Thursday, February 26, 2009

ISAnAdi SivAkAramaHnCE - sahAnA

I just finished watching a nail-biting T20 game between India and New Zealand. After a very ordinary batting performance, the Indian team recouped and gave the kiwis a hard fight. However, Brendon McCullum's heroics took NZ past the finish line in the very last delivery of the match. I hope the IPL this season will feature more of such cliffhanger games :)

As soon as I finished my previous post, I was thinking to myself what should be my next post. I just opened the dIkshithar's sAhityam pdf
on my computer and browsed through to see what would be a good choice. I immediately came across this beautiful krithi in sahAnA about which I should have written probably 1.5- 2 years ago. "ISAnAdi SivAkAra maHnCE" is a beautiful piece in sahAnA and around april 2007, it had a huge impact on me and fellow members of our music group, nAdOpAsana. One of the members passed on the recording and as it made the rounds in our circle, the gmail group mails started flooding my inbox. There were around 150 e-mails exchanged within a few hours suggesting different levels of surrender to the musical genius, the phenomenon, Muthuswami dIkshithar after hearing two krithis, one of which was this beautiful masterpiece in sahAnA. The sahAna portayed and captured by nAdajyOthi in this krithi is so incredible and pure that it finds itself in the sangIta sampradAya pradarSini along with the sahAna navAvarNam as the two krithis composed by him.

One thing I never understood was why the SSP classifies sahAnA as a bhAshAnga janya of shrI rAga, the 22nd mELa. I can see how it is classified so but I dont quite understand why. If someone can please throw some light on it, that would be really helpful :). Anyway, I will move on to the krithi now.


ISAnAdi SivAkAra maHnCE
SivakAmESwara vAmAnkastE namastE namastE gaur(I-SAna)


dIkshithar describes and offers his salutations to the Goddess in the pallavi lines. He sings "I offer my prostrations again and again ("namastE namastE") to Goddess Gauri, the one who is seated on the throne ("maHnCE") of Lord Shiva, he who exists in 5 forms ("AkAra") such as ISAna and others. The one who sits embraced on the left side ("vAmAnkastE") of Lord SivakAmESwara."

I must confess that this krithi has perhaps my most favourite pallavi. It is a beautiful construction to say the least. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a special liking for these "double namastE" krithis. In the very first word of the pallavi, dIkshithar incorporates the rAga mudra thereby showing his brilliance yet again. While referring to the ISAna amsha of Lord Shiva, he serves the dual purpose of bringing in the Lord's name as well as the rAga's name. It definitely takes someone so special as him to do such a daring act in the very first word of a krithi.

ISAna is derived from the root "IS" which means "the force that drives the universe" and the one who possess this power is called "ISAna". ISAna symbolizes that face of Lord Shiva which corresponds to the subtle ether force or the AkAsha. dIkshithar makes use of this reference and starts the krithi as "ISAnAdi" bringing in all the 5 amshas (fire,water,air,earth and ether)..what brilliance. As many would know, Lord Shiva is depicted with 5 faces corresponding to these 5 elements that govern the universe. The ISAna face of the Lord points upward towards the outer space. This face has a profound effect on Vasthu Sastra and out of ISAna was born the term "ISAnya diSa" which represents the northeast direction signifying prosperity.

dIkshithar uses the "
SivAkAra maHnCE" and the "SivakAmESwara vAmAnkastE" phrases in quite a few krithis to refer to the different forms of Goddess Shakti . The most noted of these and perhaps the most closest to my heart is the usage of the same words in the pallavi of "Sri kamalAmbA jayati", the majestic Ahiri navAvarNa where he sings "SivAkAra maHnCasthitha Siva kAmESAnkastha". One can also clearly see the ArdhanArISwara reference as dIkshithar describes the dEvi as the one who is on the left side ("vAmAnkastha") of Lord Shiva.

Finally, if all this havent got your tear buds wet, dIkshithar gives the final death blow when he loops the sAhitya back to the beginning of the pallavi. And he does it in great style. The pallavi ends as "gauri" and it begins as "ISAnAdi" and dIkshithar structures the pallavi so well that the two words merge in as "gaurISAnAdi". And to top it all off, the "rI" which combines the 2 words to form gau"rI"SAnAdi is a swarAksharam..what a genius ;(. The rAga Sahana itself could not have asked for more. How can we even measure this great man's brilliance? Forget it!! I will move on to the caraNam

samaSTi CaraNam:

