Sunday, April 27, 2008

shrI abhayAmbA- shrI rAgam

In the past 3 or 4 days, I seem to have developed a sudden passion for varNams. Though I have always loved them, I have not sat down and learnt a varNam in a long time now. So, I started (and finished) learning the majestic chauka kAla varNam in shrIranjani from the Sangeetha sampradAya pradarshini. Whats unique about this varNam is the starcast, so to speak :). Ramaswami dIkshithar composed the pallavi, anupallavi, muktAyi swarams, charaNam and first of the chitta swarams while the second, third and the last chitta swarams were composed by ShyAmA shAstri, chinnaswAmi dIkshithar and the great nAdhajyOthi respectively. One of the most wonderful things I noticed as I learnt this varNam was the rapid pace at which I was able to easily learn it. I realized that I have actually developed some decent musical skills in the past year or so thanks to some wonderful friends :).

As work continues to be hectic, I am trying my best to find solace in music. I finally found time to update my resume and have started applying for jobs in Bangalore. Hopefully I get some good interviews and come back to India very soon :). I will now take up the tenth and the final krithi of the abhayAmbA vibhakthi series. The maNgaLa krithi in shrI rAgam, shrI abhayAmbA set to Adi tALam is a beautiful maNipravALa (multi-lingual) masterpiece in which dIkshithar shows his command over 3 of the most beautiful languages ever; sanskrit, telugu and tamil. The way he fuses the 3 languages while still highlighting the rhyme scheme and the prAsam is just mind-blowing. Since I do not know telugu, please pardon me if I interpret anything incorrectly.

shrI abhayAmbA ninnu cintincina vAriki
cintai kavalai ellAM tIrum ammA

dIkshithar sings- "Oh auspicious ("shrI") mother ("ammA") abhayAmbA, for the people ("vAriki") who think ("cintincina") of you ("ninnu"), all ("ellAM") their mental ("cintai") worries ("kavalai") will be eliminated ("tIrum")."

To completely appreciate this krithi, one must definitely listen to DKJ's version. The different sangathis and the clarity with which he sings this krithi is something to be experienced. dIkshithar starts this krithi off with the tAra sthAyi rishabham. All the krithis that start off in the tAra sthAyi are simply shtudly; "karikaLabamukham" in sAvEri for example :). The "R;SNPNS" phrase at "shrI abhayAmbA" and the "pRsR" phrase at "ellAM" are special phrases which embellish the pallavi. dIkshithar beautifully brings out the rAga mudra with the first word of the krithi itself. Moving on to the anupallavi,

hE abhayakarE varE Ishwari kR.patOnu-
endannai rakshikka idhu nalla samayam ammA

dIkshithar addresses the Goddess as "the one who bears the abhaya ("protection") and the vara ("boon bestowing") mudras in her hands ("karE"), the Goddess ("Ishwari"). This ("idhu") is the right time ("nalla samayam") for you, my mother ("ammA") to come and protect ("rakshikka") me ("endannai") showing your compassion ("kR.patOnu")."

Just like the shrI maNgaLa krithi in the kamalAmbA series, dIkshithar keeps it very simple in this krithi also. He does not bring in any vedantic or purAnic references. He simply prays to the Goddess, praises her compassion and seeks her blessings. The "SRNS; PNMP; PDNPM; RMRS; RMPNS" at "endhanai; rakshikka; idhu nalla; samayam; ammA" acts as a perfect ending for the anupallavi leading to the rishabam take-off for the pallavi. Apart from that, there is nothing much to explain and so I move on to the charaNam

nI atyadbhuta Subha guNamulu vini-
nIvE dikkani nEra nammiti
nIrajAkshi nijarUpasAkshi
nityAnanda guruguha kaTAkshi rakshi

dIkshithar sings "Hearing of your ("nI") miraculous ("atyadbhuta") and good qualities ("Subha guNamulu"), I trusted ("nEra nammiti") that you ("nIvE") are my refuge ("dikkani"). You are the lotus-eyed ("nIrajAkshi") one and the witness to the true form ("nijarUpasAkshi"). You are the one who graces ("kaTAkshi") the eternally blissful ("nityAnanda") guruguha. Please protect me ("rakshi")."

