SPIRITUAL The verses have been explained and set to music. SUGANTHY KRISHNAMACHARI
T he musicality of the Divya Prabandhams is evident even in the choice of words. And when the verses are set to tune, it is a double treat. Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, as in many other aspects of music, was a pioneer in this respect too, and set to tune Andal's Thiruppavai. V.V. Sadagopan cut a 78-rpm record of Periyazhwar's ‘Aaanirai meikka.' Later Mani Krishnaswamy and R. Vedavalli set to tune verses in the Divyaprabandham.
While all these were in the classical genre, Sri Gayatri Narayana Trust has come up with a different idea. They have presented the meaning of the verses in simple Tamil, and this simplified version has been set to tune, in the light music genre.
The idea, according to Chennai-based Kavignar Koodal N. Raghavan, is to take the Azhwars' thoughts and those of commentators such as Periyavachan Pillai, to those not familiar with Divya Prabandham. The Trust has already published a book on the 108 Divya Desams, with the Azhwar's verses in praise of the deities, and simple explanations of the verses. They have now come up with audio CDs for four Divya Desams. Here they have set to music verses that capture the essence of the Mangalasasana verses for the temple, and the commentaries on these verses.
While the intention is laudable, one cannot help wondering why some verses which are not difficult to follow had to be simplified too. For example, Thirumangai Azhwar's verses on Lord Srinivasa, where he pines for the Lord and laments the many years he has wasted in serving others, are verses where the meaning is self- evident. Maybe the simplification could have been resorted to only in those verses, where one might have difficulty following the verse.
True, every verse has layers of meaning, which do not reveal themselves so readily to us without the aid of the commentaries. But presenting the interpretations of a commentator like Periyavachan Pillai through a few verses in contemporary Tamil, is not easy. However, this is what Raghavan has attempted, and in some cases, has brought out the philosophical underpinnings of the Azhwars' verses quite well. For example, in Periyazhwar's Pallandu, the Azhwar calls out to different kinds of people to come and join in the worship of Lord Narayana. He asks the gnani, the kaivalyarthi and those who seek boons from the Lord to join him in praising the Lord. This is not a meaning that is obvious, and will require some explanation, and here Raghavan succeeds in unravelling the intended meaning of Periyazhwar's verses for the benefit of the listener.
Raghavan plans to bring out video CDs for all the Divya Desams, and to have his verses translated. Another ambitious plan is to produce a television serial on the lives of Vaishnavite Acharyas. Raghavan can be contacted at 9894063660.