Saturday, November 28, 2009

rAmachandrabhaktam bhaja mAnasa!

I am back to play the visiting faculty. It's the "turkey killing weekend" here in USA. So, I request all those who read this post to pray to their favorite Gods/Goddesses to grant mukti to all those millions of innocent turkeys which have been stuffed and devoured in the last few days, in the name of a "thanksgiving tradition".

Gripped by the recent mELakarta rAga exposition series being telecast on podhigai, and thanks to a samaritan (TVG)'s uploads on Sangeethapriya, I got to listen to Gayakapriya and vakuLAbharaNam a few days ago. That aroused in me, an enthusiastic urge to refurbish a rare gem that had rested deep in my memory for a long time, or so it seemed. Having refurbished the song reasonably satisfactorily over the last week and sung to a few of my very dear friends, I thought a blogpost is in order, for what is truly one of Dikshitar's MOST unique krithis (needless to say, amongst his rarest - we're yet to get hold of a recording for our tribute site).

The krithi in discussion is 'rAmachandra-bhaktam' in the rAga 'gEyahejjajji', the 13th rAgAnga rAgam, mELam, in the Dikshitar school. It is amongst the only four or five songs composed by Dikshitar on Lord AnjanEya (who's very close to my heart - being a dvaitin :P), and to my knowledge, probably the only composition of his having a swara-graham for chiTTaswarams - such is its uniqueness. More on that when I get there.

gEyahejjajji, the 13th mELam, is the Dikshitar equivalent of gAyakapriya. As per the SSP, it is a sAyankAlika rAgam, with shuddha Ri, antara Ga, shuddha Ma, shuddha Da and shuddha Ni - a vivAdi! Hence, close to heart, being the vivAdi-boy! :P . The asampoorNa mELam, as in many of the 1(mod 6) asampoorNa mELa rAgas (the geeky way of referring to the 1st rAgam of each chakram) is nishAdha-varjya (devoid of nishAdham) in the ArOhaNam. Specifically, SSP provides the ArOhaNam to be - "S R1 M1 G3 M1 P D1 S". The avarOhaNam is sampoorNam with "S N1 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S". Apparently, the "P D1 S", is to make it easy for the singer, without him/her having to accommodate the (I feel) rather troublesome and oddly located N1 in between D1 and S. However, the asampoorNattvam (incompleteness) makes manOdharmam a tight-rope walk, if ever one chooses to experiment with it!

The song is set to a rather "chuggy" Adi tALam (1 kaLai), and progresses at a quasi-madhyama kAlam pace ('chuggy' is again the right word!). A pleasure to sing in that oh-so-comfortable pace - that of calmness and quietude. In some sense, it befits the deity in whose praise the song is! Lord AnjanEya is known for his 'jitEndriyattva' - conquer over sensory perceptions, and has been portrayed in the purANas to be forever calm, stoic and humble, and subservient to his master, Lord rAma.

|| Pallavi ||
rAmachandra-bhaktam bhaja mAnasa!
rAkShasAntakam, hanUmantam, shrI ...

O mind (mAnasa), sing in praise (bhaja) of the foremost devotee of Lord rAmachandra (rAmachandra-bhaktam), the one who vanquishes evil (rAkShasAntakam), the one with a swollen chin (hanUmantam) .....

A superb way to introduce AnjanEya! "rAmachandra-bhaktam"! The perfect adjective, I'd say - what with AnjanEya being certainly the foremost amongs t the devotees of Lord rAmachandra! Dikshitar probably uses "rAmachandra bhaktam" in the more complete sense of "THE devotee of rAmachandra". It is like, say, the usage "geetA" to refer to bhagavadgeeta, or say "bhAratam" to refer to mahAbhAratam, or, in Vaishnavaite school, "sahasranAmam" to refer to "ViShNu-sahasranAmam". I've also seen Sanskrit scholars referring to "amarakOsha" as simply "kOsha". It kinda seems plenty to just refer to AnjanEya as "rAmachandra bhaktam"(in a similar vein as the above), with his "first-in-line" far ahead of all else obviating from the very reference! Well, Lord Rama himself praises hanUmAn to the skies in the 1st sarga of the yuddha-kANDam (see here)

Also, the term "hanUmAn", has been dealt with in paurANic interpretation to qualify AnjanEya as "the knower of all divine knowledge". The term "hanu" refers to "knowledge". This is a valid interpretation, given the shlOkam in 28th shlOkam of the 3rd sarga of the kiShkindAkANDam of rAmAyaNam - "nAnR^igvEda-vineetasya na ayajurvEdadhAriNaH ...." (see here) which goes on to describe hanUmAn as knowing all four vEdAs perfectly (in addition to other attributes). Lord rAma goes on to describe the impeccability of hanUmAn! In fact, it is said that 'hanUmAn' is still chanting the vEdAs and the brahmasUtras in kimpuruSha khaNDa to this date!

In the view of the above, the pallavi seems to be more than an enough description of the Lord AnjanEya.

The swarasthAnams in the pallavI are very interesting, and needless to say, extremely apt for the meaning. As mentioned earlier, the dominant rasa is 'shAnta' rasa - the 'emotion' of peace, notwithstanding, the tinge of 'uncertainty/fear' that 'shuddha niShAdha' is capable of adding. In the pallavi herein, the N1 appears in the mandram alone and contributes wholeheartedly to the lovely wave of peace that the rest of the pallavi brings about. I particularly love the 'flat' gAndhAram in 'rAkShasAntakam', that brings in a feeling of 'assurance' of hanumAn as the destroyer of all evil and hence keeping us safe. The phrase hanUmantam, ends the pallavi on a serious note with the G3 and M1 dominating.

|| samaShTI charaNam ||
AmishIkR^ita-divAkaram, gEyahejjajji-rAga-preetikaram
|MK| sAma-dAna-bhEda-daNDa-chaturam, sad-guruguha-sammOditam, varam ....

The one who attempted to gobble up the sun (AmishIkR^ita-divAkaram), the one who loves/can be loved by the rAga gEyahejjajji (gEyahejjajji-rAga-preetikaram), the one who is adept at sAma, dAna, bhEda, daNDa (to uplift beings) (sAma-dAna-bhEda-daNDa-chaturam), the one who brings pleasure to guruguha (by blessing him) (sad-guruguha-sammOditam), the respectable (varam).

A s such, the reference to the his gobbling up of the sun, can denote at least two things - (i) the famous, actual event, (ii) the fact that AnjanEya is more knowledgeable and hence brighter than the sun. I am unaware if the term 'gEyahejjajji' means something deeper. Anyone with an idea of the same should kindly add a note on that.

The charaNam starts with a 'tasty' "D, N D, PM", setting the tone for a beautiful charaNam. The lovely swaram for divAkaram as "D P, M G," really energizes me. That G, halt is SO wonderful! gEya starts off as 'M G M', in the last beat of the AditALam of the first Avartanam, adding beautiful variety in the laya pattern for the song. preetikaram comes as P D, D S , - the platform is very well set for the tArasthAyi.

"sA-ma" in the madhyama kAlam starts as a 'swarasAhityam' (sA ma). dAna uses G, R. The usage S, N N, D for bhEda daNDa, in concordance with the meter adds excellent symmetry between the swara and sAhitya, that which is preserved for the rest of the madhyamakAlam. The usage S, M G, R G M for sammOditam varam is a beautiful lead to the chittaswara, which is the most unique feature of this song!

Swara-graha :
The swara, in stead of the sAhitya, has a madhyama-graha of the swara, i.e., P is sung as the madhyama graha swara S. Sa as Ma, Ma as Ni etc. The swara S is sung at the position Pa, in the 'actual' shruti, but would be 'Sa' in the madhyama graha shruti. For example, for a singer singing at 1, Pa would be Sa in the madhyama graha of 1, which is 5. I know that this is a musicological idea, but I am unaware of the science, rules and the ramifications of this idea. Again, knowledgeable people should help me here.

Swara - P, P M G R R M G G R G R R S | S , N, D P D | S , S R M , G M ||
Graha - S, S N D P P N D D P D P P M | M , G , R S R | M, M P N, D N ||

Swara - P M G R S , N D P D S, R M G R | S , N, D P P , | M , G R S M G M ||
Graha - S N D P M , G R S R M, P N D P | M , G , R S S, | N, D P M N D N ||

Words fail me here to describe the genius of the nAdajyOti! Who else could think of SUCH a chittaswaram, whose graham is beautiful AND complicated at the same time. Needless to say, this would challenge the singer quite a lot, especially if the swara and graham are sung interchangeably! A novel concept! Beauty non-pareil, brought out even in an asampoorNa vivAdi mELam!

