Wednesday, March 16, 2016

“A Spring that made many hearts blossom”

“shAnthA mahAnthO nivasanthi santhO
vasanthaval-lOkahitham charanthaha |
theerNaa: svayam bheemabhavArNavam janA-
nahEthunAnyaapi thaarayanthaha ||”

“There are saints on this earth —
silent and great —
who, like the Spring season,
bring about the well-being of the world.”

I was reading and recording “Adhi Sankarar aLikkum AchArya lakshaNam” – Sankara charitham, part-5 from dheivathin kural, a month ago and I had no idea that the slOkam is actually a clear indication of the assurance by the divine grace to shower its blessings for vandhE guruparamparAm. I received an Agnai (आज्ञा) from shrI bAla periyavA on November 10th to organise a concert for mahA periyavA ArAdhanai by first week of January. From that day onwards, I have been trying to organise one. The artistes were in India for December music festival then. So I thought of arranging it by the end of January or first week of February, but the kids had to gear up for thyAgaraja ArAdhana followed by exams, projects and assignments. I decided I should not leave without carrying out the divine order.  The day I should leave to India was nearing.

On February 25th I was able to finalise the date and venue when the second Sunday of March seemed convenient for everyone. Things started to shape up on its own.

I designed an invitation on 27th February morning and was thinking in mind, ‘periyavA… this is the approximate invitation. How am I going to keep it in your lotus feet, in adhishtAnam and take blessings of you before I share this to everyone?’ In five minutes (27th night in Chennai) I got a message from none other than Gayathri Venkataraghavan, “Hi Nagaraj… I may go to kAnchipuram early morning tomorrow, will offer a bilva mAlai on behalf of you, vERa enna sollaNum?” I sent her the invitation. When I connected my mobile to WiFi after a few classes that evening (early morning of 28th in Chennai) my WhatsApp blinked. My friend S. Hariharan and my sishyA Giridharan had sent me messages that they are on their way to kAnchipuram and asking me, if I need to convey anything to periyavA.

I remembered the smile of mahA periyavA saying, ‘whenever you wonder that something beyond your capacity is happening, realise, it is the divine entity with you makes it happen’.

True. This program is one among thousands of such realisations and when the date 13th March was finalised, it was a sweet surprise to know it is “Spring break” here. lOka hitham charanthaha… ahEthunA… without expecting anything in return the spring blossoms every life and so is “guru”. It was a combination of bAla periyavA jayanthi and kAradaiyAn nOnbu-gowri vratham too. To add to the bhAgyam of all of us, shrI bAla periyavA had given (on January 25 to charaN-dheepikA during their India trip) a big packet of ‘kunkumam’ which HE had held in HIS own hands doing japam, blessed and had instructed me to give it to devotees (varavaaLukku avan kaiyaalayE kudukka chollu) for their manObheeshta siddhi.

With the extended support of Smt.Rajarajeshwary Bhat and Shri Vittal Ramamurthy we were able to present the concert involving more than 50 kids and eminent young vibrant musicians singing various krithis mainly on guru and kAmAkshi. ‘guru moorthE thvAm namAmi kAmAkshi’ says mookha Sankara in AryA Shathakam (46-mookha panchashathi)
(kuNDali kumAri kuTile chaNDi charAcharasavitri chAmuNDe |
guNini guhAriNi guhye gurumUrte tvAM namAmi kAmAkShi ||)

Smt. Krishnaveni Hebbar, Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat, Vittal Ramamurthy, Smt. Shrimathi Gopalan and myself lit the kuththuviLakku followed by gaNanApathi dhyAnam, mEdhA sUktham and a little ganam by Abhijith Venkat and Girish Venkat. I spoke for a few minutes about periyavA and the objective of the function and welcomed the gathering.

Commencing the concert with bhAjagOvindham sounded very appropriate as the theme was “vandhE guruparamparAm”. When there are more than thousand names of vishNu, shrI Sankara chose gOvindha nAma, since HIS guru was gOvindha bhagavathpAdha and the song also served a fitting tribute to Smt. M.S.Subhalakshmi’s centenary celebrations. The kids sang the songs 2,3&5 with great sincerity and devotion while ravi muthurajan, a disciple of udaiyALoor kalyANarAman sang the nAmAvaLi (4).

It was time for the young violinists to play now. garudadhvani varNam of lAlgudi mAmA on shaNmukha followed by brochEvArevarE in which the saint composer pleads ‘bhavAbdhi tharuNO pAyamu lErani’ ‘rAmA.. who else can hold my hand and save me from the ocean of birth and death and lead me to attainment?’ The lyrics perfectly echoing with theerNaa: svayam bheemabhavArNavam janAn, words of Adhi Sankara. That was followed by the thillAnA in mANd – ‘sakala uyirkkum annai neeyandrO.. aruL kAnchi kAmAkshi’

Kruthi rendered the theme slOkam sadhASiva samArambhAm and shrI shankara guruvaram.

[cintayAmi - I meditate (upon)
shrI shankara guruvaram - Shri Shankaracharya, the best of Gurus
bhava haram - the destroyer of Samsara

A: sAshanka ratipati bANa jAla - (to) the bunch of arrows of Manmatha, sent with trepidation
tUla kAlAnalam - (he is as) the cataclysmic fire to cotton wool

C: ajnAna timira taraNim - (he is the) Sun to the darkness of ignorance
angIkrta shruti saraNIm - he validates the path of the Vedas
su-jnAna sukha karaNim - he causes the joy of pure knowledge
sUkSma praNavAraNim - he is the flintstone that ignites the subtle consciousness
(thanks to Rajani of rasikAs org for translation)]

SyAmA sAsthri’s bhairavi svarajathi reverberated with vibrant singing by Smt.Rajarajeshwari, Kruthi Bhat, Keerthana Bhat, Pavani and Varshitha. It was time to sing a few compositions of shrI jayEndhra periyavA and Deepika sang karuNa rasa poorNa and eppadi pAdinarO followed by nAmAvaLi and nadamAdum dheivam by Ravi Muthurajan. Kruthi sang praNadhOdhAraNa in kApi, Deepika sang thOtakAshtakam and the concert concluded with maithreem bhajatha.

The percussion section contributors along with me were Charan Rajan (disciple of shrI UKS Sir) and my sishyAs Pranav Krishna Ramasubramaniam (Omaha) and Chandrakaanth Ramamurthy (Pearland).

A book ‘shrI kAnchi mahA periyavA’ along with the kunkumam shrI bAla periyavA had blessed and a mysore paagu were given as gift to all 50+ students. The main artistes Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat and Shri Vittal Ramamurthy were honoured. They were kind enough to cheerfully take part and had also trained number of students for this concert. A photo of mahA periyavA with kunkumam was given to everyone who had attended. A photo of kAmAkshi, kunkumam and a small gift were given to volunteers. Some prasAdhams were sent to people who had RSVP but couldn’t attend for some reasons.

We had hardly 15 days to decide, organise, meet people, fix venue, train the students and conduct the event in a satisfying manner. Thanks to all the 170+ people who attended and made it a grand offering in such a short notice. Thanks a ton to all who contributed to the event and all volunteers who helped in stage decoration, audio-video, dinner prasAdham, fruits, flowers and essentials. We thank the committee of Ashtalakshmi Temple for providing the venue with a nominal charge.

There are 360 degrees in a full rotation and that is going to be the number of days I spent in the US during this visit too. 360 days! A complete and comfortable stay in the US all these days and what I take home will be the affection, care and concern each and every one showered on me. I will miss you all. See you soon.

                                  ~vandhE guruparamparAm~