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.
The melodious notes of a bhajan on Lord Shiva in raag Bhairagi Bhairav resonates in the air. The voice is rich, the atmosphere is meditative and I’m hooked. The Birla Mandir in the Benares Hindu University campus has excellent accoustics. It’s a cold wintry day and there is a sparse crowd at the temple. The music and serene ambience has me rooted and my feet automatically lead me to the singer seated in front of the idol in the open balcony on the first floor. I learn that the singer is a trained classical musician fron the Kirana Gharana (Bhimsen Joshi school). We start talking and he suddenly points to the microphone and invites me to sing. I sing Mahadeva Shiva Shambo in raga Revati, a composition of Tanjavur Shankara Iyer.
The first time I heard this song was during a concert of Carnatic vocalist D.K. Jayaraman in Chennai. I ended up in tears – the lyrics, the melody and more importantly the rendition made all the difference. Raga Revati is meditative in nature and the melody often associated with Vedic chanting.
Carnatic raga Revati is similar to Hindustani raag Bhairagi Bhairav. Here is a rendition of raag Bhairagi Bhairav by Pandit Jasraj.
The musical experience at Birla Mandir in the BHU campus on that foggy morning will stay in my mind as a priceless memory.