| Devotion pervades nearly all of classical music. Yet the variety of ways in which devotion is expressed is staggering. In this month’s newsletter, I explore how composers across regions and languages have covered the topic of feet – divine and human in song and dance. The Feats of Hari|
16th century Haridasa mystic Kanakadasa has composed a range of Ugabhoga – carnatic compositions in Kannada. In his song Bhajisi Badukelo he extols the virtues of worshipping the feet of Hari. The entire song enumerates the central role the feet have played in protecting the bhaktas and destroying evil. My guru the late Seethalakshmi Venkatesan tuned this song as a ragamalika which I first presented many years ago at a concert in Bangalore.
Abhir Gulaal – Vittala’s Feet
Pandarpur in Maharashtra is home to Vittala to whom devotees flock from across the country. The mystic Chokhamela has composed many Marathi abhangs about his love for Vittala. In his abhang, Abhir Gulaal, he expresses his anguish at not being able to see Vittala’s idol being—in his words—a low caste Mahar. Alas a story that continues to this day. Jitendra Abhisheki the well known Hindustani vocalist renders this abhang with much bhava.
Visualizing Dancing Feet
A typical feature of Bharatanatyam dance recitals is the tillana. Tillanas are recognisable in their use of rhythmic syllables such as ta ka dhimi, takita jham jham. In fact, the word tillana itself is onomatopoeic. It is a popular part of the carnatic repertoire and is heard before the mangalam, the concluding piece of a concert. Any time you hear a tillana in a concert, you can easily visualize dancing feet. Carnatic vocalist Sandeep Narayan sings a tillana in Tamil composed by T.N.Seshagopalan in raga Niroshta.
In case you’ve missed them, you can see earlier editions of newsletters here and the Raga Ruminations Podcast here.