Thursday, May 30, 2013

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 179 (Vol # 6) Dated 30 May 2013

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 179 (Vol # 6) Dated 30 May 2013

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by PeriyavaaL of Kanchi Kaamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are going ahead from page No 1241 of Volume 6 of the Tamil original. The readers may note that herein ‘man/he’ includes ‘woman/she’ too mostly. These e-mails are all available at updated constantly)

1007.      I had been differentiating between Siva and Shakti using the spectrum of colours.  I was saying that Siva is as colourless as Sphatika or all inclusive white complexioned, while Shakti is red.  I was telling you as to how he is the inactive entity while she is all dynamic.  It is absolutely surprising to note as to how like Siva and Shakti, this white and red colour differentiation is occurring in so many ways in all walks of life and also gives us a feeling of having a darsan of the divine couple in them all!  Pointedly the male aspects are white and the female aspects are all red, you may please note.  Let me explain.

1008.      Male semen known as 'Shukhla' in Sanskrit itself is white, while the women's ovum that is 'SoNita' is red!  Man applies Vibhuti, the powdered ashes on his fore-head that is white and the Kumkum that woman wears is red.  The Nãmam that VaishNavas wear is white on either side for PerumaL and the centre line that is red is indicative of Thãyãr that is the Mother.   If these are the religious symbols, in dress, he wears the Veshti or Dhoti which is white and she wears the saree that is normally red.   That red is known as 'Kusumba' the saffron colour.  AmbãL is also said to be wearing red saree only as it is given in Lalitha Sahasranãma, 'arunãruna kousumbha vastra bhasvat kateetatee' – 'अरुणारुण कौसुम्भ वस्त्र भास्वत् कटीतटी'.  One of the most important systems in the human body for conveyance of oxygen and nourishment to every cell in the body, which is also responsible for removal of unwanted elements from the cells; is the blood circulation system!  The human blood seems red but, is made of both white and red corpuscles!  Like I said that in AmbãL's redness Siva's whiteness is unseen and he also becomes the red Kãmeswara, the white corpuscle is not seen and only the red is visible in the blood.

1009.      Even when we make the decorative 'Rangoli' – 'रङ्गोली' or 'கோலம்', we do it with white rice powder made into a thin paste, while the outer border and inner designs are done in red clay known as 'Kãvi'.  Outer wall of our temples are all painted with white and red stripes to indicate this divine combination of colours, whatever be the deity, Siva or Vishnu, Ganapathy or Hanuman!   Whether it is Abhishekam with white milk or red Kumkuma or Archana with flowers such as the white Jasmine and red AraLi, the white red combination goes on!  Even in food, it is white curd bath and almost red 'Sãmbãr Sãdam and finally the famous white Iddly with red chilli powder as the add-on!  White is Siva like placid Satva GuNa while red is active indicating the Shakti – Rajo GuNa.  Peace or surrender is indicated by the white flag, while red flag means danger, revolt and revolution, generally.  But on occasions the roles may be reversed, for example in the blood the red corpuscles are service oriented carriers of both supply and vacation, while the white corpuscles do the job of policing, detection and fighting with infectious germs! When the battle field is full of blood-shed it is the red-cross which saves lives by timely first-aid and care of the injured!

1010.      In the spectrum of colours red is very close to the white while the blue is the farthest.  That is why, for the peacefulness of Sivam, the exact opposite is the blue-Vishnu, Vishnu-Durga or the black-KãLi are all said to be totally Maya.  The red Kãmeswari touching the whiteness of Shãntam at one end goes on till the other end of Maya.  That is why at the height of philosophical apex known as 'Pãduka Mantra', the flame that is the cause of gross and subtle enlargement of Jiva-Jagat, as the 'rakta-shukla prabha misram' – is a mix of red and white as the outer dynamism and inner peace.  The Siva and Shakti combination is apparently seen in the Adam's apple in the men and the three lines in the neck of women.

1011.      In the sloka, by 'gale rekhã: tisro' – 'गले रेखा: तिस्रो', ÃchãryãL is pointing out those three lines only.  As she is an expert in 'gati, gamaka and gitam', they are represented by those three lines in the neck, as we are made to understand.  Later openly he says that, these three lines in her neck are the border lines between the Shadja, Gãndhãra and Madhyama Grãmãs that occur in music as he confirms later – 'tryãNãm grãmãNãm stiti-niyama-seemãna iva te gale rekhãs-tisro virãjante' – 'त्रयाणां ग्रामाणां सतीति-नियम-सीमान इव ते गले रेखास-तिस्रो विराजन्ते'.

