This afternoon when I went out to run some errands, I had a glimpse of Lord Shiva walking on two feet :). Just kidding. But I did see a guy with a snake around his neck, walking his toddler in a stroller. The snake was a python, and not a cobra as always pictured in Shiva’s portraits. However, ನಾಗ (nAga) is a very overloaded word. So, nAga can mean a snake(generic), a cobra (specific), an elephant among a number things. In fact, most samskRuta words are quite overloaded. So, someone with a python around his neck qualifies to be called be ನಾಗಾಭರಣ (nAgAbharaNa)! So much for my sighting of Lord Shiva.

But this sighting made me recollect a very popular kannada song. The songs written by a muslim saint of the 19th century, shisunALa sharief, were brought back the circulation by N S Lakshminarayana Bhatta, a noted Kannada poet of our times. C Ashwath, who is a contemporary music director has made Sharief’s songs extremely popular all over Karnataka.

The song is hAvu tuLidEne, mAnini hAvu tuLidEne ( I stepped on a snake, oh damsel, I stepped on a snake). 

You can listen to the song on the following page.

(Haava Tulidena)

ಹಾವು ತುಳಿದೇನೆ ಮಾನಿನಿ
ಹಾವು ತುಳಿದೇನೆ

ಹಾವು ತುಳಿದು ಹಾರಿ ನಿಂತೆ
ಜೀವ ಕಳವಳಿಸಿತೇ ಗೆಳತಿ!
ದೇಹ ತ್ರಯದ ಸ್ಮೃತಿಯು ತಪ್ಪಿ
ದೇವಾ ನೀನೆ ಗತಿಯು ಎನ್ನುತ

ಹರಿಗೆ ಹಾಸಿಗೆಯಾದ ಹಾವು
ಹರನ ತೋಳಿನೊಳಿರುವ ಹಾವು
ಧರೆಯ ಹೊತ್ತು ಮೆರೆವ ಹಾವಿನ
ಶಿರವ ಮೆಟ್ಟಿದೆ ಶಿವನ ದಯದಿ

ಬೋದಾನಂದವಾಗಿ ಬರಲು
ಹಾದಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮಲಗಿ ಇರಲು
ಪಾದದಿಂದ ಪೊಡವಿಗೊತ್ತಿ
ನಾದಗೊಳಿಸಿತು ನಿಜದಿ ನೋಡೆ

ಸತ್ಯ ಶಿಶುವಿನಾಳಧೀಶನ
ನಿತ್ಯಸೇವಿಸುವಂಥ ಮಾನಿಗೆ
ಕತ್ತಲಲ್ಲಿ ಬಂದು ಕಾಲಿಗೆ
ಸುತ್ತಿಕೊಂಡಿತು ಸಣ್ಣ ನಾಗರ

Sharief is a mystic poet, and there is some kind of halo or haziness about his songs. They are not as easy to interpret like (most of) the works of haridAsas of Karnataka. So I would definitely not make an attempt to translate it here 😦 , at least for now!

One thing that makes it a favourite song of mine is because it’s classical music base. Most of Sharief’s songs have been tuned in a semi-folk style. This song although has a folkish face, underneath is set in a  very classical rAga of Karnataka Sangeetha – yadukula kAmbhOji, and mishra chApu tALa. This is not an anamoly as it might seem, because indeed the rAga yadukula kAmbhOji has folk roots . This rAga apparently has come from tunes sung by a tribal group called ‘erakala’.  Since the songs sung by these tribal singers resembled the ever popular kAmbhOji rAga, but yet different it was called erakala kAmbhOji – and over the centuries the rAga was ‘civilized’ if you want to call it that way 😉 to yadukula kAmbhOji.

To compare and contrast, here are couple of compositions in the same rAga:

listen to heccharikagA rArA srI rAmachandra  of tyAgarAja sung by M S Subbulakshmi.

listen to ikShvAku kulatilaka  of bhadrAchala rAmadAda, sung by Balamuralikrishna.

You can notice the folkish tinge even in the composition of bhadrAchala rAmadAsa too.

So much for sighting of nAgAbharaNa 🙂