Sathiya Vedam – A Thamizh hymn by Sister Sarah Navaroji


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)

https://youtu.be/RvdR3LRt6r0. (Mr. Clement Sastriyar)

(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
சேதமடையா நடத்திடுவார்
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
கன்மலையையும் நொறுக்கிடுமே
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. 💥💥

Thamizh Naadu & its name changing of places.


The title is the most approximate transcription into English, the state of Tamil Nadu, as pronounced in Thamizh.

I don’t know if we are becoming intolerant or assertive or cussed enough to make anyone who has to use Thamizh language to learn the sounds of Thamizh. There is now no margin for the disabilities imposed by the sounds found in their mother tongues. It is plain – learn the sounds of my language and if you don’t, we will accuse you of inaccuracies in pronunciation.

Well these are not new techniques which are being adopted, in the guise that we are merely transcribing into English the way places were being traditionally pronounced in Thamizh, whereas it has many wilful collateral functions.

Most National Schemes, financed by the 11% of the resources obtained through taxes from the state of Tamil Nadu, have been named in Hindi sounds which are difficult for a native Thamizhan to pronounce. If a Thamizhan is asked to pronounce ‘Jan Dhan’ bank account, it would be a shibboleth of the highest order for him because a Thamizhan is not familiar with the aspirated and glottalised sounds of Hindi. But yet if he wants to avail of the facility of the bank account, with all his cultural disability of not having been familiar with such glottalised aspirated sounds, he better make efforts to approximate to it.

The two official languages formula is no more in practice. ‘Jan Dhan’ is no more translated into English and given a decent English name, instead, the Hindi names are transcribed into the English alphabet.

A sort of UNIFICATION is in place.

Secondly, the sounds do not allow DIFFERENTIATION- a well heeled person cannot walk into the bank and spout his requirements using the English language, instead he has to ‘climb down’ to the sounds of the local language – call it official language of the Union or regional languages of the states.

In the Bible, there is a twin tribe called Ephraim & Manasseh but within the tribe were people from the hills of Gilead. The Gileadites got the aspirated glottal sounds integrated into their language and could pronounce SHIBBOLETH with a ‘sha’ whereas the Ephraimites couldn’t get the sound and would call it ‘sa’. Once during the initial days of a Judge of Israel called Jephthah, there arose a skirmish between these two tribes and the ‘runaway’ Gileadites. However the fortunes of the Gileadites had been on an upswing with their victory over Ammonites. In fact the Ephraimites were furious with the Gileadites that the Gileadites had not invited the Ephraimites for the battle against their common enemy, the Ammonites. The Gileadites under the leadership of Jephthah had squarely won the battle on his own, and of course with the help of Jehovah. But the ‘entitled’ elder brother Ephraim was not able to digest the fact that their marginalised brethren did not share the victory with their elder brother Ephraim by at least inviting them for the chase after the gory part of the battle was over.

Similar thing happened when Gideon, a Manassehite, defeated the Midianites leaving out the more powerful bother tribe of Ephraim. But Gideon was a diplomat, so in victory he was humble and said something which is worth the quote: “Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?”

This statement of Gideon means that even the wine made out of the gleaning (the deliberate left over grapes after harvesting, which are meant for the indigent who follow the harvesters & reapers) of the grapes of Ephraim were better than the best wine made out of the best quality of grapes from Abiezer, a place within the tribe of Manasseh and probably the best vintage of Manasseh came from there!

Gideon, had earlier sent for the tribe of Ephraim, while the chase of the Midianites were on and ensured that the Ephraimites also got some of the boasting Rights.

But our hero Jephthah was not raised in the way Gideon was. Gideon had the unstinted support of his father Joash, even when Gideon indulged in a few reckless action. But Jephthah’s siblings had disowned Jephthah citing that his mother was a harlot. So there is no comparison in their upbringing and consequently their attitudes.

Jephthah, took control of a fiord near Jordan, which probably was the pass through which the Ephraimites had to pass to reach their territory. There he put all the people to test: PRONOUNCE SHIBBOLETH, and the Ephraimites could pronounce it only as SIBBOLETH- thereby revealing that they were Ephraimites. So Jephthah ordered such Ephraimites to be put to death and in one day over 42,000 Ephraimites had been killed.

Come to think of it the distinguishing feature was merely a set of sounds. And that also between close half brothers!

Therefore when mindlessly, everyone started enforcing his entitlement – I wouldn’t consult with my Southern brethren before naming some of the Bank schemes – predominantly contributed by a set of states with less population – the Regional satraps also stoke similar entitlements within their competence.

Naming a place within a state is entirely in the domain of the State’s powers. Therefore the following Gazette Notification had been issued by the Government of Tamilnadu. Thankfully, the State legislature has not proposed to transcribe Tamilnadu as Thamizh Naadu! That would more or less transcribe the Thamizh sounds accurately. But changing the name of a State would not be within the legislative competence of the State itself.

