Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Carnatic/Hindu Music

September 6, 2018

I have a Tamil book on Carnatic music bequeathed by my grandfather. This book was published in 1910, more than 100 years ago. The title of this Tamil book on Carnatic music is, yes, ‘Hindu Sangeetham’. So I am well within my rights to give the same title to my blog also. Most of my readers may be aware of the recent controversy of yet another attempt, by Christian Missionaries of India, to appropriate this essential Hindu culture of Carnatic music into their system with an obvious attempt at incentivised conversion. When I first heard of this controversy I did not believe Christian Missionaries will risk doing this. In all good intention I wrote to some of these Christian organisations a general appeal to reassure the Carnatic Music community of their respect for Hindus and their culture. But when I realised their true intentions, I wrote another appeal to some of the Carnatic Artists I happen to know, to resist these measures from Christian Missionaries. The above two appeals are given at the end of this blog. Subsequently, Sri T M Krishna, an artist whom I like and respect a lot, turned the whole issue upside down, perhaps, to serve his socio-political ideology. I started following TMK on his twitter handle.  I interacted with all in the conversation and I learnt there are several aspects to this controversy. But most of my tweets were not answered by T M Krishna. I am listing my reactions and my comments on major issues below, quoting my tweets wherever needed.

  1. What is wrong if we sing compositions on gods and icons of other Religions?

Nothing wrong at all, if such compositions are sung during the natural course of a concert. I have heard many singers do it and enjoyed the musical and other aspects of such compositions, including the melody, rhythm and emotion. But it should not lead to a situation where there is an obligation on every singer to do at least a few such compositions in every concert or otherwise he will be branded as manuvadi, brahminical or a sanghi, the usual attributes given to secular Hindu artists.

  1. T M Krishna promised to sing and release one song on Allah or Jesus every week. Why not?

If he is doing it on his own I appreciate his initiative, but why only at this point of time and why such a regularity of one song every week?

(I tweeted) I am afraid it will become obligatory on other artists to sing one such song in every concert (as otherwise the concert will be called communal?) which is not good for Music.  I do not think, TMK is doing it for evangelical purposes.

Sri. KVN used to sing Vedanayakam Pillai’s Krithis on Karthar very regularly in concerts, not for evangelical purpose, neither for obtaining the support of Christians.

If Carnatic Art music had not been secular in content, how come Kanimozhi(DMK) is able to enjoy these concerts on a regular basis?

No, I don’t think singing one or two compositions in concerts on other non-Hindu icons (like Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Gobind, Allah, Jesus, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Abdul Kalam or our Nation) is wrong.

My Tweet: 90% of Indian Christians are converted Hindus – may not mind & may even be proud to sing and listen to melodious songs on Hindu Gods.

  1. Then why this hue and cry, when Aruns/Arunas sing krithis on Jesus?

My Tweet: Hue and cry is not about singing Christian Carnatic songs. Done 100 years back. But why an event of only Christian songs, and who sings & why. It depends on who is arranging and why? You saw OS Arun wearing the cross while singing? Will TMK do it and back to Thirumann for Vishnu!!

Is it secular to do it? It was obvious that here is an attempt to propagate Christianity through Carnatic music, than to propagate Carnatic music through Christianity. This is simply a cultural appropriation.

  1. How do you say this is a cultural appropriation?

You may all be aware of Churches celebrating their religious festivals with all types of Hindu customs, like Dwjasthamba, Abhisheka, Archana, Procession and Rathotsavam. If it had stopped with that may be Hindus would not have objected. But now they have Yesu Suprabhatm, Christhu Bhujangam, Jesus Sashti Kavacham and Mary Ashototram. And I hear they also have Yesu Rudram, Yesu Suktham, Yesu Upanishad etc. Tomorrow they may pay Rs 100,000 (from the funds of Christian missionaries abroad) to any Brahmasri Rama Subramania Ganapadigal (with full support of T M Krishna) and ask him to recite these mantras (and play them) at Churches. Is this not cultural appropriation and propaganda?

My Tweet: What is done is not to promote music thru’ Christ but to promote Christ thru’ music. Let them first accept it. TMK et al shouldn’t support this.

  1. Haven’t the brahmins appropriated this music from lower castes?

My tweet: “Dravidian movement alienated Carnatic Music from other communities. Want to unfollow everything brahmins follow. M.K. himself was of music caste”. This remained as one of the top tweets in @TMKrishna handle for almost a week with 1500 viewers. 

All carnatic musicians respect Thevarams as the first ever scripted musical pieces available in the whole world. Tamil Panns are the precursors for many modern day ragas. They are aware of silappdikaram and its documentation and grammar of performing arts of those times including Music. Even with all these historical facts, the Dravidian movement disowned their own music. Though late Sri M Karunanidhi, the doyen of Dravidian Movement is himself from a musical community of Isai Vellalars, he was tragically instrumental in alienating other non-brahmin communities from this music and calling Brahmins as non-dravidians. Brahmins continued to invest their quality time, efforts and resources to keep this tradition of music alive. As more and more Isai Vellalars and Oduvars have dropped out of learning and practicing their musical tradition, Brahmins took up the job of preserving it. Even today many conservative Brahmin families do not allow their talented and trained girl children to perform concerts in public. As performers from traditional music communities dropped out, these talented Brahmin youngsters were reluctantly permitted to perform. Oduvar tradition in Hindu Temple was discouraged by the same Dravidian rulers. When Archakas are getting paltry sums as compensation, how will Oduvars get anything reasonable?

Brahmins did not appropriate carnatic music. It was abandoned by other communities; Brahmins are investing their time, efforts and resources keeping the tradition alive. Even today it is the Brahmins who are mainly saving our music traditions and fighting the appropriation by a foreign Christian culture.

And it is not easy. Aruna Sayeeram struggled for 30 years before she became a front line performing artist at the age of 50. She is now 70 as she gains the title of Sangeetha Kalanidhi from Music Academy. Brinda Manickavasagam, a non-brahmin was very lucky to come into prominence early in her life. Of course she richly deserves her place with her rich and effortless singing. Once you gain a place among celebrities, still you have to struggle to retain your rankings. They earn paltry sums, compared to film music singers under A R Rehman or Ilaya Raja.

My Tweet: other communities allowed the Brahmins to dominate in what’s essentially their art. Now they avoid it saying it is brahminical. What a pity!

  1. Why Titles and recognition are given only to Brahmin artists?

When others have disowned this music, what else do you expect? Till 10 years back a lot of non Brahmin artists received many awards. Tamil Isai Sangam is now finding it difficult to find non-brahmin Tamil artists for awards. I heard the organisers of Thirugnana Sambandhar Vizha In Mylapore lamenting that they have no way than to take the cooperation of Brahmin community to find artists and audience for this festival. Othuvar community has been bankrupted and impoverished by successive Dravidian governments’ anti-Hindu policy. Where are Madurai Somu’s, Namagiripettais, Pazhani Subramania Pillais, T M Thygarajans?

