Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Paramacharya's Exposition on Dikshitar Kriti - Part II

“Shri Subrahmanyaya Namaste Namaste”

Obeisance to Lord Subrahmanya - every one knows. Starts auspiciously with Shri and has a double namasthE. If you say something more than once, you have said it infinite number of times.We have seen 'pOttri pOttri' and 'Jaya Jaya Sankara', and BrahmasUtram's every phrase ends with twice-repeated words. 'namasthE namasthE'. 'thE' - to you; 'nama:' - obeisance. 'nama:thE' becomes 'namasthE'. The whole kriti goes in the fourth person(?)(nAlam vEtrumai). Obeisances to you, SubrahmanyA, infinite number of obeisances. Who is Subrahmanya? True, learned Brahmanya. We generally take 'brahmA' to mean the true, absolute form of the Lord (paramAtma svarUpam), but there is another meaning - Vedas. That is why, Upanayanam, the ceremony to begin Veda lessons to a child, is called 'BrahmOpadEsam'; by learning Vedas, the child becomes 'BrahmachAri'. Likewise 'Brahmayagnam'. Brahmins are a set that recite the Vedas. Subrahmanya is the symbol of the Divine, the end point, the God of Vedas, and the special God of the Brahmins.

What is the special feature of Veda recitals? Worship of agni, fire. And Subrahmanya is the God who is in 'agni swarUp'. He was created by the six sparks of fire (nEtragni) from the (third) eye of Shiva. Hence He is the Deva of Vedas, and the God of Brahmins, whose sole duty is to recite and teach Vedas. Adisankara in his 'Subrahmanya Bhujangam' says 'mahIdEva dEvam, mahAvEda bhAvam, mahAdEvabAlam'. 'mahIdEva' are Brahmins; 'mahIdEva dEvam' is God of Brahmins. In Thirumurugattruppadai, one of the oldest Tamil scriptures, this point is underlined. Nakkeerar, the author, stating that each of the six faces of Shanmukha grants devotees' wishes in one different way, says 'oru mugam manthra vidhiyin marapuli vazhA anthanar vELviyOrkkummE'.

And when describing Thiruveragam (Swamimalai), he says learned and pious Brahmins perform rituals with fire towards Subrahmanya. Brahmins who participate in 'yagna karmA' are called 'rithvik'. Of the sixteen types of rithviks, one is named 'Subrahmanya'. From all these, it is evident that Subrahmanya is the God of Vedas. Muthuswami Dikshitar has much connection with Subrahmanya. He has been to, and sung in praise of, many kshetras and Gods, just as Adisankara has. But in his devotion (upAsanA), he has been known to be a 'dEvi upAsakA' - he even breathed his last singing 'mIna lOchani pAcha mOchani' on Meenakshi. But his birth, beginning of his composing career, were are all associated with Subrahmanya.

His very name, Muthuswami, is that of Muthukumaraswami, the deity at Vaidheeswaran koil. His father, Ramaswami Dikshitar - scholar, musician and Srividya devotee - was without an issue till he was forty. He visited Vaidheeswaran koil with his wife and fasted for 45 days (one mandalam). His wife then had a dream as if someone was tying coconut, fruits and other 'mangalavastu' on her womb. And soon she became pregnant. The couple understood that Subrahmanya had granted their wish and that the dream meant this. And a boy was born on 'krithikai' day in the month of Phalguni or Panguni. That boy was Muthuswami. He grew up, had his musical training, Srividya Abhyasam (training in the worship of Devi) and gurukula vAsam at Kashi (Benares). His guru at Kashi, before dying, told Muthuswami, "Go back to the south. First visit Tiruttani. Subrahmanya will show you the way to your life's purpose". So Muthuswami went to Tiruttani. He had his bath in the temple tank and was climbing the hillock, when an elderly Brahmin gentleman called him by name, and told him to open his mouth. When Muthuswami did so, he dropped a piece of sugar candy (karkandu) in his mouth and disappeared. Muthuswami understood who it was that came, and his life's mission began that moment - his musical creativity had been woken up.

On the spot, he sang eight kritis.(in eight different 'vEttrumai's). Also note that his 'mudra' is 'guruguhA', a name of Subrahmanya. Guha resides deep inside a cave - guhai; and guruguha resides in the deep cave of the human heart of Muthuswami Dikshitar. Dikshitar's life on earth ended on a Deepavali day. The sixth day from Deepavali is 'skanda shashti'. Some people fast these six days, beginning on Deepavali day and ending it on the shashti day. So in his death too we see the Subrahmanya association. Dikshitar went from place to place and sung in praise of the God there, be it Ganesha, Vishnu, Devi, Shiva. And in each kriti, there would be some internal evidence about the place where it was composed - the name of the God, some historical fact, or manthra rahasyam. Our 'ShrI SubrahmanyAya namasthE' has no such internal evidence - we do not know where it was composed. May be he unified the deities of all Subrahmanya temples in this one kriti, so sparkling is it.So he has started with innumerable obeisances;

“Manasija Koti Koti Lavanyaya”

Like two 'namasthE's, two koti's. koti-koti is koti (one crore) multiplied by crore. manasija koti koti - crore*crore manmadhA's. manasijan=manmadhan; he is born out of mind - manas. Love - kAmA - comes from the mind, right? There is a puranic story too - Manmadhan is the son of Mahavishnu. But very strangely, he was not born to Mahalakshmi out of Vishnu's love, but from Vishnu's mind directly - the moment Vishnu thought of him! And Vishnu's other son, Brahma, was born directly too, from Vishnu's navel (nAbhi). See, Vishnu has this funny habit of doing strange things always! Manmadhan is famous for his good looks. So 'manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya' is some one who is crore*crore times as beautiful as Manmadha. But is this not funny?! I mean, Subrahmanya being 'manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya'. Who is Subrahmanya? He is the son of Shiva, who reduced Manmadha to ashes with a fire of fury from His eye. And from that same nEtragni, is born Subrahmanya! But He was
born to gnAna (wisdom), not kAma.

