Karnatik for Kids

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

Sri Krishna gAnAmrutam – Musical offerings to Lord Sri Krishna

In Srimad Bhagawatham, Lord Sri Krishna remarks Maasaanaam Maargasheershoraham which means Lord Krishna is Margazhi among the months.

Three of the highly divine kaavyams that , when recited with utmost bhakti in this month will be extremely fruitful are –

  1. Andal’s thiruppavai
  2. Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi and
  3. Narayana Teerthar’s Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini

Andal’s thiruppavai

Sri Andal or Kodhai(7th or 8th century) was found by the childless Vishnuchittar(Periyazhwar) as a golden hued baby near a Tulasi plant in a garden inside Sri Ranganathar temple. She was raised as an ardent Krishna devotee and ever since her childhood sincerely served the Bhagawan through vaachikam(speech), kaayikam(limbs) and maanasam(mind). When she attained the marriageable age, her desire to attain the Lord through premai became intense. In the month of Margazhi(Dhanur maasam), she along with the young girls of her village observed “paavai nombu” waking up in the brahma muhurtham (before dawn) and singing the praise of Lord Sriman Narayana. The thirty pasurams that she composed are said to contain the summary of Upanishads and invoke the lord as Kesava, Madhava, Narayana, Damodhara et al. In these verses, Goddess Godha describes certain do’s and dont’s in the worship of the Lord; teams up with the other young girls, imploring them to wake up and; taking them with her, arrives at the temple before finally seeking His blessings.

Though she completed the nombu successfully, she was worried that the Lord had not come asking for her hand in marriage. People in their village joked that she and her father were dreaming about her wedding with the Lord while Godha had a dream that the Lord Ranganatha was coming with the Devas in a 1000 beautiful elephants to seek her hand in marriage. Godha’s dream did come true and the Lord took her with Him to the Srivilliputthur temple where both the Lord and her merged into the sanctum. The recital of Sri Andal’s pasurams with true devotion is said to fulfill all desires in the devotee’s heart and hence is important for every music student.

Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi

Sri Jayadeva(born ~12th century) composed 24 ashtapadis – songs with eight verses each in praise of Lord Krishna residing in Brindavana doing raasa-leela with Radha and the other Gopikas. Jayadeva, along with his wife Padmavathi are said to have performed these ashtapadis at Puri Sri Jagannath temple with Jayadeva singing the song while his wife danced to the lyrics. In each of these songs, Sri Jayadeva invokes the Lord by unique names such as Saamoda Damodaraha, Aklesha Keshavaha, Mukta Madhusudhana, Snigdha Madhusudhana, Saakanksha Pundarikaaksha, Dhrista Vaikuntha, Nagara Narayana, Vilakshya Lakshmipati, Mukta Mukunda, Chatura Chaturbhuja, Saananda Govinda, Supreeta Pitambara in these verses.

The ashtapadis begin with a picturization of the DashAvathAram and go on to describe the love play between Krishna and Radha as one gets upset and the other tries to console. There is viraha (deep pain of separation) felt by Radha when Krishna doesn’t come to her and at times there is a sakhi(female friend) of Radha who acts as a messenger between the Lord and her explaining her condition to him and passing his messages to her in response. These compositions which come across as erotic to the limited imagination, are not to be taken in their literal sense and are to be experienced as the play between the soul immersed in the love of God and the God Himself. Sri Jayadeva, in his concluding ashtapadi, describes the union of Radha with Sri Krishna and the singing of all the 24 ashtapadis are considered equivalent of performing Radha Kalyanam. To the music student, these songs are a delightful way of experiencing the Divine Love of Lord Sri Krishna.

Narayana Teerthar’s Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini

Sri Narayana Teertha(17th century) was a sanskrit and music scholar. It is said that he once suffered from an incurable stomach pain. He was directed to walk several miles to the south where a wild boar led his path into a temple in a village then known as BhoopathirAjapuram in ThanjAvur. Teertha was instantly cured of his illness and thus was born the masterpiece called Krishna Leela Tarangini. This village later came to be known as Varaahur. Tarangini comprises of 12 tarangams totalling 153 songs, 302 slokams and 31 choornikas.

In the tarangams, Teerthar sings about Sri Krishna’s bAla leela, rAsa leela, kamsa samhAram, dwArakA shrushti and culminates in Rukmini Kalyanam. Sravanam and keerthanam are the forms of worship that the saint’s sankeertanams prescribe.

Underlying message in these creations-

Andal’s thiruppavai concludes with the divine union of Sri Andal with the Lord or Andal Kalyanaam as visualized by her and to this day, the paavai nombu is prescribed for young girls desiring to attain a groom of their choice. Similarly, Ashtapadis conclude with Radha Kalyanam and Krishna Leela Tarangini concludes with Rukmini Kalyanam. In a deeper philosophical sense, all these works speak of the union of the soul with the Lord and are each are complete forms in themselves of worshipping and attaining the Lord.

Pics courtesy : https://upload.wikimedia.org, www.freepicspot.com and www.thehindu.com

The legacy of Abhangas

Dear Budding Musicians,

In our previous articles, we have talked about the greats in Dakshina Bhajana Sampradaya and also about Haridasa tradition and mentioned about great saints like Purandaradasa whose contributions to the modern Karnatik music are timeless treasures.

