At Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, S. India
To the surprise of every one, Paramacharya signaled to them, asking if they can bring Ariyakkudi over to meet Him. They agreed and left.
That afternoon by three o’clock, Ariyakkudi was at the camp. He was so excited and tense, as Paramacharya had asked to meet him in the midst of his ‘kAshta mounam’ (vow of rigorous silence) Is not Paramacharya known for His simplicity? So His accommodation at the camp was very simple. His room was on the garden side of a small house. Devotees had to have His darshan through a small window, after passing through dirt and bushes. May be that was His way of admonishing those of us who have grown used to the luxuries of life.
On being informed that Ariyakkudi had arrived, Paramacharya signaled to bring him to the rear window. He came, and paid obeisance by falling full stretch at His feet.
That was it. To every one’s joy, Paramacharya opened His mouth and started talking in a torrent.
“Heard of your receiving the Rashtrapathi award. You would have walked on a red carpet, and been honored in a gathering of eminent persons. But me, I have made you walk on stones and bush and made you sit in a dinghy room.
“Why I called you is, I long have had a desire to listen to ‘ShrI SubrahmanyAya namasthE’ rendered perfectly. On hearing you are around, the desire has re-surfaced. Perfect rendition means both the music and the lyrics (sangItham and sAhityam). Many people disfigure the words of Sanskrit and Telugu kirtanas to the extent that we wish they never sang.
“The music part (swarAs), the rhythm part and the ‘sAhitya chandas’ – what is called ‘chandam’ in Tamil – would be given for most songs.
The proper way to split and combine words would also be given. The musician has to take care to synchronize the music, rhythm and chandas and split and combine the wordscorrectly so as not to spoil the meaning. The compositions of good composers definitely allow this (padham pirichu pAdaradhu) but many musicians simply concentrate on the music and rhythm, and ignore the meaning, sometimes leading to ridiculous meanings! “Even in this song ‘ShrI SubrahmanyAya namasthE’, we have a line ‘guruguhAyAgnAna dwAnta savithrE’. This must be split as ‘guruguhAya agnAna dwAnta savithrE’ i.e. ‘the one who is the sun for the darkness of ignorance’. Some sing it as ‘guruguhAyA…….
gnana dwAnta savitrE’, ‘ one who is the sun for the darkness of knowledge’! “I do not know if you sing the kriti ‘SankarAchAryam’ (Sri Subbarama Sastri’s Sankarabharanam kriti), but Veena Dhanamma’s family, Semmangudi Seenu, MS sing this. There is a line ‘paramAdvaita sthApana leelam’ – means ‘one who so easily, like a game, founded the great Advaita philosophy’ – it is to be sung with stress on the ‘A’ of ‘Advaita’ (Paramacharya sings this line) to give the intended meaning. If we really cared, we can, even without proper training, sing with proper meaning. Those I mentioned above also sing properly.
But those who do not care, stretch the ‘paramAAAA’ and then sing ‘dwaita sthApana leelam’, converting the Advaita Acharya to Dwaita Acharya! (laughs heartily for a long time) “No doubt, in music, there is no Dvaita – Advaita difference. Only music is important. And music makes the mind of the singer into unison with the song – the protagonist of the song. That is why, ‘ShrI SubrahmanyAya namasthE’ is attached to you – a Vaishnavite – or you are attached to it! I have heard you sing that song. I do not have to say anything about your musical ability; and the sahitya part too you do correctly. Which is why I have called you here.
“In my dharbar there is only stones and bushes. There is no accompaniment, not even sruti. But please do sing that kriti for me, in spite of all these.” When Paramacharya stopped his torrent, Ariyakkudi was in tears. He prostrated once again, and said “there is no other prestige for me than to be asked by ‘periyavA’ to sing, and singing for periyavA. I have no words to express the magnanimity of PeriyavA, considering me as somebody and giving me this chance. PeriyavA’s grace has to fill in for the sruti and accompaniment and enable me to sing to the level I am expected to”, and readied himself to begin the song.
Paramacharya asked “the raga of this kriti is said to be Kambodhi, but the name given in books is Kambhoji, right?” When Ariyakkudi said yes, Paramacharya continued, “Many of us know Kambhojam is Cambodia (in S E Asia), and that Bharat culture had taken deep roots there. If we inferred that Kambhoji is a raga ‘imported’ from that place, researchers like Sambamurthy (the late Proof P Sambamurthy) disagree. Cambodians might have imported many things from us, but not we, far advanced in civilization, from them; definitely not in music, where we were much advanced whereas they had mostly folk music. Then why the name ‘Kambhoji’? “I have a thought here – there is another place called ‘Kambhojam along India’s northern border. Kalidasa, no ordinary poet and quite knowledgeable too, tells Yasha to go this way and that in his ‘mEgha SandEsam’ – good enough to plot a map! In his Raghuvamsam, describing Raghu’s invasions and victories, he has mentioned one ‘Kambhojam’, beyond the Indus and along the Himalayas. From this, we deduce that, within the extended India (akand Bharat), there was one Kambhojam near the Hindukush mountains. May be our Kambodhi raga was from this place? “Many ragas are named after places, right? Sourashtram, Navarasa kannada, even Kannada, Sindhu Bhairavi, Yamuna Kalyani, like this Kambodhi might have come from Kambhojam region.