As I mentioned earlier, I seek further enlightenment on this graham aspect of it. But as a layman, this is astounding stuff. The mood I see in the tempo and effulgence of the swaram and its graham, is that of a troubled stream torn up in two opposite directions of confusion, so typical of samsAra, seeking refuge in AnjanEya, the one who is free from worldly attachments.

On a side note, as a dvaitin, I am also VERY tempted to argue that the "reflection" (actually translation, speaking strictly) of the swara to yield its 'graha', denotes the 'image-reflection' (bimba-pratibimba) nature of rAmachandra and his bhakta, AnjanEya - a kind perennial master-slave relationship, if you will! IShAvAsyOpaniShat says - tamEva bhAntam anubhAti sarvam, tasya bhAsA sarvam idam vibhAti - It is following Him, the self-shining supreme, that all shines (dependently). It is because of his shine that all else shines. The swara-graham, somehow, for me awakens and underlines in me, those golden words of the IshAvAsyOpaniShat. I may be extrapolating, but that's just what I feel. Opinions may differ!

In all, this song comes about a beautiful treatise on a very unheard, undealt with rAga. It is prudent to point out here, the genius of the vAggEyakAras who bring out different emotions with the same swarams. While Dikshitar exploits the asampoorNa mELam effectively to produce 'shAnta' rasa, peace, shyAmAshAstrI uses the same notes in kalgaDa (pArvati ninnu) to convey a sense of distress, fear and appeal for refuge in the divine Goddess.

Evidently, all we, as mere mortals, can do, is pray to such divine demigods to grant us more bhakti in AnjAnEya, and his master, Lord rAma.

rAmachandra-bhaktam bhaja mAnasa......hanUmantam SrI....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

guruguhAd anyam na jAnEham - balahamsA

I started writing this post on 10th September (as the date above indicates) and today is the 30th of November :(. I have not been able to post anything for the past 2 months because of some "logistic issues". My laptop blew its motherboard and it took over 40 days of ping-ponging between the computer repair guys and finally, my laptop is now running on a factory-refurbished motherboard (which I sincerely hope will not give me any more troubles for at least one more year). We also changed over from one internet plan to another and hence I have been stuck in cyber-graveyard (as my friend Srividya Angara termed it) for nearly 2 months now. Further, I have also been a bit busy preparing for a few exams I am taking in the next 10 to 15 days. My unsuccessful job hunt has come to a grinding halt, I feel pretty much lost and tired and I don't know what I am going to do next. I have to admit that the fears of a premature end to my professional career have been looming large, especially for the last 2 months or so.

Anyway, on a more cheerful note, I went on a nice trip with my cousins to a few places of attraction around 150 kms from Bangalore. First we went to the rAmapramEya swAmi temple in DoddamAlUr. The kSEtra is famous for the sannidhi of baby Lord Krishna crawling on his palms and knees and overwhelmed by this sight, shrI PurandaradAsa composed the beautiful krithi "jagadOdAraNa" in kApi. We then proceeded to TalakkAd, a nice hangout spot on the banks of kAvEri river where we dived into the river to cool off a bit :). The final stop for the day was Somnathpura which is home to an archaeological masterpiece, the kESava temple built by hOysAla kings in 12th century A.D. The artwork and sculptures were absolutely mesmerizing to say the least and we spent a good few hours just roaming around the temple with our eyes and jaws wide open in wonder. You may want to check out the pictures of this trip here. Other than that, life has been pretty peaceful with music and meditation as usual :).

Moving on to the krithi that I will be taking up today, it was out of pure curiosity that I actually ventured into listening to this krithi and understanding it. Probably around 1.5 years ago, while Hari (close friend and guru) and I were chatting on skype as usual, he mentioned this krithi is amazing and sang the pallavi for me. We were both a bit perplexed because we had not listened to anything in balahamsa and the scale sounded just like the kEdAragouLa-nArAyaNagouLa genre. I had just then learnt "mAmava raghuvIra" in mAhuri and that added further to my confusion for its based on pretty much the same scale :). To clear all this confusion, I sat down with our faithful SSP and spent time seeing how the gamakAs and distinguishing phrases work for these rAgas. After listening to the krithi a few times and the other sancAris in the SSP, I could finally get a decent picture of this beautiful rAga. balahamsa, classified as an upAnga janya of harikEdAragouLa (28th mELa) has "srgmpdS-Sndpmgrs" scale (though that doesn't help anyone at all). It is one of those really tough phrase based rAgas that I have come across and phrases like "srgmpmr" and "rsnpds" centered around the rishabha as jIva swara gives this rAga its unique flavor.

Unfortunately, the confusion comes in because one does not find the "srgm" phrase neither in this krithi nor in the gItams/tAna varNams in the SSP. It is always phrases like "srmp" or "srmgrr" which are repeatedly used and this gives a clear kEdAragouLa effect. Well, I guess listening to the krithi probably gives an OK idea of the rAga..probably we should request SRJ mama to elaborate on rAgas such as this and mAhuri to help us understand better. Enough about the rAga, moving on to the krithi now, dIkshitar exclusively uses the panCami vibhakti (fifth/ablative case) to beautifully continue the Lord/guru theme while employing a rare rAga. The fact that dIkshitar uses a rAga such as balahamsa in only his 5th composition ever speaks volumes about the great genius. The pallavi goes like,


guruguhAd anyam na jAnEham
guptAgamArta tatva prabOdhinO


dIkshitar confesses "I know ("jAnEham") of none other than ("anyam na") guruguha, the one who taught and brought to light ("prabOdhinO") the esoteric, hidden ("gupta") meanings ("arta") and principles ("tatva") of the Agamas".

The first thing I noticed after going through the krithi was that dIkshitar seems to have dwelled in a slightly higher meditative realm than the first four krithis of this series..atleast, thats how I felt. Also, one can notice that he successfully manages to further erase that thin line of demarcation between the Lord and the guru. In the pallavi itself, he extols the Lord/guru by addressing them as perhaps the most knowledgeable people he has come across. He clearly makes use of the tale in which Lord SubrahmaNya teaches his own father Lord Shiva and thereby highlights the AchArya amsha of the Lord. And if you see from a disciple's view point too, it is the guru who unravels the mysteries of the sacred texts and enlightens the student about the shAstrAs.

The Agamas are basically sacred texts giving details of certain techniques and modes of worship of Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu. Each Agama consist of 4 parts. The first part deals with philosophy and spiritual aspects. The second part usually talks about yogic techniques for controlling the mind and senses. The third part extensively deals with rules that need to be followed for construction of temples and sculpting idols and statues. The final part talks about rules one needs to observe while performing rituals and other ceremonies. So, dIkshitar clearly chalks out the idea behind this krithi while he attributes the "dispeller of ignorance" status to the Lord and the guru simultaneously.

Coming to the musical aspects, dIkshitar kick-starts the composition with the "srmp mgrr" phrase at "guruguhAd anyam" followed by the beautiful "rpmgrsr" phrase at "tatva prabO"dinO. We can also observe that he primarily deals with ArOhaNa phrases in both madhya and mandira stAyis and hence does not employ the niSAdam in the pallavi at all. Moving on to the anupallavi,


aruNOdayAnanda kOti braHmANDAkAra-
SivAdidharAnta tatva svarUpiNO


dIkshitar describes the Lord/guru as "the embodiment of ("svarUpiNO") thatness ("tatva") which pervades everything beginning from Lord Shiva ("SivAdi") and ending with the manifested worlds ("dharAnta") and the one whose form ("AkAra") is as resplendent as sunrise ("aruNOdaya") happening in crores of universe ("kOti braHmANDa") at the same time".

dIkshitar clearly shows his inclination to advaita vEdAnta in these lines of the anupallavi. He takes the Lord/guru theme to a new high when he describes the Lord as the embodiment of that universal truth which pervades everything right from the supreme consciousness (Shiva) to all the creations in this world and beyond, a clear allusion to the jivAtma-paramAtma concept. The guru too becomes a representation of that universal truth/consciousness which a disciple wishes to reach through continuous God-union and having attained a divine high position, the guru too resonates with the supreme consciousness and traverses everything from that paramAtma to individual jIvAtmas. dIkshitar further compares the resplendent form to the lustre of crores of sunrises. It makes me wonder as to the high levels of consciousness which dIkshitar must have ascended in order to give such a wonderful description.

