Discussion on Secular Themes in CM

Miscellaneous topics on Carnatic music

#26  Postby arasi » 04 Feb 2008 13:51

Vidya,
As a woman, I am with you when it comes to our being treated as inferiors by some. However, I would rather think of men and women as humans and hope for equality and dignity among us--not particularly on the basis of gender. Just as it is among the gods, we men and women have our own powers (capabilities?) and responsibilities. We do know that. It is not recognizing and acknowledging these assets that create problems.
There is no issue here about music born out of bhakti. I think it is about secular compositions which would add to the glory of CM. Yes, and we are looking for quality...
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#27  Postby arasi » 04 Feb 2008 14:06

cienu,
Well said. There are shades and chasms of differences among bhaktAs!
As for SR, he can be a bit 'industrial stength' when it comes to his convictions!
SR, hope I didn't ruffle your feathers :)
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#28  Postby vgvindan » 04 Feb 2008 14:59

..the substratum on which this whole affair of prEma bhakti rests That the Lord is supreme male and limitless and the devotees are limited and female.This seems unacceptable and unrelateable to a lot of us.

Vidya,
I understand your viewpoint. This topic had earlier come up. I took the example of Meera. Like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who advised his disciples to desist from -kAmini - kAncan, assume that Meera had disciples - female; what would she have advised her female disciples - something like this - desist from kAma - kAncan.

The concept of male and female is not to be too strictly interpreted when it comes to Supreme Lord. Ramakrishna Pramahamsa was worshipper of Mother Kali. When he said his disciples to desist from kAmini, does he not know that every woman is the form of Mother Kali? The reference is more to the attraction inherent in both genders. I would request you to read what Mother Sarada Devi - wife of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa advised her female disciples.

The concept of inseparability of Siva and Sakti - or whatever name you may call it - should not be thought of strictly in terms of Siva as 'male' and Sakti as 'female'.

When Krishna tells in Gita that 'aham bIjaH pradaH pita', it refers not to the act of impregnation per se, but refers to a condition where this egg-chicken controversy should stop. We should not lose the sight of the fact that every new born baby - male and female - have the complete set of sperms and eggs and only maturation and facilitation are the two jobs which we can boast of as parents - these two are not really conscious acts - more by nature and instinct.

In Tamil - the bliss of sexual union is called siRRinbam and the bliss of union with Paramatma is termed as pErinbam. 'inbam' is the common denominator in both. In one case it is egocentric and in the other egomerging - here there is no concept of male or female. We - both males and females - should get over the ghost of gender identity haunting us.

Therefore, male-female angle to supreme bhakti - anurAga bhakti - is - IMHO - serves more of a simile. This is more due to historic and societal nature where man played an active role and woman a more passive role as 'saha dharmiNi'. Therefore, there is more literature catering to needs of men.

In bRhadAraNyaka upanishad, (III.vi), it is a woman by name gargi - daughter of vacakanu - who asks final question to yAjnavalkya before the matter is settled that yAjnavalkya is the true knower of brahman.

After that period of upanishads, where women also knew and interpreted Vedas and upanishads, things seems to have changed dramatically diluting the role of women. What happened, who knows?
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#29  Postby vgvindan » 04 Feb 2008 15:24

At a higher level, one cannot rule out the possibility that he had that as one of his goals, if not his main objective. Whatever arguments you put forth, it just cannot be proven. It is something you have to accept on faith.

bala,
Thyagaraja has led a life of privation, the severity of which we cannot imagine. A person with a family to look after, simply refusing to earn a living - even when the invitation comes at his door step - and being always immersed in bhakti, would, in today's parlance, be termed as a mad act and he would be hounded out by the society. These, I have not taken from any biography of Thyagaraja. Thyagaraja Kritis are all auto-biographical in nature. You can glean all the facts from his Kritis - you do not need any biographer.

There is an episode in the life of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa; one night he was writhing in pain. People did not know what the problem was. Then when people searched his bed, they found a coin; once that was removed, he could sleep well. He was such allergic to money. Can you and I imagine such a situation?

I am not speaking with any authority in regard to Thyagaraja; kindly go over all his kritis - don't go by the stories of miracles of 'opening of curtain at Tirupathi' and 'stopping of Lord Ranganatha's procession at Sri Rangam'. Take a totally rational look at his kritis. Then you will realise whether he had played any social role - even for spreading bhakti. There seems to be no conscious effort on his part for such an endeavour. He surely mentions of bhagavatas singing his keerthanas - but that is more of a statement of fact, rather than deliberate attempt to coax people into bhakti.

