Har Har Gange — a river’s story in songs

Har Har Gange

Har Har Gange  


The musical narrative ‘Har Har Gange’ showed the connect between storytelling and music

As the cool morning air signalled Margazhi, we entered Rasika Ranjani Sabha to hear Subramanian Chidambaran narrating the story of the Ganga that left one with the sacred feeling of having taken a dip in its waters. ‘Har Har Gange,’ a musical narrative presented by Mumbai’s Shravanam, attempted to unravel the connection between music and storytelling.

Narrator Subramanian Chidambaran, vocalists Sidhi Krishnamoorthy and Kanchana Manyam, who were clad in red and white Bengal-style saris, and the accompanists offered a refreshing performance with their sincere and scholasticapproach.

Chidambaran’s references to Adi Sankara’s verses, the Ramayana, and Vedas elevated the programme. Another interesting moment was the rendering of Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s composition ‘Gange Mam Pahi’ (Jenjhuti). There were also some verses composed by the narrator.

The narrative that began with the song ‘Har Har Gange,’ focused on the origin of the river, its course and the state it is in today. “When Vishnu reveals himself as Trivikrama, the Lord places his feet on the heavens. Brahma pours water from the kamandalu on the Lord’s feet, and this water flows as Akasha Ganga,” said Chidambaran.

Bageeratha’s penance

Bageeratha through his penance tries to bring Ganga down to wash away the sins of his ancestors, but since its force would split the earth, he decides that none other than Siva would be able to take Ganga on to his head. And that is how the river rests in Siva’s Jatamandala. A song by Appayya Dikshitar illustrated this.

Bageeratha does penance again to make the Ganga flow on earth. As she flows down to earth, the fishermen treat her as a mother and a daughter as seen in the folk song ‘Shivuni Sirasupaini.’ She flows through the Himalayas turning into many streams. So the story continues until she flows to the Netherworld and washes the ashes of Bageeratha’s ancestors, who get satgati.

There are several references to the Ganga in literature, folklore and music. The relationship of Kartikeya with Ganga comes through in the song ‘Kartikeya Gangeya Gowri Tanaya.’ That Ganga reaches Kasi finds reference in the piece ‘Ma Ganga Kashi Padhari.’ Folklore portrays Gowri and Ganga as the two wives of Siva. Adi Sankara in Soundarya Lahari paints the different moods of Amba, and mentions Gowri’s anger at Ganga. Another song refers to her as the flow of Knowledge, Bhakti and Shraddha. The reverence attributed to drinking even one drop from the holy Ganga comes through in the words ‘Ganga jalalava Kanikapita’ in Adi Sankara’s ‘Bhaja Govindam.’

A visual on the screen showed the polluted state of the Ganga today leading to the song ‘Ganga behti ho kyun,’ by Bhupen Hazarika, its beautiful lyrics decrying the state of the Ganga today. A beautiful visual of aarti on the banks of the river was followed by the rendering of the songs ‘Patitodharini Gange’ and ‘Mangalam Bhagavati Ganga.’

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 6:57:03 PM |

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