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: srI kALahastIsa

rAgam: HusEni

tAlam: Jhumpe talam

Composer: Muthuswamy Deekshitar

Singer:  Tejaswini Nandibhatla & Ramya Sree Kamaraju


srI kALahastIsa sritajanAvana samIrAkAra mAm pAhi rAjamauLE Ehi


pAkAri vidhi hari prANamaya kOsA anilAkAsa bhUmi salilAgni prakAsa siva


gnAna prasUnAmbikApatE bhaktAbhimAna dakSiNa kailAsa vAsAbhISta dAna

caturakarAbja dIna karuNAnidhE sUnasera sUdanA ajnAna hara pasupatE

jnAna guruguha saccidAnandamaya mUrtE hInajAti kirAtakEna pUjita kIrtE


This song is written in praise of Siva, who manifested as vAyu linga in srI kALahastI, which is known as kailAsa of south (dakshina kailAsa).  Deekshitar refers to him as “samIrAkAra”.  SamIra means gentle breeze and Akara means form. I bow to Siva, who took the form of a gentle breeze (vAyu linga), who is the king of kings and is worshiped by all.  In anupallavi, he states that Siva provides the life (air) for Indra, brahma, vishnu and others and he is shining in each of the other elements – earth, water, fire and sky/ether.  He is the lord of gnana prasUnAmba, and he is affectionate towards his devotees, chose to reside in dakshina kailAsa, he is kind and generous to people as well as animals, remover of ignorance, the one who killed manmatha, the one who imbibed knowledge to Guruguha, the one who is always happy and is noted for being worshiped by a hunter.  gnana (knowledge) prasUnAmba is none other but Goddess pArvati who performed penance for Siva’s blessings, Siva, pleased with her, teaches her panchakshari and other powerful mantras.

If you observe this place and the song carefully, you will notice that Siva is not only a supreme god for humans but also for animal kingdom, birds, insects and so forth as signified in the name.  SrI means a spider, kALa means a snake and hasti means an elephant. The spider makes web on top of the sivalingam to shelter it from the leaves and dust, snake opens its hood on sivalingam to provide shade from the sun and the elephant fetches water from the river Swarnamukhi with its trunk and showers (abhishekam) on the sivalingam,  Siva, pleased by their services, blesses them, hence the name srI kALahasti. Of course, as the saying goes “abhishekapriyo Siva: alankarapriyo Vishnu:” which means Siva loves abhishekam and Vishnu loves decoration, Siva is naturally pleased by anybody who performs the abhishekam.  This place is also significant as Siva advised and blessed Markandeya here.


A crown jewel of the charanam is the use of a phrase “hInajAti kirAtEna pUjita kIrthe” which means praised and worshiped by a hunter (considered as tribal or lower class) also known as Tinnadu.  Tinnadu is an ardent Siva devotee and he worships Siva and takes care of the temple and the surroundings.  As the days pass by, they experience a severe earthquake.  While temple priests and others reach for the shelter, Tinnadu stays at the temple and hugs the sivalingam to protect it from any damage.  After the quake subsides, as Tinnadu releases the hold on sivalingam, he finds blood and tears rolling down from one of Siva’s eyes.  Moved by that, Tinnadu pulls one of his eyes and fixes it on Siva’s bloody eye. While doing that he finds the other eye also bleeding and he prepares to pull his other eye and fix it there.  Realizing that he will be blind after he pulls his other eye, he puts the great toe of his right leg at the spot of Siva’s eye and tries to pull his eye.  Lord Siva, extremely pleased with Tinnadu’s devotion and sacrifice, appears in front of him, stops from his act of pulling his eye, brings his other eye back and blesses him.  Thereafter, Tinnadu is known as Kannappa (kannu means eye).  An important attribute of Siva is that he doesn’t discriminate between high or low born, rich or poor, big or small, but he is bound to just pure devotion. In this context, we must note a lovely poem in Telugu by a great poet Dhurjati.


E vEdambulu paTinche lUta, bhujagambE sastramul jUche

dAnE vidyAbhyAsanambonarche kari, chenchE mantramUhinche

bodhAvirbhava nidhanamul chaduvulayyA gaavu nI pAda

samsEvAsaktiye gaka janthu tatikin srI kALahastIswara


It means, which vedas did the spider study, what sastras did the snake look into, what lessons did the elephant learn and what mantras did the hunter chant?  Oh srI kALahastIswara! it is not the education that is important but the intention to serve at your feet is what is important!


It is said that there are five lifelines for every living thing called annamaya, prANamaya (prAnamaya kosa referred to in the song), manOmaya, jnAnamaya and Anandamaya.  Each of these lifelines are filled with air, that is why there is no life without the air.  Deekshitar states, that is why lord Siva has taken the form of air and spread it across the universe. I plead to lord Siva to give us strength to keep the air pure and clean.  And also whenever there is a fire, I pray to him not to be too windy and cause the fire to go wild but stay calm as a gentle breeze.


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

Tejaswini Nandibhatla, M.A. (music), is a carnatic classical and playback singer and a student of Dr. Seshu Latha Viswanath.  She is the runner up in “padutaa teeyaga” contest.  She performed many concerts in India and abroad.

Ramya Sree Kamaraju, M.A. (music), is a AIR graded carnatic classical singer and a student of Dr. Seshu Latha Viswanath.  She regularly performs in concerts and participates in Doordarshan programs such as Saptagiri, nAdanIrAjanam, kIrtana SankIrtana.


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