Saturday, December 22, 2007

Theju's Slide Show!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Maargazhi ThingaL

About 10 days back, I’ve started fasting for Sabarimala (means I wake up early these days. He.. he…). It really feels good to wake up early, have cold water bath, go out to visit a temple amidst such cold weather.

And now Margazhi has started. A month filled with festivities, spiritualism and arts. The word “Margazhi” itself takes my memory down the line, to my child hood days at my home town.

There used to be real big Kolams in front of our houses on a wet surface. And a nice Pumpkin flower fixed on a ball of cow dung, used to decorate at the middle of the Kolam.

My parents wake us up and push us to have bath early and make us study for half yearly exams.

But there used to be a great excuse for me to have a break before opening the books. The biggest Savior was the “Ramar temple” on our street. The whole Margazhi month used to be too active there from early mornings. Boys and girls of our age group land up in the temple sharply before the end of Poojas there. Few children were taught Slokas, Thiruppaavai etc., at the temple itself and they chant them even before we arrive there.

Few of us never had any inclination to learn Thiruppaavai etc., as it was considered girlish stuff by us. But jealosy would start when we see them chanting Thiruppaavai or Sukthams during temple Poojas. One can almost see the pride on their faces while reciting. Reason was, their parents watch them recite and talk high of their kids to others. Another major reason was the preference given to them while distributing hot “Ven Pongal”. They were the first to get the blessings along with Pongal Prasaadham. (Sambavanai).

Once I get Prasaadham, mind starts thinking about the studies and parents waiting to see us studying. I used to go home half minded, carry the books and go to the terrace (what a relief!!) to study. Those days, near our house, there used to be lot of trees around housing lots of monkeys with their families. My study will start with loud reading with brisk walk on the terrace. It all would last only for 15 minutes till the first monkey hits the sight. Then it all would turn to monkey gazing even without my knowledge.

It all ends when mom comes to the terrace to keep food for “Kaakkaa” (crow), which means food is ready. Come down, have breakfast, pack the bag and leave to school and wait till the evening.

Come home in the evening, have coffee, go to temple (excuse, again) to watch those budding artists (!!) singing and other Urchavams. Then come home, open the books and study for sometime till 9 pm or till I fall asleep on the book (whichever happens early). Thank God! There was no TV set at home those days. If there were Chithi, Kolangal, Pogo or Power Rangers, my studies would have gone for a six (as if, without them I was a rank holder!?!?).

Coming back to Margazhi, believed to be inauspicious month among others. In Margazhi no one enters a new house or a new project. No weddings performed. No new purchases.

But just thinking of so many things, that Margazhi has to offer.

In Bhagavad-Gita, God says to Arjuna, “Maadhangalil Naan Maargazhiyaaga Irukkiren”. That is “Among all months, I am Maargazhi”. That’s the purity and sanctity of Maargazhi.

Well renowned Thiruppaavai was written and sung in the month of Maargazhi. Till today, Thiruppaavai is sung in all temples and even at homes during Margazhi.

Thiruppaavai, starts with the lines “Maargazhi Thingal”, celebrating the dawns of Maargazhi offering prayers to Lord Vishnu.

Thiruppaavai was written by Aandal who lived centuries back. Sri Aandal was found in a flower garden by Periyazhwar. As per mythology she was born in Kali Yuga 98. According to the above belief her date of birth is 8th June 3004 B.C. Anyhow many modern historians predict that she lived during 8th Century AD. Whatever it is, Thiruppaavai is at least 1300 years old or more, which is being chanted even today.

Sri Andal in one of her 30 pasurams in Thiruppaavai sings…

புள்ளின் வாய் கீன்டானைப் பொல்லா அரக்கனைக்கிள்ளிக் களைன்தானைக் கீர்த்தி மைப்பாடிப் போய்ப்பிள்ளைகள் எல்லாரும் பாவைக் களம்புக்கார் வெள்ளி எழுந்து வியாழம் உறங்கிற்று புள்ளும் சிலம்பின காண் போதர்க் கண்ணினாய்குள்ளக் குளிரக் குடைந்து நீராடாதேபள்ளி(க்) கிடத்தியோ! பாவாய்! நீ! நன்னாள் கள்ளம் தவிர்த்து கலந்தேலோரெம்பாவாய்

Meaning :

All the girls have reached the place for 'Paavai nonbu', singing the praise (keerthi) of the Lord, who split the mouth of the bird shaped asura; who sniped and disposed off the heads of the cruel Rakshasa.

