Wednesday, February 13, 2008


It has been a really nice, peaceful day today. I finally filed my tax returns for the previous year. I had a really nice session with Bala sir today morning. There wasn't much music but it was filled with nice arattai :). Since I dont have much to write about life in general over the past 24 hours, I am going to directly dive into the krithi.

Continuing with the abhayAmbA series, I am going to discuss the beautiful yadukulakAmbhOji krithi, "abhayAmbikAyai ashwArUDAyai" composed excluively in the chaturthi vibhakthi (fourth/dative case). dIkshithar shows his mastery over the 28th and the 29th mElakarthas by taking up rAgAs like shankarAbharaNam, yadukulakAmbhOji (referred to as YK from now on), kEdAragOwLa and kEdAram one after the other for these consecutive vibhakthis. According to me, this is the highlight of these compositions. If you have any doubts, whatsoever distinguishing these rAgams, then these krithis are your answer. There are a few common phrases between these rAgAs and dIkshithar has handled them so beautifully that you will never feel uncomfortable singing/playing them. This krithi is comparable to divAkara tanujam, that amazing YK masterpiece in the navagraha set and it probes the beauty of the rAga in a very similar fashion. The pallavi starts off as:

abhayAmbikAyai ashwArUDhAyai
abhayavarapradAyai namastE namastE

dIkshithar begins with a cute salutation to the Goddess "I prostrate before you again and again ("namastE namastE"), Oh Goddess abhayAmbikA, the one who is seated on a horse as the form of ashwarUDhA and the one who displays the abhaya (protection/fearlessness) and varada (boons granting) mudrAs."

dIkshithar starts off with the beautiful YK phrase "M P D". The "P D S D " phrase at "ashwArUDhAyai is a complete knock out punch. The swarAksharam combining the mandra sthAyi "dha" at pra"dA"yai is a stroke of genius. The two namastEs cover the typical "P D S" and "M P D P MGRS" phrases. So, basically, YK is murdered and brought back to life in the pallavi itself..just amazing. The pallavi sets the tone for the krithi. None of the words are complex to understand or interpret and thats how the entire krithi is structured. Moving on to the anupallavi,

subhagAkArAyai suruciranaTanabhEdAyai
shobhitaradanAyai SuddhamAnasAyai
hiraNyamaNikundalAyai himAcalasadanAyai

dIkshithar describes the beautiful appearance of the dEvi in these lines. He sings "You are the one who has a pleasant ("subhaga") form ("AkArA") and the one who exhibits beautiful ("su+ruchira") variations ("bhEdAyai") in your dance ("naTana"). You are the one with glittering ("shobhita") teeth ("radanAyai") and the one with a pure ("Suddha") mind ("mAnasAyai"). You are the one who wears a gem studded ("maNi") golden ("hiraNya") ear ring ("kundalAyai") and the one who has her abode ("sadanAyai") in the himAlayAs ("himAcala")."

To fully appreciate these beautiful lines, we must go back to the main theme behind the story of abhayAmbA and how she danced as a peahen with Lord Shiva who came down as a peacock. dIkshithar preserves this theme by describing the Goddess's beauty and Her dancing skills. dIkshithar talks about the physical beauty as well as the pure mind of the Goddess. I once again cannot comprehend the greatness of dIkshithar's soul to have been able to visualize the Goddess so beautifully and comprehensively.

Musically, the "S R Pmgm" phrase to kick off the anupallavi is amazing followed by the "D N D P" phrase at "suruchira". The swarAkshara usage of deivatham for words like pa"dA"yai, bhE"dA"yai etc is to be taken for granted in this entire krithi..just mind-blowing. The krithi for the first time goes to the tAra sthAyi with the " S R Pmgm" phrase at "shObita" thereby establishing similarity with the first line of anupallavi. The typical phrases of "M P D P" at "Suddha" adds to the beauty of the krithi and "S R MM GM PP" at "hiraNyamaNi" totally knocks you off the floor. The madhyamakAla sAhityam does not change the sowkhyam in the krithi whatsoever. The first time I heard the anupallavi, my head was spinning and there were goosebumps as usual. Outstanding brilliance. In this krithi, dIkshithar for a change keeps the caraNam pretty simple without much in-depth yOgic stuff.

