Colorful Bhāṣāṅgā-s

The term ‘bhāṣāṅga’ connoted different meaning at different point of time in the history of Karnāṭaka Music. During the period when the “grāma-mūrcana” system was in use, the term bhāṣāṅga denote the rāga-s that reflect other bhāṣā-s. In other words, this term denote the rāga-s that came from other regions. After the development of “mēla-janya” system, many terms which were used in the “grāma-mūrcana” era were used with a different connotation. Bhāṣāṅgā is one such.

The term Bhāṣāṅgā in the post “grāma-mūrcana” era appears first in the treatise “Rāga lakṣaṇam” appended to Caturdaṇḍīprakāṣikā of Vēṅkaṭamakhī. Author of this small treatise is uncertain and is attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhī or Muḍḍu Vēṅkaṭamakhī by different musicologists. Though the mentioned text mentions this term, proper definition of this term can be learnt only from Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his treatise defines bhāṣāṅgā rāga-s are those that take svarā-s from other rāgāṅga rāga-s (mēla-s) according to its character.1 This is referred as anya svara in today’s parlance. Though, this is a commonly accepted terminology now and used unanimously, this term was used differently by different musicians in the past. One such example is seen in the book by Bhatkhande. He interviewed various musicians of the South and one such prominent musician who registered his views to Bhatkhande was Rāmanāthapuram Śrinivasa Ayyaṅgār (see Footnote 1). He gives a different percept on these rāga-s. He says these rāga-s do not confirm with the classification given by the śāstrā-s completely; have folk influences and are usually named after the region from where they originate. It will be clear from the above discussion that this term, though now denote the rāga-s which carry one or two anya svarā-s, was used conveying varied ideas in the past. Hence, 19th century saw not only a new platform to exhibit the musical talents of artists, it was also a watershed period in the pages of modern musicology. This heterogeneity of these bhāṣāṅgā-s and its implications are addressed to in this post.

Not many texts published during the last century give us a valid information about the presence of anya svarā-s in these bhāṣāṅgā-s. Though the series of texts by K V Śrinivāsa Ayyaṅgār and later by Raṅgarāmānuja Ayyaṅgār clearly mention the presence of these anya svara-s, they fail to mark these svarā-s in notation. Though, the rāga lakṣaṇa section describes succinctly about the presence of these anya svāra-s and the phrases in which they appear, this cannot be considered as a comprehensive guide to know the real svarūpa of these rāga-s as the notation lack signs to know their presence or absence. To understand this problem and its ramifications, let us first look into the treatise by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and the procedure he followed to introduce these bhāṣāṅgā-s, as this is the first text to include the symbols for anya svarā-s along with an explanation for all the rāga-s employed in the treatise.

Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Śrī Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

In this treatise, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has classified the rāga-s into three categories: rāgāṅga rāga-s (which may be considered as an equivalent to mēla-s), upāṅga and  bhāṣāṅga rāga-s. Under each rāgāṅga  rāga-s, he gives a list of janya-s: upāṅga and bhāṣāṅga rāga-s. He then proceeds to explain each rāga in detail. Under each bhāṣāṅga rāga, its mūrcana, a description about its arterial phrases, anya svarā-s, if present were given. Anya svara-s when present were marked with a symbol, both in the text and notated sections. The readers are requested to pay attention here to observe a valuable finding that anya svarā-s were not given for all bhāṣāṅga-s. To make it simpler, rāga-s like Śrī rañjani, Dēvamanōhari etc., though mentioned as a bhāṣāṅga rāga, no anya svaram can be seen either in the rāga lakṣaṇa section or in the notated section. This discrepancy does not end with this! The lakṣaṇa segment given before each rāga does not necessarily supplement the lakṣaṇa portrayed in the kṛti-s. There is a discrepancy in the occurrence of anya svara-s between the lakṣaṇa section and the lakṣya section. For instance, he considers Saurāṣtram as a bhāṣāṅga janya of Māyāmāḷavagaula and says śuddha dhaivatam occurs in the prayōga-s PDP and PDDP in the lakṣaṇa section. Whereas this is strictly observed in the kṛti Sūryamūrte, in the kṛti Varalakṣmīm the phrase PDP uses both the dhaivatam; PDP with pañcaśruti (catuśruti) is seen at the beginning of the kṛti and the same phrase with śuddha dhaivatam occurs in the beginning of caraṇam of the same kṛti!! Another interesting rāga is Pūrṇacandrika wherein he says the anya svaram kaiṣiki niṣādham can be seen in the phrases PNS and SDNP. Strangely, none of the notated compositions show the presence of this svaram in the mentioned phrases !!

