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Who hasn’t heard of Kalidasa’s opening verse from Raghuvamsha that shows how inseparable Shiva and Shakti, that goes as follows?

वागर्थाविव सम्पृक्तौ वागर्थ प्रतिपत्तयॆ |
जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वती परमेश्वरौ ॥


Uma-Maheshwara  (9th century) Currently in Chicago Institute of Art

Uma-Maheshwara (9th century) Currently in Chicago Institute of Art

(Picture taken from :

vAgarthAviva samprktau vAgartha pratipattayE
jagataH pitarau vandE pArvatI paramEshvarau

(Veneration to the parents of the world, Parvati and Parameshwara
Who remain inseparable as the word, and it’s meaning )

Here is the Kannada translation of the same verse, which I had written a while ago:

ತಲೆವಾಗುವೆ ನಾ ಶಿವಶಿವೆಗೆ
ಜಗದಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲರ ಹೆತ್ತವರ;
ಬಿಡದೊಡಗೂಡಿಯೆ ಇಹರಲ್ಲ!
ಮಾತಿಗೆ ಬೆಸೆದಿಹ ಹುರುಳಂತೆ

When I was thinking about this verse, I was also reminded of couple of earlier translations about Shiva and Shakti which I had done(You can find them here and here). Then I ended up reading a few more verses about Shiva in the subhashita compilation called “Subhashita Ratna Bhandagara” (This is available on Google Books for those of you interested! Yay! )

Among the verses, I found the following verse very interesting:

च्युतं इन्दोर्लेखं रतिकलहभग्नम् च वलयं
द्वयं चक्रीकृत्य प्रहसितमुखी शैलतनया
अवोचद् यं पश्येत्यवतु स शिवः सा च गिरिजा
स च क्रीडाचन्द्रो दशनकिरणापूरिततनुः ||

chyutAm indorlekhAM ratikalahabhagnaM cha valayaM
dvayaM chakrIkRRitya prahasitamukhI shailatanayA |
avochad yaM pashyetyavatu sa shivaH sA cha girijA
sa cha krIDAchandro dashanakiraNApUritatanuH || (Vidyakara: 47)||

(Original source of the shloka is likely Vidyakara’s compilation called Subhashita Ratna Kosha – who in turn may have taken it from another earlier source )

Here is my translation of this verse in Kannada:

ಇರುಳಿನಪ್ಪುಗೆಯಲೊಡೆದ ಕಡಗವನು ಉರುಳಿ ಹೋಗಿದ್ದ ಎಳೆಯ ಚಂದಿರನ
ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಸೇರಿಸುತ ಬಳೆಯ ಮಾಡುತಲಿ ಗಿರಿಜೆ ಶಿವನೆಡೆಗೆ ನಗುತ “ನೋಡಿಲ್ಲಿ”
ಎನುತ  ಬಾಯ್ದೆರೆಯೆ ಅವಳ ಹಲ್ಲುಗಳಕಾಂತಿಯನ್ನೆಲ್ಲ ತನ್ನ ಮೈದುಂಬಿ
ಹೊಳೆವ ಚಂದಿರನು ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಶಿವಶಿವೆಯ ಸೇರಿ ಕಾಪಿಡಲಿ! ನಮ್ಮ ಕಾಪಿಡಲಿ!

(Although it is not a verbatim translation, I hope I have captured the essence of the verse)

The musician/composer G.N.Balasubramaniam, popularly known as GNB passed away on May 1st, 1965. And on this day it is quite appropriate that I am thinking and writing about Shiva-Shakti! GNB was an innovator, and he composed in some ragas that he brought to life. The raga Shiva Shakti was also one such raga. He has a very catchy composition this rare raga:

You can listen to this composition by Smt P Ramaa here in this YouTube video link.

Sometime ago, I had composed a swarajati in this raga, and I thought it was appropriate to share it with the readers on this day of remembering the great GNB:

Please listen to this composition!  Feel free to post your thoughts about the composition either on this post or on the MixCloud track.


Halebeedu is a little town in South Karnataka, famous for it’s twin temple- popularly known by the name Hoysaleshwara temple that enshrines two Shivalingas, called as Hoysaleshwara and Shantaleshwara. The town was the capital of the Hoysala dynasty that ruled parts of Southern Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu from 10th to early 14th century AD.

The old name of the town was Dorasamudra (ದೋರಸಮುದ್ರ / दोरसमुद्र). Although popular legend says the name came because of the enormous man made lake (tank) at the entry of the town (ದ್ವಾರ,dwAra), inscription evidence seems to point in another direction. The lake is actually from pre-Hoysala times, and was erected during the Rashtrakuta king Dhruva‘s reign. Dhruva is referred to as Dora (ದೋರ) in many inscriptions. The lake erected by King Dora was naturally called Dorasamudra. The name seems to gone out of vogue, and this place is known as Halebeedu (Old Place, literally). Right now it is not on the UNESCO list of places of world heritage, but  may be nominated to the list soon.  I consider this to be one of the Seven Wonders of India, nothing less!  The temples are maintained rather nicely by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).


