Varanasi is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. It draws millions of pilgrims from all parts of the world. Hindus believe that a dip in the river Ganges washes away their sins. The Kashi Viswanath temple is one of the oldest temples in the world and has been mentioned in the Skanda Purana. The temple has been destroyed and reconstructed several times since it was originally built. The current temple was constructed by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.
Here are some songs that have been composed in praise of the presiding deity of the temple – Viswanath or Visweswara.
Sri Viswanatham Bhajeham.The Chathurdasha Ragamalika by Muthuswamy Dikshithar is a unique composition which describes the lord of the 14 worlds in 14 different ragas. The name of the raga is interwoven in the lyrics. Here is the rendition of this song by M.L.Vasanthakumari.
Vishweswara is an evocative bhajan by Swati Tirunal, the Maharaja of Travancore who lived in the 19th century.
Here is a collection of bhajans on Kashi Viswanath.
Varanasi or Benares is a city that makes one think beyond the mundane. The first time I visited, the city drew me in and I knew I was going to return. Here is a piece I wrote about Varanasi for the Hindu after my first trip.
Swati Tirunal was a multifaceted genius whose breadth of compositions ranged from varnams, kirthanams (including the Navaratri series, Navavidha Bhakthi series, Utsav Prabandham) to padams, tillanas, ragamalikas and the Hindustani bhajans and khayals. The Venkateshwara temple in Pittsburgh, USA celebrated the music of this phenomenal composer recently. Here is a short video from my concert featuring some of the works of this composer.
Manipravalam was a mix of Sanskrit and Tamil, a precursor to Malayalam. The Utsav Prabandham kirthanams describe the 10-day festival held at the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum. The Manipravalam kirthanam in raga Huseini describes a conversation between two devotees watching the ceremonial parade of the idol seated on a lotus. The devotees speculate on the identity of the idol wondering if it is Indra, Chandra, Shiva, Surya, Kubera and after a series of negation realize that it is none other than Nirajanabha.
My presentation on Indian Classical Music was well received and I also learned a lot today! Here is a short fun video by my daughter on the event.
The cello, piano, and saxophone belong largely to western classical and popular music. Of these, the saxophone has made it to center stage in Carnatic music concerts, while the piano has been part of experimental collaborations with Carnatic musicians. Read the rest of my article here.
The immortal love of Radha and Krishna was captured in a lyrical masterpiece by a mystic poet from eastern India – Jayadeva. The work known as Geet Govind is a parable for the human soul’s wanderings before returning eventually to its true love (God) and is presented in the form of verses called Ashtapathis or 8 steps/lines. Here is a beautiful ashtapathi from the Geet Govind that describes the playful banter between Krishna and the gopis of Brindavan. The recording is from my concert for All India Radio Bangalore in June 2017.
BHAKTHI – A Musical Journey with Mystics was presented at the Unnati Center Bangalore. The mystic poet Narsi Mehta composed prolifically in Gujarati. His poems in pada form, speak of the romantic love between a lover and beloved or Shringar as a metaphor for man’s love for the Lord. Here is a bhajan of Narsi Mehta from the BHAKTHI concert.