  1. Why Tamil songs are not given prominence in concerts?

This art was founded and developed by Dravidians. Purnadaradasa, the Bhishma Pitamaha of Carnatic Music, a non-brahmin, is from Karnataka region of Dravida Nadu. Almost all his compositions are in Kannada.  St Thygaraja was a Telugu composer from Tamil Nadu. Swati Tirunal was from Kerala and mainly composed in Sanskrit. Muthiah Bhagavatar is a Tamil Composer from Mysore Durbar. Tamil Moovar are Tamil Composers of Pre-Trinity period (Mutthu Thandavar, Marimuttha Pillai, Arunachala Kavirayar). We all know about Papanasam Sivan a 100% Tamil composer of Mylapore. All musicians from Dravida Nadu, i.e., Andhra, Telengana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, are learning compositions of all Dravidian languages including Tamil. Only then they can perform all over South India and India, including cities like Chennai, Coimbatore, Trivandrum, Bangalore and Hyderabad, not counting Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta. They select compositions according to the mix of the expected audience, their own mood and choice. Do you know that Tamil Brahmins recite Kanda Sashti Kavacham more often than Vedas, Abirami Andhadi more often than Lalita Sahasranamam? I hope other communities will not disown these great works also like they have done with their music.

  1. Are not the Brahmins biggest manuvadis and communalist and deserve all the mud being thrown on them?

Please be aware that MANU is not a Brahmin and neither Tamil Saint Thiruvalluvar was a Brahmin. In those days Brahmins were a respected community and hence they got the prominence. Atrocities being committed on dalits, now and in the last century, were not only by Brahmins, and neither had they the sanction of Manu Smrithi. Presently all the atrocities on Dalits are by other upper caste non-brahmins, and habitual Brahmin-haters know it. They are diverting this blame to Brahmins for political reasons and thereby degrading both the Dalits and the Brahmins . And who are these singers performing for Christians? Almost all of them are Brahmins and you call them communalists. I appeal to all Hindus, especially dalits to care for Brahmins who are safeguarding Hinduism and its cultural traditions from decay, appropriation and possible extinction. As writer Jeyamohan says “Brahmins are small in number and hence they are defenceless. They are surrounded by a social behaviour in which, insulting them is considered a social duty.”

  1. Why do you think Carnatic music is in the domain of Hindu Culture

Make no mistake. Carnatic Music is Hindu Music. It is not like Hindustani music which was influenced by Mughal invaders and it has no lyrical importance. Rik Veda is montonic on ‘sa’. Yajur Veda is 3-toned Ni-Sa-Ri and Sama Veda is 5-toned Da-Ni-Sa-Ri-Ga. Ma-Pa were introduced later as 4/3 & 3/2 ratios for consonance with Sa of both octaves. All music system of the world followed the same. Carnatic Music is the original Hindu/Indian music which is the mother music for all other music. We still have 22-sruthi system as described in 4th-century-BC scripts of Bharata Muni and Tamil epic Silapadikaram. Others have diluted this to a 12-sruti (equi-tempered) System. Being secular does not mean forgetting our culture.

Again, Chanda Sastra of ancient Hindus have developed prosody and meters for recitations; such as, Anushtup Chanda for Sahasranama, Gaythri Chanda for gayathri mantra, and a complicated chanda for Bhujangam. Christians have composed recitations using these chandas, Yesu Sahasranama, Jesus Gaythri, Christ Bhujangam.

I have a question for the so-called secularists – if the music being of Hindu origin stops you from enjoying the same, what kind of a secularist you are? – If the music being followed heavily by Brahmins stops you from following it, what kind of caste-free attitude you have?

My Tweet: Carnatic Music had originated from Hindu thought and remained that way. Hinduism was not forcibly introduced as being done now by Christians

  1. But Carnatic music still remains Elitist. Why?

What do you mean by elitist?

Do you think it is only for the rich? Annual income of 90% of followers of carnatic music will be much less than Rs 8 Lacs, the official limit for creamy layer among BCs of our society accepted by all the Social-Justice Activists

Do you think it is only for people living in bungalows in posh localities? 90% of listeners live in 1 or 2 bedroom apartment blocks in typical middle class areas

Do you think it is only for car owners? 90% of listeners come to the concerts by share Autos, Buses or two wheelers.

Do you think these concerts cost a lot of money? Minimum Tickets are less than Rs 100 and many of the concerts are free. Compare this with a concert by SP Balasubramanian or AR Rehman where the minimum ticket is Rs 500 to Rs 1000.

Do you think the Carnatic Artist are Elites? They are all from middle income group

Do you think Music teachers are elites? Most of them are well trained musicians who unfortunately failed to make it to the top of the popularity chart, either because of lack of sponsors or due to family responsibilities.

Then why is this, ‘Elitist’ impression?  What irks these so-called social-justicians, is the fact that 90% of the carnatic music listeners and organisers are Brahmins. Carnatic music practitioners and followers know very well that this music cannot become as popular as folk music, pop music or film music. Most of the artists are so highly talented they could have easily shifted to any of the above formats where their chances of success could have been higher. But they chose to remain as carnatic artists basically to save this Dravidian traditional music for the future generations.

The fact is there are countless opportunities for anybody to learn and practice carnatic music. If you are against any brahmin teacher there are many non-brahmin experts available in all cities. There are carnatic music department available in Anna University teaching many students. There is a dedicated Govt Karnatik Music College in Chennai. Kalakshetra is a secular organisation involved in training students in dance and music. Social-justicians, like TMK and others, may campaign for and sponsor non-brahmin and non-hindu students, so that they throng these courses in big numbers.

The following were my initial reactions in this controversy

My appeal to all the people involved in this controversy

I have heard Sri KVN singing in his regular concerts, to predominantly Hindu audiences, excellent Krithis of Vidwan Vedanayakam Pillai on “Karthar”, the Jesus. I have also seen many Christians attending Carnatic vocal concerts, where songs predominantly on Hindu gods were sung. We have seen many Christian artists singing and playing in Carnatic music concerts, including Sri Jesudas, Sri Jose (on Viola) and Sri Higgins Bhagavatar. But then, where is the problem?

