I have been fortunate to read a discussion about an old interview with Dr.SrIpada Pinaaka Pani garu by Sri Nanduri Pardha Sarsthi garu. The discussion centered around a remark by Dr.Sripada about the secondary role literature has in a music concert.
The ancient Sanskrit verse, ‘An infant knows, a beast knows, and even a serpent knows juicy music’ (,’Sisurvaetti, pasurvaetti, vaetti gana rasam phanihi’). supports the view of Dr.Sripada. We can not declare the same about literature, because none else than a great sage can write a great work of literature , ( Naanrishihi kurutae kavyam) and it requires a discerning connisseur to savor it. Srisri may say that, nothing is undeserving to write a poem about, , ‘ kaadaedee kavitha kanarham’, but he qualifies it by declaring that the output should be some thing dynamic, something that propels you, that wakes you up from slumber’, ( kadilaedee, kadilinchaedee, penuniddara vadilinchaedee).
What Dr.Sripaada, had in fact said was that, if you are so very ardent about literature, go find a cozy corner in your room and relish your literature, why come to a music recital.? Yes, why go all the way there, if you wish to concentrate on the yati, the prasa, the dhwani, the kavya lakshana, the grammar and all that?
This is the context in which he made the remark, it doesn’t belittle literature in any way, it was only thst his interest lay in music rather than litersture at least while he was busy rendering the song before connisseurs of music.
And his remarks about Annamayya’s lyrics too have to be regarded in this context only. If you wish to enjoy the literary beauty of Annamayya, don’t just attempt to do it through the songs rendered by the several great singers, but sit down in some quiet place and read one of the several of his compositions, whether set to music or not, and may be holding in your hand a heavy Telugu-to-Telugudictionary. There are several of his compositions which excel in literary and philosophical content but which are ignored by most people, but most of us have enjoyed a,’Paluku Taenela talli’, a ‘Vacchenu Alamelu Manga’ or a ‘ kondalalo nelakonna Konaeti Rayadu.’ or a ‘tandanaana poray’, haven’t we?
A good melody can lift even a padestrian lyric into immortality. Several movie songs, particularly some prosaic ones by Atreya, are examples. But even the best of all literary work can not enthuse you when rendered in a dissonant manner. Thus is not to belittle literature.
Allasani Peddana, chides Krishna Deva Raya, for asking him to compose a poem, out of the blue,thus
Nirupahati sthalambu, rsmanee priya dootika techi itchu kappura videmu …etc..
. He spelt out a number of prerequisites that would spawn great literature.
I, for one feel, similar requisites as essential to be able to savor good literature.And if some one sings it to you in a mellifluous voice, oh, it would be divine, but beware, the music may draw you away from the literary worth of it in the lyric. Don’t you agree? Daily I see frantic requests over the net for lyrics and meanings of quite a few Telugu songs, which clearly means that they wish to have the lyric and know its meaning, because the tune and the beat suggested it to be a great lyric.
Pinaka Pani doen’t mean to say that Tyaga Raja or Annamayya lacked literary merit He only meant that they wrote in the colloquial idiom, not in the grammatical ( grandhika) style current in those day, but in. folky idiom. During the time of Annamayya, the balance was more in favor of literary content or meaning of the lyric. (Even so, literary stalwarts like Srinatha, perhaps out of spite over the popularity for the folksy lyrics of the likes of Annamayya, had derided them,–“Pada kavithalu maarubasa bapanavaaral etc.”
By the time of Tyaga Raja, the tastes had changed, people became more conscious and conversant of the idiom of music. And Tyaga Raja, chose to give a greater weight to music as he was thorughly versed in music than perhaps in literature or perhaps had little patience to chistel his literature fine, as long as his emotional craving for his master, dad, son, lord, supreme God and everything Sri Rama,was fullfilled within his sparse verses and great music. Singing verses in praise of the Lord (,Kirtanam) after all is one of the nine ways propounded by Narada to worship the Almighty.
Even so, one can not deny that he scaled lierary heights that may not be as lofty as those of his music, in compositions like the emotion-drenched Abheri kriti, ” Nagu momu ganaleni’, or even in many others like, “Bantu reeti Koluvu’, ‘ Tulasi Dalamulache’, ‘ Yetula brothuvo teliya’, ‘ Manasu loni marmamu’. It is only that you enjoy the sparse literature as a prop for the emotion-soaked music.Tyagaraja’s literature is not emotion, recollected in tranquility, it is emotion bursting forth as musical outporings regardless rules of grammar or literature.
Of course, I do not deny that for an outstanding song, ( not a recital of raaga or pallavi or a chitta swara, an arrangement of notes) a balance is required by and large, between the literature and the music, just as Kalidasa has said in his memorable verse,
” Vaagardhaviva samprkthau vaagarfhaprathipaththaye
jagathaha pitharau vandae ParvathIparamaesvarau ”
This Sanskrit verse of Kalidasa from Raghuvansam, talks of the happy marriage between the word and its meaning.
Here is a verse from Vasu Charitra, by Rama Raja Bhushanudu,which is relevant in this context.
Here is the English translation by me followed by the original verse in Roman script.
“Goddess Saraswathi, has melted the multi-hued beads ( letters of the alphabets), strung as her beautiful rosary, by means of the strumming of her veena, and moulded them again as glittering beads ( letters of the alphabet) after imprinting on them Her own image and after imparting them immortality and imbuing them with a soul, thus making them well-rounded entities. This sweet voiced mother may mercifully protect the cultured voice of Lord Tirumala Raya ( the author’s patron)”
Ramaneeyakshasaraakritin-boluchu, varna sraenee veenaanulaa-
-pamu chaetam-gara-giinchi yandu nija bimbamb-oppaga-yatchaamruta-
-twamun-aatma pratipaadakatwamunu-dadwarnaali yandella-boo-
-rnamu-gaavinchina Vaani Tirmala mahaa raayokti-bolchum-grupan. (1-4).
The assertion by Dr.Sripada, that even a Golden plattaer needs a wall if it wishes to stand, seems.to be justified. Which is the strong wall and which is the golden platter, depends on one’s individual tastes.Both the golden platter and the strong wall can choose to stand alone or rather sit but then it will not be a complete entity ever-lasting and soul-ful.
I remember when I was young, being admonished by one of my mentors, a Telugu scholar and an accomplished singer and Harikatha exponent, Sri M. Sada Siva Sastry garu even after my having recited from heart, verbaim a difficult poem of Nannaya from Andhra Maha Bhagavatham. The reason was that I recounted the poem like prose, not sang it out nicely. I find his son, Dr.Brahmananda Sastry, a class-fellow of mine in my childhood, delightfully expound on the literary merits of Tyagaraja’s kritis, occassionally on the Bhakti TV.
As they say music and literature are indeed the two breasts of Mother Saraswathi, (see the Sanskrit versebelow), the infants that we are, we may chosse this one or that but both are nourishing to the soul. If you wish to go for both, like the way Tenali Rama Krishna did when he chose both fame and pelf, it is all the more fine.
Yaekam-aapaatha madhuram, anyad-aaloachanaamrutham.”