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The difference between Devaranama and Padam
- Mallika Jayanti, Newcastle, Australia

April 6, 2008

After my article on Padams, I received a mail seeking some information about a few compositions. One of these compositions was termed as a padam, while I had always known it as a devaranama. Thus started the discussion about padams and devaranamas. What differentiates them?

To start with...

Devaranamas (names of the Lord/God) were the bhakti compositions that were the outcome of the bhakti movement in South India, especially Karanataka during 13th century to 14th century CE, whose main objective was to promote "daivata" philosophy of Madhvacharya through literature.

The compositions were by Haridasas who were saints, philosophers or plain wandering bards who considered themselves as the servants of the lord. Thus, this part or section of literature came to be known as "dasa sahitya" or the literature of the servants of the Lord.
The Haridasas belonged to the 'Vaishnava' school of thought in Hinduism and worshipped Vitthala, who is a manifestation of Krishna and all his forms. Krishna is considered as an incarnation if Lord Vishnu.

Though the compositions were mainly on the concept of Hari bhakti and are about Hari or Krishna, a few composers also composed devaranamas using social values, morals and virtues as a theme. There are devaranamas composed on goddesses too. These compositions took an important and prominent place not only in the world of literature, but also in the vast field of art, especially Bharatanatyam.

In relation to Bharatanatyam, devaranamas are rich in a single emotion and that is bhakti. The emotional content is not layered. In such compositions, the devotee is seeking only the blessings of the lord and speaks of 'vairagya' or detachment from the worldly matters. The relationship is only that of a devotee and God and remains that way throughout the composition. The language is simple and talams, which are set to medium pace. Most devaranamas were originally in khandachapu and mishrachapu. These devaranamas should be rendered only in 32 designated ragas as used by Purandaradasa. The performer is limited in conveying the meaning of the composition in most cases.

Each Haridasa had a unique "ankita nama" with which they 'signed' all their compositions. The nom-de-plumes of some of the most well known Haridasas are listed below:

Naraharitirtha: Narahari Raghupathi
Sripadaraya: Ranga Vitthala
Vyasatirtha: Sri Krishna
Vadirajatirtha: Hayavadana
Raghavendra: Dheera Venu Gopala
Purandara Dasa: Purandara Vittala (popularly known as Karnataka sangeeta pitamaha or 'Father of Karnataka music')
Kanaka Dasa: Adi Keshava
Vijaya Dasa (1682-1755): Vijaya Vittala
Gopaladasa (1722-1762): Gopala Vittala
Helevanakatte Giriyamma (18th century): Helevanakatte Ranga
Jagannathadasa (1727 to 1809): Jagannatha Vittala
Mahipathidasa (1611-1681): Mahipathi
Prasanna Venkatadasa (1680 to 1752): Prasanna Venkata
Venugopaladasa (18th century): Venugopala Vittala
Mohanadasa (18th century): Mohana Vittala

While padams are set in a slower pace as compared to devaranamas, the emotional content is rich and layered. The predominant emotion is love and its various interpretations. Padams are mainly in Tamil and Telugu languages. The sahitya of padams is complex, rendering to multiple interpretations of the meaning. Thus the performer faces challenge in not only conveying the obvious meaning of the composition but also in exploring various nuances and subtleties involved therein.

Haridasas' compositions are so emotional that any one can be moved to tears. Their language is the language of music, which takes the individual above the Immanent to Transcendental. It is in a suspended state of animation that music inspires, the bhakta sees the pillars of the forest, pyramidal mountains, columnar cliffs, as the images of the divine architect; models of living forms and shining fantasies of the skies, the mountain like in the light of the rising moon and the first stars twinkling against the dusky silveriness of twilight, will give him an image of a divine sculpture or a celestial painter.

However, the beauty lies in the simplicity of devaranamas and in the language that is soaked in bhakti or devotion, where one tries to find the Lord in the small and sweet nothings of day-to-day life. These ensured a special place in art and literature for these compositions called Devaranama.

Some popular compositions are:
1. Narayana Ninnanama
2. Vandisuvudadiyali
3. Pogadirelo Ranga
4. Nambikettavarillavo
5. Kallusakkare
6. Manavajanma
7. Venkatachala Nilayam
8. Jagadodharane
9. Bhagyada Lakshmi
10. Krishna Nee Begane
11.Tamboori meetidava

The information in the above article is from various sources on the Internet and from my gurus.

Mallika Jayanti is a Bharatanatyam performer / teacher and a writer. As a student of art, she does a lot of research on theology, mostly Hinduism and dance. Her mission is to promote quality talent and art.

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