1012.      Earlier in sloka No 25, he talked about, 'trayãNãm devãnãm triguNa janitãnãm' – the trinity of three Murthy-s born of the three GuNas.  Here also indirectly he is indicating the three GuNas in the second line of the sloka.  In this line what is apparent, is an easily understood example and not a subtle point of music.  He is talking about the marriage of Parvathy and Parameswara – 'विवाह व्यानद्ध प्रगुणसंख्या प्रतिभुव:' – 'vivaha vyãnaddha praguNa guNa sankhyã pratibhuva:'. At the time of the marriage Easwara tied the three knots – 'vivaha vyãnaddha'.  What type of thread was that 'MangaLa Sutra?  It was 'guNa sankhya' – as many as there are 'GuNas' and out of them 'praguNa' – the highest.  What does that mean?  It means it was three in numbers as there are three GuNas namely Satva, Rajas and Tamas.  The 'MangaLa Sutra' was also made of three threads twisted in to one.  So here these three lines in the neck, were as a 'pratibhuva:' a reminder and guarantee, as well as representing the three GuNas and the tying of the knot.

1013.      In the marriage, 'PaNigrahaNam', meaning the receiving of the bride's hands in the groom's is most important and sacred.  More than handing over, it is the act of receiving or taking over, the vouchsafing that from here onwards the groom will take responsibility to take care and protect her, as the father of the girl has been doing so long.  This 'PanigrahaNam' is common amongst all castes and communities all over the land.  Tying the knot is only for the society to know and be aware and is not there at all in some communities.  Anyhow here since ÃchãryãL has made a point of this custom, its importance is emphasised.  In PaNigrahaNam there is no apparent visible indicator for others to see and know.  We shake the hands of many in normal walk of life and leave it at that!  But the 'Thali', the MangaLa Sutram is required to be worn all the time by the bride.  It is considered as highly sacred and ladies would open their eyes with it in their vision and touch it to their eyes in the morning when they get up from a night's sleep.  Just because the thread becomes jaded, in that pretext I notice that some women are taking to wearing a gold chain with the 'Thali and gundu' as a pendant.  To do so is not very right.  If you apply turmeric powder every day, it will not become dirty.  ÃchãryãL has said 'GuNa' meaning a thread.  In Lalitha Sahasranãma there is statement that she is wearing the 'Mangalya Sutra' tied by Kãmeswara – 'kãmesha baddha mãngalya shutra shobita kandaharã' – 'कामेश बद्ध माङ्गल्य सूत्र शोबित कन्धरा'.

1014.      AmbãL has been wearing just a small piece of palm-leaf rolled and inserted in the hole in the lower end of the ear as an ornament for the ear and a MangaLa Sutra made of a thread, as simple adornments on her.  These are to be worn by all married women, as can be worn even by a poor woman and as demonstrated by AmbãL!  Otherwise ornaments such as a crown with all sorts of gems and gold belt are not compulsory!  Thus with the three lines in the neck; three musical terms Gati, Gamaka and Geetham; three GuNas; Mangalya Sutram made of three threads rolled in to one; the three musical Grãmãs; the sloka is a collection of a quintet of trios!  It is the duty of the society to avoid any mixing of the various existing traditions that are in the field of music.  Thus, so that the arrangement of the three Grãmãs are not mixed and made in to a goulash / 'kichdi';  in AmbãL's neck, which is the very source of all music, they are there as clearly defined as border lines, as told by our ÃchãryãL in this sloka.  He clearly makes a statement that in the practice of Music aka 'Nãdopãsana', 'freedom of imagination and expression within rules of discipline' is the catch-phrase!

1015.      When devotion is the sense and music is the medium, such a Nãdopãsana can show you the way to realization of God.  When you are completely one with the Sruti and Laya, the inner self is rid of all stumbling blocks of ego, pride, hate, jealousy and anger.  This can lead you to the very idea of oneness with all – of Adwaita – as exemplified by Thyagaraja Swami when he sang – 'entharo mahanubhãvulu', meaning, 'many are the greats of the supreme experience!'  There can be many like that even now!  He who sang like that, Thyagaraja Swami was himself one!  Like him were Shyãmã Sãstry and Muthuswami Dikshidar known as 'Sangita Trimoorthi'!  As I said that this sloka is a collection of 'trios', I have added one more here as the sixth, to make it a sextet of trios! 

