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Thiruvasakam in Symphonic Oratorio

By Swaminathan Narayanan

Location : Chennai

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Different people have different ways of visualizing and enjoying this song. Going through the original SivapuraNam (it is actually a 'thaRchiRappup paayiram' which is normally used by poets to display their poetic prowess to attract the audience) and comparing it with how the Maestro has reassembled the lines for this composition, I got the following view. I don't know how many will agree with this. Anyway, here I go......

Polla Vinayaen:

The theme of the composition is to state that Shiva helped a lowly creep to reach the highest state of existence.

I visualize the song like this: There is this slimy, filthy thing living in the gutter. Suddenly it got a blurry vision of something great and realised it has to get out of the filth and reach the great thing. It goes through all the labours that one can go through and after an inordinately long time, gets out of the filth, rushes with great effort and joy in an uphill task and finally reaches the abode of the great being.

The beginning:

The maestro picked the lines that plead like a lowly filth that does not even know how to praise the greatness of Shiva. Both the music and the poetry are rendered to show enormous labor and agony. The meandering strings are so controlled and range-bound, they show the labours in getting out of the filth. The occasional bursts are when one gets glimpses of Shiva's greatness.

Escape from ignorance:

The line "agyaanam agalvikkum nallarivae" (3:30) gave the knowledge to get out of the filth (ignorance)! By the time we reach "So many forms I must wear", (3:36) he found a way to get out of the filth! The strings have now got a lively pace rushing out to light and freshness. But now the knowledge has brought the problem of multiple births.

Cycle of births:

The repeated "piRandhiLaiththaen"s (4:00) show the weariness caused by repeated births. But then it is the fact of life. One has to go through it. Life springs up from the lowest form. (4:20) The violins represent water from which everything springs up. The flute and the other "winds" represent evolution of life along with the lyrics "pullaagi, poodaagi" (4:25). As the life moves onto higher forms, the orchestra, tune, chorus, everything builds up and reaches a crescendo at "munivaraay, dhaevaraay" (5:12)! At that time the realization comes that it is HE who has helped you reach this far. The "Om" (5:48) marks that blissful moment! Now, with this new realization comes the peaceful hailing of Shiva.(6:00 - 7:27)

Escape from sins:

Problems are not over yet! Arrogance ("aRambaavam") (7:30) envelops the soul! This filthy body still holds on to the soul!! This section is all about pleading to be released from these problems. The pleads are at a fixed slow pace without any enthusiasm or happiness. This is like slow-walking through thorny shrubbery. "My eyes were set on" (10:14) marks the escape from the shrubbery. This part acts as a bridge towards the escape. At reaching "vaeRRu vikaara", (11:45) the pace has quickened. You see the greatness of the Lord and you know you have to reach out to him as fast as you can so he will help you out of this body and mind. The pace quickens showing a brisk walk of the ascetic through the plains towards Shiva.

The distant view:

For the first time, (on reaching "Oya uraippan yaan" 12:37,) there is the glimpse of the Lord from the distance. This is just about praise and nothing about the singer. All the instruments have gone except for the drone. (The drone represents the divine presence. It lilts through the "thirukkOththumbi" song.) Now it is just the hymn and Shiva's view.

The peaceful run:

Now that the Lord has been seen, the mind attains a certain level of peace. It now travels in a jolly mood towards the distant hills where the Lord sits. The choice of "maasaRRa sOdhi" (14:57) [flawless flame] as the theme for this section tells of the clear and unobstructed view of the Lord (relatively closer view than the previous section). The gentle percussion gives the feeling of walking through lush green pastures. All the experiments about happiness with various instruments and chorus are conducted. This is like a happy marriage party going towards the marriage hall. Just that, here the journey is towards the abode of the Lord.

The foothills:

Suddenly, at a momentous turn, we are at the foothills! The quick pace immediately following the "beginning to be free" (17:50) shows the preparations for the final climb. The hill top is in view now. The beautiful chorus "aaa" (18:00) marks the tears of elation flowing down the cheeks while starting the climb.

The climb:

Climbing up a hill is not an easy task. So what do you do when you do a laborious task? That too when you are going towards the Lord and you want him to help you with the climb? "Eesan adipoRRi" (18:15) is what you sing. The way the tune meanders in every direction, shows the rocks and shrubbery one passes through happily. The occasional "Hail! Hail!" is the lumps of soft snow that give in under your feet. When we get the final set of "Hail! Hail!" (19:15) it is snow all over! And the mist clears....

The union:

To give a blissful view of the Lord, Up, Close and Personal! Everything else gives in to the drone of "Namasivaaya vaazhga!" (19:30) nothing else exists. It is just you and the Lord. The final "thannannannaadhinam" is when the union happens. You are one with the Lord!

"Now, That is immortal music!"