Monday, June 14, 2010

Pariyaachakama maata

Raga Vanaspati , Mela 4
Aa: S R1 G1 M1 P D2 N2 S Av: S N2 D2 P M1 G1 R1 S
Taalam: Rupakam


pariyācakamā māṭa? padigurilō pogaḍinadi

verapuna nanu mānambuna vesanambuna nē kōri
śaraṇāgata rakṣaka! ninnu santatamunu śaraṇanaga 

oka munikai draupadi dvārakā nilayā! śaraṇanaga
oka māṭaku vibhīṣaṇuḍu ōrva lēka śaraṇanaga
sakalēśvara! prahlādu  jālicē śaraṇanaga
hitakaruṇḍai brōcitivē tyāgarājuni māṭa
English verse:
Do I seem the droll of the shire,
As I sing of You at the town square?

Refuge of All! In pain, fear and doubt,

I ever seek refuge at Your redoubt!

Has not Your Hand from afar, reached,

The queen, as before the sage, she winced?
When upon a single taunt,
Brother fled brother's haunt,
And when a prince cried out in grief,
Did You not take them to Your fief?
And yet, O Lord of all, 
Are my words alone,
Mocked and left alone?


Incidents from  the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Bhagavatam are serially referred to here. 

Queen ... sage: When the Pandavas were exiled to the forest, Duryodhana and his cronies bade the irascible sage Durvasa, an incarnation of Shiva, to visit them at their hermitage. The sage was known for his ready curse and ravenous appetite. Duryodhana contrived that the sage would arrive with his retinue at the hermitage after the Pandavas had had their meal of the day, and there was no food left. Durvasa was expected to run into a rage and wreak great curses upon the Pandavas. Draupadi, upon the sage's arrival, prayed to Krishna who was at the time, across the country, in Dwaraka. Krishna, with His divine powers, came to her aid and forestalled the sage.

Brother fled brother's haunt: Vibheeshana, the youngest brother of Ravana, counseled him to turn over Sita to Rama and seek his refuge. In response to Ravana's anger at this counsel, Vibheeshana defected to Rama's side and was crowned the king of Lanka after the war.

Prince cried out: Prahalada, though the son of an evil demon, somehow grew up to be a devotee of Vishnu and after repeated attempts on his life, by his father, the terrible Hiryanakashipu, who was protected by a boon from Brahma that made him all but immortal, was saved by Vishnu, in his most terrifying incarnation, as the Narasimha or man-lion. The incarnations of Vishnu are detailed in the Bhagavatam, where details not in the Ramayana or Mahabharata, may be found. Tyagaraja alluded to Prahalada several times, as he is a symbol of the "Bhakti marga" or the path of personal devotion, that is considered accessible to all, irrespective of birth and creed. Prahalada, though an Asura or demon, was expressly saved by Vishnu. This is in fact, the only case in Hindu mythology, when a major incarnation interceded solely to deliver an Asura. Tyagaraja, of course, composed the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam, an entire cycle of songs about the Prahalada events.

Vanaspati is one of the seventy two  melakarta or foundational ragas, and one of the forty that includes vivadi swaras or dissonant notes including R3, G1, D3 and N1, in the notation scheme we use. There is some controversy between certain quarters about whether such ragas should be used in the Carnatic system or not. In reality, it reflects the development of the theory of Carnatic music over time, rather than whether these ragas can produce elaborate, consistent and pleasant melodies or not, into which debate the controversy somehow turned.

The regular reader might find that the verse translations are far too frequently in couplets. This could indeed get tiresome. The sole reason for the frequency of couplets is that, while generally preserving word and sentential order in the original, I also try to match Tyagaraja's flow. Due to his particular, music composition style, Tyagaraja's lyrics, when rendered into readable English, just naturally fall into couplets. I have my own style of writing poetry, as would anyone, but it is quite clear that anyone else writing a verse translation that tries to match the flow of the original, would also use couplets.

A COMPARATIVE STUDY: Here is a piece from Philip Massinger's 1624 play, The Bondman, which quite succinctly captures both the idea behind the path of Bhakti Yoga or Marga, and Prahalada's own ascent. As might be expected from a Renaissance playwright, the original thought is from Horace. But, it has been handled more directly and so, effectively, by Massinger here. The Sabaeans of Horace's time, were a people from the south of the Arabian peninsula, who had become wealthy from trading in fragrances, particularly frankincense and myrrh, which was indigenous to the area.

                                 The immortal gods
  Accept the meanest altars, that are raised
  By pure devotion; and sometimes prefer
  An ounce of frankincense, honey, or milk,
  Before whole hecatombs, or Sabaean gems,
  Offered in ostentation.



  1. Reader Sridharan asks:

    What is the last song Tyagaraja sang, before he attained moksha?

    Answer: As you may see in our introductory pages, our work focuses heavily upon historical accuracy and rigorous methods. Since by now, much of what we know about Tyagaraja, is legend mixed with history than verifiable history, I must point out that we cannot be sure about his very last song. The story goes that towards the end of his life, Rama appeared before him with his retinue, told him that his work in this world was over and that he (Rama) would come in ten days to take him to Rama's heavenly abode. Tyagaraja went home, told his disciples and took up sanyasa. On the day he attained samadhi, he is said to have attained it by kapala moksha, which is reserved for the holiest and purest of devotees.

    Two songs, based on what he conveys in them, were clearly composed at the very end of his life. In "Daya juchutakidi velara" in Ganavaridhi, he says his life's work is done and he is waiting for Rama to deliver him. In "Paritapamu Ganiyadina" in Manohari, he explicitly refers to the promise made by Rama to deliver him in ten days and yearns why the Lord hasn't yet delivered him. He took sanyasa on the pushya shukla ekadasi, preceding pushya bahula panchami, Jan 6 1847l so it was a span of ten days. Paramatmudu in vageedheshwari is also among his last songs and T.S. Balakrishna Sastri, who was an authority on Tyagaraja, held so.

    As Tyagaraja advances in years, a number of his songs start to sum up his life and ask for deliverance.

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