Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maanasa Sancharare

Raga: shyaamaa, 28 harikAmbhOji janya
Aa: S R2 M1 P D2 S Av: S D2 P M1 G3 R2 S
Taalam: Adi

मानस सन्चररे।
ब्रह्मणि मानस सन्चररे॥
mānasa sancarare |
brahmaṇi mānasa sancarare ||

मदशिखि पिञ्छालन्क्रुत चिकुरे।
महणीय कपोल विजित मुकुरे॥
madaśikhi piñchālankruta cikure |
mahaṇīya kapola vijita mukure ||

श्री रमणी कुच दुर्ग विहारे।
सेवक जन मन्दिर मन्दारे॥
śrī ramaṇī kuca durga vihāre |
sevaka jana mandira mandāre ||

परमहम्स मुखचन्द्र चकोरे।
परिपूरित मुरली रवधारे॥
paramahamsa mukhacandra cakore |
paripūrita muralī ravadhāre ||

English verse:

"In your mind, must you ponder,
the Highest, in your mind, ponder.

A fine peacock feather adorns His hair,
Surpass a bud, His celebrated cheeks fair.

In His consort Lakshmi's bosom, does he reside,
As a wish fulfilling tree is He, where His devotees reside.

Nectar, His moon like face is to the highest sage,
Sweet music from His flute completes this visage. "

Word for Word:
"Approach in your mind, the Brahman, approach in your mind, He who sports a beautiful peacock feather in His hair, whose illustrious cheek surpasses a blossom, Who resides in His consort Lakshmi's bosom, is the wish-fulfilling tree of His devotees' abodes, Whose moon-like face delights the eyes of the highest ascetic like drinking nectar, and (which visage) is filled by the stream of music heard from His flute."

This famous kriti is by the great 18th century saint Sadashiva Brahmendrar. Even when it is not sung, this poem is exceedingly beautiful in the original Sanskrit. To match its meaning and flow better, I have given a more poetic verse translation, that takes some license. So, I have given a separate word-for-word translation also. The allusion of course, is to Sri Krishna. The 'paramahamsa' is actually Sadasiva Brahmendra's stamp. Although I have literally translated paramahamsa, perhaps we can also respectfully take it to denote he himself. Hamsa or the swan is particularly important in Hinduism and is often associated with the mystical Manasa Sarovar lake. Swans signify purity, spiritual development and liberation. So, enlightened scholars are called Paramahamsa, to indicate transcendence and that they can at once reach the ethereal spheres. For the phrase "kuca durga", I have taken the more direct meaning.



  1. Question from a reader [moderated for privacy]:
    What is the core meaning of this song?

    To phrase it more directly: "Meditate on Krishna, Lord of Lakshmi, Who fulfills His devotees' desires. He is of exceeding beauty, with a peacock feather in His hair and very red lips and is playing His flute melodiously."

    There isn't an inner meaning to it; it is just a simple but beautiful poem asking you to pray to Krishna.

    1. The poem has embedded in it Sankaras advaita philosophy.Here the poet(Sadashiva Brahmendrar a saint and advaita philosopher ) is asking us to meditate on krishna who is considered as the embodiment of ultimate Brahmam.

    2. @Anonymous:

      I included this comment for illustrating the methods used in this work. Normally, since we know from history that Sadashiva was an Advaitin monk, we would say that he has alluded to Sankara's Advaita here. But, this would be using an assumption. In this work, we follow extreme rigor as we explain in the introductory pages. The actual lyrics make no direct or indirect reference to any specific Advaitic concept, nor invoke Sankara. It merely refers to a Brahman and constructs a beautiful picture of Krishna through several attributes. So, we cannot say there is an allusion to Sankara or his Advaita here - even though we would expect it!

  2. This is a more correct translation than most that appear on the net.I was searching the net to find out the meaning of the charanam "Sri ramani kucha.....", but every blogger was repeating the same senseless translation that Durga is residing inside Lakshmi. How stupid! Actually it is "kucha durg" (kucha=breast, durg=fort), meaning bosom. Your translation is precise, correct and great.

    1. "श्रीरमणीकुचदुर्गविहारे" is one word composed of SreeRamani, kuchadurgam and Vihari. When you combine in Sambodhana (addressing) the words undergo changes for interlinking. Kuchadurgam itself is composed of Kucham and durgam. It is better to write श्रीरमणीकुचदुर्गविहारे [Oh! dweller of the bosom (that is a fortress) of Lakshmi!] as a single word in Devnagari. But splitting of words started, I suppose, with the advent of computers. There are many Devnagari words in this krithi itself which have been split in to two or more words. While transliterating, certain freedom is a must. Like, Mangala Vara Dayakee (another Krithi) is acceptable; better than Managalavaradayakee which, though precise, is too long and can confound a reader. But in Devnagari, it is again a single word.

      A very helpful site.

    2. @Kman:
      Thanks for your comment. We love the more considered ones, whether you agree or disagree with us.

