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"!!


Padma said...

Sai thanks for sharing TMKs version...Haven't fact a big thanks for sharing this krithi...Haven't heard it before...What a superb rendition by MLV amma too...Dhanyasi at its best...I don't know every other krithi that i seem to read and listen to it makes more sense and also enjoy it much better...So the next on the line is Varali..Aha...Carry on..

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Padma,
Glad that you liked the post and the krithi. It is indeed a beautiful dhanyASi :). Next in line is varALi..I will hopefully post that tonight after coming back from office :).

Anonymous said...

Very touching intro pa....I am sure he is resting in peace in heaven. If the son is so nice, I can imagine that his father could have only been better :)

We celebrated Gokulashtami by trying our hands on seedai. They didnt come so well :( But the whole process was fun :)

See you Sunday evening! Lemme know if you need anything particular for dinner. I'll ask my wife to make it :P

Anonymous said...

oh that was me btw

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Dr. Bhaskar,

Thanks a lot for those kind words :).Celebrated gokulashtami a??sooper..cheedai didnt come out well is it :D :P. Koothu dhaan pongo..cant wait to meet you this weekend :).

Anonymous said...

May the Goddess bRhatkuchAmba protect your father's soul! May he rest in peace!
Splendid analysis and beautifully elucidated! I stumbled upon your blog through someone else's and I'm glad I did! You've described so many kritis I've been looking for. Marvellous! If you don't mind a new comer asking, can you explain the meanings of 'MeenAkshImE mudaMdEhi'- Gamakakriya ragam, and 'KanjadaLAyatAkshi'- Manohari ragam? I love those kritis.

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Sthitapragnya,

Thanks a lot for your kind words. Very glad to know that you liked reading my posts :). I will surely explain the meanings of the two krithis you have requested for. mInAkSi mE mudaM dEhi is extremely close to my heart as it would be to any dIkshithar bhakta. ;(


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aravindan said...


I just stumbled upon your blog! Great job!

I have a a query though:
do you have any youtube links for MLV amma's rendition of this krithi?! The links you provided, don't seem to work for me( a 403 forbidden error pops up!)..please help!

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Aravindan sir,

I do not have any youtube links for MLV amma's rendition of the krithi. I have a nice mp3 recording. Please drop me a mail at and I will be more than happy to share the recording with you.


Ravi N V said...

Fantastic rendition of this kriti by Sri Tanjore Kalyanaraman