Thiruppavai – Goda’s Gita Volume 1 | My Take

Book Title: Thiruppavai – Goda’s Gita | Volume 1

Author: Swetha Sundaram

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Get Your Kindle Copy: Amazon US | Amazon India 

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Swetha Sundaram an Instrumentation and Controls Engineer who lives and works in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her narrative style was exactly like the ones of my grand aunts who would entertain my siblings, cousins and me with stories from various Puranas. Her narrative had a similar fault of meandering through the maze of stories.

Of course, there is no doubt that the stories are so interesting that you would not mind being deviated from the main course. In this volume, she sets the stage for the pasurams by providing a wonderful introduction to the primal God Varahar Perumal. She informs the origin of the thought seed of Thiruppavai to the moment when the Earth got saved by Varahar Perumal.

The first volume covers five pasurams and the main space is provided to the beginning and the life story of Godai and how her adoptive father Periyalvar found her under the Holy Basil plant. Her brilliance as a child and her love for Perumal is beautifully articulated in the early chapters.

The Story in a Nutshell

The story is about gathering all young girls to perform the Pavai Nombu with a secret agenda of acquiring Krishna for a husband. Godai the cheerleader of the group of young girls undertake the task to bring about this group worship of Lord Krishna. The first five pasurams deal with the first meeting to undertake the fast.

The entire setting is Gokulam of Godai’s imagination with River Yamuna playing some lead parts in the narrative. This volume deals with the part where the plan is set up to meet at predawn hour and perform the fast on Lord Krishna. The setting is a group meeting near the Yamuna with elder’s consent and a secret agenda of unifying with Krishna.

Godai and girls meet near the River Yamuna and discuss the purpose of the meeting. They then set up a plan to worship Lord Krishna with the secret agenda of getting Him for themselves. The girls are thrilled about the agenda and are excited to start.

Next day, after the late meeting, some ten girls are found missing. So Godai with few other girls who have arrived for the meeting sets out to find them. In the course of finding those girls, Godai wakes up each girl giving her some really nice stories in the wake.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked all the connected stories that are displayed like a bouquet of fragrant flowers. The stories brought back childhood memories of how the story used to be told. There was no fixed rule for the order in which the story needs to be told, a story could evolve from one look or one word uttered and completely sidetrack the narrator and listener. But then when it comes back to the strayed track to the main agenda, that is, to attain Lord Krishna; it has been beautifully done.

One thing that I would not say that I disliked it; but more out of concern for the readers who are not well-versed with Indian Mythological stories may need some context fixing especially when the conversation moves towards Alwars and their magical experiences.

My Opinion

I feel this volume was such a pleasure to read for two main reasons. One reason is that the small and big stories about Lord Vishnu and his many avatars were simply superb to read. The other reason being that I got to know so many unknown stories and the wonder of it is present like nectar consumed in Godai’s Vrindavan along with the Gopikas as another Pillaiy.

Image Source: Amazon India

Emotional Expression of Gita Govinda | An Inward Seeking

Work Title: Gita Govinda

Poet: Poet Jayadeva (12th Century  Court Poet)

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Poet:

The Gita Govinda by the Bengali court poet Jayadeva of the 12th Century, which was done to be enacted as a dance drama, touches on all the emotional aspects of the lovers from separation to the final union. The creative work is divided into 12 Cantos with 8 couplet groups or Astapathi. The cantos speak of the various emotional factors of Krishna and Radha, in the cowherd incarnation. The lyrical ballad describes the parting and reunion of the two lead players of the dance drama.

Little Information About Gita Govinda

The poetry of this work uses the various eight emotions of lovers starting from separation to satisfaction of union with a clever device to be a cathartic spiritual experience. This is essentially a love song with dramatic components in them of an aspirant seeker and the goal of the search. The poet has extensively used the various dramatic and emotional pointers to bring out the flavor of various yearning that is found in the various characters involved in the lyrical song.

This piece is structured for Vasantha or Spring season celebration. Jayadeva introduces many elements which enrich the poetry to be very visual and emotional work. The fact that onlookers feel these elements as part of their emotional growth, is achieved with perfect setting and poetry. The greatest expression of love is found in this work in the form of a description of The Spring season’s scenic elements. The poet plays with the various faun and flora of the season with such poetic finesse that the poems move the minds of the reader.

Gita Govinda in Southern Vaishnavism Tradition

The poetry has traversed through the various parts of India and has been adapted with varying degree of change in the format.  In the South, the Vaishnavism of Tamilnadu has adopted this work to be presented in the musical format. The Radha Kalyanam format is set up to bring out the beauty of the poetry and musical scores have been already chosen and a tradition has been created. Of course, the performing group of Bhagavathars and their chorus can experiment as per their Mano Dharam with other ragas for the translation of original work in Tamil.

