Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sant Kabir's message through my father's music!

'Shabda is the power of the Supreme Being that has created even the Creator of the three worlds. The world of illusory manifest-ation came into being from the power of Shabda, the Divine Word, and it is sustained by it. The Lord pervades the entire creation in the form of Shabda.
True secret of Shabda is known only to the perfect Masters and it can be experienced by their Grace (Gurukripa), neither to be expounded nor to be analysed. This is one of the most important reasons why musicians have to religiously render the compositions of the "Mummoorthi Composers" for attaining the Grace of these saint composers.
Saint Kabir distinguishes the divine word or Shabda from the words that can be spoken, written or read.
This is the distinction between "Dhunyathmika Shabda" and "Varnathmika Shabda". The latter originates from the former. Spoken language originates from pure, unarticulated sound. This is the Shabda Kabir refers to. The mantra leads to that pure Shabda, that has the nature of Space. That is why it is also called the "Chidaakaasha Vani", the song of the Space of Consciousness.
True detachment and desirelessness come as a natural result of the practice of Sound/Shabda. Therefore it is useless to pursue austerities as an end in themselves.
When the aspirant goes within and contacts the Shabda, he naturally develops "premabhakthi" or love for God.
Kabir says: Apply yourself, my friend, to the pracitce of Shabda. The Shabda from which even the Creator came into being. Imprint Shabda in your heart, O friend! The vedas and the scriptures extol the merits of Shabda. The Shabda that sustains all shabdas in the world (that is: the primordial Shabda).Men, sages and God sing its praises yet they do not fully know its mystery. Shabda is the Master, listening to the Shabda one becomes the disciple.(The Shabda that Kabir refers to cannot be repeated, it can only be heard and listened to. By attending to that Shabda which rsides in the heart region, one naturally attunes to the Shabda to attain liberation.)
Kabir further states that people who repeat mantras mechanically do not enter the door of the Shabda that is behind every mantra. There is a difference between external repitition of the name (mantra) and internal listening of the True Word or Shabda which is primordial (inarticulated).Kabir reaffirms in His Sant kabir Ki Shabdavali that a person's life, achievements and material possessions are wasted if he is unable to taste the True Word or Shabda.He also states that between Shabda and Shabda there is a vast difference.He instructs,"Churn the Primal Shabda and realise the truth, O Friend!"
The Kabir Bhajans which my father, film music director, late Sri. G. Aswathama had composed for "Bhakta Ramadasu" (1964,Telugu) were sung by the legendary singer, Mohammed Rafi. Each bhajan had been composed soulfully by my father and sung soulfully by Mohd. Rafi Saab.After recording these numbers for my father, Sri.Rafi had given the title of "Naushad of the South" to my father. In this movie Sri. Chittoor Nagaiah Garu had tuned all the Ramadasu Krithis and also acted as Bhakta Ramadasu, the bhajans were composed by my father. These songs move me to tears out of missing my father, as I can touch my father's soul through these songs! I have provided links for my father's compositions sung by Mohd. Rafi for Bhakta Ramadasu below:-
The music direction for all Kabir Bhajans in the film is by my father, Sri.G.Aswathama and not Sri.Chittoor V.Nagaiah ( composer of only Ramadasu Krithis and enacting the role of Bhakta Ramadasu in the film) as wrongly mentioned in musicindiaonline.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

" the eyes of the Beholder!"

"I am That!', "You are That!"... an age-old saying coming from great spiritual masters, the import of which we understand without realising, we empathize without experiencing and trust without attaining! The end result is frustration which we supress by rigorous pooja-meditation or even charity routine.
I remember discussing the "there-and-yet-not-there" syndrome with a musician who observed that the attuning of Jeevatma and Paramatma could be compared to fine-tuning a radio towards achieving accurate band frequency. As we all know, it is very simple, yet not that simple ,especially when the radio is out of range (like our lives which are entangled in this material world), and worse still, without an antenna (bhakthi).