sakala-mantra-yantra-rUpAyai sakalAyai
candraSEkara-priyAyai pancamakarAyai
gUDhagulphAyai guruguhaswarUpAyai
garvabhaNDakhaNDAyai gamapadAdinutapadAyai
kAvEritIrAyai kamalESasEvitAyai

The caraNam is pretty easy to interpret. dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "The one who exists in all ("sakala") the forms ("rUpAyai") of mantra and yantra. The all knowledgable one ("sakalAyai") and the beloved ("priyAyai") of Lord Shiva ("candraSEkara"-the one who wears the moon). The one whose path of worship consists of the pancamakara-matya etc. The one who has well-turned,beautiful ("gUDha") ankles ("gulphAyai") and the one who is the real form ("swarUpAyai") of the teacher ("guru") who removes the ignorance from the caves ("guha") of the heart of the devotees. The one who destroyed ("khaNDAyai") the pride ("garva") of the demon bhaNDAsura and the one, who's feet ("padAyai") are worshipped by the gama padAs etc. of the agama shAstrAs. The one who resides on the banks ("tIrAyai") of kAvEri and the one who is attended ("sEvitAyai") by Lord viSNu, the Lord of Goddess Lakshmi ("kamalESa")."

dIkshithar has adopted the KISS strategy-Keep It Straight and Simple. The caraNam has no exorbitant or explosive words but at the same time, it is beautiful and exclusively exquisite. The plain "S G R M" nalinakAnti-ish phrase at "sakala" and the "P S N D P" Anandabhairavi-ish phrase at "pancama"karAyai are what one would call as the complete exploitation of a rAga. At this point, a rasikA just closes his/her eyes and totally surrenders.

But, if you think this is the pinnacle of dIkshithar's brilliance in this krithi, you have to wait till the madhyamakAla sAhityam. Perhaps the best ever showcase of swarAkshara usage ever is found in this krithi at "ga ma pa dA" di nu ta "pa dA" yai in the madhyamakAla sAhityam. This is where I completely gave up while listening to this krithi. Tears just rolled down my cheeks..what kind of an insanely human brain can ever compose such a thing..This is perhaps a place where dIkshithar scores one over God Himself..perhaps a classic example of the creation overshadowing the creator. Just amazing. I still roll on the floor helplessly when I listen to this phrase. My brain has now stopped working as I listen to the krithi once again while typing these lines..this is just too much to take for a mere mortal like me. I have nothing more to say about this masterpiece. I kindly request everyone to please listen to the krithi at (kalpagam maami's version) and experience the bliss I am unable to put in words here. Enjoy the goosebumps :) :).

I apologize for finishing this post abruptly like this..I have nothing more to say as I enter a pensive mood of surrender. I will take up the spectacular kEdAragOwLa krithi "abhayAmbikAyAH" in my next post. This krithi is perhaps my most favourite in the abhayAmbA series simply because of a single phrase which kills me every time I think about it. Till then, enjoy the brilliant YK and please continue to share your thoughts and comments as you have always done :). Thanks a lot!! Romba senti I have become :'(. shrI gurubhyO namah:!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

girijayA ajayA-shankarAbharaNam

Its been a long time since I blogged on consecutive days. Yesterday, I had a nice music session with bala sir, Ramaa Ramesh (dearest RR) and Maythini sridharan. While RR made my morning with her entha muddo and divAkara tanujam, Maythini came along later in the afternoon and sang an amazing marivEra in shanmukhapriyA following a divine meru samAna. Bala sir sang a very very nice amrithavarshini. For my part, I sang shrI sugandhi kuntaLAmbikE in kunthalam, ranganAyakam in nAyaki and soundararAjam in brindAvana sArangA. It was one of those sessions which I will remember for a long time. Thanks a lot junta :).

