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Today is 9/29/2014 – The sixth day of Navaratri. The first five days of the festival, I wrote a about a composition praising the Goddess whom we worship during Navaratri , and also wrote some notes about the composer of that composition. Today also, I am going to do just that.
The influence of Tyagaraja and his lineage of students to current day’s Karnataka sangeeta is immense. During his lifetime, Tyagaraja taught a good number of disciples. Often there are differences in how some kritis are handled in the traditions of Umayalpuram, Thillaisthanam and Walajapet traditions ( termed so because of the major disciples who hailed from these places.
There was also a disciple by name Rama Iyer from the town of Lalgudi. This town , downstream on the Kaveri river, on which Tiruvaiyyaru where Tyagaraja lived stands has a temple dedicated to Saptarshishwara & his consort Srimathi ( a form of Shiva and Parvati). Tyagaraja visited this town and stayed with his disciple for a few days, and at that time he composed a set of five beautifyk compositions about these deities, which have come to be known as Lalgudi Pancharatna Kritis.
Lalgudi Rama Iyer trained his son Radhakrishnan to be a violinist. In an earlier post, you’ve read how the violin was adapted to play Karnataka sangeeta by Baluswamy Dikshita, the younger brother of Muttuswamy Dikshita. And two generations later, Radhakrishnan’s grandson Jayaraman became one of the greatest violinists the world has ever seen.
Lalgudi G Jayaraman, or LGJ or just plain Lalgudi, as he is called by his millions of fans, passed away in 2013. But his music, in the form of numerous recordings and compositions remain with us. LGJ has composed a number of excellent compositions, many of which have become very popular.
A Tillana is a composition that is primarily composed for dance – so generally only the charana does have any words. This Tillana in Raga Mand, that I chose to share today has the sahitya lines about Goddess Gowri. The raga is a 20th century import from Hindustani, and is considered a minor raga. There are only a few compositions exist in this raga, but it is a very pleasant and bright raga!
Listen to the beautiful Tillana in raga Mand, composed by LGJ and played on the mandolin by U Srinivas:
Today is 9/28/2014, the fifth day of Navaratri. In the first four days of the festival, I had written about some music compositions about dEvi, whom we celebrate during this festival season. In the post yesterday, I mentioned how Mysore and Thiruvanathapuram stood out among the last princely states in their support of classical music. Thus today, I thought of sharing a well known composition of a composer who was associated with both these places.
Harikesanallur Muttaiah Bhagavatar is one of the very well known composers of the 20th century. He was a Harikatha Vidwan, as well as played on instruments such as Chitraveena. He lived in Mysore as the Asthana Vidwan of the Odeyar court for a few years. Later on, he lived in Thiruvananthapuram for a while where he gave second life to some of Swathi Tirunal’s compositions. Some of Swathi Tirunal‘s compositions which had lost their original musical form were re-tuned by Muttaiah Bhagavatar.
Sometime in 1927, when he was performing at the Mysore palace for the first time, the concert did not go too well because Bhagavatar had a bad throat that day. He was honored as per palace traditions and sent off. However, few days later Muttaiah Bhagavatar payed a visit to the Chamundeshwari temple atop the hill, and was singing to himself when king Krishnaraja Odeyar visited the temple. Very impressed with his singing, the King requested Muttaiah Bhagavatar to be the Asthana Vidwan.
During the time Bhagavatar lived in Mysore, Krishnaraja Odeyar requested Muttaiah Bhagavatar to compose 108 compositions on Goddess Chamundeshwari, the presiding deity of Mysore. A scholar Devottama Joisa wrote the sahitya for which Muttaiah Bhagavatar gave the musical form. The composition I have chosen is one from this series. Sudhamayi Sudhanidhi – It is set in a raga called Amrtavarshini.
This raga Amrtavarshini, in popular thought is said to be the creation of Muttuswami Dikshita. But textual traditions prove otherwise, because we have references not only to a name, but even the musical structure several decades before him. It is possible that Muttuswamy Dikshita was the first major composer to use this raga. There is a disputed composition of Tyagaraja in this raga as well. Muttaiah Bhagavatar’s Sudhamayi Sudhanidhi remains one of the very popular compositions in this raga even today.
Now, here is a lovely rendition of Sudhamayi in Raga Amrtavarshini, played on the Veena by artist Rajesh Vaidhya:
Today, September 24th, 2014 is the first day of Navaratri – The Festival of Nine Nights. Navaratri, also known as Dasara in many parts of India, is a good time for classical music listeners – The music festival at Navartri Mandapam in Thiruvanantapuram and at Mysore Palace are well known. In some of the earlier years (2007, 2008, 2010… ), I have written about some musical compositions that are dear to me during the this ten day festival. I thought of reviving this tradition and make a few posts during this year’s Navaratri as well.
