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How music affects your mood

Music affects our moods, it is the great mood enhancer. We may not understand the words, but instead recognize the expression of its musical beauty and power to de-stress.

Music has been called `The International Language` - a very simple thought with much meaning behind it. Even if you can`t speak the language of a country, you can move, sway, dance and most of all, enjoy the music of the country. We may not understand the words of a musical selection but we do understand the beauty.

Have you ever heard the saying, `Music soothes the savage beast?` It`s true. Music can calm and revitalize us in ways even a lengthy nap can`t. Music holds the power to elevate our moods above our worries and relieve debilitating depression. It can also perk us up if we use it with exercise or dance.

Try listening to classical music for a sense of power. Soft lullaby-like music to unwind. Medium-fast to fast selections for exercise and housecleaning.

Putting more music in your life is a powerfully enriching tool. But other than turning on the car radio in our busy lives, what other ways can we do this? One way to do this is to take advantage of your public library`s collection of music. It`s fine to have a personal favorite type of music such as rock, or jazz, but discover other music you may have not thought of. Try country music. And if you decide you don`t like that, try opera or alternative music. You won`t believe how many types of music you`re going to find once you start looking. You don`t have to like it. Just learn to appreciate it on its own.

Give it a chance.

When listening to music, listen to the words and rhythms as well as the melody. You may find something to like about a type of music that previously you didn`t like at all.

Learn about music. Find out who wrote the pieces you like to listen to and when. What was going on in the rest of the world at the time the melody was written? Does it reflect what was happening at the time or could it have been used as an `escape` - a more pleasant alternative than what current events dictated?

What musical instruments are played? What do you know about those instruments? Experience new musical artists. Many worthwhile musicians and vocalists go unnoticed to the general public because of a `stuck in a musical rut` listening technique of those that only listen to a certain genre of music.

Free musical events are listed in the local newspaper. Some may turn up with names such as `brown bag` concerts or recitals. `Brown bag` refers to the fact they will be held during the noon hour and usually in a public place such as a park where you can bring your lunch. Recitals are usually given by music teachers to showcase their student`s budding talents and also an advertisement for the teacher`s own abilities. Colleges sponsor several free musical events every semester and they are worth looking into.

Other ways to incorporate music into our lives are waking up to a musical alarm, bathing to soothing, relaxing music and even dining with soft music playing in the background. Listening to music is such a basic pure pleasure that many of us forget the tremendous value of it. And dance whenever you get the chance.

Organize a music appreciation group and post notices at the public library and other spots around town. These groups get together to discuss music and musicians, listen to music and go, as a group, to musical events together.

Volunteer to share your acquired musical knowledge with others. Do this by visiting hospitals and nursing homes, senior citizen`s centers and organizing talks for elementary, middle and high schools. Special interest groups are always appreciative of speakers with interesting topics.

If you play an instrument, you`ll find you`ve stumbled onto the best audience in the world. Go back often to visit and play. In this way, you`ve not only made the lives of other people brighter through your music, but you`re going to find yourself in much better spirits.

Janmasthami Offering

Of all the divinities surveying India's religious compass none is more present or more beloved to the Indian imagination than the figure of Lord Krishna. In the exalted pantheon of gods and goddesses personifying the ethos of our civilization, He is considered primus inter pares. His deeds and exploits are inscribed in our collective memory. And ineluctable is the influence of His ecumenical, numinous personality to those bred in the land. In this offering to Him on the upcoming occasion of Janmasthami, we retail an episode where He plays a seminal role and wrap up the observance with musical clips - classical and 'light', cheek by jowl - centred on the Krishna motif.

In her book In the Dark of the Heart: Songs of Meera (HarperCollins), Shama Futehally introduces Sri Krishna:

"Krishna is the eight incarnation or avatar of the god Vishnu, the preserver. He is the most intimate of gods, one who is wont to stray out of the area demarcated "worship" and steal into our everyday lives. He appears in our kitchens, our courtyards, at our washing-wells; there he is, eavesdropping upon a conversation between girlfriends; and when we are lulling a baby to sleep we might find, for one radiant moment, that we are lulling the baby Krishna. He is everywhere; he is impossible, incorrigible, unpunishable. Finally, he is love itself and the Indian soul is butter in his mischievous hands

According to the myth proper, Krishna appeared on the earth to kill Kamsa, the wicked king of the Yadavas. He was born as the eighth child to Devaki, a sister of Kamsa. It had been prophesied to Kamsa that one of Devaki's children would kill him, so he had the first seven babies put to death as soon as each was born. When Krishna was born, he was, with the help of divine intervention, smuggled out by his father and carried across the River Jumna to his foster parents, Nanda and Yashoda, the cowherds. It was a stormy night, and as the child was being carried across, the waters of the river rose and threatened to drown them both. The baby put out his foot and touched the flood, whereupon it receded. Krishna's foster home was in the district of Braj, around Mathura, a region of rich pastureland still associated with the worship of Krishna.

