Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami

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During the last six navarAtri seasons, we featured the following thematic topics in  Carnatica’s “Special Features” segment:

2000 - navarAtri k.rtis of maharAjA svAti tirunAL

2001 - kAmAkSi navAvaraNam of UttukkADu ve”nkaTa kavi (

2002 - kamalAmbA navAvaraNam of muttusvAmi dIkSitar (
2003 - abhayAmbA vibhakti k.rtis of muttusvAmi dIkSitar
2004 - nIlOtpalAmbA “gauLAnta” k.rts of muttusvAmi dIkSitar
2005 – Nine nights – Nine composers – Nine K.rtis

In addition, we also uploaded several stOtrams on dEvi  (saundaryalaharI, lalitA sahasranAmam, and so on), appropriate for chanting on this festive occasion.  They can be accessed from  the “shlOka bank” of Carnatica’s Composition Bank.

dEvi stOtrams:                  ttp://


lalitA sahasranAmam:

For this year 2006, we shall take up the compositions of shyAmA shAstri in praise of Goddess mInAkSi of Madhurai, popularly known as navaratnamAlikA” compositions.

Shyama Shastri’s Compositions

ShyAmA ShAstri (1762–1827) was the eldest among the trinity. Unlike TyAgarAja and DIkSitar, he did not compose great many songs and did not employ numerous rAgams. But what he composed was solid, substantial and well-crafted. It is believed that he composed around 300 songs, but only 71 of his compositions are available in print. Shri T. K. Govinda Rao’s book, (“Compositions of ShyAmA ShAstri”) gives all 71 songs, and one less is found in Smt Vidya Sanker’s book (“ShyAmA ShAstri’s Compositions”). Among these, 51 are in telugu, 15 in sanskrit, and the remaining 5 in tamil. The musical style of these compositions include: k.rti (59), gItam (5), svarajati (3), and varNam (4). His three monumental svarajatis are sparkling gems in the field of KarNaTik music, and are often referred to as “ratna trayam”. He has employed only 13 meLams (namely 8, 15, 16, 17, 20, 22, 28, 29, 36, 39, 53, 56 and 65), and even there, he has composed only in 5 mELa rAgams tODi (4), shankarAbharaNam (2), nATa (1), varALi (2), and kalyANi (8)), Overall he has used 28 janya rAgams. But these janyams include some very rare rAgams like cintAmaNi, kalagaDa, mA~nji, and karNATaka kapi. The other two of the trinity have not composed in cintAmaNi or kalagaDa. Though Anandabhairavi was his favorite (7 songs), the maximum number of songs he composed are in kalyANi rAgam (8). He has four songs each in tODi, paraju and sAvEri. He did not use elaborate sa”ngatis in his songs, a feature that is so common in TyAgarAja k.rtis.

He was a master of rhythms, and has used a variety of tALams The phrases, “ta dhiM ki Na tOm, ta ka ta dhiM ki na tOm”, and the corresponding sAhitya phrases, anudinamu, maravakane, manavinivinumA, etc., are abundant in his compositions. The breakdown of taLams in his compositions is: Adi (30), mishra cApu (10), tripuTa (10), rUpakam (5), aTa (3), jhaMpa (3), maThyam (3).

Invariably, all his songs have multiple caraNams, three being a common number in 50% of them. One k.rti with a single caraNam, “parAkEla nannu”, in nATTakura~nji appears in shri T.K.Govinda Rao’s book, but is missing in the book by Smt. Vidya Sanker. Usually, in the last caraNam, he incorporates his signature (mudra) either as the shyAmak.rSNa paripalini (one who is the savior of shyAmak.rSNa), or shyAma k.rSNa sOdari (the sister of Lord shyama k.rSNa). Except four compositions, all remaining 67 songs feature this type of vAggEyakAra mudra. Incorporating a rAga mudra was not his forte, and we find only one instance, where the rAga mudra for rAgam lalita appears by default in the k.rti, “nanu brOva lalitA”.

