Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sri Narada Naada

Raga Kanada , 22 Kharaharapriya janya
Aa: S R2 G2 M1 D N2 S Av: S N2 P M1 G2 M1 R2 S

Taalam: Rupakam



śrī nārada! nāda sarasīruha 
bhṛṅga! śubhāṅga!

dīna māna rakṣaka! jagadīśa! 
bheśa saṅkāśa!  

vedajanita varavīṇā-vādana tatvajña!
khedahara! tritāparahita! khecara vinuta!
yādava kulajāpta! sadāmoda hṛdaya! munivarya!
śrīda! tyāgarāja vinuta! śrīkara! mām pālaya!
English verse:

As a bee finds nectar, O rector, O sage!
To music, your blessed visage!

Prince of men, by you, save face,
The meek, by your moon-like grace.

From the Word, came the strings,
From you their art was found,
Your virtue the demigod sings,
Gone be the pains that hound.

Blissful kin to the divine Cowherd,
Bounteous sage most honored,
Might my prayer be heard,
Your refuge be rendered.

This song is again reflective of Tyagaraja's Nadopasana or music as worship school of thought. Since the divine sage Narada, is considered the originator of the musical arts, he is Tyagaraja's patron saint and ideal. Tyagaraja constantly strives to emulate Narada, who attained the highest enlightenment through his music and not by tapas or penance as other sages did. Narada would also lose himself in paroxysms of joy while singing of the gods and Tyagaraja aspired for such bliss through his own music. Narada was generally venerated but not especially worshiped. He was seen as the finest devotee. Tyagaraja however, sees Narada as his savior and worships Narada, for having shown him the path of music as worship. No other composer has left behind so many songs to Narada. Although a beloved character in the Puranas and the Epics, he is not of any special veneration or adoration in daily praxis and is rarely featured along with the principal deities in temples, although he does appear in the panel art such as in the pillars or the walls surrounding the sanctum sanctorum. That Tyagaraja alludes to Narada routinely is itself a mark of his Nadopasana approach.

Note that Narada is not considered the originator of music per se, as it is said to arise from the Vedas, which of course are held part of the eternal and revealed scriptures. Narada was chiefly a votary of Vishnu. If we look for parallels elsewhere, we find that Narada somewhat fulfills the role of Orpheus in showing the ascent of man through music and the role of the Muses in furthering the musical and other arts, such as inducing Valmiki to compose the very first poetry in the form of the Ramayana or bestowing Tyagaraja with long lost sacred knowledge of music, as we saw in an earlier song. Able to travel through the universe at will, he is also a frequent intercessor in both epics and in several Puranas, where his arrival always results in mischief, which however, leads to a pleasant resolution and fulfills some important purpose. A number of musical works, some verses in the Rg veda and a work of aphorisms on perfect devotion, the Bhakti sutras are all ascribed to him.

Jagadisha is one of those strange adjectives. When applied to a divine being, it means, the lord of all that exists; when applied to a king, an emperor or high king and here, when applied to a sage, it signifies someone who transcends all men. Narada was born a human in some legends and rose to divinity by penance and by the power of his music and this allusion brings that to mind. Generally, he is considered a son of Brahma and a deva or celestial, by birth. The strings: the veena is considered the generating instrument of Carnatic music, and its sounds are said to arise directly from the Vedas or the Word. The Vedas were "heard" by the first sages, were eternal and were revealed. The Sama Veda in particular, the Veda that is sung and not chanted, is considered the source of music. The Gandharvas are a class of celestial beings, somewhat below the Devas in the pantheon and are associated with music and other fine arts. They are considered the court musicians of the Devas. "The pains that hound": Human distress, as meant here by the term tritaapa, is said to be of three kinds- arising due to oneself, from others and by the divine hand. Narada, constantly sings the praises of the lord and is therefore always in a state of bliss. The divine Cowherd is of course Krishna, Who was raised in stealth among cowherds, but belonged to the princely Yadava clan by birth.

