My brother and his wife have come on a lunch visit.. The missus and my sister-in-law are great friends,despite being co-sisters-in-law, ( an elegant Indianism, i have coined) , within the family.. If they have transcended the sibling-in-law-rivalry, it is mainly due to their common love for music or perhaps because they both are getting older.
Was it Ogden Nash, who said,
“I used to burn
But now I smoulder
That’s how I learn
I am getting older.”
They are singing together the Ashtapadi, “Saavirahay tava deena” .set in raaga Caanada. about the pangs of separation being felt by the love-lorn Radha pining for Lord Krishna, who iselusive.This Astapadi was sung magnificently by P. Bhanumathi in the movie ‘Vipra Narayana’, but in raaga Kalyani or Yaman, as they call it in the north, where they intersperse the Suddha Madhyama note here and there.
We are discussing Jaya Deva , Geetha Govindam and movies and misic in general over the luncheon.
Given the high datum Shruti of her voice, I feel, Bhanumathi’s rendering of the song in Yaman was a bit brighter and livelier than it ought to have been and had it been sung in Caanada.
Caanada is a great raaga which evokes devotion, pathos and anguish. Its North Indian cousin, Durbaari Caanada, another great raaga, also evokes similar emotions. An immortal song in Durbaari Caanada is, “Sivasankaree, Sivaananda Laharee”, tuned by Pendyaala and sung by Ghantasala for the movie, Jagadayka Veeruni Katha.”
Another great song in Durbaari Caanada is , ” Oh duniyakay rakhwalay,” set to music by Naushad and sung by Mohammad Rafi, for the classic movie of yore, “Baizu Baawara “
Coming back to the subject, Ashtapadies are eight-lined lyrics in Sanskrit found in the epic dance-drama “Geetha Govindam” written by the great Poet Jayadeva, a millennium ago describing the amorous exploits of the young Lord Krishna and his consort Radha in the woods of the Brindavan while on picnic there. It is believed that the author’s spouse, Padmavathi reputed to be a great dancer, used to enact out each lyric, as and when it was written. In fact Jayadeva is fondly known as, ” The Monarch who propels Padmavathi’s feet.”
There are a number of other Ashtapadies from Geetha Govindam sung beautifully by Ghantasala in the movie, “Bhakta Jaya Deva”,. There is still another from the movie, Tenali Ramakrishna, rendered by P. Suseela exquisitely, viz., “Chandana Charchita neela kalaybara” , pictured on the beautiful actor of yester years, Sandhya, who incidentally was the mother of the Tamilnadu Chief Minister, Jayalalitha.
The missus is asking something. “Why is the 19th Ashtapadi “Priye Charuseelay” called the Darsana Ashtapadi and Sanjivani Ashtapadi.? “.
Yeah, Priye Charuseelay, is known so for good reasons.
Besides the normal version of this sung by Ghantasala in the movie, Bhakta Jayadeva”, there is another version, in the movie, ” Meghasandesam”, wherein P.Suseela renders the Sanskrit stanzas even as Jesudas interposes in his mellifluous voice with Telugu interpolations.
I explain it to the missus the story behind the appellations tagged to the 19th Ashtapadi. The story is apocryphal, but it is representative of the love and affection with which the author and his lyrics are regarded to this day by music lovers.
“Jaya Deva is happy. His new work, Gita Govindam, has been progressing briskly, without hitch. His devotion to The Lord and his love for poetry, music and dance oozed out of each of his lyrics.. He begins to pen the 19th Ashtapadi.. Words spill out facilely without his having to think. He is ecstatic.
“Smara garala khandanam, mamasirasi mandanam, dehi padapallavamudaram, oh, great, ” He is full of euphoria. But on second thoughts, is it really that great, or to be precise, even proper? Jayadeva is not sure. For, the Lord is telling his consort, ” Radha! My infatuation towards you is toxic. It has gone to my head. Pray, place your dainty feet on my cranium. Hopefully it would force the poison out and restore my sanity.”
“No, it is blasphemous. i shouldn’t have written so.”, Jayadeva strikes the line out, and goes out in to swim and bathe in the cool waters of the river near by, to clear his head. He returns after a while and sits down to contemplate for an apter replacement for the line that he had scratched out. He picks up the page and looks at the line. Lo! What’s this? Who has written back the scratched out words again on this page? Apparently it looks like his own hand He calls out to his wife to find out.. Padmavathi comes from inside the house. She is perplexed. “Haven’t you come a little while earlier, and told me that you decided that the line was perfectly okay, given the transcendent and sublime love the Lord had for Radha and then restored the line ?”, she asks. Both are silent for a while, but then they understand.
They raise their hands and join their palms together in silent salutation to the Great Lord. The visions (Darsanams), Jayadeva had had, before setting forth to record them on paper were no mere hallucnations of a heated imagination, This indeed is a Darsana Ashtapadi, Padmavathi, concludes.
The Queen is jealous and the king , a poet in his own right is envious. Jealous that Padmavathi, (a friend of the queen) is acclaimed for her devotion and love to her husband, the great poet Jayadeva,. Envious that the king’s own poetry in praise of the Lord is scoffed at by his subjects in preference to Jayadeva’s Geetha Govindam.
The queen intends to put her friend’s devotion and love towards her husband,to test. She waits for an opportunity.
The king and the poet go to the forest on a hunting expedition. The queen contrives a false announcement in the presence of Padmavathi about the demise of the poet during the course of the expedition. Unable to bear the stunning news, Padmavathi, falls dead.The queen is afraid and is at a loss as to what to do. After a while, the king and the poet return from the hunt. Jayadeva is shocked and inconsolable to see the still form of his wife. He looks at the still body from top to toe. At those still and cold feet who danced out as ordained by his lyrics. They called me the power behind those dainty feel lying still here. Can I move them now a wee bit. He cries out.,” I can not bear this. The poison (of my bereavement), has gone to my head. Pray, dear Chaaruseelay, the blemishless one, kindly place your feet on my head. Hopefully that will cure me of this poison. ” he repeats on and on like a mad man, touching his head to the still and cold feet of his dear departed wife again and again.
Padmavathi returns from the limbo,as though waking up from a stupor. Everyone is surprised .They conclude that the Lord’s words of love , ( for they were endorsed by Him ), cried out by the hapless poet in his grief, had indeed resurrected the pious lady. The Ashtapadi, verily, was Sanjeevani , (Resurrecter).”
The missus nods silently. Abd grabs a tissue from the table and quietly wipes her nose.