As is stated in the Notification, the object of this Order is to transcribe faithfully the sounds of the Thamizh names into the English alphabet. Is it so? Let us examine that.

Here is a set of examples as excerpted by a Thamizh media house:

One error apparent is that while transcribing the letter , when ‘’ appears in the middle of the word, the sound becomes ‘dha’ instead of ‘tha’. For example, in the second entry above, instead of Vetharanyam the transcription should have been Vedharanyam; likewise Mathurai at entry number 4, should have been transcribed as Madhurai. Therefore, the stated objective doesn’t seem to have been achieved by such transcription.

But what has been achieved?

Many effects, not stated as Objectives, have been achieved.

Firstly, there would be no two names to the same locality. Egmore would not be Egmore in English and Ezhumboor in Thamizh. In English as well as in any other language the place has to be signified as Ezhumboor only. So in due course the word Egmore would stand eliminated and no pretence of English spouting populace would have a style advantage.

Secondly, the places have been purged of English and Sanskritised sounds. There are no glottal aspirates in Thamizh language, therefore those borrowed letters in vogue and kept alive by a minuscule, would fall into disuse. Those letters would be available only in the Tamil translations of the Bible and some other religious hymns. Bye bye to these letters which had been borrowed but had never been taught in the schools in Thamizh:

, , , , க்ஷ and ஶ்ரீ.

There were places called Srirangam, Srivilliputhur, Srivaikundam etc where the last letter was used. This was thamizhaised into ‘Thiru’ and these places became Thirurangam, Thiriviliputhur and Thiruvaikundam. So in the ongoing process of purging the Thamizh language of its anglicised and sanskritised elements, the latest changes should be seen as the next goal achieved.

There have been a lot of talk as to why Tamil Nadu alone should take these steps? The answer is simple, the erstwhile Madras State which was renamed Tamil Nadu, is a RESIDUAL STATE and not a state which was formed on the basis of an avowed linguistic ideology. The Malayalam speaking areas of the Malabar was ceded to Kerala; Andhra was carved out and places like Bangalore was ceded to the then Mysore state, whereas Tamil Nadu consisted of those areas of the Madras state with no linguistic foundation as a State. Thus this Residual state became the home of those Malayalees, Telugu speaking people and Kanadigas who did not get back to those states formed on linguistic basis.

However, of late politicians like Seeman and his cohorts have been insisting that the state of Tamil Nadu has to be ruled only by a Thamizhan and no non Thamizhan should be allowed to rule Tamil Nadu. As a measure to take the wind out of the sails of people like Seeman, these measures are steps by the present party in power.

But academically speaking, why does the Thamizh cognoscenti want purity of Thamizh? The answer to my mind is that there is a great feeling by a large section of my countrymen, who are ignorant of two important Lists within Schedule VII of the Constitution of India, where the List 2 enumerates the areas/subject wise competence of the States Legislatures to make laws and implementation of the same. These are exclusive subjects for the States. When India was made a Republic, it had 66 entries which have been whittled down to 61. Which means the States’ legislative and executive competence have been reduced to that extent. Whether it is moved to List 1 or List 3 the effect is the same and the Parliament gains primacy in making laws on that subject, whereby the weightage of determination of an issue gets reduced to 39/543 MPs instead of 233 out of 234 MLAsin respect of Tamil Nadu. So when it would be advantageous for a clump of other states, whether from the North, or South or East or West, such States could gang up and get a legislation passed in the Parliament to the detriment of a State like Tamil Nadu. Therefore, the state leaders of the Social Justice Party or DMK

party, focussed and ensured that the areas of interest of Tamil Nadu are protected. This mentality of protectionism is not altogether bad, as statistics shows that the contribution of Tamil Nadu to the national revenues under the Central Taxes are twice that of the population percentage and the central allocation is less than the percentage of the population of the state of Tamil Nadu. This is an eyesore to many. Further, Tamil Nadu is high on social equality, which no state has achieved.

The main source of such thoughts is the language.

And this language Thamizh, is no dead language in the grips of some ‘erudite’ grammarians, it is linked to the life, living and the livelihood of people who speak Thamizh. A vibrant language, precise and well calibrated to accommodate mathematical precision into it.

This purging is a continual process, some were carried out by genuine ideologues like C N Annadurai, or M Karunanidhi; and some carried out by leaders like MGR or Jayalalitha because of the popular sentiment primarily set off by those idealogues.

But in the context of the Union of States, Thamizh stands out as a self thinking, productive and a self monitoring cultural software which drives Tamil Nadu.

THAMIZH HITS ACADEMY AWARDS!


