delay in posting this. I had an absolutely wonderful time listening to so many kutcheris and spending time with some cherished friends :). Continuing with my pilgrimage trip, December 4th, 2008 was a special day in this mortal's life. I got up at 4:45 in the morn, took a refreshing bath and caught the bus to trichy inorder to attend my friend Vasumathi's marriage at Srirangam. As the bus passed through tanjore, I caught a glimpse of the BrihadISwara temple and continued on to trichy. I reached Srirangam around 8:30 am and was right on time for the muhurtham. Vachoo akka welcomed me with her brilliant smile as always :). For pictures, please click here. I had breakfast, watched the mAngalyadhAraNam and after wishing the couple, I walked to the Srirangam temple. By accident, I tagged along with a special darshan group (they had obviously paid money for the darshan :) :)). I did not know it was a special darshan group and I got an amazing darshan for free thanks Ranganatha swAmi :). I sang "rangapuravihAra", "ranganAyakam" and "shrI bhArgavi". I took the prasAdham (kalkandu, chandanam and a lotus from thAyAr RanganAyakI's divine feet) and went back to the kalyana mandapam. Vachoo akka and Balaji were extremely happy and took the prasAdham with glee..what better way to bless the newly-weds. After a sumptuous lunch, I bid goodbye to the couple and took a bus to my college REC, Trichy (now NITT).

As I walked into the campus, I realized that thanks to some serious Central government funding, the college has undergone a massive transformation in the last 3 years. There were new buildings for classrooms, a brand new alumni building and great upgradation of the EEE auditorium (where we used to watch films every friday night), the A2 hall and the barn. The main road itself has been converted into a beautiful avenue filled with trees. After paying a visit to the Octagon (our computer center) and the snacketeria, I went to my mechanical engineering department building :). Amidst nostalgic memories, I walked around the building and went to a few other places in the campus which are very close to my heart ;(. For pictures, click here. With much reluctance, I moved on to the bus stand to catch the next bus to tanjore. I reached tanjore around 2:30 in the afternoon and immediately took a bus to tiruvArur, the divine place that had drawn me to come back to India from the US.

With much excitement I boarded the bus and watched all the paddy fields pass by in a rush. As I reached tiruvArur at 4:00 pm, the evening breeze had set in and cool winds welcomed me :). For some weird reason, I felt as though I belonged there and had been there already though I have never been to tiruvArur in the past 25 years of my existence. I walked in a particular direction from the bus stand without asking anyone for directions to the temple. After a 15 minute walk, I was standing outside the majestic tyAgarAja-kamalAmbA temple. At that moment, I felt as though I had attained the goal of my life and served the purpose of my existence. As I entered the temple through the east gopuram, vast corridors welcomed me. I felt like an ant as the 8 towering gopurams of tiruvArur stood before me. With tears in my eyes and devotion in my heart, I started singing the tyAgarAja vibhakti series of krithis as I walked around the temple. There were probably around 60-70 lingams just on the outside prAkAram, each with their own sannidhis. After a wonderful darshan of the swAmi, I continued to go to each of the famous tiruvArUr panCalingams. I sang AnandESwarEna samrakSitoham and went to all the 5 sannidhis.

I came back to the main prAkAram and visited the nIlOtpalAmba sannidhi. She was beauty personified. Running high on emotions, I sang "shrI nIlOtpalanAyike", "nIlOtpalAmbAm"(both in nArirItigowLa) and "nIlOtpalAmbikayAH"(kannaDa gowLa) and did a sASHTANga namaskAra to the dEvi. I prepared myself to enter the hallowed corridors of Goddess kamalAmbA next. With trembling feet and the navAvarNams on my lips, I entered the sannidhi. I have no words to describe the beauty of Her. She was robed in glorious red and Her beauty brought tears to my eyes right away. I spent quite sometime at the sannidhi and sang a few lines of all the navAvarNams. With utmost reluctance, I left the temple and walked to the grand temple tank, kamalAlayam. As I sat there on the steps of the tank and watched the sun go down against the main gopuram of the temple, at the height of my emotions, I prayed that if I ever had a next birth, I should be born in tiruvArUr and spend my entire life in and around this temple.

Since it was getting dark, I had to move on. A 5 minute walk from the temple took me to dIkshithar's house. I had run out of tears already and with a kind of numb feeling, I entered the nAdhajyOthi's house (now converted into a small temple for the trinity by the Government). I prayed with all my might and meditated for a few minutes. I sang "mInAkSi mE mudam". As I finished, a group of about 10 kutti school girls came and sang beautifully. My soul was satisfied and I had finally done what I had wanted to do for so many years. I went to tyAgarAja swAmi's house in the next parallel road and to Shyama Shastri's house in the road next to that. The fact that the trinity, perhaps 3 of the biggest musical geniuses to have walked this planet were born in the same city and had lived within 5 minutes walking distance of each other is remarkable to say the least. It was past 7 pm and I still had a 2 hour ride back to kumbakonam ahead of me. Hence, I was forced to leave this beautiful town ;(. With a promise to myself that I will come back in 2009, I consoled myself and took the next bus to kumbakonam. With my heart still at tiruvArUr, I spent the next 2 hours in the bus to kumbakonam listening to some nice dIkshithar krithis on my ipod. After a nice dinner, I retired for the day.

On 5th December, I woke up at 5:15 and after a refreshing bath, I was off on my temple hunt :). I began the day with a visit to the Brihaspathi navagraha sthalam at Alangudi, about 20 kms from kumbakonam. Since the next was guru payirchi, I wanted to avoid the crowd :). Had an amazing darshan and sang the pallavi and anupallavi of "brihaspatE" (aTHAna) as I walked around the prAkAram. Next stop was Pattiswaram durga dEvi temple. I was blown away by the size and beauty of the main gopuram as I approached the temple. I entered the temple right in time for the morning main Aradhanai. The dEvi was amazingly beautiful and even now as I write about Her, my eyes well up. If anyone goes to the kumbakonam area, this temple is a must visit. With much reluctance (as always :)), I left this temple and the next stop was thirukarugAvUr garbarakSAmbikai temple. As the name of the dEvi suggests, this temple is extremely special for pregnant and expecting mothers. This temple is a 10 km deviation from the main road to tiruvaiyyAru. Guru (the cab driver) took me as close as possible to the temple. From where he parked the car, I had to cross a beautiful bridge by foot. The wooden bridge overlooking the Kaveri river was the only way into the town. After crossing the bridge and walking half a kilometer, I reached the garbarakSAmbikai temple. As I washed my feet in the huge temple tank, the soothing morning breeze and the bright sunlight was a beautiful experience in itself.

After a peaceful darshan of the dEvi and the swAmi here, I walked back to the cab as we took off for the 108 sivAlayam in papanasam on the way to tiruvaiyyAru. As the name suggests, this temple has 108 lingams. It was much smaller than I expected it to be. The next stop was tiruvaiyyAru. As we drove from pApanAsam, we crossed the 5 rivers after which the town is named ("aiyy"(5)+"Aru"(river)). I couldnt get enough of the countryside as we drove for about 40 minutes. I reached the tiruvaiyyAru panCanadISwarar temple around 10:30 am. The main gopuram was huge but it for sure needs a new touch-up. As soon as I entered the temple, I could immediately feel vibrations which were perhaps the highest I have felt in the last few days. The temple's long winding corridors were intricate and I reached the main sannidhi wondering how they had constucted this magnificient temple. I sang shrI panCanAdISam in sahAna composed by Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer as walked around the huge prAkAram. I walked through a small corridor to enter the Dharmasamvardhani thAyAr sannidhi. The dEvi was beautifully adorned in green that day and it was a sight for eternity. With all devotion I sang dharmasamvardhani in madhyamavati. I was just in time for an abhishekam. As I left this wonderful kSEtra, I once again consoled myself by promising to come back in 2009. A 10 minute walk took me to Saint tyAgarAja's samAdi. After praying to the sadguru and worshipping the same rama idol that he had worshipped, I sang manasa yetulo in malayamArutham and nannu vidaCi in rItigOwLa. I walked behind the temple and sat under a huge tree on the banks of Kaveri. After enjoying the location and the breeze for a few minutes, I walked back to my cab.

Next stop was the navagraha sthalam for Chandra at thingalur, a 15 minute drive from tiruvaiyyAru. I very vividly remembered the winding path from the main road to the temple through the paddy fields from my previous trip here. After worshipping the Lord, I sang Chandram Bhaja mAnasa in asAvEri. As it was approaching noon, I had to get a move on. The final stop in my pilgrimage was swAmimalai on my way back to kumbakonam. After having darshans of Lord Shiva and Parvati here, I walked up the steps to Lord Swaminatha's Sannidhi. I sang swAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm in nATa and seeked His blessings. I sang daNDAyudapANim (Anandabhairavi) and the majestic shrI subrahmaNyAya namastE (kAmbhOji) as I walked around the beautiful temple. Guru drove me back to Kumbakonam. After thanking him for the wonderful service, I had a nice lunch and caught up on some sleep in the afternoon. Around 5 in the evening, I had a hot coffee and went on a nice evening walk around this beautiful temple town. I purchased some sweets and a pack each of the famous kumbakonam appalams and kumbakonam coffee :). I went to the nAgESwaran temple in kumbakonam and spent my evening there before returning to my hotel. Had dinner, watched some TV and went to bed.

On December 6th, I had to catch my train back to bangalore at 8:30 pm. From my college days, I had fallen in love with the Sangeethas restaurant next to Central bus stand in trichy. Just for eating there, I had decided to board the train from trichy instead of kumbakonam :). In the morning, I woke up a little late, took a bath and went to the famous kumbESwarar-mangalAmba temple. I sang mangaLAmbAyai namastE in mALavaSri and had a wonderful darshan. I then went to the sArangapANi temple and returned to my hotel. After having a sumptuous lunch, I packed my luggage, settled the hotel bill and around 3:30, I left kumbakonam. I bid adieu to this amazing place with a tear in my eye and caught the next bus to trichy. I passed by the BrihadISwara temple and my beloved college REC,trichy once again. I reached Trichy around 6:30 pm and ate to my heart's content at Sangeethas. Amazingly, the manager recognized me from my college days (because of my extremely often visits I presume :)) and came and spoke to me :). After a nice, slow dinner of bhel puri, pAv bhAji, one masala dOsa and a hot coffee, I walked to the train station at 7:30.

