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

Let us go to the next segment in this series, on the authority of using prati madhyamam in this rāgam, being a janyam of Māyāmālavagaula. It will not be incongruous if the history of this rāgam is explained, before taking up the main question.


Rāmakali was relatively a popular rāga during 16-17 CE and we can see the treatises like Rāgamañjari of Paṇdarika Viṭṭala, Hṛudayakautuka and Hṛdayaprakāśa of Hṛdayanārāyaṇadeva and Anūpasaṅgītaratnākara of Bhāvabhaṭṭa mentioning about this rāgam. It is a general opinion that these treatises represent the Hindustāni tradition of our Classical music, indicating a rāga with this name was common in the Northern territory.

Circumstantial phrases delineating the rāgam was not given and we are left with a simple description – GPDS NDPGMGRS, credits to Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva. It is to be remembered here that many of the earlier treatises belonging to16-17 CE do not describe a rāga with illustrative phrases. Hence, we are clueless about the melodic structure of Rāmakali of 16-17 CE excluding the remark that this rāgam drops madhyamam and niṣādam in the ascent and has the above mentioned phrase.  In the treatises mentioned, this is considered as a sampūrṇa janyam of a melam, equivalent to our present day Māyāmālavagaula, mēla 15 (See Footnote 1). This rāga was not catalogued by the musicologists of the Southern territory like Gōvinda Dīkṣita, Śāhāji or Tulajā.

Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā, published by Music Academy mention this rāgam. This is mentioned as a dēsīya rāgam and a bhāṣāṅga janyam of Māyāmālavagaula, the mela 15. Subbarāma Dīkśitar further elaborates and illustrate the various phrases used in this rāgam. Hence, a complete picture of this rāgam as we see today in the uruppaḍi-s mentioned is obtained only from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar’s treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī. Here, he gives a hitherto unknown points, that it is customary to use prati madhyamam, also called by the name Pibhās and a rāgam imported from North of this country.

From the above discussion it is clear that Rāmakali was a sampūrṇa rāgam popular in the Northern territory of this country. Description of this rāgam is very scanty in the earlier treatises. As we move down the timeline, we can see this was described by a single phrase GPDS NDPGMGRS. This rāgam was totally unnoticed by the major musicologists of the Southern territory and a complete description of this rāgam is seen for the first time only in the year 1904, credits to Subbarāma Dīkśitar.


Bibhās could have been much more popular rāga than Rāmakali, both in both the territories, North and South. Almost every other book seems to mention this rāgam. When the raga structure with the available phrases were analyzed, there seem to be two Bibhās, one as a janyam of the mēla corresponding to the present day Kāmavardhani, mela 51 and the other one corresponding to the present day mela 15.

Bibhās as a janyam of mela 51

Bibhās aka Bibhāsu aka Vibhās aka Vibhāsa is mentioned in Rāga mañjari and Rāga mālā (both by Paṇḍarīka Viṭṭhala), Saṅgīta Pārijāta, Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha, and Anūpa Saṅgīta Vilāsa. Of these, descriptive elements are seen given in Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha and Saṅgīta Pārijāta. The phrase MGRGRS is stressed in Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha, whereas this is not seen in the description available in Pārijāta. Excluding these small differences, over all visualization of Bibhās is similar in both the treatises. In both the treatises, SRGPDS and the phrases involving GPD were given more prominence. Though DND is seen, the phrase DNS is avoided completely. Needless to say, madhyamam employed here is of tīvra variety and can be called as ‘prati madhyama Bibhās’.

Bibhās as a janyam of mela 15

Texts like Hṛudayakautuka and Hṛdayaprakāśa of Hṛdayanārāyaṇadeva, Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śāhāji and Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulajā consider Bibhās as a janya of mēla 15 (śuddha madhyama Bibhās). Considerable difference exist in the descriptions across these treatises to the extent that they deserve an individual treatment. Also, all these treatises give just one or two phrases to illustrate this rāgam.

Bibhās in Hṛudayakautuka, Rāga lakṣaṇamu and Saṣgīta Sārāmṛta has the phrase DNS and is considerably different from the Bibhās seen in the earlier section. Hence, Bibhās mentioned by later lakṣaṇakāra-s like Śāhāji and Tulajā is totally different from the Bibhās prevalent during late 16 CE and early 17 CE (prati madhyama Bibhās).

Bibhās in Hṛdayaprakāśa omits gāndhāram and madhyamam and is different from both the varieties mentioned.

Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā mentions both Rāmakali and Bibhās and places both under the mela 15. Whereas the former was credited with a ślokam and the latter was not even described.

