Monday, May 11, 2009

gIticakra ratha stithAyai - kannaDa

I apologize for the break in posting once again. I was a little busy working on the sahityam wikipedia project and trying to understand how to contribute to the dikshitar section after the enormously successful wiki available at Hats off to all the contributors of the sahityam wiki project, which aims at creating a store house of carnatic music compositions with word by word meaning and explanations. If things go well, I am sure this will turn into a wonderful board in which some knowledgeable people can share their views and provide their own explanations and stories behind some of the compositions.

The game between Chennai Super kings and Bangalore Royal Challengers ended just now and Bangalore won the cliffhanger with 2 balls to spare. Though this year's IPL has been lacking that indian flavour and that excitement, I still find it to be decently interesting with some low totals and close fought games. Atleast, its giving me good company in the evenings :). The ISRO exam went ok. I did decently well but definitely not up to my satisfaction. As I was leaving the exam hall with a slightly heavy heart, I overheard a gang of students discussing the paper and everyone agreeing that the paper was tough. I hope that more candidates across the country found the paper tough too.

I find that the markets are recovering slowly and I have been seeing a lot more job openings over the last couple of weeks. So, hopefully something clicks soon. I am extremely excited that my dear friend Shreekrishna is coming to India this weekend and he will be here in Bangalore for a month. Its been a long time since we met and I am really looking forward to meeting him and spending some time with him.

Over the past few days, I have been smitten by kannaDa (note: not kAnaDA). I have been listening to SSI's shrI mAtrubhUtam over and over again and have been looping Sanjay's "gIticakra ratha" too. Hence, I thought I will take up these two krithis one after the other and try to do some justice. First, about the rAga itself, I have for a long time wondered why kannaDa is classified as a janyam of harikEdAragowLa (28th mELa) instead of shankarAbharaNam in the SSP. I still have not found the answer and I hope someone reading this blog will be able to help me out. Also, the SSP says that the "srg" prayogam is allowed, which baffles me once again.

Anyway, moving on to the krithi, I believe that dIkshitar composed this krithi at madurai, in praise of Goddess mInAkSi. As I mentioned in my post on the krithi "mInAkSi mE mudam", Goddess mInAkSi is referred to as shyAmala, the dark-hued one, rAja mAtangI etc. Goddess mAtangi is the yogic equivalent/tantric form of Goddess Saraswati and as I have once agained mentioned in the "mInAkSi mE mudam" blog, She is picturized as one holding a gem-studded vINa. Of the 10 mahAvidyAs, mAtangi occupies a very significant place and She is known to bless Her devotees with proficiency in music, poetry and other fine arts. Hence, dIkshitar straight away starts off by referring to Her as the one who resides in the chariot called gItichakra, the chakra of music/singing.

Goddess Shyamala is believed to have been created by Goddess Lalita and She is believed to have emerged from Goddess Lalita's sugarcane bow during Her battle with bandAsura. In Lalita Sahasranamam, there is a clear reference to Shyamala which reads "gEya cakra rathArUDha mantriNi pari-sEvitA" and since gEya and gIti have similar meanings ("song/the act of singing"), dIkshitar improvises straight away and replaces gEya with gIti to begin this krithi.

Sorry to continue with this big introduction for the krithi, but, I feel that once I create a good idea about the yogic import of the krithi and the Goddess Herself, no further detailed explanations would be needed. And, the krithi as such is short anyway. So, continuing with the tantric references in the krithi and talking about the gEya cakra in particular, please look at the image above that I have embedded in this post as I describe. There are quite a few versions(some of them,wrong) of this cakra, though the above one is perhaps the most pristine forms. The symmetries and geometric concepts are clearly visible. The gEya cakra, just like the shrI chakra employs the famous "golden ratio" quite extensively, beginning with the inner most triangle enclosed in a pentagon which is further circumscribed by the pentacle (more golden ratio). Finally the 8-petalled and the 16-petalled lotuses form the circumference around this figure and is enclosed within the square bhUpUra. The yantra of saNgIta yOgini is known to correspond with the gEya cakra which signifies Shyamala/mAtangi, further evidence connecting gEya cakra to saNgIta. With that introduction, I will now move on to the krithi itself.


gIti cakra ratha sthitAyai guru guha nuta SyAmaLAyai
namastE namastE


dIkshitar sings "I prostrate before you again and again ("namastE namastE"), Oh Goddess SyAmaLA, the one who is present in ("sthitAyai") the chariot ("ratha") called gIti cakra and the one worshipped by ("nuta") Lord Guruguha".