In some other bhāṣāṅga-s like Śahāna, same phrase sports svakīya (its default svara) and anya svara at different occasions. Śahāna is placed under the rāgāṅga rāga Śri and the preponderant gāndharam, by default is of sādhāraṇa variety. Antara gāndharam features only in selected phrases. The point here is, a prescription on the use of antara gāndharam is not clear both in lakṣya and lakṣaṇa section. For example, the phrase RGMP uses both the gāndhara-s, though at different locations. How these discrepancies are to be reconciled? Do they have to be considered as printing errors and be self-corrected or it is an inkling given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar on the colorful nature of bhāṣāṅga-s ?

Bhāṣāṅga-s

Let us revisit the bhāṣāṅga-s mentioned in Pradarśini and try to classify them to make this discussion more comprehensible. There are totally 55 bhāṣāṅga rāga-s mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The distribution of these rāga-s is not uniform across the rāgāṅga rāga-s. Whereas the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Māyāmāḷavagaula and Śaṅkarābharaṇam are flooded with a multitude of bhāṣāṅga rāga-s, no janya rāga-s can be seen for the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Saurasēna or Kiraṇāvaḷi. In between are the rāgāṅga rāga-s Kanakāmbari and Kāśirāmakriya which have only upāṅga janya-s.

These 55 bhāṣāṅga rāga-s can be classified into three types for easy understanding:

  1. Bhāṣāṅga rāga-s with anya svara marked – Rāga-s like Aṭāṇa, Pūrṇacandrika, Śahāna, etc., fall under this category.
  2. Bhāṣāṅga rāga-s with anya svara not marked – Madhyamāvati, Devamanōhari, Nāyaki, etc., come under this category.
  3. Third category rāga-s are those in which the lakṣaṇa śloka given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar also mention the presence of anya svara, in addition to being marked by Dīkṣitar. There are three rāga-s in this category – Saurāṣtram, Bhairavi, Kāmbhōji.

From this preliminary discussion, it can be inferred that, the presence of anya svara might not have been the single criteria to label a rāga as bhāṣāṅga, with a special reference to the rāga-s classified as type two. There might have been some other reasons which is not visible from presently available evidences. This thought is further supported by the finding that, none of the other treatises, including Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, considered to be written around or prior to 18 CE mention the term bhāṣāṅga rāga-s (excluding the treatise Rāga Lakṣaṇa cited initially). More importantly, these treatises don’t even mention about the presence or absence of anya svaram (see Footnote 2). This raises a doubt whether these anya svara-s are an integral part of the rāga architecture that is essential to carve a rāga svarūpa or they are like optional entities that came into practice later.

Let us proceed further to dissect the other two types to understand the multiple hues reflected by these bhāṣāṅga-s. We have mentioned earlier that there are some exceptions, wherein the presence of anya svara in the bhāṣāṅga rāga-s have been mentioned across the treatises. Only three rāga-s can be located to have this unique distinction – Saurāṣtram, Bhairavi and Kāmbhōji. The anya svara featuring in these rāga-s, pañcaśruti (catuśruti) dhaivatam in Saurāṣtram and Bhairavi and kākali niṣādham in Kāmbhōji were mentioned in the lakṣaṇa śloka-s in the Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and the Rāga Lakṣaṇa treatise of disputable authorship. Few references can also be seen in earlier treatises (see Footnote 3).

