Sunday, March 28, 2010

shrI guruguhamUrtE - udayaravicandrikA

I still don't know how an entire month has passed so quickly. And, as always, I have not been able to blog for quite a few reasons, some good and some bad. The good incidents give you a great feeling of high while the bad ones leave you with a taste of vitriolic bitterness and the oscillation between the two seem to make up what we call as life. Over the last month, these vicissitudes and vagaries of life have made me contemplate quite a lot about the startling difference between karma and free-will. Being an extremely open-minded person and an eternal optimist that I am, I still find it quite difficult to digest some of the events that happen in our lives quite frankly beyond our control and perhaps due to no mistake of ours. However much I isolate myself from this world, incidents like a dear one meeting with an accident rendering him paralyzed for a few months, a close friend getting hurt (physically/mentally) etc seem to have a great impact on me forcing me to go further into this cocoon that I create for myself quite often. I guess it is events like this that clearly show the evanescence of human life, shakes up one's life and makes him go in search of answers which this plane of existence can probably never offer. Anyway, I don't know how much of this makes sense or how much of this sounds like plain cribbing, but this is the contemplative state of mind I am in right now and where else can I vent such thoughts other than my personal blogspace :). May the supreme force help me overcome all these delusions and find the answers that I need.

I have been planning on yet another trip to tiruvArur and some temples in the vicinity (kIvalUr, nAgapattinam, kuzhikkarai etc) followed by a trip to ettayapuram (dIkshitar's final resting place) but certain incidents (the bad ones as I have ambiguously referred to in the above paragraph) in the last few weeks have thrown things completely out of gear, creating turbulence at home and hence preventing me from going on this pilgrimage. I guess its God's own way of telling me that it is not yet time to come and see Him. Well, I shall hope that the time comes soon and that I will be able to go on this journey that I so dearly want to. Anyway..I shall stop blabbering here and continue with the krithi that I will be taking up in this post. "shrI guruguhamurtE" in udayaravicandrika is dIkshitar's eighth and final krithi of the guruguha vibhakti series composed exclusively in the vocative case and set to rUpaka tALa. Before I get into the masterpiece, I would like to clarify a few confusions regarding the raga udayaravicandrika itself, the chief one being the claim that Suddha dhanyAsi and udayaravicandrika are one and the same.

Udayaravicandrika (referred to as URC henceforth) is cleverly classified as an upAnga janya of the 9th mELakartha dhunibhinnasadjam (dhEnuka as per the other school) with the scale: sgmpns;snpmgs. Hence, URC employs a kAkali niSAda. Suddha dhanyAsi (referred to as SD henceforth) on the other hand is classified as an upAnga janya of the 22nd mELa, shri rAga and hence makes use of the kaiSiki niSAda. This is the only significant difference between the 2 rAgas and SubbarAma dIkshitar highlights this clearly while explaining the rAga lakSaNa of SD in the SSP. URC is also known as Srothaswini. However, the fact that the tyAgarAja school also used the name URC while referring to SD complicated the matters and somehow this seems to have stuck with the people after the trinity's times and this niSAda disctinction between the 2 rAgas seems to have completely disappeared with people saying that URC and SD are one and the same. And with this beautiful composition of dIkshitar being neglected in the concert arena (except for a few artists like Vedavalli maami), the original URC as per the dIkshitar school has successfully been buried in its grave.

Anyway, I will now start with the krithi,


shrI guruguhamUrtE ciccaktti sphUrtE
ishya janAvana kIrtE sumuhUrtE jaya


dIkshitar addresses the Lord guruguha as "the one throbbing ("sphUrtE") with the power ("shakti") of consciousness ("cit"). The one who is renowned ("kIrtE") for protecting His disciples ("Sishya jana"). The one who is an embodiment of auspiciousness ("sumuhUrtE"). Victory ("jaya") to you."

The first thing that struck me when I listened to this krithi a few years back was the tone that dIkshitar uses throughout this composition. It sounds as if he has achieved or won something that he has been longing for. And he dedicates this victory to Lord Guruguha and hence he ends the pallavi, anupallavi as well as the caraNam hailing the Lord for his victory. It is said that dIkshitar performed austerities and deep meditation for forty days at tiruttani before the Lord appeared in front of him as an old man and put sugar crystals in his mouth after which dIkshitar straight away burst into music with the guruguha vibhakti series. Hence, one can assume that on a physical plane, dIkshitar was probably ecstatic on completing his first set of compositions. Of course, on having been able to visualize and interact with the Lord at higher spiritual realms, it is only appropriate that dIkshitar pays his respects and thanks to his guru and the Lord in this concluding piece of this set of compositions.