None of the above secular rasikas and artists were concerned or interested in religious propaganda conversion. They were truly secular in that they practiced their religion without minding   the religion practiced by their listeners. But the situation has changed a bit in the last 20 years, since a dominant political party of India and the government fell in the hands of a catholic foreigner. Though she became a ‘secular’ Indian, it has not stopped the political back biters in pandering to (apparently) please her, by encouraging conversions and promoting Catholics to prominence. It even encouraged some people to Hindu-bashing to attract the attention of the so called secularists. This has led to expected reaction from Hindus, some of them even violent. The present regime, which is trying to check such tendencies, is not very successful. On the contrary the Hindu elements have started over reacting. The opposition is trying to exploit this situation by further encouraging Christians and other minorities with their appeasement policies. This is resulting in religious polarization, caused by whom, l leave it to your guess and opinion.

Now let us come to this Yesuvin Sangama Sangeetham: Here is a need to unite our Tamil and Dravidian community. (Dravidam = Tamil+ Telugu + Kannada + Malayalam + others).

  1. Let the Yesu program organisers announce publicly: “We have great respect for Hindus and their music composers. We are not for propaganda or conversion. This is just our efforts to promote Carnatic music among all communities”
  2. Let them say “The selected artists are allowed to sing songs of all religions Hindus, Buddhist, Chiristians and Islam”
  3. Let them openly declare that any artist not convinced about this, may withdraw without any financial or contractual constraints.

If organisers are adamant in refusing to do the above, then, they share the blame in polarizing Tamil/Darvidian communities.

Hope good senses prevail on both sides.

My appeal to all the Carnatic Artists

இசை என்பது பல வகையானது. நுண்ணிசை, மெல்லிசை, சேர்ந்திசை, நாடக/நாட்டிய இசை, இறைஇசை, படை இசை என்று பல விதங்கள். எல்லாமே இசை தான். எல்லாவற்றிற்கும், ராகம், இசைவு, தாளம், பாடல், மேலும் உணர்வுகள் தான் அடிப்படை. இருப்பினும், இசைகள் வேறுபடுவது இவற்றில் எதற்கு அதிக முக்கியத்வம் தருவது என்பதில் தான். மாதிரிக்கு சேர்ந்திசையில் இசைவுக்கும், இறை இசையில் பாடல் மற்றும் உணர்வுக்கும், படை இசையில் தாளம் மற்றும் உணர்வுக்கும் முக்கியத்வம். நுண்ணிசையில், ராகத்தோடு இவை எல்லாவற்றுக்குமே முக்கியத்வம் உண்டு.

நுண்ணிசை, மெல்லிசை இரண்டுமே மத சார்பற்றவை. அனைத்து மதத்தினரும் கேட்டு ரசிக்கலாம், இசைக்கலாம். இறை இசை அப்படி அல்ல. அந்த அந்த மதத்தினர் தான் முழுமையாக ஈடுபட்டு ரசிக்கமுடியும். இசைப்போரும் அந்த மதத்தை சேர்ந்தவராகவோ அல்லது பெரிதும் மதிப்பவராக இருக்கவேண்டும்.

இறை இசையை நுண்ணிசை போல பாடலாம். ஆனால் நுண்ணிசையை முழுவதும் இறை இசையாகவே மாற்றிவிடக்கூடாது. அப்படி இல்லாமல் இருப்பதால்தான் கனிமொழி போன்ற நாஸ்திகர்களும் கர்நாடக நுண்ணிசையை ரசிக்கிறார்கள். அவர் நிச்சியமாக இறை இசையை விரும்பமாட்டார். (அவர் ஏன் இந்த கிறித்தவ இறை இசை நிகழ்ச்சியை ஆதரித்தார் என்று தெரியவில்லை).

நமது திராவிட கர்நாடக இசை ராகங்களை இந்த எல்லா இசை வடிவங்களுக்கும் பயன்படுத்துகிறார்கள். இனிமை கருதி சற்றே இலக்கணம் மீறியும் இசைக்கிறார்கள். நுண்ணிசையாளர்கள் அதைச் செய்ய தயங்குவார்கள். பல தேச பக்தி பாடல்கள், ராகங்களில் மெட்டமைத்து பாடப்படுகின்றன. ஒரு பாகிஸ்தானிய தேச பக்தி பாடலை இந்திய கலைஞர்கள் பாடுவதை நாம் ஒத்துகொள்வோமா?

ஆனால் ஒரு இந்து மதத்தை சேர்ந்த ஒரு கலைஞர் மற்ற மத பாடல்களை பாடுவதை நாம் ஏற்றுகொள்கிறோம், அது ஒன்றிரண்டாக இருக்கும்வரை. அதுவே ஒரு மதப்பிரச்சாரமாக, பல பாடல்களை பாடுவதற்கு, அவர்கள் ஒரு கிறித்தவ கலைஞரை பாடவைத்தால் இன்னும் கூட உணர்சசி பூர்வமாக பாடுவார்கள் அல்லவா? முன் காலங்களில் திருமதி ஜிக்கி அவர்கள் பாடிய “எல்லாம் ஏசுவே”, “எனை ஆளும் மேரி மாதா” போன்ற பாடல்களை இன்னும் அனைவராலும் ரசிக்கமுடிகிறது. இல்லையா?

இன்று என்ன நடந்திருக்கிறது? பெயர் பெற்ற நுண்ணிசை கலைஞர்களை வைத்து அவர்களை இயேசு இறை இசையை பாடவைத்திருக்கிறர்கள். அவர்கள் இறை இசை பாடகர்களே அல்ல. பணத்திற்காகவும் நட்பிற்காகவுமே பாடியிருப்பார்கள். இதைச் சிலுவை அணிந்து வீடியோ காட்சிகளாக வேறு. இது முழுக்க முழுக்க அவர்களின் ஜனரஞ்சகத்தை (popularity) மதப் பிரச்சாரத்திற்கு பயன் படுத்தியதாகத்தான் தோன்றுகிறது. இந்த மறைமுக நோக்கம் நமது நுண்ணிசை கலைஞர்களுக்கு தெரியவில்லையா, என்ன?

நுண்ணிசை கலைஞர்களே, உங்களுக்கு பெயரும் புகழும் யாரால் வந்தது என்பதை மறக்கலாமா? சிந்தியுங்கள்.

Gid’s Gift of Carnatic Music

Finally here are just a few words for Carnatic Music Artists, Organisers and listeners. Do not allow these aberrations to affect your enthusiasm for our Dravidian Carnatic Music. It is a great tradition. By following this tradition of music you will never become a fundamentalist, or Manuvadi or a Sanghi. These are all epithets used by political activists and they are not social activists as they claim to be. Sqaure-up your shoulders, keep your head high and be proud that you are bestowed by God, with this precious gift of Carnatic Music. You may even wear a T-shirt with words printed boldly “Rasika of Carnatic Music”.

