NAVAVARANA AND NAVARATRI KRITIS - Part 1
|Navaratri, Dussera, Kolu
or Durga Puja - by whatever name it is called in different parts of our country,
is a very ancient Indian festival devoted to the Tri-Devis (Lakshmi,
Sakti & Saraswati). It is especially devoted to Goddess Sakti who is known as Durga or
Mahishasura Mardani, and signifies the triumph of good over evil. Navaratri falls in the
month of Kanya or Purattasi according to the Tamil calendar (around
mid-September). It begins on the new moon day or the next day (prathama) and
extends to nine or ten days. It ends with Vijayadasami, which is
considered a very auspicious day. Thus Sakti worship was widely prevalent in ancient
To Devi Upasakas (Srividya Upasakas) , i.e. worshippers of Devi / Sakti, the Goddess, Navaratri means much more. They perform extensive homams (rituals) and pujas (prayers) to Goddess Rajarajeswari (another form of Goddess Sakti, who is worshipped in the form of a Srichakra or Meru).
Great composers like Oothukadu Venkata Kavi and Muthuswami Dikshitar who were initiated into Srividya while they were young, have composed Navavarana kritis on Devi, which contain the essence of Mantra and Tantra Sastras. For those who are not able to perform puja, it can be said that the understanding and singing of Navavarana kritis in itself is equivalent to puja.
Though Venkata Kavi lived nearly a century before Dikshitar and was the first one to compose Navavarana kritis, his beautiful Kamakshi Navavarana was unknown to the music world until recently. The world owes a great debt to Sri Needamangalam Krishnamoorthy Bhagavatar who took pains not only to learn, sing and propagate Venkata Kavis Navavarana, but also to publish it in a book form with notations. But for his tireless efforts, a good musical treatise would have been lost and forgotten altogether.
Even until recent times, many musicians were not aware of Kamakshi Navavaranas. I have always wondered why. Probably Venkata Kavi had no proper Sishya-parampara (line of disciples), which could propagate his compositions. Or perhaps a great Kavi (poet) as he was, sweet and poetic phrases poured forth from his lips in a never-ending stream that an ordinary musician was not competent enough to grasp. Or perhaps the various Talas and Jatis which he employed with ease in his compositions, were intricate and posed problems for the singer. Or his compositions with all their Madhyama and Durita-kala (medium and fast tempo) passages were more suited for dance than music.
A century later, music found a very high place among all the other fine Arts.
This was during the Golden age of Carnatic music - thanks to the musical Trinity. It was
at this time that Muthuswami Dikshitar swept the world with his musical compositions. He
was not only a Vainika-Gayaka (singer-cum-Vina-player) and a
composer, but also a mystic, a person well versed in the Mantra and Tantra Sastras,
Gandharva Vidya, Srividya, Jyotisha (astrology) as well. Owing to all these and also
because Dikshitars kritis were mostly in the Chowka-kala (slow-tempo) and hence were
bhava -laden, his Kamalamba Navavaranas became popular. Infact until recently, it led us
to believe that it was the first of its kind to be composed. Even otherwise the greatness
of Dikshitar can never be under estimated. He had no parallel in the world of music nor
shall he ever have. No one can deny or resist the magical, spiritual and soul-stirring
effect of his songs. He has also composed Vibhakti (case endings) kritis on
Goddess Abhayamba of Mayuram and some times they are also referred to, as Abhyambika
Navavaranas. Although in the strict sense of the word, they are not.
|Navavarana & Navaratri kritis - Part 2|
|Related links: Navaratri kritis of Swati Tirunal
Prosodic beauty of the Navaratri kritis