Absorbed in the beauty of the Divine, the great Tamizh poet Thirugnanasambandar sings,
‘You are the flaw/blemish. You are the good virtues/qualities.
You are the family/kinship. You are the Lord, You are the ever-glowing light,
You are the scriptures, You are the Joy, You are the wealth,
You are everything, How can I even praise You?’
The poet attributes everything to the Divine and means to say, ‘Without Him, nothing is possible. Therefore, how much ever we praise Him, will it be enough?’
குற்றம் நீ குணங்கள் நீ கூடல் ஆலவாயிலாய்
சுற்றம் நீ பிரானும் நீ தொடர்ந்திலங்கு சோதி நீ
கற்ற நூல் கருத்தும் நீ அருத்தம் இன்பம் என்றிவை
முற்றும் நீ புகழ்ந்து முன் உரைப்பதென் முகம்மனே.
It may be noted that the poem itself starts with the word ‘kuRRam’ (flaw/blemish) and ends with ‘You are everything’ clearly pointing to the fact that everything in this world starts with a blemish..
Another great poet Nammazhwar sang, ‘Us, He, She, Me, That, This, What, Unwanted things, Good, Bad and the Ugly- Everything is Him’.
நாம் அவன் இவன் உவன்,அவள் இவள் உவள் எவள்,
தாம் அவர் இவர் உவர்,அது இது உது எது,
வீம் அவை இவை உவை,அவை நலம், தீங்கு அவை,
ஆம் அவை, ஆயவை, ஆய் நின்ற அவரே.
Both the verses no doubt have great poetic value but apart from this, there is something that makes these great. Both are soaked in divinity..
Divinity. The very mention of this word will make a non-believer laugh.
But what exactly is divinity?
Is it the preserve of the so-called theists? Don’t all of us have it too?
Let us think for a moment.
All of us experience certain moments in life that cannot be explained. Moments when we forget ourselves, moments when we feel the time ceases to exist, moments when we feel ecstatic, moments where we experience vibrations, moments that give us peace and tranquility.
When does this happen?
When we listen to melodious music.
Is it then wrong to call this as a divine experience?
One of the greatest things about Music is that it appeals universally to believers, atheists and agnostics.
Music can never be seen. It can only be experienced. That is why, it is considered to be divine whether one is a believer, atheist or an agnostic.
Though Music to a great extent is subjective, any form of music that gives us joy, peace, and happiness is great music.
The world has seen some great music composers whose compositions have stood the time and whose music has influenced our life.
ILaiyaraaja is one such composer. Though his compositions are mainly for films, the depth, the breadth, the height, and the range in the compositions make us discover new dimensions in music and in our life. His music reverberates within us making us resonate with it. That is why, his music is equally appreciated by pundits and the common man.
The composition we are going to see on this special day talks about the greatness of divinity. It is also very special musically.
A single composition having different ragas is not very uncommon in classical music and in film music and these are called as Ragamaalika. The song of the day is also a ragamaalika. There are 8 ragas in total, out of which 3 fall in the same chakra in the melakarta system.
Without getting too technical, let me tell you that there are 72 melakaratas, which are called as the parent ragas and these 72 are divided into 12 chakras, with 6 ragas-which have the same variant of the notes ‘ri’, ga’ and ‘ma’- grouped in one chakra. These ragas have the same ‘sa ri ga ma’ while the variants of ‘dha’ and ‘ni’ are different. I shall explain this when I describe the composition.
Such a composition is very rare and as far as I know the only composition that has ragas in the same chakra is Koteeswara Iyer’s Mela ragamalika.
What is this special song of the special day?
It is ‘Aayiram kodi kaalangaLaaga’ from ‘Kavikkuyil’(1977).
It starts with the sublime Jalatarangam accompanied by the robust pakhawaj giving a sensitively refined musical expression in Mayamalavagowla. Rustling with beauty, the evocative flute continues with a spiritual fervour. The delectable veena nods its head to mark the beginning of a divine experience.
The Pallavi has the ‘anaagata eduppu’ with the song starting after the TaLa begins ( 3/4th place to be precise). Classic depth mingles with the sweetness of expression with Dr.Balamuralikrishna rendering ‘Aayiram kodi kaalangaLa’. The raga changes to VakuLabharaNam in the next phrase ‘Aananda leelaiyin’.
Mayamalavagowla is the 15th melakarta and VakulabharaNam is the 14th. Both are part of the Agni Chakra and only the variant of ‘ni’ separates the two.
The resplendent Jalatarangam beams spiritually and a magic happens. The Flute plays in the next Shruti. It is a completely different ragam called Vagadheeshwari which is the 34th melakarta. Two things are to be noted here. One- It is not a graha bedam. Two- only some swaras of Vagadheeshwari are played.
The flute throbs with devotion and glows ethereally. The dainty Veena brings Mayamalavagowla leading us to the first charaNam.
The first part of the CharaNam shimmers with elegance.. The raga changes to VakulabharaNam in the line ‘Margazhi maada..’.
The second interlude sees another dramatic change. The flute plays Valaji, a pentatonic raga which does not have the swaras ‘ri’ and ‘ma’. On paper it is derived from the 28th melakarta Harikambhoji. As the flute shows the melodic dimensions of the raga, another surprise is in store.
The Veena plays Chakravaagam, the 16th melakarta. This is a Master stroke in two aspects. On paper, Valaji is derived from the 28th melakarata Harikambhoji. However, the 5 swaras that are inherent in the raga- sa, antara gandharam, panchamam, chatushruti dhaivatam, and kaisiki nishadam- are also part of Chakravagam. Secondly, Chakravagam is the melam next to Mayamalavagowla. So, we have the third ragam from the same ‘agni’ chakram in the same composition.
The additional attraction in the flute piece is the use of Kanjira, a percussion instrument not normally used in a film composition.
The second charaNam shows the different facets of Chakravagam. Apart from the poetically musical phrases, it also has the exhilarating akaaras with a pensive appeal for two tala cycles. We feel the characteristic fragrance of the raga in the line ‘Paarkadal amudaaga..’.
The third interlude starts with the flute playing Mohanam in the first half and Mohana Kalyani in the second half. The Veena that follows with melodic finesse has strains of Mohana Kalyani. The Kanjira appears again and smiles along with Mohana Kalyani.
The third charaNam that starts in Mohanam takes us to a supreme spiritual plane.
Mohanam changes to Charukesi with poise from ‘aruL kaakkum..’
It is back to VakuLabharaNam from ‘Margazhi maada’..
The flute bit that follows in Mayamalavagowla is intense, profound and delicate.
It is a composition that takes us on a journey into the realms of divinity making us feel the core of spirituality..
This aananda leelai will continue for thousand million years!
ps: This post and the previous post in Tamizh were read out to an exclusive audience in Chennai on the 26th of Aug 2012.