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Today is the sixth day of Navaatri. We are halfway through the ten day festival.  In many parts of Karnataka,  Saraswati pooja is performed on the day when the Moon is near moola nakshatra (Lambda Scorpii). This generally falls on the sixth or seventh day of Navaratri. There is also another tradition of performing Saraswati pooje on the 9th day on Maha Navami too.

The elaborated composition you’d listen to if you went to Navaratri Mandapam in Thiruvananthapuram is about Saraswati, starting with the words ‘Saroruhasana jAye’ in raaga kaamavardhini. This raaga is also known by the name Pantuvarali. The composition is in praise of Goddess Saraswati.  Listen to a rendition of this composition by Rama Varma who comes from the lineage of Swathi Tirunal who ruled Thiruvanathapuram, at his performance at the Navaratri Mandapam concert.

Students of Karnataka sangeetha typically start learning music with swara exercises in MayamalavagouLa raaga, and then go to learn simple songs called ‘geete’s. After that they learn  some jatiswaras/swarajatis. After that they start learning varNas.

The word varNa means color. It can also mean a letter of the alphabet. One could easily say varNas showcase the hues of a raga clearly, but very concisely. In a normal performance, you might see a varNa sung at the beginning, but not as a rule. But for music students, a varNa is avery important instrument in raaga learning. Just like a foundation in grammar is required to write a good essay, learning many varNas is recommended for any music student. Varnas generally have very less sahitya, and follow a very structured pattern.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have chosen a varNa today  – composed by Dr Balamuralikrishna in Gambheera Nata raga. Balamuralikrishna is one of the most well known 20th century composers of Karnataka sangeetha. His varnas and tillanas have become very popular. He has also composed hundreds of compositions in Samskrta, Telugu and Tamizh. He has also translated a number of Purandara dasa compositions into Telugu too.

The sahitya of the varNa is in Telugu, and describes Parvati as the manifestation of Omkara.

Listen to ‘amma Ananda dAyini’ in gambhIra nATa, sung by Nagavalli Nagaraj & Ranjani Nagaraj.


Tomorrow, let us meet with another charming composition.


October 8th, 2010 is the first day of Navaratri of this year. Navaratri signifies the conquest of the evil by the good.  In the old Mysore region of Karnataka,  Navaratri has been celebrated as a state festival for several centuries. Things such as the doll displays at homes, and  music concerts at temples make this festival make it more of a celebration than a mere ritual.

Thiruvananthapuram is another  city known for it’s special celebration of Navaratri. The  music festival at the Navartri Mandapam, next to the Padmanabhaswamy temple is unique, for its adherence to some traditional practices such as lighting up the place only with traditional oil lamps. During this festival, each night one composition from the Navaratri Kriti series of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal is rendered as the main item in the concert here at Navaratri Mandapam.

The kriti sung during the concert on first day of Navaratri at Navaratri Mandapam is “dEvi jagajjanani” in Shankarabharana rAga. Listen to this composition here:

Since various forms of dEvi are worshipped during Navaratri, listening to a composition or two that praise some form of dEvi each day, and writing a few lines about it during this Navaratri would not be a bad idea. So, here I go!

For the first day, my choice is Tyagaraja’s composition in Kalyani, “Sundari nee divya roopamunu”. Tyagaraja lived in Tiruvayyaru, near Tanjavoor in central part of today’s Tamizh Nadu. He visited Chennapattanam (today’s Chennai) on his desciple Veena Kuppaiyars invitation. During his stay at Chennapattinam, he visited the shrine of Tripurasundari at Tiruvottriyur (now in the northern part of Chennai). Tyagaraja composed five compositions on Goddess Tripurasundari at this shrine, which go by the name ‘Tiruvottriyur Pancharatna’.  This Kalyani composition is one of this set.

