Thursday, December 30, 2010

AnandatAndavapuram Sri AyyanAr

Sri sokkAyi udanurai tiruvarasamoorthy ayyanaar - Well the term says about a graama devatha ayyanaar. But this ayyanaar is none other than the dharma sAsthA (Ayyappan). Famous musician Sri G.N.Balasubramanian has sung a song in praise of this lord at anandatandavapuram (small village near mayiladuthurai - place where the composer Sri Gopalakrishna Bharati lived). Yes. That song is mamakulEswaram shAsthAram in the rAga tOdi, set to Eka tAlam.

The song goes like this.

mama kulEshvaram shAstAram santatam cintayEham
Ananda tANDava puravihAram

Anu pallavi
shamita nata jana duritam nIlAmbara shObhitam
amita sukha shrIpradam atulita divya guNAnvitam

kamala rucira karadhrta kAshAyudha vibhUSitam
amara munIshvara bhUta vaTuka nAyaka sEvitam
kamanIya nava yauvana sundarAmbA sahitam
sumashara guhAgrajam shrI rAjam harihara sutam

madhyama kAlam
rAkA shashinibha vadanam ravi sOmAnasa nayanam
rayagati turanga gamanam rakSita samasta bhuvanam

In this kriti, GNB declares that sri ayyanar of anandataandavapuram is his family deity.

mamakuleshwaram - mama (my) kula (family) eeswaram (deity)

I always think about my family deity, sAsthA, who resides at anandatandavapuram. The lord, drives away the sins of the bhaktas who pray to him and he looks great in blue coloured garment that he wears. He grants joy to them and he is an embodiment of sevaral virtues.

He holds a weapon made out of grass (kAshAyudha) in his lotus like hands. He is worshipped by the best of devas, rishis and vedic brahmins. He is accompanied by sundarAmbA who attracts all by her beauty and youthfulness. He is the elder brother of manmadha, muruga. He is the mighty king, son of vishnu and shiva. He has a face like full moon. His two eyes are the sun and the moon. He moves swiftly like that of a water current and protects the whole world.

Many thanks to which guided me with the exact lyrics and meaning of this great song.

In tamil, the goddess is called sokkAyi, which means, a lady who attracts every one by means of her beauty. The same word gets translated to sundarAmbA in sanskrit. Normally Ayyanaar is accompanied by poornA and pushkalA. In this place, he is with sundarAmbA, which is very unique.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vadai or Jhagiri malai to Lord Aanjaneya

Many of us will be wondering why do devotees offer jhangiri malai (in north india) and vadai malai (in south india) to the lord Aanjaneya.

This doubt was raised before Sri Kanchi Maha Periyava Sri Chandrasekara saraswathi swamigal. This was the explanation given by him.

When aanjaneya was a small kid, he saw the sun in the evening time before sun-set. For him it appeared like a fruit. So Aanjaneya being pavana kumaran (son of pavan or vayu), went so fast near sun and was about to swallow it. Then Lord Surya appeared before him and told that he should not do that and its against nature. Agreeing to that, hanuman came back.

This act of shadowing the sun, was appreciated by Lord Rahu (one of the nava grahas) who use to cause solar eclipse. He granted a boon to aanjaneya that people will worship him with substances made out of urid dal (ulundhu in tamil). So we are worshipping him with vadai and jhangiri made out of urid.

Why do people in north india worship with sweet jhangiri and people in south india worship with salt vadai?

It is because of the availability of sugar and salt. If you see in north India, sugar cane is in abundance. So sweet jhangiri. And in south india, salt is in abundance because of the sea shores. So the salted vada with pepper (found in abundance in kerala) is offered.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Gopalakrishna Bharati, a well known composer of songs on Chidambara NatarAja is the supporting force for me to write this article. We will get the siva kataksham (or the blessings of Lord Shiva) by reading through his lines.

