The title relates to a Thamizh hymn, the lyrics of which were written by Sister Sarah Navaroji and the music was also composed by her.
In any song consisting of lyrics, the content of the lyrics dawn on the hearer much later than the capturing of the mind by the aftertaste of the music.
The mind captures the music consisting of the tune, the melody, the rhythm, the interlude, the spaces within the articulated sounds, in bits and pieces, if heard repeatedly. When the same song is heard at different stages of one’s life, the same song may permeate the inner being in ways hitherto unexperienced!
Besides the music, when one starts realising the meaning of the lyrics in confluence with the music, the experience could be elevating. An elevation which can surely be experienced but ineffable – and any effort to explain verbally the experience would infinitely fall short of the wholesomeness of the experience.
This hymn, and not merely a song, was set to music by Sister Sarah Navaroji, a Thamizh Christian Priestess, who had established a Church in Chennai and continued to maintain that place of worship for more than four decades to my memory.
This is not a write up of historical facts relating to Sister Sarah Navaroji, but an effort by a listener of music, to convey in words a hymn which had impacted him in an ethereally elevating way.
In this effort, let me first provide the links of these renderings by multiple singers and musicians to familiarise the readers to have a foretaste of what is to be written thereafter by me.
https://youtu.be/MaH20a7PmOA. (Sister Sarah Navaroji)
https://youtu.be/WbJ7lM2LWRs (Ms. Vani Jairam)
(Mr.Clement Sastriyar on Violin with Ms. Beryl Natasha)
(Music by Mr. Jolee Abraham & sung by Ms. Reshma Abraham)
The above links could be accessed through YouTube and I suggest that one should listen to the rendition of the hymn by Mr. Clement Sastriyar on his violin, so that even those who haven’t heard the song would be able to get the hang of the tune. Which in my case wafts into my consciousness from time to time and elevates me to ineffable effusion of joyful delight.
I have provided Sis. Sarah Navaroji’s rendition as the the first link more as a homage to her for having been divinely inspired to not only write the lyrics but to have set those reverberating words to an unshakably echoing music to any soul.
I have had the good fortune of not only having met her as an adult, but had the divine grace of having stayed under the same roof for a couple of days when Sister Sarah Navaroji stayed in my father’s official bungalow in Salem in the late sixties of the previous century, which still is etched in my memory.
My mother, who had then recently learnt to bake, had baked a tea cake, which was specially made in honour of the Sister. My childhood impressions, which I still carry, of her person was that of an elegant lady dressed in sparkling white with the serious sincerity of a Lady who had dedicated her life to some divine purpose, ignoring all those distracting elements of Life.
My father being an avid music listener, had bought a turntable, which had to be attached through thin cable/wires to the valve radio, which would transmit the music through its speakers. One of the discs contained the songs of Sister Sarah Navaroji by HMV – yes, where the brand icon was an Alsatian dog obediently and intently listening, sitting on it’s haunches, to the horn of the speaker placed opposite- and those were played from time to time.
I should say that the songs sung by a younger Sis. Sarah Navaroji with the music set to by a professional cinema music director Kalyan, probably T A Kalyan, were more appealing – you could look up the Google and confirm it. That rendition was truly professional, the reader could scour the net and listen to that too.
Getting to the Lyrics written by Sister. Sarah Navaroji, the lyrics are interspersed with aptly strung phrases and verses from the Bible. The subject of this Hymn itself is in praise of the TRUTHFUL SCRIPTURE – meaning thereby, the TRUTHFUL BIBLE.
