Thursday, February 18, 2010

guruguha svAmini - bhAnumati

I believe it has been quite a long time since I blogged back to back. Well, as long as it is for the good, I am not going to complain. On a side note, it definitely seems like my friends are on a marriage mania rampage or something of that sorts. Between January 17th and February 25th, around 11 of my friends and 2 of my cousins have got/are getting married. It is quite funny to open your e-mail inbox and find an invitation every day :-). Anyway, I wish them all wonderful years of togetherness and joy. With nothing much to write about, I guess I will move on directly to the krithi that I will be taking up today.

"guruguha svAmini bhaktim karOmi" is the seventh krithi in the guru theme composed exclusively in the seventh/locative case in the rAga bhAnumati and set to khaNDa jAti tripuTa tALam. bhAnumati is the 4th rAga in the asampUrNa mELa scheme and is pretty much similar to its counterpart vanaspati (the rAga in which thyAgarAja composed the beautiful masterpiece "pariyAcakamA") in all aspects except for the fact that bhAnumati is gAndAra varjya in the ArOhaNam. dIkshitar clearly sticks to this idea and the way he handles the rishaba and especially the madhyama in both of his compositions (brhadambA madambA being the other composition), one actually never feels that the gAndAra is missing. It is phrases like "ndns, pmgrs and rmpnd" that give that extra beauty to this rAga. And unlike the other krithis in this theme we have seen so far where dIkshitar pays rich tributes to both his physical guru as well as Lord SubrahmaNya, dIkshitar seems to pretty much have gone into an even higher plane of existence and concentrate only on the Lord's attributes in this krithi. I will explain this as we go along in this post. I have to thank dear SK (co-author in this blogspace) for introducing me to this krithi back in december 2007 when he spent a magical, musical fortnight with me back in Austin, Texas. Good times..great times rather ;(. Anyway..the pallavi goes like,


guruguha svAmini bhaktim karOmi
nirupama svEmahimni paramdhAmni


dIkshitar sings "I am devoted ("bhaktim") to Lord guruguha, the one who possesses unsurpassed ("nirupama") glory by the virtue of His own self ("svEmahimni") and the one who resides in the eternal supreme state ("paramdhAmni")."

At the very beginning of this krithi itself, dIkshitar addresses his devotion towards the Lord Himself whom dIkshitar has accepted as his guru as well as the final destination that his soul wants to attain. He also describes the Lord as one who is in a supreme plane of consciousness and the one who he visualizes to be of infinite glory. This glory that dIkshitar is describing here is a direct result of the Lord's pure consciousness which has ascended to the highest plane and hence the Lord (SubrahmaNya in this case) is an embodiment of that paramAtma (supreme consciousness) that a yOgi (dIkshitar in this case) wishes to attain.

The musical aspect of the pallavi is something to be just experienced. dIkshitar starts the krithi off with the avarOhaNa and captures bhAnumati right there with defining phrases like "pmgrs" at "bhaktim karOmi" and "ndns" at "nirupama". And he uses the gAndAra varjya ArOhaNa prayOgam of "rmmp" at "svEmahimni". More than just the usage of notes, it is the way he employs the gamakas that is just brilliant. For example, in the "ndns" phrase at "nirupama", the first nishAda is flat whereas the second nishAda is a beautiful kampitam oscillating and entering into a wedlock with the Sadja. He caps off the pallavi with a "pSndn" at "paramdhAmni" to loop back to the pallavi beginning. Moving on to the anupallavi,


karuNAkara cidAnanda nAthAtmani
karacaraNAdyavayava pariNAmAtmani
taruNOllAsAdi pUjita svAtmani
dharaNyAdyakhila tatvAtItAtmani


dIkshitar describes the Lord as "the compassionate one ("karuNAkara") and the embodiment of eternal bliss ("cidAnanda"). The one who is responsible for the acquisition and transformation ("pariNAmAtmani") of the limbs ("avayava") such as hands, legs etc ("kara caraNAdi"). The one whose form ("svAtmani") is worshipped ("pUjita") to obtain happiness through various stages of sAdhana such as taruNa etc ("taruNOllAsAdi"). The one who transcends all 'realities' ("tatvAtItAtmani") associated with the world ("akhila") such as the earth, etc("dharaNyAdi")."

In the anupallavi, dIkshitar predominantly mentions the tatvAs ("truths") and the type of sAdhana that is characteristic of the kauLava mArga/school of thought. There are many schools and systems that have been in practice for spiritual awareness and progress. It is common practice in most of these schools to believe in the concept of tatvAs or realities. These realities are associated with the physical body of the yOgi and all the other material/gross objects of this world. One of the chief goals of any yOgi is to use certain techniques (this varies depending on the school one is associated with) to transcend all these 'realities' and move beyond this world into a higher plane of existence, a different world altogether. The "dharaNya" tatva that dIkshitar mentions here is classified under the pancabhUta category of realities which are to be overcome.