Let us know look at how Namasankeerthan Sampradaya or Paddhati evolved in the Northern and Western parts of India – particularly in Maharashtra where some very great saints incarnated around 13th century and later.

Abhangas are part of many modern concerts in recent times and are popularly sung at the end as a “tukkada”. Abhang or is a form of devotional poetry sung in praise of the Hindu god Vitthala, also known as Vithoba. It literally means a flowing, uninterrupted (non-bhang) poem and is structured based on the Marathi ovi metre.

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Let us see how the Abhangas came to be.

Sant Dhyaneshwar(Jnaneshwar)

In early 13th century, saint Dhyaneshwar (Jnaneshwar) was born in a Varkari family in Apegaon village near the banks of Godavari. The Yadava kings ruled the place and Maharashtra was a hub for scholars from various parts of the country. He had three siblings, viz. – Nivruttinath, Sopan and Muktabai – all of whom went on to become saints in their later life. It’s said that Dhyaneshwar and his brothers were denied the rights to wear the sacred thread and not permitted to learn vedas as their father had returned to them after having been to Varanasi on a spiritual quest renouncing family life.

Years later, after their parents gave up their lives for their sake, the four of them were accepted by the Pandits of Paithana and their intelligence was recognized. They lived in Alandi where Sant Dhyaneshwar composed his magnum opus – “Dhyaneshwari”: a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. The whole of Dhyaneshwari is in ovi metre, where first three or the first and third lines rhyme and the fourth line has a sharp and short ending.
Having experienced the rigidity of the caste system and the dogmatism of scriptural learning, Dnyaneshwar was sympathetic towards issues of the common people. So he chose Marathi (instead of Sanskrit) to help the common man in his spiritual learning. He was also initiated into the Nath Yogi tradition.

Sant Namdev

It is said that Sant Dhyaneshwar, after having composed Dhyaneshwari and Amruthanubhav, went to Pandharpur with his siblings where they met Namdev. Dhyaneshwar and Namdev both became very close friends. They are said to have started composing Abhangas while doing religious pilgrimage together. They initiated people into spirituality, regardless their caste.

Namdev’s work comprises both Nirguna and Saguna philosophies. Namdev’s legacy is remembered by masses of people walking together in biannual pilgrimages to Pandharpur in south Maharashtra.

He was born on the banks of the Bhima river near Pandharpur. He is also venerated by Sikhs to be a holy man (bhagat) and by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The literary works of Namdev were influenced by Vaishnava philosophy and a belief in Vithoba. Namdev’s style was to compose simply worded praise for Vithoba and to use a melodic device called sankeertana, both of which were accessible to common people.

Namdev’s bhajans deployed particular species of Raag, used Bhanita (or Chhap, a stamp of the composer’s name inside the poem, in his case Nama), applied a Tek (or dhruva, repeated refrain) and a meter that helps harmonise the wording with the musical instrument. He viewed Rama as the “real teacher” and used Vishnu-Krishna as Govind-Hari or Hari in place of Vithoba. To date, 600-700 of his Abhangas (authentic and written by him) have survived several generations of learning based on memory. In 1970, Sri Namdev Gatha (Namdev’s abhangas) was compiled by Maharashtrian Govt based on manuscripts and various sources.

Sant Tukaram

Born in the 17th century, Tukaram is known for his Abhangas and spiritual songs known as kirtans. It is said that his wife Rakhama bai and son Santu, both died in a famine after which he delved into his spiritual quest, meditating on the hills of Sahyadri range (Western Ghats). Though he married a second time, he spent his later life in singing bhajans, kirtans and composing Abhanga poetry.

Tukaram’s work is known for informal verses of in folk style, composed in vernacular language, in contrast to his predecessors such as Dnyandeva or Namdev who had a grace of style. In one of his poems, Tukaram modestly describes himself as a “fool, confused, lost, liking solitude because I am tired of the world – worshipping Vitthal (Vishnu) just like my ancestors were doing but I lack their faith and devotion, and there is nothing holy about me”.

The compilation of his works are known as Tukaram Gatha.

Tukaram considered kirtan not just a means to learn about Bhakti, but Bhakti itself. It is said that he accepted disciples and devotees without discriminating gender. It is also believed that his work, along with the work of the other Marathi saints, united the Marathas as a cultural group.

Sant Eknath

Eknath is seen as a bridge between his predecessors—Dnyaneshwar and Namdev—and the later Tukaram and Ramdas. His guru is said to have been a Sufi, named Janardhan Swami. It is said that hiis Guru never made much efforts to teach him anything and he was more than happy to serve him in all possible ways and take very good care of him. One day it so happened that Eknath was struggling past midnight to reconcile the accounts for the Guru’s ashram and the Guru was moved to see his sincerity. The next morning, by his Yogic powers, the Guru requested Lord Dattatreya to give a darshan to Eknath. After having had the darshan of the supreme Lord of learning, Eknath went back to the usual chores in the ashram and the Guru was surprised what had happened. When he asked Eknath if he got a darshan, he said yes, but to him his Guru’s darshan was the happiest thing in the world. The Guru was really moved and asked Eknath to go back to his parents and get married.