1016.       Though the GuNas aka character-qualities of people in the world are three only, they are in various proportions in which they occur, that an infinite number of attitudes and behaviour are seen to exist.  All the millions of words in the dictionary are made of only 51 Aksharãs.  In English it is even less, made of only 26 letters of the alphabet!  Similarly with only seven Swaras with variations in four of them, you could have by permutation and combination any number of Ragas.  That is what has been said in the sloka as – 'nãnã vidha madhura raga ãkara bhuvãm' – 'नानाविध मधुर राग आकार भुवां'; meaning that 'it is like a mine of sweet ragas giving birth to a many varieties of them'!  'Raga ãkaram' means a mine of ragas.  As you keep digging as you can unearth a whole lot of gems in a mine, as you make subtle changes in the swara combinations you can have virtually infinite number of Ragas.  As we get gems in the ocean, it is known as a mine of gems – 'Ratnãkaram'.  Names like KaruNakara or Dayakara meaning a kind hearted person are derived like this only as they are supposed to be a mine of kindness and compassion.

1017.      When you combine the Swaras in various ways they should be pleasing for the ears and mind.  It should not become an exercise in contortions, but sweetness, smoothness and pleasantness have to remain the guide line.  That is why the poet has said, 'madhura raga'.  Like AmbãL, our ÃchãryãL who is an expert in 'Gati, Gamaka and Geeta eka nipuNa', as he was known as the all-knowing 'sarvagna', was well aware of the methods and traditions theoretically as well as in practice and so could define 'jana ranjakam' or 'people's acceptance' as the important characteristic.  All the Ragas are within the three border lines in AmbãL's throat.  In Easwara's throat the poison has become Amrita and in AmbãL's throat it is 'Sangita Amrita'.  The Adam's apple (laryngeal prominence) in all men and the three lines in the throat of all women may remind us of Siva and AmbãL ever and in the bargain all human beings and all life forms may remind us of the omnipresence of God everywhere always, as the true meaning of Adwaita Bhava!

(To be continued.)



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 178 (Vol # 6) Dated 28 May 2013

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 178 (Vol # 6) Dated 28 May 2013

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by PeriyavaaL of Kanchi Kaamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are going ahead from page No 1234 of Volume 6 of the Tamil original. The readers may note that herein ‘man/he’ includes ‘woman/she’ too mostly. These e-mails are all available at updated constantly)

992.        Ambikai who is very considerate of other's          feelings, despite having a very sweet voice, till now appreciated the singing and playing on the VeeNa only by nodding her head.  Now, when she tried to say a few words of encouragement, it caused Saraswathi to bend her head in shame.  In this we can discern the greatness of both.  Saraswathi thought, "Like showing the way to the Sun with a lighted candle, I have tried to show off my musical prowess in front of AmbãL who has such a sweet and wonderful voice!  The Tamil proverb, 'பெற்ற தாயிடம் கற்ற வித்தை!' has become true in my case!"  With that she bent her head in shame!

993.        That was how Saraswathi felt under the situation.  But what happened to the VeeNa?  This Kachchapi VeeNa did not pull its head inside as the tortoise can do when needed.  Having lost to AmbãL badly, this Kachchapi VeeNa should have withdrawn its head inside, isn't it?  When somebody has declared himself a pauper, he has to face social / legal ostracization, the very word evolving from the bird of the deserts Ostrich I suppose, which faced with unavoidable danger, hides its face in the sand!  Similarly the one who has lost in business or sports will cover his head and face and vanish from the scene.  I am talking about the adage, 'தலையை துணியால் மூடிக்கொண்டு ஓடினான்'!"  (PeriyavãL squeaks in a joke about himself saying, "We are Sanyãsi-s and we are required by Sãstrãs to always cover our head.)

994.        Saraswathi decided that, this VeeNa which has been soundly beaten, 'literally soundly', should not be seen outside.  She is a true and sincere person.  So, though AmbãL was appreciating her music, she tightly pulled the covers over the VeeNa.  Vocal singing can be abruptly stopped.  The sounds of the strings are not like that.  Even when the strumming has been stopped there will be some 'anuraNanam' – 'अनुरणनं' meaning resonance will remain for some time.  This will be easily noticed in the VeeNa wherein once you twang a string and stop, the reverberating sounds will keep on echoing for some time.  This can also be noticed in huge bells, there will be a continuous 'doing…ng…ngng…ng', as it finally fades away!  Stringed instruments are like that only.  So, the moment Saraswathi heard AmbãL's 'sãdhu vachanam', as she closed her mouth, the VeeNa would not have done!  So, as though telling it to 'shut up', she enclosed the instrument in its cover!  Thus we can imagine variously.