A man (refers to the reader) asks a saint (Gopalakrishna Bharati), "Pranaams to you, respectable Saint. I want to attain mOksham (salvation). I have neither done any poojas nor have observed fastings. I completely surrender to you to show me the path towards the ultimate reality."

Saint answers, "My dear disciple, I am so happy on hearing these words from you. Dont worry. Just listen. I will show you the way to attain your goal."

siva lOkha nathanai kandu sEvithiduvOm vAreer

bhava bayangalai pOkki avar parama padhatthai koduppar - andha
siva lOkha nathanai kandu sEvithiduvOm vAreer

arpa sugathai ninaindhOm aran thiruvadi marandhOm
karpidhamAna prapancham idhai kAnal neer pOlE yennin yenni

mAnuda jenmam kodutthAr thannai vaNanga karangaL aLithAr
thEnum pAlum pOlE sendru thEradiyil nindru kondu
siva lOkha nathanai kandu sEvithiduvOm vAreer

"Lets go and pray to the lord of the shiva lOkham. He will grant salvation and will destroy the fear and sorrows. All these days we were thinking of the cheap worldly pleasures and we forget his (shiva's) lotus feet. We were keeping on thinking about the temporal universe which is like a mirage. The lord gave us this human birth, hands to worship Him. Lets all go to the thEr adi (holy car in the chidambaram temple) like freely flowing milk and honey and pray to the Lord".
Saying so the saint sees the face of the disciple.

Disciple asks "I understood that surrendering totally to the Lord will grant us salvation. Could you please elaborate about the chidambaram sthalam that you mentioned in the previous song?"

Saint says, "Here it is."

thillai sthalam endru solla thodanginal
illai piravi piniyum paapamum

solla thagum ithuvE siva lOkham
yeLLathanai aram seyyil amOgam

aagama vEda purAnangaL saathiram
arul thavam purivArkku aruliya paathiram
aalayam aayirathettinil nEthiram
Ananda thAndavam aadiya kshethiram

parama ragasiyam ondru pArkalAm
bala krishnan kavi pAda kEtkalAm
karma vinaigaL anaithayum pOkkalAm
kasadatthu mukthiyum undAgalAm

"If you start to say thillai (chidambaram) then there is no more re birth, disease and sin. One can say that this ksetra is the siva lokham (or abode of shiva). If you do a little amount (like a grain called yeL) of good then it is awesome. Shiva is the one who grants blessings to those who do a sincere meditation on him as mentioned in the ancient works (vEdAs, purAnAs, sAstrAs, AgamAs). This sthalam where shiva has performed aananda thandavam (blissful dance) is vital among thousands of other temples as an eye in our body. You can see a big secret (chidambara rahasyam!), hear songs sung by balakrishnan (the composer), drive away all the deeds (karma) and its consequences (vinaigaL) and at last you can get the salvation."

Disciple's happieness knew no bounds. He asked, "Thats nice to hear about Chidambaram. Could you please tell about the presiding deity over there?".

The saint became so happy on seeing the curiosity of his disciple. He said,

sabhApatikku vERu deivam samAnamAgumA thillai
sabhApatikku vERu deivam samAnamAgumA ?

kripAnidhi ivarai pOla kidaikkumO indha dhArani thannil

oru dharam siva chidambaram yendru sonnal pOdhume
paragathi pera vEru punyam panna vEnuma?
ariya pulaiyar moovar padham adaindhAr yendrE purAnam
arindhu solla kEttOm Gopalakrishnan pAdum thillai

sabhApatikku vERu deivam samAnamAgumA ?

"Will any other deity become equal to sabhapathi (lord of the kanaga sabai - Chidambaram)? One cannot find a more graceful god like him in this world. You need not do any other good deeds to attain salvation. Just if you chant "siva chidambaram" once, thats enough. Three great poets (appar, sundarar, sambandhar) have attained salvation by chanting the name of Shiva as told in the puranam. He is in the thillai sthalam about which Gopalakrishnan (saint) is singing."

