Sex between sects
I find all this outrage and umbrage taken at arts rather bemusing, to say the least. Guardians of decency, morality and Indian culture decide what is acceptable and in doing so decide what is good for everybody; who made them arbitrators?
When they ban books, force art exhibitions to close and stop filmmakers plying their trade, these guardians of public propriety only display their own narrow-mindedness. When I read about these things I am always reminded of Tom Lehrer's assertion:
All books can be indecent booksI suppose I should be glad that these people don't seem to read science fiction. They'd have lynched Frank Herbert for his idea of Orange Catholic Bible,
Though recent books are bolder,
For filth (I'm glad to say) is in
the mind of the beholder.
When correctly viewed,
Everything is lewd.
(I could tell you things about Peter Pan,
And the Wizard of Oz, there's a dirty old man!)
the 'Accumulated Book,' the religious text produced by the Compendium of Ecumenical Translators. It contains elements of most ancient religions, including the Maometh Sarri, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddhislamic traditions. Its supreme commandment is considered to be: 'Thou shalt not disfigure the soul.'When these guardians of public morals turn their attention to music and dance and their own faith, will they ban performing Jayadeva's ashtapadis? Kshetrayya? Will they raze Khajuraho? Will they prohibit the chanting of Lalitha Sahasra Naamam as it contains praises of the goddess body part by body part? Will they ban the Puranas and classics where gods copulate and covet other men's wives, ascetics lech, and unnatural births abound?
All right, I have finished ranting.
I have been thinking about this lovely padam of late. A padam is a slow composition with romantic or erotic love as theme, and features towards the end of a recital. This one though, I have not heard or seen performed, well known as it is.
Composed by Vangala Seenayya, better known as Ghanam Seenayya, this padam in raga Kuranji is brilliant. Then I found a version, much abridged in that only one charanam was sung, online. I was disappointed to hear it, I must say.
What was wonderful satire was turned into a dirge, and all playful humour was lost. Mispronunciations were there aplenty, the accent was awful and the phrases were broken in wrong places. That wasn't all or the worst, though. The singer ruined the punch line.
You see, artists tend to start with the anupallavi when performing padams; I don't like it, but it's a free world. But if the artist understood the lyric, and realised that the anupallavi contains the punch line, surely the song would have started with the pallavi? The joke is built declaration by declaration.
శివదీక్షాపరురాలనురా నే శీలమింతైన విడువజాలనురా
శివశివ గురునాజ్ఙ మీరనురా శ్రీవైష్ణవుడంటే చేరనురా
Sivadeekhshaa paruraalanuraa, nE Seelamintaina viDuvajaalanuraa,
Siva Siva gurunaajna meeranuraa, SreevaishNavuDanTE chEranuraa
I have been initiated into worship of Siva; I cannot forgo my virtue the least bit; in my god's name I won't break my teacher's commandment; I will not sleep with a man who worships Vishnu.
Ghanam Seenayya was a devotee of Ranganatha Swami of Sri Rangam, all known compositions of his bear the signature 'mannaaru ranga' and are dedicated to the god. So this is a tongue in cheek description of a seduction of a basivi, a woman dedicated to worship Siva by none other than the god.
I think we had greater levels of tolerance and sense of humour in earlier centuries. Taraa SaSaankamu, Tara's seduction of her husband's disciple Chandra, written around the same time, in the early eighteenth century, did not provoke howls of protest about degradation of morals. Siva deekshaa didn't either, for all that it poked fun at the differences in Hindu sects and insularity thereof.
Only the first charanam seems to be performed these days, which is a pity as one misses the point of the composition.
వడిగ వచ్చి మఠము జొరకుమురా శివార్చనవేళ తలుపు తెరువకురా
మడుగుకావిచెరగు దీయకురా మాటిమాటికి నీవు నోరు మూయకురా
vaDiga vachchi maThamu jorakumuraa, SivaarchanavELa talupu teruvakuraa
maDudukaavi cheragu deeyakuraa, maaTimaaTiki neevu nOru mooyakuraa.
Don't come rushing into the monastery, and open the door during my devotions; don't fumble with folds of my drape, don't keep silencing me. (maDugu is clean, kaavi is the saffron dye favoured by ascetics.)
పంచాక్షరీజపశీలనురా కూకిపలుకులు వినజాలనురా
కొంచెపు వగలు నేనెంచనురా మ్రొక్కుదు రుద్రాక్షసరులు తెంచకురా
panchaaksharee japaSeelanuraa, kookipalukulu vinajaalanuraa
konchepu vagalu nE nenchanuraa, mrokkudu rudraakshasarulu tenchakuraa
I am committed to reciting the panchaakshari mantra, I cannot listen to your sweet nothings; I will not consider your beguilements, I beg you, don't break my rudraaksha ropes. (kookipalukulu - sounds of a pigeon, cooing)
అజ్జచూచి చన్ను లదుమకురా నా సెజ్జగొలుసుబట్టి గదియకురా
బుజ్జగించకు పసిగోలనురా నా కెమ్మోవి నొక్కకు భక్తురాలనురా
ajja choochi channu ladumakuraa, naa sejjagolusubaTTi gadiyakuraa,
bujjaginchaku pasigOlanuraa, naa kemmOvi nokkaku bhakturaalanuraa
Don't squeeze my breasts at every chance, don't pull me closer by my sacred chain; don't cajole an innocent maiden, don't caress my mouth, I am a worshipper. (sejja is the pouch Shaivaites carry round their necks, containing the relics of their faith.)
మోము మోమునుబట్టి చేర్చకురా నీ నామముతోడ బూతిగూర్చకురా
వేమరు తొడభిక్ష వేడకురా పోపోరా మన్నారురంగ మల్లాడకురా
mOmu mOmunabaTTi chErchakuraa, nee naamamutODa booti goorchakuraa
vEmaru toDabhiksha vEDakuraa, pOpOraa mannaru ranga mallaaDukuraa
Don't bring your face close to mine, don't mix your sect markings with my sacred ash; don't repeatedly beg for alms of my thighs; get away with you, Mannaru Ranga, don't struggle with me. (toDa bhiksha is a lovely phrase, an euphemism for sexual favours, and mallaaDu is to grapple in close quarters)
As the song develops, it is clear that the seduction is proceeding apace. The nayaki keeps saying no, and yet in each charanam she permits more liberties. The last line makes you wonder who is seducing whom.
Now all Shaivaites can go to holy war with Vaishnavaites, having read this outrageous padam explained, ha!
This is my two-hundredth post, by the way.
Update: Here's a spirited rendition of the padam by S Janaki, in the film Pooja phalam, music score by S Rajeswara Rao. Link gratefully received from Megha.