We can understand Tyagaraja's Nadopasana thought a little more by comparing his perspective of Narada with that of the different schools of Vishnu worship, that arose during the Bhakti, or resurgence of personal devotion movement in the North and East of India roughly during the 13th-16th centuries. These schools arose from teachers such as Vallabhacharya and Chaitanya, and can today be found in some numbers in such places as Bengal, Orissa and Mathura. They are primarily devoted to Krishna and hold "Nama Sankeertan" or singing of the lord's glory alone, as the true path that exceeds all other requirements such as the study of scripture, meditation, inquiry and observance of religious rites and duties. Naturally, they see Narada as the perfect devotee, for he is always singing the lord's praises and so, has risen to be forever close to and dear to Vishnu. To them, the Bhakti Sutra aphorisms ascribed to Narada are therefore particularly important. However, it is only his constant and rapturous "Nama Sankeertan" that they seek to emulate, and do not concern themselves with his other aspects. Tyagaraja, who sees Narada as his patron saint and guru, does agree with this view of Narada being a paragon of Bhakti. In line with his Nadopasana approach, which is more involved than the simplistic "Nama Sankeertan" approach where the simplest song suffices when offered truly, Tyagaraja additionally finds that Narada, as the greatest exponent of Nadopasana, has unlocked the mysteries of the universe through his study of music and has thus attained divine knowledge and enlightenment, in addition to being one with Vishnu. Tyagaraja seeks to emulate both, his adoration in song, and his theological attainments through the inquiry and art of music. That is why, it is of some import that Tyagaraja consistently sees Narada as a guru and a philosopher whose penance was his music, and not just as the ideal devotee. Tyagaraja also consistently sees music as containing the essence of the universe, having arisen from the primordial sound of the Onkara and the Vedas, and as having endowed the gods with their divine powers. The other schools do not venture into such involved details, as they find penance, observances, study and inquiry much less valuable than simple psalms of worship. As mentioned elsewhere, in such a system of Nadopasana, we can find some parallels with Pythagorean thought, as here too music becomes an all pervasive and potent mechanism. We may further note that while Orpheus is a far more frequent subject in the music and opera traditions of the west, than Narada, who is his counterpart in certain aspects, is, in all of Indian music save that of Tyagaraja.

This song too is reflective of Tyagaraja's preferred structure to his lyrics- a premise being stated firstly,  followed by a restatement and a bhashya or an exegesis like development of the premise in the charanas. We can also note yet again, how different Tyagaraja sounds in his Sanskrit songs compared to his Telugu songs. He is clearly more studied. There is again not as much reflective detail and emotional fervor and the lyricism here borders almost on the impersonal, that we cannot uniquely tie this song to Tyagaraja based on its words alone, as we could a number of his other songs like nagumomu kanaleni or sri narada muni, where he clearly indicates a personal experience and possibly even an immediate experience that is reflected in song with spontaneity. Beyond this, some commentators tend to draw the line that Tyagaraja's diction in his singleton songs was intentionally simpler, as he considered them to be pedagogical, whereas his musical plays were more stylish as they were considered higher performance art. I am yet to be convinced about major distinctions. In many cases, we could extend the generalization on language even to the underlying musical structure. The adventurer and innovator more frequently, though not necessarily, rings through in the Telugu songs. When we get down to the tiny business of musical detail in some time to come, we shall study these variations also.  

Extra Extra Comments:

Some concepts mentioned above, have already been encountered in other songs. They are repeated here for the sake of completeness, as I prefer each song be self-contained and allow easy reading.

Most authors will render Jagadisha as lord of the world or of the universe. This also happens when music scholars translate Tyagaraja's songs and all the main books including TKG's do that. The justification given when a being lesser than Vishnu or Shiva or the Brahman is so addressed, is that the lesser being is seen as a part of the Supreme Being, pars pro toto, unlike other unenlightened beings and hence worthy of such appellation. However, it is easier and more fitting to simply consider that the meaning of Jagadisha can vary by context. Here for example, we know that Tyagaraja sees Narada as a patron saint, guru and savior and not as Rama Himself. Therefore, the meaning I have read, follows. The other possibility that looms, is that the text might have elided over time, absent a contemporaneous printing and it may not have read Jagadisha at all. Alternate meanings can be derived for Jagadisha other than these common meanings. But, we know from his body of work, that Tyagaraja's technique and inventiveness lie elsewhere and that he was not given to word play or summoning up obscurities. We can even surmise that Tyagaraja turned hyperbolic, as poets often do and recall that he is not considered the most precise of the Trinity. Why am I splitting hairs on such a small point? Only to illustrate how we are often working with double blindfolds without a contemporaneous printing and how we may tackle such questions. Internal consistency is the main tool that helps us.

