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Arayar Sevai: Veda PramANam of Dance and Music : Part 2

From: Sadagopan (
Date: Thu Dec 31 1998 - 08:06:18 PST

Dear BhakthAs :

In the previous post , I referred to the Vedic culture
encouraging Music and Dance as part of the SaadhanAs to
enhance emotional discipline , grow the fire of inner 
awakening and speed us towards the goal of total involvement
in Bhagavadh -Bhagavatha Sevai and  prepare us to perform
Prapatthi through a qualified AchAryA to attain Moksha Siddhi .

Music as a part of "Vedic Speech "

An UttarArchika Saaman says ,

Vaacham ashtapadhImaham navastharithaamruthAvrugham I
IndrAth paritanvam mamE II
-- Saama vedam : UttarArchika Saaman -Chapter 2 :IX.3

(Meaning ) : I receive from the Lord , the blessed knowledge
which is the urger of the Supreme Truth .

The Eight-footed speech consists of the Four VedAs ,
Four UpavEdAs , one of which is GHAANDHARAV VEDAM or
Music . If Vedam is considered as an offspring of 
Vak ( SabdhA or divine , eternal sound , PraNavam ),
one can understand Music offered in service of the Lord 
as linked to " Nithya Sabdham ". Saama vedam deals with 
UpAsanA and naadhOpAsanai is an integral part of the worship 
and contemplation of the Lord . The two song manuals of 
PUrvArchika of Saama vedam ( GrAma Geya GhAnam and 
AaraNya GhAnam ) and the complimentary pair of
the song manuals of UttarArchika Saamans ( UhaghAnam 
and UhyaghAnam ) are part of this musical tradition
of timeless antiquity . Sage NaaradhA known for His 
NaarAyaNa PaarAyaNam has blessed us with Naaradhi 
SikshA to understand the details of the Saama GhAnam ;
the other text in this context is "Raaga VibhOdham ".

It has been pointed out that the Music during the Vedic
ages was in an advanced stage as an offering for the 
upaasanA of the anantha kalyANa guNams of the Supreme
Being ; in this context , Sage Pingala , an early authority
on the subject has connected  "the color " of the seven 
chandas (metres like Gayathri , Ushnik , Anushtup ,
Brihathi , Pankthi , Trishtup and Jagathi )with the 
seven notes (SvarAs ) of Music ( Shadja , Rishabha ,
GhAndhAra , Madhyama , Panchama , Dhaivatha and 
NishAdha ). The colors of the notes relating to
the chandhas are given as " Sitha , Saaranga ,
Pisanga , KrishNa , Neela , Lohithadhi  VarNA : ".   

Bhagavan Hayagrivan's manthram includes reference to
His speech as PraNava Udgeetha Vachas (nithya 
Sabdham )and it is this eternal Vachas that 
blessed Swami Desikan to create the Sri Sookthis 
that is helping us to open our inner eyes .The importance
of Saama VedA as ghAnam has  been recognized by 
GithAchAryan ( VedAnAm Saama VedhOsmi ).This vedic 
speech transforming to GhAnam is the PramANam for 
the divine music of NammAzhwAr's sahasra Saakhi 
( thousand Branched ) Thiruvaimozhi or the equivalent 
of Saama GhAnam in Vernacular .

The Vedic Origin of Dance 

At the Temple of Srirangam , SriviliputthUr ,
AzhwAr Thirunagari , we enjoy the Arayar sEvai with 
abhinayam in the context of the VyAkhyAnam .This dance
form fitting to music and taaLam arose from the VedAs
according to the SasthrA knowing people.

The Chathur Mukha BrahmA is recognized as using 
Rg Veda Rks to glean the text of Naatya Saasthram ;
he created thereafter , the wealth of gestures (abhinayams ) 
from the Yajur Veda manthrAs and the codified 
gestures (mudrAs ) of Adhvaryu priests performing 
Yaagams ; he created music from Saama Vedam 
and from Atharva Vedam , the nine channels
of emotional expressions known as Nava rasAs 
( SringhAram , Veeram , KaaruNyam , Adhbhutham ,
Haasyam , BhAyAnakam , Bheebhathsam , Raudhram
and Saantham ).Our AzhwAr's paasurams are filled
with these nava rasams as reflect on the leelAs
of the Lord reclining at Srirangam .

Th integrated essence of these constituent parts 
from the Four VedAs( pathyam , abhinayam , Geetham and 
nava Rasaas ) transformed itself into the divine 
and symbolic art of Naatyam with its three principal
limbs of Nrittam , Nrithyam and abhinayam . When 
practised by men , it became ThANdavam and Laasyam ,
the tender form , when practised by women . Lord KrishNA's
KaaLinga Narthanam , KudamAdu Kootthu , Navaneetha
Naatyam , Raasa KreetA ( KuRavai dance or dance
in a circular form ) are examples of this divine
dance .