The work is treated as a spiritual expression of an aspirant seeker of God who eventually finds Him and becomes one with Him. The work is given religious value with the elements of the Bhakti movement. The gathering of the Bakthas’ experience of the presence of God’s grace being bestowed upon them is given more importance in this format.

The Story in a Nutshell

The 12 cantos play around the dramatic scene of separation of Radha and Krishna and eventually how both of them come together. The eight various aspects of the heroines’ emotions and Krishna’s mental states are described with exquisite finesse by the poet. The lyrical quality of the work is appealing to the reader who takes pleasure in the detailed expression of the various dramatic elements of the relationship between Krishna and Radha.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked the fact that the poet uses the lyrical ballad mode to bring out the beauty of the relationship along with their various impressions. In this, the most important aspect would be the human emotions being explored with delicate modes of expression.

My dislike was the fact that I could not read the original work in the Sanskrit language. But the beauty of the poetry was not lost even in translation. I could still connect with the core work in translation.

My Opinion

Personally, I found the poem very erotic and it took me some time to actually fix the spiritual implication in it. Even though I travesed from the Southern version to original Sanskrit version. Bakthi movement has added spiritual value and south has added the ritualistic factor to the work. But no one can miss the lyrical beauty of the work.

Radha Kalyanam A Musical Event 2018| My Take

flute and feather

I came to know about Radha Kalyanam from my mother. She would reminiscence about incidents from her life. One of her past incidents was about her youngest sister’s interest in the Radha Kalyanam event more out of necessity than any spiritual import. She attended the event and participated in getting alms from the brahmin community, dancing around in the celebratory wooden press, and free meals at the end of the event. So, Radha Kalyanam was a reference that I got from my mother and I always thought of my aunt who passed away at a very young age.

I never really understood about Radha Kalyanam, since it was not my topic of interest. Naturally, I never could relate to the program format that my mother explained to me. But there were moments when I could imagine my youngest aunt jumping around the Ural or Wooden press pounding stick and finding whatever connection that she found in it.

Radha Kalyanam brought back sad notes for me and surprisingly, I attended the Radha Kalyanam for about most part on 29th and 30th December 2018. I feel that being a semi-passive audience could be a little hard on one. I definitely feel, that it the hardest to sit it out on a hard cold floor covered with a thin carpet and the AC in full blast. Apart from a bad back and butt after the program, I was left with a feeling that I really don’t know anything about Jayadevar’s “Gita Govinda” work.

My neighbor’s family has been holding this function during Marghazi Tamil month for the past three years. It usually coincides with the first day of the new year. Marghazi falls between mid-December to mid-January. Interesting thing is that Chennai climate is pretty cold in this month compared to the other months in the Tamil Calendar.

The past years, I had just quickly visited for a few moments and listened in from the comforts of my home since their function happened on their terrace. This year they had booked a hall for this function. I had no clue about the format of the program until this year and would always wonder why the singer was not doing a good job. I enjoy solo more than group singing. The only time I am fascinated by the group singing is when they have practiced a lot as a choir. The group singing is all about coordination and mellifluous voices that appear as a single unit.

This Marghazi of 2018 I felt an interesting need to attend this program and understand its import. So even when I did get the invite, I was thinking of just giving a quick visit and leave after taking tambulam. But somehow during my research on Andal’s work Thiruppavai, I came across a connecting reference to the rasaleela of Vrindavan and Andal’s call for Pavai Fasting.

The event format was not clear until I read a little more about the source work and the significance of the Radha Kalyanam. As an aftermath of attending the event, I had a hard time to forget Radha. The principal human Atmas are represented by Radha and gopikas who become unified with Krishna consciousness.

Around the second week of the new year, I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery that was making my mind so confused. Radha and Krishna’s relationship has a mystical quality to it which by the way, does not fall under the common human definition of love. But the audience can relate to the lower level resonance of love and the affection of human qualities and its human plane references.

So during my research of Radha Kalyanam, I found the following sites very informative:

So, I decided to get back to the main text written by Jayadevar in the “Gita Govind”. The Tamil version of the Astapathi of Jayadevar’s poetry is sung with great fervor of devotion. The translation of the Astapathi provided an incline into the poetic structure of the Gita Govind’s 24 verses of 8 couplets in a pastoral lyrical ballad.

There is a huge difference in the format of Thiruppavai and Gita Govind. Both speak of pastoral scenic places and settings. In the expression of love there lies the difference. The poetry is definitely conservative in the case of Andal’s Thiruppavai compared to the Astapathis. The view of the exact transliteration of the poetry may not provide a clear understanding of the central theme if the context is not fixed at the beginning.