Goddess Tripura Sundari

Image source : )

Kalyani raga came into Karnataka sangeetha sometime during early 15th century, but somehow it did not make it’s deep mark felt for quite sometime. Haridasas of Karnataka (~1400 – ~1600 AD) have mentioned Kalyani raga by name in their compositions. However lakshanakAra Venkatamakhi (~1650 AD) says Kalyani is not fit for composing geeta or thaaya and says the rAga is liked by “Turushka”s indicating it’s relation with uttaraadi and Persian music.

However Kalyani took firm roots in Karnataka sangeetha and became the darling of many composers of later days. Tyagaraja has composed more than 30 kritis in Kalyani, of which Sundari nee is a very fine specimen. The composition is set to Adi tAla, and the sAhitya is in Telugu. Tyagaraja compares his opportunity to see Goddess Tripurasundari to a poor and distraught man begetting a fortune.

Now for a fabulous rendition of this composition, by none other than the mastero Balamuralikrishna:

Tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be back with some ramble about another composition!


During the weekend I attended a lecture-demonstration on GNB’s style of music by Charumati Ramachandran. She mentioned a funny anecdote when a young GNB started with a rAga AlApane at a concert in Tanjavoor when some of the vidwans in the concert hall walked out appalled at the vocalist who ‘did not even sing Madyamavati phrases correctly’.

But still captivated by his voice, they could not help themselves hanging around outside the hall to hear the vocalist start off a hitherto unknown (for them) composition starting with the words – rAgasudhArasa .

If you were thinking about the composition of Tyagaraja, in rAga Andolika ( sometimes called Mayura Dhwani), you are right on the dot. At that time, it was still not very well known even among musicians. It is one of what is generally termed as a “apUrva rAga kriti” of Tyagaraja.

Tyagaraja was the first to compose in this rAga – as he did in several scores of other melodies unheard of till his time.

Here is a clip from a movie adaptation of this song, sung by K J Yesudas (1992 Malayalam movie – “Sargam”):

Here is the sAhitya for the composition – thanks to

rāga sudhā rasa pānamu jēsi rañjillavē
ō manasā

yāga yōga tyāga bhōga phalamosaṅgē (rāga)

sadāśiva mayamagu nādōṅkāra swara
vidulu jīvanmuktulani tyāgarāju teliyu (rāga)

Here is my attempt in translating it into Kannada:

ರಾಗ ಸುಧಾರಸವನ್ನೇ ಸವಿಯುತ
ನಲಿಯುತಲಿರು ಓ ಮನವೇ! ||ರಾಗ ಸುಧಾರಸ||

ಯಾಗ ಯೋಗ ತ್ಯಾಗ ಭೋಗಗಳ ಫಲವೀವ || ರಾಗ ಸುಧಾರಸ ||

ಸದಾಶಿವ ನೆಲೆಯಾಗಿರುವ ನಾದ ಓಂಕಾರ ಸ್ವರ
ಅರಿತವರಿಗೆ ಬಿಡುಗಡೆಯುಂಟೆಂದು ತ್ಯಾಗರಾಜ ತಿಳಿದ ||ರಾಗ ಸುಧಾರಸ||

Tyagaraja was born on 4th May, 1767 – 243 years ago today. He composed more than 700 songs and in a large number of compositions, he refers to music.

To Tyagaraja, music was not only a means of reaching his beloved deity- but he describes Rama as taking different musical forms in the composition ‘nAdasudhArasambilanu’ in Arabhi!

In another composition in rAga chittaranjani ‘nAda tanum anisham Shankaram’ he bows to Shiva, whom Tyagaraja calls as a another form of Omkara nAda:

I’ll end this post with a clip of a kriti in rAga jaganmohini, where Tyagaraja speaks about the charming seven notes and how they captivate his mind.

Finally, here are a few of my earlier posts about Tyagaraja:

Meru Samana Dheera

A Day in Tiruvaiyyaru

Kalyani -Top Ten

Tyagaraja, on Sangeethapriya

Tyagaraja Aradhane -2009

Rangana Halliya Rama

Chandra Jyothi

Daya Juchutakidi Velara

Remember Tyagaraja, Once Again

Long live the charming seven notes, and the love for those notes in our minds!


