Before I even start, I would like to emphatically state that I am back. This is actually a statement, a reminder to myself that I can't let this blog be dormant any more. I know I have made this resolution to myself many times before (and even declared so on this blog space) but have sadly not been able to keep my word. I think I have finally found a sweet spot in my life, a balance, which is going to ensure that I keep all my fronts active and full of vitality. So, you might ask "What has changed?", to which my reply would be "Nothing Much" except that I have learnt to adopt a new view on life. I was also reading my own posts over the last couple of days and it has definitely rekindled the fire to share my thoughts on this forum and continue my humble attempt at explaining art as I see it.
And what has changed over the last one year since I posted here? I have definitely grown older, thankfully, no grey hair yet (or at least, I haven't seen it yet) and have also realized that age is just a number and that I am as youthful as ever :). Personal life has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster with quite a few things not going as I would have liked them to but am sure things are going to get sorted out over the course of this year.
And before I jump into this post, I would like to dedicate this post to a very good friend of mine. She has been running a music school for the past 15 years and is celebrating the commemoration today. This composition also happens to be one of her favorites and this post is my gift to her on this wonderful day. May she continue her yeoman service to the divine art and may God and gurus shower her with all the love and blessings.
To summarize in a sentence, jambUpatE is a majestic composition describing the attributes and praising the greatness of Lord Shiva at the jambukEshwara temple in tiruvAnaikkAval, displaying the amsha of water element. dIkshitar beautifully employs the carnati-cised version of the Hindustani rAga yaman kalyAn and embellishes the kriti with phrases which only he could have construed. TiruvAnaikkAval is a small town near the more popular vaishnavite temple town, Srirangam. I have had the privilege of visiting this shrine a couple of times during my Engineering days at Trichy and the town is serene and has a very calm atmosphere with river kAvEri flowing through it. Apart from the temple, the town is also famous because it is the birth place of Sir C.V. Raman and quite a few visitors throng his ancestral home.
According to temple folklore, this town used to be a jambu tree forest and under one of the trees, Lord Shiva took the form of a lingam (swayambu). Two of Shiva's gaNAs were cursed and born as an elephant and a spider in this forest. The elephant used to bring water and clean the lingam and decorate with flowers while the spider spun a web directly above the lingam to prevent leaves and dirt from falling on it. By serving the Lord thus, the two souls got salvation and the place itself derives its name from this (tiru+Anai+kAval). The Lord's consort at this kSEtra is Goddess akhilANDESwari and gets a special mention in the composition. The Shiva lingam itself is situated on top of a stream of fresh water and water gushes all over and around the lingam in the sanctum sanctorum clearly establishing this as the "water lingam" signifying the pancabhUta element . I still vividly remember the goose bumps I got when I saw this on my first visit there. The main prAkAram around the temple also has channels cut on the floor with fresh streams of water visible all over the temple complex and washing the pilgrim's feet soothingly as one walks around.
A temple as significant as this deserves a composition that is rich and unfathomable in depth (just like the water and the Lord Himself) and dIkshitar does much more than just that. Being the brilliant genius that he is, dIkshitar aptly chooses yamunA kalyANI, the raga name itself derived from the name of a river. He also creates a framework revolving around references to liquids (nectar, ocean, rivers) highlighting the water element and creates a composition that in itself is so lucid and free-flowing that leaves both the listener as well as the singer in a state of profound stillness and joy that can only be described by experiencing it. He begins to sing:
jambUpatE mAm pAhi nijAnanda amritabOdham dEhi
dIkshitar cries out "Oh Lord ("patE") of the rose apple tree ("jambU") grove, protect ("pAhi") me ("mAm"). Bestow upon me ("dEhi"), the awakening nectar ("amrita"+"bodham") of true, undiminished bliss/happiness ("nija"+"Ananda")"
One has to clearly observe how dIkshitar carefully cherry-picks each and every word that he wants to use in his compositions. In the very first word of the kriti itself he clearly sets the context that this composition is to describe the deity at tiruvAnaikkA. The word itself describes the folklore of the place and the history. dIkshitar also clearly sings on behalf of every pilgrim, so that every time any true devotee sings the pallavi, the Lord wakes up and listens to his/her's request for the nectar of bliss.
Musically too, the pallavi sets the steady dhrupad-style gait of the kriti in tisra Ekam (become rUpakam over time). A simple "pmpgmp" to begin "jambu" followed by "mpdpmg" with a sphurita gamakam at "patE" clearly makes for a rousing start and makes a person take notice and sit up immediately. The lilting prayOgams at "pAhi" followed again by a "sphurita fall" at "nija" is caressing and is of the highest level of yamunA kalyANi usage. "Ananda" acts as a bridge to scale up to the higher octave and provides the right platform for a beautiful "r s" prayogam at amrita"bo"dham. But clearly the cherry on the cake is the "sddnp" at "dEhi" and with that prayOgam, the master seals the deal to make the pallavi perhaps in itself, a self-sustaining representation of this beautiful rAga.
The goosebumps continue into the anupallavi, by the end of which, I have seen quite a few even cry tears of joy and bliss. I guess the kriti itself is an "amrita" of "nijAnanda".
ambujAsanAdi sakala dEva namana tumburu nuta hRdayatApOpaSamana
ambudhi ga.NgA kAvEri yamunA kambukaNThyakhilANDESwari ramaNa
After setting the context beautifully in the pallavi, dIkshitar continues to strengthen the description of the Lord and brings in references to all the water bodies that signify the pancabhUta element of water. He describes the Lord as "The one worshipped and prayed to ("namana") by Lord Brahma, the one seated on the lotus ("ambujAsana") and all other Gods ("sakala dEva"). The one whose praises were sung by ("nuta") the celestial musician "tumburu" and the one who removes the afflictions ("tApa") of the devotees heart ("hRdaya")".