Disciple was moved to tears. He then asked, "What is Aanandam?"

There was a quick reply from the saint that if we see the lotus feet of Lord Nataraja in the dancing posture, it is the real bliss (Anandam). It was with the lines "aadiya paadha dharisanam kandal aanandam"

The next question from the disciple was "Who is mightier?"

Saint said, "Mightiest among all is the person who gets the grace of Ponnambalan (Nataraja). By having houses, cows, goats, money in this world can one become the mightiest?" Saying so he sung the following lines.

pArukkul veedugal maadugal aadugal panam irundhal avan periyavanAvanO?
yArukku ponnambalan kripai irukkudho avanE periyavanAm

Disciple said, "Thank you my beloved guru. You have enlightened me on the ultimate reality. I would like you to say when there will be an end to all the sufferings of this kali yuga"

The saint sings,

kanaka sabApathi dharisanam oru nAl kandAl kali theerum

sanaka mahA muni kaithozhudhetthiya dinakara kOti thEjOmayam aagiya

kanaka sabApathi dharisanam oru nAl kandAl kali theerum

parpala yojanai seiyvathum thollai
paragathi adayavum paadhyamum illai
arputhamaagavE aangoru sollai
aniyum gopalakrishnan paniyum thillai

kanaka sabApathi dharisanam oru nAl kandAl kali theerum

"One day if we see the darshan of kanaka sabapathi, all the sufferings would be put to an end. Great sages like sanaka have worshipped the lord, who is as bright as 1000 suns. If we keep on thinking a lot about things other than the lord, it will create a lot of problems. It wont help us to get the path towards salvation. There is one great word "thillai" which will help us in attaining salvation."

"Oh guru! I can understand the greatness of Thillai sthalam and of Nataraja. It would be great if you tell how Nataraja will dance."

The guru sings,

thA thai yendrAduvAr avar thath thith thai yendrAduvAr
thA thai yendrAduvAr avar thath thith thai yendrAduvAr
thakita thakita thai yendrAduvAr avar jam thakita thai yendrAduvar
dheem tharikita thai yendrAduvAr avar jam tharikita thai yendrAduvar

Adhi parAparam aagiya chith aanandam kondoru kAlai yeduthu

anda charAcharam yengum nadunga
aadhi sEdanAr mudigaL nerunga
pAr pugazhum thillai chidambara nathan
balakrishnan panindhEthiya paagan

"He will dance with the jathis. He will dance with one leg raised and with pure bliss. When he dances, the entire univers will feel the vibration. Lord Vishnu's serpant, Aadhi sEshan's head will also dance. He is the one who is praised by Gopalakrishnan and the whole universe."

Now the disciple could experience the aananda thandavam of Lord Shiva. He wanted to confirm with the guru whether his experiences were right. o he asks his guru to tell about the ananda thandava experience.

Guru says, "I am feeling so happy on seeing the dance of Lord shiva. The sages like Sanaka, Sanandana, SanAthana, SanathkumAra were all singing. Lord Brahmma is putting the taalaas. About 3000 (thillai vAzh moovAyirathOr) people are celebrating the occasion daily. Nandi, Bringi and other Siva gaNangaL came together to witness the occasion. Sage Narada and sage Tumburu were singing. Not only there was a feast for the ears but also for the stomach. All the dEvas are enjoying themselves by having the divine food. Maha vishnu was playing the Maddalam (drum) and Shiva was dancing with all these celebrations happily."

These were captured in the following lines.

kanaka sabhai thirunadanam kandu kaLithu Anandam adaindhEn

sanakasanandana munivarum pAda
chatur muka dEvanum taalangaL pOda
dhinamum moovAyiram pErum kondAda
dhith thOm thOm thaka thOm thOm dhimi thOm thOm thakita thadhimithOm yendru
kanaka sabhai thirunadanam kandu kaLithu Anandam adaindhEn

nandi bringi siva gaNangaLum kooda
nArada thumburu sangeetham pAda
pandhi pandhi yaai amarar koNdAda
gopalakrishnan matthalam pOda aadiya
kanaka sabhai thirunadanam kandu kaLithu Anandam adaindhEn

The disciple saluted the guru and started to meditate upon Nataraja and there by attained salvation.