Vedas and all the knowledge were at Eknath’s disposal but he was a picture of humility. It is said that Lord Vitthal Himself served Eknath as a disciple under the name of Kandiya Krishnan. A leper was cured of his illness after drinking Enkath’s pada teertha – such was his greatness!

He wrote a variation of Bhagavatha Purana known as Eknathi Bhagavatha and a variation of Ramayana known as Bhavartha Ramayana – both of which are ripe with Eknath’s natural vidwath and widely read by the common man even today. He has also composed several abhangas. He also sang about saints like Namdev, Dhyaneshwar and Janabai.

Samarth Ramdas

Ramdas was a noted 17th-century Brahmin saint and spiritual poet of Maharashtra. He is most remembered for his Advaitic text, the Dasbodha. Ramdas was a devotee of Hanuman and Rama. He was born as Narayan Suryaji Thosar on Ramanavami day on the banks of river Godavari. At 11, he attained enlightenment from none other than Lord Rama and started new sector on the banks of the river Krishna. At 12, he is said to have fled from his wedding ceremony, hearing the word “Savadhan” (beware).

He had a great compassion for the common people. From his childhood he was thinking about how to relieve the masses. Marriage and family were not his priorities, preferring the life of a monk. He journeyed for 12 years throughout India, observing the people and wrote many works.

Ramdas’s ways were very peculiar. He appeared to the outside world as a mad man. He had a small bow. He used to have, by his side, a large number of stones with which he pelted every object he saw. To men really interested in his teachings, he gave the Mantra Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram.

He was the guru of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and was the first one to travel to Tanjore(in TamilNadu) among several other cities in India and establish a math. he also built several temples for Lord Hanuman. He abhorred distinctions based on caste and creed, preaching that all human beings were equal. He emphasised many good qualities in youth, like hardwork and physical strength as well as looking after their family’s needs. He had many female disciples and gave them the positions of authority.

Shree Samarth produced volumes of output. These include a condensed version of the Dasbodha, Karunashtakas, Sunderkand and the Yuddhakand of the epic Ramayana, many Abhangas and Ovis, Poorvarambh, Antarbhav, Atmaram, Chaturthman, Panchman, Manpanchak, Janaswabhawgosavi, Panchsamasi, Saptsamasi, Sagundhyan, Nirgundhyan, Junatpurush, Shadripunirupan, Panchikaranyog, Manache Shlok, Shreemat Dasbodha and many unpublished works.

The last instructions of Ramdas to his disciples were: “Do not think much of your bodily wants. Have Satsang with devotees. Keep the image of Lord Rama in your heart. Repeat the name of Lord Rama always. Annihilate lust, greed, anger, hatred and egoism. See Lord Rama in all creatures. Love all. Feel His presence everywhere. Live for Him alone. Serve Him in all beings. Make total and unreserved surrender unto Him. You will always live in Him alone. You will attain immortality and eternal bliss.”

references : wikipedia,other

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

Navaratri Bhajan Contest

“Navaratri Bhajan Contest”

Kids’s Performances

Dear Budding Musicians,

We are extremely proud and excited to be sharing the performances of children from our Navaratri Bhajan Contest.

We had started off the contest during the Navaratri festival by inviting children below 12 years of age to sing any bhajan from our collection and requesting them to send a video recording to us. In a couple of weeks’ time, we had a tremendous response from many fellow teachers/parents showing a keen interest in sending us their child’s performance. We are very happy to see the enthusiasm in the young kids to sing these bhajans and hope we can share many more such bhajans in the times to come.

A special thank you note to Dr. Vaidhya Mookiah for helping compile and edit the video of these performances and presenting it in a very beautiful way.

Below are the certificates and badges given away to the children and we commend their efforts to learn and sing the bhajans. Well done kids and keep it up !!

navaratri

Happy singing and stay blessed!

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

 

Guru Poornima Pooja at Tiruvaiyaru

Dear Budding Musicians,

In this post, we talk about Guru poornima pooja that is conducted at Saint Thyagarajar’s birthplace. Legend has it Bangalore Smt. Nagarathnammal was a rich lady who adopted a son. The son, when he grew up, wished to amass his mother’s wealth. But the Saint composer appeared in the dream of Bangalore Smt. Nagarathnammal , forewarned her of her son’s ill intents and made her donate her wealth to build a temple in his honour at Tiruvaiyaru. The beautiful temple for Sri Thyagabrahmam in the banks of river KAvaerI is shown below.

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Every year in August, Guru Poornima is being celebrated in Tiruvaiyaru as a tribute to Saint Thyagaraja Swamigal. My Guru Smt. Haripriya Ramesh has been actively taking part in this celebration for the last couple of years with a battalion of young children. Recently, she has also been instrumental in forming a syllabus for the festival (please check group renditions below).

This year, the two day festival was held on 19th and 20th of August at the Thyagarajar Sannidhi. The poojai is described by my Guru as a samarpanam(dedication) of what we know to Thyagaraja by budding musicians. This festival does not feature any professional musicians.