Musically, in my opinion, it is this anupallavi which dIkshitar uses as a wonderful platform to completely exploit and milk the beauty of this rAga in its entirety. The anupallavi starts off with my most favourite phrase in this krithi, "mgRpM" at "aruNOdaya" followed by a simple yet compelling "PDPDS" phrase at "kOTi brahmANDa". He then smoothly slips into the tAra sthAyi and employs the "rgrsn" phrase at "AkAra SivA"di and by this time, dIkshitar has completely differentiated balahamsa from kEdAragowLa. And he hits the final nail in the coffin when he uses the killer phrase "mGrmggr" to finish the anupallavi. If someone wants to really get a good picture of this rAga, it is this anupallavi where one should start..just brilliant!! If the rasikA has still not had enough (in the good sense :)), the caraNam that ensues is a real treat. Oh, and here I must make a small mention about tyAgarAja swAmi's compostion "daNDamu peTTedanurA" in balahamsa. There are many striking similarities in the way the two geniuses have handled this delicate rAga starting with the strange coincidence (?) of tyAgarAja swAmi using the word "brahmANDa" in the anupallavi when he describes Lord Rama as brahmANDa nAyaka.

The fact that thyAgarAja has composed 2 krithis (incl ika gAvalasina) in this rAga and that dIkshitar has composed a major krithi in the guruguha vibhakti series clearly shows that balahamsa was quite a popular rAga in the good old times. Unfortunately, many such gems seem to have vanished into the horizon over time thanks to our excessive indulgence in the same old kAmbhOjis, bhairavIs and tODIs :(. Atleast for the sake of pains taken by these majestic composers, I sincerely hope some of the qualified musicians perform a balahamsa or a ghaNTA more frequently. Anyway, moving on to the caraNam,


sahasradaLa sarasija-madhya nivAsinaH
sakala candra bhAskara tEjaH prAkASinaH
sahajAnandastitha dAsa viSvAsinaH
saccit-sukhAtmaka viSvavilAsinO
aharahaH prabalahamsa prakASAtmanO
daharavidyA pradAyaka paramAtmanO
jahad-ajahallakSaNayA jIvaikyAtmanO
rahaHpujIta cidAnandAtmanO


dIkshithar continues to describe the Lord as "the one who resides ("nivAsinaH") in the middle ("madhya") of the thousand-petalled ("sahasradaLa") lotus ("sarasija"). The one who gives light ("tEjaH prakASinaH") to the suns ("bhAskara") and moons ("candra") of all the different worlds ("sakaLa"). The one who expresses faith ("viSvAsinaH") in those devotees ("dAsa") who are established ("stitha") in the bliss of sahaja ("sahajAnanda"). The one who manifests ("vilAsinO") in this world ("viSva") as truth, consciousness and bliss ("saccit-sukha")".

dIkshitar continues to waltz through the madhyamakAla sAhityam describing the Lord as "the one who again and again ("aharaha") reveals the form of the effulgent self ("prakAsAtmanO") to the famous ("prabala") yogis. The supreme soul ("paramAtmanO") who bestows ("pradAyaka") knowledge of dahara vidyA. The one who reveals the harmonious union of the individual soul with the supreme soul ("jIva+ikyAtmanO") through jahal and ajahal lakshanas. The one who is the form of cidAnanda, who is to be worshipped ("pUjita") in seclusion of the soul and by performing esoteric rituals ("rahaH")".

In typical dIkshitar-ish caraNam style, he directly jumps into the yogic aspects and further establishes the idea and the importance of a guru in a soul's spiritual progress. dIkshitar once again shows the meditative realm in which he exists by clearly describing his spiritual experiences in the caraNam. He describes the Lord as the one who dwells in the sahasrAra cakra and as the one who loves His devotees and their unconditional love. And simultaneously he weaves this magical fabric by employing phrases like "snpds" at "sakaLa candra" and "rgsr" at "prakASinO". It is with phrases such as this that dIkshitar brings out the jIva riSabha beautifully. He choreographs the ending of each line in the caraNam with delicate precision as he continues to employ some eye-popping phrases like "Spdnp"..amazing brilliance yet again from the genius. You can easily see that I have run out adjectives a long time back :P.

The madhyamakAla sAhityam is a stroke of genius once again. How else can you explain the way he embeds the rAga mudra balahamsa as prabalahamsa without distorting the meaning? Infact, he sort of kills 2 birds in 1 stone as he brings in the "famous swan" to emphasize the advaita relevance. dIkshitar continues to incorporate upanishadic references. He mentions dahara vidyA, one of the 32 vidyAs mentioned in the upanishads through which a soul can attain brahman. When one practises any of these 32 vidyAs, he/she perceives the brahman with certain qualities and attributes highlighted. For eg, chhAndokya upanishad describes the brahman as "the imperceptible ether within the heart" and this upanishad along with brihadAranyaka upanishad specifically dwells on characteristics of dahara vidyA.

dIkshitar then uses vEdAnta paribhAsha when he refers to jahallakSaNa and ajahalakSaNa in order to further establish the advaita philosophy of union of the supreme soul and the individual soul. vEdAnta paribhAsha is basically a treatise which discusses the origin, nature and validity of the knowledge as expressed in advaita vEdAnta. So, it basically is in-depth grammar. In short, the relationship between a word and its meaning is called vritti and is classified as either Sakti vritti and lakSaNa vritti. Sakti vritti as the name indicates refers to those relationships (between a word and its meaning) which can directly generate knowledge of the meaning of the word and the resulting meaning is called vAchyArtha. With the help of this vAchyArtha (direct meaning), we can derive implied meanings called as lakSaNa vritti.

This lakSaNa vritti is further classified as jahallakSaNa, ajahallakSaNa and jahadajahalakSaNa/bhagatyagalakSaNa. Since this post has already gone way beyond readable, digestible length, I request the readers to click here to understand these concepts in depth explained with clear examples. Musically, the madhyamakAla dispels the idea that this is a slow rAga. With audacious phrases such as "srgrgr" at "prakASAtmanO" and "pSpmgr" at "rahaHpUjita", dIkshitar beautifully captures the essence of the rAga and sort of gives a complete picture of this "rare" rAga. To further emphasize the delicate structure of the scale, dIkshitar caps it off with an awesome citta swara section. I have always felt that I am not good at notating (esp with the tools available in this blogspot) and thats why I abstain from posting citta swarams. And when you have a magnum opus such as the SSP which gives clear distinct notations, why should I bother. I request the readers to kindly look into the SSP and follow the citta swarams (please do check it out..shtud it is).

Sorry for being in a kind of hurry to finish this post (too long already as I mentioned above). Finally, I once again request all performing artists who grace this blogspace to learn this krithi and perform on stage and popularize this beautiful piece. Such gems should be cherished for our future generations and should not disappear into the dead. I shall next take up "shrI guruguhasya dAsOham" in pUrvi and continue with this vibhakti series. Till then, keep listening and have fun :). Salutations to the great gurus!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya-sAma

The last few weeks have been a bit rough. It started off well with a wonderful concert of Sanjay sir. His RTP in nIlamaNi was an invigorating experience, especially with respect to laya aspects. The ease with which he changed nadais in the pallavi between trishram, chaturashram and khaNDa served truly as a lesson in pallavi singing. A few days after the concert however, I fell ill with severe stomach pain. After lab tests, it was finally diagnosed as gastritis, allevating my mother's fears that it might something serious like jaundice. To actually tell the truth, I havent recovered completely from it and I still feel a bit weak. On the professional front also, I haven't got a break yet. After 10 long months of sitting at home, I have pretty much given up hopes that I will find that elusive dream job. After much contemplation, I have started applying for some Ph.D openings in Europe. From the way things are going, I guess I will go back to school once again. On the brighter side of things, it was nice to celebrate Krishna Jayanthi at home after a long time. Also, I got to meet Mr. Thiagarajan sir, a fellow music rasika and an online friend from orkut and from this blogspot. It was a pleasure spending those few hours with him and listening to his wife producing divine music on her veena.