995.        Another idea also occurs to me.  AmbãL did feel happy, nodded her head and uttered some words of appreciation, alright.  But, did she do all that only about the music of Saraswathi? Or, what else could it be?  All that Saraswathi had sung were about Easwara Leela.  Instead of giving attention to the music, but concentrating on the words of the songs, thinking about her husband's various exploits, AmbãL could have been feeling happy, nodded her head and even said something in appreciation.  May be she could have been appreciating the literary merit of the songs.  Saraswathi also, the instant she heard the superlative quality of her voice could have thought, "With such wonderful musical voice, AmbãL could not have enjoyed my music at all!  Her appreciation, nodding of her head and words of praise are meant for the intrinsic greatness of Easwara's actions or for the literary value of the songs only.  Like a fool, I have been going on and on, thinking that she is appreciating my singing and playing!  Let me just shut up and close this 'doing, doing sound' of my VeeNa!"  She could have thought like that, which would have increased her feeling chastened, many times!

996.        All said and done, it is a wholesome drama that goes on scene by scene; AmbãL's Sannidy; Saraswathi's singing and playing on the VeeNa; the singing describing and enlarging the various adventures of Easwara; AmbãL feeling thrilled, nodding her head; her saying something in appreciation; the unique sweetness of her voice; Saraswathi feeling chastened and hanging her head in abashment; her putting the VeeNa quickly in its encasement; a drama to be re-enacted in our minds sequentially!
997.        'Cholena' means by the cover.  In this word 'Choli', the ' l, L', that is ' & ' in Tamil and ' & ' in Sanskrit are inter-changeable, that becomes 'choli or choLi'.  In Tamil, this word is 'உறை', which means a cover as well as a scabbard for swords or pillows or spectacles even.  'Choli' thus is a shirt or blouse worn by women in general, in most of the Indian languagesThere is one cereal corn which is called 'சோளம்' in Tamil because many individual grains are nicely stacked up on a stalk and then the whole thing is enclosed by layers of coverings, each a 'Choli'!  Then the capital of the 'ChoLa' Kingdom was known as 'உறை + ஊர் = உறையூர்'!

998.        As the poet goes on describing the beauty of AmbãL's body, after the face, fore-head, eyes, ears and mouth; he has sung this sloka in adoration of her sweet and mellifluous voice, for us to imagine and enjoy!  He reminds us all that by her Anugraha, we may also be blessed with expertise and skilfulness in music and poetry.

கண்ட ரேகையில் கண்ட மும்மை; ஆணின் வெண்மை, பெண்ணின் செம்மை
The Three Lines of the Neck; Man's Whiteness &
Women's Redness

999.        Relating AmbãL to music there is another sloka in Soundarya Lahari – No 69.
गले रेखास्तिस्रो गतिगमक गीतैकनिपुणे
gale rekhãstisro gatigamaka geetaikanipuNe
विवाह व्यानद्ध प्रगुण संख्या प्रतिभुव: |
vivãha vyãnaddha praguNa sakhyã pratibhuva: |
विराजन्ते नानाविध मधुर रागाकर भुवां
virãjante nãnãvidha madhura rãgãkarabhuvãm
त्रयाणां ग्रामाणां स्तिथिनियमसीमान इव ते ||
triãNãm grãmãNãm stithiniyamaseemãna iva te ||

1000.      From this sloka we get to know as to how broad, deep and exhaustive was the knowledge of classical Music that our ÃchãryãL had, who was known as the 'Sarvagna' – the Omniscient!  In this sloka, words such as Gati, Gamaka, Gita and Grãma are all musical technical terms.  These are known only to musicologist experts who have studied the theory and not just singers.  The end part of Bharata's 'Nãtya Sãstrã', Sãrnga Deva's 'Sangita Ratnãkaram' and Venkata Mahi's 'Chaturdandi Prakasika' are some of the books that can be referred for greater understanding.  In this what I have gathered is rather limited.  So, my telling you about that may end in quite a bit of confusion.  Hence I will try and keep my talk as simple as possible.

