Fiddling Monk
My tryst with Thyagaraja Aradhana started way back in the late 70”s ..
Thyagaraja Aradhana

One of the most celebrated , most respected composer and most conducted event in the Carnatic calendar is Sadguru Thyagaraja and the Aradhana of this Nada Brahmam. The takeaway from his music and compositions to the art form , the practitioners and the listening audience is immeasurable. His music is as simple as his persona and yet as profound as his understanding of music as an art , as a way of life and as Nada yoga .

My tryst with Thyagaraja Aradhana started way back in the late 70”s .. I have had the honour , privilege and blessings to be a part of the Aradhana along with the greatest of musicians trancending generations , like Lalgudi ji, MSG ji, MS amma , MLV amma , Balamuralikrishna ji, and many more … There are great many devotees of this phenomenon called Thyagaraja.

His Aradhana is conducted world over to celebrate this great Nada yogi and his musical life . But there are a few ardent devotees who celebrate his star every month - Panchami as well as the yearly Bahula Panchami Aradhana. One such person whom I personally know and greatly admire is Smt . Padmavathy Ananthagopaln. Hailing from the Thyagaraja Shishya Parampara, with her forefathers being the direct disciple of Thyagaraja Swami, she feels a personal bond with the great composer. Thyagaraja Swamiis supposed to have visited her ancestral home in the town of Lalgudi and composed the famous Lalgudi Pancharatnam. She has been celebrating this great guru on his star (pancham) every month for the past 40 plus years and of course the annual Bahula Panchami , for the past 40 plus years . Though a very celebrated Veena Vidhushi herself , her dedication and reverence to this Saint is so inspiring and educative. Her penchant for details in organising the function will be lesson for many corporate CEO’s. From getting the right kind of flowers , the same one ,month after month , year after year- there is no compromise on that , it has to be the same flowers, ( Thulasi, Paarijatam Bilwa etc ) ,like wise getting the students to sing not only all the Pancharatnams but all the utsava sampradaya Krithis and the divyanama krithis .

During the bahula oanchami Aradhana, the entire experience is of a festival, all the students and their parents will assemble at the venue, everybody will be made to have a nice breakfast and then the students with start with Sree Ganapathi nee and then Guruleka followed by the Thiruvaiyaaru Pancharatnams, and then the Utsava Sampradayam in the traditional format , from Churnika to Hecharika to Paripalaya , covering about 20 to 25 utsava sampradaya krithis, and then the Archana on Thyagaraja swami in a beautiful virtuam in ragamalika style rendition ,followed by the Mangalam .

I have observed Thyagaraja Aradhana in many places but this one is very unique because , I have not seen anybody follow this tradition in such an elaborate manner, even in Thiruvaiyaaru. The Archana and Mangalam is on swami thyagraja himself.

The entire experience is surreal. Her entire life has been like Naragatnamma version 2.0. For her Thyagaraja is kula devata and her day is not over without playing a few Thyagaraja Kriti in front of her favourite deity before she retires for the day . Our life is made that much more meaningful when we are able to connect to such wonderful people through the medium of music.

 
Muthuswamy’s life under the guidance of the yogi was like that of a stone that was being sculpted in to a divine form
Chakralinga Kshetram

A small eloquent and quaint little Veda Patashala is the host of this very historic Linga -consecrated on top of the , Jeeva Samadhi of Chidambara Naada Yogi . The name may not be familiar to most music lovers but a few who know the history will recall this name with great sense of reverence, the respectful yogi and his great disciple whose music is a defining standard in Indian Music Echelon.

Chidambara naada Yogi, a realised soul, a repository of knowledge and the experience of the same, had initiated Ramaswamy Dikshitar ,father of Muthuswamy Dhikshitar into the Sri Vidya Upasana and in to the tantric form of worship.

