As there is a separate set of articles on Kamalamba Navavarana krithis of Muthuswami Dikshithar, we shall begin with the Oothukad Venkatakavi’s “Kamakshi Navavarana krithis”.
Oothukad Venkatasubramania Iyer (Venkatasubbaier), commonly known as Venkatakavi, lived just before the Carnatic Trinities and the period is estimated as 1700-1765 A.D. Venkaakavi was born at Mannargudi, but moved to Oothukad and on the deity, Lord Krishna here, he composed a major part of his krithis. He has composed many krithis on other deities also. Venkatakavi is considered to have filled the gap between Purandaradasar and the Trinities – Thyagaraja, Dikshithar and Shyama Sastri. As such, the concept of Navavaranams seems to have been introduced by Venkata kavi. As Sri. Chitravina Ravikiran says: “From the studies conducted by scholars of Srividya such as S Sankaranarayanan and others, Venkata Kavi's Navavaranams are of the highest calibre. In fact, he is reputed to have got initiation into Avarana pooja from none other than Bhaskara Raya, considered to be next to Adi Shankara in the subject of Devi”.
Venkatakavi was a great scholar; he composed in Sanskrit and Tamil mainly and also in Marathi. So far about 500 of his compositions are known; he has used most popular ragas like Thodi, kalyani, Madhyamavathi etc., as also various other ragas, including very rare ragas. Again he used many types of taalas, including very complex ones. His poetic imagination also was very high. Also, his vocabulary was astonishing. Venkata Kavi has composed on a wide range of themes. The most popular of his songs are on Lord Krishna but he has composed on a number of other deities as well, such as Vinayaka, Radha, Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur, Kamakshi, Rama, Kartikeya, Narasimha, Anjaneya, Ranganatha, Surya and other divine figures. He has also composed on great sages such as Shuka Brahma Rishi, Jayadeva, and Valmiki, on the greatness of Guru, and general philosophy and approach to God. His works contain references to Azhwars, Nayanmars, Ramanuja, Tulasidas and many others revealing his knowledge of their works and contributions and his reverence towards them.
Among the Oothukad compositions, the group krithis have a great role; the Saptaratna krithis, Anjaneya Saptaratna krithis, Guru krithis and Kamakshi Navavaranakrithis are very important – since the scope of this article is only focus on the Navavarana krithis, we shall move on to that.
Venkata Kavi also composed Navavaranams (nine avarnams) on the goddess Srividya to be sung during Dasara. Venkata kavi’s collection of Kamakshi Navavarana kritis on Goddess Srividya is a masterpiece. Apart from the main nine songs for the nine nights, he has also composed Vinayaka sthuthi, Dhyana sthuthi and a Phala sthuthi. There are several similarities (and differences) between his Navavaranams and that of Muthuswami Dikshitar but both reveal the composers’ scholarship in the various aspects of Srividya Upasana.
Sri Ganeshwara – Shanmukhapriya – Adi – Vinayaka sthuthi
Vanchasi yadi kushalam – Kalyani – Adi – Dhyanam
Santatam aham seve – Deshakshi – Adi - (1st avaranam)
Bhajaswa sri tripura sundari – Nadanamakriya – Adi - (2nd avaranam)
Sarvajeeva dayakari – Shuddha Saveri – Mishra Chapu - (3rd avaranam)
Yoga yogeshwari – Anandabhairavi – Khanda Triputa (2 kalais) - (4th avaranam)
Neelalohita ramani – Balahamsa – Khanda Dhruvam (2 kalais) - (5th avaranam)
Sadanandamayi chinmayi – Hindolam – Sankeerna Matyam - (6th avaranam)
Sakala loka nayike – Arabhi – Adi - (7th avaranam)
Shankari Shri Rajarajeshwari – Madhyamavathi – Adi - (8th avaranam)
Natajana kalpavalli – Punnagavarali – Adi - (9th avaranam)
Sri haladharanujam praptum - Manirangu - Adi - Phala sthuthi
(The 8th avaranam has been set in alternate time-signatures within the same tala – chaturashram (4/4) and tishram (3/4).
Kamakshi Navavaranam-s of Oothukkadu Venkatasubbayyar, who is believed to have been the first to compose such a thematic set. The Navavaranam set includes a total of 12 songs - an invocatory piece on Lord Ganesha, a Dhyana kriti on Devi and nine Avarana kritis. The Navavaranam signifies the worship of the three Goddesses - Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, embodying power, wealth and knowledge respectively - in the form of Srividya, through the Srichakra.
We shall now see the Navavarana krithis one by one.
1. Ganesha Dhyanam - shrIgaNeshvara jaya jagadIshvara – Ragam Shanmukhapriya
Victory to you, O lord of the ganas, lord of the world. You are of the form of eternal bliss and pure consciousness, and teach the method of Srividya worship. You are free of passion, and are the creator of the fruits of sacrifices and meditation. You are worshipped at the beginning of the Pancayatana worship, and grant us the objects of our mental, vocal and bodily actions. Victory to the one-tusked son of Parvati, who wears golden gem-studded earrings, who is a favourite of Siva, who bestows prosperity and who causes fear among the hosts of Danavas. You are adorned with a beautiful yajnopavita thread, and a garland of vakula flowers. You are victorious over all desires, and destroy the inner machinery of our obstacles. An ocean of compassion, you are worshipped by all the gods and rishis. You grant us all signs of prosperity, such as wealth, gold and vehicles. Your glory is sung in all the Vedas. Victory to the elephant-faced one, the lord of an enormous army of ganas and the remover of doubt and fear. Victory to the auspicious one, the eminent and merciful lord, the brother of Skanda, the commander of the heavenly army, whose enormous stomach dances along during the Tandava dance, who is accompanied by crores of Heramba goddesses, and whose splendour equals that of a crore suns.
