An Ode to My Music Teacher


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-middle/ode-my-music-teacher-693371.html

S RADHA PRATHI, SEP 18 2018, 23:25PM IST UPDATED: SEP 18 2018, 23:26PM IST

When my music teacher taught me the Sargam when I was a mere child, she had asked me to visualize them as a set of steps, which I had to ascend and descend. Just like the steps, the musical notes would remain static in their designated places and if I needed access over them, I had to reach out to them. She probably said it just once and may have said it to put across the point, but somehow the image has remained with me ever since. I have always imagined that each step represented a Swara.  I would step, skip, linger or bounce over them in accordance to the lessons taught. Thus I practiced Sarali varase, Genti varase, Dhatu varase and Alankaras  mentally when I paced and hopped up and down the stairs without particularly going up or down. All the jumping left me breathless especially when I tried going through them in the second and third speed. Not to mention, that I would be reprimanded for being so very restless. Now I find it amazing that I had not divulged what was going on in my mind or explained all the ascending and descending. Though the exhausting exercise did not impact the quality of my singing then, I learned the basic difference between constants and variables at an impressionable age. I was able to understand the distinct distances between musical notes which helped me hone my skills as the years passed. However what fascinates me to this day is the fact that whenever I catch myself alone on a staircase, I immediately assign them the Sargam in a raga that catches my fancy at that point of time and  hum a pattern of notes in my mind and step accordingly. In other words, I can never go past a set of stairs without thinking of music.

Interestingly, it was my music teacher who had helped me understand Algebra several years before it was introduced to me in school when she explained the concept of octaves in music. She said in passing (again) that the first note of the Sargam determined the placements of the other Swaras. Whenever, I had to find the value of “x”, in an equation, I could not help thinking of it as the “Aadhar Shadja”. Learning sets and drawing Venn diagrams was cake walk to me in school because I had been taught about complete octaves which paved way to mini ragas with  a few notes, the similarities and differences in the notes between ragas which made them distinct . I could not shake off music when I was taught   the concept of 360 degrees around a point which can be segmented. I was well aware of the raga chart akin to a pie chart into the 72 major ragas were segmented. Sums to be solved on Permutations and combinations seemed easier when I converted marbles or balloons into musical notes. I have never been able to overcome the sense of déjà vu in the mathematics classes.

When I reflect over the deep seated influence on thinking that my music teacher had over me besides helping me to learn music I realise that teachers do have the knack of influencing you for eternity!

Kanyaka Parameshwari 2018


I had the privilege to handcraft the jewellery and the accessories of goddess Sree Vasavi Kanyaka Parameshwari using Kundan stones, pearls and mirrors. The idol in the sanctum sanctorum has been adorned with the same on Friday, the 9th of February 2018.KannikaParameshwari 2018

KanyakaParameshwari 2017

10th February 2017, Friday

Today the goddess is wearing a quilled dress.

Paper Quilling has come a long way from the Renaissance period in Italy and France to the craft classes of school children across the globe.

The art which involves rolling strips of paper and pinching them to shape ranges from the simple to the complicated has been employed to adorn the goddess.

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Integrity and Intelligence


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/639821/integrity-intelligence.html

Life often scatters obstacles in our path. Some of us sidestep them while others overcome them. Yet, if we are riddled with difficulties from time to time, we tend to give up. A story from the Mahabharatha says that if one tackles problems intelligently and with integrity, it will stamp our success with moral satisfaction and happiness.

Princess Sukanya had to marry the old sage Chyavana whom she had blinded inadvertently. Though there was no equivalence of any sort in the marital ties, the young bride did not have any complaints. She was quite cheerful and sincere in carrying out her conjugal duties.

A couple of years later, the handsome celestial twins, the Ashwinikumaras, happened to sight the beautiful Sukanya. They were smitten by her ethereal beauty. They tried to wean her away from her marriage and make her theirs. The principled lady refused to comply to their wishes, politely, yet firmly. The demigods were struck by her loyalty to her husband despite his shortcomings. They offered to cure him and restore his youth as a reward for her steadfastness.

