Thursday, October 18, 2012

The ever-mesmerizing Bhavani Dayani.

Author's Note: You may read Shubho Mahalaya - Maa aaschhen: HERE.

This post is about the mesmerizing Bhavani Dayani. Here are the lyrics:

bhavAnI dayAnI mahA vAkvANI
sur-nar-muni janamAni sakala budha gyAnI ||

jaga janani jaga dAnI mahishAsura mardinI
jvAlAmukhI chaNDI amara padadAnI ||

Bhavani Dayani is a well-known Bhajan in praise of Maa Bhavani (another name for the divine Mother - Maa Shakti or Maa Durga). Set to Raag Bhairavi (Jhaptaal) of the Hindustani classical music system, the prayerful 'Bhavani Dayani' stills the senses and lets the soul speak. A composition of Pt. Bhatkhande (or Pt. Anand Kishore Singh of the Betia dhrupad tradition), it is undoubtedly Begum Parveen Sultana's absolute mastery over her art that has turned this piece into a priceless gem. I so wish to see and hear her in person. Those who have had this opportunity are very fortunate indeed. She is a true Sangeet Samraggi (an empress of great music).

This is what the lyrics mean to me: First stanza:   

bhavAnI dayAnI mahA vAkvANI
sur-nar-muni janamAni sakala budha gyAnI ||

The Divine Mother, the Mother of this bhuvan (world), Maa Bhavani, is compassionate. She is compassion personified. She is respected and revered by all (janamAni). All humans sing paeans to Her greatness and glory, and thus disseminate Her many stories (mahA vAkvANI). All humans, be it the ones with noble or daaivic traits (sur), the ordinary mortals (nar) or the "awakened" ones (muni). Her name is on the lips of everyone (sakala) who is enlightened (budha) and possesses illumined knowledge (gyAnI).

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Buddhi-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||

 Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Dayaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||
Sarvasya Buddhi-Ruupenna Janasya Hrdi Samsthite |
Svargaapavarga-De Devi Naaraayanni Namo[ah-A]stu Te ||

[Slokas from Ya Devi Sarvabhutesu - from Devi Mahatmyam and Stotra from
Sarvamangala Mangalye - from Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi)]

Second stanza:  jaga janani jaga dAnI mahishAsura mardinI
jvAlAmukhI chaNDI amara padadAnI ||

Maa Bhavani is the Mother (janani) of the universe; She is the Mother of creation itself (jaga janani). She is the greatest giver (dAnI) of all; She bestows her blessings on the whole of creation (jaga dAnI). But, She is also the vanquisher (mardinI) of negative or aasuric forces (in every form) - forces that disturb the balance in creation (mahishAsura mardinI). When She takes on these aasuric forces, She is like a volcano (jvAlAmukhI), transforming herself into Her fierce form (ruup) - that of chaNDI; then She is no longer compassionate. However, by subjugating or vanquishing these negative forces, She is only giving them an opportunity to redeem themselves; She is not punishing them. There is nothing that is "evil" in creation. Maa Bhavani is omnipresent, is omnipotent, and is omniscient, She is creation; She is timeless (amara). O Mother, we bow at Your lotus-feet; may we always find sanctuary at Your lotus-feet. [Here lotus is a metaphor. A lotus grows in muddy water, yet remains untouched by it.]    

Jvaalaa-Karaalam-Atyu[i-U]gram-Ashessa-[A]asura-Suudanam |
Trishuulam Paatu No Bhiiter-Bhadrakaali Namo[ah-A]stu Te ||

[Stotra from
Sarvamangala Mangalye - from Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi)]

Bhavani Dayani has such lovely and profound words; a mere four lines have conveyed so much!

... And it is so befitting a tribute to the greatest Mother of all - the Jaganmata, the Jagatdhatri, the Jagatjanani, the Vishwajanani, the divine Mother herself. The One who holds this entire creation together, the One who ensures that everything remains in place and that the universe does not fall apart; the One who is:

Srsstti-Sthiti-Vinaashaanaam Shakti-Bhuute Sanaatani |
Gunna-[A]ashraye Gunnamaye Naaraayanni Namo[ah-A]stu Te ||

This is how I would interpret the above stotra or shloka (hymn):

So that Creation remains in place and does not fall apart, You are there as Shakti - since time immemorial (Sanaatani)

O the Supporter and the Embodiment of all that is good and noble (the Gunas), O the greatest and the most glorious, O Naaraayanni, we bow to You.