Another interesting point to note in the pallavi is the way dIkshitar describes guruguha as one vibrating with cit shakti, the power of consciousness. Shakti is believed to be the manifestation of the kinetic component of Brahman. Hence, it is Shiva (consciousness) who manifests as Shiva Shakti. Therefore Shakti is consciousness by itself. Once we understand this, we can attach two aspects to this Shakti, namely, cit shakti or vidyA shakti (the illuminating consciousness) and mAya shakti or avidyA shakti (the deluding/veiling consciousness). The two shaktis are conscious by themselves and are independent energy forces. But this mAya shakti itself is composed of the three gunas, rajas, tamas and sattva and by using these gunas it not only makes itself appear unconscious but also shrouds the vidyA shakti from the human mind. One has to hence first overcome this mAya shakti and then tap the cit shakti to attune to divine vibrations. dIkshitar here visualizes the Lord as the one who throbs with this cit shakti and by tapping into His divine consciousness for probably even just a second, one can get enlightened and free themselves from bondage. And imagining the dIkshitar's state of mind to even realize the Lord as this throbbing energy is scintillating :).

Coming to the musical aspects, dIkshitar clearly highlights the janTa prayOgams which gives jivAdAra to URC right at the beginning with the "sggmmpp" phrase at "shrI guruguhamUrtE". He also highlights the gAndAra with the "pmmG" prayogam at "sphUrtE". It is only in the second line that he brings in the niSAda and paints a complete picture of URC. It was only a couple of months ago that I completely realized the beauty of some phrases like "PmGmgs" at "kIrtE" when I heard my dear friend Lavanya Kothandaraman sing. Thanks for that laavi :). Moving on to the anupallavi,


yOginI hRdaya prakASa citta vRttE
yugapad-bhOga-yOga pradAna nipuNa SaktE
Agama rahasya tattvAnusandhAna yuktE
AnandAnuraktE ativiraktE jaya jaya


Here, dIkshitar describes the Lord as "the one who rejoices and delights ("hRdaya prakASa") the minds ("citta") of the yOginIs. The one with the power ("SaktE") that is an expert ("nipuNa") in giving ("pradAna") time-bound ("yugapad") material pleasures ("bhOga") as well as ageless spiritual bliss ("yOga"). The one who can be realized by following the truths ("tattvAnusandhAna") and expounding the secrets ("rahasya") of the Agamas. The one who is an embodiment of supreme bliss ("AnandAnuraktE") and (at the same time) completely detached and free of bondage ("ativiraktE"). Victory unto you ("jaya jaya")."

Now apart from the direct interpretation of yOginI hRdaya as given above, I must also mention the fact that yOginIhRdaya is one of the 64 tantras of the vAmAchara and the kauLAchAra paths of shrI vidyA sAdhana. Hence, the first line of the pallavi could also be interpreted as a description of Lord guruguha as "the one who enlightens the mind and shines forth through the yOginI hRdaya concept". dIkshitar also clearly displays his scholarly handling of Sanskrit grammar once again. While the antyAkshara prAsam utilizing the sambOdhana pratama vibhakti runs throughout the krithi beautifully, the yati and mOnai aspects of the grammar (yOginI-yugapad and Agama-Ananda pairs) are also showcased quite brilliantly. It all seamlessly blends in and only when we take out word by word can we even realize that it is like separate pearls making up a nice garland with a common thread running through :). dIkshitar finally describes the Lord as one who is full of bliss and at the same time devoid of any attachments. This concept (which could also be used to describe the ideal guru that a disciple wants to find in this world) strikes a remarkable similarity to the supreme lotus (quite aptly, the national flower of india) whose petals and leaves are never sullied even if it grows in a dirty pond.

Musically, the anupallavi is my favourite part of this krithi. He begins the anupallavi itself with unusual phrases like "PSn" and "pnPsGg" at "yOginI" and "hRdaya prakASa" respectively. He continues to milk the beauty of URC by employing zigzag vakra-ish phrases like "sgSmPpnS" at "yugapad bhOga yOga" and "nmpmnpp" at "nipuNa SaktE". I dont know if dIkshitar would have realized at the time of composing this krithi that URC would fade away into oblivion, but, it definitely does seem like this krithi is one hallmark composition in this rAga and it will hopefully withstand the onslaught of those repetitive kAmbhOjis and bhairavIs. Going to the caraNam,


Atma-ISvara jIva bhEdAvaraNa nivRttE
ASrita SishyAnugraha kAraNa pravRttE
AtmatattvAdi Sodhana sAdhana sampattE
Arakta-SvEta miSra caraNa pravRttE
Atma kOti bhaktE anAdi mAyOtpattE
AtmAnubhava sArasantRptE nirmuktE
AtmOdaya ravicandrikA sandIptE
paramAtma shrI cidAnandanAtha namastE jaya jaya