shrI SArada samsEvita pArSva yugaLE
SRngArakaLE vinata SyAmaLA bagaLE
durASApaha dhurINatara sarasija pada yugaLE
murAri gurughAdi pUjita pUrNa kaLE sakaLE
pASAnkuSEkSu kArmuka panCa suma bANa hastE
dESa kAla vastu rUpa divya Cakra madyastE

dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "the one who is served by ("samsevita") the pair ("yugaLE") of Goddess Lakshmi ("shrI") and Goddess Saraswati ("SArada") seated on either side ("pArSva"). The one who is an embodiment of SRngAra and the one adored/worshipped by ("vinata") Goddessess SyAmaLA and BagaLa. The one whose pair of lotus feet ("sarasija pada yugaLE") are adept in removing/destroying ("dhurINatara") evil desires/thoughts ("durASApaha"). The one who is worshipped ("pUjita") by the enemy of mura ("murAri"-Lord Vishnu) and Lord Guruguha. The one who is complete and the one by whom the universe is complete ("pUrNa kaLE sakaLE"). The one who holds the noose ("pASa"), the goad ("ankuSa"), the sugarcane ("IkSu"), the bow ("kArmuka") and arrows ("bANa") fitted with 5 flowers ("panCa suma") in Her hands ("hastE"). The one whose form ("rUpa") represents space ("dESa"), time ("kAla") and all things ("vastu") in this universe and the one who resides in the center ("madhyastE") of the auspicious Sri Cakra."

To understand how beautiful dIkshithar has described the dEvi in this krithi, please look at the picture I have uploaded in this post and read the CaraNam. He virtually brings the Goddess in front of your eyes. After setting the tempo in the pallavi, dIkshithar continues to milk sahAnA of all its beauty in the samaSTi Caranam. He begins with a flat "R S" for "shrI sA"rada which, according to SRJ mama is "the best defining phrase to start a sahAnA Alapana". The rishabham is completely exploited at various places throughout the krithi, especially at "sam"sevita. dIkshithar slowly goes up the ArOhaNam with beautiful phrases like "Gmp" and "n d p" at "se" and "vita" and the "rgrs" at the end of the first line ("yugaLE") brings tears to one's eyes. Every nokku and gamaka in this krithi is lilting and soul-stirring and if I start to write down the notations, it would probably require another new post :). Further, I think the listening experience is much much more rewarding to a rasika. So, I request you all to go to the dIkshithar website and listen to really peaceful rendition of this krithi by G.Ravikiran sir.

That being said, I cant restrain myself from writing a few more phrases in this post. dIkshithar winds up the scale slowly and sets things up nicely for a crescendo. The climax probably begins at "murAri guruguhAdi" with dIkshithar entering the tAra sthAyi as "s r r, p m g rgrs". Ofcourse, the madhyamakAla sAhityam rocks, beginning with a swarAkshara at "pASa"nkuSEkSu. dIkshithar beautifully uses the tAra sthAyi once again at "karmuka panCa suma bAna hastE" and slowly winds down in the last line of the madhyamakAla to loop back to the pallavi. As I mentioned before, it would make more sense for the rasika to listen and enjoy this brilliant composition rather than me listing these various phrases.

dIkshithar strikes yet again..what else can I say. I request the readers to please listen to the krithi and share your thoughts in the comments section. I dont know what will be the next krithi that I will be writing about. Hopefully I will post it within the next few days :). All of you take care and have a nice, relaxing, fun-filled weekend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LalitAmbikAyai- Bhairavi

After 2 months, I am finally getting an opportunity to blog :). I know its been extremely long since I last posted and I have even come to realize that I was posting more often while I was in the US. Time has indeed become a luxury after coming back to India. I cant believe that 4 months have flown by since I came back home. Over the last 2 months, I have been refreshing a lot of my Engineering basics and completed a course in Catia, a nice design tool with which I have completely fallen in love with. However, with the current economic scenario, I havent had much success obtaining interview calls. And even those few companies which called me for interviews, offered me extremely poor pay packages. I guess they are taking advantage of the situation and are trying to acquire qualified professionals at cheap rates.

With the situation being so, I guess the field of mechanical engineering is going to lose yet another decently skilled guy to either the software or the management stream :(. Though I hate to do it myself, I reckon I will be pushed to take this decision after putting up a fight for a few more months. Well, if thats what God and Guru have planned for me, I come. Sorry if I have bored you guys with my rant but it always feels great to share things with my friends here :). Anyway, on the musical front, I have been attending quite a few concerts and have been enjoying myself :). And after some vain attempts at singing and playing guitar, I have come to the conclusion that I am much happier just being a nice rasika and an ardent devotee of this art in general and dIkshithar in particular :).

