The rāgam Rāmakali and the kṛti “Rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”- Part I

Tanjāvūr during 16-19 CE saw an influx of exotic rāgā-s from North and the other parts of this country. The rāgā-s which had their origin somewhere else and absorbed into our system of music are called as dēśīya rāga-s and one such dēśīya rāgam to be discussed here is Rāmakali.

Today, Rāmakali is survived only with a single kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and a small passage in the rāgamālika-s “sāmaja gamana” and “nāṭakādi vidyāla” composed by Rāmasvāmy Dīkśitar. It is believed Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar was the first composer to employ these dēśīya rāga-s due to his stay in Kāśi. In reality, this composer eclipsed the achievements of his father Rāmasvāmy Dīkśitar. The latter is to be credited for using these rāga-s for the first time in our music. One can find plenty of rāga-s rāgā-s like Rāmakali, Hamvīr, Māruva, in his compositions. Though we find gītam-s in the rāga-s like Hamvīr and Māruva which can be dated to the period of Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar or slightly anterior to him, credits for including them in a kṛti must go only to Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar.

A discussion on Rāmakali gains importance due to its elusive description across the treatises, disputable authorship of the only kṛti available and the authority of using prati madhyamamm in this rāgam. This post tries to address these issues.

“Rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and its disputable authorship

Rāmakali owes its gratitude to the family of Dīkṣitar, as Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar and one of his successor gave a commendable shape to this rāgam. Going by the textual history, the first text to record this kṛti is Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Disputes on the authorship raised when this kṛti was included under Rāma navāvarṇa or Rāma vibhakti set of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in the texts published in the latter half of the last century. Interestingly, this kṛti has the mudra ‘guruguha’ and the rāga mudra ‘Rāmakali’ in the first line itself. These mudra-s along with the language in which this kṛti was composed, perhaps made the musicians to attribute this composition to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Today, excluding Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī, no other evidence exist to proclaim that this is a kṛti of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Let us take two set of evidences to fix the author of this kṛti: the first are those evidences that might have helped the musicians to attribute this kṛti to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and the second are those from the treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī itself.

Evidences that helped in assigning the authorship to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Guruguha mudra
Vāggeyakārā-s in our music sign their composition with an insignia and Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar used the śabdam ‘guruguha’. Though, it is a routine to see his compositions with this signature, we do have a couple of genuine compositions which do not feature this mudra. Contrarily, we also see some other vāggeyakārā-s using this signature. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and his son Ambi Dīkṣitar fall under this category. Out of 33 compositions of Subbarāma Dīkśitar, 10 has this mudra. The mudrā ‘guruguha’  was not only adopted by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, but also by some of his family members is to be learnt.

Rāga mudra
It is the practice of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar to lace the sāhityam with a rāga mudrā. This was followed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too, though not in all of his compositions. Punnāgagāndhārī in the Nāgagāndhārī kṛti can be cited as an example.

Language of the composition
Though Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar has primarily composed in Sanskrit, we have two of his compositions in Telugu. The reverse suits for Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, though we have only one Sanskrit composition of Subbarāma Dīksitar, Śaṅkarācāryam in Śaṅkarābharaṇam

It is clear from the above discussion that based on mudra-s or the language used in a composition, authorship of this kṛti cannot be ascertained.

Evidences from Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī

Author mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Being the author of this text, his words have the final say in arriving at a conclusion. Let us analyze this text in detail before proceeding further. Authorship of any particular composition is mentioned at two places in this treatise. First time in the beginning of this book as a table enlisting all the compositions in alphabetical order. Here, he marks the compositions of all the composers, except that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar by a star symbol. It implies any kṛti without this symbol can be taken as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.  Second time it is mentioned under the respective rāga section when a kṛti is given in notation.

Under the Rāmakali rāgam, “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha” is the only one notated kṛti and the author is mentioned as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This kṛti is also enlisted in the initial list mentioned above and here, no star symbol is given. Can this kṛti be taken as that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar?

It is always to be remembered that this text was written by an astute musician and musicologist, whose thoughts were always clear, unbiased and genuine and it is up to the researcher to interpret, from the material available. Hence, this text opens up a discussion at multiple layers and results in more than an opinion several times. Many times, it requires a careful study of an entire segment under consideration and if necessary, other parts of this text and/or older treatises to get a solution for the question in hand.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has taken efforts to avoid mistakes, advertently or inadvertently to the best of his abilities. He must have scrutinized the manuscript and corrected the errors more than once before the publication of this text. Resultant errors or the errors which cannot be corrected are taken note by giving two sections ‘tappōppalu’ and ‘porabātalu’. Whereas the first section deals with a mistake and its corresponding correction that has to be applied, the second section deals with the ways by which a mistake, that has crept in even after unfeigned preparation of the manuscript can be identified and negotiated.