1001.      I hope you all know that there are a number of Ragas in classical music with seven notes known as Swaras, forming the musical octaves.  The Swaras are 'Sa', 'Ri', Ga', Ma, 'Pa', 'Da', 'Ni' and 'Sa' again.  These Swaras are known by their names as Shadjam, Rishabham, Gãndharam, Madhyamam, Panchamam, Dhaivatam, Nishadham and again the higher Shadjamam.  Within these Swaras too there can be variations as listed below: -
s  - Shadjamam
r1 - Sudhdha Rishabam
r2 - Chatusruthi Rishabam
r3 - Shatsruthi Rishabam
g1 - Sudhdha Gaandhaaram
g2 - Saadhaarana Gaandhaaram
g3 - Anthara Gaandhaaram
m1 - Sudhdha Madhyamam
m2 - Prathi Madhyamam
p  - Panchamam
d1 - Sudhdha Dhaivatham
d2 - Chatusruthi Dhaivatham
d3 - Shatsruthi Dhaivatham
n1 - Sudhdha Nishaadham
n2 - Kaisiki Nishaadham
n3 - Kaakali Nishaadham
Now Ragas are defined and formed by the variations in the specific Swaras they contain in the ascending and descending order known as ArohaNam and AvarohaNam.  These are fixed and not variable.  So within these fixed parameters of Shruti, Raga and its fixed Swaras, variations depend on the singer's imagination and reach and that is the 'freedom within discipline' that gives the Carnatic classical music its unique charm.  The Ragas differ from each other depending on the Swaras. 'Gati' means variations in the beat based on the number of time between beats as 'Tisra', 'Misra' or 'Kanta'.  Gati in Tamil is 'Nadai'.  'Gamakam' as we understand is to shake some Swaras instead of pulling them for long periods without any variations in the vibrations of the Swara, which is known as 'Karvai'.  In Thodi Raga for example the 'Gãndãram' is given a shake and in SankarabaraNa it is the Rishabham given Gamaka.  Gitam is the song, as we know.  (KTSV adds: - This is just a bare minimum introduction only.  Please consult an expert in this line, if you wish to understand this paragraph and this sloka more clearly.)

1002.      In this sloka ÃchãryãL is calling AmbãL as – 'gati-gamaka -gita-eka-nipuNe', meaning 'she is incomparably the one who is the maestro in Gati, Gamakam and Gitam'. But these words are not exactly in the meaning that we know of but in subtle technical sense as known to experts in this art.  So, Gati indicates the 'Marga' or way and 'Desi', means the way with variations.  That is, if you take 'Marga' as comparable to the movement of a train on the rails, 'Desi' can be compared to the movement of auto mobiles!  Gamakam is the trilling of the voice and in that there are five variations based on timing.  Gitam means singing the Sahityam and the Swaras for it.

1003.      In music there are three 'Grama-s' (occurring in the third line of the sloka).  It is a grouping of the Ragas as Shadja, Madhyama and Gandhara Grama-s, as Sa-grama, Ma-grama and Ga-grama.  It seems all three are in the heavens and on earth only the first two grouipings were present and Ga-grama has never been known to exist on the earth.    This is the information from Lakshmidhara who wrote a Bhashyam for Soundarya Lahari some six centuries back.  When I asked some present day musicologists they sang and demonstrated that between the lower base Swara Shadjamam and the higher Shadjamam, Panchamam comes exactly in the centre and that we can say that in practice we have only the Sa-grama.

1004.      Sangitam that is music is born at the 'Kantam' or throat only, from the 'sound-box' isn't it?  So, in AmbãL's throat itself, these three Gramas are present as three lines, says our ÃchãryãL.  These three lines will be there in the throat of all women.  Because AmbãL had that and to demonstrate that they are all her replicas, it is there in all women too.  All men have a protuberance in the throat, which women do not have.  It is called the 'Adam's Apple'.  Adam is the first man who ate the forbidden apple which caused Kãmam (desire / infatuation) from which all human beings proliferated says Christianity.  Some apple got stuck in his throat and all subsequent generations of males are having this 'Adam's Apple' in their throat, they say.