Unlike DikSitar, he was not a zealous pilgrim. He visited only a handful of shrines: KA~nci, Ta~njAvUr, Madhurai, TiruvAnaikkA, NAgapaTTaNam, TiruvaiyARu, and VaidIshvaran koil. He has 35 compositions on Goddess kAmAkSi (16 explicitly on kA~nci kAmAkSi, 5 explicitly on Ta~njAvUr BA”ngAru kAmAkSi, 6 refer to kAmakOTi and do not use the phrase kA~nci, and 8 simply on kAmAkSi). There are 5 songs on akhilANDEshvari, 3 on dharmasamvardhani, 2 on nIlAyatAkSi, and 8 on madhura mInAkSi, Only two songs are on deity other than a Goddess. One is on MuddukumAra of VaidIshvaran kOil, and the other, a varNam, is on KA~nci VaradarAja. (This varNam is special in its contents that expresses sh.r”ngAra rasam; here ShyAmA ShAstri imagines himself as a nAyaki and addresses “her” sakhi, and expresses that she is unable to bear the pangs of separation from Lord VaradarAja). The remaining 7 songs are on DEvi in general (with no specific deity in mind). One of them is a ma”ngaLm piece on DEvi.

It is well-known that the k.rtis of DIkSitar are packed with intricate details and deep philosophy that require quite a bit of intellectual effort to understand and grasp the full meaning, As opposed to this, ShyAmA ShAstri’s compositions, mostly in telugu have simple theme and are very easy to comprehend. (It is customary to compare DIkSitar compositions to a coconut, and ShyAma ShAstri’s songs to banana fruit). They do not contain any purANic anecdotes, advaita/tAntrik philosophy, lofty ideas, or temple iconography. Nor do they follow any bhakti-vibhakti pattern, a feature normally found in DIkSitar k.rtis. Also, no description of “nAdOpAsana” or “sa”ngIta prashaMsa” found in TyAgarAja composition is available here. There is only a single theme uniformly present in all his compositions. ShyAma ShAstri’s songs are just his pleadings, as a humble devotee of the Goddess, in simple phrases, to appear before him and bless him immediately. He bursts out and cries why there is so much delay on the part of the Goddess to bless him. The same ideas (and even some phrases) are repeated over and over again in many songs. He also addresses Goddess by a handful of qualifying names, kAtyAyani, kaumAri, kalyANi, Ba”ngAru Bomma, one with a moon-like face (indumukhi), one with teeth like a jasmine flower (kundamukundaradana), one with lips resembling the bimba fruit (biMbAdharA), one whose tresses are black as a rain-pouring cloud (nIradavENi) , one who is flanked by LakSmi and Sarasvati (mAvANI sEvitA), one who is adored by Brahma, ViSNu, shiva (sarasijabhava hari hara nuta), or one who is the consort of shiva (who in turn, is described as the one whose ornaments are the serpents – ahibUSaNa, pannagabhUSaNa, etc).

Click below for:

The navaratnamAlikA compositions

ShyAmA ShAstri was born in a family of priests of Ba”ngAru KAmAkShi, who had not much of a musical training. One Sa”ngIta svAmi, who was visiting Ta~njavUr for his “cAturmAsyma” was his musical guru. He derived all his musical talents from him, as well as from Paccimiram Adiyappa of the “viribONi” varNam fame. Later, when ShyAmA ShAstri became a famous vAggEyakAraka, one night, Sa”ngIta svAmi appeared in his dream, and instructed him to go to Madhurai and compose songs in praise of Goddess mInAkSi, and seek Her blessings. ShyAmA ShAstri fulfilled this desire of his guru, and this is the origin of the so-called “navaratnamALika” songs on Goddess mInAkSi of Madhurai,

Another version of the same episode runs as follows. At PudukOTTai, while ShyAmA ShAstri was singing in praise of Goddess B.rhannAyaki, an old man in the temple went into a devotional rapture and asked him to go to Madhurai and compose nine songs in praise of Goddess mInAkSi After composing seven songs on mInAkSi, ShyAmA ShAstri reverted back to singing in praise of his family Goddess Ba”ngAru KAmAkSi. That night, the same person appeared in his dreams and reminded him that to fulfil his commitment, he is supposed to compose two more songs on mInAkSi. ShyAmA shAstri realized his lapsed and completed the group of nine songs.

On this occasion, ShyAmA ShAstri received a great welcome and many valuable presents from the people of Madhurai. It is said that when he rendered the song “mAyammA’ in Ahiri, the devotes were deeply moved, and one listener spontaneously offered him a silk shawl that was already adorning DEvi’s idol, as a fitting gift, indeed an appropriate blessing from DEvi. Yet another person offered him an expensive tambUra in appreciation of his talents.

