Abodes of Ganesha
Abodes of Shakti
Abodes of Shiva
Abodes of Skanda Abodes of Surya
Abodes of Vishnu
Templenet Archives

Templenet Encyclopedia
Travel and Tourism
Festivals and Fairs
Beliefs and Legends
Glossary of Terms
About Templenet

tn.jpg (19837 bytes)
The Ultimate Source of Information on Indian Temples

Temples of Tamilnadu
Temples of Kerala
Temples of Karnataka
Temples of Andhra

Temples of Orissa
Temples of Central India
Temples of Maharashtra
Temples of Western India
Temples of the Himalayas
Temples of the Gangetic Plains
Temples of North Eastern India
Temples of Bengal

Feedback & Information:

K. Kannikeswaran
All Rights Reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced or used in any form without permission.
Tradition Meets

tn.jpg (19837 bytes)

Temples of Tamilnadu

Pancha Bhuta Stala Kritis of
Muthusvami Dikshitar

Special Feature - Music Season 2007

Templenet greets visitors on the occasion of the grand classical music season in Chennai and celebrates the occasion with this feature on the composer Dikshitar's tribute to the pancha bhuta stalas of India.

deekshitar.jpg (105030 bytes)

Not often do you encounter personalities who create classic works of art that survive beyond their lifetime.

It is even less often that a composer creates such a classic that integrates history, tradition and musical sophistry in a complex and intriguing portrait.

It is even less often that we encounter a composer creating a group of such classics in a premeditated planned manner that integrates so many elements of culture, yet showing a thread of continuity between the individual classics.

The Pancha bhuta stala krits of the revered composer Muthusvami Dikshitar are a stunning example of such a portrayal of the stalapuranas of five distinct temples located miles apart from one another in South India, primarily in the Tamil speaking region.

Each phrase in each of these classics has a story to tell; this feature limits itself to a very brief introduction to each of the kritis and the reference to the five elements.

In his classic chintaya maakanda, Dikshitar venerates Shiva as Somaskanda (as the trinity of Shiva, Uma and Skanda) enshrined in Kanchipuram. Indeed, the juxtaposition of the Kumarakottam temple in the space between the Ekamranatha and the Kamakshi temples is a spatial illustration of the concept of Somaskanda. It is a known fact that none of the Shiva temples in Kanchi has a shrine dedicated to the mother Goddess. A Somaskanda panel adorns the sancta in a representation of Shakti united with Shiva along with Skanda. It is in Kanchi that Shiva is venerated as a representation of the element earth, that constitutes one of the five bhutas or elements that is vital to creation. It is in this composition that Dikshitar venerates the beauty of the image of Shiva in the form of Shiva, with a beautiful smile and a brilliance that shadows Kama the lord of Love. The raga mudra is brought out with the phrase 'bhairavi prasangam' in the madhyama kala phrases of the composition as is the phrase prithvi lingam.

The kriti Sri Kalahastisa in the raga useni is an offering to the veneration of Shiva as 'Vayu lingam' and an acknowledgement of the element 'air' as one of the five elements that constitutes life. Shiva's consort here is Jnanaprasunambika and the shrine at Kalahasti is considered to be on par with Kailasha (one of the most revered places of worship in the Saiva tradition). The reference to the element air comes in the form of sameeraadhaara (the basis of the element air). The kriti also draws attention to the stalapurana that celebrates Kannappa Nayanar's devotion to Shiva. The reference to Shiva as a personification of nothing other than true bliss (sat chit anandam) is a theme that occurs both in the prithvi linga kriti as well as in sri Kalahastisa.

Arunachala Natham is a classic that at once invokes a sense of majesty associated with the shrine at Tiruvannamalai. Shiva is venerated as the Lord of Apitakuchamba (Unna mulaiyaal). smaraNAt kaivalya (i.e. access to liberation from the cycle of birth and death upon meditating upon Tiruvannamalai) is a phrase that marks the beginning of the anupallavi of the kriti. Again the phrase 'chidanandam' makes an appearance in this kriti. Shiva is referred to as 'Tejomaya lingam' (a fiery Shivalingam as symbolified by the hill and by the annual kartikai deepam that is lit at the culmination of the bhrahmotsavam atop the hill) and the raga mudra 'sarangam' appears in the phrase 'kara dhrita sarangam' referring to the deer adorning Shiva's arm.

Jambu Pate is a classic in the raga Yamuna Kalyani and it has reference to the water bodies such as Yamnua, Ganga, Kaveri, the ocean and it venerates Shiva as pancha bhuta maya prapancha prabhu. It also refers to the legend of the elephant that renders the name Tiruvaanaikkaval to the town, through the phrase 'saamajaatavi'. Again, Shiva is referred to as the personification of true bliss (nijaananda).

The fifth in the series of these kritis is Ananda Natana Prakasam in the raga kedaram. Set at a leisurely pace (as are the rest of the kritis), this kriti in a seven beat cycle salutes the brilliance of the cosmic dance of the Universe and the cosmic dancer Shiva, the Lord of the chit sabha. Needless to say, the theme of supreme bliss occurs right away as the opening phrase of the kriti extoling the glory of the hoary temple at Chidambaram. It is in this kriti that an explicit reference to the non dual nature of existence (advaita pratipaadyam) occurs, although this nature of being has been implicitly referred to in the other kritis. The phrase daharaakaasam refers  to the fifth element aakaasha or space.

Listening to a dignified rendition of these kritis is a profound experience, especially if one keeps in mind the significance behind the traditions associated with the five temples that have survived the test of time, a one of a kind grouping of monuments that are linked in so many different ways not seen elsewhere in the world.

The author Kanniks Kannikeswaran is scheduled to present 'Nottusvara Sahityas of Muthusvami Dikshitar' - a lecture demonstration at the Music Academy, Chennai during this music season.