Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ksheerasagara Shayana

Raga Devagandhari, 29 Dheerashankarabharanam janya
Aa: S R2 M1 P D2 S Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S
Taalam: Adi

Lyrics:

Pallavi:

kṣīrasāgara śayana!
nannu cintala beṭṭavalēna rāma?

Anupallavi:
vāraṇa rājunu brōvunu vēgamēvaccinadi vinnānurā rāma!
Charanam: nārīmaṇiki jīraliccinadi nāḍē nē vinnānurā dhīruḍau rāmadāsuni bandhamu
dīrcinadi vinnānurā
nīrajākṣikai nīradhi dāṭina nī kīrtini vinnānurā tārakanāma tyāgarājanuta
dayatō nēluk
ōra rāma!
English verse:

In the Ocean of Milk, when Your bard is vext,
Should it please You to languidly repose?


You rushed on the king-tusker's pretext,
For so I've heard; now may I impose?

You clothed a queen, when her kings failed.
You saved another bard, when he was jailed.
To save your doe-eyed bride,
You crossed the ocean;
Your mere name takes me
Across the worldly ocean.
Your exploits are famed far and wide.
In Your grace, Lord, may I abide.

Comments:
Tyagaraja cites several 'precedents' in this song, asking for Rama's intercession on his behalf. Without going into fine musical details, as a rudiment of music appreciation, we can still remark that the pallavi when sung, clearly conveys the mood and graphic description of Vishnu resting amid the mildly turbulent waves of the Ocean of Milk. We can actually notice a little wave in the phrases and a marked and appropriate languor to the start of the kriti. Just visualize the image described in the song.

About the verses: The Ocean of Milk, is considered the site of Vishnu's home, Vaikunta. There, He is seen reclining on the many headed great white serpent Adi Sesha, with His consort, Lakshmi or Wealth, seated at His side. "The king-tusker": A celebrated exploit of Vishnu, from the Bhagavatam was when He rushed to the aid of the king of elephants, Gajendra. Gajendra had been a great devotee of Vishnu in his previous birth, and was born in that form, due to a curse. One day, when he went to the waterfront for a drink, a crocodile attacked him. Gajendra, receiving the worst of it, prayed to Vishnu, who alacritously interceded on his behalf. The point is that the Lord hears the prayers of all beings. Allegorically, Gajendra may be taken to be man, and the crocodile, the burden of sins, or just the coils of worldly existence. We may conclude from the story that Vishnu may deliver man from his sins and help him see the light, if only man would appeal fervently.

"Clothed a queen": The kriti alludes to a "nari mani" or gem among women. In the Mahabharata comes the episode in which, Draupadi, the queen of the Pandavas is dragged into the Kaurava court, to be the slave of the Kauravas. The Pandavas had lost her, and their own freedom, in a game of dice. The Kaurava Dushasana sought to disrobe her, being so instructed by his senior, Duryodhana. The Pandavas, now slaves, being barred from fighting for her dignity, she appealed to Krishna, the all knowing. He, from afar, miraculously clothed her in an endless robe, that much as Dushasana kept disrobing her, she still remained fully clothed. In the end, Dushasana fainted tired from his efforts. This divine intercession prompted the Kuru elders to annul the game of dice, and return their kingdom to the Pandavas. But, the Pandavas were again tricked into a game of dice, which they lost and were forced into a thirteen year exile. Their kingdom not being restored after the agreed term of exile, the great war of the Mahabharata was fought. At its beginning, the Gita was taught. At the end of the terrible war, every house in Aryavarta or ancient India, had suffered at least one of its own dead. The Pandavas gained both kingdoms, theirs and the Kauravas' and ruled well for decades. Eventually, they ascended to Heaven. Krishna, the prime mover of the Mahabharata, met a mortal end, accidentally shot in the foot, by a hunter in a forest, as he was resting. Thus, this incarnation or Avatara of Vishnu, is considered the only Purnavatara, or Complete Incarnation, for all the others culminated in a miraculous ascent to Heaven or merging with Vishnu. One avatar, Parashurama, is considered immortal and still penancing in the Mahendra hill of the Himalayas. However, his "amsa" or "incarnated element" of Vishnu, is thought to have merged with Vishnu, once the purpose of that avatara was fulfilled.

"Another bard": Tyagaraja refers to a saint-composer named Bhadrachala Ramadas, who preceded Tyagaraja by about a century. The popular version of his story is this. Being appointed the tax collector for a district in Golconda, a post of some consequence in those times, he chanced upon the dilapidated but historic and important, Rama temple in Bhadrachalam. He proceeded to renovate the temple. The local ruler presumed that Ramadas had squandered some of the tax money on the temple and sought to be compensated. Ramadas, having exhausted his personal wealth, could not do indemnify the ruler and so, was incarcerated. After twelve years of jail, it is said, Rama deigned that Ramadas had paid for his sins in a previous birth and so was fit to be liberated. He and Lakshmana appeared miraculously one night, before the ruler, and compensated him with gold coins bearing Rama's own seal. The overwhelmed ruler released Ramadas and made a rich donation to the temple. Ramadas lived out his life singing the praises of Rama. Ramadas was a learned composer who has left behind hundreds of songs in Telugu.
He used the earlier Keertanam form of songs, as opposed to the Kriti form used since Tyagaraja's time. Some of his works are more correctly shlokas or verses. Tyagaraja draws a parallel between his life far from Rama, being the same as Ramadas' incarceration.

