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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.


Today I was listening to a rendition of Bhadrachachala Ramadasa’s song – ikshwaku kulatililaka, a simple and very moving song set in yadukula kAmbhOji rAga. This raaga, supposed to be of folk origin, has been in use in classical music in the last 3-4 centuries.

Ramadasa lived in early 17th century. He held the position a village chief or a tahasildar in the kindom of Golconda in Bhadrachalam. Tax collection was one of his duties. He used up parts of the funds from the tax collected to renovate the Rama temple at Bhadrachalam, hoping to make good of the money from future donations by devotees. However, that was not to be, and he was charged for misappropriation of state funds, and held a prisoner at Golconda fort for 12 years.

Ramadasa had to undergo torture at the hands of the Sultan’s prison officials (What else do you expect in a prison, anyway!). He was a composer, and he continued composing even when he was serving his term in prison. This particular song, ikshwaku kultilaka ikanaina palukavu is said to have been composed during this time as there are autobiographical references.

In the song, Ramadasa speaks about everything he has done for Sri Rama and his family and shows his anger and finally asks for his help.

Here is one of my favourite renditions of ikShvAku kula tilaka, sung by  Dr BMK –

Balamurali sings ikShwAku kula tilaka

Here is an attempt to translate the song into Kannada – I have not gone for word-to-word translation, but tried to keep the same flow, and at the same time trying to keep the ‘singability’ as much as possible.

ಇಕ್ಷ್ವಾಕು ಕುಲತಿಲಕ ನೀ ಬೇಗ ಹೇಳಯ್ಯ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ನನಗೀಗ ಕಾವಲಿಗೆ ನೀನಲ್ಲದಿನ್ಯಾರೋ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಸುತ್ತ ಪ್ರಾಕಾರವ ಸೊಂಪಾಗಿ ಕಟ್ಟಿಸಿದೆ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ನಾನು ಸಾವಿರ ವರಹವ ಸುರಿದು ಕಟ್ಟಿಸಿದೆನಲ್ಲ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಗೋಪುರ ಮಂಟಪವ ಸೊಗಸಾಗಿ ಕಟ್ಟಿಸಿದೆ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಕಡೆಗಾಣಿಸದೆ ಎನ್ನೀಗ ಪೊರೆಯೋ ಮರೆಯದೇ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಭರತನಿಗೆ ಮಾಡಿಸಿದೆ ಪಚ್ಚೆಯ ಪದಕವ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಆ ಪದಕಕ್ಕೆ ಕೊಟ್ಟೆನೋ ಹತ್ತು ಸಾವಿರ ವರಹ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಶತ್ರುಘ್ನಗೆ ಮಾಡಿಸಿದೆ ಬಂಗಾರದೊಡ್ಯಾಣ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಹೊಳೆವ ಒಡ್ಯಾಣಕೆ ಮತ್ತೆ ಹತ್ತು ಸಾವಿರ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ!

ಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಣನಿಗೆ ಮಾಡಿಸಿದೆ ಮುತ್ತಿನ ಪದಕವು ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಮುತ್ತಿನ ಪದಕಕ್ಕೆ ಹತ್ತು ಸಾವಿರ ವರಹ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಸೀತಮ್ಮಗೆ ಮಾಡಿಸಿದೆ ವಜ್ರದ ಪದಕಾವ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಆ ಪದಕಕೆ ತೆತ್ತೆ ಹತ್ತು ಸಾವಿರ ವರಹ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ!

ಸುತ್ತಾಡಲು ವಾಹನವ ನಿನಗೆ ಮಾಡಿಸಿಕೊಡಲು ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಮತ್ತೆ ನನ್ನ ಕಾಲಿಗೆ ಬಿತ್ತಲ್ಲ ಸರಪಳಿಯು ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಮಿಂಚುವ ತುರಾಯಿ ನಿನಗೆ ಮಾಡಿಸಿಕೊಡಲು ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ನೀ ಮಿರುಗುತಲೇ ನಡೆವೆ! ಪೂರ್ವೀಕರಾಸ್ತಿಯೇ? ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ?

ಒಡವೆಗಳ ಕೊಟ್ಟವನು ನಿಮ್ಮಪ್ಪ ದಶರಥನೇ? ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ನಿನ ಮಾವ ಜನಕ ಮಹಾರಾಜ ಕಳಿಸಿದನೇ? ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ!

ನೀನಲ್ಲದಿನ್ಯಾರ ನಿಂದಿಸಲೋ ನಾನೀಗ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ತಡೆಯಲಾರದೆ ಕಷ್ಟ ಮತ್ತಷ್ಟು ಬೈವೇನೋ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ತೊರೆಗೆ ಸುರಿದಂಥ ನೀರಂತೆ ನನ ಪಾಡು ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ನನಗೆ ಕೆಡುಕಿನ ಮೇಲೆ ಮತ್ತಷ್ಟು ಕೆಡುಕಾಯ್ತೋ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಸರಕಾರದ ಹಣವ ಲೆಕ್ಕಿಸದೇ ಹೋದೇನೋ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಚಾವಟಿ ಏಟನು ತಾಳೆ ನೀ ತೀರಿಸೋ ಕಡವ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ಕೌಸಲ್ಯಾಸುತನೇ ದಶರಥ ತನಯನೆ ಕಾಯೋ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಭದ್ರಾಚಲ ಗಿರಿಯದಲಿ ಕ್ಷೇಮದಲಿ ನೆಲೆಸಿಹನೇ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

ನಂಬಿದ ಭಕ್ತರ ಪರಿಪಾಲಿಸುವವ ನೀನೇ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ
ಚಂದದಲಿ ನೀ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮದಾಸನ ಸಲಹೋ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ

If you believe legends, Rama indeed came to help Ramadasa; may be I will write more about that some other time.


