Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

South Indian National Party

January 18, 2018

South Indian National Party
Today (11th March 2017) is the day our Prime Minister Modi and his party, the BJP have scored big wins in UP and Uttarakhand. While one can be happy that Modi and De-mo have eventually won, the size of victory was definitely not expected. Personally I am afraid that this may lead to complacence among the leaders of BJP. In a more narrow sense, I am even afraid this may lead to increased neglect of South India where BJP (and congress) are considerable weak. I have always been thinking we need a strong South India based national political party to offset this neglect. No central government, which is predominantly run by North India based national party, show much interest in solving the problems of the south. It perhaps wants the southern states to be permanently in a state of mutual conflict so that they do not gain much political clout in New Delhi. These North Indian Parties may even feel politically threatened by the unity of southern states. I have listed some of these issues in the following paragraphs. This is precisely the reason why I feel there is a need for a “South Indian National Party”. This party, SINP, should encompass all the southern States namely, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra, Telengana, Goa and Puduchery. In this context, I remember the old suggestion of elder statesman Rajaji, to form a Dakshin Pradesh, as compared to Uttar Pradesh in the North, which eventually developed as power centre in the national politics.

The neglect of south starts from early days of Sri Lankan Tamils conflict in 1960s. SPKF, Liquidation of LTTE, gifting of Kaccha Tivu are all subsequent effects of such neglect. There are several great rivers in the North, flowing through several states and being shared by them in a peaceful manner with proper agreements in place and monitored by the Central Govt. To name a few: Bhakra Management Board for sharing of Sutluj and other rivers among Punjab, Haryana, HP and Rajasthan; Narmada water between Gujarat and MP. But when it comes to south, Central Govt is keeping the following river problems unresolved for many years: Krishna water to Andhra (Almatti Dam issue), Mullai Periyar issue between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Palar issue between Andhra and Tamil Nadu and finally Cauvery issue between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Even after Supreme Court has ruled a solution to this problem, Central Govt is not willing to form a Cauvery Management Board. Recently we have seen the inept handling of Sasikala, Jallikattu and Hydro Carbon issues. Only time we had some unity among the southern states was when, Kamaraj, Nijalingappa, VKRV Rao, C Subramaniam and R Venkatraman were at the helm of affairs in the Congress Party.

Hence I feel the leaders of next generation of politicians in South India, should think of forging an alliance with other such leaders in the other southern states and try and form a South based national party which we may call as “South Indian National Party”. It may propose a unified solution to the problems of South India. Some of their ideals could be:

1. Any inter-state problems should be discussed dispassionately between all the stake holders and propose at least temporary or interim solution which could ward off a permanent state of animosity between the states and its peoples
2. Discuss methods of sharing all the natural resources in a mutually profitable manner
3. Forge a cultural unity among the peoples of southern states. (Music, Dance, Movies and Literature will help a lot in this respect)
4. Impress on the central Govt to have at least one short session of Parliament in the South, say Bengaluru.
5. Arrange for members of legislators of other states to attend the Assembly sessions of any state. We may even invite a few members of Parliament for such sessions. This will promote unity and also familiarity with the problems specific to such state.
6. Last but not the least, there should be mutual respect among the different language groups and cultures.
7. Could promote Southern Tourism in a big way.

Many more ideals could be added after discussion with leaders of different regions.

I am sending this note to several new wave politicians in Southern States to set them thinking on these lines. I wish they will respond and take my idea forward.

L V Nagarajan / 11th March 2017


Thirukkural – 292

December 3, 2017

Chapter – 30 / Vaaymai/ Verse – 2

பொய்ம்மையும் வாய்மை யிடத்தே – புரைதீர்ந்த

நன்மை பயக்கும் எனின்.

Poymmaiyum vaaymai idatthE – purai theerndha

Nanmai payakkum enin


Poymmai(yum) – (Even) a lie

Vaaymai – Oral Integrity or communicative integrity

Purai – harm, crime

Purai Theerndha – Harmless, without criminal intent

Nanmai – Good, comfort, help

Payakkum – Yield, achieve

Nanmai Payakkum enin – If it yields good result of comfort or help.

Even a lie will be acceptable as vocal integrity, if it yields, but without any criminal intent, good result of comfort or help.

This whole chapter No.30 of ten verses speak about ‘Vaaymai’ as a virtue. Saint Tiruvalluvar defines Vaaymai in the first verse of the chapter as ‘any communication which does not bring harm to anyone’.

‘Vaaymai’ does not have a good translation in English. You may roughly call it as vocal (or communicative) integrity.

This Chapter talks about Truthfulness only in the last verse where the saint says ‘Vaaymai’ is better than ‘Meimmai’. He says there is no better truthfulness than communicative integrity.

He talks about Vaaymai in two more verses where he states vaaymai is the best form of penance and charity and it keeps your mind bright and without guilt. At the same time he extols the virtues of ‘Poyyamai’ or being against falsehood, in five verses. He does not at all approve any type of falsehood.

We may compare this with a famous Sanskrit verse of Saint Adi Sankara: “Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat.  Na bruyat satyam apriyam. Priyam cha nanrutam bruyat. Esha dharmah sanatanah.”  Truth is always spoken with kindness. Truth is never spoken in a harsh way. Even with kindness falsehood is not to be spoken. This is the eternal path of virtue.

Here also the saint give preference to Vaaymai than Meimmai, i.e., Communicative integrity than truthfulness.  After all, Tamil Nadu Government’s emblem saying வாய்மையே வெல்லும் (Vaaymai alone triumphs) is right, instead of the usual (Satymeva Jayate) Truth alone triumphs. We may rank these virues as: Poyyamai is the best, Vaaimai is the next and Meimmai is the last.

There is a proverb in Tamil which says “Unnmai Sudum” (உண்மை சுடும்​), Bear Truth Hurts. As per both Adi Sankara and Tiruvalluvar, we should not tell this truth which hurts. (i.e.) if you are unable to tell it in a way it does not hurt. In such a situation where the ‘Truth Hurts’, It is better to tell a lie, provided it does not have any criminal intent. Hence the Titukkural says,

Even a lie is better than the truth if it yields

Haven to a disturbed situation

Bye till the next Tirukkural.


Tamil – Class: 3 / Teaching Tamil Through English

November 9, 2017

Class – 3

In class-1 we learnt Tamil Alphabets with their pronunciations. We learnt about basic vowels(6), extended vowels(6), consonants(18), and symbols for modifying these consonants. In class-2, we learnt a few words with their meanings. We also learnt about so called ‘northern alphbets’ to help us write and pronounce correctly, words from other languages. In this class-3, let us learn about some special features of Tamil phonetics.

First, let us see a few words where the hard consonants appear in there different vocal forms.

காரம் – KaaRaM – Spicy; ராகம் – RaaGaM – Melody, மேகம் – MEHum/MEGaM – Cloud. (Ka being used in three different vocal forms: Ka, Ga, Ha)

தங்கம் – ThaNGaM – Gold (here a soft consonant is explicitly used to soften ‘Ka’ to ‘Ga’)

சக்கை – ChaKKai – Remains of a fruit after Juice is extracted. Ka is doubled for harder accent.

சித்தி – ChiTThi – Mother’s younger sister, மோசம் – MoSaM – bad, பச்சை – PaChChai – Green, மஞ்சள் – MaNJaL –Yellow (here Cha is used in different vocal forms. Soft consonant again used in the last word, Tha is doubled for harder accent in the first word)

‘Ta, Tha, Pa, Rra’  (ட, த, ப, ற​)   also have different vocal forms as below

ட :  டீ – Tea – Tea, பாடு – PADu – Sing, பாட்டு – PATTu – Song, நண்டு – NaNDu – Crab

த : தங்கை – ThaNGai – Younger Sister, பாதி – PAdhi – Half, கத்தி – Katthi – Knife, பந்து – PaNDhu – Ball :

ப :  படம் – PaDaM – Picture, சுபம் – SuBaM – All well, கப்பல் – KaPPaL – Ship,  கம்பி – KaMBi – Metal Rod

ற : பறி – PaRri – Grab, வெற்றி – VeTRri – Victory, பன்றி – PaNDRri – Pig

It may be puzzling for some, to know which vocals to use. However in most of the cases meaning do not change even if we use a different vocal form. The words will be understood properly in its context.

There are some letters which even some Tamils do not pronounce correctly. They are La, (r)La and Zha; (i.e) ல, ள and ழ. Let us learn a few words involving these letters:

La (ல) is pronounced with the tip of the tongue just behind the upper teeth. (r)La (ள) is done with the tip of the tongue slightly behind in upper cavity. Zha (ழ) is done with the tip of the tongue still behind, deep in the upper cavity. The following words show their use. Sound bytes are included to help you pronounce them properly.

