Thursday, January 31, 2008

abhayAmbA jagadambA rakSatu-kalyANi

I started typing this krithi last weekend itself. However, my mind has been a little troubled over the past couple of days. I am being haunted by some nostalgic thoughts from my REC days too. The lonely and barren life I have been leading for the past 8 months at lifeless Round Rock has got me recounting those wonderful 4 years at Trichy. The weekdays used to be filled with classes, chatting with friends, going to the gate and eating at the dhaba. Friday nights used to be amazing fun watching films in our college theater and then ofcourse travelling home to chennai almost every weekend. Compared to that, the life I am leading here is filled with idleness and inactivity. However, a few precious friends and ofcourse music (why fear when thalaivar is there) are keeping me alive. Apart from that, it has been a normal week..the same old routine stuff.

Last weekend, SK and I had a session on the account of thyAgarAja swAmi's ArAdhana. Sk sang four of the five pancharathnas. After the session, I sang "E vasudhA" in sahAnA and "vEnugAna loluni" in kEdAragOwLa. I have been completely bowled over by Sanjay sir's rendition of "sAmbasadAshivAya namastE" in kAmbhOji. The krithi is embellished with such pristine beauty by dIkshithar and Sanjay sir has brought out every ounce of it. I have been listening to it over and over again for the past few days. Its been a while since we had a nice gumbal session and I am really looking forward to it. Hari and I have not had a session for sometime too and hopefully, all of these bad streaks will come to an end this weekend :).

Continuing with the abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis, I will now take up the beautiful krithi in kalyANi in which dIkshithar mesmerizes everyone including the Goddess. "abhayAmbA jagadambA rakSatu" is completely set in the prathamA vibhakthi (Nominative case/First case) and hence all places at which dIkshithar says "She", he refers to the Goddess. Set to Adi tALam, the krithi just gallops along beautifully. With every word in the anupallavi and charaNam ending in "nI or NI", the prAsam is the invisible thread that keeps the rasikA spell bound. The rAga bhAva just effuses in this krithi. Mother kalyANi herself will be extremely proud of this krithi and as dIkshithar very appropriately sings in the charaNam "bhAvarAgatALaviSwAsini", the Goddess will indeed be delighted in the music filled with bhAva, rAga and tALa. Now moving on to the krithi, the pallavi starts off as:


abhayAmbA jagadambA rakSatu AtmarUpapratibimbA madambA

dIkshithar sings "May Goddess abhayAmbA, my mother ("madambA") and the Mother of the entire universe ("jagadambA") protect me ("rakSatu"). She is the reflection ("pratibimbA") of the supreme self ("AtmarUpa")."

Look at the devotion which he cries out to his mother. He calls the Goddess as his own mother. Imagine what puNyam dIkshithar's soul must have done to be able to portray Her as his mother. The "SNDP" start to the krithi is beautiful. The pallavi sets up the kalyANi mood very nicely so that the rasika can get ready to experience the beautiful anupallavi which in my opinion is perhaps one of the best anupallavis a krithi in kalyANi could have. The anupallavi goes as


ibhavadana shrIguruguhajananI IshamAyUranAtharanjanI
abhayavaradapANI alivENI Ashrita mAvANI kalyANI

dIkshithar describes the Goddess beautifully in the anupallavi with very simple, yet meaningful descriptions. He starts by saying "She is the mother ("jananI") of the elephant-faced ("ibhavadana") Lord Ganesha and guruguha". Beautifully portraying the sthalam of mayilAduthurai, he describes abhayAmbA as "the one who delights and is loved ("ranjanI") by the Lord mAyUranAtha". The anupallavi ends in one of the most prAsam laden lines ever composed by dIkshithar. In the mini madhyamakAla sAhityam, he embellishes the Goddess by describing her as "the one whose hands ("pANI") offer ("varada") shelter and protection ("abhaya") to Her devotees". dIkshithar continues to sing "She has braids of hair ("vENI") as dark as bees ("ali"). She is attended ("Ashrita") by Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswathi ("mAvANI"). She is kalyANI, the ever auspicious one."

