Friday Review » Music

Updated: August 27, 2009 11:55 IST

Song’s tryst with spirituality

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UNUSUAL The visuals are pleasing and relevant
UNUSUAL The visuals are pleasing and relevant

Sri Chakra Darshana, a documentary on Dikshitar’s kritis, takes you through the composer’s life and work with a detailed background of Devi worship traditions in India

The Carnatic music tradition is steeped in religion and spirituality. Virtually all major compositions address or are dedicated to one deity or the other and even the smaller body of love-songs — like javalis, padams and some varnams — is often read as allegories for the relationship between devotee and God.

Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s compositions, following this tradition are dedicated to the Hindu gods and goddesses. Among the most remarkable of his krithis, is the set known as Kamalamba Navavarna Krithis. Fortunately, this group of krithis has come down to us in its complete form unlike many other group-compositions of Dikshitar.

In what is probably the first of its kind, a documentary on these Dikshitar krithis titled, “Sri Chakra Darshana” has been released by Vanamala Arts Foundation run by musician and teacher Dr. Meera Rajaram Pranesh and her husband, Dr. A. Pranesh. The two-hour film comes complete with detailed background of Devi worship traditions in India, and the place of these traditions in Sri Vidya practitioner Dikshitar’s life and work, as also vocal renditions of the Navavarna lyrics.

The documentary begins with a general introduction to the concepts and forms of Sri Vidya and Sri Chakra worship and goes on to the specifics of each composition. Each of the nine songs is respectively on one of the nine enclosures or avaranas of the Sri Chakra matrix or auspicious wheel employed in the Devi worship. We are told that Dikshitar chose the Samhaara Krama for this. That is, he begins from the outermost enclosure or avarana and proceeds to the innermost one called bindu. In effect, he used music as a vehicle for taking listeners on a spiritual journey; a tour of the Sri Chakra.

These nine songs are preceded by a Ganesha krithi “Srigananatham” (Raga Ishamanohari) and followed by the mandatory mangalam “Srikamalambike” ( Raga Sri) making for 11 lyrics in all. The scholarly Dikshitar managed to weave into each song the name of the chakra, its major features, its geometry, and the god/devata associated with it; besides playing successfully with Sanskrit grammar. These 11 compositions are rendered here in their original format following the asampurna mela paddhati and suladi sapthathala system as presented in Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini.

The visuals are pleasing and relevant, like the Shakti peethas for instance, the renditions are melodious, though the studio-setting for these renditions could have done with more powerful lighting. Overall, the technical quality is good. Both English and Kannada versions use a simple, lucid script which goes a long way in demystifying the esoteric subject of the documentary and making comprehension easy. The documentary successfully explores and establishes the link between Carnatic music and spirituality.

At one point, during the rendition of second avarana krithi, the screen displays the notation to coincide with each syllable being sung. So you can see the palindrome unfolding before you in audio and visual form. It is touches like these that make the documentary interesting and educative.

Dr. Meera and her husband scripted and directed the documentary while narration is by her and S. Gyanesh. Award-winning film director Katte Ramachandra, entrusted with the technical direction, does a creditable job.

The vocals are by Dr. Meera Pranesh, Sandhya Ram, Pavitra Giridhar, and B.R. Tulsi; and shloka rendition by Arjun Shrivatsa. The accompanying artists are Lalitha Vijayakumar and Shruti V. Kumar (veena), Renuka Prasad (mridanga), S.N. Narayanamurthy (ghata), A.S.N. Swamy (khanjira), and Soumya Anil and Bhagavati (tambura).

The two-hour documentary comes packaged as a set of two DVDs with a tiny booklet containing the lyrics. It is priced at Rs. 399 and available in English and Kannada versions. For copies, contact: Vanamala Art Foundation (080) 2685 1339. 98455-14661 or email

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