வலி, வளி, வழி – VaLi, Va(r)Li, VaZhi – Ache/Pain, Air(Atmosphere), Path

தலை, தளை, தழை – ThaLai, Tha(r)Lai, ThaZhai – Head, impediment/Bond, vegetation

பல்லி, பள்ளி, பழி – PaLLi, Pa(r)LLi, PaZhi – Lizard, School, Blame/revenge

வலம், வளம், பழம் – VaLaM, Va(r)LaM, PaZhaM – Right side, prosperity, Fruit

Ancient Tamil Literature

Tamil is one of the classical Languages of the world, along with Sanskrit. Tamil literary history is very ancient and rich. There were distinctly three periods of development of Tamil literature usually called as Sangam periods. Sangam means Academy and there were three Sangams. The last Sangam was from 400BC to 400AD and called as Kadai Sangam (கடைச்சங்கம், or the Last Academy). The literature of this period, known as Sangam Literature, are the only ones available from these ancient periods. The works of earlier two Sangams are many centuries older and now only known as just names. The literary history of Tamil records them as ‘lost in tsunami’. Sangam literatures, and even some ancient Sanskrit works, record a massive tsunami much before 400BC which destroyed a very big landscape known as Kumari Kandam (Continent of Kumari), also known as Lemuria. All the works of earlier two academies were lost forever as per this historical account. However modern history could not find much evidence of this tsunami and the Lost Land. The (3rd) Sangam literature is grouped into three parts – பத்துப்பாட்டு (Ten Anthologies), எட்டுத்தொகை (Eight Collections) and பதினெண்கீழ்கணக்கு (Eighteen Poetic Works).

Tirukkural (திருக்குறள்), by a saint poet Tiruvalluvar is one of the works in the last group of eighteen and is widely translated in almost all major languages of the world. I am giving below the first couplet of this great work consisting 1330 couplets, divided into 133 chapters of ten each

அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் – ஆதி

பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு

Akara Mudala ezhutthellam – Aadhi

Bhagavan Mudatre’ Ulagu


‘A’ is the start of all alphabets (of all languages) – (Just as)

GOD is the Origin of the world (of this whole Universe)

You may like to listen the audio of this verse given below:


Here is a Tamil proverb which states the importance of ‘Letters and Numbers’.

எண்ணும் எழுத்தும் கண் எனத் தகும்.

Ennum Ezhutthum Kann ena Thahum.


Numbers and Letters are rendered as the eyes (for obtaining knowledge)


With this thought let us conclude our Tamil class – 3


Toilets for Multitude

October 24, 2017

Toilet – Ek Prem Katha

L V Nagarajan

On 2nd Oct 2017, Gandhi Jayanthi (the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi), I saw the Hindi Movie ‘Toilet – Ek Prem Katha’. It is about ‘Open Defecation’ prevalent in India and about the public and private efforts to eradicate the same. While the movie is mainly telling the story form ladies’ point of view – about their privacy, hygiene and safety, the social aspects are also discussed.

This movie reminded me about an incident and the subsequent interaction I had when I was a 10-year old boy in my village, Sholavandan, near Madurai (India). It was summer vacation time for the schools when several of my cousins visit us and spend the vacations with us. One of my city cousins (no name please) visiting us, elder to me by 5 years, called me one morning to accompany him for a walk. I went along happily with him. We went along the railway line a distance of about 500 meters near a small canal and a bridge. I understood his purpose when he asked me to take care of his wrist watch and purse. After he finished ‘it’ and when we were walking back home. I asked him ‘Why here? We have a toilet at home’. The answer he gave me opened my eyes of conscience. He said, ‘Rajoo, the toilet in our house is an open type dry lavatory which is not very hygienic. Also, I don’t like manual scavenging’.

Yes. Here is a problem. Why many of us want others to clean our toilets, even the modern sanitary ones? Why public toilets are so unclean? Even now don’t we avoid using a public toilet unless it is an emergency? Whenever we stay in a hotel, first thing we inspect are the toilets, whether they are clean and hygienic. Don’t we?

The multitude of people in India cannot afford space for their own toilets. Hence the need arises for common toilets and public toilets. People who do not want to clean their own toilets, how will they ever keep common and public toilets clean? In addition, will these common facilities like flush-out and water closet be kept well maintained, in working condition? This is the area where we have to impart training to our people on basic hygiene and co-operation in handling such common facilities.

Even sanitary toilets require two septic tanks which should be alternately emptied and cleaned at least once in five years. How often have you seen it done? (almost never). Eventually, it gets choked up and blocked and soon becomes unusable and becomes a major health hazard. These are all special problems of a densely populated country like ours.

As shown in the above movie, at least for the male population in many thousands of villages in India, ‘Field Defecation’ seems to be a very practical solution. We may perhaps think of finding ways and means of making this practice, private and hygienic. In my school days there used to be a class known as ‘Citizenship Training’. In one of those books, I remember to have seen a design of a mobile toilet perfectly suited for our population. It was somewhat similar to what is given in the following link.

It consists of a pit over which a pedestal or a squatting slab is provided. A pile of sand or saw dust or dry earth nearby can be used to pour into the pit after every use. A second pit may be used over which the whole facility as above will be moved to enable hygienic emptying and cleaning of the first pit. A batch of such toilets can be made mobile and moved over different pits, specially prepared in the fields away from the village. Similar common toilets (or home toilets), within the village precincts, may be used by seniors, ladies and children. They can also be used by others, during unfair weather conditions and during nightly periods. This precludes the need for mechanised scavenging for periodically cleaning the pits. There are many designs available for producing bio-fuel just as gobar-gas plants. Such initiatives, of using appropriate technologies, must be encouraged to be undertaken by municipalities and gram panchayats, instead of forcing down a uniform policy and design by state and central governments.

Jai Ho to Swacch Bharat

 Victory to Clean India



24 Hours-Day X 7 Days-Week

October 5, 2017

24 Hours-Day X 7 Days-Week

L V Nagarajan


In one of my earlier blogs (titled Tamil/Indian Solar Calendar) I have discussed the periods of a day, a month and a year along with evolution of different calendars based on the astral movements of Earth, Moon, Sun and the Stars. I have only briefly discussed about a more convenient period of a week of 7-days. But the evolution of a ‘24-hours Day’ and a ‘7-days Week’ is also quite intriguing and interesting. I should thank my cousins Giri and Vasu, for inspiring me into this research.


European and other Western scientific historians always attribute all ancient scientific developments initially to Greece, then to Egypt and Alexandria and then to Babylon. Generally they do not go beyond Babylon, because they know it will lead them to Hindu/India. In the case of establishment and evolution of Time/Day system, the researchers went one step further down to south-east of Babylon, up to a region known as Chaldea. It is now the general acceptance, that 24-Hours-Day and 7-Days-Week was established and evolved in Chaldea, in 2nd Century BC, the area becoming a part of Babylon in later periods. It is evident, the researchers did not see beyond Chaldea towards further south east, i.e. India.


Let see briefly the history of Chaldea. Chaldea (/kælˈdiːə/) or Chaldaea (ref -1) was a Semitic-speaking nation which existed between the late 10th or early 9th and mid-6th centuries BC, after which it and its people were absorbed and assimilated into Babylonia. It was located in the marshy land of the far south eastern corner of Mesopotamia. Ur Kaśdim (ref -1) commonly translated as Ur of the Chaldees, is a city mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the birthplace of the Israelite and Ismaelite  patriarch  Abraham. Chaldea is pronounced locally as ‘Kauldee’, which some scholars of Indology (ref -2) say has evolved from ‘Kauldev’ which is a sect of Kashmiri Brahmins.  “Chaldean, more correctly Kaul-Deva (Holy Kauls), was not the name of a specific ethnicity but the title of an ancient Hindu Brahmanical priestly caste, which lived in what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Indian state of Kashmir”. Chaldea region consists of people who have migrated from east through the regions of Afghanistan. Abraham’s father Terah was living in a place called Ur (yes, a town, in many languages in India). He was apparently of Hindu origin and hence he named his son Brahm, the supreme soul. It later evolved as Abraham. (ref -3)

The Chaldean religion is the outcome of three great religions, the Indian, the Mazdean, and the Egyptian, and bears direct relationship to all of these. To place it still clearer, the Babylonian system recognized  the first ONE (Ad), who is never named but only acknowledged in thought, just as the Hindu Swayambhuva (Or Tamil’s Adi Bhagawan – LVN).The Babylonian civilization was neither born nor developed in that country. It was imported from India, and the importers were Brahmanical Hindus. Science has discovered enough to inform us that Sanskrit originals of Nepal, were translated by Buddhist missionaries into nearly every Asiatic tongue. Likewise Pali manuscripts were translated in Siamese, and carried to Burma and Siam; it is easy therefore to account for the same religious myths circulating in so many countries. (ref-4).

Abraham, son of Terah, lived in Chaldea during 1900BC. The period of Biblical Abraham is also around 1900 BC (ref – 5). Abraham is considered to be the father of Jewish race and religion. Later on other Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam also followed.

