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By now, every kid on the internet and his or her baby-sitter know that the transit of Venus is a once-in-a-lifetime, twice-in-a-lifetime, or never-in-a-lifetime event. So, I am not going to dwell on that aspect of the transit!
In 2004, when the Venus transited the Sun, I was in the wrong part of the Earth .
Did you ask what do I mean by being “on the wrong part of the Earth”? You see, the transit is an event seen when the Sun is over the horizon. So if the planet were to go in front of the Sun during the night-time, hard luck. Just like a solar eclipse.
Transit 2004 Visibility Map from Wikipedia:
Luckily, I was in the right part of the Earth in 2012, so I did not want to miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Transit 2012 Visibility Map from Wikipedia:
Adding to my luck, I was invited by a friend to watch the eclipse from his backyard telescope. Since Venus is so small compared to the Sun, the transit of Venus is better appreciated with an optical aid.
And here is the fantastic view through the 9-inch telescope – captured on my mobile phone.
We also looked through a welder’s glass, and it looked cool too. But could not take a picture through that. By the way, did you notice the sunspots in the picture above ? Compare them to Venus, which is about 12000 miles in diameter – and the enormous size of the Sun spots does strike you!
Rarely does one come across a scholar who is well versed in all aspects related to music: lakshya, lakshaNa and the associated lyrical aspects. And it was the fortune of the listeners at South India Fine Arts Spring Festival (SIFA) to see one such scholar- Dr T S Sathyavathi.
‘Aesthetics in Muttuswamy Dikshita’s Compositions’ was the topic Vidushi T S Sathyavathi had chosen for her demonstration lecture at SIFA. She introduced aesthetics from the Indian perspective, as the essential aspect of art which elevates the listener from a lower stratum to a higher stratum. During her lec-dem, she illustrated this through various compositions of Muttuswamy dIkshita.
The first composition she chose for rendition was a kriti on Ganapati, very aptly – ‘pancha mAntanga mukha gaNapatiA’ in raaga Malahari. She illustrated how the instrumental case in the sahitya is used to connect various phrases in the charaNa, back to the pallavi enhancing the meaning. She also showed how various details of the deity on which the composition is composed is captured in the sahitya, leaving no doubt as to the identity of the kshetra. Through various phrases used in the composition, she illustrated how the raga develops as the composition progresses. She pointed out the subtle swarakshara usage in this composition.
She also alluded to the refrain of many musicians that it is very hard to take liberty with MD’s compositions. Although this is somewhat true, she showed how Muttuswamy Dikshita provides a great framework for any rAga he has composed in.The unambiguous clarity with which Muttuswamy Dikshita treats ragas in his compositions, in her opinion, forms the basis on which later day composers have built grand compositions. She sang some parts of his Saveri kriti, ‘kari kalabha mukham’, showing how the difference between Malahari & Saveri are shown right in the opening phrases of these two compositions.
She next took the sAma composition – ‘guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya’ drawing audience attention to the short rishabha and dhaivata, the widely oscillating madhyama in this raga – and indicated how the corpus of sancharas the composer has shown in this composition (and other compositions) could be used as a framework for a detailed elaboration of any ragas he has composed in. She pointed out how Muttuswamy Dikshita has woven a beautiful chitte swara for this composition that includes a beautiful asymmetry in symmetry, including different laya patterns.
The next raga under consideration was Brindavana Saranga. Vidushi Satyavathi sang ‘soundara rAjam Ashraye’ very beautifully describing interesting features of the sAhitya such as the Adi prAsa, antya prAsa, and interesting aspects like the caressing kaishiki nishada which is the hallmark of this delicate raga. She illustrated the differences in the treatment of nishada and rishabha in this rAga to other ragas such as Sri and Madhyamavati as well.
The last composition, the grand chaturdasha ragamalika – ‘srI vishwanatham bhajeham’ was indeed a treat to listen to. Vidushi Sathyavathi went into the details of each of the ragas in his gem of a composition showing how the sahtitya is woven to include the raga name for each raga in each segment (ragamudre), and how a modified phrase using the raga name is used as an adjective in the very next line enhancing the beauty of the sahitya, and how the key phrases of each raga are shown within a the short segment allocated to each raga.
Vidushi Sathyavathi concluded with saying that Muttuswamy Dikshita used both his heart and art in his compositions. With her scholarly presentation, the listeners at SIFA could very well appreciate that. She was very ably assisted by Vidwan T S Krishnamurthy on the violin and Vidwan Shriram Brahmanandam on the Mrdanga.