Yesterday I posted a quote of Vivekananda of mad love - if we need examples - one is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and other other is Thyagaraja. I would not include Dikshitar in that category because he led more or less a normal life - his bhakti is more internalised; he seemed to have followed the concept of 'yadRcchA lAbha santushTO' - being 'content with what comes without effort' - because sannyAsa is more mental than physical appearance etc.

Endowed with bundle of prides and prejudices as we are, it is very difficult for us to evaluate Thyagaraja. I do not want you to go by what I say. Go over all by yourself and find out the truth.

If only we could sort Thyagaraja's kritis chronologically, we can write his biography and know how he actually evolved.
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#30  Postby sbala » 04 Feb 2008 17:19

Vgv Sir,
Thank you for the excellent inputs.
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#31  Postby vgvindan » 04 Feb 2008 18:35

Herewith a Thyagaraja Kriti in Malavasri Raga. I do not think I have ever heard this kriti.

ennALLu tirigEdi ennALLu

enna rAni dEhamuletti I saMsAra gahanamandu
pannuga cOrula rIti parulanu vEgincucunu (ennALLu)

1. rEpaTi kUTiki lEdani rEyi pagalu vesanamondi
SrI pati pUjalu maraci cEsinaTTi vArivale nEn(ennALLu)

2. uppu karpUra varakunu unchavRtticE Arjinci
meppulaku poTTa nimpi mEmE peddalamanucu (ennALLu)

3. bhramanukoni irugu porugu bhakSimpa rammani pilva
amarucukO pUja japamunu AsAyamu cEtunanucu (ennALLu)

4. nAyanduNDE tappulu nADE telusukoNTi kAni
bAya viDuvaka
mahAnubhAva tyAgarAja vinuta (ennALLu)

O The Great One! O Lord praised by this tyAgarAja!

How long shall I wander? How long?

Having taken countless bodies, in this forest of Worldly Existence, how long shall I wander nicely by harassing others like thieves?

Becoming worried day and night that there is nothing for tomorrow’s food, having forgotten the worship of the Lord vishNu, how long shall I wander like those who perform (worship daily)?

Having earned through uncavRtti even salt and camphor, and filling the stomach, how long shall I wander seeking fame telling that I am alone a great person?

In order to make the neighbours stunned and invite me to come for partaking food, how long shall I wander telling them that I properly (or patiently) perform worship and chanting till evening?

Though I have understood faults existing in me long back, how long shall I wander without abandoning them?

How much more can a mean demean himself? Is this a kriti which one would compose as 'composer' in the sense we understand today?

I understand there are parallels where other devotees used such a bhAva - Atma garhaNa. But since we are discussing music, I thought it worthwhile that we realise fully what we are talking about.
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#32  Postby knandago2001 » 04 Feb 2008 19:10

An atheist / materialist states that “Religious art offers something hard to find in secular art: a fragile but somehow limitless hope, poised against all evidence to the contrary, a consoling promise, a reaching towards an ultimate peaceâ€
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#33  Postby Sangeet Rasik » 04 Feb 2008 21:41

VGV,

I am replying to your points in a separate post since I think they are somewhat different from the main thread topic - please don't take offense, your viewpoint is important.

Dear All,

Here is my summary reply to all your well-considered comments.

1. Arasi, thanks for the comments. I am not sure I am deserving of such praise. But I am certainly a believer in expanding the scope of CM. This is not an exclusivst or revisionist viewpoint, it is an expansionist one. No, my feathers are not at all ruffled :-)

2. Coolkarni, your point is very well taken. "Bhakti" is a very personal thing at its root. Secular contributions can be claimed to be as "divinely inspired" as religious ones. In Indian history, even persons making secular contributions almost always pay obeisance to "divine inspiration". As I will discuss with VGV, divine inspiration need not only lead to religious expression. Thus, there is a logical flaw in the reasoning of those who believe that secular themes are less worthy than religious ones. What if the same Rama is inspiring secular themes today ? Should every composer wear "bhakti" on his/her sleeve to gain respectability ? Should we presume to judge divine inspiration ? Therefore, the main measure is quality as measured by the standards laid down through the ages by musicologists. Religious compositions are not stipulated, nor even specially encouraged over secular themes, by any well-regarded Indian musicologist through the ages. Of course, correcting perceived imbalance at different times in history is a different thing, as both Tyagaraja and VD Paluskar did.