On the way to work this morning,  I was listening to a show on raaga kalyAni on Stanford Radio at 90.1FM (  presented by Sri Ragavan Manian, an eminent musician of SFO bay area.

Kalyani, or yaman if you are from north of river Krishna, is a very captivating rAga indeed. I have rambled on it this rAga earlier, here and here. Today, it is the chance to write a bit more!

What if I were to be stranded in an island, and had only one rAga to listen to? Which rAga would I pick? Of course, kalyAni. Actually that reminds me of a comment made by one of the callers in the radio program this morning – “How can anyone in the right frame of mind NOT like kalyANi?” 😉 ?

Texual traditions place Kalyani to be an import from the music of the Middle-Eastern music. The word ‘yaman’ comes from ’eman’ or ‘iman’ in Persian – which means “blessed”. When this rAga was adopted to Indian music, the name was indianized with the same meaning as ‘kalyaNa’, or ‘kalyANi’. This import should have happened sometime around 1400 AD (or before), since we have the name of the rAga mentioned in a composition of SripadarAya (1402 AD-1500AD).

Sometime back, the blog avadhi asked it’s readers to name their Top Ten kannada books. My list was published there too. Today’s  show on rAga kalyAni made me list my top ten favourite compositions, set in kalyAni rAga. 

Disclaimer: This order is not set in stone, and I will just say that it is today’s list; if I were to set to do the list another day I might come up with a slightly different order  🙂 🙂 🙂

For those interested, I am pointing to some of my favourite audio links as well.

1. nidhi chAlA sukhamA :

One of the Kalyani gems composed by Tyagaraja. It was supposedly composed in response to the invitation of Serfoji (king of Tanjavoor) to Tyagaraja to become a court musician. He asks “Does wealth give you bliss, or  being close to Rama give you bliss”? You can listen to it here  sung by S Sowmya.

2. EtAvunnarA:  

Another grand kriti of Tyagaraja in kalyAni. Listen it here  on the Veena, by Eemani Shankara Shastry.

3.  sundari nI divya rUpamunu:

Yet another wonderful kriti of Tyagaraja in Kalyani. Tyagaraja visited Chennaipattanam (now Chennai) to visit one of his deciples. There he visited the temple at Tiruvottriyoor, on the northern outskirts of current day Chennai, and composed five compositions on the goddess Tripurasundari. These are termed as the “Tiruvottriyoor Pancharatna kritis”. This composition is one of those five. Listen to it  sung by Dr M Balamuralikrishna , unquestionably my personal favourite.

4. nija dAsa varada:

No wonder the first three were compositions of Tyagaraja. He has composed more than 30  songs in this rAga. And for the same reason, it seems Patnam Subramaniyam Iyer, who comes in the lineage of Tyagaraja did not compose anything in Kalyani for a long time because he felt that Tyagaraja had almost exhausted all the possibilities in kalyAni rAga. But finally he came up with a his own grand composition, to match those of the saint,  set slightly differently to showing his individuality. Listen to it on the nAdaswara by Namagiripettai Krishnan.

5. SringapurAdhIswari shAradE:

A very nice composition of Krishnamachar, popularly known as Padmacharan. Till recently I did not know this kriti – but once I listened to this the rasika forum ( (sung by M N Sriram, a fellow rasika on the forum) sometime back, this has  become one of my favourites!

6. nannu brOvamani cheppavE : 

I love the folksy touch given to this composition of Annamayya.   Listen to this song here sung by Dr BMK  . 

7. kamalAmbAm bhajarE :

Here comes the composition of Muttuswami Dikshitar (MD). This majestic composition is one of the Kamalamba Navavarana kritis. Listen to this played  by U Srinivas on the mandolin

8. bhaja rE chitta:

Another kriti of MD. Listen to this here  sung by Sanjay Subramanian

9. himAdri sutE pAhimAm :

A composition of Shyama Shastri. One of the few compositions that has two different set of words – one in Samskrita and one in Telugu (birAna varAlicchi brOvumu) . Here is the samskrita version from a kannada movie, Hamsageethe, by Dr BMK

10. shivE pAhimAm ambike :

While I could not locate the audio for this kriti, I wanted to list it here because this was the first Kalyani kriti I became aware of! This is a kriti of Tyagaraja, on Dharmasamvardhini, the diety of Tiruvayyaru, the hometown of Tyagaraja.

I wish I could add more compositions, but ‘Top Ten’s are supposed to be what they mean – Right? So even though I don’t want to add these to the list, I will just mention few other must listens  in this rAga –  kAru vElpu of Tyagaraja, abhayAmbA jagadambA of MD, kELano hari tALano or Purandara dAsa sung beautifully by BMK  for a kannada movie – gAnayOgi rAmanna ( Listen to it here)  and the ThAya mAlika tillAna composed by Dr MBK come to mind immediately. The last one definitely merits a post on it’s own. May be some other day!



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A Collection of  Samskrta Subhashitas, translated to Kannada

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