Have you ever tried going to a dark spot, away from city lights to look at the sky from there? You’ll be amazed at the range of colors and brightness variations of stars in the night sky.  Can you guess the number of stars you can see in a very dark sky?  Do you think you can see millions of stars? No!  At the most you can see about six thousand stars in the sky. That means you probably can’t see more than three thousand stars at any given time! Strange, but true!

When you look up in a dark sky you will see stars of many different hues – bluish white, bright white, bright red, orange, yellow and several other colors in between. Some stars visible to naked eye are extremely bright, while a large number of the stars are faint. But have you wondered if these stars had any names?

Most of the bright stars in the sky, that you can see even from a light-polluted city sky have proper names. In India, many of these stars were named thousands of years ago and the same names are in vogue today. The names of twentyseven asterisms (stars, or groups of stars) starting with Ashwini, ending with Revathi which are part of the twelve constellations in the zodiac have existed for more than four thousand years. By the way, many of the stars from this list of Indian asterisms are not very bright but they were named because they helped ancient Indians to formulate their calendar based on the movement of Sun and the Moon in the background of these stars.

Apart from these, names in Indian languages are available to few other bright stars outside the zodiac as well. The pole star, called ‘Dhruva’ is probably the most well known of such stars. The word ‘Dhruva’ (ध्रुव)  in Samskrta means ‘constant’, ‘firm’ etc.  This is a very apt name because the position of this star in the sky never changes and stays constant.  The Pole star is a not an exceptionally bright star, but is a notable star because of its position it occupies in the sky. All stars in the sky appear as though they rotate around it. The Pole star never rises or sets, nor does it show any kind of movement in the sky. If you were at the North Pole, you would see the Pole star directly overhead, and all other stars go around, never rising or setting. However due to the precession of Earth’s orbit, the Pole star 4000 years ago, is not the same Pole star we have today; but tat is another discussion altogether!


                                         The Constellation of Orion

Many of the star names in English are taken from their Roman or Greek names. A large number of star names in English also come from Arabic. For those stars for which there is no native Indian name, Indian stargazers use their international (English) names.

For those stars that don’t have proper names, there is another way of nomenclature. The sky is divided into 88 constellations. Constellations are imaginary star patterns in the sky. Some constellations actually resemble what they are supposed to resemble, and for some constellations, you must have an extremely eccentric imagination to relate a constellation to the figure it is supposed to mean! But that is beside the point.  Any star you that you can see, belongs to one constellation or the other. The brightest star in a constellation is normally denoted by the Greek letter alpha, the second brightest beta, the third brightest gamma and so on. Thus, the brightest star in the constellation of Centaur would be called Alpha Centauri; the second brightest star in the constellation Leo would be called Beta Leonis. In this system, the Pole star would be called Alpha Ursa Minoris, because it is the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor. Thus every star that has a proper name also has a name based on the constellation and the brightness of the star within the constellation it belongs to.

This method of naming although very useful has given some incorrect names too. For example, the bright red star Betelgeuse is called Alpha Orionis, meaning it is the brightest star in the constellation Orion. But if you look up the sky now to look at Orion, you will notice there is one more star that is brighter than Betelgeuse! That star is Rigel (or Beta Orionis, as you might have guessed). Betelgeuse is a variable star, meaning its brightness varies over time. There was a time when Betelgeuse might have actually looked brighter to bare eyes than Rigel, and that’s when this name must have come from and it has stayed on.

Using Greek letters as prefixes to stars would only work for a handful of stars in any constellation. When you look at the sky with a telescope, you’d see thousands of new stars, invisible to naked eye. A new problem of naming these arises. Astronomers have a very interesting way of dealing with this problem.

Just like the Earth is divided by imaginary lines called longitudes from North Pole to South Pole, the sky is also divided by imaginary lines going from the north pole of the sky to the South Pole. Just as there is a prime meridian on Earth (0 degree longitude), there is a 0 hours right ascension (RA) line in the sky. The line that goes through the First point of Aries (The point in sky where the Sun would be seen on the spring equinox) is called 0 hours RA. Any star in sky can be located by its co-ordinates – how many hours (and/or minutes) away from the first point of Aries and how far is it from the equator of the sky. This is very similar to locating a place on the Earth knowing the longitude and latitude.