Hope I was able to provide a picture of the Aananda thandavam and let us all pray to the Kanaga sabapathi to attain the state of Divine Bliss and DivineBlessings (Siva katAksham).

Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi

"Oothukkadu" - If any one utters this word, then immediately - the divine composer - Venkatasubbier will come to most of our minds. His compositions are young forever. Even in the recent movie - "Alaipayuthe" starred by Madhavan and Shalini, we can listen to his song, Alaipayuthey kanna in the raga kAnadA (S R3 P G3 M1 D2 N2 S - S N2 P M1 G3 M1 R3 S). He is an ardent devotee of Krishna. Krishna has visited him in the form of a small child. The incident is explained below.

One day the singer was singing the song written and tuned by him in the temple of the village oothukkadu. Suddenly he felt a weight on his lap. He felt that a child was sitting on his lap. Out of pain, he pushed the child away from his lap. He then opened his eyes to see what was that and floated on the ocean of joy to see Lord Krishna, decorated with beautiful ornaments, standing before him. From that day onwards, he stopped putting talam on his lap, treating Krishna to be always seated on his lap.

All his kritis will make one to stand up and dance. They were such effective ones. All his compositions were written under the context that Krishna will be dancing on listening to them. In all his kritis, one wil find the jathis that are used in classical dance. He has written several songs on Vinayaka, Rama, and of course on Krishna.

His master piece that I would say is - Kalinga nardhana tillana in the raga Gambhira nattai (S G3 M1 P N3 S - S N3 P M1 G3 S). If any one listens to that song, one can experience the Kalinga nardhana episode in the life history of Krishna. The song will start with jathis rendered in the Gambhira nattai raga with chathusra gathi aadhi taalam. Then some words will come. Then jathis and words inter twined will be rendered with tisra gathis and chathusra gathi alternating with one another. The song will give one a lively experience. The concluding part of the song will be in chathusra gathi. There will be mixed experiences of Joy, sorrow, tension, confusion in the progress of the song. At last one will feel that they are relived out of tension as soon as the song gets over - signifying Krishna has killed the serpant kalinga.

Especially the phrase (thagida thagas thadaaya butha hara mandhas............mithakaravara poojitha padhayugala) will be so realistic. The mandas......... indicates that Krishna is standing on the head of the serpent and it is emitting poison from its mouth. Then the next line will be "hari jaya vijayee bhava nanda kumara..." which states that nanda kumara has won the war that was going on. That is Kalinga was defeated and the Yamuna river's purity has been restored.
Another gem of his songs is the Rajagopala swamy pancharathnam - a set of 5 songs on Mannargudi Rajagopala swamy. The madhyamavathi (S R2 M1 P N2 S - S N2 P M1 R2 S) song - Sundara nanda kumara - will be so nice.

All the songs of Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi will be nice. To analyse each and every song, time wont be sufficient. We need several centuries to analyse all of them. So let me put a logical end to this post

rAgAnubhavam - Arabhi

Arabhi - one of the most beautiful rAgA in carnatic music. This rAgA will be more appealing than any other rAgA in a carnatic music concert. Most of the songs will start with the swarA (P) pa as the first swarA.

This rAgA is a janya rAgA of the 29th mEla karthA rAgA, dheera sankarAbaraNam. The ArOhaNam - avarOhaNam is S R2 M1 P D2 S - S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S.
The swaras sa (S) and pa (P) does not have variations, while the other swaras like ri(R), ga(G), ma(M), dha(D) and ni(N) has variations.

