muttusvAmi dIkSitar's abhayAmbA vibhakti k.rtis

Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami

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[Editor's Notes: 1) This article has links to audio files, all of which are in Real Audio (32 kbps, streaming stereo) format. To play these, you will need the Real One player, available for free download, from Real Networks 2) The audio clippings included in this article, are strictly for informational and illustrative purposes only 3) Click here for the standard transliteration scheme]

During the past three navarAtri seasons, Carnatica presented the following group k.rtis that are appropriate for this festive occasion.

We also uploaded texts of various dEvi stOtrams suitable for chanting during the navarAtri season.

For this year's navarAtri season, we take up the famous abhayAmbA vibhakti k.rtis composed by muttusvAmi dIkSitar.


The group of ten k.rtis, popularly known as abhayAmbA vibhakti k.rtis, was composed by muttusvAmi dIkSitar on Goddess abhayAmba, the consort of Lord mAyUranAtha of the famous temple at Mayavaram (currently known by the name mayilADuttuRai).


The legend goes that king dakSa did not invite his daughter sati (pArvati) and his son-in-law shiva to the sacrifice he was to perform. Even though shiva instructed his consort not to attend the sacrifice conducted by her father, sati went to the venue, only to find that she was completely ignored and insulted. Angered by the acts of dakSa, Lord shiva sent vIrabhadra, a minor deity, to desecrate the sacrifice. During this process, an innocent peahen got injured. Meanwhile, sati repented her action of disobeying her husband and she entered the fire. The peahen that was injured ran toward sati and took shelter. At the time of entering the fire, sati was thinking of the peahen to which she gave refuge, so in the next birth she took the form of a peahen and came to this same location. She conducted severe penance for years. She bathed in the celestial waters of the river kAvEri and served the Lord as a peacock (mayUra, shikhaNDi). Lord shiva was immensely pleased, and became united with her. Assuming the shape of a peacock, shiva danced the famous gauri tANDavam for her. Hence the name mayUranAtha, and the town's name, mayil-ADu-tuRai. The place is also known by the names sudhAvanam, shikhaNDipuram, brahmapuram and brahmavanam. The stala v.rkSam (sacred tree of the location) is Mango tree and the saying goes that when sati conducted penance in the form of a peahen, it consumed the leaves of a mango tree. The Goddess in this temple is known as abhayAmba, since she gave refuge (abhayam) to the peahen. Also, She is known by the names abhayapradAmba, abhayAmbika, a~njalanAyaki, and a~njali.

The temple at mayilADuttuRai

mAyAvaram, known as the Benares (kAshi) of the Poor, is located 280 kilometers (174 miles) from Chennai and the beautiful temple of mayUranAtha is located about 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) from the Railway Junction. It is a reasonably large temple measuring 219 meters by 161 meters (719 feet by 527 feet), spread over 32515 square meters (350,000 square feet), with five prAkArams, and the impressive rAja gopuram has nine tiers, and is 50 meters (164 feet) tall. This is a well-maintained temple with a beautiful tank, fourteen vimAnams, and several maNDapams, (pillared halls) with interesting sculptural work with several stucco images. Inscriptions from the Imperial cOLa period are also found here. Several shiva shrines of purANic significance are located in the vicinity of mayilADuttuRai.

This temple was reconstructed with stone, during the period of sembiyan mahAdEvi (10th century); however later renovations from the 19th century have destroyed the older structures and the inscriptions. Luckily many fine stone sculptures survived. From available inscriptions it is inferred that the abhayAmbA shrine came into existence during the period of King rAjarAja cOLa III (13th century). Till then, there might only have been a bhOgashakthi bronze image in the sanctum of mayUranAtha, as was the practice, till a separate ambA shrine was introduced during the reign of kulottuN^ga cOLa I (1075-1120).

Thousands of pilgrims converge here during the tulA festival. A noteworthy feature of this temple is the daily procession to the banks of the river kAvEri throughout the month of tulA. Lord shiva's dance is enacted at the Adi sabhai on the 7th day of this grand festival. The annual festival brahmotsavam is held in the tamil month of vaikAshi.

