Musician, composer and music educator Kanniks Kannikeswaran began his talk on ‘Navagraha Temples of Chola Nadu and the Vaara kritis of Dikshitar’ with the three dimensional matrix of the kritis, jyotisha sastra and the Navagraha temples, which according to him, are the basis for understanding the compositions. The temples are situated around Kumbhakonam; except the Suryanarkoil, which is dedicated to the Sun God, all the others are Siva temples with shrines for the grahas. Muthuswamy Dikshitar composed the seven Vaara kritis celebrating the days of the week, as per the Indian culture. The seven songs are composed in seven different ragas, each set to one of the seven Sooladi talas.

‘Sampradayaprasini’ of 1904 mentions only the Vaara kritis of Dikshitar, said Kanniks. The song dedicated to Rahu in Chakravakam is part of Lalithopakyanam and the one on Kethu in Chamaram (Shanmukhapriya) is believed to have been composed by one of his disciples with the same mudhra of his Guru.

Kanniks went on to say that the nine celestial bodies (they are not all planets) and their devatas were connected to each other; the sunlight is reflected through these celestial bodies and reach people on earth. Thus, their positions play a role in our well being and health. The twelve rashis of the Zodiac (Kanniks felt the word ‘zodiac’ might have its root in the word Jyothisha) are nothing but space visualised in 12 sectors. Jyothisha deals with the interaction of the grahas.

Talking of the Vaara kritis Kanniks mentioned that the first two to be composed by Dikshitar were those on Brihaspati or Guru (Jupiter) and Sanaischara (Saturn) to cure his disciple Tambiappa Muttukkara (a Suddhamaddala player) of his stomach ailment. After that he composed, the other five songs. The seven compositions are: ‘Suryamurte’ on Sun in Saurashtram and Druva Tala, ‘Chandram Bhaja’ on moon in Asaveri and Matya Tala, ‘Angarakam Ashrayami’ on Mars in Surutti and Rupaka tala, ‘Budham Ashrayami’ on Mercury in Nattakurinji and Jhampa tala, ‘Brihaspate’ in Atana set to Triputa tala, ‘Sri Sukra Bhagavantam’ on Venus in Paras and Ata tala and ‘Divakaradanujam’ in Yadukulakhambodi and Chatusra Eka tala.

Kanniks sang each song and explained the meaning, poetic beauty, the attributes and personality as well as the family details of the Graha, the legends connected with it and the information on the relevant temple.

Dikshitar composed all the Vaara kritis in Tiruvarur only and not at the different kshetras. There are other kritis by him, which refer to Navagrahas; many other composers have also written on the Navagrahas, including the contemporary ones, said Kanniks and went on to sing the old Tamil song ‘Veyurutolibangan’ to conclude the lecture.