This Bhajan (Bhavani Dayani) is dedicated to the greatest force or the energy behind the cosmos - the One that encompasses all three aspects/forces/energies, viz. Srsstti (Creation: Brhmaa), Sthiti (Maintenance or Preservation: Vishnu) and Vinaashaanaam (Dissolution: Shiv). This Bhajan is dedicated to that supreme balancer or the supreme preserving force of all - the Naaraayanni Herself; 'coz She is the one that nurtures and protects creation, She is the one that gives form and shape to this universe, rather, to creation itself, and maintains it ... just as any mortal mother gives form to new life and nurtures it. Hence, this force is She, a feminine force. She is timeless (Sanaatani). Salutations O Maa, we bow to You.

[In other words: The lyrics of this Bhajan (Bhavani Dayani) conveys the salutation to that immense force or energy behind the cosmos, to the force or energy known as Shakti; it has no beginning and no end and is formless, just like gravity. Yet, since this great force or energy supports Creation - by holding/keeping the other forces or energies in place - this formless force or energy (Shakti) has been acknowledged as feminine - She. As we know: in nature a female gives form to new-life and nurtures and protects it. By holding together or keeping the other forces or energies in place, Shakti gives form and shape to the universe and to creation, and has, therefore, been referred to (and revered) as the Jaganmata, the Jagatdhatri, the Jagatjanani, the Vishwajanani - the Mother of the universe or the Mother of creation, the divine Mother Herself. This Bhajan also acknowledges Her many human ruup-s, forms or manifestations; women that have courageously confronted various forces of darkness through the ages, salvaging people and society and thereby helping civilization to flourish well - by preserving the "way of life" as it should be.]

As Shri Ram said: "jananī janmabhūmiśca svargādapi garīyasī" (The Mother and the motherland are greater than the Heaven. Therefore: Paradise lies at the feet of the Mother).

Paradise also lies at the feet of the Jaganmata, the Jagatdhatri, the Jagatjanani, the Vishwajanani - Maa Shakti, the divine Mother Herself.

In the Sanaatan Dharm (Sanaatan = timeless, Dharm = way of life), a female is a form of energy (shaktiswarupini) or an aspect of Maa Shakti. She is mata, the divine Mother, or devi - the auspicious One. As a young child, she is kanya, the young Durga. As a wife she is patni, saha dharma charini and ardhangini - one half of her husband's mind, soul and being, and his partner on the path of life. As a mother, she is worthy of worship (matrudevobhava). This is because; she gives form to new life, just as the divine Mother gives form to the universe. She is sreyasi, the ultimate.

Bhavani Dayani is a Durga Bhajan. Bhajan literally means "Worship". Perhaps worship through songs and music. In ancient times, there were some that pursued the path of hard penance in order to "reach" the divine, i.e. to connect one's aatman (soul) with the divine (the forces of the universe, the forces behind the cosmos), while some others chose the path of music and songs. Music is a form of meditation, it is like a prayer, and so, devotion is an essential and inseparable part of it. Bhajan also means, "sharing" in Sanskrit. Because singing Bhajans is often a shared experience, done as a group. Normally the lyrics and melody are simple enough to be picked up by most people. 

Begum Parveen Sultana, one of the foremost Hindustani classical singers of our times, has sung Bhavani Dayani in sadra style (a hallmark of her gharana - the Patiala Gharana): 

"Bhavani Dayani, Bhavani Dayani Mahabak. Bani, Mahabak. Bani Sur. Nar. Muni Jana Mani Sur. Nar. Muni Jana Mani Sakal. Buddha Dnyani Jag. Janani Jag. Jani Jag. Janani Jag. Jani Mahishasura Mardini Mahishasura Mardini Jwalamukhi Chaundi Jwalamukhi Chaundi Amar.pada Dani."

Do listen to her rendition and immerse your souls in it:

Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty sings Bhavani Dayani. It is a treat for the senses:

Bhavani Dayani by Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra. Need I say more?

Here is a heartfelt and pristine rendition of Bhavani Dayani (Stuti in Raaga Bhairavi) by the young Umesh Persad:

He has sung it with a lot of Bhakti (devotion) and with the Raaga's Bhaava (essence) in his heart, wisely and admirably refraining from showing-off his skills (Chaaturya-PradarSana). Hence, the Bhajan is very much "alive". With Chaaturya-PradarSana, the Bhajan slowly withers away.

There have been many that have sung this Bhajan, but when one listens to Bharat Ratna Pt. Bhimsen Joshi singing the Bhavani Dayani, it appears as if the notes are riding high above to stir Maa Shakti (also Maa Bhavani) Herself - to descend on us mere mortals, to grace our souls with Her divine aura and presence. When I say, Bharat Ratna, I mean: Bhimsenji is a true jewel of India, and a rare one at that. He is the swaradhiraj of classical music in the 20th - 21st century, an emperor (samrat) of great musical note. His Bahar evokes the spring; his Megh Malhars bring to mind the rain clouds. Even in his later years, when he was physically frail, his voice had lost none of its timbre and resonance. Nor the boom and tenor that makes one feel he could summon the gods themselves. Thank you Panditji for the music and for your glorious legacy - the numerous songs that you have sung over the years. They will continue to mesmerize generations to come.

