The Nauka Caritramu is a brilliantly conceived ‘Geya Natika’ or musical play by Tyagaraja (1767-1847), the great saint- composer of Carnatic (South-Indian) music. Written in the Telugu language, the mother tongue of Tyagaraja, it is a ‘Sravya-sashgitarupaka’, a musical play for recital. A beautiful, allegorical ensemble of a musical motif, it can also be studied as a poetical classic. As a musical play, it is greatly popular because of its fascinating and imaginative theme, in which Tyagaraja has ingeniously combined the most captivating episodes of the Mahabhagavatapurana, viz., the ‘Gopikavastrapaharanam’ and the ‘Rasalila’.
In this transliteration and translation of the Nauka Caritramu, Dr. C. Vasundhara has done the transliteration in Roman script in strict accordance with the Telugu orthography; and, in the translation she has made a sincere attempt to render into English idiom the literary beauty (sahitya saundarya), the musical excellence (samgita vaisistya) and the philosophical allegory (vedamta amtarartha), the three essential characteristics, which the Nauka Caritramu consists of.
In the ‘Notes’ classical allusions in the Nauka Caritramu are elucidated and attention is drawn to narrative episodical parallelisms between the Nauka Caritramu and the Mahabhagavata.
Dr. C. Vasundhara is an MA, Ph.D., in Telugu literature with a Diploma in Linguistics. She has taught Telugu language and literature to college students for nearly two decades. She is well-trained in Carnatic music. She has delivered numerous lectures on several important Telugu poetical classics to a great many literary societies. A good number of her articles on Telugu poetical classics have been published in reputed Telugu journals and dailies. A few of her stories in Telugu have also been published.
She has edited poet Mulaghatika Ketana’s Vijnanesvaramu, the earliest Dharmasastra work in Telugu, with an elaborate introduction and notes (Nellore, 1984). She is the recipient of the KAVITRAYA AWARD (1993), a prestigious award given to Telugu litterateurs and poets in recognition of their significant contributions to Telugu language and literature.
Saint Thyagaraja was a many-sided personality. He was a great Bhakta, scholar, philosopher and poet. Thyagaraja is one of the greatest composers, if not the greatest, in Carnatic music. It is impossible to think of any South Indian musician who has not in his repertoire kritis of Thyagaraja. Even disregarding the sahitya, the language and meaning of which many may not know, no student or exponent of Carnatic music can neglect the wealth of music in his compositions. Even those who play on instruments, resort to the kritis of Thyagaraja. His contribution to Carnatic music is immeasuraby vast. Of the 72 Melakarta,s according to Venkatamakhi’s scheme, Thyagaraja has handled more than 45, He has composed in more than 250 ragas, some known to us only through his kritis. This estimate is made from the kritis now extant. May be, we shall be able to discover more kriti-s. Prior to Thyagaraja, musical compositions were, more or less, recitative, like poems set to tunes. Thyagaraja revealed that a musical composition should employ minimum words and maximum music. At the same time, his words were not mere pegs to hang the music on. He gave perfect shape to the musical form which is popularly known as the kriti, a shape which has come to stay with recognizable structure: pallavi, anupallavi and charanam. It was he who developed the use of sangati’s for the elaboration of the different aspects of raga. Those who are familiar with his kriti-s composed in Todi, Kharaharapriya, Kamboji, Sankarabharanam and other major ragas, will realize his genius in this regard. Songs hike Koluvaiyunnade in Bhairavi and Najivadhara in Bilahari and the pancharatna-s are masterpieces. Thyagaraja is unique because his sahitya is as great as his sangita. The variety of subjects and themes, diversity of treatment and approach, profundity of knowledge and extensive learning displayed by him in his compositions are amazing. In the wide range of emotional content in his kriti-s, Thyagaraja excels all others’
‘…, through his songs and life-story he (Tyagaraja) made an impact on millions, and he is still an important force in many lives. Lines of his students and their disciples are still well represented in the music and devotion realm of South Indian culture-his legacy of legends and songs is a living tradition, thriving today, observable in lives and performances’.
The Nauka Caritramu is a brilliantly conceived Geya Natika or musical play by Tyagaraja (1767-1847), the great saint-composer of Carnatic (South Indian) music. It is in the Telugu language, which is also the mother tongue of Tyagaraja. his an edifying and exemplary exposition of Madhura Bhakit or Bridal Love of a devotee towards his chosen deity (ista devata) Because of its literary excellence and melodic richness, over the years, it had been rendered into several languages. It had been rendered in to Sanskrit, respectively by Mahakavi Venkatasuri (1817) and N.Ch.Krishnamacharyulu (1969). It had been rendered into the Saurara language by Alakararyu Hall, under the name Srimatsaurastra Pamcalcharyulu (Madras, 1904); and it had been rendered into Tamil by Srirangam Ranganayaki Ammal under the name, Kannan lilai katci oda kummi (Trichy, 1929). Professor P. Samba Murty, in 1939 brought out an edition of the Nauka Caritramu, with the full text in Telugu and also providing its transliteration in Tamil script; he had also furnished Tamil meanings and notation for the songs in Tamil. This edition was reprinted in 1962 with slight additions and alterations and later reprinted again in 1984.