Since Navaratri is a celebration of the various aspects of Devi, I will confine to the compositions to those that are about Goddesses such as Parvati, Saraswati, Durga etc who are worshiped during these Nine Nights. Also, as a way of remembering the recently-departed ‘God of Mandolin’, U Srinivas, I will confine to only instrumental renditions of such compositions. I will try to point out to some interesting tit-bits about those compositions too.
First a couple of words about U Srinivas – I think we were plain lucky to have lived in the same time as this artist, who brought in an alien instrument and turned it into our very own, as far as Indian classical music is concerned. If you ask me, it is high time we call this instrument as Sri-Veena :-) . Although we tend to associate the word Veena with the Saraswati Veena (which is actually only as old as the early 17th century), the term Veena actually refers to a stringed instrument, with or without frets, which may be played using plucking or bowing etc. We have had Veenas such as Nagaveena, Dhanurveena (which were played using a bow), just like a modern day violin. We have the Chitra Veena (a.k.a. Gotuvadya), Rudra Veena and the like. Guitar which has been adapted for Hindustani music by Vishwa Mohan Bhat is being called as Mohana Veena, and why not call mandolin as Sri Veena ? Just a passing thought as I started out writing this post!
In the 18th century, Tanjavoor was a great center of music and arts. Syama Shastry, who is considered as one of the “Trinity” of Karnataka Sangeeta lived in Tanjavoor city. His compositions bear his signature as ‘Shamakrishna’. He was the priest of Bangaru Kamakshi temple in Tanjavoor, and often addresses his favorite deity as “Shamakrishna sodari” – the sister of Shamakrishna (Vishnu). Although numerically his compositions are lesser than those of Tyagaraja or Muttuswamy Dikshita, each of his compositions is indeed a gem.
During Sharabhoji’s reign (1777 AD – 1832AD), a musician named Bobbili Keshavayya, visited his court. Keshavayya was well known for challenging musicians. Since no other musician in Tanjavoor court were ready to face Keshavayya who was known for his expertise at singing pallavis with extremely complicated rhythmic structures, the responsibility fell on Syama Sastry.
(Picture courtesy: The Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/carrying-on-the-legacy/article4463886.ece)
In the music-duel that followed, Keshavayya sang a pallavi in Simha nandana tALa, which Shama Sastry comprehended and reproduced. Now, it was Shama Sastry’s turn to challenge Keshavayya next day. That night during his prayers to Goddess Kamakshi, Syama Shastry sang a new composition in a brand new raga – Chintamani, pleading her to protect him at this critical moment (dEvI brOva samayamidE ati vEgamE vacci).
For the first day of Navaratri, the composition I want to share with you is this – “dEvi brOva samayamide” in Raga Chintamani, played on the mandolin by, who else but U Srinivas, and U Rajesh?
Wishing everyone a very happy time during this Navaratri.
According to Indian mythology, the spring season personified as Vasanta is a friend of Manmatha, the God of Love. Manmatha arrives along with Vasanta during the spring season to Earth. Manmatha carries a bow made of sugarcane, and arrows of five types of flowers, that are abundant during the season. How can any one hit with these arrows not fall in love?
Spring has been the inspiration of poets for ages. Here are a few Samskrta verses from Bhartrhari’s Sringarashataka and Kalidasa’s Rtusamhara, which have translated to Kannada:
ಕುಸುಮಿಸಿಹ ವೃಕ್ಷಗಳು ಕೊಳದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಮಲಗಳು
ನಸುಗಂಪು ಗಾಳಿ; ಜೊತೆ ಬಯಸುವೆಣ್ಣುಗಳು
ಮಸುಕು ಸಂಜೆಯ ನಲಿವು ಹಾಯಾದ ಹಗಲುಗಳು
ಎಸೆದಾವು ಮಿಗೆ ಗೆಳತಿ ಹಿತ ವಸಂತದಲಿ!
ಕೆಂಬಣ್ಣದಾ ಚಿಗುರ ಹೊತ್ತು ತಲೆಬಾಗಿರುವ
ಕೊಂಬೆಕೊಂಬೆಗೆ ಹೂತ ಮಾಮರಗಳೀಗ
ತಂಬೆಲರಿನಲಿ ತೂಗಿ ಹುಟ್ಟಿಸಿದ್ದಾವು ಮಿಗೆ
ಹಂಬಲವ ಹೆಣ್ಣುಗಳ ಮನದಿ ತವಕದಲಿ
ಹೊಮ್ಮಿರುವ ಮಾಂದಳಿರ ಮೊನಚು ಬಾಣಗಳನ್ನು
ಚಿಮ್ಮಿಸಲು ದುಂಬಿಸಾಲಿನ ಬಿಲ್ಲ ಹೆದೆಯ
ಹಮ್ಮುಗೊಳಿಸುತ ಯೋಧ ಬಂದಿಹ ವಸಂತನಿವ-
ನೊಮ್ಮೆಗೇ ಪ್ರಣಯಿಗಳ ಮನವ ಪೀಡಿಸಲು
ವಸಂತದಲಿಂಪಾದ ಕೋಗಿಲೆಗಳ ಗಾನ
ಮಲೆನಾಡ ಗಿರಿಗಳಲಿ ಸುಳಿವ ತಂಗಾಳಿ
ಅಗಲಿ ನೊಂದವರ ಜೀವವನೇ ಸೆಳೆದಾವು
ಕೇಡುಗಾಲದಲಮೃತವೂ ಆದಂತೆ ನಂಜು!