“Entharo Mahanubhavulu Antariki Vandanamu”

(Many are the great souls, to all of them our salutations)

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Tamil – Class: 5 / Teaching Tamil Through English

April 9, 2018

Class-5

Generally people ask a question, “Why should we learn Tamil?”  In my younger days I asked a similar question, “Why should I learn Sanskrit?” But I was forced to learn Sanskrit, being born as a Brahmin. In my native state of Tamil Nadu, India, Sanskrit is looked up on as a sign of Brahmanism and hence there was not much encouragement. Even in Schools, facility for learning this language was very minimal and insufficient. Hence I had to drop the option of learning this language at some stage. But now I regret I have not learnt a language which contains most of ancient Indian knowledge of Science, Philosophy and Religion. Tamil is also an equally ancient Indian language with a rich treasure of Literature, Science and Cultural History. It is a source of one of the ancient medical practice called Sidda System of Medicines, totally encoded in verses of mystical poetry. With the knowledge of Tamil as a classical language decaying all over, now it needs a learned interpreter to understand and use this system safely. In my younger days in my village, I have heard these verses being recited by our family Native-Physician (Nattu Marutthuvar – நாட்டு மருத்துவர்).  Luckily the present Indian Government is encouraging the knowledge of native Sciences and Technologies, and hence, facilities for study and practice of this system are taken up seriously.

When you know Tamil as a spoken language, it is only a small step to learn the same to read, write and teach the youngsters the great language of Tamil.

We have seen in the earlier 4 classes in this series, the Alphabets, pronunciations, a few words and a brief history of Tamil Language. Now let us proceed to CLASS – 5.

Let us now make a few simple sentence

1. Un(nudaiya) peyar enna? – En peyar Tara

உன்(னுடைய) பெயர் என்ன? – என்(னுடைய) பெயர் தாரா.

What is your Name? – My Name is Tara

2. Idhu yaar? – Idhu en(nudaiya) appa

இது யார்? – இது என்(னுடைய) அப்பா.

Who is this? – This is my father

3. Un amma engey? – En amma veetil irukkiraar

உன் அம்மா எங்கே? – என் அம்மா வீட்டில் இருக்கிறார்.

Where is your mother? – My mother is at home

4. IvaL un thangaiya? – Illai, IvaL en Akka, Mili.

இவள் உன் தங்கையா? – இல்லை, இவள் என் அக்கா, மிலி.

Is she your younger sister? – No, she is my elder sister, Mili.

(Peyar– பெயர்- Name,  Appa- அப்பா-Father,

Amma– அம்மா- Mother, Veedu – வீடு – Home,

Thangai – தங்கை – younger sister, Akka – அக்கா – elder sister,

Illai – இல்லை – No)

 

Now let us learn a few famous poetic expressions in Tamil

Name of the poet is also given.

  • OnRe Kulam, Ourvane Devan – Tirumular

ஒன்றே குலம், ஒருவனே தேவன். – திருமூலர்

(There exists) Only one Community and only one God

  • Annalum NOkkinAn avaLum NOkkinAL – Kavi Chakravarthi Kambar

அண்ணலும் நோக்கினான், அவளும் நோக்கினாள்.

– கவிச்சக்கரவர்த்தி கம்பர்

He glanced at her, and, She returned the glance

  • Chinnan chiru KiLiye, KannammA, Selva Kalanjiyame! –

– Maha Kavi Subramania Bharathiyar

சின்னஞ்சிறு கிளியே, கண்ணம்மா, செல்வக் களஞ்சியமே

– மஹா கவி சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதி

Oh pretty little Parrot, Kannamma (Darling)!

Oh the store house of my prosperity!

  • Tamizhukkum amudhenRu pe(y)r – Kavignar Bhrathi Dasan

தமிழுக்கும் அமுது என்று பேர் – கவிஞர் பாரதிதாசன்

Nectar is also the name for Tamil Language (of same sweetness)

  • KuRai Onrum Illai MaRai Murthy Kanna, MuRai onRum illai Govinda – Rajaji

குறை ஒன்றும் இல்லை, மறை மூர்த்தி கண்ணா

முறை ஒன்றும் இல்லை, கோவிந்தா – ராஜாஜி

No Wants at all Krishna, the lord of all scriptures

 (and, no) not even one complaint, Govinda! (the God)

  • KAlangaliL avaL vasantham, Kalaigalile aval Oviyam –

– Kaviarasu Kannadasan

காலங்களில் அவள் வசந்தம், கலைகளிலே அவள் ஓவியம்

                                                     – கவியரசு கண்ணதாசன்

Among seasons, she is (like) Spring;

Among arts she is (like a) Painting.

  • Kannukku Mai Azhagu, Kavithaikku Poi azhagu –

Kavignar Vairamuthu

கண்ணுக்கு மை அழகு, கவிதைக்கு பொய் அழகு

கவிஞர் வைரமுத்து

Eye shades – beauty to the eye(s);

Lie adds beauty to the poetry.

 

Let us learn a few typical phrases in Tamil

கிட்டத்தட்ட – Kitta-tthatta – Approximately

ஏறத்தாழ     –  ERa-ththAzha – More or less

குத்துமதிப்பாக – kutthu mathippAga – as a rough estimate

சுமாரா – sumAra – fairly (close to)

Now a few words with twin syllables:

பளபள – paLa paLa – Shining

சிலுசிலு – Silu Silu – Very Cold

விடுவிடு – vidu vidu – double fast

வழுவழு – vazhu vazhu – Slippery

Just before closing this lesson, let me give you some sentences using a few of the above words:

1. அவனுடைய சம்பளம்  கிட்டத்தட்ட மாதம் ரூபாய் நூறாயிரம்.

Avanudaiya sambaLam kitta thatta mAdham rupai noorAiyiram

His salary will be approximately Rs 100,000 per month

2. அவனுடைய எடை சுமாரா எண்பது கிலோ இருக்கும்

Avanudaiya edai sumArA eNpathu kilo irukkum

His weight may be fairly close to Eighty Kgs

3. சிலுசிலு என்று காற்று வீசுகிறது.

silu silu endru KAtru veesukirathu

Very cold wind is blowing

4. பார்த்து, தரை வழுவழுப்பாக இருக்கிறது

pArthtu, tharai vazhu vazhuppaga irukkirathu

Look out, The floor is slippery.

We come to the end of Lesson 5. In lesson 6 we will try a paragraph of Tamil Text. We will also learn some more useful words.

 

 

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

Meaning:

‘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.