3. I agree that I may have been presenting secular themes as "a bitter pill" to be swallowed in order to prevent CM from withering and dying. This can be argued, but from a practical point of view I agree with VK, the "sweet pill" approach may be better, i.e. the opportunity to expand the scope of the art form is a pretty strong argument on its own. One can't resist throwing in the occasional "bogeyman", though. :P

4. Let me clarify that I am not suggesting we "displace" religious themes. When I said that the younger generation is "growing restless", I did not mean that there is no patience with religious themes. It is when (in a concert) item #1 is praising Rama, item #2 is praising Krishna, item #3 and #4 is again praising Rama, item #5 is praising Padmanabha (godhead of Rama and Krishna)....and so on, and repeated in each and every concert in the music season, that things start becoming pretty monotonous to an increasingly large section of the listeners. This is just for illustration. As I said, there is so much more in Indian civilization that can be easily merged with CM and will lead to much more rounded and satisfying experience to the rasik.

SR
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#34  Postby Sangeet Rasik » 05 Feb 2008 00:04

VGV,

Firstly, I realize that (except for point #1 below) this post is a deviation from the main topic of the thread, i.e. the role of secular themes in future CM.

Regarding the Tyagaraja-specific discussion, there should be no impression that I am "debunking" him in any way. There are four main points I am making:

1)That secular themes can coexist peacefully in CM with Tyagaraja's compositions (and those of any other known bhakta-vaggeyakara of any shade). If you have disagreement on that, then please feel free to discuss further in the thread.

2) Wiithin the "bhakta-vaggeyakara" fold, your thesis is that Tyagaraja is a different breed from others. While there is no doubt that the bhakti of Tyagaraja was different from Dikshitar or Swati or Shastri, each having their own unique characteristics, it is not up to us to judge the "quality" of bhakti of composers as it pertains to their contribution towards a publicly performed art form. Bhakti is a deeply personal thing. One cannot argue that God blessed one more than he did the other vaggeyakara, or for that matter anyone.

3) Using one's religious devotion and artistic talent to intentionally promote both religion and art, is by no means an ulterior motive, nor does it lower one's spiritual quality in any way. In Advaita Vedanta philosophy, Sankaracharya is upheld as a philosopher who (no doubt by divine force) made a conscious decision to make an all-India tour to debunk and defeat the Vedic ritualists as well as the heretics. He is rarely made out to be a person who did these things "automatically" propelled by constant "divine remote control". What is important is the unselfish motive - "nishkAma karma". Let us remember that if God "automatically" propels chosen ones to act through "remote control" then the value of the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita become irrelevant. Both are exhortations to act righteously - the Vedas exhort us to perform yajna, the Bhagavd Gita exhorts us to perform "nishkAma karma". This discussion could take us deep into Indian philosophical darshanas, but suffice it to say that for e.g. in Advaita Vedanta the "individual" Atman is conscious and carries the responsibility of merging with the Brahman.

Neither Tyagaraja nor Sankara had any personal fame or fortune in mind, but to say that they had no conscious motivation to reform the system and were just behaving "automatically" through divine control, becomes the realm of speculation and non-verifiability. What can be appreciated however, is the effect of their actions on the upliftment of society through art, science, public service, philosophy, religion, or whatever other area.

4) You mentioned a study of Tyagaraja's kritis will reveal that he had no musicological motivations. I will suggest we do a little analysis of the kriti "sogasuga mrdangatalamu". Please start a separate thread on this if you like, or if you think this is suitable for the present thread, please continue here. I will post my comments on this later. Got to run now !

SR
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#35  Postby arunk » 05 Feb 2008 01:08

Very interesting discussion - and all viewpoints have been presented quite cogently!

Although counterpoints for many of the points put here arise in my mind, I find them too jumbled up in my mind to put them forth in any cogent way - too much cross-currents within me :). So at this point, I will just be a spectator

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#36  Postby hsuvarna » 05 Feb 2008 04:31

Sangit Rasik,
I have not read all the posts but looked into a few. I am trying to understand what exactly is "secular CM". One point you said, item#1 is rama, item#2 is devi, item#3 is murugan etc. So it is boring god after god.... So what are the alternatives? item#1 is one god, item#2 is patriotic, item#3 is other religion (secular), item#4 ??? etc? Is this an example of secular CM?

Any serious music, is very much tied with bhava and feelings inside. You don't care whether it is SSI, MSS or Voleti or Mali. It must come out of the inner side. Now, can a singer rather human being be tied with multiple subjects so much inside that he can deliver the best music using the multiple facets of world? It is the inside which gives best music, how can you turn to outside world (secular areas) to give best music.

