Intro: This article is about a piece from lyric poetry called padams. The poet, Kshetrayya lived in the village Movva on the banks of the Krishna River in about 17th century. He is credited with penning about 400 padams. The hero of all these songs is Movva Gopala, the deity of Krishna of that village. The heroines are the various 'gopi' women who were enamoured of Krishna. The theme is the erotic play of Movva Gopala with the 'gopis'. All the padams were written as if spoken by the heroine to a friend or to the hero. Sometimes the heroine is happy that the hero is devoted only to her; sometimes she is angry or sad that he's neglecting her or she's jealous that he's with another woman; so on and so forth.
evvaDae, evvaDae, oe bhaamaa, vaaDaevvaDae?
evvaDae naenu pavvaLiMcina vaeLa
puvvu baaNamaesi ravva jaesi poeyae II vaaDevvaDae II
paTTa pagalu vaaDu vacci, balu diTTaDayi naa yillu jocci, vaa
DaTTe nannu ceTTabaTTi kougaliMci
gaTTigaa naa moevi gaMTu caesi poeyae II vaaDevvaDae II
garita vaaniki naenu satamaa ? nannu gaddiMci palukuTa ucitamaa? naa
purushuDu ooralaeni proddu maapaTi vaeLa
suddula daeliMci muddu beTTi poeyae II vaaDevvaDae II
venna tinna pinnatanamaa ? alla vraetala gooDina guNamaa ?
nannu konna magani vale koMgu baTTi teesi
cannu loDisi paTTi calamaeTiki ani poeyae II vaaDevvaDae II
neela maegha syaamalaaMguDu, maMci maelu peetaaMbara dharuDu, vaaDu
leelatoe padiyaaru vaela goepa streela
naelina muvva goepaaluDani poeyae
vaaDevvaDae, oe bhaamaa, vaaDevvaDae ?
A rendition in English
Who is he? Oh fair friend, who is he?
Who is he, as I lay resting on the bed,
he hurled a floral arrow to upset me and went away, who is he?
Having come in broad daylight, entering our home with boundless courage,
He grabbed me by hand, embraced me
Ardently made a mark on my lips and went away Who is he?
Oh dear, am I his property? Is it proper for him to address me so familiarly?
While my man was out of town, as the daylight waned,
He whispered tender words to regale me, gave me a kiss and went away Who is he?
Is this like his youthful pranks of stealing butter or playing with the gopi damsels?
As if he's the lord who paid my bride-price, He pulled away my upper garment,
Grabbing my breasts, told me not to resist and went away Who is he?
Shining with the radiance of a dark cloud, clad in yellow silk garments,
He said that he was the Movva Gopala, holding sway over 16,000 gopis
So saying he went away, oh my dear friend, who is he?
The theme: The heroine here is a bride of a rich household, probably new to town. Gopala has already wooed her and she has obviously enjoyed his attentions and his deeds. However, she talks to her girl-friend about it as if she is angry about it, as if she was innocent all along, and that only Gopala's rudeness and boldness made her helpless. At the same time, she betrays her delight in the way she complains about how he whispered sweet nothings to her, how he acted familiar with her and how radiant he was. This contrast is what makes this a gem.
The structure: Padams have their own prosody. There are features of yati and prasa which I explained a few weeks ago. Typically padams use easy and almost commonplace vocabulary to wonderful effect. Most of the padams are also a rich repository of pure Telugu words (as opposed to words derived from Sanskrit).
The music: The class of women called Devadasis had been the tradition bearers of Kshetrayya's padams. It is not clear if Kshetrayya composed the music also for his lyrics. However, there is a strong tradition of how to render these songs musically, which had been carried in Devadasi families. The music is set in well-known Carnatic Ragas - Today's song is sung in the raga Sankarabharanam. Whatever raga is used, the rendition of the padams is carried out in a gentle lilting melody, evoking different moods within the Sringara rasa. These padams are also a required component of any Bharatanatyam repertoire. Often, a Bharatanatyam dancer's prowess is judged by her abhinaya in a padam.