(Srngarashatakam – 38)
ಬೀಳ್ವ ಮಂಜನು ಬೀಳ್ಕೊಡುವುದಕೆ ಋತು ವಸಂತನು ಬಂದಿರೆ
ಹೂತ ಮಾಮರದಲ್ಲಿ ಮೆಲ್ಲಗೆ ಕೊಂಬೆರೆಂಬೆಯನಲುಗಿಸಿ
ಕೋಗಿಲೆಯ ಸವಿದನಿಯ ಹಾಡನು ದಿಕ್ಕುದಿಕ್ಕಲಿ ಪಸರಿಸಿ
ಮಂದ ಮಾರುತ ಹೃದಯಗಳನೂ ಜೊತೆಯಲೇ ಸೆಳೆದೊಯ್ದನೆ!
p.s: Just noticed that I had a post with the same title a few years ago!
(Found this text of a speech I gave at my Toastmasters club (named “Innovators”, sometime in 2011, when I was organizing folders on my PC. Posting as is)
I come from India. If you did not know already, India is a land where you’ll find people speak hundreds of language and there are at least 30 languages with more than a million speakers. It is not hard to find people who can speak more than one Indian language. Typical of many urban Indians, I can speak in several of Indian languages too.
But there is one language that I can’t claim to speak, but I can understand quite well. This language is Samskrta. It is the oldest known language of India, and possibly one of the oldest surviving languages of the world. This language has influenced every other language in India to a varying extents, and has a literature that spans over four millennia. Even though it is not claimed as a mother tongue by any, due to the antiquity, and the influence it has on the vocabulary on Indian languages, it is still one of the 22 official languages of the country. Till the time of the colonization of India by the British in the 18th century, it was in fact the pan-Indian language for communication among the educated class. A great number of texts about yoga, Ayurveda (or the science of medicine), Jyotisha (or astronomy) and Ganita (Mathematics) etc are written in this language.
When I was in my elementary school, my parents enrolled me to Samskrta classes. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to go to those classes, and I don’t know if I had any other opinion, it would have mattered! It was not a language that was taught in my grade school. These classes were held throughout the year, without even a summer break! What this meant was that I had to wake up early, take a shower, go to the class, come back home and then head out for my school. Sometimes, there were additional classes in the evening too. Going to these classes were the routine for me from the time I was in my kindergarten to about my junior year in high school. Since I lived in a small town, I could walk or bike to the classes quickly, so that was not a big problem. But I had to be always aware of these extra two hours needed in my day, when it came to preparing for tests or other work at my school, because I could never use the last couple hours before school to finish up anything!
Over the years, I passed through several levels in these Samskrta language classes. The classes were grouped based on the level, and not on the age. Since I started out early, I was almost always the youngest student in my class! Since Samskrta is not really a widely spoken language, there wasn’t much thrust in learning to speak the language, but the emphasis was on understanding the structure of the language, grammar and and appreciating literary texts. Some texts, specifically poetry had to be memorized too. As we all know, things that are committed to memory at a young age generally remain with us till much later in my life. Although I stopped going to my Samskrta classes during mid-high school, I still remember those verses memorized years ago.
Luckily, my interest in this language did not wane even after I stopped going to those classes. About five or six years ago, I tried to translate some poetry from Samskrta, to Kannada, my mother tongue; generally I started out by those poems that I knew by heart, from my age old classes! I started a blog to post these translations, and the positive comments from readers encouraged me to try out more. Then I had to look for other poems that I did not know before. Now that I am not that young anymore, and and can not commit these verses to memory, it was indeed a good idea for me to try translating whenever I found a new verse that sounded good to me!
To make a long story short, sometime back I was asked if I would like to publish a collection of my selected translations, and a book was published this year! The book is titled “Hamsanaada” and it is in Kannada. It got some favorable reviews in the press too.
As the verse on the opening page of my book says, needless to say translated from an age old Sanskrtit saying – “Start your kids on good things, when they are really young. The pictures etched on a wet mud pot will stay even after you use it for cooking for a long time!”
Dear Innovators, start off your kids to some good things – be it sports,or arts like music and dance, or learning a new language, or whatever else that they can grow up with, and take into their adulthood. With the current life styles, it may be a hard choice to put kids into many activities, and the kids may even resent them now. But I am sure you can find one or two activities apart from the regular schooling, that they’ll like or at least lean to not hate! I’m sure they will be thankful for what you did for them, later in their adult life, because the pictures etched on a wet mud pot, indeed stay forever!