1005.      As per our Sãstrãs, Parameswara had swallowed the Kãlakoota poison as though it was a toffee.  Then AmbãL caught the neck by her hands and caused the poison to remain at the throat like a spherical marble.  So to indicate that the indwelling Ãtma in all human beings is him, we all have that projection the size of goose-berry in our throat.  Both the stories somehow indicate that for all of us there is a common origin and all human beings are brethren in some way and inter-related undoubtedly!  When Man is the root of all existence on the world stage, the nice, fragrant, sweet and nourishing apple; gives health, vim and vigour as they say, 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'.   At the same time all our health and wealth, vim and vigour are also the reasons for our proliferation of divisions of, isms, schisms, caste, creed, internecine quarrels and hate!  With Easwara as the root of all existence, the bitter and destructive poison also becomes harmless and beneficial for all life forms!

1006.      All males are Easwara in human form.  All women are the same, AmbãL being the archetype. That is indicated by the Adam's apple in all males and the three lines in the neck of all women!  Appar came to Thiruvaiyaru and saw pairs of elephants, birds and other animals and saw all of them as the primordial couple of Easwara and AmbãL singing, "கண்டேன் அவர் திருப்பாதம் கண்டறியாதன கண்டேன்".  If we also turn our minds towards devotion a little bit, we will also have the darsan of the Siva-Shakti pair, in all that we see wherever we may turn our eyes to!

(To be continued.)



Monday, May 27, 2013

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 177 (Vol # 6) Dated 26 May 2013

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 177 (Vol # 6) Dated 26 May 2013

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by PeriyavaaL of Kanchi Kaamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are going ahead from last Paragraph on page No 1226 of Volume 6 of the Tamil original. The readers may note that herein ‘man/he’ includes ‘woman/she’ too mostly. These e-mails are all available at updated constantly)

"பாராட்டே வெட்க வைத்தது"
Appreciation Caused Embarrassment

980.        In the next sloka No 66, the poet depicts enactment of a small drama on the stage in which unintentionally an expression of appreciation causes abashment.  The sloka is as follows: -
विपञ्च्या गायन्ती विविदमपदानं पशुपते-
vipanchya gãyanthee vividhamapadãnam pashupate:-
त्वयारब्धे वक्तुं चलितशिरसा साधुवचने |
tvayãrabdhe vaktum chalita shirasã sãdhuvachane |
तदीयैर्माधुर्य्यै: अपलपित तन्त्रीकलरवां
tvadeeyairmaadhuryai: apalapita tantreekalaravãm
निजां वीणां वाणी निचुलयति चोळेन निभृतम् ||
nijãm veeNãm vanee nichulayati choLena nibhrutam ||

981.        This drama takes place on a stage setting in AmbãL's assembly hall say.   AmbãL is happily listening to a music concert.  You can listen to music only when you are relaxed and happy without any undue pressure of work or urge to attend to something important.  To think of AmbãL in such a frame of reference as pleasantly and happily listening to music will give us also immense peace.  Whose concert is AmbãL listening to?  She is Saraswathi Devi playing the VeeNa. The very source of literature and fine arts is singing while playing on the VeeNa.  It is just beyond our imagination even to think of, let alone trying to express in words, in which the very Presiding Deity of dance, drama, music, arts, crafts, fine-arts and all forms of spoken and written expressions is singing and playing on the VeeNa, in the august presence of AmbãL!  The scene is just mind-boggling to visualise!

982.        'Vipanchaya', means on the 'Vipanchi', which is a VeeNa, aka 'Parivãdhini'.  Saraswathi's VeeNa has a special name as 'Kachchapi'.  Deities and great people's weapons and instruments have special names.  The bow of Easwara is known as 'Pinãka' and hence he is also called 'PinãkapãNi'.  Similarly the bow of Maha Vishnu is 'Sãrnga' and so he has a name as 'SãrngapãNi' and Arjun's bow is 'GãNdiva'.  Nãrada the recluse devotee's VeeNa is called 'Mahathi' and Tumburu whose name is normally mentioned along with Nãrada, has a VeeNa called 'Kalãvathi'.   As I said, Saraswathi has a VeeNa called Kachchapi, its name deriving from the fact that on one end of the VeeNa the pot like attachment is of the shape of a Tortoise and in Sanskrit Kachchap means Tortoise.  Professor Sãmbamoorthy told me that in Philippines such a musical instrument is in use and they call it 'Katjapi'.  In Lalitha Sahasranãma also this name occurs, where it says that AmbãL's normal speech itself is as sweet as the Kachchapi VeeNa – 'nija-sallãpa-mãdhrya-vinirbhartrsibha-kachchapi' – 'निज-सल्लाप-माधुर्य-विनिर्भर्त्सित-कच्चपी'.  It is this idea that ÃchãryãL has developed in to a drama in this sloka, using a generic name of 'Vipanchi' instead of its specific name Kachchapi. 

