Friday, September 5, 2008

mAmava mInAkSi- varALi

It has been nearly a month since I posted anything here. I have been travelling a bit on the weekends and hence have not been able to blog :(. Further, I am winding up here in the US and going back to India for good on October 18th. For Labor day weekend, I had amazing fun with SK, hari and audi. We spent a few days together and had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ajit Bhaskar and his wife Nandini and meeting Prasanna Venkatesh, a devout student of carnatic music :). On the following weekend, I travelled to Indianapolis and met my Ann arbor room mates, Bharath, Aditya and Sharanya :). We had perhaps the best fun ever in those 2 days. At times like these, I profusely thank God to have given me such wonderful friends, without whom life in the US would not have been possible in the first place, let alone boring and dull.

In the last 3 years and 2 months I have spent in the US, I have changed a lot- predominantly for the good and for betterment :). Apart from the maturing experience, it has been a few years in which I have gained so many new and wonderful friends which is ultimately what matters in life. The love my friends have showered on me (and will continue to shower on me for this lifetime) just makes my hair stand up and I immediately get goosebumps. Hence, I do a sAshTAnga namaskara at all these angels that God has sent to love me >--<-o @ All!!

Shri Sanjay Subrahmanyan is performing here at Austin, Texas on October 4th and I am really excited about the fact that I will get to listen to him live after a very, very long time. Hopefully he renders some thalaivar krithis for this guruguha dAsan :).

Today, I will take up the beautiful dIkshithar krithi, mAmava mInAkSi in varALi composed by the nAdajyOthi at Madurai. Before I dive into the krithi, I would like to give a brief introduction about this kSEtram and its folklore. According to mythology, Indra once killed an innocent demon by mistake and in order to escape the effects of this sin, Indra built a small lingam in the forest he was roaming and propitiated Lord Shiva. After severe penance, Lord Shiva forgave him and Indra built a small temple at that site. King Malayadhwaja Pandyan was ruling this part of the country called kadambavanam and he came to know of this small temple. He decided to expand this temple into a big complex and build the city of Madurai around it. The king was childless and did severe penance to please Lord Shiva and beget a child. Lord Shiva answered his prayers and gave the king a 3 year old ayonija (not born out of a womb) daughter. This child was a manifestation of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti. Due to her beautiful fish-like eyes, the king named her as mInAkSi. She grew up to be a great warrior and after the king's demise, ruled the kingdom ably.

I must mention the yogic interpretation of Goddess mInAkSi. Sage Mathanga was from the lower chandal caste but did not believe in the caste system and wanted to attain brahmin hood through penance. Through the kripa of Lord Indra and Goddess Saraswati, sage matanga was given a beautiful daughter, Matangi. In tantraic tradition, there are ten wisdom Goddesses, Mahavidyas and Matangi is one of them and is believed to be the yogic counterpart of Goddess Saraswathi. On another note, these ten Vidyas are believed to be the source of then ten avatars of Vishnu.

Goddess Matangi is believed to have a dark complexion and she resides in the vishuddhi chakra at the throat. Through upAsana, She can be invoked for command over speech and knowledge. Goddess mInAkSi at Madurai is believed to be this amsha of Goddess Shakti. dIkshithar very beautifully brings this aspect out in the very first lines of the pallavi by addressing the Goddess as "rAja mAtangi-princess mAtangi", thereby consolidating both the physical as well as the yogic beliefs as I have described above. Since mAtangi is the yogic counterpart of Goddess Saraswathi, she holds a veena studded with emeralds and this is once again brought out by dIkshithar in the pallavi itself. With this introduction, I will now delve into the krithi,


mAmava mInAkSI rAjamAtaHNgi
mANikyavallakIpANi madhuravANi varALivENi


dIkshithar sings "Oh Goddess mInAkSI, the fish-eyed one, the princess mAtangi, please protect me ("mAmava")." He describes the Goddess as "The one possessing an emerald studded vINa
("mANikyavallakI") in Her hands. The one with a mellifluous voice ("madhuravANi") and the one with dark hued hair ("vENi") that resembles a swarm of bees ("varALi")."