Now you must be guessing how this helps in naming stars! Every star in a constellation is given a number by the order of right ascension. As an example, the star within the area marked for the constellation Virgo and with the least right ascension will be labeled 1 Virginis. The star with next higher right ascension will be 2 Virginis and so on. Here there is no correlation between the number and the brightness of the star.

The winter (in the northern hemisphere) are a treat to star gazers, wherever it is not cloudy or rainy!  There are a bunch of bright stars and constellations in the eastern sky. So what are you waiting for? There are many resources on the Internet to help you identify the stars and constellations. Get out and check out those bright constellations like Orion, Taurus, Gemini, Auriga and Perseus in the winter sky. You can start with the three stars from the belt of Orion, which are unmistakable (see figure). I bet you won’t miss the bright stars like Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Aldebaran and the Pleiades cluster if you head out and watch the evening sky!


(This is the text of a Toastmaster’s speech I made a long time ago)

The stats on ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ indicated today was the day with the highest number of hits in the last 7+ years! A quick look showed most of the people were searching for the phrase “Kannada Rajyostava” reached my post from 3 years ago. It’s then I found that I never posted an audio of the Varna (my composition in Raga Madhuvanti) that I promised to do in that post.

Anyway, let me cut the chaff. A Varna is a musical composition that generally has a romantic theme, and the words go as a conversation between two friends, where in the nAyika is telling about her lover to her friend. Varnas are set to music such that they give a very good overview of the various musical phrases any given raga accommodates. Generally sung at the beginning of a concert in multiple speeds, a Varna is often employed by performers as a quick way of ‘getting to the form’ when on stage.

The lyrics of a large number of Varnas are in Telugu, but that does not mean there aren’t any Varnas with words in other languages such as Kannada, Tamizh or Samskrta. Since this is Kannada Rajyotsava, I am sharing a Varna I composed, with it’s sahitya lines in Kannada.

True to the style of Varnas, the lyrics stick to a romantic format. The Varna is in raga Madhuvanti, a northern import to Karnataka sangeeta, and is set to   2 kaLe Adi tALa.  The lines are are inspired by a shloka of Bilvamangala in his classic Krishna Karna Karnamrta.


ಗೋಕುಲವೆಲ್ಲಾ ಕೊಳಲಿನ ಇನಿದನಿಯಲಿ ತುಂಬಿದನೇ ||
gOkulavellA koLalina inidaniyali tumbidanE

(Translation: He filled Gokula with the melodies his flute)


ಅನುಪಲ್ಲವಿ: ಆಕಳ ಮಂದೆಯ ಕಾಯುತ ಗೋಪಿಯರ ತಾನು ಗೆಲಿದನೇ || ಗೋಕುಲವೆಲ್ಲಾ||

AkaLa mandeya kAyuta gOpiyarellare gelidanE

(Translation: The cowherd, won over the hearts of all gopis)


ಚರಣ: ಮಾತೇ ಮಧುವಂತಿದೆ! ಸಖೀ, ಇವನ || ಮಾತೇ||

mAtE madhuvantide! sakhi ! ivana || mAte||

(Translation: His speech is like honey! Oh my dear!)

The charaNa line was totally my imagination, to include rAga name “madhuvanti” (technically called the ragamudre),

You can listen to a recording of the Varna, played on the flute by Vidwan Vijay Kannan:


For those of you interested in the notation, click the following links:

A-Varna-in-Madhuvanti (Kannada version)

A-Varna-in-Madhuvanti (Notation in English)

ಎಲ್ಲ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗರಿಗೂ ಕನ್ನಡ ರಾಜ್ಯೋತ್ಸವದ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳು!