There are seven stages of knowledge known as gnAna bhUmikas through which a yOgi passes. These are subEccha ("the desire for enlightenment"), vicAraNa ("enquiry"), tanumAnasa ("tenuous mind"), satvapatti ("self-realization"), asamsakti ("non-attachment"), padArtabhAvana ("non-perception of objects") and turyaga ("transcendence"). Corresponding to these stages of knowledge, there are different stages in the practice ("sAdhana"). It is the first 5 stages of sAdhana that are very critical as it is in these 5 stages the mind has a tendency to wander and only under the strict guidance of a guru can it obtain the discipline that is needed to proceed further. dIkshitar mentions the second stage, taruNa or the youthfulness stage of this sAdhana. Only after completing the fifth stage called as praudhAnta ("end of maturity") is the disciple considered mature and the guru lets go of the disciple a bit as he enters the sixth stage of unmani ("mind-devoidness").

Coming to the musical aspects of the anupallavi, dIkshitar employs the mandira sthAyi quite beautifully with "sndnp ndns" at "karacaraNAdyavayava" and he uses the exquisite "rgrs" at "pariNAma" and "pUjita". He also gives a lot of importance to the "rmp" phrases right from the beginning of the anupallavi at "karuNA" to the end of the anupallavi at tatvA"tItAtmani". Moving on to the caraNam,


nijarUpa jita pAvakEndu bhAnumati
niratishayAnandE hamsO viramati
ajashikSaNa rakSaNa vicakSaNa sumati
harihayAdi dEvatA gaNa praNamati
yajanAdi karma nirata bhUsurahitE
yamaniyamAdyaSTAHNga yOga vihitE
vijayavallI dEvasEnA sahitE
vIrAdi sannutE vikalpa rahitE


dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "the one whose radiant form ("nijarUpa") outshines ("jita") the sun ("bhAnu"), the moon ("indu") and fire ("pAvaka"). The one who resides ("viramati") in the hearts of the supreme swan-like yOgis ("hamsO") who are immersed in eternal bliss ("niratishayAnanda"). The intelligent one ("vicakSaNa sumati") who punished ("shikSaNa") and also protected ("rakSaNa") Lord Brahma ("aja"). The one worshipped ("praNamati") by Lord Indra ("harihaya") and other dEvAs and celestial beings ("gaNa"). The one who is dear ("hitE") to the brAhmans ("bhUsura") who perform ("karma") sacrifices and other rituals ("yajanAdi"). The one perceived by practicing ("vihitE") the 8-fold path ("aSTAHNga") of yOga which is made up of components such as yama and niyama. The victorious one ("vijaya") accompanied ("sahitE") by Valli and dEvasEna. The one worshipped ("sannutE") by men of valour ("vIrAdi") and the one who is formless and hence beyond imagination ("vikalpa rahitE")."

He straightaway incorporates the rAga mudra by comparing the Lord's effulgence to that of a sun at the beginning of the caraNam. He continues to emphasize the significant role that Lord guruguha plays in the spiritual progress of a yogi (could be referring to himself here) and describes how the Lord resides in the hearts of those paramahansas, those supreme yOgis thereby making their heart caves as His shrine. dIkshitar then makes a reference to the incident in which Lord SubrahmaNya punishes Lord Brahma, the creator, for not being able to explain the meaning of the praNava mantra Om. He imprisons Lord Brahma for his ignorance and hence the whole process of creation comes to a full stop. After repeated appeals by the other celestial beings, Lord Siva approaches Lord SubrahmaNya and requests Him to release Brahma and forgive Him. Lord Siva also questions guruguha Himself if he knows the meaning of the praNava mantra to which Lord guruguha answers that He will explain the entire meaning to Lord Siva in His ears, climbs on his lap and speaks into His ear. Since Lord SubrahmaNya teaches His own father, He is known as swAminAtha and that's how the puNya kSEtra swAmimalai near kumbakonam gets it name. Finally, He also explains the meaning to Lord Brahma, forgives Him and releases Him.

