Tuesday, March 24, 2009

akSayaliHNga vibhO- SankarAbharaNam

I have been trying my best to squeeze in time and post something for the last 3 weeks or so, but things have been a little busy. I am writing an exam for the ISRO scientist position next week and I have been preparing a bit hard for it. I had a lot of old B.Tech stuff that I had to refresh and catch up with. Further, I didnt want to take a half-hearted effort at writing about this masterpiece. I have been a little mentally disturbed too in the past few weeks. Anyway..here I am back to blogging :), taking my best shot at doing justice to these gems composed by a phenomenon :).

The krithi akSayalinga vibhO was composed at this beautiful temple town on a hillock called kIvalUr located between tiruvArUr and nAgapattinam. Since one of the readers here, Padma says that this is her hometown, I am very sure that she knows much much more about this town and the temple. One of the specialities of this temple is the straight line in which the navagrahams are situated(instead of the circular version). I remember that this is how the navagrahas are situated in the tiruvArUr temple too. The locals call akSayalingEswarar as kediliyappar and SundarakuchAmbika thAyAr as Vanamullai amman. The sthala vriksha is ilandha maram (badari tree), which is captured in the first line of the caraNam in this krithi. There are quite a few stories based on this temple too. Lord SubrahmaNya Himself is believed to have constructed this temple with the help of Indra.

One need not elaborate on the grandeur of the raga ShankarAbharaNam. It has been handled with utmost care by the trinity and pretty much all composers after the trinity. dIkshithar, especially seems to have had a great liking for this raga and he has proved his might in handling the 29th melakartha by composing big masterpieces such as the navAvarNam, akSayalinga vibhO, dakSinAmurthE and innumerably many more brilliant krithis in addition to the nottuswara sAhitya.

Coming to the krithi itself, right from the beginning, dIkshithar seems to have composed this song with a mindset of trying to make it something special and make it stand out amidst his other magnum opuses in this rAga. Ofcourse, a pretty famous story attached with this krithi is that when dIkshitar visited kIvalUr to sing this composition in front of the Lord, the day's worship was over and the archakar had closed the sannidhi. Even after dIkshitar requested him to keep the sannidhi for a few more minutes so that he can present this krithi in front of the Lord, the archakar refused to cede to his requests and is known to have mentioned sarcastically to dIkshitar to "come back the next day" and that "the Lord will not run away anywhere". Undaunted by this insult, dIkshitar is said to have started singing the krithi and a huge crowd gathered there. As he finished the krithi, the doors of the sannidhi are said to have burst open and the archakar fell on dIkshitar's feet, pleading mercy. He begins the krithi as:


akSayaliHNga vibhO svayambhO
akhilANDa kOTi prabhO pAhi SambhO


dIkshitar sings " Lord Akshayalinga, the undiminishing, resplendent one ("vibhO"), please protect me ("pAhi")". dIkshitar describes the Lord as "The self-manifested one ("svayambhO") and Lord ("prabhO") of the innumerable universes ("akhilANDa kOTi")".

As the name of the Lord suggests, He is indeed undiminishing in His form, His compassion and His consciousness, and so is this krithi, replete in details and complete in every aspect. dIkshitar begins with a bang as always, employing a defining phrase like "pmgmp" at "akSayalin" followed by "mpdns" at "gavibhO" (sorry for the bad split of words). IMHO, SankarabharaNam is completely captured in just one word by him in the opening line of this krithi. That oscillation in the madhyamam at akSa"ya" is pure bliss. The killer blow perhaps comes in the form of the "d p" phrase he employs at "svayambhO". And rhythmically, miSra cApu (SSP quotes the tALa as miSra Eka) gets a royal treatment and after listening to this pallavi, one tends to believe that the tALa perhaps gets its salvation because of how it is treated in masterpieces such as this..the gallop and the gait is unbelievable and its best left to the listener's experience. And ofcourse, I need not talk about the antyAkshara prAsam dIkshitar uses in the pallavi; that pretty much summarizes the completeness with which he has composed (this krithi, in particular and most of his krithis in general). Moving on to the anupallavi,


akSara svarUpa amita pratApa
AruDhA vrSa vAha jaganmOha
daksha SikshaNa daksha-tara sura lakshaNa
vidhi vilakshaNa lakshya lakshaNa
bahuvicakshaNa sudhAbhakshaNa


dIkshitar describes the Lord in the anupallavi as "The one who is the embodiment of words ("akSara svarUpa"), the one who is filled with unlimited ("amita") splendour and glory ("pratApa"). The one who mounts ("AruDhA") the bull as His vehicle ("vrSa vAha") and the one who captivates the universe ("jaganmOha"). The one who punished daksha ("daksha SikshaNa") and the one who very adeptly ("daksha-tara") defines and protects ("lakshaNa") the dEvas ("sura"). The one who defied ("vilakshaNa") definition ("vidhi") and the one who is extremely well-versed ("bahuvicakshaNa") in grammar and literature ("lakshya lakshaNa"). The one who consumed ("bhakshaNa") nectar ("sudhA") and the one who bestows ("vIkshaNa") the grace of a guru ("gurukaTAksha")".