On the evening of the 19th, a music quiz program was conducted for all the children. Everyone together rendered AnandAmruthakarshini in rAgam amruthavarshinI at the Pushya mandapam on the banks of river KAvaerI and the rain Gods blessed the children by raining down at 1 AM in the night. After the singing, an Arti was taken for mother KAvaerI.

A total of eight groups of teachers with their kids participated this year. This year’s program agenda (conducted on the 20th) is as given below:

Vishnu Sahasranamam was chanted by young and old as a group. Following this were group renditions by teachers and students.

Group Renditions

  1. Invocation -srI Ganapathi nI – Gowlai
  2. A special invocation krithi to Lord Sri RAmA – maelukovayyaA mammelukO
  3. Sarali, Jantai, Alankarams – few eachIMG_5576
  4. Geethams – srI GananAtha and re re srI rAmA
  5. Swarajathi – rA rA venugOpAlA
  6. Varnam – navarAgamAlikai
  7. Invocation to Guru – Gurulaekha yetuvanti
  8. Pancharatnam – dudukugala
  9. Special honour to Sri RAmA – upachAramu
  10. Utsava sampradaya krithis – a few selected ones.
  11. Kshetra krithis –
    1. TiruvaiyAru- illalO pranathArthi
    2. Tirupathi – tera tEyaga
    3. Sree Rangam – jUtha murArae

Following the group renditions, the eight groups presented 2 rounds of solo performances each totalling 16 songs. Some highlights among the Solo performances were:

  1. gandhamu puyyarugA – which was sung in tisra and chaturashra nadais accompanied by mridangam and ghatam.
  2. DIna janAvana srI rAmA  – which was rendered in a bhajan format.
  3. rAma kOdhanda rAmA – a timeless gem by ThyAgarAjar.
  4. girirAja suthA – rendered on the saxophone by a child.

Other accompaniments included Flute, Violin and Saxophone. An opportunity was provided to all the instrumentalists to show their mettle during the program.

After the day-2 singing was completed, Sri. Raju mama IMG_5581who is a descendant of the Saint, narrated his story for the benefit of the children present at the festival. A you
ng child called Chi. Raghavan performed abhishekam to Thyagabrahmam during the recital of Pancharatna krithi. Finally, the festival concluded with the felicitation of students and teachers who participated in this event.

Here is a photo of my Guru Smt. Haripriya being felicitated. A group rendition of jO jO rAmA was done as a lullaby to the Lord and sItA kalyAna vaibhogame was sung as mangalam.

Apart from the regular Thyagaraja krithis, my Guru also gets special credits for having simplified the following krithis for the easy rendition of children.

  1. vara lIla gAna lOla – set to sankarAbharanam in a way similar to nottu swarams.
  2. pUla pAnbu – set to chakravAkam as against the original Ahiri for kids.

While talking about these improvisations to Sri. Raju mama, he was highly appreciative of her efforts and mentioned that the great Guru Thyagarajar would be immensely pleased with the efforts to simplify some of his complex creations for children to enjoy.

As a footnote, anyone who is interested to help the temple trust is able to do so by donating in person. There is no much advertisement or publicity for all the good promotional work that this trust is performing neither do they request for specific amounts of money as donation. So when you are there the next time, do meet Sri. Raju mama and help support their musical tradition for kids to cherish.

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

 

The great dAsAs of Karnatic Music

Dear Budding Musicians,

In this article we will be talking about the great dAsAs or haridAsAs of bhakti movement and their contributions towards Karnatic music.

The haridAsa movement as it is known, spanned over six centuries during the early rule of Vijayanagara empire with the main objective of propagating Dvaita philosophy of MadhvAchAryA using dAsa sAhitya or dAsa philosophy. Some of the notable dAsAs from the time are NaraharithIrtha, JayathIrtha, SripAdarAya, VyAsathIrtha, PurandaradAsa, KanakadAsa, VijayadAsa, JagannAthadAsa, GOpAladAsa and VAdirAjathIrtha.

Dasas

SripAdarAya was the guru of VyAsathIrtha who in turn tutored PurandaradAsa and KanakadAsa. JayathIrtha and VyAsathIrtha were contemporaries who progressed the haridAsa tradition started by NaraharithIrtha and SripAdarAya.

Contributions Overview

They hail mostly from present day Karnataka and their devotional compositions called DevarnAmAs are in simple Kannada. DevarnAmA literally means the names of Lord (Hari’s) and were written with the purpose of initiating the common man into the Hari bhakti. It is also called as Padagalu or KeerthanaE. Other categories include Krithi, UgahabhOga(elaborates rAgA characteristics in free style), SUlAdi(literally meaning an easy route to invoke the blessings),VruttanAmA, DandakA(musical text), Nindastuti, Kolu hAdu, Jogula/LAli hAdu(lullaby), MundigaE(puzzles), KAvya(poetic compositions), Tripadi(three line poetry), Pattadi, Sangathya and RagalaE (lyrical verses in blank verse).