Rāmakali as described in Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī

More descriptive image of this rāgam comes only from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. As mentioned earlier, despite being a janyam of mela 15, traditionally this uses prati madhyamam says Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. We don’t have adequate evidences from textual or oral tradition either to understand the melodic structure of Rāmakali extant during the days of Subbarāma Dīkśitar nor to compare this Rāmakali with the one described in the treatises. If we consider the single available phrase GPDS  NDPGMGRS (refer to the description of Rāmakali mentioned in earlier treatises mentioned elsewhere in this article), GPDS is the recurrent motif seen in all the compositions. We do not find NDPGM; we do find NDPmG at one place where madhyamam occurs more like an anusvaram. Though we are unable to conclusively say that Rāmakali mentioned here is same as the one mentioned by Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva, we can say at least the phrase given there very well fits into the description given by Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva.

More importantly, Rāmakali of Dīkṣitar goes very well with the Bibhāsu of the first type (the type employing prati madhyamam), provided we accept the madhyamam as tīvra.

Presumptions from the above discussion

The following presumptions can be made regarding Rāmakali – Bibhās:

Rāmakali is a rāgam of great antiquity and must have been popular in the Northern part of our country as few treatises make a note of this rāgam . It should have been a suddha madhyama rāgam. It is very difficult to understand the melodic structure of this rāgam with the single phrase available.
At the same time, there existed Bibhās, almost with a similar structure but featuring prati madhyamam. This should have been much more popular than Rāmakali, as every other treatise make a note of this rāgam. The melodic structure of the prati madhyama Bibhās is almost similar to Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This prati madhyama Bibhās could have been alluded to in the Rāmakali section by Subbarāma Dīkśitar. It is emphasized here that the Rāmakali and the prati madhyama Bibhās were only mentioned in the treatises treating Hindustāni rāgā-s and the first Karnāṭaka Music text referring these rāga-s is the Anubandham or Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā published by Music Academy.
This could have a been period when all the three rāga-s co-existed; Rāmakali, a janyam of mēla 15 and the two Bibhās. It can be hypothesized here, Rāmakali was only practiced in North India and the prati madhyama Bibhās could have been referred as Rāmakali by Vēṅkaṭamakhin in the South (he is specifically mentioned considering the link given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar) in the South. Considering the old nomenclature, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives an additional information that Rāmakali is also called as Bibhās (See Footnote 2).
Subbarāma Dīkśitar mentions more than a time that Vēṅkaṭamakhin has authored another text dealing with the rāga lakṣaṇa. If we go by his words, that missing text could have been composed in the second half of 17 CE, the time when majority of the texts mentioning prati madhyama Bibhās were composed. Either Rāmakali or prati madhyama Bibhās or both of them could have been mentioned there.
Śuddha madhyama Bibhās could have flourished earlier or more popular than its prati madhyama counterpart in the South. This tradition later continues to Śāhāji and Tulajā wherein they have made a mention only about śuddha madhyama Bibhās. Not all the lakṣaṇa granthā-s are comprehensive in cataloguing the rāga-s prevalent during their time; hence Rāmakali could have been missed by Śāhāji and Tulajā (See Footnote 3).
Having seen the history and lakṣaṇa of Rāmakali and its ally Bibhās with its variations, an attempt will be made now to address the question on the use of prati madhyamam in this rāgam. As mentioned, the only evidence of using prati madhyamam comes from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The problem in use of this svaram arise not because of this rāgam being considered as a janyam of mēla 15, but only due to lack of a symbol denoting this svaram in the notation provided.

Rāmakali, being a janyam of mela 15 has śuddha madhyamam as a default svaram, and the anya svaram prati madhyamam is to be denoted with a symbol. This is the system followed by Dīkṣitar in his treatise for every other rāgam having an anya svaram. Strangely, despite using a symbol to denote this anya svaram (prati madhyamam) in the section wherein this rāgam is described, the notation system totally lacks this symbol. A question arises on the use of prati madhyamam and we are left with three interpretations – either to use śuddha madhyamam completely as this is a janya of Māyāmālavagaula (which takes only śuddha madhyamam) or to use prati madhyamam alone as he says it is customary to use only prati madhyamam or to use prati madhyamam only in the phrases DMPG, DPMG, MGDPMG and DPMG, as he has inserted the symbol to denote prati madhyamam for these phrases under the section explaining rāga lakṣaṇam.

To get an answer to this question we need to look into two aspects – history of this rāgam and the observations and interpretations we get it by analyzing this same text. History of this rāgam was explained and it will be recalled at a later period. Now, we will look in for the evidences/observations from this text.

This kind of discrepancy between the lakṣaṇa section (section explaining rāga lakṣaṇam) and the lakṣya segment (section giving the kṛti-s in notation) exist at various other places too in this same text at various other places. When a discrepancy is seen between any two segments, for example, difference in the assignment of foreign notes between the lakṣaṇa segment and the lakṣya section, do we have to take it as a printing error (or) considering the painful scrutinizing procedures followed and the various methods adopted to overcome these errors, these are to be taken as the actual ideas of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar himself? (Readers are requested to refer tappōppalu and porabāṭalu section explained elsewhere in this article).