'Kumar' is a special name for Him. Just as in the South 'pillai' (son) means pillaiyar (Ganesha), Kumar in the North refers to the younger son, Subrahmanya. In the South also, we say 'kumaran' or 'kumAraswAmy'. Nowadays, half of the boys are named 'Kumar'! The term 'Kumar' is particularly applied to Subrahmanya. In Valmiki Ramayana, Vishwamitra tells the story of Subrahmanya to Rama and Lakshmana and calls it 'KumAra Sambhavam'. And Kalidasa has named his own epic after this phrase used by the great sage Valmiki. Another interpretation for the word 'Kumar'. Manmadhan is also called 'mAran'; and 'kumAran' some one who puts mAra to shame - is more beautiful than him. 'kutsitha-mara:' - 'kumAra:'. So 'kumAra' by itself means 'manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya'! The Tamil people just love Him. They have given Him a beautiful name - 'Murugan' - Murugu=beauty. After kAmA was burnt to ashes, Devi took over his role, donning his sugarcane bow and floral arrows - 'kamEshwari' - this led to the birth of Subrahmanya. And how else would be but 'lavaNyA'? - Devi Herself is called 'sundari - thripurasundari'.

“Dhina Sharanyaya”

Is mere beauty enough? What we want is 'aruL' - grace. Subrahmanya is the refuge of we, the sufferers. 'dhIna' - those that are poor, humble, suffering, scared. 'dhIna sharaNyAya - lAvaNyAya - SubrahmaNyAya' - similar sounding – edhugai or mOnai or something in Tamil - it is edhugai only but edhugai on the ending of the words rather than on the beginning. 'yAya' - andhya prAsam - 'to Him' (fourth vEttrumai). It is usual to go back to the first line with a fast 'manasija kOti kOti', after beginning in slow tempo - chowkha kAlam or vilamba kAlam. Vilambham - a nice Sanskrit word. I prefer this word to 'chowkam'. Slow tempo, giving scope to the musician to explore the raga's various nuances, is a hallmark of Dikshitar's kritis. And the majestic Sanskrit language helps too, creating the impression of a grand elephant procession. But aren't we all always in a hurry? By the mind and by the body? So we find such slow tempo boring after some time. And for this, Dikshitar provides relief with some fast movements at the end of most phrases. Madhyama kAlam comes as a relief to chowkha kAlam, as a piece of clove in a sweet-sweet laddu! In this kriti, both the pallavi and charanam have madhyama kAla endings. But in his most other kritis, we find madhya kAla phrases only at the end of anupallavi and charanam. Why? Subrahmanya is a vibrant young man (endrum iLaiyAi), so wants to go running right from the word 'go'!

“Bhusuradhi samastha jana pujitabja caranaya”

One whose lotus feet are worshipped by Brahmins and other people (add namasthE of the pallavi to this) 'bhUsurAdhi' - Brahmins and ...others. 'bhUsurA' - Brahmins. 'bhU' is earth,surA are devAs. And Brahmins are the 'earthly DevAs' as they, by their chanting and rituals, bring the blessings of the Devas to earth. We have already seen that Subrahmanya is the God of Brahmins (mahIdeEva is same as bhUsura). But is He the God of Brahmins only? Not so; He is the God of all people. Of his two wives, one is the daughter of Indra, the king of Devas, and the other, daughter of a tribal chieftain (suramagal and kuramagal). Some might say, He is a Tamil God (Dravidaswamy), and others that He is the God of Brahmins only - His name itself is testimony. But the truth is otherwise. There is no doubt that He is the God of all people. And Dikshitar takes this line only. We should all unite in the name of God, not fight one another. 'pUjithAbja sharaNAya' - to the worshipped Lotus Feet. Abja is lotus; 'Ab' is water and that which grows in water is abjam. We also call it jalajam, ambujam, sarojam, neerajam (jala, ambu... are all other names for water). Also vanajam - vana is forest. But does lotus grow in forest? But vana has another meaning - water. 'Kam' is also water - kamjam is lotus (eg. kamjalOchanE, kamjadhalAya dAkshi). vArijam, too, is lotus. OK, all I have tried to say is 'abjam' is lotus!