Apart from the contributions to karnatik music’s sahithyam base, the haridAsAs are highly commended for having formed basic classifications of Ragams on a 32-raga(Battisa) scale. They also devised a very simple, comprehensive, logical and organic system, and systematised and reorganised the conceptual and empirical paraphernalia of the tala. They created deshyAdi and madhyAdi talas. Their sulAdhis based on sulAdhi talas in their modern form are dhruva, mathya, rupaka, jhampa, triputa, atta and eka talas. The modern Krithi is derived from DevarnAmAs and VruttanAmAs that they originally composed.

PurandaradAsar

The first and foremost of these dAsAs is PurandaradAsa whom we all know as sangItha pitAmaha or the great grandfather of Karnatic music. His contributions in shaping not only Karnatic Music learning but also the bhakti movement in general are highly regarded and would continue for generations to come. There is no much evidence of the saint’s life. However, 150 years later, Vijayadasar composed a lot of songs on his mAnasIka guru PurandaradAsar’s story. PurandaradAsar (SrinivAsa NAyakA by birth), was a rich diamond merchant who was miserly by nature. His wife SaraswatibAi was a simple, God-fearing woman. Once, it is said that the Lord Vishnu disguised himself and went to PurandaradAsar’s house asking for help to conduct his son’s upanayana and SaraswatibAi gave away her diamond nose stud(nathni). It so happens that the poor man sells the stud to SrinivAsa who gets a doubt that the stud might belong to his wife. He rushes home to check with his wife who fears her husband’s wrath and confesses to SrinivAsa that she gave away her stud without his permission. However, with the Lord’s grace, she finds the same stud near the Tulasi plant at home and when SrinivAsa looks at the stud, he sees an apparition of MahAvishnu, remembers his eternal bonding with the Lord and renounces the life of a householder. He feels ashamed of his greed and laments his indulgence.

PurandaradAsar was instrumental for systematising the learning of Karnatic Music learning and his introduction of MAyAmAlavagowlai rAgam as the first rAgam for beginners on a pedagogic model having incremental difficulty lessons such as swarAvali/sarali varisAs, janta varisAs, alankArAs, geEtham(lakshya and lakshana), padams and krithis is revolutionary. His compositions contain the ankitha or mudra(pen name) – ‘Purandara Vitthala‘ and he is considered the foremost HaridAsa. In his lakshana geethams , a raga’s aspects such as the key swara patterns, the right tempo, gamakas and the time of the day the raga can be sung etc. are explained in the lyric. In the lakshya geethams, the aim or lakshya is to simply praise the Lord. His main teaching through musical compositions are that one should constantly remember(hari smarana) and sing/chant the name of Hari (sankirtanam or namajapam) with bhakti.

KanakadAsar

The other majorly noted haridAsa of the bhakti movement is KanakadAsar. He was a disciple of VyAsathirtha and renounced his life as a warrior to travel and gain worldly wisdom. He was highly educated and stunned his gurus and  greats of the time with his extremely simple yet profound thoughts. His words nanu hodare hodenu literally meant that “if anyone could go to heaven, it would be me” but philosophically meant that no matter how learned a person is, if he doesn’t lose his ego, he can’t attain salvation. His writing started showing his innovativeness in using day-to-day activities of common man. For e.g. RAmadhanya Charithe is a poetic expression of conflicts between rich and poor classes where he uses RAmadhanya rAgi or millet (staple food of poor and high in nutrients) and rice (main food of rich but not as rich in nutrients) to synonymously represent poor and rich where the rAgi emerges victorious. Besides many devotional songs including “MundigaE” (puzzles/allegories) he wrote the Mohanatarangini, HaribhakthasAra and Nala Charite.His ankitha is ‘Kagineleyadhi Keshava‘.

VijayadAsar

VijayadAsa was born in a poor brahmin family. His wedding was troubled by poverty, so he went to Varanasi to become a saint. One night, he had a dream in which the 16th century Karnatic composer PurandaradAsar initiated him into the HaridAsa tradition and gave him the ankitha ‘Vijaya Vitthala’. From that day he was called VijayadAsa and dedicated his life to spreading Hari bhakti through music. He has written about 25,000 padya sulAdi i.e. ugahabhOgas, which have made him immortal with the title dAsa shreshtA. In Kannada sahitya his literary works are regarded as second only to those of Sri PurandaradAsa.

GOpAladAsar

Born as Bhaganna, GOpAladAsar once visited VijayadAsar and wanted to be initiated into the dAsa order. VijayadAsar happily initiated him and gave him the ankitha – ‘Gopala Vitthala‘. From that day onwards Bhaganna became GOpAladAsar. Legend has it that Lord Panduranga himself appeared before the saint and complained of him not visiting Pandharpur. Following this, GOpAladAsar visited Pandharpur and Udupi. He also gave 40 years of his life to his disciple JagannAthadAsar for him to complete the harikathAmrithasAra, such was his greatness!

JagannAthadAsar

Born as SrinivAsAchArya, JagannAthadAsa was once invited by VijayadAsa to attend a religious ceremony. SrinivAsAchArya excused himself from attending the ceremony on the pretext of suffering from severe stomach ache. Unfortunately, SrinivAsAchArya actually fell ill and developed severe stomach pains. Unable to find relief, SrinivAsAchArya sought the help of VijayadAsa who was cured by GopaladAsa(VijayadAsa’s prime disciple). Repentant for his attitude, SrinivAsAchArya became a disciple of GopAladAsa and took to the HaridAsa fold. His poems are written with the ankitha ‘Jagannatha Vitthala’. His magnum opus – harikathAmrithasArA is a treatise on dVaitha philosophy.

