Posts Tagged ‘Language’

Adik Maas in Luni-Solar Calendars of India

June 10, 2018

I am not sure how many of my readers are aware that we are in the 13th month of the Hindu luni-solar calendar. Though this is only the third month of this current Hindu Luni-Solar calendar, this month (from 16th May 2018 to 13th June 2018) is an extra month, called Adik-Jyeshta, and eventually we will have 13 months during this year in this luni-solar Hindu calendar. From 14th June 2018, we will have the 4th month of Luni-Solar Vilambi year and it will be called as Nija-Jyeshta. The current luni-solar year will range from on 18th March 2018 to 6th April 2019 (i.e. totally 384 days).  The names of the 13 months of current Vilambi year are:

Chaitra, Vaisaka, Adik-Jyeshta, Nija-Jyeshta, Ashada, Sravana, Bhadrapada, Aasvina, Karthika, Margasira, Pausha, Magha, Phalguna.

But why 13 months and 384 days are in this year? We are all aware that lunar months are based on the lunar cycle of 29.53 days between two new moons. An ‘Amanta’ lunar month ends on the new moon day and a new month begins on the next day. (Ama-anta: Ending in Amavasya, the New moon). Hence normally the lunar year will be of 354 days. This is 11 days short of a normal solar year. Hence, to synchronise with Solar year, approximately every third year an extra month (adik Maas) of 29.53 days is added making a year of 384 days. On an average, Adik Maas (or extra month) comes once in 2 years and 8.5 months. A lunar month is given the same name as the solar month in which the new moon occurs signalling the end of the lunar month. Since a solar month is generally of 30 days or more, there are occasions when two new moons occur within a solar month, one at the start and the other at the end. This results in the particular solar year having 13 new moons, instead of normal 12. This accounts for the 13th month or Adik-Maas (extra month). The lunar month starting on the first new moon of this solar month is designated as Adik-Maas with the same name as the next month with an adjective ‘Adik’ or extra. The next lunar month starting after 2nd new moon of the solar month, will also  have the same name, but with adjective ‘Nija’ or real.

During the current solar year of Vilambi, you may observe two new moon days in the second solar month of Vaikasi, (Rishaba or Vaisaka), one on 1st of Vaisaka (15th May 2018) and another one on 30th of Vaisaka (13th June 2018). Hence we have two months of Jyeshta named as Adik-Jyeshta, Nija-Jyeshta. Adik-Jyeshta Amavsasya is occurring in Solar month of Vaisaka itself as extra amavasya, and Nija-Jyeshta  Amavsaya, in Aani, Mithuna or Jyeshta Maasa. Please refer Tamil ‘Pambu’ Panchangam.

Similarly, a few of the shorter solar months of 29 days, (as in Margazhi, Paush and Magh), may, very rarely, not have any new moon at all. Such a solar month is known as ‘Kshaya maas’ or defective month. When this happens there will generally be two Adik maases, one in the month prior to, and another in the month subsequent to kshaya Maas. If Paush happens to be kshaya maas, then Kartika and Phalgun will have two Amavasyas each. Then the sequence will be, Adik Kartika, Nija-Kartika, Margasira, Magh, Adik-Phalgun, Nija-Phalgun. Lunar month of Paush will not exist at all and the year still having 13 months.

I have discussed only about Luni-Solar ‘Amanta’ calendar widely followed in South India and Maharashtra. A major variation of this is known as “Purnimanta calendars”, (purnima-anta: ending in Pournami, Full moon), which are followed in most of the Hindi belt in North India. It generally follows the same principle, including the names of the months. Following is an interesting point to note. Purnimanta months are named after the star that is brightest and closest to the moon, on the full moon day. Amanta calendar also adopted the same names.  Same names were adopted by the Solar system also, in addition to the names of the zodiac. In fact Kerala still go by Rasi names only for the solar months.

In the appendix, I have given a list of Regional Varieties of the Indian Calendars, as given by Helmer Aslaksen and Akshay Regulagedda.

The Government of India set up a committee to reform our calendars in 1955 with the renowned physicist Meghnad Saha as its chairman. The committee recommended, among other things, that the Indian Solar year should start on March 22, the vernal equinox, and the first month should be called Chaitra. It was adopted, with a lot of fanfare, as The Indian National Calendar known as ‘Saka Varsh’ in 1957. But the Union Govt under Sri Jawahar Lal Nehru failed to respect the existing system which was also based on scientific observations and principles. Our existing almanacs were described as “encyclopaedia of errors, superstitions and half truths”. Hence Saka calendar failed to take off. (Satyam Bhruyat, Priyam Bhruyat !!!) Even the current universal Gregorian calendar proposed in 1582 CE got adopted by England only in 1752 CE. But then, it was proposed by Pope Gregory, not by any Govt order.