Another funny incident happened two days back. I was in major ramAmanOhari mood and I sang "mAtangI shrI rAjarAjEshwari" in the shower followed by some neraval and swarams at ramAmanOhari rAkEnduSEkari. When I got out of my shower, I heard a loud knock on my door. It was my neighbour Brett (I met him for the first time). He came in and introduced himself and told me that he has been hearing my singing and guitaring for quite sometime now and he thought that "my music was cool" (quoting him). I thanked him and explained to him about the great nAdajyOthi and told him how dIkshithar had gone around the country composing these masterpieces at all these puNya kshEtrams. Brett then responded amazingly by saying "Oh man!!he must have been one cool dude"..hilarious :D :D. He then invited me home to sing something for him and his wife Brenda. I went over on saturday evening and gave them a sample of both thyAgu and thalaivar by singing kEdAragOwLa krithis "vEnugAna loluni" and "abhyAmbikAyAH". They were really happy and so was I :). More significantly, this also gives me the license to scream at the top of my throat from now on :D :D.

Continuing with the legendary abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis, I will now take up the majestic shankarAbharaNam krithi "girijayA ajayA" composed exclusively in the tritIyA vibhakthi (third/instrumental case) set to Adi tALa. dIkshithar very aptly chooses the rAga to describe Lord Shiva's AbharaNa, His consort, Goddess abhayAmbA. Once again in this krithi, the caraNam comprises of extremely lengthy words thereby making it a challenging task to explain in English. I will as usual try my best but the 86 syllable first word of the caraNam which runs for 4 lines is going to be really tough. dIkshithar starts the krithi off with a bang as he plays with the words straight away. The pallavi goes like:

girijayA ajayA abhayAmbikayA
girIshajAyayA rakSito.aham

dIkshithar shows his grammatical expertise in the opening lines of the pallavi by describing the Goddess as "The one who is the daughter of the mountain God ("girijayA"), himavAn. The one who is birthless ("ajayA") and the one who is the consort ("jAyayA") of the Lord of the kailAsa mountains, Lord Shiva ("girIsha")"; and he sings "I am protected ("rakSito.aham") by Her".

The "yA" prAsam runs throughout the krithi. The adhyAkshara prAsam witnessed in these two lines starting with "giri" is also preserved throughout the krithi. The simple yet beautiful "SRGM" start for the krithi followed by the typical shankarAbharaNam phrase of "SRG; GMdP; GmRS" at "rakSito.aham" completes the exquisite pallavi. I highly recommend kalpagam maami's rendition of this krithi to listen to and learn from. Apart from that, there is nothing much to explain in the pallavi. Moving on to the anupallavi,

harihayAdidEvatArAditayA AtmaswarUpa prabOditayA
hariharaguruguha sammoditayA AdiSAntavarNa vEditayA

dIkshithar continues to describe the dEvi as "The one who is worshipped ("ArAditayA") by Indra's horse ("harihaya") and other dEvAs. The one who displays and brings forth ("prabOditayA") the form ("swarUpa") of the supreme self ("Atma"). The one who is delighted ("sammoditayA") by Lord viSNu, Lord Shiva and Lord guruguha. The one who is the origin and embodiment ("vEditayA") of all the alphabets ("varNa") from "A" to "kSA"."

I am a little confused about the first line whether harihaya is to be taken as a reference to Indra's horse or if it is to be split as hari and haya referring to Lord viSNu and Lord Indra respectively. dIkshithar once again employs the "SRGM" start for the anupallavi. The madhyamAkAla sAhityam beautifully caps off the anupallavi, ending with "GPGRS" phrase thereby beautifully fusing into the pallavi once again. :). dIkshithar once again stresses on how the Goddess can be worshipped to attain mOksha by describing Her as the form of supreme self and the embodiment of everything. I am taking a small break here before going on to the caraNam because, simply put, it is going to be tiring for me to explain :). I am going to split up the words and write for better readability and better understanding.

