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 Aswayuja and brings the festivities of Dasara navarathri, where Trisakthi – Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshiped. Therefore, I picked three songs, one for each. Also, Dasara is a festival of three powerful women in Indian mythology, celebrated by women and girls with doll arrangements. The American breast cancer society selected October as “breast cancer awareness month” and Navrathri also falls in October. I feel it is no coincidence but the goddess’ blessing. On that note, I encourage every woman to conduct regular self breast exams, make time to schedule mammograms and make efforts to detect breast cancer as early as possible.

Krithi: saraseeruhaasanapriye
rAgam: NAta
tAlam: Adi talam
Composer: Puliyoor Sri Doraiswaami Ayyar


saraseeruhaasana priyE amba
sadaa veenaa gaanapriyE
sadaananda hrudayE mahisadayE


saraNaagatam maamava manjuLa caraNa kisalayE
sammOdita kavijana hrudayE sarOja nilaiyE maNivalayE


saraseeruhaakshi yugaLe amba
saraNaagata deena vatsalE amba
saradindu sundara vadanE vimalE
saraswati satitE suranuta guNajaalE
satatam vidyaa lOlE sadaa suseelE
saamaja kumbha sthanayugaLe dhavaLE
sakala saamraajya prada kara dhruta pustaka jaalE


Saraseeruha – lotus (flower plant that dwells in the lakes)
Asana – seat
priyE – love
amba – goddess mother
Sadaa – always
Veenaa – veena, a musical instrument
gaanapriyE – loves music
Sada Ananda – always happy
hrudayE – hearted
mahisadayE – dwells on this earth

saraNaagatam – people who come in to her rescue
maamava – mine
manjuLa – delicate
caraNa – feet
kisalayE – tender
sammOdita – delights
Kavijana – poets
hrudayE – hearts
sarOja – lotus (a flower born out of a lake)
nilaiyE – housed
maNivalayE – gem studded bangles
Saraseeruhaakshi – lotus eyed
yugaLe – pair
Amba – goddess mother
saraNaagata – people who came in to her rescue
deena vatsalE – kind and affectionate
Amba – goddess mother
sarat+indu – moon in the autumn season
sundara – beautiful
vadanE – face
vimalE – unblemished
saraswati – goddess Saraswati
satitE – pious woman/ faithful to husband
suraNuta – praised by the celestial bodies
guNajaalE – virtuous one
Satatam – constantly
Vidyaa lOlE – who dwells in education
sadaa – always
suseelE – good character
saamaja – elephant
Kumbha – pot like
sthanayugaLe – pair of breasts
dhavaLE – white
Sakala – entire
Saamraajya – kingdoms
prada – giver
kara – hands
Dhruta – holding
pustaka jaalE – a lot of books

          This is a very melodious song on Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art by Doraiswamy Ayyar. He portrays her as a pleasant, delicate and beautiful woman. He continues to describe her as the one who likes to be seated in the lotus, enjoys music from veena (a string instrument), always happy at heart and who made this earth as her home. She is kind to people who go to her lotus palace to surrender at her tender feet, she enchants in the poets’ hearts and she is bedecked with gem studded bangles. She is known to have lotus petal shaped eyes and is kind and affectionate towards her pupils. Her beautiful face is shining as a full moon in autumn, she is unblemished, known as Saraswati, a very virtuous and faithful woman, praised by the celestial bodies, always dwells upon knowledge, very pious, has an elegant gait like an elephant, round breasted, fair and she bestows people with their wishes such as kingdom and she holds a book/vedas in her hands.

          While there are a number of stories about Saraswati, the most prominent is that she is consort of lord Brahma the creator. A literal meaning of the Saraswati is the one who possesses water. Following the theme, she flows wherever there is knowledge & creativity. She is known as the goddess of sciences, queen of speech and she wears white for purity. She is the embodiment of education, music and art. Her musical instrument veena is called “kachchapi” and her vehicle is a swan (hamsa). A swan has a very significant role in Hundu mythology. It represents separation of right from wrong, a spiritual realization, transcendence and salvation. For example, a learned guru is known as a “parama hamsa”. It is very symbolic that Saraswati uses swan as her vehicle just as the swan transcends all of us to realize with the knowledge and attain moksha/salvation. Saraswati is one of the tri-devis (three goddesses) along with goddess Lakshmi and goddess Parvati.

          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.


Krithi: Sri Chamundeswari
rAgam: Bilahari
tAlam: Adi talam
Composer: Mysore Vasudevacharya

sree chamunDEswari paalaya maam kripaakari shankari
shritajanapaalini mahaabalaadrivaasini Mahishaasuramardini

Vaachaama gOcara mahimaviraajitE varaguNabharitE
Vaakpatimukha sura vanditE vaasudEva sahajaatE

raakanisaakara sannibha vadanE raajeevalOcanE
ramaneeya kundaradanE rakshitabhuvanE maNisadanE
mookavaakpradaana vikhyaatE munijananuta supreetE
Sreekara taaraka mantra toshita chitE sadA namastE

sree chamunDEswari – sree chaamundeswari
paalaya maam – protect me
kripaakari – kind person
Sankari – sankari
Sritajana – good people
Paalini – protector
Mahbalaadri – mount MahAbala
vaasini – lives
Mahishaasuramardini – destroyer of demon Mahisha
Vaachaama gOcara – one that provides the vision
mahimaviraajitE – dwells in the power
varaguNa – has the quality of blessing with boons
bharitE – full of it
Vaakpati – husband of Saraswati (the speech provider)
mukha – the face
sura vanditE – praised by celestial bodies
vaasudEva – Vaasudeva
sahajaatE – born together (sibling)
Raakanisaakara – one who handles the night (moon)
sannibha – equal to
vadanE – face
raajeevalOcanE – delightful eyed
ramaneeya – beautiful
kundaradanE – row of teeth
Rakshita – protector
bhuvanE – universe
maNisadanE – lives in a jeweled palace
Mooka – dumb
Vaak pradaana – provider of speech
vikhyaatE – renowned
Munijananuta – praised by the sages
supreetE – loved
Sreekara – holder of the wealth
taaraka mantra – mantra for liberation
toshita – contented
chittE – heart
sadA namastE – bow to you always

