Kurai Onrum Illai – the Context and the Meaning

Sometimes a message is lost if we do not view it in the right context. I happened to realize this recently with regard to a famous song and composition.This is a Tamil song made tremendously popular by MS Subbulakshmi’s rendering for the 1st time in 1969. The song is Kurai Onrum illai……. Many of us would have heard it several times.The song is a ‘Raga Maligai’, meaning that each stanza is sung in a different tune – sivaranjani, kapi and sindhubhairavi. While MS ‘s rendering was emotionally captivating, I could not fathom any profound meaning in the composition. So I googled to do further research on this. I found out the author of this composotion is our great C Rajagopalachari (affectionately referred to as Rajaji by Gandhi & Nehru). The link from THE HINDU provides the context of the composition.Without the context this composition would never have made any sense to me. Let me explain: Rajaji was a lawyer and as part of the non-cooperation movement, he had given up his practice in response to Mahatma Gandhi’s call to boycott British Raj’s courts. However Rajaji had to make one exception. Around the year 1925 a curious incident took place in the temple town of Tiruchanoor. A low-caste Hindu sneaked into the temple, was caught by the police and the sub-magistrate jailed him for the offence. Rajaji came to know of this and was requested by the victim’s advocate to present the case in his appeal to the court. Rajaji did not hesitate to appear in the court on behalf of the victim and eventually got him acquitted. He did this without donning the robes of a lawyer since he was under oath not to practice law. Now let us see the meaning of the composition.

Rajaji repeatedly talks about absence of ‘Kurai’ or regrets. Paradoxically, Rajaji’s life was filled with several sorrowful incidents. He lost his wife, his beloved son and 2 sons-in law early in his life. In spite of all this, to say that he had no regrets, means a courageous and stoic acceptance of all that happened in his life without complaints. He also had no regrets in doing what he felt was right while preferring to defend and get an out-caste Hindu acquitted for entering the temple instead of rejoicing in the fact of not appearing in the court as part of non-cooperation movement.

In the 2nd stanza, he says with all humility, that he has not captured the metaphysical meaning of the Lord (the formless or ‘NIRGUNA’ aspect of the God), which is evident only to the Seers. Yet he says he has no regrets. There is a suggestion here that he is equating himself with that of the guy who was denied entry into the temple. While the out-caste Hindu was denied physical access to the temple for several years, he was denied the metaphysical meaning of the Lord in His symbolic physical form as rock. Yet, he says, he has no regrets.

The song was perhaps composed in 1969 in his old age while reflecting on the events of his life.  This could be Rajaji’s prayer song combining devotion with knowledge.

Published in: on April 21, 2014 at 1:47 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very nicely analysed. Its my all time favourite and happy to have realised once again that I sing it almost everyday with a fervour and a thanks giving attitude.

    • thanks for your observations

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