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Bhakthi of Saint ThyagarAjA to Lord KrishNA: NoukA charithram, the Power of SaraNAgathi (Unconditional Surrender )to the Lord.

From: Sadagopan (
Date: Thu Feb 08 2001 - 14:59:26 PST

Dear BhakthAs: Saint ThyagarAja SwamigaL's intense
Bhakthi is  well known and has been etched in many of 
His Krithis. He was also a great student of PottaNNA Bhagavatham
and read from it every day. He composed two Operas (Geya Naatakams)
based on that BhAgavatham and took some poetic liberties
in the construction of the story .One of them is NoukA
charithram, which deals with the grava Bhangam of the Gopis ,
who thought Baala KrishNan was under their spell .KrishNan
teaches them a lesson and then blesses them in this fictional
story .The second one is PrahlAdha Bhakthi Vijayam.
Here is  a write up about "NoukA Charithram " of
Saint ThyagarAjA .

In the Carnatic Music tradition , Geya Natakams 
(Musical dramas)have played an important role to grow 
the devotion of the people . Great composers with
extraordinary gifts of (1) knowledge of the Puranams
and Vedanthic lore (2) scholarship in musical and
literary areas (3) skills in constructing Saahithyam 
(4)gift of imagination to create insightful dialogs and 
(5)natural talent to set the Saahithyams in appropriate 
Ragas befitting the mood and feeling states (rasas)of 
the different sections of the musical dramas have
blessed us with their outstanding works.

What is indeed a Geya Naatakam?
There are two kinds of dramas(naatakams ) in the Carnatic
Music tradition ceelbrating Bhakthi: (1)Nritthya Naatakam and 
(2)Geya Naatakam.

Both have different blends of  poetry, music , dance and
Symbolism . Nritthya naatakam (dance drama) is the one  , 
where the emphasis is on dance or nrittyam . Abhinayam and
foot work play  equally important roles in Nritthya naatakam.
In Geya naatakam however , the dance part is incidental 
and abhinayam as well as music parts have the dominant roles.
The nava rasaas permeate the geya naatakams .The exalted nature
of the music and bhakthi anubhavam permits the listeners 
to enjoy the geya naatakams even if they do not have
the familiarity of the languages in which they are 
written such as Sanskrit ( Krishna Leela Tarangini of
Naarayana Theerthar ), Telegu ( Prahladha Bhakthi Vijayam and
Nouka Charithram of Saint Thyagaraja) and Tamil (Nandanaar
charithram of Gopala Krishna Bharathi).Geya Naatakams are
set in a higher plane than the Yaksha ghaanam , which is
also a form of musical drama associated with Melattur school
of Bhaagaavtha Melams.

The Geya naatakams have a mixture of songs ; some are set in
krithi style and others in simpler melodic form ( viruttham
format). The raaagas used are mostly rakthi raagas except
occasional ghana raagas . Usually , the opening and the closing
raagam is the same ( Surutti raagam in Nouka charithram). 
Poetry and prose passages (padhyams) are intermingled 
in geya naatakams. Lofty themes from Puranams , Ithihaasams
(Raamaayanam and Maha Bharatham )and Bhagavath Githai are 
interwoven to provide uplifting moral lessons .

The Raagas used in the Geya Naatakams
We will illustrate the choice of raagas used by 
Saint Thyagaraaja ( Nouka charithram ) here and cover
Prahlaadha Bhakthi Vijayam  and Saint  Sri Krishna Leela
Tarangini in subsequent articles.

Raagas used in Nouka charithram
In Nouka charithram, Saint Thyagaraja used 13 raagams 
for the 21 songs . Sourashtram and Punnagavarali are used 
for 4 songs each , Ghanta and Surutti are used twice .
The remaining 9 raagams are used for one song each:
Pantuvarali, Yadhukula Khaambhoji , Saranga, Bhairavi ,
Saveri , Karnataka Kaapi , Devaghaandhaari , Varali and
Mohanam. These raagas depict important rasaas like
Sringaram , Veeram , Adhbhutham , Bhaayanakam( fear) ,
Haasyam and Bheebhatsam ( disgust).

Comments on selected raagams used
(1)Punnagavarali : it is a janya raagam of Hanuma Thodi and is
known for karuna rasam .It is an ancient raagam used 
in Odam paattus ( Teppa Uthsavams/float festivals of the deities ).
It is an alpa raagam , which does not permit elaborate 
aalaapanais. The sancharam is from manthra kaakali 
nishadham to madhya kaisiki nishadham.Four songs are 
set in this raagam since Nouka charithram deals with
the daya (mercy ) aspects of Lord Krishna and his 
compassion (Karunai) for those who seek His refuge.

