Karnatik for Kids

For kids to enjoy and appreciate Karnatic music : a South-Indian Art Music Form

Dear Budding Musicians,

May is a month to remember some very great acharyas. As we all know, AchArya dEvO bhava translates literally to the teacher being God Himself. The Acharya jayanthi is also rightly celebrated in many places as a mark of respect and two such great Gurus are Adi Shankaracharya and Sri Ramanujacharya. Though the philosophies of both these great teachers were different and is not very relevant for our discussion, they both unanimously professed Hari Bhakti. An area of special interest in their devotion to Lord Hari is their worship of Lord Narasimhaswamy whose jayanthi also falls interestingly on the 20th of this month. Here we try to explore some common aspects from the lives of the two great Gurus.

Acharyas and Lord Narasimhaswamy 

In the early 12th century, Bhagawan Sri Ramanujar worshipped Lord Narasimhaswamy at Melukote(also known as ThirunarayanapRamanujaratMelukoteuram) in Karnataka for a 12 year period thus establishing it as a prominent place of worship. Lord CheluvaNarayanaswamy is the presiding deity in this temple and history has it that Lord Rama was very fond of Cheluva Narayanar or Thirunarayanar or Shelva pillai hence He was also known as Ramapriya. From Rama’s surya dynasty, the idol somehow got passed on to a chandravamsi king and thus came to be worshipped by Lord Krishna. Thus the Lord here has a very unique place for ardent vaishnavite devotees. The credits of having recovered the lost idol of Cheluva Narayanar according to legend, goes to the great guru Sri Ramanujar. Atop the hill of Melukote is Lord Narasimhaswamy’s impressive temple where the idol was installed by none other Prahlada. The library and sanskrit college here still house the works of acharya Ramanujar.

FullSizeRender 2Adi Shankara’s life and the famous incident where a crocodile bites his leg at a tender
age of 8 and promises to let go only when his mother provides permission for Shankara to lead a hermit’s life thereafter is known to all of us. He travelled the whole of Bharata desa on a spiritual conquest which is popularly known as Shankara Digvijaya. His Narasimha Karavalamba sthrothram is testimonial to his unflinching devotion to Lord Narasimhaswamy. During his digvijayam or conquest, there is an incident where he gets into a spiritual debate with Mandana, defeats him and then with Mandana’s wife Ubhaya Bharati who knew Shankara had never known marital life. She wishes to question the guru on marriage and the acharya seeks time to understand this aspect of normal human life. Accordingly, he leaves his body and enters a king’s corpse and rules the land as well understands the duties of a husband. Having completed his mission, as the guru re-enters his body, the king’s emissaries having found it unguarded have already set it on fire. Shri Shankara immediately recites a hymn from the Lakshmi Narasimha Karavalamba sthrothram and the fire gets extinguished by Lord’s grace. Thereafter Mandana and Ubhaya Bharati happily accept their defeat to the great acharya.

Acharyas at Kanchipuram

kamakshi-and-shankaracharyaKanchipuram is one of the five pancha bhutha sthalas(Lord Siva denotes earth here in the form of Ekambareshwarar). Fifteen of the divya deshams or special sites of worship for followers of SriVaishnavism are in this city. The city is also popularly known as the Temple city of India. Guru Ramanujar is said to have moved to this divine city after his marriage , studied Advaitha Vedantha under guru  Yadhava Prakasa and went on to become the priest at Lord Varadarajar temple teaching the route to moksha(liberation) to seekers.

Kanchipuram is of course inseparable from Adi Shankara as he founded the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam here which is to date one of the most important religious institutions in India.When Shankara visited Kanchipuram he felt the goddess is in a ferocious mode that the entire sanctorum was very hot. So to pacify her and bring her back to normal state the saint sung Soundarya Lahari in praise of goddess and also established a Sri Chakra in front of her idol to keep her cool and personified. The acharya established Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam and attained Sarvagyna Peetam in this holy city.

Kanchipuram is rightly called as a moksha puri (a holy place of liberation) rightly so because of being graced by such great acharyas time and again.

Acharyas and devotional music

The article cannot be completed without discussing the connection between these great gurus and how they were connected to music. The influence of the 12 Alvars, especially Nammalvar on Bhagawan Ramanujar has been noteworthy. It is understood that the guru indeed systematised the philosophical and religious beliefs that had long been in existence. Extremely ardent devotees of the Lord such as Alvars, who came from the high and low castes of life indicate that anyone with true love shall be accepted. The 4000 divya prabandhams they composed together are testimony to the highest order of love and devotion sung in temples to this day.

Last but not the least, what could be a better example than Shankarachaya’s bhaja govindham on Lord Vishnu , standing illustriously as an epitome to devotion and full of words of wisdom for men seeking real wisdom.

Hope this article has been useful to our dear readers.

Have a great weekend ahead!

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

sources: wiki , varied