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 tulasamma
rAgam: Devagandhaari
tAlam: Adi talam
Composer: Tyagaraja


srI tulasamma mAyinTa nelakonavamma

I mahini nI samAnamevaru amma bangAru bomma

caraNam 1

karaku suvarNapu sommulu beTTi sarigE cira muddu guriyaga gaTTi

karuNa jUci sirulanu OdigaTTi varaduni karamunanu baTTi

caraNam 2

uramuna mutyapu saru lasiyAda sura taruNulu ninnugani koniyADa

varamunulashTa digIsulu vEda varaduDU ninnu prEma jUDa

caraNam 3

maravaka pArijAta sarOja kuruvaka vakula sugandha rAja

vara sumamulacE tyAgarAja varada ninu pUja sEtu


srI tulasamma – Tulasi (holy basil)
mAyinTa – at our home
Nelakonavamma – stay

I mahini – in this world
nI samAnamevaru – who is equal to you
amma – mother
bangAru bomma – beautiful as a golden doll
karaku suvarNapu – good golden
Sommulu – ornaments
beTTi – provide
sarigE cira – saree with golden border
muddu guriyaga – beautifully
gaTTi – wrapped
karuNa jUci – looking kindly
sirulanu – wealth
OdigaTTi – provide
Varaduni – lord VishNu
karamunanu baTTi – hold his hand
Uramuna – on your chest
Mutyapusaru – rows of pearls
lasiyAda – adorned
sura taruNulu – devine women
Ninnugani – by looking at you
koniyADa – praise
Varamunulu – the sages
ashTa digIsulu – lords of eight directions
vEDa – pleading
varaduDU – lord VishNu
Ninnu prEma jUDa – looking at you with love
Maravaka – fragrant leaf maruvaka
pArijAta – fragrant flower
sarOja – lotuses (flower born from a late)
kuruvaka – fragrant flower
Vakula – fragrant flower
sugandha rAja – king of fragrant flowers
vara sumamulacE – with all the above flowers
tyAgarAja – Tyagaraja
Varada – the protector
ninu pUja sEtu – will worship you


          To follow on with last month’s theme, this is another krithi on tulasi (holy basil).  In this krithi Tyagaraja describes tulasi (Maha Lakshmi) along with lord VishNu.  He pleads with her to come and dwell in our homes.  She is beautiful with a golden hue and there is nothing that is equal to her. Then he elaborates on how she should come – adorned with gold jewelry, beautifully clad in a silk saree, looking gracefully while holding on to lord VishNu’s hand possessing all the wealth.  She is adorned with rows of pearls on her chest, and is praised by the divine women, the sages and the lords of eight directions, all the while lord VishNu is glancing at her with love.  Tyagaraja says he will worship both of them with the most fragrant leaves maruvaka and flowers such as pArijAta, lotus, kuruvaka, vakula and sugandharajam.

          I picked this krithi on Tulasi again just to emphasize how much importance was given to tulasi (holy basil) in our mythology as well as other parts of the world.  It was adorned dearly by lord Vishnu. Krishna is said to have joyously wandered in tulasi gardens.  Goddess Lakshmi is said to reside in the tulasi bush and it is worshiped by many in Hinduism.  You are sure to find every Hindu temple with one or a bunch of tulasi bushes in their garden.  While there are many varieties of basil across the globe, two prominent ones that are revered as holy basil are lakshmi tulasi with green leaves and krishna tulasi with purple leaves.  Both are very fragrant and used equally for similar purposes.  In fact, drinking just water with basil leaves is supposed to be very healthy and is called tulasi teertham.  In modern times, Basil/Tulsi tea is very widely sold as a herbal tea. It is also interesting to find that different regions across the globe have independently included basil in their cuisines.  That said, this is a very unique plant/herb  that its value and benefits are well recognized across the borders.  This is one herb that is fragrant and flavorful that is tasty as well.  Relax and enjoy a nice cup of tulsi tea while listening to this melodious song.

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

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


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