In essence, these great HaridAsAs not only propagated bhakti, but also contributed tremendously to the school of Karnatic music with their compositions. We hope it would benefit the children to learn the history and evolution of Karnatic music so they can fully appreciate the art form. Happy reading and happy learning!

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

sources: wiki , varied

Sydney Music Festival – 2016

Dear Budding Musicians,

Hope everyone is having good fun learning our bhajans and practising them at home 🙂 We recently had our grand music festival in Sydney which I wish to talk about in detail in this post, focussing on the artists and their choice of compositions.

The three day music festival in Sydney organised by Swaralaya is a treat to all Karnatic Music lovers. Featuring some of the tier-1 musical talent, it’s the best music show in town. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that it’s Sydney’s own mini version of the December season in Chennai. And not just music, the food and the various bright silk sarees too depict the pomp and grandeur that Chennais music festival brings with it. This year was quite special, in both commemorating the centenary year of MS Amma and Swaralaya organization’s 10th year completion.

So without much ado, let me try to give you an overview of the concert highlights of this year. 

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Day-1 programs

The day started off with a replacement concert for Bombay Jayasree who dropped out last minute. Chitravina Ganesh did a neat job. Impressive especially was his Shri raga varnam. After this was OS Arun who was a total surprise package to the audience. While people generally had a feeling it would be Bhajan Sandhya style , he not only stuck to the traditional concert format but also stunned the audience with completely different dimensions of ragams. Noteworthy and still lingering in my mind is his aalapanai in Rasikapriya, singing the popular Koteeswara Iyer composition Arul seyya venum ayya. Every word of the Krithi was full of bhAvam. J.Vaidhyanathan sir’s mridangam support needs no introduction nor words of praise, as captivating as ever. Sydney’s own Kishan Jeyendran did a commendable job on the Tabla.Not only was Arunji’s uccharippu(pronunciation of words) full of Bhakti but also he was a total performer in true sense of the word! Such a pleasure to have watched him sing. He concluded his singing with a popular Vittal Bhajan called Theertha Vittala where he left the audience high by having them sing along with him the divine name of the Lord. Ah, splendid! 

Following O.S. Arun was Sikkil Gurucharan. After the energy that Arun left us with, GCs soft and smooth voice took time to sink into our hearts. The aalapanai in Naganandhini set the tone for the concert. An intricate Pallavi in Varali with Ragamalikai including different nadais was neatly done as well. He finished off his concert with a handful of Mahakavis compositions which were nothing but a sheer bunch of delight!

The day’s grand finale, and truly grand sheerly because of the authencity that Sangeetha Kalanidhi O.S. Thyagarajan sir brings to the table. A seventh generation musician from Saint Thyagaraja’s family, OST sir treated everyone to some of the choicest krithis of the saint composer. Gems like Theliyaleru(Dhenuka), Marubalga(Sri Ranjani), Ihaka velasina(Balahamsa), Vina Radhana Manavi(Devagandhari) and Rama Deivama(Surutti) were on display. Following these, the main piece of the night, an extremely elaborate and wholesome Thodi was rendered. And the time wasn’t enough we felt, as he could have kept us mesmerised with his extempore of swarams which the violin maestro Embar Kannan had to keep pace with. Overall, a true delight and Muruganin maru peyar(Behag) was like a beautiful cherry topping for the concert. 

Day-2 programs

The second day began with a mega dance musical Yadhava Madhava which illustrated Lord Shri Krishna’s tale right from his birth to adulthood and all the leelas he did in between. The children and ladies who performed were  just jaw-droppingly stunning !! After lunch, Carnatica brothers sang a selection of not so common krithis from a variety of composers ranging from Mysore Maharaja(Sri Jaladharam Ashrayamyaham) to Ramanathan Sivan’s ekkAlitthulum maravene in Nattai Kurinji. They finished off with a beautiful thillana tharAna in Valaji ragam. 

Post tea break, the hall was resonant with two lovely instruments – the violin and the veena by the husband and wife duo – Ganesh and Jayanthi. Strings attached as they called it, was an absolute pleasure to the audience. The low, husky notes of the veena totally complemented the high notes and shrill tones of the violin. A lot of lightning speed patterns(Raga Pravahams) in Nattai which were an absolute afternoon treat and the calming Kanada that followed were both unforgettable. Clearly this was music anyone would enjoy after a stressed day at work on an infinite loop 🙂

The evening’s much awaited and exciting event was TM Krishna’s concert. A full house of audience welcomed TMK, holding their breaths for what would follow. Starting with Kamboji Tiruvadi Charanam in what I can best describe as an elephant’s gait, made everyone feel relaxed. The talented Kanjira player Sri Sundar Kumar got a chance to play the thani after TMK sang neraval up to the higher Pa which was beautifully built up.