“Bus was Abraham Real? Good Question. (ref-6) Historians today are divided on whether the tales about Abraham are mythology. The problem is lack of archaeological records. – – – – In the secular view, however, Judaism has to begin somewhere. Someone had to believe god had spoken to him. Why not call that person, Abraham?” According to the above research, even the area known as Chaldea is far south-east of the city of Babylon. The town Abraham lived, Ur, is on southern part of this area. Later on the whole area came to be called as Babylon.

With such a history of Chaldea, it is rather obvious we have to look elsewhere for the origin of 24×7 day/week system.

24 Hours-Day:

Initially, ancient men divided the day only into day and night. The first ever division of a day into smaller units are seen in ancient Hindu scriptures of 4000 BC. Herein there are mentions of a day being divided into Ghatikas (Nazhikai in Tamil). Sunrise to sunset was divided into 30 ghatikas and similarly sunset to sunrise was also divided into 30 ghatikas. It did not take them long to find that these periods are neither same nor consistent. They then standardised the time measure of a ghatika by a standard pot with a hole at the bottom. The time taken for this pot full of water to empty through the hole was standardized as a Ghatika and a gong was sounded to indicate this passage of time. It was calibrated in such a way that 60 Ghatikas was the time between two successive sunrises. Obviously in those days, Sun rise was considered as the start of the day. When ancient Hindus observed other heavenly objects also through their naked eye, especially the brighter planets like Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, they believed that along with Sun and Moon even these visible planets affect the life on earth and that belief lead to a new ‘science’, Jyothish, now known as astrology. Earliest Hindu scripture available on Jyothish is Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra (ref -7). It is a compilation of Indian astrology existing at the time. In this text, Sage Parasara first describes how to record one’s time of birth, or lagna. He describes several lagnas- House Lagna (or Bhava), Hora lagna, Ghatika Lagna. “After noting down the time of birth after sunrise in Ghatikas and fractions of a Ghatika (known as Vighatika or Vinadi), it is divided by 5 to get House Ghatika or (Bhava). Hora lagna is obtained by dividing the time of birth in ghatikas, further by 2. For ghatika lagna only Ghatikas and Vighatikas are considered”, (i.e.) Bhava = Ghatikas/5 and Hora = Bhava/2.  Since 60 ghatikas make a day, which clearly amounts to 24 horas. This may perhaps be the start of 24-Hour day. How this Hora became Hour is another story.

“Parasara was the father of Sage Vyasa of Mahabharata. According to Varahamihira, Yuthishtra, the Pandava King of Mahabharata lived 2526 years ahead of Saka Era, which means 2448 BC. This will place Parasara’s time to be at least 2600BC” (Ref-8).

‘Hora’ is a word used for time/hour in many languages, especially in the regions around Egypt. Most accepted theory is that the word ‘Hora’ is of Jewish origin, historically derived from early Chaldean civilisation.  As we had discussed earlier, Abraham’s father Terah named his son Brahm, the supreme soul. It later evolved as Abraham. So Abraham was a follower of the Vedic religion, which at that time was spread all over the world and was not confined to India alone, as it later came to be. Abraham, father of Jewish and Ismaelite religions, must have learnt about Ghatika, Hora and Yama (Jama) time periods from his father or from their traditional Hindu holy texts.

With all the above studies, it is safe to assume that Abraham, credited with the idea of 24-Hours-Day was actually aware of definition of Ghatika, Hora and Yama (Or Jama, 3-Hours)) as divisions of time periods in the ancient Hindu way of life in which he also once belonged to. Even today we call the modern clocks as Ghadi in Hindi and Ghatikaram in Tamil. Please refer to for an interesting account of how the time was kept throughout the day in ancient India. Abraham was not perhaps interested in Indian astrology and hence he was interested to take up only Hour (or Hora), Minutes and Seconds as units of time. Since India was already using Hora as a unit of time it was fairly easy and acceptable for modern India to adapt to the international time standard of HH:MM:SS, with 24-hour days. But for religious and cultural purposes even now we use Ghatikas and Vighatikas (or Nazhikai and Vinadi in Tamil). We also use Shuba Horas for finding auspicious periods. Other time periods used till today, are the Yama (or Jama for temple rituals) and Muhurtha for holy rites like marriages.

7 Days-Week

Now let us consider the time period of a WEEK. Many Egyptian, European and Abrahamic cultures had time periods of a week which were neither consistent nor regular. They started by coinciding them with the phases of the moon. The 28/29 day cycle of moon was divided into 4 parts to make a week, but needing constant adjustment with intermittent 8-day weeks. There were cultures which had even working weeks of 8/10 days. Here again the Chaldean Hindus came to the rescue.

At some point of time in ancient astral history of India, Hindus started attributing the influence of the 7 heavenly objects (Sun, Moon and the 5 visible planets) to every hour (or Hora) of the day, in addition to every day, to every luni/solar month and to every planetary year. They found the planet Saturn to be the slowest around the sun, and the Moon to be the fastest around the sun, relative to Earth. Saturn’s average orbital velocity was observed as 0.33 times the orbital velocity of earth. As seen from the earth Sun takes 365 days to go around the Earth whereas Moon, following a similar path in the ecliptic, just takes 29 days to go around the earth. Hence its speed is the fastest at 365/29=12.59 relative to Earth. The table below gives the speeds of other planets relative to Earth.


Moon/ Planet

Orbital  Speed (kM/s)

Speed relative to Earth



365 days / 29 days



Mercury 47.87




Venus 35.02




Earth/Sun 29.78




Mars 24.08




Jupiter 13.07




Saturn 9.69



I have made two significant changes in the above table. Moon has been included as the fastest heavenly object. Earth will be replaced by Sun, as relative to Earth, Sun is rotating the earth. The ancient Hindus believed that slower planets had larger influence on the lives on Earth even on daily and hourly basis. As said earlier, at some point of time in ancient history, Hindus started to believe in a 7-hour cycle of influence by all the seven Grahas as above, starting with Saturn and then going through all the Grahas from Jupiter to Moon, each period of influence lasting for one hour, beginning from sunrise. The cycle looks as below:

The above cycle starts from Sunrise of Day-0 and continues. By Hindu astrology each day is defined by the first Hora of the day (i.e. the first hour after sun rise) and hence named the days after the graha which rules the first hour of the day after sunrise. The days were called ‘vaaraas’ in Sanskrit and hence we had Ravi Vara, Soma Vara, Mangal Vara, Buddh Vara, Guru Vara, Shukra Vara, and Sani Vara (which directly translate into Sun-Day, Mon-Day etc). The cycle naturally repeated on and on, and ancient Hindus landed on a 7-day weekly cycle more by default than by design. A ‘week’ was never used as an explicit time period in ancient cultural history of India.

Abraham of Chaldea might have struggled hard to make the other cultures of the world to accept the week days named after planets. Many western communities accepted the 7-day week some time during 4th Century AD, but used numbers 1 to 7 to represent week days. When they eventually did accept Sunday to Saturday nomenclature, for centuries, they could not figure out why the days/planets were ordered specifically this way.  Perhaps westerners were never interested to know or to acknowledge, the Indian contribution behind this. As recorded in (ref – 9): “No one is certain as to how the idea of planetary hours came into being.  The only thing that is certain is that it is responsible for the order of the days of the week and therefore predates the Bible and the Genesis story for the creation. While the planetary hour’s true origin is something of a mystery, ancient astrologers used them to find the most auspicious time to start something important.  It was also used in horary astrology to see what influences were predominant for a given question. At some point in the distant past, by what philosophical reasoning is unknown, a sunrise or sunset defined the first planetary hour in history.  It has run on uninterrupted in this manner (as far as I know) longer than recorded history.” That nails the truth.

Twist In the Tail (or Tale)

I had an intriguing question. When did this Planetary-Hora cycle started, (i.e.) which and when was actually the day-0, mentioned in the above table? The first identifiable year for which a date is cited complete with day of the week is 6th Feb 0060 AD, as per the then existing Julian calendar. Found it very funny to note that this occurs in ‘Pompeiian graffito’. Pompei is a city in ancient Roman Empire that was immersed in ash from a volcano, Mount Vesuvius, in 0076 AD. It was dug up again only in 18th Century. They found thousands of graffiti in the walls and floorings of the ancient houses, many of them erotic. (You may google on this if interested). This particular graffiti mentions as below – “eighth day before the ides (middle) of February, day of the Sun”. Hence we know now 6th Feb 0060 was a Sunday. Or is it? As per the present system it is a Wednesday. We conclude two things from this:

  1. Romans started following 7-day week with planetary names in 0060 AD or earlier
  2. Romans were following Sunset as the start of the day. Day-4 in the planetary table given above is Sunday as per Sunset Hora and Wednesday as per Sunrise Hora.

Julian calendar used all over from 45 BC up to 16th century AD, which erred by 11 minutes, 14 Seconds in a tropical year. England accepted the new revised Gregorian calendar only in 1751 AD, 150 years after it was proposed, and it had to advance their calendar by 14 days to correct the accumulated error. Since it was exactly two weeks, the days of the week did not get affected. Luckily somewhere between 60AD and 1751AD world adopted Midnight as the start of the day, (00.00.00 Hrs after 23.59.59 Hrs) and start of the working week as Monday.