Since it was December 6th (Babri masjid disaster day ;(), there were elaborate security arrangements at the train station. After a brisk frisk through my luggage by the police, I entered the trichy station from where I have travelled so many times during my college days. The train journey was uneventful and I was back in Bangalore the next day. I will forever remember the 4 days I spent in and around kumbakonam visiting all those temples. The only regret about this trip was that I could not go to the mannArguDi rAjagOpAlaswAmi temple :(. It is just a 20 km drive from AlanguDi but because of the heavy rains, a connecting bridge was broken and unfortunately, I could not go there ;(. I am sure I will be going back to kumbakonam once again in 2009 and I will for sure visit mannArguDi and ofcourse go back to tiruvArUr :) :). I thank you all for reading patiently and listening to my experiences :). If any one of you is planning to make a similar trip, please contact me and I will be more than happy to share with you some travelling information (route maps etc) so that you can plan your trips accordingly. I feel blessed to have gone on this pilgrimage and I am sure this is just the beginning and there will be many more temple trip in the coming years :).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A trip to remember-1


On the 4th of December, 2008, I finally set foot on the holy land of tiruvArUr, the birth place of some of the greatest souls to have walked this planet. I had to start off this post on my amazing pilgrimage with the high point. Now that I have mentioned this and got my urge satiated, I will try to list the temples I visited in chronological order and write a few lines about any special incidents or feelings I experienced in this extraordinary trip. For those of you who are just interested in the pictures and not in my ramblings, please click here

On December 2nd, 2008, I left my house in Bangalore on what I would call as my "dream-come-true" trip to South India. I bid farewell to an anxious amma (anxious for sending me alone) and boarded the Mysore-Mayiladuthurai express from BNG junction at 7 pm. Except for the excitement of going on a train after 4 years, the evening was quite uneventful. The next day morning, I woke up at 4 am and immediately opened the window to feast my eyes upon the glorious country side. The rich paddy fields and the "margazhi oodha kaatru" waltzed into my heart. Around 6 am, I disembarked the train at kumbakonam junction. After checking into "Hotel Kasi International", I started off the day with a cup of hot kumbakonam coffee..the taste still lingers in my tongue :). I took a snappy bath and made a few calls to find the cheapest cab service inorder to start my visits to the temples. After narrowing down, my cab driver friend for the next couple of days, Guru picked me up in that ever faithful Ambassador car :).

I started off with the Raghu navagraha sthalam at tirunAgESwaram. The first thing that struck me about this temple was the beauty of the temple tank. I washed my feet and entered the temple to see nAganAtha swAmi and the separate Raghu Bhagavan sannidhi. I sang "nAgAbharaNam nagajabharaNam". Next I went to Uppiliappan temple (stone's throw away from the Raghu temple) and sang "ShankachakragadApANim". From there, I went to Pratyangira dEvi temple, made famous by the former chief minister J.Jayalalitha. The dEvi here was perhaps the most ugra (angry) I have seen. Next stop was Thirumeichur lalitAmbika temple. With mEganAtha swAmi, the dEvi here moved me to tears. Also, the lalitAmbikai here wears an anklet ("kolusu") in one of her legs. This anklet has a wonderful story behind it as narrated by Shreekrishna's mother when I met her nearly 2 months back. I will get the full details from her and post it in my next blog.

The next temple in line was Koothanoor Saraswathi amman temple. Guru took major pains to drive us to this temple as one of the bridges were broken. It was well worth the effort. This special temple dedicated to Saraswathi amman was a mesmerising sight. I sang shrI saraswathi namOstutE in Arabhi. From there, it was a long drive straight to tirunallAru, the navagraha kSEtram for SanISwara Bhaghavan. On route, I saw some of the damages the recent torrential rains have caused. dharbAraNyESwarar in all his majestic beauty welcomed me :). I proceeded to the SanISwara sannidhi and witnessed a beautiful ArAdhanai for the deity. I felt extremely blessed to witness this and sang "diwAkara tanujam". With no heart to leave this temple, I reluctantly moved on to tirukadaiyUr. For some reason, the abhirAmi thAyAr-amritakadESwarar temple here was distinctly imprinted in my mind from my previous trip. The huge, beautiful gopuram at the corner of the dead end road brought tears to my eyes. Altogether, it was an overwhelming experience here. I sang shankaramabhirAmi manOharam with tears of joy ;(.

From here, we drove further east to kEthu navagraha sthalam at keezhperumpallam. Though the temple lacked great embellishments or a big gopuram, there were still some very strong vibations that I experienced here. Since it was nearing lunch time, I had to rush so that I could cover a few more temples before they closed the sannidhis. Next temple in line was the Budhan navagraha sthalam at tiruvEnkAdu. With a newly touched up gopuram and a huge prAkAram, the shwEtAranyESwarar swAmi temple with the sannidhi for Budhan bhagavAn was an extremely pleasant sight to say the least. The temple has two huge tanks and long corridors. I sang budhamAshrayAmi on a wednesday at the budhan sthalam..what more could I ask for. From there, we rushed to vaithISwaran kovil, the navagraha sthalam for angArakam. This kSetram is of special significance for any dIkshithar bhakta since he was named after Muthukumaraswami at this temple. The main sannidhis of VaidyanAtha swAmi and tailAmba dEvi were beautiful. I proceeded to the muthukumAraswAmi sannidhi and sang bAlasubrahmanyam in surutti. I managed to make it to the sannidhi as they were closing down for the morning with the deepArAdhanai. I then proceeded to the angArakam sannidhi and sang angArakam AshrayAmyaham and rejoiced watching all the reddish decorations for the God.

Guru and I decided to stop at mayilAduthurai for lunch and take a small nap until the temples reopened in the evening at 4. After a nice lunch, we went and parked the car in front of the abhyAmbA-mAyUranAthar temple and took a small nap :). I was the first person to enter the temple at 4. Needless to say, it was a beautiful and a pretty huge temple with long prAkArams. The mAyUranAthar sannidhi was brilliantly decorated and I sang mAyUranAtham in dhanyASi. I continued to the abhyAmbA sannidhi and spent some time there. The dEvi here was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. She was dressed in green and I could feel extremely divine vibrations here that my knees started shaking. I sang abhayAmbA jagadamba in kalyANi, abhayAmbikAyAH in kEdAragowLa and shrI abhayAmbA in shrI rAgam. With utmost reluctance, I left this temple and proceeded to vadAnyESwarar temple, which is hardly a few kilometres from the mAyUranAthar temple. The local people at mayilAduthurai call this temple as Vallalar kovil. vadAnyESwarar has a small sannidhi but I once experienced some very high vibrations that instantly brought tears to my eyes. I had a nasty headache because of roaming since morning but the energy here was so great that my headache went away in a break of sweat. I sang vadAnyESwaram, the best dEvagAndhAri ever. I then visited the jnAnAbikA sannidhi and continued to the next sthalam.

We started our way back to kumbakonam and had quite a few temples on the way. The next stop was tirumanamchEri. The kokilAmbAl temple here is very famous and the grandeur was marvellous. We moved on to a small yet famous vanadurga temple at kadirAmangalam. True to the name, the durga dEvi here sits pretty much in the middle of a forest. But, the effort was well worth it. The deity was decorated beautifully with a garland made out of lemons. I loved the location of this temple and ofcourse the deity's brilliance. Next stop was kanjanUr. The sukra bhagavAn temple was deeply engraved in my mind from the previous visit (probably 10 years ago). Unfortunately I dont know shrI sukra bhagavantam and hence did not sing anything here :(. It was slowly getting dark as I left this temple and continued to Suriyanar kovil, the navagraha sthalam for Sun God. I wanted to be at the temple exactly at dawn or dusk, but I was a little late and reached the temple only around 7 pm. Unlike other navagraha sthalams where an amsha of Lord Shiva is the main deity, the main sannidhi at Suriyanar kovil is Lord Surya himself. Since He is believed to be an amalgam of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, Surya occupies the central and a supreme position among the planetary members. He sits in an elevated platform and as you go on a pradakshanam around the temple, you will come across separate sannidhis for all the other navagrahams. I hummed SuryamUrtE as I walked around the temple.

As I left Suriyanar kovil, night had fallen. The last stop for the day was tribuvanam (tiru-pU-vanam). The majestic SarabESwarar temple here is very famous. This was perhaps the most well-maintained temple that I have seen till date. The towering gopuram and the huge corridors stand testimony to some of the best architectures ever. I was really tired by this time and my legs were aching. I found it a challenge to complete the pradakshinam :). It was 15 minute ride back to my hotel at kumbakonam. I had a nice dinner, made a complete tally of the money I had spent for the day and rejoiced in the fact that I had covered 17 temples in one day :) :). After informing amma of my rich haul :), I went to sleep very early (around 10 pm) because I was tired and since the next day, I was to go to Srirangam and to tiruvArUr :D :D.

Since this post was a little longer than I thought it would be, I will stop here and continue with the rest of my experience in the next post. Hope I did not bore you guys with my own stories and experiences. I will try to wrap up my next post a little shorter than this :). More later.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

kanjadaLAyatAkSi-kamalA manOhari

As I type this post, I am listening to a wonderful, heart melting mukhAri that my brother is singing in the next room and munching on yummy "maavu urundais" cooked by amma. He is practicing for his audition next week for a higher grade in AIR, bangalore. It is at moments like these that I feel extremely happy to have done what I did..leave the US and come back home. However, the flip side of the decision is that I have lost touch with so many close friends in the US (SK, hari..my gurunathars) mainly because of the time zone difference ;(. Goddess kAmAkSi should show mercy and show me the way to have the cake and eat it too.