He continues to describe the Lord as "the embodiment of the sea ("ambudhi") and the rivers Ganga, Kaveri and Yamuna" and as "the one who is the beloved ("ramaNa") of Goddess akhilANDESwari, the one with a conch-like neck ("kambu"+"kaNTha")".
In the anupallavi, the first thing to notice is the poetic yati and prAsa usages. The usage of "ambuja" and "ambudhi" and of course the link to the beginning of the pallavi itself "jambu" clearly shows dIkshitar's mastery over the language. In the second line, he also beautifully establishes the kSEtra's significance as the pancabhUta sthalam for water and describes the Lord Himself as the ocean and the arterial, divine rivers of the country. In the process, he brilliantly slips in the rAga mudra "yamunA" without any effort. He finishes off the anupallavi by referring to the main Goddess of the shrine and with that, he completes the entire setting of the temple, its main deities, significance as the pancabhUtasthalam and the folklore of the town. The pallavi and anupallavi hence in all sense complete the kriti and it would have been perfectly fine had dIkshitar ended this kriti as a samASTi caraNam.
Some of my favorite phrases in the anupallavi are the usage of both the madhyamams at "namana" (listen to a DKJ version to experience the beauty of this) and the smooth transition from the shadja in madhya stAyi to the shadja in tAra stAyi at "ambudhi" and the sphurita embellished "gmr" at "ga.Nga". Finally, the looping "ramaNa" beautifully cascading to join back into jambUpatE is yet another brilliant usage of the rAga prayOgams that is mind-blowing.
Lyrically, musically and descriptively, the pallavi and anupallavi by themselves paint a comprehensive picture of what needs to be conveyed. Probably the only reason to even have a caraNam is the guruguha mudra. But then again, after listening to the caraNam, one would thank dIkshitar for continuing the composition because the caraNam just takes the kriti to a completely different stratosphere and distinguishes the composition as probably "THE kriti in yamunA kalyANi"
parvatajA prArthitAbli.Nga vibhO pancabhUtamaya prapanca prabhO
sarvajIva dayAkara shambhO sAmajATavInilaya svayambhO
Sarva karunA sudhA sindhO SaraNAgata vatsalArtabandhO
anirvacanIya nAdabindO nitya moulividhRta ga.NgEndO
nirvikalpaka samAdi niShTa Siva kalpakatarO
nirviSESha caitanya nira.Njana guruguha gurO
dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "the resplendent one ("vibhO") who was worshipped by ("prArthita") Goddess pArvati, the one born of a mountain ("parvata"+"jA"). The Lord ("prabhO") of the universe ("prapanca") who is an embodiment of the five elements ("pancabhUta"+"maya")".
dIkshitar addresses the Lord as "the source of happiness ("shambhO") and the one who shows compassion ("dayAkara") on all creatures ("sarvajIva")". He again brings in the reference to the temple town formerly being a forest filled with elephants ("sAmajAtavi") and describes the linga as "one which originated by itself ("svayambhO")". He continues to portray the soothing and loving nature of the Lord here (in line with the nature of the water element) and describes Him as "the nectarous river ("sudhA sindhO") of mercy ("Sarva karunA")" and "the dearest ("vatsala") kin ("bandhO") of the devotees who completely surrender unto him ("SaraNAgata")".
Building up to the final crescendo for the composition he sings "the one who is the unfathomable, indescribable ("anirvacanIya") omkAra, the sound ("nAda") from which the universe originated ("bindO") and the one who always ("nitya") wears on his head ("vidhRta") the crescent ("mouli") and Ganges".
Finally, in the madhyamakAla sAhitya, he describes the Lord as "One who is forever in the state of absolute nothingness, a samAdi state in which one completely loses self-consciousness ("nirvikalpa") and one who is a wish-yielding tree ("kalpakatarO") in communion ("niShTa") with the auspicious energy of Siva. The one who is pure consciousness ("caitanya") without any distinguishable attributes ("nirviSESha") and the one from whom originated ("gurO") the pristine/spotless ("nira.Njana") Lord Guruguha".
One can only heave a sigh of astonishment after going through that caraNam. It is undoubtedly a great piece of art which I hope the generations to come preserve for posterity. dIkshitar has thrown in a bit of everything, ranging from pure references to other Gods and Goddesses to allusion to consciousness and samAdi. The antyAkSara prAsa running throughout the caraNam with each sentence ending with "O" sets an automatic rhythm to the composition itself. Finally, the madhyamakAla sAhitya is a masterpiece filled with lyrical and musical beauty. Since I find it almost impossible to explain the beauty in words, I would urge the rasika to listen to the kriti and just experience the brilliance of this composition. Though I would like to write about the caraNam more in detail, most of the things will end up being superfluous and hence I stop here.
In my next post, I will continue to expound the pancabhUta linga kritis with the composition "aruNAcalanAtham" in raga sAra.Nga. Composed at tiruvannAmalai, where Lord Shiva resides in the form of agni (fire), this is yet another masterpiece from the brilliant composer. I just have a request for the followers of this blog. If you find henceforth that I don't post anything new within 15 days, request you to please send me a mail at email@example.com so that I don't slack anymore and continue to do what I believe I do well, which is, sharing my thoughts here on these brilliant masterpieces. Till then, keep listening to good music and have a brilliant week ahead. shrI gurubhyO namaH.