The presence of both the composer mudra as well as the rAga mudra in the anupallavi clearly shows the significance of it in this krithi. I personally recommend rasikas to listen to the anupallavi sung by Prof. S.R.J mama. Some of the sangathis he sings at "abhayavaradapANI alivENI" are just amazing and the bliss is something that should not be missed. dIkshithar once again emphasizes that Goddess abhayapradAmbA is worshipped and served by Lakshmi and Saraswathi, which inturn means that by praying to Goddess abhayAmbA, you will get the wealths of prosperity as well as fine arts. The "N M D" phrase at kalyANI followed by the subsequent take-off gives me goosebumps all the time. The anupallavi creates a longing in the rasika..a longing which is more than satisfied by the exquisite charaNam.


bhakta nAgaliNga paripAlinI bhAsamAna navaratna mAlinI
vyakta samastha jagadhvishAlinI vyadhi karaNa haraNa nipuNa shUlinI
rakta-shukla-mishra prakAshinI ravikOTikOTi saNkAshinI
bhukti-mukti-mAnasa nivAsinI bhAvarAgatALa viSwAsinI
bhukti phalaprada dakSa mrDAnI bhakti prada nipuNatara bhavAnI
shaktisampradAyaka sharvANI bhukti mukti vitaraNa rudrANI

dIkshithar sings "She was the protector ("paripAlinI") of her devotee ("bhakta") nAgaliNga. She is adorned by sparkling ("bhAsamAna-bhA(stars)+samAna(equivalent)") necklace studded with nine gems ("navaratna"). She is the one responsible for illuminating ("vishAlinI") the entire ("samastha") manifested ("vyakta") universe ("jagadh"). She holds the trident ("shUlinI") and is adept ("nipuNa") in destroying ("haraNa") the dualities and their corresponding disturbances ("vyadhi"). She scintillates ("prakAshinI") with a blend ("mishra") of red ("rakta") and bright white ("shukla") colours. She shines ("saNkAshinI") like crores and crores ("kOTikOTi") of suryA dEvAs. She resides ("nivAsini") in the hearts and minds ("mAnasa") of devotees seeking liberation ("mukti"). She rejoices ("vishwAsinI") in the music filled with bhAva, rAgA and tALa. She is mrDAnI (consort of mrDA), the one who is adept ("dakSa") in bestowing ("phalaprada") different types of enjoyments ("bhukti"). She is bhavAnI ("consort of bhava"), the one adept ("nipuNa") in granting ("prada") devotion ("bhakti"). She is sharvANI ("consort of sharva"), the one who shows the traditional path ("sampradAya") of shakti worship. She is rudrANI ("consort of rudra"), the bestower ("vitaraNa") of worldly pleasures ("bhukti") and the one who helps transcend ("another meaning for vitaraNa) these pleasures to attain mukthi".

The reference to the devotee nAgaliNga has been a topic which has intrigued many musicologists. There are no stories or folklores showing the Goddess to have protected a devotee called nAgaliNga. The same devotee has been referred to in the Anandabhairavi krithi "abhayAmba nAyaka harisAyaka" composed in praise of Lord mAyuranAtha at the same kSetra. There could be some absolutely different interpretation to the phrase too. I dont know :(. Experience the current of prAsam beginning at the anupallavi and flowing beautifully through the charaNam. Also look at the adhyAkshAra prAsam in the charaNam as the two words in the same line start with the same consonant ("bha, vya, ra" etc).

dIkshithar uses the words mrDAnI, bhavAnI, shUlinI and rudrANI to address the Goddess. All these names are found in lalitA sahasranAmam. As I always say, dIkshithar's krithis are like beautiful sugar-coated toffees of all the scriptures rolled into one. Though not strictly classified as a upAsana krithi (unlike the navAvarNams for shrIchakra), the abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis are no doubt, masterpieces of bhakthi and being inundated with direct references to the lalitA sahasranAmam, these krithis are ideal for dEvi upAsana. How can dEvi refuse to come to you if you call Her with all the devotion and address Her as your own mother like dIkshithar does. For a complete absorption of the rich gait in this krithi, please listen to kalpagam swAminAthan maami's rendition. Incidentally, I am listening to SK's rendition of kamalAmbAm bhajarE as I am finishing this blog. :) Looks like today is going to be a kalyANi day :).

Continuing with the abhayAmbA series, I will next take up the graceful "AryAm abhayAmbAm" set in dwitIyA vibhakthi ("accusative case"). The krithi, in my opinion adds an entirely new dimension to bhairavi. Hopefully I will be able to resolve the serpentine charaNam in time so that I can post this krithi this weekend :). Till then, keep listening and keep drowning in the ocean of musical bliss.

shrI kamalAmbA jayathi!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

sadAsrayE abhayAmbikE-chAmaram

I once again apologize for the nearly one month hiatus between the posts. It was holidays here and so I relaxed a lot. Oh ya..Wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2008. A little late..but its ok :). My dear friend SK had come home during the christmas and New Year's holidays. We spent a fortnight together and had an awesome time. SK's music reached some great heights and profound depths in those 2 weeks. I was absolutely blown away by the manOdharma his music is built on. Apart from the music, the sweetness and charm of SK still pervades my apartment :). We rented a car and drove to Houston. We went to Galveston island and the beautiful meenakshi temple. I really hope I get to meet SK atleast one more time before I leave the US.