Coming to the krithi that I will be taking up today, guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya in sAma set to Adi tALam is composed exclusively in the caturthi vibhakti (fourth/dative case). The manner in which dIkshitar addresses the Lord as "kumArAya" in the pallavi melts ones heart. The pallavi goes like,


guru guhAya bhaktAnugrahAya kumArAya namO namastE


dIkshitar sings "I offer sincere prostrations ("namO namastE") to guruguha, the one who bestows grace ("anugrahAya") upon His devotees ("bhakta"), the ever youthful one ("kumArAya")."

dIkshitar starts off with that hanging deivata note that straight away rings bells in your brain to qualify the status of this composition as a masterpiece in this raga. He neatly captures the entire essence of the raga by employing the "s R r" phrase at "anugrahAya" followed by the "dsrmgr" phrase at "kumAraya". Other than that, there is nothing much to explain about the pallavi. The simplicity of the pallavi encourages musicians to embellish and improvise with their own sangathis and over a period of time, the pallavi of this krithi has undergone some transformation with additional sangathis. Moving on to the anupallavi,


guru guhAya bhaktAnugrahAya guNAtItAya rUparahitAya

hariharavirinci rUpAya saccidAnanda svarUpAya SivAya


dIkshitar describes the Lord as "the one who has transcended ("atItAya") all the qualities ("guNa"), i.e, satva, rajas and tamas. The formless one ("rUparahitAya") and the one who is an embodiment of viSNu-Siva-Brahma ("hariharavirinci") all rolled into one. The one whose natural self ("svarUpAya") is truth-consciousness-bliss ("saccidAnanda") and the one who is the ever auspicious consciousness ("SivAya")."

As far as I know, this is the only dIkshitar krithi in which he uses the guruguha mudra twice. Though, lyrically I cant quite figure out why he uses it in the same context, conveying the same meaning in both the pallavi and anupallavi, musically, dIkshitar clearly justifies the usage. Just like how he uses the sAhityam "guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya" in the pallavi to capture the beauty of the avarOhaNa prayOga of "dpmgrsRr", he uses the same sAhityam to exhibit the majestic ArOhaNa prayOga of "srmPpDPM". One might argue that dIkshitar could have used a different set of words all together but I feel that the very fact that he uses the same sAhityam to incorporate two different kramAs not only shows his genius but also the flexibility of this rAga sAma which surprisingly is an extremely classical and traditional rAga believed to have originated from the songs and hymns sung in villages.

dIkshitar once again emphasizes the advaita doctrine by describing the Lord as the embodiment of hari,hara and virinci all combined. It is extremely clear that dIkshitar was a strict advaitin in the fact that irrespective of whether it was his beloved Lord guruguha or Goddess Shakti, the principal deity of shrI vidya upAsana, there are many instances in which he sees the divine supreme consciousness. There are quite a few instances such as the reference in this krithi and the bhairavi navAvarNam in which he describes Goddess kamalAmba as "shrIkaNTa-viSNu-virincAdi-jananyitrAyAH" for instance to reinforce this belief. To further establish the supreme state of bliss in which dIkshitar was meditating, he describes the Lord as a unified consciousness whose natural self shines forth as saccidAnanda., thats what I call a brilliant anupallavi in which dIkshitar explains a massive concept such as advaita in very few words. And to do something like this in just his fourth ever composition clearly shows that dIkshitar was a phenomenol genius. The final master stroke perhaps comes at "SivAya" where he uses "srmm" to further embellish the anupallavi and grant it what I call "superstar status" :).


sakalAgama mantra sAragnyAya satsampradAya sarvagnyAya
sakaLaniSkaLa prakASakAya sAmarasya sampradAyakAya
vikaLEbhara kaivalya dAnAya vikalpahInAya vignyAnAya

SukavAmadEva vandita padAya SukavAmadEva mukti pradAya


dIkshitar continues to pay rich tributes to the Lord by describing Him as "the essence ("sAragnyAya") of all Agamas and mantras. The one who is omniscient ("sarvagnyAya") and who is well-versed in the path of noble traditions ("satsampradAya"). The one whose resplendence ("prakASakAya") is the cause of existence of all sentient and insentient matter ("sakaLa niSkaLa") in this universe. The one who is knowledgeable in the doctrine ("sampradAyakAya") of sAmarasa (the unity of Shakti and Siva). The one who is the embodiment of knowledge ("vignyAnAya") and the one who bestows ("dAnAya") vidEha mukti, i.e, liberation from the body ("vikaLEbhara kaivalya"). The one whose feet ("padAya") were worshipped by ("vandita") sages Sukha and vAmadEva and the one who granted liberation ("mukti pradAya") to them."

In the caraNam, dIkshitar pretty much describes Lord guruguha as the supreme soul residing in all creations, living and non-living. Here, he once agains uses adjectives and descriptions that could be in reference to his guru as well as the Lord himself. There are some descriptions such as "satsampradAya" and "sAmarasya sampradAyakAya" which would more aptly suit the guru. Ofcourse,
the same words can indeed be used to describe the Lord Himself since the guru himself is a subset of the Lord :). Perhaps the highlight of the caraNam is the way in which dIkshitar uses the rAga mudra by referring to the yogic path of sAmarasa. In his own inimitable style, he embeds the rAga mudra not only without disturbing the flow of the krithi but by conveying a doctrine which clearly expresses the emotions he was going through. Those unique blissful experiences a yogi visualizes when the kundalini shakti moves through the cakras and reaches the sahasrAra- these experiences are granted and governed rightly by guruguha (the Lord as well as the guru).

As we move into the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshitar portrays the Lord/guru as the path and ultimate destination that grant mukti. I also fail to understand why dIkshitar uses the names of the sages Shuka and vAmadEva twice in the last lines of the caraNam. There seem to be quite a few repetitions in this krithi from the beginning to the end, the reason to which eludes me. Musically, there are many beautiful phrases in the caraNam that delights the rasika. The "sdSr" opening for the caraNam followed by prayOgams such as "dpdMdD" at "sakaLaniSkaLa" and "sdpmMggrR" at
"sAmarasya sampradAyakAya" are not only pleasing to the ear but also helpful for learners to grasp the subtleties of the rAga. The madhyamakAla sAhityam is pure bliss to listen to. Especially, the 4-2-2 akshara split of Adi tALam in the madhyamakAla creates a rich, majestic gait. And as a final measure to establish the clear usages, dIkshitar has appended a beautiful citta swaram to this krithi which unfortunately has got lost over time and has disappeared pretty much. He embellishes the swarams with jArus and janta prayOgams in sync with the pattern he follows in the madhyamakAla sAhityam. All-in-all, this krithi is yet another masterpiece that adds more beauty to this already mind-blowing set of krithis.

In my next post, I will take up "guruguhAd anyam na jAnEham" in balahamsA which in my opinion is a kind of a trendsetter krithi in many aspects. Until we meet again, ciao!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

shrI gurunA pAlitOsmi - pADi

I have been trying to publish this post for the last two weeks but unfortunately there was a huge line fault in my locality and I did not have access to the internet for nearly 10 days. Finally after fighting with the BSNL employees, the internet connection was restored yesterday. Also, in the last 34 days, I have had 4 trips to Chennai and 1 trip to yercaud. Looks like I am regaining my old REC form when I used to travel pretty much every weekend from my college in trichy to my house in Chennai :). In my last 2 trips to Chennai, I have been able to meet two of my dearest friends for the first time. I met Maythini Sridharan ( :)) at Kapaleeshwarar temple on July 7th and spent a memorable few hours with her :). Somehow, we both did not feel like it was a first meeting at all and she was cho chweet just like her usual self (I know you are reading this Maythi :)). And then, at flute Ramani sir's concert, I got to meet Bhaand a.k.a Bharathwaj who has over the years perhaps become the most popular rasika in the carnatic music circles :). And I got to meet him for the second time a few days back at Ramakrishnan Murthy's concert. Other than the fact that Ram did not sing any dIkshitar krithis in that concert(and he has a valid reason for it too as was later explained to me by Prasanna and Bhaand), I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 hours and got this feeling that he is going to be the next big thing in the CM field. I guess a more apt name for him would be Rama"nAd"krishnan Murthy :). Anyway, I am extremely happy that I have met quite a few members of our beloved nAdOpAsana gumbal. I still have a few more of the junta to meet and I am sure I will get there soon :).