Once on his way to Benarase from the south, Chidambara Nada yogi made a halt at Madras, At that time Ramaswamy Dhikshitar and his family were under the patronage of Muthukrishna Mudaliar’s family , who was an agent of the East Indian Company and a great devotee of Indian Art and Tradition. He had requested Ramaswamy Dikshitar to move to Manali in chennai from Tanjavur . HIs son Venkatakrishna Mudaliar was even more so and he looked up to Ramaswamy Dikshitar with great respect and reverence.

Ramaswamy Dikshitar and his family of wife and 3 children , Muthuswamy Dhikshitar, Balaswamy Dhikshitar and Balambika , were living in Madras at the time of the visit of Nada Yogi. .On hearing about his Gurus visit to Madras, Ramaswamy Dhikhitar went to get his Dharshan and invite him home for Bhiksha vandanam. The yogi acceded to the request . So, when the yogi came home .

As is the tradition, after the bhiksha, the children were asked to sing before the guru. Both Muthuswamy and his younger brother Balaswamy sang for the Guru,

The yogi, on hearing the boys sing could foresee the events to unfold and hence requested Ramaswamy Dikshitar to send his older son Muthuswamy with him to Benares. Though Ramaswamy was reluctant , Lord Rama’s life history must have briefly flashed through his mind and hence he agreed , hoping for a bright future for his son, although he knew very well that under the guidance of Yogi , nothing less was to unfold.

Muthuswamy’s life under the guidance of the yogi was like that of a stone that was being sculpted in to a divine form , that which will take the position of a divine form in a Altar. He stayed with the Yogi for about 6 years .

He was trained in various aspects of Mantra, Tantra and Yantra. The essence of Vedas, Puranas, Agamas, Yoga , the Advaitic philosophy of Shankara, the true spirit of inner consciousness and the truth about the existence of life .. all these were indoctrinated in to the young mind by this great Yogi. The brilliant boy that Muthuswamy was, he grasped all this in its true spirit . Being in Benarase, Muthuswamy was also exposed to the sound and emotion of Hindustani music - which is a fusion of Indian Drupad music and Persian music. Karnataka Sangeeth still maintains the original essence of Indian musical ethos - that is to find ones commune with the ultimate - The Aikiya Bhava.( We will dwell more on this in my future articles ) All this had a profound impact on Muthuswamy in his later years, as music and literature poured out of him in a free flow - an encyclopaedic material on all the subjects that had an essence on the realisation of the inner consciousness.

As his education was getting completed, Muthuswamy was all set to leave for his hometown. The Yogi, who was a devotee of Shakthi energy , ( in Varanasi it is Mata Annapurneswari and Visalakshi, in Kanchi it is Kamakshi, in Madurai it is Meenakshi and so on ) was in deep meditation ,after a while when he opened his eyes , he instructed Muthuswamy , that he should to take a dip in Ganges , at the Hanuman Ghat the next day morning.His life mission will be revealed by Devi at that instance and he will have to worship Devi all his life, All his wishes will be granted and that he will attain the ultimate aim of life - the connect with the divine and attain liberation.

As instructed , Muthuswamy went to Hanuman Ghat, next day morning , took a dip at the Ganges and as he came out of the water , he was stunned to see a Veena in his hands , with the inscription of Rama on that - When he went to the Yogi to explain the mystical and mysterious incident , the all knowing Yogi, smiled and said, Devi has announced your life mission, you will be a great Vainika and a Vagiyakara who will find an everlasting place in Indian music space and would have left dynamic impact on the way music is perceived .

That was the turning point in Dhikshitar's life. He became a musical repository of the highest order. All his knowledge and experiences came out as a musical expression . His musical genius has transcended centuries and is still fresh and multifloues to the seekers today.

Soon , Chidamabara Nada Yogi is supposed to have attained his Jeeva Samadhi. Muthuswamy Dikshitar , who was already well trained in all the Agamas and Sastras, is said to have consecrated this Chakra Lingam on top of the Jeeva Samadhi of this great Yogi and worshipped the lingam for about 8 years doing the prescribed Abhishekams and Archanas.

