The Sama Veda has special links to Pranavam and Nadhopasana. The Sama Veda Mantras are sung by Udgatri Preists at Vedic rituals. Their singing is known as Udgita. The Pranavam is also referred to as the imperishable Udgita by Chandogya Upanishad, a major Upanishad belonging to the Sama Veda. The following Chandogya Upanishad passage points out the importance of Pranavam (Udgita) for the Upasana of Brahman thru Nada: " This Om , this imperishable Udgita must be worshipped. Of all the objects of creation, the Earth is the essence; Of Earth, the essence is water; Of Water , the essence is Hebs; Man is the essence of the Herbs; Poetry is the essence of Speech; Music is the essence of Poetry; The Udgita of Sama Veda embodied by the Pranava is the essence of Music; Thus, this Omkaara (Pranava Nada) is the utmost, the most valuble , the final essence of all essences. It must be worshipped." This Upanishadic passage asserts that the Nada and Music are intimately connected to the Udgita of samans , which is the same as that of Pranavam. In this context, the Upasana practised by the Nada Yogis is considered equivalent to the meditation on Pranavam done by the other type of Yogis to attain God Realization.
The Links between Nadhopasana and Udgita of Samans is hinted by Lord Krishna , when he says that He is the Sama Veda among all the Vedas. He points out the efficacy of attaining Him thru Nadhopasana with its roots in Pranavam (Udgitam).The importance of Pranava Udgitam is once again revealed from the portion of the holy Hayagreeva Mantram(Om Pranavodgita Vachase Nama:) Lord Hayagreeva is the Lord of all Vidyas including Brahma Vidya. The portion of His Mantram recognizes that His speech is the form of Pranava Udgitam.
The Upasana of Brahman thru Sama Gana (Udgita Upasana) has been pointed out by Sage Yagnyavalkya , the greatest authority on Smrithis this way: "Clearing one"s senses, memory, mind and intellect of all other objects, the supreme Atman , which is within oneself shining like a lamp should be contemplated upon. Intoning Sama Gana in the proper manner without break and practising it with Concentration makes one attain the supreme Godhead."
Sage Yagnyavalkya has also revealed that the singing of the Samans to the accompaniment of Vina makes one obtain the boon of Moksha. He says: " He , who knows the truth of Vina Music and who is an expert in Srutis(musical) and Talas reaches the path of salvation effortlessly" He calls them Sruthi Jati Visaaradaas. It is appropriate to note that the Vinadara Dakshina Murthy plays SAma Gana on His Vina to indicate the efficacy of that Upasana to attain the highest knowledge. Saint Thyagaraja, one of the greatest Nadhopasaka as well as a Vainika paid tribute to Vinadara Dakshinamurthy in his Saramati Raga Kriti "Mokshamu Galada".Thygaraja also salutes Narada as his Guru Raya for knowing the truth of Music originating from the Veda-Born Vina. The importance of Nadhopasana and Sama Gana is inferred from ther tradition of Vina playing in major Vedic sacrifices such as Aswameda Yaga. The Vina Mirasu of Talapakkam Annamacharya and that of Arayars before the Lord Of Srirangam and elsewhere attest to the same principle.
In his Saramati Raga Kriti, Thygaraja expatiates on the origin of Nada from Om. He recognizes the birth of Nada from the interaction of Pranaa and Agni. He points out further that the seven Svaras and Nada originated from the Omkara described by the Udgita of the Upanishads. His describtion of Lord Krishna in the Hindola RagA Kriti reveals brilliantly the intimate connection between Sama Veda, Sapta Svaras and Pranavam: "Sama Nigamaja Sudhamaya Gana Vichakshana Vedasiromatruja Saptasvara Nadaachala Deepa" Here he says: " O Lord Krishna shining like a beacon of light on the mountain of Nada based on the seven Svaras born of Pranavam, which is the source of all Vedanta! O Lord adept in the nectar-like music born of Sama Veda! O celebrated Lord, who transcends Time! Please protect me ."
In his Chenchu Kambhoji Kriti "Vara raga Layajnalu", He says that NADA BORN OF SEVEN SVARAS EMANATING FROM THE BODY OF NADHOPASAKA IS OF THE FORM OF THE SACRED PRANAVAM. IN HIS ANDHOLIKA RAGA kRITI,"RAGASUDHARASA", THE SAINT REVEALS THAT THE GREAT SOULS , WHO HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE OF Svarasthanas , Nada,and Omkara are really Jivan Muktas or liberated souls in this Life.In the concluding portion of this Kriti, he says that Nada, Svara and Pranava are of the very form of Sadasiva Himself. In his Chittaranjani song, "Nada Tanumanusam", the saint states that Siva is verily Nada and particularly the quintessence of Sama Veda, the best among the Vedas. Here he states that the Seven Svaras originated from the 5 faces of Sadasiva.
