Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sogasu Juda

Raga Kannadagowla, 22 Karaharapriya janya
Aa: S R2 G2 M1 P N2 S Av: S N2 D2 P M1 G2 S
Taalam: Deshaadi



sogasu jūḍa taramā! nī

niganigamanucu kapōla
yugamucē merayu mōmu!

amarārcita pada yugamō!
abhaya pradakara yugamō!
kamanīya tanu ninditakāma!
kāma ripunuta! nī

vara bimba samādharamu
vakuḻa sumambula- yuramu
karadhṛta śara kōdaṇḍa!
marakatānga! varamaina

ciṛu navvō! mungurulu mari kannulatēṭō!
vara tyāgarājarcita! vandanīya! iṭuvaṇṭi

English verse:

Can another of such beauty be?
Glimmering cheeks and shining face
Feet adored by the celestial race,
Hands that are the saving grace;

Allures that Love does shame,
His Bane exalts Your name,
Kept, the Great Bow ever at hand,
Of crimson lips and bright blue arms,

O Finest Grace of divine charms!
A smile and curls over the face lie
As my worship's clear eyes rest high
Venerable past all is beauty such.

A simple song that describes the beauty of Rama's Person. Here we see some poetic art in the similies drawn. We also note that this was lyricist writing, than a poet, for a poet of Tyagaraja's sub-culture, would have easily gone overboard with vivid imagery. Extensive imagery was indeed the state of the craft there. Tyagaraja instead, had to satisfy the melodic scheme intended for the song. We have encountered most of the other allusions in other songs.

Extra Comments:
Sorry for the long absence. This time, first I was out of town due to health problems and then it was my computer. The various in-house software I use for this project just wouldn't work on my other machines. It took a morbidly long time to type and format this song on one of my spare machines. But, now, we are back.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kannan piranthaan and art songs

kaṇṇaṉ pirandāṉ engaḻ kaṇṇaṉ pirandāṉ
inda kāṟṟathai eṭṭu disaiyilum kūṟiḍum

tiṇṇamuḍayāṉ maṇi vaṇṇamuḍayāṉ
uyar devar talaivaṉ puvimisai thōṉṟiḍa

paṇṇai isaippīr neñjil puṇṇai oḻippīr
inda pāriṉile tuyar nīṅgiḍum enṟidai

eṇṇisai koḻvīr naṉgu kaṇṇai viḻippīr
ini ēdum kuṟaivillai vedam tuṇai unḍu

sankaran vandān iṅgu maṅgalam enrāṉ
nalla candiraṉ vandiṅgu amudai poḻindanaṉ

baṅgam onṟillai moḻi maṅguvadillai
inda pārin kaṇmunbu vānattile niṉṟu

gaṅgaiyum vandāḻ kalai maṅgayum vandāḻ
inba ādiparāsakti anbudaṉ yendinaḻ

sengamalattāḻ engil poṅgum mugattāḻ
tirudēviyum vandiṅgu siṟappuḍan niṉṟaṉaḻ

English verse:
The Lord's come, our Lord's come,
Far and wide proclaims the wind,

Firm as ever, the Blue Hued's come
Has the Lord of the gods, says the wind.

Sing and heal the pain in your heart,
That, the grief of the world, shall begone;

Fixed on Him, awaken, for your part,
The Word's with us for all wants are gone.

Shiva blessed us with good tiding,
With the nectar of moonlight exceeding;

No blemish, no wane of the tongue,
Upon the sky, in the world's eye, sung.

The Ganges and Speech, were beheld
As Power, with love, the Babe, had held.

The red lotus, Her face shames,
As Wealth attends His myriad games.