Considering the above discussion, a student who tries to interpret this treatise is thus left with two options – first one is to believe these discrepancies as an inadvertent errors and tries to reconcile the errors with his level of knowledge and understanding. Second one is to accept as it is, confidently believing in Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and his sagacious grasp over the subject.   Both the options are acceptable as any research is open to interpretations. For this author, second approach appears to suit well as we are totally blind about the traditions that prevailed in the past, say around 200 years ago, and by following this approach, the individual fancies and inclinations of the researcher are kept to a bare minimum; it is more like an untainted aural reproduction of the visual representation. The second approach is also followed as this author believes the complete text is protected by the two sections mentioned.  errors could have crept in, but they are unfathomable to us.

When interpreting the notations given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it is not only required to understand the context, but also develop an ability to relate other segments or rāgam-s given in this text. Now, let us go away from Rāmakali for a while and try to understand the lakṣaṇa of the rāga-s Ghanṭa and Sāvēri. Let us see an unseen similarity between these three rāga-s and how this can be used to solve the problem related to the madhyamam. Ghanṭa, now is a bhāṣāṅga janyam of mēla 8 and uses two varieties of ṛṣabham – śuddha and catuśruti (pañcaśruti). Subbarāma Dīkṣitar consider this as an upāṅga janyam of mela 20 and recommends the use of catuśruti ṛṣabham only. He clearly says the use of śuddha ṛṣabham came into practice only after the demise of Vēṅkaṭamakhin. Though he give phrases in the lakṣaṇa section wherein śuddha ṛṣabham is used, he never gives the symbol to denote the use of śuddha ṛṣabham in the notation (lakṣya section). This is exactly similar to Rāmakali, wherein he says only prati madhyamam is used as per the tradition in the lakṣaṇa section but fail to use the symbol for prati madhyamam in notation. This is clearly an indication that this text is filled with many abstruse details and these disparateness cannot be dismissed or neglected as a printing error for the lack of understanding on our side. To understand more, let us see the rāgam Sāvēri. Sāvēri is placed under the mēla 15, as a bhāṣāṅga janyam, implying it takes some anya svaram. Going by the normal rules, this should take antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar says the common gāndhāram and niṣādham seen in this rāgam are sādharaṇa and kaiśiki respectively and he will give the symbols only for antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham whenever they occur (svagīya svaram or default svaram in this rāgam). This is the only rāgam in the entire treatise, wherein symbols are given for the default svaram (See Footnote 4). This pattern is followed since, if we need to mark the anya svaram in this ragam, namely sādharaṇa gāndhāram and kaiśiki niṣādham, the entire notation will be filled with these symbols as the default antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham occur very very rarely. This looks not only cumbersome but also could have been posed difficulties while printing.

Let us go back to Ghanṭā and Rāmakali. Though the discrepancies seen between the lakṣaṇa and lakṣya section is similar in both the rāga-s as pointed out earlier, they are introduced differently by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and this is very vital for understanding any rāgam and employing a particular svaram – dhaivatam and madhyamam respectively in these rāgam. Whereas Ghanṭā is introduced as an upāṅga rāgam, Rāmakali is introduced as a bhāṣāṅga rāgam. If Rāmakali is to be used only with śuddha madhyamam and the use of prati madhyamam was introduced later, he could have tagged it as an upāṅga rāgam like Ghanṭā.

Hence we can surmise, either prati madhyamam alone can be used or a combination of śuddha and prati madhyamam can be used. Rāmakali share similarities with Sāveri and the method adopted for the latter is followed with the former for marking the anya svaram. Though the default svaram is śuddha madhyamam, it was a tradition to use only prati madhyamam is reminded again. If this rāga had both the madhyamam and the anya svaram prati madhyamam is the preponderant svaram, he would have marked the default svaram śuddha madhyamam with a symbol and given us a note (compare this with Sāvēri). But this rāgam, unlike Sāvēri, does not use its svagīya svaram – śuddha madhyamam and hence he didn’t mark madhyamam with any symbol in the lakṣya section allowing us to interpret this rāgam can be/to be sung with prati madhyamam only.

This finding can now be related with the history of this rāgam. We have seen Rāmakali was popular in the North and being recorded only in few treatises, indicate its limited popularity. We have also seen that the Rāmakali given in Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī resembles more like prati madhyama Bibhās. This Bibhās could have been called as Rāmakali in the South. So, the Rāmakali of the North, a śuddha madhyamam rāgam, though similar to prati madhyama Bibhās, is different from the Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The Rāmakali described by Subbarāma Dikṣitar is similar or could have been the same as the prati madhyama Bibhās. Hence, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives a disclaimer it is customary to sing this with prati madhyamam.