“Vasuki thakshadi sarpa svarupa dharanaya”

One who takes the form of snakes like Vasuki and Thaksha. Literally 'sarpa' means 'kundalini' - the Energy of Life. Snake has a wriggled, spiral-like form, so does our kundalini, in normal circumstances. But if we perform concentrated penance, it wakes up in full glory, and then merges with the Ultimate. Subrahmanya's weapon is the spear - 'vEl', also known as Shakti Ayudham. No other deity's weapon is as much identified with that deity, as vEl is with Subrahmanya. And His connection with snakes is apparent in more instances - if we see a snake in our dreams, elders tell us to perform Subrahmanya pooja for preethi. And Shashti Pooja to Subrahmanya is also done some times as Nagarjuna Pooja, in particular for Puthrabhagyam. Subrahmanya was born at the request of Devas who wanted a powerful commander-in-chief; and we pray to Him for puthrabhagyam! In Andhra and Karnataka, they do not have Subrahmanya idols in temples; rather, He is worshipped in snake form. You know a place called Subrahmanya in Karnataka - there also it is this way. Telugus fondly say 'subbarAyudu' meaning Subrahmanya as well as snake.

Let us see if Adisankara has brought out this Subrahmanya-snake connection. (laughs) The title itself is 'Bhujangam'! Snake does not have legs, and uses its whole body as hands - bhujam, and moves about in a wavy rhythm. The 'chandas' similar to a snake's movement is called 'bhujanga prayAdham'. Acharya has sung bhujangams on many Gods, but when we simply think of bhujangam, what comes to our mind immediately is 'Subrahmanya Bhujangam'. On other Gods, He has also composed ashtakam, pancharatnam etc, but on Subrahmanya, only this Subrahmanya Bhujangam - may be to prove that Subrahmanya is Himself the bhujangam. Dikshitar mentions the famous snakes Vasuki and Taksha. Shashti Pooja is performed by worshipping seven great snakes.

Vasuki is the snake who adorns the role of Nagaraja in Nagalokam. And when the Sea of Milk (pArkadal) was churned with Manthragiri, this Vasuki snake was used to tie that hillock. Funny, isn't it, a poisonous snake helping to extract nectar! Again, what is Subrahmanya's vehicle (vAhanA)? peacock, dire enemy of the snakes! Goes to show that, in His presence, all enmity vanishes. So too, elephants are mortally scared of lions - a 'simha swapna' terrorizes an elephant. But we have an elephant sitting on a lion! Heramba, one of the many forms of Ganesha, has a lion as His vAhanA. Or take Vishnu - His bed is a snake (Adishesha) and his vAhanA, Garuda, enemy of snakes! We are told the story that a snake eats the moon during lunar eclipse, but we have a snake and a moon adorning Shiva's head! Strange, again, are the Parvati-Shiva couple. Will a lion leave a bull go? But we have Shiva on the Rishaba (bull) and Devi on Simha (lion)! The philosophy behind all these is, all beings lose their tendency to hate (dwEsha bhAvam) at the Lord's sannidhi. OK, let us continue our 'vAsuki takshakAdhi' - some say Vasuki is the same as Adishesha; some disagree. Anyhow, Adishesha and Subrahmanya are definitely connected. Venkataramanaswamy at Tirupati has much connection with Subrahmanya. The hillock Tirupati-Tirumala is also called Seshagiri, Seshachalam, Seshasailam. 'sarpa swarUpa dhara' Subrahmanya is Himself is the Tirupati hill. Or take Ardhanarishwara at Tiruchengode. Subrahmanya is also worshipped here, as He made the (united) couple into a trio - Somaskanda. This Tiruchengode is also called Nagachalam and Nagagiri, meaning the same as Seshachalam.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Revolutionary Tamizh composer - Gopalakrishna Bharati

In continuation of the Entaro Mahanubavulu series I am glad to present the Second article. The article dwells about the 19th Century Tamizh Composer Sri Gopala Krishna Bharati [GKB]. Many people know about GNB (G.N. Balasubramaniam) but not much about GKB. We all love to hear Tamizh songs whenever we visit the Carnatic Music concert. When we here songs like “Sabhapathiku Veru Deivam” or “Eppa Varuvaro” our heart swells thanks to the composer GKB who lived some 200 years before who was a contemporary of Saint Tyagaraja.

It is heartening to note that the then Collector of Karaikal Lord Seesay appreciated Sriman GKB for his Magnum Opus “Nandanar Charitram” and undertook its publication. GKB will be remembered forever by giving this Tamizh Opera where bhakthi runs through out the entire master piece and you can understand its importance when the Tamizh Scholar U. Ve. Swaminatha Iyer described Nandanar Charitram as “A gift to Carnatic Music and a perfect specimen of a Tamizh Opera”. It is said GKB composed the kriti “Sabhapathiku Veru Deivam” in the Raga “Abhogi” after meeting Saint Tyagaraja.
History of carnatic music composers is of perennial interest to any Indian music fan. Music world in the latter half of 18th century was blessed with several doyens including the much acclaimed Trinity [Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shyama Sastry]. While some research has been done on the life of the trinity, the complete history of other composers is shrouded in mystery. Lack of first hand resources is the primary reason for this. Music is one of the several fine arts that was groomed and cherished in Tamilnadu. Carnatic Music bloomed in Tamilnadu after ancient Tamil music. (Referred as “Pann” in Tamil). The grammar and the literature describing then went into oblivion. Kings and nobles adored carnatic music and patronized worthy musicians.