983.        When you say 'vipanchyã gãyanthee', 'what is being played on VeeNa' is the meaning.  I am interpreting it as 'playing on VeeNa and singing', do you know how?  Later in the sloka it says, 'vividam apadãnam pasupate:', meaning that by playing on the VeeNa she is describing 'vivdam' = variety of; 'apadãnam' = exploits; 'pasupate: = of Pasupati.  The adventures, exploits and escapades of Pasupati Siva have to be described in words for it to be understood by the listener.  Though here AmbãL knows all that her husband would have done on various occasion, in addition to instrumental musical nicety if the beauty of the words of the poems (Sahitya) are also there the enjoyment is enhanced, isn't it?  That is why I am saying that, Saraswathi is singing along with playing on the VeeNa. 

984.        We feel happy when people praise us.  May be due to not knowing our real character or just to flatter us so that they may get some favour done, people may praise us.  Otherwise how can anybody sing our praise?  If that is our case, with AmbãL nobody can ever really do so because, her character qualities are immeasurably great, unknowable and indescribable!  But, is Saraswathi singing AmbãL's praise?  No, she is singing about Easwara's 'thiruviLaiyãdalgaL' – 'திருவிளையாடல்கள்' – 'vividam apadãnam pasupate:' – as they are the favourites of AmbãL, she is listening about her husband's exploits as an epitome of fidelity! Saraswathi knows AmbãL's mind as she is known as 'Sarvagna' the Omniscient!  Like our ÃchãryãL, whosoever wish to win that title of 'All-Knowing' as 'Sarvagna' have to win over Saraswathi Devi in the final qualifying round sort of.  So, knowing AmbãL's likes and preferences, Saraswathi Devi is singing praise of Easwara while playing on the VeeNa and singing with it.  Like AmbãL Easwara Mahima are endless!  Saraswathi is trying to do justice to that difficult task, as well as she can.

985.        When experts sing in the presence of rich and knowledgeable connoisseurs of art, they will make an initial study of their likes and preferences, to be able to draw the maximum advantage out of the situation.  Saraswathi very much had this ability.  Had she played on the VeeNa say before Easwara, knowing that he would like to listen about AmbãL's greatness, she would have done that.  Here in AmbãL's presence she is singing about Easwara.  Sannidy is AmbãL's.  Singer is Saraswathi.  With singing she is also playing on the VeeNa Kachchapi, well known for its sweet sound!  The subject being sung about is Easwara's adventures!  Thus all aspects of the scene are of the order of the superlative!  At the start of 'Sivãnanda Lahari, our ÃchãryãL says that, 'the bliss of Sivãnanda is flowing from the histories of Easwara and filling the huge chasm in my head'. Now AmbãL is submerging in such a flood of bliss of Sivãnanda!  Those stories are so blissful even while reading.  Now to be listening to Saraswathi herself playing on the VeeNa and singing along, is just unimaginably too wonderful even to think of!

986.        AmbãL is enjoying the music and is totally engrossed.  At times she is nodding her head – 'chalita sirasã' – 'चलित सिरसा' – appreciating it.  To clap ones hand is 'kara kampam' and to nod is 'sira kampam'.  In clapping ones hands there isn't such delicacy, I suppose.  When the audience is exhibiting their appreciation especially when the artist is noticing that they are certainly discerning and appreciating the really subtle and delicate 'birkhas' and 'ghamakas', the singer gets highly motivated to experiment further and come out with exquisite variations.  Even if the artist is as yet a learner and a bit diffident, if we happily encourage at the right juncture, he may come out with some beautiful combinations.  So we should applaud truthfully and listen with an open heart.  If we sit around as though we knew too much with a bit of a sanctimonious attitude and a smug face, we will be killing the singer's natural aptitude and he will be worse than his normal ability.  This applies to all lines of art, games and studies. 