We cannot well appreciate art or music without a study of contrasts. We have throughout seen songs in the kriti form and reckoned them as poetry. Here we go the other way. We have a song by the poet patriot Subrahmanya Bharathi, on the birth of Krishna. This song is what one would call an "art song". It was first written as a poem and was then set to music for a solo singer or a small chorus. In common music genre parlance, it would fall in the classical easy listening and classical categories. In common performances, it is orchestrated and not improvised. The first line becomes a refrain. It does not well fall into the kriti form, such that one could attach embellishments at different points. It is also in a rare raga, Saranga tarangini, in which there are only a few kritis and uses the misra chapu talam. However, the song is generally rendered in only one precise way. So, the raga and taalam were not given earlier, nor were the ascent and descent of the raga. Nor were the lyrics put forth in our usual kriti, color coded format, as the music is mostly predetermined and this is different from what we have seen. I think this music setting was by the poet himself, but am not sure. In the west, many art songs and Leider of the 18th and 19th centuries are known, such as the Erlking, based on a Goethe poem, and famous for Franz Schubert's musical setting. These art songs were part of the large currents of change that flowed from one musical era to the next.

About the verses: Speech personified, Sarasvati, or Vakdevi, is the goddess of all the arts, including music, speech and rhetoric. The arts, in Hindu culture, are considered to be sixty four in number and include some trades and crafts as well, including, most strangely, thievery. Sarasvati, the consort of Brahma, who resides on a white lotus, as opposed to his red lotus, is the only Muse available in the Hindu pantheon; but she is a full goddess and also has some of the functions of Apollo. There are also certain classes of supernatural beings like the kinnaras, a horse-headed but otherwise anthropomorphic group, who form the hordes of Kubera, the celestial treasurer and live high in the Himalayas. They are proficient in music and with their animal like parts are reminiscent of figures from the west like Pan. The Greek centaurs were reversed in form from the Kinnaras, having a human head and equine body, but were also sometimes associated with learning. In this site of course, the main Muse that would watch over us, is Erato, the Muse of lyric poetry, who holds a lyre, as opposed to Sarasvati, who holds a Veena or the Indian lute.

Please note that we have followed the usual scheme of reckoning of gods by the personification of their domain of control. It may interest the inquiring reader to note that I adopted this convention not just for the ease of readers from different cultures and heritages. This convention actually has a firm basis. It is used even in the the Upanishads and the Vedas, in the Sanskrit. Cf. Kaatopanishad and how it refers to the god of death and righteousness, for one example.

Tamil Transliteration details: As we have seen earlier, in the romanization, note the hard "ṟ" sound as in "atrium", the unique ḻ sound as in Tami, the hard "ḷ" sound as in Glamorgan, the "ṅ" as in "bang", the "ñ" as in "banjo" and the soft ṉ sound as in "Great Dane", apart from the short and long u and o sounds, all not present in Sanskrit. The romanization is according to the National Library of Calcutta standard, as ISO 15919 doesn't cover these cases.

Krishna's advent in song: Incidentally, there are vast numbers of songs in Carnatic and related music about Krishna's exploits, but not many describing just the event of His birth.
Here is the actual event as in the Bhagavatam (also called the Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavata Purana) 9:24:55-57. Krishna was born to Devaki and Vasudeva in prison (hence his patronymic Vaasudeva). Shuka narrates the Bhagavatam to King Pareekshith, the grandson of the Pandavas.
    aṣṭamastu tayorasīt svayameva hariḥ kila|
    subhadrā ca mahābhāgā tava rājan pitamahī||

    yadayada hi dharmasya kśayo vruddhiśca pāpamanaḥ|
    tada tu bhagavanīśa ātmānaṁ srujate hariḥ||

    na hyasya janmano hetuḥ karmaṇo vā mahīpate|
    ātmamāyāṁ vineśasya parasya druṣṭurātmanaḥ||
"To them, as the eight son, Vishnu(Hari) Himself was born. Subhadra, the fortunate, your grandmother, O King, (was also born).

Whenever goodness wanes and evil waxes, Vishnu personally comes down to this world.