However, we don’t see any relics of Rashtrakuta times in Halebeedu today. Inscriptions have long gone into some museums! But luckily we are left with several temples of the Hoysala times of which Hoysaleshwara is the largest and grandest. It is quite natural being the capital of the Hoysala country that this site was selected for this magnificent temple.  The temple is said to have been damaged during Malik Kafur’s invasion in the year 1313AD.  In spite of the damage, it is still the best Hoysala temple, and probably one of the best temple in terms of architecture.

Oh well, today I’m not writing much about the temple architecture – but would focus on the musicians of Halebeedu.  The town being close to my hometown, I have visited this place several times and when I was looking at one of the pictures taken during a visit few years earlier, I was surprised to see a specific type of musical instrument in there and was rather intrigued by the looks of it.  I wasn’t sure if the picture I had was one of the mutilated sculpture, and hence I could not come to any conclusion  based on the picture. So when I revisited the temple few months ago, I made it a point to look at all those instruments and musicians from Halebeedu carefully.

Many of the sculptures that we find on the temple walls are of various Gods and Goddesses – and there are many that depict earthly, regular performing musicians. Hence we can make many inferences about the types of musical instruments being played in South India during those times.  Of course, we have descriptions of various musical instruments in different texts of those times, but a visual representation is much better than a text describing anything , Right?

Here you can see a sculpture of Saraswathi – the Goddess of learning. She is normally depicted in a sitting posture, playing a Veena. Veena is a generic term for string instruments and there are different types of Veenas depending on their structure. In this sculpture,  you can clearly see how Saraswathi is using the middle and the ring fingers on her right hand to pluck the strings and the fingers of the left hand to play on the fingerboard – which are true to this day on several Veenas in vogue.  Due to the angle, we can’t see whether the fingerboard has frets or not. All this very well matches with how a Sitar or Saraswathi Veena is played today ( discounting the fact that these days Saraswathi Veena is played more laying flat rather than being at an angle), but for one important difference. I’ll come to that point when I comment about another sculpture down below. Oh, I forgot to mention that Saraswathi Veena is one of the types of Veenas played today. Other Veenas include instruments such as Sitar, Rudra Veena, Chitra Veena (also called Vichitra Veena) and Mohan Veena ( actually a modified sliding guitar).


I’m not sure if the following picture depicts an earthly musician or a celestial one, but you can seem him playing a Dhakka  or a Muraja (a  Damaru-like drum instrument). Anyone who has heard any of DVG’s songs on the beauties at the Belur temple ( another Hoysala marvel, I should say) would definitely recall the song ‘naTanavADidaL taruNi’ (ನಟನವಾಡಿದಳ್ ತರುಣಿ ) about the sculpture called murajAmOde (ಮುರಜಾಮೋದೆ ) refers to a danseuse playing this drum in one of the charaNas.   This instrument is used even now with Kathakali music, in Kerala  and it is called by the name Idakka . (I got this reference from my good friend Sankaranarayanan, Thanks Sankara!)   The way the instrument is held by the player in the sculpture almost matches with how the Idakka  is played these days. The sculpture is so life-like that you fail to notice that it is made of stone, can easliy take the  twisted ropes to be real!


Now the following brings a few important points – Most Hoysala  temples are built on a multiple-point star patterned basement.  This type of structure provides a very large surface area for a given size of the temple.  Apparently individual sculptures were made elsewhere, probably at the sculptor’s workshops and were set in place at the right places in temple walls.  Here is one such corner where you see a musician ensemble.  The lady on the left is playing a Veena , this time held in a different positon. It is now in a vertical position and you can see the frets clearly. This matches with the position how the Veena was played even as late as early 18th century.  Indeed the construction of  RudraVeena  and the way it is held while playing today, almost matches with what is depicted in here, although the resonator in the sculpture seems to be much smaller than what’s used in these days. The lady on the right is playing a Dhakka – So together they form an ensemble, may be supporting a dancer.  Incidentally, on the left side you can see part of another sculpture, which I take it to be a form of Shiva, or a gaNa of Shiva – which also holds a real Damaru, which you can notice is much smaller than the Dhakka,  in it’s hand.


Here is another Veena player.  The fret-board is depicted very clearly.  The way she holds her instrument is very similar to how a Sitar player holds the instrument. Click here to see a picture of maestro Pandit Ravishankar playing his Sitar.  Are you surprised?

Another thing I noticed in the Veena in this sculpture and Saraswathi’s sculpture earlier in this post is that the resonator is not seen at all. Now, how such an instrument would sound? I have no clue, but may be I’m missing something.


Here is another interesting instrument. This is called the Naga Veena. Notice the snake like end of the instrument that gives its name. But notice the right hand of the player.  He seems to be using a bow of some sort, effectively making it somewhat like a violin. We know that the violin as used in Indian music today was due to Western influence during the early 18th century at Fort St George. But this instrument tells us although the form of Violin may have been new for Indian music, the structure and concept were not.