Finally the wait was PLEASANTLY over. The BEST MUSIC DIRECTOR’S ACADEMY AWARD was awarded to A.R.Rahman. It was an expectation of every Indian that A.R.Rahman should win the Oscar, but he won TWO. Also for the BEST SONG category, and that was doulbly pleasing.

A.R.Rahman’s biography had been updated in the Wikipedia within minutes of him having won the OSCARS. I’ve excerpted here below the part that proclaims his feat:

His acclaimed music compositions have led to references to him as the “Mozart of Madras” and several Tamil commentators have given him the title Isai Puyal (Tamil: இசைப் புயல்; English: Music Storm). Rahman also won two Oscar Awards in 2009 (Best Original Score and Best Original Song) for his work in Slumdog Millionaire. He also performed at the ceremony.

While accepting the award for the BEST ORIGINAL SCORE, he thanked everyone whom he had to, but the icing was his utterance in Thamizh (Tamil) thanking God in the International Language of Thamizh: YELLA PUGAZHUM IRAIVANUKKAY, which when translated to English would mean ALL GLORY TO GOD.

As a person having been in TamilNadu, it is no surprise that he chose to thank God in Tamil. It is not politics that he brought the language into focus, it is pure THANKFULNESS. The language, which according to the Nobel Laureate Sir.C.V.Raman,  is mathematical in its structure and precise in its expression. It was his utterance in Tamil that made it exhilarating.

I see it as the homage paid by a Thamizhian to the discipline and the work culture that the language Thamizh promotes. Thamizh is not kitschy or glossy languge that skims over human situations in sentimentalism and defeatism . It grapples with human predicaments and brings it into human consciousness and strives to continually find solutions. It is no wonder that an A.R.Rahman had to be from this hoary CULTURE in India.

Long live THAMIZH. Long live INDIA.

GLOTTALIZING TAMIL


Thamizh ( Tamil for the Anglicized), as a language has shown the maximum resistance towards acceptance of sounds that are foreign to it. Thamizh as a language has prided itself as a language that had not accepted foreign sounds as it was interpreted to mean subjugation of its uniqueness and its status. When Sanskrit entered thru the shlokas into the culture of the Thamizh language, since it was in the name of God, the influx was not palpable to the common man.

The common man accepted the import of all the Ch has, shas, jhas as an essential part of the religious rituals and ACQUIESCED to the religion trotted out by the priests. But with the advent of the RATIONAL MOVEMENT in Thamizh Nadu (formerly Madras State), EV Ramaswamy and subsequently C.N.Anna Durai, identified the import of these sounds alien tothe Thamizh culture and sanitized the language.

IN EFFECT THAMIZH HAD NO GLOTTAL OR GLOTTALIZED SOUNDS.

In Thamizh, one cannot get the sound Ha, Hi, Hu, Hai, Hum or Ho. The H would be substituted by G, K etc..

I am herewith appending the write up on what GLOTTAL STOP means, as mentioned in the Wikipedia.

“The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound which is used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʔ. The glottal stop is the sound made when the vocal cords (vocal folds) are (1) drawn together by muscular action to interrupt the flow of air being expelled from the lungs and then (2) released as pressure builds up below them; for example, the break separating the syllables of the interjection uh-oh. Strictly, the perception that it is a consonantal sound is produced by the release; the closure phase is necessarily silent because during it there is no airflow and the vocal cords are immobilized. It is called the glottal stop because the technical term for the gap between the vocal cords, which is closed up in the production of this sound, is the glottis. The term “glottal stop” is one of rather few technical terms of linguistics which have become well known outside the specialism.”

In Thamizh a new route has started by which the sound H is being imported. It is thru the Cine Songs that this sound is being imported. If one were to listen to the singing of Udit Narayan Jha, one could sense the import of GLOTTALIZATION of THAMIZH. In one of the recent movies named PADDIKATHAVAN (Dhanush playing the lead role), in the song RAANGI RANGAMMA one could sense the glottalization of Thamizh. When Udit Narayan sings SUNGUDI CHALLAI, in the cited song, one could sense the import of those sounds that are alien to Thamizh.

I am a great fan of Udit Narayan, and his singing has ENRICHED THE THAMIZH SOUNDS. Yet, the purists, once they identify that the masses like the glottalization of these sounds, they would ascribe a vile social reason for import of the glottal sound, and may even say that Jha ( a Brahmin community from Bihar/Nepal/Jharkhand) being a person from the Upper Caste, has been made a tool in the hands of the Artistes  for advancing their agenda!!

SOME CONSPIRACY THEORY.

Enjoy the song Raangi rangamma in PADIKAATHAVAN and do not get involved in the conspiracy theory!!

LET  US ENRICH THAMIZH!!