In the charaNam, dIkshithar shows the bhaktha inside him. He goes into a mode of surrender and requests the Goddess to be his saviour. He brings in a few advaita fundas here by referring to Her as "the witness to the true form" implying that the Goddess bears witness to the true supreme soul which the jIvAtma realizes at the supreme level of consciousness. The madhyamakAla sAhityam just gallops along beautifully and gives that vaibhava and maNgaLa mood to end the krithi and hence the majestic abhayAmbA series.

As I complete this krithi, I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to have been able to cover the kamalAmbA navAvarNams and the abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis, two grand series' of masterpieces composed by the great nAdhajyOthi. This ardent devotee will now resign with a sense of satisfaction :).

In my next post, I am going to take up a krithi which I have been waiting a long time to write about, one of my favourite krithis which never fails to bring a tear to my eye, the magnum opus, "rangapuravihAra" in brindAvana sAranga. Probably I should not be taking up Brindu right after shrI rAgam, but I guess the similarities make it all the more reason for me to take it up right away :). Hopefully I will find time to post this krithi tomorrow. Till then, keep rocking..I must admit that eventhough Work sucks, Life is still beautiful :D :D.

Monday, April 7, 2008


My first post in April and it is already the 21st :(. Work, work and more work ;(. This seems to be the excuse that I am constantly giving for not being able to blog. Well, that unfortunately has been the case the whole of this year and I expect this to continue for a few more months :(. Still, I somehow squeezed in time to have music sessions on the weekends (though not as regularly as before :( ). I managed to learn two krithis that I have been wanting to learn for a long time now; one being rangapuravihAra, perhaps the more popular masterpiece of dIkshithar's in brindAvana sArangA and the other krithi being madhurAmbikAyAm in dEsisimhAravam (hEmavathi for all practical purposes). Thanks to the wonderful satsangam I have been blessed with, I am able to keep myself completely drowned in this blissful ocean :).

I managed a short but sweet trip to Sunnyvale, California to meet up with Ashwin, Aditya and Sudherssen, some cherished friends (read: brothers) from Ann Arbor. We spent a fun-riddled 2 days together. I also got a chance to meet my sweet little friend, MLKMA Aishwarya Chandiramouli. Though I did not spend as much time with her as I would have liked, it was so peaceful and serene just to meet her :). Round Rock has never looked more barren and bleak :(. I am really looking forward to jetting out of here and I cant wait to go home to my amma and anna.

Anyway, I will now take up "dAkshAyaNi abhayAmbikE", a majestic krithi in tODi composed exclusively in the sambOdhana vibhakthi where dIkshithar directly addresses the Goddess as "hE abhayAmbikE". The highlight of this krithi is the soul-stirring mandira sthAyi deivatham start for the pallavi, thereby making "dA"kshAyaNi a swarAkshara beginning. dIkshithar presents an absolutely different shade of tODi in this krithi. By comparing with the nishAda start of kamalAmbikE, this mandira sthAyi deivatham beginning shows the versatility of this genius. The krithi on the whole is an extremely simple set up but it still oozes with rAga bhAva and amrita rasa.

dAkSayaNi abhayAmbikE
varadAbhayahastE namastE shrI

dIkshithar addresses the Goddess in the pallavi- "Oh abhayAmbA, the daughter of King dAkshA, the one who bears the mudrAs of abhaya ("protection") and varada ("boon-granting"). Prostrations unto you ("namastE") Oh auspicious one ("shrI")".

