Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nadasudha rasambilanu

Raga Arabhi , 29 Dheera Shankharabharanam janya
Aa: S R2 M1 P D2 S Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S
Taalam: Roopakam



nādasudhā rasambilanu narākṛti yāyē manasā!

vēda purānāgama śāstrādulaku ādhāramaina

svaramūlu ārunnokaṭi ghaṇṭalu
vara rāgamu kōdaṇḍamu;
dura naya dēśyamu triguṇamu
niratagati śaramurā;
sarasa sangati sandarbhamu
gala giramūlurādhara;
bhajana bhāgyamurā tyāgarāju sēvincu.

English verse:

The nectar of Music, O Mind,
Here, in human form, find!

For Scripture and Epic, the basis,
The seven notes, the bells of stasis,

To such music and its Maker, I bow-
The blessed melodies make the Great Bow,
Their note, tone and join, the bow string,
A steady taut beat, the true arrow speeding,
His fitly said word, the sweetly varied phrase,
A boon it is to sing in His praise.

This is a song in which Tyagaraja combines his path of Ramabhakti or Devotion to Rama with his method or vehicle of Nadopasana or music as worship. He sees Music as arising from the Person of Rama.

About the verses:
"Bells of stasis": Unlike the European crossbow of the Middle Ages, the Indian great bow or longbow, was unique to each great archer, was considered to have its own signature, and was celebrated along with him. Even the twang of each bow was said to be unique and identified its wielder. Thus, Rama had the Kothanda bow referred to here, and Arjuna of the Mahabharata had the Gandeeva. Shiva has the Pinaka. Among the many names of Rama and Siva are Konthandapani and Pinakapani, signifying that the bow each wields. Each such bow, was also heavily ornamented, and was part of the warrior's usual attire, even during social or festive occasions. It was also custom to tie two little bells, one at either end of the bow, where the bowstring was lashed to the bow's frame. Detailed sculptures and paintings will often show these bells. "Scriptures and Epics": Tyagaraja mentions the Vedas, Puranas, Agamas and Shastras. Usually, only the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two Itihasas (literally Histories) are called Epics, because they deal with a common thread of a single family of heroes. The Puranas are also epic-like works that, more anecdotally, develop the mythology of the Trinity. Each of the Trinity is given one set of Puranas, the "Srimad Bhagavatam" or Bhagavata Purana of Vishnu being one of the largest, and the most widely read. Agamas are books that codify worship such as in temples. Separate Agamas exist for the worship of Siva temples and Vishnu temples. The Shastras lay out extensive rules for general life, function and conduct including law and the arts. "The Great Bow": Here, the Kothanda of Rama.

Some concepts of music: From this point, several musical concepts pertaining to Carnatic music and improvisation are mentioned in succession in the kriti. Since we are not looking at musical detail yet, I shall only briefly mention them. We know that Raga stands for the melodic scale or schema in which songs may be composed. "Note, tone and join": Tyagaraja mentions dura(ghana), naya and deshya. These correspond to the three ways in which ragas might be appreciably demonstrated in a concert. Some times only syllabary or tone based exposition using syllables such as "ta","na","aa" is done; sometimes note based exposition, using key phrases comprised of the notes allowed in that raga is used and sometimes both. Which of these expositions is chosen depends on the raga, and to an extent on the performer. Hence, "note, tone and join", with some license being taken. These three are said to make the three strands of the bowstring of the Kothanda. The arrows then denote the temporal variations or gatis. Sangatis constitute the different methods in which the phrases in the lyrics might be sung elaborately, expounding the features of a raga. So they may be seen as short musical statements, that are varied and return in various forms, but often serially and not interleaved, when a kriti is being rendered. Usually, a phrase of the lyrics is picked up and expanded in this form, then another phrase is picked and so on. The lyrics stay the same- the same phrase, but the music is varied each time and the phrase is stylized and rendered differently. An analogy would be the many ways the same statement, "How is the dinner?" could be asked, stressing each different word, thereby altering the meaning. E.g "How is the dinner?" and "How is the dinner?", might mean two different things. Although sangatis may be freely interpreted by a performer, for most of the songs in the mainstream concert repertoire, there are sangatis tied to each song that are familiar to or expected by the listeners. Tyagaraja sees the art of sangatis in Rama's words to those around Him. Tyagaraja is said to have invented Sangatis. (see extra comments)

Thus, in Rama's Person, Tyagaraja finds the origins of Music, reconciling his devotion to Rama with Nadopasana. We may also note from what Tygaraja has described in this song almost 200 years ago and the history of the art during his times, that, what are considered the major elements of the Carnatic art have remained fairly constant since then, shorn of the major upheavals in the music of the other parts of the world.

Extra Comments:
As mentioned earlier, we don't follow any canonical order in posting songs here. We actually go by the lyrical imprint and the development of common themes in Tyagaraja's oeuvre. So, here, we see another flavor of his Nadopasana or music as worship. We have seen many kritis of Nadopasana already.

Tyagaraja is generally said to have invented sangatis. But, in my opinion, which is in line with the view of only a minority, he was only probably the first well known proponent to use them extensively. Due to the fundamental nature of the sangati concept, it is well possible that in the centuries before him, sangatis were known in some form, but not widely studied or adopted.


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