As I have mentioned before, I love these double namastE, samASTi caraNam krithis. Just like the 20-20 cricket, these short krithis pack quite a punch :). dIkshitar seems to stress the importance of music as a marga to mOkSa in these lines. That's why, I presume that in addition to the straight-forward meaning of Goddess SyAmaLa riding the chariot corroborated by Lalita Sahasranamam, dIkshitar seems to refer to music, signified by the gIti cakra and devotion to Goddess mAtangi enables the bhakta to elevate himself to ride the chariot to salvation.

Musically, miSra cApu once again proves a perfect foible for the galloping that he seems to create in this composition. He starts off with a plain, divine gAndAra just like shrI mAtrubhUtam and straight away catches the ranjana that this rAga exudes. The "gmp gmr" at "ratha" followed by "ss mgm dd" at "guruguha nuta" pretty much seals the deal as he incorporates the rAga mudra with such elegance. Finally, the killer blow comes in the form of the double namastEs as "gmr(tAra sthAyi) rsnsdpm" and "gdp gmdpgmrs" to loop back to the gAndAra. Sanjay's version seems to capture some unique nuances very beautifully. Please do listen to it if you haven't already. Moving on to the caraNam,

samashTi caraNam:

gItAmRtAnanditAyai gIrvANa vanditAyai
hata vishanga samUhAyai kRta lOkOpakArAyai
nata bhairavAdi sEnAyai nava nava vidha bANa karAyai


dIkshitar continues to directly address the Goddess and describes Her as "Your heart rejoices ("AnanditAyai") in the blissful nectar of music ("gItAmRta").You are worshipped by ("vanditAyai") the best of Gods ("gIrvANa"). You killed ("hata") a community ("samUhAyai") of demons led by vishanga and hence did ("kRta") a great help ("upakArAyai") to the world ("lOka")". In the short madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshitar sings "Bhairava and other warriors ("sEnAyai") salute ("nata") you. You create ("karAyai") many new ("nava nava") arrows and weapons ("bANa")".

In the caraNam, dIkshitar once again refers to the Goddess being attached to music. He also portrays Her capabilities to destroy demons and pretty much creates an image of Her as suzerian-in-chief of the armed forces :). Also, he refers to vishanga. When manmatha was incinerated by Lord Shiva's third eye, two demons namely vishukra and vishanga were born out of the ashes. For a yOgi who is trying to achieve oneness, the two demons, vishanga in particular causes problems by disturbing the mind and thereby makes it not seek oneness. This demon was killed by SyAmaLa and dIkshitar brings in this yOgic aspect in this krithi, thereby indirectly advising bhaktas to worship Goddess SyAmaLa to overcome delusion and achieve that stillness.

Musically, dIkshitar stresses on the gAndAra once again to bring in that bhAva. Instead of phrasing out each sangati here, I think it would be best to leave it to the rasikas to enjoy themselves listening to it. The chitta swaram in the end begins with a peaceful "gmdp" which kind of gives it that ShankarAbharaNam/western classical tilt. If there were any doubts regarding allowed phrases in this rAga, the chitta swarams completely dispel them and serves as a nice appendix to the krithi itself. On the whole, it is yet another masterpiece composed by dIkshitar and serves as a wonderful starter for those who want to learn this rAga.

Continuing with my love for kannaDa, I will take up "shrI mAtrubhUtam" in my next post. Till then, ciao!!