Neither does He have a birth, nor an advent (cause). Nor is He bound to the fruits of His actions, O king! The omniscient, all pervading and omnipotent transcendent One, acts (came to earth), by His
own grace." (cf. with the concept of "svatantra" in the song Nadopasance)

The Bhagavatam is the basis of many of the schools of modern Hinduism dedicated to Vishnu, irrespective of their underlying philosophies, such as the Gaudiya tradition in the east of India, and is a corner stone of all the others, such as the Sri Vaishnava tradition of the southern states. In the latter, the 4000 hymns of the Alwar saints are held as equal to the Vedas, and so, can be said to figure higher in precedence. The Bhagavatam is universally exalted, even among the non-Vishnu schools of worship. This book is where the incarnations of Vishnu and other exploits are described elaborately.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Manavini Vinuma

Raga Jayanarayani , 22 Karaharapriya janya
Aa: S R2 G2 M1 P D2 S Av: S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S
Taalam: Adi



manavini vinumā! marava samayamā?

kanugona kōri duṣkalpana māniti
kanikaramuna ninu pāḍucunna nā

parulaku hitamagu bhāvana gāni
ceracu mārgamula cintimpa lēnu
parama dayākara! bhakta manōhara!
dharādhipa karārcita tyāgarāju!

English verse:

Hark the cry from my heart, O Lord!
Now from Your mind, am I barred?
I purged evil but to see You, O Lord!
Mercy! For I sing of You ever 'n hard!

Nary an evil thought toward one and all,
Carry did I,- only goodwill toward all.
Most kind, Joy of the flock, the hands of all
Kings, in Your worship lock! Heed my call!

A key focus of this site is viewing Tyagaraja as a lyric poet. This is close to the justifiably overworked description of Tyagaraja's songs as being Bhava or emotion filled, that is prevalent in Carnatic music circles. So, in this song, we return to that theme. What more emotion can a poet convey than to speak of the pain in his heart? Is emotional expression not the point of music? When Man first broke out into song, was it not a spontaneous expression of emotion?

One thing we did not note while discussing the kriti 'Raga Sudha Rasa' is the fact that it was in Andolika, a raga not used before Tyagaraja and therefore generally ascribed to him. That song is also the one popular song in that raga in the mainstream concert repertoire. The raga of this song, Jayanarayani, is also similarly ascribed to him. There is always a question about the eighty odd ragas in which he has only one or two songs, as to whether each was created or pioneered by him. Some explanations are given for this extensive introduction by Tyagaraja. There are interesting legends about how Tyagaraja came to possess many long lost books on music, often believed to be through the intercession of the celestial sage Narada. Tyagaraja had access to rare texts on the theory of music, imbibed them expertly and experimented successfully with then unheard ragas with unprecedented frequency- this much is clear. Of course, we shall hold back on musical details for some more time.

About the verses: There is not much mystery to this song. 'Marava Samayama':Literally, is this the time to forget? 'Bhakta manohara':He that enlivens the hearts of His worshipers- taken to be Rama, though he is not directly mentioned in the song.

A Comparative Study: The theme of this song is that Tyagaraja, having cleansed himself of all base thoughts and deeds, and armed with the power of virtue, now finds himself eligible for Rama's grace, and so registers his plea afresh. The merit of virtue is a frequent theme across all cultures. Here is Wordsworth, on "The Moral Law":

    All true glory rests,
    All praise of safety, and all happiness,
    Upon the moral law. Egyptian Thebes,
    Tyre by the margin of the sounding waves.
    Palmyra central in the desert, fell !
    And the arts died by which they had been raised.
    Call Archimedes from his buried tomb
    Upon the plain of vanished Syracuse,
    And feelingly the sage shall make report
    How insecure, how baseless in itself,
    Is that philosophy, whose sway is framed
    For mere material instruments : — how weak
    Those arts, and high inventions, if unpropp'd
    By virtue.
Tyagaraja makes his case to Rama based on his being virtuous. Virtue is universally seen thus, as a requirement for divine approval and bounty. Here is Milton, on the reward for virtue, in Paradise Regained:
    This is true glory and renown, when God
    Looking on the Earth, with approbation marks
    The just man, and divulges him through Heaven
    To all his Angels, who with true applause
    Recount his praises.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tyagararaja Yoga Vaibhavam