samaya visESa niryANa mukhabIja nirbIja dIkSA viSaya karaNa
samayAcaraNOpayOga pUjAsAmagrI sangrahAnta karaNa-
samayamata pratipAdyAnusaraNa sAmAnya visESa prajAcaraNa-
mamatva nirAkaraNa kriyAyuta sadbhaktAnAm dharmArtarUpa-
samatvavritI vitaraNa nipuNatara sAmrAjyapradAruNacharaNayA

dIkshithar sings "She is the one, who bestows upon Her devotees, the special power ("visESa") to depart from this life ("niryANa") when desired ("samaya"). She is the one who initiates them in the techniques ("viSaya") of mukhabIja (uttering the bIja mantras by verbally) and nirbIja ("without the bIja but contemplating about it") dIkSA. She, who shows the samaya path ("caraNa") equipped with yOga in which, the entire pUjA vessels ("sAmAgrI") are considered to be within ("sangrahAnta") the spiritual aspirants themselves."
dIkshithar once again describes the devotees who will attain mOkshA in these lines as "those who follow ("anusaraNa") the path ("pratipAdaya") of the samaya doctrine, those who exhibit both the normal ("sAmAnya") and special ("visESa") codes of virtues. These citizens ("praja"), these noble devotees ("sadbhaktAnAm") who are thus engaged ("kriyAyuta") in removing ("nirAkaraNa") their ego ("mamatva") and possess the righteousness ("dharmArtarUpa") to choose ("vRti") equally ("samatva"-between virtues and material pleasures alike); the red-hued ("aruNa") feet ("caraNayA") of the Goddess, which is adept ("nipuNatara") in bestowing ("vitaraNa") the kingdom of kaivalyam ("sAmrAjya") are always ready for these bhaktAs."

What an amazing caraNam..I have no words. How beautifully dIkshithar has constructed these words. He very cleary elucidates the virtuous things a true devotee should possess in order to attain mOksha. dIkshithar once again strikes parallelisms from advaita when he describes the samaya doctrines according to which, the kingdom of God ("paramAtma") is believed to be within oneself ("jIvAtma") and hence consider the body of these devotees to contain the instruments of pUja. What dikshithar does in these lines is give hope to the ones who want to tread this path to salvation. He asks each one of us to follow these ideals and finally reach the goal, the source and the destination. Musically, the "sa ma" swarAksharams which dIkshithar employs repeatedly in the first 3 lines of the caraNam first in the madhya sthAyi and then in the tAra sthAyi are yet another display of dIkshithar's brilliance and competance.

As I conclude this krithi, I am listening to Sanjay sir's rendition of "sAmbasadAshivAya namastE", an amazing kAmbhOji that has completely consumed me over the last few weeks. The India- Sri Lanka one day game at Canberra is about to begin and hence I am in a rush to watch it :). Continuing with the series, I will next take up "abhayAmbikAyai", one of my most favourite yadhukulakAmbhOji compositions.The caraNam of this krithi is going to take us back to normalcy in terms of word lengths :). Ofcourse, the bliss experienced is pretty much the same..indescribable!!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

AryAM abhayAmbAM-Bhairavi

I hate to accept this sometimes, but yes..I have become an emotional idiot and a sentimental fool these days. Today I was listening to this amazing krithi "sarasa souvIra rasavAdakaraNa" in souvIram (47th mEla) sung by SK and I was just blown away. Tears have rolled down my cheeks the entire evening as I sit and continue to loop and drown myself in this ocean of ecstasy. My colleague took me out for a nice drive today evening. I drove a car after a gap of around 20 months. I have not been able to play my guitar as much as I would like to because I suffered a fracture on my left hand a few weeks back. Now, I am truly experiencing the statement "kai odanja maadhri irukku".