Every author claims that ShyAmA ShAstri composed “nine” songs called navaratnamALika on Goddess mInAkSi of Madhurai, but nobody took time to list these nine songs. After intense search, I am only able to locate eight of them from available books. These eight songs are:

1. mInalOcanA brOva – dhanyAsi – mishra capu

2. sarOjadaLanEtrI – sha”nkarAbharaNam – Adi

3. dEvI mInanEtrI – sha”nkarAbharaNam – Adi

4. marivErE – Anandabhairavi – mishra cApu

5. dEvI nIdu pAdasarasamulE – kAMbhOji – Adi

6. mAyammA –Ahiri – Adi

7. nanubrOva lalitA – lalita – mishra cApu

8. rAvE parvatarAja kumAri - kalyANi- Adi

The Malayalam publication, “karNATaka sa”gIta caritram” by K. T. Ravindranath (National Book Stall, Kottayam 1984), which also claims nine songs, lists seven from the above list (omits the last one, “rAvE parvatarAjakumAri”), and leaves two as blank, with rAgams specified as shrI and nATTakura~nji, perhaps implying that the lyrics of these two songs are not available to him. Smt Vidya Sanker also mentions that ShyAma ShAstri has composed two k.rtis in the praise of Goddess in the rAgams shrI and nATTAkura~nji, but again, the lyrics are not found anywhere! The available songs in nATTakura~nji, and shrI are not on Madhurai, but on kAmAkSi and B.rhannayaki, respectively.

Professor Sambamurthi, like many others, makes just a mention of navaratnamAlika and names “sarOjadaLanEtrI” as one of the nine gems, in his book, “Syama Sastri and other Famous Figures in South Indian Music” (1934). Further, in the book “Great Composers, Part I”, he devotes an entire section to “navaratnamAlikA”, and lists only seven of the songs (omitting the kalyANi song in our list).

In his twin-cassette recording (AVM audio BF SR 192/193), “ShrI ShyAma ShAstri k.rtis”, the singer Maharajapuram Santanam includes a song, “brOvu brOvu” in the rAgam kIravAni, jhaMpa tALam, which in praise of Goddess mInAkSi. The authenticity of this song is yet to be established. If it is a genuine ShyAma ShAstri composition, could it be the ninth missing song from the navaratnamAlika series??

We shall take up the eight established songs listed above, all of them in praise of Madhurai mInAkSi. Since the meanings of all these songs are pretty straightforward, we do not attempt a word for word meaning, but render it in a free style approach.


We commence this NavarAtri season 2006 by offering our salutations to Goddess mInAkSi through the famous “mInAkSi pa~ncaratnam” composed by Adi sha”nkara. You can find the text of mInAkSi pa~ncaratnam in Sanskrit or diacritical English at

ShrI MInAkSi pa~ncaratna stOtram

udyadbhAnu sahasrakoTisad.rshAM kEyUrahArojjvalAM

bimboSThIM smitadantapa"nktirucirAM pItAmbarAlaMk.rtAm |

viSNubrahmasurEndrasEvitapadAM tatvasvarUpAM shivAM

mInAkSIM praNatO’smi santatamahaM kAruNyavArAnnidhim || 1 ||


muktAhAralasatkirTtarucirAM pUrNEnduvaktraprabhAM

shi~njannUpuraki"nkiNimaNidharAM padmaprabhAbhAsurAm |

sarvAbhISTaphalapradAM girisutAM vANIramAsEvitAM

mInAkSIM praNatO’smi santatamahaM kAruNyavArAnnidhim || 2 ||


shrIvidyAM shivavAmabhAganilayAM hrIMkAramantrOjjvalAM

shrIcakrA"nkitabindumadhyavasatIM shrImatsabhAnAyakIm |

shrImatSaNmukhavighnarAjajananIM shrImajjaganmohinIM

mInAkSIM praNatO’smi santatamahaM kAruNyavArAnnidhim || 3 ||


shrImatsundaranAyakIM bhayaharAM j~nAnapradAM nirmalAM

shyAmAbhAM kamalAsanArcitapadAM nArAyaNasyAnujAm |

vINAvENum.rda"ngavAdyarasikAM nAnAvidhADAmbikAM

mInAkSIM praNatO’smi santatamahaM kAru.nyavArAnnidhim || 4 ||


nAnAyOgimunIndrah.rnnivasatIM nAnArthasiddhipradAM

nAnApuSpavirAjitA"nghriyugaLAM nArAya.nEnArcitAm |

nAdabrahmamayIM parAtparatarAM nAnArthatatvAtmikAM

mInAkSIM praNatO’smi santatamahaM kAruNyavArAnnidhim|| 5 ||


|| iti "srImatparamahaMsaparivrAjakAcAryasya


shrImaccha"nkarabhagavataH k.rtau

mInAkSI pa~ncaratnaM saMpUrNam ||


Next: mIna lOcana brOva (dhanyAsi) >>


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