Parasakti is worshipped in her three divine facets as Durga (the vanquisher of obstacles), Lakshmi (giver of prosperity), and Saraswati (giver of knowledge) throughout Bharatavarsha during Navaratri. From time immemorial, Vedic chants, hymns and songs of saints and seers have been an integral part of the myriad modes of Devi worship; more so, during the auspicious Navaratri celebration to propitiate Sakti, hailed as Akhilandakoti Brahmanda Nayika.
Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar occupies a unique place in the realm of Devi worship and Sri Vidya Cult. His scholarly and highly spiritual compositions on Goddess Kamalamba enshrined in the Tiruvarur temple as Gnana Sakti, the giver of high intellect, are a unique set describing Her as the primordial Power seated in Yogic posture presiding over the form and content of the ever-auspicious Sri Chakra.
A view of Tiruvarur Sri Tyagaraja Temple with the ‘Kamalalayam’ tank in the foregorund
| Photo Credit: M_SRINATH
These kritis on the Nine Enclosures (each an Aavarana, a term often pronounced or mis-spelt as Navavarna (varna), open up an enlightening process to explore the structure and layers of Sri Chakra and the presiding Maha Sakti enshrined in every Enclosure with her attendant divine maidens. Thus the seeker travels through the different phases of Self Realisation in this spiritual journey of Sri Vidya Upasana. Kamalamba is the very form of Kaamakalaa — Sri Lalita Maha Tripurasundari.
While Dikshitar is known for his magnificent Group Kritis such as Panchalingam and others, his “Vibhakti” (case-inflections of Sanskrit grammar) kritis on some deities are exquisite pieces embodying the essence of Mantra and Tantra Sastras (including the kindling of the Kundalini Sakti); and some, belonging to the hymnal genre as can be seen in the Vibhakti kritis on Sri Abhayamba (Maayuram) and Sri Nilotpalamba (consort of Sri Tyagesa of Tiruvarur) respectively.
Kamalamba, the grand Goddess waiting to marry Sri Tyagesa, is praised in an extraordinary set of Vibhakti Kritis. Similarly, those that address Sri Tyagesa in a magnificent collection is an encyclopaedia on the temple precincts, rituals and festivals. The Kamalamba Navavarana kritis are musical masterpieces of Dikshitar. They provide a complete manual on the approach to Devi worship prescribed according to the Tantric mode. To obtain the divine blessings of Devi in Her eternal abode, the Sri Chakra, the “Nine Circles” have to be worshipped in an orderly manner. Dikshitar, himself a Sri Vidya Upaasaka, having obtained his ‘Deeksha’ name from his intellectual teacher Sri Chidambaranatha Yogin, has given an exquisite visualisation of Devi’s “abode” in these kritis.
A painting of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Kamalamba at the the Tiruvarur temple
| Photo Credit: M_SRINATH
Dikshitar sings on the presiding deity of each Chakra with its distinct name, details of the attendant deities, their powers and benefits of offering worship. Collectively, it is referred to Navavarana Puja. The Kamalamba Navaavarana suite contains a Dhyana kirtana (Thodi), eight Vibhakti kritis, the ninth aavarana kriti set in all the eight Vibhaktis (Aahiri), and concludes with a Mangalam (Sri), accounting for 11 pieces. The beautiful description of Devi in the Dhyana kriti as the very form of Saguna, (denoted by terms, Vinoda Charane, Devi seated with a unique feet position and Nirguna (akhandaika rasa poorne, Sadaasivaantahkarane, etc.) as also the mantraroopa sookshma (a, ka, cha, ta, tapaadi varne, etc.,) elevates the mind.
The first Chakra, addressing Devi, the enchanting Trilokya Mohana Chakravartini in Anandabhairavi is captivating. The use of ‘Tri’ in different contexts of Devi’s attributes are mesmerising in this kriti — Kamalamba Samrakshatu, where Dikshitar addresses Devi in beautiful epithets such as “Hrut Kamalaa nagara nivaasini!” She who resides in the holy space of the Lotus — Heart — “Sumanasaaraadhita abjamukhi.” The Lotus-faced goddess is worshipped by the Good-hearted and ‘Panjarasukhee,’ the parrot in the Omkara cage and so on. Herein Devi is the head of the ten Siddhi devataas surrounding Her in attendance.
The other Vibhakti kritis are equally intricate and are in-depth compositions extolling Kamalamba, making the process of acquiring the inner aspects, which are what is known as “Naree kela Paakam” — getting to enjoy the essence of the coconut water after much efforts on the part of the seeker.
In the all-blissful kriti on the Bindu (the holy Centre which denotes the Ultimate Union of Sakti and Siva (Sarvaanandamaya chakram) in the soothing melody of Aahiri — ‘Sri Kamalamba Jayati’ — the ardent devotee’s inner joy is evoked at the mention of “Sreepura Bindu Madhyastha Chintamani mandirastha Sivaakaara manchastitha Siva Kaamesaankasthaa” and Devi as Brahmamaya Prakasini, Namaroopa Vimarsini, Kaamakalaa Pradarsini and Saamarasya Nidarsini.
‘Kamalambaam Bhajare’ (Kalyani), ‘Sri Kamalambikayaa’ (Sankarabharanam), ‘Kamalambikaayai’ (Khambodi), ‘Sri Kamalambikaayaaha’ (Bhairavi), ‘Kamalambikayaastava’ (Punnagavarali), ‘Sri Kamalambikaayaam’ (Sahana), ‘Sri Kamalambike Avaava’ (Ghanta), are the other Aavarana kritis.
Dikshitar has tactfully incorporated the raga names in the lyrical content of every song as also crisp terms to denote episodes of ‘Devi Mahatmyam.’ Interestingly, he has woven his personal spiritual experiences. For instance, “I have become a fully realised soul” (Sachidananda Paripoorna Brahmaasmi), while singing the glory of the Goddess whom he addresses as his Mother, entwining the name suitably along with his signature — Guruguha Jananee!
Thus the eight Angles (Sarva roga haram), inner ten triangles (Sarva rakshaakaram), outer ten triangles (Sarvaartha Saadhakam), 14 triangles (Sarva Soubhagya daayakam), eight petals (Sarva samkshobhanam), sixteen petals (Sarvaasaa Paripoorakam) and Bhupuram (Trilokyamohanam) in the Sri Chakra Aavarana worship detailed by Dikshitar awakens the inner bliss at the grace of Sri Sampradaayeswari.
Dikshitar’s language, style, musical essence, and close following of the multiple name references from Sri Lalita Sahasranamam give a soul-lifting experience for those who sing these immortal compositions with proper understanding of their meanings and inner contents.
Ambi Dikshitar, grandson of Muthuswami Dikshitar, handed down the Pataantara of the composer, including the Kamalamba Navaavarana kritis to Justice-musician-musicologist, T.L. Venkataramier, from whom many stalwarts in the Carnatic field have inherited the legacy, one of them being the living exponent Prof. B. Krishnamurti.