Sukanya and Chyavana were ready to accept a lease of normal and healthy life. Just when things seemed to fall in place, the divine twosome laid out their condition. The clause said that Sukanya could continue in her marriage if only she could identify her husband in his new Avatar. The lady accepted the challenge without batting an eyelid.

Accordingly, the sage was taken to a nearby lake by the duo. The trio immersed themselves in the waters. When they emerged, Sukanya was startled to see that the three of them were identical in every single way. She was stressed but gathered her wits and observed the threesome walking towards her. She recollected from her vast repertoire of knowledge that Godly entities never came into physical contact with earth. She noticed that only one of the three men was leaving footprints on the wet banks of the lake. She walked demurely towards her only love in life and stood by him. The Ashwinikumaras were highly impressed by her integrity and intelligence and blessed the couple a happy and a fruitful life of togetherness. Sukanya had every reason to flounder, but she chose to overcome it.

Music Therapy


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/380744/music-therapy.html

Learning classical music introduces the learner into an amazing world of music.

When the venerable bard said, “If music be the food of soul play on,” he was probably not aware of the fact that Indians had already realised the value of naada bramham and had even designed a meticulous way to celebrate it.

Ancient Indians believed that when the sun shone on the stellar constellation of Sagittarius the ‘Brahma Muhurtham’ set in, ushering in a new day to the very gods. This short phase of early dawn in the life of the Gods stretches out into a month in the life of us who are mere mortals.

The Dhanur Maasa which falls between mid December and mid-January has been celebrated in a very unique manner in South India. When one would ideally like to stay up late in bed, traditionalists get up before the crack of dawn, bathe and cleanse themselves and offer prayers to the Gods. The Dhanur Maasa also doubles up as a month where young girls can showcase their talent by drawing beautiful rangolis outside their homes and also display their ability to sing. In fact the entire month is celebrated as the ‘Musical Month’ in Chennai when venerated classical musicians and instrumentalists fill the air with their cadence.

The unique feature of this festive month lies in the fact that it is celebrated in a very exclusive way. Temples open their doors way before the first ray of the sun appears in the horizon. Earthen lamps are lit not only in the temples but also at the doorsteps of the homes of people to light the way for wayfarers during the misty hours of the morning. Classical music concerts are held for an hour or two in the wee hours of the morning to celebrate the precious moments of the ‘Brahma Muhurtham.’

It has been proved that music has therapeutic values. The electronic world has made the world’s best music available on a platter. Yet not everything seems to be well in the world of music. Gone are the days when the parents and the family of the child spent quality time with their young ones visiting live classical music concerts thereby inducing a love and respect for traditional music. Today music at best means film or album music to the growing youngsters. They relish loud and fast music with insensible and sometimes crass lyrics. Perhaps if parents introduce the child to classical music a lot of aspects of the child can be honed.

Learning any type of classical music be it Karnatic, western or Hindustani will introduce the learner into an amazing world of music. It will be an eye-opener for them to know that there are infinite possibilities to use the seven basic notes of music in various permutations and combinations. They will imbibe a sense of time (tala/beat) and precision in the course of learning. They will understand the science and mathematics behind classical music. Once they grapple the subtle nuances of the basics they will be able to adapt to any other genre of singing like folk, pop, ghazals—the list is endless.

It is high time to introduce the children to the world of music to overcome their personality disorders like lack of focus, indiscipline and occasional delinquency.

The Healing Music of Andal


http://archive.deccanherald.com/content/Jan42008/sesame2008010344648.asp

It is winter. Chilly winds are blowing about making you snuggle deeper into your warm bed, and how you hate to wake up. But are you aware that this season is special for the thirty three crores of Hindu Gods?