Lord BrahmA imparted to Sage BharatA the secrets of 
the three fold  art of  Nartanam (Abhinayam ,
Nrittam and Nrithyam ).Out of these grew the various
dance forms including Bharatha Naatyam .

The Abhinayam , which is  an integral part of 
Bharatha Naatyam is abundantly present in
Arayar's " performative commentaries " of
Divya prabhandhams .Abhinaya has six angAs 
depicting the gestures connected with the hands ,
head , feet , chest , shoulders ,the sides and
the hip . These six angAs of abhinayam are 
reinforced by Twelve UpaangAs entirely associated
with the organs of the face .These are subtler 
gestures connected with the eyes , eyebrows ,
pupils , tongue, teeth , mouth , cheeks , chin , 
nose and breath .The sublime art of Bharatha 
Naatyam glorifies all these angAs and UpAngAs 
and earned a special tribute from Sage BharathA 
in his treatise on Natanam , which dates prior 
to Sanga Kaalam . The four kinds of lands 
( Mullai/pastoral , Kurinchi/mountainous ,
Marutham/arable  and neythal/coastal region )
had their own distinct dances .

Another Classification of Dances 

The different kinds of dances practised at 
different lands for different purposes 
fall into two major categories :

(1) Santhik Kootthu
(2) VinOdhak Kootthu

Santhik Kootthu is the more classical of the two , 
whereas VinOdhak Kootthu is more folkoric in scope .

Santhik Kootthu is further subdivided into 
Sokkam or Suddha Nruttham and Meyk Kootthu .
Suddha Nrittham is pure dance that uses the 108 
karaNams , which have been sculpted in the Gopuram
walls of Chidambharam  NatarAjA temple , KumbhakOnam 
SaarangapANi temple , VriddhAchalam and ThiruvaNNAmalai .

Santhik Kootthu is also a formal part of Aagama 
SaasthrAs as  an integral part of temple rituals .
Nava santhi rituals in nithyOthsavams and 
BrahmOthsavams of Sri ViashNavite temples of Tamil Naadu
are not so much in vogue anymore. On the DhvajArOhaNam
day , the performance of Nava sandhi Kavutthuvam is
an important part. Specail raagams  and TaaLams are
reserved for the dances at the nava sandhis of
the consecrated temples . My sister , VidvAmsini 
PadmA VeerarAghavan recreated this nava santhi
kavutthuvam a  few years back for the temple 
uthsavam in ThiruviNNagar for a BrahmOthsavam of 
Bhumi Devi SamEtha Sri Oppiliappan 
and it has been preserved in a video .

We indicated earlier that the classic Santhik Kootthu
is split into sokkam ( Suddha Nruttham )and Meyk kootthu .
Latter in turn is split into three sub-categories :

Samak kootthu , laasyam and ThANdavam representing the 
three guNAs : Satthvam, Rajas and Tamas respectively .
Arayar sEvai is largely Samak kootthu in the sense it
focuses on the saathvic aspects of Divya prabhnadham .
When dealing with Kamsa , RaavaNa  and HiraNya Vadhams ,
the other GuNAs will come into fore to illustrate 
the different rasams . 

VinOdhak Kootthu or folk dance in contrast to
santhik kootthu (classic dance ) has entertainment 
and amusement in mind . These do not enter into
the repertoire of Arayar sevai .

These VinOdhak Koothus are subdivided into 7 Parts , 
three of which are connectable to Lord KrishNA's dances ,
who enjoys His own VinOdhams . These three are :

(1)KuRavai or Raasa Kreetai or the dance in 
circular formation 

(2) Kudak kootthu or the dance with a pot on 
the head at sandhis 

(3)nokku or a dance marked by agility and grace 
as the one done on the top of KaaLiyan's head 
( KaaLinga narthanam ).Nokku in snagitha SaasthrA 
( particularly in the playing Of VeeNA ) is one of the ten
gamakams or embellishments .

we will elaborate on each of them as enjoyed by 
Srimadh Bhaagavatham and AzhwAr's anubhavams .
(1)Raasak Kreetai : Srimadh BhAgavatham salutes this carnival of 
RaasA dance in chapter 33 of dasama skhandham . His use of 
Dhruva TaaLam ,Abhinayam and music from His vamsanALam (flute ) 
are beautifully described in this sargam . Two verses from 
this sargam are :