In the caraNa, dIkshitar continues to describes the Lord in his typical advaitin mode as "The one who removes ("nivRttE") the ignorant veil ("AvaraNa") of distinction ("bhEda") between the individual soul ("Atma jIva") and the supreme soul ("ISvara jIva"). The one whose divine nature is to bestow His grace and blessings ("ASrita anugraha") on His disciples ("SishyA"). The one who shows the path of noble tools and techniques ("sAdhana sampattE") and the means for testing ("Sodhana") and realizing the knowledge of one's own self ("Atmatattva"). The one whose feet ("caraNa") are a mixture ("miSra") of red ("Arakta") and white ("SvEta"). The one with crores of devotees ("kOti bhaktE") and the one who created ("utpattE") the delusion ("mAya") which has no origin ("anAdi"). The one who is completely satisfied ("santRptE") with the essence ("sAra") of experience of the self ("AtmAnubhava") and devoid of all attachments ("nirmuktE"). The one who lights the lamp ("sandIptE") of the soul ("Atma") in the rising sun ("udaya ravi") and the moon ("candrikA"). Oh supreme soul!! ("paramAtma"), the auspicious ("shrI") ruler of bliss of consciousness ("cidAnandanAtha"), prostrations ("namastE") and victory to thee ("jaya jaya")."

The steadfast advaitin that dIkshitar is comes to the forefront in the caraNa. He begins by describing the Lord as the one who removes the sheath that creates a sense of individuality and that ego called "I". I personally think that this where the distinction between the guru and the Lord completely vanishes. Since dIkshitar accepts Lord guruguha Himself as his guru, he attributes quite a lot of the characteristics that one would normally associate with a guru to describe the Lord Himself. You can actually see this in the first 3 lines of the caraNam where he describes the Lord as one who protects and guides His disciples and the one who is the means as well as the path of self-realization. These 3 lines, in my opinion perhaps are the climax of this series of krithis. It is quite clearly visible here that dIkshitar has attained great heights of spiritual maturity by the virtue of which He is not only able to see the Lord as His own guru but also is able to use the Lord Himself as his vehicle to reach self-realization. Now, that perhaps happens to only one in probably a million (even among the greatest of yogis). That's why I say that these 3 lines does it for me as far as the krithi goes. Ofcourse, dIkshitar continues to show his other faces in the following lines of the caraNam.

dIkshitar describes the Lord as one whose feet is a mixture of white and red. This is perhaps best understood as a reference to the union of Shiva and Shakti who are usually symbolized by white and red respectively. This is the reason why Vibhoothi (sacred ashes) which is white in color is splashed across the forehead and kumkum which is red in color is placed as a dot (a bindu) at the spot between the eyebrows (the location of the third eye and the Agnya cakra). Finally, dIkshitar seems to have merged with the Lord (his guru) when he sings "AtmAnubhava sAra santRptE". Here, he describes himself (his soul) as the one who has experienced this divine joy of realizing him"self" and hence becoming complete and achieving divine communion. He describes the essence of this divine journey as the Lord Himself. aahaa..what brilliance!! Brings tears to my eyes accompanied by instantaneous goosebumps.

Finally, dIkshitar the composer comes out in the madhyamakAla sAhityam where he slips the rAga mudra in without disturbing the serenity or the them of the krithi, rather, enhancing the effect further. He describes the Lord as the one who stimulates the divine urge in His disciples with the brightness of the sun and the moon and in the process incorporating the rAga mudra. What an audacious display of ingenuity. He ends the krithi by once again offering his salutations to the Lord. He probably couldn't have ended the krithi on a more appropriate note ("jaya jaya"). Composing such a magnum opus for his first ever set of compositions is not only a victory to dIkshitar but also to the divine Lord guruguha Himself and with this victorious beginning, dIkshitar never looked back, composing one masterpiece after another for the next 35 years of his life.

To describe the musical aspects of this caraNam (and that too only partially), I would need probably yet another blogpost. Hence, I feel it would be better to just leave it to the rasika to listen to this krithi and soak in the genius called dIkshitar. With this, I will close this vibhakti series. I know I have taken quite a long time to finish this series but I hope I have done justice to this wonderful set of compositions. In my next few posts, I will take up some long pending personal requests from people who follow this blog. Quite surprisingly some of these requests fit very nicely into the Guruguha theme that I have been writing about in the last set. Hence, I will first take up "SaravaNabhava guruguham" in the rAga rEvagupti, set to rUpaka tALa composed at tiruvAvinankudi. Till then, listen to URC and have fun!!