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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.
Yugaadi marks the beginning of the traditional lunar new year celebrated in several states of India such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Literally, Yugaadi means Adi – “the beginning of” and yuga – “an era”. As per current understanding, a yuga is a measure of time, associated the term with long periods – as in Krta, Treta, Dwapara & Kali yugas, each spanning thousands of years.
However, if we go back in time for about thirty five centuries, we find Indians had a very different interpretation of the term yuga. Vedanga Jyothisha compiled by Laagadha around ~1400BC very clearly defines a yuga as a period of five years. The very opening verse of Vedanga Jyotisha has the following verse:
pa~ncha saMvatsaramayam yughAdhyakSham prajApatim |
dinartvayana mAsAngaM praNamya shirasA shuchih ||
which approximately translated to the following:
“I bow to thee, Oh Prajapati, one who has the day, season and the half-year as limbs, the over-seer of the five-year long yuga”
Vedanga Jyotisha also tells us when the five-year yuga began based on the alignment of the Sun, Moon and stars (specifically both meeting at the star Shravishta) in the sky. Also, according to the text, five years of a yuga were called samvatsara, parivatsara, idaavatsara, anuvatsara and idvatsara. Incidentally, this beginning of a new yuga took place at winter solstice, and not at (or close to) Vernal equinox as the current yugaadi is.
Things change over time. Now, we call every year a samvatsara, and the five-year long yuga is almost unknown to most people! If you are more interested on this topic, I suggest you to read this paper by B.N.Narahari Achar is a good resource.
Wishing a very happy Yugaadi to all visitors at ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ!
I figure it is better to post the this video of Navaratri celebration at our home – since Deepavali is around the corner already!
In 2009, I posted a swarajati that I had composed during Navaratri. Last year too, I posted another swarajati, in ranjani raaga, during Navaratri. Now to continue the tradition, I am posting another swarajati that I composed sometime back – This is in raaga BindumAlini.
You can download a PDF file, by clicking here: bindumaalini
An audio track is available here – played on the flute, by @IndianMusicFan. Click on the play button to listen to the composition.
Your comments and feedback welcome.
Today is the ninth day of Navaratri – Mahanavami. I start with some of my translations of some popular samskrta shlokas.
ಮೈಬಣ್ಣ ಮಂಜುಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆಚಂದಿರರ ಬಿಳುಪು; ಬಿಳಿಯರಿವೆಯನುಟ್ಟು
ಕೈಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹೊಳೆವವೀಣೆಯ ಹಿಡಿದು ನಿಂದಿರುವೆ ಬೆಳ್ದಾವರೆಯಲಿ;
ತಾಯೆ! ಆ ಹರಿಹರಬೊಮ್ಮರೂ ಅನುದಿನವು ಪೂಜಿಸುತಲಿಹರು ನಿನ್ನನು!
ಕಾಯೆನ್ನ ಸರಸತಿಯೆ ಎನ್ನನೆಂದಿಗೂ ಬಿಡದೆ ತೊಲಗಿಸಿ ಆಲಸಿಕೆಯನ್ನು
ಯಾ ಕುಂದೇಂದು ತುಷಾರಹಾರ ಧವಳಾ ಯಾ ಶುಭ್ರ ವಸ್ತ್ರಾವೃತಾ
ಯಾ ವೀಣಾವರದಂಡಮಂಡಿತ ಕರಾ ಯಾ ಶ್ವೇತಪದ್ಮಾಸನಾ|
ಯಾಬ್ರಹ್ಮಾಚ್ಯುತ ಶಂಕರಪ್ರಭೃತಿಭಿಃ ದೇವೈಃ ಸದಾ ಪೂಜಿತಾ
ಸಾ ಮಾಂ ಪಾತು ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ಭಗವತೀ ನಿಶ್ಶೇಷ ಜಾಡ್ಯಾಪಹಾ||
ಸರಸತಿಯೆ ತಲೆಬಾಗುವೆನು ಮನದಾಸೆಗಳನೀವಳೆ
ಅರಿವಿನಾಸೆಯೆನಗಿರಲು ಹರಸು ಕೈಗೂಡುತಿರಲೆಂದು
ಸರಸ್ವತೀ ನಮಸ್ತುಭ್ಯಂ ವರದೇ ಕಾಮರೂಪಿಣೀ|
ವಿದ್ಯಾರಂಭಂ ಕರಿಷ್ಯಾಮಿ ಸಿದ್ಧಿರ್ಭವತು ಮೇ ಸದಾ ||
ಶಾರದೆಯೆ ನಮಿಸುವೆನು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದಲಿ ನೆಲೆಸಿಹಳೆ
ಕೋರುವೆನು ಅನುದಿನವು ಅರಿವು ತಿಳಿವನು ನೀಡು
ನಮಸ್ತೇ ಶಾರದಾ ದೇವೀ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಪುರವಾಸಿನೀ |
ತ್ವಾಮಹಂ ಪ್ರಾರ್ಥಯೇ ನಿತ್ಯಂ ವಿದ್ಯಾ ಬುದ್ಧಿಂ ಚ ದೇಹಿಮೇ||
On the ninth day, the performer elaborates the last Navartri Kriti of Swathi Tirunal – Pahi parvata nandini in Arabhi rAga.
In Karnataka, there is a tradition of doing Saraswati pooje on Mahanavami. So, it is a good time to listen to a nice composition about Saraswati.
Mysore Vasudevacharya was a very important composer of the 20th century. Coming in Tyagaraja’s school, he has composed more than 300 compositions – most of them in Samskrta and Telugu. He was born in Kanakapura, and spent most of his life as a palace musician at Mysore. He is also the guru of Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Odeyar. Just like Tyagaraja, his compositions have his own name – ‘Vasudeva’ as the signature. Since his compositions are very much on Tyagaraja’s lines, he was called ‘Abhinava Tyagaraja’. He has chronicled his experiences with other artists in his memoir in Kannada – “Naa Kanda Kalavidaru”.
The kriti for today is Mysore Vasudevacharya’s ‘Mamavatu Sri Saraswati’ in raga Hindola, which is quite popular.
Tomorrow is Vijayadashami – the day when Goddess Chamundeswari takes her stately ride on the royal elephant! I’ll conclude this series with a composition fit for that ocassion.