This encouraged many to take to this field and in due course Tamilnadu was enriched by several artistes unparalled in expertise. Thus Tamilnadu became the capital of Carnatic Music. The concept of sahithya (lyrics) to bring out the beauty of Sangeetha did not originate in Tamilnadu. Composers like Pachchaimiriyam Adhiyappa Iyer, Thyaggayyar, and Shyama Sastry composed several kirtanas in Telugu and Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s compositions were in Sanksrit. Composers like Anai-ayya, Adhiyappa Iyer, Srirangam Srinivasan, Ariyalur Sanbaga Mannar etc. have composed kirtanas in several languages including Tamil. In addition to the Tamil Trinity (Moovar) Muthuthandavar, Arunachala Kavi and Marimutha Pillai there have been quite a few composers who have composed kritis in Tamizh.

Tamil Composers

Gopalakrishna Bharati
Koteeswara Iyer
Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri
Mazhavi Chidambara Bharati
Namakkal Kavignar.
Oothukadu Venkata Kavi
Subramania Bharathiyar
Vedanayakam Pillai
Yogi Suddanandha Bharati

Tamil kritis that could be used by Harikatha and Sivakatha exponents did not exist in olden days. Although early Tamil kritis were based on puranas like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Thirivilayadal etc. A set of kritis describing a Purana in detail did not exist. Sri Gopalakrishna Bharati a great Sangeetha Sahithyamani removed this blip. GKB’s kirtanas and varna mettus are unique. His pallavi eduppus were special. He was a master in blending charanams with the pallavi. His kirtanas are embellished with gamakas and laya vinyasa in a rich yet unobtrusive manner. His kirtanas were simple and captivating. His lyrics are soaked in Bhakthi rasa and describe several philosophical values. He empathized more on musical grace than verbal virtuosity.

Early Days

About 200 years ago Gopalakrishna Bharathi (1810-1896) was born in a Brahmin family in Narimanam, a village near Nagapattinam in Tamilnadu. His father’s name is Ramaswami Bharati. Music was one of the ancestral properties that he inherited. Gopalakrishna Bharati lived in Mudikondan village, near Nannilam for a brief period. He also served at the Sri Saraswathi Temple at Koothanur village. Later, when he moved to Ananda thandava puram, near Mayavaram, Annoo Iyer, a local good samaritan supported him and his stay in the village for a long period. Bharati considered Govindasivam, also called Govinda yati his philosophical guru under whom he learnt vedantas and yoga shastras. He trained in music under the veteran Ghanam Kishna Iyer and learnt Hindustani music from another exponent, Ramdas.
His teachers were none other than the redoubtable Ghanam Krishna Iyer and Ramdas, an exponent of Hindustani music. Formal study of Hindu philosophical and religious lore and interactions with composers like Anantabharati Iyengar, enriched his flair for composing and singing. Deeply spiritual, Bharati led life with yogic discipline. His compositions, only in Tamil, reflected these aspects in ample measure.


Shri Govindasivam an exponent in adhwaitha sastra and yoga sutra lived in Mayavaram. Gopalakrishna Bharati regarded Shri Govindasivam as his Gnana Guru and learnt Vedanta and several yoga sastras. Hailing from family of muscic exponents Bharati showed inclination towards music event at a very young age. He had commendable ability to grasp and reproduce complex musical feats. In those days thanks to the boom in Carnatic Music several musicians lived in the village of Tamilnadu. Listening to the music of these artistes further enriched Bharati’s musical prowess.

As years progressed he was immersed in Shiva-bhakthi and Vedanta and decided to spend the rest of his life as a celibate. People called him as Mudikondan Bharati and Anathaandapuram Bharati. During his stay in Anathaandapuram he visited Mayavaram frequently and interacted with several musicians. Mayavaram had several artistes who sang kirtanas for hari katha and shiva katha. Several artistes sung stothras and kirtanas during unjavrutti. Bharati’s acquaintance with these musicians nurtured his musical skills and helped him gaining a firm grip over kirtana lakshana. Literature and hymns like Kaivalya Navaneetham, Prabotha Chandrodhaayam, Thaththuvaraayar Paaduthurai, Thayumanavar’s hymns helped Bharati in developing a mastery over Tamil. He amalgamated his understanding of music with his proficiency in language and started composing kirtanas. As time progressed his bank of compositions increased and so did his passion of composing. He lived life as a celibate, doing yoga and embracing no particular sect.

The Magnum Opus – Nandanar Charitram

Gopalakrishna Bharati will be remembered forever due to his Magnum Opus opera “Nandanar Charitram”. Tamil scholar, U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer, couldn't have been more right when he described Nandanar Charitram as “a gift to Carnatic music and a perfect specimen of a Tamil opera." It is said, Bharati got the inspiration to compose “Nandanar Charitram” after seeing the sculpture of Nandan with Shovel and Crowbar at the Chidambaram Temple. The stimulation to compose this musical opera came from one Kandappa Chettiar, a shipping merchant of Nagapattinam who encouraged and motivated him to compose the Charitram.

The highly emotional Tamil opera Nandanar Charitram of GKB, when it was launched, in the mid-nineteenth century tugged at the heartstrings of the entire Tamil diaspora and even spread further to draw the attention of the French collector of Karaikal, Seesay. Familiar with the language and music of the locals, Seesay expressed his appreciation of this masterpiece of an opera by undertaking its publication. The first edition came out on November 11, 1861, and the second barely nine months later, in August 1862.