It looks like many of my friends are getting married/engaged in batches over the next 4 or 5 months. So, I guess I still have atleast half a dozen trips to Chennai left in this year. I had a weird dream a week back in which I was at Vaitheeswaran kovil. In that dream, I was walking around the prAkAram, I came to the angAraka sannidhi and saw an image of dIkshitar with his veena sculpted above the Sannidhi(though in reality, there is no image of dIkshitar here). Looks like another trip to the kumbakonam belt seems probable :). Coming to the krithi I am planning to take up today, shrI gurunA pAlitOsmi in rAga pAdi set to rUpaka tALa and composed exclusively in tritIyA vibhakti (Instrumental case), one can clearly see the genius of dIkshitar unfold as he handles a pretty uncommon rAga such as pADi. Characteristic phrases such as "dpmrs" and "pdpns" are quite frequently used throughout the krithi and dIkshitar manages to capture the identity of the rAga in its entirety. Also, the spiritual progress and experiences of dIkshitar comes to the forefront. The kriti goes like,


shrI gurunA pAlitOsmi
saccidAnanda nAthEna


dIkshitar sings "I am protected by ("pAlitOsmi") the auspicious ("shrI") guru, the one who is the ruler/embodiment ("nAthEna") of truth-consciousness-bliss ("sat-cit-Ananda")."

In the pallavi itself, dIkshitar firmly establishes the fact that Lord SubrahmaNya is perhaps the most ideal guru for He is known to have taught His father, Lord Shiva, meaning of praNava mantra. Once again, dIkshitar is completely justified here in taking such a Lord who dwells in knowledge and consciousness as his own guru. He starts off with the deivatham and incorporates the characteristic phrases of "dpmrs" followed by "pdpns" at "shrI gurunA" and "pAlitOsmi" respectively. The highlight of the pallavi is the rAga mudra at "pAli"tOsmi (la and Da and interchangeable). As I mentioned before, this set of krithi is something special for any dIkshitar bhakta simply because of the fact that one can clearly see how dIkshitar progresses as a composer, as a yogi and as a bhakta :). Moving on to the anupallavi,


AgamAdi sannutEna akhila viSva vanditEna
tyAgarAja vibhAtEna tApatrayAtitEna


dIkshitar describes the Lord/guru as "the one praised by ("sannutEna") the Agamas and worshipped by ("vanditEna") all the worlds ("akhila viSva"). The one who shines ("vibhAtEna") because of Lord tyAgarAja. The one who is beyond ("atItEna") the three mental afflictions ("tApatraya")."

The greatest beauty of this set of krithis is perhaps the intricate way in which dIkshitar salutes both his guru as well as the Lord, a perfect example of "One stone, two birds". Ofcourse there are times when he hits even 4 or 5 birds with 1 stone :). For eg, here in the anupallavi, he refers to the Lord as one who is praised by the Agamas. Agamas are aspects described in the vedas which deal with rituals and their importance. These rituals in the vedas were originally conceived by the great sages(gurus themselves) in the first place and hence the Lord/guru by the virtue of being praised by other gurus attains a "super guru" kind of status. He further establishes this fact by bringing in the "swAminatha" amSa of Lord guruguha when he defines the Lord as "the one who shines because of Lord tyAgarAja". Also, if one assumes the other meaning of vibhAta which is "to respect", Lord Shiva will obviously have a lot of respect for both Lord SubrahmaNya as well as any enlightened guru and here dIkshitar scores yet again.

And he finishes the anupallavi by highlighting once again that by ardently following the guru, a yogi can become one with the supreme consciousness who is beyond the three afflictions of tApa namely AdyAtmika (physical and mental pains), Adibautika (pains caused by other animate and inanimate objects in this world) and Adideivika (supernatural
interruptions by spirits existing beyond this plane). Musically, the plain panchama start for the anupallavi creates a serene platform on which dIkshitar builds a beautiful edifice with phrases like "Rssnp" and "RmPp" at "sannutEna" and "vanditEna" respectively. The beautiful "dpmrmp" phrase at the end of the anupallavi serves as a nice loop back to the pallavi. Moving on to the caraNam,


vEdAntArtha vEdyEna vikalpa rOga vaidyEna
nAdAmrta supAdyEna nava nAthEnAdyEna
sAdAkhya kalA karENa sadASivAvatArENa
nAdAnta vihArENa nava cakrAdhArENa
pAdAmbujEna parENa bhEdAdi vidArENa
Adiguruguha varENa kAdi matAnusArENa


dIkshitar continues to describe the significance of the Lord/guru as "the one who has completely understood ("vEdyEna") the inner meaning of the vEdas ("vEdAnta artha"). The one who cures ("vaidyEna") the disease ("rOga") of confusion in the mind ("vikalpa"). The one who rejoices drinking ("supAdyEna") the sweet nectar of nAda ("nAdAmrta"). The one who is an embodiment of the nine ("nava") nAthas since "The beginning" ("adhyEna"). The complete one who represents the sAdAkhya kala. The incarnation of ("avatArENa") SadaSiva, the eternal supreme consciousness. The one who resides ("vihArENa") in the very essence ("anta") of nAda. The one who forms the basis of the 9 cakras of the shrIcakra. The supreme one ("parENa") with lotus-like feet ("padAmbujEna") and the one who removes/destroys ("vidArENa") all discriminations ("bhEdAdi"). The distinguished guha who is the first ("Adi") guru and the one who followed ("anusArENa") the path of kAdi mata."

In the caraNam, one can clearly see the prAsam revolving around the "Ena" and "ENa" scheme. Also, what stands out in the caraNam are places where dIkshitar clearly differentiates between descriptions attributed to the Lord and those attributed to the guru. There are descriptions such as "the one who is an incarnation of SadaSiva, the one who is an embodiment of the nine nAthas" etc which clearly are descriptions of the Lord. There are other descriptions like "the one who cures the disease of mental delusions" etc which are more appropriate if associated with the guru. Ofcourse, the very essence of this set of krithis is to see the Lord as the supreme consciousness (the goal/final destination itself) as well as the guru (the path/the guide) and to illustrate the fact that dIkshitar has achieved this harmony perfectly, I am trying to separate the two attributes to make things clear. In order to preserve that harmony in my explanation too, I guess I will refrain from further dissociation of the meaning implied. Finally, to perhaps imply what I just meant, dIkshitar himself describes the Lord "as the guha who is the first guru" @ "Adi guru guha varENa". This one line, IMHO, summarizes the theme of this set of krithis brilliantly.

The navanAthas referred to here could either be the 9 elements based on which this universe was created. It could also be a reference to the sect of 9 saints who are believed to have come in a lineage starting from dattAtrEya. I am not very sure of which one of these interpretations to take. The Shakti path of worship is also beautifully interwoven in this krithi as dIkshitar refers to the Lord/guru as the embodiment of sAdAkhya kala and the one who follows the kAdi mata path. The practice ("mata") of kAdi is quite symbolic throughout this series of krithis and this path is considered one of the highest matas in principle. The yogic import of sAdAkhya kala is something which I dont want to delve in as it could get too complicated and boring and eventually this post will become too long hence losing its punch. In a nutshell, the sahasrAra cakra is the principal center of worship for samayins and the bindu at the center of the sahasrAra is the sAdAkhya kala and it symbolizes the union of Shiva and Shakti. This samaya worship is brought to the forefront in this krithi by dIkshitar.

As I conclude this post, I have a sort of incomplete feeling simply because there are still so many aspects that I have left untouched. I could discuss in detail about the nAda and more in detail about the sAdAkhya kala but,unfortunately, these aspects could get a little too scientific and might not appeal to the general mass. I hope I have done enough justice to atleast make a scratch on the surface of this beautiful composition. The greatness of this krithi is that, even if one doesnt delve too deep, the musical content and lyrical rhythm carry the rasika to a paradise land which in itself is an unique experience. If there are any performing musicians who are reading this blog, I sincerely request you to learn this krithi and perform..such precious gems shouldnt be lost to the ravages of time.

In my next post, I will take up "guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya" in sAma, a beautiful piece that sort of has joyous tilt to it and takes away the seriousness that would have set in after this composition in pADi. If there are no further disruptions in my internet connection, I will try my best to post the next krithi in a few days. Till then, keep listening and enjoying :).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

mAnasa guru guha - Anandabhairavi

The weather here in Bangalore today evening has a nice, steady breeze coupled with a beautiful "maN vAsanai" suggesting that its going to rain. The more I travel between Bangalore and Chennai, the more I am able to appreciate Bangalore's climate. Its hard to believe that 350 kilometres can make so much of a difference. However, being a hardcore chennaite in my heart and mind, I believe the special charm of the city more than makes up for the disastrously hot and humid weather conditions. If only the heat was a little more relenting, Chennai would indeed be a paradise. I guess I am getting into that never-ending debate of which is the best city to live :).