I enjoyed this journey back in ‘TIME’ literally. Still it is a mystery, when and where did this idea of Planetary Hours originate. I could not find any reference to its origin. But one culture which is still using these ‘Horas’, to find auspicious and inauspicious times for various spheres of activities, are the Tamils. Readers may comment on this aspect, if they find any information.


  1. Wikipedia
  4. by H. P. BLAVATSKY )
  5. Comparative Religion For Dummies by William P. Lazarus, Mark Sullivan
  6. Was Abraham?  by Gene D. Matlock, B.A., M.A. 
  7. Ways of the natives – Parasara’s Hora Sastra – pp25, and from:
  8. Sūryasiddhānta: An Astro-linguistic Study By Sudhi Kant Bharadwaj

Teaching Tamil through English

September 8, 2017

Many parents of Tamil origin may not have learnt Tamil as a language anytime in their life. Some of them may regret it now and may want to learn Tamil, at least as a language of conversation and understanding. They may also want to teach their children Tamil, as they are not learning the same in their schools. Once children learn basic Tamil, they, depending on their interest, may pick-up deeper knowledge of Tamil on their own at a later stage in life. Unfortunately, not much work is done on such teaching of Tamil, and the regular pedagogy kills even their initial interest and more often than not, they discontinue learning and teaching Tamil. I have two lovely granddaughters (Mili and Tara) who have also started learning Tamil recently in California. I am sure the Tamil classes there is adequately interesting and enthusing for them to continue. With my small experience of teaching Tamil to my daughter and son in early 80’s, I thought of putting together my way of teaching Tamil in a series of blogs, which could be useful to Tamil loving parents in the US and elsewhere. Let me start straight away.

Class – 1

It is always said that Tamil Alphabet has 247+ characters. Any learner who hears this, immediately loses interest to some extent.  In its actual sense, Tamil language has only 26+ characters. Of course it has a dozen more symbols (and a few special characters for writing words from Sanskrit and other foreign languages). Let us first have a look at all these characters.

Five Basic Vowels: The following are the basic vowels in Tamil. Their pronunciation is also given right below.

A as in ‘Avatar’ I as in ‘In’ U as in ‘pUt’ E as in ‘End’

O as in ‘One’


Two Composite Vowels: There are two composite vowels as below:

Ai as in ‘Aisle’

Ou as in ‘Out’

The first one above is a combination of: அ  and  இ   =    ஐ

Second one above is a combination of:   அ  and   உ = ஔ


Five Extended Vowels: The five basic vowels as above have their extended versions with slightly elongated pronunciation as compared to

A as in ‘Avatar’ – I as in ‘In’ –   U as in ‘pUt’ –  E as in ‘End’ –   O as in ‘One’

(As below)

Au as in ‘Aunt’ Ea as in ‘Easy’ Oo as in ‘Ooze’ A as in ‘Area’

Ow as in ‘Own’


Special Character:

ஃ     —    Akh

This is a special character grouped along with vowels to add a specific accent to a few consonants. We will list it here but learn about it later.


Eighteen Consonants: There are eighteen consonants in Tamil. They are as below:













The above six are called Hard consonants. However same letters are used for softer pronunciations also as shown.


Nga Gnya Rn as in ‘BoRn’ Na Ma


The above six letters are known as Soft consonants. The two ‘Na’s are used in different contexts. They are also used to soften the corresponding hard consonants shown earlier. We will learn about them later.


Ya Ra La Va Zha

Rl as in Pearl

The above six letters are known as Medium consonants. The letter ‘Zha’ is very special for Tamil language and its pronunciation presents some difficulty even for some Tamils. La (ல) is pronounced with the tip of the tongue just behind the upper teeth. Rla (ள) is done with the tip of the tongue slightly behind in upper cavity. Zha (ழ) is done with the tip of the tongue still behind.


Symbols: The following table shows the symbols used to add the vowels to the above consonants. A few typical consonants are shown with symbols added.

Basic Vowels:



ி 3 types  ெ


Consonants with symbol added:

கி கு கெ



Ki Ku Ke


சி சு செ சொ
தி து தெ



Composite Vowels:




கௌ க்
kai kau


as in ‘Park’


சௌ ச்
தை தௌ



Extended Vowels



 ீ 3 types  ே



கீ கூ கே கோ
kaa kee koo kay



சீ சூ சே சோ
தா தீ தூ தே


The letters with a dot above them are known as ‘Otru’ – that is, it sounds without any vowel, like, ‘ch’ and ‘th’.


There are a few more special characters and symbols which we can learn later.

The complete list of alphabets as per the above scheme is given in

This is enough for class-1. In Class -2 we will learn a few words using some of these alphabets

Bye for now.


Pink Poem by Tanveer Ghazi

August 14, 2017

Movie – Pink (16 Sept 2016)

Poem –  Tu Khud Ki Khoj Mein Nikal

Lyrics – Tanveer Ghazi

Rendering by – Amitabh Bachchan


In an earlier blog (Feminism and Humanism), I had expressed my views on aggressive feminism displayed in a write-up on CNN-IBN web site. I give below a summary of my views expressed therein.

  1. A woman can decide to take time to internalize and process an incident. Outward expression may hide internal trauma. But In case of serious crimes such as rape and sexual assault one should not hide her internal trauma. She should express her internal trauma as quickly as possible after any such crime. Otherwise you are risking yourself of mal-intent.
  2. A woman can choose to file a complaint at any time she deems fit – even a month after the incident if she so chooses. However for any crime, the complaint should be made immediately after the crime. Surely efforts will be made by the criminal to stall the same. Any undue delay will only aid the criminal in such efforts.
  3. Even if it started as a consensual affair, a woman can say ‘no’ at any time. When you start any activity jointly, it is always difficult to walk out in the middle. This is very much true in consensual sex. Think thousand times before your consent, either by intent or by default. Otherwise, say ‘no’ at the earliest.
  4. A woman can have multiple sexual partners. What she chooses to do in her own time isn’t anybody’s concern. It is immoral for both men and women to have multiple sex partners, but may be not illegal. Anyone has a right to be immoral. Having any kind of expertise, or lack of it, does not enhance or diminish this right.
  5. A woman’s clothes aren’t testimony to her character. True. Indecent people do parade in decent clothes. Some time, very decent people do come in rather revealing clothes. But decent people, both men and women, are expected to attire themselves decently in public and they also expect others to do the same. Revealing clothes expose people, especially women, to some risks.
  6. Even in a feminist world, men have to be courteous to women. Women value generosity in a man. Similarly, men value modesty in a woman.
  7. Don’t exploit woman’s emotions as leverage for bargaining for her freedom and choices she makes. Many women are also seen to exploit such emotions against men. Any such exploitation either way is despicable.
  8. You wouldn’t like to be told how to live your life. Don’t tell woman how to live hers. Woman sometimes need advice of friends and close relatives, even on some private matters. She should not hesitate to ask. Any unsolicited advice does irritate you, I agree.
  9. Her freedom – to wear what she wants, to go where she wants, to choose her friends – isn’t yours to bestow. Any youngster will sometimes need the advice and acceptance of his/her seniors on such matters. Outsiders definitely do not have any say on this.

Having said all this purely in the interest of safety of my wife, sisters, mothers, daughters, colleagues and friends, I sincerely wish for more space for all women to grow, to move about, to progress, to enjoy and to achieve as per their wish and aspirations. It is going to be about a year since the release of the Hindi film PINK, where Amitabh Bachan plays the part of an advocate for the victimized girls and makes many significant statements supporting freedom and safety for women. He also advices girls some responsible behavior while demanding and enjoying such freedom. At the end of the film he celebrates women freedom with a poem rendered very convincingly, in his sonorous voice.

On this Independence Day of India (15th Aug 2017), we celebrate the independence India obtained from Britain. We also celebrate this as a day of freedom from many other ills of our society which we got rid off during this 70 years of Independence.

Let me celebrate this Independence Day 2017 as a day for Women’s Freedom, by translating the PINK Poem into English and dedicating the same to Women’s Freedom.


Translation by L V Nagarajan


You decide your path and depart

Why fear? And hesitate for what?

Go! Even time is on your side, Start

Yes time is on your side, Start.

Decide your path and depart


Folks who restrict; bend them as a bow

Break the restricts to pieces

And use them as arrows,

Make them as arrows

Decide your path and depart


Your conduct so pure, why hardships to endure 

With sins in their mind,

Who allows them to judge you?

Why allow them to judge you?

Decide your path and depart


Those tricks of cruelty, burn them to ashes

The wick in your lamp can become

The big torch of your anger

Light the torch of your anger

Decide your path and depart


Raise your scarf as banner; for skies to shudder

If ever your scarf falls,

A quake should occur. 

