“Hastivadanaya Namastubhyam” – An Aigrette in Navaroj
indhu cUda aruna chAyAm trinEtram rasAt,
Aslishtam priyayA sapadma karayA swAngastAya santatam,
bhIjApUra gadhEkshu kArmukalAsachakrAbhja pasOtphala,
brIhyagraswa vishAna rathna kalasAn hasthair vahantham bhajE.
(Dhyana Sloka of Lord Mahaganapati from the Mudgala Purana)
Meaning: I sing the praise of the great red hued Lord with the countenance of the King of Elephants, who wears the moon, has three eyes, embracing his beloved atop his lap with His lotus like hands and who holds the pomegranate , mace, sugarcane bow, discus, blue lotus flower, noose , broken tusk and bejewelled pitcher.
Legend has it that Muthusvami Dikshita composed a set of kritis on the Shodasa Ganapatis (16 forms of Lord Ganesa) But no mention of this so-called set is found expressed in the “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” (“SSP”) of Subbarama Dikshita. One amongst this so-called set is this composition “hastivadanAya namastubhyam” in the raga Navaroz or Navaroj set in misra eka tala and is found notated in the SSP.
In this blog post to celebrate the upcoming Ganesa Caturthi festival, we will delve into this composition which is a magnum opus both from a lyrical and musical perspective. In other words, a musical tour de force by Dikshita. It is also available to us from the oral traditions in the sisya parampara of Muthusvami Dikshita which we will see in the discography section.
The lyrics of this kriti together with the meaning is as under:
hasti vadanAya namastubhyaM hATaka-maya maNTapE siMhAsana sthitAya
hasti kRtti vasana dharArcita mahA gaNapAya tatva svarUpAya
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
samasta bhaktAnugrahAya mAyAlingita vigrahAya
kamalOtpala pASa Sankha cakrEkshu – kArmuka vrIhyAgra gadA nija vishANa –
mAtulanga ratna kalaSa dharaNa karAmbujAya-
pada pankajAya vimalAya – viSvOtpatti sthiti vilayAya karuNAlayAya
(madhyama kAla sAhityam)
himAdri tanayAnana pankaja – hiraNya garbhAya sumanasE
umA ramaNa kumAra guru guha – samAna varaujasE mahasE
namaH-tubhyaM – Salutations to you,
hasti vadanAya – O the elephant-faced one,
siMha-Asana sthitAya –the one seated on a throne,
hATaka-maya maNTapE – in a golden pavilion
hasti kRtti vasana dhara-arcita –(My salutation to the one) worshipped by the Lord who wears an elephant hide ( Lord Shiva)
mahA gaNapAya – the great Lord of the Ganas,
tatva svarUpAya – the embodiment of the Supreme truth,
samasta bhakta-anugrahAya – the bestower of grace on all devotees,
mAyA-Alingita vigrahAya– the one whose form is embraced by the goddess who signifies Maya-Shakti (the power of illusion),
kamala-utpala pASa Sankha cakra-ikshu-kArmuka vrIhyagra gadA nija vishANa – mAtulanga ratna kalaSa dharaNa kara-ambujAya -the one who has lotus-like hands that hold a lotus, a water-lily, a noose, a conch, a discus, a sugarcane bow, rice stalks, a mace, his own (broken) tusk, a pomegranate and a bejewelled pitcher;
pada pankajAya – the one with lotus-like feet,
vimalAya – the pure one
viSva-utpatti sthiti vilayAya –the agent of creation, protection and destruction of the universe,
karuNA-AlayAya – the abode of mercy,
hima-adri tanaya-Anana pankaja -hiraNya garbhAya –the sun (Hiranya-garbha) to the lotus-face of Parvati (daughter of Himavan), making it bloom,
sumanasE – the good-hearted one,
umA ramaNa kumAra guruguha-samAnavaraOjasE –the one who equals Guruguha, the son of Shiva (husband of Uma), in vigour and splendour,
mahasE – the brilliant one.
The dhyana sloka of the Mahaganapati form of Lord Ganesa as found in the Mudgala Purana provides the iconography of this form. It can be seen that the same is fully reflected in the composition.
The kriti is found notated in both the SSP and the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai” (published in 1936 AD) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, who along with Veena Dhanammal learnt Dikshita’s compositions including this one from Satanur Pancanada Iyer of Muthusvami Dikshita’s sisya parampara. See Foot Note 1.
Architecture of the song:
At the very outset in the pallavi, Dikshita captures for us the high level and the overall perceptible visual setting of the Lord – his elephantine countenance, the throne on which he is seated and the environ, being the golden pavilion and he pays obeisance to Him.
