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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.

Valley of Heart’s Delight – Yes, that was the name this place was known as, before the likes of Shockely made it the ‘Silicon Valley‘!  There were orchards all over Santa Clara county. The growth of semiconductor industry saw increased demand for housing and many of the orchards gave way to housing development in the decades following Shockley’s invention of the transistor.

What made this place the ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight’? It may be the mild winters and hot summers. It may be the soil. It may be the scanty winter rains. Or a combination of these.  But it is a fact, it is a place where one can grow fruit trees much more easily.  A walk in any of the older neighborhoods will show you apple, lemon, peach, plum or some other fruit tree in almost every other backyard.

Right now,  San Jose is home to about a million people.  Although most orchards or gone, it may be the only metro in the USA where there are some functioning farms and orchards within the boundary of the city.

Here are a few pictures clicked on my phone:

Across from N First street, a functioning farm

The housing development was built during the end of 90’s on previously orchard land

A closer view of the orange orchard. Tf you squeeze your eyes, you’ll see plenty of oranges!

Another view of the same orchard, right across the street from where I work


Exactly 25  miles long, that is. That is how far the summit of Mt Hamilton is from Downtown San Jose. But what makes this 25 miles really long is the change in elevation – from 85ft above sea level to 4209 ft above sea level.


I made this ‘long‘ trip couple of weeks ago. Sort of  funny, because Mt Hamilton and the domes on top are part of the horizon in my view every day for the last 10 years! So near, but so far! Here are some pictures from that drive.

The 4000+ ft change in elevation means there is no shortage of twists and turns and curves. The moment you go past one blind curve, you will face the next! Be ready for motion sickness!

Curves and Turns!

Curves and Turns!

James Lick Observatory is located atop Mt Hamilton. This was the first mountaintop observatory ever built, around the end of 19th century.

An old picture of the observatory

An old picture of the observatory

When it was built, it had the world largest Refracting telescope (36″ inches) . This telescope  is still functioning, and being made good use of.

The 36 inch refractor

The 36 inch refractor

Now there are few more telescopes atop Mt Hamilton; A 120 inch reflector, a 36 inch reflector and a 100 inch Automatic Planet Finder -to name a few. These are a short walk away from the original observatory, but public access to these domes is limited.

Newer Domes

Newer Domes

Mt Hamilton being one of the highest peaks around the south bay, there is an uninterrupted view in all directions.


The picture on the top of my blog page  with  a view of the Moon rising behind the observatory in Mt Hamilton is taken from – “Astronomy Picture of  the Day” ; courtesy NASA.

More information about Lick Observatory can be found here.


Today is the Vernal Equinox. In plain English, it is also called the Spring Equinox, or the first day of the Spring.

The day is called Equinox to imply it is the day of the equal day and night. Wherever you on the Earth, that is. Whether you are near the tropics or near the poles. Little hard to believe, but true.

If you are standing somewhere on 13 degree North latitude in Bengalooru, India, here is how the Sun’s path goes aound the sky. The yellow line indicates the path of the Sun, and the little yellow disk represents the Sun.

Path of the Sun as seen from a place 13 Degree North, on Vernal Equinox

Path of the Sun as seen from a place 13 Degree North, on Vernal Equinox

On the other hand, if you were somewhere in the temperate lands, such as the San Fransisco bay area, this is how the Sun’s path would look like.

Solar path on Vernal Equinox, from a place 37 degrees North

Solar path on Vernal Equinox, from a place 37 degrees North

Now,  this is what happens if you go much to the North – say somewhere near Anchorage, Alaska.

View from further North

View from further North

What if you go down South, to Sydney, Australia or Johannesburg, South Africa?


At each place, you may notice the Sun rises in the true east, and sets in the true west. And this is the reason why the day and night are of equal length everywhere today.


All the pictures were captured using the solar simulation tool here:


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My book “Hamsanada” for iPad, iPhone or iPod

A Collection of  Samskrta Subhashitas, translated to Kannada

My Book, on Google Play!

My Book Hamsanada, on Google Play

My Book Hamsanada, on Google Play

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