Here is a link where you can listen to Bhavani Dayani rendered by various artists (including Madhumita Saha and Pt. Samar Saha [on the tabla], Nabamita Deb, Ramkrishnadas Maharaj and Aruna Sairam). 

[Note: I am looking for Padma Shri Ustad Rashid Khan's emotion-charged rendition of Bhavani Dayani, as well as Bharat Ratna Pt. Bhimsen Joshi's booming-voiced version. If any of you can locate the links, please do share.]

When Tansen sang the Megh Malhar, even the dry-as-dust clouds poured forth. The notes resonated with the elements, nay with creation itself! The wonders of music through the vocals of our maestros have never ceased to fascinate. And that's how it will remain - always.

Bhairavi's looming presence in the Indian musical mind is in no small measure on account of it's close association with this great land's spiritual repertoire. No bhajani baithak can be complete without a generous dose of Bhairavi

Sample an early Bhimsen Joshi rendering this Hari bhajan: jo bhaje Hari ko sada:

Bhairavi lends itself well to brisk, taut bandishes. Since it is considered to be the holiest of Raaga-s, Bhairavi is respectfully addressed as Shree Bhairavi.

[Bhairav - The Primordial Sound/ Part-I: Link.

Bhairav - The Primordial Sound/ Part-II: Link.]

Gharana refers to an exclusive tradition, or school, of music centering on a maestro. The Urdu word gharana means a family. Fellow practitioners and learners of a particular genre of music constitute a gharana. In this sense, the disciples of a particular guru are also identified as a gharana. To me, it appears to be very similar to our Gurukul tradition (the guru-shishya parampara or the system of learning followed by our ancients; wherein the guru [teacher] imparted illumined knowledge [jnana] to the deserving shishyas or pupils. The latter in turn followed a rigourous regimen and worked hard to not only acquire this knowledge but also towards perfecting their diction).

Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, regarded as the father of modern Hindustani classical music, was a composer of great merit. He humourously described the meaning of the word "Pandit" as one who knows a fair amount of theory but is just passable in terms of performance. Begum Parveen Sultana amplifies on his famous sadra: Bhavani dayani. (According to some sources, this composition is attributed to Anand Kishore Singh of the Betia dhrupad tradition). Dhrupad is the oldest and most profound form of Hindustani classical vocal music. It is popular in both it's form be it vocal or instrumental music. The Betia dhrupad tradition is part of the Champaran district of Bihar (ancient Bettiah) of the 18th - 20th century. A local ruler and patron of the arts, Raja Ugrasen, laid the foundation for musical activity in the Bettiah court. The 18th and early 19th century saw the Gharana flourish under poet kings such as Naval Kishore Singh and Anand Kishore Singh. A strong colonial presence arising from the local rajas' (petty kings and chieftains) support to the British ensured peace and plenty. However, the incurring of vast debts and surrender of lands to the British, who then used them for indigo plantation resulted in a gradual decline in prosperity and patronage. With the vicissitudes of time imposing economic hardships, only a handful of traditional practicing dhrupadiyas remain today. Here is a pic. of Pt. Bhatkhande: 

[Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande: Chaturpandit Bhatkhande.

Bharat Ratna Pt. Bhimsen Joshi: a musical marvel.

Padma Shri Begum Parveen Sultana: Malhar Magic.

Here is a small write-up: Dhrupad, different styles.

Info on Bishnupur Gharana (a form of singing that follows the Dhrupad tradition of Hindustani music, one of the two forms of Indian classical music): Link

Note: The Bishnupur gharana was essentially a Dhrupad gharana, for Bishnupur was  a centre for Dhrupad culture. The Dhrupad of the Bishnupur gharana uses shuddha dhaivata in raaga vasanta, a touch of komal nisada in the descending notes of bhairava.

Gharanas of Hindustani Music: Link.

A snapshot of various gharanas: Link.]

Here is a picture of an artisan painting the eyes of an idol of Maa Durga in Kumartuli (also: Kumhartuli and Kumortuli) in Kolkata. This ritual is known as Chokhkhu Daan (chakshu + daan. Chakshu = eye, daan = gift in Sanskrit). 

Kumartuli is a 300-year old "Potter's Town" where the idols are hand-crafted. The word "Kumartuli" is derived from two separate words: kumar (also: kumhar and kumor), meaning potter and tuli, meaning locality or place of work. Kumars/Kumors/Kumhars are the traditional image-makers and potters.