Anyway, as I near the end of this job hunt tunnel, it seems that more opportunities exist for me as a mechanical engineer in Chennai which is slowly developing into the automobile hub of the country. However, since my family is in Bangalore, I am still buying time from some Chennai employers and am trying my best to find a job here in Bangalore so that I can be at home with my mother. (Un)fortunately I dont think its going to work out that way and most probably, it looks like I might end up moving to Chennai in a few more weeks. I cannot crib about moving to a culturally vibrant place like Chennai. With the galore of kutcheris that happen all through the year, I couldn't have asked for a better place away from home. So, I guess its all for the good :).

Coming to today's krithi, I will take up the second composition of the guruguha vibhakti series, mAnasa guru guha rUpam in Anandabhairavi set to rUpaka tALa and composed exclusively in dvitiyA vibhakti (accusative case). After starting off his composing career on a high by aptly composing the first krithi of this series, shrI nAthAdi guruguhO in MMG, dIkshitar perfectly chooses the rAga Anandabhairavi to set the mood of this series. As the name of the rAga suggests, it creates a divinely blissful mood and eliminates all the agitations and disturbances in the rasika's mind. dIkshitar continues on "the salutations to the guru" theme as below,


mAnasa guru guha rUpam bhajarE rE
mAya-maya hRttApam tyajarE rE


dIkshitar straight away instructs the mind to strive for higher goals- " Oh mind!!("rE mAnasa") meditate on ("bhajarE") guha, the form of guru and abandon ("tyajarE") the delusionary ("mAya-maya") sorrows and afflictions of the heart/mind ("hRttApam")."

dIkshitar adopts a commanding/instructive tone throughout this krithi and seems to emphasize the importance of a guru by directly addressing the mind. He repeatedly commands the mind to abandon all illusions in this world (which in itself is an illusion) and strive for greater spiritual progress. One can actually see that by stressing the significance of a guru, dIkshitar himself assumes the post of a guru and commands the mind just like how a guru commands, strictly adhering to obedience and austerity. What a genius he must have been to choose such a profound word (guruguha) as his signature at such an young age, a mudra with which he continued to compose till he shed his mortal coils.

In the opening lines of the pallavi itself dikshitar makes the idea/theme behind this set of krithis crystal clear. He straightaway equates a guru as a form of the Lord Himself and commands the mind to worship him and meditate on him. Musically, dIkshitar has inundated this krithi with nokkus and he starts the krithi off with a nokku on madhyamam and then heading to the panchamam at "mAna"sa following it up with the characteristic "mgrgm" phrase at "guruguha". The "Nnsnmgr" at "mAya-maya" and the final "grgrgm" at "rE rE" loops back beautifully to the beginning of the pallavi. Moving on to the anupallavi,


mAnava janmani saMprAptE sati
paramAtmani niratiSaya sukham vrajarE rE


dIkshitar sings "Having obtained ("saMprAptE") the human ("mAnava") birth form ("janmani"), go,take the path ("vrajarE") and try to attain the unsurpassed bliss ("niratiSaya sukham") associated with the supreme consciousness ("paramAtmani")".

dIkshitar once again emphasises the purpose of this birth and the gift of attaining a human form which enables to soul to discern, choose the right path and unite with the supreme consciousness, the source. This krithi in particular and dIkshitar's life in general, in my humble opinion, serves as a lesson on how to lead one's life, stop running this rat race and strive for the real purpose of coming to this play pen. I really admire the silky smooth way in which dIkshitar climbs the madhya stAyi by using "S p p S" at "mAnava" and hits the tAra stAyi madhyama employing the "smgrs" phrase at "janmani samprA"ptE. The beautiful oscillatory phrases around the pdn area at para"mAtmani niratiSaya sukham" using the beautiful Shuddha deivatham is something which you cannot find in any other Anandabhairavi krithi. The beauty and brilliance clearly shines through and this can be clearly observed and experienced in DKP's rendition of the krithi.


satva guNOpAdhi sahita sadASivaM
svAvidyA samEta jivOdbhavam
tatvam tAmasa yuta viSva vaibhavaM
tArakESwaram Anandabhairavam
natvA shrI guru caraNaM kRtvA nAmasmaraNaM
jitvA mOhAvaraNaM matvA tvadEka SaraNam


In the caraNam, dIkshitar describes the Lord as " The form of everlasting consciousness ("sadASivaM"), the one endowed with ("sahita") with qualities of ("guNOpAdhi") satva. The one from whom all the living beings ("jIva") are born ("udbhavam") as a result of their own ignorance ("sva avidya"). His greatness ("vaibhavaM") symbolises the truth ("tatvam") that lies beyond this world ("viSva") filled with tamasic qualities ("tAmasa yuta"). He is tArakEswara, the Lord who helps cross this ocean of samsara. He is the form of Anandabhairava, radiating ever-lasting bliss".

The madhyamakAla sAhityam will probably resonate till this world ends in which he says "Worship ("natvA") the feet ("caraNam") of the auspicious preceptor ("shrI guru"). Chant and meditate on his name ("nAmasmaraNam"). Conquer ("jitvA") the sheath/veil ("AvaraNam") of delusion/desire ("mOha"). Surrender to him as the sole ("twadEka") refuge ("SaraNam")."

Wow..what a caraNam!! I still cannot believe that someone can be so complete in just his second composition ever. He repeatedly hits the same note, ridiculing the ignorance of the human mind and how it succumbs to these alpa,tamasic pleasures when there exists a royal,sAtvic path to eternal happiness. dIkshitar also seems to have used this set as proving grounds for his rAga mudra usage skills. The prAsam in the krithi and especially the madhyamakala sAhitya brings a rich gait to the composition.

The caraNam is a musical masterpiece in the sense that even if there was no sAhityam, the mellifluous flow of the notes rich with sphurita and kampita gamakAs itself would grant the caraNam, a superstar status. Some of the highlights would be the "sGmP" phrase at "sadASivaM" followed by perhaps the best ever shuddha deivata usage in Anandabhairavi that dIkshitar brings about by employing the "SndPdp" phrase at "svAvidya". The beauty of these phrases once again comes to light clearly in DKP amma's version of this krithi. Oscillations at the niSAda at jI"vOdbhavam" and the "PSsmgrgrs" phrase at "tatvamtAmasayuta" serve as lessons for "how to extract maximum beauty out of this rAga". These are real eye-openers for anyone who wants to get a good grip of this rAga.

dIkshitar then builds up a nice crescendo using smooth, curvaceous and captivating phrases like "Sndnp; sPdnp" at "tArakEsvaramAnanda"bhairavaM. Once again DKP amma brings out the best here. The beauty of these delicate usages cannot be expressed in mere words..they are definitely to be cherished and enjoyed. It definitely leaves the rasika with that "AhA" feel. Finally, to top it all, what a madhyamakAla sAhityam. The arAjagam he does reaches the pinnacle at "natva shrI guru caraNam". It is extremely hard to believe that he has used just a single swara (Sadja) for these 4 words. What a genius. The slight tinge of the niSAda is implicit while the Sadja dominates. No one else can even imagine employing such audacious phrases. I get goosebumps when I listen to these last two lines everytime. The grammar, the prAsam, the musical just gets a little too much to take. To end the krithi, dIkshitar rounds it off nicely with "GM dpm grgm" at "matvA twadEka SaraNaM" to loop back to the pallavi.

On the whole, a complete krithi which pretty much establishes dIkshitar's status as a phenomenon that seems to have reached its peak in just his second composition. If you still haven't listened to this masterpiece, I can assure you that you are missing something beautiful in your life and urge you to listen to it right away :). I will next take up the wonderful krithi "shrI gurunA pAlitOsmi" in rAga pAdi composed exclusively in tritiyA vibhakti. After trips to Chennai for a couple of interviews followed by a trip to yercaud with some of my best, old school friends :), I shall be back with my next post very soon. Till then, keep listening and keep enjoying. shrI gurubhyO nama: !!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Guruguha vibhakti kritis

Over the last two weeks, I have been bombarded with quite a few interview calls (phew..finally!!). I have had 5 interviews in the last 10 days and I already have two jobs in my kitty. I still have a few more interviews to go and probably by the third week of july, I will come to a decision as to which organization to join :). I guess the market has finally started showing signs of recovery and thats definitely the reason for this flurry of calls. I have been travelling quite a lot and have been shunting between Chennai and Bangalore in the last ten days (with two more trips to chennai yet to come in the next 10 days) and hence have been quite tied up preparing for interviews and such which have held me back from good things like blogging and contributing to the sahityam wiki :(. I wish that someone would pay me something so that I dont need to work and I can keep blogging about dIkshitar :). Anyway..thats life :).

