Thiruppavai

December 19, 2006 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Thiruppavai | Leave a comment

I got acquainted with Thiruppavai for the first time  during my years in Madurai.  During the colder season  there used to be devotional procession of  Vaishnavites in the early morning.  As a matter of during the particular season, the general  custom of women and girls was to be up early in the morning take bath and draw the Kolam designs in front their house at the centre of which  keep a  ‘parangi flower’ and await the devotional procession some of them actually joining them and chant prayers and sing  songs from Tiruppavai.  Thiruppavai is a string of devotional songs composed by a maiden devotee of Lord Krishna.  Her name was  Kothai. Legend has it that her devotion was so perfect and complete that she became one with Krishna.  My memory of her story is hazy.  The procession will  go round and conclude in the temple where they will be treated to hot pongal.

Ilearnt to sing most of Thiruppavai songs  in the ragas I heard them being sung.  They were all good lyrics.  I also remember  another  string of songs  ascribed to Kothai.  All those short sonnetlike songs end with ‘kana kanden thozhi naan’, which translated into English goes like, ‘thus I dreamed, my friend’.  You would be wondering why a man should be interested in songs composed for women and ladies by a woman poet.  The reason is that as a First Tenor, my voice is suited to  higher notes more comfortably and it actually sounds like a feminine voice.

I used to read articles and  poetry from a Tamil periodical called Kalaimagal which is not in circulation anymore. I partic ularly remember a very lyrical poetry from an old issue, which is etched permanently in my memory.  Loosely translated, the lyrics go as under:

Oh flower, bloom  and smile; give generously of your honey when the jaunty bee comes looking for it staple.

You were in full bloom in the morn; why have you wilted  and swooned away in the evening

Is it because the sun scorched you  that you sagged and pined away; or is it that  the drunken beehurt you unwittingly and hurt you.

Tell who injured you; I will bring an army and assault your tormentors; just you tell me the word.’

I actually made an audio file of the lyrics in my voice  but I don’t know if it is possible to upload it as a link here.

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