The following group of sculptures may represent performing musicians of Hoysala times, accompanying a dance.   One of them is playing a bell, essential for providing the dance syllables, one is playing a damaru providing the rhythm and one is seen playing the flute, which might have been the oldest musical instrument, not only in India, but for the whole mankind.


With that, let me stop my rant and let you take a good look at these beautiful sculptures once again –  Don’t you agree temples such as these are indeed time-capsules of history that help us recreate and appreciate history?



My friend Pavan pointed out that the google video link wasn’t playing anymore. So, reblogging with updated youtube link.

Originally posted on ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ:

The first time I came across the phrase ‘graha bheda‘ was in  a book called Sangeetha Darpana by Prof. Ramaratnam. For someone who exactly knew the aarohana and avarohana of three or four raagas, a detailed discussion of graha bheda, it’s possibilities and limitations were too much to swallow. What? Getting Kalyani from Shankarabharana and todi?

Luckily, I had the luxury of having my grandma’s old harmonium at my disposal. Using that, and testing out some of the things in that book, I was able to make sense of what the professor was saying!  But over the years, and after becoming a somewhat serious listener of Indian music, I am glad to say  the topic excites me today, as much as it did so many years ago.

To cut a long story short, I was asked to present about some topic that could be of interest to students…

View original 143 more words

Dasara of 2012 is just over. In the past few years, I’d written series of music-based articles in my web spaces, in English, and in Kannada. This year, I was planning out another thematic series along the same lines during the festival but it ended up just being a plan. Or if I look at the brighter side, yay! it’s an opportunity for next year’s Navaratri!  Just the case of seeing the glass half-full or half-empty I guess :)

Last couple years, I also posted some of my musical compositions on my blog  around the Navaratri time. You can visit those posts from 2009 (Nasamani),  2010 (Ranjani) and 2011 (Bindumalini) by clicking the hyperlinks.

This year, I’m not posting a brand new composition, but am posting an updated one! Earlier this year,  I’d composed a swarajati in the rAga Kamavardhini (also called as Ramakriya and somewhat incorrectly as Pantuvarali).  You can listen to the swarajati here, sung by my friend “IndianMusicFan“.

Listen to the swarajati by clicking here

Thanks to the Samskirtam group on Facebook, I met  Sri Mahesh Bhat, who recently wrote a very beautiful lyric for this swarajati, just in time for Dasara 2012.  Here it goes:


तव मृदुलम् पदयुगलम् मम शरणम् शिवे जननि
तव मृदुलम् पदयुगलम् मम शरणम् परशिवे जननि
तव मृदुलम् पदयुगलम् मम शरणम् जय परशिवे जननि ॥ पल्लवि॥


कल्याणानाम् वितरणि पापे मयि ते करुणा भवतु ॥॥

चरण १:

ईशनायिके लोकपालिके इन्द्रवन्द्य पदसरसिज लसिते
दितिसुत गजगण विदलनचतुरे सदा निवस मम  हृदि गुहजननि ॥१॥

चरण २:

कुवलय  दलसम सुरुचिर नयने निरुपम परिमलयुत मधुचषके
अतिधवल – रजतगिरि – वरनिलये कलशजनुते मधुमथनसोदरि ॥२॥

चरण ३:

साधकजनतापरमशुभदे लोहितसुमनोनिचतेकलिते
पायसमुदिते मधुरहसिते  जनिमृतिहरसुधे कलिमलहरणि ॥३॥

चरण ४:

संसारे परमविषमे संतापो दहति हृदयम्
एहि त्वम् तुहिनगिरिजे तापम् मे शमय ललिते
नीरागमतिरायातु मयि वेदादिनय संस्तुत चरिते
नाकलोकशोकहारिसुबले चारुचंद्रभासमान चिकुरे!  ॥४॥

If you are interested in the notation along with sAhitya, click this link:  A Swarajati in Kamavardhini

Finally here is a video slideshow from the “Bombe Habba” at our home during Dasara 2012:

The background music for the slides is also played by IndianMusicFan,  the first part of a varna that I composed sometime ago. To listen to the entire Varna, click here: Kalyanimalaika Varna .



Today is the first day of Vasanta – the spring season. Although spring can’t arrive in an instant, for the calendar, we need to have an official start of spring, and that is the Vernal equinox. From today, the days get longer everyday, till the summer solstice. In India, spring is associated with koels singing in mango trees, and the smell of jasmine flowers.

In California, there is no dearth of flowers during spring!

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many singing birds. But to make up for that deficiency, I’m posting here a recording – of my composition, sung beautifully by “Arvind”.

Arvind, is known as IndianMusicFan on Twitter world, and his website is

Click on the play button to listen to the composition.

The composition is in rAga kAmavardhini, that is also known by other names as Kashi Ramakriya & Pantuvarali. You can read why this rAga has so many names, in this old post here.

Your feedback & comments on the composition are welcome!



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A Collection of  Samskrta Subhashitas, translated to Kannada

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Ramaprasad K V

Ramaprasad K V

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



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