Venus (velli) has risen (ezhundhu). Jupiter (viyaazhan) has gone to sleep (urangitru). Birds are chirping, See! You have eyes like the honey bee on a flower! You are lying in bed and sleeping, without dipping in and bathing in the harsh cold water. Oh girl! On this good day, leave your tricks behind and join us.

In the phrase Velli Ezhundhu Vyaazhan Urangitru, she means that the Venus has risen in the sky and Jupiter has gone to sleep (vanished). This proves the fact that Tamils knew astronomy as early as 1300 years ago. (If you ask, in which college Aandal graduated or was she an astronomer, I can’t answer!! Enough said. “Raamaa! Raamaa”!!)

Tiruvadirai Star in Maargazhi marks the auspicious time for Arudra Dharsanam of Nataraja in Saivite temples all over Tamilnadu especially Chidambaram. That was the day where Sri Nataraja gave Dharshan to Sri Adisesha (Vishnu’s Serpant) and Saint Vyaagrapadha at Chidambaram.

Vaikunda Ekadasi, one of the auspicious days for Lord Vishnu is celebrated during Maargazhi, where Perumal gives Dharshan to the devotees through the Sorgha Vaasal. This is again a major festival in all Vishnu temples celebrated with pomp.

All Sabhas are already filled up with concerts and performances by renowned artists for Maargazhi Season. I hop between sabhas at least for those sumptuous dishes offered in canteens by reputed caterers. Famous sabha canteens are in Narada Gaana Sabha, Music Academy, Vidya Mandir etc., where you can taste some of the delicious and innovative dishes (like paruppu podi sevai etc).

Thyagaraja Aaradhana is celebrated at Thiruvaiyaru also starts somewhere around Maargazhi (I think so), in memory of Saint Thyagaraja. Saint Thyagaraja was born in Thiruvaarur in 1767 and later settled down in Thiruvaiyaru (on the banks of river Cauvery) till he attained Mukthi in 1847. As a divine Rama Bhaktha Saint Thyagaraja has composed many Keerthanas which are filled with Bhakthi and remain ever green even today. His Pancharathna Keerthanas (5 gems) are a boon to listen, even for a layman who doesn’t know Carnatic Music.

Maargazhi is the time for harvest for the farmers. It’s the time they reap their produce and make their living. After getting good harvest in Maargazhi, they thank the Sun God on the day of Pongal festival (Sankarandhi) in the month of ‘Thai’.

Unjavruthi is another popular tradition followed by people especially during Maargazhi. People from the neighborhood wake up early in the morning and walk around in the all the streets singing Bhajans accompanied with musical instruments.

But why all these good deeds happen only in Maargazhi? It is believed that 1 year of human beings is 1 day for the celestial counterparts (Devas and Gods). The first 6 months from mid Jan to mid July (Utharayanam) is the day time and the next 6 months mid July to mid Jan (Dhakshinaayanam) is the night time for the Gods. And this Maargazhi (Dhanur Maasam) being the dawn of the day (Brahma Muhurtham) for the Gods, singing and chanting the glory of God is considered most auspicious.

Moreover, they say that the Ozone layer is so clean during the early mornings of this month and you can breathe fresh and pure oxygen during that time. Imagine waking up early in the morning, having bath and going for a walk amidst fresh air. And during the course you get to breathe the fresh oxygen without any pollution.

Result of which, it is said that, the biological rhythm of our body is set appropriately with a good walk early in the morning with some good thoughts, timely breakfast, good lunch and a limited dinner at night after attending a Kutcheri (food for ears) before you sleep.

People those days have devised such practices only for the good of the society. The question that remains is “Are we really sticking on to them in our fast paced life style of today?”

And when so many good things are attached to Maargazhi, why should we call the month “inauspicious”?

Let’s try to enjoy every minute of Maargazhi!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

FM Channels – Frequent Mokkais

As a two wheeler rider, sometimes when there’s a long drive or traffic jams while back home, I have this habit of listening to the FM from my mobile.

Few days back, after a tiring day, when I was going back home, got struck in a heavy traffic jam around 7.30 pm in the evening. I was in Kotturpuram and could see the traffic is fully jammed upto the Gandhi Mandapam Signal and from there till Halda Junction.

