Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sri Narada Muni

Raga Bhairavi, 20 Natabhairavi janya
Aa: S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S Av: S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S
Taalam: Adi



śrī nārada muni guru rāya! kaṇṭi-
mē nāṭi tapamō, guru rāya !

manasāra kōriti, guru rāya! nēḍu
kanulāra kanukoṇṭimi, guru rāya!

mī sēva dorikenu, guru rāya! bhava
pāśamu dolagenu, guru rāya!

nīvē sujnāna sukhi guru rāya!
nīvēyajnāna śikhi, guru rāya!

rājillu vīṇe gala guru rāya! tyāga-
rājuni brōcina sadguru rāya!
English verse:

Master of masters! Your boon to me O sage,
Is perhaps by penance of an unknown age.

Long, for you, was my heartfelt search,
But this day, my eyes well up in joy.
As you came down from your divine perch,
I gained a door to your employ,

And all my worldly coils lay ripped.
The bliss of wisdom lights your face
As nescience burns in the fire of your grace.
Radiant's your veena twice-tipped,

O great guru whom I've ever craved,
By your hand, now, am I saved!

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer:
Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

The Devarishi, or celestial sage Narada, is considered the father of classical music. Narada is a much beloved character in Hindu mythology. He is a frequent intercessor in both epics and several of the Puranas. He appears in various shades of character. He is a benevolent peacemaker, and a sprightly mischief maker whose tricks always end well and once, his arrogance over his supreme devotion to Vishnu was even put down. He is still considered a great bhakta. To Narada is also ascribed the Narada Bhakti Sutras, which laid out 84 tenets on the attainment and benefits of pure devotion and love for God. These sutras or rules are important to many schools of the Bhakti or Devotional movement. Narada is also said to have invented the Veena, which is the fundamental instrument of Carnatic music, to have laid the foundations of classical music by codifying its theoretical elements and to have constantly sung the praises of the gods.

Thus, to a Nadopasaka, who practised music as worship like Tyagraja, Narada is both the ideal or role model and the guru of gurus . There is even a legend about how Narada miraculously appeared before Tyagaraja, first as an old man and then as himself, and bequeathed to him, long lost treatises on music, including the 'Swararnava' and his own book, the 'Naradiya'. This served as a Rosetta stone for Tyagaraja to understand the higher intricacies of music; and so, Tyagaraja says, that his innermost wish was fulfilled in meeting Narada.

I have alluded to Narada's appearing before Tyagaraja as a boon; Tyagaraja considers his appearance the fruit of some "tapas" or penance he had unknowingly done. In Hindu mythology, one's intense penance to please the gods is eventually rewarded by their appearance and their granting of a boon.

This is not a kriti that is very frequently heard, and is sometimes heard as "Sri Narada mouni", but we learn a lot about Tyagaraja from it as below. Since Narada enables Tyagaraja's Nadopasana or music as worship, and Tyagaraja prays to him in this context, this song too can be considered an example of Nadopasana.

A comparative study:
Let's consider another of Keats' poems, the sonnet "On first looking into Chapman's Homer". In the West, Homer had returned to wide reading among the educated, with the Renaissance. Education, then, mainly meant study of the classical Greek and Latin, philosophy, art appreciation and so on, unlike the more scientific education of modern days. So, most well educated people could read Homer in the Greek. Interestingly, Keats seems to have needed an interpreter for an intimate understanding of Homer. Scholarly translations of Homer by Pope and others existed long prior to Keats. But, the older Chapman's free translation of Homer, the first English translation, was innovative in making Homer's archaic turn of phrase, and circuitous descriptions, more accessible to lay readers, through simple paraphrase. Keats, as we may conclude from the poem, only "connected" with Homer's poetry and imagery, only when Chapman took him by the hand.

This is a well known sonnet, which, as could be tritely but truly said, is often quoted to describe the simple unadulterated pleasure a work of art can bring. Keats is said to have written this in spontaneous reaction to his delight at understanding Homer well. Quite parallel to Keats' joy at "meeting" Homer, Tyagaraja's too tells us of his spontaneous joy of "meeting" Narada and an innermost desire being fulfilled. In both works, we see the joy of a creative person, in being inspired by another light from an age past- Homer and Narada, that he is able to create many works of his own. Each now feels newly empowered to create many more works of art.

Extra Comments:
Keats' poem is an Italian sonnet, a poem split into two parts, an 'octet' of eight lines and a 'sestet' of six lines. The octet introduces a main idea, and the sestet departs from it slightly, but resolves the theme of the poem. Interestingly, when made aware of the error that Balboa sighted the Pacific and not Cortez, Keats still left Cortez in, probably pleading license to keep his intended rhyme scheme and meter.

We could even reckon that, rather than in person, Tyagaraja "met" Narada in the words of the Naradiya, much like Keats found Homer, and so, is speaking figuratively.

Note on rhyme and structure: In some of the last few songs, I have strictly maintained a rhyming couplet scheme- "aabb" or "aa". This was more an artifact of the songs chosen, due to our intent to maintain line and word order as much as possible and to resemble the original and retain the flavor. After all, I am translating, and not writing my own. For instance, one of the first songs here, the Sanskrit "Manasa sancharare" itself was fully of rhyming couplets and I held that structure. Tyagaraja too, as here, seemingly rhymes often in couplets and this is apparent if he is read and not sung. We shall break the pattern here and in the next few kritis and also experiment when possible. We shall also look at more modern, free verse at some point, although that is a poor fit for something as structured as classical music. Here, I have used aa-bcbc-deed-ff.

Ancient veenas or more generally, lutes were often with two upturned ends, hence "twice tipped".

Why call Tyagaraja a "bard":
Often, I render Tyagaraja's mudra ('stamp') of naming himself in his Kritis, as "bard". There is a hidden meaning in this. Historically, though a bard was a poet and singer, a bard was also someone who sang of kings, heroes and their exploits, just as Tyagaraja sang of Rama, a hero and a king, his virtues and his exploits, as well appealed to his divine mercy. Particularly, in the Utsava Sampradaya kritis, Tyagaraja speaks in the voice of a bard and Rama's court poet.

"Extra" Extra Comments:
Friends, I am sorry for not posting over the last 4-5 days. I was down with a virus.

There is an indentation in the even numbered lines of the sonnet. But, even if I use the 'pre' tag, blogger seems to override it.


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