Out of context, the Astapathi sounds very erotic since the poetic format is structured in such a way that it brings out pastoral love of Nayika and Nayak. It parallels the universal sought spiritual goal for each individual atma to get unified with the supreme Paramatma. This time Radha Kalyanam was interesting to follow and observe the various elements of the event. I am yet to find the Supreme Krishna consciousness.

In that I believe, Andal’s Nachiar Tirumozhi is closer to the Astapathi, yet Andal is very conservative in her expression. This conservative expression is essentially very south based poetry rules. Given that Andal’s exposure to various literary works at that time would have been provided by her adopted Father Periazhwar. Given that she was educated and learned to write a pastoral poem on her ishat devatha first as a communal prayer event and later as a personal one-on-one conversation leading to individual aspiration of sainthood. In that I liked the poetic quality of both the poets for different reasons. Though the pastoral quality of Gita Govind is sublime experience for me.

 

Image Source: Timelines.com

Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead | By Alfred L. Tennyson

The mind takes a fancy for some deep-seated sorrow and I begin searching for a poem from my past. The one subject which I really loved in my schooling days were the English classes and especially poetry unit. I was unconscious and struggling with my grades, until I was in the eighth. Then, my schooling life’s equation changed completely. Because, in the summer of 1987, I had started to write my journals and experimenting with writing poem with fixed end-word rhyme patterns.

Everything in this life of mine, was for a reason and I strongly believe it. Some of the strange occurrences in my life was an indication for inner growth of my emotional and mental state. I love poetry and still do. For me writing long explanatory prose is tedious; while a rhyming four lines can achieve much more and effectively too!

Today, the sky is filled with rain bearing clouds and the sound of light shower pitter-patters on my window pane, while becoming an ongoing reminder of the climate. The showers reminded me of a brave recent widow whose husband’s dead body arrives home. I remembered the poem but didn’t know who wrote it and was struggling to find this poem.

Somehow this kept reminding me of a Rajput Widow and somehow I got it mixed with Sarojini Naidu. After much permutation combination of search keywords, at last, I found the poem. But then I was saddened that it was not a Indian Poet.

Here is the poem:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45379/the-princess-home-they-brought-her-warrior-dead

You may also listen to it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVi4ZtmEu7I

I was fascinated with Alfred Lord Tennyson’s version of the poem. Somehow, the Authurian Knight having parted with the spirit, now lay motionless on his mansion’s cold floor; while his lady love’s emotions are frozen like his inanimate body. Did it reach my sensitivity? A resounding yes!

This made me interested In Tennyson’s life story. According to me, some of the most experiential writers are people who have lived the words that they write, if not in real-life at least in their imagination compounding from parallel life experience. I believe the poet and their experiences are not far apart. Beneath that camouflage of emotional outburst in verse form lives the very human poet.

I was elated that I found the poem from my past, if I hadn’t found it, I would have worried my mind endlessly. Many a times, I had within me a line from my past which would grip my understanding and emotions like some kind of a fierce hold on my life. That sense of unrest can be very intense for my peace of mind.

Having restored my peace and I watched with fascination at the long narrative about Tennyson’s life and works, courtesy: poetry foundation dot com.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/alfred-tennyson

I often wondered why poems were taught away from the creator of the piece. The quintessential factor is as much the piece, as the creator of the piece. The poem without the poet is simply not a given for me.

I wondered at the meeting of emotional points in Tennyson’s poem and those of Indian sentiments. I believe any warrior’s wife from which ever country, would have been the silently grieving lady who gives expression to her sorrow when her child is placed on her arms. The past and present got culminated in the vision of the future. Why do we have war in the first place? Because we kind of try to justify the need to defend the specific ideologies. Or, simply put, if peace can be achieved only by fighting for it, then so be it attitude! But at the end of the day, we have just lost the best people, given that men and women join the armies, these days.

Where am I hypothesizing in my thoughts about war and warriors? I find it fascinating that brave and courageous warriors are in great demand to create a new world; but I disagree that it be created on the bloodshed of many innocents. I don’t propose war and especially unwarranted, but then what if it is unavoidable circumstance. What would be the most humane stand to take?

The whole gamut of the scenario is reduced to the child on the arms of the mother. Is there going to be a repeat of the incident at a future date with the son now covered with the country’s flag. I don’t agree to that scenario, but then tell me haven’t we witnessed this scene repeat itself in a loop over many centuries.  I am perplexed and confused, since this is a question that will remain unanswerable because braveness calls forth for sacrifice that mere weakling mortals cannot achieve in their lifetime.

Image Source: Pexels.com