Thursday, October 01, 2009

About time, Manna Da!

Belated congratulations to the great Manna Dey! Unassuming and very often looked over because of his more high-profile colleagues - yet no one can beat this man on pure, unadulterated mellifluousness. This, one my favourite Manna Dey songs, amply demonstrates Manna Da’s command over melody. And the composer is another musician who did not get his due - none other than Geeta Dutt's brother, Kanu Roy!


Of all the duets that Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar have sung together - and Raj Kapoor's films notwithstanding - this song from the film “Jyoti” has to be one of the most hauntingly beautiful. I can't decide what is the best - the utterly enchanting, sweet singing by both Lataji and Manna Da, S.D. Burman's exquisite composition or Anand Bakshi's poetry...


Not too many peole know that some of the best "comedy" songs have been sung by ...the great Manna Dey...and with great aplomb! This is a great example – film Bhoot Bangla and who else but Pancham could whip up this effervescent foot-tapper!



Finally, after Lata and Mohd. Rafi, Madan Mohan's most successful collaboration was with Manna Dey. And this fabulous composition from Bawarchi is a fine example. Incidentally, one of the female voice in the "chorus" is Govinda's mother, Nirmala Devi!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Tenth Night – Dusshera!


The Tenth Night – Dusshera!
A 1000 too little.....
This is my last post on Navaratri.
The nine nights are over and today is the triumphant tenth day of the power of the Devi - even Lord Rama vanquished Ravana with the secret weapon that he obtained after invoking Her blessings

When I listen to the Lalitha Sahasranama and try to write about it English, I am struck by limitations of the English language that can never truly translate the vast, expansive, expressive grandeur of Sanskrit.
And perhaps some of the most enthralling parts of the Lalitha Sahasranama are those which describe the incredible beauty of the Devi, so dazzling that in one of stotram, the splendor of her toe nails is described as so radiant that it dispels the darkness of ignorance in the devotees prostrating at Her feet!

kamakshi She is Sagara Mekhala - whose girdle is the sea.
Her nose is like a freshly blossomed champaka bud.
Her lips outshine the redness of fresh coral and bimba fruit.
Her smile is so radiant that it floods the mind of Kamesvara, Her consort.
Her eyes, like the petal of a lotus (Padmanayana) or of a doe (Mrugakshi), are so beautiful that She is Kamakshi, the beautiful eyed One.
Her form is so exquisite (Charurupa) and her smile so charming (Charuhasa), that She is Mohini, the bewitching beauty and Shobana, the radiant beauty.

She is sometimes Raktavarna or rosy complexioned,
Sometimes Shyamabha or of a shining darkness,
Sometimes Shuklavarna or white complexioned,
Sometimes Pitavarna or golden.
In fact her beauty is so awesome that She is Mahatripurasundari.

If She is all this, then what else can She be but omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent?
The Devi herself declares in Devi Bhagavata,
“I myself am the knowledge, grace, courage, memory, sincerity, intelligence, modesty, hunger, thirst, capacity, luster, peace, sleep, aging, blood, bone, marrow, nerve, skin, sight, truth, untruth — and everything else in this Universe, believe me, I am. What is there that I am not?”
When the sage Vyasa was once questioned about the birth of the Devi, he said that when even Brahmavishnumaheswara are not capable of thinking about her origin, then how can he?
Om Sri Devi Ma!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Ninth Night - Why not 10 or 11 0r 8?

