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Gopalakrishna Bharathi

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Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s biography

Gopalakrishna Bharati (1811 - 1896) was a Tamil poet and a composer of Carnatic music. He wrote a katAkALatcEpam, NantanAr Carittiram (Nandanar Charitram), two other works in this genre, and many independent kritis.

Bharati was a contemporary of Tyagaraja whom he is said to have met, and who asked him whether he had composed anything in the rAga AbhOgi; Bharati subsequently composed on of his most popular kritis in rUpaka tALa, CapApatikku. The great Tamil literary figure, U. V. Swaminatha Iyer wrote two sources for Bharati's life: a biography of the composer and his own autobiography, which contains references to Bharati, who was his guru in music.

Gopalakrishna Bharati was born near Mayavaram in Thanjavur district of today's Tamilnadu, south India. His father was Ramaswami Bharati, a musician. Gopalakrishna learnt Advaita and yoga SAstra from a guru in Mayavaram. Though he never took the vows of a renunciate, he led an ascetic life, and never married. Hailing from family of music exponents, Gopalakrishna showed inclination towards music even at a very young age. He had a commendable ability to grasp and reproduce complex music. He also listened to a number of the leading Carnatic vocalists of Thanjavur district.

Gopalakrishna Bharathi composed several kritis on the principles of advaita. Gopalakrishna Bharathi's kritis, portraying several musical facades, were extremely well received by the public and were sung in a number of concerts during his lifetime. This prompted several musicians to approach Gopalakrishna Bharathi. The musicians would express his vision for a new kirtana and Bharathi would always oblige and compose a song to fit the musician's requirement.

Gopalakrishna Bharati used the mudra (signature) Gopalakrishna in his compositions. These include famous kritis like varukalAmO (rAga mAnji), varuvArO (sAma) and ennEramum (rAga dEvagAndhAri).

NantanAr Carittiram is a katAkALatcEpam, a genre of religious story-telling with music that was popular in Tamilnadu in the 19th and early 20th centuries before the advent of film, especially the talkies. Nandan Caritiram was based on the story of a paraiyAr (dalit or 'untouchable'), Nandanar known also as TirunAlaippOvAr NayanAr. A great devotee of Siva, he yearned to visit Chidambaram the greatest of Siva temples. He greatly feared that caste prejudice would prevent him from entering the temple, but his devotion overcame this obstacle, and he obtained his desire, becoming physically merged with Siva in a blaze of light. Bharati's version of NantanAr Carittiram is a masterly development of the story narrated in Sekkizhar's Periya PurANam. He included many forms of Tamil regional music, and is praised for his ability to capture dialect and popular expression. The eminent Tamil literary scholar, Meenakshisundaram Pillai, however, criticised him for grammatical lapses.

Nandan Caritiram, as performed by Bharati, proved very popular and he published it in his lifetime. The highly regarded Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar, who developed the art of katAkALatcEpam by introducing elements from Marathi performance practice and elements of dance, made it one of his masterpieces. Many adaptations appeared, including stage plays and three film versions. Individual songs of Gopalakrishna Bharati became popular with Carnatic musicians. Later, Bharata Natyam dancers, including T. Balasaraswati, took up select pieces for interpretation as abhinaya. The album of the film version starring the singer M. M. Dandapani Desikar as Nandanar (with music direction by Papanasam Sivan) remains popular.

The story of Nandanar, as Bharati developed it, had considerable resonance with the Nationalist movement in India. Nandanar was an untouchable (dalit), and M. K. Gandhi, among others, saw his story as expressing the plight and aspirations of India's dalits. Others argue that Nandanar, with his burning desire to see Siva at Chidambaram, captured the mood and paralleled the aspirations of Indian nationalists yearning for independence from Britain.

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Jagannathan Sivaling.. on Gopalakrishna Bharathi:
17 Nov,2010 at 11:34 AM
இறுதியாக கேட்கிறேன் உன் இருதயத்தை தருவாயா எனக்காக
அல்ல ~ என் கல்லரையில் கட்ட ஒரு கல் குறைக்கிறது.
Shyama Priya on Gopalakrishna Bharathi:
02 Jun,2009 at 04:07 PM
For another very beautifully written account on GKB and his extra-ordinary vision, visit Sethuraman Subramaniam's .
Shyama Priya on Gopalakrishna Bharathi:
02 Jun,2009 at 04:03 PM
Nandanar, one of the greatest devotees of the Lord, was born a humble bonded farmhand. His faith on the Lord of Chidambaram was so strong, that even as 'a low caste untouchable' restricted from temple entry, he was determined to go to Chidambaram some day to be with the Lord, and would constantly say “Naalaip Poven, Naalip Poven” which eventually earned him the name “Thiru Nalaip Povar”. His landlord imposed impossible conditions for him to fulfill before he would be allowed to make the trip to Chidambaram. By the Lord's grace, he overcame all the conditions miraculously. When Nandanar finally arrived in Chidambaram, the Dikshidars of the temple did not allow him to enter the temple. The Lord himself appeared in their dreams and commanded them to allow him. Next day, Nandanar had the bath in the holy tank and was taken in a procession to the sanctorum. But once he entered it, he disappeared into space and attained Moksha. Nandanar has been included as one of the 63 Nayanmars who are worshipped in all Shiva temples as the most blessed devotees of the Lord. This
story of devotion as told in Periya Puranam and in Thiruththondath Thokai, fired the imagination of Bharathiyar to such an extent that he wrote his magnum opus, Nandanar Charitram. Even when ostracized by the brahmin elitists, GKB remained unfazed and composed immensely moving songs on Nandanar and the Nayanars' devotion, exposing the intense rampant discrimination in society at the time. Some of his famous songs are :