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

##If formatting is off for the English verses and you see lines being split, please click on the picture below##



tyāgarāja yoga vaibhavaṁ sadāṣivaṁ
tyāgarāja yoga vaibhavaṁ sadāśrayāmi
tyāgarāja yoga vaibhavaṁ
agarāja yoga vaibhavaṁ
rāja yoga vaibhavaṁ
yoga vaibhavaṁ

Samashti Charanam:
nāgarāja vinuta padaṁ
nādabindu kalāspadaṁ
yogirāja vidita padaṁ
yugapadbhoga mokṣapradam
yogarūḍha nāma rūpa
viśva srṣṭyādi karaṇaṁ
yugaparivṛtyabda māsa
dina ghaṭikādyāvaraṇam

śrī guruguhaguruṁ satcitānanda bhairavīśaṁ
śiva śaktyādi sakala tatva svarūpa prakāśaṁ
śaṁ prakāśaṁ
svarūpa prakāśaṁ
tatva svarūpa prakāśaṁ
sakala tatva svarūpa prakāśaṁ
śiva śaktyādi sakala tatva svarūpa prakāṣam

English verse:

King of sacrifices' penance fanfare, All abiding-
King of sacrifices' penance fanfare, I'm adoring,
King of sacrifices' penance fanfare,
King of mounts' penance fanfare
King of paths' penance fanfare,
Penance fanfare

Holy feet adored by the king of serpents,
Abiding in the musical elements,
Revered by the king of sages,
In an instant, liberates past the ages.
By the power of penance, the cause
Of creation of many forms and names,
They enthrall us past Time's games.

Bliss, Sire to the warlord, Lord to the startling
As Grace, Power and all truths shining,
Giving, shining,
In the True Form shining,
Form of truth and so shining
The form of all truths and so shining
As Grace, Power and all truths shining!

Finally, Dikshitar makes his debut on our site. He is the sixth composer to figure here. My apologies to his many fans. His approach to music is vastly different, and would be tough to reconcile with the theme of this site. As small recompense, we have something flashy. For a change, I have posted a song that has more to do with poetry and word play than with esoteric concepts.

This song is about Tyagaraja, 'the king of renunciates', a form of Shiva and the presiding deity of the temple at Thiruvarur, where the Trinity was born. The main feature of the song are the two "yatis", roughly forms, used in the pallavi and the latter, faster Charanas. The Pallavi uses "Gopuccha yati", in that it elides syllable by syllable with each phrase, and so resembles the taper of a cow's tail or 'Gopuccha'. In the Charanas we find the "Srotovaha" or river yati, that accretes syllables with each phrase and so resembles a widening river.

About the verses: Before reading the English verses, please note a few things: There is a vast difference the alphabets of Sanskrit and English. Without getting very technical, we can simply say that the Sanskrit alphabet is more phonetic, as almost all letters make up a syllable. So, to show either of the yatis, we just need to elide or accrete by a letter, which will also be a syllable. But, in English this may not apply. Happen and open have 4 and 6 letters, yet two syllables each. Consider eliding the word 'phone' successively. We get phone->hone->one->ne, each with a very different pronunciation. This is what happens in English most often. So, in English, the nicer way to show the yatis, is to elide or accrete by a syllable. The effect will be consistent aurally. That is, in our verses, we will remove one syllable and not one letter, with each phrase.

Note that we could have made the verses a lot tighter to "look" more symmetric like the original; but wanted to preserve the word meaning and be faithful to the original, than paraphrase. Since the composer did not maintain the tightness he had earlier, in the Charanas, we too have followed suit.
If you don't see the kriti or the verses in the proper shape, you need to maximize your browser window or make some other adjustment. This page is best viewed at a minimum width of 800 pixels. If you still can't see it clearly, there is a picture at the end of this song for you to see. I will remove this in a couple of days.