For the past month and a half, I have been some nice music sessions with bala sir (a great professor and a wonderful friend from REC,Trichy). Last week, I got introduced to another friend, Vasumathi Sridharan through bala sir. She has adopted SK and myself as her kutti thambis :). Over the last month, I also observed that I am getting increasingly detached from this world. For the good or the bad, nothing except dIkshithar seems to run in my mind. Music has consumed me and has pervaded my soul completely. Hopefully this urge, passion and bhakthi will drive me towards improving myself and becoming a better devotee of this art. shrI gurubhyO namah:

I will continue my discussion on the abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis by taking up "AryAm abhayAmbAm"; yet another masterpiece from dIkshithar composed in bhairavi rAga set to tripuTa tALam. This krithi has been composed exclusively in the dvitIyA vibhakthi (second/accusative case). The basic construct of every sentence is of the form "She, Who..". The first thing you will notice about the sAhityam of this krithi is the antyAkshara prAsam throughout the pallavi, anupallavi and charaNam with every word ending in either "IM" or "AM". Also observable in this krithi, are the long-winding word constructs of the charaNam, a pattern which reaches its climax in the kEdAram krithi "ambikAyAH abhayAmbikAyAH". The pallavi starts off with the famous "bhajarE, tyaja rE" rhyme scheme.

AryAM abhayAmbAM bhajarE rE citta santatam
avidyAkAryAkalanAM tyaja rE
AdimadhyAntarahitAM shivasahitAM

dIkshithar starts off by addressing the mind ("citta") and commands it as "Oh mind!! Always ("santatam") worship ("bhajarE") Goddess abhayAmbA, the revered and honourable one ("AryAM"). Abandon ("tyaja") everything attached to and resulting from ("kalanAM") deeds ("kAryA") of ignorance ("avidyA"). She, Who is the one without ("rahitAm") any beginning, middle or end ("AdimadhyAnta") and the companion ("sahitAm") of Lord Shiva."

The "N; N D P" start at AryAm makes your bones tingle and serves as a clear indication of what is to come. dIkshithar sings of the Goddess's praise as the one who has no beginning or end once again reiterating the fact that the supreme soul is the origin of everything in this universe and hence becomes the final destination too. Hence, dIkshithar addresses the mind to shed all attachments to this material world and effectively use the bhakthi mArgA to worship and realize God. The small madhyamakAla sAhityam in the pallavi serves as a perfect knock-out punch :). Moving on to the anupallavi,

sUryAgnicandramanDala vAsinIM
sukhatara pravartinIM svEtaranivAsinIM
AcArya sishyAnugraha karaNa shakthi pradApAra karuNAM
caryAdi catushTaya vitaraNa samartatara caraNAM aruNAM

dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "the one who dwells ("vAsinIM") in the orbital planes ("manDala") of Sun, fire and moon. The one who bestows ("pravartinIM") bliss ("sukha") and the one who resides ("nivAsinIM") in herself and all others ("svEtara"). She is the one, who, with unlimited ("pAra") mercy ("karuNAM") is granting ("pradA") the power ("shakthi") that manifests in the form of guru's ("AcArya") grace ("anugraha") for a student ("sishya"). The one, whose lotus feet ("caraNAM") is adept in bestowing ("vitaraNa") the four-fold ("catushTaya") path for religious austerities beginning with caryA ("virtuous conduct") and She is red hued one ("aruNAM")."

What an amazing anupallavi. Writing about this krithi made me listen to the anupallavi once again and I was completely bowled over as usual. To start off, dIkshithar brings in advaita fundas addressing the Goddess as the one who resides in herself ("paramAtma") and all others ("jIvAtma"). The point at which dIkshithar describes the Goddess as the sublime power behind the guru-sishya relationship, the goosebumps start to run up your skin and the rasika reaches heights of bliss when the AchArya-charyA rhyme scheme hits him..just beyond words. In this beautiful few lines, dIkshithar beautifully shows the bhaktha that the Goddess is the supreme soul ("svEthara"), the medium ("AcArya") and the path itself, consisting of virtuous conduct ("charya"), acts of worship ("kriyA"), yOgA and the culminating knowledge ("gnAna"). This is perhaps the greatest reason for rasikAs like me who are not professionally trained musicians to surrender to these masterpieces and sing these krithis as a definite path towards salvation.

