Renuka’s aunt from Australia sent a WhatsApp clip in the morning and commented that her mother used to sing this song well. Renuka played the clip and I sang few lines along. It is probably few decades since I last listened to the song.
The song was Nadha Vindhu, a hymn on Lord Muruga written by Arunagirinathar, a poet lived in the 15th Century.
First the tradition. In India, as soon as the child learns to speak, the first rhymes that are taught are mostly Slokas (verse) is always about The God. In our family, it is this sloka.
“Subham Karoti Kalyaanam
Arogyam Dhana Sampadaha
Shatru Buddhi Vinashaya
Deepa Jyotir Namosthute”
This roughly translates as
“I pay my salutation (namaskara) to the light / lamp which brings auspiciousness; prosperity, good health, abundance of money and wealth, and the destruction of the intellect’s enemy.”
For centuries these slokas and verses are taught mostly by Grandmas to Grand Children. There are no books to refer to. I just saw ‘Subam Karothi’ in print when I started writing this blog. It’s just the tradition of teaching the next generation to recite without any printed text. It did not matter, where you lived and which language was spoken there. Renuka’s mother was born and brought up in Delhi where the language of communication is Hindi and yet she recited this poem in Tamil which was written in 15th Century.
My Grandma, was born in Travancore state, the Present state of Kerala before she was married off when she was nine years old and packed off to Tamilnadu. She could read only Malayalam and not Tamil, the language spoken in Tamilnadu. And yet, she would recite poems of Thiruneelakandar, a poet from 12th/13th Century written in tongue twisting Tamil.
And thus the tradition of reciting slokas and poems were passed from generation to generation for centuries. Remember the Gutenberg press was invented only in the 15th century; so there was no print material available. It was by route, the ancient literature were preserved.
Adarsh, Jayakanth’s son, when he was child of two or three, used to visit us in the weekends to play with Rachna. But his play had to wait. The moment he entered the house I would ask him to recite the poems he had learnt. Obediently, he would fold his hands across his chest and sing all the poems he had learnt from one of Grandma, without pausing for breath. I am sure, even today, he recites some of these poems every morning in Netherlands where is pursuing a Masters Degree.
Not just the slokas and poems. Even the great Indian epics the Ramayana and Mahabharatha are first narrated by the elders to the children. My Grandma (mother’s mother) was the first one who introduced the epics to us when we were children. We would listen with rapt attention when she narrated the stories from Mahabhara. I still remember the story of ‘Yayati’ she told us in the seventies. She would seat us in the Veranda overlooking the sea in Mahabalipuram and narrate different stories everyday. And we were 8 to 12 years old then.
This particular poem, Nadha Vindhu was written by Arunagirinathar, a poet from 14th/15th Century. His poems collectively known as Thiruppugaz was sung in praise of Lord Karthikeya/Muruga and Nadha Vindhu was on Lord Muruga residing in Pazhani Temple. Not much is known of the poet. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that ‘In his treatise A History of Indian Literature (1974), Czech Indologist Kamil Zvelebil places Arunagirinathar’s period between circa 1370 CE and circa 1450 CE.’
His poems are known for their lyricism coupled with complex rhymes and rhythmic structures. In Thiruppugazh, the literature and devotion has been blended harmoniously.
Thiruppugazh is one of the major works of medieval Tamil literature, known for its poetical and musical qualities, as well as for its religious, moral and philosophical content.
The first two stanzas of the poem:
நாத விந்துக லாதி நமோநம
வேத மந்த்ரசொ ரூபா நமோநம
ஞான பண்டித சாமீ நமோநம …………… வெகுகோடி
நாம சம்புகு மாரா நமோநம
போக அந்தரி பாலா நமோநம
நாக பந்தம யூரா நமோநம ……. …. பரசூரா
A Transliteration would be
Salutations and salutations see of the lord and his Sakthi,
Salutations and salutations to him who is the form of Vedic Manthras,
Salutations and Salutations to the God who is lord of wisdom,
Salutations and salutations to the son Lord Shiva with several crores of names
Salutations and salutations to the son Lord Shiva with great name
Salutations and salutations to the son of Goddess who grants passion to beings,
Salutations and salutations to him who rides of a peacock, which ties snake by his feet
Salutations and salutations to him who punished the Sooras as a sport.
We have grown up listening to the poem rendered by Mrs. M. S. Subbulakshmi, a great exponent of Carnatic Music and a Bharat Ratna Awardee (the highest civilian honour bestowed in India). I searched for other renditions of the song and immediately fell in love with the one sung by Mr. T. M. Krishna. I was so immersed with the sweetness of his voice, the clarity of the lyrics and the immense devotion he had shown while singing it. I listened to the song a at least a dozen times continuously and every time a couplet would give goosebumps as it did four decades ago.
You don’t need to know the language to enjoy this poem. The the words, the rhythm and the construction of the poem would take you to a world of pure bliss. As I said, devotion and tradition at its best.
You can watch it in YouTube here:
If you have Apple Music Subscription, you can listen here: https://music.apple.com/in/album/nadavindu-ragam-kuranji/351516413?i=351516814