dIkshithar directly addresses the Goddess and seeks refuge. Being a vainika himself, he promptly salutes Her and refers to Her vINa. Musically, the key "PMGRS" phrase occurs at "mInAkSI" followed by the defining "S n gr G M" phrase at "varALi vENi". dIkshithar once again shows his command over the language by brilliantly incorporating the rAga mudhra as a figure of speech describing the beauty of the Goddess' hair :). Other than that, it is a pretty simple and peaceful pallavi. Moving on to the samaSTi caraNam,

samASTi caraNam:

sOmasundarEshvara sukhasphUrti rUpiNi
shyAmE shaHNkari digvijaya praTApini
hEmaratnAbharaNabhUSaNi Isha guruguha hRdAgAriNi
kAmitArttha vitaraNadhOraNi kArunyAmRtaparipUraNi
kAmakrOdhadi nivAriNi kadambakAnanavihAriNi


dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "The embodiment ("rUpiNi") of the vibrating force ("sphUrti") that delights ("sukha") Lord SomasundarEshvara. The dark-hued ("shyAmE") one who does good deeds ("shaHNkari") and the one who has the glory of conquering all directions ("digvijaya") and is the ruler of the world ("pratApini"). The one adorned ("bhUSaNi") by gem studded ("ratna") golden ("hEma") ornaments ("AbharaNa") and the one who resides in the heart ("hRdAgAriNi") of Lord Guruguha, the preceptor of Lord Shiva ("Isha"). The one who bestows ("vitaraNadhOraNi") all the desired boons ("kAmitArttha") of devotees. The one filled with ("paripUraNi") the nectar of compassion ("kArunyAmRta"). The one who removes ("nivAriNi") lust ("kAma"), anger ("krOda") and all other vices. The one who resides ("vihAriNi") in the kadamba forests ("kAnana")."

Look at how beautifully dIkshithar depicts the entire shrine. He brings the sannidhi right in front of your eyes in all his descriptions in the caraNam. There is once again no yogic or puranic references here that need detail explanations. He employs a vicious "S r ss S n G" at "sukhasphUrti" and the word itself vibrates to bring joy to one's hearts just like the word suggests :). This is followed by a rich "n S G M; D D N" at "shyAmE shankari" that brings out the essence of the pUrvAngam clearly. I also love "S N G R" at "hRdAgArini" and the way the caraNam ends as "nDpmgr-rsGM" at "kadambakAnanavihAriNi" and beautifully merges into the pallavi :). I dont think there is much more to beat upon here and I will promptly wind up.

Since I have given a decent explanation about the kSEtra and since one of the readers had requested, I think I will take up "mInAkSi mE mudam dEhi" in my next post. Though I wanted to reserve this krithi as the very last krithi for this blog (for obvious reasons), I guess I will take it up at this juncture and will provide some insight. I will hopefully post a few more krithis before leaving the US. See you all very soon :). shrI gurubhyO namah:!!


Anonymous said...

Splendid analysis! The legend of Madurai is indeed intriguing and fascinating. And Varali ragam - aaah! What a stirring ragam! May be I should explain Tyagaraja Kritis this way starting with 'Pancharatna Kritis'. I don't know how close I can come in matching your meticulousness, but I can still try!

Eagerly awaiting 'meenAksImE mudamdEhi'!

Musical Scientist said...

Thanks a lot sthitapragnya. It is indeed a very intriguing kshetra and the raga itself has some mysticism and longing associated with it. It would be great if you start explaining the krithis of tyAgarAja swAmi. I dont understand telugu much and would love to learn something from your posts. So, please start posting :)


Padma said...

Sai once again brillinat...Reading this has transported me to madurai and Varali is a ragam that moves you easily...Waiting for one of the best pieces in Poorvi Kalyani...

PS: You coming down to India sounds exciting...Considering US is struggling to cope with its economy...

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Padma,

Thank you for your wonderful comments as usual :). I will surely post the gamakakriya krithi in the next few days :). And yes..I am really excited about coming to India..just a few more weeks and I will be home :).

Anonymous said...

Great post! "Though I wanted to reserve this krithi as the very last krithi for this blog (for obvious reasons)" - does that mean you're not going to post from India??? :(

Musical Scientist said...

No. I will surely continue posting from India. What I meant was that I wanted to reserve the gamakakriya krithi for the very last post on dIkshithar krithis (which wouldve probably been in 10 years from now). I will obviously continue to blog after going home :). No worries at all!!


nAradA said...

Can you clarify a doubt for me? I always thought the word "mInAkshi" was a compound word of Thamizh and Sanskrit. We know "Akshi" means eye in Sanskrit. But to my knowledge there is no word "mIn" denoting fish in Sanskrit. The original word for fish in Sanskrit is "matsya". Some say "mInam" the planetary house standing for the zodiac sign pisces is the Sanskrit word. Again I contend mInam is compunded from the original Thamizh word mIn. As you see the PANDya kings from times extending centuries before CE had the "mIn koDi" as their royal flag. There is no dynasty older than the PANDyAs which used Thamizh in its pure form. I very much doubt they had Sanskrit words in use at that time. In later times due to the influence of Sanskrit scholars from the north during the Pallava regime compound words started appearing. Another compound word using mIn: mIna locani.
Would appreciate your input.

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Obuls Daddy said...

You mentioned VarAli means bees. I am more familiar with the "vaa vaa kandha vaa.." song, and humming it with a closed mouth seems to mimic bees humming! I think that's why it's called varAli! Thanks for the wonderful post.