I came very close to "feeling"God during one of my visits to Tirupathi. Inside the sanctum-santorum of the temple, I caught a fleeting glimpse of the Lord from His Feet to His Head ("Aapadamasthakam") trying to literally "sponge-Him-off" with my concentrated gaze. Realising that any amout of time is not sufficient to drink in the sight of Him, and any number of eyes insufficient to feast themselves on Him, I resignedly turned back to walk out of the sanctum santorum. Normally I move backwards, trying not to lose sight of the Lord as far as possible, but that was the first time I turned back to walk out without a backward glance. As I did so, my breath stopped at the sight I witnessed! A God, Whom I could not absorb in the given few moments of Darshan, had manifested everywhere in front of me!!!! I felt as though lightning had struck me when I caught a glimpse of everybody's EYES!!!!!Every devotee was staring at the super-imposing figure of Lord Venkateswara,their eyes wide-open with an expression of limitless rapture and wonder! The sight of so many pairs of eyes exuding naked and wondrous devotion seemed like an extension of God Himself!The devotees were oblivious to their surroundings, looking entranced and mesmerised by the sight of the Lord. Their eyes were aglow with the dazzling radiance cast by the precious gems adorning God and the bright lamps lit around Him. Becoming aware of God, in the eyes of everybody present there, my palms felt sweaty and I got goosebumps instantly!!! Had I receded with my back towards the exit and facing God, I would have missed God! Lord Venkateswara's conveyed Himself through the eyes of His devotees!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Chinnamasta is a deity who has always been in my thoughts. She is responsible for veena and the power behind veena-playing. Chinnamasta is the sixth Goddess in the "Dasa Maha Vidya". She resides in the Surya Mandala. She is the deity who represents the planet Rahu. The other deities of Dasa Maha Vidya and their planetary associations are as follows:-
Rahu is the planet which is reponsible for the nervous system (also for breath, bones, nails etc.) that supports veena playing, and veena strings made of the metal associated with Saturn , steel-("Sani Vat Rahu"-which means Saturn and Rahu have similar qualities as per authentic vedic astrology).
Chinnamasta is also known as "Prachanda-Chanda-Chandika" or "Prachanda Chandika". Lord Parasurama was a Sadhaka of Chinnamasta. Guru Sri. Gorakhnath, who belonged to the Natha Sampradaya was a Sadhaka of Chinnamasta.The most popular temple for Chinnamasta Devi is in Himachal Pradesh , in a town called Chintapurni. This temple is among the "Sakthi-Peethas", and known as Chinnapurni, which means, the Goddess who fulfills the desires of Her devotees. People throng to this temple to find solutions for their problems and to achieve peace of mind.
Scriptures state that Goddess Parvathi, accompanied by Her two attendants, Jaya and Vijaya went to bathe in the River Mandakini. The Goddess was deeply engrossed in Her own thoughts, unaware of the hunger pangs of Her attendants. On repeated demands from Jaya -Vijaya for food, the merciful Goddess severed Her own head, which fell on the palm of Her left hand. Three bloodstreams gushed out of Her throat, the right and left falling respectively into the waiting mouths of Jaya and Vijaya and the centre stream falling into Her own mouth.
According to the vedic tale of Rishi Dadhyach Atharvana (who appears as Kabanda Atharvana in the Brihadaranyaka, with the later name of Chinnamasta's spouse) the attendants were known as Dakini and Vamani. This tale states that the two Ashwins, known for their mystic powers had approached Dadhyach for the secret knowledge of "Soma", the nectar of immortality and food of the Devas, 'amrutham'. Lord Indra warned Dadhyach that his head would fall off if he did so, and the sage continued headless, till the Ashwins fixed the head of a horse to his body.
Dadhyach personifies Indra's thunderbolt or Vajra, whose head is cut off in order to reveal "Soma"(Rig Veda 1. 134. 13-15) According to Rig Veda (IX. 108.3) Dadhyach also grants the amrutham and is the Lord of "Soma".
Chinnamasta is Vajra Vairochani, the effulgent thunderbolt, as much as Dadhyach is.The three streams of blood gushing out of Chinnamasta symbolises "granthis"(knots). Chinnamasta is said to remove the three granthis or knots in the Sushumna (representing the three Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra and the three worlds).