This beautiful energised abode of the great Yogi , is very well taken care of by great scholars in Varanasi even today. It is situated just before the descent to the Ganga river in Hanuman ghat, near the Kanchi Mutt.

I had the privilege and blessing of worshipping this energised Chakra Lingam , which inspired me to write this article. A must visit place for all musicians, music lovers and devotees of Indian art and culture .

 
You are the beginning and you are the end -
Hey Nada ( Musical sound)

To see you every second, every minute , every hour Inside me as an universal experience My eyes swells and my heart melts

You are Beyond physical boundaries Beyond meaning Beyond light and Beyond darkness

And to perceive you as The embodiment of sound and blessing

My eyes swells and my heart melts.

Many people have sung in praise of you Many people have walked in search of you In doing you so - they have managed to divide you as system, language , region etc.

You are beyond separation hence You are beyond unison You are the one and You are the many

You are the beginning and you are the end -

To see you inside me as that, My eyes swells and my heart melts

                                                  - fiddlingmonk 
                        Kumaresh Rajagopalan
 
The more aligned we are to the art form the more refined is the expression.
Saamagaana NOV 2018

Sruti Maata - Sruti is the mother. Mother is the basis of all creation and likewise - Sruti is the base for all musical creation.
Sruti is also the name given to the

Vedas - the ultimate aural experience. Vedas are mantras or sound vibrations which were heard by Rishis in their state of oneness with the universal energy and recorded aurally – they are not a visual medium. Sruti or Shruthi in Sanskrit means ‘that which is heard.’

Śrutis have been variously described as a revelation through anubhava (direct experience), or of primordial origins realized by ancient Rishis.

Sruti in music emphasises the importance of listening to the musical sound and understanding that within oneself and experiencing it as a musical melody. In simpler terms, it represents the harmonised sound of the tonic note along with the fifth (Sa and Pa) together. This is represented by the musical instrument - Tambura. When one starts to learn music - either Vocal or Instrument - the first step is to align your voice or instrument to the Sruti. The alignment is called -Layam- to be in sync...in Tamil it is referred to as - layichu irukkanum. Indian music primarily depends on Sruthi - the basic Swara (musical note). Sruthi by the way also means to ‘listen’. Focused nuanced listening – is meditative listening.

Our tradition insists on the concept of listening and interestingly there is no word equivalent to the English word ‘hearing’ in our language. (A non-concentrated form of listening where in the mind is elsewhere and one is only physically present where the sound is produced — most of us are in this state most of the times. Which tells us that people of yesteryears were capable of high level of concentration and were able to stay connected within for a long period of time. They did not need an external devise to register their knowledge and experience. They were able to remember what they learnt and experienced and hence that tradition did not believe in the concept of non- concentrated hearing and hence no word to identity that state of mind in the language. Our culture and tradition is aural based. We have always celebrate the concept of Advaitha and the formless hence the visual representation was always given less importance. It has always been

•   Mantra - sound, then 
•   Yantra - the visual representation and then 
•   Tantra - the technology.

Similarly, Music was passed on in this manner from generation to generation and hence we could see multiple ideas, interpretations, innovations in our art form. Also, listening helps in the experience of sound. Music is the embodiment of the formless energy and dimension. So, this alignment also helps in the discipline of the mind, which helps us in the understanding the significance of life and living. When we learn music, the concentration power of the human mind is increased multi-fold and the foundation for a thinking and creative mind is laid as the first step. Practising music helps in the multi-tasking of the human mind and body.

When we are singing or playing an instrument the mind has the following functions

•   To align to the tonic note

•   To sing/play with in the scale of the raga

•   To keep within the rhythmic cycle

•   To remember the lyrics, if one is a singer

•   To remember the melody if one is an instrumental player, etc.

•   So, at one go we as the practitioner

are able to multitask seamlessly and this increases the human possibility and optimises the potential of the mind and body. All this comes from the basic premise of ‘Sruthi’ - the basic musical note and the deeper philosophy of listening and aligning to the sound. This alignment is the basis for understanding the aesthetics and nuances of the art form.

