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 being the dhanurmaasam, when the sun transits to dhanur rasi, it is known to be very sacred for worshiping in the early hours of the day. It is also the period of 30 days that Andal/Goda devi (a Vishnu devotee) wrote one poem each day in praise of lord Vishnu. They are each called “Paasuram” and they are sung from December 15th to January 13, 2023. In celebration of dhanurmaasam, we present 29th Paasuram in this edition.
Krithi: chittram chiru kAlai
tAlam: Misra chapu
Music: Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar
chiTram chiru kAlai vandunnai sEvittu
un poTrAmarai aDiyE pOTrum porul kEḷAy
peTram mEyttu uṇṇum kulattil pirandu nI
kuTrEval engaLai koLLAmal pOgAdu
iTrai paṛai koLvAn andru kAN govindA
eTraikkum ELELu piṛavikkum un tannODu
uTrOmE AvOm unakkE nAm At ceyvOm
maTrai nam kAmangaḷ mATrElOr em pAvAy
govindA! – Beloved Govinda/Krishna
chiTram chiru kAlai – In the early morning hours
vandunnai sEvittu – came to worship you
un poTrAmaṛai aḍiyE pOTrum porul – intent behind praising your golden lotus feet
kEḷAy – Please listen!
peTram mEyttu uṇṇum kulattil pirandu nI – You are born in the caste of cowherds
kuTrEval – personal service
engaḷai – us
koLLAmal pOgAdu- you should not decline
iTrai paṛai koLvAn andru kAN – it is not for the drums (and such material objects) that we pray to you
eTraikkum – somehow
ELELu piṛavikkum – for several rebirths
un tannOḍu – with you
uTrOmE yAvOm – be always related
unakkE – and only for You
At ceyvOm – serve
nam – our
maTrai kAmangaḷ – all other desires
mATru – we will give up
ElOrem pAvAy – all maidens
Oh Govinda! Please listen to us (all maidens). We wake up early in the morning to worship your golden lotus feet. Oh lord, one who is born in the cowherd community, please do not decline our services. We always pray to you not for drums and such other materialistic objects but seek your physical presence and somehow be associated with you even after many rebirths. We will be forever in your service and please remove all of our other desires.
This is 29th Pasuram of the total 30 Pasurams. Andal/Goda Devi, daughter of Vishnuchitta, was a tamil poetess and the only female Alwar (saints devoted to Vishnu) of 7th/8th century. Her famous works are Thiruppavai and Nachiyar ThirumoLi. While Thiruppavai consists of 30 verses, all in praise of lord Vishnu, the Nachiyar ThirumoLi consists of 143 verses that are a description of her longing and desire for Lord Vishnu. Vishnuchitta, a Vishnu devotee, would provide garlands for the Ranganatha temple. And his daughter Andal, with her intense devotion and love for Lord Vishnu, is believed to have worn the garlands before sending them to the presiding deity. Later, when Vishnuchitta finds that out, he gets upset and reprimands her. She makes a conviction that she would only marry and unite with none other than the Lord Vishnu himself. Lord Vishnu appears in Vishnuchitta’s dream and instructs him to provide only the garlands worn by Andal and all others will be rejected. Vishnuchitta realizes the truth and takes Andal to Ranganatha temple in Srirangam and she as a bride, unites with lord Vishnu. In other words, she seeked a spiritual union rather than a conjugal union, attaining a divine attribute and obtaining a godly stature. Indeed, there are a number of temples for Andal in southern parts of India and people worship her religiously. Andal, with her free spirit and independent thinking for her time, is an iconic figure for feminism. In a very male dominant and marriage-centric society, Andal openly expresses her love for Lord Vishnu and refuses to marry a human, which makes her a pioneer in treading such a path. This marriage, being a divine marriage, she retained her freedom and any other familial commitments. Many centuries later, her evergreen poetry is recited even now at the temples, especially during the Dhanur month. Typically, women young and old, recite Thiruppavai, seeking the blessings of Andal and Lord Vishnu.
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. She has rendered all 30 Pasurams for Sri Venkateswara Bhakthi Channel (SVBC) of TTD. You can listen to them all on her youtube channel.
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.