As the krithi takes shape in the anupallavi, it is very clear that dIkshitar is establishing the identity of the Lord by describing Him in His physical resplendence. This is a trend which dIkshitar continues to employ throughout the krithi. Since everything is believed to have originated from the omkAra, the vibrations of words are believed to be responsible for the creation and sustenance of the universe and dIkshitar pays tribute to the Lord by describing Him as akSara svarUpa. He continues to say that the Lord defies even vidhi itself. Finally, dIkshitar finishes the anupallavi by describing the Lord's erudition by referring to His lakshya and lakshaNa skills and as the one who takes form as guru and guides His children through to the origin, the Self manifested as the Supreme Consciousness, hence highlighting the importance of a guru in every soul's journey.

Musically, I dont even know where to start describing the grandeur of the anupallavi. I love the "P Ddpm" start at "akSara" and the "Pdns Nsdnsns" phrase at "pratApa". The "Prs" with the slight gAndAra touch at jagan"mOha" is a killer and it builds up very nicely for the madhyama kAla sAhitya. dIkshitar gets stuck into the "ksha-kshaNa" prAsa scheme in the madhyamakAlam and it is pure bliss from there on to the pallavi. ShankarAbharaNam being a very graceful and phrase-oriented rAga, I guess I am not achieving anything by just mentioning the swarams here. I think it would make more sense for the ears of a rasika to interpret these brilliant passages and for the heart to feel, experience and enjoy :). Hence, I move on to the CaraNam,


badarIvana mUlanAyikA sahita
bhadrakALISa bhaktavihita

madanajanakAdi dEva mahita
mAyA kArya kalanA rahita

sadaya guruguhatAta guNAtIta
sAdhu janOpEta Sankara navanIta-

hRdayavibhAta tumburusangIta
hRImkArasambUta hEmagirinAta

sadASrita kalpaka mahI ruha
padAmbuja bhava rathagajaturaga-

padAti samyuta caitrOtsava
sAdASiva saccidAnandamaya


dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "The one who accompanies ("sahita") the main Goddess ("mUla nAyikA") of Badari vana and is the Lord of Bhadrakali ("BhadrakALISa"). The one who is devoted to devotees ("bhaktavihita"). The one respected and worshipped ("mahita") by the father of manmatha, Lord Vishnu ("madanajanaka") and other devas. The one on who is devoid of and beyond ("rahita") the effects ("kalanA") of activities of delusion ("mAyA kArya"). The one who is the father ("tAta") of the benevolent ("sadaya") guruguha. The one who is beyond good qualities ("guNAtIta") and the one who is approached by ("upEta") by ascetics ("sadhujana"). The one who is an embodiment of good deeds ("Sankara") and the one whose heart ("hRdaya") is like fresh butter ("navanIta"). The one whose praise shines forth ("vibhAta") in tumburu's music ("sangItha"), Lord hEmagirinAtha, the one born out of ("sambhUta") hRImkAra. The one who is always ("sadASrita") like the divine wish-yielding tree ("kalpaka mahI ruha") to His devotees. The one with lotus feet ("padAmbuja") and the one who is also known as Bhava, the one who aids in crossing the delusionary ocean of samsara. The one who has the chariot ("ratha"), the elephant ("gaja"), the cavalry ("turaga") and the infantry/foot-soldiers ("padAti") all combined ("samyuta") under his command. The one whose temple festival ("utsava") is in the month of chitra and the one who is always ("sadA") in unison with the divine consciousness ("Siva"). The one who is an embodiment of truth,consciousness and bliss ("saccidAnanda-maya")."

dIkshitar starts the Caranam with a sedate and stable "gmPMPMDPM" phrase. There is a famous BhadrakAli sannidhi in this temple and folklore says that the Goddess protected Her son Lord SubrahmaNya when he was doing His penance. dIkshitar captures this temple in its entirety in the caraNam. Starting with the description of the sthala vriksha, Badari tree and the BhadrakAli sannidhi, dIkshitar finishes the krithi with reference to the famous temple festival in the month of chitra. dIkshitar employs a -ihita rhyme scheme in the first two lines of the CaraNam and comfortably shifts to Ata (guruguhatAta), Ita(guNAtIta), Eta(janOpEta) and Uta(sambUta) schemes as the Caranam progresses and culminates in the madhyamakAla sAhityam. He employs quite a few "S D" swarAksharams in the CaraNam at places like "sada"ya and "sadA"shrita. dIkshitar brilliantly rounds off the krithi with a galloping madhyamakAlam, the highlight being the usage of the complete avarOhaNam "sndpmgrs" at "sadASivasa"ccidAnandamaya. The "smgm" ending of the CaraNam beautifully fuses in to the panchamam take-off for the pallavi thus making this perhaps one of the best ShankarAbharaNams known to mankind. Its because of krithis such as this that I firmly believe that dIkshitar's name will resonate as long as this universe exists.