While the above is the story, I had the good fortune of receiving more information on Chinnamasta from Sri Duddu Sarma, General Manager of a major Pharmaceutical Company in Minneapolis/St.Paul, US, and a devotee of Sri Vasishta Ganapathi Muni (also known as "Nayana garu"), who was a great follower of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi. Sri Nayana Garu (1878-1936) who is a mighty spiritual personality had a large following and famously known as Kavyakantha.He recognised the uniqueness of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi's teachings, accepted Him as his Guru and proclaimed Him as the Maharishi to the whole world.
Nayana Garu, in his work, "Uma Sahasram" interprets Sahasrara Chakram as Kamadhenu and Mooladhara Chakram as the calf. He further states that Sahasrara Chakram is Goddess Uma in the form of Renuka and Her son, Lord Vinayaka, the Lord of space and physical existence, as the calf at Mooladhara Chakram. The one who milks is the "atman".
Nayana Garu's belief was that Chinnamasta was none other than Renuka (personified as Lord Parashurama's mother and saint Jamadagni's wife). As Parashurama beheads Her (Lord Parashurama who is an avatara of Lord Vishnu, literally beheads His own mother with an aim to teach Her perfection in 'kundalini' for achieving moksha through Sahasraram). Goddess Uma induced Her own Shakthi into Renuka, making Her the immortal "Prachanda Chandi" and hence She is the Maha Vidya of Shakthi. The sahasrara chakram (1000 petalled) is represented by Kartha Veeryarjun (the demon with 1000 hands). Lord Parashurama cutting off the 1000 hands of Kartha Veeryarjun to release His mother from sin is depicted by His act of severing Her head to attain salvation through Sahasrara chakra. It is also likely that Renuka Devi was probably the first female in human form to have achieved this, with Goddess Uma making her immortal by inducing Her own Energy into her.Renuka Devi was also known as Kamadhenu like the Sahasrara Chakra, that which continuously delivers the nectar of life and gnana.
Sri Nayana Garu's message about Chinnamasta is echoed in the beautiful composition of Sri Muthuswami Dikshithar (Raga-Kannada Bangala, Thala- Khanda Jampa).
Renuka Devi Samrakshithoham Anisham
Venu Vaadyaadiyutha Vijaya Nagarasthithey
Maanikya Bhooshani Madhura Rasa Bhaashini
Baana Sadrusaakshini
Parashurama Janani
Konatraya Vaasini Guruguha Vishvaasini
Kannada Bangaley Gaandharva Bhanjani
Sri Renuka Devi's temple is in Vijayapuram, a small village located towards the north of Thiruvarur. The krithi mentioned above, states that the Goddess is the mother of Lord Parashurama and is very closely associated with all the musical instruments ("venu vaadyaadiyutha") and resided in Vijayapuram ("Vijayanagara sthithey!"). Renuka Devi, who manifested as Chinnamasta is an important deity to propitiate for achieving expertise in the field of arts.
Chinnamasta is naked,the jewel on Her forehead is tied with a serpent. She has three eyes. Her breasts are adorned with lotuses and She represents Indrani Shakthi, which is associated with Swadhishtana Chakram which is responsible for creativity and lust.
Her mantra as per Mantra Mahodadhi :
"Om Shreem Hreem HreemAim Vajra Vairochaniyai Shreem Hreem Hreem Phat Swaha!"
More information is availble in an article by Sri Prakhya Madhubabu on Chinnamasta. He quotes Sri Nayana Garu's sloka-
"Chinnaam Bhinnaam Sutharaam Sannaa
Mannaa Bhaavadabhithaha Khinnaam
Ethaam Paathum Bharatha Kshoneem
Jaaye Jishnoho Kurumaam Shakthaha!"
("Uma Sahasram"- Nayana Garu, November 26th, 1907).
Meaning:Oh Devi, please give me the strength to protect the Mother land which is scattered and deprived of food.
