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: swAgatam krishNA
rAgam: Mohanam
tAlam: Adi talam
Composer: UttukkaaDu VenkaTa Subbayyar


swAgatam krishNA saraNAgatam krishNA
mathurApuri sadanA mrudu vadanA madhusUdana iha


bhOga tApta sulabhA supushpa gandha kalabha
kastUri tilaka mahipA mama kAnta nanda gOpa kanda


mushTikAsura chAnUra malla malla visArada madhusudanA
kuvalayApIDa mardhana kALinga narthana gOkula rakshana sakala sulakshaNa dEva
sishTa jana pAla sankalpa kalpa kalpa sata kOTi asama parAkrama
dhIra muni jana vihAra madana sukumAra daitya samhAra dEva
madhura madhura rati sArasa sarasa vraja yuvatI jana mAnasa pUjita


swAgatam krishNA – welcome KrishNa
saraNAgatam krishNA – you are the savior
mathurApuri sadanA – residing in town of Mathura
mrudu vadanA – delicate faced
madhusUdana – killer of demon Madhu
Iha – now

bhOga tApta – people who dearly long to see you
sulabhA – easy
supushpa – good flowers
gandha – fragrance
kalabha – large, robust, elephant
kastUri tilaka – fragrant vermilion on his forehead
mahipA – a man
mama – our
kAnta – women
nanda gOpa – nanda gopa family
kanda – lord

mushTikAsura – demon MushTika
chAnUra – demon chAnUra
malla – wrestlers
malla visArada – proficient in wrestling
madhusudanA – one who killed demon Madhu
kuvalayApIDa – wild elephant KuvalayaApIda
mardhana – slayer
kALinga – Kalinga, the serpent
narthana – dancing
gOkula – the community of cowherd
rakshana – protected
sakala – all
sulakshaNa – virtuous
dEva – god
sishTa – good
jana – people
pAla – taking care
Sankalpa – intended
kalpa – thru the ages
sata kOTi – hundred crores
Asama – unparalleled
parAkrama – valorous
dhIra – courageous
muni jana – saintly people
vihAra – dwell
madana sukumAra – as handsome as cupid
daitya – demons
samhAra – slayer
dEva – god
madhura madhura- pleasantly sweet
rati sArasa – romantic
sarasa – playful
vraja yuvatI jana – the girls from town of Vraja
mAnasa – in their hearts
pUjita – worshiped

          In this krithi Uttukkadu Venkata Subbayyar, very aptly and beautifully describes lord KrishNa’s attributes and his achievements, while welcoming Krishna, the savior, the one with a delicate face who killed the demon Madhu and who resides in Mathura. This krithi is in a very lyrical form using simple language. He describes KrishNa as easily accessible for people who dearly long to see him, he is a robust man who enjoys fragrant flowers, he is a man who is decorated with fragrant vermilion powder on his forehead and he is a delightful lord for the women from the town. He then continues to describe more of KrishNa’s qualities like, one who has defeated the wrestling demons Mushtika and chAnUra, one who slayed the wild elephant KuvalayapIda, as the one danced upon the hood of the serpent kALinga and protected the cowherds, who is the virtuous god, the one who intentionally protects the righteous, the one with unparalleled valor and courage through the ages, who is in the thoughts of the sages, who is as beautiful as cupid, the destroyer of demons, who is pleasantly sweet, romantic and playful as the women of the town worship him like their god.

          After listening to this song and krishNa’s valor and kindness, it sure gives a good feeling and a great assurance to have lord srI krishNa on your side. Traditionally, it was customary to praise people as you welcome them, which can be witnessed even now in music festivals to list out the artists’ accomplishments as they are welcomed onto the stage. As you celebrate the krishNashTami festival in this month which denotes the birth of lord Sri Krishna in Mathura, you can play this song in praise of lord KrishNa. Many people decorate their homes with things like basil (brinda) leaves, colored rangoli, motifs of baby footprints in their front yards to welcome little krishNa into their homes and hearts. Also they prepare his favorite foods, which undoubtedly includes milk and butter, other sweets and savories. It is a festival for all likes of people, men, women, young and old to celebrate, spread love and be joyous. We wish you all a happy krishNashTami!

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

          Alekhya Tumuluru is an eighth grader at The International School, Bengaluru (TISB). She is a prime disciple of Smt. Snigdha Venaktaramani and has performed many short solo concerts on virtual platforms.


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