Since I am beginning to blog about the guruguha vibhakti set of kritis, I thought I will start with a small post giving an introduction to this series and the story behind the beginning of perhaps one of the greatest composers this world has ever witnesssed. This is the first set of krithis that the great nAdajyOti composed and there are so many things that this series reveals about the man behind the compositions. Since dIkshitar pays rich tributes to his guru in all the 8 krithis of this series, I will give small introduction to his spiritual guru, Shri Chidambaranatha yogi of Benaras. Muthuswami dIkshitar's family was invited to Manali (near Madras) when a family friend, Muthukrishna Mudaliar visited tiruvArUr. Upon repeated requests, the family shifted to Manali and Muthuswami was about 15 years old at this time. Ramaswami dIkshitar (Muthuswami's father) was given shrI vidyA dIksha at tiruvArur by Chidambaranatha yogi. On the yogi's way to Kashi from tiruvArUr, he stopped at Manali and spent a few days with the dIkshitars.

Muthuswami took a liking to the yogi and used to sing and play the vINa during the yogi's pUja. The yogi also developed a liking to the young boy and requested the boy's father to send Muthuswami with him to kAshi. Sensing this as a rare opportunity and considering the immense benefits that his boy would gain from the association with the yogi, Ramaswami reluctantly agreed. After reaching kAshi, the yogi initiated Muthuswami in Sri vidya, taught him the shodashAkshari mantra and taught him yoga and vEdanta. This disciplined and austere life must have been the main reason for dIkshitar acquiring a perceptive intellect capable of delving into spiritual matters and turned him into a great bhakta and an aspiring yogi. He spent around 4 years at kAshi and probably had an opportunity to listen to hindustani music which helped him evolve musically, the influences of which can be clearly seen in quite a few of his compositions in hindustani ragas.

And it is during this stay with the yogi that he went for a bath in the ganges and a vINa came floating into his hands with "rAma" inscribed on it and with an upturned yAli. The great chidambaranatha yogi then instructed dIkshitar to return to Manali, follow Lord SubrahmaNya as his natural guru and told him that he will soon realize the purpose of his birth. So saying, the yogi bid farewell to his disciple and attained jala samadhi in the ganges. His body was later recovered and is now buried at Hanuman Ghat which this humble devotee plans to visit very soon.

After coming back to Manali and spending time with his parents, dIkshitar found a great urge to go to tiruttani, one of the 6 Arupadai veedus of Lord SubrahmaNya. The shrine is beautifully located on a hill top on the way from Madras to tirupathi. This is believed to be the place where Lord SubrahmaNya defeated the asura sUrapadma and married Valli and deivAnai. Lord SubrahmaNya's idol bears a circular hollow in the center of His chest which legends believe is because of a disc thrown at Him by one of the asuras. It is an extremely ancient temple with references in some of the literary works of the sangam era. Just like swAmimalai which has 60 steps(each step denoting 1 year of the tamizh calendar), tiruttani has 365 steps (each step denoting 1 day of the english calendar year). After reaching tiruttani, dIkshitar decided to do penance and meditate on Lord SubrahmaNya for a mandala (40 days).

On the 40th day, while was dIkshitar was meditating, an old man came to him and asked him to open his eyes. He then put a sugar candy in dikshitar's mouth and disappeared. This was Lord SubrahmaNya himself in the guise of an old man and overwhelmed with joy and devotion, dIkshitar immediately burst into his first krithi, the first of the 8 krithis in this set, shrI nAthAdi guruguhO in mAyAmALavagowLa. To get this blog going, since this was dIkshitar's first legitimate composition (humbly side-stepping the nOttu swara sAhityams), my first post was about this krithi. Not withstanding the fact that this was his first composition, it was technically flawless, artistically mature, refined and aesthetic, grammatically perfect and philosophically profound. Ofcourse, he expressed his brilliance straight away adopting the guruguha mudra, incorporating the rAga mudra and began his composition in a traditionally way by composing in MMG, the raga in which music lessons are begun to this day. And the fact that he begins this composition with the ArOhaNa and avarOhaNa of the rAga, set in all the 3 speeds of kAla pramANams shows that he was a genius. He was around 25 years old, putting most of other 25 year olds like me to shame :).

Each of the 8 krithis in this set is unique and brilliant in its own sense. The common theme of all these 8 krithis, each kriti composed exclusively in the 8 declensions of Sanskrit language, is to glorify the guru, exhalt the importance of a guru and showcase the supreme truths and show the way for a yOgi in his spiritual progress. As I mentioned before, these krithis perhaps reveal the making of a great phenomenon called Muthuswami dIkshitar whose name and krithis will ring in this universe as long as it exists.

This set of krithis is used by dIkshitar as a sort of a training ground. Filled with references to vEdAnta, yOga, adopting the guruguha mudra, employing the rAga mudra, playing with grammar, etc, dIkshitar pretty much sets this mould which became the trademark of his compositions and his greatness. The ease with which he handles rare ragas such as pADi, pUrvi, balahamsa and bhAnumati is astounding. He has employed the rAga mudra in each of the 8 kritis in this set and the genius clearly is on display the way he beautifully weaves the rAga mudra into each kriti. ;(. Just amazing. Each kriti has its own rare speciality, for eg, guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya in sAma (4th kriti in the series) is the only dIkshitar kriti that employs two guruguha mudras to my knowledge.

Over the next month or so, I will have the pleasure and privilege of taking up each of these gems and will try my best to uncover the brilliance of dIkshitar and his compositions. Since I have already blogged about the first kriti in this set in my first post, I will take up "mAnasa guru guha" in Anandabhairavi in my next post. There is so much to be written and explained and I cant wait to begin :). I will be back :). Shri gurubhyO namah:

Monday, June 1, 2009

shrI mAtR bhUtam-kannaDa

I have had a mixed last two weeks with some ups and downs. My dear friend Shreekrishna is in Bangalore and we met quite a few times in the last 3 weeks. A few days back, we had this great opportunity to meet, perhaps the greatest carnatic music rasika ever, Mr. B.V.S.Mani sir. He has been attending the december music season in chennai for the past 58 straight years and was given a "rAkshasa rasika" award. Though he has not learnt music formally, he has listened to so much music that he lives, breathes and sleeps music. He sings brilliantly (including a lot of 3rd speed GNB sangathis), plays veena with his mouth (phrases just like S.Balachandar) and even gets ghumkis and chApu's perfect when he plays mridangam with his mouth. An amazing man who will perhaps remain a role model for me till I die. He ofcourse has a huge collection of audio tapes and SK and I had the privelege of listening to such rich music that we will never forget those hours we spent with him. A big, big >--<-o @ mani mama.

I have not been sleeping well for 3 days now after listening to Shri Ramnad Krishnan's music. His bEgaDa, malayamArutham, mukhAri, sahAna etc have been ringing in my ears continuously and I have slept only 4 hours or so in the last 3 days. Tears run down my cheek when I realize how under-rated he has been. I know I am setting fire to a hornet's nest, but just like many other greats such as MDR and Tanjore S.Kalyanaraman sir, Ramnad was not even given a Sangeetha kalanidhi. How cruel..yet another victim of nasty politics :(. Anyway, his brilliance will shine forever. His music has completely captivated me and as many say, he is a true musician's musician.

Coming to the krithi I am taking up today, shrI mAtR bhUtam holds a special place in my heart, probably because I did my B.Tech at Trichy where this krithi was composed by dIkshitar at the famous rock fort temple. Trichy has some wonderful temples nearby like tiruvAnaikkAval, Srirangam etc. The rockfort is perhaps the flagbearer of this city. In the olden days, Trichy was called Trisirapuram because an asura by the name trisiran worshipped Lord Shiva here. Ofcourse, the other version is that there are 3 peaks on the rockfort hill occupied by Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvathi and the famous Uchchi pillayar. Because of this, rockfort is also called tri-shira-giri.dIkshitar beautifully incorporates many facts and stories about this temple. In the pallavi itself he brings out the location by addressing the Lord as tri-shira-giri-nAtha.