I am leaving on a small pilgrimage to the kumbakonam belt next tuesday for a week. The highlights of the trip would be visits to the Srirangam temple, the navagraha temples, mannArguDi rAjagOpAlaswAmi temple, nAgai SoundararAja perumAl temple and the grand tiruvArur tyAgarAja swAmi temple with visits to the houses of the trinity. As any reader of this blog can imagine, I am eagerly awaiting that minute when I step into dIkshithar's house (his memorial mandapam). I will care less if my soul escapes the realms of this earth after that moment. I have been planning my schedule to cover all these places in addition to many more temples in this region. As I mentioned above, these are a few blissful moments that this soul has been waiting to experience for an entire lifetime :). At the end of the trip, I am going to chennai for the music season :) :). The next 4 weeks should be filled with fun indeed :). I would also like to take this opportunity to wish my good friend Vachooo akka a wonderful marriage and a very happy married life. I am extremely excited about meeting Bala sir and Vachoo too :).

Moving on to the dikshithar krithi for today, I will be taking up "kanjadaLAyatAksi" in rAga manOhari, a beautiful composition embellishing Goddess kAmAkSi of kAnchi. Goddess kAmAkSi is considered as a representation of shrI vidya. The idol and the meru at this temple are carved out of Salagrama and is believed to have been consecrated by sage Durvasa. Legend has it that the Goddess performed severe penance under a mango tree at kAnchi and worshipped a shivalingam made out of sand, inturn gaining Lord Shiva's hand in marriage. The dEvi here sits in a majestic padmAsana posture signifying complete control over the universe. The original kAmakSi amman temple, where Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have worshipped the Goddess and established the shri chakra. Initially, the Goddess here was a ugra form (an amsha of anger). After Adi Shankara's worship, the Goddess is said to have become peaceful and attained Her present day Shanta swarUpa. The new kAmAkSi amman temple was built in the 12th Century. More details of the temple and controversies on the authenticity of Adi Shankara sculptures at this temple can be found here

With this small introduction, I will move on to the krithi now. According to the SSP, manOhari is classified as an upAnga janya of the 33rd mELa gangataraNgiNi with the scale "Sgmpns; sndpmgs". dIkshithar straightaway employs the avarOhaNam in the opening line of the krithi,

Pallavi:

kanja daLAyatAkshi kAmAkshi

kamalA manOhari tripura sundari

Meaning:

dIkshithar directly addresses the Goddess "kAmAkSi!! The one who has large eyes ("akSi") like lotus ("kanja") leaf ("daLa"). The one who is dear ("manOhari") to Goddess Lakshmi ("kamalA")-Goddess tripurasundari!!"

dIkshithar beautifully brings in the raga mudra in the pallavi itself. This rAga has become so famous exclusively because of this krithi that people refer to the rAga itself as kamalamanOhari. As I mentioned above, the krithi starts off with the avarohaNam-"sndpmgpmg" at "kanjadaLAyatAkSi". The final oscillating gAndAram here gives the krithi a wonderful flavour. He immediately follows this with the ArOhanam-"sgmpn" at "kAmAkSi". The gAndAram seems to carry a really nice tone that gives this raga the identity and dIkshithar has repeatedly emphasized the usage of this gAndAram in this krithi. Moving on to the anupallavi,

Anupallavi:

kunjara gamanE maNi maNDita manjuLa caraNE
mAmava Siva panjara Suki pankaja mukhi
guru guha ranjani durita bhanjani niranjani

Meaning:

dIkshithar describes the Goddess in detail- "The one who has a majestic gait ("gamanE") like an elephant ("kunjara"). The one who has beautiful ("manjuLa") feet ("caraNE") adorned with ("maNDita") gems ("maNi"). Please protect me ("mAmava")!! The one who is the parrot ("Suki") encaged in the cage ("panjara") of Siva. The one who is lotus ("pankaja") faced ("mukhi"). The one who captivates ("ranjani") guruguha. The one who destroys ("bhanjani") all afflictions ("durita") and the one who is blemishless ("niranjani")."

dIkshithar employs a majestic madhyamakAla gait to describe the Goddess's gait in the anupallavi. The pallavi begins with a "nsgsgGM" phrase. The entire anupallavi gallops in madhyamakAla. The "nsgsg" phrase seems to be a pretty significant sangathi as dIkshithar repeatedly uses it to bring out the rAga bhAva. He once again employs the "nsgsg" phrase at "mAmavasiva".

dIkshithar alludes to the Goddess as the parrot in the cage of Siva. One can easily derive a much deeper meaning for this reference. The body will become a lifeless lump if there was no soul to move to physically, mentally and spiritually. Similarly, there is no point in any form ("Siva") to exist if there is no life force ("Shakti"). Thus, dIkshithar beautifully refers to the dEvi as the soul/driving force encaged within the body. dIkshithar closes the anupallavi with an amazing "psnd,pdpm,mgmpn" phrase at "durita bhanjani,niranjani". In my humble opinion, the anupallavi of this krithi serves as a websters dictionary for this rAga.

caraNam:

rAkA SaSi vadanE su-radanE
rakshita madanE ratna sadanE
SrI kAncana vasanE su-rasanE
SRngArASraya manda hasanE
EkAnEkAkshari bhuvanESvari
EkAnandAmRta jhari bhAsvari
EkAgra manO-layakari SrIkari
EkAmrESa gRhESvari Sankari

Meaning:

dIkshithar continues to describe the dEvi's beauty as he addresses Her as "the one whose face ("vadanE") is like the full ("rAka") moon ("SaSi") and the one with beautiful teeth ("su-radanE"). The one who rescued ("rakSita") cupid ("madanE"). The one who is in a bejeweled ("ratna") peeta ("sadanE") and the one who is adorned with ("vasanE") auspicious ("Sri") gold ("kAnCana"). The one who has a beautiful tongue ("su-rasanE"). The one whose beautiful smile ("manda hasanE") is filled with shringAra rasa."

In the madhyamakala sAhitya, dIkshithar continues to describe the Goddess as "the one who is embodiment of single and multiple syllabled ("Eka-anEka-akshari") mantras. The one who rules the universe ("bhuvanESwari"). The one who is like a waterfall ("jhari") of blissful ambrosia ("EkAnandAmrta") and the one is resplendent ("bhAsvari"). The one who brings auspiciousness ("Srikari") to those who worship her with steadfast devotion ("EkAgra manOlaya"). The Goddess who rules the house ("grhESwari") of Lord EkAmrESwara and the one who symbolizes auspiciousness ("Sankari")."

dIkshithar emphasizes the fruits of staunch devotion in these few lines. Look at the details he has observed in his meditative state of mind including the beautiful teeth and the graceful smile of the dEvi. The Goddess's smile once again reinforces the fact that She is no longer a "ugra" amsha of Shakti. There is a chitta swaram in this krithi which I love :). If you havent heard the swarams, I strongly urge you to look at the SSP for this krithi.

I am already excited about my train journey to Kumbakonam and my visit to all the other temples in the region :). Hence I conclude this post here. In my next post, I will post pictures of all the temples I was privileged to go to and write a few lines about my trip in brief. Watch out for some exclusive pictures of dIkshithar's house (now converted into a small temple for the trinity). Hoping to see you all on the other side of this pilgrimage as a much better human being :) !! Shri gurubhyO namah.

Monday, October 27, 2008

mInAkSi mE mudaM dEhi- gamakakriyA


Wish you all a very happy and prosperous deepavali. I apologize for not being able to post for a long time now. As most of my friends reading this blog know, I wound up my operations in the US and came back home to India on October 20th. Hence, the last month or so has been a little crazy because of packing up and travelling. Now that I am back at home, I should be able to post a little more frequently. It feels awesome to be back home, bathing in amma's love and good food and drowning in anna's wonderful music, going to temples and meeting up with friends- Life has never been more meaningful.

This past sunday, I went to my good friend Shreekrishna (SK)'s house and spent the whole day with his parents, his sister and Vasumathi Sridharan (perhaps the best akka I ever had :)). After getting to learn more about SK and his musical and academic achievements (to write about these, an entire new post will not suffice), I feel even more honored and privileged to share this blogspace with him and to have moved in close quarters with him. SK's mother showered me with more love and good food :). As I mentioned before, life seems to be much more complete than ever before.

Moving on to the krithi for the day, I will take up mInAkSi mE mudaM dEhi in gamakakriyA. Today being naraka chaturdashi (dIkshithar's samadi day), it is most appropriate that I will be blogging about this krithi. As most of you would have heard, it is said that dIkshithar shed his mortal coils on narakachaturdashi while his disciples sang the lines "mInalOcani pASamOcani" in the anupallavi of this krithi. Saluting the great guru,

Pallavi:

mInAkSi mE mudaM dEhi mEcakAngi rAja mAtangi


Meaning:

dIkshithar directly addresses the Goddess " O Goddess mInAkSi, give ("dEhi") me ("mE") bliss ("mudaM")". He describes Her as "The one who wears golden ornaments ("mEcakAngi") and the one who exists in the form of rAja mAtangi."

As I mentioned in my previous blog, there is a lot of folklore associated with this temple. Please refer to my prior post on the significance behind the term "rAja mAtangi" used by dIkshithar to describe the Goddess at Madurai. The antyAkshara prAsam set in motion in the pallavi pervades all through the krithi. The krithi starts off with "S, rssd" and dIkshithar immediately starts weaving the ArOhanam with the "Srgrgm" phrase at mI"nAkSi mE". The "Snd" phrase at "kA"ngi melts the rasikas' heart. Moving on to the anupallavi,

Anupallavi:

mAnamAtRmEyE mAyE marakataccAyE shivajAyE
mInalOcani pASamOcani mAnini kadambavanavAsini

Meaning:
dIkshithar gives Her the ultimate description in the anupallavi. He describes the Goddess as "the concept/knowledge ("mAna")(of the ultimate truth), the one who knows ("mAtR") (the ultimate truth) and the measurable/known part ("mEyE")(of the ultimate truth)". He continues to describe Her as "the one who creates delusion ("mAyE"), the one who has the color of emerald ("marakataccAyE") and the one who knows ("jAyE") Shiva." dIkshithar continues to describe Her as "The fish-eyed Goddess ("mInalOcani"), the one who destroys the bond of worldly attachment ("pASamOcani"), the venerated one ("mAnini") and the one who resides ("vAsini") in the kadamba forest ("kadambavana")".