The verses and the words: Tyaga: Sacrifice. The practice of yoga is taken as a penance. Sadasivam-"The Eternal Shiva", or "Always pleasing", or "who holds all things". The word Shiva has myriad meanings. Later in the Charanas, Shiva is taken as Benevolence or Grace personified, to contrast with Shakti, the active force or Power. King of mounts: This refers to Kailasa, the abode of Shiva and hence Shiva. "King of paths": Raja Yoga is considered the "royal" path among the yogic paths. The two words "Bhavam" and "Vam" in the pallavi are tricky, as is how we have rendered them. Bhavam signifies many things, generally existence, a God etc. One way to take it, is to consider Shiva, the king of renunciation here, as delivering one across the ocean of worldly ties. In this sense, He is the "Fare" or passage, or even 'the fellow traveler' for this journey, taking two shades of the meaning. Again, "fare" as a noun also means state, or existence. So, this can also be taken. "Vam" is a syllable which stands for the cause of everlasting existence. Ar, pronounced the same as air, and which means "before", signifies that Shiva came before all things and all time, and so has has the same connotation as vam. Alternatively, we could use "air" instead of "ar", and could get the same meaning, as "air" is the root of existence too. This would also be acceptable while reading aloud. I used "ar" mainly for the visual effect, as it is contained in fare and fanfare. Warlord: Subhramanya, as the commander of Shiva's hosts. "Bhairavi": Fearsome, Startling. A form of Parvati or Shakti, Shiva's consort. "Sham": This syllable stands for munificence. "Tatvam":Truth(s) In the singular, it refers to the "mahavakyam" or "great statement" "tat tvam asi", or "Thou art that", which is the device by which the unity of all beings with the Brahman is arrived. In the plural, "sarva tatva" or all truths, there are 36 basic principles in Saivism or the school devoted to Shiva, from which they compose a theory of matter and the universe, and Godhead.

In the verses, a few other triplets which will work for the "Vaibhavam-bhavam-vam" elision, such as Glory, Glo(w), Lo; Bepraised, Praised, Raised and Renown, (K)nown, Own. Bhavam and Vam are a bit sketchy in this context and open to extrapolation, when compared to the rest of the pallavi. Own, as in all-pervasive and the cause of eternal existence and Lo! signifiying existence arising from nothingness by Shiva's will, will both sort of approximate to what vam stands for here and we can explain them away. Well, one isn't a real poet unless one can show that a microcosm exists in one's merest verse- particularly if one didn't actually put the microcosm there at the time of writing!

Extra Comments:
To better appreciate the English verses and the yatis, here is one plain translation that I found on the web (courtesy of Note that I am not criticizing this site in anyway; in fact I am making no comments either way. Their focus and the focus of this site, are vastly different. I would think this is from TKG's book, but I have not checked. Also note that, in general, I go out of the way to stay close to the original, but for my practice of preferring personifications to names of beings and the import to names of concepts, to more readily convey the meaning to a new reader unfamiliar with the subculture of Carnatic music's domain. So, I write Wealth for Lakshmi and so on in the verses and catch these up in the comments.

I always think of the yogic glory of tyagaraja who is the representation of SAdashiva.
The yogic glory of Tyagaraja.
The yogic glory of the Lord of the mountain ie Kailasha.
The glory of the path of rAja yoga. The glory of yoga.
The glory
The one named bhava or the one that helps cross the ocean of samsara
The beeja of Amrta

The feet praised by the king of serpents.
The one who establishes himself in the stages of nada, bindu and kala.
The feet known to the king of yogis.The feet that are capable of bestowing enjoyment and liberation instantly.
The one who created the myriad names and forms of this universe by his yogic prowess.
The form of differentiated time represented by yugas, changes in time and measures like years, months, day, and ghatikas.