Saivite saints tiruj~nAna sambandhar, aruNagirinAthar, tirunAvukkarashu all have sung in praise of this temple. Lord mayUranAtha is also believed to have quelled the floods of the sacred river kAvEri, to make way for sambandar. The location where the dakSa yag~nam is believed to have been performed, is not far from this temple.


The group of ten k.rtis composed by muttusvAmi dIkSitar on abhayAmbA does NOT qualify to be called "navAvaraNam". The only group that is strictly a navAvaraNa group is the kamalAmbA series, where we have a dhyAna k.rti, followed by nine k.rtis (eight on each vibhakti (declination) in the sanskrit grammar, and the ninth containing all eight vibhaktis and revert vibhakti), and ending in a maN^gaLa k.rti. Also, the nine k.rtis are on the nine AvaraNams (enclosures) depicted by the shrI cakram (auspicious wheel). However, in the abhayAmbA series, there is no serious reference to any of the AvaraNams of the shrI cakram and there are only ten k.rtis instead of eleven. The revert vibhakti song is also missing. Hence we can only call this series, the abhayAMbA vibhakti k.rtis.

This series starts with a dhyAnam, followed by a series of k.rtis, one in each of the eight vibhaktis, and concludes with a maNipravALam (multi lingual), shrI abhayAmbA, in the auspicious rAgam shrI, as a maN^gaLa k.rti. All major majestic rAgams, tODi, shaNkarAbharaNam, bhairavi, kalyANi, cAmaram (= SaNmukhapriya) are featured in this series, besides the auspicious shrI, and the popular kEdAram, kEdaAragauLa, sahAna, and yadukulakAmbhOji.

So the series is:

  • dhyAna k.rti: sadAshrayE abhayAmbikE (cAmaram, rUpakam)
  • Eight vibhakti k.rtis:
    • abhayAmbA jagadambA (kalyANi, Adi) in prathamA vibhakti (nominative case)
    • AryAM abhayAmbAm (bhairavi, tripuTa) in dvitIyA vibhakti (accusative case)
    • girijayA ajayA abhayAmbikayA (shaN^karAbharaNam, Adi) in t.rtIyA vibhakti (instrumental case)
    • abhayAmbikAyai (yadukulakAmbhOji, rUpakam) cathurthI vibhakti (dative case)
    • abhayAmbikAyAH (kEadaragauLa, jhampa) pa~ncamI vibhakti (ablative case)
    • ambikAyAH abhayAmbikayAH (kEdAram, Adi) SaSThI vibhakti (genitive case)
    • abhayAmbAyAm (sahAnA, tripuTa) saptamI vibhakti (locative case)
    • dAkSAyaNI abhayAmbikE (tODi, rUpakam) saMbOdhanA vibhakti (vocative case)
  • maN^gaLa k.rti: shrI abhayAmbA (shrI, Adi) in maNipravALam style

Here are the lyrics of the entire abhayAmbA vibhakti k.rti series: 

Many musicologists hold the view that the k.rti "sadAshrayE" in the rAgam cAmaram does not meet all the requirements for a dhyAna k.rti status, and substitute the tODi raga k.rti "dAkSAyaNi" instead, in its place, treating the cAmaram k.rti as the eighth vibhakti k.rti. This preference to tODi k.rti as a dhyAna k.rti is in line with the kamalAmbA series, where the dhyAna k.rti is in tODi, and the maN^gaLa k.rti is in rAgam shrI. Also, there is a strong feeling that the tODI k.rti has all the salient features needed for a genuine benedictory k.rti, which is somewhat lacking in the cAmaram composition. We shall, however, keep the original listing, as suggested in standard references and renditions.

We further note that except for the weighty bhairavi composition, "AryAm abhayAmbAm", none of the other abhayAmbA vibhakti k.rtis are featured in subbarAma dIkSitar's magnum opus, sangIta sampradAya pradarshini. However, all standard books on dIkSitar compositions (vINa sundaram ayyar, T. K. gOvinda rAo, K. N. shrInivAsan, A. anantak.rSNna ayyar, rangarAmAnuja ayyangAr) give texts of all these ten songs.