What a beautiful anupallavi. dIkshithar pays huge respect to the Goddess in these few lines. He clearly states that She is the embodiment of ultimate truth, and that by worshipping her, one can be liberated from all the worldly attachments. dIkshithar, being the yogi he was, shook off his mortal coils and attained Sripuram while making his disciples sing these very lines. When rendered properly with bhakti, these lines combined with the beautiful retta kalai Adi tALam makes one's hair stand and the rasika in me always has that tear rolling down his cheeks while saluting this great soul ;(.

Grammatically, the alliterations in the first line of the anupallavi and the antyAkshara prAsam makes the rhyme scheme gallop at a steady pace. Musically, dikshithar uses swarAksharams for the "ma" shabda in the first line of the anupallavi. Personally, I love the "m, dmgrg" phrase at "mAnamAtR". The entire last line is beyond description. "Ss, srsn" at mInalOcani followed by "dd, sndp" at pASamOcani promptly melts the rasika's heart. And he caps it all off with a brilliant "ga da" swarAksharam at "kada"mba. What a genius ;(. Since life must move on, I will continue with the charaNam,

Charanam:

madurApurinilayE maNivalayE malayadwaja pANDyarAja tanayE
viduviDambanavadanE vijayE vINAgAna daSagamakakriyE
madumadamOdita hRdayE sadayE mahAdEva sundarESapriyE
madumuraripu sOdari SAtOdari vidiguruguha vaSankari Sankari

Meaning:

dIkshithar sings "She is the one who dwells ("nilayE") in madurApuri. The one who wears gem-studded ("maNi") bangles ("valayE") and the one who was born as the daughter of ("tanayE") of King Malayadwaja Pandya. The one whose beautiful face ("vadanE") outshines ("viDambana") the moon ("vidu") and the one who is victorious ("vijayE"). The one who created ("kriyE") the ten gamakas associated with vINa music. The one who brings delight ("mOdita") to one's heart ("hRdayE") which is as sweet as honey ("madumada") and the one who is compassionate ("sadayE"). The one who is dear ("priyE") to Lord SundareSa. The sister ("sOdari") of Lord Vishnu, who is the enemy ("ripu") of the asuras Madu and mura and the one with a slender waist ("SAtOdari"). The one who captivates ("vaSankari") Lord Brahma ("vidi") and Lord guruguha. She is Shankari, the ever auspicious one".

dIkshithar packs one big punch in the charaNam as he brings in the name of the kSEtra ("madhurapuri), describes the lineage of the Goddess ("malayadhwaja pAndyarAja"), incorporates the rAga mudra and the composer mudra. As you would recollect from my previous post, I had mentioned that Goddess rAja mAtangi is the yogic counterpart of Goddess Saraswati and is often described as holding a vINa. dIkshithar brilliantly brings in this amsha of the dEvi while at the same time incorporates the rAga mudra at "vINAgAna dasagamakakriyE"..what a genius. >--<-o. Grammatically, If you notice, throughout the krithi (pallavi, anupallavi and charaNam), dIkshithar uses the "yE" and the "I" prAsams. He employs similiar words to describe different things in the charaNam, for eg, he uses madu for both "honey" as well as the demon and uses vaSankari and Sankari one after the other..yet another display of his brilliance. Overall, a great masterpiece that has had a huge impact on me and I am sure many rasikas would share the same belief. As I conclude this post, I once again wish everyone a very happy deepavali. The best way to celebrate, as always, would be to listen to dIkshithar krithis and eat amma's food :). Continuing with dEvi krithis, as one of the readers had requested, I will take up kanCadalAyatAkSi in kamalAmanOhari in my next post. Until then, shrI gurubhyO namah:

Friday, September 5, 2008

mAmava mInAkSi- varALi

It has been nearly a month since I posted anything here. I have been travelling a bit on the weekends and hence have not been able to blog :(. Further, I am winding up here in the US and going back to India for good on October 18th. For Labor day weekend, I had amazing fun with SK, hari and audi. We spent a few days together and had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ajit Bhaskar and his wife Nandini and meeting Prasanna Venkatesh, a devout student of carnatic music :). On the following weekend, I travelled to Indianapolis and met my Ann arbor room mates, Bharath, Aditya and Sharanya :). We had perhaps the best fun ever in those 2 days. At times like these, I profusely thank God to have given me such wonderful friends, without whom life in the US would not have been possible in the first place, let alone boring and dull.

In the last 3 years and 2 months I have spent in the US, I have changed a lot- predominantly for the good and for betterment :). Apart from the maturing experience, it has been a few years in which I have gained so many new and wonderful friends which is ultimately what matters in life. The love my friends have showered on me (and will continue to shower on me for this lifetime) just makes my hair stand up and I immediately get goosebumps. Hence, I do a sAshTAnga namaskara at all these angels that God has sent to love me >--<-o @ All!!

Shri Sanjay Subrahmanyan is performing here at Austin, Texas on October 4th and I am really excited about the fact that I will get to listen to him live after a very, very long time. Hopefully he renders some thalaivar krithis for this guruguha dAsan :).

Today, I will take up the beautiful dIkshithar krithi, mAmava mInAkSi in varALi composed by the nAdajyOthi at Madurai. Before I dive into the krithi, I would like to give a brief introduction about this kSEtram and its folklore. According to mythology, Indra once killed an innocent demon by mistake and in order to escape the effects of this sin, Indra built a small lingam in the forest he was roaming and propitiated Lord Shiva. After severe penance, Lord Shiva forgave him and Indra built a small temple at that site. King Malayadhwaja Pandyan was ruling this part of the country called kadambavanam and he came to know of this small temple. He decided to expand this temple into a big complex and build the city of Madurai around it. The king was childless and did severe penance to please Lord Shiva and beget a child. Lord Shiva answered his prayers and gave the king a 3 year old ayonija (not born out of a womb) daughter. This child was a manifestation of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti. Due to her beautiful fish-like eyes, the king named her as mInAkSi. She grew up to be a great warrior and after the king's demise, ruled the kingdom ably.

I must mention the yogic interpretation of Goddess mInAkSi. Sage Mathanga was from the lower chandal caste but did not believe in the caste system and wanted to attain brahmin hood through penance. Through the kripa of Lord Indra and Goddess Saraswati, sage matanga was given a beautiful daughter, Matangi. In tantraic tradition, there are ten wisdom Goddesses, Mahavidyas and Matangi is one of them and is believed to be the yogic counterpart of Goddess Saraswathi. On another note, these ten Vidyas are believed to be the source of then ten avatars of Vishnu.

Goddess Matangi is believed to have a dark complexion and she resides in the vishuddhi chakra at the throat. Through upAsana, She can be invoked for command over speech and knowledge. Goddess mInAkSi at Madurai is believed to be this amsha of Goddess Shakti. dIkshithar very beautifully brings this aspect out in the very first lines of the pallavi by addressing the Goddess as "rAja mAtangi-princess mAtangi", thereby consolidating both the physical as well as the yogic beliefs as I have described above. Since mAtangi is the yogic counterpart of Goddess Saraswathi, she holds a veena studded with emeralds and this is once again brought out by dIkshithar in the pallavi itself. With this introduction, I will now delve into the krithi,

Pallavi:

mAmava mInAkSI rAjamAtaHNgi
mANikyavallakIpANi madhuravANi varALivENi

Meaning:

dIkshithar sings "Oh Goddess mInAkSI, the fish-eyed one, the princess mAtangi, please protect me ("mAmava")." He describes the Goddess as "The one possessing an emerald studded vINa
("mANikyavallakI") in Her hands. The one with a mellifluous voice ("madhuravANi") and the one with dark hued hair ("vENi") that resembles a swarm of bees ("varALi")."

dIkshithar directly addresses the Goddess and seeks refuge. Being a vainika himself, he promptly salutes Her and refers to Her vINa. Musically, the key "PMGRS" phrase occurs at "mInAkSI" followed by the defining "S n gr G M" phrase at "varALi vENi". dIkshithar once again shows his command over the language by brilliantly incorporating the rAga mudhra as a figure of speech describing the beauty of the Goddess' hair :). Other than that, it is a pretty simple and peaceful pallavi. Moving on to the samaSTi caraNam,

samASTi caraNam:

sOmasundarEshvara sukhasphUrti rUpiNi
shyAmE shaHNkari digvijaya praTApini
hEmaratnAbharaNabhUSaNi Isha guruguha hRdAgAriNi
kAmitArttha vitaraNadhOraNi kArunyAmRtaparipUraNi
kAmakrOdhadi nivAriNi kadambakAnanavihAriNi

Meaning:

dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "The embodiment ("rUpiNi") of the vibrating force ("sphUrti") that delights ("sukha") Lord SomasundarEshvara. The dark-hued ("shyAmE") one who does good deeds ("shaHNkari") and the one who has the glory of conquering all directions ("digvijaya") and is the ruler of the world ("pratApini"). The one adorned ("bhUSaNi") by gem studded ("ratna") golden ("hEma") ornaments ("AbharaNa") and the one who resides in the heart ("hRdAgAriNi") of Lord Guruguha, the preceptor of Lord Shiva ("Isha"). The one who bestows ("vitaraNadhOraNi") all the desired boons ("kAmitArttha") of devotees. The one filled with ("paripUraNi") the nectar of compassion ("kArunyAmRta"). The one who removes ("nivAriNi") lust ("kAma"), anger ("krOda") and all other vices. The one who resides ("vihAriNi") in the kadamba forests ("kAnana")."

Look at how beautifully dIkshithar depicts the entire shrine. He brings the sannidhi right in front of your eyes in all his descriptions in the caraNam. There is once again no yogic or puranic references here that need detail explanations. He employs a vicious "S r ss S n G" at "sukhasphUrti" and the word itself vibrates to bring joy to one's hearts just like the word suggests :). This is followed by a rich "n S G M; D D N" at "shyAmE shankari" that brings out the essence of the pUrvAngam clearly. I also love "S N G R" at "hRdAgArini" and the way the caraNam ends as "nDpmgr-rsGM" at "kadambakAnanavihAriNi" and beautifully merges into the pallavi :). I dont think there is much more to beat upon here and I will promptly wind up.