(2)Souraashtram is a janya raagam of the 17th mela raagam ,
Soorya Kaantham and has been used to house four songs . This is 
an ancient mangala raagam that can be sung at all times.
The Souraashtra krithi of Nouka charithram , "nee naama 
roopa mulaku " is used at the end of concerts.

(3)Surutti is a janya raagam of the 28th mela kartha ,
Hari Khaambhoji and is yet another managala raagam 
used twice in Nouka charithram by Thyagaraja Swamigal.
This raagam is known to generate Bhakthi and Sringaara 
rasams .It is also a raagam that will not lend itself 
to long aalapanais and can be sung at all times.

(4)Devaghaandari raagam is the janya raagam of the 29th mela
raagam , Dheera Sankaraabharanam . It is known for the VaLi
gamakam .Kampitha Rishabham and kampitha dhaivatham
are the sign marks of this raagam .It is known for generating 
Veera and adhbhutha rasams ( valour and wonderment).
Saint Thyagaraja peformed aalapanai for this raagam for 
eight days in a row to reveal its many facets , while he
was stayeing with his sishyan, Veenai Kuppaier at Madras.

(5)VaraLi is the 39th mela raagam and is also one of the Ghana
pancha raagams.It is another karuna rasa pradhaana raagam
which can be developed elaborately.The krithi "Inthukemi"
of Nouka charithram is set in Varali raagam .

The rest of the raagams-- pantuvarali , Yadhukula Khaambhoji ,
Saranga , Bhairavi , Saveri ,Karanataka kaapi , Ghanta and
Mohanam --are used by Thyagabrahmam to etch poems soaked in
one or other of the nava rasams to heighten our enjoyment 
of this geya naatakam .

The story of Nouka Charithram
This Geya naatakam deals with the humbling of the pride of Gopis 
by Krishna during a boat excursion with them on the river Yamuna.
Gopis were very proud about their beauty and charm and concluded 
that Krishna was fully under their charm . They were giddy
with pride and rowed themselves in the middle of the river , 
and sang there: "Evaru manaku samana?" ( Who is there equal
to us in the world today?). During the spell of their
pride , they began to slight the Lord and forgot His
divine nature .This song expressing their soundharya gharvam 
is set in the powerful Devaghaandhaari raagam portraying 
veera rasam and pride about their prowess to bring even
Krishna(Bhagavaan) under their sway. 

The amused Lord using His powers of maaya created a powerful 
storm with deafening thunder and blinding lightning in the middle 
of their boat ride on the river Yamuna  . Krishna reminded them of 
their utter helplessness and the pride of Gopis disappeared.
They were frightened and wanted to get to the shore safely .
They appealed to the Lord of the universe to rescue them from 
imminent disaster of drowning .Their appeals are housed in
Ghanta raagam and invokes the mood of sOkam that they were
experiencing about their folly caused by their haughtiness.
After few more tests about the humility of the Gopis , Krishna
makes them understand the importance of total (unconditional)
surrender to Him . The Gopis prayed with utmost devotion to Him
and appealed to Him again as their one and only rescuer.
Krishna then stopped the rain storm and peace prevailed.
The boat was found at the bank of the river, wherefrom they 
started.The relieved gopis were now joyous and celebrated 
His dayaa and kaarunyam and His vow to protect those ,
who seek the refuge of His lotus feet.They sprinkled 
fragrant rose water on Him , decorated Him with kasthuri
tilakam ,dressed Him in peethaambharam , showered multicolored ,
fragrant flowers and performed mangala haarathi for Him in
a mood of gratefulness  for the extraordinary bhaagyam of
His divine companionship and blessings. A mangalam sung by
them in surutti ragam concludes this magnificent geya naatakam.
Sri Balamurali Krishna has sung the entire nouka charithram
in a mellifluent manner and this recording is a delight to
listen to.

Mangala krithi : "Maakula munakihapara mosaki neeku Mangalam"
In the pallavi of this krithi ,the joyous and thankful Gopis
say: " Auspiciousness to You Oh Lord ,who gave to us and our
kulam matchless riches in this and the other world (iha-para 
sukham ). Subha mangalam to you! Jaya mangalam to you !"
Oh Lord with the majestic gait of an elephant in rut ! 
Oh ParamaathmA embodying limitless auspicious attributes !
Oh Lord who resides in our heart lotuses ! Oh Saranagatha
Vathsala Swamy , who responded to our prayers and rescued us!
Mangalam to You ! Subha Mangalam to You! Jaya managalam to You!"


           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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