Friday, January 8, 2010

Our New Address:

I am glad to tell you that we have a new URL for this blog, that will be easier to remember and find. Please update your bookmarks and also tell your friends and family who read this blog or may be interested. The present URL will also work. In time, we plan to clean up this site and move it from blogger to our own servers. Hopefully, this day will come soon. Our new address is:
On Updates to the site: I have received a lot of emails asking why I am not updating the site regularly and am not posting new songs. Sadly, ill health and other professional troubles have prevented me from writing new material for some time. But, this website remains uppermost in my thoughts. The first chance I get, I will resume writing this site and will put our music archive online. Some readers have most kindly offered to help me, in the time I am unable to write. I am unable to avail of such help because of the nature of this site. The perspective of music I develop on this site is quite different. So, I have to write it to keep up the continuity of theme and coherence. Besides, it is most enjoyable to write this. I just hope I get some respite soon and am able to write extensively.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ennadu Jutuno

Raga Kalavati , 15 Chakravaham janya
Aa: S R1 M1 P D2 S Av: S D2 P M1 G3 R1 S
Taalam: Adi



ennaḍu jūtunō? inakula tilaka!

pannagaśayana! bhaktajanāvana!
punnama candurubōlu mukhamunu

dharaṇijā saumitri bharata ripughna vānarayūdhapativaruḍāñjanēyuḍu
karuṇanu okarikokaru varṇimpa
nādaraṇanu bilicē ninu, tyagarajārccita!

English verse:

When ever will I see You, when?
Finest of the sun-kings! When?

Reclined on the great snake,
You tend to Your flock's sake.
The bright full moon's wake,
Your visage shall soon atake.

In Your retinue, each sings
Of all that Your grace brings,
As kindly You draw each to Your side,
My worshipful Lord, glory betide!

The context of this song, in popular legend, is Tyagaraja's desperate search for the missing idol of Rama. The idol of Rama with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, that was part of his daily worship, went missing one day in his middle age. In common legend, this is held to be the handiwork of his jealous brother. Tyagaraja lapsed into a state of shock, fearing that he had been deserted by his beloved Rama as punishment for some unknown trespass. In the months that followed, before he retrieved the idol from the banks of the Cauvery, came an outpouring of many of his most moving songs, as he pleaded with Rama to reveal Himself and not torture his devotee so. This song is one of the finest from that period and among the most moving of all of Tyagaraja's lyric poetry. The simple familiarity with which he begins, "When ever will I see You?", is most direct and most touching. It clearly conveys the theme that he was once one with Rama, and though removed from Him now, shall some day reunite with Him; there is neither doubt nor distance, only hope held for some remote day. Cf. with the notion in the hymn, Amazing Grace:
    "I once was lost but now am found.
    Was Blind but now I see."
It is true that great many questions are raised about the historicity of many of the events popularly attributed to Tyagaraja. This song however, due to its power, seems to be, by itself, proof that Tyagaraja might well have lost his Rama, agonized long and eventually found Him again.

The slow and soft plaintive notes to which he has set the underlying melody, most naturally fit the lyrics and its situation. Few other choices could have existed. Due to its simplicity and appropriateness, I have even wondered if he might have just burst forth into the song and much later, worried about the musical structure he had given. Emotion might well have preceded method, much in the tradition of lyric poetry.

About the verses: I have mirrored the simplicity of the original lyrics in my verses. The only thing to note is "Rama's retinue". In most iconic representations of Rama with His retinue, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman are included. Here, Sugriva, king of the apes, Bharata and Shatrughna are also mentioned among the retinue. Incidentally, one of the icons of Tyagaraja's daily worship, is still preserved by some of his descendants, in the southern city of Thanjavur.

What makes a poet, one? As the legend goes, Tyagaraja felt that Rama, displeased with his service, had walked out of his home in anger. Penitence and plea filled Tyagaraja as he desperately searched for Rama and his outpouring showed a poet's extraordinary sentiment and sensitivity. This fineness of vision is not given to all. It is the sole preserve of the poet. A poet, one may say, sees the world very differently. It is far more panoramic to him.
There is depth, color, beauty and reason to every speck and sparkle a poet sees. And so, we find Tyagaraja missing his Rama and seeing Him with His retinue, vividly in his mind's eye. Another would merely have had another idol made and invested it for worship the next day, as customs demand that a family icon must be replaced immediately. But, no, not to Tyagaraja. It is this gift of a unique vision, that empowers a poet with creativity and spontaneity.