987.        Ambikai is happily encouraging and Saraswathi is going on making wonderful music and singing with it.  All that I have said are in that one line 'vipanchya gãyanthee vividhama padãnam pashupate:' – 'विपञ्च्या गायन्ती विविदमपदानं पशुपते:', meaning 'while Saraswathi in playing on the VeeNa to the accompaniment of her own singing of Easwara's various exploits'.  Saraswathi's name does not come here, it occurs only in the fourth line.  OK then what?  "Then as you started saying some words of appreciation", the poet tells AmbãL – 'tvayãrabdhe vaktum chalita shirasã sãdhuvachane' – 'त्वयारब्धे वक्तुं चलितशिरसा साधुवचने'.  Here, 'tvayã' = 'by you'; 'chalita sirasã' = with nodding of your head'; 'sãduvachane' = words of appreciation; ãrabdhe' = as started telling'.  She felt some words of appreciation should be expressed over and above her nodding of the head and just started saying.  In between the concert or talks, the audience erupts don't they, with words such as, 'Bhale, besh, sabhash'?  Or they say 'Hear, Hear!' or 'encore'!  These are known as 'Sadhu Vachane'.   Like this she said just some two such words.  AmbãL was highly pleased and from her throat a few words were uttered.  She did not even say fully, as the poet says, 'ãrabdhe'. 

988.        What happened the moment AmbãL opened her mouth and started speaking in appreciation of the music?  That is the third line of the sloka – 'tadeeyairmaadhuryai: apalapita tantree kalaravãm' – 'तदीयैर्माधुर्य्यै: अपलपित तन्त्रीकलरवां', which we have to analyse to understand.  'Tadeeyai:' = their, that is 'of those words that AmbãL was uttering, their'; 'mãdhuryai:' = (by their) sweet grace of exquisite beauty; 'apalapita' = 'refused or insulted'; 'kala ravãm' = 'the sweet sounds'; of the 'tantree' = the strings' (of the VeeNa).  Put together the meaning of the third line is, 'By the sweet grace and exquisite beauty of the words being uttered by AmbãL, the sweet sounds of the strings of the VeeNa were virtually put to shame as though' was noticed by who else, but Saraswathi.

989.        If we generally think as what would be the sweetest of sounds, we are likely to come to a decision that it must be the sounds of the VeeNa of Saraswathi, who is the Goddess of arts, crafts, fine-arts, learning and knowledge.  We are likely to think that nothing can match her playing on the VeeNa, in excellence, sweetness and grace!  If something can match that, then it must be her voice, we are most likely to assume.  But now, when AmbãL is about to say a few words – she did not sing – she only spoke.  There was no rhyming or verbal gymnastics.  She did not do much talking either.  Just started talking and just two words were spoken.  By that time Saraswathi's voice and her VeeNa sounds were just defeated!  As we saw earlier that in front of AmbãL's facial beauty, the moon-light was rendered into sour porridge; now before the sweetness of her few seconds talk, the singing and playing on the VeeNa all this time by Saraswathi, were rendered to, not total bunkum but nothing much to say!

990.        Then what did Saraswathi do?  She stopped singing and bent her head down.  What did she do to the VeeNa?  She just covered the VeeNa in its casing or container.  Let us look at the words of the poet.  That is the fourth line of the sloka – 'nijãm veeNãm vãNi nichulayati cholena nibhrutam' – 'निजां वीणां वाणी निचुलयति चोळेन निभृतम्'.  The word to word meaning is like this:- 'nijãm' = her; 'veeNãm' = VeeNa (to it, she did something); 'nibhrutam' = hiding it so that it may not be seen outside; 'VaNee' = that is Saraswathi; 'nichulayati' = covers.  It means that, having seen that against the exquisite sweetness of AmbãL's talk, the sound of her VeeNa was beaten, so that it may not be seen outside, Saraswathi puts her VeeNa back in its casing!

991.        Normally, a run-of-the-mill artist will not accept that somebody else is better than them.  Saraswathi evidently is not one of them.  She whole-heartedly agreed that compared with the 'heavenly music' in the spoken words of AmbãL, her own singing and the sounds of her VeeNa are better hidden.  When something is no match, they will say 'உறை போடக் காணாது', meaning that it will not be able to make even a covering!  So she covered her VeeNa in its casing 'உறை போட்டு மூடி விட்டாள்'!  That is, because AmbãL was appreciating her singing and playing, she did not continue singing but said, "Enough is enough"!  (Though she has said that 'enough is enough', we are not yet finished with the scene and will continue with the discussion of AmbãL's appreciation and Saraswathi's reaction to it, in the next edition of Deivathin Kural!)

(To be continued.)