Since I have given a decent explanation about the kSEtra and since one of the readers had requested, I think I will take up "mInAkSi mE mudam dEhi" in my next post. Though I wanted to reserve this krithi as the very last krithi for this blog (for obvious reasons), I guess I will take it up at this juncture and will provide some insight. I will hopefully post a few more krithis before leaving the US. See you all very soon :). shrI gurubhyO namah:!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Panchabhoota kshEtra krithis - An email excerpt

Being the highly inert character I am, it takes a lot for me to get down to writing something in one shot. However, one fine day, I felt spirited to discuss my understanding of 3 of the 5 panchabhoota kShEtra krithis with a very close uncle (read - nearly father figure) of mine, and sent him a rather verbose email. An excerpt of the same is reproduced here. I, by virtue of being human, may have erred in many a place; I'd only be glad to rectify all such, if any.

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I want to share some certain facts about the 3 panchabhoota-kShetrams - chidambaram, tiruvaNNAmalai and SrIkALahastI with you in this mail. Most of these might be superfluous, and already known, but the context in which they are put forth in the krithis of Dikshitar that I will talk about in chunks and how merely singing/these songs is sufficient to appease/woo the deities in these places, is what I want to discuss in this mail. There will be also be instances of Dikshitar's literary genius that I will rave about to no end (where I might begin to get painful to people!) Owing to that, this mail WILL test your endurance, with its length.

Introduction

Most of these kShEtrams fall in a belt rich with puranic tales and mythological events associated with them. Unfortunately, whenever I have visited these places, my lack of knowledge of the local languauge deterred me from reading and understanding more about the kShEtrams. Also, I have always wondered how to pray to these different forms of the same God at different kShEtrams. It is the same God, and one stOtram should do, but there are differences in the "swaroopa" and "kArya" (groping for an English translation here - in a loose sense, form and purpose of appearance at that kShEtram - Shiva as the Atmalingam in gOkarNam for eg., and as kirAta (hunter) in SrIshailam - difference in form and purpose) from one kShEtram to another, which makes each kShEtram unique. Thanks to widely traveling saints and saintly figures, we have with us, almost always, stOtrams or shlOkams composed and recited in praise of that unique deity at every kShEtram. But then again, due to our limited means to get to them (Such knowledge is far from being digitised 100% still) and inescapable involvement in mundane life, we rarely attempt to get access to such resources.

Luckily for me, and for many of us students of music, the widely traveling, highly knowledgeable and polyglot vaggEyakAras of the yesteryears, have almost always visited all these brilliant kShEtrams, and documented their prayers to the Almighty there, in the form of exceptional and brilliant krithis, which have been passed down generations for our benefit. So, thanks to their scholarship, the average level of understanding and knowledge about various kShEtrams becomes accessible to those associated with Carnatic music. With some effort towards understanding their picturesque sketching of Sanskrit grammar, a whole new level of elevation can be reached, merely by enjoying the lyrical and grammatical beauty of these krithis. Amongst these, Muthuswami Dikshitar stands out, with a notorious reputation of having composed songs even on vaTukanAtha, found in a roadside temple at Thiruvaiyyaru !!

Being a devout student of Sanskrit, my love towards and minuscule understanding about Dikshitar krithis is not very coincidental. So, I will be citing from Dikshitar krithis alone, in a bid to try erase the thin line demarcating carnatic music and bhakti (from a personal perspective).

Chidambaram
As you may already know, shiva at chidambara is formless, or more aptly, adorns the form of "ether" - AkAsha, the all pervading formless panchabhootam. Muthuswami Dikshitar, in his krithi called "chidambara naTarAjamoortim", mentions this in the very first paragraph, pallavi, of the krithi as "chidambara-naTarAjamUrtim chintayAmi atanukeertim". The term atanukeertim, meaning "The one who is famous for being formless". ('tanu' means 'body or form', 'atanu' means 'bodiless or formless) qualifies the ethereal form of shiva. He talks about the consort of shiva at chidambara, shivakAmI (often mispronounced in tamil as sivagami), in the 2nd paragraph - madambA shivakAmIpatim. He refers to dEvi as 'madambA', meaning my mother, with a passionate emphasis on "my", seen quite often in his dEvi krithis.

He goes on to describe the naTarAja there as "shining with the ethereal joy derived from the cosmic dance" in his krithi Ananda-naTana-prakAsham (which is a panchabhoota krithi) in the pallavi - "Ananda-naTana-prakAsham chitsabhEsham AshrAyami, shivakAmavalleesham". The consort of shiva is referred to as shivakAmavalli! What a beautiful phrase to refer to pArvati! Further, he goes on to attribute the form of AkAsha to shiva in the phrase "bhuktimuktiprada dharAkAsham" in the anupallavi. The unintentional, yet intentional attribution to the kShEtram as such, comes in the phrase "shArddUlacharmAmbaram chidambaram", in the charanam, which talks of the formlessness of naTarAja and the kShEtram in one word. The beauty of the word chidambaram itself is evident in its grammatical split chidambaram = chit + ambaram. I confess not to have a good understanding of the depth of the meaning of this word, but my interpretation is that of "ambaram iva chit" = "a level of consciousness as pure as that of Ether". chit here refers to the 2nd of the 3 - sat-chit-Anandam. I may be totally wrong with this here. Moving on, Shiva's pose of tAnDava is brought out in the term vinOdatANDava - the cosmic dance which is vinOda, fun and frolic, to him.

The richness of description of Shiva, his concert and a complete qualification of his form at chidambaram are so succinctly put forth in these two compositions. Of course, there are a few more compositions on naTarAja at chidambaram (shivakAmeepatim chintayAmyaham is one that comes to me right away).

The lyrics of these songs are available at the links hyperlinked to the krithi name - AnandanaTanaprakAsham (Lyrics, Audio), chidambaranaTarAjamUrtim (Lyrics, Audio), ShivakAmpatim chintayAmyaham (Lyrics, Audio), chidambaranaTarAjam AshrayE&ham (Lyrics). Also, do listen to shivakAmIshwarIm chintayAmyam, a krithi of dEvi shivakAmI at chidambaram (Lyrics, Audio).

Talking about chidambaram, there is a gOvindarAja temple there, which has also been sung in praise of in gOvindarAjEna rakShitO&ham (Lyrics, Audio).

SrIkAlahastI

I will be refering to primarily two krithis here. One of them is a panchabhoota-kShEtrakrithi, SrIkALahastIsha, and another is jnAnaprasUnAmbikE on shiva's consort at SrIkALahastI.

Shiva at SrIkALahasti is said to be in the form of Air (anila, vAyu, sameera etc.). This point is driven home right away by Dikshitar in the pallavi of the krithi on shiva at SrIkALahasti, "SrIkALahastIsha" as "SrIkALahastIsha shritajanAvana-sameerAkAra mAm pAhi rAjamouLE Ehi". The term sameerAkAra describes the AkAra, form, of shiva to be that of sameera, air. [I will not go into describing the legend of SrIkALahasti here (the story of the spider, snake and elephant). I refer you to the temple website for the same.]

The anupallavi of the same song beautifully ascribes the five fundamental elements, panchabhootas, to shiva. It also has one of the most brilliant uses of Sanskrit grammar in - "pAkArividhihariprANamayakOSha-anilAkAsha-bhoomi-salilAgni prakAsha shiva". There are numerous ways of understanding and interpreting this line. One direct understanding is that shiva manifests his jyoti/tejas in the form of anila (air), AkAsha (ether), bhoomi (earth), salila (water), agni (fire) - the panchabhootams. Of course, the panchabhoota-kShEtrams represent this fact. He is also described as 'pAkArividhi' - another lovely usage - which means "fate to the enemies of indra (pAka) - destroyer of all evil". (The link to the lyrics that I shall provide you with at the end of this section puts forth another interesting interpretation of the anupallavi. The difference in meanings could be beacuse, either I am completely ignorant, or Sanskrit is beautiful, or both!).

The charaNam is wonderful again. His consort is brought into picture directly with - "jnAnaprasUnAmbikApatE bhaktAbhimAna-dakShiNa-kailAsa-vAsa". It also talks about shakti in the form of jnAnaprasUnAmbikA. Moreover, the krithi incorporates a reference to SrIkALahastI as dakShiNa-kailAsa. In fact, in another kShEtram - shiva is proclaimed as the "resident" of dakShiNakAshi - kuzhikkarai in Central TN. Of course, the fact that kuzhikkarai is dakShiNakAshi is well corroborated with the use of the exact sanskrit translation, gartateera, in 2 of Dikshitar's magnum opuses - kASi vishwEshwara Ehi and SrI vishwanAtham (a krithi composed in 14 ragams), (as well as annapoorNE vishAlAkShI in sAma). While the former actually explicitly uses 'dakShiNa-kAshi vishwEshwara" for the anupallavi-pallavi joiner, the latter uses "SrIpura-niRRutti-bhAga-gartatIra-sthiratara bhoopAla-pAlanam".

A note on this now. Here, my interpretation, is that SrIpura refers to Thiruvarur, for Kuzhikkarai comes south of NH-67 connecting Tanjavur (which is west of tiruvarur) and tiruvarur. So, kuzhikkarai is indeed southwest of Thiruvarur. I support my claim as follows. The corroboration for SrIpura being thiruvArur comes in Dikshitar's SrI kamalAmbA jayati - in the line "SrIpura-bindu-madhyastha chintAmani-mandirastha shivAkAra-manchastitha shivakAmEshAngastha". Here, Dikshitar seems to be defining the "coordinates" of kamalAmbA, from the city, to the temple, to the position, to shiva himself! (Talk about shiva-shakti union!). Sure enough, the tiruvarur temple is right in the middle of the town - SrIpura-bindu-madhyastha (bindu-madhyastha = center point ?), and there on, the localization of the coordinates of kamalAmbA. Dikshitar never ceases to amaze me with his brilliance! Interestingly, mannArguDi, referred to as dakShiNa dwAraka (Thanks Sai!) in SrI rAjagOpAla, is also southwest of Thiruvarur and south of the NH-67, on SH-66 off nidamangalam! Now, back to kALahastI.

