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.


Padma said...

Hey sai...Amazing...This transported me back to the temple...An amazing temple and worth a visit...The icing would be to sing it in front of the deity..Enjoyed both the posts...I think the MD just brings out the essence of Gandhara pryaoga in this ragam and differentiating it from Shankarabharanam...Lovely...Thanks and keep writing :)

Musical Scientist said...

Thanks a lot Padma..Indeed, an amazing temple..must visit for sure. And very well said..MD clearly brings out that gAndAra and differentiates kannaDa from Shanky. At the same time, he incorporates the similarities between the 2 ragas too..very beautifully infact :)

Venkatesh said...

Excellent post Sai! I was born in Tiruchirapalli (Town Station area) and have fond memories of walking with my Chitthi every evening to "Mala Kottai Kovil" and climbing all the way up to worship the Ucchi PillayAr and watch the sunset shimmer over the Kaveri.

We then used to buy Sozhi (shells) and dhAya kattai (dice) at the "kada veethi" on the lower level and Swarga Vasal Padi sheets! And the smell of fresh "mallippoo" dominating the evening air.

Brings tears to my eyes. Thanks again for posting.

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Venkatesh sir,
Thanks a lot. And wow..must have been a really wonderful time doing all those activities you have mentioned. I can completely understand how those memories would be fresh in your mind and how this post would have brought everything flooding back ;(. I too have spent quiet a few serene evenings on top of the malai kottai, enjoying the cool breeze and the beautiful scenes of Srirangam gopuram on one side amidst a huge thopu of trees and ofcourse, the beloved trichy city on the other side. When you mention that smell of malli poo, I was completely goosebumped..amazing place ;(.

Venkatesh said...

Sadly, Patta Paati passed away yesterday. When we think about Guruguha Vibhakti kritis, who better to listen to than her?

But... she lived a full life and continued to sing & teach until the very end.

prasanna venkatesh.b said...

Thanks for the mention about Shri. Ramnad Krishnan, I have heard about him on and off but never paid attention. Have been listening to him for the last two days. Exhilarating experience!
Thanks a lot!

Musical Scientist said...

@Prasanna Venkatesh sir..Indeed. You are most welcome :). Ramnad sir is perhaps the best ever musician I have listened to..a complete package..glad to hear that you are finding his music very enjoyable :)

prasanna venkatesh.b said...

Thanks for the can call me just Prasanna, I am a grad student (in Canada), just like you were! I look forward to more beautiful posts...good luck!