For the first seven years of his life, he lived in the village of Gokul, then moved to Brindavan. Braj, the pastoral paradise where Krishna was brought up among cows and cowherd girls, is the eternally peaceful landscape of the heart. The figure of the baby Krishna gives to the Indian people what every baby gives to its parents at least once in their lives: an understanding that, at the very centre of life, there is joy. Stories about this enchanting child, "Nandalal" or "the Darling of Nanda", form an entire corpus of poetry, song, dance, drama and painting throughout India.

There is no end to Krishna's pranks and ploys to torment his adoring mother, Yashoda. In one well-known story he refuses to go to sleep until she has brought him the moon to play with. And his stealing of butter is as much a part of our lives as the exploits of our own children. With his friends in tow, Krishna goes from lane to lane, stealing butter from all the housewives of Braj, till in desperation the women take to hanging it high from the ceiling. Krishna and his friends then set about making human pyramids to reach the pots. This is a tableau which is still enacted amidst much noise and hilarity during the annual festival which celebrates Krishna's birth Many stories about Krishna's childhood contain images which stretch like elastic into the order of infinity. There is, for instance, a story which tells how Yashoda looked into her son's open mouth when he had eaten mud and saw - the universe.

When Krishna becomes a youth, he is, naturally, beauty personified. He is called by names such as Madan, the Intoxicator, or Mohan, the Charming One. In colour, he is dark as a rain-cloud, which gives him another of his many names, Shyam, or The Dark One. He wears a saffron tilak mark on his forehead, and is dressed in a yellow dhoti (cloth draped from the waist). On his head he wears a peacock plume, and a long necklace swings from his neck. His ear-rings are in the shape of crocodiles. His eyes are as beautiful as lotus petals and he holds a flute which gives him the name of Muralidhara, or Holder of the Flute. The gopis, one and all, are madly in love with him, and his unending dalliance with them gives him the title Gopinath, or Lord of the Gopis "

Jha-sahab's bandish in Raga Hem Nat conjures up an image of the Lord at play with the gopis, gamboling by the banks of the river Jamuna. Hem Nat is a hybrid formed by a judicious amalgam of Ragas Hem and Nat. It is a regular fixture on the Agra and Atrauli-Jaipur roster. The essence of Hem lives in the following tonal clusters ( M = shuddha madhyam):

P' D' P' S; S-->P' (the

S, M G P, GMP G M R S (the latter half is Kamod-like);

P D P S", S" R" S", D P, D P G M R S

To the above are joined sanchAris of Nat in the poorvAnga region:

S, S R, R G, G M, S G G M

S, RGMP, G M R S R, S

<-- Mallikarjun Mansur in a performance

Jha-sahab's bandish reveals his acumen as a composer. The lakshaNAs of the rAga are judiciously apprehended in the opening line itself. The words are so chosen as to create a mild staccato effect to accord to Hem's catch phrase P' D' P' S (Tabla: Tulsidas Navelkar, Harmonium: Rajan P. Parrikar): rAsa rachi Jamuna ke taTa Hari -

Salil Chowdhary, regarded as a great Bong (remember that a 'great Bong' is a Bong no longer), created this superb Durga-based number for JAWAHAR (1960). Lata is equal to the occasion: jAgiye Gopala-lAla -

The Mahabharata has often been likened to a "moral minefield," where the 'good' fellows don't always play fair and the 'bad' fellows sometimes surpass themselves. The poet's prism spreads before us a full panoply of emotions and desires afflicting the human soul. The exigencies of the 'here and now' are juxtaposed with glimpses of the transcendental. The apotheosis of Sri Krishna's character is one of the highlights of the Great Epic. At the centre of this 'minefield' he stands wielding the fulcrum of Dharma. The slaying of Dronacharya, initiated by him, affords a sense of the dilemma and drama of Dharma. We relive the episode through C. Rajagopalachari's Mahabharata (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan):

" 'O Arjuna,' said Krishna, 'there is none that can defeat this Drona, fighting according to the strict rules of war. We cannot cope with him unless dharma is discarded. We have no other way open. There is but one thing that will make him desist from fighting. If he hears that Aswatthama is dead, Drona will lose all interest in life and throw down his weapons. Someone must therefore tell Drona that Aswatthama has been slain.' Arjuna shrank in horror at the proposal as he could not bring himself to tell a lie. Those who were nearby with him also rejected the idea, for no one was minded to be a party to deceit. Yudhishthira stood for a while reflecting deeply. 'I shall bear the burden of this sin,' he said and resolved the deadlock!

Bhima lifted his iron mace and brought it down on the, head of a huge elephant called Aswatthama and it fell dead. After killing the elephant Aswatthama, Bhimasena went near the division commanded by Drona and roared so that all might hear. 'I have killed Aswatthama!' Bhimasena who, until then, had never done or even contemplated an ignoble act, was, as he uttered these words, greatly ashamed.