Coming to the abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis, I would like to start off with the story behind the kshEtra at which these krithis were composed by dIkshithar. After the guruguha vibhakthi krithis, the abhayAmbA series was the next set composed by dIkshithar. Goddess abhayapradAmbA and Lord mAyUranAtha reside at the famous temple at mayilAdudurai or mAyavaram. According to the legend, king dAksha did not invite his daughter(dAkshAyaNi-Goddess pArvathi) and her husband, Lord Shiva to yagnam he was performing. Inspite of Lord Shiva's strict instructions, Goddess pArvathi went to the event uninvited and She was ignored and insulted. Meanwhile, an injured peahen that came that way ran to Goddess parvathi and took shelter. Unable to bear these insults, Goddess pArvathi took the peahen and entered the sacred fire. In her next birth, She came incarnated as the peahen and came to the same place and did severe penance. Pleased by this Lord Shiva, came down from the heavens, assumed the shape of a peacock and did the gowri tAndavam dance and accepted the peahen as his wife. Hence the name of the sthalam(mayil-Adu-thurai). Since the Goddess gave shelter to the peahen, she is known as the Mother(ambA) who gives shelter(abhayam) and hence abhayAmbA.

The abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis is a set of 10 krithis; 1 dhyAna krithi, 8 main krithis for each vibhakthi and 1 maNgaLa krithi. Unlike the kamalAmbA navAvarNams which glorify the Avaranams, this set does not deal with shrI chakra. One more significant difference is that unlike the navAvarNams where dIkshithar uses simple sentences with profound meanings, the abhayAmbA krithis consist of long-winding sentences which convey high thoughts;some words running for 5 or 6 lines(like the charaNam of the krithi in kEdAram). Some similarities between the two sets would be the usage of main rAgAs like shankharAbharaNam, tODi, kalyANi, kAmbhOji, Bhairavi etc.

Some musicologists believe that "sadAshrayE abhayAmbikE", the krithi in chAmaram (56th mELa in the asampUrNa scale) does not meet all the requirements of a dhyAna krithi and hence substitute "dAkshAyaNi abhayAmbikE" in tODi instead and treat the chAmaram krithi as the eighth vibhakthi krithi. Also, this substitution would bring the set in line with the navAvarNams which also has its dhyAna krithi in tODi. However, I am going to stick with the more popular belief and treat the chAmaram krithi as the dhyana krithi. One more interesting fact is that, apart from "AryAm abhayAmbAm" in bhairavi, none of the other abhayAmbA krithis are showcased in SubburAma dIkshithar's "sangItha sampradAya pradarshini(SSP)".

Since these krithis are once again filled with deep, esoteric meanings and kundalini yOgic references, I will try my best to explain them. Please pardon me if something is wrong and please correct me if you find something you know better about. The chAmaram krithi is set completely in the sambhOdhana vibhakthi(eighth/vocative case) where dIkshithar addresses the Goddess directly as "hE abhayAmbikE". The pallavi goes as:


sadAshraye abhayAmbike sannidhehi
sadAshraye tvAmambike bhadraM dehi


dIkshithar starts off as "Oh Goddess abhayAmbA!! I always ("sadA") bow to you and seek your shelter ("AshrayE"). You, who ("tvAm") are the Mother ("ambikE") of all goodness ("sadAshrayE"), please appear before me ("sannidEhi") and bestow ("dEhi") all auspiciousness ("bhadram") upon me."

dIkshithar as usual, starts off by showing his brilliance and mastery over music and grammar. He starts off with beautiful swarAksharams of sa, dA at "sadAshrayE". To see his precision in grammar, look at how he uses the various meanings of the same word (sadAshrayE) in the pallavi. The symmetry is also clearly visible in the pallavi. Both lines start off with sadAshrayE, have "ambikE" in the middle and end with "dEhi"..simple yet powerful constructs. The alliterations, multiple meanings for the same word and the prAsam continue through to the anupallavi.


cidAshraye cidambaracandrike ehi
cidAshraye shivama~ncake natavArAhi
mudAshraye bhuktimuktipradamArgaM brUhi
mudAshraye mAyAdhInaM dInaM mAM pAhi


dIkshithar addresses the Goddess as "the dwelling place of consciousness ("cidAshrayE")" and continues to describe her as "the moon ("candrikE") in the sky ("ambara") of consciousness ("cid"). Please come near ("ehi"). You are the one who dwells in chit and the one who rests on the seat ("ma~nchakE") which is shiva. You are worshipped ("nata") by vArAhi. You are the abode of bliss ("mudAshrayE"). Teach ("brUhi") me the path ("mArgaM") of liberation ("mukthi") and enjoyment ("bhukthi"). I approach you with happiness ("mudAshrayE"). Please save me ("mAm pAhi"), the one who is helpless ("dInam") and caught up in this delusion ("mAyAdhInam")."