There are some striking differences between this group and the kamalAmbA navAvaraNa series. In the kamalAmbA series, dIkSitar uses simpler and straightforward constructions, blending with profound meanings. In the abhayAmbA series, we find lengthy and winding word constructions, some stretching to several lines and conveying lofty and deep ideas, which shows dIkSitar's remarkable mastery of Sanskrit language. In the songs "AryAm abhayAmbAm", "girijayA ajayA", and "ambikAyAH abhayambikAyAH" we find tongue twisters and mile-long words which are extremely difficult to translate into simple English. Also the entire kuNDAlini yoga is summarized in just one long line (consisting of 98 syllables) in the caraNam of the kEdAra raga k.rti. There are instances of numerous lengthy word constructions elsewhere too, making it really difficult to sing! Probably this is one of the reasons why abhayAmbA series is not so popular with concert artistes. Imagine anyone attempting a neraval on a caraNam line in a k.rti like "AryAm abhayAmbAm" or "ambikAyAH abhayAmbikAyAH'! 

As for similarities, both series employ the same six weighty rAgams - kalyANi, bhairavi, tODi, shaN^karAbharaNam, sahAnA and shrI. Both series conclude with a maN^gaLam set in shrI rAgam.

In addition to these ten k.rtis, dIkSitar has composed three more songs on Lord mAyUranAtha (shiva), addressing Him as abhayAmbAnayaka or abhayAmbikAdhara - "abhayAmba nayaka harisAyaka" (Anandabhairavi), "abhayAmbanAyaka varadAyaka" (kEdAragauLa), and "tArakEshvara" (shaN^karAbharaNam), all in Adi tALam. Only in two of the ten abhayAmbA songs, does dIkSitar explicitly refer to Lord shiva as mAyUranAtha (mAyUranAtha mohanakara shaktE, and Isha mAyUranAtha ra~njani).


While no commercial recording of the abhayAmbA vibhakti series is available, these k.rtis have been rendered and recorded by a few organizations. The Guruguhanjali (Chennai) made a recording of the series in 2001 sung by Kalavati Balakrishnan. The CMANA organization in New York released a recording of these k.rtis sung in a chorus (led by T. N. Bala) as part of their Teacher's Day celebrations in June 1993. Some individual songs, "sadAshraye" (Sudha Raghunathan, Music India Dikshitar series), "shrI abhayAmbA" (several artists, especially D. K. Jayaraman) are often heard in concerts.


Note to the reader: The abhayAmbA vibhakti k.rtis are very auspicious, deep in meaning and content, and bring out deeper insights into the dEvI upAsana. dIkSitar has packed all sorts of tAntrik and kuNDalini yoga details in these songs and employs lengthy and winding word constructions in many places, which makes it difficult for a layman like me, to comprehend the true significance of these songs and translate various phrases using appropriate English words. Hence, we shall only attempt a simple, free translation approach to these songs, and will not try to provide the deeper esoteric inner meanings.

We shall post one k.rti per day throughout this navarAtri season.

Day 1: dhyAna k.rti: sadAshrayE abhayAmbikE (cAmaram, rUpakam)

Day 2: abhayAmbA jagadambA (kalyAni, Adi)

Day 3: AryAm abhayAmbAm (bhairavi, tripuTa)

Day 4: girijayA ajayA (shankarAbharanam, Adi)

Day 5: abhayAmbikAyai (yadukulakAmbhOji, rUpakam)

Day 6: abhayAmbikAyAH (kEdAragauLa, jhaMpa)

Day 7: ambikAyAH abhayAmbikAyAH (kEdAram, Adi)

Day 8: abhayAmbAyAm (sahAna, tripuTa)

Day 9: dAkSAyaNI abhayAmbikE (tODi, rUpakam)

man^gaLa k.rti: shRI abhayAmbA (shRi, Adi)


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