May be because of its neutral nature, tyAgarAjA has placed the song sAdinchanE in the rAgA Arabhi as the third kriti (middle one among the five kritis) in his pancharatna kritis. If you see the song, it starts with the notes "P P M1 R2 S D S". We can quote many songs like

1. ambA sowramba by Tanjore Ponniyah Pillai where the notes are P P D P M M.
2. Ongi ulagalandha in Tiruppavai, by AndAL. There again the first coming swarA will be P (pa)
3. nAdha sudhA rasam bilanu by Tyagaraja. Here also the swara pa (P) will be the starting swarA.
4. JoodA murArE, again by tyAgarAja also starts with the swarA pa.
And we can quote some more.

Exception that I have observed is the song, oru kAl siva chidambaram yendru sonnAl, by Marimutha Pillai, where the song starts with the swara dha (D2). It will have the form, D2 R2 S D2 P P M1.

In the movies one can quote the songs yEri karaiyin mEle pOravalE peN mayilE from the film arivALi, thendralil Adum koonthalai kandEn from the film Maduraiyai meetta sundara pandiyan...

rAgAnubhavam - nATTai

nATTai - The rAgA with which most of the carnatic concert use to start with. It is a wonderful rAgA to start with. The beauty of the rAgA lies in the swaras ri and ga. Both the swaras add beauty and majesticity to the rAgA. The concerts if started with this rAgA, will be very appealing.

This rAgA is a derived or janya rAgA of the 36th mElakarthA rAgA, chala nATTai. The arOhanam avarOhanam of the rAgam is given below:

S R3 G3 M1 P N3 S
S N3 P M1 G3 M1 R3 S

Popular krithis in this rAgA are:
  • JagadAnandakArakA (1st pancha ratna kriti by TyAgarAjA)
  • swAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm - Muthuswamy Dikshithar
  • MahA gaNapatim - Muthuswamy Dikshithar
  • ninnaE bhajana - TyAgarAjA
  • and lot more

Muthuswamy Dikshitar kritis has no demarcation between nAttai and chala nAttai. According to him nAttai means, chala nAttai and he has defined chala nAttai to be a part of asampUrna (or incomplete) mElakarthA. These rAgAs have all swarAs, but not in proper order.

Cine songs like chennai senthamizh from M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi, peygala nambadhe from Mahanadi, First para of the song vendriduvEn in the film Agathiyan are all set to nAtA rAgam.

rAgAnubhavam - LalithA

This rAgA is a janya rAgA of 15th mELakarthA rAgA - mAyAmALavagowLai. The arOhaNam avarOhaNam is S R1 G3 M1 D1 N3 S - S N3 D1 M1 G3 R1 S. Simply saying, its mAyAmALavagowLai without the swara pa (panchamam).

This rAgA is such a melodious one. This rAgA instills strength in our mind when we hear to it. Though it may appear to be a melancholic rAgA, its not actually. It is a calm rAgA that will relieve tension out of us.

Dikshithar has written a beautiful kriti "Hiranmayeem Lakshmim sadha bhajami" on Goddess Lakshmi. He mentions Lakshmi as the daughter of the milky ocean (thiruppArkadal). The line goes like "ksheerAmbudhi tanayAm". He also mentions the goddess holds a blue lotus in her lotus like hands (kara kamala drutha kuvalayam), she also wears bangles in her hands (maragatha manimaya valayAm). Lakshmi sits on the white lotus (swetha dweepa vasini), worshipped by living beings and gives blessings to them (bhoosura poojitham varaam). He also mentioned that the goddess loves music, from the lines "sangeetha vAdya vinOdinIm". The beauty of her fore head that has cool rays emitting out of them is given in the lines "sheetha kiraNa niba vadanAm". Lakshmi wears a yellow cloth (peetha vachanaam) and she is golden complexioned (the very first line of the song says - hiranmayeem lakshmeem).