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshitar refers to the Lord as one who is formless and beyond imagination. He also states that the way to perceive the Lord is through Patanjali's 8-fold yogic path. This eight limbs of this path are restraint and social discipline ("yama"), observance and individual discipline ("niyama"), posture ("Asana"), breath control ("prANAyAma"), sense withdrawal ("pratyahara"), concentration ("dhArana"), meditative absorption ("dhyAna") and blissful super-consciousness ("samAdi"). The first two limbs yama and niyama are once again extremely critical in the sAdhana of a yOgi. As the name suggests, yama refers to codes of conducts and it consists of 5 parts: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), AstEya (non-stealing), brahmacarya (the way of living in brahmA's perception) and aparigraha (non-covetousness). Niyama on the other hand refers to religious observances and self-discipline and consists of 5 parts, namely, Shaucha ("purity"), santOsha ("contentment"), tapas ("austerity"), svAdhyAya ("repitition of mantras and reading of scriptures") and IshvarapraNidhAna ("self-surrender to the Lord"). dIkshitar talks about the techniques in rAja yOga quite often in many of his compositions.

There are so many beautiful phrases that I could go on and on about but just to highlight a few, the special prayOgam that dIkshitar repeatedly uses in the caraNam is "spmp". He starts off the caraNam with this phrase at "nijarUpa", uses it again at "viramati" and once again as "sspmp" at "ajashikSaNa" although the three usages that I have cited have a completely different shade each time. Another prayOgam that I would like to mention is the "grgs" phrase at "harihayAdi". In addition to the already brilliant sound that this phrase has, if you replace the shabda 'ha' with 'ga', this becomes a beautiful svarAksharam too :). The madhyamakAlam is also full of some really shtud prayOgams from which one can learn a lot. Since it would anyway be futile on my part to try and explain these phrases, I request you to go to our website and listen to the krithi and just enjoy the experience :).

I guess that is pretty much it from me on this post. I can't think of anything else that I need to highlight. In my next post, I will take up the final krithi of this series, shrI guruguha mUrtE in the rAga udayaravicandrika. I will try my best to post it within a week. Till then, ciao!! :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

shrI guruguhasya dAsOham-pUrvi

Looks like it is me who is playing the visiting faculty now. Only after a friend of mine mentioned it yesterday that I actually realize it has been nearly 3 months since I posted anything here. And I guess there is no point in apologizing for this long break, for it has become something that I keep doing pretty often. And since the main reason for not posting anything has been Laziness with a capital L, I can't ensure that this won't repeat :-). Sad but true. However, the break has not been that uneventful either. I spent more than a week attending concerts during the December music season in chennai and had a ball of a time sabha-hopping and gorging on good grub :-). Thanks to jayaganesan (my friend from college days), the stay at triplicane was wonderful and I even got to play cricket at 6 am in royapettah ground with the fresh morning mArgazhi winds on my face..aah, pure bliss.

Perhaps the most spectacular part of me attending this year's music season was that I got to listen to some of the veterans live for the first time in my life :); grand artists from quite a few generations before like nEdanUri mAma, Vedavalli mAmi, rAma ravi mAmi and kalpakam swAminAthan mAmi. I have also been planning on my next pilgrimage tour (yet to decide on the destination(s)) though I have been a bit cash-strapped. The other notable event of the last 2 months is that I have been blessed enough to acquire around 70 new dIkshitar compositions :-). kOti namaskArams to shri bAla shrInivAsan sir for passing on these gems. We are just 9 short of completing the collection and I am absolutely ecstatic about it. I am still in the process of getting approval from the concerned sources for uploading this set of krithis on the sangeethapriya tribute website.

Moving on to the krithi of the day, shrI guruguhasya dAsOham in rAga pUrvi set to miSra cApu is the sixth krithi of the guruguha vibhakti series composed exclusively in the sixth declension (genitive case/SashTi vibhakti). The highlight of this krithi is perhaps the clear demarcation that dIkshitar draws between the disciple and the guru. The other fascinating aspect is the way dIkshitar describes the guru as an embodiment of the shrIcakram itself. The rAga pUrvi itself is a very special bhAshAnga janyam of mAyAmALavagOwLa and the fact that dIkshitar has handled this scale in just his 6th ever composition speaks volumes about his genius. Though the rAga scale is given as the sampUrNa MMG scale, the lakshaNam details shine through in prayOgams like nsggm, sgmg and pNDp and the life of pUrvi clearly revolves around the gandAram and the niSAdam. dIkshitar, in addition to employing all these prayOgams also makes sure that he sparingly uses straight-line ascending/descending prayOgams. For eg, there is not a single srgm prayOgam in this entire krithi. Anyway, I shall move on to the pallavi with this small introduction about the rAga, which in any case can only be understood by listening to the krithi and experiencing these prayOgams.


shrI guruguhasya dAsOham
nOcEt cidguruguha EvAham


dIkshitar sings "I am the humble servant ("dAsOham") of guruguha, else ("nOcEt") I am the form ("EvAham") of guruguha himself".