Another term that describes shiva ever-so-wonderfully here is "heenajAtikirAtakEna poojita-keertE" - One who is famous to be worshipped even by the low-caste hunter (kaNNappa, in folklore). I understand this line very differently, which gives a different, perhaps unreasonably ridiculous, interpretation too (Again, I might be stupid here). The term "heenajAtikirAtakEna-poojita-keertE" could be split as above, in which case, the "grammatical case" that flows through the krithi faces a small alteration - with the 3rd case (tRutIyA vibhakti) coming in (with kirAtakEna) and then restoring to the 'reference' case (with poojitakeertE) (called sambOdhana vibhakti in Sanskrit). However, the case can be maintained in the sambOdhana itself, if understood as "heenajAtikirAtaka" + "ina-poojita-keertE". Shiva is himself a hunter, who thrives in the graveyards, so the first term could refer to him. Shiva also has the distinction to be worshipped by Sun (ina = sun). In fact, though I could be taking it a little too far, Lord Rama is referred to as inakAnta in lore. tyAgarAja refers to rAma as inakula mandu in the song kanugoNTini. So, it could also be referring to the event in rAmAyaNa where rAma worships shiva during his search for seeta. (I don't know if there's a story of rAma getting to SrIkALahastI and such. The locals might know.) Multiple interpretations, the latter, possibly erroneous, but the beauty remains unquestionable.

Moving on, Dikshitar sings in praise of Shiva's consort here, jnAnaprasUnAmbikA, exclusively, in his krithi - jnAnaprasUnAmbikE. He refers to her husband in the song as kALahastIsha-manOllAsini.

To the extent that I know, these are the two songs sung in praise of kALahastIsha and kALahastI.

The lyrics of these songs may be found hyperlinked to the title - SrIkALahastIsha (Lyrics, Audio), jnAnaprasUnAmbikE ( Lyrics, Audio).

Tiruvannamalai

The panchabhoota-kShEtra krithi aruNAchalanAtham smarAmi talks about shiva here, in the form of fire. The beauty is that there is no explicit mention of the word fire or its synonyms in this krithi. More on that later.

The pallavi goes as "aruNAchalanAtham smarAmi anisham, apItakuchAmbA-samEtam SrI". Clearly, the reference to his consort at TiruvaNNAmalai, apItakuchAmbA has been brought in straight away! The anupallavi is something that makes aruNAchalEshwara unique, because this is a reference that is not come across in the other four. It goes "smaraNAt-kaivalyaprada-charaNAravindam"!!!! By mere 'thought' of shiva here (charaNaravinda = the lotus feet of shiva (aravinda = lotus)), one is granted kaivalyam - mukti! Interestingly shiva is referred to as 'smaraNAt-kaivalyaprada-charaNAravinda' here. So, shiva here is the shiva who grants kaivalyam to one who merely thinks of his lotus feet. (Reiteration for grammatical clarity.).

The reference to the 'fire' form comes in 3 places, metaphorically though. The reference 'taruNAdityakOTi-sankAsha-chidAnandam' is the first ; Shiva is compared to be as bright as crores of 'rising suns' - taruNa+Aditya (taruNa = young, Aditya = sun). Clearly, the energy of the rising sun is more abundant and rejuvenating than that of the setting sun. I admire Dikshitar for his tactful choice for a simile here - taruNAditya, not merely Aditya. Also, crore here doesn't mean a crore, but actually means infinite! So, the interpretive meaning here is aruNAchalEshwara is crores of times brighter than the sun, a reference to his 'fiery' form! The next reference comes immediately after the charaNam starts - "aprAkRuta-tEjOmaya-lingam". Notice the use of the term aprAkRuta - meaning, something not natural, something extraordinary/supernatural. Shiva in the linga form emanates a rather supernaturally extraordinary amount of mystic brilliance/tEjas, a second reference to the fiery form. The third reference is described later.

The rest of the charaNam just makes me cry in awe, with bhakti towards shiva-parvati, with bhakti towards Dikshitar and his brilliance. The lyrical majesty is inexplicable thru an email. Snippets follow however. Shiva is described as - "apramEyam" (unqualifiable, unlimited), "aparNAbja-bhRungam" - the most majestic description of a couple! - aparNA refers to pArvatI (she was on an unbroken fast to woo shiva. aparNA means a lady of unbroken fast), abja = lotus (ap-water, ja-born in), bhRungam = bee. How do we make sense out of this? Shiva is that to the lotus-like pArvati, what a bee is to a flower - the reason for being. Without bees, there are no flowers. Bees and flowers are amongst the first examples of interdependence and complementing that I can think of. Shiva is described later as viprOttama-vishEShAntaragam - the one who dwells in the hearts of austere people (vipra = brahmin, actually), and further as swapradIpa - self illuminating (one who is naturally brilliant), mouLividhRutagangam - the one who is crowned by gangA, swaprakAsha-jita-somAgnipatangam - the one, who, with his innate brilliance, has won over moon, fire and the sun, meaning to say, the one who leaves sun, moon, and fire far behind with his brilliance - another reference to the 'fiery' nature of shiva at tiruvaNNAmalai.

Thus, Dikshitar closes an exceptional, heavy, description of shiva at aruNAchala. I've only been very superficial in interpreting it. Almost 50% of the words herein have multiple interpretation, each more brilliant than the other! It's just a joy to even contemplate on it.

aruNachalanAtham smarAmi - (Lyrics, Audio).

Final comments

I have excluded the 2 other krithis - jambUpatE mAm pahI on jambukEshwara, shiva in the form of water, at the kShEtram - jambukEshwaram and chintaya mAkandamoolakandam on shiva at kAnchIpuram, in the form of earth. Note however, that the pallavi of either song, at once ascribes the respective panchabhoota forms to shiva at those kShEtrams. The philosophical implications that these krithis have from the advaitic viewpoint is a discussion that's very very interesting, and owing to its depth and verbosity, excuse itself from this mail.

Thanks for your patience, for reading all the way through till here!

There are so many such lovely instances of describing the almighty - be it Vishnu, shiva, dEvi, subrahmaNya, whosoever! There is just not enough time in life to live each moment thinking about all these. I also want to tell you about the tiruvArUr panchalingams and krithis associated with them, but that will have to wait a while. Perhaps when we meet next, we will have some time to discuss and deliberate and contemplate on such things.

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Thanks for all those patient souls who read all the way down to here. I'll be getting back to writing about the navagraha krithis, as soon as I can.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

paradEvatA bRhatkucAmbA-dhanyASi

August 22nd is an unforgettable date in my life for I lost my father on this fateful day, 23 years ago when I was not even 2 years old. Life would sure have been a lot different if he was here with me ;(. In some sorts, I paid homage to that noble soul by donating some money to the Asha Foundation and I feel extremely happy about it :). May God bless his soul, wherever he is ;(.

Tomorrow is GokulAshtami and I miss home very much ;(. All those memories of thattai, murukku, cheedai etc that amma prepares with all her love is making my eyes misty ;(. I hope atleast all of you who are reading this blog are at home and enjoying the delicacies prepared by your ammas and paatis :). Anyway..the best way to come out of this reticent mood would be to drown in the bliss of carnatic music.

Today, I will take up the majestic dhanyASi masterpiece, paradEvatA bRhatkucAmbA composed by the nAdajyOti in praise of Goddess bRhat sundara kucAmbikA, the consort of shrI mahAlingaswAmi at tiruvidaimarudur/madhyArjunam. This temple is believed to be around 1200 years old and is one of the famous pAdal petra sthalams because it is one of the 275 shrines of Lord Shiva mentioned in thEvAram hymns. MadhyArjunam literally translates to "middle maruda". There are 3 Shiva temples which have the maruda tree as the sthala vr.kshAs- shrIsailam in Andhra, tiruvidaimarudur and tiruppudaimarudur in tirunelveli. Geographically, since this temple is located in-between the other two, it is called madhyArjunam. The lingam here is a swayambu and because of its rich history, there are some amazing stories associated with this temple. I kindly request you to click here to learn everything there is to know about this temple.

In addition to this krithi, dIkshithar has composed a few other krithis at this magnificient temple, mahAlingESwarAya namastE in aTHAna, mahAlingESwaram in paraju and ofcourse the other paraju gem "cintayE mahAlingamUrthim" popularly sung by GNB. I will now move on to the krithi. In my humble opinion, the best thing about singing this krithi is that it provides you with a wonderful opportunity for dEvi nAmasmaraNam. The krithi is filled with different names of the Goddess, uttering which will purify your soul. The goddess in this kshEtra is dressed up in a dancer's attire (you can see the pleats near the legs if you observe in the picture above) and dIkshithar has composed this krithi
similar to a dancer's main characteristics, a beautiful mixture of grace and gallop (madhyamakAla). Moving on to the krithi now,

Pallavi:

para dEvatA bRhatkucAmbA saMrakshatu mAM SrI jagadambA

Meaning:

dIkshithar directly seeks refuge in his divine mother's lap. He sings "May the supreme Goddess ("paradEvatA"), the auspicious mother of the universe ("jagadambA") bRhatkucAmbA protect me ("saMrakshatu mAM")."

What an amazing start to the krithi!! dIkshithar's brilliance once again just shines in the first words of the pallavi itself. He pretty much sums up the grandeur of dhanyASi with the "P G M P N S D P" phrase at "paradEvatA". How can one start a krithi with such a bold statement directly taking to the heart of the rAga in the opening phrase!! Simply amazing..it shows the authority and the command of this highly knowledgable being..I prostrate in front of him just for that one phrase >--<-o. And to cap off this beautiful pallavi, he ends with "SrnS; S G M; PdpMP" at "shrI; jagad;amba". I dont know if this is a valid observation but if one literally translates the word bRhatkucAmbA, bRhat means "big/massive", kuca means "breast" and "ambA" means "mother". Since She is universal mother, all of us, Her Children are fed by Her and hence the name. I am sure there is some folklore associated with the name of the Goddess here..If anyone knows anything about it, please shed some light. Moving on to the anupallavi,

Anupallavi:

SAradA ramA sannuta sakaLA
SaraccAmpEya pushpa pada yugaLA
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
vara guru guha jananI cinmAlinI sthira-tara sampatpradAna dhaninI

Meaning:

dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "The complete One ("sakaLa") served ("sannuta") by Goddess Saraswathi ("SAradA") and Goddess Lakshmi ("ramA")". He continues to describe Her physical beauty as "The one whose two feet ("pada yugaLa") are like the campA ("cAmpEya") flowers ("pushpa") that blossom in the autumn season ("Sara")".