It can be now inferred that, at least from the period in which Rāga Lakṣaṇa was written (first quarter of 18th century or a 17 century work, if proved to be a work of Vēṅkaṭamakhī), use of anya svaram in these three rāga-s were prevalent. But, in the case of Saurāṣtram, only the presence of pañcaśruti dhaivatam was hinted and not about the other anya svaram kaiśiki niṣādham. So we are left with no clue as on the period from which this came into practice.

Let us move into the other discrepancy, on the use of these anya svara-s in these bhāṣāṅga-s especially those belonging to the first type. As mentioned earlier, a lot of discrepancy is noted in handling these anya svara-s between lakṣya and lakṣaṇa section in the Pradarśini. As they are noticeable in almost all the bhāṣāṅga-s placed under type one in our classification, it is better to look in for a  tangible rationale prevailed during those old days rather to repudiate it calling it as printing errors. Analyzing the notations of all the compositions provided for these rāga-s, it can be hypothesized that the phrases involving these anya svara-s can be grouped into three types. 

  1. Phrases that take only svakīya svara-s
  2. Phrases that take only anya svara-s
  3. Fluid phrases that might take either of these svara-s depending on the choice of the vaggēyakāra.

This will be explained by taking Śahāna as an example.

Śahāna, as mentioned earlier is considered as a janya of Śri. Hence, sādhāraṇa gāndharam is the svakīya svara (its default svaram) and antara gāndharam becomes anya svaram. It is to be remembered here that Śahāna is now considered as a janya of Harikāmbōji, implying antara gāndharam is the svakīya svaram to be employed and the use of sādhāraṇa gāndharam is not in practice.

When the notations given by Subbārama Dīkṣitar were analyzed, the phrases involving the gāndharam can be placed into the above-mentioned categories:

  1. Phrases that take only svakīya svara (sādhāraṇa) like GG, RGRS
  2. Phrases that take only anya svara (antara) like SRGMPDN, PRGDP
  3. Fluid phrases that take either of these svara-s depending on the choice of the vaggēyakāra – RGMPM, MGMR

(The phrases mentioned above are only explanatory and not comprehensive by any means).

So, a vaggēyakāra has an option of using any gāndhara, when he employs the fluid phrases. This hypothesis also help us to dispel the problem in placing a rāga like this under a particular mēla. For example, if a vaggēyakāra uses profuse (or only) sādhāraṇa gāndharam in these fluid phrases and uses antara variety sparsely, this rāga sounds like a janya of Śri. Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar has followed this in his kṛti “vāśi vāśi” which can be heard here.

On the other hand, if a vaggēyakāra uses profuse (or only) antara gāndharam in these fluid phrases and uses sādhāraṇa variety sparsely, this sounds like a janya of Harikāmbhōji. Perhaps, this could have been followed by Paiḍāla Gurumūrti Śāstri, as he considers this as a janya of Kāmbhōji in his gītam. Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar was relatively more generous in using these anya svara-s when compared to Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar. We have no idea about the stand of Tyagarāja Svāmigal, as the oldest notations that give his kṛti-s in notation, written by Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar does not specify the svara sthāna-s.

This versatility of using these anya svara-s give multiple colors to these bhāṣāṅga-s. Also, it can be very well guessed, a rāga could have been handled without using these anya svara-s. Pūrṇacandrika is an example of this type. None of the compositions notated in this rāgam sport the anya svaram kaiṣiki niṣādham though we have a mention about this svaram by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in the lakṣaṇa section of Pūrṇacandrika. This flexibility in handling of these anya svaram is applicable only to selected rāga-s like Pūrṇacandrika or all the bhāṣāṅga  is not clear. But, this is a common finding in almost all the rāgamālika-s involving these bhāṣāṅga-s. This heterogeneity and versatility gets multifold when a bhāṣāṅga has more than one anya svara. This is so with the case of Āhiri, which uses all the svara-s sans prati madhyamaṃ. So, a vaggēyakāra can manipulate these rāga-s in his own imitable form to paint multiple colors, in order to serve his need of bringing the bhāva that he wishes. Unfortunately, Āhiri, who was once decorated with a colorful raiment is now seen, always wearing a white sāri. It is also unfortunate to know that the original tunes in these rāga-s were lost forever, as we cannot judge the side taken by the vaggēyakāra when composing in these rāga-s, unless we get a notation as in Pradarśini, which denotes the svara variety too. A detailed discussion about individual bhāṣāṅga-s, anya svara featuring in these rāga-s, the fluid phrases seen, details about them in various musicological texts with an analysis will be covered separately.