“Researchers say ragas like Mohanam and Kambhji have been around in most civilizations from time immemorial. Later, may be the raga was given the name of the place that ‘polished’ it well.
“Kedaram is a place in the Himalayas – you know Kedarnath. Gowla – Gowda region – Bengal. We have ragas in both names, and even Kedaragowla. But all three ragas have been in South Indian music – how? May be the names came from musicans who ‘specialized’ in these ragas and came from those regions? People in general, musicians in particular, are referred to with their native places. For instance Ariyakkudi means you! From this, can we say that some these rags – Kedaram, Gowla, Kannada, Kambhoji etc. – were popularized by musicians from these regions? “Are you interested in research into ancient music?” Ariyakkudi replied “Not much”.
“But you have set Tiruppavai to tune! But unlike for Devaram songs, tunes have not been specified for Tiruppavai songs, and those whose who recited, did not use a tune. Since only Brahmins have been reciting Divyaprabhandham songs, they have recited only with a kind of up-down delivery (Ethal-Irakkal prAsam). You set the tune for Tiruppavai according to your manodharma (imagination)?” “To the best of my little ability” “But it has become the standard and accepted and sung by other vidwans as well! It seems our ancient ragas have been preserved in their original form (roopam) only in the Devaram songs. Just as the Vedas have been preserved to a note by the Vaidikas through generations, the Odhuvamurthis have preserved Devaram songs – not just the lyrics, but the tunes too. What was a service to devotion, has also been a service to music! The ragas Sankarabharanam, Neelambari, Bhairavi etc. have all been identified as different ‘pann’s. This list includes Sowrashtra, Kedaragowla, Kambodhi also. Kambodhi used to be called ‘ThakkEsi’ or something like that. Kambodhi is not a mela raga?” “No. Harikambhoji is the mela raga; Kambhoji is its janya raga” “But Kambodhi is more famous! Just like the son being more famous than the father. Some other janya ragas too are like this?” “Yes, Bhairavi is a janya raga, derived from Natabhairavi” “OK, you sing. I have been wasting time in useless chat preventing you from doing what you came for!” Ariyakkudi rendered the song “ShrI subrahmanyAya namasthE” – a rare musical feast. Even without sruti or accompaniments, it still was wholesome. Paramacharya listened to the song with full concentration, eyes closed. Then, “Only because you sang alone (no sruti/accompanists) the song came out with all its beauty. And the words were crystal clear. I say ‘thrupthOsmi’ (Totally satisfied). Please sing once more – you know why? I will give you the meaning line by line, you stop after every line. Not that you do not know; but let me have the pleasure of dissolving my mind in Sri Dikshitar’s lyrical beauty for some more time! More over, others here can also learn the meaning and beauty behind the creations of geniuses.” Ariyakkudi sang one more, this time line-by-line. Presented below is Paramacharya ‘s commentary, plus appropriate pieces from some of his other lectures.
‘shrI subrahmaNyAya namastE namastE’ Obeisance to Lord Subrahmanya – every one knows. Starts auspiciously with ShrI and has a double namasthE. If you say something more than once, you have said it infinite number of times (not just 100, as Rajnikant thinks! – ananth). We have seen ‘pOttri pOttri’ and ‘Jaya Jaya Sankara’, and BrahmasUtram’s every phrase ends with twice- repeated words.
‘namasthE namasthE’. ‘thE’ – to you; ‘nama:’ – obeisance. ‘nama:thE’ becomes ‘namasthE’. The whole kriti goes in the fourth person(?) (nAlam vEtrumai). Obeisances to you, SubrahmanyA, infinite number of obeisances.
Who is Subrahmanya? True, learned Brahmanya. We generally take ‘brahmA’ to mean the true, absolute form of the Lord (paramAtma svarUpam), but there is another meaning – Vedas. That is why, Upanayanam, the ceremony to begin Veda lessons to a child, is called ‘BrahmOpadEsam’; by learning Vedas, the child becomes ‘BrahmachAri’. Likewise ‘Brahmayagnam’. Brahmins are a set that recite the Vedas. Subrahmanya is the symbol of the Divine, the end point, the God of Vedas, and the special God of the Brahmins.
What is the special feature of Veda recitals? Worship of agni, fire.
And Subrahmanya is the God who is in ‘agni swarUp’. He was created by the six sparks of fire (nEtragni) from the (third) eye of Shiva.