Yes, a quake will occur

Decide your path and depart


Original Hindi Version


Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal   Tu kisliye hatash hai

Tu chal, Tere Wajood ki  Samay ko bhi talash hai.

samay ko bhi talash hai

(Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal)

Jo tujhse lipti bediayan…Samajhna inko vastra tu

Ye bediyan pighal ke..Bana le inko shastra tu..

Bana le inko shastra tu

(Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal)

Charitra jab pavitra hai..Toh kyoun hai ye dasha teri

Ye papiyon ko hak nahi..Ki lein pariksha teri.

Ki lein pariksha teri

(Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal)

Jala ke bhasm kar use jo krurta ka jal hai

Tu Aarati ki lau nahi..Tu krodh ki mashal hai..

Tu krodh ki mashal hai

(Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal)

Chunar ko udaa dhwaj bana gagan bhi kap-kapayegaa

Agar teri chunar geeri..Toh ek bhukamp ayegaa.

.ek bhukamp ayegaa

(Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal)

Happy Independence day to all.

Melody and Prosody

July 30, 2017

Melody and Prosody are two terms in English language associated with Music and Lyrics respectively. Melody is actually a kind of music created by successive sequencing of musical notes (as compared to Harmony, which is musical effect created by a combination of simultaneously sounded notes like in an orchestra). Melody depends on predefined scale of 7 (or less) notes. I presume Melody is a term that might have evolved from the Sanskrit word MELA. Mela represents a scale of 7 notes but still Mela is much more than just a scale. It also means Sruthi (or basic notes), also ‘vibrations’ both physical and metaphorical and also a general musical atmosphere.

On the other hand Prosody is about the meter, rhythm and intonations of a verse or a poem. Rhythm and meter, although closely related, should be distinguished. Meter is the definitive pattern established for a verse, while rhythm is the actual sound that results from a line of poetry. I presume the term Prosody could have evolved from the Sanskrit word ‘prasa’ which roughly means alliteration in a verse or poetry. Sanskrit and Tamil grammars of so-called prosody describe many types of poetical features such as: prasa, chanda, tala (rhythm) and various other poetical ornamentations. When talking about music, we talk of Melakattu and Talakattu. In Hindi they talk Tal-Mel for a pleasant relationship between any two entities. When we welcome special guests we do it with Mela-talam (மேளதாளம்).

Prasa generally in use are of three types – Dwitiya Akshara Prasa, Prathama Akshara Prasa and Anthima Akshara Prasa.  Verses and poetry in Sanskrit, Tamil and in fact in most of the Indian languages use these prasas. In this post I wish to show how these prasas enhance the musical value, of any poetry, or a musical composition by itself. Let us take the following four lines of beautiful poetry by Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi:

சுட்டும் விழிச் சுடர்தான் கண்ணம்மா

சூரிய  சந்திர ரோ

வட்டக்   கரிய விழி  கண்ணம்மா

வானக் கருமை கொல்லோ

பட்டுக்  கரு நீல  புடவை

பதித்த நல் வயிரம்

நட்ட நடு நிசியில் தெரியும்

நட்சத் திரங்க ளடி


Suttum, Vatta, Pattu and Natta appearing as the first words of each line alliterate using Dwitiya Akshara Prasa; (i.e.) their second syllable ‘tt’ repeat in each line. This is also known as Edhukai (எதுகை) in Tamil.  In addition, the second part of each line rhymes as below:

(Suttum, Soorya) – (Vatta, Vaana) – (Pattu, Padhittha) – (Natta, Natsha) : the first letters of the pair of words alliterate. This is known as Prathama Akshara Prasa or Monai  (மோனை) in Tamil.

Now coming to ‘Chanda’ (சந்தம் in Tamil), it is how the intonations are arranged in a rhythmic sense. In the above poetry, the chanda that is followed is somewhat as below:

Ta-ka Ta-ka di-mi-ta-m ta-ka-di-mi

Ta-ki-ta ta-ki-ta ta-a-m (ta-Ki-Ta)


It is interesting to note that the last tala-syllable, Ta-Ki-Ta  is in brackets to indicate it is silent. Why is it needed? Now we come to the third aspect of our prosody, Tala. The poem is set to Adi talam (tisra nadai), of 8 Ta-ki-ta’s; last ta-ki-ta being silent enabling easy return to the beginning of rhythm cycle. The poet maintains same prasa, chanda and tala in the later stanzas also.


Now we need to add Melody to this beautiful Prosody. You may listen to Vidwan (late) Maharajapuram Santhanam’s immortal rendering of this poem set to melodious music, as below:


If you want to listen to other stanzas click on the following link


  • L V Nagarajan / 08 Jul 17



July 25, 2017

(Nada Upasana)

There is no better way to invoke the blessings of Almighty than to do Nadopasana (i.e.) invocation to divine Nadabrahma.

It is difficult to describe Nada in one word. It is Sound, but really more than just the sound. It is Vibrations, but more than just vibrations, physical or metaphorical.

It is the first form of energy, released by the union of Shiva and Shakti, to start the entire Creation. It all started with a Big-Bang.

From Hindu scriptures we learn, the seed of this energy (Nada Bindu) is dormant in Shiva, and is enhanced by the active Energy of Shakti. ‘Kala’ are the ways by which this Nada is expressed. This is why we pray to lord Subramanya, as ‘Nada Bindu Kalaadhi Namo Namo’. In its divine from, it is invoked as Nada Brahmam, and practiced by sages as Nada Yoga.

In Indian Carnatic Music, there are many kritis (compsitions) by Saint Thyagaraja, grouped as Nadopasana Kritis, which describes Nada Upasana (i.e., invoking Nada as Nada Brahma). Saint Thyagaraja practices it himself and extols those who have practiced it. Here are a few typical ones from which we get a very good idea of Nada Brahmam.

“O Mind! By becoming a lover of Nada, attain the eternal Bliss. By total involvement in that music through countless ragas which result by the manipulation of the seven notes of music and which fulfills all the righteous desires, attain such a Bliss. Know that it is by this expression and experience of Nada that the trinity -Indra, Ganesha and Subrahmanya and other personages had done upasana. Myself, Thyagaraja is also aware of this”. (Nadaloludai – Raga Kalyana Vasantham)

“O Mind! Praise the divinely beautiful forms of the seven musical notes, which originate, glow and then pass through in the navel, heart, vocal chords, tongue and nose of the human body. (These seven notes) shine in the four Vedas and in the sublime Gayathri Mantra as its essence. (These seven notes) sparkle in the hearts of, the celestial beings, the worthy Bhusuras and in myself, Thyagaraja”. (Sobhillu Saptha Swara – Raga Jaganmohini)

“Hari, i.e., God Vishnu, is immensely pleased with the garland made of a hundred melodious ragas. Let us adore and adorn (him with this garland) and be bestowed with abundant fortune. The garland of ragas is embellished with the essence of vedas, the six sastras, the epics and the Agamas (science of architecture). It is said that the sages and seers are blessed with eternal Bliss by such adoration of God. These are the songs that the most fervent devotees sing and immerse in. The garland of ragas would bestow salvation to me, Thyagaraja also. (Ragaratnamalikache – Raga Ritigaula)

 There many more such krithis such as: Sangita-jnanamu; Nada tanum anisam; Gitarthamu; Nadopasanace; Mokshamugalada and Svara-raga-sudha etc.

Let us also, with our limited capability and in all humbleness practice this Nadopasana.

– Nagarajan L V : 19/5/2017


The Story of Karnatik Music

December 11, 2016

A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story – T M Krishna

Harper Collins Publications India (2013)

The above book consists of 27 essays on music written by Sri T M Krishna, a musician of great repute. These essays are put into three parts, namely, The Experience, The Context and The History. I will attempt to give a few important points from the first part of the book with my comments wherever appropriate. My comments are always in italics. Rest is all the views of TMK, as understood by me. His specific statements are given in quotes.

Essay-1: Music – A Narrative (The Overture)

Here TMK describes Art Music (as he calls Karnatik music concerts of this century) and its aesthetics. He declares: “In order to experience music beyond personal confines, the receiver also (not just the artist) needs to be serious seeker of art and be aware of the art itself ”.

‘Conventions’ are accepted norms and (whereas) ‘Traditions’ are the ideas passed down and TMK adds “In Karnatik music, the word sampradaya means both …” – “ These Conventions (sampradaya) are often at loggerheads with Tradition (sampradaya), but reconciliation is not what we seek” – “It is interesting we do not see any conflict”.

I remember in a talk by Guru Balasubramanian of Mumbai, he was referring to an expert committee discussion in Music academy chaired by the great Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. They were discussing raga Balahamsa and the use of note dhaivata in the raga. The committee decided the modality and passed a resolution. When somebody asked Ariyakudi whether he will sing raga Balahamsa in his evening concert, and in the way decided in the committee, his answer was,  yes, he will sing the raga, but as taught to him by his guru. His tradition overrules any convention.   

