Colorful Bhāṣāṅga-s – Rudrapriyā – Part I

The colourful nature of the bhāṣāṅga rāga-s, their ability to be used flexibly according to the intent of a composer were explained in an introductory article on these rāga-s. In this article, we will be venturing into Rudrapriyā, a representative of the bhāṣāṅga clan.

Rudrapriyā is not a very popular rāga though few can reconcile this rāga and relate it with the kṛti ‘amba paradēvatē’. But Rudrapriyā was very popular once and we do have a significant number of compositions to analyse this rāga.

But Rudrapriyā was very popular once and we do have a significant number of compositions to analyse this rāga.

Rudrapriyā – A bhāṣāṅga

The first treatise to elaborate this rāga is Saṅgita Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and Rudrapiyā is introduced as a dēśīya, bhāṣāṅga  janya of the rāgāṅga rāga Śrī and takes the svara-s therein. Though the given mūrcana is SRGMPDNS – SNPMGRS, this is really a grand rāga and use various phrases outside the given mūrcana. In fact, Rudrapiyā cannot be conceived with this scale alone and can be considered akin to Kharaharapriyā. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar also says antara gāndhāra is employed in some places where the phrase MGM occurs and this Rudrapriyā is called as Hindustani Kāpi. We can infer two points from this valuable statement:

  1. Antara gāndhāra do not or need not necessarily feature in all the places wherein the phrase MGM occurs. MGM with antara gāndhāra is used only by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, that too only once in his sañcāri. This was the hypothesis proposed in our previous article; use of a svara not seen in the parent scale, in a bhāṣāṅga is an option!!
  2. A rāga is given two different names based on the presence or absence of a svara.  The necessity to employ two names for a single rāga is not known. Does Subbarāma Dīkṣitar mean to say Rudrapriyā (Rudrapriyā is a dēśīya rāga is to be remembered) was used in some other regions with antara gāndhāra, wherein it was called as Hindustani Kāpi ? Anyways this is a very clear indication that this rāga was called by more than one name. This point will be elaborated later.

Anyways, this antara gandhāra is not seen in any other compositions notated in Pradarśini.

Compositions in Rudrapriyā

The mystical nature of this rāga does not end only with its bhāsāṅga nature. The way it was handed by various composers is equally intriguing. Before proceeding to analyse the lakṣaṇa of this rāga, let us acquaint with the available compositions.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives the following compositions notated in his treatise in addition to his own sañcāri.

Rudra kōpa – Rūpakam – Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Vaḷḷī dēvasēnāpati – Rūpakam – Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar

Nīvē raśika śhikāmaṇi – Ādhi – Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar

Amba paradēvatē – Maṭya cāpu – Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya – Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Murugāvunai nambinēn – Rūpakam – Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Mahārāja

Enduku rā rā – Rūpakam – Subbarāma Dīkṣitar (occurs as a small segment in this rāgamālika)

For the kṛti ambā paradēvatē, both Śrī Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya and Śrī Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are to be given the credit. Whereas the former has written the lyrics, the latter tuned it. Since we are concerned with music, only Subbarāma Dīkṣitar will be associated with this kṛti henceforth.

In the anubandham of the same treatise, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives two more kṛti-s, named as Rudrapriyā but with a different rāga lakṣaṇa:

Gaṇanāyakam – Catusra Ēkam – Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Tyāgeśam bhajarē – Ādhi – Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Since the last two compositions differ considerably from the rest, they will be covered separately in two subsequent articles. We will be analysing only the main Rudrapriyā here.

Apart from those mentioned, three other compositions are attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar:

Śivakāyārohanēśaya – Rūpakam

Śri tyāgarājasya bhakto bhavāmi – Misra capu / Triputa

Parāśakthim bhajarē – Ādhi

These Non – Pradarśini kṛti-s require special attention and they too will not be covered here.

Antiquity of Rudrapriyā

Only the Dīkṣitar tribe has handled this rāga is clearly fathomable from the above discussion (Eṭṭappa Mahārāja, the composer of Tamiz kṛti was also a disciple of Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar).  Apart from the kṛti-s, we do not find any gīta in this rāga (gīta–s are usually given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar to demonstrate old phrases in a rāga). Also, there is a conspicuous absence of a kṛti by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar. This rāga was not even included by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar in any of his rāgamālika-s. These, along with the fact of not seeing this rāga in any of the earlier lakṣana grantha-s might make us to surmise this is a relatively a new rāga which must have come into circulation around 18th century. But, what is the reality?

It is to be remembered, absence of a rāga in the lakṣana grantha-s do not demote antiquity of a rāga. These treatises are not comprehensive in cataloging the rāga-s prevalent when they were written (also see the related discussion here). The information given in these treatises are to be conjunctively analysed with the available compositions to date a rāga.  The following evidence show the perspicuous presence of this rāga even before the arrival of the mentioned kṛti-s.

