Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nada tanumanisham

Raga citta ranjani , 22 karaharapriya janya
Aa: S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S Av: S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S
Taalam: Adi



nāda tanumaniśaṃ śaṅkaram
namāmi mē manasā śirasā

modakara nigamottama sāma-
vēdasāraṃ vāraṃ vāram

sadyojātādi pañcavaktraja
sarigamapadhanī vara saptaswara
vidyālolaṃ vidalita kālam
vimala hṛdaya tyāgarāja pālam

English verse:

To Sankara, the embodiment of the musical art,
I bow my head with all my heart.

Of delightful Sama Veda,
The acme of the Vedic domain,
As He is the essence,
I bow time and time again.

From Sadyojata and the others of His five faces,
The scale Sa-Ri-Ga-Ma-Pa-Dha-Ni, arises.
Etudes of the fine seven notes, Death's bane, titillate,
That guardian of Tyagaraja the immaculate.

As a Nadopaska, or one whose music was his worship, Tyagaraja frequently praised music itself, or its elements, and considered it the most exalted. This kriti is an example. Sama Veda is considered the origin of music, as singing its verses was the first sacred music. The other vedas are not sung. In his five headed form, Siva is considered the creator of music. Such themes appear in many places in Tyagaraja's kritis. Strangely, though Tyagaraja calls Siva the essence of Sama Veda, in his form as Rudra, or as one of the Rudras, Siva appears in the Sama Veda in only eight or nine verses of nearly two thousand. Sankara literally means "He who does good". Usually, the allusion to crushing Death, is taken as a specific reference to Siva saving the boy-sage Markandeya. But more generally, Siva as the destroyer of the Trinity, has overlordship over Kala, Yama, Dharma or Death, and is described as having saved several other devotees from death. That is why he is called Mrityunjaya, and when someone is at death's door, the Mrityunjaya Homa is performed to save them. Allusion to Mrityunjaya is more frequent. Vidalita Kaalam can in fact, be alternately given as Mrityunjaya literally, Victor over Death. Studies of the seven notes is a figurative reference to music, and literally can be taken as an etude.



  1. Just to add a point here. Shiva as destroyer ends life of the whole creation and thereby gives it moksha and absorbs everything into himself. Mrityunjaya means victory over death. When a creature no longer fears death then its a victory over death itself. Shiva gives the courage to face death by liberating from mortal world and by giving Moksha.

  2. That was a very thoughtful comment. Thank you. As noted in the song, Mrityunjaya is the aspect of Shiva as transcending Time and Death. And of course, apart from becoming immortal, overcoming the fear of Death, is itself a victory over Death.

    This comment leads me to say two things about the nature of this site. Firstly, unless I have explicitly said I will expound on a topic in a song, I stay very close to the original text, and won't comment more than necessary. Regular readers will also know that this was one of the earliest songs on this site. I changed my approach substantially a little later. At that point, I was trying to be accurate and also brief.

    Secondly, a great focus of this site is to explain relevant Hindu praxis and involved theology on the one hand and Philosophy (Hindu and World Philosophy in general) on the other, and to keep the two matters clear and distinct from each other, as objects of scientific method and enquiry. That is the longhand for saying that "Moksha" is a very weighty and loaded word on this site, as almost all modern Hindu Philosophy is Vedantic, Moksha is the principal goal or topic in it. So, though it seems such an innocuous statement in the poster's comment, Moksha and how one may attain it in the different schools, has so much relevance for us on this site, that it will breed much exposition and discussion. That is, as we study our composer, we are also trying to study his context.