The Dhanur Maasa which falls between mid December and mid-January has been celebrated in a very unique manner in the south of India. When one would ideally like to stay up late in bed, traditionalists get up before the crack of dawn, bathe and offer prayers to the Gods.

The Dhanur Maasa also known as “Maargazhi Thingal” in Tamil doubles up as a month where young girls can showcase their talent by drawing beautiful rangolis outside their homes and also display their ability to sing. In fact the entire month is celebrated as the “Musical Month” in Chennai when venerated classical musicians and instrumentalists fill the air with their magic.

Temples open their doors way before the first ray of the sun appears in the horizon. Earthen lamps are lit not only in the temples but also at the doorsteps of the homes of people to light the way for wayfarers during the misty hours of the morning.
Classical music concerts are held for an hour or two in the wee hours of the morning to celebrate the precious moments of the “Brahma Muhurtham”. The thirty stanzas of the “Thiruppavai” composed by the saint poetess Aandal in Tamil are sung during this period of time to invoke the blessings of Lord Vishnu.

For those of you who do not know, there is a lovely legend attached to the celebration of this month. Hundreds of years ago there lived a young girl called Godai also known as Andal.

She was the daughter of the priest of the Ranganatha Swamy temple situated in the present Sri Rangam. The motherless child lived with her father in a small hamlet called Sri Valli Puttur. As a child, she developed a deep affection for the Lord, her father worshipped. Everyday she wove a garland of fresh flowers for her lord and sent it to the temple through her father.

Girls were married at a very early age in those days and the young one took a fancy to marrying lord Ranganatha. Once the idea of marrying the lord sank into her heart, she considered herself to be the bride of God. She still wove garlands for the lord, but made it a point to wear them and look at herself in the mirror before sending the token of her love to the lord.

Her father was totally unaware of these happenings until one day he found a strand of Aandal’s hair interwoven in the garland. He was annoyed and reprimanded his daughter. But he was surprised to see the cool reaction of the little girl. He suspected something was wrong and observed his daughter’s behaviour. He discovered her wearing the garland meant for the lord.  He demanded an explanation from her and was shocked with her answer. He dragged the poor lass to the temple premises and asked her to prove that the lord had indeed accepted her as his bride. Her ardent prayer and true love apparently moved the lord and he gathered her soul by way of marriage.

It was discovered later that the young Aandal had composed lyrics in praise of Lord Vishnu in the company of her friends.  Literature and language experts confirm that they are matchless in terms of content. The seemingly simple verses with a lot of progressive thoughts and spiritual connotations  have enthralled people ever since.

These verses have been set to thirty different ragas and are sung even today, during the early hours of Dhanur maasa. Experts say that they have healing powers.

Indian festivities  have a hidden agenda of practical information for better living.

The cold bath tones up our system and makes us healthier, while the music soothes our nerves and makes us more alert.

If you closely examine the ritual of rising early that is followed during this season you will realise why it is said  “Early to bed early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.”

Heaven’s Window For The Poor


http://archive.deccanherald.com/Content/Dec72007/sesame2007120639786.asp

Kanakadasa was a unique teacher who did not run a school nor prescribe books to be read because he understood that many people around him were illiterates or were very busy with their daily business.

Those of you who have heard of or have been to the Krishna temple in Udupi in Karnataka must have found it a little odd to to glimpse  the lord’s face through a tiny window placed at the back wall of the temple.

This small window also known as “Kanakana Kindi” which means Kanakadasa’s window has a fascinating tale!
It is said that a scion of the Kaginele town in Karnataka is responsible for the presence of the window.

Five centuries ago, the warrior from the Nayaka  understood the futility of war and he was not very happy with the caste system in the society either which made the lives of people born in lower castes quite miserable. He chose to take up the path of devotion and make the people around him realise that everyone is equal in the eyes of the creator.

He was Kanakadasa, the devotee who made the lord turn towards him. It is said that he was forbidden from entering the temple premises as he was born of a lower caste so he sadly made his way to the backyard of the temple and sang soulfully in praise of the lord.