Please listen to the invocative krithi on Lord Ganesha : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiOYyxCaqNI
2. Vanchasi yadi kushalam – Ragam Kalyani – Dhyanam
O mind, for your own welfare, meditate constantly upon the Goddess Kamakshi,
who resides in the Sricakra in the middle of the ocean of eternal bliss,
who is worshipped at Kanchi,
who is the essence of all auspicious and excellent attributes,
who sets into motion the chain of causality by the force of Maya,
who revels in constantly reciting the name of Siva,
who is worshipped by Ganesha and Guruguha,
who is auspicious and has a pleasing countenance,
who is compassionate and who grants all our desires,
who is herself the art of music and teaches it to the heavenly Gandharvas,
whose lotus feet are worshipped by all the gods.
Please listen to a rendition of the Dhyana krithi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfsUfv-ag9g
3. Santatam aham seve – Ragam Deshakshi - (1st avaranam – Trailokyamohana chakra)
I always worship you, O Goddess who resides in the trailokyamohana cakra, worshipped by the sarvasiddhi deities, praised in all the scriptures, and worshipped in the world.
She is seated on a resplendent raised altar in the Sripura, which is like the wish-fulfilling gem. She resides in the bindu cakra, is the abode of compassion, and is praised by the gods headed by Brahma. She is adorned with a necklace of excellent emeralds. She sports with the eight Goddesses beginning with Brahmi and Maheshvari, in the first enclosure. The Goddess of the Tripura cakra and Empress of the world, she is the essence of the Vedas. The beloved of Shiva and the manifest Yogini, she is worshipped by the deities headed by Samkshobhini and Vidravini, and is adorned with a long necklace studded with eight gems.
Please listen to the First Avarana krithi : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM2S1hNJpsk
4. Bhajaswa sri tripura sundari – Nadanamakriya – (2nd avaranam – Saravasa paripuraka chakra)
O Goddess Tripurasundari, deity of the sixteen-petalled sarvAshAparipUraka cakra , resort to me and protect me.
You are the flow of bliss, which is like heavenly nectar. You always grant the devotee's desires. You, the beloved of Siva, have a face resembling the moon, and are the mother of the elephant-headed Ganesha. Your abode is cool (or your grace cools the world) [The compound shishiritabhuvani can be interpreted in two different ways. shishiritaM bhuvanaM yasyAH sA - she whose abode is cooled (by the snow); shishiritaM bhuvanaM yayA sA - she by whose grace the world is cooled].
You hold the noose and the goad in your left hand(s); your glance is like the cooling rays of moonlight. You are worshipped even by the Trimurti. You have given us the Veda and Vedanta. You delight in the scriptures. You are adorned with golden necklaces, bracelets and crown. Your lovely breasts are encircled by an exquisite garland.
Please listen to the composition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXwpHs7bcZo
5. Sarvajeeva dayakari – Shuddha Saveri – (3rd avaranam – Sarvasamkshobhana chakra)
I always worship only you, Oh Mother, who is compassionate towards all beings. You have captured Siva's heart and constantly recite the seed mantra of the blissful Siva.
You are the Goddess of all mantras and tantras, residing in the eight-petalled lotus. You are the more hidden Yogini, who kills the world-threatening Bhandasura, and who enchants the eight Goddesses beginning with Anangakusuma.
Being of the form of self-luminous knowledge, you illuminate the outer material and the inner subtle worlds, moved by divine bliss. You enchant all, by exhibiting divine love. You grant aspirants the eight accomplishments such as Anima etc. You are of the form of all yantras, and you preside over name and form in the universe. The sister of Narayana, you hold a Vina, with strings that represent the art of music.
Please listen to this composition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBUCCINR-Yw
6. Yoga yogeshwari – Anandabhairavi – (4th avaranam – Sarva soubhagyadayaka chakram)
O Goddess of the Srividya Yoga, you reside in the three cities, and are ever benevolent towards the sages. Unite me too at your lotus feet.
Beloved of Tyagesha, you are the giver of the fruits of enjoyment and liberation. You reside in the fourteen triangles known as the sarvasaubhAgyadAyaka cakra. You embody the meaning of all the scriptures, and protect the entire universe. You show great compassion towards your devotees. You wear golden palm-leaf earrings, studded with the Nagaratnagem.
You reside in the heart of Sadashiva, surrounded by the traditional Yogini-s. You are seated on a cushion of swan feathers, at the foot of the mango tree in Kanchipuram. You are most holy, and are the essence of Maya. You are the daughter of the copper-colored sage, Matanga, of good observances. You are the essence of the IM mantra, you meditate on the principle of Isvara. You reside in the blissful enclosure of fourteen triangles.
Please listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMiSUh226pw
7. Neelalohita ramani – Balahamsa – (5th avaranam – Sarvardhasadhaka chakram)
Victory to you, Oh beloved of Siva (Nilalohita). The universe originates in you, lives in you and disappears in you, the Goddess of the Sarvarthasadhaka cakra.
O Lalita, Supreme Goddess, you are praised by the group of Kulottirna Yogini-s, and by Brahma and Indra. You grant the accomplishment of exquisite control. Your lively breasts are anointed with red Kumkuma powder. You are worshipped by all the assembled sages. Your earrings are like the sun that dispels the darkness of bondage. You remove all sorrows, and grant us all our desired auspicious fruits. You delight all beings. You wear a garland of lotuses and hold a spear.