I tend to use exclamation marks to delineate the different epithets with which the composer addresses the subject, generally Rama and in this case, Narada. This is a convention used in Prof. T. K. Govinda Rao's book, as well as some prior works. It is one of the few prevalent conventions retained here. Technically, one could argue that it is not really a clean practice for Indian languages, as these norms of punctuation are based on western scripts and methods. In our case, it is useful to adopt, because we focus so much on lyricism and expression. 


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vandanamu Raghunandana

Raga Shahana, 28 Harikamboji janya
Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P M1 D2 N2 S Av: S N2 S D2 P M1 G3 M1 R2 G3 R2 S
Taalam: Adi



vandanamu raghunandana!
sētubandhana! bhaktacandana! rāma!

śrīdamā! nātō vādamā?
nē bhēdamā? idi mōdamā? rāma!

śrīramā hṛccāramā!
brōvabhāramā? rāyabhāramā? rāma!

viṇṭini nammukoṇṭini
śaraṇaṇṭini rammaṇṭini rāma!

ōḍanu bhakti vīḍanu
orulavōḍanu nīvāḍanu rāma!

kammani viḍemimmani
varamukommani paluku rammani rāma!

nyāyamā? nīkādāyamā?
inta hēyamā? muni gēyama rāma! 

cūḍumī kāpāḍumī
mammu pōḍimigā kūḍumī rāma!

kṣēmamu divya dhāmamu
ēmamu rāma nāmamu rāma!

vēgarā karuṇāsāgarā
śrītyāgarājuni hṛdayāgra rāma!
English verse:

Son of Raghu! To You,
In prayer my hands lock.
As you bridged the ocean's lock,
So you lavish upon your flock.

Must we in argument lock?
"We aren't one", do you mock?

Even Wealth flows from You;
Will this charade amuse You?

In Wealth, Your ken;
Is saving me a burden?
Another plea from me,
Must you hearken?

Of You, having heard,
I meekly surrendered;
All my trust I duly kept.
"Come!", in prayer wept.

Never shall I fail, nor falter;
Nor ever leave Your altar;
Another I shall not entreat,
Bound am I to Your feet.

Bid me draw near,
Betel leaves in honor,
As befits that sweet essence,
Grant of Your munificence.

Is it at all fair? Or a gainful affair?
Such ill will? In You of sages' trill?

With a glance, save me;
Rightly consort with me.

Shelter and shrine are found,
By Your name profound.

Hasten to my side, Most kind!
Ever in my heart and mind!

This song is another from the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam cycle. Its simple structure, rhyme and metrical symmetry make it suitable for group singing in a call-response form as well as normal rendition by a single performer.

The fastidious may note a mythological anachronism in this song. As it is from the Prahalada cycle, we can surmise that it appears to Tyagaraja that Prahalada prays thus to Rama. However, in commonly held mythology, Prahalada figured in the fourth incarnation of Vishnu, that of Nrsimha or the Man-Lion. Rama was the seventh incarnation and was born ages after Prahalada's time. Even the line of the Raghus had not yet been founded. This song too, thus shows Tyagaraja's propensity for Ishta Devata Aradhana, or worship of a personal deity, a concept discussed elsewhere. This concept makes the seeming anachronism consistent, for we next encounter the reference to Wealth being His consort, rendering this as a case of pars pro toto.

Extra Extra Comments:
In my opinion, Shahana is one of the gems of the Carnatic system. It is not easily imparted and needs some maturity for an exposition, but it can convey extraordinary emotional content. There is a tradition in many parts that this raga must not be taught by a teacher lest the tutelage would break prematurely. It is often postponed to the end of the training period.
As can be concluded from its complex ascent and descent schema, it may not be easy to compose such simple lyrics and music for it as in this song without oversimplification. From personal experience too, I think it can sometimes be hard to compose in it. Compare this with the song emaanticchevo, which we shall soon cover. That is a more mature work in terms of sustention of phrases, shows the complex layers of Shahana more and contains rich emotional expression.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rama as the Ramayana describes Him- Alakallalalaadaga Part 2

Knowing the context of the Ramayana is essential to understanding Tyagaraja and thence, Indian culture and its place in world culture. In the Ramayana, Rama was described as the ideal man. The Ramayana begins with Valmiki, the poet, asking the celestial sage Narada who was the best of men. Narada replies that it was Rama and then details Rama's life to him. Rama was most just, virtuous, heroic, wise, strong and exceedingly handsome. Rama and his brothers were together, an incarnation of Vishnu, with Rama claiming half the divinity. 

