And so I am back with yet another post, continuing to write about the majestic pancabhUta linga kritis of shri muthuswAmi dIkshitar. Last couple of weeks have been filled with a bit of travel and a lot of good music, two brilliant concerts to be specific. I was fortunate enough to listen to an amazing concert by shri Vijay Shiva last Sunday. A very interesting concoction of rAga choices (kalyANi, abhEri and an absolutely mind-blowing virutham) and brilliant accompaniments made the concert a memorable one. It had such an impact on me that the music was ringing in my ears and haunting me for the next 3 days. The very next day I was immersed further in musical brilliance through Sanjay sir's concert. Curiously, he too chose abhEri and the "nagumomu"s on both days took me time-travelling back to the Golden recordings of the 50's and 60's. He also sang kAdambari priyAyai in mOhanam and the kamalAmba navAvarNam in Shankarabharanam and being a guruguha maniac, I couldn't have asked for a better treat :).
I also reconnected with a couple of my old school and music friends over the last two weeks and I am slowly but surely re-establishing the connections that I have lost over the years (for no reason). After a long time, I have begun to feel the vibrant vitality in my life that went missing after I relocated to India in 2009 (again, for no reason).
Before I jump into the composition, as always, I would like to set the context, giving a few insights about the temple, its folklore and its significance. The tiruvannamalai temple town itself is perhaps one of a kind with the divine vibrations that gives the devotee goosebumps. The huge temple complex with its four towering gopurams is set in the foothills of aNNAmalai hills, the mountain in itself being worshipped as an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is worshipped as "agni lingam" and the main deities are aruNAcalEswarar and Goddess apitakucAmba (unnAmalai in tamizh). According to mythology, Goddess pArvati is known to have closed Lord Shiva's eyes with her hands (playfully) in Kailash and at that moment, the whole universe went devoid of light and was submerged in darkness. The Goddess is supposed to have performed a penance, following which Lord Shiva took the form of a column of fire atop the aNNAmalai hills and thereby returning light to the world.
Also, the other famous version of the origin of this temple is that when the trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma were trying to establish their supremacy, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a column of fire and challenged Vishnu and Brahma to find the source of the fire. While Brahma took the form of a swan and flew towards the sky in search of the source of the flame, Vishnu took the form of a board and went underneath. Neither were successful and while Vishnu accepted defeat, Brahma is supposed to have lied to Shiva and said that he had indeed found the source of the fire. Shiva is known to have punished him for this lie and cursed him to not have any temples for his worship.
Hence, the amsha that Lord Shiva embodies at tiru aNNamalai is fire. His resplendent form dispels darkness and drives away ignorance. The power of the Lord here is indeed well documented in the form of so many yogis and great saints who have attained moksha at tiru aNNAmalai. Saint ramaNa maharishi is the foremost of these noble souls and the cave in which he meditated and his beautiful ashram in the foothills are a must visit for every human being. The temple gets mention in all the old scriptures, notably in tEvAram and all the works of appar, sundarar and mANikkavAcakar. Regardless to say, this is one of the most significant shrines for all Saivites and is also deeply associated with the astral body of the human anatomy, especially the third chakra, manipura located in the solar plexus. It is one of the most important chakras and is probably the most difficult to surpass. The tatwa element governing this chakra is fire and signifies itcha Shakti, hence it is believed that by meditating on Lord Shiva in the agni form, this chakra can be easily activated and help the spiritual seeker to progress much faster as his kundalini unwinds.
To do justice to such a major kSEtra, dIkshitar uses sArangA, a mellifluous yet majestic rAga. This kriti is such a jewel that the rAga itself will be proud of the way that it can mend and dIkshitar being the genius he is, uses the phrases beautifully, lilting along in rUpaka tALa and creating a magnificent sculpture in the process, a sculpture that defies time. The structure itself is so beautiful with the pallavi being a prayer, the anupallavi describing the Lord and the temple and caraNam extolling the greatness of the agni lingam and the spiritual significance of the Lord at this kSEtra. The kriti starts as:
aruNAcala nAthaM smarAmi aniSaM
apIta kucAmba samEtam
dIkshitar sings "I always ("aniSaM") meditate ("smarAmi") upon Lord of aruNAcala, the one who is along with his consort ("samEtam") apIta kucAmba".
The pallavi is very simple yet very, very beautiful. dIkshitar makes things very clear as to which Lord this composition is dedicated to and who is the Goddess. He defines the kSEtra and pretty much doesn't talk about anything else in the opening few lines of the kriti. The word aruNAcala itself means the "mountain of fire" or "red (aruna) mountain (acala)" and I don't think there could have been a better word to describe the presence of Lord Shiva as an embodiment of fire residing in this mountain.
Musically, the beauty of rUpaka tALa is what stands out in this pallavi. It flows along with the words, adding more beauty to the sAhitya and kind of weaves in along with the rAga flow. The "rrgmp" start at "aruNA" followed by the very sArangA-ish "dnsDpp" at "nAtham" and the beautiful characteristic avarOhaNam phrase "sndpmrgmrs" being used as it is at "smarAmi" shows the brilliance of dIkshitar as a musical genius who just captures the essence of such a phrase-based rAga in the first three words of his kriti. He not only establishes the rAga but also kind of sets the tone for exploring beyond the typical prayOgams of the rAga with having finished off the basics in the pallavi itself.
