In His Grace


Pahi Pahi Gopa Baala

ragam: anandabhairavi    thaalam: Aadi
Composer:  Shri  Sundara Narayana

Pahi Pahi gopa baala vaasudevaa Krishnaa
Krishnaa protect me protect me, cowherd boy son of Vasudeva

Dehi maam Kaarunyam Guruvayoorappa
Guruvayoorappa, Give me your blessing and be kind to me.

ahivara shayana viswapaala devaa Krishnaa
Krishna, who sleeps on the great snake,( Anantha )
and who takes care of the whole world,

vihara mama hrudi wisvaroopa Devaa
Reside in my heart oh Deva, the lord of the world.

mahithabaahu phalguna saarathi devaa Krishnaa
Krishna who is the charioteer of the great Arjuna,

vihasitha saarasamukha Deva devaa
Lord of Devas,who is always smiling and has a beautiful face like a lotus

suhsitha sundaraanana vaasudevaa krishnaa
Smiling baeutiful faced son of Vasudeva Krishnaa

mohansareera pahi neeradanga
Please protect me, Krishnaa who is smiling and beautiful
and who has blue coloured body like the cloud.

Paahi divya vaarijaksha vaasudevaa krishnaaa
Protect me, holy one, lotus eyed son of Vasudeva, Krishnaa

Dehi sharanam nityam bandhuraanga
Oh one who has a shining body,please give me protection always.

aadyantha rahitha sarva jeeva paala Krishnaa
Oh , Krishna, one who has no beginning or end,who is the protector of all lives,

Veda swaroopa paahi tham namaami
One who is the embodiment of Vedas, protect me. I bow to you.

Vaathagehey viraajitha vaasudevaa thava
Son of Vasudeva, who resides in Guruvayoor

paadamooley dehi mama anthimaalayam
Please give me my final abode under your feet.

Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa
“Pahi Pahi Gopa Baala,” our teacher sang. We followed the words as we learned the bhajan, “Pahi Pahi Gopa Baala”…  “Vasudeva Krishna”…. “Vasudeva  Krishna.”   She continues leading us as the class progresses and she sings all of the two verses which are on the page of this new bhajan in my new class, carnatic singing class.  We will go through the bhajan phrase by phrase, kind of like kirtan.  At the end of class, she always graciously sings it through  so I can record it, as much for the pronunciation as for the melody and rhythm. Ever since I began attending temple at the Chinamaya Mission, I have always been drawn to the music.  Music has always been in my heart and I studied classical  piano and violin for most  of my youth and young adulthood.  I even spent a good portion of my college years majoring in music education until I did a turnabout in my senior year, and switched to psychology. How I ended up in law school is another story.  But music never left me, bound together as we were. (In my adulthood, I also played electronic keyboards in a rock band playing music written by my ex-husband, a far cry from where I am now, but a learning experience in playing without the music written note by note for me! )   So, I was thrilled to be starting this new class, where I could learn devotional singing.

I look around me…there is one catch. I am the only adult in the class, surrounded by young girls and boys just beginning their study as well. Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa,  the syllabic equivalent to the western scale, Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do.   But this will not be the first or the last time I am the child with children, so I might as well get used to it.  After a bit, I stop feeling uncomfortable and the class becomes more comfortable with me.  After all, I do stand out a bit to them with my blond hair and blue eyes.  But the Lord knows no limits on His love and the Self  has no form, so here I am,  just where He wants me. And as we move on and the groups merge, there are a few adults in the new batch.

When I stopped taking classes to focus on kirtan I slowly began to pull out some of the bhajans I had learned in class.  I did not want to lose all of what I had studied so hard to learn and I decided that now since I did not have to study new bhajans, I would pull out the old ones I had learned and also learn to accompany myself on the harmonium. I could also slow down and really study them one by one, learning the raga and memorizing the words more fully.  Pahi Pahi was always one of my favorites. But something was missing…I had the words (sahityam) and the melody to the song (swara) , but no translation.  I have this thing about translation of the words I sing…I like to know what I am singing. I had looked online and elsewhere, seeking a translation of the words I had and had come up with a rough idea of the first two verses which I had, but did not get much further and wanted to be sure it was correct.

So, when I was invited to join a Krishna bhakta  devotee group early this year, specifically a group dedicated to Guruvayurappa, I decided to ask to see if anyone had any idea who wrote the bhajan, since it referenced Guruvayurappa, one of the manifestations of Lord Krishna.  That was all I knew about Him in this form.  Swamiji at the Mission had told me that the man who wrote Pahi Pahi was from South India, and had written many bhajans, and had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed.  So, I wrote to the list looking for both the name of the  composer and help with the translation to the words which I posted.  I don’t ask for much, do I?