Rama as depicted in the Ramayana: We concern ourselves with poetry a lot at this site. The Ramayana, called the "Adi Kavya" or the Original Poem, was the first work of poetry in Sanskrit and the oldest epic poetry extant today. The parallels with the first classical epic of the west, the Iliad, are obvious. The Ramayana which does seem to be the older, is much more complete as a work in plot and detail. It also contains far more science, history, ethics, philosophy and theology, as the poet does not merely chronicle, but also develops his subject. Such observations of course fall within such realm as we find when we torture comparison between the two works, as there are great differences too. In the Iliad, Helen eloped. Sita was abducted and remained the paragon of virtue as she spurned Ravana continuously. The Illiad chiefly celebrates valor. The Ramayana on the other hand is much more profound. It does not celebrate any one exploit or attributes. Instead, it celebrates the ideal of Man. In fact, it begins with the poet Valmiki musing about who was the ideal man, who was worthy of his poetic labors. And the omniscient sage Narada appears before him and describes Rama's many virtues. This was the ideal man.

Here are the verses from the Ramayana where Narada first introduces Rama to Valmiki. These verses describe Rama's attributes and virtues in full.

Valmiki asks:

ko nvasminsāmprataṁ loke guṇavānkaśca vīryavān |
dharmajñaśca kṛtajñaśca satyavākyo dṛḍhavrataḥ ||1.1.2||

cāritreṇa ca ko yuktaḥ sarvabhūteṣu ko hitaḥ |
vidvānkaḥ kaḥ samarthaśca kaścaikapriyadarśanaḥ ||1.1.3||

ātmavānko jitakrodho matimānko'nasūyakaḥ |
kasya bibhyati devāśca jātaroṣasya saṁyuge ||1.1.4||

"Who in this world now, is goodly, valorous, righteous, thankful and truthful and has fixity of purpose?
Who is of sound character and the benefactor of all beings? Who is wise and capable and whose kindness makes him a pleasant sight to all?
Who is assured, calm and radiant and has no envy? Whose wrath do even the gods fear in war?"

And Narada replies:

bahavo durlabhāścaiva ye tvayā kīrtitā guṇāḥ |
mune vakṣyāmyahaṁ buddhvā tairyuktaḥ śrūyatāṁ naraḥ ||1.1.7||

"Many are the virtues you speak of, O sage! Listen, as I describe to you a man of such qualities.
ikṣvākuvaṁśaprabhavo rāmo nāma janaiḥ śrutaḥ |
niyatātmā mahāvīryo dyutimāndhṛtimānvaśī ||
He arose in the line of Ikshvaaku and he is called Rama. He is disciplined and has great courage. He is radiant and resolute and also has temperance.

buddhimānnītimānvāṅgmī śrīmāñśatrunibarhaṇaḥ |
vipulāṁso mahābāhuḥ kambugrīvo mahāhanuḥ ||
Intelligent, just, articulate and auspicious, he is the queller of foes. He has broad shoulders, big arms, a conch like stout neck marked by three lines and high cheek bones.

mahorasko maheṣvāso gūḍhajatrurarindamaḥ |
ājānubāhuḥ suśirāḥ sulalāṭaḥ suvikramaḥ ||
Barrel-chested, a great archer and muscular, he destroys foes. He has long arms dipping to his knees, a well proportioned head and a  wide forehead and is quick of step.

samaḥ samavibhaktāṅgaḥ snigdhavarṇaḥ pratāpavān |
pīnavakṣā viśālākṣo lakṣmīvāñśubhalakṣaṇaḥ ||
Of good proportions and similar limbs, lustrous and valorous, stout chested, wide eyed and handsome,- such are his auspicious features. 

dharmajñaḥ satyasandhaśca prajānāṁ ca hite rataḥ |
yaśasvī jñānasampannaḥ śucirvaśyaḥ samādhimān ||
Discerning of righteousness, truthful, seized of his subjects' welfare, famous and learned, he is immaculate and focused.

