Carnatic music and deadly mispronunciations

I recently observed many of Carnatic signers mispronounce words in a well defined lyric.

carnatic music
carnatic music – toon by Keshav, The Hindi (http://www.thehindu.com)

It is surprising because some of these are very common words in day to day conversation; also these songs have been around from ages. Sad part is, this is not limited just with junior artists, seen this with senior singers as well. For example, sharanu is being pronounced as charanu; not sure if they realise this gives a totally different meaning how originally intended. Sharanu is surrender and charanu in feat!

The charanu might still be harmless change. Sharanu siddhivinayaka… if changed charanu siddhivinayaka…; is like changing ‘surrender to lord ganesha’ into ‘feat of lord ganesha’. It gives different meaning, but still fits the purpose of praising the lord. But, all such word mutations don’t end so well. Take this example: If you know the song ‘gajaananam bhotaganaadisevitam…’; there is a ‘Phalasaara bhakshitam…’ in-between. A lot of people sing it as ‘palasaara bhakshitam…’; which is about a changing ‘fruit enthusiast’ to a ‘meat eater’!

I thought there will be some heated discussion over internet. For my surprise, even by the fans of a very conservative art form, this phenomenon is being forgiven by those who noted it. Music might not have a language, but your lyric does, isn’t it?

There is no question on the achievement in this field and dedication, generations of artists have maintained and enriched all attributes of this form of music, but if lyrics are ignored, that is one purpose failed. Decades spent on learning music, why not spend a fraction of it to learn the meaning as well?

On a separate note: There is a famous quote in Sanskrit “api mAsam masam kuryAt chandobhangam na kArayet” which perhaps written much before Carnatic music became classical. This translates to “you can change, if required, from mAsam (beans) to masam (month) but never ever should break the rhythm of a poem”. In other words, this is the famous poetic licence taken (rather imposed) by pretty much all poets till last century. But note, that was a provision rather than freedom.

6 thoughts on “Carnatic music and deadly mispronunciations

  1. I had to smile as I read this…. I am formally studying Tibetan Buddhism under the Nygma Lineage. We were given chants that are written in Sanskrit and when we are in the Temple we will be chanting together as well as practicing at home. I was proud of myself for chanting a line 4×108 and on the 5th day as we chanted together I was horrified I had not quite pronounced the words correctly. The Abbott put me at ease explaining it is about intention, and with the knowledge I can now pronounce the words/meaning correctly. The Sanskrit language is so beautiful, it is disheartening to know the musicians who are vehicles of the language are not more mindful. I have seen the disintegration of language because of tech, to read a handwritten note by someone in their 20’s is often a horrifying experience.

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      1. I hope you can help me with this question. The first is the version I was given
        Aum, Namo Bangawadeh,
        Bei Cha Zye. Guru Bei Yoya, Buro Ba Rajaya
        Datagadaya, Ahadeh, Samyasum Budaya, Dayata Aum
        Bei Cha Zye, Bei Cha Zye, Maha Bei Cha Zye.
        Raja Samuga Deh, Soha

        The following week after I had recited the mantra and was disheartened as I had
        mispronounced so many words, I searched until I found this version on YouTube
        so I could follow the mantra and learn it properly. Of course remembering it is about
        intention…
        OM namo bhagawate Bhaishjaya guru
        vaidurya prabha rajaya tathagataya
        arhate samyaksam buddhaya teyatha
        om bekhajye bekhajye maha bekhajye
        bekhajye rajaya samudgate
        svaha

        I am interested in learning more about Sanskrit and Pali to help guide me on this
        spiritual path.

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        1. Very interesting ! I never heard of this one before, thanks for sharing. To be honest first one you shared is unrecognizable to me, I could manage a little on second one.

          Considering it traveled through Himalayas couple of millennium back, it has become a new language (or may be dialect) on its own. I don’t think you need to worry about it being mispronounced in comparison to classical Sanskrit. It has probably evolved into a new language with its own unique pronunciations.

          But if you really interested in classical language equivalent of it and meaning, its already there in internet. Please refer :http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures/bhaishajyaguru-medicine-buddha-mantra.

          Regarding spiritual and Buddhism, you knocked wrong door. I am atheist, so I limit myself learning Sanskrit for non-spiritual part of it.

          For e.g.
          https://bachodi.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/even-in-his-dreams/
          https://bachodi.wordpress.com/2007/05/06/keep-your-words-sweet/
          https://bachodi.wordpress.com/2007/03/08/sanskrit-quotes-on-blogging/
          https://bachodi.wordpress.com/2006/11/08/since-it-is-written-in-books/
          https://bachodi.wordpress.com/2006/08/14/the-weak-the-god-and-sacrifice/
          https://bachodi.wordpress.com/2006/08/07/ahimsa-paramo-dharmaha/
          https://bachodi.wordpress.com/2006/08/03/women-dont-deserve-fredom/

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  2. Here is the translation for the second one…

    1. OM: we begin with Om, the under-current tone of the universe

    2. NAMO: means yielding or full of trust; can also mean to bend or bow, and might mean to melt into

    3. Bhagawate: means in intimate relation to the Divine and often means the entire cosmos

    4. Bhaishjaye: a name for the Medicine Buddha

    5. Guru: Spiritual Master; also means the “that” which transmutes ignorance into wisdom

    6. Vaidurya prabha: Divine deep blue light, like that of Lapis Lazuli

    7. Rajaya: means Great King

    8. Tathagataya: means once came or once gone

    9. Arhate: one who has conquered the cycle of birth death

    10. Samyaksam buddhaya: perfectly enlightened

    11. Teyatha: do it like this

    12. OM: again we begin with Om, the under-current tone of the universe

    13. Bekhajye bekhajye: do away with the pain of illness

    14. Maha bekhajye: do away with the pain of illness (of the darkness of Spiritual Ignorance)

    15. Bekhajye: do away with the pain of illness

    16. Samudgate: means the supreme heights. Like this, go go go

    (my prayer shall go to the highest and the widest and the deepest)

    17. Svaha: I offer this prayer and now relinquish it … (to you Medicine Buddha)

    The 2nd one is from a Tibetan Buddhist lineage. Buddhism was spread East there for dialects etc would make it difficult to translate if one were to know pure Sanskrit. The 1st one could be a Chinese version.

    No worries Atheist, Buddhism is not a religion, the Mantras are not sent to a deity, it comes from within!

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  3. On a separate note: There is a famous quote in Sanskrit “api mAsam masam kuryAt chandobhangam na kArayet” which perhaps written much before Carnatic music became classical. This translates to “you can change, if required, from mAsam (beans) to masam (month) but never ever should break the rhythm of a poem”. In other words, this is the famous poetic licence taken (rather imposed) by pretty much all poets till last century. But note, that was a provision rather than freedom.

    Like

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