In shrI vidyA, the guru is not just a concept but has well-defined role as an individual. The guru is considered the most exalted individual and he is believed to be the supreme guide to a disciple- "na gurOr adhikam tattvam". The school considers Lord Shiva as the AdinAtha, the progenitor. The three pillars of this school are mantra which represents the mind ("manas"), dEvata, the idol which represents prAna, the vital force and finally the guru who represents the disciple's one self. The guru always sits on top of the sahasrAra cakra, the thousand petaled lotus and devotion to the guru strengthens the mind and purifies it. This idea is well-established by dIkshitar in the first krithi of this series itself, shrI nAthadi guruguhO in which he sings "mAya kAryA kalanA hInO; mAmaka sahasra kamalAsInO".

However, dIkshitar clearly states on many occasions that there is advaita bhAvam with the guru and that the disciple and the guru are never the same. The disciple shares advaita bhAvam only with the supreme consciousness and not with the guru. The guru is hence that enlightened soul which initiates the disciple into contacting the supreme consciousness and helps the disciple realize his/her own essential reality (svArtha-parArtha-prakaTana parO guruH). dIkshitar once agains brings out this idea clearly in the beautiful Anandabhairavi krithi "AnandEshvarENa samrakSitOham" where he refers to his guru initiating him into realizing the guruguha rUpam within himself- "jnAna pradAna guruguha rUpa". Hence just to emphasize this, dIkshitar sings in the pallavi that he is either a servant of his guru or else he is the form of the supreme soul, guruguha himself. dIkshitar identifies himself with the supreme soul in many krithis like "cidAnanda rUpOsmi brahmAnanda rUpOsmi" once again in "AnandEshvarENa" and "saccidAnanda paripUrNabrahmAsmi" in the shankarAbharaNam kamalAmba navAvaraNam.

Also, in my post on the krithi "guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya" in sAma belonging to this same set of krithis, I had mentioned that it is the only krithi as far as I know that has two guruguha mudras. Well, I have to take that statement back because even this krithi has two guruguha mudras right in the pallavi itself :). Musically, dIkshitar straight away gets into business, chiselling pUrvi with prayOgams like "nnnsggm" at "guruguhasya" and "gmpsnpm" at "cidguruguha". Overall, even though the pallavi looks small, dIkshitar has packed quite a punch in it. Moving on to the anupallavi,

bhOga mOkSAtmaka caraNasya bhUpurAdi navAvaraNasya
yOgibRndAntahkaraNasya yOga pIthAdi kAranasya


dIkshitar describes the Lord/guru as "the one whose feet ("caraNasya") bestows enjoyment ("bhOga") and salvation ("mOkSa"). The one who is the embodiment of the 9 sheaths ("navAvaraNasya") starting with the bhUpura. The one who resides in the hearts ("antahkaraNasya") of the groups of yOgis ("yOgibRnda") and the one who is the substratum of yOga pIthAs".

The Lord (actually Goddess ambAL because it is shrI vidyA upAsana) as well as the guru are both capable of giving enjoyment and salvation. There are actually quite a few occasions where the guru has been known to show the disciple the supreme soul and give him enlightenment. If I may relate the famous incident where svAmi vivEkAnanda as a young spiritual seeker went in search of a guru, asking people around if they have seen God and if they can show him. Being unsatisfied with answers from hundreds of enlightened souls, he finally reached the noble soul rAmakrSNa paramahamsa who, upon being asked the same question touched young vivEkAnanda's third eye between the eyebrows with his finger and by passing on some of his cosmic energy immediately raised the young man's kundalini for a second and made him experience the state of samAdi. However, one should clearly understand that the guru can only show his disciple a preview of what it is to enjoy samAdi and in order to stay in nirvikalpa samAdi forever, it is ultimately the disciple who has to put in his own efforts, progress spiritually and find God for himself.

dIkshitar further pays rich tributes to the guru soul and sings in the anupallavi that beginning with the bhUpura (the outer square), the 9 layers of the shrI cakra are itself the form of the guru. This is in sync with bhAvanOpanishad which says "shrI guru sarvakAraNa bhUta shaktiHtEna navarandha rUpO dEhaH navacakra rUpam shrI cakram" which in essence says that the guru's body itself is the shrI cakram and all the yOginIs guarding each strata are identified in the guru himself.