Meaning:

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

 

With this thought let us conclude our Tamil class – 3


 

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

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtAsaLdyZXw

 

  • L V Nagarajan / 08 Jul 17

 

The Musical Journey of Lalgudi G Jayaraman

September 17, 2016

Comments on Biography of Lalgudi

I just happen to finish reading the book – An Incurable Romantic (The Musical Journey of Lalgudi Jayaraman), by Lakshmi Devnath.  The book itself was published in May 2013, just after the sudden demise of Sri Lalgudi on 22nd April 2013. As a tribute to his memory, I am sharing with my readers and many fans of Lalgudi, a few comments I have on this book, which may add up additional features to his phenomenal life of great achievements in the field of Carnatic Music. Page numbers are given for ready reference.

  • (P-23) Sethupathi Vallal Pandithurai Thevar was a great promoter of classical music. He was also a leading figure in preserving Hindu Culture and was the head of a movement against Sharada act, banning child marriages. In those days, it was considered as interference in religious freedom, and people argued that the same reform could be achieved by persuasion than by an act of government. I remember seeing a copy of an old letter written by my grandfather to Pandithurai Thevar, suggesting a meeting on this issue along with Andipatti (Mattapparai) Zamindar. By the way my grandfather L S Raja Ramanatha Iyer was a Veena Vidwan, a contemporary and a friend of Karaikudi brothers. He was also briefly an elected president of Madurai Jilla Board.
  • (P-24) The episode concerning Lady Loka Sundari and Sir C V Raman is quite funny. Smt Lokasundari was trained in Music by Valadi Radhakrishna Iyer, grandfather of Lalgudi. She sang ‘Rama nee Samanam evaru’, apt for the occasion, when the groom C V Raman came for bride introduction function at Madurai, in early 1900s.
  • (P-29) Muthulakshmi Patti is the grandmother of Lalgudi (Wife of Valadi Radhakrishan Iyer. Her poetry is fantastic. Now we know where from Sri Lalgudi inherited his composing genius. Look at this: Vennai unda vaya, Oliyum Maya, kalvanum Niya, Kanniyar Neya, kadir nigar thooya, un manam kaya, anbellam Poyya – in his Charukesi varnam. Compare this with Patti’s: Ennariya Thozharai Anna Thambi enru, Vennai Thayir Palundu, Unna amudam kondu…
  • (P- 44) Lalgudi’s mother Smt Savithri is from Edayathumangalam, near Lalgudi, same village my patti (Grand Mother) Ammalu nee Akhilandeswari, hailed from. I have heard from Smt Savithri Ammal, that it was her father Sundara Sastrigal who was the official priest who married off my patti.
  • (P-64) Lalgudi’s father, Sri V R Gopala Iyer’s Music School in Lalgudi: The group photograph shows my aunt (Mami) Smt. Dharmambal, who had learnt music from Gopala Iyer in her younger days.
  • (P – 116) Speaking of Lalgudi’s tala expertise and control – Once Lalgudi was accompanying the great MD Ramanathan in a concert in Bharatiya Fine Arts in Mumbai. MD elaborated raga Pantuvarali and after the krithi, started niraval and kalpana swaras. After a long passage of swaras, he started his Kuraippu sequence. Lalgudi was accompanying him beautifully and suddenly he stopped his bowing. MD continued his kuraippu for another cycle of talam and looked at Lalgudi puzzled. Lalgudi shook his head ever so slightly, just enough for MD to realize that the particular kuraippu is not going to end at the required beat of the tala. He gestured to audience his acceptance of mis-beat and proceeded further, cutting short his kuraippu and started an entirely new kuraippu sequence smilingly acknowledging Lalgudi’s follow-up. I am referring to this concert again later in a different interesting context.
  • (P 127) Accompanying Madurai Somu – His accompaniment has always embellished vocal concerts in a very imaginative way. In a concert by Madurai Somu, in Shanmukhananda, Mumbai, he was presenting a viruttham on Goddess Meenakshi. In his rich emotional voice he was describing goddess Meenakshi’s alankaram : ‘Vairam…. Vaiduriam…’. Audience were spell bound: ‘mookutthi.. Odyanam..’. Lalgudi beautifully enhanced the imagery by playing chords in a fast tempo. When Somu dropped into an emotional silence, the chords of Lalgudi continued in a low tone bringing out the emotion among the audience also. There was a rapturous applause for the presentation.
  • (P-159) In the CD attached with the book, track-8, Meenakshi Memudham was simply superb. The violin sings. When he plays on two strings we can hear the words. Initially I thought he sings along. He creates this effect repeatedly in his rendering. The CD itself was too good and deserves to enter into all musical archives.
  • (P-161) Lalgudi most certainly re-invented the raga Kalyana Vasantham and the kriti Nadaloludai. Among other Krithis he embellished was Manavyalakim in Nalina Kanthi. He slowed it down and lifted the Krithi from its light music aspect to main Krithi level.
  • (P-164) Regarding Sahithya bhava in Theerada Vilayattu pillai : In another krithi Nee Irangayenil, variety of ways he plays Sei Uyir Vazhumo; first he will play Vazhumo flat, suggesting ridicule and rebuke, then he will play the same thing with harsh bowing showing anger, then the ‘vazhumo…..’ will be prolonged as though crying for help. He says that is how the sangatis are meant to be presented.
  • (P-171) Regarding playing ragamalika, Lalgudi introduced several novelties, including the one mentioned. When he plays ragamalika with his son: he plays a raga, his son picks up the same raga and then seamlessly changes to another raga and ‘passes the baton’ to Lalgudi: Lalgudi takes over ‘on the go’ and after a few phrases changes over to the next raga. Yes, it was a relay-raga-malika. This trend he practiced in many of his concerts.
  • (P-177) Lalgudi’s Tala gnana was tremendous. Once before a concert in Dubai I happened to visit him in the Hotel room he was staying, on the morning of the day of the concert. When I entered the room I saw Lalgudi reciting some jati’s keeping Adi Tala on the hands. His accompanists, Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam and Tanjavur Nagarajan were also seated in the room. He demonstrated an elaborate korvai of decreasing counts, in about 8 to 10 avartanas. Instantly he reversed the same korvai to increasing counts for the same avartanas, to the amazement of tala vidwans
  • (P-224) Lalgudi Poornachandar episode: What irked Sri Gopala Iyer, apparently, was his lack of respect – in saying that he had obtained legal clearance for appending Lalgudi to his name. He even dropped the name of P V Rajamannar, former Chief Justice of Madras High Court. As a disciple of Lalgudi and Balamurali, he was shaping up extremely well as a violinist, but unfortunately lost his way in between.
  • (P-239) Duet with GJR Krishnan: It was the first ever duet of LGJ and GJR in Mumbai Shanmukhananda (~1974). There was a rotational power-cut in Mumbai due to power shortage. Concert started at 6.05 PM as usual. Sharp at 7PM, power went off and without any facility of UPS, the sound system also went down. Two emergency lamps appeared from either side of the stage. Auditorium was dim and silent, and the pure and melodious sounds of violins continued crystal clear for the next half hour (music-unplugged) and then, the power returned. At the end of the piece, audience applauded the artists for the way they handled the situation and using it to enhance the audience experience.
  • (P-257) It was in 1984. We were having a concert tour of Lalgudi in the Gulf. We were having two concerts in UAE one in Dubai and another in Abudhabi. I was driving Sri Lalgudi to Abudhabi and my wife was also with me. The whole two hours of driving we had a feast of his vocal music along with his anecdotes. He sang the whole Charukesi varnam enjoying his own lyrics and music immensely. We reached the auditorium in Abudhabi just in time. But the accompanists, who were travelling in a different car lost their way a little bit and arrived almost 10 minutes late. But Lalgudi took the stage on time and started warming up. Just then accompanists also arrived at the stage. Lalgudi’s comment cheered up the audience: “Sri Ramabhadran and Sri Vinayakram were always accompanying me faithfully but this time they failed to do so. Surely, they will make up for this on the stage.”
  • (P-265) When his disciple, Sow Akhila was in Dubai, Lalgudi used to stay with her whenever he visits Gulf either for concert or on transit. During one such visit, we were blessed to watch the video of Jaya Jaya Devi ballet along with him and his comments.
  • (P-335) On 9th March 2008, The Music Academy, Madras awarded Sri Lalgudi, the Special Life Time Achievement Award, a one-off award for the first time ever in the ninety years history of the Academy. During the occasion the president of the Academy Sri N Murali said that non-award of Sangita Kalanidhi title to Lalgudi, can be compared to Mahatma Gandhi not getting a Nobel Peace Prize. Sri Murali was proud that they did better than Nobel foundation, by seeking ‘to erase the mistake and the aberration’ and ‘in conferring the Special Life Time Achievement Award’ for Sri Lalgudi. But all said and done, I am still feeling bad to see that Lalgudi’s portrait is not seen anywhere in the lobbies of the Academy, not even among the portraits of Sangita Kalanidhis. Will the Academy take steps to erase this aberration too?
  • The book is a very interesting read for a biography. It has been a very well researched material with all interesting references. Some of the intrigues, conflicts and challenges in the world of Carnatic music have been brought out along with Lalgudi’s mature responses for the same. I felt the book could have included a few more comments from the rasikas including a few Lalgudi fans. Being an ardent fan of Lalgudi, for my own satisfaction, I am adding below a few of my experience and interactions with Lalgudi.
  • V R Gopala Iyer: Lalgudi’s father was really a genius. Here is my own experience with him. In my younger days (1977), I was once visiting Lalgudi Sir along with my wife and 2-year old daughter. As Lalgudi sir had gone out, we were greeted by Sri Gopala Iyer. When we were talking to him, my daughter was playing with the grilled door of their house. She was rattling the bolt of the door. When I asked her to keep quiet, Gopala Iyer remarked: Kuzhandai kaila dhaivatham, Panchamam Vilayadikirathe! (Daivath and Pancham are the playthings in her hands) – When I looked somewhat puzzled, he explained: ‘The child is playing with Da and Pa, Thapa,(i.e.) the bolt ! When he came to know the child’s name as Sriranjani, he again made a remark: Pancham Varjyam ! (In raga Sriranjani, the swara panchamam is absent). Pancham can also mean in Tamil, scarcity or poverty.
  • During a lecdem Lalgudi was asked whether Saint Thyagaraja’s nadopasana composition, ‘Nabhi Hruth Kanda Rasana’ applies to instrumentalist also, he confirmed that even for instrumentalist the Nada emanates from Nabhi, then Hruth and Kanda and then it echoes on the instruments instead of Vocal cords as in the case of vocalist. “Set of vocal cords is their instrument and violin is my vocal cords; Otherwise source of Nada is the same” as per Lalgudi.
  • Once Lalgudi was accompanying the great MD Ramanathan in a concert in Bharatiya Fine Arts in Mumbai. (Referred earlier). It was immediately after MD received the title Padmashri from GOI. Before the concert there was a felicitation for MD where many people spoke of him and his music. MD was all the time nudging Lalgudi to speak, which he was refusing. When it was MD’s turn to reply, he openly acknowledged about his unkind references to awards, when Lalgudi received his Padmashri ahead of MD; it was almost an apology. The concert that followed was really memorable without any slightest sign of discard.
  • When Lalgudi came to Mumbai for a concert in Shanmukhananda he had arrived two days earlier. As he was comparatively free, I invited him to our apartment for coffee. When he was there I took the opportunity of taking his blessings for my wife who was a budding vocalist. He asked her to sing raga Todi. After elaborating the raga, she was about to sing one of the trinity krithis. He asked for a different one and then again a different one. Finally he settled for Thygaraja Krithi, ‘Dachu kovalena’. When she was singing a particular sangati, she was asked to repeat the same sangati several times, as apparently he liked it very much. In the next day’s concert he played this krithi and played the same sangati, looking smilingly at us in the audience.  [My wife says pranams to her (Late) Guru Sangita Kala Acharya, Vidwan S Ramachandra Bhagavatar of Shanmukhananda – on whom Sri Lalgudi also had a high regard].