As I mentioned earlier, the mandira sthAyi deivatham with which the krithi begins is mesmerizing to say the least. The rishabam at dAkshAya"Ni" followed by "GDP" phrase at "abha"yAmbikE completely makes the rasika to surrender. dIkshithar employs a madhyamakAlam in the pallavi itself at "namastE" which descends as "DNS,SNDPMGRS" thereby looping back to first line with the beautiful "S D" prayOgam. This is one of those krithis in which dIkshithar clearly portrays the meditative essence of this entire set of abhayAmbA vibhakthi krithis. Because of the grandeur of this tODi, many musicologists still argue that this krithi should be the dhyAna krithi of this series (similar to the tODi dhyAna krithi of the kamalAmbA navAvarNams). Moving on to the anupallavi,

dIkSAsantuSTamAnase dInAvanahastasArase
kAMkSitArthapradAyini kAmatantravidhAyini
sAkSirUpaprakAshini samastajagadvilAsini
dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "the one who's mind ("mAnase") is pleased ("santuSTa") by initiation ("dIkSa") and the one whose lotus-like ("sArase") hands ("hasta") protects the destitute and the needy ("dInavana")." In the madhyamakAla sAhitya, dIkshithar continues to describe the Goddess as "the one who grants("pradAyini") all the wishes of devotees ("kAmkshitArtha") and the one who displays ("vidhAyini") the primary essence of all creation, the tantra of desire ("kAma"). She is the one who shines forth ("prakAshini") as a witness ("sAkSirUpa") to this game of birth and death in this playpen called the world and she is the one who pervades ("vilAsini") the entire universe ("samastajagad")."

dIkshithar clearly shows that he is a shrI vidyA upAsakA by bringing in the topic of initiation ("dIkSa") and in the words "kAmatantravidAyini". In shrI vidyA, kAmatantra or kAmakalA represents the inner heart of the bindu (the third eye") and symbolizes that for creation, the sperm and the egg must unite. Musically, the "SNDp; GM PGRS" phrase at "samastajagadhvilAsini" is absolutely divine and it once again loops back with the "S D" prayOgam while merging with the pallavi. Vedavalli maami's rendition of this part of the anupallavi is a must hear. Moving on to the charaNam now,

sakalaniSkaLasvarUpatejase sakalalokas.rSTikaraNabhrAjase
sakalabhaktasaMrakSaNayashase sakalayogimanorUpatatvatapase
prabalaguruguhodaye pa~ncAnanah.rdAlaye
bharatamataN^gAdinute bhAratIshapUjite

dIkshithar describes the dEvi as "the one who displays the true powerful form ("svarUpatejase") established as the undivided absolute state of brahman ("sakalaniSkaLa"). The one who glitters and shines ("bhrAjase") through all Her creations ("s.rSTikaraNa") in all the worlds ("sakalaloka"). The one is famous ("yashase") for protecting ("saMrakSaNa") all ("sakala") Her devotees ("bhakta"). The one who is the embodiment ("rUpa") of penance ("tatvatapase") in every ("sakala") yogi's mind ("mano")."
In the madhyamakAla sAhitya, dIkshithar continues to describe the Goddess as "the one who is the source ("udaye") of the mighty ("prabala") guruguha. The one who resides ("Alaye") in the heart ("h.rda") of Lord Shiva, the five-faced one ("panchAnana"). The one who was praised ("nute") by great sages like Bharata and matanga and the one who was worshipped ("pUjite") by Lord Brahma, the husband of Goddess Saraswathi ("bhAratIsha")."

Vedavalli maami and kalpagam maami seem to present extremely different facets of this krithi. While the former's rendition is pretty fast paced suggesting a madhyamakAla krithi, kalpagam maami's version seems to establish the grandeur a lot more stronger. Her slow, chouka kAla rendition of the krithi adds a grand flavour to this masterpiece. dIkshithar once again establishes advaita fundas in the first line of the charaNam.

One more thing to note in this krithi is that the tAra sthAyi prayOgams are very sparingly used. dIkshithar seems to emphasize that the beauty of the rAgam and the meditative phase he is trying to portray is based out of the madhya and the mandira sthAyis. As I complete this post, I sincerely hope that I will get some time in the next few days to take up "shrI abhayAmba" and complete this set. I am suddenly in the grasp of dwijAvanti now, listening to SSI's beautiful swarams for cEtaH shrI. I guess I will loop the krithi and go to sleep listening to it. All of you have a wonderful week ahead and I will surely meet you all once again before this week is over :). Till then, Godspeed!!