About the Book
SACRED SONGS OF INDIA
VOL IX THE SACRED SONGS OF INDIA VOLUME NINE, like its predecessor volumes,
encompasses selections from the life work of ten mystic poet-saint-musicians of
The poet-saint-musicians included in this volume
lived between the 5th century and the 20th century A.D. and came from such
diverse regions as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Assam, Punjab and Bengal.
They are: Karaikkal Ammaiyar, famous woman-saint of Tamil Nadu, Pattinattar, the Saivite saint, also from Tamil Nadu, who turned
from a wealthy trader to a recluse, Vedanta Desikan, the famous
Vaishnavite poet saint, who passionately spread the teachings of Ramanuja, Jana Bai, the Maharashtra woman saint, who though a servant-maid
of Namdev attained highest spiritual advancement, feeling God in every fibre of
her being, Sankaradeva, the Vaishnavite saint
reformer of Assam who rejuvenated the life of Assam with his Vedantic
Vaishnavism, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth
Guru of the Sikhs who became a martyr to save the religious faiths of India, Bulleh Shah, the mystic Sufi saint whose songs conveyed the message
of pure Vedanta, Abhirama Bhattar, the
God-intoxicated temple priest who saw his beloved goddess, Abhirami, everywhere, Swami Vivekananda, the
passionate social reformer who was also a religious mystic and poet, and Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, the outstanding music
composer, who continued the tradition of the Carnatic music Trinity: Tyagaraja,
Muttuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.
They sang in different languages: Tamil, Sanskrit, Marathi, Assamese, Punjabi and Bengali. But all of them sang of the glory of God.
Sacred Songs of India, Volume Nine, will be a
valuable repertoire for all artistes and a useful reference source for
About the Author
Vadakaymadom Krishna Iyer Subramanian (b. 1930,
Kerala, India) is an eminent scholar, whose life mission is to present to the
world the treasures of ancient India, in the fields of art, literature,
philosophy and religion.
He has already translated several ancient texts
These include: Saundaryalahari, Sivanandalahari, Sacred Songs of India, Maxims of
Chanakya, Sri Rudraprasna, Wondrous Whispers of Wisdom from Ancient
As a consultant for holistic health and
spiritual development, he has spelt out the Hindu regimens in this regard in
his popular book: The Holistic Way to Health,
Happiness and Harmony.
Subramanian's prolific literary output covers a
variety of subjects ranging from astrology to art. He has been an astropalmic
counsellor for over 35 years.
A retired officer of the Indian Audit and
Accounts Service (which he joined in 1953), Subramanian is also a reputed
painter, who has held 22 one-man shows and whose paintings (some of them in the
Chandigarh Museum) have won wide acclaim from leading art critics of India.
Subramanian who has travelled extensively in
India, now lives in the United States of America.
This volume, Sacred Songs of India, Volume Nine, continues my voyage of
discovery of the devotional lyrics composed by the mystic poet-musician-saints
of India, in different regions of India, in different languages, in different
periods of history.
The adoration of the infinite Divine is a
common running thread in the songs of these mystic poet-musician-saints. They
transcended the barriers of caste, gender, language and time.
The poet-musician-sages included in this volume
are: Karaikkal Ammaiyar, Pattinattar,
Vedanta Desikan, Jana Bai, Sankaradeva, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Bulleh Shah,
Abhirami Bhattar, Swami Vivekananda, and Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar.
They lived between the 5th century A.D. and the
20th century A.D.
They came from such diverse regions of India
as: Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Assam, Punjab and Bengal.
They sang in Sanskrit, Tamil, Assamese, Marathi
Karaikkal Ammaiyar probably
lived in the 5th century A.D. She is the only woman Saivite saint mentioned in
the Periya Puranam of Cekkilar,
which deals with the lives of Saivite saints of South India.
Pattinattar is the
other Tamil Saivite saint who probably lived in the 10th century A.D. His
songs, while describing the glory of God, mock at the emptiness of human vanity
and the transience of earthly possessions.
Vedanta Desikan, the
Vaishnavite saint, lived in the 13th-14th centuries. He was an apostle of
Vaishnavism as St. Paul was of Christianity.