In the same article, Sri Prakhya Madhubabu has stated that Renuka (Chinnamasta) is the source of atomic energy. Meditating on Her is extremely powerful and intricate. This practice is conducted in secrecy by tantriks of high order in Himalayas, all the way upto Kerala.In Nepal and Tibet, She is known as 'Vajrayogini' and Buddhists consider Her as the Goddess who grants meditative powers and salvation. Even the harijans in Andhra Pradesh worship Her as the village Goddess, "Ellamma".The villagers and devotees of Ellamma recount the many miracles performed by Ellamma. In Andhra,there used to be a practice of decorating young girls in households as Ellamma and worshipping her. They would also address her as "Mathangi"!
Mathangi or Raja Mathangi, is the presiding deity for veena! Chinnamasta's represents Rahu (the most important planet for veena-playing). The kundalini-sadhana intended through veena -playing derives stength through worship of Chinnamasta, who cuts off the 'ida' and'pingala' nadis for salvation through "Sahasraram".

Monday, October 5, 2009


"The sight of auditoriums and halls where I had performed sends the adrenaline pumping through my veins!" -this declaration of a popular artiste puzzled me no end, as I tried to figure out why a similar sight made absolutely no impact on me! Pausing to think for the first time in my 4-decade-old career of veena, I realised that I desperately needed a break, to get away from the entire scenario! This happened last year, rejecting all offers that came my way for the 2008 Music Season in Chennai ( the most painful part was having to reject an award from a reputed sabha, because it required me to perform as well), I headed towards Delhi (where my husband was doing a project for Jindal Steel), excited that I would be visiting many pilgrim spots in the North. I had the time of my life visiting Haridwar, Rishikesh, Vrindavan, Barsana, Banaras etc. Watching the moon, the colourful lights floating on the Ganges, watching the evening Aarthi, listening to bhajans on the shore of Ganges,were all sheer bliss to me! The Ganges in Haridwar rejuvenated me, I was awestruck by the touch and sight of the Holy Mother.
Back to Chennai this year again I could not workup a mood to perform or even play the veena.I flew to San Diego to be with my daughter for 4 months. Except for my good friends like Sri.G.J.R.Krishnan and Sri Trichur Narendran, not many people were aware of the fact that I was taking a break .I noticed that in all my break time, I never once missed music, veena or even performing. I hardly thought of music, my mind was still, all I could listen to were the latest genres of western music on my daughter's music system in her car. Nothing touched me, nothing moved me, I went into a vacuum and felt nothing. I wondered how much more longer my detached state of mind would last. By the end of the third month in the US , I found that I was humming hindolam to myself, at first I did not notice it, then it registered in me that I had started to hum not only hindolam,but many more ragas like behaag, mohana kalyani, rithigowla, surati, madhyamavathi, sama, arabhi.......... I also took a long, hard look at my left hand forefinger and middle finger, concerned whether they were fit to press against my veena strings. I then realised with a bang that I needed to get back to my veena! This realisation, rapidly grew into impatience and by the time I landed in Chennai on September 1st, 2009, I was missing my veena desperately.
On arrival I rushed to my bedroom, where my veena stood next to my cot as usual, (my mother had taken the pains of cleaning the veena in my absence). I hugged my veena for a long time, sensing the receptive vibes from my veena.
I had not planned on performing, I only needed to be with my veena, listen to my veena's sweet and loving speech. My veena was obviously very cut up with me for leaving her behind and going away! She refused to speak to me for a long time, my fingers, due to long lapse from practice could not bring out a single word from her. I was worried and concerned, I did everything to woo her, I coaxed her, pleaded with her, indefatigable in my attempts despite terrific pain in my hands and shoulders and blisters on my fingers. During night time, whenever I woke up to drink water, I would again attempt fresh talks with my veena which is always kept next to my bed. Despite sleepless nights, I pushed myself out of the bed at 4 in the mornings to sit with my veena.
All the push ups and stretches I had learnt from Mr. Kannan of YMCA and ortho exercises for postural problems from Dr.Krishnaraman were next on my agenda. Amidst such hectic activity and battling the pain in my right leg, the first call came from SVBC TV Channel, inviting me to perform in Tirumala for their channel on October 29th. I felt it was God asking me to perform again. Immediately the next call came from Sri. Mudhra Bhaskar inviting me to perform on October 10th for Veenotsav'09. I will be facing an audience on the 10th of October for the first time after a long lapse filled with uncertainity of whether I would get back to perfoming or not!