Few other songs in this rAgA are - natanala pramayaku naa manasa by Annamacharya, nannu brOvu lalithA by syama sastri and some more.

A popular cine song in this rAgA is "idhazhil kavi yezhuthum nEramithu".

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Aruna Sairam Concert at Narada Gana Sabha

Yesterday (Jan 6, 2010) I had been to Narada Gana Sabha for Aruna Sairam's concert. The concert was organised for GNB's centenary function, by the GNB rasikar mandram. It was a short 1:30 hours concert. Yet I returned back with a sense of complete satisfaction.

She started with Sarva Mangala Mangalye slokam in the raga hindolam, followed by sama gana lole in hindola ragam, rupaka talam. This is a composition of GNB himself. Kalpana swaras were flowing like the river ganges. Embar Kannan on the violin, J.Vaidhyanathan on the mridangam and S.Karthick on the ghatam provided a great support for the day.

The next song was in the raga anandabhairavi which was GNB's one of the favourite raga. Aruna started with another sloka on goddess kamalamba and rendered muthuswami dikshitar's kamalamba samrakshathumam in misra chapu tala. Then she sung harikesanallur muthiah bhagavatar's suddha dhanyasi raga kriti himagiri tanaye which was also popularised by GNB.

The fourth song was in the raga kalyani. I was expecting vasudevayani and aruna didnt falsify my expectation. After an alapana in the raga which was rendered in her own style contrary to the normal style of singing kalyani (beginning with long phrases of swaras instead of developing from smaller phrases) she sung yet another GNB trademark vasudevayani. The niraval was placed in the charanam lines "raga tala" and swaras were also sung in that line. It was like a water flowing down from a hill top, without any obstacles.

The fifth song was in the raga dakka (much similar to vasantha), a tyagaraja composition set to adi tala, raka sasivadana. The sixth song was kaaranam kettu vaadi in the raga poorvi kalyani which portrayed the devotee's anxiety regarding the lord nataraja not turning up to his/her home. This is more like, the devotee is a girl and the lord is her lover and this girl having waited for a long time didn't see her beloved. So she is asking her friend the reason for the lord not coming to see her.

The final item was a sloka vande matharam ambikam bhagavathi in raga malikai. Ragas were saveri, hamir kalyani, ranjani and madhyamavathi.

It was a short and sweet treat for the listeners.

Aruna Sairam - Music Academy Dec 26 2009

I had been to Aruna's concert at the music academy. This is a very late entry about that concert. I am sorry for that. Got time to ponder something now only. Getting ticket for her concert is as usual difficult. I had been standing in the queue for a long time since morning 7 and got the tickets for dais finally.

She started the concert with bhairavi raga ata tala varnam. It was sung in two speeds. Then she proceeded with tyagaraja's atana raga yela nee daya raadhu after a short alapana. The next song was in the raga kedaragowla of muthuswami dikshitar. This had his mudra guruguha and the raga mudra in the charanam as "kedaragowla raga priyam", describing Lord Shiva.

Then she sung a tamil song in the praise of Lord Nataraja in the raga mukhari, endraikku siva kripai varumo. She started off the song from the anupallavi kandru..

The next song was a quick pasupatipriya raga kriti of harikesanallur muthiah bhagavathar - saravanabhava. It was indeed an interesting kriti well sung by the artiste.

The highlight of the day was todi raga ragam taanam pallavi. Aruna chose taamadam yen swami bala subramanya in 2 kalai adi talam. She told that this was a homage to the veteran musician GNB which was highlighted in the pallavi as "balasubramanya" and sung ragamalika swaras and few lines of kritis popularised by GNB in those ragas. The ragas were kalyani (vasudevayani), hindolam (samaganalole), behag (dikku theriyadha kaattil), misra yaman (radha samedha krishna).

An abhang was sung and following it was her fame vishama kaara kannan of oothukkadu venkata kavi.

It was a great concert for the saturday eve.