      Sri-Ramani-Kucha-Durga-Vihare is a complete expression in the vocative. Devanagari is only a script. The issue you allude to, is connected with the language, Sanskrit, itself. Each charanam in this song is such a Sanskrit expression in praise of Lord Krishna. The familiar form of writing Devanagari is actually a fairly recent development. This is not how it was written in the days of palm leaves. In fact, Sanskrit wasn't written exclusively in Devanagari until about 100 years ago. In the South for example, even unto the early 1900s, a good volume of Sanskrit works were printed in the Telugu script. The punctuations and various marks we use in Devanagari today, have evolved to suit modern western-influenced printing and reading conventions. Originally, nothing need be split, and it was up to the reader to supply the missing vowels, find the words and sentences and so on. This was similar to many other old languages, both classical and non-classical. Today, even Sanskrit diction and composition have changed to meet more familiar conventions. Actually, splitting compounds as above, to ensure readability for the bulk of readers used to reading in English and other Western languages, is by now, accepted in sufficient quarters.

      Interestingly, we can notice these modern reading and writing conventions even in your comment. Sanskrit has little notion of word order. Often endless transpositions are possible, and the reader needs to break down the text using case endings, contextualization and what not. So, why just split, even transposing the words of "sri-ramani-kucha-durga-vihare" could still leave the thing meaningful,- and yet counter-intuitive to most readers familiar with other languages.

      Transliteration is only one hurdle. Beyond it lies the question of Transcription. For most songs, due to the incompatibility of older music transcription schemes with the ones common now and the differences in music composition per se, there really is no perfect transliteration.

      The guidelines we follow for transliteration, edition and revision of lyrics and interpretation are all detailed in our very first intro page which you can access from the left sidebar. The key consideration in how we transliterate is the ease of comprehension for those new to Carnatic music or even Indian culture.

  3. Thank you. This is a comment we most appreciate. The phrase "kucha durga" is more in line with Sanskrit poetry, than with Carnatic kritis, which tend to be a little lighter in usage. This is why, when translating, we must keep in mind who wrote the work and why and so on. It is often forgotten that there is an art to good translation and it is not merely converting from one language to another.

  4. Reader Shankara sent several questions on email. (Redacted and summarized.)

    1) Is not the poet addressing the mind and asking the mind to dwell on the Brahman (Srikrishna)?

    Literally yes. But, addressing the mind as if it were a metonym for oneself or a presumed listener, is a frequent device in these songs, and actually imply exhortation. In general, when translating, giving the full meaning with full import is more useful than an ambiguous verb atim rendition and therein lies the art of translation. Hence, "Ponder!". This practice is explained elsewhere on the site, as are some of the conventions used in our translation.

    2) "Paramahamsa muka candrachakore" - I think it may mean "One who yearns to see the face of Paramahamsa (great bhakta) just as a the chataka bird yearns to see the Moon".

    Not directly. The chataka is different from the chakora and they appear in different similies and allusions. Here, the literal meaning is "(Who) (Krisha) thrives on the face of the Paramahamsa, as the chakora, on moonlight." The well worn allusion chandra-cakora as a whole, gives the meaning take here, with the nectar connotation. But, there is a catch, as my original notes indicate. As is common to the lyrical structure of the day, the song starts with a statement, here an exhortation, "Ponder", and then successively embellishes it. Here each succeeding line adds a descriptor of Krishna and brings us to the above. Paramahamsa, an honorific of great saints, is also the stamp of the composer Sadasiva. Hence, in word play, I took it to give the more apposite sense of "krishna gives joy", than "joy to krishna" while Paramahamsa can be taken in several forms, including self-referentially. Since I had taken liberties in word play I mentioned it in my comments. As long term readers may know, this site and work changed course into the more rigorous and exact approach, only after the first 3-4 songs. This song was the first to go on the site and hence was stylistically different. Also, throughout the site, we are trying to capture the beauty of the songs, in the beauty of English verse, and not writing plain copies.

  5. ..contd:

    3) There are a couple of errors in spelling such as with "mahaneeya".

    True. Originally, I had a collaborator who set this blog up and typed and formatted the lyrics of the first few songs, while I wrote the translations and the commentary. At that time the practice was to type the lyrics in as is, from the main music text books. There are errors reproduced from the texts as is, and typos in the first 3-4 songs.

    When I started running the site alone a few weeks later, I changed the approach to the current highly rigorous, comparative and research form and we started validating lyrics etc. However, I am not going to change minor errors in the 3-4 songs I did not type and post the lyrics for, as the former collaborator did these. This is out of respect for the collaborator, who is no longer with us. However, such changes have been made, and will be made in the book.

    Long term readers will surely be aware of how this site has changed direction twice, in the first of which changes, it became more rigorous after the first three songs.

  6. Also, alternative spellings or versions for different songs are included in the book form, but not in the site, as the introductory page tells you.

  7. As distant as the western classical paradigm and history are from the Carnatic ones, curious similarities some times arise. Talking about Sadashiva as an Advaitin monk, calls to mind one such case. Sadashiva was a scholar, mystic and composer. He predated the Trinity, and what is effectively the classical era, predating developments like the Kriti, the Sangati and so on.
    Vivaldi, the red priest of the Baroque, similarly predated the Classical and Romantic developments which led to the classical repertoire of today. We can find a simple but unmistakable liveliness in either's works and if we don't know the number, can still immediately note how they come from an older time than the rest of the common repertoire. Of course, the similarities are fairly superficial and the way of life an Advaitin monk and a Catholic priest differ greatly.