"Your mere name": Rama Naama or Rama's name is considered a Taraka Mantra, or a prayer that can stop even death. It can also deliver man, over the ocean of worldly ties, and into enlightenment. Incidentally, some of the most famous songs of Bhadrachala Ramadas, such as E teeruga nanu, and Tarakamantramu, refer to Rama and Rama's Name delivering one across worldly ties and into bliss. This is a common theme for poets and composers who belong to the school of devotion to Rama (Rama Bhaktas). Those devoted to Krishna, by contrast, speak of his various Leelas or life exploits, for the key difference between the philosophy of these two avataras, is that the Rama incarnation had implicit divinity- Rama lived as a mere mortal and exemplar. Never once is Rama described as having using divine powers. Krishna on the other hand, led a life full of divine miracles, commencing with his birth. Thus, to those who synthesize both schools, which is the majority of modern Hindus, as the lines are not strictly drawn, Rama is meant to be followed in life as a model, and Krishna is meant to be prayed to as a god and Supreme Teacher.

"Crossed the ocean": This is the famous episode of Rama crossing the ocean, over a floating bridge of stones, into Lanka, to fight Ravana, who had abducted Sita. Sita is referred to as "lotus eyed" in the kriti, which I have given as "doe eyed", the implication of either being, large, beautiful and kindly eyes.

"The worldly ocean": In Hindu literature, material life, or family life is often viewed as an ocean to be crossed, in the process of attaining enlightenment. The Taraka Mantra of Rama's name, is considered particularly potent to deliver one from death and across the worldly delusions.

There is another song by Tyagaraja, "Ksheera Sagara Vihara", in the Ananda Bhairavi raga, in which too he expresses similar sentiments.

One strange point is that we don't encounter the Ocean of Milk in the Rig Veda. We encounter it in the Epics, the Bhagavatam and other books. We can make several incidental observations about this song. Although, canonically, Rama is seen as an incarnation of Vishnu and all but one of the episodes mentioned here, are considered exploits of Vishnu rather than episodes of the Ramayana, Tyagaraja, in his devotions, sees Rama as being Vishnu Himself, as well as Krishna. This is a frequent practice in Hindu worship; the deities of daily praxis, eventually lead to the concept of the eternal and unknowable Brahman.


Speaking of the reclining form of Vishnu, there is a tradition that when Tyagaraja visited Sri Rangam, he was slighted by the throng during a Brahmotsava festival, and the Lord prevented the procession from moving forward. All attempts and prayers by the temple grandees failing to budge the Lord, Tyagaraja was found and the slight discovered. Tyagaraja pacified the Lord with his "Vinarada na manavini" and the procession could move forward. Thereafter, Tyagaraja was greatly honored by the temple staff and during an Ekantha darshana, rendered his "O Rangasayi". Fairly similar to the Tirupati incident during Tyagraja's travels.



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3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the excellent explanation. When I heard Taraka nama in the song I confused it with Tarakai who Rama killed when he was with Vishwamitra so I looked up the meaning. Now I understand that Taraka means death.

    Regarding your comment that the Rig Veda does not have reference to the Ocean of Milk, I think the Vedic times preceded the Puranic times by a few thousand years.

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  2. Thanks for your comment. Yes, the Vedas predate the Puranas by some time. But, the Vedantic philosophies strive to establish a continuous thread from the Vedas, through the Itihasas and Upanishads to the Puranas and finally to the Agamas(i.e. in the case Vishishtadvita, Dvaita etc., which do prescribe specific Agamic forms), and to a practitioner, there must remain this consistent thread. Aspects of Vishnu are noted in the Rig and elsewhere. It is from the Agamic times that the familiar type of modern Hindu temple worship and praxis, directly descend- i.e. with the adoption of the Archavatara form.

    Speaking of the reclining form of Vishnu, there is a tradition that when Tyagaraja visited Sri Rangam, he was slighted by the throng during a Brahmotsava festival, and the Lord prevented the procession from moving forward. All attempts and prayers by the temple grandees failing to budge the Lord, Tyagaraja was found and the slight discovered. Tyagaraja pacified the Lord with his "Vinarada na manavini" and the procession could move forward. Thereafter, Tyagaraja was greatly honored by the temple staff and during an Ekantha darshana, rendered his "O Rangasayi". Fairly similar to the Tirupati incident during Tyagraja's travels.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for the valuable explanations. It was really helpful.

    ReplyDelete