The Rama, Krishna, Guru, Devi are so much part of inside that, a real good singer, is presenting quality music. If you don't have that inner side, it becomes like movie music. The other aspects (action by hero/heroine, emotions surrounding the film song etc) act, mix and deliver the effect. How can the CM singer sitting alone can give you that?

The CM songs like Javalis, Padams are kind of different songs in CM compared to T/MD/SS kritis. But these types of songs never picked up. Why?

As per the commercialization of CM, secularity of CM. The huge number of south indian film songs, do use CM as a base. KV Mahadevan, Illayaraja, S Rajeshwar Rao, Pendyala, all of them had sound CM background. They used it in thousands of songs. Why CM is a failure? It had to operate only in 4 states, hence you don't see the popularity of HM. Unlike HM, CM evolved from kaveri banks, where in the secular guys did not interfere to corrupt it.
It stayed that way. You cannot make kids or new generation sit in a CM concert or film songs concert or ghazal consert, unless they have some exposure to them.

Yes, some change is required by CM singers. They must be interfering with people, rasikas more. In the concert they must talk a little bit. They can praise a film music director for using raga ahir bahirav, explain that, and connect with listeners. Once a listener knows that it is ahir bhairav, he would delve more into the raga, more interest and more time spent. The CM singer must present an item mixing swars into a ragam and explain how he beautified for ex, add ma into mohanam and show it how it sounds.

More later..
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#37  Postby hsuvarna » 05 Feb 2008 04:32

Also sangit Rasik, you said you practice what yoiu preach and you have some sanskrit compositions. Is there a way for us to hear/read the composition? This way I can understand more of your points....
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#38  Postby vasanthakokilam » 05 Feb 2008 06:27

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#39  Postby arasi » 05 Feb 2008 10:16

hsuvarna,
You raise some interesting points.
Music is music and it is heard in the outpourings of great composers, in chantings, a mother's lullaby, in the voices of folks working in the fields, in instruments of all kinds--and the list is endless.
Then there is music which is performed--in concerts, movies and so on. We discuss both the creation and the performance of it on the forum. Our concern here is the wellbeing and growth of CM. The preserving of old treasures and observing the way music expresses itself as an art form on the stage.
Secular music is part of it all. You can either sing a lullaby with the name of a god woven into it or just of a human child. You can sing in the fields giving thanks to a god for a good harvest or just about your work or the people working in it. Nature comes into it too.
So, to view it as if it can be a drag to hear song after song about one god or other is not the point. It is the inclusion of songs philosophical, nature oriented and those which are worthy of being included.
We already have Santi nilava vENDum taking the place of a mangaLam in some concerts. vAzhia Sentamizh in others. It wouds be nice if someone takes up bhUlOka kumAri as a finale (singing the four lines of a mangaLam too, if they wish). Bharati is a treasure house of both kinds of songs. I wonder why kaNNan (kaNNammA) songs alone need to be fodder for singers. Sowmya, Sanjay and few others seem to sing his other songs as well. Even those who do not understand tamizh, by the very bhAvA packed in them would enjoy hearing them. If they like to hear kuRai onRum illai, surely, bhArati's songs would be appreciated
too. ..
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#40  Postby sbala » 05 Feb 2008 11:38

If we are talking about such secular songs for tukkada items, I don't really see a point. Yes, it might attract more people. But, attracting more people is not the only sign of growth. That is happening already in our concerts to a certain extent. What I was under the impression was we are looking at grand compositions that can be taken up for main and submain. That to me constitutes real acceptance of secular themes. Overall, I'm not a big fan of the current concert format itself that tries to satisfy everyone. The process of unfolding an alaap in Hindustani slowly and steadily is a thing of beauty. At times, it all seems rushed in CM. I would much rather have 2-3 songs explored in lot of detail than 10 songs covering 4 gods, 2 secular themes, 5 thalas and 15 ragas. But that is a subject of another discussion. A great professor was said to have introduced the student to one deep idea in every lecture and there was palpable excitement to hear the next beautiful idea before every lecture. I wish we get that sometimes in CM. The DKP tribute by Vijay Siva had that kind of aura to it.
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#41  Postby rajumds » 05 Feb 2008 16:19

A fascinating discussion

I have a few points.

1. It is true that predominance of bhakthi / religion puts a mental barrier on the uninitiated from listening to CM but the irony is many of the rasikas listen to CM for the musical part rather than for the religious part.

2. Many rasikas ( & musicians :| ) don’t understand the meaning of the krirtis and hence the lyrical content is lost. And most of the performers don’t bring out the bhavam of the song and all you are left with is music .

