Lullaby composed for Swathi: Omana Thingal
(Translation of Lullaby of Irayimman Thampi by Fox Strangeways.)

The web site of the Kerala Tourism Department proudly proclaims: Kerala has a wealth of soft lilting folk lullabies. Nurtured down the generations, they have even cast an influence over mainstream Malayalam poetry. The poignant lullaby “Omanathingal Kidavo……”, strikes a tender chord in ever Malayalee. Generations of children have been lulled asleep by its soothing notes. Sung by generations over centuries the strains of this lullaby have been dyed into the warp and woof of the
Malayalee’s cultural repertoire.Evoking intense nostalgia
for a bygone phase ofone’s life filled with tender affections and motherly care, the lullaby also thrills one with a sense of de javu.

Omana thinkal kidavo is believed to have been composed for putting to sleep the young Swathi Thirunal by the famous poet lyricist Iravi Varman Thampi (1783-1856 A.D), popularly known as Iryimman Thampi. Swathi’s birth was a long awaited event for the royal family as it was in the danger of having to hand over the reins of power to the British for want of a male heir. The joy of the whole royal family and the people of the state seem to have been distilled into the lullaby Omana Thinkal Kidavo. To this date, it remains the most popular lullaby for Keralites, whether in Kerala or abroad, in spite of the religious tone in a few stanzas.

Swathi Thirunal was a fountain of music. Irayimman Thampi, his maternal uncle was himself a gifted composer of Carnatic music. Three of Thampi’s famous compositions are testimony to his greatness as a poet and composer. These three compositions portray very different emotions. Thampi was an exponent of Kathakali, Kathakali artistes are adept in acting out 9 different emotions. Whereas Omana Thingal Kidavo distills motherly affection, Prana Naathan Enikku Nalkiya portrays erotic feelings of a lovelorn lady. The third one, Karuna Cheyyaan Enthu Thaamasam brims with devotional fervour.Thampi’s lullaby seems to have been famous in the 19th century itself. Fox Strangeways in his book .
The immortal author of Omana Thingal:
Irayimman Thampi
Music of Hindusthan” has not only given the music of the song in staff notation, but went to the extent of compiling a translation.
The lullaby lists number of wonderful things in the world and wonders which of these is the child.The lullaby stands out from other popular lullabies around the world in that it does not at all talk about sleep!   The baby is supposed to be induced to sleep by the proper selection of raga (melody type in Indian music). The songs are rendered in many ragas today, Neelambari being very common, as the raga is traditionally believed to induce sleep. Navarasam, a raga special to Kerala and also kurinchi are other popular ragas used. The song has been rendered by Bombay S. Jayasri in the north Indian raga Desh, in her magical voice. All ragas seem to suit the song. Music lovers believe that the flowering of Swathi Thirunal’s musical creativity owes a lot of Thampi’s great lullaby. Anyone who has listened to the lullaby and also to Swathi’s music will find it easy to agree.

Foxstrangeway’s translation of Omana Thingal

Omana Thingal Poem in Malayalam

Swathi as a baby with his aunt

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