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.



  1. Comment from Mahesh (edited for brevity):

    (Does) Tyagaraja mention amaralukai or namarulakai in the first stanza of the charanam? A clarification would be great. I opine that Thyagaraja specifically mentioned "namarulakai" meaning not immortal which was the status of the devas before the churning of the great ocean.

  2. Thank for your question and detailed submission.

    This is a question that can be asked with reason. The best way to decide such questions is through a reliable contemporaneous printing. Since we don't have the benefit of one, we can decide it in other ways. Tyagaraja experimented with and varied his music, but was extremely consistent in his diction and narratives. We don't find any other use of the word namara but we find many mentions of amara in different forms. Tyagaraja used a highly Sanskritized form of Telugu. In Sanskrit, and hence in Telugu, the word amara itself contains a negative, and means undying. It is the join of the negation prefix "a" with the root "mr" or die. Adding another negative prefix "na" with this, to get back the original reference to mortals, somehow seems superfluous. For such reasons, we can take it to be "amarulakai" here.

    As explained in our introductory pages, when such questions arise about the lyrics of a song, I do resolve them using various techniques and provide a version of which I am reasonably certain. In some cases, I do deviate from the norm or even include a completely new version. Only rarely do I find the need to mention such alternative versions in my comments to a song. This is in order to remain consistent with the theme of this site and not digress.