1.“Sivaloga Nadhanaik Kandu Sevithidivom Vareer”– where Nandanar gathers his people to worship Lord Shiva.
2.“Vazhi maRaiththirukkudhE malaipOlE oru mADu paDuththirukkudhE” - This bull, the size of a mountain, is lying there and blocking my view of the Lord, sung when Nandanar visits Tiruppungoor while standing outside the temple premises. This song is moving while Nandanar sings “thEraDiyil ninRu dharisiththAlum pOdhum kOvil varamAttEn ayyE” (It is enough if I see the Lord from the place where the temple chariot is parked; I need not enter the temple)..
3.Unable to stand this, the Cosmic Lord orders Nandi, the bull to move (“Satre vilagi irum piLLAy—just move a bit, my son!), lest Nandanar, an ardent devotee, should get angry..
4.Nandanar’s incessant pining to visit Chidambaram --“Chidambaram pOgAmal iruppEnO?” – Shall I spend my lifetime here without visiting Chidambaram?) and his daily ranting that he will visit Chidambaram “tomorrow”.
5.“VaruvArO varam tharuvArO endhan manadhu sanchalikkudhaiyyE” where he is patiently waiting everyday for the Lord’s order — (Will He appear and give me the boon?)
6.“Uththaran thaarum aiye – Enakkoruvarumillai Paragadhiadaya” – Where Nandanar seeks permission from his landlord to go to Chidambaram..
7.”VarugalAmO Ayya, Nan Undhan Arugil Nindru Kondadavum Padavum – Ange”- At Chidambaram, Nandhanar asks Lord Natraja whether he could enter the temple.
8.“Kanda Mani Aduthu – Adhaik Kandu Pinivaduthu” – when Nandanar arrives at the border of Chidambaram..
9.“Enneneramum Undhan Sannidhiyile Nan Irruka Vendum Ayya , Ponayya” – Upon reaching Chidambaram, Nandanar longs to be with the Lord..
10.“Iyye Metha Kadinam” – where Nandhanar responds to his Landlord’s requests him to be his preacher....................................courtesy : Srimathy Mohan
Shyama Priya on Gopalakrishna Bharathi:
01 Apr,2009 at 10:39 AM
Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s favourite deity was Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram. Most of his songs are on Nataraja. This particular song, SAbhapathiku, was written soon after GB visited Thyagaraja, the bard of tiruvaiyaRu. GB visited Thyagaraja and listened to his disciples sing a kriti of Thyagaraja "manasu nilpa" in the rAgam AbhOgi. Then he went to bathe in the river KavEri, and composed this kriti "sabhApatikku" on the spot in Thamizh in the same ragam on Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram. When he came back to Thyagaraja’s house, Thyagaraja asked GB if he has composed any kriti in AbhOgi. GB said he did so after hearing Thyagaraja’s kriti and sang it for him. Thyagaraja was happy and showered praise on GB.

The phrase "ariya pulaiyar mUvar" evokes deep feelings in everyone who hears this kriti. It is widely known that GB, although born a Brahmin, was an ardent supporter of the downtrodden folks, especially harijans, as is obvious from his magnum opus "Nandanar caritira kIrttanai", a Thamizh opera glorifying the low-caste farm hand Nandan for his flagrant bhakthi, who was later inducted in the Nayanmar Hall of Fame as "TirunALaippOvAr". The term "ariya pulaiyar mUvar" refers to three "untouchables"—Nandanar, Thillai VettiyAn, and PeRRAn SAmbhan—who lived in the area around Thillai and were supposed to have attained Godhead as a reward for their piety.

Nandanar was featured in the "Periya PurANam" by SEkkizhAr. The other two lived in later times. A fervent shaivite by name UmApati ShivAchAriyAr (14th century CE) initiated PeRRAn SAmbhan (a person born as a pulaiyar) into shaivism (a prohibited act those days) under the guidance of a letter given by God. The ardent shaivite was excommunicated by the Thillai Brahmins for that sacrilegious (!) act. This action has a parallel in the 20th century too as seen by the ostracism of Subramanya Bharathi by the Brahmin community for his ‘reformist’ activities. GB glorified the "ariya pulaiyar mUvar" by including them in this kriti. It is invariably a person from another segment of the society who works for the upliftment of folks from an oppressed segment.

Composer’s Bio:

Gopalakrishna Bharathi (1810-1896) was born in a Brahmin family in Narimanam (near Nagappattinam) and lived in and around Mayuram. He lived a celibate life. He was ostracized by the orthodox Brahmins for performing a kathA kAlakshEpam (religious story discourse) on ThirunIlakanta nAyanAr (a potter by profession), one of the 63 nAyanmArs. His Nandanar caritiram received great acclaim and kritis from that opera are very popular these days in the concert circuit. His compositions number greater than 1000, opera songs alone accounting for about 400.

Some of the other songs of GB which are popular include: varugalAmO ayyA (mAnji), saRRE vilagi irum piLLAi (pUrvikalyANi), varuvArO (sAmA), ennEramum undan (dEvaghAndAri), eppO varuvArO (jOnpuri), and tiruvaDi caraNam (kAmbhoji).

Several musicians in the past and present have sung GB’s kritis in concerts with great pride. The late K. V. Narayanaswami’s rendering of "varugalAmO" is considered a classic by many. Other present-day musicians who have rendered GB’s kritis are T. N. Seshagopalan, Sriram Gangadharan, Bombay Sisters, Sudha Ragunathan, Nithyasri Mahadevan, and Sanjay Subrahmanyan, among others.






Sethuraman Subramanian

-- From ChennaiOnline ublished on 17th Dec, 2003

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