Hence He is the Deva of Vedas, and the God of Brahmins, whose sole duty is to recite and teach Vedas.
Adisankara in his ‘Subrahmanya Bhujangam’ says ‘mahIdEva dEvam, mahAvEda bhAvam, mahAdEvabAlam’. ‘mahIdEva’ are Brahmins; ‘mahIdEva dEvam’ is God of Brahmins.
In Thirumurugattruppadai, one of the oldest Tamil scriptures, this point is underlined. Nakkeerar, the author, stating that each of the six faces of Shanmukha grants devotees’ wishes in one different way, says ‘oru mugam manthra vidhiyin marapuli vazhA anthanar vELviyOrkkummE’ And when describing Thiruveragam (Swamimalai), he says learned and pious Brahmins perform rituals with fire towards Subrahmanya.
Brahmins who participate in ‘yagna karmA’ are called ‘rithvik’. Of the sixteen types of rithviks, one is named ‘Subrahmanya’.
From all these, it is evident that Subrahmanya is the God of Vedas.
Muthuswami Dikshitar has much connection with Subrahmanya. He has been to, and sung in praise of, many kshetras and Gods, just as Adisankara has. But in his devotion (upAsanA), he has been known to be a ‘dEvi upAsakA’ – he even breathed his last singing ‘mIna lOchani pAcha espressoni’ on Meenakshi. But his birth, beginning of his composing career, were are all associated with Subrahmanya.
His very name, Muthuswami, is that of Muthukumaraswami, the deity at Vaidheeswaran koil. His father, Ramaswami Dikshitar – scholar, musician and Srividya devotee – was without an issue till he was forty. He visited Vaidheeswaran koil with his wife and fasted for 45 days (one mandalam). His wife then had a dream as if someone was tying coconut, fruits and other ‘mangalavastu’ on her womb. And soon she became pregnant. The couple understood that Subrahmanya had granted their wish and that the dream meant this. And a boy was born on ‘krithikai’ day in the month of Phalguni or Panguni. That boy was Muthuswami.
He grew up, had his musical training, Srividya Abhyasam (training in the worship of Devi) and gurukula vAsam at Kashi (Benares). His guru at Kashi, before dying, told Muthuswami, “Go back to the south. First visit Tiruttani. Subrahmanya will show you the way to your life’s purpose”.
So Muthuswami went to Tiruttani. He had his bath in the temple tank and was climbing the hillock, when an elderly Brahmin gentleman called him by name, and told him to open his mouth. When Muthuswami did so, he dropped a piece of sugar candy (karkandu) in his mouth and disappeared. Muthuswami understood who it was that came, and his life’s mission began that moment – his musical creativity had been woken up. On the spot, he sang eight kritis. (in eight different ‘vEttrumai’s) Also note that his ‘mudra’ is ‘guruguhA’, a name of Subrahmanya. Guha resides deep inside a cave – guhai; and guruguha resides in the deep cave of the human heart of Muthuswami Dikshitar.
Dikshitar’s life on earth ended on a Deepavali day. The sixth day from Deepavali is ‘skanda shashti’. Some people fast these six days, beginning on Deepavali day and ending it on the shashti day. So in his death too we see the Subrahmanya association.
Dikshitar went from place to place and sung in praise of the God there, be it Ganesha, Vishnu, Devi, Shiva. And in each kriti, there would be some internal evidence about the place where it was composed – the name of the God, some historical fact, or manthra rahasyam. Our ‘ShrI SubrahmanyAya namasthE’ has no such internal evidence – we do not know where it was composed. May be he unified the deities of all Subrahmanya temples in this one kriti, so sparkling is it.
So he has started with innumerable obeisances; then ‘manasija kOTi kOTi lAvaNyAya’ Like two ‘namasthE’s, two koti’s. koti-koti is koti (one crore) multiplied by crore. manasija koti koti – crore*crore manmadhA’s.
manasijan=manmadhan; he is born out of mind – manas. Love – kAmA – comes from the mind, right? There is a puranic story too – Manmadhan is the son of Mahavishnu. But very strangely, he was not born to Mahalakshmi out of Vishnu’s love, but from Vishnu’s mind directly – the moment Vishnu thought of him! And Vishnu’s other son, Brahma, was born directly too, from Vishnu’s navel (nAbhi). See, Vishnu has this funny habit of doing strange things always! Manmadhan is famous for his good looks. So ‘manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya’ is some one who is crore*crore times as beautiful as Manmadha.
But is this not funny?! I mean, Subrahmanya being ‘manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya’. Who is Subrahmanya? He is the son of Shiva, who reduced Manmadha to ashes with a fire of fury from His eye. And from that same nEtragni, is born Subrahmanya! But He was born to gnAna (wisdom), not kAma.
‘Kumar’ is a special name for Him. Just as in the South ‘pillai’ (son) means pillaiyar (Ganesha), Kumar in the North refers to the younger son, Subrahmanya. In the South also, we say ‘kumaran’ or ‘kumAraswAmy’. Nowadays, half of the boys are named ‘Kumar’! The term ‘Kumar’ is particularly applied to Subrahmanya. In Valmiki Ramayana, Vishwamitra tells the story of Subrahmanya to Rama and Lakshmana and calls it ‘KumAra Sambhavam’. And Kalidasa has named his own epic after this phrase used by the great sage Valmiki.
Another interpretation for the word ‘Kumar’. Manmadhan is also called ‘mAran’; and ‘kumAran’ some one who puts mAra to shame – is more beautiful than him. ‘kutsitha-mara:’ – ‘kumAra:’. So ‘kumAra’ by itself means ‘manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya’! The Tamil people just love Him. They have given Him a beautiful name – ‘Murugan’ – Murugu=beauty.
After kAmA was burnt to ashes, Devi took over his role, donning his sugarcane bow and floral arrows – ‘kamEshwari’ – this led to the birth of Subrahmanya. And how else would be but ‘lavaNyA’? – Devi Herself is called ‘sundari – thripurasundari’.
‘dhIna sharaNyAya’ Is mere beauty enough? What we want is ‘aruL’ – grace. Subrahmanya is the refuge of we, the sufferers. ‘dhIna’ – those that are poor, humble, suffering, scared.
‘dhIna sharaNyAya – lAvaNyAya – SubrahmaNyAya’ – similar sounding – edhugai or mOnai or something in Tamil – it is edhugai only but edhugai on the ending of the words rather than on the beginning. ‘yAya’ – andhya prAsam – ‘to Him’ (fourth vEttrumai) It is usual to go back to the first line with a fast ‘manasija kOti kOti’, after beginning in slow tempo – chowkha kAlam or vilamba kAlam. Vilambham – a nice Sanskrit word. I prefer this word to ‘chowkam’. Slow tempo, giving scope to the musician to explore the raga’s various nuances, is a hallmark of Dikshitar’s kritis. And the majestic Sanskrit language helps too, creating the impression of a grand elephant procession.
But aren’t we all always in a hurry? By the mind and by the body? So we find such slow tempo boring after some time. And for this, Dikshitar provides relief with some fast movements at the end of most phrases. Madhyama kAlam comes as a relief to chowkha kAlam, as a piece of clove in a sweet-sweet laddu! In this kriti, both the pallavi and charanam have madhyama kAla endings. But in his most other kritis, we find madhya kAla phrases only at the end of anupallavi and charanam. Why? Subrahmanya is a vibrant young man (endrum iLaiyAi), so wants to go running right from the word ‘go’! ‘bhUSurAdhi samasthajana pUjithAbja sharaNAya’ – one whose lotus feet are worshipped by Brahmins and other people (add namasthE of the pallavi to this) ‘bhUsurAdhi’ – Brahmins and …others. ‘bhUsurA’ – Brahmins. ‘bhU’ is earth, surA are devAs. And Brahmins are the ‘earthly DevAs’ as they, by their chanting and rituals, bring the blessings of the Devas to earth.
We have already seen that Subrahmanya is the God of Brahmins (mahIdeEva is same as bhUsura). But is He the God of Brahmins only? Not so; He is the God of all people. Of his two wives, one is the daughter of Indra, the king of Devas, and the other, daughter of a tribal chieftain (suramagal and kuramagal). Some might say, He is a Tamil God (Dravidaswamy), and others that He is the God of Brahmins only – His name itself is testimony. But the truth is otherwise.
There is no doubt that He is the God of all people. And Dikshitar takes this line only. We should all unite in the name of God, not fight one another.
‘pUjithAbja sharaNAya’ – to the worshipped Lotus Feet. Abja is lotus; ‘Ab’ is water and that which grows in water is abjam. We also call it jalajam, ambujam, sarojam, neerajam (jala, ambu… are all other names for water). Also vanajam – vana is forest. But does lotus grow in forest? But vana has another meaning – water. ‘Kam’ is also water – kamjam is lotus (eg. kamjalOchanE, kamjadhalAya dAkshi).
vArijam, too, is lotus. OK, all I have tried to say is ‘abjam’ is lotus! ‘vASuki thakShakAdhi sarpa swarUpa dharanAya’ – one who takes the form of snakes like Vasuki and Thaksha.
Literally ‘sarpa’ means ‘kundalini’ – the Energy of Life. Snake has a wriggled, spiral-like form, so does our kundalini, in normal circumstances. But if we perform concentrated penance, it wakes up in full glory, and then merges with the Ultimate.
Subrahmanya’s weapon is the spear – ‘vEl’, also known as Shakti Ayudham. No other deity’s weapon is as much identified with that deity, as vEl is with Subrahmanya. And His connection with snakes is apparent in more instances – if we see a snake in our dreams, elders tell us to perform Subrahmanya pooja for preethi. And Shashti Pooja to Subrahmanyais also done some times as Nagarjuna Pooja, in particular for Puthrabhagyam. Subrahmanya was born at the request of Devas who wanted a powerful commander-in-chief; and we pray to Him for puthrabhagyam! In Andhra and Karnataka, they do not have Subrahmanya idols in temples; rather, He is worshipped in snake form. You know a place called Subrahmanya in Karnataka – there also it is this way. Telugus fondly say ‘subbarAyudu’ meaning Subrahmanya as well as snake.
Let us see if Adisankara has brought out this Subrahmanya-snake connection. (laughs) The title itself is ‘Bhujangam’! Snake does not have legs, and uses its whole body as hands – bhujam, and moves about in a wavy rhythm. The ‘chandas’ similar to a snake’s movement is called ‘bhujanga prayAdham’. Acharya has sung bhujangams on many Gods, but when we simply think of bhujangam, what comes to our mind immediately is ‘Subrahmanya Bhujangam’. On other Gods, He has also composed ashtakam, pancharatnam etc, but on Subrahmanya, only this Subrahmanya Bhujangam – may be to prove that Subrahmanya is Himself the bhujangam.
Dikshitar mentions the famous snakes Vasuki and Taksha. Shashti Pooja is performed by worshipping seven great snakes. Vasuki is the snake who adorns the role of Nagaraja in Nagalokam. And when the Sea of Milk (pArkadal) was churned with Manthragiri, this Vasuki snake was used to tie that hillock. Funny, isn’t it, a poisonous snake helping to extract nectar! Again, what is Subrahmanya’s vehicle (vAhanA)? peacock, dire enemy of the snakes! Goes to show that, in His presence, all enmity vanishes. So too, elephants are mortally scared of lions – a ‘simha swapna’ terrorizes an elephant. But we have an elephant sitting on a lion! Heramba, one of the many forms of Ganesha, has a lion as His vAhanA. Or take Vishnu – His bed is a snake (Adishesha) and his vAhanA, Garuda, enemy of snakes! We are told the story that a snake eats the moon during lunar eclipse, but we have a snake and a moon adorning Shiva’s head! Strange, again, are the Parvati-Shiva couple. Will a lion leave a bull go? But we have Shiva on the Rishaba (bull) and Devi on Simha (lion)! The philosophy behind all these is, all beings lose their tendency to hate (dwEsha bhAvam) at the Lord’s sannidhi.
OK, let us continue our ‘vAsuki takshakAdhi’ – some say Vasuki is the same as Adishesha; some disagree. Anyhow, Adishesha and Subrahmanya are definitely connected. Venkataramanaswamy at Tirupati has much connection with Subrahmanya. The hillock Tirupati-Tirumala is also called Seshagiri, Seshachalam, Seshasailam. ‘sarpa swarUpa dhara’ Subrahmanya is Himself is the Tirupati hill. Or take Ardhanarishwara at Tiruchengode. Subrahmanya is also worshipped here, as He made the (united) couple into a trio -Somaskanda. This Tiruchengode is also called Nagachalam and Nagagiri, meaning the same as Seshachalam.
‘vAsavAdhi sakala dEva vandhithAya’ Now he talks about the real ‘suras’, not earthly suras. ‘bhUsurAdhi’ was in the lower octave and ‘vAsavAdhi’ in the upper octave. The meaning is ‘One who is worshipped by Vasava and other Devas’. Vasava is Indra. Of the Devas, there is one class called Ashtavasus. They are Indra’s followers (parivAram), so Vasava is Indra. When he himself worships, all other Devas have to follow suit (yathA rAjA thathA prajA); moreover, when Surapadma drove off the Devas and ascended Indra’s throne, Subrahmanya was the one who saved them. So they have much reason to worship Subrahmanya. Not just worshipping – Indra gave off his daughter Devasena in marriage to Subrahmanya. So Deva-senapathi became Devasena-pathi! Dikshitar also points this out later in the kriti (dEvarAja jAmatrE) Reminds me – Devasena is said to be Indra’s daughter, and Valli, the daughter of Nambirajan, tribal king (suramagal, kuramagal) but in fact, both of them are Vishnu’s daughters but for some reasons grew up with Indra and Nambirajan.
Who is Vishnu? Devi’s brother, Subrahmanya’s uncle. So Subrahmanya has married his uncle’s daughters perfectly in accordance with custom. Arunagirinathar says as many times ‘marugOnE’ (nephew/son-in- law) as he says ‘murugOnE’. Even though Ganesha too is Vishnu’s nephew, ‘mAl marugOn’ – Vishnu’s nephew – denotes Subrahmanya only.
Another example of unity-in-diversity – Vishnu, whose son Manmadha died in the netragni, has given His daughters in marriage to Subrahmanya – born out of the same netragni.
Further, we will see that Saiva-Vaishnava difference also vanishes, and it would not be strange that this kriti is a Vaishnavite’s masterpiece. Is it not quite expected, as Subrahmanya is the son-in- law of Vishnu? Would you not love and respect your son-in-law? One step further – Devi Herself is Vishnu’s sister. Who gives off Meenakshi in marriage to Sundareshwara (thArai vArthu kodukkaradhu)? A world famous sculpture at Madurai tells us who…
First Dikshitar said samasthajana pUjithAya, then sakaladEva vandhithAya. Among Devas too, there are several sects – Vasus, Rudhras, Adithyas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, etc.
And finally, ‘varENyAya’ – means THE BEST. This appears in Gayathri Mantra. To bring out the superlative nature, Dikshitar has used this word from Gayathri, which is but the essence of the Vedas. And ‘varENyAya’ continues the ‘andhya prAsam’ of SubrahmanyAya-lAvaNyAya-charaNyAya, and as it comes at the height of the anupallavi, he has used the word from the essence of the Vedas.
The beginnings of each line, too, have ‘edhugai prAsam’ – ‘shrI Su’, ‘bhUsu’, ‘vAsa’, ‘dhAsa’. This is the speciality of great composers – their rachana visesham (not ‘rasana’ – appreciation).
rachanA means lyrical beauty – the unified effect of sound and meaning, each falling into its place at ease. ‘Composed’, ‘composure’ itself means peace, ease. (In Tamil, we say quite beautifully, ‘sollamaidhi, porulamaidhi’). We can deduce a composer’s rasanA from his rachanA.
‘dAsajanAbhISta-prada-dakSatarAgra-gaNyAya’ Having certified His stature with a superlative, Dikshitar mounts more superlatives one after the other to bring out His kindness to devotees. ‘dhAsajana apIshta pradha’ – one who fulfills his devotees’ wishes. Dikshitar could have stopped here, but was not quite satisfied! After `pradha’, we have `dhaksha’, `thara’, `agra’ – a stream of superlatives.
‘apIshta pradha dhaksha’ is one who is very good at fulfilling his devotees’ wishes. Stop here? No. ‘dhaksha thara’ – the best among those who are good at fulfilling their devotees’ wishes. ‘thara’ – better in comparison. (in Tamil we say ‘tharamAnadhu’). Yes, there may be many such capable Gods (and their supporters may come fighting) so let us avoid controversy here. After all, God and music and kritis are but for unity and peace. So let Subrahmanya be the #1 among all such Gods, thought Dikshitar. So he says ‘agragaNyAya’ – another superlative! ‘agra’ – first place; ‘gaNyAya’ – held in or esteemed to be in.
‘thAraka simhamukha sUrapadmAsura samharthrE’ – one who vanquished Tharaka, Simhamukha and Soorapadma (add ‘namasthE’ here) Pallavi and anupallavi had all the words in the fourth person (nAlAm vEttrumai in Tamil). Now charanam has words ending in ‘ru’ – a weak, half ‘u’ (kutrialugaram in Tamil). ‘Samharthru – upadEsakarthru – savithru’ – in 4th person these do not become ‘yAya’ but take the ‘E’ sound – ‘harthrE – karthrE’.
Tharaka, Simhamukha and Soorapadma are brothers. Tharaka is elephant- faced, Simhamukha obviously lion-faced, and Soorapadma has an ugly rAkshasa face. In the South, Soorapadma is the king of Asuras, and the chief villain. We even celebrate Soorasamharam. But in the north, Tharaka takes this place. Kalidasa in his ‘Kumarasambhavam’ says that Subrahmanya was born for the purpose of vanquishing Tharakasura. And in Subrahmanya Bhujangam, Adisankara mentions all three. Dikshitar follows the ‘southern line’.
OK; Dikshitar has spoken of His beauty (kOti kOti manasija lAvaNyAya), kindness (dhInacharanyAya, apIshtavarapradhAkshagrahaNyAya) and valour; what next? What signifies Dikshitar’s kritis? What is his mudhra? ‘Guruguha’.
This is Subrahmanya’s greatest quality. He is the one who teaches us the path to the Ultimate. He even teaches His father, Shiva (‘guruvAi ararkkum upadEsam vaiththa’ – Arunagiri) – He is ‘thagappan swAmi – swAminAthaswAmi – ‘gnAnapandithaswAmi’.
‘thApa-thrya harana nipuna thathvOpadEsa karthrE’ Jeevatma – human soul – has three kinds of desires – thApathryam.
They are Aadhyatmikam, Aadhiboudhikam, Aaadhidhaivikam. And all three lead to suffering; the first to suffering within our soul. The second is brought about by other (human/animal) beings. The last, Aadhi dhaivikam, literally means God’s work, but here stands to mean our fate – vidhi. Subrahmanya teaches us how to win over them – he is an expert – nipunA – at such teaching.
‘vIranutha’ Wisdom and valour – we ignorantly that they are different. But the truly wise man – gnAni – can take any form, but still be a gnAni inside. Krishna tells Arjuna to take his bow and shoot (gAntIpathai edudA ambai thodudA) in the midst of Gita which is essentially a Gnanopadesham. Subrahmanya is a ‘gnAnavIra’ – the wise warrior, c-in- c of the devasena and worshipped by all brave and wise men.
Hence ‘vIranutha’. ‘nutha’ – one who is worshipped. One more interpretation – He has nine deputies whose names all start with ‘vIra’ – vIrabAhu, vIrakEsari, vIramahEndra etc. So also He is ‘vIranutha’.
‘guruguhAya’ After valour, again gnAna! Subrahmanya’s abodes are mostly hillocks or caves – guhai (‘kurinjikkadavul’ in Tamil). Philosophically, He is the Divine Truth residing deep in the cave that is the human heart.
And when He comes out and preaches, he is ‘guruguhA’. This is also Dikshitar’s mudhra, having flown spontaneously out of his heart into his words.
‘agnAna dwAntha savithrE’ ‘dwAntham’ – darkness; Savitha – Sun. Just as Sun drives out the darkness, He drives out the darkness of ignorance. The use of the word ‘savithA’ for Sun is significant here. Sun – Surya – has several other names – Aadithya, BhUsha, Bhaskara, Bhanu, Marthanda, Dinamani (more to be found in Aadhithya Hrdayam). Of these, the name savithA appears in Gayathri Manthra. Roughly translating, in Gayathri, we pray that the brilliant wisdom light of the Ultimate, likened to the glow of the Sun, should awaken our inner wisdom and make it glow, too. Speciality of the name is, Savitha does not talk of the destructive-of-darkness nature of the Sun, but of the creative nature. Savitha – literally one who creates. (prasavam – giving birth – same root here). Sun not only destroys darkness, dirt, insects etc, but also induces rain, growth of vegetation, our good health and even our mental growth. Similarly, Subrahmanya vanquishes darkness (of the mind), but also fills in this void space with wisdom. The use of the word Savitha has come out beautifully.
(ThirumurugAtruppadai starts with a similar simile of dawn) I think the whole point of this kriti is to show Subrahmanya to be the essence of Gayathri, which is itself the essence of Vedas. The kriti starts with Brahmanyaya; at the high point of the anupallavi we have ‘varENyAya’ and the high point of charanam has ‘savithru’. The kriti touches its peak at this point.
And then, ‘vijayavallI barthrE’ This is fun! the real fun with real gnAni is he can be anything outside; brave, beautiful, kind, anything. He is SUrasamhAramUrthi, the valiant victor at Tiruchendur; a sanyAsi at Palani; a Brahmachari boy at Swamimalai; Devasena’s and Valli’s husband at Tirupparankundram and Tiruttani. Vijayavalli is none but Valli.
(Devasena is Jayanthi). So He has Jaya and Vijaya as His consorts! Valli Kalyanam is a jolly good anecdote. But the philosophy there? He frees the mind, caught between IndriyAs (the tribal folk in the story) and merges it with Himself. Goes also to show how much of a ‘dhInacharanyA’ He is – He, the Son of Universe’s first couple, took on many different roles and what not, just to please the deep, innocent love of a tribal girl.
‘sakthyAyudha dhartrE’ – one who wears the powerful spear – ShaktivEl.
‘dhIrAya’ We generally take this to mean strength, fearlessness; of course that is correct. But another meaning is sharp intellect. And this ‘dhI’ sound is found in Gayathri too! Gayathri’s use of ‘dhI’ refers to our intellect, which, pray, be induced by the Ultimate Light (paramAthma thEjas). The root meaning of the word ‘gAyathri’ is ‘that which protects/elevates the one who sings it’. Sing? The recital of Vedas, in up-down fashion, is itself like a song. And Dikshitar probably made this kriti as a kind of musical Gayathri, and hence borrows many words and ideas from Gayathri Mantra.