That there had been neither a transliteration in Roman script nor a translation into English of the Nauka Caritramu till 1991 is implied in the statement of William J. Jackson in his Tyagaraja, Life and Lyrics (1991), which says: “Many of Tyagaraja’s works have been translated by C.Ramanujachari, though not the Nauka Caritram” (William J. Jackson, Tyagaraja Life and Lyrics. Oxford University Press 1991; Oxford India Paperback 1993; Second impression 1996; Preface, p.x).
In 1994, Willam J. Jackson’s English rendering of Tyagaraja’s Nauka Caritra was published as the first unit of Jackson’s work, Tyagaraja and the Renewal of Tradition-Translations and Reflections (Delhi, 1994), pp. 3-56.Jackson translates the title ‘Nauka Caritram’ into English as ‘Boat Story’ or ‘Boatside Reverie’.Jackson’s rendering of Nauka Caritra is a commendable free and broad translation into English verse.
In his free and broad translation of the Nauka Caritram Jackson has introduced into the text of the translation, certain terms, the equivalents of which are not there in the original Telugu text of the Nauka Caritra. As Jackson has not furnished a transliteration of the original Telugu text, one would be left in the erroneous impression that the equivalents for these terms introduced by Jackson are there in the Telugu original. At a few places, Jackson slightly stumbles; in his rendering of the very first verse of the Nauka Caritra, an invocation of Lord Gananatha or Vighnesvara Jackson renders the samasa’ or compound, ‘Varagunasamdra’ as ‘Ocean of virtues’. ‘Samdra’, a Sanskrit, ‘tatsama’ in Telugu’, does not mean Ocean’. It means, ‘abundant, much, compact, replete’ etc. Therefore, ‘Varagunasamdra’, an attributive compound with reference to Vighnesvara, may be rendered as ‘One replete with commendable qualities’. ‘Parvati-tanaya’ in this verse is translated by Jackson, in an explanatory way as ‘auspicious son of Siva’s consort’, Parvati’. In the original, there is no equivalent for ‘auspicious son of Siva’s consort’.
In his rendering of Song. No. 11 of the Nauka Caritram, Jackson translates the line, Naluva tanayapai mohamucemdi nade tagili poye’ as ‘Brahma the Creator, with his forefaces Became infatuated with his own daughter/And he long ago became attached to her/She had such enchanting beauty’. In the Telugu original, we do not have terms equivalent to ‘She had such enchanting beauty’. But in the broad and free rendering that Jackson has done, these need not be taken as faults and fables. Jackson’s rendering of the Nauka Caritram is a pleasant and highly readable translation.
The Geya Natikas or Musical Plays of Tyagaraja
Tyagaraja (1767-1847) is the author of three geya natikas or musical plays in Telugu. These three musical plays are, (1) Nauka Caritramu (2) Prahlada Bhakti Vijayamu and (3) Sitarama Vijayamu. Translating ‘Geya Natika’ into English, as an ‘an opera’, Prof. P. Samba Murty observes: ‘Tyagraja (1767-1847) is the greatest writer of operas in Karnatic music. His two opens, Prahlada bhakti vijayam and Nauka Caritramu are brilliant works’. These geya natikas are called as samgita rupakas by some scholars. Some scholars have called these geya natikas as yaksa ganas also, because of the several structural similarities between these two literary genres.
Popularity of Nauka Caritramu
Of the three geya natikas of Tyagaraja the Nauka Caritramu gained in greater popularity because of its fascinating and imaginative theme in which Tyagaraja has ingeniously combined the most captivating episodes of the Mahabhagavata Purana, viz., the Gapikavastrapaharanam and the Rasakrida or Rasalila and presented it as an edifying exemplary exposition of Madhura Bhakti.
Because of its popularity, the Nauka Caritramu had several printed editions of it published. It was printed and published by Vavilla Ramaswami Sastri in 1870, by an unknown author in 1872, by Manjurapattu Ramachandra Sastri in 1873, by Govindacharyulu in 1876, by Seshachala Sastri in 1885, by the American Diamond Press in 1890, by Vedam Venkataraya Sastri in 1893 and by Dr.Y. Bhagawathi, with a transliteration and translation, as Part II of her Ph.D thesis on Naukacaritramu in 1995. The Nauka Caritramu is also available in several manuscripts in the Madras Oriental Manuscripts Library, Chennai and in the Saurastra Sabha, Madurai. There is a manuscript copy of Nauka Caritramu in gyantha characters in the Sarasvati Mahal Library, Tanjavur.
The edition of the Nauka Caritramu that is widely in use now is that edited by Professor P. Samba Murty and published in 1939 and with subsequent reprints in 1962 and 1984. Samba Murty in his edition provides the full text of the Nauka Caritramu in Telugu following the Walajapet version and indicates the other readings in the foot-notes besides he also gives a Tamil meanings and notation for the songs in Tamil.
Nauka Caritramu had translations in several languages,- Sanskrit, Surastra, Tamil etc, and a brief account of these translations in provided in the ‘Preface’ to this work.
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