Next in the anupallavi, even while he keeps his date with the dviteeyakshara prasa, Dikshita proceeds to praise Him on four aspects before looping back to the pallavi:
- Lord Shiva himself propitiating Him- ahead of the destruction of Tripura– the allusion to Lord Shiva as the One wearing elephant hide is reminiscent of the poet Kalidasa’s invocatory sloka of his play Malavikagnimitram referring to Him as “krittivAsa”
- Him being the benefactor of all devotees – this again is an epithet which is found as well in the other kriti of Dikshita “guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya” in the raga Sama.
- Him being the embodiment of truth and lastly
- Him being the one who encompasses mAyA – the illusory world.
Next the construct of the carana is a wonderous conceptualization by Dikshita. What stands out in this magnificent composition is the remarkable way in which the form – the iconography of Mahaganapati– has been described by Dikshita in the first two lines of the carana which runs continuously thus:
“kamala-utpala pASa Sankha cakra-ikshu-kArmuka vrIhyagra gadA nija vishANa – mAtulanga ratna kalaSa dharaNa kara-ambujAya” (see word by word meaning above)
Taking the cue from the Mudgala Purana dhyana sloka but yet fleshing it out in the composition for keeping prAsA, ordering them so as to segue with the tala by stretching & contracting the lyrics (ordering the hrasva-dhIrgha syllables) and investing it with the unalloyed melody of Navaroj, Dikshita paints the picture of the great Lord. This style of recording the iconography is similar to the way he has done in “Pancamatanga mukha” in Malahari and “ucchista ganapatou” in Ramakriya, for instance. We also did see in an earlier blog post how Dikshita depicted the Devi as Goddess Kamesvari, in the Sahana kriti “IsAnAdhi sivAkAra mancE”, turning the composition into a melodic pen picture, describing Her iconography in detail.
And then in the carana, after this iconographic depiction Dikshita reverts to a couple of paeans adulatory of Him and then as a crowning glory or the crescendo of this kriti he appends the madhyama kala sahitya to this composition which encompasses the entire lyrical and musical essence he has to offer. He dexterously meshes in the raga mudra in the lyric “samAnavarOjasE” along with his own colophon “guruguha”, to mean that the Lord is as splendorous as His equally illustrious sibling Guruguha or Lord Subramanya. Dikshita to complete the lyrical text of the composition and also to keep prAsA in place, prefixes a relationship-based reference to Lord Subramanya as “.umA ramana kumAra guruguha”. This lyrical contraption is reminiscent of the reference “murArI snushAkAniramjani” used in the kriti “kalAvati kamalAsanayuvati” in the raga Kalavati and ‘himAdri jAmAtri jambUpati sahitE” in “srI mAtAh sivavAmAkE” in Begada. The usage of the word “Ojas” and its usage to complete the raga mudra herein can be cited as authority for the raga naming being “Navaroj”.
And needless to add, Dikshita packs the very essence of the raga Navaroj in this madhyama kala sahitya. It is no surprise that both Dr V Raghavan and Sangita Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer, the main biographers of Muthusvami Dikshita, wax eloquently and go rapturous over this Navaroj composition in their works. See Foot Note 2.
No other context of the composition or the stala of this Mahaganapati dealt with in this kriti is discernible from the composition per se. It is highly likely that somewhere in the sprawling complex of the Tiruvarur Tyagaraja Temple this form of Lord Ganesa i.e. Mahaganapathi is found enshrined in one of its innumerable sanctums and Muthusvami Dikshita has propitiated that icon with this composition.
The raga Navaroj or Navaroz or Navarasam as it is called in Kathakali music is a scalar derivative of Sankarabharana sung in madhyama sruti. It is a raga not seen documented by Sahaji (1700AD) or Tulaja (1735 AD) or by anybody prior such as Venkatamakhin (circa 1620 AD). Sahaji and Tulaja have on the contrary documented the sibling raga Kurinji which we saw in an earlier blog post. Arguably the raga Navaroj has been first listed out only in the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika attributable to Muddu Venkatamakhin and dateable to circa 1750 AD. We do have two pre-trinity period compositions in this raga, but nevertheless from a musicological perspective the Anubandha can be considered as the first text to document the melody.
The commentary of this raga by Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP (1904 AD) forms the bedrock for us to comprehend this raga. We will understand this raga in two parts- one as documented by Subburama Dikshita and secondly by comparing it with Kurinji.
According to Subbarama Dikshita:
- The raga progresses thus – p d n S R G M P and P M G R S n d p under mela 29, from the mandhara pancama to the madhya pancama and back.
- Dhaivatha, gandhara and rishabha are the key life-giving notes of the raga
- The madhya stayi pancama is only touched rarely (alpa prayoga) in practice and practically the madhyama note is the upper bound of the raga.
- The raga can be illustrated with a number of native phrases.
