The Goddess Lakshmi

Today is Varalakshmi Vratam and the mind automatically turns to Muthuswami Dikshitar’s shrI varalakshmi namastubhyam in shri raga, in which there is a clear reference to the Goddess being worshipped on the Friday before the full moon in the month of Sravana. Listen to Sanjay Subrahmanyan sing it here

We also have shrI varalakshmIm in saurAshtram, which is a small kriti with just a samaShTi charaNam or as Subbarama Dikshitar would define it, an anupallavi. You can listen to. Sanjay sing this song here

There are two songs closely aligned with each other by way of a legend of Dikshitar’s wife berating him for his poverty and then seeing the light, which I discount. The songs are however exquisite – hiraNmayIm lakshmIm in Lalita and mangaLadEvataya tvayA in dhanyAsi. The first was probably composed at Tiruvarur, for the song describes Lakshmi as Kamalambika. It is also significant for it borrows heavily from the shrI suktam. While the composer describes her as Lakshmi right through, including Guruguha mAtula kAntAm (wife of Guruguha’s uncle), he suddenly slips in references to her as Parvati – girijAm tAm, lalitAm, etc. It was DKJ who made this song really famous and so let us listen to him

The second song, mangaLadEvataya also has mention of Kamalalaya and I wonder if it is a reference to the Goddess residing on a lotus or to the actual shrine. There are some knots in the song that I am puzzled over. There is the mention of Varada and Rajagopala – both aspects of Vishnu that are famed elsewhere – in Kanchi and Mannargudi respectively. The references to Shiva are also intriguing – dAridra dukkha mUrdhanyA shiva nigrahaya – I interpret as one who removes poverty and sorrow and destroys (nigraha) inauspiciousness (ashiva). But what about the line shivAnujayA? When did Goddess Lakshmi become Shiva’s younger sister? Or is this to be interpreted as ashivAnujaya – younger sister of Jyeshta Devi? I have not heard this song in any concert but I did find this recording by Prema Rangarajan

In comparison to these the less-heard shrI bhArgavi (mangaLakaishiki), composed at Srirangam is less difficult to interpret. It appears to borrow heavily from Shankara’s kanakadhAra stotram in lyrical content.This song has of late become popular on stage and let us hear the one and only S Rajam sing it –

Also straightforward is MahAlakshmi karuNArasa lahari (mAdhavamanOhari) until you come to the word manOnmaNi -the utsava murty for Kamalamba at Tiruvarur, and also the phrase shiva sahitE, which I interpret as being with all wealth. I first heard Semmangudi sing this and so I feature him here –

Perhaps the most intriguing is kAmAkshi varalakshmi (bilahari)- who is he singing about? Kamakshi or Lakshmi? It appears to be on Lakshmi – kAmajanaka pUrNa phalE and vAsu (yes, SSP does not say vAma) dEVa parabrahma jAyE both indicate Vishnu. To me, this song always brings to mind DK Pattammal but not finding her recording I feature DKJ instead –


Lastly, we have little Hariyuvatim haimavatim in DesisimhAravam – I am not sure as to where this was composed. But Dikshitar evidently decided to let us know as he does in shrI shulinim (shailadesAkshi) and shrI nIlOtpalanAyikE (nAriritigauLa) that he knew of the other nomenclature of ragas – for DesisimhAravam is hEmavati today. Listen to the Hyderabad Brother(s) sing it –

But let us leave these arguments aside and rejoice in the songs. And pray for everyone in distress – the Unnao rape victim, the flood victims all over the country, the residents of Kashmir and the families of the shootout victims in the US being just a few. May they , and us, find peace in Dikshitar.

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