The anupallavi sets the tone. Once again, dIkshithar employs multiple meaning for cidAshrayE and mudAshrayE by playing with the samAsA's once again displaying his grammatical prowess. The AdyAkshara prAsam (commencing alliterations such as sadAshrayE, cidAshrayE) and antyAkshara prAsam (terminating alliterations such as ehi, vArAhi, brUhi etc) bring that rhyme scheme which makes the sAhityams flow with poetic gait.

Just like most dIkshithar krithis, the charaNam of this krithi is big, prAsam inundated and provides the climax. The rAga mudra and the composer mudra are also featured in the charaNam. In the anupallavi, dIkshithar asks the Goddess to show him the path to liberation and accordingly, he sings about the nAdabindu in the charaNam.


gaurI mAyUranAtha mohanakara shakte
shaurIsha-vidhIndrAdi-sannuta parAshakte
nArImaNyAdyarcita nAdabindu yukte
shArIrakAdi vidyAsiddhAnta yukte
sUrijanopAsita caraNanalina yukte
vANImA-karadh.rta cAmara sevAsakte
dUrIk.rta durita vedashAstrAdi prasakte
vArIshAdi lokapAla nuta guruguhabhakte
dAridrya duHkha bha~njanakara shaN^karA vibhakte
shukasanakAdi devatA sevite paradevate
vArijamukhi varadAbhayahaste namo namaste


dIkshithar sings " Oh gowri!! You are shakthi, the one capable of delighting and pleasing ("mohana kara") Lord mAyUranAtha. You are the supreme power ("parAshakthi") worshipped by Vishnu ("shaurIsha"), Brahma ("vidhi") and Indra. You are worshipped ("arcita") by women and others ("nArimaNyAdi") and you are in the primordial OM form ("nAdabindu"). You are the embodiment of divine knowledge ("vidya") and shArIraka
specified in the scriptures, the end result of all siddhis.
You delight in the sounds from instruments like bhEri, maddaLa and vINa. Your lotus-like ("naLina") feet ("charaNa") are worshipped ("upAsita") by all the dEvAs ("sUrijana:"). Goddess Saraswathi and Goddess Lakshmi are holding ("dhruta") the fan ("chAmara") in their hands
("kara") and are giving you the royal service ("sEva").
You are famous for being the reason ("prashaktE") for the establishment of the vEdAs and other shAstrAs and you drive away ("dUrIkrita") the troubles and sufferings ("durita") of your devotees. You are attached to guruguha and worshipped by Lord Varuna ("vArIsha") and other dikpAlakAs (the protectors of all the directions). You are the companion ("vibhaktE") of shankara and you are destroyer ("bhanjanakara") of poverty ("dAridhram") and sufferings ("dukha"). You are worshipped ("sevitE") by shukha, sanaka and other celestials. You are the supreme Goddess ("paradEvatE"). You have a lotus-like ("vArija") face ("mukhi") and your hands ("hastE") are in the posture of granting boons ("varada") and providing shelter ("abhaya"). I prostrate before you again and again ("namO namastE")."

dIkshithar brings in the rAga mudhrA beautifully employing the literal meaning of the word chAmara. One can very well see the similarities in lalitha sahasranAmam in which we can see "sachAmara ramA vANI savyadakshiNa sEvita". dIkshithar employs the same concept in a few of his other krithis too, for eg., "shrI ramAsarasvatI sEvitAm shrI lalitAmbAm" in nAsAmaNi. dIkshithar addresses the dEvi as the primordial OM bIja mantra, the nAdabindu ("the dot or point from which all sounds originated"). Compared to other dIkshithar krithis, I would say that though the charaNam is long, it is not very profound and can be relatively easily interpreted. I would highly recommend listening to the kalpagam swaminathan maami's rendition of this krithi for the rasikas. Other than that, nothing much to be said.

I will next take up the prathama vibhakthi krithi, "abhayAmbA jagadamba", a beautiful krithi in kalyANi. Just like the kalyANi navAvarNam, this krithi is also embellished with some amazing phrases and is an absolute treat. Hopefully I will post this krithi within the next few days. I am concluding this post as I am enjoying the beautiful bhAnumathi sung by dear friend SK. shrI gurubhyO nama: