Sunday, May 13, 2018

Endaro Mahanubhavulu - Some Thoughts

We first got to know this famous Tyagaraja song in high school. Then we had four languages to cope with: Telugu I, Telugu II, English, and Hindi. Father used to help me in many ways for my final board examination. Often he would meet our class teachers in the Saturday weekly market or main street and politely enquire about my studies. One English teacher even offered free tuition due to my father’s extraordinary good offices and communication skills with people. Not wanting to take any risk, he procured for me a thick tome (guide) written by five pundits for the prescribed Telugu text. There were many interesting lessons and selections for us, two or three stand out in memory still to this day. 1) A section from ఆంధ్ర మహాభారతము (నన్నయ) 2) an essay on Tyagaraja with some examples of his compositions and 3) a few poems by ఎఱ్ఱాప్రగడ.  I understood most of the essay about Tyagaraja, but I must confess it did not fully touch my heart. This is not due to any unfamiliarity with devotional music. Even as a teenager I used to listen to a number of Carnatic music pieces (both vocal and instrumental) either in live stage performances, small intimate family gatherings, or on the AIR radio. Plus there was quite a bit of singing at home or around in the streets. After all, for any art (particularly poetry or music) we have to really feel it (in our hearts). Only then you can fully appreciate it and if one is lucky, we can go beyond all the way to the stratosphere. The music finally has to touch the inner self (ఆత్మ). I learnt after many years the sad truth about music: Only a very select few are blessed with it and still a miniscule are truly moved by it. That is, perhaps a few in a thousand can completely understand a Tyagaraja (Annamayya or Dikshitar) composition - I mean hear the complete lyrics, meaning of each phrase, entire emotional content, and genuinely feel the melting of heart inwardly. Now let us come to this gem, the fifth one in ‘Pancha-ratna’ set.  

1. చందురు వర్ణుని = Here, it refers to the color of 4 O’clock flower. The flowers come in many different colors and shades but there is one variety with a strong blue-purple-gray combination. Rama’s color is difficult to describe - it is not like blue sky, it tends more towards the dark water filled clouds’ color. The clouds are ever ready to burst into a downpour, a downpour of compassion. So, this line says thus: “These are all great people, great souls who can see (internally) in their lotuses of hearts Sri Rama’s body hue and attractive form, and enjoy the supreme joy (Brahma-ananda) that arises spontaneously upon looking at Sri Rama”.
This is not ordinary joy, it is like an innocent child having a grand birthday celebration sitting in her mother’s lap surrounded by her friends and relatives. Now imagine that joy multiplied by thousand, nay million times. The venerable Paramacharya explained about Brahma-ananda somewhere in one of his speeches (అనుగ్రహ భాషణములు).   

2. సరగున = swiftly, వడిగా, వెనువెంటనే; స్వాoతము = మనసు, mind;
There are some who can readily surrender themselves and their (lotus like) minds at the feet of a guru or the Lord (Sri Rama) . They are in deed great persons. For the modern analytically trained person (scientist or genuinely rational enquiring individual), it may seem odd rather unbecoming to touch the feet of an elder, దేవత, or guru. But man, in most situations carries the burden of “bloated ego” with possessions, wealth, degrees, or official status. For learning anything or for eagerly accepting ‘grace’, the first thing we have to surrender ourselves is our useless vanity and the burdensome feeling of ego. How tragically we miss such invaluable opportunities to learn and receive blessings - sad, one is at times unbelievably stupid, come to think of it. These basic manners should be learnt in childhood. Deliberately one must bow and wait for the guru’s words. There is no other way in this dangerous forest of life.
3. Here the individual’s mind is compared to a wadering monkey. మానస వనచర, మానస వనరుహ both seem appropriate. If we are trying to capture the forever drifting of thought (the mind), then the comparison with monkey is apt. But monkeys too are very focussed when they groom each other carefully looking for the pesky parasites. A person’s mind can also be described as a delicate lotus flower - after all it too gets bruised easily, yet in the right conditions it emanates lovely fragrance and exudes gentle beauty.
4. This line is really exquisite.
నీ మేను నామ వైభవములను
నీ పరాక్రమ ధైర్య శాంత మానసము నీవులను
వచన సత్యమును
రఘువర నీ యెడ సద్భక్తియు జనించకను
దుర్మతములను కల్లజేసినట్టి
నీ మదినెఱింగి
Here we get to learn the rules of Telugu grammar (oh, the great Chinnayasuri - we learnt it in Pre-University, 12th standard). When we have a list of items, we add lu+nu = lanu (లు+ను=లను), at the end of the list. Now to quip, here is a laundry list. May I digress a bit with the indulgence of the reader? We had a very gentle dhoban, actually we had two excellent launderers, the one in the village known as Simhachalam and the other वेङ्कन्न. The latter was a highly evolved devout person and often treated most simple maladies. Like many householders we used to keep track of the clothes before handing over to the launderer. We never realized our वेङ्कन्न was much smarter - he would put a black identifying mark for each household. That simple technique solved the problem of logistics. Then why did we waste our time in keeping a notebook for the laundry list? Just a silly habit of getting engrossed in the worldly things. The precious time could have been spent in learning a Tyagaraja kirtana or हरे नाम स्मरण! If the launderer can handle hundreds of clothes, sort them, wash them, and press them into neat stacks for each house, then why should we unnecessarily fret and waste time in making lists? It is better to make a list of the Vishnu-sahasranama or other important matters.

Here in this list we can pick up any one item and make the mind centered on that item alone. It could be Sri Rama’s graceful body, His name, His splendour, or His courage. Over many centuries, composers have dwelt on His inimitable qualities and sung soul-stirring songs. Or we can just focus on His unwavering commitment to a word given. He offered loyal friendship to Sugriva and kept His word. He willingly gave protection to Vibhishana and made him King of Lanka, right on the spot. All those people who constantly keep extolling Rama’s qualities through joyous songs are indubitably great souls!

5. కనకకశిపుసుత = ప్రహ్లాద
They are all pious, great, and eternal (i.e., they are ever present and exist all the time. We just need to ask for their help.). They all know and feel the Brahma-ananda.

6. Here the esteemed poet composer (of course, foremost Tyagayya was (is) a very great disciplined bhakta) obliquely hints at the essence of our dharma (Hinduism, for want of a better equivalent word in English). Whatever is mentioned in the ancient books, namely Srimad-Bhagavatam, Valmiki Ramayana (or any of the faithful translations in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi etc.), Gita, Vedas, and Puranas is genuinely true; the truly learned scholars or saints see no disagreements or discrepancies in various canonical texts. One can faithfully follow any one of the six schools (షణ్మతములు). See for example some of the illuminating expositions given by the revered Paramacharya. The exact number of the celestials is thirty-three crores. There are those who have insight into the minds of the celestials, who are endowed with long life due to the joy of music (with its exalted exquisite combination of the appropriate melody, rhythm, and meaning), with boundless communion with Paramatma - they’re all dear to Tyagaraja and they all are great persons, great souls.

7. When the love and affection accumulates and overflows, devotees take the name of Sri Rama and such persons are sincere servants of Rama (who is praised by Tyagaraja) - they’re so many of them, they all are great people! Indeed. (This is not a complete commentary or exposition on the great composition. I’ve tried to choose several stanzas and dwell on their deeper meaning and import.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

An Invocation Song by Dr. Balamurali

రాగము : ఆరభి
అది తాళము

శ్రీ సకల గణాధిప పాలయమాం అనిశం
వర సిద్ధి వినాయక భక్త జనాళి పోష వరచంద్ర మౌళి సుత

దాసర్చిత పాద
భాసురాంగ కరుణాసముద్ర వర వాయుపుత్ర
హనుమంత వరప్రద
శ్రీ సకల శివంకర మారుతి మామవతు
వర రామ సునామ సుధారస పానదీన నిజ భక్త భయాపహ
శ్రీ సకల శివంకర మారుత మామవతు

నంద నందన వందన మస్తుతె కుందర దన ముకుంద మురహర
మందరో ద్ధర వందిత బుధ జన బృంద హృదయ నివాస సుందర
మంద హసిత వదనారవింద మకరంద పాన సంగీత సుధాకర

శ్రీ సకల కళాపరిపూర్ణ దయాశరధే
వరదాభయ దాయక మామవ మంగళాంగ మురళీధర మోహన

శ్రీ సకల కళాపరిపూర్ణ దయాశరధే
శ్రీ సకల శివంకర మారుత మామవతు
శ్రీ సకల గణాధిప పాలయమాం అనిశం

raagamu : aarabhi
adi taaLamu

Sree sakala gaNaadhipa paalayamaaM aniSaM
vara siddhi vinaayaka bhakta janaaLi pOsha varachaMdra mauLi suta

daasarchita paada
bhaasuraaMga karuNaasamudra vara vaayuputra
hanumaMta varaprada
Sree sakala SivaMkara maaruti maamavatu
vara raama sunaama sudhaarasa paanadeena nija bhakta bhayaapaha
Sree sakala SivaMkara maaruta maamavatu

naMda naMdana vaMdana mastute kuMdara dana mukuMda murahara
maMdarO ddhara vaMdita budha jana bRMda hRdaya nivaasa suMdara
maMda hasita vadanaaraviMda makaraMda paana saMgeeta sudhaakara

Sree sakala kaLaaparipoorNa dayaaSaradhae
varadaabhaya daayaka maamava maMgaLaaMga muraLeedhara mOhana

Sree sakala kaLaaparipoorNa dayaaSaradhae
Sree sakala SivaMkara maaruta maamavatu

Sree sakala gaNaadhipa paalayamaaM aniSaM

(Copyright of this composition (lyrics, music, tune, etc.) belongs to Dr. Balamuralikrishna; now the rights are with his family and MBK Trust. I am posting here the Telugu lyrics and English transliteration for the benefit of music students and teachers. I heard this song in Dr. Balamurali’s vibrant voice in a cassette, picked up at the Pittsburgh SV Temple. This song seeks the blessings of Ganesa, Hanuman, and Krishna. Ganesa for removing unforeseeable hurdles, Hanuman for imparting strength to overcome insurmountable major obstacles, and Krishna for His enchanting spell and artistic beauty all around. Often I find announcers (MCs) omitting the names of composers at public performances. This is unconscionable - one should always acknowledge the contributions of composers, the originators of creative artistic content. I feel a little pang of pain at the thought - that we have not fully appreciated the genius of Dr. Balamuralikrishna. But then, a prophet is never properly recognized in his hometown!)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Brittle Leaves (ఎండు టాకులు)

ఎండు టాకులు
దూరంలో కొన్ని ఎండుటాకుల గుత్తులు
నగ్నపు అక్రోటు, మేపిల్, సింధూర, సీమచింత …
కొమ్మల నుంచి వెళ్ళాడు తున్నాయి
మా పడక గది గాజు కిటికీలోంచి కనిపిస్తాయి
ఎన్నో సార్లు ఆలోచించాను
ఎందుకు, ఇంకా ఇప్పుడు
తల్లి చెట్టుని పట్టుకొని
వెళ్లాడటం, ఎందుకింకా?
ఉపయోగితా మభ్య భరిత
ఆధునిక మానవ దృష్టిలో -
వీటి వల్ల ఏం లాభం?
ఇక్కడ, ఈ హేమంతంలో చలికి
చెట్లు (ఆకులకి) తేమ ద్రవాలు
నిలిపేస్తాయి, అంతే ఓ రాత్రి
వణుకే చలికి ఆకులన్నీ తమ తమ
రంగు రంగుల లోదుస్తులు
చూపిస్తాయి; ఈ దుర్భర చలిలో
ప్రేమతో తల్లికి తోడుంటాయి
పగిలి ఎండిపోయిన బెరుడులతో కప్పిన
చాలీచాలని ఆఛ్చాదము - చాలు
ఈ ఒక్క దృశ్యము, ప్రపంచంలోని
నికృష్ట నిస్సహాయ దారిద్ర్య దష్ట
నగ్న మానవాకృతి కాల బిలం స్ఫురించడానికి
చాలీచాలని ఆఛ్చాదనముతో -
ఈ చెట్లతో ఎవరు మాట్లాడుతారు?
ఇప్పుడు ఎవరు పలకరిస్తారు?
ఈ కాల జలద భరిత శీతల
అతి దారుణ చలిలో ఎవరు చెప్పు?  
కాదు, ప్రకృతి మనమూహించినంత
క్రూరురాలు కాదు
ఈ చెట్లకి అతిధులు వస్తారు
(ఆకలితో) లేళ్ళు, బొచ్చు తోకల ఉడుతలు,
నీలి పిట్టలు, చికడీలు (తీతీ పిట్టలు), తొలిచే
వడ్రంగి పిట్టలు,
బొద్దు కాకులు, గువ్వలు, ఒక్కక్కప్పుడు
పెన్నడ పులుగు - కాని ఈ తీవ్ర చలిలో కూడ
ఈ ఎండుటాకులు
చెట్లతో రహస్యాలు మాట్లాడుతాయి!
ముసిముసి గుస గుసలు
చూస్తుంటే ప్రతీ గాలి హృదయ తరంగాలు
ఈ ఆకుల వీవనలకు చెప్తుంటాయి
ఏ సూక్ష్మ గాలి రాకపోకడలైనా సరే  
చెప్పకుండా వీటిని దాటి వెళ్ళ లేవు
అతి సున్నితపు అణు బల ముల్లు లాగ
పనిచేస్తాయి ఈ మేపిల్ ఎండుటాకుల మొనలు
దూరంనుంచి నాకు వినిపించవు
కొన్ని సన్న ధ్వని తరంగాలు,
ఈ పిల్ల గాలుల ఈల పాటలు
కాని (ఈ) ఎండు టాకుల చిన్ని చిన్ని
విసినకఱ్ఱలు, ఆ దిగువున నిరంతర
పారే జలపాతము, మనోజ్ఞ శాంతిలో
ఓలలాడే వనము.. మెరిసే హిమాపు తెరల్లోంచి  
ఇస్తాయి ప్రతి ప్రొద్దు
ఆనందము మాకు; నూత్న కొంగ్రొత్త
అనుభూతుల ఖని ఇది నాకు
ఎండి చచ్చి పోయాయి అనుకొంటాము
ఈ ఆకులు, కాని ఇప్పుడు ఎంతో
జీవముట్టిపడి పలకరిస్తాయి
ఓ రోజు వీటితో గర్భిత ఉడుతలు ఇల్లు
కాదు, గూడు కట్టుకొంటాయి
వీటిలో కాలాతీత ప్రాణము
నా ఊహల కందని జీవము
ఎల్లప్పుడూ అలరారును.   Copyright 2018 by the author

(This was initially posted at Sulekha. At times I wonder whether I still have the same grip on my mother tongue Telugu despite being away from the Telugu land. Originally I wrote the poem in English titled as "Brittle Leaves". In this Telugu translation I tried to bring forth the original emotion, thoughts, and good bit of fidelity. Due to the bitter cold, winter is sometimes harsh; but there is always more meaning and beauty in nature. I have only attempted to catch a minuscule of that enormous splendor!)       


Friday, February 16, 2018

English Translation of "Pahi Rama Prabho" Song

This is only a partial translation of the song. Mostly if not always the prospective (Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam) dance choreographer or vocalist need to know the meaning of each word distinctly. Within certain bounds (‘cause you cannot find the exact English word) I will try to attempt to provide a faithful comprehensive meaning of this exquisite composition; in hundred twenty lines (more like stanzas) the venerable bhakta Ramadasu pours out his soul and heart, urging Lord Rama for a speedy rescue.

Save (me), O Lord Rama
Save (me) O Lord of the Bhadra Mountain (Bhadrachalam)
The Lord of Sita (of Videha kingdom)

Where will I see your beatific form?
Seated in the lotus-like heart of Indira (Sita)
(When) will I feel your exquisite bliss
(When) Will I glance it to the joy of my eyes

Ah, what a pleasure it would be to
See your feet adorned with Tulasi (sacred Basil)
By the gods and other devotees
You’re the mother, you’re the father
You are our benefactor
And you are our (elder) brother

How come your arrows
Do not trouble and pierce
My enemies?
I keep on arguing thus
“You are the One at the
Beginning, middle, and end.
You are the Atman – that dwell
Inside as well as outside”
O Lord of the Universe

I keep on uttering
Repeatedly your excellent Sri Rama mantra
With wonder
O Rama, my mind yearns only
For the essence of Your name,
My mind wants to drink
The ambrosia of Your name

In the Kali-yuga you’ve taken
The form of Kalki;
(For us) You reside on the Bhadra Mountain
By thinking (meditating) about you, your imperishable quality
Your Manifestations (Forms, Avataras)
The rishis (devotees) have become gods

O Rama of Bhadrachalam
Save (me), Sri Rama
Please take care of those
Who seek shelter at your lotus-like feet.

