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.
This month is Karteeka maasam and it is special for lord Siva. In that context, I intend to write the essays on pancha bhoota (earth, water, fire, air and ether) linga krithis depicting each kshetram/temples (Kanchi, Sreerangam, Tiruvannamalai, Sreekalahasti and Chidambaram), composed by Sri Muttuswami Deekshitar for 5 months. The first one is “chintaya maa kanda moola kandam” on pruthivi lingam in Kanchi representing the earth.
Krithi: chintaya maa kanda moola kandam
tAlam: Roopaka talam
Composer: Muthuswamy Deekshitar
Singer: T. Chandra Bhanu
chintaya mA kanda mUla kandam cheta: srI sOmAskandam
santatam akhanDa satchidAnandam sAmrAjyaprada charaNAravindam
mangaLakara mandahAsa vadanam mANikyamaya kAnchI sadanam
anga soundarya vijita madanam antaka sUdanam kundaradanam
uttunga kamanIya vrusha turangam bharavI prasangam
guruguhAntarangam pruthivI lingam
Muthuswamy Deekshitar, one among the musical trinity is said to have traveled a bit more than the other two. It is also evident from his compositions depicting the attributes of some of the special temples. In this krithi, he describes lord EkAmreswara in KAncheepuram. In pallavi, he notes to think of the lord who was born at the base of the mango tree and he describes that his lotus feet are capable of providing uninterrupted happiness and a wealthy kingdom. charaNam is filled with simple yet rhyming words that describe him beautifully as the one with very pleasant smiling face and teeth that are like jasmine buds, one who could defeat manmadha (cupid) with his beautiful and well chiseled body, one who uses a tall and mighty bull as his stead, one who conquered Yama (lord of death), one who enjoys chatting with Bharavi (his wife), one who made Kancheepuram and the heart of Guruguha as his abode and one who manifested himself as pruthivi lingam.
The significance of this temple and the pruthivi lingam is a charming story. Once goddess Parvati intended to do penance and lands at Kancheepuram. She finds a nice shady mango tree by the banks of river Vegavati and begins her penance under the tree. The mango tree produces and drops one ripe mango each day. Parvati eats only that mango and continues her penance. Like all sages who engage in penance encountered hurdles, Parvati also endures hurdles like extreme heat from the sun, getting wet from the stormy rains, being exposed to cold from winter and so forth yet steadfastly continues her penance. Even after a long time she has not obtained lord Siva’s blessings. Parvati is now more determined, creates a lingam out of mud and sand at the tree base and starts worshiping that lingam regularly, offering different services. As she continues her regimen, yet another hurdle is thrown at her – a stormy day causes the river Vegavati to rise up and flood. She thinks of lord Siva, whose name she chants in her mind and soul. Worried that the lingam she has been worshipping is going to be washed away in the floods, she immediately hugs the lingam to protect it from the flood. In fact, an abhishekam (pouring water from the top) to the Siva lingam is what Lord Siva’s enjoys thoroughly as quoted “alankAra priyo Vishnu: abhishEka priyo Sankara:” which means Lord Vishnu is fond of adornment and lord Siva is fond of abhishekam. Yet, Parvati just did not want to let go of the Siva lingam that she made and has been worshipping dearly. Siva is impressed by her innocence and the devotion, appears in front of her and manifests in the lingam for her. It is sort of a fallacy that Parvati tries to protect the Siva lingam, though the saying goes that nothing moves without the command of lord Siva. If Siva’s command is for that lingam to be washed away, nobody including Parvati can stop it. Therefore, we can infer that it is lord Siva’s intent for him to manifest there. Because he settled under the mango tree that produces one mango a day he is called as EkAmreswara (Eka=one, Amra=mango), because his heart melts easily with people’s devotion, he is known as bhola sankara and because he manifested in to a earthen lingam, he became pruthivi lingam.
Even now, there is a several hundred years old huge mango tree in the temple compound that produces fruits. Like in all other temples, goddess Parvati’s shrine is not next to Siva’s in this temple. Instead, she has a separate temple which is the famous Kamakshi temple in Kanchi. However, it is said that the mango fruits from EkAmreswara temple are offered at Kamakshi temple.
A notable feature of this story is the fact that the pruthivi lingam is at the base of a tree, which bears fruits around the year. It is a known fact that in order for a seed to sprout and grow, it needs a piece of land with cultivable soil. We always plant the seed first and water it after. If we all need fruit bearing trees just as Parvati had enjoyed the fruits from the tree, we need a parcel of fertile land. If we see it as Siva’s intention to install himself at the tree base to show the importance of healthy soil, then lord Siva is present in every piece of land/soil on this earth. In that case, we all have to care for the land and humbly worship it. It makes us wonder if it is indeed the intent of lord Siva to make us all feel responsible to care and protect the land/soil?
An interesting feature of the krithi is Deekshitar’s phrase of “Bhairavi prasangam”. It is said in many purANas that Siva and Parvati were engaged in pleasant discussions as well as serious arguments. Narrating the same theme, Deekshitar cleverly places that phrase to note that Siva enjoys chatting with Bhairavi (Parvati) and where it also denotes the ragam of the song, Bhairavi. As you listen to this krithi, the thought of Siva and Parvati chatting with each other just like any other couple in the world is pleasant and amazing and it creates an immense curiosity in wanting to listen to what they are talking! They could be talking about blessing us all for a happy Deepavali!
Tanikella Chandra Bhanu is an accomplished Carnatic musician and a graded artist in All India Radio (AIR). She teaches music at Smt. Durgabai Deshmukh Music College. She has performed extensively in India and abroad. She 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.