Then came a Thanam in Gaulai(surprise #1) followed by Dudugu Gala in which he let Muruga Boopathy to play a thani aavarthanam. Shifting gears from there, the popular and cherished Manavinala kinchara in Nalinakanthi was rendered most beautifully. Could feel how delighted everyone in the hall was and see them grinning broadly from side to side. Following this, there was another thanam in Bhairavi where the Ragam singing was really gold standard. Though it was two thanams too much, Shyama Shastri’s sari yevaramma was enjoyable to say the least. After a solid Bhairavi, came Baro Krishnayya and a couple of audience requests including Pankaja lochana, Vagaladi bodhana, Kahaan ke patheek and Vaishnava Janatho. Overall a very satisfying end to Day-2’s proceeds.

Day-3 programs

The day started with Charulatha Mani’s Isai Payanam as a tribute to MS Amma. She is known for her skilful demos of ragas and krithis with their meanings so it was a bit of demoing plus singing all the while. Post lunch was the amazing Saketharaman who is really climbing up the ladder of a Karnatic musician’s worthiness and repute. His singing is becoming better with age like fine wine and Deva Deva Kalayamithe really set tone to the whole concert. Following right after was Brovamma in Neelambari – such a soothing rendition , cajoling Goddess Kamakshi. Sikkal Meviya, done as a tribute to MS Amma on her centenary year was feet tapping, filled with bhAvam and a Kambhoji treat to all music lovers. The aalapanai was neat and touched all the notes up to the higher octave Pa with clarity ; neraval too was brisk and precise. After this was a well-presented RTP in Sindhu Bhairavi with Khamas and Revathi ragams set to Thisra Jathi Ata Talam and finishing with a ragamalikai Sarangan Marugane.

As soon as Saketharaman’s concert finished, the audience were abuzz for coffee break and the much-awaited Ra-Ga’s performance on stage. The excitement was visible, with young and old and various ethnic groups getting ready to listen to their favourites.  The concert started off beautifully with Maathe Malayadhwaja(dharu varnam in Khamas). A brisk viruttham Agara muthala etthendru in Nattai followed to set pace to the concert. Following this was the audience’s favourite Reethigowlai and the sisters’ favourite Ragarathnam Alikache which truly sounded like a 1000 ‘swaralaya’ garlands to the Lord. Annapoorne in Sama was a neat rendition. The main piece of the evening was in Simhendramadhyamam by Mysore Vasudevacharyar, ninne nammithinayya. The raga aalapanai included graha bedhams to Saveri with ri as pa and was highly detailed. True to their word, was a good piece for all students to learn from. The RTP started with ragam singing in Sahana. A galore of ragams including gowlai, saramathi, hamsanadham, brindavani-jog(both in graha bedham presentation), poorvikalyani were sung. A dwi-nadai pallavi in Khanda jathi triputa talam was presented. First half thisram and second half in chaturashra nadais. The glides across various ragams in changing nadais was lovely to follow as a rasika. They breezed through the whole pallavi effortlessly and finished the concert off with Eppadi Padinaro(Abheri) and Chala Vithoba (Abhang in Maruva Behag), which were both delightful.

The evening’s last program was a Jugalbandhi in Raga Charukesi by Mysore Nagaraj and Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. The raga elaborations of both parties were both characteristic of their own styles(one Hindustani and one Karnatic). Tabla by Himanshu Mahant was deft and JV on mridangam , needless to say was taking the audience along with him. Overall a heavenly experience for the listeners.

Here we are, all eagerly awaiting the next year’s concert season. Until then, enjoy listening to lots of music 🙂

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

AchArya dEvO bhava

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

 

Bhajana Sampradayam : Music and Devotion

Dear Budding Musicians,

In this post we wish to discuss and attempt to learn about Bhajana Sampradayam and it’s origin. The word Bhajana in sanskrit literally means a religious song of praise. Sampradayam is sanskrit for tradition. Bhajana sampradayam constitutes singing a set collection of Kirtanams and Namavalis. Kirtan or Kirtanam or Sankirtanam on one hand stands for chanting the Lord’s name using mantras or hymns and often has a story associated with it. Kirtanam has been an age old practice of devotion in Hinduism, Sant traditions, even Sikhism. Namavali on the other hand is a string of Lord’s names(nAma – name; Avali- line/string). So combined together, Bhajana sampradayam is the singing of a set collection of Kirtanas and Namavalis in Lord’s name.

Bhajan or Bhajana singing is found in both North and South India. Bhajana was started as part of Bhakti movement in India in the Moghul era and assumed to have originated in Southern India.


Meerabai_paintingThe notable Bhajana propagators from the North are Mirabai, Kabir, Surdas and Tulasidas and their works are in dialects of Hindi. Sant Surdas was a blind saint whose famous bhajan is Charan Kamal bandho hari rai which means I pray to the Lotus feet of you Lord Hari. He composed a hundred thousand songs on the Lord in his magnum opus Sur Sagar(ocean of melody). Saint Tulasidas is remembered for his famous Ramacharitamanasa which is considered as one of the greatest works in Hindi literature.