Musically, dIkshitar begins the anupallavi with the graceful "PgMGrsnsGm" prayOgam at "bhOgamOkSAtmaka caraNasya". He further embellishes the krithi and brings out the rAga bhAva with phrases like "NsND" at "yOgibRnda" and "NrNSm" at "yOgapIthAdi". He handles the rAga so beautifully and if it was not for krithis such as this, the rAga would have been long extinct (not that it is being sung all that regularly, but still..). The caraNam goes like,

sanakAdi pUrvika munigaNA sannutAnanda vigrahasya
vanajabhavAdi sakalasumanO vAHncitArthAnugrahasya

jananalayAdi rUpa prapaHncAjHnAna kArya nigrahasya
manana dhyAna samAdhiniSTha mahAnubhAva hRdgRhasya

dinakarakOTi vibhAsvarasya tEjomaya jagadIshvarasya

janaraHnjanakarasya varasya sarvasmAt parasya harasya


dIkshitar continues to describe Him in the caraNam as " the blissful form ("Ananda vigrahasya") who was worshipped ("sannuta") by ancient ("pUrvika") sages ("munigaNa") such as sanaka etc. The one who bestows grace ("anugrahasya") and grants the desires ("vAHncitArtha") of Lord Brahma, the lotus born ("vanaja bhavAdi") and other celestials ("sakala sumanO"). The one who removes ("nigrahasya") the ignorance ("ajHnAna") associated with the universe ("prapaHnca") which has both creation and destruction ("jananalayAdi"). The one who dwells in the hearts ("hRdgRhasya") of the noble sages ("mahAnubhAva") who practice contemplation ("manana"), meditation ("dhyAna") harmony with the supreme consciousness ("samAdhi") and a consummate state ("niSTha")".

In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord/guru as "the one whose brilliance shines ("vibhAsvarasya") like crores of suns ("dinakarakOTi") and the effulgent one ("tEjomaya") who is the lord of the universe ("jagadIshvarasya"). The revered one ("varasya") who delights all people ("janaraHnjanakarasya"). The one who is above everything ("sarvasmAt parasya") and the one who removes ("harasya") all sins".

The first thing that strikes the rasika about the caraNam is the adyAkshara prAsam employed while still sticking to the genetic case using words ending with "asya". When this combines with the beautiful miSra cApu, the experience is something indescribable and the caraNam is a must listen even from the musical point of view. The second thing to be noted is the pun which dIkshitar employs while incorporating the rAga mudra. Its not exactly a complete slEsha usage my opinion its a semi-slEsha, if I may call it so to refer to the ancient sages as "pUrvika munigaNa" while bringing in the rAga mudra. dIkshitar once again brings in the significance of the guru in the line "jananalayAdi.." thereby highlighting a very important characteristic of the guru which is to help the disciple realize the evanescence of everything that makes up this world and hence seek something more eternal and transcendental.

Except for a brief reference to the samAdi niSTha, for a change, this is a not a typical dIkshitar type caraNam loaded with yOgic and tAntric references. It is quite simple in that aspect but he doesn't compromise on the usual grandeur that a dIkshitar krithi is filled with. Musically, the madhyamakAlam is perhaps the grandest of them all. dIkshitar has shown his complete understanding of the rAga by using swara triplets very effectively here. The way he uses the shadja, niSAda and the rishaba is marvellous. He uses the madhya and the mandira sthAyi triplet with "rrrsNs" at "dinakara kOTi" and the madhya and tAra sthAyis at "
janaraHnjanakarasya" with the "ssNsrrSs" prayOgam. It gels in so beautifully that one wouldn't even realize that it is just 3 swarams being used. And the goosebumping, killer phrase is the scintillating "dpdpdm" used at "tEjomaya". The prayOgam itself is effulgent corresponding to the sAhityam :-). He rounds the krithi off with a nice, polished "ssGmGm rSn" phrase at "sarvasmAtparasya harasya" and hence re-linking smoothly with shadja take-off for the pallavi.

As I finish this post and the eve of mahAshivarAtri descends, one can only hope that the performing artistes of our times spend some time learning this masterpiece and singing it more often, if not as a main piece, at least as a decent sub-main. I sincerely pray that a rAga like pUrvi doesn't disappear into the oblivion merely due to artistes being obsessed with the same old kAmbhOjis and the bhairavis. Its not like we don't have capable artistes who can render such masterpieces. I guess many artistes don't want to come out of the old mold that has been established and of course the rasikAs are to be blamed too. Anyway that's not something to be discussed in this blog..I should probably take this to a forum like

In my next post, I will take up the next krithi in this series, guruguha svAmini bhaktim karOmi in the 4th mElakarta bhAnumati. And I will promise that the next post will be published within a week's time :). Till then, happy shivarAtri..spend at least 10 mins meditating on the Lord. shrI gurubhyO namaH