Today, 17th Sept 2016, is the 86th birth anniversary of Sangita Vidwan, Violin Maestro, Padma Bhushan, Lalgudi Sri G Jayaraman (1930 – 2013). My thanks are due to the author Smt Lakshmi Devnath for making me live through Lalgudi experience all over again. There are a lot more musical incidences to remember him on this day. Luckily his music still lives in the form of his many recordings, many compositions and in many of his disciples including his children, Sri GJR Krishnan and Sow Viji.

Ref: An Incurable Romantic (The Musical Journey of Lalgudi Jayaraman), by Lakshmi Devnath, Harper Collins Publishers India (2013)

Dan Brown’s Inferno, the hell

August 19, 2016

I just finished (Aug 2016) reading the novel Inferno by Dan Brown. When I finished reading The Amber Room by Steve Berry, I wrote a blog about similar mysteries that abound in ancient and medieval India. I invoked English language writers of Indian origin to write such mysteries a-la Dan-Brown-Style, but with Indian artifacts and mysteries. (Please refer to my blog.

https://lvnaga.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/ancient-mystery-thriller/). My thirst for the same was quenched somewhat by a novel ‘Deluge – Agasthya’s Secrets’, by Dr. Ramesh Babu of Chennai. (https://lvnaga.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/dr-ramesh-babu-indian-version-of-dan-brown/).

This new novel ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown is based on a biological ‘terrorism’ of scientific age placed in the surroundings of medieval mysteries of Ottoman Empire covering present day Florence of Italy and Istanbul of Turkey.