They knocked against his very heart - but could they be true? Drona heard these words as he was in the act of discharging a brahmastra. 'Yudhishthira, is it true my son has been slain?' Dronacharya asked addressing Dharmaputra. The acharya thought that Yudhishthira would not utter an untruth, even for the kingship of the three worlds.

When Drona asked thus, Krishna was terribly perturbed. 'If Yudhishthira fails us now and shrinks from uttering an untruth, we are lost. Drona's brahmastra is of unquenchable potency and the Pandavas will be destroyed,' he said. And Yudhishthira himself stood trembling in horror of what he was about to do, but within him also was the desire to win. 'Let it be my sin,' he said to himself and hardened his heart, and said aloud: 'Yes, it is true that Aswatthama has been killed.' But, as he was saying it, he felt again the disgrace of it and added in a low and tremulous voice, 'Aswatthama, the elephant' - words which were however drowned in the din and were not heard by Drona.

'O king, thus was a great sin committed,' said Sanjaya to the blind Dhritarashtra, while relating the events of the battle to him.

When the words of untruth came out of Yudhishthira's mouth, the wheels of his chariot, which until then always stood and moved four inches above the ground and never touched it, at once came down and touched the earth. Yudhishthira, who till then had stood apart from the world so full of untruth, suddenly became of the earth, earthy. He too desired victory and slipped into the way of untruth and so his chariot came down to the common road of mankind.

When Drona heard that his beloved son had been slain, all his attachment to life snapped, and desire vanished as if it had never been there He threw his weapons away and sat down in yoga on the floor of his chariot and was soon in a trance. At this moment Dhrishtadyumna, with drawn sword, came and climbed in to the chariot and heedless of cries of horror and deprecation from all around he fulfilled his destiny as the slayer of Drona by sweeping off the old warrior's head "

What are we to make of Sri Krishna's skulduggery, his seeming incitement of the virtuous to run afoul of Dharma? Although the topic is rich, its development will not be attempted here. The following extract of Prof. R.C. Zaehner's commentary, taken from his concise work Hinduism (Oxford University Press), amplifies on a related theme:

"The hero, Yudhishthira, the dharma-raja or, 'King of Righteousness', and thus the very embodiment of dharma, represents the human conscience at its best: he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and his high sanctity is recognized by all. At the same time he has complete faith and trust in Krishna, the incarnate God; yet Krishna is always forcing him and his to do actions that are contrary not only to dharma as interpreted by the Brahmans, but also to the dharma that the King of Righteousness himself embodies and which the common conscience of the human race acknowledges to be true. For Krishna is God, the highest Brahman in personal form, and therefore beyond all the pairs of opposites, beyond good and evil. And so it is that after the most sanguinary battle in all literature in which more than a billion men have been slain in order that Yudhishthira may enter into his rightful kingdom which he was, in any case, quite content to leave in the usurper's hands, Yudhishthira asks Krishna to instruct him in dharma, but Krishna declines to do so and delegates the task to the dying Bhishma who is the common 'grandsire' to the two parties to the war

Bhishma can tell him all there is to be known about moksha and, following a tradition that is more common in opera than in epic, he does so at enormous length though he is in his death­ throes, lying impaled on a bed of arrows. Krishna, however, who is a mere spectator at this scene, remains silent, though he holds the secret not only of moksha but also of the love of God for man that the liberated soul may enjoy if God so wills. Instead he imparts this saving knowledge to Yudhishthira's younger brother, Arjuna, whom he loves as dearly as himself, before the great battle begins, and his words on this occasion form the text of Hinduism's best-loved scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. But so little did these sublime words, which have moved the hearts of millions both inside and outside India, impress themselves on Arjuna that when the battle is over and won, he asks Krishna whether he would be good enough to repeat them since their purport has clean gone out of his head! Why, one wonders, did the Incarnate God elect to waste his words on Arjuna rather than on Yudhishthira who was athirst to hear them? The easy answer would be that Krishna and Arjuna were linked together by eternal bonds, for they were incarnations of the eternal sages Nara and Narayana who, either together or in the person of Narayana alone, were a manifestation of the Supreme Being. This, however, obscures the real issue. Yudhishthira's karma has not yet worked itself out: he must wait for it to 'ripen' and only then will he attain to moksha. To tell him the great secret prematurely would be to violate dharma itself, for the law of karma is inseparable from the eternal dharma and not even God can break it - let alone Yudhishthira who, embodiment of dharma though he is, might have been tempted to throw off the chains of karma and therefore of dharma before his time, thereby entering into the pleasure of his Lord. For the last words of Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita were: 'Give up the things of dharma, turn to me only as thy refuge. I will deliver thee from all evil. Have no care' (BG, 18.66). To this temptation Yudhishthira might have succumbed, but his time had not yet come."

The final chapter, "Yudhisthira Returns," in Prof. Zaehner's book is an essay on Mahatma Gandhi where the author draws parallels and argues that Gandhi is the Yudhisthira of our time.

We resume the second and final musical segment. The threads are picked up by M.S. Subbalakshmi who has had an intimate association with Meera going back several decades: maiN Hari charanana ki dAsi -

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