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, he describes Her as "The mother ("jananI") of the revered ("vara") Lord guruguha. The one who wears consciousness as a garland ("cinmAlinI") and the one who is capable of bestowing ("pradAna") the everlasting ("sthira-tara") wealth (of liberation)."

dIkshithar describes the Goddess in just one word- sakaLa meaning "the all encompassing/ complete One". What a wonderful way to encompass the all encompassing one in one word :). He further shows his grammatical prowess by employing a beautiful simile/metaphor comparing Her feet to the campA flowers. Look at the care he takes to describe these flowers..It is not any campA flower but those which are in full bloom during Autumn. The madhyamakAla sAhityam just flows, the syllables fusing with the tALa. Here, dIkshithar uses the word "cinmAlini", the one who wears consciousness ("cid") as a garland ("mAla"). Such precise usage of words and reference forms..what a genius ;(.

Musically, the "GMPNN" phrase at "sakaLa" is intoxicating. The whole of the madhyamakAla is pure bliss. Some of my favourites are the amazing drop from Sadja to gAndhAra at the transition from guruguha to jananI followed by "mgmgDPM;gmRS" at "cinmAlini". The cinmAlini prayOgam pretty much gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. And the way dIkshithar beautifully ascends the dhanyASi scale as "MGPMDPN;" at "sthira-tara sampat" is a thing of beauty that is to be observed with the eyes of an artist working on a sculpture.. aahh..If you have not listened to this krithi yet, please do so immediately..what more can I say.

caraNam:

carAcarAtmaka prapanca jananI cAru candra hAsinI suvAsinI
cidAnanda mahAlinga mOhinI cidrUpiNI bhakta viSvAsinI
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
karuNA rasa pravAhinI kauLinI kali kalmasha nASinI haMsinI
kalA mAlinI kAtyAyanI kanja lOcanI bhava pASa mOcanI

Meaning:

dIkshithar once again emphasizes the universal mother concept by describing Her as "The mother ("jananI") of the universe ("prapanca") and the embodiment ("Atmaka") of mobile ("cara") and immobile ("acara") objects". He continues to describe Her as "the one whose smiling face ("hAsinI") resembles the beautiful ("cAru") moon ("candra"). The one who is the dwelling place of consciousness ("suvAsini"). The one who captivates ("mOhinI") Lord mahAlinga, the embodiment of bliss of consciousness ("cidAnanda"). The one whose form is pure consciousness ("cidrUpiNI") and the one who has the faith ("viSwAsini") of her devotees ("bhakta")."

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dikshithar describes the dEvi as "the continuous stream ("pravAhiNi") of compassion ("karuNArasa"). The one who signifies the kauLa path of worship and the destroyer ("nASiNI") of the trials and tribulations ("kalmaSa") of the kali yuga. The one who is the divine swan ("hamsinI") and the one who wears the arts ("kala") as a garland ("mAlinI"). The one who is known as kAtyAyanI, the red-hued one. The one with eyes ("locanI") like lotus ("kanca") and the one who liberates us ("mOcanI") from the attachments ("pASa") of this samsAra ("bhava")."

What a caraNam. ;(. As I had mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are so many names of the Goddess that dIkshithar brings in. And look at the details once again..he compares Her face to not just a moon but a beautiful moon ("cAru candra"). In addition to the "cinmAlinI" in the anupallavi, dIkshithar further addresses Her as "cidrUpiNi" and "hamsinI" to stress on the yogic significance of the Goddess. For devotees who want to attain a higher level of consciousness, surrender to dEvi is all that is required.

From a musical standpoint, some prayOgams like "GNP" at "carAcara" and "SDSGMGRS" at "cidAnanda mAhA"linga are just mind-blowing and these are phrases that embellish the beauty of this rAga even more. The madhyamakAla is once again a pure gem. dIkshithar once again climbs the winding ArOhaNam with the "MGPMDPNRS; pGRS" at "kalikalmaSanASiNI;hamsinI". To cap the krithi off, he comes full circle and uses the same "PGMPNSDP" phrase at "kalamAlinI" similar to the opening pallavi line. That's how the krithi ends. MLV amma's rendition is one of my favourites and ofcourse TMK's 1 hour rendition of this krithi is soulful. Please listen to these if you have not.

Staying with the same dEvi theme, in my next post, I will attempt to explain "mAmava mInAkSi" in varALi. A very happy krishna jayanti to everyone :). Happy cheedai eating and as always-"cEtah shrI bAlakriSNam bhajarE"!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

karikaLabhamukham - sAvEri


I am typing this as I listen to a wonderful kAmbhOji sung by SRJ maama. As I listen to this amazing piece of music with unabated tears running down my cheeks, I feel an overpowering force that is making me just fall at his feet. A dIrga sAshTANga namaskAra to this great nAda yOgi. What a rAgam and what a rendition ;(. However I am a little angry with SRJ maama after listening to his interview on Worldspace Shruti in which he declares that according to him, the 3 greatest composers with reference to lyrical content are PurandaradAsa, annamAchArya and thyAgarAja swAmi. Ofcourse, anyone who reads this blog will know why I am angry with maama for not including the great nAdhajyOthi. Everyone knows that I am biased towards thalaivar ;) but still!! However, I am sure that he has his own reasons for that. Anyway..without a shadow of a doubt, they were all great nAdOpAsakAs and I humbly salute them all.

My close friends and room mates (read "brothers") with whom I spent my grad life at Ann Arbor are visiting me this coming weekend and I am really excited about getting to meet them. We are planning to drive to Houston, go to Goddess mInAkshi temple, eat nice Indian food and go to Galveston island in the Gulf of Mexico (pretty much what we did when SK visited me last december). On another note, thanks to Bala sir and Dr. VGK sir, I have added around 315 new krithis to the thyAgarAja swAmi website and updated it. Hopefully the sangeethapriya moderators update the website within this weekend. Coming to the krithi now, karikaLabhamukham is believed to have been composed by dIkshithar when he visited one of the temples in mAyavaram/mayilAduthurai. The only DhuNDhi gaNEsha I have heard about is the one in kASi where the Lord is red in colour and holds an axe in His right hand. Hence, I am not very sure about the kSEtra. If someone can throw any light on this, please do :).

Having completely exploited 30 janya rAgas of mALavagOwLa, we can very safely conclude that dIkshithar is/was and forever will be the king of MMG and its daughters. His two compositions in sAvEri, karikaLabhamukham and shrI rAjagOpAla are classics. While in karikaLabhamukham, dIkshithar makes use of almost all nuances of this beautiful rAga, shrI rAjagOpAla with its rich gait and grandeur stands out as perhaps one of the top 5 compositions of dIkshithars (IMHO). As SK often says, shrI rAjagOpAla is the toughest and the most demanding of all dIkshithar krithis. Anyway, coming back to karikaLabhamukham, the first thing that strikes me about this krithi is the brilliant usage of that enchanting gAndhAram by dIkshithar at some of the most beautiful places. It is sad to note that this krithi is not included in the SSP though :(. The pallavi of the krithi goes like:

Pallavi:

karikaLabhamukham DhuNDhi gaNEsham bhajarE rE citta
kAvErI taTasthitam sAvErI rAganutam

Meaning:


dIkshithar instructs the mind - "Oh mind! ("rE citta"), worship ("bhajarE") the one who has the face ("mukham") of a young elephant calf ("karikaLabha"), DhuNDhi gaNEsha, the one who resides ("sthitam") on the banks ("taTa") of river kAvEri and the one who is praised ("nutam") by the rAga sAvEri."

dIkshithar starts off beautifully with a swarAksharam with the tAra sthAyi "G R" at "kari", arguably, one of the best starts to a krithi ever. I have heard a few people sing a "MGR" or even a "DGR" at "kari"..simply beautiful. He brings in the rAga mudra in the pallavi itself. Though it is a direct usage of the rAgam's name and not one of his brilliant, slEsha based rAga mudras, the prAsam effect it creates because of the rhyme scheme employed ("kAvEri, sAvEri") is awesome. Some stalwarts like GNB have sung some exceptionally improvised sangathis in the pallavi. Other than that, there is nothing much to explain or elucidate on. Moving on to the anupallavi,

Anupallavi:

harihayAdi sakaladEvatArAdhita padAmbujam
girijA tanujam vijita manasijam guruguhAgrajam


Meaning:


dIkshithar describes the Lord as " the one with the lotus feet ("padAmbujam") worshipped by ("ArAdhita") Lord Indra ("harihaya") and all the other ("sakala") devas. The son ("tanujam") of pArvati ("girijA"-daughter of the mountains), the elder brother ("agraja") of Lord guruguha and the one whose beauty surpasses ("vijita") that of the cupid ("manasija"-born out of love/embodiment of love/God of Love)."

The anupallavi starts off with a very serene "S R M P" at "harihaya" but the highlight of the anupallavi is the amazing madhyamakAla sAhitya. dIkshithar once again employs the "G R" swarAksharam at "giri"jA. How did dIkshithar follow the GRS phrase at "girijA" with NPD at "tanujam"? What beauty and brilliance..it just makes my hair stand. dIkshithar completes the murder with "D S DM; P D S" phrase and the wickedly tantalizing "R G R M Pdpd" phrase at "vijita manasijam" and "guruguhAgrajam" respectively.