ಬಿರಿಯೆ ಹೂಬಾಣಗಳು ಮೇಗಡೆ-
ಯುರಿಯೆ ಭೂಚಕ್ರಗಳು ನೆಲದಲಿ
ಮೆರೆವ ಸಾಲ್ದೀಪಗಳ ಮನೆಮನೆಸುತ್ತ ಹಚ್ಚೋಣ
ಪರಿಪರಿಯ ವಿಸ್ಮಯವು ತುಂಬಿದ
ಧರೆಯ ಬಗೆಬಗೆ ಜನರ ಮನದ-
ಲ್ಲರಿವು ದೀವಿಗೆಗಳನು ಬೆಳಗಿಸಿ ನಲಿವು ಪಡೆಯೋಣ

ಬಿರಿಯುತಿರೆ ಹೂಬಾಣಗಳು ಜೊತೆ
ಗುರಿಯುತಿರೆ ಸಾಲ್ದೀಪಗಳು ಸಾ-
ವಿರದ ಲೆಕ್ಕದಲಿರುಳ ಕತ್ತಲೆ ದೂರವೋಡಿಸುತ
ಧರೆಯ ಜನಗಳ ಮನದಲಿಹ ಕಾ
ರಿರುಳನೋಡಿಸುವಂಥ ಮುಡಿವ-
ಲ್ಲರಿವು ದೀವಿಗೆ ಹಚ್ಚುವಂತಹ ಕೆಲಸ ಮಾಡೋಣ


Today is the tenth, and the last day of Navaratri – Vijaya Dashami. As per the Ramayana, this is the day when Rama defeated Ravana, and as per the Mahabharata, this is the day, on which Pandava’s ended their incognito.  This is also the day on which Goddess Chamundeshwari slaying demon Mahisha.

Goddess Chamundeshwari, atop the Chamundi Hill at Mysore was the royal deity when the Odeyars ruled Mysore. The Odeyars of Mysore started the Dasara celebrations more than 400 years ago, which they had carried carried forward from the Kings of Vijayanagara.

The last ruler of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Odeyar was a musican and vaggeyakara himself and has composed about 100 compositions. His guru, Mysore Vasudevacharya is also one the most important composers of the 20th century. He composed more than 300 compositions – most of them in Samskrta and Telugu. He belongs to the musical tradition of Tyagaraja. Since Vausdevacharya’s compositions are very much on Tyagaraja’s lines, he is often called ‘Abhinava Tyagaraja’.

On this day when Goddess Chamundeshwari goes in the Dasara procession at Mysore, what could be better than listening to a composition about Goddess Chamundeshwari of Mysore, composed by Mysore Vasudevacharya, and played on the Veena by Mysore Doreswamy Iyengar?


Set in a bright and majestic raga,  Bilahari, I think this composition the conclusion for the festivities of the season. Click on the image below, and enjoy this musical feast!

It was indeed wonderful to write the posts in the series “Veena Navartri” during Navaratri 2014, and in that process listen to some excellent music and become familiar with some new artists as well.

I wish all visitors of “ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ” for an year full of happiness and  you the very best in your lives.


p.s: Generally, I am careful about giving image credits. However, for this “Veena Navaratri”, I could not do that and idid not cite image sources. Just wanted to acknowledge this fact, All images belong to their respective copyright holders.

Today, 10/2/2010 is the ninth day of Navaratri, which is celebrated as Mahanavami.  The first eight days of Navaratri, the music compositions I posted were all about Parvati (or one of her forms). Since, Mahanavami  s also the day when many people perform Saraswati pooja, I thought it would be very appropriate to share composition about Saraswati today.

The Sharada shrine in Shringeri, which dates back to Adi Shankara’s days is one of the most famous shrines of Saraswati. The  temple is known for it’s grand celebration of Navaratri.


In one of my earlier posts this series I had mentioned how the term Veena was a term used to indicate any string instrument. Some sculptures of Saraswati show her playing a fret-less string instrument. The music compositionI am sharing today is also played on a Veena without frets. Known as Gotuvadya or Chitra Veena, this instrument is a close cousin of Vichitra Veena and Rudra Veena which are used in Hindustani system.

The composition starts with the words “Sarasiruhasanapriye” and praises the Goddess as one who is delighted by singing and Veena playing. It is a composition of Puliyur Doreswamy Iyer, a post Trinity composer ( and father of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer and Ramaswamy Shivan).

This composition is in rAga nATa, which has been a popular raga for several centuries, and particularly considered an excellent raga to play tAna. No wonder the artist has preceded the composition with a short Alapa and tAna.

Happy listening!



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Ramaprasad K V

Ramaprasad K V

ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ. Musicphile. Bibliophile. Astrophile. Blogophile. Twitterphile.



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