nandanavanotpAdana puSpamAlikAM
vandanAlayAdi prasthApana divya-
candanAkarSaNa sthalashuddhikaraNa-
vandana stotrAdi paThana bhaktasevAnAm
mandadhIharaNa caryAyuta mAnavAnAM dharmamaya-
svacchandashivasAlokya dAyaka caturatarahara naTabhairavIM
mandasmita vilasita mukhAravindAM guruguhAmbikAM
mukundasodarIM mahAtripurasundarIm AnandalaharIm

Let me take a deep breath before starting off with the caraNam. My friend was asking me about tongue twisters in carnatic music and I ended up telling him about dIkshithar's brilliance quoting the sAhityam of krithis like this. I will try my best to explain these long words using the limited english language but I have to accept that the interpretation and explanations will definitely fall short of conveying the complete meaning. The caraNam is basically a description of the various austerities a bhaktha must perform to obtain the complete blessing of the Goddess like gathering flowers from the garden, making garlands for Her, grinding sandal paste, cleaning the place of worship, prostrating before her, chant sacred hymns and sing devotional songs in praise of Her. dIkshithar captures these details completely in the caraNam.
dIkshithar continues to describe the Goddess as "the one, who wears the garland of flowers (
"puSpa mAlikAm") from the heavenly garden ("vana") of nandana. The one, who is served ("sEvAnAm") by devotees ("bhaktha") who are engaged in austere practices like building ("prasthApana") temples ("vandanAlaya"), grinding sandal paste ("candanAkarSaNa"), cleaning ("shuddhikaraNa") the place of worship ("sthala"), prostrating ("vandana") and chanting ("paThana") divine hymns ("sthOtrAdi"). The one, who is the dancing ("nata") Goddess bhairavi and the one who is adept in destroying ("haraNa") ignorance ("mandHI") bestowing ("dAyaka") upon the ones who perform the virtuous acts ("caryAyuta mAnavAnAm") , the righteous ("dharmamaya") path of becoming one ("sAlOkya") with Shiva ("Shivasayujya") according to one's own will ("svachanda"). The one with a lotus-like face ("mukhAravindAM") and a gleaming ("vilasita") smile ("mandasmita"), the mother of guruguha ("guruguhAmbikAm"), the sister ("sOdarIM") of mukunda. She is mahAtripurasundari, the deluge ("laharIM") of bliss ("Ananda")."

In the caraNam too, dIkshithar seems to reinforce thoughts of bhakthi, surrender and finally becoming one with God. Through these lines, he says that the first step towards self-realization is bhakthi. Bhakthi eventually leads to complete surrender, total detachment from material possessions, practice of good conduct. By serving God, the bhaktha finally sees him"self" as the jyOthi and becomes one with it, never to return to this birth-death cycle. Look at how carefully dIkshithar chooses his words to keep the rhyme scheme intact and the tripuTa tALam gallops along majestically. He beautifully incorporates the rAga mudra by describing the Goddess as the dancing Bhairavi. The madhyamakAla sAhityam flows beautifully and brings the same "mandasmita" on the face of the rasikA. :). On the whole, an absolute treat and a quality gem. It is extremely sad that even though professional artists seem to have beaten bhairavi to death by singing it in almost every concert, no one takes up krithis like AryAm abhayAmbAM or cintaya mAkanda or dEvi jagadIshwari. Everyone is happy singing the same old bAlagOpAla or upachAramu or tanayuni brOva. I really hope that artistes take it upon themselves to look outside the rigmarole and start singing krithis like this.

I will next take up girijaya ajAya, the tritIyA vibhakthi krithi composed in shankarAbharaNaM. This krithi too has an amazingly long construct with the charaNam consisiting of just two words running for 5 lines. The first word is 86 syllables long :O :O. I am going to be pretty free tomorrow and day after and I will hopefully post 2 or possibly 3 krithis over the next few days :). Till then, keep listening and keep drowning!!