God's will!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seven Hills/Seven Lakes

Whenever we go to Tirupathi, our eyes strain to locate and sustain within them the sight of the Lord of the hills, (even if it is only for a few seconds!). In the process we are not aware of nor do we pay attention to other wondrous details attached to the divine seven hills.
Narayana Giri which is situated 2 km. from the temple, is the highest point in Tirumala. It is believed that Lord Narayana, as he descended from Vaikuntham, first set His foot here on Narayana Giri. The foot print is said to be available here.
There are many lakes in Tirumala. Swami Pushkarini, which is situated towards the west of Sri Varahaswami Sannidhi and to the south of Sri Venkateswaraswami Sannidhi is said to be the purest and holiest lake. It is believed that Swami Pushkarini was brought all the way from Vaikuntham (where it had belonged to Lord Vishnu), to the Seven Hills by Garuda, for the sport of Lord Venkateswara.
Sri Venkatachala Mahathyam, which branches off from 'Sri Skaanda Puranam', states that Swami Pushkarini is among the seven most important lakes situated in Tirumala. They are the 1)-Kumaradhara Lake, 2)Thumburutheerdha Lake, 3) Akasha Ganga Lake, 4)Pandavatheerdha Lake, 5)Papanashana Lake, 6) Devatheerdha Lake.
Each lake has a special significance attached to it.
1)-SWAMI PUSHKARINI-The merging of three crore lakes in Swami pushkarini occurs on 'Mukkoti Dwadasi' (the twelfth day of the fortnight of Dhanur Masam). It is believed that bathing in Swami Pushkarini on this day, is equivalent to bathing in the Holy Ganges.
2)KUMARADHARA - This is where Lord Subrahmanya Swami and His spouse, Devasena had bathed and offered Their prayers to Lord Venkateswara. It is stated in Sri Venkatachala Mahathyam that bathing in Kumaradhara on a full moon day, while moon is in Makham constellation, during the month of "Magha"(between January 20th to February 20th) while sun is in Aquarius (kumbha rasi), during the afternoon time, yields great results equal to bathing for 12 long years in all the holy rivers including Ganges. It is also recommended that the devotee should give some charity on the shores of Kumaradhara after bathing.
3) THUMBURUTHEERDHAM- It is stated in Sri Venkatachala Mahathyam that bathing in Thumburutheerdham on a full moon day while moon is in the constellation of Utthara Phalguni, during 'Phalguna' month (between February 20th to March 20th), while sun is in Pisces, during brahma muhurtham (early hours of dawn) ends the cycle of births of the devotee. There will be no rebirth by bathing here on the above mentioned day and timing.
4)AKASHA GANGA-Sri Venkatachala Mahathyam states that by bathing in Akasha Ganga during the early hours of dawn, on a full moon day, while moon is in the constellation of Chitra, when sun is in Aries (between March 20th to April 20th) in the month of Chaitra, the devotee attains salvation.
5)PANDAVATHEERDHAM- Sri Venkatachala Mahathyam states that by bathing in Pandavatheerdham on Dwadasi, on a Sunday during waxing moon (Shukla Paksham) and on a Tuesday during waning moon (Krishna Paksham) in the month of Vaishakha, when sun is in Taurus (between April 20th to May 20th), during anytime of the day, the devotee will be released from difficulties and sorrows permanently and attains liberation.
6)PAPANASHANATHEERDHAM- The epic states that by bathing in Akashaganga during waxing/waning moon on Sunday, especially on a day that combines Hastha Nakshatram and Sapthami thithi or any other auspicious star and thithi eradicates all the sins committed in crores of births and relieves the devotee of karma.
7)DEVATHEERDHAM-The epic states that by bathing in Devatheerdham while Jupiter (Guru) is in Pushyami Nakshatram, moon is in Shravana Nakshatram and on a Monday, the devotee washes of all sins which he/she had committed knowingly/unknowingly for the past many births and attains soul-liberation.


The Journey- (Concluding Part-3)

It is a pleasant coincidence that the concluding part of The Journey is being published only 4 days ahead of our country's Independence ...