          Mysore Vasudevacharya being from Mysore had to have composed the most beautiful krithi on Sree Chamundeswari, the prime deity in the nearby temple on Mount Mahabala. In pallavi, he says, oh! kind Sankari, please protect me and you do take care of the righteous. You have made Mount Mahabala as your abode and you are the one who killed the demon Mahishaasura. He later describes her in anupallavi as the one who has powers that can not be described in words, one with many virtues, as the sister of Vasudeva and is worshiped by Brahma and other celestial bodies. The charanam is the lynchpin of her qualities. He elaborates as her face is as radiant as the full moon, with vibrant eyes and beautiful teeth like jasmine buds, the protector of the world and dwells in a gem studded home, is famous for bestowing speech/knowledge to the dumb/ignorant, she is praised and favored by all the sages, she is delighted by the sacred taraka mantra, and he says to that powerful one, he bows to always.

          Chamundeswari is known for her fierce and forceful strength, who wears garland of skulls, drinking blood from a skull cup and who has killed demons Chanda and Munda, thereby attaining her name. She is referred to as one of Parvati’s forms. It is said that she attained fierceness from her association with Rudra, an angry form of lord Siva. In contrast to her attributes, Chamundeswari is depicted as very delicate, kind and beautiful in this krithi. It is typically said that the fierce force is always complemented with a kind gentle side. That is exactly what the composer portrayed– painting such a beautiful & gentle picture for this fierce goddess, unseen by laymen, in very simple words and a melodious raagam. You may notice how the swara sancharam ascends up for “Mahaabalaadri vaasini” when referring to the mountain.

          Vocal: Ranjani Gunupudi works as a senior statistician and is a disciple of Sri Arvind Lakshmikanthan. She resides in the San Francisco bay area.

          Violin: Anupama Gunupudi works as a program manager, and is a disciple of Sri Arvind Lakshmikanthan. She resides in Los Angeles, CA.


Krithi: srI hari vallabhe
rAgam: suddha dhanyasi
tAlam: Adi talam
Composer: Mysore Vasudevacharya

shrI hari vallabhE mAm pAhi srita bhakta sulabhE suvarNAbhE

EhimE sadanam sAmOdam dEhi mE dhana dhAnya sampadam

brahma rudrAdi padadAyini brahmAnDa vyaapini padmini
brahma janani jaganmOhini bhAva rAgAdi tOshiNi
(madyama kAlam)
mahita kIrti sAlini tavapadE ratirastumE maNimAlini
mAra janaka vAsudEva hritkELini mangaLa pradAyini

shrI – Lakshmi
hari vallabhE – having Hari as her lord
mAm pAhi – I have come to our rescue
srita bhakta – pious devotees
sulabhE – easily accessible
suvarNAbhE – equivalent to gold
EhimE sadanam – provide me with home
sAmOdam – pleasure
dEhi mE – give me
Dhana – money
dhAnya – grains
Sampadam – wealth
brahma – lord Brahma
rudrAdi – lord Siva
padadAyini – provider of their path
brahmAnDa – entire universe
Vyaapini – permeate
Padmini – one who is like lotus flowers
brahma janani – mother of lord Brahma
jaganmOhini – beautiful in the entire world
bhAva – emotions
rAgAdi – music
tOshiNi – enjoys
mahita – famously
kIrti – laurel
sAlini – contains
tavapadE – at your feet
atirastumE – bless me
maNimAlini – wearing garlands of gems
mAra – manmadha (cupid)
Janaka – father
vAsudEva – lord Vishnu
hritkELini – stays in his heart
mangaLa – goodness
pradAyini – provider

          Ths krithi by Mysore Vasudevacharya is all about Sree Maha Lakshmi and what a devotee can pray for from her. It is well known that Lakshmi has multiple synonyms of her name and one of them is Varalakshmi which means that one that blesses devotees with boons. In pallavi, he first requests her to protect him and describes her as the consort of Sree hari, who is as good as gold and who is easily reachable for her devotees. In anupallavi, he starts to beg her to provide a home, happiness, food, money and wealth. In charanam, he describes her powers and abilities. She is the one who provided the path for Brahma and Eswara, one who permeates the entire universe, one who is enchanted by lotuses, she is the mother of Brahma, she is the most beautiful, one who enjoys music, and one has gained a lot of laurels, decked with garlands of gems, one who is in the heart of lord vishnu (father of Manmadha) and one who bestows good things. Just as the wealth must always be shared, Maha Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is kind and very generous. Therefore, she is known to bestow everybody with all kinds of wealth, especially during this Navaratri season. Wish you all a happy Navaratri and may the Tridevi (three goddesses) bestow you all with knowledge, strength and wealth!

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 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.


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