Similar findings can also be seen in a book by Popley (see Footnote 4). Several Christian poems tuned to classical rāga-s can be seen in this book. Several bhāṣāṅga-s feature there and the anya svara was also marked in notation. This book too serve to support our hypothesis about these bhāṣāṅga-s, especially those belonging to type 1. For instance, Bhairavi was handled by him without a trace of anya svara – catuśruti dhaivatam (the author was well aware of Naṭabhairavi and has tuned one poem to the latter) !!

Prior to Stephen and Popley, Bhairavi was handled like an upāṅga in the kṛti ‘rāma lokābhirāma’ of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya (tuned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar). Whereas this kṛti totally eschews the phrase NDNS, wherein the anya svara catuśruti dhaivatham occurs, Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar has used this phrase, eschewing the anya svaram in the rāgamālika ‘śivamōhana’.

We are indebted to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar for giving us, at least the kṛti-s known to him in notation with a svara and gamaka symbol, as we not only can imagine the structure of these bhāṣāṅga-s, but also get an idea about the colorful architecture of these rāga-s.

Conclusion

Though we were made to believe from the available evidences that the presence of anya svara is a requisite to label a rāga as bhāṣāṅgā, it is clear that this was not the only criteria used in the past. Rāga-s like Śrī rañjani, Madhyamāvati which do not use any anya svara serves as an example to prove this statement. We also have evidences to consider the bhāṣānga-s could have been in use without anya svara. When present, the vaggēyakāra could have had the liberty to use or not to use these anya svara-s. Similarly, there could have flexibility in using svakīya svara or anya svara in a phrase. This versatility makes them colorful which was used to its maximum by a vaggēyakāra. Much more research into this field might prove or disprove this hypothesis.

Footnotes                              

Foote note 1: Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande’s memoirs of south India: “Meri Dakshin Bharat ki Sangeet Yatra” is a Hindi work recording his experiences with various musicians of South India flourished during his period. Vidvān Śri Navaneethakrishnan is into the task of translating this monumental work. This information on bhāgāṅga rāga-s as given by Rāmanāthapuram Śrinivasa Ayyaṅgār to by Bhatkhande was gracefully shared to me by the mentioned vidvān.

Foot note 2: Treatises like Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi do not even mention about the presence or absence of anya svara-s. We really do not know this lack of mentioning is due to ignorance of the author or the lack of usage of these svara-s during their period.

Foot note 3: Śahaji in his treatise Rāga lakṣaṇamu describes saurāṣtram as a rāga that uses śuddha niṣādham (kvaccitu śuddha niṣādham vaccunu). Dr Hema Ramanathan opines this could be a reference to the use of pañcaśruti dhaivatham in her gargantuan work “Rāga Lakṣaṇa Saṅgrahamu”.2

Foot note 4: Stephen and Popley in the year 1914 published a book containing Christian poems set to classical rāga-s in notation. The book was published to create an awareness about Christian truth and spread evangelism to Hindu audiences, says the author.  It is a comprehensive book containing all the basic information about our system – rāga, tāḷa, gamaka and notation system. Various poems explaining various fables were set to music. A wide array of rāga-s were employed involving mēla-s, upāṅga and bhāṣāṅga rāga-s.3

References

1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgītasampradāyapradarśinī (English edition). The Music Academy,  Madras, pg 79.  

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

3. Stephen LI, Popley HA. Handbook of Musical Evangelism. The Methodist Publishing House, 1914.

   

   

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