Carnatic Compositions – The Essence and Embodiment
-Aparna Munukutla Gunupudi
Our intent for this essay is to highlight the great features of the language, emotion and melody (rAgam) of a krithi (song/composition) and also to provide the song for your listening pleasure. Most of you may know these krithis, but when you discover the distinct features of a krithi, you may enjoy a new beauty or an attribute in the krithi.
Note: Krithi is defined as a song containing pallavi, anupallavi and charanam that have high musical value and can be sung elaborately with improvisations. Whereas Keerthana also has a pallavi, anupallavi and charanam but is sung in a single form or simpler pattern.
Krithi: HiranmayIm lakshmIm
tAlam: Rupka talam
Composer: Muthuswami Deekshitulu
Singer: T. Chandra Bhanu
hiraNmayIm lakSmIm sadA bhajAmi hIna mAnavAsrayam tyajAmi
ciratara sampatpradAm kSIrAmbudhi tanayAm hari vakSasthalAlayAm harinIm caraNa kisalayAm kara kamaladhrta kuvalayAm marakata maNinibha valayAm
swEta dvIpa vAsinIm srI kamalAmbikAm parAm
bhUta bhavya vilAsinIm bhUsura pUjitAm varAm
mAtaram abja mAlinIm mANikyAbharaNa dharAm
gIta vAdya vinOdinIm girijAm tAm indirAm sIta
sIta kiraNa nibhabha vadanAm srita cintAmaNi sadanAm
pItavasanAm guruguha mAtula kAntAm lalitAm
Among hundreds of songs praising goddess Lakshmi, this kruthi is the crown jewel of Sri Deekshitulu’s compositions. It comprises fabulous descriptions, many adjectives and simple yet rhyming lyrics that are set in melodious Lalita ragam. Deekshitulu is well noted for cleverly embedding the name of the ragam in the song. In the pallavi, while praising goddess Lakshmi, he suggests avoiding the company of unrighteous people. In anupallavi, he describes Lakshmi, the daughter of milky ocean as one with tender feet, arms like lotus stems adorned with emerald bangles and holding lotus flowers, who resides in Lord Sri Hari’s heart and generously blesses people with wealth. Charanam has incredible adjectives and unparalleled compound words, stating Lakshmi, who lives in the beautiful white island, in a home with chintamanis (chintamani is a special gem that grants people with whatever they think/wish), who dwells in the past and future, worshipped by the people, has a pleasant face that shines with golden hue, dressed in yellow, wearing ruby studded jewelry and garland of lotus flowers, who is the consort of Lord Vishnu, uncle to Guruguha. He uses an exemplary compound word to describe this. Guruguha is Subramanyeswara whose mother is Parvati. Parvati’s brother is Lord Vishnu, therefore Vishnu becomes Guruguha’s maternal uncle. He uses many synonyms as Kamalambika, Girija, Indira, Lalita and Lakshmi, showing the equal treatment of the trisakthi, the three superpowers – the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati. Another interesting fact to be noted is that he set this song in ragam Lalita even though there is Sree (Lakshmi) ragam.
“nIchasrayo na kartavya: kartavya: mahadAsraya:” – don’t engage in bad company but stay engaged in good company is the noble word. He aptly incorporates that concept in this song by saying praise goddess Lakshmi and leave the bad company. In addition, he details very enticing reasons to follow goddess Lakshmi. The thought of beauty, wealth, precious gems, gleaming jewelry, lotus flowers and so forth always bring cheer and happiness to people and naturally are attracted towards them. By chance, if anybody is left out, their heart will melt like gold melting in the heat, after listening to the song set in the melodious tune.
Background for this composition is that once Deekshitulu’s wife was longing for jewelry and suggested her husband to approach the king Sarabhoji’s court. Deekshitulu understands the underlying message, composes this song and sings in front of goddess Lakshmi. Later that night, goddess Lakshmi appears in his wife’s dream and states that her husband is the most wealthy man. Next day, his wife explains her dream to her husband, realizes her mistake and begs him to forgive her. Extremely pleased with the blessings from goddess Lakshmi, Deekshitulu composes yet another song “ mangaLa devatayA tvayA bahumAnitoham” in DhanyAsi ragam.
“aum sreem hreem sreem kamale kamalAlaye prasIda prasIda sreem hreem sreem aum mahAlakshmyai nama:”
Above slokam is the powerful Mahalakshmi yantram, if chanted nine times everyday will bestow people with wealth and prosperity. The phrase “kamale kamalAlaye prasIda prasIda” is nestled between the beejAksharas (key syllables), which means that Kamala/Lakshmi dwells in the lotus (her palace), surrounded by the lotus flowers. The relation between the Mahalakshmi yantram and the lotus is the configuration and formation of the lotus flower. The lotus flower has petals overlapping in a symmetrical pattern forming an octagonal shape which is similar to the Lakshmi yantram. Deekshitulu beautifully captures the essence of the yantra into this song by multiple references to lotus such as lotus like hands, holding a lotus flower, adorned with lotus garland, and finally referring to her as KamalAmbika. Hope you enjoy this song during this auspicious month of Sravana mAsam, which will bring you blessings from Sri Maha Lakshmi.
The power of music is profound
The joy of music is sweet and sound
The awe of music is abound
Music makes the world go round
Tanikella Chandra Bhanu is an accomplished Carnatic musician and graded artist in All India Radio. She teaches music at Sri Durgabai Deshmukh Music College. She has performed extensively in India and abroad and currently lives in Bangalore.
Aparna Munukutla Gunupudi is a poet, lyricist and short story writer. She has written dance ballets such as Queen of Jhansi, Prasanna Ashtalakshmi, Usha Kalyanam, Sneham, Jamsetji Tata and they were performed in Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam styles. She wrote songs for “Prema Tarangini” an audio cassette released by noted music director Sri Manohar Murthy. She considers her parents, who provided and encouraged her in book reading, are her “gurus” and Sri Jandhyala Payayya Sastri as her writing mentor.