3. Till about 100 years back CM concerts were mainly RTP based which would not have had bakthi or bhavam.(to the extend of Trinity's kritis)

4. CM and bhakthi are two different entities. It so happened that CM was used by Trinity as medium. What would have happened if they had chosen to be poets rather than vaggeyakaras.

5. The musical value of the Trinity is so great and the fact that we have not had any non religious vagggeyakars of merit has resulted in CM and bhakthi becoming synonymous (if I can use the word)

6. While CM is not the only way to express bhakthi , why should bhakthi be the only path for CM
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#42  Postby nathikan » 05 Feb 2008 16:20

Sangeet Rasik wrote:[
I do wonder about Sanskrit's supposed appeal to the intelligensia -- the same people who would be attracted by secular compositions to Carnatic music would be dissuaded by Sanskrit, I think.)

Yes, Sanskrit compositions will always be more palatable to a smaller niche, than say, compositions in Hindi. But there is a balance. The Sanskrit-lovers may also tend to be the more "intellectual" or "influential" folks who may have a role to play in influencing tastes of others. Also, others will be more likely to listen to Sanskrit kritis if it is decoupled from the "bhakti" aspect - one "turn-off" has always been the association of Sanskrit solely with liturgy and devotion

i find it hard to imagine someone who is a) a sanskrit-lover and b) has no particular previous interest in carnatic music but is attracted to it by secular themes. (and i should add that i know many people who are turned off by carnatic music because of the religiosity.)

on the other hand, i can imagine someone who is a thamizh lover whose interest is carnatic music is piqued by secular themes... i have noticed a few settings of sangam poetry in concerts, primarily in bn. a carnatic vocalist was telling me that research into pann has recovered non-religious songs which her guru is trying to add to the repertoire.
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#43  Postby vidya » 05 Feb 2008 19:03

Sangeet Rasik wrote:In the sense that:

1) the majority of the subcontinent subscribes to Hindustani music, which has a strong secular base.
2) there is nothing in any foundational texts of Indian music (whether dating from the pre-bifurcation period of CM/HM or after) SR

1.Post Natya shastra I have not seen a reference to secular music per se. Even in the nAtyashastra there is a strong devotional base.
2.There was only a distinction between mArga and dEsi music and even that mArga serves to distinguish vEdic,repetetive ritual music from
other kinds of music which was mostly devotional. As far as I have understood Indian musical texts never contained
any references to non-secularity of music per se.
3.Whatever secular music that existed were provincial - The Tamils probably had a lot of secular music and dance as evidenced
by the Sangam literature and CilappatikAram.By the time of CilappatikAram religious themes were always there.
4.By 1-8th centuries there was a change and devotional music took over the South, North and elsewhere. This was also a time when the so-called larger
traditions took over the smaller regional traditions.
5.A few centuries later the influence of Islamic music happened in the North and the dhruvapada music (largely devotional)
co-existed with the other romantic lyrics (again a narrow theme but the only difference was this was not 'devotional')
Only in the works of Amir Khusro do I find the so-called secular themes. All the rest of the BrajbhAsha and other
lyrics largely deal with pining nAyika/nAyakas, the kRishna lore and a lot of bhakti literature.
6.The reason was not because of a need for secularity but for the sake of two religions to co-exist in their artforms.
7.However the stress on improvisation and rise in popularity of khyAl and the confluence of cultures meant that lyrics took a backseat
to music and today's hindustani music largely consists of garbled lyrics, some meaningful lyrics dealing with more or less
the same themes it inherited. Would I call it secular? I am not so sure atleast in the HM I have heard.
8.Carnatic lyrics have I think covered a larger base say some the jAvalis or Balamurali's composition on Russia or Bharathiyar's composition ViDuthalai viDuthalai or oLipaDaitha kaNNinAy.
But as pointed out by someone all other lyrics got relegated to the tukkaDa level because a lot of the composers were not gEyakArAs per se or faced resistance.
9.Finally in today's context secular lyrics do not mean a broadened outlook or even creativity. Most of the lyrics I saw posted on this
forum substituted Abdul Kalam for a deity. It is no way different from say Subbarama Dikshitar's gAravamu on the rAmnAd sethupati etc.
ie a modernised Narastuti in lieu of a king or God.
10.I am not saying this as a criticism but now and then when I attempt to write poetry I find Tamil even in the metered variety offers me a lot more scope (again it is largely in my mind)
I do find it challenging to write thematic lyric in Sanskrt. ie I can easily write a few lines praising say someone like Mahashweta DEvi but to write something descriptive, thematic
seems challenging difficult. May be you can give us a few examples of your compositions that deal with ideas and those that are not about people or Gods?
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#44  Postby vidya » 05 Feb 2008 19:09

vgvindan wrote:Vidya,

The concept of inseparability of Siva and Sakti - or whatever name you may call it - should not be thought of strictly in terms of Siva as 'male' and Sakti as 'female'.

