Friday, April 23, 2010

Mokshamu kalada

Raga Saraamati, 20 Natabhairavi janya
Aa: S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S Av: S N2 D1 M1 G2 S



mōkśamu kaladā bhuvilō jīvanmuktulu gāni vāralaku (mōkśamu kaladā)

sākśātkāra nī sadbhakti saṅgītajñāna vihīnulaku (mōkśamu kaladā)

prāṇānala samyōgamu valla praṇava nādamu saptasvaramulai paraga
vīṇāvādana lōludau śiva manōvidhamerugaru tyāgarāja vinuta  (mōkśamu kaladā)

English verse:

Seek not to rise heavenward;
When bereft of love for the Maker,
And unwise of musical strains.
Salvation for the Freed, remains.

The first sound with fire finds,
The notes of the seven kinds;
O Lord, of this they know not,
Nor of the bliss Siva enjoys,
In the strings of His fancy;

And from You are ever barred.

This is another song where Tyagaraja extols "Music worship". The goal for the pious in Hinduism is salvation of the individual and merging with the Lord. It is not for example, eternal life in Paradise. This is Moksha. The Freed refers to Jivanmukhtas. They are liberated souls who have by virtuous deeds, expended their stock of Karma, or demerits accrued over their souls' previous manifestations. They are freed from the cycle of life and death and shall not be born again. Great souls who have attained the stage of Jivanmukhti will live out their normal lives. At the end of this life they will rise to heaven. In the Mahabharata and in works based on it, Jivamukthas are described as inhabiting a level of the heavens and shining as celestial bodies. Although a Jivanmuktha may be liberated from transmigration or the cycle of births, he may not yet be worthy of Moksha or eternal liberation and merging with the Lord. 

Prana is considered the life-breath, life-force or vitality of a living being. Anala, literally fire, in this song, but not always, signifies the energy or active force. In the human body, Anala is the fire of the gastric system or the digestive juice. Prana and Anala, together with the primordial sound generated by the mystic syllable, Om, are said to create the seven notes of the octave. "Strings of His fancy" refers to the veena. The allusion to Siva and a veena hearkens to various episodes where His devotees, including Ravana, the demon king, so pleased Siva with skillful veena play, that He bestowed upon them boons of limitless power. Rama is not directly mentioned, but it is He who is being invoked. Siva's association with music, Om and the Sama Veda are mentioned by Tyagaraja in several songs. 

The reader new to Hindu culture may find the practice of choosing a personal deity (ishta devata aradhana) as seen here, interesting. In Hindu praxis, as is consistent with the concept of Brahman, the Supreme Self being manifested as the various divinities and as all else, the faithful each choose a personal deity for daily worship in line with their antecedents and milieu. The personal deity, irrespective of the deity's position in the pantheon, then subsumes all attributes of all the gods and becomes the Great God in daily worship. Laymen might be far removed from the concept and pursuit of the Brahman in daily worship and solely identify themselves as devotees of Rama or Krishna or Shiva and so on but would not be fully correct as the manifestation of the Brahman as such, is a constantly upheld notion in Hindu scriptures. Thus, though according to Hindu lore, Rama was born a mortal, was only an incarnation of Vishnu, one of the Trinity, and certainly not equal to one of the Trinity, and prayed to Shiva on numerous occasions Himself, here and elsewhere, He is alluded to as the causer (correctly materialize) of the world and as a transcendent divinity, subsuming the functions of all others. This may seem inconsistent according to mythology at the outset, but it is certainly consistent with Hindu theology.  Interestingly, when western scholars started studying Hinduism in the 19th century, this practice caused some bewilderment among them.

Extra Comments:
The keen reader may note that in the verses, I have swapped the positions of the pallavi and anupallavi. However, the color coding should clarify the word and line order.

It is quite possible to see too much in this song, given the lofty reference to Moksha with which it starts and one or two authors have done this. However, in terms of the actual lyrics and sentiments in the song, it completely in line with other songs and has little novelty in this regard. However, as we do not know the exact order in which all the songs were composed, we cannot say if this song echoes others that are in this vein, or if other songs hold reflected light.

For the keen reader, many details on historicity, accuracy and rigor, as adopted in this site, are given in this essay.



  1. I think the concept of AUMkara to development of music (Samavedam) has its mentioning in Chandogya upanishad and Tyagaraja was inspired by that.

    1. Well, I would break it down this way... there is the development of the sound of the Omkara and its meaning in the Chandogya. It discusses too, the value of songs and music in the saman hymns and so forth. And Tyagaraja does refer directly to the sound of the Om producing the notes. So, we can plausibly make the connection you do. But, as we emphasize upon rigor and historical accuracy in this site, given he repeats this same idea in other songs, I wouldn't venture to say for certain that this is the exact allusion he makes here.