Music

The Avarana mystique

The Srichakra.   | Photo Credit: E,Mail

The oneness that Muthuswamy Dikshitar experienced with Kamalamba of Tiruvarur was the fruition of his spiritual endeavours. Even when young, he had been initiated into the cult of Sri Vidya, an esoteric form of worship. This formal and formulated mode of worship builds for the Divine queen of the universe, a nine-enclosure mansion, Nava Avarana. The stately abode is actually a mystical pattern called the Sri Chakra. It is a yantra, an instrument in the realisation of the Goddess.

In addition, Sri Vidya provides the aspirant with a Mantra, that as the word translates, protects the devotee when chanted. The two are not only aids in worship but are forms of the Goddess.

Sri Vidya encompasses within its folds a bountiful and daunting corpus of spiritual knowledge, accessible only to the initiated. Three and its multiple 9 are favoured numbers of the cult. The presiding deity is Tripura Sundari — the beautiful queen of the three worlds.

The nine enclosures of the Sri Chakra are made up of forty-three triangles surrounded by concentric circles. Lotus petals, 16 and eight, adorn two of the three circles. This beautiful pattern is housed in a square, girdled by three lines and has four gates. Together they make up the Nava Avarana.

Each of these avaranas is adorned with a relevant name. The first, a square, is called Bhupura. The word translates as the earth stretch. It is also known as the Trailokyamohana Chakra — that which enchants the three realms — the earth (prithvi), the atmospheric region (antariksham) and the celestial world (dyu). The second chakra, adorned with sixteen lotus petals, is called the Sarva aasha paripooraka chakra — that which fulfils all the desires of the aspirant.

Names apart, each of the avaranas is distinctly defined by its own presiding deity (whose names all begin with Tripura), attendant deities (yoginis), mystic letters (bijaksharas), distinct colours and other traits. In its innermost precincts, Maha Tripura Sundari resides in a subtle form - as Bindu (a dot), undifferentiated from Her consort, Lord Siva.

Not content with merely worshipping her through mantras and yantras, Dikshitar’s incredible musical virtuosity crafted nine majestic compositions to adorn Kamalamba, residing in the Sri Chakra. The songs in themselves have come to be worshipped as the Kamalamba Navaavaranam. A unique blend of music and mysticism make up these songs. Systematised by the talas, they unfold the beauty of the ragas even as the lyrics effortlessly offer to one and all, generous glimpses of the cult of Sri Vidya, the serious study and practice of which is solely the preserve of the initiated.

The starting point of any spiritual exercise is meditation (dhyana). Aptly Dikshitar preludes his Navavarana krits with a Dhyana kriti in the raga Thodi. The phrase “Vinoda charane” (one who strikes a unique posture), is an iconic description that unambiguously proclaims the entire set of songs as a dedication to Goddess Kamalambika of Tiruvarur.

The Sri Vidya lore epitomises Kamala as one of the ten Maha vidyas. She is Matrka, of the form of letters. Singing the phrase “akacatatapadi varne”—“She is the embodiment of all letters” (that make up the Sanskrit alphabet), Dikshitar proceeds to unfurl the glory of Srividya using the medium of the Sanskrit language and its inherent seven declensions and the vocative case. The ninth composition uses all declensions.

The first of the central nine compositions is in Ananda Bhairavi and is dedicated to Tripuresi—the Queen of the three realms. The name of the raga is one of the names of the Divine Mother and the choice of tala, Tisra Triputa, is an obeisance to the predominant status of the number three in Sri Vidya.

More important, the lyrics in the charanam, deftly incorporate the name of the chakra — “Kshitipura trailokyamohana chakravartini.” Not just this, they refer to the nature of the attendant deities — “Prakata yoginis” (manifest), the supernatural powers (the siddhis) and several other subtleties of the Sri Vidya lore.

Each of the Navavarana kritis merits independent and exhaustive explanations. The mangala kriti in the raga Sri provides an auspicious finale to this set of songs dedicated to Sri Vidya.

Mystics aver that the enclosures of the Sri Chakras correspond with the yogic energy centres in the human body also termed Chakras. The bliss of the Sarvaanandamaya Chakra of the Sri Vidya, the ninth avarana, is the bliss experienced by the opening up of its counterpart — the Sahasrara Chakra in the human body. The mystical Sri Chakra and the musical Navavarana kritis are both aids in the journey to the Self.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 11:24:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/The-Avarana-mystique/article15771977.ece

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