“Vazhi maraithrikuthu Malai Pole Unthan Maadu Paduthirukuthu” "Hiding my view like a colossal mountain is a bull supine... Sivalokanatha... " moved by the plea of his Harijan devotee Nandanar, Lord Siva of Tiruppunkur, gently commanded his bull, and Nandi obeyed His Master's voice. As Nandan rejoiced at his fortune, the Tamil country wept in joy. The appeal of Bharati's songs cuts across all boundaries of territory, erudition and even age. Nandan Caritiram proved very popular and he published it in his lifetime. The highly regarded Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar, who developed the art of Katha Kalatshepam by introducing elements from Marathi performance practice and elements of dance, made it one of his masterpieces. Many adaptations appeared, including stage plays and three film versions. The album of the film version starring the singer M. M. Dandapani Desikar as Nandanar (with music direction by Papanasam Sivan) remains popular. Individual songs of Gopalakrishna Bharati became popular with Carnatic musicians. Later, Bharata Natyam dancers, including T. Balasaraswati, took up select pieces for interpretation as abhinaya.

The story of Nandanar, as Bharati developed it, had considerable resonance with the Nationalist movement in India. Nandanar was an untouchable (dalit), and M. K. Gandhi, among others, saw his story as expressing the plight and aspirations of India's dalits. Others argue that Nandanar, with his burning desire to see Shiva at Chidambaram, captured the mood and paralleled the aspirations of Indian nationalists yearning for independence from Britain.

Episode with Saint Tyagaraja

Once, Bharati visited the legendary Tyagaraja. The bard, on coming to know that the visitor to his house was from Mayuram, asked, “Do you know Gopalakrishna Bharati?" The affirmative answer led to a lengthy conversation. Bharti then listened to his disciples sing a kriti of Thyagaraja "Manasu Nilpa" in the Ragam Abhogi. Then he went to bathe in the river Kaveri, and composed the famous kriti "Sabhapatikku Veru Deivam Samanamaguma" on the spot in Thamizh in the same ragam on Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram. When he came back to Thyagaraja’s house, Thyagaraja asked GKB if he has composed any kriti in Abhogi. GKB said he did so after hearing Thyagaraja’s kriti and sang it for him. Thyagaraja was happy and showered praise on GKB.

The phrase "Ariya Pulaiyar Moovar" in the kriti evokes deep feelings in everyone who hears this kriti. It is widely known that GB, although born a Brahmin, was an ardent supporter of the downtrodden folks, especially harijans, as is obvious from his magnum opus "Nandanar Charitira Kirtanai", a Thamizh opera glorifying the low-caste farm hand Nandan for his flagrant bhakthi, who was later inducted in the Nayanmar Hall of Fame as "Tirunaalaippovaar". The term "ariya pulaiyar moovar" refers to three "untouchables" i.e. Nandanar, Thillai Vettiyaan, and Perraan Saambhan who lived in the area around Thillai Chidambaram and were supposed to have attained Godhead as a reward for their piety. Nandanar was featured in the "Periya Puranam" by Sekkizhar. The other two lived in later times. A fervent shaivite by name Umapati Shivachariyar (14th century CE) initiated Perraan Saambhan (a person born as a pulaiyar) into shaivism (a prohibited act those days) under the guidance of a letter given by God. The ardent shaivite was excommunicated by the Thillai Brahmins for that sacrilegious (!) act. GB glorified all the three of them by mentioning "Ariya Pulaiyar Moovar" in this kriti.

Inspired by Tyagaraja's Pancharatna kritis, GKB composed a set of five kritis in the Ghana ragas — Nattai, Gowlai, Arabhi, Varali and Sri Ragas. GKB composed several songs and other operas to his credit. Many of them, including are popular on the music and dance platforms. Few of his famous pieces are given below to get a glimpse of his innumerable hit songs : The compositions show his mastery over literary and musical forms. Such is the variety displayed in them — Darus (situational songs), Irusollalankaram (dialogue), Sindu, Dandakam, and Kummi. He used “Gopalakrishnan” and “Balakrishnan” as his Mudra in his songs. GKB also composed many famous works like ‘Katakaletshepam’, Iyarpagai Nayanar Charitram, Tiruneelakanda Nayanar Charitram and Karaikal Ammayar Charitram. Many of his students including the famous Vedanayagam Pillai who was the District Munsif at Mayuram were taught a number of his songs by Gopalakrishna himself.

Sl Song Ragam
1 Aadum Chidambaramo - Behag
2 Ayye Methakadinam - Raga Malika
3 Enneramum - Devagandhari
4 Kanaka Sabhai - Suruti
5 Pitham Theliya - Senjuruti
6 Sabapathiku Veru Deivam - Abhogi
7 Sivaloka Naathanai - Mayamalava Gowla
8 Varugalamo - Maanji
9 Vazhi Maraitirukkuthe - Natta Kuriniji
10 Yeppo Varuvaro - Jhonpuri

Bharati died in 1896 (another version gives the date as 1881). Even during his lifetime, he had witnessed the popularity of his songs. Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar, father of modern kalakshepam, mentioned Nandanar Charitram as one of his favourite subjects. If Chidambaram Srirangachariar, father of Embar Vijayaraghavachariar related with great relish the tale, theatre personality S.G.Kittappa immortalised the character on stage. The tinsel world came out with two movies on the theme and recording companies cut discs of the songs that sold like hot cakes. A group of inspired people led by Chennai-based 'Deccan' N. K. Murthy and N. Venkatraman, a retired schoolteacher from Mayiladuthurai (Tamil Nadu) has been organising a annual music festival in memory of this great Thamizh composer for about 18 years now. The festival which was being conducted at Anandathandavapuram where Bharati lived most of his life, is celebrated now at Mayiladuthurai.