This novel is heavily based on Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s master piece ‘The Devine Comedy’ consisting of three cantos – Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise, describing the path of the dead/soul towards hell, punishment and finally perhaps the heaven. There are many articles available in the net comparing this piece of literature with similar ideas represented in ancient Hindu scriptures by Saint Veda Vyasa in his Garuda Purana. Some of them even suggest that Dante was inspired by this description of Hell (and the travel of soul with its pseudo-body through the hell to the Paradise). I wonder if any other Indian  literature has given annotations of this work in Sanskrit or any other modern languages. I am vaguely familiar with a story in Mahabharat where King Yutishtra, with all his integrity and moral equipoise, is made to undergo a horrible view of the Hell, as a punishment for his abetment of a lie in killing Aswatthama in the war. Any extract of description such a view, is it available, I wonder.

(Those who have not read this novel ‘Inferno’ and are planning to read the same, may please avoid reading further, to retain the mystery and suspense of the Novel.)

In this novel there are some unexplained ambiguities as below

  • How can a single type of vector virus would do equal harm to the fertility of both men and women? Evidently, their reproductive systems are quite different.
  • Neither it is necessary to affect random one-third of both male and female population equally, to reduce the birth rate by a third.
  • Hence it is better to say that the vector-virus modifies the DNA of whole population but switches on at random only in one-third of male population. This will reduce the birth rate by one-third and gradually reduce the population by a third, as this DNA-Virus from even unaffected males gets inherited by the subsequent population. It will be again switched on at random in one third of males in every generation.
  • Though a lot of anxiety is expressed by all the characters in the novel about this biological ‘terror’, it appears to be a very humane way of controlling the population. It is same as vasectomy and tubectomy, which are of course, voluntary. This type of population control is normally adopted in animals and pests.
  • The characters in the novel, opposed to this type of ‘terrorism’ initially, come around and accept the same and think of making it reversible.

However the novel is quite interesting and highly readable. I understand it is also coming as a movie soon with Indian actor Irfan Khan in the role of Provost, the off-shore expediter and the secondary antagonist in the novel.

PS: I remember playing a board game in my village (India) on the nights of Gokul Ashtami and Shivratri known as Parama Pada Shobanam. It is a kind of a snake and ladder game where we start from hell and pass through several evil images and then on to happy images and finally to the heavenly images of Gods.(i.e. Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise).  On the way we encounter many snakes (named after villains of Hindu epics) and ladders of good conduct and behaviors. I wish somebody adds an image of this board to this blog. (LVN)

 

 

Rhythmatics

February 27, 2016

Rhythmatics

Fibonacci – Hemachandra Sequence

Some of my readers will m remember, one Krishnagiri Kittappa, the official percussionist of Oho Productions in the great Tamil romantic comedy of 1960s, Kathalikaa Neramillai (No time for romance). He was initially a self-taught mridangam (Drum) player. He wanted to learn to play Tabla also. He went to a Tabla player to learn the same. He was started on his first lesson, of course, in Teen Tal (or Triputa Tal in Carnatic music) of 8 beats.

Na Din Dinnah – Na Din Dinnah

Na Din Dinnah – Na Din Dinnah

Na Din Dinnah – Na Din Dinnah  . . . . . . .

This went on for quite some time. Our man got bored of playing the same rhythm. It is the same 1,1,2 – 1,1,2 all the time for the 8-beat cycle. Why not 1,2,1, – 1,1,2, he thought.

Din Dinnah Din – Na Dhin Dhinna

Din Dinnah Din – Na Dhin Dhinna

Then, why not 2,1,1-1,2,1

Dinnah Din Din – Din Dinnah Din

Good. Now he further thought about how many such combinations of 1 and 2 (Din and Dinnah), he can make in a cycle of 8 beats. Ancient Indians have already thought about this and so, I gave him the answer as 34 different combinations. He was surprised. So many? How did they calculate?

Ancient Indians always depended on recursive technique in solving such problems. They started from 1-beat, then to 2-beats, 3-beats etc.

No. of Beats (n) Syllables – 1 & 2 Combinations Total Combinations Kn
1 Din 1 1
2 Din, Din

Dinnah

 

2

 

2

3 Din Din Din

Dinnah Din

Din Dinnah

 

 

3

 

 

3

4 Dinnah (+ 2-beats)

Din  (+ 3-beats)

2

3

 

5

Now they generalized:
(n+1) Beats Dinnah +  (n-1) beats

Din + (n) beats

K(n-1)

K(n)

K(n+1) = K(n-1) + K(n)

Therefore,

K4 = K2 + K3 = 2 + 3 = 5

K5 = K3 + K4 = 3+ 5 = 8

K6 = K4 + K5 = 5 + 8 = 13

K7 = K5 + K6 = 8 + 13 = 21

K8 = K6 + K7 = 13 + 21 = 34
Hence we have 34 combinations of 1-2 in an 8-beat cycle.

Now look at the series K1, K2, ….. Kn:

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 ……

This is the famous Fibonacci series ‘invented’ by Fibonacci (alias Leonardo Pisano Bogollo) in 13th Century AD. Ancient Indians knew about this, at least, a thousand years before him. Fibonacci himself acknowledges this fact. Fibonacci also helped spread Hindu- Arabic Numerals (like our present numbers 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) through Europe in place of Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV, V, etc). The olden day knowledge route was from India to Alexandria (Egypt) to Europe.

Susantha Goonatilake (Ref-2) writes that the development of the Fibonacci sequence ” is attributed in part to Pingala (200 BC), later being associated with Virahanka (c. 700 AD), Gopāla (c. 1135), and Hemachandra (c. 1150). Parmanand Singh cites Pingala’s cryptic formula misrau cha (“the two are made together”) and cites scholars who interpret it in the context as saying that the cases for ‘n’ beats (Kn+1) is obtained by adding [Short or 1] to Kn cases and [Long or 2] to the Kn−1 cases. He dates Pingala before 450 BC ”.

“However, the clearest exposition of the sequence arises in the work of Virahanka (c. 700 AD), whose own work is lost, but is available in a quotation by Gopala (c. 1135). The sequence is also discussed by Gopala (before 1135 AD) and by the Jain scholar Hemachandra (c. 1150) “. Fibonacci was born only in 1170 AD.

Prof. Manjul Bhargava (R Brandon Fradd Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University, USA) gave a Lec-Dem on Music & Mathematics at the Music Academy, Madras during their annual conference 2015, on 31st December 2015. Being a Tabla player himself, he dealt with the above aspect of rhythm variations in detail. His talk was the inspiration for me to write this blog.

References:

  1. https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/fibonacci-sequence.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number
  3. Manjul Bhargava’s Lec-Dem at the Music Acedemy, Madras (2015)

L V Nagarajan

 

Meru Prastarah (or Pascal’s Triangle ?!?)

