Musical Flavours of India
A SHORT NOTE ON THE POETS AND SONGS
POETS FROM SOUTH-INDIA
Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi – (11 December 1882, Ettaiyapuram – 12 September 1921, Chennai)
Subramania Bharathi, was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist, social reformer and polyglot. Popularly known as “Mahakavi Bharathi”, he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time.
In this first song ( Parukkulle nalla naadu —), the poet extols Bharath or India as the greatest country in the world saying, whether in wisdom, dignity, composure, charity, nectar-filled poetry, courage, mercy, compassion, hospitality, abundance of wealth, bravery, chastity of women, truth, sharpness of intellect, mental stamina, benevolence and knowledge of resplendent scriptures, our land has it all.
Saint Purandaradasa – (Shimoga Dist- 1484 to Hampi-1565)
A Kannada poet also called Srinivasa Nayak. was a Haridasa philosopher-saint from present-day Karnataka, India. He was a composer, singer and is looked upon as the Father of Carnatic Classical Music. He designed a structured format for the learning of music from the beginners level that is universally followed.
In this song ( Innudaya barade —), the saint questions the Lord as to why he is still not pleased with him. Having taken innumerable births in different wombs, and fallen in hell, he pleads the Lord to deliver him and offers all his karmas to Him, saying He considers Him as his only compassionate saviour.
Saint Tyagaraja (4 May 1767, Thiruvarur, – 6 January 1847 Chennai)
Tyagaraja, also known as Tyāgayya ( Full name: Kakarla Tyagabrahmam ) was a renowned composer of Carnatic music, a form of Indian classical music. He was prolific and highly influential in the development of India’s classical music tradition. He is the most popular among the Trinity of Carnatic Music. To date, his anniversary is celebrated all around the world by Carnatic classical music lovers who get together and sing his ‘Pancharathnas’ or 5 gems. He composed thousands of soulful songs on Lord Rama in Telugu and no concert in Carnatic Music is complete today without a few of his compositions.
In this song (Sobillu Saptaswara—), he praises and prays to the 7 shining notes of music which is universal and which originated from the Vedas and is sacred and lives in the minds of the divine beings including him. He says these notes originate from the navel, and go upwards through the heart, throat, to the mouth as a song.
Maharaja Swati Thirunal – (16 April 1813, Travancore, Kerala -27 December 1846,Kerala )
Tirunāḷ Rāma Varma was the Maharaja of the Kingdom of Travancore in Kerala. He is also considered as a brilliant music composer and is credited with over 400 classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani style. He has composed in Sanskrit, Malayalam and Hindi languages. He was a great devotee of Lord Padumanabha.
This song form is called a Thillana (Dheem Thuku Neka–) which is suitable to dance and herein he talks about the ringing sounds of the anklets of the dancer dancing with joy and devotion and the melody of the song that is dedicated to Lord Padumanabha, the most compassionate Lord.
POETS FROM WEST OF INDIA
Santh Namadeva – (26 October 1270 – 3 July 1350)
Namdev, also transliterated as Nam Dayv, Namdeo, Namadeva, traditionally, was an Indian poet and saint from Narsi, Hingoli, Maharashtra India who is significant to the Varkari sect of Hinduism. Namdev worshipped Vithoba, one of the forms of lord Krishna.
This song form is called the Abhang, which is an intense devotional outpouring to the Lord in the Marathi language. In this song (Theertha Vithalla–) he says he sees Vittala (Krishna)in his mother, father, friend, Teacher, pilgrimages and that he has succeeded in finding the Lord just everywhere due to which no harm could ever come to him even in this Age of kali.
Narasinh Mehta – (1414, Talaja, Bhavnagar – 1481, Mangrol, Gujarat)
Narsinh Mehta, also known as Narsi Mehta or Narsi Bhagat, was a 15th-century poet-saint of Gujarat, India, notable as a bhakta, an exponent of Vaishnava poetry. He is especially revered in Gujarati literature, where he is acclaimed as its Adi Kavi.