Total surrender to God (Sara1Jiigati), to attain His grace is a cardinal tenet of
Vaishnavism and Vedanta Desikau's songs fully reflect this approach to God.
Jana Bai, the
Maharashtra saint, lived probably in the 14th century A.D. Though a
servant-maid and of a low caste, she attained the highest level of
spirituality, feeling God's presence everywhere, in and around her. Her songs
reflect her childlike devotion to God, and unflinching faith in His
Assamese Vaishnavite saint, lived in the 15th-16th centuries A.D. He was a
multifaceted personality. He was saint, poet, singer, actor, religious teacher
and social reformer. He wrote several works in Sanskrit and Assamese. He can be
deemed the Assamese Tulsidas.
Apart from generating a renaissance in Assam,
in the fields of religion, music, dance and literature, Sankaradeva made a
unique contribution to Assamese social life, by introducing village prayer
houses, called Namghars, in
villages, where people could meet for singing Kirtans and socialization. He was against all caste
Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Ninth
Sikh Guru, lived in the 17th century. This great martyr wrote soul-stirring
songs, about the transience of the material world and the true bliss that can
be attained by remembering, loving and adoring God and chanting His holy name.
Bulleh Shah, the Sufi
saint, lived in the 17th-18th centuries. Though, he was the Ruler (Biidshah) of a town, was rich and
married, he left everything
and became a recluse, filled with a passionate love for God, whom he addressed
as the Beloved. His songs contain the essence of Advaita-Vedanta, that God is
not only omnipotent and omnipresent, He is also immanent in every living being.
He once offended the Muslim priests by declaring: "Anal Hauq" ("I
Abhirami Bhattar, the
God-intoxicated temple priest of Tamil Nadu, lived probably in the 18th
century, when Maratha kings were ruling, with their capital in Thanjavur.
For him, God was the Divine Mother, who was
beautiful, kind, compassionate and full of grace and he burst into picturesque
poetry, describing her beauty, somewhat like Sankaracharya in his classic poem,
Bhattar's poem is called Abhirami
Anthadi and comprises 100 verses, like the Saundaryalahari. Selections from this poem are the songs
included in this volume.
Swami Vivekananda, the
well-known disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, lived in the 19th century. His
passionate advocacy of Hinduism and Social reform in India and abroad is well
known, but his poetic adoration of God in the form of Father and Mother is not
known to many. The selections from Swami Vivekananda's two poems, Amba Stotram and Siva Stotram, embellish this volume.
Muthiah Bhagavatar lived in the 18th19 centuries A.D. Primarily a musician
in the line of the Carnatic trinity: Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama
Sastri, Muthiah Bhagavatar, with his innovative musical compositions in
beautiful Ragas (melodies), has bequeathed some mellifluous songs which evoke
spiritual devotion to God in the listeners.
All in all, we have in this volume, as in the
predecessor volumes, a wonderful feast of soulful songs composed by poet sages,
widely different in their backgrounds and so different in their approach to
Whether they were Saivite saints like Karaikkal Ammaiyar and Pattinattar, Vaishnavite saints like Vedanta Desikan or Sankaradeva, childlike devotees like Jana Bai or Abhirami Bhattar, or Vedantins like Bulleh Shah or Vivekananda,
the running thread of adoration of God invests all these songs with the
power to spiritualise the mundane and lift up our souls to heights of spiritual
With pride, I once again invite my readers to
savour this nectar-punch of devotional songs.
Songs of Karaikkal Ammaiyar
(5th Century AD.)
Songs of Pattinattar (Circa
10th Century AD.)
Songs of Vedanta Desikan
Songs of Jana Bai (Circa
14th Century AD.)
Songs of Sankaradeva
Songs of Guru Tegh Bahadur
Songs of Bulleh Shah
(1680-1752 Century AD.)
Songs of Abhirami Bhattar
(Circa 18th Century AD.)
Songs of Swami Vivekananda
Songs of Harikesanallur
Muthiah Bhagavatar (1877-1945 AD.)
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