The sacredness of Nadhopasana is pointed out by the saint in his Kalyanavasantha raga Kriti, "Nadaloludai". Here he appeals to us to attain Brahmannda(Eternal bliss) thru Nadhopasana, the path followed by the Trimurthys and Sages. In his Garudadwani krit "Ananda Sagaramidhani", he converses with Rama and states : "O Rama! The body that does not float on the ocean of the ineffable bliss of Brahman called Sangita Jnana , which abides in all the Vedas, is a burden to Earth.Have not the holy Trinity and other sacred persons worshipped it? " In another Kriti, he has stated that the nectar of Ragas based on the Sapta Svaras originating from Pranavam gives one the auspicious results of Yaga, Yoga, Thyaga(sacrifice) and Bhoga(Enjoyment). He asks us to drink that nectar and delight in it. In his Atana Kriti, "Sripapriya", the saint describes Rama as the Lord of Lakshmi and as the one , who moves easily among the seven Svaras. He asks us to worship the seven Svaras sanctified by Rama. In his Jaganmohini raga Kriti, "Sobillillu Sapta Svara Sundarulu Bhajimpave", he states that the sapta Svaras shine thru the navel, heart,throat, tongue , nose etc., and in and thru Rg, Sama Vedas and the heart of Gayatri Mantra and in the minds of holy men and Gods..Such is the greatness of Pranavam or Udgita for Nadhopasana to attain perfection in one"s efforts for the realization of Brahman.Following this route, Saint Thygaraja offered Prapatti with all its 6 limbs to Lord Ramachandra and Sita Devi and attained the highest of Blisses.
The name of another Nadhopasaka /Nama sankirtana practioner comes into my mind, i.e. Acharya Bodhendral, one of the Sankaracharyas of the Kanchipuram line. He gave up his Post as the head pontiff and retired to a village on the banks of Cauveri in Tanjore district & preached the efficacy of Rama Nama Siddhantha.His delectable verses contained in his work known as Rama Karnaamruta are a source of great joy to recite. He made Prapatti to Sri Rama. Adi sankara has made Prapatti to Lord Narasimha in times of great distress as evidenced by his Lakshmi Nrsimha Karaavalampana Stotram. Even today, The abode of the Sringeri Acharyas is known as Nrsimha Vanam. Adi Sankara has devoted a lot of his energy to compose other stotras on Vishnu. Infact, it is jocularly observed that Adi Sankara is " Anthar Saakta:, Bahir Saiva: Vyavahareshu Vaishnava:" According to hagiography, his travel in the sky over Guruvbayoor was arrested by Lord of that Temple to remind Adi Sankara as to who is the strength behind his blessings.Adi Sankara is said to have descended down to Earth and offered his worship to UnniKrishna and then proceed on his way. I think the general regard that Saivas have for Vishanvism is a direct result of Adi Sankara"s teachings emphasizing tolerance for the common man thru his stotras and his own practises.
Another Prapanna/Nadhopasaka: Oothukkadu Venkatasubba Iyer. In an earlier note, it was mentioned that he composed Kritis only on Krishna. It is true that a majority of his Kritis are on Nartana Krishna enshrined at his village . He also composed kritis on Rama (eg) Kalyana Rama in Raga Hamsanadam.He has composed the Navavarana Kritis on Kamakshi . Bombay Sisters have rendered these Kritis beautifully in a tape. He worshipped Krishna as Sri Vidya Rajagopalan, a tradition practised in Mannargudi Temple, a famous temple close to his village of OOthukkadu. There Sri Rajagopala icon is standing on Sri Chakram , the Yantram of Worshippers of Sri Lalita Parameswari. Sri Chakram, the geometric pattern of worship of Sri Vidya is also the Yantram of Sri Devi as one can see from the coins distributed by the Ahobila Mutt. On one side of the Coin , you will see the current Acharya and on the other side the traditional Sri Chakram. There is agroup of Upasakas , who worship Krishna as Mohini or Madana Gopala Sundari. Besides Oothukkadu Kavi , Leela Sukhar , the author of Krishna Karaamrutam offered worship to Madana Gopala Sundari carrying the symbols of Krishna(Flute, Shepard"s stick , Sudarsana, Conch ) and Of Sri lalita(Cane sugar Bow, Ankusam, Flower arrows and noose). The mantram for this Murthy is made up of the fusion of Panchadasakshari Mantra and Rajagopala Mantram. This is for Tantric worshippers.