October 21, 2014

Meru Prastarah (or Pascal’s Triangle ?!?)

Let me start with an ancient (1000 CE) Sanskrit text as below:

Anena ekadvyaadilaghukriyasiddhyartham, yaavadabhimatam prathama prastaravat meruprastaram darsayati, uparistadekam chaturasrakoshtam likhitva, tasya adhastat ubhayatordhaniskrantam koshtadwayam likhet, tasyapiadhastatrayam tasyapiadhastatccaturtyamevam yaavadabhimatam sthanamiti meruprastarah tasya prathame koshte ekasamkhyam vyasthapyalakshanamidam pravarttayet, tatra dvikoshtaayaampanktau ubhayo koshtayorekaikamankam dadyaat, tatastritiyaayaam panktau, paryantakoshtayorekaikamankam dadyaat, madhyamakoshtethuparikoshtadvayaankamekikrtya purnam nivesayediti purnasabdarthah, chaturtyampanktavapi, paryantakoshtayorekaikamankam sthapayet, madhyamakoshtayothuparakoshtadvayaankamekikrtya purnam trisamkhya rupam sthapayeth,  uttaraataraapyevameva nyaasah, tatra dwikoshtaayaam pankatauekaakshrasya prastaarah,……. tritiyayaam pankatau, dviakshrasya prastaarah, chaturtyaam pankatau, triakshrasya prastaarah, ….

The above is not in praise of any god of Jain, Budha or Hindu religion. It is not a religious text at all. It is a text describing a method for constructing a mathematical table. Ancient Indian Mathematician Pingala (200 BC) in his Chandahsutra had given the rules for formation of different chandahs (≈ musical meters) for Sanskrit prosody. Another ancient Indian mathematician Halayudha (1000 CE) has given the explanation and commentary on this work by Pingala. Given above is a selected portion of his commentary. For some reasons unknown to me, ancient Sanskrit texts always use composite words very frequently. These words need to be broken into individual words properly to obtain the intended meaning of these words. Here is an attempt to translate the above text into English with proper separation of words.

Anena ekadvyaadi laghu kriya siddhyartham, yaavadabhi matam

(To get every combination of one, two, etc. syllables as required)

Prathama prastaravat meru prastaram darsayati.

(from first row onwards , the meru tabulation will be shown below)

Uparihi tad ekam Chaturasrakoshtam likhitva,

(At the top itself one square cell is drawn)

Tasya adhah tat ubhayato ardhani skrantam

(Below this row let us have a pair, half over lapping)

Koshtadwayam likhet.

(Two cells are drawn)

Tasyapi adhah tat trayam

(Again the row below will have three)

Tasyapi adhah tat chaturtyam,

(Again its next line will have four)

Evam yaavadabhi matam sthanam

(same way, up to the  required stage, cells are constructed)

iti meru prastarah.

(This is called Meru Prastara or Meru-Tabulation)

Tasya prathame koshte eka samkhyam

(Its first stage-cell will hold the number 1)

Vyvasthapya lakshanamidam pravarttayet

(From here on, the following is the way it grows)

Tatra dvikoshtaayaam panktau

(in its twin-cell row)

ubhayo Koshtayoh eka ekam ankam dadyaat

(the pair of cells holds numbers 1,1)

Tatah tritiyaayaam panktau, paryanta Koshtayoh Eka ekam ankam dadyaat

(then in the 3rd row, the extreme cells will hold numbers 1,1)

Madyama koshteth, upari koshtadvayah ankam eki krtya purnam nivesayeth

(middle cell takes the added value of the two cells above)

Iti purnasabdarthah

 (Thus completes the table for 2nd power)

Chaturtyam panktau api, paryanta Koshtayoh eka ekam ankam sthapayet

(then in the 4th row also, the extreme cells will hold numbers 1,1)

Madyama koshtayoth, upara koshtadvayah ankam eki krtya purnam

(middle cells take the added values of the two cells above each)

Trisamkhya rupam sthapayeth

(this completes the 3rd power)

Uttara utaaro api evameva nyaasah,

(next and next stages also follow the same rule)

tatra dwikoshtaayaam pankatau, eka akshrasya prastaarah

(Here the twin-cell row gives one syllable table)

tritiyaam pankatau, dvi akshrasya prastaarah

(the 3rd row gives two syllables table)

chaturtyaam pankatau, tri akshrasya prastaarah

(Thus 4th row gives three syllables table)

And so on.

Meru

If we follow the above step by step construction given so clearly by Halayudha (1000 CE), we get the above pyramid or Meru in Sanskrit, (stands for a mountain with a peak). What do we have here? It is the same as Pascal’s Triangle, “discovered” by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662 CE).

This table gives in every nth line the coefficients (a+b)**(n-1). i.e. the second line gives coefficients of (a+b) as 1,1; the second line gives 1,2,1, as coefficients of (a+b)2.; the third line gives 1,3,3,1 as coefficients of (a+b)3 and so on.

However Halayudha gives credit for this table to Pingala (200 BC). He claims to have derived this table from Pingala’s cryptic clue which he translates to a set of rules, as below (with a and b as the two syllables to be combined, in any n-syllable chandah):

  1. First write down all (‘n’ number of)  b’s as the first combination
  2. In the next line, replace the first ‘b’ with an ‘a
  3. At the same line, replace all letters to the left of this new ‘a’ with ‘b
  4. For the next and the subsequent lines repeat the steps 2 & 3.
  5. Continue as above till we arrive at a line with all a’s,

This can be clearly seen as a binomial expansion (a+b)n staring with bn and ending in an. Halayudha later puts these results on a table known as Meru Prasthara. He later gives a step-by-step method as above, for constructing this table without specifically going through the above rules. This Meru Prastarah traveled to China and the Chinese mathematician Yang Hui reported it in the thirteenth century, although his work was unknown in Europe until relatively recent times. The Meru Prastarah traveled to Europe a little later through Arabia, Egypt and Greece and gets “discovered” by Pascal in 17th century CE, 600 years after Halayudha. We are blaming all the time ‘the lack of scientific temper’ among Indians.

Ref:

  1. Binomial Theorem in Ancient India – By Amulya Kumar Bag, History of Science, Ancient Period Unit II, No.1, Park Street, Calcutta-16 (1966)
  2. Journey Through Genius – The Great Theorems Of Mathematics – by William Dunham – Wiley Science Editions, John Wiley & Sons Inc.(1990)
  3. Probability in Ancient India, by C K Raju., ckraju.net, 2011.

Connected Topics:

Meru Prastarah

Baudhayana’s Circles

Square Root of Two

Sine of an Angle

LVN/ Oct, 2014