The father of guruguha.The form of sacchidAnanda and the Lord of Bhairavi.
The one who is the embodiment of all the 36 tatvas beginning with shiva and shakti.
The auspicious. The one who shines forth.The one who shines forth as the true form.
The one who shines forth as the meaning of the tatvam [ in the tatvamasi traipada]
The one who shines forth as all the tatvas.
The one who shines forth as all the tatvas beginning with Shiva and Shakti.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brova Bhaarama

Raga Bahudari, 28 Harikambhoji janya
Aa: S G3 M1 P D2 N2 S Av: S N2 P M1 G3 S
Taalam: Deshaadi



brōva bhāramā? raghurāmā!
bhuvanamella nīvai nannokani

śrī vāsudēva! anḍa kōṭla
kukṣiṇi- yuncakō lēdā? nannu

kalaśāmbudhilō dayatō
namarulakai- yadigāka
gōpikalakai koṇḍaletta lēdā?
karuṇākara tyāgarājuni

English verse:

Scion of the Raghus, is it too much to bear,
Saving a single soul, kept by Your care?
Yet, You pervade all that exists,
And You are all that exists!

Blessed prince! The universe boundless,
You hold in Your Person endless.
Mountains you have moved and borne,
And that, twice at least, haven't I known-

The king of mounts,
For the gods, to find nectar,
A hill upon your finger,
To give Your flock, shelter.
Compassion for all You find,
This bard has You in a bind.


The theme of this song is that, as the Lord has borne far greater preponderances and is all pervasive and omnipotent, could He not attend to the meager task of saving a humble bard?

About the verses:
Blessed prince: As Vaasudeva, or the son of Vasudeva, Krishna was a prince of the Yadavas. "Kukshini": the stomach; literally "The corners (borders) of the universe are bound by Your stomach." or "You contain the universe within Your Person." One epithet frequently applied to Vishnu is "aparyapta" or limitless, He of the limitless form. He has appeared in this Cosmic Form, stretching across the universe, and embodying all of it, in a number of episodes. Mandara, the king of mounts was borne by Vishnu, as the churn, when the gods and demons churned the Ocean of milk for nectar. This was in his incarnation as the Great Tortoise (koormaavatara). "Your flock": The cowherd people of Gokula, ('gopikaas' in the original, signifying the women), among whom Krishna spent his childhood. In this episode, Krishna to humble the vain Indra, instructed his people to stop worshipping a vengeful and undeserving Indra. The wrathful thunderer Indra sent down torrential rain to wipe them all out. But, Krishna merely lifted up the Govardhana hill on His little finger and sheltered His people under it. For nine days Indra tried to drown them with his rains. Having failed, the humbled Indra sought and obtained Krishna's pardon. Here again Tyagaraja sees Rama as Krishna and Vishnu also.

We saw two different flavors of all-pervasiveness in the two previous songs. Here, we see two more flavors. In the first, totality, the Lord, is considered the sum total of the Universe ('You are all that exists'). So, He is "all the universe", as in the kriti. The next flavor is subsumption. The whole universe is said to be contained in His person. That is, He contains all that is in existence, and all that is existence, within Himself. He is above and beyond the universe. In a famous episode, on being chided by his mother Yashoda for eating sand, the child Krishna opened His mouth wide to reveal all the universe within it. But, this image of all the universe being contained in Vishnu's stomach, is from the Srimad Bhagavatam, specifically, verse 3:33:4.

Once again, here are the four flavors of all-pervasiveness we have seen:
  • He is within one or one is He.
  • He pervades all beings in the universe.
  • He is the sum total of all beings in the universe.
  • He contains the universe within Himself, as a small part.

Extra Comments:
Usually, in such discourse, the common practice is to quote from the relevant Hindu scriptures and sacred lore. Scholarly quotations would abound. Since our aim on this site is to reach a wide range of readers, from all heritages and persuasions, we will generally summarize what is relevant from those sources, in an accessible form and quote only when absolutely necessary. Sometimes we may give the verse number, so that the more interested reader may indeed try and should try, to read from the source too. We will quote more extensively, but from literature, in the comparative studies.