Offlate, I have been captivated by hindustani music thanks to my brother. I have become a huge fan of Rashid Khan sir. The impeccable shruti he maintains combined with his amazing voice, control and brilliance has continued to blow me away over the last 3 weeks or so. His pUriya kalyAn, bAgESri and gOrakh kalyAn pieces to name a few are mind-boggling. I have also taken a huge liking for the ali brothers from across the border, Ustad Nazakat Ali khan and Ustad Salamat Ali khan. Their open throated music, mind-boggling sangathis and crystal clear 4th speed brighAs are qualities have made me listen to their presentation of kAfi and Sindh Bhairavi over and over again. However, in my extremely humble opinion, the lack of laya aspect (no kanakkus, koraippus, thIrmAnams etc) leaves a gaping hole in the otherwise beautiful edifice of Hindustani music. Anyway..thats a topic to be discussed in another post.

Coming to today's krithi, since in my previous blog, I had mentioned of an intersting story about the LalitAmbika dEvi at tirumeichur, one of the temples I had visited in my december pilgrimage, I thought I will take up a dIkshithar krithi composed on this dEvi. From the story I am going to narrate and from the sAhityam in this krithi, it would make sense why I took up this relatively unknown krithi. Anyway, the story goes like this. After coming back from the US, I was invited for lunch by my dear friend Shreekrishna's mother and father. During a casual discussion after lunch, SK's mother told me the story of the people who were her sister's neighbour about 20 years ago. It seems the couple who lived beneath her sister's house were pious and were great devotees to Goddess Ambal. It seems that Goddess was appearing in the wife's dreams every night as a small girl child and was telling her to buy her a nice pair of anklets (kolusu). When the wife asked the child how she will know her ankle size and where to find Her, the child just replied saying that "buy what you think will look good on my legs and I will wear it".

The wife and husband bought a nice anklet and went in search of the ambal. But to whichever temple they went, the kolusu was either too small or too big for the dEvi. After going to hundreds of temples and trying in vain to fit the anklet, the couple came to thirumeichur. After convincing the pUjAri at the sannidhi, it seems the lady tried the anklet on the dEvi's leg and it just snapped into position. It was such a perfect fit that to date, not even the pUjAri has been able to remove it while doing abhishekhams. What an amazing story and what a blessed couple they were. When she told me this story, SK's mother could not recollect the name of the temple and told me that it is somewhere near tiruvArUr. Accidentally, during my kumbakonam trip, I was travelling from tirunAgESwaram to kUthanUr Saraswati temple, my cab driver Guru told me the exact same story ("kolusu pota swami"-as the locals call it there) as we were passing tirumeichur. With tears rolling down my cheek and hair standing on my back, I told him to drive me there. Inspite of a broken bridge (the temple is pretty much inside a forest), he took me there. I was thinking to myself "I am indeed blessed and probably the dEvi is drawing me to Her temple" because this was too much of a coincidence. More amazement awaited me as I reached the temple.

I felt a current race through my body as I entered the MeghanAtha swami- LalitAmbika temple at tirumeichur. I was pretty much the only person at the temple. After spending some time at the main meghanAtha sannidhi, I ran with great eagerness to see the Goddess. However, to my utter disappointment, the sannidhi was closed and I was crest fallen. As I was wondering what to do and cursing myself, out of nowhere, a pUjAri came and smiled at me. He told "romba dhooram lendhu varel polakke ambAl a darisanam panna..sannidhi a naan thirandhu vidaren" ("Looks like you have come a long way to have the darshan of the dEvi..I will open the sannidhi for you"). As he opened the door, I was visibly shivering and I was crying uncontrollably. He opened the door and there She was fully covered in white. I cried more as I saw the anklet and how it fitted Her. I felt as if I had satisfied the purpose of my birth. After spending sometime there, I thanked Her from the bottom of my heart for providing such a wonderful darshan, a sight this soul will not forget till his last breath ;(.