Therefore, male-female angle to supreme bhakti - anurAga bhakti - is - IMHO - serves more of a simile. This is more due to historic and societal nature where man played an active role and woman a more passive role as 'saha dharmiNi'. Therefore, there is more literature catering to needs of men.

In bRhadAraNyaka upanishad, (III.vi), it is a woman by name gargi - daughter of vacakanu - who asks final question to yAjnavalkya before the matter is settled that yAjnavalkya is the true knower of brahman.

After that period of upanishads, where women also knew and interpreted Vedas and upanishads, things seems to have changed dramatically diluting the role of women. What happened, who knows?

Take for instance the same BrhadAraNyaka upanishad. It says in the original text
'A father aspires for a daughter who is a paNDita'. Given the gArgi vAcaknavi episode and her debate with Yagnavalkya one would think it makes a lot of sense.But then take Sankara's
commentary of those lines. He spefically interprets these lines as follows 'In this case it actually means someone who is adept in the duties of the household'.
So my take is that the bhakti movement had high ideals in philosophy but shied away from sociological issues and resistant to change.

Again the problem with prEma bhakti also is not just the philosophical explanation that male actually is just a mere symbolic word. The associated sociological issue that arises here is this. A goddess is a pati vrta and hence a male devotee is not allowed to show this prEma bhakti whereas Gods are free to move around.It is this pretext and subtext that
many of us cannot agree. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa seems to have been an exception to this.

So I am not seeing a non-existent problem when I made reference to the gender-specific lyrics in the nAyaka-nAyaki bhAva. Of course it is even worse in classical dance where they struggle with relating to the classical idiom. About 30% of the Carnatic lyrics I do not relate and I switch my mind off and listen for the music , yes even in some compositions of Tyagaraja,Annamayya,Kshetrayya etc.Someone who listens for the first time to such lyrics might move away from the art form itself.So I said irrespective of the kind of music
a broadened outlook would be a better approach.
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#45  Postby arasi » 05 Feb 2008 19:52

sbala,
My examples happened to fall in the tukkaDA category! Yes, take for instance bhArati's ettanai kODi inbam vaittAi nI!--It does not mention a god from the hindu pantheon but addresses iRAivan (God), goes on to marvel at Nature. Here, there is no kOdanDam carrying RAmA or spear carrying murugan.
It is a song of such quality, written by a great poet. We sang it in dhanyAsi as children and how it would make a perfect main or sub-main in a concert!
You don't have to look elsewhere for a mix of religious and non-religious content for a concert. Bharati provides them all. From kritis to viruttams, he has got it. In the same way, telugu, kannaDA and malayALam kavis would be great sources. Keep the trinity very much in a concert, but include those untapped verses and songs, I would say.
When we started every day with a prayer in Lady Wellington School, we sang Vedanayakam Pillai 's krutis which addressed God (of no particular denomination). Suddhananda Bharati's songs are not heard that much these days. MSS popularized his aruL purivAi karuNAik kaDalE!, again a non-denominational hymn. Such a suitable song for invocation and you heard it everywhere then!

Vidya,
All songs about heroic persons are not nara stutis to me. A vAzhga nI emmAn vaiytattu nATTilellAm or the numerous odes that bharati penned about heroes of India and elsewhere are not nara stutis.Tagore's poetry will make good songs too.
As for me, my engu pArttAlum un innuruvE kANum inbam enakkaruLvAyO? is a non-denominational song which you can find in the vaggeyakara's section. I remember krishnaa seeing krishnA's qualities in it though it wasn't intended that way. I think that any song which allows a rasikA to see God in his own image is fine by me.Such a song would bring to the CM fold those who like CM but are hesitant to come to it because of their idea that it deals with hindu gods or that it is more brahmin oriented...
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#46  Postby Sangeet Rasik » 05 Feb 2008 21:27

Vidya,

Thanks for splitting your response point-wise. Makes it easier to discuss. My response:

vidya wrote:1.Post Natya shastra I have not seen a reference to secular music per se. Even in the nAtyashastra there is a strong devotional base.
2.There was only a distinction between mArga and dEsi music and even that mArga serves to distinguish vEdic,repetetive ritual music from
other kinds of music which was mostly devotional. As far as I have understood Indian musical texts never contained
any references to non-secularity of music per se.