Having started off quite simple, he moves on to the anupallavi to dive deeper in describing the Lord and continuing to explore the nuances of the rAga
smaraNAt kaivalya prada caraNAravindaM
taruNAditya kOTi saMkASa cidAnandaM
karuNA rasAdi kandaM SaraNAgata surabRndam
dIkshitar describes the power of the Lord as "The one with the lotus feet ("caraNa"+"aravindam"), just the thought of which ("smaraNAt") bestows ("prada") salvation ("kaivalya"). The one who is the embodiment of pure bliss consciousness ("cidAnandam") and the one who is as resplendent as a million ("kOTi") young ("taruNa") suns ("Aditya"). The one who is the root ("kandam") of the essence ("rasa") of all mercy ("karuNA") and the one unto whom hordes ("bRndam") of celestials ("sura") surrender ("SaraNAgata")".
The first thing that strikes the listener is perhaps the grammar and the rhythm that dIkshitar manages to blend into the composition by starting off the anupallavi with "smaraNAt". It rhymes with the "aruNA" in the pallavi and sets the platform for him to use the subsequent words in the anupallavi such as "taruNA, karuNA and caraNA". Perhaps the greatest beauty of his compositions are the way he uses yati and mOnai and it doesn't feel like he is trying to force-fit anything into the grammatical structural discipline but rather, it just flows and blends so coherently that any other word in something's place will just destroy the beauty completely.
dIkshitar again emphasizes on the Shakti of the Lord at this kSEtra and His ability to grant salvation to the ones who meditate upon him. Great saints such as shri ramaNa are testimony to this. dIkshitar also uses a beautiful volte-face in the anupallavi. Even though the kriti is about the Lord being in an agni form (which signifies energy and ugra), he describes the Lord as an ocean of compassion by bringing in karuNA rasa.
Musically, my favorite part of the anupallavi is the beautiful gamaka-laden "ppmpdnsrsdp" at "tarunAditya". It just melts the listener's heart and is a joy to sing/play. He rounds it off very nicely with "pmDpm rgmrs" at "SaraNAgata surabRndam" looping back to the rishabha start for the pallavi. Moving on to the caraNam,
aprAkRta tEjOmaya lingaM
adyAdbhuta karadhRta sAraNgaM
apramEyaM aparNAbja bhRngaM
ArUDhottunga vRsha turangaM
vIra guruguha tAraprasangaM
svapradIpa mauli vidhRta gangaM
svaprakASa jita sOmAgni patangam
dIkshitar continues to describe the Lord as "the effulgent ("tEjOmaya") lingam which does not have a beginning ("aprAkRta") and the one who wields a deer ("sAraNgam") in his wonderful ("adyAdbhuta") hands ("kara"). The one who is immeasurable ("apramEyam") and the one who hovers over the lotus (pArvati) ("aparNa"+"abja") like a bee ("bhRngam"). The one mounts ("ArUDhottunga") the sacred bull ("vRsha") as his vehicle ("turangam")".
The madhyamakAla sAhityam beautifully gallops along as the composer continues to describe the Lord as "the one who is the superior special ("viSEsha") inner conscience ("antarangam") of the scholarly and the learned ("vipra") and the one who is dear to the valorous ("vIra") Lord Karthikeya ("guruguha"), the one who explained the praNava mantra ("prasangaM"). The self-luminous one ("sva"+"pradIpa") who wears ("vidhRta") the Ganges ("gangam") and the moon ("mauli") on his head. The one whose luster ("prakASa") is superior to ("jita") to the moon ("sOma"), the fire ("agni") and the sun ("patangam")".
The caraNam is actually pretty simple (grammatically as well as musically) for a dIkshitar kriti and that too, being a pancabhUta linga kriti. He describes the "immeasurable nature" of the lingam and also the resplendence of the Lord in this form to be superior to all sources of light (sun, moon, stars and fire) that humans are usually exposed to. dIkshitar also brilliantly employs the rAga mudra by referring to the physical design of the Lord at this kSEtra and brings in the composer mudra by referring to Lord subraHmaNya as the one who expounded the praNava to His father.
He starts off the caraNam with a sedate "sPmp" at "aprAkRta" and slowly builds up through the Madhya stAyi entering into the tAra stAyi with the rishabha at "bhRngam". The flat madhyama usage at "apramEya" and the "sndnsrssdp" at "ArUDhottunga" are special phrases that embellish the composition and the rAga so beautifully. And to top it off, the crescendo in the madhyamakAla sAhitya with phrases such as "psDpmp" at "svaprakAsa jita" and "Dpmrgmrs" at "sOmAgni patangam" which brings in symmetry is probably what makes the kriti a masterpiece. More than me describing it, listen to the recording of Hyderabad Brothers or DKJ sir uploaded at http://www.sangeethapriya.org/tributes/dikshithar/downloads/krithis.html to fully experience the beauty and brilliance of this composition.
As we continue our journey through the pancabhUta linga kritis, our next stop will be the brilliant composition in rAga husEni (or huSAni as it was called in the olden days) "shrI kALahastIsha" extolling the greatness of the mystical "vAyulinga" at kALahasti. This is probably the kriti where dIkshitar steps it up one big notch as he moves into the more abstract elemental forms of air and space(ether). I will aim to publish the post as soon as possible and try to wrap up the series by end of this month. Before I sign off, I would like to thank all the rasikas who have been sending me mails, suggestions and supporting me with their words of encouragement :). With all your support and the blessings of God and gurus, I am sure I will continue to share my thoughts on these amazing compositions by probably the greatest treasures that mankind has witnessed till date. Until next time, keep drowning in the ocean of music. Ciao!!