Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Fourth Night – A Poet, A Goddess and A Pot of Buttermilk

Today is the first of the three nights of Navaratri dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi


As MahaVishnu lay resting on a fig leaf in the form of a child, he began thinking as to who he was, who created him and how he should act, when a celestial voice said:
Nanyadasti santanam.”
(All that is, I am. There is nothing eternal but me.)
It was the voice of the Devi.
Consort of Lord Vishnu and considered The Devi’s most sublime form. Because we mostly propitiate for wealth and good fortune, not many of us remember that She is also considered the seat of compassion, peace and all things good and beautiful….
And I am reminded of buttermilk and a man called Puranadaradasa…
A few months ago, a folk singer landed up at my gate, as they often so. A young man with skin like dark chocolate and large, liquid eyes to match, he wore just a saffron dhoti and shallu. The tiny harmonium slung around his neck was so old and beat up that it was difficult to make out some of the black keys from the white. But when he began to play and sing, it was pure, divine magic. His fingers flew across those cracked keys, coaxing out the notes of Raga Tilang. His voice was like graveled, melted jaggery. And the song? A Purandaradasa devaranama. I listened enthralled, at one point moved to tears. And marveled at a man called Puranadaradasa who, nearly 5 centuries ago, with his pitara of magical songs must have roamed the land, touching the hearts of people just as this young singer touched mine – with the very same songs. Five centuries later. his compositions like his bhakti are like little pools of crystal clear water, uncluttered by affectation and needless ornamentation.
Even though he is called the “Pitamaha” of Carnatic music, Puranadaradasa was essentially the people’s poet. His compositions like his bhakti are like little pools of crystal clear water, uncluttered by affectation and needless ornamentation. You dip in and come out refreshed. And the language is simple and homespun but delicious, making the compositions go down like a glass of cool, spicy buttermilk on a hot summer afternoon.

So, of Purandaradasa’s many, many compositions - an astounding 4,75,000 compositions at last count – his sweetest, most beautiful and the one dearest to the hearts of us Kannadigas is the one he composed to the Goddess Lakhsmi. For 500 years it has been sung in a million different ways, spanning the entire musical gamut from Carnatic to folk, but however you sing it, the simple magic of the words never lessens as he begs for a visitation by the Goddess Lakhshmi……
“Sowbhayda Lakshmi baaramma
Namamma Ni….
Gejjekaalgala dhwaniya torutha
Hejje mele hejjeya nikkuta
Sajjana sadhu poojeya velege
Majjige volagina benne yante
Bhagyalakshmi baramma”
“O Goddess of Good Fortune, come
O Our Mother, come…
To the sound the anklets on Your feet
As You walk
As the good people get ready to pray
As butter emerges from buttermilk
O Lakhshmi of Good Fortune, O Mother

She is Bhagavati, the supreme goddess.
Bhuvaneshvari, the sovereign of the universe. Maha-Shakti - the Greatest Power, Mahabala - the Greatest Strength
Mahavirya – the greatest valour.
Mahabuddhih - the Greatest Intelligence,
Mahasiddih - the Greatest Fulfillment.
Maharatih – the Greatest Bliss,
Maharupa –the most magnificent form.
Maha-Pujya – the most worthy of worship, even by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

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