Kurai Ondrum Illa is a popluar Tamizh devotional song composed by Rajagopalachari (popularly called Rajaji), a freedom-fighter, the last Governor-General of India and a man referred to as the
keeper of my conscience
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Rajaji’s daughter Lakshmi was married to Devadas Gandhi, Gandhiji’s youngest son. Gopalakrishna Gandhi, the former governor of West Bengal and Rajaji’s grandson wrote an eloquent article in ‘The Hindu’ in December 2002 where he explored the genesis of this beautiful song. He says that much like Rajaji, the song is a paradox. “Jawaharlal Nehru said of Rajaji, ‘His brilliant intellect, selfless character, and penetrating powers of analysis have been a tremendous asset to our cause’. Jayaprakash Narayan described him as "a mental phenomenon" and Professor Hiren Mukerjee in a moving article said ‘Rajaji came to be known as the brain behind the right-wing constellation around Gandhiji’.”
For such a man of intellect, this song is a song of surrender, an offering of pure devotion. Gopalakrishna Gandhi also points out that Rajaji had his share of heavy sorrows to bear in life. He lost his wife early and then had to witness the passing of his son and his two sons-in-law. And yet such a man authored the song “No regrets have I”.
But perhaps, most fascinatingly, Gopalakrishna Gandhi suggests that this song had an unknown collaborator in the form of a Harijan who was arrested for breaking the law of that time (in 1925) and entering the Tiruchanoor temple. Although in the year 1925, the Congress had rallied its satyagrahis to engage in civil disobedience and boycott the courts of the Raj, when Rajaji was asked to help in the defense of this man, he agreed readily and argued his conviction successfully. Gopalakrishna Gandhi says, “When the Mahatma learnt of the episode his reaction was as quick as it was clear: ‘(Rajaji) would have been like a Pharisee if he had sat there still, gloating over the sanctimonious satisfaction of non-cooperating, while the accused could have been discharged by his intervention’.” This incident clearly seemed to have inspired Rajaji’s pen as he composed ‘Kurai ondrum illai’.
In the same article, Gopalakrishna Gandhi also provides a poetic translation of the song that was assisted by Gowri Ramnarayan, the grand-daughter of Kalki Krishnamurthy. Here is the reproduction:
No regrets have I
Lord of the Written Word,
My light, my sight,
My very eyes
Though you stand
Where I behold you not
My light, my very eyes,
Protector of all earthlings
I know you sustain me
Lord of the Venkata Hill so pure
You meet my hunger, my thirst
My hope, my prayer
You keep me from harm,
Lord of the Sparkling Gems,
I need naught else
Father of the Seven Hills,
You stand — do you not? —
Veiled by a screen
Only the learned can part
For they are the learned
Which I am not
But no, no regrets have I.
Crowning this hill
You stand as rock
Giver of Boons
Father to these hills
No regrets have I
In this benighted Age of ours
The worst of all the Four —
You have entered
A shaft of granite
Where though I see you not
No regrets have I.
Boulder of strength
With the Ocean,
Heaving on your breast,
Of the purest compassion —
My very own, who grants
Anything I ask of her
Can I possibly have regrets?
The two of you, I know,
Stand there for me
No regrets have I my Govinda
None, none whatsoever
Lyrics and translation: Kurai ondrum illai
Composition: C. Rajagopalachari
Singer: M.S. Subbulakshmi
Raagam: Raagamaalika (raagams include shiva-ranjani, kaapi and sindhu-bhairavi)
Taalam: Aadi taalam (most common)
Kurai ōndrum illai, Maraimūrthi kanna!
kurai ōndrum illai, Kanna!
kurai ōndrum illai, Gōvinda!
Kannukku theriyāmal nirkinrāy kanna;
kannukku theriyāmal ninrālum enakku
kurai ōnrum illai maraimūrttik kanna.
Vendiyadhai thandhida Venkatesan enrirukka,
Vendiyadhu ver illai maraimūrthi kanna-
Manivannā! Malaiyappā! Gōvinda! Gōvinda!
Tiraiyinpin nirkinrāy kanna - unnai
marai ōdum gnaniyar mattume kanpar,
enralum kurai onrum enakku illai kanna.
Kunrin mel kallākki nirkinra varadā
kurai onrum illai, Maraimūrthi kanna!
Manivannā! Malaiyappā! Gōvinda! Gōvinda! Govinda!Govinda!
Kalinālukkirangi, kallile irangi,
silaiyāka kōvilil nirkinrāy kesavā
kurai ondrum illai,marai murthi kanna! Yādum marukkāda malaiyappā – un mārbil
Edum tara nirkum karunai kadal annai
enrum irundhida ædu kurai enakku
ōnrum kurai illai maraimūrthi kanna
Manivannā! Malaiyappā! Gōvinda! Gōvinda!!!