Yet, there are times when even the most ethereally inclined poet, realizes that some in his audience might be of different turn of mind, and chained to the mundane.
He then finds the need to reconcile the world as he sees it, with the colorless world that others without the gift of poetic vision and sensitivity, might see, for only when it reaches them too, can he really trumpet the transcendence of his art.

A comparative study: We have seen that Tyagaraja's songs often reflect how far away and above the world he was. Yet, here is a case where Kalidasa, the king of poets, wants to reconcile with the mundane and justify himself. One of the finest poems in Sanskrit, and indeed, in all of world literature, is his Meghadutam or "The Cloud Messenger". It contains some of the finest imagery ever written by man. Meghadutam tells the tale of a Yaksha (a celestial being akin to a demigod, who typically serves Kubera, the god of wealth), who has been exiled from the Yaksha city of Alakapuri in the Himalayas to the south of the country. He is separated from his beloved who is in Alakapuri, and convinces a passing cloud to carry a profession of his lasting love to her. Realizing it to be a beautiful but very unique conception, Kalidasa finds the need to justify himself. How can such a thing as a message carrying cloud be? From the first canto of Megadhutam:

    dhūmajyotiḥ salilamarutāṁ sannipātaḥ kva meghaḥ |
    saṁdeśārthāḥ kva paṭukaraṇaiḥ prāṇibhiḥ prāpaṇīyāḥ ||

    ityautsukyādaparigaṇayanguhyakastaṁ yayāce|
    kāmārtā hi prakṛutikṛupaṇaścetanācetaneṣu||

    Whither a cloud,- a mess of lightning, water and wind! Whither the meaningful message of an articulate being!

    Yet, with immeasurable anxiety did the Yaksha beseech the cloud. Verily, only the lovelorn fail to differentiate between the sentient and the insentient!

And so, we learn that it is not the poet who is flighty in making a messenger out of a cloud! No, it is his lovelorn subject who enlists the cloud. It is the Yaksha's fault! It is the fault of love itself.

Many such accounts of extraordinary messengers of love exist in Sanskrit literature. For example, in the older Mahabharata, Nala and Damayanti had a swan for a messenger. There were several imitations of the Meghadutam itself in the centuries that followed.

Extra Comments:
I am sorry for the long absence. It was triggered by acute illness and computer and other problems. But I simply couldn't resist writing something on the occasion of the Tyagaraja Aradahana at Tiruvaiyyar.

This post is dedicated to reader Karthik S., who sent some rousing comments from Gandhigram. We do get notes of appreciation and congratulations off and on, but none has been as profuse or as uplifting. It is always a pleasure to write for the discerning reader. His comments prompted me to write today about poets and their unique ways. Here are the gentleman's comments:

" I read your blog and I must say that I am a fan of yours. You have a deep knowledge of Western and Indian poets. I am reminded of Tilak's great work Gita Rahasya wherein which he effortlessly brings the work of Spencer, Mill and Kant and other Western philosophers to match with the Eastern philosophy of Vyasa, Valmiki, and other vedic seers.

Also you possess a poet's heart which makes the reading even more fantastic. The joy that you must have felt when translating his work should be unmatched and need no other trophies for it. May Sri Rama who gave such an ecstcasy to Sri Thyagaraja and Mahatma Gandhi (I am currently on the banks of Sabharmati, very near the Ashram sanctified by his feet - Ahmedabad) bless you ! "

He continued in another email:

"Was very happy to hear that your guru had been at the ashram and even also a freedom fighter. I am eagerly looking forward to your write up on Bhaja Govindam and MSS. I believe that your writings are simple and beautiful, very soon you will get a publisher and great reception for your writings... As you have included Mahakavi's work on the blog, similarly I am looking forward to read all the great Indian writings from Kabir's Andar Ram, Bahar Ram jahan deko vahan Ram to Appar's Kunitha puruvammum , Kovai Sevvayum !

Please continue your service, it's a great contribution to Indian Literature !
Dorakuna ituvanti seva !"

Thank you Karthik S., and to others who wrote. Thank you all, and do keep writing.