A majority of Tyagaraja's krutis sing the praises of Rama. In view of his prodigious output, it is natural that some of these are better than the others. We shall look at a masterpiece this week which is special in many ways.
varALi rAgam, Adi tALam
kana kana rucirA, kanaka vasana ninnu // kana kana //
dina dinamunu manasuna canuvuna ninnu // kana kana //
1. paalu gaaru moemuna Sree yapaara mahima danaru ninnu // kana kana //
2. kaLakaLamanu mukha kaLa galigina seeta
kulukucu oera kannulanu joocu ninnu // kana kana //
3. baalaarkaabha, sucaela, maNimaya maalaalaMkRta kaMdharaa,
sarasijaaksha, varakapoela, surucira kireeTa dhara, saMtataMbu manasaaragaa // kana kana //
4. saapatni maatayou surucicae karNaSoolamaina maaTa veenula
curukkana taaLaka Sreeharini dhyaaniMci sukhiMcaga laedaa, yaTu // kana kana //
5. mRgamada lalaama SubhaniTala, vara jaTaayu moeksha phalada,
pavamaana sutuDu needu mahima delpa
seeta delisi valaci sokka laedaa, aa reeti ninnu // kana kana //
6. sukhaaspada vimukhaambudhara, pavana vidaeha maanasa vihaaraa,
surapooja, maanita guNaaMga, cidaanaMda, khaga turaMga, dhRta radhaaMga,
parama dayaakara, karuNaa rasa varuNaalaya, bhayaapahaara, Sree raghupatae // kana kana //
7. kaamiMci praema meera karamula needu paada
kamalamul baTTukonu vaaDu saakshi
raama naama rasikuDu kailaasa sadanuDu saakshi
mariyu naarada paraaSara puraMdara nagajaa dharaja mukhyulu
saakshi gaada suMdaraeSa sukha kalaSaaMbudhi vaasaaSritulakae // kana kana //
8. satatamu praema poorituDagu tyaagaraaja nuta
mukhajita kumuda hita varada ninnu // kana kana //
A summary in English
The more I see you, the more delectable it is, oh Rama dressed in golden garments!
Each and every day, in my heart, in friendly familiarity, //more delectable//
1. Upon your innocent looking face a great and infinite magnificence resides //more
2. Seeta, the one with the brilliant face, was very pleased as she looked at you out of the
corner of her eye //more delectable//
3. With the radiance of the Sun, well clad, adorned with jewels of valuable gems, oh lotus
eyed one, with radiant face, wearing a becoming helmet, so that my heart always absorbs
4. Dhruva, when verbally abused by his step-mother, unable to bear that sharp insult,
meditated on you and attained immortality, didn't he? just like that //more delectable//
5. Your forehead adorned with kastoori, you gave salvation to Jataayu. Hearing Hanuman recite
your greatness, didn't Seeta understand and admire you even more .. in that fashion //more
6. Oh Rama of many wonderful virtues! (This stanza is completely in Sanaksrit and I don't
know the word-by-word meanings) //more delectable//
7. Hanuman, who constantly meditates on your lotus feet and touches them in reverence is my
and so is Siva, who thoroughly enjoys meditating on your name, and the devoted rushis like
Narada, Parashara et al., as well are my witnesses; even to such great blessed souls //more
8. Oh Rama, praised by Tyagaraja, always filled with compassion, with face rivalling the
moon, Oh benevolent one //more delectable//
Background: This is the fourth of the five long krutis known as ghana raaga panca ratna krutis (5 songs in 5 ghana raagas). Tyagaraja composed many pancaratnas, especially during his travels. However, the ghana raaga panca ratnas command a special exalted place amongst all his krutis. First, they all are 8 -10 stanzas long. Second, they have a peculiar structure, starting with very short stanzas and ending with a long stanza. Of course, the very last stanza is still a copy of the anupallavi and is equally short. Traditionally in singing these 5 songs, the singer renders the musical notes of the stanza first before singing the words of the stanza. Also, both on Tyagaraja's birth and death anniversaries, the program always starts with a group rendering of these five songs. In the days of yore, it used to be a magnificent sight/sound to have dozens of stalwart musicians sitting shoulder to shoulder in Tiruvayyaru and rendering the pancaratnas together.
According to legend, there is a curse on varaaLi raagam; if a teacher teaches this raagam to a student, apparently they'll end up fighting. To this day, many teachers refuse to teach this raagam and this kruti to their students. Therefore, when you listen to the group rendering of panca ratna krutis, when they finish the 3rd song and come to this one, you will notice a sharp decline in the decibel level:-) IMO, there are only few artists out there who can handle varaaLi in general, and this kruti in particular, to do it justice.
Tyagaraja sticks to a single theme in the other four panca ratnas. In contrast, the topic shifts from stanza to stanza in this one. In one he is singing the praises of Rama's magnificence, in a couple of others he talks of Sita's love, then he brings in Dhruva which has nothing to do with Rama incarnation, etc. Structurally too this kruti stands out. The stanzas 3, 5, and 6 are overwhelmingly Sanskrit, and he blends this Sanskrit very casually with Telugu. He did this in several other krutis also, but not as blatantly as this. It is as if he needs those strings of Sanskrit phrases to describe Rama's glory.
All said and done, I find this kruti enchanting, an appropriate blend of words and music. With its stately unhurried pace, sliding gamakas, and very pleasing sound patterns in words (I especially like stanzas 1, 2, 4, and 7) it is a wonderful listening experience.