This song ( Vaishnavato tene kahiyeje —) in the Gujarathi language was dear to the Father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhiji, and talks about a true Vaishnava or a man of God, who knows the pain of others, does good to others, who tolerates and praises the entire world, keeps his promises, rejects greed and avarice, sees everyone equally, respects women as he respects his own mother, never lies though his tongue may tire, does not covet others’ property, renounces lust, anger, greed and does not succumb to worldly attchments…And finally says that he would like to see such a man of God by whose virtue the entire family gets salvation.
POETS FROM NORTH-INDIA
Santh KabirDas- (1398, Varanasi -1518, Maghar)
Kabir Das was a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement and his verses are found in Sikhism’s scripture Guru Granth Sahib. His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu bhakti leader Ramananda.
In this song ( Mokon kahaan —), Kabir talks about the God himself assuring his devotee saying that He is always present within him, and that it is futile to search for him in idols, temples, mosques, pilgrimages, or attain him through fasts, meditations, yoga, renunciations etc. He assures him that an earnest seeker can find him in just a moment of search, as where there is faith, there he can be found.
Tulsidas – (1497 Rajapur – 1623, Assi Ghat, Varanasi)
Tulsidas, also known as Goswami Tulsidas, was a Ramanandi Vaishnava saint and poet, renowned for his devotion to the deity Rama. The impact of Tulsidas and his works on the art, culture and society in India is widespread and is seen to date in vernacular language, Ramlila plays, Hindustani classical music, popular music, and television series.
In this popular song (Sri Ramachandra Krupalu— ), he implores the mind to revere the benign Lord Ram, whose worship removes worldly sorrows, pain, fear, and poverty, and goes on to describe the Lord of unsurpassed beauty who is the form of concentrated bliss, with lotus-like eyes, handsome face shining with the brilliance of the rising sun, the destroyer of demons, and remover of all evil.
POETS FROM EAST OF INDIA
Rabindranath Tagore –(7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941)
Rabindranath Tagore ( Robindronath Thakur) was a Bengali poet, a prolific writer, composer, philosopher and painter. He reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of the “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse” of Gitanjali, His compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: India’s “Jana Gana Mana” and Bangladesh’s “Amar Shonar Bangla”. The Sri Lankan national anthem was inspired by his work. He was the first Indian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.
In this song ( Aguner Poroshmoni— ), he implores God to give a touch of the fiery magical stone to his life, to purify him, clarify, enlighten him, and upload his mortal body with light. He desires to serve as the burning lamp in God’s temple, and radiate light through his songs and says that His presence will remove all the veils of darkness from his eyes and remove all sufferings forever.
The 2nd song ( Oy Bhubhono mono — ), is akin to a hymn in praise of the deity that is a combined form of Mother Durga and our Motherland India and describes the beauty of
India with the lofty mountains and mighty rivers and calls it the land of wisdom and knowledge. It was first sung in 1896 at the 12th Annual Conference of the Indian National Conference.
Jayadeva Ashtapadi: (1170; East India – 1245)
Jayadeva also known as Jaidev, was a Sanskrit poet during the 12th century. He is most known for his epic poem Gita Govinda which concentrates on Krishna’s love with the gopi, Radha in a rite of spring. Jayadeva’s ashtapadis are central to the repertoire of Odissi music, the traditional classical music of the state of Odisha.
In the first song (Natha hare Jagannatha Hare — ), he addresses Lord Krishna, saying he is the only refuge and that Radha is sinking into despair looking for him in all directions, and waiting for his loving embrace. May this song he says awaken abundant jubilation in the hearts of all those who appreciate these sensitive emotions.
In the second song ( Radhika Krishna— ), he describes Radha pining for Krishna, sitting sadly with her palm on her moon-like cheeks, dying of separation from Krishna. He offers this song at the feet of the Lord and says those who listen or sing these songs would be blessed with supreme bliss