Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Laya Raaja- 7

ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஆகி அள்ளவற்று உளாயுமாய்,

ஐந்தும் மூன்றும் ஒன்றுமாகி நின்ற ஆதி தேவனே!

ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஆகி அந்தரத்து அணைந்து நின்று,

ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஆய நின்னை யாவர் காண வல்லரே?

அஞ்சிலே ஒன்று பெற்றான் அஞ்சிலே ஒன்றைத் தாவி

அஞ்சிலே ஒன்று ஆறு ஆக ஆரியர்க்காக ஏகி

அஞ்சிலே ஒன்று பெற்ற அணங்கைக் கண்டு அயலாரூரில்

அஞ்சிலே ஒன்றை வைத்தான் அவன்  எம்மை அளித்துக் காப்பான்.

What is this? Is it a word play? Or a number play? Or both?

The first one is from the Thiruchchandaviruththam of Thirumazhisai Azhwar and the second one is a Kamban verse.

Before we find an answer, let us look at the meanings first.

As per Sri Vaishnavite philosophy, the Lord governs 24 thathvaas. The great poet  Thirumazhisai azhwar poetically splits these  as four 5 s two 3s and one 1. The five elements comprise the first 5. The second 5 are the Gnaanendriyaas. The third 5 are the karmendriyaas while the fourth 5 has the subtle tanmaatraas. Ego, Mahaan and the avyaktam are the 3 while the single most thing is the mind. Finally, he says ‘who can unravel the mystery?’

If the Azhwar used the 5 to describe the mystery of creation, Kavi Chakravarti used the 5 to praise Anjaneya with just the five elements.

He was born to Vaayu, or the wind. He crossed the water - the Indian Ocean- taking the aerial route(aagayam), to see the lady  who was born to Bhooma Devi(the Earth), and set fire(  agni) to that place(Ashoka Vanam in Lanka).

The world revolves around numbers. Our life revolves around numbers. Is there anything in this world which is not governed by the numbers? Time, Place, Event, Procreation, Death..In fact, our life is a zero without numbers and there too we have a number. Now, all these apply to yet another thing in this world.


Our life resonates with this. The ticking of the clock, the sound of the train, our laugh, our crying, our walk…in fact, scientifically it is proven that our body follows what is called as the circadian rhythm.

Numbers and Rhythm..Our life will be non-existent without these.

In the verses quoted, we saw that the numbers acquired different meanings when they were split. In the first one, 24 was split as 5,5,5,5,3,1 while in the second one the number 5 itself was used to denote a different element each time.

In Carnatic Music, numbers and rhythm are organised so well that not only do the compositions sound good but they also make us think and work, thus activating our grey cells. Our thinking becomes organised and our mental faculties are fine tuned. It is the meeting of the mind and the matter. Where the brain meets the heart.

That is why, the word Laya which in Sanskrit has multiple meanings like focus, togetherness, to cling on to something and peace, is aptly used to denote rhythm or taaLa.

In the previous six posts, we saw certain basic things and features of taaLas, the syllables and how a taaLa follows calculations and how the syllables are split .Most importantly, we saw as to how and why ILaiyaraaja is the true Laya Raaja with his imaginative, creative and innovative usage of the TaaLas and the patterns. We saw two different taaLas in the same composition simultaneously,  then one following the other and we saw how he constructed Pallavis and CharaNams using very unusual patterns.We saw the composition following a free flowing pattern and yet following a taaLa and saw how two taaLa patterns alternated very quickly leaving us with amazement.

The series comes to an end today with yet another special composition in another dimension. Nothing encapsulates and articulates Laya better than the classical dance in our system. Therefore, it will not be a surprise if the special song of the day is a dance composition of his.

The song ‘Naatya Kalaapam Navarasa Roopam’ from the Telugu film ‘Kunti Putrudu’ is one of his many classical dance songs which uses the dance syllables in accordance with the classical art and where the syllables are split and calculations done adhering to the rules of Carnatic Music.

The composition follows the 8-beat aadi taaLam and starts with the mridangam and the ankle bell drawing some beautiful patterns for 4 aavartanaas.

The Pallavi starts with the mridangam pausing for a moment and then playing ‘ta ri ki ta taam’ in the mel kaalam thrice and then continuing with the ‘ta ka dhi mi’ following the words.