Essay -2: Intent of Music (Going to the Source)

TMK quotes Dr. Harold Powers, Ethno-musicologist of Princeton University / USA: “The classification of Folk and Classical are purely social. As a musical form is appreciated by the higher sections of the society, the aesthetics is reconstructed and the music transforms into classical”. TMK sites transformation of Sadir into Bharatanatyam as a case of this ‘transformed existence’. TMK adds: “The perceived prerequisite that a classical form should have written grammar is not, strictly speaking, appropriate ….. Grammar and systems can be written, or (it can be) oral.”

TMK talks about Namasankirtana and Bhajan. He gives due importance to the traditions of Sridhara Ayyaval, Bodhendra Swamigal and Marudanallur Satguru swamigal.But what about Thevaram and Thirumurai traditions? (Diva Prabandams might have been recited only as a beautiful prosody of tamil poetry).  Way back in 1950s, I happen to accompany my grandmother on a pilgrimage of about 10 Shiva temples in and around Needamangalam, Tanjavur Dt of Tamilnadu. As my uncle was a police officer in the area, we were accompanied all along by an Oduvar who sang appropriate Thevarams in each and every shrine. Later days, when I visited Tiruchendur temple, I heard soulful renderings of Thirumurai (to the accompaniment of Violin, or is it Sarangi) during Golden Car procession. Again, a few years back when I visited Mylai Kapali Temple on a leisurely forenoon, I was fortunate to see a devotee (perhaps from a oduvar community) singing thevarams and pathikams at every major and minor shrines in the temple and I made sure I accompanied him to all the shrines. Singing of these Tamil verses was found very common among Saiva community all over Tamil Nadu. TMK could have visited a few Oduvars, Sivachariars and Aadinams to collect more information on this tradition, which would have fully complemented his excellent narration of different musical traditions of the South.

TMK proceeds to define the role of Karnatik (Art) Music in the context of different types of music heard, appreciated and followed by South Indians. As per him Karnatik (Art) Music is based on the following musical aspects – ‘Raga, Tala, Composition and improvisation’. It is not meant to carry any social message or religious intent. If at all there are any such, they are incidental. Even when these musical events were conducted in courts, palaces and temples, TMK believes, they had intents far more than religious, social or political. Just like any Composition (lyrics), even Raga, Tala and Improvisation have emotions, experienced by both performer and the audience.  “The result is an aesthetic experience without external intent. A Karnatik musician has a responsibility towards this experience. Art music is about giving the idea of emotions, a representation in music”, – using melody and rhythm, not just by lyrics.

True to the title of this essay, TMK has put forth his strong views on intent of different forms of music in general, and the Art Music in particular. He consistently calls Karnatik music as practiced in concert platforms, as Karnatik Art Music. The same compositions meant for Art Music may find use in Namasankirtanas, Bhajans and Harikathas and compositions meant for these forms may be presented in concerts. As per TMK, the presentations should respect the respective intents of the art form. A few Ragas may find place in light music and movies also, but they will never be Karnatik Art music. A few artists may present several of the above art forms, hopefully in different events, but they should maintain the integrity of each of the art form. Thanks to TMK for expressing clarity on this issue.

Essay – 3: Imagination, Creativity, Improvisation

Look at the sequence of words TMK has chosen for the title of this essay. Imagination with some additional inputs results in Creativity; Creativity with some more inputs leads to Improvisation.

Can everyone imagine? – Yes, TMK asserts, ‘each in a different and even unique way’. “While Imagination is an activity that remains in the world of mind, Creativity leads to a tangible creation in the temporal world” as per T M Krishna, which is really true. For Imagination to result in Creation, TMK says, one needs two more essential ingredients: they are Understanding and Skill. With only imagination and understanding you may try to create a painting. But, of course, it requires painting skill to reflect truly your understanding and imagination. Improvisation is a subsequent extension of Creation, but occurs mostly extempore. “Karnatik Art musician explores melodic and rhythmic possibilities without any conscious thought – it is unrehearsed and extempore, but behind it lies a vast hinterland of preparation that cannot be discounted”.

Is everything new is creative? – No, says TMK, Creativity is more than being new and different, and even more than display of ability and skill. Then, how can ‘doing the same thing’ be creative? – Yes it can be asserts TMK, if the repetition occurs through the same process of imagination, creation and improvisation. Every time it evokes a different emotional experience. TMK cites the example of making vases by an art molder – as a craft it may be repetitive, but every vase is unique in some way born out of his imagination and creativity. (Compare the same thing with machine molded vases). In essence, we may infer from what TMK says, same ragas and compositions in Art music, give immense scope for imagination, creativity and improvisation (even when repeated).

Finally he comes to the sensitive topic of Creative Freedom. “To be Creative is understood to mean . . .  to break conditions with no restrictions whatsoever. With creative freedom (in art) … comes a great deal of responsibilities to keeping the aesthetics of the artistic form in place. … Negation is neither negative nor rebellious. True negation is sensitive. …. The strength of negation is the result of understanding of that which we want to negate. Therefore sensitivity towards that which exists or existed is imperative – is impersonal, dispassionate and brutally honest.” These are true words of wisdom. (though I feel Perumal Murugan did not display this sensitivity in his Mathoru Bhagan. However that does not justify curtailing his creative freedom so brutally)        

In this connection I wish to add my comment concerning ‘Puthu Kavithai’ or modern poetry – it was a craze in 1980s in Tamil literary scene. It was both New and Negation and hence claiming to be creative. Many of this Modern Poems lacked imagination, creativity, understanding or skill and still claiming to be Creations only because it is New and a Negation of ‘what is existing or existed’. As the basic nature of Poetic Art form was also negated, only true creations lived and rest was trashed.

This chapter really gave in a nutshell what we generally enjoy in a Karnatik Art music concert.

Essay – 4: The Fundamentals

In this chapter, TMK attempts to familiarize uninitiated listeners to some of the fundamental aspects of Karnatik Art music. One may enjoy this art music without any knowledge of these fundamentals – however, this basic knowledge will help one to acquire a taste to appreciate this music, which does not ‘relate easily to what is superficially considered beautiful’ and pleasing. Hence, with this intent, TMK embarks on explaining basic concepts of Karnatik Art Music in the following order:

  • Srutis, Swaras, Swarasthanas,
  • tonic or basic sruthi Sa, Tambura, sthayis and musical range,
  • melodic ornamentation through Gamakas,
  • concept of Raga and Laya or the speed of rendering (Chowka, Madhyama, Dhurita or Fast, Medium slow speeds),
  • Tala or the beats, Description of various Talas as used, Gati-Nadai-Kalai of the Tala, etcetera.

If a musician could demonstrate all these ideas in person, it would really help a new listener. This could be a part of any ‘Karnatik Music Appreciation’ course. I wonder what TMK thinks about such courses, in general.

I have only a few comments on this chapter.

  1. ‘Five swaras (ri, ga, ma, da, ni) have multiple (two or three) pitch positions within an octave’. As per TMK the history of these pitch positions is over 1500 years old. It has evolved from the earlier history of 22 sruthis and their murchanas (or modal shifts), as used in ancient Ragas. The naming of these multiple pitch positions, as shuddha, Chatushruti and Shathsruti indicates such a process of evolution. TMK discusses briefly about this in a later chapter.
  2. Kalai of a Tala is described here well. But Gati and Nadai are mentioned only briefly. However in later chapter TML dwells on them in detail. Many feels both Gati and Nadai are same. As a listener, I have learnt from others, a subtle difference: Gati is the speed of rendering (Chatusram, Tisram etc) with Tala remaining the same – Nadai is altering the tala to tisram and chatushram and rendering accordingly. I may be wrong here. I will discuss this again when TMK takes up this in a later chapter.
  3. Chapu Talas are named as such, because of successively decreasing counts of beats, 4-3, 3-2, 5-4 etc. As per Professor Sambamoorthy it has come from the Tamil word Chaippu, i.e., slant or slanting.

Essay – 5: The Tune in the Word (A note on compositions)

“One of the definitions of composer is a person who writes music.  . . . . . . Does this mean that Karnatik music composers wrote – and writes – music? At least until the mid of 19th century, the process of composing seems to have been an intellectual work, passed on orally. It was recorded by students who learnt directly from the composer …. either during the learning process, or many years later. . . . .  The writing is primarily a record. ……  Modern (20th century) Indian classical music has developed a unique culture-centric notation system. . . . .Over the years many Karnatik musicians have very innovatively used symbols to try and represent Karnatik music in written form.”

“The method of notating essentially provides music with the compositional frame work – musicians reinterpret the music with their own sensibilities.” Unfortunately sometimes, “irresponsible interpretations have led to the compositions completely losing the composer’s intent”.

“In Karnatik music we have a beautiful word vaggeyakara to refer to composer . . . . who composes both vak(words) and geya(vocal music). . . . .Unless he is proficient in both (music and text) he cannot be a vaggeyakara.” TMK wonders about the terms given to sangeetha and sahithya (Music and text) as Dhatu and Matu.