TathrArabhadha GovindhO rAsakreetaamanuvrathai:I
sthrIrathnairavintha: PreethiranyOnyAbhaddha Bhaahubhi : II

(Meaning ) : Now , GovindhA , the embodiment of 
the teachings of Upanishads , started the RaasA dance 
with the band of beautiful gOpis , who were Joyous at heart
and linked hands with Him , who appeared next to each of them .

gOpyO labdhvA achyutha Kaantha Sriya EkAntha Vallabham I
gruhItha kantayasthadhrorbhyA gAyanthyastham vijahilarE II

(Meaning ) : Having secured Him , the Eternal One 
as their husband ,Him , the object of MahA Lakshmi's
exclusive love , and being embraced by Him , the Gopis 
sported with great joy and sang many songs on Him . 

(2)Kudak kootthu or dancing , while balancing a row of 
pots on one 's head : The reference here is to a 
Paasuram form kaliyan on the EmperumAn of Thiru
ArimEya ViNNagaram ( Periya Thirumozhi : 3.10.8 ):

" kunRathanAl mazhai taduttha k KUDAMAADU KOOTTHAN ".

The EmperumAn's ThirunAmam at this Divya Deesam is 
KudamAduk Kootthan . ThaayAr here " has " also a Gatam   
as inferred from her name , Amruthagatavalli . The Lord
can be visualized in our anubhavam as borrowing that 
amrutha gatam from His consort to perform this dance 
skillfully to amuse Her and to bless us .

There are many other references in the divya Prabhandham 
about His "pot dance ". 

(3) The third VinOdhA dance associated with Lord KrishNA 
is Nokku dance marked by agility and grace. This is described 
in the 16th sargam of Srimadh Bhaagavatham . In a beautiful
slOkam of KrishNa karNAmrutham ( 2.91) , Sri LeelA Sukhar
evokes the memory of this dance :

madhamaya madhamaya dhuragam 
yamunAmavatheerya veeryasAli ya:
mama rathi mama rathiskruthi 
samana paras sa kriyAth thrushNa: 

Those Nupram wearing feet and the sunAdham 
from them as He danced with agility on the
multiple hoods of the fierce serpent KaaLiyan
are saluted here .The celestial beings assembled on 
the banks of YamunA river to watch this wonderful dance 
of the Lord .

Another great KrishNa BhakthA describes the 
magical nokku dance filled with the sounds (sunAdhams ) 
of the jingle of the Lord's noopuram and the bangles moving 
and creating the most divine sound from that dance
efforts :

adhiruhya tatha: paNirAjapaNAn 
nunruthE BhavathA mrudhu paadharuchA
kala sinjitha noopura manju miLath
kara kankaNa sankula sankkvaNitham 

The arayars recreate with devotion these and 
many other leelAs of the Lord of Srirangam 
during the ThiruadhyayanOthsavam through their
celebrated dance and music with thALam kept 
by beating hand cymbals to keep time .It is 
a Bhaagyam to reflect on the sacred aspects of 
this ancient tradition .

I will conclude this series of posting on Sri Vaikunta 
EkAdasi , ThiruadhyayanOthsavam and Arayar Sevai 
with Swami Desikan's celebration of the veNugOpaalan
at ThiruvahIndrapuram divya dEsam in the sixteenth 
slOkam of Sri GopAla Vimsathi :

Jayathi laLitha vrutthim  sikshithO vallavInAm
   sithiLa valaya sinchA seethaLair hastha tALai :I
Akhila Bhuvana rakshA gOpa vEshasya VishNO :
   adhara maNI sudhAyAm amsavAn vamsanALa :II

This scene is from the raasa Kreetai known 
as the integrated nectar of Music and Dance 
in the service to the Lord . Our Lord of BrindhAvanam
plays on His flute and creates divine music
of seven colors , nava rasams and seven svarams .
The gOpis acompany this music with the sound of 
their tALams arising from their hands adorned by
jingling bangles . That tALam accompaniment 
is like the laLitham exercise (abhinayam )
prscribed/described in the nAtya Saasthram  of Sage BharathA . 
Swami Sri Desikan says that the hand thALam appears 
to teach abhinayam to the Lord's flute ( vallavInAm
sithila Valaya sinchA seethaLai:hastha tALai: 
makes that divine flute victorious .

May the notes of this divine flute and the 
naadham from the noopurams (ankle jewelery bells )
of our Lord of Srirangam fill our hearts and 
cleanse our minds during every day of the coming year !

NaarAyaNa , NaarAyaNa , NaarAyaNa !
DasAnu Daasan , ThiruviNNagar VaradAchAri Sadagopan