The eyes of all Durga idols are drawn on Mahalaya, in a sacred ceremony known as Chokhkhu Daan (creation of the eyes or the Gift of the Eyes) - wherein a senior artisan paints the eyes of the goddess to bring her to "life". Chokhkhu-daan is traditionally done on the morning of Mahalaya and represents the final touch in the idol or image-making process. Guess it must be quite an experience in itself! For the connoisseur of art, a visit to Kumartuli is a must. The crowded lanes and alleys are bunched together and narrow with idols of various gods and goddesses in different stages of completion; it lends a rustic charm to the area. ... Frankly, just by watching the artists hard at work, one is transported to a different world.

May the devi bless us all; may She bestow upon us the gift of perception and introspection. May She destroy all negative (aasuric) traits within us, such as: selfishness, jealousy, greed, resentment, prejudice, hatred and anger. May the divine Mother free us from ego (ahamkara). May She fill our lives with goodness (daaivic or noble traits) and positivity. May our lives resonate with joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. May Maa Durga the "Durgatinashini" (the eliminator of sufferings) eliminate our sufferings and remove all hurdles in the path of knowledge and reason. May the three-eyed (Triyambake) Maa Bhavani (the one who can "see" the past, the present and the future) open our mind's eye.

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Maatr-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||

Sarva-Bhuutaa Yadaa Devii Bhukti-Mukti-Pradaayinii |
Tvam Stutaa Stutaye Kaa Vaa Bhavantu Paramo[a-U]ktayah ||

Sharannaagata-Diina-[A]arta-Paritraanna-Paraayanne |
Sarvasya-[A]arti-Hare Devi Naaraayanni Namo[ah-A]stu Te ||

Sarva-Manggala-Maanggalye Shive Sarvaartha-Saadhike |
Sharannye Trya[i-A]mbake Gauri Naaraayanni Namo[ah-A]stu Te || 

Shivaduutii-Svaruupenna Hata-Daitya-Mahaa-Bale |
Ghora-Ruupe Mahaa-Raave Naaraayanni Namo[ah-A]stu Te || 

Sarva-Svaruupe Sarve[a-Ii]she Sarva-Shakti-Samanvite |
Bhayebhyas-Traahi No Devi Durge Devi Namo[ah-A]stu Te || 

[Slokas from Ya Devi Sarvabhutesu - from Devi Mahatmyam and Stotra from
Sarvamangala Mangalye - from Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi)]

Pictures: 1. Pic 01 - The sacred symbol AUM - AUM is the sound of primal energy, the sound of the universe itself. 2. Pic 02 - Maa Durga in her serene Siddhidatri ruup (the ninth form)3. Pic 03 - Maa Durga in her fierce form - the Kaalratri ruup (the seventh form). 4. Pic 04 - Bharat Ratna Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. 5. Pic 05 - Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande. 6. Pic 06 - Chokhkhu Daan at Kumartuli. 7. Pic 07 - the three-eyed (Triyambake) Maa Bhavani


  1. Great post, Roshmi! I am going to hear all the songs the whole day tomorrow! Sent this link to my grand niece, Ashwini who sings quite well. She has learnt carnatic music and now is learning Hindustani. Sings Bhavani dayani quite well. She will enjoy hearing others' rendition of this song. Thank you!

  2. @Sandhyaji: Thank you so much Sandhyaji. Glad to know you liked it. :)

    These songs and music are a treasure-trove and those of us that love them must listen to these gems whenever we can. They never cease to mesmerize.

    Btw, in this post I have tried to interpret a sloka – am keen to know your opinion.

    In the earlier post (Shubho Mahalaya – Maa aaschen) – I have made a small attempt to interpret the Shiv-Parvati stories. Do let me know what you think.

    Shubh Navratri to you and your family (including Golu and his friends)!! :)

  3. I consider myself very fortunate to hear Begam Parveen sultana Ji live. An event was organized on 14-September Bangalore @ RV DEntal College, Founder's Day Celebration. She Sang Raga Mahuvanti, Meera Bhajan, Raga Rageshwari, and of course Bhavani Dyani.! I'll cherish the moment forever.

  4. my salute to you.. one of the best interpretations i ever read of " Bhavani Dayani "..Thank you

  5. I had the opportunity to listening to Parveen Sultana sitting at front row at Dum Dum music festival in 1975 or so, I am still dazed since then with her rendering of Bhavani Divani

  6. Thank you for stopping by my blog, and glad you liked it. Parveen Sultana’s rendering of Bhavani Dayani is indeed mesmerizing.