Today I listened to a lovely song of Thyagaraja sung by TM Krishna.It’s full of melody and more than melody pathos. The song I’m talking about is ENTA VEDUKONDU in the raga Saraswati Manohari. I heard this song several times in the past sung by other musicians including the great Mani Iyer. However, no one brought out the agony and anguish of the lyrics(sahityam) of the composition so beautifully as TM Krishna, who rendered the piece in his characteristic slow pace. The composition is about a passionate appeal by Thyagaraja to Rama expressing his anger as well as helplessness. NERAVAL for this song is rarely heard (NERAVAL is a way of shifting emphasis on a line by repeated singing with fine variation).TM Krishna does an exceptionally great job of NERAVAL on the second line. It turns out to be the most appropriate place to do NERAVAL, if one goes by the meaning and theme of the song. The saint is basically asking questions of the Lord. He says: “Why are You not coming to my rescue? I, for one, firmly believe that the greatest happiness on earth is to have a vision of You in my inner heart”. Then comes the passionate appeal. He asks: PANTA MELARA… ENTA MODI, meaning “Why are You delaying. Why this obstinacy”?

The word PANTAM in telugu is difficult to translate. The word aptly fits the context and mood of the song. The closest translation of PANTAM is a refusal to comply without any reason! Using this expression, Thyagaraja is conveying that the Lord has no reason for not coming to his rescue since the saint is qualified in all respects.
TM Krishna, by his NERAVAL, was able to convey the saint’s anguish exactly the way he meant. While the saint has composed the song as an appeal to Rama to grant him the vision of God, TM Krishna sang for all of us seeking redemption from our day-to-day problems.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to upload TMK’s version. So, here is a fast paced rendition of the song by Jesudas.

Published in: on February 1, 2015 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sufi mystics’ ‘Fana’ & Saint Thyagaraja’s song Terateeyagaraada…

In this post I’m going explore the close similarities between the Sufi ideal of FANA and Saint Thyagaraja’s song titled TERATEEYAGARAADA. Let me explain what triggered my thought process. I usually take my morning walk in a garden nearby in Mulund, a suburb in Mumbai. This is a huge garden and it takes about 3 minutes of brisk walk to complete one round.The garden is surrounded by man-made concrete jungle on all 3 sides while the 4th side offers a grand view of a Hill. Usually, I reach the garden very early in the morning when it’s pitch dark and foggy. One cannot see the hills with any clarity. We just know it’s there. The clarity of view improves gradually with every round of walk I take and after a while as the day breaks and the fog clears, all of a sudden one would see the majestic and imposing hill facing you. Today as I was circling round the garden, I suddenly recollected a famous song of the Saint Thyagaraja – “Tera teeyagarada……”.  Let us see the connection now.

This is a composition sung in the Raga GowliPanthu. The tune is melodious and meanings are profound. (Here is  one more link to the song sung by my favourite musician MD Ramanthan). The saint is seeking the Lord’s grace for removing the screen of ignorance covering his mind. The ignorance is exactly like the darkness and the early morning fog acting as a screen to the majestic mountain. Just as the sun breaks out and clears the fog enabling us to see the hills, the Lord’s grace is being sought by the saint to clear his foggy thinking. The ignorance is turning the mind into a veritable hell of anger, jealousy and arrogance, which effectively diverts us from our pursuits of absolute happiness, bliss, freedom, Nirvana or Moksha. The saint further elaborates the point with a number of interesting metaphors. For instance he compares the ignorant mind to that of a hungry fish falling prey to an angler’s hook. It’s like darkness at the base of a lamp and so on .
Now let me say something about  a Sufi mystic’s ideal of ‘Fana’. It’s the Sufi term for annihilation, destruction or extinction of the self with its negative values. And it’s the very same annihilation of our ego-centric value system that the Saint Thyagaraja talks about in the composition. In such a state where one achieves complete freedom from the arrogant self, a Sufi is said to have attained oneness with Allah. It’s the same thing as Nirvana in Budhism, Moksha in Hinduism or Mukhti in Sikhism.

Viewed in a completely different context, the composition offers yet another insight. Let us try to understand why the Saint is seeking the grace of God to remove the screen of negative qualities? Because the origin or source of many of the negative qualities are not even known to us. While Hindu scriptures describe this as ‘Vasanas’ or Kashaaya, Western psychologists refer to this as the UNCONSCIOUS. The latter term is an invention of the famous psychologist Carl Jung who talks extensively about Personal Unconscious & Collective Unconscious. According to Carl Jung, the Unconscious keeps projecting these negative qualities without our knowledge and is the cause of our misery. While a Jungian would advocate psychotherapy and counselling, a Hindu would look upon the Lord (Eswara or Narayana) as the psychotherapist and invoke His blessings and grace to destroy the negative qualities of the self.

A Zen Master, JK and Thyagaraja in an imaginary Conversation

Here is an imaginary conversation between Thyagaraja, JK and a Zen Master in presence of a common man in the aftermath of the gruesome killing of Osama Bin Laden:

The scene starts with the zen master pouring tea into a tea cup. He pours and pours till the cup overflows – in fact he doesn’t stop pouring even after the cup starts overflowing. The common man is not amused. He stops him with a protest. The Zen master stops and simply smiles.
Thyagaraja begins the proceedings with what he passionately believes to be the most appropriate musical composition condemning Osama, namely, “Chakkani Raja margamu lundaga sandula duranela….”. He eloborated saying that when a royal path is well laid out,why should one take the bylanes and crooked paths.

Now it’s JK’s turn. He interjects with his famous line, “Sir,Truth is a pathless land”. The common man looks confused as JK continues, “Each one of us has to explore and find Truth for himself. I am not your guru nor are you my disciple”.
Now the common man wants to know from JK the root cause for human misery. JK says in his inimitable style, “Thought divides. Ideas and ideologies fragment further. When I say I am a Muslim or Hindu or Christian, it divides. So do concepts like democracy, communism, Socialism, Capitalism etc”. He continues, “This leads to violence and crimes against humanity. The story has been the same since times immemorial. The only difference now is that with technological advancements, human beings have invented more efficient ways of killing each other”.
The common man now wants to know how one can end this human misery. JK explains, “Let us explore the problem together. Is it at all possible to empty ourselves of the entire content of our Consciousness which is filled with preconceived notions,anger, jealousy,hatred,envy etc? If one can empty our minds of all that something magical will happen. one will then observe without the prejudiced observer. One will see and hear without the biased seer the hearer.There will indeed be TOTAL ATTENTION and in that attention,an insight emerges resulting in clarity of action. And such an action will be complete and filled with love and compassion”.

The moment JK talked about emptying of the contents of consciousness,the Zen Master smiled again and broke his silence. He said, “That is what I meant by pouring tea till it overflowed. Most of our minds are completely filled and overflowing with garbage – how can such a mind receive anything of value?”

Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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