The Lord Himself gets His name as mAtR bhUtESwarar because he is known to have appeared as a mother. A devotee of Lord Shiva belonged to the Chettiar caste and she used to cross the Kaveri river everday and come to worship Lord Shiva at this temple. She continued to do so even when she became pregnant and on one such visit, the kaveri was flooded and she was not able to cross back over to her village after darshan. She suddenly developed labour pain and Lord Shiva Himself came in the disguise of that devotee's mother and helped her in delivery. Since Lord Shiva took this motherly form, He is known as mAtR bhUtESwarar here and in tamizh, He is referred to as thAyum-Anavar (translates as "One who is also a mother"). dIkshitar summarizes this whole episode in just one word in the caraNam when he describes the Lord as "vaiSya jAti strI vESa dharaNam" (the one who came in the disguise of a vaiSya woman). Anyway, moving on to the krithi now,


SrI mAtR bhUtaM tri-Sira giri nAthaM
hRdi cintayE
sugandhi kuntaLAmbA samEtam


dIkshitar straight away advices "to meditate in one's heart ("hRdi cintayE") on Lord mAtRbhUtESwara, the Lord of tri-Sira giri and the one who is in the company of ("samEtam") Goddess kuntaLAmbA, the one who has a naturally fragrant ("sugandhi") hair ("kuntaLa")."

In the pallavi itself, dIkshitar effectively brings the whole sannidhi and the temple in front of your eyes by describing Him as the Lord of Trisiragiri, the three peaked hill and bringing His consort, KuntaLAmba into the picture. The amsha of pArvati here is always described as one whose hair has a natural fragrance. The locals call Her as "maTTuvAr kuzhali" which compares Her locks of hair to the drops of honey which bring fragrance to flowers. Yet another interesting observation I have made is the similarity in structure between the pallavi of this krithi and the pallavi of the beautiful krithi in raga kuntaLam composed aptly on Goddess kuntaLAmba which starts as "shrI sugandhi kuntaLAmbikE" and proceeds along similar lines as "hRdi cintayE". But the similarity ends there :).

Musically, the serene gAndAram is once again used by dIkshitar to mark the beginning of the krithi. With phrases such as "GMDp" and "gmrs" at "shrI mAtRbhutam" and "dnsdsp" at "kuntaLAmba", he spreads the canvas for a beautiful picture to unfold upon, not to mention the thatu and take-off of miSra cApu which he has employed so well throughout the entire song. Moving on to the anupallavi,


sOma sakhaM nata Suka sanakaM
naLa kAmAdi vijaya kamanIyAngaM
sOmaM SirO-dhRta sUrya gangaM kOmaLa kara dhRta kurangaM
guru guhAntaranga lingam


dIkshitar describes the physical form of the Lord in the anupallavi as "The friend of ("sakham") the moon ("sOma") and the one worshipped by ("nata") sages Suka and sanaka. The one whose beautiful appearance ("kamanIyAngaM") conquers ("vijaya") Nala and Manmatha. The one who is with Goddess Parvathi ("sa+umam") and the one who wears on His head ("SirO-dhRta"), the calotropis flower ("sUryagangaM"-arka flower or erukkam poo as they call it in tamizh). The one who holds a deer ("kurangaM") in His tender hands ("kOmaLa kara"), the linga form that resides in the innermost caves ("guhAntaranga") of the meditative mind of a guru (the realized one)."

Wow..what a brilliant anupallavi. IMHO, this anupallavi takes the krithi to a whole new level and sets it up to be turned up yet another notch in the caraNam that ensues. dIkshitar captures the entire beauty of this raga by using the deivatham at the very beginning of the anupallavi. It is hard to believe that for the entire part of "sOmasa"kham, dIkshitar has just used the deivatham. As if to show the symmetry in the rAga, he uses symmetry in his words too..sOma sakham nata suka sanakam naLa and in the process incorporates the rAga mudra at sana"kam naLa"(La and Da can be used interchangeably). What a genius!!

Again at "sOmam" he uses his understanding of the raga to the fullest by employing the deivatham yet again. The ranchana that brings in is immeasurable. He then flaunts his grammatical repertoire by using something as contrary as "sOmam" and "sUrya" to describe the Lord and in the process he uses the two words to convey two entirely different meanings, i.e, sOmam here stands for "the one with Uma" instead of the typical meaning of the "moon" and sUrya as a part of sUrya gaNgam referring to the flower. What can one describe this act except as an audacious display of brilliance :). He finishes the anupallavi off with a word to the yOgis to meditate on Him, this form of the linga which is an embodiment of a guru who shines to drive away the ignorance. The "gmdp gmrs" end to the anupallavi facilitates an easy looping back to the gAndAram start for the pallavi. As I always say, I guess the beauty is a bit too much to explain by mere words :). Helplessly moving on to the caraNam,


vAsavAdi dEva vandita caraNaM
vaiSya jAti strI vEsha dharaNaM
vAsu dEva mahitaM bhava taraNaM
vAsanAdi rahitAntaHkaraNam
dara hAsa tri-purAdi haraNaM
vAsuki pramukhAbharaNaM
bhAsamAna navAvaraNaM
dAsa jana santOsha karaNam
suvAsita nava javanti pushpa -
vikAsa priya hRdayaM sadayaM
mAsa varsha pakshOtsava vibhavaM
sadASivaM parama Sivam


dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "The one whose feet ("caraNam") are worshipped by ("vandita") Lord Indra ("vAsava") and other dEvas. The one who took the form/disguise ("vEsha dharaNam") of a woman ("strI") belonging to the vaishya community. The one revered by ("mahitam") by Vasudeva and the one who assists in crossing ("taraNam") the ocean of life ("bhava"). The one (on whom by meditating) who puts an end ("anta karaNam") to all the karmic remnants ("vAsanAdi") (in the yOgi's mind). The one who has a smile ("hAsa") as bright as a white conch ("dara") and the one who destroyed ("haraNam") the three floating cities ("tripurAdi") of the asuras. The one who wears the snake ("vAsuki") as His primary ornament ("pramukhAbharaNam") and the one who is covered in new ("nava") robes ("AvaraNaM") that are as bright as the stars ("bhA-samAna"). The one who delights ("santOsha") his followers/devotees ("dAsajana")."

In the madhyamakAla sAhitya, dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "the one whose heart ("hRdayam") is fond of ("priya") the freshly ("nava") blossomed ("vikAsa") fragrant ("suvAsita") chrysanthemum flowers ("javanti pushpa"). The ever-compassionate one ("sadayam"). The omni-present one ("vibhavam") whose festivals ("utsava") are celebrated on a fortnightly ("pakSa"), monthly ("mAsa") and yearly ("varsha") basis. The one who is the ever-present and supreme consciousness ("sadASivam and paramaSivam")."

As I mentioned before, he pretty much sums up the story behind this sthalam in one word, "vaiSya jAti strI vEsha dharaNam". dIkshitar once again uses the gAndAra to establish a strong base in the first few lines of the caraNam and this enables him to bring in that killer deivatham once again on which he repeatedly stresses at "vAsu"dEva and "vAsu"ki to perhaps make this krithi a great dedication to this wonderful rAga. He employs similies at "dara hAsa" and "bhAsamAna" to highlight the Lord's beauty.

And as always, he never forgets to emphasize on the astral planes for the yOgi. dIkshitar describes the Lord as the one who destroys the vAsanAs. These vAsanAs are impressions which a soul accumulates over its countless cycles of rebirths as it gets entwined in the materialistic pleasures and pains that this world has to offer. For eg, when you lust for something/someone or when you judge a person, these form strong impressions or vAsanAs which get stored in the mUlAdhAra chakra as a signature. These vAsanAs accumulate in each of your births, thereby disabling the soul to progress. The only way to escape this cycle is by meditating and following specific techniques to help the soul regain its purity and destroy these impressions. Hence, for spiritual progress, dIkshitar yet again insists praying and meditating on Lord mAtRbhUtESwara.

And for all you wonderful devotees, the next time you pay a visit to this temple, buy some fresh sevanthi flowers and offer to the Lord as dIkshitar states that it pleases Him :). Finally, dIkshitar completes this masterpiece with reference to the festivals celebrating the Lord's greatness. The madhyamakala sAhityam is yet another treat with the words just dancing along with the tALa and thus ending the krithi on a happy, festive note :).

Please listen to MMI's and SSI's versions of the krithi to enjoy some prayOgams to the maximum. In my next post, I will take up one of the vibhakti series of krithis and hopefully will complete the entire series over a month or so. Salutations to the great gurus.