Now an explanation is invited for placing this rāgam under mēla 15. No conclusive explanations can be given until we get the treatise referred by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. However, this can be a rāgam similar to Dhanyāsi, getting allocated to a different mēla than where it ought to be.

Rāgamālika passages in the anubandham of Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī

Apart from the kṛti discussed, we see this rāgam in two rāgamālika-s, “sāmaja gamana” and “nātakādi vidyāla” composed by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar. We face a different problem with the Rāmakali lakṣya in these rāgamālika passages. In both the rāgamālika segments, prati madhyamam symbol is inserted, but at only one place.

Rāmakali passage in the rāgamālika “nātakādi vidyāla”

This rāgam comes at the end of this composition. Madhyamam is utilized in the following phrases – DPMG,DPPMG, MGPD and GMGRS. First phrase is the most common of all. The madhyamam in all these phrases are of śuddha variety only. Prati madhyamam is seen once in the phrase DPMG.  Interestingly, we see a new phrase SNSRS. This phrase SNS is not at all seen in the uruppaḍi-s featured under Rāmakali section. Also, the glide from avarōhaṇam to ārōhaṇam is always through the phrase DPMG in this rāgamālika. Phrases like PDM DMPG were not used (which are there in the Rāmakali section given in the main text). Now, can we hypothesize the Rāmakali seen in this rāgamālika is different from the Rāmakali described in the main text? If that is so, can this be the Rāmakali of the North, a janya of mēla 15 ?

We have seen before the Rāmakali of the North much resembles the prati madhyama Bibhās except in having a śuddha madhyamam (as a dominant svaram). So, the difference between these two rāga-s could have been the presence of the phrase SNS and the absence of the phrases PDM and DMPG in the Rāmakali of the North. This Rāmakali might also have had prati madhyamam as an anya svaram. To distinguish this Rāmakali (of North) from another Rāmakali (prati madhyama Bibhās), Subbarāma Dīkṣitar might have given an additional information that the Rāmakali given by him is also called as Bibhās. This hypothesis can be confirmed only if we get the text referred by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar or any other treatise or references taking us to the period between 16-17 CE.

Rāmakali passage in the rāgamālika “sāmaja gamana”

Rāmakali passage in this rāgamālika is very short to make any conclusions. The passage starts with the phrase MGGP, where the madhyamam is of tīvra variety. Madhyamam occur in two other phrases – DPMG and DPPMG, wherein it is of śuddha variety.

Though the phrase SNS is not seen, DPMG is the only linking phrase between avarōhaṇam and ārōhaṇam is to be noted.

With the present level of understanding, these are recondite findings and we need to search for more evidence.

But, Rāmakali employing only prati madhyamam can be very well applied for the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” as both the laskṣaṇa segment and this kṛti was authored by Subbarāma Dīkśitar. Regarding the use of prati madhyamam in the rāgam Rāmakali before the time of Subbarāma Dikṣitar and our hypothesis, we allow the readers to make their own interpretations and this post will be updated, if any valuable evidence surface out.


Regarding the use of prati madhyamam, though we cannot say about the system that was in existence before the period of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it can be clearly inferred that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar must have had some authentic references to use only prati madhyamam and he must have used the same in his kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”. We also hypothesized the Rāmakali handled by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar could have been Rāmakali of the North and differs from the Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in the main text.

This kṛti rendered with only prati madhyamam can be heard here.

Link to the first part of this series –


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.


  1. From the days of Rāmamāṭya (or Vidhyāraṇyā), mēla system is in use and the number of mēlā-s vary across the treatise. Also varies the name of the head representing each clan. Hence, in this post, whenever the older mēla-s are mentioned, they are not mentioned by their names or number, but are just equated with the present mēlakarta number for easier understanding.
  2. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar mentions Vēṅkaṭamakhin authored a separate text on rāga lakṣaṇam. We have no clue about that work and musicologists are of the opinion that the Anubandham to Caturdanḍi Prakāśikā might be the work, as it contains the same rāga lakṣaṇa śloka-s mentioned by Dīkśitar in his treatise. Also, they believe Dīkśitar could have referred to Muddu Vēṅkaṭamakhin, a descendant of Vēṅkaṭamakhin whenever he mentions about a text on rāga lakśaṇam. This author has a different opinion and follows the idea of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar; will be uploaded as a separate post.
  3. Not all the treatises are comprehensive in cataloguing the rāga-s of their period. We do have evidence that the rāga-s like Bēgaḍa, Aṭāṇa and Suraṭi were used by Śāhāji; but they are not mentioned in his treatise !!
  4. When a rāgam takes a svaram which is foreign to its parent scale, that foreign svaram is considered as ‘anya’. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, always mentions this anya svaram with a symbol. Only for the rāgam Sāvēri, the svara-s inherent to that rāgam are denoted with a symbol.