Gopalakrishna Bharati musical discourse by Tanjavur Smt. Kamala Murthy
Gopalakrishna Bharati translation of U. Ve. Saminatha Iyer’s biography by Lalita ram -
Celebrating Gopalakrishna Bharathi – R. Revathi -
Gopalakrishna Bharati – Wikipedia

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Voice of the Guru-Chapter-Two

Nobody wants to be known as a sinner, but all the same we keep transgressing the bounds of morality and disobeying the divine law. We wish to enjoy the fruits of virtue without being morally good and without doing anything meritorious. Arjuna says to Bhagavan Krishna, “No man wants to commit sin. Even so, Krishna, he does evil again and again. What is it that drives him so?” The Lord replies, “It is desires. Yes it is desire, Arjuna.” We try to gain the object of our desire with no thought of right or wrong (dharma or adharma). Is fire put out by ghee being poured into it? No, it rises higher and higher. Likewise, when we gratify one desire, another much worse, crops up. Are we to take it then, that it would be better if our desires were not satisfied? No. Unfulfilled desire causes anger, so too failure to obtain the object we hanker after. Like a rubber ball thrown against the wall such an unsatisfied desire comes back to us in the form of anger and goads us into committing sin. Krishna speaks of such anger as being next only to desire as an evil.

Only by banishing desire from our hearts may we remain free from sin. How is it done? We cannot but be performing our works. Even when we are physically inactive, our mind remains active. All our mental and bodily activity revolves around our desires. And these desires thrust us deeper and deeper into sin. Is it then possible to remain without doing any work? Human nature being what it is, the answer is “No”. “It is difficult to quell one’s thinking nor is it easy to remain without doing anything”, says Tayumanava Swamigal. We may stop doing work with the body but do we keep the mind quiet? The mind is never still. Apart from being unstill itself, it incites the body to action.

We are unable either to efface our desires or to cease from all action. Does it mean that liberation is beyond us? Is there no way out of the problem? Yes, there is. It is not necessary that we should altogether stop our actions in our present immature predicament. But, instead of working for our selfish ends, we ought to be engaged in such work as would bring benefits to the world as well as to our inward life. The more we are involved in such work, the less we shall be drawn by desire.

This will to some extent keep us away from sin and at the same time enable us to do more meritorious work. We must learn the habit of doing work without any selfish motive. Work done without any desire for the fruits thereof is punya or virtuous action. We sin in four different ways. With our body we do evil; with our tongue we speak untruth; with our mind we think evil; and with our money we do so much that is wicked. We must learn to turn these very four means of evil into instruments of virtue.

We must serve others without body and circumambulate the Lord and prostrate ourselves before him. In this way we earn merit. How do we use our tongue to add to our stock of virtue? By muttering, by repeating, the names of the Lord. You will perhaps excuse yourself saying : “All our time is spent in earning our livelihood. How can we then think of God or repeat his names?” A householder has a family to maintain ; but is he all the time worming for it? How much time does he waste in gossip, in amusements, in speaking of ill of others, in reading the papers? Can’t he spare a few moments to remember the Lord? He need not set apart a particular hour of the day for his japa. He may think of God even on the bus or the train as he goes to his office or any other place. Not a paisa is he going to take with him finally after his lifelong pursuit of money. The Lord’s name (Bhagavannama) is the only current coin in the other world.

The mind is the abode of Ishvara but we make a rubbish can of it. We must cleanse it, install the Lord in it and be at peace with ourselves. We must devote at least five minutes every day to meditation and resolve to do so even if the world crashes around us. There is nothing else that will give us a helping hand when the whole cosmos is dissolved. It is by helping the poor and by spreading the glory of the Lord that we will earn merit.

Papa, sinful action is two-pronged in its evil power. The first incites us to wrong-doing now. The second goads us into doing evil tomorrow. For instance, if you take snuff now you suffer now. But tomorrow also you will have the yearning to take the same. This is what is called the vasana that comes of habit. An effort must be made not only to reduce such vasana but also to cultivate the vasana of virtue by doing good deeds. It is bad vasana that drags us again and again into wrong-doing. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to harbor any fear on that score. People like us, indeed even those known to have sinned much, have become devotees of the Lord and obtained light and wisdom. How is Ishvara qualified to be called great if he is not compassionate and does not protect sinners also? It is because of sinners like us that he has come to have the title of “Patitapavana” [he who sanctifies or lifts up the fallen with his grace]. It is we who have brought him such a distinction.

“Come to me, your only refuge. I shall free you from all sins. Have no fear (sarvapapebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah). The assurance that Sri Krishna gives to free us from sin is absolute. So let us learn to be courageous. To tie up an object you wind a string around it again and again. If it is be untied you will have to do the unwinding in a similar manner. To eradicate the vasana of sinning you must develop the vasana of doing good to an equal degree. In between there ought to be neither haste nor anger. With haste and anger the thread you keep unwinding will get tangled again. Ishvara will come to our help if we have patience, if we have faith in him and if we are rooted in dharma.