Divine Nine
For nine days and nights we have celebrated the triumph of the Goddess over evil.
Why nine, you might ask?
Why not 11 or 8 or any other number for that matter?
Well, maybe because nine is quite a number, it seems!
The “Complete” number
From the vantage point of pure mathematics - and we Indians are somewhat of an authority on the subject - the number 9 is considered to be a complete or “puran” number. Why? Because do anything to this number and it remains unchanged, unaffected, like Devi Herself. Multiply 9 by any number and the answer always totals to 9. Add it to or subtract it from any number, the answer always totals to the number or the sum of the one that you added or subtracted, nine remaining serenely untouched, unmoving.
23 x 9 = 207
74 x 9 = 576
5 + 9 = 14
25 + 9 = 34
87 – 9 = 78
13 – 9 = 4
This concept is explained in the Upanishads.
The primordial, celestial number
A human being spends 9 months in its mother’s womb before it is born. At the rate of 15 breaths a minute, a healthy human being takes an average of 21600 breaths in 24 hours or 9 x 100 breaths in an hour!
The number nine also leaps up and strides across the heavens - in the form of the 9 celestial bodies or the Navagraha. Planets, would you say? Well, I don’t really know because only 6 of the planets in the Western or solar system of astronomy figure in the navagrahas. Also by the Western system, the Sun is a star, and Rahu and Ketu aren’t planets at all. And the earth, Pluto and Neptune don’t figure at all which should leave us serenely unaffected by all the recent teeth-gnashing about that poor lil’ dwarf, Pluto!
Sun (Surya),
Moon (Chandra),
Mars (Mangal/Bhaum),
Mercury (Budha),
Jupiter (Guru/Bruhaspati),
Venus (Shukra)
Saturn (Shani)
Rahu and
Also, the navagrahas aren’t considered just planets, but also divine entities to be both worshipped and appeased. Surya, for example is the son of sage Kasyapa and Aditi, while Shani is Surya’s son. Chandra (the moon) is a Deva who took the 27 (9x3!) stars (Nakshatras and daughters of Daksha) as his wives. Bruhaspati (Jupiter) was the teacher of devas, a mighty scholar whose utterances made it into every branch of Indian philosophy. Budha (Mercury) is considered the son of Chandradeva while Sukra (Venus) is a benign deva so wealthy that all the precious stones are in his possession and Kubera lives by constantly borrowing a quarter of his wealth from Sukra!
The Ecologically Correct Number
The navagraha puja gave rise to the concept of navadhaanya or the 9 sacred seeds or grains offered to each of the 9 grahas. And if we look at them beyond just offerings in a ritual, we see the embodiment of life itself and what the principle of what now an eco-fashionable word – biodiversity. Because these 9 seeds and grains are the perfect balance of cereal (wheat and rice), legume (Bengal gram, green gram, horse gram, black gram and red gram) and nuts/oilseed (sesame) which is the principle behind crop rotation in agriculture, now making a “comeback” among agriculturists as one of the most powerful and enduring ways to enrich and rejuvenate the soil.
The divine number
So, I guess the Devi picked the right number, don’t you think?
And nine has a special significance for the Devi in other ways.
In Bengal, during Durga Puja, a special Devi is made out of 9 plants called nabapatrika. Each plant represents one avatar of the Devi - the banana plant for Goddess Brahmani, the colacassia or arvi plant for Kalika, turmeric for Durga, jayanti denotes Kartiki, bel or bilva (wood apple) for Goddess Shiva, pomegranate for Raktadantika, the ashoka tree for Sokrahita, arum for Chamunda and finally rice for Goddess Lakshmi.
Every one of those plants are nutritionally and/or medicinally potent!
But the ultimate divine significance of this number is in the fact that across all religions, the name of God is invoked in multiples of 9. The japamala or prayer beads used by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists has 108 beads. (The Buddhists believe that the 108 beads represent the number of mental conditions or sinful desires that one must overcome to reach enlightenment or nirvana.) The Quran list 99 names of Allah and so the Muslim prayer beads known as the tasbeeh usually has sets of 99 counting beads for each of the names and one elongated terminal bead. The Jains chant the panchanamaskara in multiples of 9. And in Christianity, the word “novena” itself is from the Latin word “novem” or 9 and so this prayer is chanted in sets of 9 – 9 consecutive hours, days, even weeks or months.
The number of life
Finally, let us come a full circle – literally - and rest where we began. With mathematics. Or with the meaning of life itself, depending on how you want to look at it. We talk about the circle of life. The zero as well as the wheel is a circle, without which much of what we call civilization or progress, would not have happened or existed. All the planets including the sun, moon and the one that we live on are, when viewed in one dimension - a circle. And the circle is the ultimate symbol of infinity – that which has no beginning and no end. So then consider this – in geometry, the number of degrees that make up a circle are 360.
Or 9 x 40!
Source material: Puranic Encyclopedia by Vettam Mani

The Eight Night - A Raga and a Rain Song

Naturally, no discussion on the Goddess Saraswati can be complete with music
And her presence in the glorious, infinite ocean of Indian music is all pervading.
Indian classical music and bhakti have always been the weft and warp of the same fabric and not just Hinduism
It is said that the azan or the call for prayer sounded by the muezzin sounded very similar to raga Ahir-Bhairav
The Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib is divided into 32 chapters where each chapter has the name of a Raga.
And the first Raga is Raga Sri
Sri - The Devi’s most beautiful name that fits into it the entire universe and more it.
All names of the Devi and all names of ragas.
And almost like a musical Sahasranama, the ragas named after her have lent their magic to countless evergreen Hindi film songs.
Here are a few
Raga Bageshree
Radha na bole na bole re. AZAD , Lata Mangeshkar/ C. Ramchandra 1955
Chah barbad karegi – SHAH JAHAN K L Saigal/ Naushad 1946
Aja re, paradesi – MADHUMATI Lata Mangeshkar/Salil Chowdhury 1958
Ghadi Ghadi mera dil dhadke - MADHUMATI Lata Mangeshkar/Salil Chowdhury 1958
Hamse aya na gaya - DEKH KABIRA ROYA Talat mahmood?Madan Mohan 1957
Raga Madhuvanti/Ambika
Rasm-e-ulfat ko nibhaye DIL KI RAHEN Lata Mangeshkar /Madan Mohan (1973)
Raga Durga
Geet gaya patharon ne - GEET GAYA PATHARON NE Lata/Ramlal 1964
Raga Kalavati
Hai re woh din kyun na aye - ANURADHA Lata/ Pt. Ravi Shanker 1960
Kahe tarasae jiyara - CHITRALEKH Lata/Roshan 1964
Koi sagar dilko bahalata nahin – DIL DIYA DARD LIYA Naushad/Rafi1966
Na toh caravan ki alash hai –BARSAAT KI RAAT Roshan/ Rafi, Manna Dey,Asha Bhosale/Sudha Malhotra/Batish 1960
And of course, Raga Bhairavi.
The raga that gave birth to the glorious musical collaboration of Raj Kapoor with Shankar – Jaikishen in the film Barsaat in 1949. It also made the till then unknown Lata Mangeshkar into a household name with the song "Barsaat mein humse mile tum."
Awaara hoon from Awaara (1951).
Mera joota hai japani, Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua and Ramaiyya vastavaiyya from Shri 420 (1955),
Mera Naam Raju and Hoton Pe Sachhayi Rahati Hai from Jis Desh Me Ganga Baheti Hai (1960).
Bol Radha Bol Sangam Hoga Ke Nahin and Dost Dost Na Raha from Sangam (1964)
All based on raga Bhairavi
The list of Bhairavi based Hindi film songs is a Sahasranama itself. Accomodating – like the Devi – every kind of music director, every kind of film, every nuance of emotion, every shade of mood. Everything from Ai Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal from Daag (1952), one of Talat Mahmood's greatest hits to April Fool Banaaya (April Fool (1964)
Saraswati, most popular as the Goddess of learning and the arts, actually represents much more.
moral and spiritual strength,
And as the river Saraswati, she represents the flow and movement from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge.
Source;- Wikipedia and