In His Grace
Well,  The Lord does have His way of granting wishes, or does He have His way of implementing His wishes?   He wanted me to be in that group,  and my wish was granted, even more so than I could have imagined when I made my request…I have reproduced below a small excerpt from what I wrote to the list looking for the words and the composer…this was on January 6th…

“It is really a beautiful bhajan and I would like to have the translation. First and foremost, for myself, so I know what I am singing to Him:-), and for anyone who happens to be there, so they can read along and know what I am singing to Him. I understand that it was written by a gentlemen in South India who also wrote a number of other bhajans and then succumbed to a stroke which paralyzed him. If this is so, considering the beauty of the song, I can only believe that in his paralysis, he is in His Grace. If anyone knows his name, I would like to add it to the lyrics…and if anyone can help me translate some more of the words, I would be so very GRATEFUL… Jai Shri Krishna!!!

The very next day, January 7, not only did I get the name of the composer, I got the composer himself!  As it happened, his wife, Dr. Sreedeviji Menon, is a member of the group and read my email, and wrote to me on the list that it was her husband who had written the bhajan. She also shared that he suffered a stroke in 2003, as well as a major heart attack in 2006 and had to undergo triple bypass heart surgery in 2007. Says Shrideviji…

“At one point he was very critical for one week, ironically because of the indecision of the doctors on what to do. But he prayed to Guruvayurappan that he will write more songs in praise of HIM and then the doctors gave the right medicine and he improved!!  He is almost back to his usual self now and he wrote about 15songs since then. We completely surrender to HIM for whatever it is in store for us.  Though he was initially completely paralysed, with God’s Grace he is able to walk with a cane and is selfsufficient and able to travel with little help. “

And furthermore, there were more verses, which they were kind enough to later sent me along with a translation of all of the verses (the bhajan is in Sanskrit).  It is common to sing only parts of a bhajan and you will see this online in youtube videos quite frequently in carnatic and other devotional music.  I must say I was really touched by this wonderful synchronicity and I am 100% certain was a gift from the Lord so that this  music could be heard by more people, beautiful as it is. I must admit I cried quite a bit that day in gratitude.

The story of Shri Menon is another wonderful example of His Grace and how He operates in unexpected ways,  in this case through Shri Menon for all of us who are graced to hear His music as expressed through the blessed composer through whom He speaks… another excerpt from his Sreedeviji Menon is below…

My husband, Narayanankutty Menon had no knowledge of classical carnatic music,no special education in malayaam, and only high school education in sanskrit. He had never written a poem till the age of 60. He never used to go for any classical concert.  As everybody else from our native place he used to go to Guruvayur whenever possible. We used to hear carnatic songs while travelling in the car. He had a very good sense of thaalam [rhythm or time signature] which he found out when our daughter was learning bharatnatyam.  A few days after he was 60 years old, one night, he had a dream that he was singing classical music in the kizhakke nada [Eastern entrance]  of Guruvayur temple.  He told me about it the next day..I told him that is just a dream because I knew he could not sing one line even in sruthi!!  The next day, the dream repeated. He said that Guruvayurappan told him to write classical carnatic music about HIM in simple language so that ordinary people can understand. HE wanted these songs to be propagated among the devotees. The dream repeated a few times. So he asked our friend, a music teacher. She said jestingly to write Hari OM Narayana and let us see. He did it and in a few days, he was listening to a song, in raga, reethigowla, when he suddenly got one song in his mind and he wrote it down immediately. He asked the musician who is our friend to look into it. One line in anupallavi [a section of the bhajan form]  did not come out right , she said.  Anyway, he wrote 6 songs within two weeks. He wanted to get guidance from the Lord whether he should continue writing.  So he submitted this to melsanthi of Guruvayur temple through one of our friends in Guruvayur. The priest gave the papers back with prasadam inside. To his dismay, the line which was thought to be wrong had disappeared from the paper because of the prasadam!!  Suddenly he was able to correct it and our friend approved of it!

Hearing his story, Dr. Omanakutty, a great devotee of Guruvayurappan kindly consented to sing these songs in Melpattur auditorium and make CDs. Now he has written more than 200 songs and a dance drama Manjulacharitham, which was performed in Melpattur auditorium by Noopura dance school in Calicut. Many of the listeners of these songs tell us they get mental peace and joy ,which gives us gratification. He still wonders if he is writing these songs!!  Guruvayurappan’s leelas are unfathomable !”

This is Sri Sundaranaraya’s website…he goes by this name, partly taken from his childhood nickname, Sundaran

Go to this website and click on Krishna Bhajans section on the navigation bar on the left hand side for a traditional carnatic rendering of the bhajan with all of the lyrics above.

You can also watch a video of my rendition of the first two verses during live kirtan.  Special thanks to Nancy on drums and Veo singing response vocals.

Click on the link  to watch the video…



In His Grace by Joyce Sweinberg


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