The goal of all religions is to wean away man his mind, his speech and his body from sensual pleasure and lead him towards the Lord. Great men have appeared from time to time and established their religions with the goal of releasing people from attachment to their senses, for it is our senses that impel us to sin. “Transitory is the joy derived from sinful action, from sensual pleasure. Bliss is union with the Paramatman.” Such is the teaching of all religions and their goal is to free man from worldly existence by leading him towards the Lord.

Reference :

Reproduction from the book Hindu Dharma which is translated from Deivathin Kural [compilation of discourses originally delivered in Tamil by Mahaperiyava compiled by Sri Ra. Ganapathi] by Sri R.G.K [former Assistant Editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India.] Book published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Temple Visit - Thiruvidanthai

Hello readers,

I recently visited a special and unique temple at Thiruvudanthai near Chennai. Yes! Here the Wedding of the Lord is celebrated on all the 365 days of the year. The Lord here is Varaha Swami [Wild Boar] which is one of the Avatar of Lord Vishnu who redeemed Mother Earth from the clutches of demon Hiranyaksha. The Lord is aptly named as “Nithya Kalyana Perumal” i.e. Lord who is ever engaged in Marriage. Here the Lord got married the 360 daughters of Maharishi Kalava.

Attention bachelors and spinsters! If your marriage proposal getting delayed please visit this temple and make your offerings and the Lord will answer to your needs. One could able to see the steady stream of aspiring grooms and brides from all parts of India here to make and complete their vow. One of the 12 Azhwars or devotees of Lord Vishnu Thirumangai Azhwar has visited this temple and composed divine poem on the Lord. Hence this shrine is considered as one of the 108 Vaishnava Divya Shetras or Divine Temples.
Finds interesting?!! Please read on to get to know more about this temple.

Happy reading!
Warm Regards
A.V. Devan
Chennai – 28th Feb 2010

Thiruvidaventhai toThiruvidanthai

Thiruvidanthai a small but scenic village, is about 40 km from Chennai en route Mamallapuram on the ECR Road. This holy pilgrim centre is one of the 108 principal Vaishnavite kshetrams. Here is the Lord with the wild-boar (Varaha) face hailed as the Sri Lakshmi Adi Varahaswamy, who has his right foot, raised knee-high, resting on the many-hooded serpent Adi Sesha. This sacred shrine faces the sea on the east, and has, for its environs, tall trees and lush groves aplenty, giving the pilgrim sublime peace and equipoise. The centre earns its name due to the fact that the 9-foot-high Lord’s idol has his consort Bhoomi Devi (Mother Earth) seated on his left thigh (‘Thiru’ : Sacred Consort : Ida Venthai : left side). This place is also called Nithya Kalyana Puri, Sri Puri and Varaaha Puri. Soon after entering the archway, one finds the temple tank and in a few meters away is the temple. A beautiful 16 pillar mandapam stands before the temple entrance, exhibiting rare stone-panel relief figures carved on its pillars with deities and avatars of Lord Vishnu and some damsels and folk artists as well. Thiruvidaventhai soon got changed to Thiruvidanthai by which name it is presently known.

The temple history dates back to 8th Century A.D. The Epigraphical evidences found in the temple precincts advise us of the relative antiquity of this Thiruvidanthai Sri Akhilavalli Sametha AdiVarahaSwami - Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple, from the 10th to 16th centuries A.D. Chola, Udaiyar, Rashtrakuta and Pandyan kings have worshipped the Lord at this temple and have bequeathed meaningful gifts as was the custom prevalent then. Raja Raja Chozha is said to have celebrated a 7day festival during the Tamil calendar month of Aavani and a 9day festival for Panguni Uthiram. He is also said to have fed a number of Brahmins here. Vijaya Rajendra Chozha is said to have donated this entire village to the Thiruvidanthai Lord.

Proper worship to the divine serpent holding the Lord’s divine feet is expected to relieve the devotee of Rahu-Kethu afflictions. Rahu and Kethu are symbolic snake representations. There is a separate shrine for Komalavalli Thayar. Holy dips in the Varaha Theertham sacred temple tank in the month of Masi (Feb-March), in the Kalyana Theertham in Chithirai (April-May) and in the Ranganathar Theertham in Margazhi (Dec–Jan) would ensure wish-fulfilment and ultimate redemption. A nine-time circumambulation of the temple precints in the enjoined manner assures pleasing and speedy wedlock.

Thirumangai Azhwar & Thiruvidanthai

The moolavar (immovable principal idol) is worshipped as Sri Akhilavalli Sametha Adi Varahapperumal or Jnaanappiran, the embodiment of all wisdom and knowledge. Thirumangai Alwar, the hierarchically juniormost Alwar, is the only Alwar to have sung on this Lord ten pasurams (Peria Thirumozhi - 2.7.1 to 10) glorifying his form and attributes. It is the firm belief of all devotees that a devout prayerful pilgrimage to this sacred shrine will ensure speedy marriage and lifelong prosperity. The utsavamurthy (the processional idol) Sri Nithya Kalyana Perumal has for his consort Sri Komalavalli Naachiyaar (Komalavalli - the Goddess typifies a delicate creeper : tendril). This place is believed to be a ‘Kalyana dosha nivarthi sthalam’ and is thronged by a large number of youngsters of both sex, every day, who pray with their parents to ward of the hurdles in their life for their marriage to take place smoothly. Later, on fulfillment of the marriage they visit once again with their spouse and go round the temple together wearing garlands around their necks. This is a common sight taking place in the temple daily which one can’t miss.

