Muralidhara Gopala – The Flute Fascinator

‘Muralidhara Gopala’ is an adorable song composed by the multi-faceted composer, M. P. Periasamy Thooran. He was born to K. A. Palanivelappa Gounder and Paavaathaal on 26 September 1908 at Manjakkaattuvalasu, near Modakuruchi, in Erode district in Tamil Nadu. Periaswamy secured his B. A. degree in Mathematics (With a minor in astronomy) and also a Licentiate in teaching at the Presidency college, Chennai. He was the Chief Editor of the Tamil Encyclopedia which comprised of ten volumes.

Periaswamy’s knowledge in science, enabled him to complete the Tamil Encyclopedia project in a successful manner. He wrote numerous poems and short stories adopting the pen name, Thooran. He had even authored many books on psychology and embryology. He was greatly inspired by the revolutionary poet Mahakavi Bharathiyaar, and Mahatma Gandhi. He contributed to the freedom struggle by publishing an underground magazine ‘Pitthan’. In this magazine, he penned and published articles that cannonaded the erstwhile British administration, which eventually triggered the Indian Independence Movement.

He had composed over six hundred songs encompassing themes related to devotion, patriotism, spiritual and moral issues. For several years, he adopted the habit, “a poem a day,” and after his Nithya pooja (daily pooja), he would compose a poem every day. Just as the fish swims naturally, composing songs was inherent in him. His songs were published in five volumes titled as ‘Isai Mani Manjari’. His compositions were popularized by the melody queens, D. K. Pattammal and N. C. Vasanthakokilam.

Although he was not a musician, he was a talented poet. Hence, he sought for help to set his lyrics to music. Sivaramakrishna Iyer was his guru who helped him to set his lyrics to tune. Thooran also procured the services of senior musicians such as Arunachala Kavirayar, T. K. Govinda Rao, T. V. Sankaranarayan and K. V. Narayanaswamy, and created a myriad of melodious songs.

He was awarded the prestigious, Padma Bhushan Award, by the President of India in 1968 for his contribution. He was also the recipient of the Kalai Maamani, and Isai Perarignar awards in 1970 and 1972 respectively. Some of the popular songs composed by him are, ‘Gananaadhaney,’ ‘Saama Gaana Priyey,’ ‘Thaayey Tripurasundari,’ ‘Kaliyuga Varadhan,’ ‘Azhagu Deivamaaga Vandhu,’ ‘Muruga Muruga,’ and ‘Muralidhara Gopala.’

The song, ‘Muralidhara Gopala,’ is an appealing Tamil composition which delineates the loftiness of Lord Krishna. In the pallavi, he portrays Krishna, as the cowherd who plays the flute. He also idolizes Gopala as Mukundha (The bestower of salvation) and Vaikunta (The one who resides in the celestial home of Lord Vishnu).

In the anu pallavi, he eulogizes Lord Krishna as the merciful one (Karunaakara), whose eyes can be paralleled to the beautiful lotus (Kamala Nayana). The lord’s complexion is described as (Karu Neela Mugil Vanna), the dark, blackish blue hue of the clouds. Just as the dark clouds shower rains, likewise, the compassionate lord bestows His merciful grace on His devotees.

In the charanam, the poet is wonderstruck that whether, Hari Madhava, who with His little fingers had mischievously stolen the butter kept in the Uri (Earthen pot), also, who has Goddess Lakshmi residing in His chest, and the one who had effortlessly lifted the Govardhana Mountain, are the same. Bala Krishna was a naughty child who teamed up with other cowherds and stole butter which was kept in pots hung from roof top. Krishna was so small, and the pots were not accessible to Him. Hence, he climbed over the other cowherds to reach the pots. After everyone feasted on the butter, they would act innocent, even when caught red-handed. Lord Krishna had lifted the Govardhana mountain with the same little fingers, with which He stole the butter.

On one occasion, Lord Krishna told the cowherds to present their offerings to the Govardhana mountain. Lord Indra was enraged as he thought that he was ignored by the cowherds, and hence he created thunder and incessant rains which were about to deluge the village. Lord Krishna with His little finger lifted the Govardhan mountain, and the people and cattle took refuge under it. Indra now knew that Krishna was no ordinary cowherd but the lord of the universe. Although Krishna is the lord of the universe, He is so humble and simple amidst His friends (Cowherds). These anecdotes of Krishna are dear to His devotees, and these Krishnaleela scenes unfold in front of one’s eyes, while listening to this song.

This song is composed in the mellifluous Raaga Maand, and Aadhi Thala (A rhythmic cycle of 8 beats). This raaga creates a mood of romance drizzled with joy and warmth. It is a very popular Hindustani raaga and the zigzag pattern of this raaga makes it unique, intriguing, and interesting. The noteworthy compositions in this raaga are ‘Vaanathin Meedhu’ by Ramalingaswami, ‘Janaki Manoharam’ by Mysore Vasudevachaar, and ‘Raamanai Bhajithaal’ by Papanasam Sivam.

Multifarious movie songs such as ‘Maasilaanilavey Nam,’ by T. M. Soundararajan and ‘Bhanumathy’ from the movie ‘Ambikaapathi,’ ‘Oru Naal Podhumaa’ (Thiruvilaiyaadal), ‘Nenjam Marappadhillai’ (Nenjam Marappadhillai), ‘Jaadhi Malli Poocharamey’ (Azhagan), ‘Anjali Anjali Pushpanjali’ (Duet), ‘Soukiyama Kanney’ (Sangamam), ‘Panneer Pushpangaley’ (Aval Appadithaan), are also based on this raaga.

‘Muralidhara Gopala’ song is renowned because of its simplicity. This song is rendered by several eminent singers such like, Bombay Jaishri, Sudha Raghunathan, and Unni Krishnan in numerous concerts and is also being well-received by the rasikaa-s. The modern take to this song rendered in fusion style by Sharanya Srinivasan is truly rejuvenating.

Yamuna is a resident of Coimbatore and is pursuing Hindustani vocal music under the tutelage of Shri Kedar Karatji. She also teaches bhajans and conducts English Grammar classes for school children. Her other passions are writing travelogues, playing keyboard, gardening, going on pilgrimages and exploring & enriching her knowledge through travel.