Namdev_maharajIn the Western ghats, Maharashtra’s Varkari(pilgrim) group has had great Bhajana gurus like Saint Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram. Saint Namdev and Tukaram started composing Abhanga poetry – a Marathi genre of Bhajana which is simple and metrical and praises Lord Vittala Panduranga. Of Karnataka’s Haridasa groups, noteworthy gurus are Vyasaratirtha, Jayatirtha and Saint Purandaradasar who followed the Madhwa philosophy and propagated Hari’s name through their kirtanas. Saint Purandaradasar is a household name in Karnatic music and we will talk about him in detail in a later article. Bhadrachala Bhakta Ramadasa of Andhra pradesh who came much before Saint Tyagaraja composed a lot of Bhakti compositions known as Ramadasu Keertanalu.

TrinityofSouthBhajans

In the South, Marudhanallur Sadguru Sri Venkataramana Swamigal has been instrumental in establishing the modern Bhajana format. The trinity of Dakshina(southern) Bhajana sampradaya are Bodhendra Swamigal, Sridhara Ayyaval and Marudhanallur Sadguru Swamigal. 

The other major Gurus in the Bhakti movement and whose compositions we still use in modern day Bhajana are Jayadeva(author of Gita Govinda), Sadashiva Brahmendra(sanskrit compositions) and Narayana Teertha(Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini). Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda comprises ashtapadis which are compositions with eight lines each and literally mean “eight steps”.  Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini by Narayana Teerthar is a sanskrit opera on the life of Lord Krishna which comprises of “Tarangas” – wave-like songs.The songs are popularly called “Tarangas” means waves. The lyrics are simple yet beautiful and effective. The Astapadis of Jayadeva are said to be the inspiration.

Hope this article was helpful in getting an overview of the origin and forms of Bhajana across India. Will discuss further about Bhajana sampradayam in future blogs, so please do have a tab on our website/facebook page.

Have a great weekend!

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

(Pictures above courtesy : en.wikipedia.org)

 

Thyagarajar’s Divyanama krithis

Dear Budding Musicians,

We hope everyone had a very enjoyable Rama Navami with paanagam and neer more 🙂 In the world of Karnatic Music, it’s apt to remember Saint Sri Thyagaraja Swamigal on this occasion since his krithis speak for his love and devotion towards Lord Rama.

saint-thyagaraja-samadhi_31

Sri Thyagaraja swamigal’s ishta deivam (favourite God) being Sri Rama, the saint always chanted Rama namam. It is said that he undertook a vow to complete 1,00,000 crore chants of Rama namam at a very young age and pleased with his devotion, Lord Rama and Lakshmana gave him darshanam as two young brilliant boys.

About Rama Namam, it’s said that it is the only Mantra that is called ‘Taraka Mantra’. The word ‘taraka’ means the one that helps us cross. It helps us cross the cycles of birth and death.

Sri Thyagarajar’s divyanama krithis are a real treat to all music lovers. Some of the popular ones known to all are –

Ada mOdi galadhe (chArukaesi), bantu rEthi kolu (hamsanAdham), brOva bhAramA (bahudAri), koluvai yunnadae kOdhandapAni (devagAndhAram), marugaelarA (jayanthashrI), nagumOmu ganalaeni (Abhaeri) , sAmaja vara gamanA (hindOlam), sItamma mAyammA (vasanthA), yOchanA kamala lOchanA (durbAr).

This week we have a divyanama krithi rAmA kOdhanda rAma in Bhairavi rAgam. In this krithi, the Saint beautifully brings out the different names of Lord Rama such as kOdhanda rAma, kalyAna rAma, pattAbhi rAma. The krithi reinforces the fact that Nama Smarana, which is a form of bhakti, will certainly please the Lord and beget his grace for both the singer and the listener.We really hope that kids love learning this krithi and will share more such divyanama krithis in future.

Please continue to listen in and stay tuned for more!

Have a musical weekend ahead !!

Sairam,

Kalpakakamakshi

Happy Tamil New Year and a Happy Vishu to all of you !

Dear Budding Musicians,

Happy Tamil New Year and a Happy Vishu to all of you 🙂 This is a picture of Vishu Kani taken at our place this morning. Here’s to a new musical start for the year !!!

VIshu

Karnatik for kids has launched and now anyone can sing-along our simple bhajans and commence their journey into the world of Karnatic music. Our launch has featured a simple Sai bhajan which we hope kids would love listening to and eager to hear from all of you as to how you went !

We are already receiving a tremendous response on our Facebook page and are very happy and thankful to Sravani Boddapalli for sending us hear 2.5 year old daughter’s sing-along recording of our Sai bhajan 🙂 Do have a listen here:


This week features two special songs on the account of Tamil New Year and Vishu.

First is a Tamizh song which has the names of all the twelve Tamizh months in their order and is an easy tool to memorize the month-names in a musical way 🙂 The trick to learning this song is that it’s grouped into 3 stanzas of 4 lines each and each stanza has been set to the same tune for easy learning.

Second is a Krishna bhajan in malayalam which goes as kannanae kAnAttha kann endhinA.. The song means, these eyes, these ears, this heart and these feet are of no use if they don’t see, hear, remember the Lord’s name and have never been to Guruvayur. We hope everyone will love listening to this very devotional bhajan.

There’s more coming in following weeks, so please stay tuned in !

Have a musical weekend ahead !!

Sairam,

KalpakaKamakshi

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