The Sangam period in Tamizh literature is very interesting. Historians place the period between 100 BC and AD 250.
2381 poems were composed by 473 poets (out of which nearly 100 remain anonymous). The poems are mature and classical poetry that go deep into the human psyche. They are marked by simple and detailed descriptions with the human emotions running as the undercurrent.
Look at this poem from ‘KuRunthogai’where the girl laments about her lover.
Her man is travelling (why and where are left to our imagination. Maybe on a business trip).
She visualizes the dangers on the way.
‘He has to cross the small springs that are of the size of ant hills.
He has to cross the huge hot rocks from where the tribesmen sharpen their arrows and aim those on passers by.
(the people of) this town do not care for all this.’
எறும்பி அளையின் குறும்பல் சுனைய
உலைக்கல் அன்ன பாறை ஏறிக்
கொடுவில் எயினர் பகழி மாய்க்கும்
கவலைத் தென்ப அவர்தேர் சென்றவாறே
அது மற்றவலம் கொள்ளாது
நொதுமற் கழறும் இவ்வழுங்கல் ஊரே.
Like all the classical poems, this poem- written by a poet called ‘Odalaanthaiyaar’- too can be interpreted in different ways.
She is worried that he might fall into the springs. She is worried that the arrows might hit him.
But a deeper look throws up a lot of meanings. Her main concern is his being away from her. The normal tendency of a human being when he/she is disturbed is to hide behind negative feelings and emotions. Here, she is missing him. Unable to bear the separation, she thinks, imagines and perceives the dangers that are strewn around the path. By saying ‘no one here seems to care for him’, she emphasizes that it is always her and only her who cares for him. A matter of pride no doubt but don’t we also see the possessiveness of the lover?
Look at the description. Springs compared with small ant hills. ‘குறும்பல் சுனை’ can be taken as ‘springs without water’ (dry). Rocks compared with the anvil of the blacksmith to show the sharpness of her love.
On the whole, it can also be construed as the dangers to her love with the springs, and the tribesmen being symbolic of the town (and maybe her parents) –the obstacles in her path of love.
Most importantly, it falls under a grammar structure called ‘IyarraLai Velladi’(இயற்றளை வெள்ளடி) in ‘Aasiriya Pa (ஆசிரியப்பா).Let me not get into the intricacies of tamizh grammar since it is beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice to say that, in just 6 lines, one sees all aspects of a beautiful, mature classical poetry that also follows the grammar.
Such poems that have withstood the vagaries of time are worthy of respect, arouse awe and are formidable. In other words, they are redoubtable.
Likewise, ILaiyaraaja’s music too is simple, yet deep and sketches the beautiful landscape of life. Human emotions form the edifice of his music and most importantly, the compositions follow the grammar.
The song of the day ‘Oru Naa Oru Pozhuthu’ from ‘Eetti’(1985) is yet another classic example of his brilliance.
The composition is based on Sindhu Bhairavi, one of the most beautiful ragas.
We have already seen this raga in ‘Konji Karaiyalle’(ILaiyaraaja’s Music-Subtle and Graceful..) and in ‘En Nenjam Unnodu’(ILaiyaraaja-The Ethereal Musician).
Sindhu Bhairavi is derived from the 10th melakarta Natakapriya and its structure is:
ma1 pa dha2 ni2 dha2 sa ri1 ga2 ma1/ ga2 ri1 Sa ni2 dha2 pa ma1 ga2 ma1.
As indicated by the very different structure, this raga is also very unique. It uses almost all the swaras-except the ma2- and the more alien notes are mixed(at the right time), the more beautiful the raga is.
The raga’s essence can be given even in a very small phrase ‘ma pa dha’ by a trained musician.
Sindhu Bhairavi must be ILaiyaraaja’s most favourite(or at least one his most favourites) and he has composed hundreds of songs in this raga.The reason could also be because he too is as unique as the raga.
Let us now look at the song of the day.
We see the beautiful voice of Janaki draw the sketch the raga in ‘akaaram’.
This ‘akaaram’ in three parts makes us visualize the raga.
The first part is hauntingly charming while the second part has a smooth rippling flow. The third part enfold us with poignancy. In between, we have the strings that play with subtlety. The powerful string instrument and the incisive flute lead us to the Pallavi.
The Pallavi is suave and gentle showing us the delicate contours of the raga. We see the tinge of a sweet melancholic melody as the stringed instrument is juxtaposed with the vocals.
In the beginning of the first interlude, the Flute gives a feather touch to the Violins which then move with serpentine grace. The Flute now allures the Shehnai and disappears. The Viraha Stuck Shehnai starts searching for the Flute and plays with intense virtuosity. The dynamic Guitar consoles the Shehnai and shows how pain can be poetic and musical.
The CharaNams are laced with delicate and heavy phrases.
The first four lines have smooth flowing melodic lyricism and are splendidly majestic.
The extended sojourns with crystal clear sangatis in the lines that follow make the CharaNams immaculate while the crisp ending is like the jewel in the crown.
The virile strings heighten the experience in the second interlude.The zestful flute romances with the guitar and what unfolds is the exceptional magnetism of the raga.It is a perfect blend of pace and permutation. The lustrous Flute goes around with captivating charm giving lightning repartees to the translucent Guitar until sound dissolves into silence..
ஒரு நா ஒரு பொழுது உன் இசையை பிரிஞ்சதில்லை.. உயிரில் உயிரை வைச்ச உறவை மறந்ததில்லை..
Even for a single moment have I not been away from your music..