Monday, June 14, 2010

Pariyaachakama maata

Raga Vanaspati , Mela 4
Aa: S R1 G1 M1 P D2 N2 S Av: S N2 D2 P M1 G1 R1 S
Taalam: Rupakam


pariyācakamā māṭa? padigurilō pogaḍinadi

verapuna nanu mānambuna vesanambuna nē kōri
śaraṇāgata rakṣaka! ninnu santatamunu śaraṇanaga 

oka munikai draupadi dvārakā nilayā! śaraṇanaga
oka māṭaku vibhīṣaṇuḍu ōrva lēka śaraṇanaga
sakalēśvara! prahlādu  jālicē śaraṇanaga
hitakaruṇḍai brōcitivē tyāgarājuni māṭa
English verse:
Do I seem the droll of the shire,
As I sing of You at the town square?

Refuge of All! In pain, fear and doubt,

I ever seek refuge at Your redoubt!

Has not Your Hand from afar, reached,

The queen, as before the sage, she winced?
When upon a single taunt,
Brother fled brother's haunt,
And when a prince cried out in grief,
Did You not take them to Your fief?
And yet, O Lord of all, 
Are my words alone,
Mocked and left alone?


Incidents from  the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Bhagavatam are serially referred to here. 

Queen ... sage: When the Pandavas were exiled to the forest, Duryodhana and his cronies bade the irascible sage Durvasa, an incarnation of Shiva, to visit them at their hermitage. The sage was known for his ready curse and ravenous appetite. Duryodhana contrived that the sage would arrive with his retinue at the hermitage after the Pandavas had had their meal of the day, and there was no food left. Durvasa was expected to run into a rage and wreak great curses upon the Pandavas. Draupadi, upon the sage's arrival, prayed to Krishna who was at the time, across the country, in Dwaraka. Krishna, with His divine powers, came to her aid and forestalled the sage.

Brother fled brother's haunt: Vibheeshana, the youngest brother of Ravana, counseled him to turn over Sita to Rama and seek his refuge. In response to Ravana's anger at this counsel, Vibheeshana defected to Rama's side and was crowned the king of Lanka after the war.

Prince cried out: Prahalada, though the son of an evil demon, somehow grew up to be a devotee of Vishnu and after repeated attempts on his life, by his father, the terrible Hiryanakashipu, who was protected by a boon from Brahma that made him all but immortal, was saved by Vishnu, in his most terrifying incarnation, as the Narasimha or man-lion. The incarnations of Vishnu are detailed in the Bhagavatam, where details not in the Ramayana or Mahabharata, may be found. Tyagaraja alluded to Prahalada several times, as he is a symbol of the "Bhakti marga" or the path of personal devotion, that is considered accessible to all, irrespective of birth and creed. Prahalada, though an Asura or demon, was expressly saved by Vishnu. This is in fact, the only case in Hindu mythology, when a major incarnation interceded solely to deliver an Asura. Tyagaraja, of course, composed the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam, an entire cycle of songs about the Prahalada events.

Vanaspati is one of the seventy two  melakarta or foundational ragas, and one of the forty that includes vivadi swaras or dissonant notes including R3, G1, D3 and N1, in the notation scheme we use. There is some controversy between certain quarters about whether such ragas should be used in the Carnatic system or not. In reality, it reflects the development of the theory of Carnatic music over time, rather than whether these ragas can produce elaborate, consistent and pleasant melodies or not, into which debate the controversy somehow turned.

The regular reader might find that the verse translations are far too frequently in couplets. This could indeed get tiresome. The sole reason for the frequency of couplets is that, while generally preserving word and sentential order in the original, I also try to match Tyagaraja's flow. Due to his particular, music composition style, Tyagaraja's lyrics, when rendered into readable English, just naturally fall into couplets. I have my own style of writing poetry, as would anyone, but it is quite clear that anyone else writing a verse translation that tries to match the flow of the original, would also use couplets.

A COMPARATIVE STUDY: Here is a piece from Philip Massinger's 1624 play, The Bondman, which quite succinctly captures both the idea behind the path of Bhakti Yoga or Marga, and Prahalada's own ascent. As might be expected from a Renaissance playwright, the original thought is from Horace. But, it has been handled more directly and so, effectively, by Massinger here. The Sabaeans of Horace's time, were a people from the south of the Arabian peninsula, who had become wealthy from trading in fragrances, particularly frankincense and myrrh, which was indigenous to the area.

                                 The immortal gods
  Accept the meanest altars, that are raised
  By pure devotion; and sometimes prefer
  An ounce of frankincense, honey, or milk,
  Before whole hecatombs, or Sabaean gems,
  Offered in ostentation.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Raka Shashi Vadana

Raga Takka, 15 Mayamaalava janya
Aa: S G3 M1 P M1 G3 M1 D1 N3 S Av: S N3 D1 M1 P M1 G3 M1 R1 G3 S
Taalam: Adi



rākā śaśi vadana! iṅka parākā?

nīkāguṇamu kārādavanīkānta!

nammiyunna nija dāsulaku
nammikalanosagi maṛaturā!
tammi kanulanoka pāri nanu
daya jūḍa rādā? mariyādā ?

pāri pāri ninnanudinamukōri
kōrina vārini yīdāri brōcitivā?
māyādhāri! rārā! ēlukōrā!

nīvē telusukonduvanucunu
bhāviñcucunu nēnu nī pada
sēva jēsiti mahānubhāva!
English verse:

Does it befit You to lack in grace,
O Lord of the moon-like face?

Does it befit You to break Your word,
Lord of the Earth of infinite mercy,

To forget the faithful and clemency?
Deny me Your gaze and turn untoward?

Was such the refuge given,
To we who daily prayers proffered?
Fount of all worldly illusion,
Hasten, hasten, raise me heavenward.

Sure was I, as I served at Your feet,
That ere long You would note,
O Mighty Prince, at Your feet,
Lay one You must now dote.

There is not much to note in this song except that this is again in a raga in which Tyagaraja contributed a single song that we know of. In fact, no other songs in this raga are known in the common concert repertoire. But, the odd thing is that it is not a neglected or nascent raga in his time, one that Tyagaraja successfully deciphered like most of the other ragas where he contributed a single song. In fact, it is an ancient raga with more popular cognates and descendants. It was found in different parts of India and today is found both in the Northern and Southern systems. It is supposed that it takes its name from the peoples of the ancient Takka country, which the Rajatarangini by Kalhana, which chronicles the kings of Kashmir, considers to be outside ancient India and therefore possibly a northwesterly country in Persia or Central Asia, though nothing else is known about them other than this reference. Ragas named after ancient peoples are considered to have moved with them into different parts of the country. But, the Rajatarangini is from roughly around 1000 C.E., though Takka strains seem to have been known much earlier even in the remote south of India. 

"Earth", here, is the earth personified as Bhudevi, one of the consorts of Vishnu. It is line with Tyagaraja's specific Vedantic doctrine to hold all the world as an illusion and the Supreme Self as the only reality.

As we have seen earlier, the very first verses of the Ramayana describe Rama as most compassionate and having a full moon like face indicates the compassion expected of a ruler according to Indian astrology.

Extra Comments:
If I were to speculate, I would think that the Takkas referenced here, were a Turkic people who lived to the north west of the kingdom of Kashmir. It is known from the Rajatarangini that some other Turkic peoples served the kings of Kashmir.

This is not a frequently heard raga or song. We shall revisit some details about the musical terms associated with different peoples later.