Hence, to decide the authorship we need to analyze the list, Rāmakali section and the section ‘tappōppalu’. Now, we have contradictory findings between the segments: the list mention this kṛti as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar by not having the star symbol and in the segment under the rāgam Rāmakali, this is mentioned as a work of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Either list or the text under Rāmakali must suffer from a printing error and it is up to us to identify the same.

When the list was carefully analyzed, one another finding glare us. A kṛti in Kāpi ‘raṅgapate’, also lacks this symbol and this too to be taken as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar if we consider the symbol identification system followed by  Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. We know this is a composition of Mārgadarśi Śeśayyaṅgār, a pre trinity composer and similar to “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha”, the authorship gets corrected to Śeśayyaṅgār under the Kāpi section. This denotes the list given in the beginning is not free of mistakes. Also the section ‘tappōppalu’ covers the main text only and does not include the list. This is evident as we don’t find any corrections (‘tappōppalu’) for the content printed in this list.

All sort of corrections can be seen in the segment ‘tappōppalu’. Corrections pertaining to the use of a particular svaram or its variety, use of gamakam, errors in the sāhityam and the errors pertaining to authorship of a kṛti. For instance, author of the kṛti Śri dakśiṇāmūrtim in the rāgam Phēnadyuti is given as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar under the rāgam section; this is corrected as Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in the section ‘tappōppalu’. Hence it, is advised to see this section before interpreting a composition given under the respective rāga section. We can consider the content given under Rāmakali section completely reflects the idea of Dīkṣitar as no changes / corrections were given for the entire segment. Relying only the main text after superimposing with ‘tappōppalu’ section, as followed here is recommended as it might help solving many debatable issues.

Svara segment

Apart from using rāga and ‘guruguha’ mudra, the composing style of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar resembles that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in some other aspects too. We can see madhyama kāla passages almost in all the kṛti-s and svara passages in many kṛti-s. Some of the kṛti-s were also composed in the pallavi – anupallavi format.

The kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha” is composed in the pallavi-anupallavi format with a svara segment. This also has a madhyama kāla sāhityam. Though, at the outset the compositional style is much similar, significant difference can be seen in the pattern used in the svara segment. Before going to the Rāmakali svara segment, svara section in Māruva is explained as we have a composition by both of the composers in this rāgam.

Māruva is a bhāṣāṅga janyam of Māyamālavagaula. Both the kṛti-s Māruvakādi mālini of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Ēmamma of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are composed in the pallavi-anupallavi-svaram format. Both have madhyamakāla sāhityam and both are set to ādi tāḷam.

The svara patterns used by these composers can be easily understood from this table.

For both the kṛti-s, tāḷam is divided as 16+8+8 accounting for laghu + drutam + drutam. This svara segment run for two āvartanam.

Āvartanaṃ Segment in ādi tāḷaṃ   Māruvakādi mālini          Ēmamma

Āvartanaṃ 1

      16 segment 7+6+3 4+4+4+4
    First 8 segment 8 6+2
 Second 8 segment 5+3 4+4

Āvartanaṃ 2

      16 segment 8+3+5 3+3+4+6
    First 8 segment 8 8
 Second 8 segment 5+3 8

When we compare the svara patterns in these two kṛti-s, symmetrical svara pattern, profuse use of  laghu svara-s are more seen in ēmamma. Also attractive patterns like MGRsRND MGRsRGM are seen (small case indicates elongation of that particular svaram as a kārvai).

Attractive svara patterns are seen in almost all the kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Few examples that can cited are DdDPMG, MmPMGR, GgMGRS in the Nādarāmakriyā kṛti of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya (tuned by Subbarāma Dīkśitar) and PmMgGrRs, RmMgGrRSR in a daru in Naṭanārāyaṇi. Contrastingly, complicated laya patterns are more common and is very rare to find rhythmic pattern in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.