(Kindly note that musical note in lower case signifies mandhara stayi and upper case signifies madhya stayi in this narrative section)
Apart from a lakshya gitam and his own sancari, the solitaire “Hastivadanaya Namastubhyam” of Muthusvami Dikshita in misra eka tala (7 beats kept as a laghu, being a clap of the hand followed by six finger counts) is provided by Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP as an exemplar for the raga. It has to be pointed out that the kriti is typically rendered in misra capu tala in practice.
Prof S R Janakiraman in his work “Raga Lakshanangal” provides his commentary thus:
- The raga Navaroj corresponds to the ancient “kolli pann” of Tamil music.
- Navaroj is a pancamAntya janya raga of Sankarabharana, traversing from mandhara pancama to the madhya pancama with the notes R2, G3, M1, P, D2 and N3.
- Traversal beyond madhya stayi pancama is forbidden in this raga and therefore for ranjakatva it is always sung in madhyama sruti.
- Sndn\p – the movement from the madhya sadja to the mandhara pancama is the life blood of that raga wherein the glide from the nishadha to the pancama via the jAru gamaka (glissando) distinguishes the raga.
- The raga is found in popular music especially in lAli, oonjal and lullaby songs.
The raga Navaroj differs from Kurinji on three key aspects:
- Kuranji spans upto madhya dhaivatha (nSRGMPD/DPMGRSn) whereas Navaroj (pdnSRGMP/PMGRSndp) spans only upto madhya pancama. Curiously the respective top notes in both the ragas are touched only sparingly.
- Kurinji eschews SRGM and instead uses only SMGM-RGM in its purvanga. No such limitation is seen in Navaroj in its purvanga.
- In Kurinji the mandhara nishadha is the lower bound note with the occasional s\pS occurring. Au contraire, the expression “Sndp” or more importantly “Sndnp” occurs prolifically in Navaroj as a leitmotif in the mandhara stayi.
And both Kurinji and Navaroj are avowed madhyama sruti ragas as seen from modern day practice.
I seek to present three renderings of this compositions each one a beauty in itself. And as primus inter pares, I first present the version available to us from the oral tradition, that of the Veena Dhanammal family, tracing its way to Dikshita himself via Sathanur Pancanada Iyer and Tambiyappan Pillai. Vidushis T Brinda & T Mukta present this bewitching composition in this recording. It is a fact that this composition along with others including “vInA pustaka dhArinIm” in Vegavauhini (khanda eka) is considered an exclusive heirloom of Veena Dhanammal’s family for their exquisite rendering of the composition.
Presented next is the rendering of the composition by Vidvan T Visvanathan of same Dhanammal lineage as he learnt it from his mother.
Presented next is “Dikshitarini” Vidusi Kalpagam Svaminathan, soulfully playing it on the veena in this rare video, recorded for posterity.
And finally, Prof S R Janakiraman presents the composition:
The composition is deeply meditative and contemplative in its construction, loaded with both sangita and sahitya bhava in equal measure. It is a pity that the kriti is not heard in concert halls these days. As an exception, Sangita Kala Acharya Vidusi Smt. Seetha Rajan is her rare concert performances frequently features this in the second half of her recital towards the fag end. Its hoped that the composition is rendered frequently in the days to come, doing full justice to its musical and lyrical content in full measure.
- Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) in Tamil -Vol IV- Mela 29 Pages 924-929
- Prof S R Janakiraman (1996) – “Raga Lakshanangal” (Tamil) – Published by Madras Music Academy – Vol II – pp 106-108
- Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions – pp 1016 – 1017
- Dr V Raghavan (1975) – “Muttusvami Dikshitar”- Special Bicentenary Number – National Center for the Performing Act (Vol IV – Number 3 – Sep 1975)
- T A Gopinatha Rao (1985) – Elements of Indian Iconography – Volume I – pp 55-56
- The oral tradition or pAthams of the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita are available to us today only through two main lines or lineages. One is the lineage emanating from Dikshita on to his disciple Tambiappan Pillai and on to Sathanur Pancanada Iyer and finally to Dhanammal and Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai. The second line traces through from Subbarama Dikshita on to his son Ambi Dikshita and then on to Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, Kallidaikurici Vedanta Bhagavathar, D K Pattammal and others who learnt from Ambi Dikshita. We do not have any other musicians surviving today who trace back to Muthusvami Dikshita through any other sisya parampara lineage, though Subbarama Dikshita records a number of his disciples of Dikshita such as Tirukkadaiyur Bharati, Tevur Subramanya Iyer & others. The transmission of songs through the line of Tanjore Quartet is at best minor and not much has been gleaned from this lineage by way of authority for the compositions of Dikshita.
- Vidvan R K Sriramkumar always covers this Navaroj composition in his lecture demonstrations of Dikshita’s compositions. Once such instance is this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDp7rIpmPss&t=678s wherein he demonstrates “Hastivadanaya” from 8:00 to 14:43 in this recording.
21-Aug-2020: Since the first posting, I have updated the post to include the rendering of the composition by Vidvan T Visvanathan