Ref:

  1. Tamil Pambu Panchngam – விளம்பி வருஷ வாக்கிய பஞ்சாங்கம்
  2. Regional Varieties of the Indain Calendars –http://www.math.nus.edu.sg/aslaksen/calendar/indian_regional.html
  3. Names of the Months in the Indian Calendars   http://www.math.nus.edu.sg/aslaksen/calendar/indian_months.html
  4. Medieval mistake – by Biman Nath :FRONTLINE, Vol. 25 – 06 : Mar. 15-28, 2008;    http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2506/stories/20080328250610000.html

Appendix:

From: http://www.math.nus.edu.sg/aslaksen/calendar/indian_regional.html

Regional Varieties of the Indian Calendars

 by:  Helmer Aslaksen and Akshay Regulagedda

State   Calendar   New Year
Andhra Pradesh   Southern amanta   One day after the last new Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Goa   Southern amanta   One day after the last new Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Karnataka   Southern amanta   One day after the last new Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Maharashtra   Southern amanta   One day after the last new Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Gujarat   Western amanta   One day after Deepavali
Gujarat – Kathiawar   Western amanta   Ashaadha S 1
Bihar   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Chattisgarh   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Delhi   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Haryana   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Himachal Pradesh   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Jammu and Kashmir   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Jharkhand   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Madhya Pradesh   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Uttaranchal   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Uttar Pradesh   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Rajasthan   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Punjab   Purnimanta   One day after the last full Moon before the Mesha samkranti
Punjab – Nanakshahi   (Solar) Sidereal; fixed relative to Gregorian calendar   14th March
Tamil Nadu   Solar   The Mesha samkranti
Kerala   Solar   Simha samkranti
Orissa   Solar   The Mesha samkranti
Assam   Solar   Solar day after the Mesha samkranti
Tripura   Solar   Solar day after the Mesha samkranti
West Bengal   Solar   Solar day after the Mesha samkranti

Note: The table is exhaustive neither in terms of calendars nor in terms of states. Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim were left out.

 

 

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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.

 

 

Tamil – Class: 4 / Teaching Tamil Through English

February 11, 2018

 

Tamil – Class: 4

e have learnt inthe previous three classes, :almost all the alphabets of Tamil Language and also a number of simple Tamil words. We should next aim to make a few simple sentences. To do this we should learn a few more important words and their usages.

Let us know the pronouns in Tamil:

 

Pronouns1.jpg

pronouns2.jpg

Let us also learn some  Questions in Tamil and typical answers for them.

 

Question 1.jpg

Questions 2.jpg

 

 

 

In the next Class-5, we will make a few sentences with the words and usages we have learnt so far.

In the meantime one may get familiar with all those words and usages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


 

24 Hours-Day X 7 Days-Week

October 5, 2017

24 Hours-Day X 7 Days-Week

L V Nagarajan

Introduction:

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.

History:

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.

Chaldea:

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   http://sowingseedsofthought.blogspot.in/2011/06/was-indian-time-keeping-technique.html 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.

No.

Moon/ Planet

Orbital  Speed (kM/s)

Speed relative to Earth

1

Moon

365 days / 29 days

12.59

2

Mercury 47.87

47.87/29.78

1.61

3

Venus 35.02

35.02/29.78

1.18

4

Earth/Sun 29.78

29.78/29.78

1.00

5

Mars 24.08

24.08/29.78

0.81

6

Jupiter 13.07

13.07/29.78

0.44

7

Saturn 9.69

9.69/29.78

0.33

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.

Conclusion:

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.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. http://brahminkhalifa.blogspot.in/2011/11/who-is-abrahm-ibrahm-brahma-and.html
  3. https://ocoy.org/original-christianity/the-aquarian-gospel/from-india-to-chaldea/)
  4. http://www.wisdomworld.org/additional/ListOfCollatedArticles/TheChaldeanLegend.html by H. P. BLAVATSKY )
  5. Comparative Religion For Dummies by William P. Lazarus, Mark Sullivan
  6. http://www.hermetics.org/Abraham2.htmlWho Was Abraham?  by Gene D. Matlock, B.A., M.A. 
  7. Ways of the natives – Parasara’s Hora Sastra – pp25, and from: http://www.barbarapijan.com/bpa/Amsha/lagna_vishesika_hora_bhava_ghati.htm
  8. Sūryasiddhānta: An Astro-linguistic Study By Sudhi Kant Bharadwaj
  9. http://www.astrology-x-files.com/help-timaeus/planet-hour.html
  10. https://io9.gizmodo.com/5825459/the-roman-city-of-pompeii-pictures-of-a-lost-world-frozen-in-time

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:

Ka

Ga

Cha

Sa

Ta

Da

Tha

Dha

Pa

Ba

Rra

Tra

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

Na

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:

Symbols

_

ி 3 types  ெ

 ொ

Consonants with symbol added:

கி கு கெ

கொ

Ka

Ki Ku Ke

Ko

சி சு செ சொ
தி து தெ

தொ

 

Composite Vowels:

Symbols:

Consonants:

கை

கௌ க்
kai kau

k

as in ‘Park’

சை

சௌ ச்
தை தௌ

த்

 

Extended Vowels

Symbols

 ா

 ீ 3 types  ே

Consonants

கா

கீ கூ கே கோ
kaa kee koo kay

koe

சா

சீ சூ சே சோ
தா தீ தூ தே

தோ

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

http://tamilcube.com/learn-tamil/tamil-alphabets-chart.aspx

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

Bye for now.