rakṣitā jīvalokasya dharmasya parirakṣitā |
vedavedāṅgatattvajño dhanurvede ca niṣṭhitaḥ ||
He protects all beings and the world and is the guardian of righteousness. He is versed in the principles of the Veda and the Vedic auxiliaries and in science of archery.

sarvaśāstrārthatattvajño smṛtimānpratibhānavān |
sarvalokapriyaḥ sādhuradīnātmā vicakṣaṇaḥ ||
He knows the purport and essence of all scriptures. He knows tradition and laws and acts in accordance with them. He is loved in all the worlds, gentle, high minded and discriminating.

sarvadābhigataḥ sadbhiḥ samudra iva sindhubhiḥ |
āryaḥ sarvasamaścaiva sadaikapriyadarśanaḥ ||
Ever approachable to the pious as the ocean is to rivers, the honorable one treats all equally and is ever a fond sight to all.

sa ca sarvaguṇopetaḥ kausalyānandavardhanaḥ |
samudra iva gāmbhīrye dhairyeṇa himavāniva ||
Kaushalya's joy is so endowed will all virtues. He is as deep as the ocean and as firm and steady as the Himalayas.

viṣṇunā sadṛśo vīrye somavatpriyadarśanaḥ |
kālāgnisadṛśaḥ krodhe kṣamayā pṛthivīsamaḥ ||
Like Vishnu in bravery, and charming like the moon, he is like the apocalyptic fire in anger and in patience, equal to the earth.

dhanadena samastyāge satye dharma ivāparaḥ |
tamevaṅguṇasampannaṁ rāmaṁ satyaparākramam ||
In giving, he is like Kubera, the lord of wealth and unsurpassed in being true like Dharma, the lord of righteousness and death. Such are the virtues of Rama, the truly valorous." 

Here is something in great contrast to other incarnations of Vishnu and other gods as described elsewhere. Narada describes a man of superlative qualities, but a man nonetheless. Nowhere does he say that Rama was a god and so wrought miracles or that Rama claimed any divinity for Himself. Rama is described as the ideal man throughout the book who wrought miracles by virtue and by perspiration. We are told elsewhere that Rama and His brothers were indeed incarnations and shared divinity among them. But, we are also clearly told that Rama even if divine, never exercised nor claimed any divine powers and lived and perspired as an ordinary mortal. That is, Rama was a model for men to aspire to, far more than being a deity to worship. Rama represents the ascent of ordinary man to divinity through virtue and merit. Such is what we gather from the Ramayana.

It is possible to view the attributes mentioned here, as being those of the Supreme Self. This is how several commentators view it, finding an inner meaning to these verses. However, I have, in conformity with the theme of the "ideal Man" in the original text, alluded to them as humanly virtues.
For an interesting comparison, here is R.T.H. Griffith's rendition of the same verses from the late 19th century, when the world was a very different place and western sensibilities to the east, were nascent and sometimes ill-founded. Much study of the east and of Hinduism, Buddhism and such subjects took place, though often, not with the noblest intent. Yet, even over a hundred years later, for better or worse, Griffith, Max Mueller and other translators of their times have stood on in the west. Griffith who also wrote the first Rg and Sama Veda translations for the West, chose to write a verse translation of the Ramayana. While this was an admirable objective and his scholarship in the classical languages of the West and the East, and English, was vast, personally, I find novelty but not the poet's mark in these verses. I find the job adequate but not very highly competent.

Then Nárad, clear before whose eye
The present, past, and future lie,
Made ready answer: 'Hermit, where
Are graces found so high and rare?
Yet listen, and my tongue shall tell
In whom alone these virtues dwell.
From old Ikshváku's  line he came,
Known to the world by Ráma's name:
With soul subdued, a chief of might,
In Scripture versed, in glory bright,
His steps in virtue's paths are bent,
Obedient, pure, and eloquent.
In each emprise he wins success,
And dying foes his power confess.
Tall and broad-shouldered, strong of limb,
Fortune has set her mark on him.
Graced with a conch-shell's triple line,
His threat displays the auspicious sign.
High destiny is clear impressed
On massive jaw and ample chest,
His mighty shafts he truly aims,
And foemen in the battle tames.
Deep in the muscle, scarcely shown,
Embedded lies his collar-bone.
His lordly steps are firm and free,
His strong arms reach below his knee;
All fairest graces join to deck
His head, his brow, his stately neck,
And limbs in fair proportion set:
The manliest form e'er fashioned yet.
Graced with each high imperial mark,
His skin is soft and lustrous dark.
Large are his eyes that sweetly shine
With majesty almost divine.
His plighted word he ne'er forgets;
On erring sense a watch he sets.
By nature wise, his teacher's skill
Has trained him to subdue his will.
Good, resolute and pure, and strong,
He guards mankind from scathe and wrong,
And lends his aid, and ne'er in vain,
The cause of justice to maintain.
Well has he studied o'er and o'er
The Vedas and their kindred lore.

Well skilled is he the bow to draw,
Well trained in arts and versed in law;
High-souled and meet for happy fate,
Most tender and compassionate;
The noblest of all lordly givers,
Whom good men follow, as the rivers
Follow the King of Floods, the sea:
So liberal, so just is he.
The joy of Queen Kaus'alyá's heart,
In every virtue he has part:
Firm as Himálaya's snowy steep,
Unfathomed like the mighty deep:
The peer of Vishnu's power and might,
And lovely as the Lord of Night;
Patient as Earth, but, roused to ire,
Fierce as the world-destroying fire;
In bounty like the Lord of Gold,
And Justice self in a human mould.

Extra Comments:  
I write all translations from the Sanskrit or Telugu originals afresh for this site. Neither R.T.H. Griffith, nor anyone else are sources for the translations presented anywhere in this site, unless explicitly mentioned as such. The Griffith translation here is a free translation and is not literal or word-for-word. Also, I favor a "from the source" approach in order to be close to the original. I seldom touch commentaries, even ancient ones, to present the subjects here, unless it is necessary. On occasion, the reader might find I deviate from common readings slightly. This will generally be because, I have, in my opinion, tried to remain as close to the original as possible.

In order to develop the themes and rationale of Tyagaraja further by touching upon the virtues of Rama, I have continued the commentary of the last song, than belabor a new one. This note on Rama pertains to all the songs on this site and helps to understand how Tyagaraja saw Rama in his mental image.

Extra Extra Comments
Your servant's grandfather left behind in manuscript, his very fine translation of the Ramayana. This remains as yet unpublished, mainly because I haven't gotten around to redacting it. He was my first Sanskrit teacher and though I was only a few years old at his passing, he remains an inspiration to me. The least one can do, is befit one's legacy and not belie it. 

On anonymity: I had comment that I had not named my grandfather above and any wish to preserve my privacy may not be offset by including just his name in tribute. This is true to a degree. However, as some readers who have corresponded with me know, I have retained anonymity here only because I am not yet sure of the final form the matter here- as book, newsprint, audiovisual or new media or just this website. I am also not sure if and when I will complete this venture as it is planned to run to over 3000 pages and cover not just Tyagaraja but music, Indian culture and Comparative Literature to the extent possible and meaningful, as suited for the modern reader,- a key consideration being that much literature written on these topics including Tyagaraja is either antiquated by now, or presumes a well informed and invested reader of a certain background or both, whereas my approach here makes no such assumptions of the reader. It is accessible to the modern reader of both kinds- those new to these subjects and to those well versed in it. Our purpose here, is not to just provide a compendium of all Tyagaraja songs or a selection. As the final form and extent are still unknown, I am also not actively promoting this website at various print and online forums. However, it has little to do with privacy and more to do with completeness. I do identify myself as needed, in correspondence I receive on this site. When the final form and extent of the content here is known, I will of course publicize as necessary, this website and any accompanying books or the like and affix my name to the whole as being the party responsible for all its shortcomings. I will at such time, identify my ancestor as well as those readers and fellow scholars and students of these subjects, who provided suggestions and insightful comments and the one or two who provided reference or other resources to aid in this work. Until such a time comes to pass, I don't think it is necessary to "name names".

An aside: This now comes to mind. Nirad C. Chaudhri, in his Continent of Circe, made the unfounded and hilarious suggestion, albeit in all seriousness, that Rama was a Persian prince and the siege of Ramayana happened on an island in ancient Persia.