Which is the first and basic swara of the saptaswara? Shadjam. The cooing of peacock is likened to Shadjam, and peacock reminds us of what? Him! (Arunagiri says ‘maragadha mayUra perumAl kAN’). If He is the Lord of Shadjam, the base note, is He not the Lord of music too? And must He not have a Sangeetha Gayathri on him? Which is why, He created Dikshitar, started him off with a sugar candy and got him to sing this kriti! ‘natha vidhAtrE’ Vidhatha is Brahma. natha here is the same as nutha in vIranutha – means one who is worshipped. We all know the story. Subrahmanya asked Brahma for the meaning of Pranava Mantra; Brahma could not give a satisfactory answer. And our young boy imprisoned Brahma and took over his duty of Creation. In some temples, we can see Subrahmanya donning the japamAla and kamandalu of Brahma (eg. Kanchi Kumarakkottam). Shiva came to Brahma’s rescue, “OK my son, Brahma does not know; you tell me the answer, if you know”. Pat came the reply, “I can not be talked to like this; if you want the answer, ask like a student does, not like a teacher”. Even great people take pleasure in losing to their offspring! Shiva went down to Subrahmanya and got ‘PranavOpadEsha’. A lesson to all of us – in pursuit of knowledge, there is no shame. Having now realized Subrahmanya’s greatness, Brahma worshipped Him and was released back to his job.
‘dEvaraja jAmathrE’ – son-in-law of Indra, we have already seen this.
‘bhUrAdhi bhuvana bhOktrE’ ‘bhUrAdhi’ – earth and other; bhuvana – worlds. It is customary to classify the infinite number of worlds into 14, of which seven are below, and further summarizing as ‘bhUr-bhuva-suvar’ ie lower, middle and upper worlds. Recognize these? Gayathri again! We add a ‘Om’ to it and recite as part of many our rituals. The idea is that the fruits of our rituals should reach all of the people in all of these worlds. ‘bOkthA’ means ruled by, enjoyed by. Are not the happenings- on in all these worlds at and for His pleasure? (leelAnubhavam) Finally, ‘bhOga mOksha pradhAtrE’ As seen, He is the one who rules over and enjoys all good things in this world, while giving us the illusion that we too enjoy various pleasures like wealth, position and fame. ‘dhAthA’ – one who gives. ‘pradhAthA’ – expert at giving. In the fourth person, it becomes ‘pradhAtrE’. As long as this illusion – drama – is on, it is fine for us to enjoy, and for Him to give. But if we delude ourselves into thinking that this drama is the real thing, we are fools. Once the drama is over, should we not go back to our real selves? This is the state when the mind (manas), the drama stage, dies and the Atman alone exists. He gives us this state too – as ‘agnAna dwAnta savithA’, ‘mOksha pradhAthA’.
If we seek moksha from Dhanalakshmi, or from Santhanalakshmi, we are not going to get it. And Dakshinamurthi would not give us wealth or offspring, either. Subrahmanya gives us both bhogam and moksham.
There is nothing more to say after this sentence, and the kriti ends.
Paramacharya further tells Ariyakkudi and the gathering at large, “I’m happy to see that you, coming from a good guru-sishya parampara, are preserving good music. You must also bring up good disciples and keep the tradition going. A Brahmin, having learnt Veda, has a compulsory duty to teach atleast one more person (athyApanam). This can apply to other sastras and arts too.
“One more point about musicians. You should sing the Telugu and Sanskrit kirtanas fully aware of their meaning. It is not fair to say that Tamil songs alone are enough. Great composers in this country have created hundreds of Telugu and Sanskrit songs of much musical and lyrical beauty. If we ignore them, the loss is ours. Do not defend by saying, ‘I do not understand them!’ – if only we desire, do we not spend time and energy on all sorts of useless things? If musicians dedicate themselves to pure music and proper rendition of words without losing the ‘osandha artha visEsham’, language can not be a barrier. Now that you are #1 in the music world, do your best towards this. May Subrahmanya’s Grace be with you in this endeavor.” Ariyakkudi was totally moved. He took leave saying,” This has been the best day in my life”.
And Paramacharya went back to his penance the next moment.
Abstracted from: Compositions of Muddusvami Dikshitar by Sangeetha Kalanidhi T. K. Govinda Rao, published in Chennai 1997 (No. 237).
Raga: kAmbhOji / Tala: tishra Ekam
P: shrI subrahmaNyAya namastE namastE manasija kOTi kOTi lAvaNyAya dIna sharaNyAya
A: bhUsurAdi samastajana pUjitAbja caraNAya vAsuki takSakAdi sarpa svarUpa dharaNAya vAsavAdi sakaladEva vanditAya varENyAya dAsajanAbhIStapradadakSatarAgragaNyAya
C: tAraka sihma mukha shUra padmAsura sam hartrE tApatraya haraNanipuNa tatvOpadEsha kartrE vIranuta guruguhAyAjHnAna dhvAnta savitrE vijayavallI bhartrE saktyAyudha dhartrE dhIrAya natavidhAtrE dEvarAja jAmAtrE bhUrAdibhuvanabhOktrE bhOgamOkSapradAtrE
SRI.M.D.RAMANATHAN – VOCAL ON 22 DEC 1982
SRI.M.S.GOPALAKRISHNAN – VIOLIN
SRI.PALAKKAD RAGHU – MRIDANGAM