 

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)

Phonetics of Devanagari and Tamil scripts

October 14, 2015

Phonetics of Devanagari and Tamil scripts

These two scripts are phonetically related in a very odd way. Many of the north Indian languages closely follow the Devanagari script as used by Sanskrit presently. Other south Indian languages (I am consciously avoiding the term Dravidian languages) follow their own independently evolved scripts. I found some interesting contrast between the scripts of Sanskrit and Tamil which I want to share with my readers. These are all my own original ideas and purposely I have not read or referred any previous work or study on this aspect (which I will eventually do after I publish this write-up).

Like the scripts of all languages, these two scripts also have vowels and consonants. The Devanagari script has thirteen vowels as below. (I am giving only the phonetic value of these vowels);

Vowels : a, Aa, i, Ee, u, Uu, ru, eay, ai, oh, ou, amm, aha.

Actual Devanagari script is not of our interest as of now. Let us now look at the vowels in Tamil language:

Vowels : a, Aa, i, Ee, u, Uu, eay, Eaay, ai, oh, Oh, ou.

As we compare these phonetics we see, they are essentially similar, but with significant differences. When ‘a’, ‘i’ and ‘u’ have their extended phonetic as ‘Aa’, ‘Ee’ and ‘Uu’, the same extension is not given to ‘eay’ and ‘oh’ in Devanagari script. But Tamil script has extended phonetics for them also. Tamil seems to need them too. Look at the Tamil words –

mattu, mAattu, mittu, meettu, muttu, mUuttu, mettu, meayttu, mottu, mOhttu

– meaning respectively,

less, hang, earth/land, pluck a string of a musical instrument, butt or bang with your head, enflame (or bone joint), musical tune, raised level, flower bud and bulging. (Phew, look at the strength of Tamil vocabulary).

If we assume that Tamil phonetics were derived from Devanagari script, then Tamils have surely added two more vowels to meet their phonetic requirements. Let us wait till we see the consonants.

The primary consonants in Devanagari are:

Ka, kha, ga, gha, nga

Cha, chha, ja, jha, ngya

Ta, tha, da, dha, Nna

Tha, Thha, dha, dhha, na

Pa, pha, ba, bha, ma

The corresponding consonants in Tamil are:

(Ka, nga) – (Cha, ngya) – (Ta, Nna) – (Tha, na) – (Pa, ma)

Tamils added (perhaps after a later thought) one more set of similar consonant in

Rra – na, (literally at the end of the list of alphabets).

While an emphasized Rra (or tra) is required to handle a few important Tamil words, I always found a second ‘na’ superfluous, although the two ‘na’s are surely used in different contexts in the written language.

As can be seen above, Devanagari script appears to be an expanded version of Tamil phonetics. If it is still believed that Tamil phonetics were derived from Devanagari, what could have been the reason for dropping the different variations of Ka, Cha etc? When writing purely Tamil words, Tamils don’t feel the need for these emphasized consonants, as they are intended to be pronounced with such variations as per the context. Tamil also uses double letters for emphasized consonants such as KKa for Kha. However, when writing words of other languages in Tamil script, one feels handicapped by this deficiency in the script. Some authors use subscripts like 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the script for marking these variations. As you can see in the next section, in later days, a few Devanagari phonetics were also adopted in to Tamil script, even though purists do not use them.

Now let us write down the secondary consonants of Devanagari script, as below:

Secondary consonants: ya, ra, la, va, sha, sya, sa, ha

Tamil has similar consonants as below:

Secondary consonants: ya, ra, la, va, zha, Lla

Earlier Tamils did not adopt the latter half of the above set of Devanagari phonetics in to their script. As need arose to read and write words of foreign roots, they adopted the others also in to a set of special (Northern!) scripts – ‘sha, ksha, sa, ha and Sri’. Here again the purists do not use them. The consonants zha, Lla, Rra, na are special phonetics of Tamil, (especially the zha), and significantly they at the end of the list of Tamil alphabets.

From the above account it appears that the phonetic scripts of Devanagari and Tamil could have had their roots in a more ancient common script. Critical comments on the above are most welcome.