The more aligned we are to the art form the more refined is the expression. So as always, in our traditional language and way of life, the word itself gives us the direction, process and the character of the subject:

Sruti establishes the art form as :

1) Aural tradition 
2) To be understood through the sound 
3) and is the most important component of the art form. So, let us all fine-tune and retune our senses - and be in alignment with the primordial Sruthi!!

Drops of Nectar -Fiddlingmonk

 
Music is the purest form of expression and so is God the purest form of impression
Knowledge and Experience of Music

Music is always a perceived phenomena. The familiarity of a sound goes a long way in experiencing the same . For instance , when we converse in a language that we are comfortable with , it is so much easier than trying to communicate through a language that is alien to us . Similarly when it comes to music, there is always an excitement among us when we listen to a familiar melodic line or a song than listening to an unknown and unfamiliar melodic line or a song . This is the direct example of how knowledge impacts the listening experience . In this context, songs with lyrics have a distinct edge over the musical melodic sound of pure musical notes, since they not only carry words as an easy recall value but the meaning , the philosophy or the narrative behind the words . This brings about a multi layered impact on the listening audience .Hence the charm of lyrics in the songs and the knowledge behind it helps in enjoying and digesting a musical performance . But there is an important question to be asked here - the joy of experiencing music in this context , is it of the lyrics , the meaning and philosophy behind the lyrics or is it the music and the experience of the sound underneath the lyrics. In most cases it the lyrics and the multi dimensional experience that comes with the reflection of the lyrics . It could be the philosophy , it could be the mere meaning of the lyric, or the memory recall trigged by the musical sound , so in most cases the joy of listening to music is not of the pure sound of music per say but that of many connected and other external components that use music as a tool to convey something . So, the knowledge of something other than music is at work in such circumstances . Is it or is it not the right way to enjoy music ? By knowing the lyrics , the name of the composer, the philosophy , the raga, the tala etc , this only enhances the listening experience isn’t !! Well let us examine the other possibility !

Knowledge alway hampers the experience. It brings the limitless possibilities in to a limited framework. If I listen to music , take for example a Kambodi raga alapana or a ~Todi raga Alapana, or any musical melody , for that matter without knowing the name of the raga or the system it comes from, name of the song, the name of the composer , the language of the lyrics, etc ,.Just pure music per say performed by a master artiste, the experience I feel, is most exciting and complete because that experience is something that is so personal to me , not related to anything but me and my being . It is not limited by the knowledge of this raga or that raga, or the suggestions of the lyrics as to what the composer is trying to convey, or by the context of the tala. It is just a pure limitless , free experience , that gives me the choice of digesting it the way I want . The experience could be Visual or Aural. I can form my own visuals of what ever as I hear and perceive the sound or I can get in to a totally formless state of mind of deep oneness with the sound which can be truly meditative . I could see different colours or I could experience multiple forms of ecstasy. A form of perception that is not bound by any external references but purely a celebration of my conscious, subconscious and unconscious reflection. Imagine the joy that one can experience in such a dimension.

In a way that musical experience brings one to a state of experiencing oneself . When I say experiencing oneself, it is about one being able to perceive one’s awareness consciously , unconsciously or Subconsciously .

It is like this - Music is Divine

Music is the original and natural reflection of Godliness

Music is the purest form of expression and so is
God the purest form of impression

If you can describe God so you can Music
If you cannot describe God so you cannot Music

Music is beyond the barrier of region, language , culture , religion and hence Limitless and so is God

God resides in every being and so does Music reflect in every being

God is the highest art and hence the highest form of worship and so is Music the highest form of art and hence the highest form of worship -

Music is a super phenomenal experience and so is God super a phenomenal experience.

God cannot be bound or perceived through Knowledge and So is Music.

Both are experience beyond the tangible and beyond comprehension of acquired assets.

The choice is ours. To enjoy music as knowledge or music as an experience . That is the beauty of our dharma. We are responsible for our choice and actions and not anybody else.

Hari Om