The number 4 and 8 are also handled differently by these composers:

In the kṛti “māruvakādi mālini”, 8 is split as 2+1+2+2+1 in the first āvartanam and 1+1+1+2+1+1+1 in the second āvartanam. Whereas in the kṛti ēmamma, it is split as 1+1+1+1 x 2 in the first and 1+1+1+2+1+1+1 in the second āvartanam. 4s are always treated as 1+1+1+1 by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in this kṛti (See Footnote 1).

These patterns can be easily discerned from the audio links.

Svara segment in the kṛti“māruvakādi mālini”

Svara segment in the kṛti “ēmamma”

The kṛti “ēmamma” can be heard  in full here.

The kriti “māruvakādi mālini” can be heard in full here.

Having seen the basic pattern handled by these two composers, let us now compare these passages with the svara passage seen in the Rāmakali kṛti.

Svara passage seen in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”

This is set to rūpaka tāḷam and has two āvartanam. 4 complete tāla cycles makes one āvartanam. Rūpaka tāḷam is reckoned as drutam + laghu, the way by which we render a rūpaka tāḷa alaṅkāram. This is divided as 4+8 units in each tāḷa cycle so that the count becomes 12. We see the following svara arrangement:

             Āvartanaṃ Tāḷa cycle Svara pattern

Āvartanaṃ 1

Tala cycle 1 (3+1) + (4+4)
Tala cycle 2 (2+2) + (2+2+2+2)
Tala cycle 3 (4) + (2+2+2+2)
Tala cycle 4 (2+2) + (2+2+4)

Āvartanaṃ 2

Tala cycle 1 (2+2) + (2+2+4)
Tala cycle 2 (2+2) + (2+2+4)
Tala cycle 3 (2+2) + (2+4+2)
Tala cycle 4 (2+2) + (4+4)

Svara segment in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”

We can see an overall symmetry and use of lot of laghu svarā-s and a svara pattern arranged in even numbers. The first āvartanam itself is weaved with a beautiful pattern. Taken together, this svara segment resemble the svara pattern seen in the kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Svara segment in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”

Rūpaka tāḷam
The most common tāḷam handled by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is rūpakam followed by tisra ēkam. When his compositions, other than varṇā-s are taken into consideration, rūpaka tāḷa compositions outnumber others. 6 out of 12 were in rūpaka tāḷam. Among his nine rāgamālika-s, five were in rūpakam. It is reminded here, “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” is also set to the tālam rūpakam !!

A careful analysis of this text, patterns observed in the svara segment and this kṛti being set in rūpaka tāḷam make us to consider Subbarāma Dīkṣitar could have composed this kṛti.

Note on the method of rendering the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha”  

Various renditions of this kṛti are easily available in various public domains. We frequently hear this kṛti rendered in Hindustāni style, perhaps due to the roots of this rāgam in the Hindustāni syatem and a popular belief that it was composed by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Having revisited these thoughts and arriving at a conclusion which is contrary to the belief, at least, few of us will be interested to know the rāgam as conceptualized by Subbarāma Dīkśitar.  Analysis of the notations reveal, almost all the variety of gamaka-s were used – kaṃpitam, nokku, ōrika and jāru. The preponderance of jāru is not seen, making us to believe this can be sung in our style. Also, no instruction regarding the style for this kṛti was attached. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, being precise in his views would have mentioned the same if his intent was to render it in Hindustāni style . Hence, a humble attempt was made to render this composition in our style.

Research in any field allows multiple interpretations and every researcher is allowed to put forward his findings for the growth of any field. These views are not proposed to controvert with the prevalent notions; rather to give a different interpretation based on the available evidences.

Conclusion

We started with two queries – disputes regarding the author of the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and the authority of using prati madhyamam in the rāgam Rāmakali.

Available evidences make us to believe this kṛti was composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

This kṛti of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can be heard here.

The authority on treating this as a prati madhyama rāgam will be covered in part II of this series.

The rāgam Rāmakali and the kṛti “Rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”- Part II

References

Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgītasampradāyapradarśinī, Vidyavilasini Press, 1904.

Footnotes

  1. In general, we can find 1+2+1, 2+1+1 or 1+1+2 pattern more commonly than all laghu svarā-s while handling 4s in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Odd numbers are commonly used giving them a complicated and asymmetric appearance. We do have few kṛti-s wherein the pattern is simple, like the one we see in the kṛti śrī mātaḥ in Bēgaḍā; they are only exceptions. On the other kind, kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are flooded with all 4 laghu svarā-s and most of the svara passages sound simple.