சத்திய வேதம் பக்தரின் கீதம்
சுத்தர்கள் போகும் பாதையின் தீபம்
உத்தம மார்க்கம் காட்டும்
எத்தனை துன்பம் துயரம் வந்து
பக்தனை தேற்றிடும் ஒளஷதம்
நித்தம் விரும்பும் கர்த்தர் வசனம்
சுத்த பசும்பொன் தெளிந்திடும் தேன்
இதயம் மகிழும் கண்கள் தெளியும்
இருண்ட ஆத்துமா உயிரடையும்
பேதைகளிடம் ஞானம் அருளும்
தேவ புத்தகம் மேன்மை தரும்
இரவும் பகலும் இதன் தியானம்
இனிமை தங்கும் தனிமையிலும்
வேதப் பிரியர் தேவப் புதல்வர்
இலைகள் உதிரா மரங்கள் போல
இவர்கள் நல்ல கனி தருவார்
உள்ளம் உதிக்கும் உறுதி அளிக்கும்
கள்ளங் கபடெல்லாம் அகற்றும்
கடிந்து கொள்ளும் கறைகள் போக்கும்
கனமடைய வழி நடத்தும்
கர்த்தர் வசனம் வல்ல சம்மட்டி
இதய நினைவை வகையாய் அறுக்கும்
இரு புறமும் கருக்குள்ளதே
வானம் அகலும் பூமி அழியும்
வேத வசனம் நிலைத்திருக்கும்
பரமன் வேதம் எனது செல்லவம்
பரவசம் நிதம் அருளும்
There is no translation of the same into English, so the following is an attempt to test my skills in translation and also to make it easier & attractive for the English reader. (I blog NOT because I want to propagate whatever I write, but I have realised over the years that in the process of evolution and decay, the memory of man is the prime victim – to ensure that my momentary euphoria is not lost in Time, for my own reading pleasure and a record of my thoughts, I blog)
Truthful scripture being a devotee’s hymn,
Is a lamp unto the pure man’s path,
Which shows the noble way.
However grave the troubles & sorrows be,
It is the medicine which strengthens the devotee!
Forever loved word of Christ
Is purified gold and dregless transparent honey,
Which gladdens the heart and opens one’s eyes
And revives a darkened soul.
Suffuses the naive with wisdom
And the Holy Book elevates.
Meditating upon it day and night
Would fill one with sweetness, even in loneliness.
The lovers of the Scripture are lovers of God
And would progress without damage.
They would be like an evergreen tree
Which brings forth good fruits.
Awareness would arise with conviction
And remove guile and lies.
It would admonish, remove the stains,
And pave the way for Honour.
The Word of Christ is a valorous hammer
Which pulverises rocks.(Jeremiah 23:29)
A keen edged double edged sword,
Piercing even to the division of the pondering of one’s heart (Heb 4:12)
Heaven & Earth would pass away,
But the Scriptural verses would stand steadfast.
The Creator’s Scripture is my treasure,
And daily bestows blissful ecstasy.
I am very sure that the translation has not captured, not even partially the poetic content of the lyrics. I am reminded of the Foreword to GITANJALI by W.B.Yeats, wherein he wonders how the verses of Rabindranath Tagore would have been more poetic and lilting with music in the original Bengali! If even a poet of Yeats’ calibre was left wondering about Tagore’s translation skills into English, a dilettante like me should never even hazard a thought of capturing the poetic sense into English the poetic sense from the original Thamizh.
Now to the persons other than the Lyricist who had written and rendered this hymn:
Mr. Clement Sastriyar : An amazing Virtuoso in playing western classical and spiritual Thamizh songs, both the popular and Carnatic genre on his violin. I’ve seen and heard him perform at the Museum Theatre in Chennai and also in the various CSI Churches in and around Chennai. I personally am a great admirer of his violin playing skills, especially in capturing the nuances of the old Kirthanai s and Paamalai s set to tune in Carnatic music, which I think is no small feat. His rendering of another Sister Sarah Navaroji hymn UM PAADHAM PANINDHEIN and MAANGAL NEERODAI are worth listening. He has cut many albums under the title TUNING WITH CLEMENT. Me being a keyboard player of sorts know the difficulties in capturing the Carnatic nuances and the two hymns named above have never failed to leave me wondering how close a good violinist could get to the vocals with his rendition on a violin.
Though I’ve not met him personally, meeting him when I get back to Chennai would be in my agenda.
Secondly, Ms. Vani Jairam. I have listened to her vocal rendering of many Thamizh cinema songs and I had always deeply felt that there was unshakable dignity, conviction of hope, and deep devotion to her voice quality, which suits this hymn in particular. In fact I was amazed that such a renowned and well known Singer had rendered this hymn. Thanks for the Organizer/Producers who had got this celebrity Singer to render this hymn.
As regards the music producer Mr.Jolee Abraham, he is a great singer and Ms. Reshma Abraham has sung the hymn with the respect the hymn deserves for its pedigree. Her talent is not in question either – very serene and mellifluous. 💥💥