No, I don't believe this is the case. While clearly no ancient musicologist (that we know of) said that music must be secular in theme (note the disctinction between "theme" and "subject" - I will discuss this below), nobody said that Indian classical music is suited only to religious themes. That was the point. Regarding our secularity, I was speaking of the current situation in Hindustani music.

Desi music has been defined by Matanga (in Brhaddesi) as arising from regions/provinces. What is significant about the brhaddesi is that it treats this "Desi music" as the source of what we now call "classical music". It is a common misconception that "marga" music is fundamentally distinguished from "desi" music by Matanga. He only discusses one (not two) kinds of music, i.e. "Desi music" which he splits into two "margas" (paths) - the "nibaddha" (highly structured) and "anibaddha" (loosely structured). The "nibaddha" form, which is defined as containing "alapa" is again dubbed as "marga sangita" , whereas the "anibaddha' form (defined as devoid of "alapa") is dubbed as "desi". This odd nomenclature is probably the origin of the popular misconception - what is significant is its treatment.

7.However the stress on improvisation and rise in popularity of khyAl and the confluence of cultures meant that lyrics took a backseat to music and today's hindustani music largely consists of garbled lyrics, some meaningful lyrics dealing with more or less the same themes it inherited. Would I call it secular? I am not so sure atleast in the HM I have heard.

I guess it is a question of definition. I agree HM content is essentially what it has inherited. As such, it is about as secular as it can be considering its past. What I am saying is: the present and future are very different from the past, thus we have no obligation nor restriction to stick to the same themes. Furthermore, a lot of the "resistance" to new themes comes from the impression/mental block that somehow our classical music was defined in religious terms and thus cannot be enjoyed fully with secular themes. There is nothing in Indian musicology that supports this view.

9.Finally in today's context secular lyrics do not mean a broadened outlook or even creativity. Most of the lyrics I saw posted on this forum substituted Abdul Kalam for a deity. It is no way different from say Subbarama Dikshitar's gAravamu on the rAmnAd sethupati etc.
ie a modernised Narastuti in lieu of a king or God. May be you can give us a few examples of your compositions that deal with ideas and those that are not about people or Gods?

In my opinion this is most important part of your post, and worthy of a separate reply (please see below).

Best Wishes,
SR
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#47  Postby Sangeet Rasik » 05 Feb 2008 22:11

Vidya (and other rasiks reading this),

9.Finally in today's context secular lyrics do not mean a broadened outlook or even creativity. Most of the lyrics I saw posted on this forum substituted Abdul Kalam for a deity. It is no way different from say Subbarama Dikshitar's gAravamu on the rAmnAd sethupati etc.
ie a modernised Narastuti in lieu of a king or God. May be you can give us a few examples of your compositions that deal with ideas and those that are not about people or Gods?

My belief is that by using "secular lyrics" one can express profoundly broadened outlook and creativity that is "in sync" with what is around us today rather than only what was around us in the 18th century.

I must immediately debunk the idea that my compositions are narastutis substituting men for Gods. Almost all the compositions posted are about ideas, the people/personalities are merely the carriers. This is exactly the same approach as taken in the "bhakti-oriented" compositions. This is part and parcel of the Indian tradition, which I would like to preserve in many ways. We care about Rama and Krishna not as idols (as some Westerners believe) but as carriers of spiritual ideas. It is their stories and the spiritual underpinning of those stories that kindles bhakti. All the other decorations in CM compositions (e.g., description of physical characteristics, etc) only reinforce ideas and are also useful.

Please note I am not against praising Rama and Krishna per se, it is the underlying themes that I feel have become repetitive and narrow especially considering the vast variety of excellent themes that are available now.

For example, my composition on Chinmayananda is really about upanishadic ideas (which are entirely philosophical, not "religious"). I am not interested in the minute details of Chinmayananda's life. But I am also not interested in writing descriptive compositions about ideas alone - that has little appeal to me in the context of CM. It can be done through other forms of expression.

But the lyrics of the composition provide the material for reflection and contemplation of the theme. In my composition on Kalam, the theme is to reflect upon the ideal of an Indian President, a modern philosopher-king. The imagery conveyed through the words is the critical part - it should make people contemplate. e.g. where our national defense came from. Using Kalam as the carrier has far more appeal to me than writing a composition which says "Let us reflect on the ideal of a President".

Also, e.g. - The composition on Ambani - it is not about patting him on the back for making a lot of money. It is about reflection regarding where our prosperity comes from, and who creates wealth and how. Of course, all of the compositions have other "decorative paraphernalia" (e.g. physical descriptions - which are often used to identify the subject).

