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.
You reside in the outer ring of ten triangles and illuminate the highest truth of attributeless non-dual truth. You are seated on a throne that represents the five states (of sAmya, sAyujya, sArUpya, sAmIpya and sAlokya). You reside in the bliss of savikalpa samadhi. The bracelet on your arm always grants all boons. You are the abode of compassion, and are worshipped in Kanchipuram. Your splendour is equal to that of a crore suns. Your smile is tender and your face is like the moon. You teach the meaning of the universal seed mantra of aiM klIM sauH. Your seat is the wish-fulfilling gem of nirvikalpa samadhi that is the highest principle of ahaM brahmAsmi (I am Brahman). You are the wisdom of Being, Consciousness and Bliss. You reside in the kadamba forest, with trees that grant the most auspicious fruits. Your dance is divine ecstasy. Your soft hands that are like lightning bear the noose and goad. You are famous in the world for having killed Bhandasura.
Please listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UXDdwj2K9M
8. Sadanandamayi chinmayi – Hindolam – (6th avaranam – Sarvarakshakara chakram)
The Goddess of the Sarvarakshakara cakra, which consists of ten triangles, is of the nature of eternal bliss, consciousness and auspiciousness.
Residing well in the three cities, in the midst of the ocean of nectar, she is the abode of all the arts. Her temple is in Kanchipuram, and she lives in the heart of Parameshwara. She grants the power of infinite knowledge, and is the non-dual reality that removes all differences.
She enlivens the life-breath (prANa) which has entered the five sheaths (*Please see Below). She is the inner Yogini, called Tripuramalini. She is endowed with auspicious attributes, and bears the goad that ensures worldly welfare. She is the mother of the elephant-faced Ganesha and Guha. Her eyes are like the lotus in bloom. She delights Siva with her soft speech.
(* )The reference is to the five sheaths mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanishad. These constitute the physical, subtle and causal bodies of the individual, and are enumerated as : annamaya (consisting of food), prANamaya (consisting of breath), manomaya (consisting of mind), vijnAnamaya (consisting of knowledge) and Anandamaya (consisting of bliss).
Please listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1YltCa-Tr8
9. Sakala loka nayike – Arabhi – (7th avaranam – Sarva rogahara chakram)
I surrender all only to you, O Empress of the entire universe. You are the essence of auspiciousness and bliss, and of the form of the sarvarogahara (remover of all ailments) cakra.
You are the essence of consciousness and speech, containing all the sounds, from a to ksha. You are worshipped by sages like Suka, Narada and Agastya. The king of serpents, who bears the world on his hundred hoods, adorns your hand as a bracelet. You enchant the world and grant knowledge and accomplishments for the world's welfare.
You are endowed with all auspicious qualities, and are worshipped for removing the disease of repeated rebirths. You are described in poems and dramas, which are ornamented with figures of speech employing the nine rasas. You confer wealth and welfare to the world. You are the sister of Govinda. Your body is like the petal of a blooming blue lotus, and your face equals a hundred suns. You rule over the deities of the (Yogic) accomplishments in the three cities. You reside in the lotus heart of Siva, and you delight in reciting hrIM, the seed mantra of Siva-Kameswara.
Please listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBSamgWtI0I
10. Shankari Shri Rajarajeshwari – Madhyamavathi – (8th avaranam – Sarva siddhiprada chakra)
Victory to you, consort of Sankara, Empress of the universe, and Goddess of the sarvasiddhipradAyaka (granting all accomplishments) cakra. You are known as Kameshwari, Vameshwari and Bhagamalini (Kameshwari, Vameshwari and Bhagamalini are the three Goddesses situated at the three corners of the innermost triangle in the Sricakra).
Your face is adorned with a tender smile and the auspicious mark of the kumkuma. You bear the goad, bow, noose and scepter in your hands. You are worshipped by sages like Bhringi and Sanaka. You grant welfare and reside in the purifying fire that protects the universe. You enliven the lotus heart of Venkatakavi(*), and are worshipped by Vidhi (Brahma), Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Siva).
You are of the form of the innermost triangle, which protects all. You are surrounded by the most secret Yogini-s. Daughter of the mountain king, you are worshipped by the deities that carry out universal functions. You are worshipped by the best of ascetics. You grant boons to those who surrender to you. You are the wish-fulfilling tree, and grant the happiness of different kinds of samAdhi, like sahaja, sthiti, savikalpa and nirvikalpa. You rule over all the seed mantras that are involved in meditating on the supreme principle. You reside in the city known as cintAmaNi, after vanquishing Bhandasura. Your bright face is like the blooming lotus, and grant knowledge. Your dancing feet equal those of the dancing Siva at Cidambaram.
(*)This is among the very few compositions in which Oothukkadu Venkatasubbayyar has referred to himself in a signature (Venkatakavi).
Please listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXO-OUAyLNE
11. Natajana kalpavalli – Punnagavarali – (9th avaranam – Sarvanandamaya chakram)
O emerald-hued Goddess, you are the wish-fulfilling creeper, seated in the sarvAnandamaya cakra, which consists of the supreme bliss. Bestow upon me your glance that confers immortality, like divine nectar.
Empress of the universe, you are the most beautiful one in all the three cities. You are the most secret of the most secret Yogini-s, and you have captured the heart of Parameshwara. Your face excels the blooming jasmine, the lotus and the tender water-lily. You are worshipped by all the Gods led by Indra (shatamakha - who has performed a hundred sacrifices or yagas. Indra, the king of the Gods, attains his position due to the performance of a hundred ashvamedha sacrifices).
You are the wave of bliss in the inner consciousness. You are surrounded by divine and human yogis and confer prosperity. Your auspicious lotus-feet are worshipped by the hosts surrounding Siva. You are impartible, residing in the drop at the center of the Sricakra, which resembles the ocean of nectar. Your face is like the autumnal moon, and your glories are sung by kings and people of good conduct, and by Narada and the divine Gandharvas. You take delight in the music that captures the essence of the nine AvaraNas, and in yoga (meditation), tapas (penance) and japa (recitation).
Please listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9n48_eNni8
12. Sri Haladharanujam praptum - Manirangu - Phala sthuthi
(This composition is a prayer to the Goddess, requesting access to Krishna. The grace of the Goddess is considered the easiest way to approach Vishnu).
O Goddess of the whole universe, mother of Subrahmanya, we have come to attain the younger brother of Balarama. Give him to us. You grant us the boons of happiness and bliss.
His body is the colour of the rain-giving cloud, and his eyes are like the lotus petal. He is worshipped by the sages led by Sanaka, and he grants liberation to those who surrender to him.
As the child Keshava, he stole butter from the houses of the cowherds. The enemy of the demon Madhu, he resides on the banks of the Yamuna. He had previously incarnated as Rama. He is generous, and grants the flow of the divine nectar of immortality.
Even as he dances on the hood of Kaliya, the serpent, he plays with the red breasts of Kamala (Lakshmi). Even as he plays at home in Gokula, he is the servant of the servants (dAsAnudAsa) of those who sing his glories.
Please listen to the Phala sthuthi : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JYnlIGvjNI