‘He, who has swallowed all the Seven Worlds, lies on a tiny banyan leaf; Bedecked with garlands of gems and pearls, He lies on the Serpant. Oh..His Dark blue complexion and His infinite Beauty has filled my heart to the brim!!”
ஆலமாமரத்தின் இலை மேல் ஒரு பாலகனாய்
ஞாலம் ஏழும் உண்டான் அரங்கத்து அரவின் அணையான்
கோலமாமணி ஆரமும் முத்துத் தாமமும் முடிவில்லதோர் எழில்
நீலமேனி ஐயோ! நிறை கொண்டது என் நெஞ்சினையே..
Sang ThiruppaaN Azhwar.
The story of ThiruppaN Azhwar, one of the 12 great Vaishnavite saints is very interesting. He was born as in a ‘low caste’ family somewhere around the 9th Century. Caste system, the bane of the Indian society was very strictly followed those days and people born in certain castes were not even allowed to go near the temple.
Being born in a family of musicians (PaaNars were traditionally VeeNa players) , he was adept in music and would play the VeeNa everyday closing his eyes on the banks of the Cauvery river in Sri Rangam. One day, a Saint-obviously an ‘upper caste’- who came to draw sacred water for the Lord, saw him close to the river and asked him to clear the place. Engrossed in his own music, PaaNar failed to hear that. The ‘Saint’ threw a stone to chase him away.
PaaNar started bleeding profusely.
It is said that blood started oozing out from Ranganathar(the presiding deity at Sri Rangam). The ‘Saint’ was ordered by the Divine to carry PaaNar on his shoulders and bring him to his Sanctum Sanctorum. PaaNar was stuck by the beauty of the Lord and started singing verses describing His beauty from Toe to Head. In his 10th verse, he said ‘My eyes cannot see anything/anybody else after this’ and attained salvation.
Though none of us can confirm now if this story was true or not, all of us can read and appreciate the beauty in his 10 verses. Among the 12 Azhwars, ThiruppaNaazwar composed the least number of verses(while Nammazhawar composed 1296!).But each verse is a gem.
The verse quoted above is the 9th verse. Look at the brilliant composition.
It starts with the description of the little Krishna on the tiny green leaf. Then he goes on to describe the Huge Ranganatha (another form of Lord Vishnu) as the one who is decorated with priceless jewellry .
Look at the contrasts:
Little figure, Huge figure.
Tiny leaf, Big serpent.
Simple, Decorated with Jewellery.
Big tree(Maa maram), Infant.
Infant, Seven Worlds.
Is it not brilliant?
His story also throws up a lot of sociological issues. A ‘high caste’ carrying a ‘low caste’ on his shoulders. A ‘low caste’ uneducated singing and composing brilliant poems in chaste Tamizh.
Such stories and poems enlighten us and show us the right path.
ILaiyaraaja’s music also gives us this enlightenment because it takes us all to a completely different plane giving us a spiritual experience.
The song we are going to see today gives us that experience like many of his compositions.
It is based on Pahaadi raag.
Pahaadi is a Hindustani raag and as the name suggests, it originated from the mountains.Because of this reason, this raag cannot be defined by a rigid structure and one ‘feels’ it rather than define it straining their grey cells.
However, as per theory, this is what its structure is:
Pa Dha2 Sa Ri2 Ga3 Pa Dha2 Sa/Sa Ni3 Dha2 Pa ma1 Ga3 ri2 sa ni3 dha2 pa dha2 Sa.
Please note that the notes with the capital letters are the higher octave notes (called ‘Mel Sthaayi’) and the ones with the small letters are the lower octave notes(called ‘Keezh Sthaayi’).
Doesn’t it look like a mountainous terrain? It is of course as beautiful as a mountain.
Let us now look at the song of the day- ‘Ennaththil Edho Chillendrathu’ from the film ‘KallukkuL Eeram’(1980).
As usual, the song has an unusual start.
The Ghatam plays the Tisram pattern in fast tempo (mel kaalam) and this itself acts as the shruti. The subtle ankle bells joins in Tisram. The humming of Janaki and the flute that follows her after each phrase exude an aromatic fragrance. The dynamic bass guitar, the lilting flute and the vivacious Janaki combine with a spirit of joi de verve. The luminous guitar and the resplendent flute dovetail sensitively and lead us to the Pallavi.
The Pallavi glows with incandescent musical light.
The short first line is followed by the Guitar and the flute with ghatam dynamics adding buoyancy. The alien swara ‘ga2’ in the next line makes it look more beautiful.
The first interlude shows the inherent glory of the raag.
The flute traipses up and down reminding us of a mountain. The violins in the absence of percussion instrument now indulge in sensitive inflections with the accordion echoing the same notes. The violins now make liquid glides with the lilting flute giving alluring phrases as repartees.
The sound of the breeze towards the end is fertilely imaginative. Please note that the CharaNam starts with the word ‘Thendral’(breeze).
The CharaNam is laced with delicate phrases.
The first part is a smooth flowing melody.The first two lines are repeated. The second time one hears the skillfully woven musical pieces responding to the vocals.
The middle part of the CharaNam is a delicacy of expression.
The final part showcases all the colours of the Raag with the swerving flute heightening the melodic equation of delineation.
The second interlude is musically exhaustive and shows us varying sheaves of melody.
It starts with the violins and the double bass giving an exquisite exposition. Peppered with phrases of authority are the twin flute gallivants up and down with glee. The pulsating string instrument -joined by the ghatam- dances with ecstasy. The exhilarating bass flute oscillates with elegance leaving us asking for more.It is like a dancing musical fountain.
Unruffled by all this, the violins lead us to the second CharaNam in a serene demeanor.
And we utter ‘Oh..This infinite beauty has filled my heart to the brim!”( ஐயோ! நிறை கொண்டது என் நெஞ்சினையே).
His music gives us a Cool mind and cool thoughts- அவரது இசையினால் நமது மனமும், எண்ணங்களும் என்றுமே சில்லென்றுதானே இருக்கும்!