In this beautiful krithi "LalitAmbikAyai" composed appropriately in Bhairavi by the nAdhajyOti, in the samaSTi caraNam, dIkshithar describes the Goddess as "bAlikA nAma rUpAyai" (the one who has the form of a young girl) and as in the story, the Goddess appeared as a small girl child in the lady's dreams. I will move on to the krithi now..


lalitAmbikAyai lakSya kOTyANDa nAyikAyai
lalanAyai namastE namastE


dIkshithar sings "I prostrate again and again ("namastE namastE") before LalitAmbika, the queen/ruler ("nAyikAyai") of lakhs and crores of universes ("lakSya kOTyANDa"), the one who is embodiment of shakti (womanhood) ("lalanAyai")".

dIkshithar bursts into music straight away prostrating before the dEvi and describing Her as the ultimate ruler and protector of the different worlds. The "la" adyAkshara prAsam strikes the observer. As we have observed in so many of his krithis, the "double namastE krithis" (as we call it :) ) are something special. And this krithi is no different..he starts off with the niSadam and brilliantly employs the avarOhaNam as "nnrsndp" phrase at "lalitAmbi" followed by a plain mukhAri-ish "M GR S" at "kAyai" (the word split is just to explain the phrase-sorry about it). He brings in the bhairavi rAga chAya completely with the oscillating gAndAra at kOT"yAN"Da and completely embellishes it with "r G M P" at "lalanAyai". The two namastEs are interwoven with symmetric phrases to create a masterpiece of a pallavi and the typical "rgmpdnsr" at the end of the pallavi to loop back gives that extra punch. dIkshithar manages to capture the essence of such a majestic rAga in the 5 words of the pallavi itself :). A genius non-pareil as I always say :).

SamaSTi caraNam:

bAlikA nAma rUpAyai phAla candra dharAyai
jAlandara pIThAyai jvala-jvAlA mAlAyai
nIla lOhita pUjitAyai naTa bhairavI nartanAyai
kalAnidhi vadana SobhAyai kAnCana-maya guruguha nutAyai


dIkshithar describes the goddess as "The one who possesses the name and form ("nAma rUpAyai") of a young girl ("bAlikA"). The one who wears ("dhArAyai") the crescent moon ("candra") on Her forehead ("phAla"). The one who resides in jAlandara peetha and the one who wears a sparkling ("jvala-jvAlA") garland ("mAlAyai"). The one worshipped ("pUjitAyai") by the red-blue hued one, Lord Shiva ("nIla lOhita") and the one who danced ("nartanAyai") the cosmic dance as Bhairavi. The one who is a treasure-house of arts ("kalAnidhi") and the one whose face ("vadana") is beautiful ("SobhAyai"). The one who is covered in gold ("kAnCana-maya") and the one who is worshipped ("nutAyai") by Lord guruguha".

As I mentioned earlier, dIkshithar also sees the dEvi as a divine small girl. The reference to jAlandara peetha is something for which I request a more detailed explanation from the readers of this blog. I am not sure if dIkshithar is referring to the 64 Shakti Peethas in this physical world or if he is referring to one of the shakti centers in the astral body plane. If someone can throw more light on this, I would be really happy to learn. dIkshithar describes Lord Shiva as "nIla lOhita". The basic explanation for this reference is ofcourse Lord Shankara's blue neck and red colored body. The upanishads describe that the fire of His third eye and the cool bluish color of the crescent on his head combine for the nIla lOhita effect. In philosophy, we find yet another definition where ignorance is symbolized by blue color and knowledge by red color. Since Lord Shiva is the destroyer of ignorance, he is called nIla-lOhita.

Musically, there are some pretty phrases in the caraNam. dIkshithar begins the caraNam with the "pdndp" phrase at "bAlika" followed by a dIrga "D mp" at "nAma". dIkshithar completely murders the tAra sthAyi with phrase like "rG Mgr" at "jAlandara" and the ever pleasing "RSNDP" at "jvala-jvAlA". As always, the madhyama kAla sAhityam has that extra kick and gallop. dIkshithar embellishes nIla lOhita with a swarAksharam beginning "nd dp" and a brilliant "ss ndp" at "naTa bhairavi". And he shows his skill once again at incorporating the rAga mudhra. Considering some of his other extremely brilliant shows of rAga mudhra usages, this must have been a cake walk for the genius :).

On the whole, this is a wonderful composition from which there is much to learn and understand. I am sure that most of you wouldnt have even heard about this krithi and hence I urge you to listen to it when you find time. There is a really good rendition of this krithi by Vijay shiva sir on our dIkshithar website..please make use of it. On my next visit to tirumeichur, I will surely sing this krithi and seek the dEvi's blessings :). After what I would call a divine experience, I feel very attached to this temple and the Goddess and this krithi for sure has become very special to me :).

Now that I am jobless anyway, I guess I will make good use of this time and try to blog as much as I can till I find employment :). In that sense, the coming months will definitely be a pleasure :). I have not decided which krithi to take up next. I will think it over tonight and try to post it within the next few days :). Jumping into SSP right away :). shrI gurubhyO namah: