Friday, October 16, 2009


Raga Nata , 36 Chalanata janya
Aa: S R3 G3 M1 P D3 N3 S Av: S N3 P M1 R3 S
Taalam: Adi



jagadānanda kāraka
jaya jānakī prāṇanāyaka

gaganādhipa satkulaja
suguṇākara surasēvya
bhavyadāyaka sadāsakala

amara tāraka nicaya kumudahita
paripūrṇānagha sura surabhūja
dadhipayodhi vāsa haraṇa sundarataravadana
sudhāmaya vacovṛnda govinda sānanda
māvarājaraāpta śubhakarānēka

nigama nīrajāmṛtaja poṣakā-
nimiṣa vairivārida samīraṇa
khagaturaṅga satkavi hṛdālayā
gaṇita vānarādhipa natāṅghriyuga

indranīlamaṇi sannibhāpaghana
candrasūrya nayanāpramēya
vāgindra janaka sakalēśa śubhra
nāgēndra śayana śamanavairi sannuta

pādavijita mauniśāpa
savaparipāla varamantra grahaṇalola
paramaśānta citta janakajādhipa
sarojabhava varadākhila

sṛṣṭi sthityantakārakāmita
kāmita phaladāsamāna gātra
śacīpatinutābdhi madaharānurāga
rāgarājita kathāsārahita

sajjana mānasābdhi sudhākara
kusuma vimāna surasāripu karābja
lālita caraṇāvaguṇāsuragaṇa
madaharaṇa sanātanājanuta

oṅkāra pañjarakīra purahara sarojabhava kēśavādirūpa vāsavaripu janakāntaka kalādhara kalādharāpta ghṛṇākara śaraṇāgata jana pālana
sumanoramaṇa nirvikāra nigama sāratara

karadhṛta śarajālā-sura
madāpaharaṇa avanīsura surāvana
kavīna bilaja mauni kṛta caritra
sannuta śrī tyāgarājanuta

purāṇa puruṣa nṛvarātmajāśrita
parādhīna khara virādha rāvaṇa
virāvaṇānagha parāśara manoharā
vikṛta tyāgarāja sannuta

agaṇitaguṇa kanakacēla śāla vidalanāruṇābha samāna caraṇā
pāra mahimādbhuta sukavijana hṛdsadana suramunigaṇa vihita
kalaśa nīranidhijā ramaṇa pāpagaja nṛsiṃha vara tyāgarājādinuta

English verse:

Joy to the world, do You cause!
Joy to the world, for You are its cause!
By You, all extant beings delight!
Hail the Mother 's life giving wight!

As the sun, over the sky, lords,
O king of kings and god of gods!
O noble scion of the solar race of yore!
Your bounty keeps all, for ever and ever more!

As the moon, the stars, so the gods, You surpass!
Perfect and sinless! Yet no milk, no curd may pass,
Even as You pilfer with the robes of each Gopi lass.
You grant the gods' desires without compass.
Nectar-sweet speech fills the finest visage;
Blissful, must You, the humble cow, engage.
Timeless lord of Wealth! Pleasures manifold,
You bestow, in measures untold!

You sustain the eternal, the lotus,- the Heard,
As the clouds, by the wind, are scattered,
So did You, the rivals of the unblinking.
The Great Bird carries you speeding,
To live forever in the hearts of poets pristine,
At Your feet, is the lord of simians umpteen.

Of the hue of divine blue gems is Your person.
Exalted of Death's bane and the creator, Your son,
O Inscrutable! The sun and moon Your eyes make.
O Lord of all! Gently repose on the white king-snake.

Cleansed is the sage's curse, by the dust of Your feet,
Saved is another's rite; by the bow, the demons are beat.
Learned keen is the great chant, O lord of exceeding calm!
O blesser of the creator, O lord of all-pervasive form!

You make, keep and end, O limitless one of peerless form,
You humbled the Ocean as he moved to uncalm!
You, the king of gods worships; You bestow all that's sought!
You, the saga of love and desire, 'lone, have wrought!

Moon-like You light the minds of the virtuous,
Astride the flying chariot, most lustrous.
As the lotus hands that rent the sea serpent caress Your feet,
O Eternal one, even the creator worships at Your feet.

As a parrot in a cage, are You to the sacred syllable,
To each of the Trinity, the form venerable.
You slew the sire of the scourge of the king of heaven,
O patron of art, friend of the moon-crested and ashen,
Featureless, kindly guardian of those who pled refuge,
O Vedic acme, joy to those void of subterfuge!

Fearsome arrows in hand, you humbled the demons,
And protected the gods and godlike humans,
The saga by he of the ant-hill, exalts You,
As one voice, this bard, joins him too.

O timeless Supreme Being, once the great king's offspring,
Beholden to the faithful; Khara, Ravana and all conquering,
Stolen is the infallible redactor's heart by endearing,
This flawed bard, still hails You with a spring.

Infinite virtues, azure robes the eye greet,
Red as the dawning sun, shine your feet,
In a stroke, piercer of the seven trees,
Your wonders unbound, never cease,
Filling the hearts of each good minstrel;
Abiding in the heart of a damsel.
Of all the gods and sages, patron,
That damsel is, the child of the ocean.
When the rogue elephant of sin runs amok,
As the man-lion You wreak havoc.
Your glory, this blessed bard sings,
Joy to all Your very name brings.

Gloss to the verses:
Verse 1: Wight: human; Mother refers to Sita; Tyagaraja considered Sita, or Janaki, his mother and the mother of all. (Cf. Sitamma maayamma)

Verse 3: Amara:immortals- gods. Krishna, while growing up in Gokula, was a naughty cowherd whose exploits of stealing butter and milk and heckling the cowherdesses (gopis) are sung to this day. Wealth personified is Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, of whom Sita,(the Mother), was an
incarnation. "Surabhuja", literally something that sprung from the celestial soil or a tree, refers to the miraculous wish-fulfilling tree of heaven.

Verse 4: The Heard: the Vedas. The Vedas belong to the Shruti group of scriptures, which were said to be directly revealed to, i.e. first "heard by" different sages. The eyes of the gods, (the devas) do not blink. They are in constant war with their cousins the demons (the asuras). Amrutaja- Arising from nectar, or figuratively, something that is immortal or can cause immortality. cf. the herb amrutajaa (myrobalan) of which such claims are made. Here, the meaning is that the vedas are eternal, perhaps, arising lotus like from the muddy lake of mundade life. (This phrase is probably a Tyagaraja neologism.) Garuda, the king of birds, is Vishnu's vehicle. Lord of simians umpteen: Sugreeva, the then deposed king of the Vanaras (literally man-apes), sought asylum with Rama, from his brother and harasser, Vali.

Verse 5: Of the Trinity, Siva has overlordship of Death and may overrule him, hence "samana vairi" or Death's bane. Brahma the creator, emerged from a lotus that sprung from Vishnu's navel. Vishnu, the protector, reclines on Sesha, the king of snakes, in his abode in the ocean of milk. He is marked by His blue person (literally, limbs in the lyrics), yellow or golden robes, the Srivatsa curl, the unwithering Vaijayanti garland and so on.

Verse 6: The sage Gautama had with a curse, turned his wife, the spotless Ahalya, into a stone. He had suspected her of infidelity. As Rama walked through the forest, at the mere touch of his feet, her curse was removed. She turned into a woman again, and rejoined Gautama. While in the forest, he prevented several demons from sullying the fire sacrifice of another sage Viswamitra. This sage rewarded Rama with the knowledge of two secret chants Bala and Adibala which controlled hunger and fatigue. This episode preceded his marriage to Sita and his exile. Brahma the creator, was himself created and sustained by Vishnu. Rama was distinguished by his calmness in all situations.

Verse 7: Here Rama is seen by Tyagaraja, in the aspect of a personal diety, as a Great God, above the Trinity and the pantheon. This is a common practice in Hinduism, where the one Supreme Spirit or Brahman is seen in the manifest forms of one's chosen diety. When Rama came to the ocean with his army and had to cross it to Lanka, he fasted and prayed to the the ocean god, for days. This god was not obliging due to Rama's being a mere human and Rama threatened to dry up the ocean with a divine weapon. Deflated, the god appeared before Rama and offered to support a bridge of floating stones inscribed with Rama's name, so that Rama and his army could cross over to Lanka. Sachi is Indra's wife. The Ramayana is here called a saga of love, that of Rama, versus lust, that of Ravana.

Verse 8: The Pushpaka Vimana or flying chariot, was heavely vehicle that Ravana had coopted and Vibheeshana, his brother who defected to Rama, placed at Rama's service after the war. "Surasa-ripu"- foe of Surasa, Hanuman. Surasa was a great sea monster who posed one of the many strange demons Hanuman had to overcome, while flying over the ocean to Lanka. Cf The Odyssey. After the war, Hanuman remained forever in Rama's service.

Verse 9: The sacred syllable Om, is said to empower all the gods. Perhaps Tyagaraja says here that Rama has to enliven Om itself, thereby causing all action in the universe, just as a parrot enlivens an empty cage with its talk. As mentioned earlier, Tyagaraja now sees Rama as a great god, his god. "Vaasava ripu": Foe of Indra. Indra is called Vaasava, or chief among the vasus or guardians of the eight regions of space. Indrajit, or "victor over Indra", a son of Ravana, had many magical powers. Siva has a crescent moon in his matted locks and is covered with ash. "Omkara panjara kira" is a loaded phrase. It is also a direct allusion to "Omkara panjara shukhi", a phrase which too means "parrot bound by the sacred Om syllable" that was reputedly used by Sankara to describe Parvati. The reference to the caged bird and Parvati in her aspect of Tripurasundari, the Mother Goddess, is quite common. Generally, a prayer called a panjara is considered something powerful, that binds the propitiated divinity to aid the devotee. Panjara is almost always used in the metaphorical sense. In this case, many meanings arise, with different levels of tenuousness, rather than certainty, due to the ambiguity of context. We can take the most direct that Rama is propitiated and bound by chanting Om, that he is as a caged parrot to it. Now, Om is also the primordial sound, that as Tyagaraja tells us throughout his work, energizes the universe, and is also a generator of music. Since it leads to the conclusion that Rama may be attained through Om and so music, this is consistent with Tyagaraja's Nadopasana approach. In this tradition, parrots generally represent wisdom, transcendence and prosperity. A cage, unlike this case, is often a metaphor for man bound by mortal coils.

Verse 10: Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayana, was previously a highwayman, who was counseled by a passing sage, into cleansing his sins by penance. This he did so intensely and still, that an ant-hill grew over him in time. When finally Brahma appeared before him, pleased with his penances, he had to break Valmiki out of the ant-hill, to bless him.

Verse 11: The great king- Dasaratha, father of Rama. Ravana was not the only formidable demon vanquished by Rama. Khara, Virada and Mareecha were some others. The "redactor" is the sage Vyasa, literally "arranger". It was Vyasa who compiled and codified the Vedas and also wrote the Mahabharata. He was the son of sage Parashara and a kinsman of the Pandavas.

Verse 12: Rama had promised to slay Vali, for Sugriva's sake. However, this could not be done in single combat, as befits a warrior. Vali had a divine necklace that deprived his opponents of their strength. So, Rama had Sugreeva challenge Vali to combat, and slew him with a single arrow that pierced seven huge Sal trees. Lakshmi herself emerged from the ocean of milk, hence child of the ocean. The Nru-simha or Man-lion was Vishnu's most terrifying incarnation, in which he slew a demon who had gained dominion over the three worlds by a strange boon from Brahma. He could not be slain by man, beast, god or his kind, at day or night, inside or outside, or by any weapon, nor upon earth, heaven or hell. This demon was Hiranyakashipu. Vishnu solved the problem by incarnating as a man-lion, placing him on his lap, ripping him apart with his claws, at the doorway to his palace, at the hour of dusk. All his boons were thus not violated and he met his end. His son, Prahalada however, was a great devotee of Vishnu, who had invoked him, upon being tortured by his father. Vishnu appeared thusly, to save his devotee. The Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam, or the Cycle of Prahalada's victorious devotions, is one of the cycles of Tyagaraja kritis. Today, amongst many Hindus, propitation of and the signs of Nrusimha, are considered a protection against any form of evil spirits or evil-doing.


Since today is Diwali, the most joyous festival, I was saving this kriti, about the "Joy of all the world" and its engineer, for this day. Happy Diwali to one and all.

There is little that I can say to introduce this kriti. To many who like vibrant, expansive numbers, it is "the" kriti. I will confess that it took many hours to write just these sixty lines- many hours of pure pleasure, that were never mine, while learning, singing or listening to the song over the years, as I just couldn’t stop ruminating and lingering over the lyrics and the notation. It may sound needlessly lofty to say so, but Tyagaraja must indeed be experienced with every fiber of one's being. We must strive to see what he saw in his mind's eye.

This kriti is the first of the Pancharatnas. Pancharatnas literally means “five gems”, but it is better translated as “pinnacle”. These five are indeed the gems among the 2000-5000 kritis and other songs, that some estimates say are in the mainstream concert repertoire. To compare, what influence and popularity, Beethoven's 3rd, 5th and 9th combined would have in the Western world, these kritis have in their sphere. These five songs are also in “Ghana ragas” or weighty ragas, namely Naata, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali and Sri. These ragas lend themselves to extensive improvisation and exposition.

This is probably the kriti among the five with the densest lyrics. The kriti is eminently singable even in its slightly quick paced charanas, but when one sits to break down its lyrics, that is when we note the often straightforward Tyagaraja, could pull off a Wagner as well. It is said he has even managed to include 108 different names and honorifics of Rama in the song, that one may perform a complete traditional Ashottatara-Archana prayer service simply by rendering this song. To borrow a term from science, the "packing density" of lyrics into the underlying melody is very high :)

If you look at it another way, this kriti does a merry dance towards many corners of Hindu mythology and even some philosophy and the gloss shows this. I am sure the lyrics and my verses to the other four kritis will be less challenging.

The nature of the kriti:
This kriti starts with bright, bold colors. Tyagaraja bursts forth, declaring that Rama causes the joy of all the world. He is not speaking humbly, personally, to his personal deity, as is his norm. There is no quivering cry for pity. It is a clarion call. He is now speaking for all humanity about the joy of the world. He is booming from the rooftops. The tempo picks up in the charanas with some interesting tongue twisters. Eventually, Tyagaraja ceases to see Rama as a godly king and incarnation and sees him as a great god and the Brahman or Supreme Spirit.
There is much more to be said about this kriti in both literary and musical detail; I plan to revisit each of the pancharata kritis at a later time, looking at each, from a new angle on each revisit. I shall post a comparative study of this kriti with some landmark western pieces when we revisit it.

About the verses
Due to its familiarity, I have evoked the hymn "Joy to the world" in the opening lines, than write something more original- expressly because my business here is to spread the joy of Tyagaraja, than show off my tricks of the trade. Since the subject is a hero, I have retained couplets here in the structure, although not the heroic couplet. Since there is so much lyrical detail in this song, I chose not to evoke anything from English or other western literature. As the lyrics are dense, particularly in the charanas, some of my middle verses are tight and tough too. The charanas' intensity eases only from the eighth one.

Alternate meanings:
Given the usage and the declensions in the song, many of the epithets in it, could admit alternate readings and meanings. One or two are shown here. If and when we revisit this song, we can look at other readings. For example, we can take Jagadanandakaraka to be a single epithet meaning "He who causes joy to the world" or two epithets, "Joy of the world" and its "Prime Mover". References to Brahman and great gods in the charanas, may even point to this second, more sublte meaning. Grammar doesn't forbid it. As Rama himself means he who gives pleasure (or enjoyer), jagadanandakara is taken literally, and that is well justified. But the more subtle meaning is richer and more befitting. The second line of my poem must be read in this second sense. We can defend the alternate reading by saying, though a long vowel "a" is apparent while singing, it really is not present in most printings, thereby not causing a vocative declension, requiring us to group the phrase together. We can similarly reason out many alternative meanings throughout the song such as Rajarajeshwara.

An ode to joy:
The famous "Ode to joy" in Beethoven's 9th, speaks about joy and universal brotherhood. We may similarly consider this kriti as Tyagaraja's "Ode to joy", because for him, Rama was the world, Rama was life, and Rama was joy.

Extra Extra Comments:
An aside: While cross-checking some of the lyrics in my texts, I came across an instance where "Purana Purusha" in the 9th charana, was comically translated as Primaeval male! Surely, Tyagaraja couldn’t have been so literal, and spoken of Adam or Manu, than speak of Brahman! Sure, there are many possible interpretations in this song; but this wasn't one of the possible ones :)



  1. The following "Frothing at the mouth" and really ignorant comment, far worse than the previous such comments, was received today. The queries in it, have been answered in our "criticism page", under the heading "Another misguided soul's take", at this URL: .

    Again, the same queries could have been raised respectfully and this was the main error in it, and not the level of ignorance shown. The comment, excerpted here, is given verb-atim in that page. Because of its foul language, it has only been excepted below. The great irony is that, despite all the professed loyalty and adherence to Hinduism of this commenter, he has not even the most rudimentary knowledge of the mythology or philosophy contained in it. Here is an excerpt:

    "What an atheistic translation!... "This is a common practice in Hinduism, where the one Supreme Spirit or Brahman is seen in the manifest forms of one's chosen deity" which scripture says so?? ...

    "This god was not obliging due to Rama's being a mere human " ... What do you mean by this god, that god?? Parabrahman means Rama and He's God(Bhagavan) and the rest are demigods. "