The whole traffic was inching very slowly and obviously I was breathing the smoke from various vehicles around. Thought I could listen to some FM channel so that I can forget the world for sometime. Now the traffic came to a halt and I switched off my bike and kept my FM on.

Wow… what an experience!!

The first song I listened was Vaji Vaji from Sivaji…. I wasn’t in a mood to listen to such numbers… ok. next channel… ‘Kumbuda Pona Deivam’. Full kuthu song. Even the noise of the vehicles outside was better to listen….

Next channel aired some song. I just was not able to follow the song. All I could understand is that it was a female voice. Out of curiosity I just increased the volume to listen those historic lyrics, beyond that noisy orchestration.

Yeah…I finally was able to catch the first line of the song after few minutes. And it was “Saturday Partykku Polam Variya”. Fortunately Kannadasan is no more to listen to such great lyrics.

Cursing my fate, I moved on to the next channel. Heard a track which resembled the one I liked the most in my child hood days. It was ‘My name is Billa’ with excellent rendering by SPB. And before I could be happy, I realized that it was a remix for the new ‘Billa’, by Ajith. Thanks to the Music Director (Yuvan.. I think). Sorry Yuvan … am not for those remixes where the originality is spoiled and the whole song is filled with noisy instrumentation and so called Englishy words in between.

As there are many more channels on choice, I thought I could still get some better numbers to listen… moved on to another channel.

BTW now traffic made me float till Gandhi Mandapam Signal. And my bike is switched off again coz of the long halt.

Listened to one of the great ‘Call in’ show where listeners call up and answer to the Radio Jockey’s question of the day. The question of the day was ‘If the crow can be renamed what would be your choice for the name?’

A listener called up. Usual courtesies like, ‘Hello! Mr.Gopal. How are you?’ etc., were exchanged (as if they know each other for years!!).

Caller suggested that the RJ’s name can fit in well for the crow and he gave some reason for it. RJ thanked him for the crazy idea and the caller thanked the RJ.

Caller also said that, he has been trying to talk in the show and he could never get through the line in the past. And he was so happy that he could get through on the day. Also he wanted to dedicate one of his favorite songs to his wife, friend (2-3 names), his cousin in Ambattur, another sister in Tambaram etc.,

Enna Kodumai Saar Idhu?!?!

Don’t know who found this concept of dedicating a song. No patience…. I just skipped and went on to listen to the next channel.

Now I could listen to one of the most innovative program on air where lakhs of people are listening. The callers have to call the given number and can discuss their personal problems (mostly love problems), secret affairs, love failures etc. The RJ tries to give solution to your problem and also pacifies you. What a wonderful innovation to happen on air? And people are there to call up and talk about their secret (?!?!) affairs to get counseling from RJs. Wonderful world!!!!

Next channel aired a great song with ample creativity. A husky female voice was singing “Selai Maatrum Bodhu Imsai Panna Vaada”. The traffic Imsai was better than this song.

Moved on to the next FM from ‘All India Radio’. Came across a wonderful song “Thedinen Vandhadhu” a good old classic.

Now the traffic started moving slowly. Thanks to City Traffic Police. After atleast 20 minutes they could do some damage control for the traffic to move freely.

Next song was ‘Yaaradi Nee Mogini’ from ‘Uthamaputhiran’. I could recollect the song, situation, Sivaji’s dance, everything as a whole, while listening. (Kudos to AIR)

Unfortunately, the fact is, in recent times, many of the Composers never mind the quality of the song. The directors are least bothered to create some great situations, where the song will fit in perfectly to move the story further.

Most of the lyricists never hesitate to write those filthy lines with the fear of missing those just some thousands.

Forget me. If anyone driving a car with family (irrespective of their cultural background) would like to listen to a song like “Selai Matrumbodhu” or noisy numbers like “Kumbuda Pona Deivam” etc.?

I couldn’t understand how they convince the advertisers who are spending their plenty of money on these channels for airing their ads.

And whom do they think as their listeners? Anyone on a drive would always love to listen to some good melodies or some super hit songs, whether it’s new or old one. But FMs always think that only if they play the brand new song, they would be listened. (Exception: All India Radio)

The best part is the wonderful melodies are aired by all the FM channels after 9 pm where everyone is busy with their TV into serials or news or something else.

Onnume Puriyaley…. Ulagathiley!!!