Is it ‘life and body’? I have seen people say it as a plant and earth. The ‘plant’ is rooted to the ‘earth’ and ‘earth’ supplies nutrients to the ‘plant’. When a composer takes care of both dhatu and matu at the time of ‘delivering’ the composition and at the time nurturing it to a fully developed ‘baby’, the composition attains a distinct quality. As stated by TMK, there have been instances when text is supplied by a poet and subsequently, the music is provided by a musician (or vice-versa).

Some time they also happen in quick succession and thus leading again to ‘quality’ composition. Some poets compose poems set to a particular raga, but the musical form gets lost. In such cases as the matu is already available in a form amenable to music, it is easily re-tuned in the same raga and laya or any other suitable ones. We may quote songs and poems by Mahakavi Subhramanya Bharati as examples for this. In this connection, I have a question. I hear that the first ever recorded sahitya with music in whole world are the Thevarams in Tamil. Each and every verse has their musical form also indicated as ‘panns’. These ‘panns’ are recognized as the precursor for some of the ragas in the later day karnatik music. We have also heard there were musicians travelling together with these poets and music was composed almost simultaneously. We hear stories of Yazh Panars and Paninis. TMK may reflect on these aspects of ancient music in his future essays for the benefit of music students and listeners.

“In Karnatik music a raga is accepted as a raga, only when there is at least one composition in it. The Musician may have explored a new melodic idea, . . . . but a new raga comes into its own only when it is embedded in a composition. . . . The raga is then built up constantly by the contribution of other composers and the creativity of musicians.” Here we see the dhatu requiring matu to take root and grow like a plant on the earth. “The Tala (with its intrinsic laya, timing and its various angas) gives dhatu and matu a defined space within which to build musical and textual structures”, shall we say like a fencing and basin for the plant on the earth. Though Tala helps laya, the speed, laya is the one that keeps the aesthetics of the language and syllables of the text, as per TMK.

TMK talks briefly about sahithya and its relation to poetic prosody. He talks of alliteration in poetry such as Edhugai, Monai and Iyaibu. In Sanskrit poetry they are known as prasa; prathamakshara prasa, dvithiyakshara prasa and anthimakshara prasa, respectively. This technique helps in four ways: Easy recitation, ease of comprehension, ease of memorization, ease of later day musicalisation both in terms of melody and rhythm. This also suited the earlier day oral tradition of learning. I remember my Tamil Teacher, Thiru Gurunathan (Father of Ku. Gnanasambandan) reciting in the class some Tamil poems in a melodic meter. In Sanskrit prosody, there are also constructions called yathis, which are used a lot in Dikshatar’s compositions.

Esaay – 6: Creativity Unbound: Manodharma (The Art of Improvisation)

In manodharma sangita, or improvisational music, raga is the principle vehicle, says TMK. He clearly says what we feel as listeners: “Every alapana (of a Raga) begins with a phrase that clearly establishes the ragas identity. There cannot be any ambiguity in this. Therefore, phrases that are common to two ragas should not be rendered in the opening”. He maintains this idea elsewhere also: “In this commonality of cognition between the musician and the listener exists the raga’s identity.” After clearly establishing the raga identity, TMK describes further creative procedure of raga alapana thus: “First creativity is swara based or phrase based. The second creativity is born out of (different ways of) connecting two known phrases. The third creativity is based on using one swara as reference anchor. . . . . . Each raga contains certain swaras that can be used in this manner. – – – – Phrases are directed towards these svaras so that they conclude there”.

In some music traditions, there is a process known as centonization where music is produced by permutations and combinations of several established melodic phrases. Though this may appear to be same as the procedure of raga alapana as described above, alapana of experienced and senior musicians do display much deeper improvisation far beyond just centonization.

TMK classifies ragas into five varieties – Natural phrase based aesthetic ragas (rakthi ragas?), theory based synthetic linear ragas (so called, melakarthas?), synthetic linear ragas with less than seven svaras (shadava, audava ragas), synthetic non-linear ragas (vakra ragas) and ragas adopted from other music traditions. However I am not able to think of any synthetic vakra ragas, anyone to help me? Perhaps some natural rakthi ragas, because of their nonlinearity, was fitted into synthetic stream by calling them vakra ragas.

TMK further asserts: “The synthetic ragas do not have too many phrases that govern their identity. – – – The lack of clear raga features beyond their established scale allows the musician to develop the raga almost on any svara. —- This has led musicians to subconsciously use (the same) scalar alapana of even phrase-based ragas – – – leading to loss of aesthetics and identity of some ragas. This is one of the major problems we face in karnatik music today. – – We might unwittingly destroy many beautiful melodic phrases in the older ragas”. Very much true!

After Raga, TMK takes up Niraval as the next creative effort by Karnatik Musician in a concert. He says “The improvisational technique, Niraval, is unique and valuable,  … it uses, one creative imagination, that of vaggeyakara, to kindle another one, that of musician. – – –  Once the line is chosen for niraval, the exact structure of the line within the tala matrix become most important. — — — (we believe) there is certain limited flexibility here and that the syllables can be moved within a permissible range, for the sake of raga and melody.”

Unfortunately, niraval is the most ignored forms of improvisation in karnatik music today, feels TMK. “It is only used as a stepping stone to singing kalpanasvara. – – – To be able to internalize the melodic, rhythmic and lyrical aspects of a line and use the same to create different variations is extremely challenging.”. When he takes up the level of creativity in kalpanasvara, he avers “In mel-kala kalpanasvara, the creativity veers towards svara permutations and combinations within the raga rather than the phrase based approach used in sama-kala kalpanasvara. He feels mel-kala kalpanasvara distorts the raga identity “as musicians are driven by the excitement mel-kala can create.” He also discusses presentation of tanam and viruttham formats as paths of creativity for karnatik musicians.

Esaay -7 : The Rendering Unfolds.

In this essay, TMK describes the Karnatic vocal concert and the roles of, vocalist as the main artist, violin as a melodic accompanist, and mridangam and other tala vadya players as rhythmic supports. “As the primary performer the vocalist decides the compositions to be presented, ragas for alapana, the lines for niraval, the kalpanasvara and the exact positioning of rhythmic interplay, tani avartana. Whether these arrangements are decided in advance or in situ, depends on the vocalist.” “As vocalist defines the direction of the concert, every svara she sings influences the other musicians on the stage.” If “the vocalist can provide the space needed by other musicians to express themselves” the accompanist may also be able to inspire the vocalist.

“As a melodic accompanist, the violinist major contribution is to support and enhance the melodic experience. – – – The violinist follows the vocalist as she renders raga alapana and tana.- – –  Then the violinist renders her own versions of the alapana and tana. – – – When a composition is rendered, the violinist hugs the coast of vocalist’s rendering”. During niraval and kalpanasvara also violinist provides her version of every phrase of niraval and kalpanaswara. This ‘following’ of vocalist “can never be taught, is a technique every violinist acquires through concert experience”. TMK makes this interesting observation about violinist ‘shadowing’ the vocalist while accompanying – “A person’s shadow is sometimes behind or ahead and is sometimes larger or smaller, but is always a reflection of the person”. Very interesting!

Regarding Mridanga accompaniment TMK says the following:

  1. The mridangist should help maintaining the laya of the composition as chosen by vocalist
  2. It helps him to keep proper emphasis as per matu and dhatu, if he knows the composition that is being rendered.
  3. Emotional content of the compositions should be suitably interpreted by Mridangist through tonal and pattern variations
  4. He should take the lead and guide other rhythmic accompaniments both during accompaniment and during the tani avartana.

TMK considers the Tambura artist as an important musician on the stage. By this he implies Tambura artist must be a musician. In addition to providing shruti, he feels “it is far more crucial to the aural experience of Karnatik music.” According to TMK, the musician “drowns himself in the collective resonance of its four strings to discover his music.” However, it is sad to see the frequent absence of Tambura on karnatik stage nowadays, its place being taken over by an electronic version.

Essay – 8: The Concert Unravels (The modern kutchery and its rituals)

In difference to the previous essay, here, TMK takes us through the actual concert format of karnatic art music. “Even before the curtains go up,” tuning of Tambura and subsequent tuning of other instruments such as violin and Mridangam could be heard. He clearly implies that the above (fine) tuning process should be heard by the audience present in the “performance space which reverberates with their collective resonance.”  TMK truly takes us through each of the concert items in that order, beginning with varnam and up to RTP, tani avartanam. Later on he describes end session of the concert, where the compositions presented are popularly known as ‘tukkadas’. i.e. literally, bits. There will be “less manodharma, less melodic experience, less rhythmic abstraction.” Focus will be on lyrics, poetry and patriotic/saintly songs. “Interestingly”, Padas and Javalis are also pushed on to this section. The concert generally ends with a viruttham and a Tillana as “it provides a ‘high’ for the audience as it prepares to leave”. “Over the last century many other compositional types, like bhajans and abhangs, have found way into the karnatik concert”. Often ragas in this section include those prevalent in Hindustani music. Concert usually ends with a mangalam, “invoking the devine”.