If you can read Kannada, then click the following links:

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 1 :

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 2 :

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 3 :

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 4 :

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 5:

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 6:

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 7:

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 8:

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 9:

Sangeeta Navaratri – Day 10:

And here is what I wrote during  Navaratri festival in 2007:

navarAtriya dinagaLu


On 13th September, I attended a concert of bay area vocalist Sri Ragavan Manian. This was a very special concert form me as it becomes clear as I go telling you about the concert.

I have written about Ragavan Manian before , more than once.  If you already know that I am a die-hard fan of Dr Balamuralikrishna, you might think that it is no wonder I like Ragavan’s music. But as good desciples of great gurus go, Ragavan does not stop with just following his Guru’s footsteps. Ragavan does sing Dr Balamurali’s compositions and also sings many other compositions that Dr BMK has made his own by his special touch, but also comes up with very great themes in his concerts. Ragavan is himself a composer, and I have seen him give astonishingly refreshing ideas every time I hear him. I’d say that’s his greatest asset.

When I came to know that our Kannada koota (Kannada Koota of Northern California) was having Ragavan’s concert as part of the 2008 Kannadotsava event, I was pleasantly surprised. For an audience where you have a mix of folks with varied interests, the organizers have to select programs based on what they think the crowd will like, and many times classical music takes a backseat. Dance is a different issue – it is a visual art, and people can be engaged in a classical dance program easily compared to someone singing an AlApane of punnAgavarALi or Ahiri, I would say.

But no need to worry I should say, as the concert proved itself. Ragavan made it a concert with all Kannada compositions, which made it a little easier for those who are not very much into classical music to appreciate it. And for a change, the concert had a Veena ( by Raja Sivamani) accompanying the vocalist in addition to violin (Keshav) and mridanga ( Ramesh Srinivasan).

The following is not a review, but just a listing with some music clips. I am thankful for my friends in KKNC who provided the video clips.

Ragavan started the concert  with a shatpadi ( a six-liner) of Kanaka dAsa (dIna nAnu samasta lOkake dAni nInu) followed by nammamma shArade, a very  popular composition of Kanakadasa set to hamsadhwani rAga

Next was a brisk and  short kharaharapriya followed by dharmave jayavemba divya mantra , a composition of Purandara dAsa.

The first rAga Ragavan took for elaboration was mAyAmALavagouLa.

When he announced the composition he was going to sing, it was a surprise to some of the audience, but not to me :). It was Tyagaraja’s classic kriti in mAyAmALavagouLa – mEru samAna dhIra in Kannada – translated by yours truly :-).

I was really happy to hear the lines I had penned (of course, translated from Tyagaraja)  which came alive.

If you are interested in reading the sAhitya for this kannada version of this kriti, read it here in an earlier post I wrote around Tyagaraja Aradhane this year.

After this came a wonderful AlApane of kalyANi, followed by Purandara dAsa’s kELanO hari tALanO. This was the main item in the concert. I particularly liked how he included the ugAbhOga “malagi pADidare kuLitu kELuvanu” in one of the charaNas.

Next, Ragavan sang a rAgamAlika composition of PadmacharaN, manavE mantrAlaya.

Sandhyaa Raaga, a Kannada movie of the 1960’s had a number of good classical songs. This was a special movie for Kannada cinema, as both Bheemasen Joshi and BMK have sung as playback singers in this movie.

Ragavan sang a very popular song from this movie (sung by Dr BMK in the movie) nambide ninna nAda dEvateye in pUrvikalyANi next.

Then came two vacanas: kAyada kattaleya kaLeyayya, a vachana of Akkamahadevi set in rAga sindhu bhairavi and Chakorange chandramana beLakina chinte, a vachana of Basavanna, set in rAga Bhatiyar

Ragavan concluded the concert with one of his own compositions, a tillAna in Bhatiyar.

This is a concert I would definitely remember for a long time 🙂



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