The Legend

Once a Rishi named Kuni Muni performed severe penance to reach heaven along with his daughter. By the blessings of the supreme, Kuni Muni ascended to the heavenly kingdom, however his daughter could not achieve the same fortune. Sage Narada took pity on the distraught girl and came down to talk to her. “Child, didn’t your father tell you, that the riches of the kingdom of heaven can be achieved only by married men and women? Don’t worry over this. Marry a suitable man, enjoy the bliss of a grahastha, and then you too would ascend to heaven.” Narada consoled her. The girl immediately took Narada’s advice and went around the holy place of Varaha Kshetra, asking the eligible rishis to marry her. When she knocked the door of Kalava Maharishi with the same plea, the rishi took pity on her and married her. As destiny would have it, the blessed couple parented 360 children, females all! The celestial maiden left for her heavenly abode. The sage, burdened with 360 fast-growing female children, was counseled to worship Lord Varahaswami at Thiruvidaventhai and get suitable bridegrooms for them all in due course. It is said the Lord himself came down before the sage in the form of a young and charming bachelor and in pursuance of the sage Kalva’s earnest prayers, agreed to marry all his 360 beautiful daughters. So, in the next 360 days, the celestial bachelor, Lord of Lords, married all these maidens, one by one for one whole year. Hence, he earned the appellation ‘Nithya (daily) Kalyana (marriage) Perumal (the Lord of Lords)’, meaning ‘the Lord who gets married every day’. But, lo! All the 360 brides got transformed into one single bride. As the first maiden’s name was Komalavalli, the combined form of all these maidens into one came to be worshipped as Akhilavalli Naachiar (Akhilam signifying ‘many’ : Akhilam also means the ‘world’ and, therefore, Mother Earth, Bhoomi Devi). The Nithya Kalyana Perumal utsavamurthy is invariably dressed and decked as a bridegroom and marriages are celebrated everyday. Even the ‘drishtippottu’ - the dot placed on the left cheek of every bridegroom, to ward off evil spirits - is placed on the Perumal’s cheek on all days as he is the daily bridegroom, the ever bridegroom!

Bali's penance and Aadhi Vaarahan providing Darshan

Asuras wanted to take on the Devas and sought the help of Bali, son of Asura Meganathan. Bali, known for his fairness, asked them not to fight the Devas without a cause and refused to support the Asuras. Without Bali’s participation, the Asuras were soundly defeated. The Asuras surrendered to Bali and once again requested him to fight for them. Pushed by the Asuras, Bali agreed and under his leadership the Asuras won. Bali is said to have undertaken penance here at Thiruvidanthai to atone the sin of fighting the Devas without a just cause. Pleased with his prayers, Lord Aadhi Varaahan is believed to have appeared before him and given him Moksham at this place.

Vaishnavite lore has it that all of us are females and the Lord Narayana is the only male - Purushothama. For ultimate salvation we have to seek eternal union with him. It is only in this context that Thirumangai Alwar offers 10 hymnal endearments (pasurams) to the Lord yearning for merger in him. The ‘Nayika’ (bride) seeks merger in the ‘Nayaka’ (bridegroom). This is, in essence, bridal mysticism. It is against this background that Thiruvidanthai assumes special significance when we pray to the Lord for marriage - wish fulfillment in an earthly way but with a sublime connotation. We must understand and appreciate the spirit and significance behind a reverential pilgrimage to this temple.

How to Reach

The temple at Thiruvidanthai is in Chengalpattu circle, Kanchipuram district, about 40 km from Chennai Located on the Chennai – Mahabalipuram ECR Road, about 2 Km from Kovalam. Regular buses are available to this sacred centre at frequent intervals.

Quick Facts

Deity : Aadhi Varaaha Perumal East Facing standing posture Goddess : Agila Valli NaachiyarUtsavar : Nithya Kalyana PerumalAzhvaar :ThiruMangai Azhvaar - 13 Paasurams ( 1108- 1117, 1021,2707,2774)Temple Timing : 6am –12noon and 3pm-8pmContact : Sriram Bhattar @ 044 27472522 or 98409 36927Address : 1/55, U-1 Mada Street Thiruvidanthai PO, Kovalam Via, Kanchipuram Dist 603112Location: 40 kms South of Madras along the East Coast RoadBus : Buses from Chennai (bus nos. 117,118,188V,188K,188A)

Reference :

“My crooked deeds are chasing me relentlessly like a shadow and I am truly shaken. I, therefore, ran and sought refuge at the divine feet of the Lord at Thiruvidaventhai and, lo, these evil forces are fleeing away from me realising that the Lord there is my saviour, support and dear to me." Divyakavi Pillai Perumal Iyengar - 108 Tirupati Andaathi - ‘Thiruvidaventhai’.