Music, much like poetry, can evoke very different responses in its most ardent listeners. Context is likely the largest of the multiplier of response – positive and negative – to any stimulus.
Bhava, as it relates to carnatic music, is often not the sole result of the artist’s own emotions expressed in his or her rendition, but the listener’s familiarity with the subject matter or backstory – in other words, context. So many of Tyagaraja’s compositions are enriched by the listener’s knowledge of the story of Rama. Likewise for Purandara Dasa’s Jagadodharana and how the listeners connect to the unique relationship between a mother(Yashodha) and son(Krishna).
‘Akhilandeshwari’, the composition of Muthuswamy Dikshithar in the raga Dwijavanti is one such song that evokes nostalgia for many especially during the time of Navaratri. The song praises the goddess at the Tiruvannaikaval temple (of Jambukeswarar) inTrichy.
There is an interesting story, perhaps apocryphal, about this goddess. She was believed to be in an angry state of mind at the time of manifestation in the temple. Her devotees were reluctant to enter the sanctum sanctorum as they feared her wrath. The philosopher saint Adi Shankara who was visiting the temple placed a statue of Ganapathi in front of the goddess. The saint hoped that seeing her son in front of her would have a calming effect. He also created the Sri Chakra in the form of earrings for the goddess. The sri chakra is a diagram of nine interlocking triangles that radiate from a central point called the bindu. Adi Shankara believed that the powerful energy of the goddess would be harnessed in this chakra to mitigate its effects on the common man.
While composing the song, Dikshithar refers to the Ganapathi placed in front of the goddess – “lambodhara guruguha” in the charanam of the song.The composition is in Dwijavanti raga, a derivative of the 28th Melakartha Harikambodhi. Dwijavanti has its roots in Hindustani music and resembles raag Jaijaivanti. Dikshithar who had lived in northern India for many years (Varanasi) had picked up melodies from the Hindustani genre and used them in some of his compositions. Akhilandeshwari is one such example.
I can think of none other than stalwart M.S. Subbulakshmi singing this beautiful composition.