In the first interlude, the dance syllables are uttered and are split thus:

Thajjonutha thathimitha tajjam is ta ka ta ki  ta/ta ka ta ki  ta/ta ka dhi mi-that is 2 khandams and one chatushram.. Therefore we have 5+5+4 which is equal to 14. To complete this half avartanaa, there is a pause for 2 maatras and this completes the 16.The orchestra repeats the same syllables melodically and the aavrtanaa is completed. This happens twice. In the following aavartana ‘taam’ and ‘ta ki  ta’ are added as prefix to ‘tajjonutha thaththimtha’ without the ‘tajjom’ and this is done twice to make it 32 in one aavrtana.

‘thom tha ri ki ta ta ka ta dheem ta’ –that is 16 maatraas are repeated 4 times and therefore we have 64 maatras in the next aavartana.

In the following aavartanaa which completes the teermaanam, we have ‘thom thari ki  ta ta ka taa’ twice and ‘thom ta ri ki ta ta ka’ once in the first half-which is 12+12+8 and in the next half ‘thom ta ri ki  ta ta ka taa’ thrice making it 36. Now, it is 32+36 which is 68 while as per simple arithmetic it should be a figure divisible by 8 and therefore 64 only.

This is where the beauty and brilliance in a composition lie. The Pallavi starts in samam and until the last aavartana, all calculations are from samam to samam. But here, the first line of the first CharaNam ‘Aadi umapati’ starts in the second beat of the taaLam and the first beat has the ‘taaa’ which is a count of 4 in mel kaalam!

The first charaNam however ends with the last beat of the taaLam and the Pallavi when repeated again starts in samam as before.

The second interlude mostly has the dance syllables and it starts with

‘ta ta ri/ta ja Nu/ta dhi  mi/ta ki ta/ taam/ tadheem/ ta ki  ta/ dheem/ dheem’ which is 32 split as

4 , 4, 5, 3, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4.

This is repeated twice. The orchestra repeats this twice too showing how melody and rhythm go hand in hand.

The very brief swara segment follows and swaraas  are rendered in one full aavartana.

The next segment follows joyously..

First it is ‘ta dheem/ tatadheem/ ki ta ta ka/ ta dheem ta’ which is 3, 5, 4, and  4 rendered twice in one aavartana.

Then we have typical dance syllables which go as 4, 4, 4 in keezhkaalam and 8 in melkaalam at the fourth and the 8th beats.

It is mesmerizingly magical from then on with the ‘na dhin dhin naa’ being used brilliantly.

In the first aavartana, this appears in each beat for 3 beats with the ‘thom ta ri ki ta ta ka’ appearing in the last beat making it 16.

In the next aavartana, which is the last one before the second charaNam, ‘naa dhin dhin naa’ alternates between ‘thom ta ri ki  ta ta ka’  and ‘ta ri  ki ta ka’ with a small pause for 2 micro beats before ‘ta ri ki ta ka’. If this is the first half, in the second half we have ‘ta ri ki ta’ 7 times. It is finally wound up with the ‘ta dheem ta taa’ with the last ‘taa’ again in the samam of the second charaNam. So, it is 32+36 yet again.

The second part of the second charaNam is structured differently and follows

Ta ki  ta/ ta ki  ta/ta  ki ta /ta ki  ta/ta ka dhi mi-3 , 3, 3, 4 for two aavartanaas.

The last line completes the teermaanam with ‘4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 6, 4’.

Let us now look at the melody part.

The composition is based on Hamsaanandi, a shaadava raga with 6 swaras in the arohaNam and avarohaNam.

The lilting veeNa and the stirring Sitar join together in the prelude followed by the violins sketching the raga eloquently.

The serenity of the raga is shown in the imkaaram of Chitra while its vibrant contours raga are shown by the Sitar in the Pallavi. The navarasa roopam towards the end shows all the rasaas of the raga.

With melody wafting all over, the first interlude moves with the Sitar, VeeNa, Flute and the Violins. The clear voice of SPB adds lustre to the already shining composition. The VeeNa and Sitar echoing the dance syllables with agility in Hamsaanandi in the second half speaks volumes of the creativity of the composer.

Both the CharaNams are woven with imagination and are full of entrancing classical contents with the melodic instruments repeating the syllables with grace and unsullied dignity.

Rhythmic aesthetics with fluent patterns…perceptively pervasive brilliance.

Magic of numbers. Magic of rhythm..

Magic of Raaja.. Magic of ‘ee laya raaja..’

PS: The previous Tamizh post and this post were read out to an invited audience on the 24th of Aug 2014.

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