Apparently the lord was pleased for he turned around in his idol form and created a hole in the wall to enable his favourite devotee to have a look at him. The people in power and the temple authorities realised the purity of his devotion and have ever since maintained the “Kindi” in the temple and the idol facing the back as it was, even to this day.

Kanakadasa was a unique teacher who did not run a school nor prescribe books to be read because he understood that many people around him were illiterates or were very busy with their daily business.

Therefore he chose to compose simple lyrics bearing social and spiritual messages in the local language Kannada and sing it tunefully to attract the attention of the people around him. The next time you happen to listen to the lyrics of Kanakadasa make sure that you note his signature phrase which says, “Kaginele Adi Keshava Raya” his home deity.

Besides composing simple songs he also composed a number of literary works  based on mythology and contemporary society which are relevant to this day  even after a good five hundred years! Perhaps this is what standing the test of time means!!!

Listen To The Animal Orchestra


http://archive.deccanherald.com/Content/Sep212007/sesame2007092026350.asp

All of you must have watched and heard animals and birds singing away. If you have been watching some programs in Animal Planet channel you will find some of them crooning consciously in front of the camera at some time or another. Some of them seem to have the gift for music even as they yodel away. Some others do not sound very musical though they appear very cute!

Have you ever wondered how they will all sound if they plan to sing together? Actually there are some organizations in the world that do conduct programs that involve animals exhibiting their talent for music. If you log on to http://www.cdbaby .com/singinganimals you can find a whole lot of nursery rhymes and familiar popular songs recorded in the voices of mostly farm animals with a little support from human beings who play on musical instruments.

If you are under the impression that the bond between animals and music is a recent discovery of mankind, you should stand corrected because as Indians you should know that classical Indian music derived its basic notes from the sounds of animals.

If you want to find out more about the origin of Indian music and its link to animals you must take a right about turn and dive deep back into the Vedic times. The Sama Veda one of the four major Vedas is dedicated to arts of both performing and non-performing varieties. A study of this Veda will reveal that all forms of arts found their inspiration from nature including music.

Just like you have to master the alphabet when you try to learn a new language and numbers when you try to improve your numerical skills it is important to learn the seven basic notes to grapple the rudiments of Indian classical music whether it belongs to the genre of Hindustani or Karnatic music. Most of you may be aware that Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni are the basic notes known as Swaras which have to be mastered by a learner.

It will be interesting to know the story behind these Swaras. Hindu mythology has recognised the cries of
animals and birds and has placed them in a pattern to form the octave. It has been observed that the first note called Shadja (Sa) matches with the cry of peacock; Rishaba (Ri) represents the sound made by a bull; Gandhara (Ga) resemble the bleat of a goat; while  Madhyama (Ma), reminds one of the cry of the heron, Panchama (Pa), is the celebrated note of the celebrated Cuckoo which caught the fancy of William Wordsworth; the note Dhaivata (Dha)  does not differ from the neighing of the horse; even as Nishada (Ni), sounds like the
trumpeting of an elephant. Initially the Swaras were referred to as Shadja, Rishaba, Gandhara, Madhyama, Panchama, Dhaivata, and Nishada in their full forms. As time passed people found it difficult to enunciate the names in their original form so they  abbreviated them as Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni  respectively.  The spacing of the Swaras results in a very pleasant sounding octave which has been used extensively in the field of music with umpteen numbers of variations which perhaps have been inspired from the cries of other animals and birds.

The learners of Western classical music will also realise that the primary notes of this system of music, do, re, me, fa, sol, la, ti also ascend on more or less a similar scale. It is quite possible that they could have derived these sounds from their local animals in the very beginning of time.

Today music has gone the electronic way and there are infinite variations across the globe but everyone of them have their roots in some basic sounds —made by animals and birds. It is high time we stop pretending that we are more elevated and cultured than mere animals and give them their due! What say you?