Copyright 2018 by the author
(Telugu lyrics were given in the previous post here)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Lyrics of "Pahi Rama Prabho" Kirtana

పాహి రామ ప్రభో, పాహి రామ ప్రభో
పాహి భద్రాద్రి వైదేహి రామ ప్రభో

ఇందిరా హృదయార విందాధిరూఢ సుందరాకార నానంద రామ
ఎందునేజూడ మీ సుందరానందమును కందునో కన్నులింపొంద శ్రీ రామ

బృందారకాది బృందార్చిత  పదారవిందముల(నీ) సందర్శితానంద
తల్లివి నీవె మా తండ్రివి నీవె మా దాతవు నీవు మా భ్రాత రామ ప్ర ||

నీదు బాణంబులను నాదు శత్రుల బట్టి బాధింపుకున్నా వదేమి రా
ఆది మధ్యాంత బహిరంతరాత్మ డనుచు వాదింతునే జగన్నాధ రామ  

శ్రీ రామ రామేతి శ్రేష్ట మంత్రము సారె సారెకును వింతగా జదువ రామ    
శ్రీ రామ నీ నామ చింత నామృత పాన సారమే నాదు మదిగోరు రా

కలికి రూపము దాల్చి కలియుగంబున నీవు వెలిసితివి భద్రాద్రి నిలయ రా
అవ్యయుడవైన నీ యవతారముల దలచి (వలన) దివ్యులైనారు మునులయ్య రా

పాహి శ్రీ రామ నీ పాద పద్మాశ్రయుల పాలింపు మా భద్ర శైల రా
పాహి రామ ప్రభో పాహి రామ ప్రభో పాహి భద్రాద్రి వైదేహి రామ ప్రభో

నాదనామ క్రియా రాగము
ఏక తాళము

(Several years back, an Internet acquaintance requested this song and its meaning. Regrettably it took this long to post this famous Ramadasu song. Making a promise is one thing, but keeping it timely is another thing. Better late than never, as the saying goes! Hopefully I will be able to write about its meaning sooner. The original song has almost 120 lines. I just followed the rendition by Dr. Balamurali Krishna.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lyrics of "antalone tellavare" Song

అంతలొనే తెల్లవారే 
అయ్యో ఏమి చేతునే
కాంతుని మనసెంత నొచ్చెనో  
ఇంతీ ఎటు సైతునే  

కొంతసేపు ప్రియము లాడి
చెంతచేరి చేజాపి
దోరవయసు  నా సామి దొంతర విడెమందుకొనె  

చెక్కిలిపై కొనగోటితో ఒక్కసారి కొసరలేదు    
మక్కువుతో గోపాలుడు  
కొంత పరిహాసమాడు నంతలోనే  

antalonE tellavaarE 

ayyO Emi cEtunE
kaantuni manasenta noccenO  
intI eTu saitunE  

kontasEpu priyamu laaDi
centacEri cEjaapi
dOravayasu  naa saami dontara viDemandukone  

chekkilipai konagOTitO okkasaari kosaralEdu    
makkuvutO gOpaaluDu  
konta parihaasamaaDu nantalOnE  
kaantuni manasento noccino  

[This dance item (జావళి) is from the Telugu movie, 'Muddu Bidda'. Music was directed by Pendyala Nageswara Rao. As yet I cannot verify the composer; was it penned by Kshetrayya?

I am posting the lyrics here upon a request by a reader (J.S.).  The lyrical poem brings into focus the plight of a lover, the distress felt by the lady. Time is always a premium for lovers, poets, creative individuals, and even saints. One night, just twelve hours of moonlight is awfully short for a couple. Barely lovers get to know each other in such a short duration, suddenly the daybreak happens, and the lady feels the pain of separation. In a few minutes, this song concentrates the transaction between the couple and brings to the viewer a night's act: A joyous meeting with Gopala (Krishna). How simple, yet so rich in romance these playful acts! They talked about sweet nothings, touched each other's hands, and shared several pans (కిళ్ళీ, తాంబూలం). She protests thus: "He did not scratch my cheek even once.  Before he could humor me, play jokes, lo the night is over. Alas." 

This is what we call really 'Fine arts' (లలిత కళలు).]