As per TMK, karnatik musicians, generally feel it necessary to present more madyama-kala compositions as compared to chauka-kala ones, compositions of different composers, in different languages, in different ragas, in different talas. Instrumental concerts also generally follow the same format as vocalist. TMK ends this essay with “a need to critique certain practices that affect the aesthetics of our music”. That is what he does in the next essay, “A Critique”.

Essay – 9: The Karnatik Concert Today: A Critque

“The kutcheri format usually includes a few kirthanas before the main piece and number of post-RTP compositions (at the end). Therefore a concert of about 2½ hours can have ten to fifteen compositions.  – – – –  We must pause to ask here: are we meant to just reel off  compositions in rapid fire sequence or are we meant also to unveil their inherent beauty? – Compositions that do not inspire a new perspective (to raga and tala) should be considered unfit for Karnatik music – With the number of kirtanas being presented in them, many concerts today resemble Namasankirtana sessions – Indeed, musicians who have not developed their manodharma, all they need to do is to present a spattering of manodharma and a number of other compositions – By allowing the number of kirtanas in a concert to increase, we have abetted in the degeneration of Karnatik music.” “Musicians use a pleasing tukkada section to erase a poor interpretations or a failure to realize pure art”. Very strong words but unfortunately very true.

As per TMK, of the seven forms of karnatik music compositions, namely, Gita, Varna, Svarajati, Kirtana, Padam, Javali and Thillana, only kirtanas are primarily presented in a concert. While accepting that most of the kirtanas, especially of the musical trinity, as a sophisticated form in terms of matu and dhatu combining in perfect balance, he wonders whether this is an essential requirement for karnatik music. “Many varnas are far more complete art pieces than the kirtanas  ….. (They) can be presented in any section of the concert . . . . . should be presented with alapana, niraval and kalpanasvara”. The same is true with the padams. He feels, possibly the erotic content of pada’s lyrics makes the puritan uncomfortable especially repeating the lines many times during niraval. Specific order of presentation should not be insisted up on, he demands, as the concert should allow for such changes as above, “to give every concert a unique flavor in its compositional content, yet retaining the integrity”.

I have heard Sri Semmangudi in 1980s, after presenting the Bhairavi Ata Tala varnam in full, embarking on kalpanasvaras. I have heard TMK himself presenting navaraga malika varnam as a main piece in a concert with alapana of all nine ragas and kalpana svaras for all the nine parts of the varnam, including Chitta svarams and mukhtayi svarams. As a bonus, Shri Kariakudi Mani offered himself to present a thani after this piece. It was a really a great artful experience.

TMK raises several other questions as below:

Why should raga alapana by vocalist be shadowed by violinist, when violinist is presenting the raga all by himself? “In some cases of extremely insensitive violinists, the whole phrase rendered by the vocalist is changed or ignored and the violinist plays something altogether different”.

Why should there be two alapanas of the same raga once by the vocalist, shadowed by violinist and another by the violinist all alone?

TMK says “after rendering an alapana, I have often felt that I had finished all I could present of the raga on the day, making the presentation of a composition after the alapana, redundant for me”. Why can’t alapana stand by itself as a singular piece of presentation sans a kirtana to follow?

Can we allow the overuse of mathematical structures in kalpanasvara hijacking the aesthetic beauty of the raga?

Talking about percussion support, TMK feels, the percussion style has of late changed from ‘following the aesthetics of composition and manodharma of the vocalist’ to ‘enhancing artist’s (his own) dexterity and mathematical patterns   and, importantly, his own presence’. “The dominance of the mridanga in a kutchery has changed the laya of the selected compositions”  leading to “additional sangatis on the basis of percussion patterns rather than matu and dhatu”. “The dominance of mathematical calculations in kalpanasvara is a direct influence of percussioninsts”. About Tani Avartana, he says, “it does not reflect the kirtana of the chosen line. Even if it does, it is only for the first few moments. Soon tani avartana relates to the tala and nothing more”.

TMK always makes specific exceptions (not by name) of many sensitive artists (main, accompanists and percussionist) who are alive to these aesthetic aspects of karnatik music and follow them in their presentations.

Essay – 10: Voicing the Note (gift of Voice, its training and use)

In this essay, TMK more or less defines a ‘karnatik’ voice.  “Training the voice is as much about flexibility and ease, as it is being able to produce the aesthetics that drive karnatik music, which contains manifestation of the svara, raga, syllables and the demands of tala and laya”. He further asserts “The voice when directed towards karnatik music must be driven towards Karnatik sound.” He makes an interesting observation – “Sahitya as a part of music is a completely different entity from sahitya as only poetry … sahitya (is) conceived as being a part, of musical expression …of inseparable creation of matu and datu”.

As a vocalist, he feels “Vocalization in music involves the diaphragm, chest, lungs, shoulders, spine, head and neck. Actually the whole body sings, not just the voice”. One cannot help remembering the Thygaraja Kriti ‘Sobhillu Sapta svara’, where he says the nada as the supreme sound emanates from Nabhi and then through hrut, kanda, rasna. An interesting point made by Violin vidvan Sri Lalgudi, even for instrumentalist the path of supreme sound is same and however, the instrument is their vocal chords.

TMK tacitly agrees that many karnatik vocalists do use false voice, though the demand is for a “vocal texture that is closer to heavy”. “There is definitely a shade of false voice when karntik musicians sing at the higher octaves, but much less than what is heard from, for instance, singers of film music. This is purely a demand of the (respective) idioms and their aesthetics”.  “The aesthetic experience of karnatik music is ‘heavy’ ”, as compared to what they call light music.

I remember, AIR Vijayavada used to call pure karnatik art music as ‘Ghatra sangitam’.        

Essay – 11: A matter of style: (Individuality in music)

Style, “a phrase often used to describe or explain ‘bani’.” (To me, I think the closest phrase for Bani is ‘Gharana’ of Hindustani Music – it is basically a musical family.) When student gets serious about his musical training, especially when he starts his advanced training, she gets attached to a particular guru and imbibes her guru’s style in every aspect music (sometimes even in non musical aspects such as mannerisms and gesticulations – TMK says such non musical aspects is not to be confused with the ‘bani’ of guru’s music). At this stage of advanced training, “it is essential for the student not to look beyond her guru”. As per TMK at this stage, when she is acquiring the keen sense of musical aesthetics from her guru, this focus “is necessary so that the mind can develop ability to receive” external stimuli (meaning- influence of traditions of other doyens of karnatik music) based on this foundation provided by the Guru. At this point her response to other stimuli will be very mature one, imbibing only those changes compatible with her guru’s bani. This will help her at the time of her own individual presentation and performance. He ends the essay with a punch line, “bani is not a destination but a musical state”.

Essay – 12 : Studying the Song (Musicians and Musicologist)

In this essay, TMK takes up the issues of musical intellect and musicology. He talks about the popular misconception that an intellectual musician can only appeal to the intellect of the audience and not as much to the musical aesthetics and emotion. The perceived complexity and intricacy of the ‘intellectual’ music should always be layered with emotion, as per TMK. Otherwise, it is not music, even when presented with in-depth knowledge and with technical accuracy. However he does not minimize the importance of knowledge and insists on the necessity for the musician to develop their intellect, as one may not get all this from guru.

On the other side of the page, TMK feels, the musicologist generally go by textual tradition, as compared to oral tradition followed by musicians. “They keep tallying one tradition with the other; any discrepancy is dismissed by them as an error”. He further says “the biggest problem with musicologists is that they study Karnatik music as science … there cannot be a greater fallacy …. If the expression of a musician’s creativity means that the scientific framework of karnatik music have to be bent, so be it”. Musicologists insist and impose on musicians and composers their “notions born out of scientific classification, rather than natural melodic evolution”. TMK gives two examples how this has flawed the aesthetics of our ragas – “Musicologists has influenced the perception of so many older ragas, like Yadukula Kambhoji, by placing them into the melakarta system. Similarly, synthetic ragas like Dharmavati have been accepted though they do not contain the aesthetic features of a raga”. I am sure this will make us rethink about melakarta system. “The musicologist who approaches Karnatik music from an art music perspective is rare to find”

TMK ends this last essay of the first part of his book by saying “Ultimately both the musician and musicologist must seek the same: an understanding of the aesthetics of music. In this search, the musician must be willing to give up personal notions and conditioning and look beyond his practice. The musicologist needs to seriously reorient their views of music and approach musical tradition as an art.”

Thus we come to the end of first part of the book by Sri T M Krishna. It is difficult to summarize 272 pages of his views into about 8 pages. Hence those who like this presentation should consider going through the whole book. In case you wish to critically comment on the views expressed in this write-up, you should definitely read through the book in original, to understand such views in proper context. It is even possible that my understanding is somewhat inadequate. I am publishing this blog just at the start of the Chennai music season so that the readers may enjoy and critically appreciate the art music concerts. I will write about the other two parts of the book in due course.

We rasikas (and in fact, even musicians) should thank Sri T M Krishna for telling the story of karnatik music from the perspective of a concert artist. I feel parts of this book should be prescribed for study for all the serious students of karnatik music.