I still have not decided what krithi to take up in my next post. It will most probably be a samaSTi caraNam or I might jump into one of the vibhakti series of krithis (thyAgarAja or nIlOtpalAmba). Till then, keep the music flowing. Shri gurubhyO namah:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Trip to kAnCipuram

I just came back from kAnCipuram. After a long time, I got to go on a trip with my mother :). It was a little tiring because of the heat but it was completely worth the effort. The burning fire torch inside the kAmAkSi amman sannidhi really made the morning so much more brighter the other day. I could vividly feel the vibrations inside the temple and sang "kAmAkSi kAmakOTipIthavAsini (sumadyUti)" and "kanjadaLAyatAkSi (kamalamanOhari)". After a nice, long darshan of the Goddess, we went to Adi Shankara's sannidhi and spent a few serene minutes there. Once again, I could sense divine vibrations in the BhagavadpAdAs sannidhi. We then moved on to EkAmrESwarar temple. The majestic gOpuram, the long corridors and the famous mango tree (sthala vriksha) punctuated the visit to this shrine. Lord EkAmranAtha occupied center stage in all his glory. I sang EkAmrAnAthAya namastE (mukhari) and cintaya mAkanda (bhairavi) as amma and I walked around the huge corridors. The kEsari and puliyogare prasAdhams were extremely delicious :).

Next on the list was kailAsanAtha temple. Yet another majestic temple where many yogis are known to have meditated and attained salvation. It was a great experience walking through the majestic corridors of this temple. I sang "kailAsanAthEna" in kAmbhOji..a beautiful krithi which gallops along in miSra chApu. Next stop was kumarakkottam. It is a small temple but beautiful neverthless. One the way, we passed by kachabESwarar temple but amma told that we are running late and we cant go in :(. So, we saw the deity from outside and prayed and moved on to kumarakkottam. I sang bAlasubrahmaNyam in surutti and pArvati kumAran bhAvayE in nATakuranji.

All these temples (beginning with kAmAkSi till the ones I have described so far) are within 10 to 15 minutes of walking distance from each other. The whole 4 streets around which these temples are located just resonates with energy. It was around 10 am and since we had started roaming around from 6:30 in the morning, amma grew a little tired and hungry. So, we stopped for a nice breakfast at Sri Rama's cafe, a very famous traditional restaurant in kAnchi.

After breakfast, we went to Ulagalandha Perumal kovil, a temple dedicated to Vishnu's vAmana avatAr as the name suggests. This is one of the 108 divyadesams. Speaking of divyadesams, I forgot to mention about the nilA thunDa perumal sannidhi inside the EkAmrESwarar temple. Folklore has it that, after the asuras and dEvas churned the thirupArkaDal, Lord Vishnu became very angry and his anger was so uncontrollable that his entire body heated up. To cool down, it is believed that He worshipped Lord EkAmrESwarar at kAnchi. The cool rays from the crescent on Lord Shiva's head is supposed to have cooled Lord Vishnu down and He takes the form of Nila thunda perumal here. Also, everyone knows that Goddess Lakshmi is always depicted as being located at Lord Vishnu's chest (vakshasthala). However, at this sannidhi, She is located at the nAbi. Since all the heat and energy of the body is originating from a person's nAbi, Goddess Lakshmi is believed to have positioned herself on the Lord's nAbi to bring his temper down. Anyway, after Ulagalandha perumal temple, we moved on to the famous temple for chitragupta, Yama's assistant. Since it is the only temple dedicated to Him, I thought it will be pretty big. However, it was a very small temple located on the road side just a few blocks away from the main bus stand.

We were in a hurry and had to get back to Bangalore by that night. So, we were basically restricted to just one more temple in kAnchi :( and we chose to go to VaradarAja perumAl temple, yet another divyadEsam. And what a brilliant choice it turned out to be. Visiting this temple was perhaps the most satisfying experience of all. As we entered the huge temple, there was a huge crowd chanting hymns and singing his praises. Accidentally, it was the Lord's birthday :). And my mother shared the same star as Him ("hastha"). We were served hot akkAravadasal prasAdam. It was so hot that our hands turned red..that was perhaps the best ever sweet I have eaten in my life. We then proceeded to go around the prAkAram and walked up to the main sannidhi.

The perumAl stood there in all his glory, majestic with sahasranAma mAlai and sAligrAmam around his neck. Amma and I stood extremely close to the deity for around 10 minutes and were absolutely wonderstruck. I sang varadarAja avAva (gaNgAtaraNgini). With utmost reluctance, we moved to the famous lizard room. A golden lizard and a silver lizard are plated on the ceiling of this room. It is believed that whatever we pray for and touch the lizards facing east direction, it will be fulfilled. We then went to thAyAr perundEvi sannidhi and had another amazing darshan. Amma and I then purchased some puliyogare at the temple for our journey back to Bangalore and went back to our hotel.

On our way back to Bangalore, we passed through Vellore. Since we did not have time, we could not stop at Vellore and go to JalakanDESwarar temple and the Golden Lakshmi temple. We then passed through virinchipuram and could not go to the famous mArgasahAyESwara temple either. As we passed through here, I vowed that we will return very soon on our next trip :). In my next post I will take up akSayalinga vibhO, the masterpiece in SankarAbharaNam as requested by Padma :). See you all in a bit.