Compositions Other works
advent of Meruswami in Swati Thirunal’s court introduced there the
art of musical discourse called Harikathakalashepam, in its best traditions.
This art originated in the Maharashtra country in association with the Bhakti
movement propagated by Tukaram, Namadev and other saints as an interesting
and effective means to instill love of God in the people at large. During
the time of the Mahratta rulers of Tanjore, the Mahratta immigrants to Tamilnadu
brought with them this art. It soon attained great popularity and produced
a succession of eminent exponents who embellished the art with the addition
of illustrative episodes, supplementary themes and examples from everyday
life. The exposition of the theme interspersed with enjoyable songs was
an added attraction. Small wonder, therefore, that this art found immediate
favour with Swathi Thirunal and Meruswami received great encouragement.
Swati Tirunal, however, felt that an innovation in the texts handled by these discoursers was possible. The texts adopted constituted a compilation of suitable songs of the Mahratta saints themselves and appropriate verses from the Bhagavata and the Ramayana and Tulasi’s Ramacharitamanas, as also short prose passages form other works. Although the main trend of the story was adhered to, free play of imagination was resorted to with regard to details. These passages also varied to a considerable extent from discourser to discourser. The Maharaja felt that original texts could be devised for these, and in exemplification of his idea, composed two narratives, Kuchelopakhyana and Ajamilopakhayana, both based on the respective with verses, the songs being mostly in the Mahratta types like Saki, Ovi, Dindi and Abhang. The language is Sanskrit.
The Ajamilopakhyana consists of 9 songs and 23 slokas. Its source is the first three adhyayas in the sixth skandha of the Bhagavata. A Brahmin by name Ajmila belonging to kanyakubja leading a religious life with his family, chances to meet a courtesan and falls a prey to her charms. He neglects his family and duties and lives with her spending all his wealth and raising more by gambling and stealing. He gets ten children by her in the last of whom, named Narayana, he develops a particular attachment. His life nears its end when he is eighty and Yama’s attendants rush in to take his soul to hell as he has been leading a unrighteous life. Afraid at their hideous appearance, he calls aloud his pet son. Suddenly rush in Vishnu’s attendants to take his soul to heaven as the name he uttered, though his son’s happens to the Lord’s also. A verbal dispute ensues between the two parties and finally Vishnu’s attendants win. Ajamila realizes his faults and is full of penitence and wishes to atone for his misdeeds. Vishnu’s attendants disappear giving him time and Yama’s attendants run to convey the matter to their master. Ajamila goes to river Ganga, purifies himself by prayer and contemplation, and when he is cleansed of his sins, Vishnu’s messengers come again. He throws his mortal coil in the river and his soul is taken to the abode of Vishnu in a divine car. Yama instructs his servants never to go to a devotee of Vishnu thereafter.
This nice story which extols the efficacy of recitation of the sacred names of the Lord is also a favourite with discoursers. It tells us how much more efficacious conscious recitation will be, if even an unconscious utterance of a sacred name is capable of working wonders. This idea which gave birth to the Namasiddhanta philosophy, which goes to the extent of declaring the sacred name (naman ) to be even more important than the deity denoted by the name (naman) had its influence on Swati Tirunal as we have already seen, and that seems to be the reason for his choosing this particular story. Quite appropriately the very first song in the work is a call to taste the nectar of the Names.
Many of the songs are shorter compared to the Kuchelopakhyana. In addition to the Mahratta forms they comprise Hindusthani forms like Dhrupad. Here too many verses can be set to tala. The famous sloka song in the meter of the Gopikagita, Bhujaga Shayinom (Yadukula Kambhoji) which proclaims the potency of the sacred names in removing sins, also occurs here.
( Extracts from Swathi Thirunal and his Music By Sri. Venkita Subramaniya Iyer.Courtesy : Cllege Book House Publications , Thiruvananthapuram)