Look at how beautifully dIkshithar uses 3 indirect allusions consecutively to the Lord in the madhyamakAla sAhityam. He describes Lord Ganesha by referring to Goddess pArvati, Lord SubrahmaNya and kAmadEva. In my extremely humble opinion, the krithi's start and the anupallavi's madhyamakAla sAhityam pretty much make this a masterpiece. dIkshithar establishes his Godliness once again (which was never in doubt in the first place :)). Moving on to the caraNam,

caraNam:

mUlAdhAra caturddaLa paHNkaja madhyastham
mOdakahastam munijana hRt kamalastham
phAlacandram sumukham karuNAsAndram
pAshAHNkushadharam padmakaram sundaram
nIlagrIvakumAram nIrada shObhAharam
pAlita bhaktam dhIramapAram vAram vAram


Meaning:

In the caraNam, dIkshithar starts off with his yogic references by describing Lord Ganesha as "the one seated at the center ("madhyastham") of the four petalled ("caturdaLa") lotus ("paHNkaja") of the mUlAdhAra chakra." dIkshithar continues to describe Him as "the one who has modakas in His hands ("hasta") and the one who dwells ("astham") in the lotus-like ("kamala") hearts ("hRt") of sages ("munijana")."

dIkshithar describes the physical beauty of the Lord as "the one who wears the moon ("candra") on His forehead ("phAla") and the one with a pleasant face ("sumukham") filled with ("sAndram") grace and compassion ("karuNA"). The one who bears ("dharam") the noose ("pAsha") and the goad ("aHNkusha") and the one who is beautiful ("sundaram") with lotus-like hands ("padmakaram")."

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshithar portrays the Lord as "the son ("kumAram") of the blue-necked ("nIlAgrIva") Lord Shiva and the one who is like the rain-bearing clouds ("nIrada") in radiating mercy ("shObhAharam"). The one who protects ("pAlita") His devotees ("bhaktam") and the one who has immeasurable ("apAram") courage and intelligence ("dhIram"), unto Him I pray again and again ("vAram vAram")."

Look at the serenity with which the caraNam starts.."M M P mpdP" at "mUlAdhAra". I love the "D N D M G R GRS" at "kamalastham" and the "P mpdP; MPdpmG" phrase at "phAlacandram" followed by "d r; dpmG" phrase at "sumukham". The prayOgam that always blows my mind away while listening to this krithi is "G R S N dMDS" at nIlA"grIvakumAram" which GNB brings out so beautifully in his rendition (followed by that amazing neraval and swaram at harihayAdi).

The sublime caraNam is pretty simple in terms of the word-by-word meaning involved and there is nothing much for me to elucidate upon. In a lec-dem by Vedavalli maami, I heard her say that this krithi employs almost all of the beautiful phrases that give sAvEri its grandeur. I hope this post helped in bringing out some facets of the same standpoint expressed by Vedavalli maami.

I have been listening exclusively to TMK's "paradEvatA brhatkuchAmba" in dhanyASi for the past 2 days. A beautiful krithi sung majestically by TMK. Hence, I will take up this krithi in my next post and attempt to bring to light the brilliance of this composition. Until then, tata :) :D

Sunday, June 29, 2008

swAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm-nATa

I once again apologize for the delay in posting this. I am finally getting some time for myself after two months of rigorous work. Over the last month, I have not been able to listen to a lot of music. However, those few sessions with hari have as always kept me alive :). I have bought a nice guitar processor which has some patches that enhance the tonal quality of my guitar. Some of these patches have even made me wonder if it is actually me playing the guitar ;). Thanks to my friend Ashwin Iyer (one of the toronto brothers), I listened to their rendition of sAmi yEntani dElpudura, the amazing chouka kAla varNam in suraTi composed by SubbarAma dIkshithar. A masterpiece rendered beautifully by the brothers..thanks a lot guys!!

I will be booking tickets to India in this week. I am planning to go home on October 18th. Everyone at home is really excited about me coming back. I was talking to my anna yesterday and he told me that he will teach me vocal music starting from the very basics after I come home. I am extremely happy because of that and hopefully with God's blessings, I will put in all my heart and soul and learn how to sing properly.

Now coming to the krithi, swAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm is a cute, kutti krithi in nATa. It was sung pretty frequently by the great GNB and I have heard some mind-boggling swarams sung by him for this krithi. There is a chitta swaram popularly sung by musicians at then end of the samASTi charaNam even though there is no chitta swaram given in the SSP for this krithi. dIkshitar composed this masterpiece at the beautiful swAmimalai, about 5 kms from kumbakonam. The temple's significance is pretty much expressed in the picture above. Being one of the Arupadai veedus, I thought I will give some information about the temple and the legend associated with it. However, I came across this beautiful post by Sriram V, the gentleman who along with shrI Sanjay Subrahmanyan, started the sangeetham.com portal (which sadly was closed down ;() in 1999. In this post, Sriram sir comprehensively talks about everything one needs to know about this magnificient temple and some of the greatest compositions extolling the greatness of the Lord at this kSEtra. Hence, I promptly move on to the krithi.

Pallavi:

svAminAtha paripAlayAshu mAm svaprakAsha vallIsha guruguha dEva sEnEsha

Meaning:

dIkshithar addresses the Lord- "Oh Lord Swaminatha, the self-resplendent ("svaprakAsha") guruguha and the Lord of Valli and dEvasEna, please protect ("paripAlaya") me ("mAm")."

The speciality of the Lord at swAmimalai is the legend associated with His name. It is at this location that Lord SubrahmaNya is believed to have taught his father, Lord Shiva, the meaning of the praNava mantra Om. As symbolized by the picture I have posted above, the small kid taught his own father, the great Lord Shiva and hence is addressed as swAminAtha. Thus, the Lord here is a gnAna-rUpam and Lord Shiva becomes Lord SubrahmaNya's disciple and accepts Him as the guruguha, the teacher ("guru") who dispels the darkness of ignorance from the heart caves ("guha") of the disciple. Since the Lord is glowing with all that knowledge at this kSEtra, dIkshithar precisely captures this amsha by using the words "svaprakAsha".

Lord SubrahmaNya's two wives, Valli and dEvasEna have been included in the pallavi thereby giving us a complete darshan of the main sannidhi. I would like to mention a few things about Lord SubrahmaNya at this point. Everything associated with Him has its own significance. Goddess Valli, the famous girl from the hunter's clan signifies Icha shakti or the power of desire. Goddess dEvasEna is the daughter of Indra and She signifies kriyA shakti, the power of action. In addition, Lord SubrahmaNya's spear, shaktivEl signifies gnAna shakti, the power of knowledge that removes ignorance. Lord SubrahmaNya uses the peacock as his vAhanam. The peacock, whose behaviour is unpredictable and has mood swings depending on external factors such as weather conditions, signifies the ego, the unpredictable behaviour occupying the mind of human beings. Hence Lord SubrahmaNya is the Lord of all these powers, desire, action, knowledge and control of ego.

Also, since one of the Lord's amsha is portrayed as Lord Muruga, the one who waged wars to kill demons, He is also the commander-in-chief of the army of Gods and hence the unavoidable reference to the other meaning of the word "dEva sEnEsha (Lord of the divine army)". In spiritual terms, this could also be interpreted as the Lord of the divine army of the soul consisting of the Lords of good senses and thoughts. An army which is ready to trounce the evil ego and its army which have taken over the senses of a spiritually un-enlightened human being. From the musical stand point, dIkshithar starts the pallavi off with the ArOhaNam "S r g m p n" at "swAminAtha pari". The pallavi ends with a beautiful madhyama kAla sAhityam at "vallIsha guruguha dEvasEnEsha". Moving on to the samaSTi caraNam,

samaSTi caraNam:

kAmajanaka bhAratIsha sEvita kArttikEya nAradAdi bhAvita
vAmadEva pArvatI sukumAra vArijAstra sammOhitAkAra
kAmitarttha vitaraNa nipuNacaraNa kAvyanATakAlaHNkAra bharaNa
bhUmi jalagni vAyu gagana kiraNa bOdharUpanityAnandakaraNa

Meaning:

dIkshithar describes the Lord as "He is kArthikEya, the one who is worshipped by Lord Brahma ("bhAratIsha"-husband of Goddess Saraswati) and Vishnu ("kAmajanaka"-father of the cupid) and the one held in high esteem ("bhAvita") by sage nArada and others. He is the distinguished son ("sukumAra") of vAmadEva (Lord Shiva- explained below) and Goddess pArvatI. The beauty of his form ("AkAra") is captivates ("sammohita") even the cupid ("vArijAstra"-explained below). His feet ("caraNa") is adept ("nipuNa") in granting ("vitaraNa") boons as desired ("kAmitarttha") by devotees. He embellishes ("bharaNa") epics ("kAvya"), dramas ("nATaka") and the shastra of alankAra. He illumines ("kiraNa") the 5 elements, earth("bhUmi"), water ("jala"), fire ("agni"), wind ("vAyu") and ether ("gagana"). He is the embodiment of knowledge ("bOdharUpa") and bestows ("karaNa") eternal bliss ("nityAnanda") on his devotees."

dIkshithar portrays the delicate side of Lord SubrahmaNya in the caraNam. He directly associates this by describing the Lord as the son of vAmadEva, one of the 5 aspects of Lord Shiva. It is supposed to represent the female manifestation of the Lord and vAmadEva literally translates to beautiful God. Thus, being born out of the female manifestation of Lord Shiva and his consort pArvathi, Lord swAminAtha inherits those qualities. He describes His physical beauty as captivating and surpassing that of the Cupid. dIkshitar has some unique ways of referring to Gods. Apart from general stuff we have seen before like "kAmajanaka" to refer to Lord Vishnu and "bhAratIsha" to refer to Lord Brahma, dIkshithar uses "vArijAstra" to refer to the Cupid. "vArija" means flower in general and lotus in particular. Astra means arrow. kAmadEva is known to strike with his arrow of flowers and dIkshithar uses this to describe cupid. The madhyamakAla sAhityam in this krithi is one of my favourites. The way it gallops and flows is amazing. dIkshithar maintains the prAsam throughout the krithi and especially in the madhyamakAla sAhityam, he uses both adyAkshara as well as antyAkshara prAsam. And thats how the krithi ends, leaving the rasikA yearning for more as always.

In my next post, I will take up a krithi composed by dIkshithar in praise of Lord guruguha's brother, the beautiful sAvEri masterpiece, "karikaLabha mukham". I have been wanting to blog about this krithi for a long time too :). I will make sure that I post the krithi within a day or two :). See you all in a while!!