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,


para dEvatA bRhatkucAmbA saMrakshatu mAM SrI jagadambA


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 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,


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


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.


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


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:


karikaLabhamukham DhuNDhi gaNEsham bhajarE rE citta
kAvErI taTasthitam sAvErI rAganutam


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,


harihayAdi sakaladEvatArAdhita padAmbujam
girijA tanujam vijita manasijam guruguhAgrajam


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 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,


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


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