The song of Madālasā

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In the Mārkandeya Purāṇa there is a lullaby called Madālasā Upadesha. In this video, Sanskrit scholar, composer and musician Gabriella Burnel sings the lullaby in Sanskrit.

Madālasā is known as among one of India’s most ideal and learned women; it is considered that she attained enlightenment. Due to her teachings, her four sons Vikranta, Subahu, Shatrumardana, and Alarka left the throne and went for penance. When one of her babies cried, instead of diverting its attention with various objects she chose to introduce them to the Truth. And that truth is sung in the form of a sweet lullaby which is called mādalasā upadesha or mādalasā putra upadesha.

The story of Madālasā is in Chapters 25-30 of the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa. The Mārkaṇḍeya is one of the eighteen ‘great Purāṇas’ (mahāpurāṇas) relating to Brahmā, said to have been narrated by the rishi Mārkaṇḍeya. It is probably one of the oldest in Purāṇa genre of Hindu literature, probably from 250 CE. A complete English translation of these chapters can be read online.

This song (composed in Raag Kafi) was a commission from the School of Practical Philosophy in Australia.

We have come across a variety of different translations of the text from Sanskrit into to English. For simplicity’s sake, we are showing the translation as on the video.

You are pure, conscious and taintless

You are not subject to the illusoriness of the world
Give up this sleep of delusion,
this dream which confounds the mind

Why are you crying?
You are pure

The name you have acquired is not yours,
Merely a mind-created fiction applied to you
The body is not you, nor are you of it

The Lord of the universe doesn’t cry either!
This sound is an illusion attributed to you
The qualities imagined as yours
Are inherent in all the senses

The insignificant elements within the man
acquire the condition of growth…
… through the addition of food, water and drink

It is not a growth or diminution of You
Within the body shell You remain constant
Do not become confounded by this body
Which has been fastened upon you

“Not Mine”

Do not assign much significance
To what is only an aggregation of elements

The deluded man thinks pains alleviate pain

The deluded man thinks enjoyment of pleasures gives happiness

The intelligent man, whose mind is free from confusion
Knows pleasures and sorrows to be alike

The carriage goes upon the earth,
The body is seated in the carriage

The self resides within the body

The deluded Jiva thinks
“I am this body”

The Self has no attachment to His carriage
Foolish is such ignorance!

You are pure, conscious and taintless


Gabriella first came into contact with Sanskrit as a little girl hearing it from her parents. She went on to study it at school, at the University of Oxford, and continues her learning to this day both in London and with yearly visits to her teachers in India. The study of Sanskrit enriches her life, through the wealth of its magnificent scriptural texts and the sounds of the language. Gabriella sounds Sanskrit daily and credits this with helping her navigate the vicissitudes of existence! Gabriella sings, teaches Alexander Technique and Yoga, and leads monthly Vedic Chanting / Kirtan sessions in London and beyond.

With thanks to Gayan and Bhadra

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