This is what I mean when I say that considering "secular themes" as some kind of "parallel artform" or "in between film and classical music" is insulting to not only the future composers but the past "bhakta" composers. It misses the point altogether. Ideally, classical music (CM) compositions should be savored by the thinking man. In the context of bhakti-compositions, we have contributors like VGV who are extensively summarizing the devotional/spiritual ideas that the composer is trying to communicate behind the words of the composition. Similarly, "Secular themes" must also be taken in the same spirit. The listener is not expected to shut his/her brain and heart off.

Of course, more power to future composers who want to take a different approach to presenting the ideas - I am not claiming to be "doing everything".

Finally, this idea of "narastuti" in CM is a product of mistaken interpretation of previous compositions without understanding the context. I personally have no interest in currying favor with any of the "people" in the compositions. Previous composers rejected "narastuti' when they were presented with a choice of praising someone in order to make a living. This is entirely different from writing compositions on Rama (who is also a "nara") - where the idea behind the composition is of importance, not the man-god himself.

SR
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#48  Postby vidya » 05 Feb 2008 23:02

Arasi and others,
I should have used the word In praise of a person rather than use the word narastuti which brings in a lot of connotations in people's minds. In this context I used the term in its raw literal sense and not in a qualitative comparison of God stuti=higher, mortal stuti=lower. Also I have observed (and find it easy to write in Sanskrit) lyrics on people. Whcih is why I said I would for a change like to see someone write lyrics on an idea or nature or something else other than adjectival description of a person. Because I also think it would require linguistic ability of a much higher order as one cannot get away with simple adjectives and borrowed phrases.I am saying this also on personal experience trying to express an idea in sanskrt and not reflective of anyone elses compositions here.
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#49  Postby Suji Ram » 05 Feb 2008 23:12

Whcih is why I said I would for a change like to see someone write lyrics on an idea or nature or something else other than adjectival description of a person.

Bhaja gOvidam of Sri Shankaracharya comes to my mind immediately. (I find this composition secular when seen in a different angle).
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#50  Postby Sangeet Rasik » 05 Feb 2008 23:56

Vidya,

vidya wrote:Whcih is why I said I would for a change like to see someone write lyrics on an idea or nature or something else other than adjectival description of a person. Because I also think it would require linguistic ability of a much higher order as one cannot get away with simple adjectives and borrowed phrases.I am saying this also on personal experience trying to express an idea in sanskrt and not reflective of anyone elses compositions here.

Firstly, irrespective of your specific point on composition style, I am glad the discussion on "themes" and "people" unfolded. I think it was a good idea to have it.

Secondly, I do understand your specific point. Yes, in Sanskrit CM compositions, the typical style is to have the primary noun and the verb (often there is only one verb in the entire composition) in the pallavi, and the rest of the composition contains adjectival compounded descriptors. I cannot speculate on the historical origins of this structure, but I can say that it provides significant economy of expression, which is critical in a CM composition if one is to keep it fairly short. This is a great advantage of Sanskrit, at the same time it demands more interpretative effort from the receiver.

Indeed, CM compositions are primarily to communicate ideas, but unlike prose they have to do so in a very short time. It is not for nothing that compositions of MD and ST are more properly called "prose-in-verse". The adjective-compound approach allows one to pack many ideas and images into a small space. For example, Swati Tirunal was a Sanskrit scholar and poet of a very high order. His "bhavayami raghuramam" is written as a super-short Ramayana. While it follows the adjectival style, it flows very smoothly and tells the story very well.

That being said, I think it is pretty straightforward to express ideas in a narrative manner than in an adjectival manner. The bhagavad gita does this, for example. Doing so in CM, of course, it would certainly add another style to our repertoire. It is even easier since one does not have to follow chandas (meter) as in Sanskrit poetry.

Personally speaking - of my 37 compositions, I usually compose in the "adjectival" style. However, you can see examples of the "narrative" style as well, see my composition on Subhas Bose. In the 1st half of the charanam I use a narrative style. Not because I found it a nice challenge to be narrative, but I used it to explore alliteration. The reduplicated perfect (which in itself contains alliteration) along with appropriately chosen nouns generates interesting effects. I will be delighted to compose in the future using this style, if you would like to see more of it. Also, I do not know Tamil, but I daresay that forum stalwarts like CML could easily translate a "narrative-style" Tamil composition into a narrative Sanskrit one with nice flow of words and prosody.

SR
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