Dakśiṇāśāsyam gurum vandē

This is a composition of Śrī Bhadrācalam Rāmadāsu (1620-1680) in the rāga Rudrapriyā. It is very surprising to see a composition on Dakśiṇāmūrti by Rāmadāsu. But worshiping Dakśiṇāmūrti is an integral part of Bhajana saṃpradāya and this kṛti could have been used to invoke Him in his daily bhajana. This kṛti, to the best knowledge of this author is not in circulation and this is the only version available.

This is more like a divyanama kīrtanam with a pallavi and multiple caraṇā-s. All the caraṇā-s have the same melodic structure. The melodic structure is much simple and devoid of any decorative saṅgati-s, characteristic of any old version. Rudrapriyā portrayed here highly confirms with the mūrcana mentioned earlier excluding two significant signature phrases, SDNP and SNDNP which transgress the mūrcana mentioned proving it a non-scalar rāga. 

Interestingly, Māṅcāla Jagannatha Rao, who gave us this version make a note that this is also called as Śuddha Kāpi. We request to reiterate the point mentioned earlier; this rāga had multiple names !!

The following two evidences additionally prove the existence of this rāga during 18th century.

Ambā kṛupai tandu

This is a composition of Śrī Mazavai Cidambara Bhārathi who lived in early part of the19th century. He is said to be a contemporary of Kavikuñjara Bhārathi, whose period is said to be between 1810 and 1896.

This kṛti can be seen in the book published by The Music Academy, but labelled as a different raga – Karnāṭaka Kāpi !! Perhaps, this name could have been in common use and a variant of this rāga with antara gāndharam was called as Hindustani Kāpi. Subbarāma Dikṣitar having been aware of this polyonymy (especially Karnāṭaka Kāpi) gives us the variant name alone. This is extremely possible, as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar was proud of his heritage and he must have felt this rāga is to be named as Rudrapriyā as Vēṅkaṭamakhī followed this nomenclature (in the treatise that was available to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar). Our doubt gets more validated if we observe the fact that the kṛti ‘rudra kōpa’ by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar lacks the rāga mudra Rudrapriyā!!

The rāga portrayed here is exactly like Rudrapriyā sans two phrases – SNDNM and SDP. The phrase SNDNM occur in the beginning of this kṛti as seen below:

sa    n    da  n   m    m   ga    r      ri    s    r     g  I m ; ; r g I s   ri    m  pa ni ri II

am…….baa….. krupai.. tan..dhu..rak.shi yiyam    yo…ga   ga na..yi..ke..jaga

                                        Svara-s in bold denote tāra sthāyi

SNDNM is replaced by SNDPM in the second saṅgati. This phrase was an original construction or a printing error is not to be identified. Though SNDNM appears odd, a similar phrase PDNM is seen in the Rudrapriyā segment seen in the rāgamālika of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The phrase SDP is found nowhere in the compositions notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar; rather, it is seen in the kṛti by Rāmadāsu. This is an allowed phrase and not used by Dīkṣitar Quartette or is a corrupt phrase that occurred due to the passage of time or a printing error cannot be ascertained.

Sāmaja gamana

This is a hitherto unknown svarajati composed in the rāgam Karnāṭaka Kāpi. It is seen in a manuscript whose authorship too is not traceable. This is composed in the style of Svarajati-s composed by Śrī Śyāma Śāstri. This has a pallavi and four caraṇā-s. Predominant phrases seen include ṠNDNP, ṠNPM, NGR and ṠNPṠNPM. It very well corresponds with the rāga lakṣaṇa described above excluding a single phrase MNDPM.

From the above discussion it is unquestionable that Rudrapriyā was indeed a very old rāga. More importantly, it must have been called by various names at different part of this country. This rāga being mentioned as Karnāṭaka Kāpi also has an important implication which will be dealt in the next section.

The structure of Rudrapriyā and its possible relationship with Karnāṭaka Kāpi

Though the lineage is same for all the Dīkṣitar members, each one has carved their own style in approaching a rāga. This is explicitly seen in the rāga-s which are bestowed with a composition from more than one Dīkṣitar. Rudrapriyā is one such and this heterogeneity is seen its full glory here. The main feature of Rudrapriyā will be described in brief, which will be followed by a discussion on their individual style.

Striking features of Rudrapriyā

As mentioned earlier, a broad picture about this rāga is given only by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and the compositions therein are lexicons to understand this rāga in its full grandeur. This rāga has many unique features to distinguish it from its saṃpūrṇa allies like Kharaharapriya and Kāpi (the old one) which can be grasped by learning and analysing these compositions.  

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar says niṣādha, gāndhāra, madhyamaṃ and riṣabha are the pivotal svara-s. Compositions start or end only with one of these svara-s. There is a profuse use of janṭa niṣādha and gāndhāra. With this idea let us analyse the individual compositions. When the compositions are analysed, there are some important prayōga-s which traduce the mūrcana given, like SDNP, SNDNP, DNDNP, SRM and SMGM. Apart from this, plenty of dhāṭṭu prayōga-s like MGNPGR, GDGN can be seen. All these prayōga-s, are unanimously used in all the sthāyi-s, unlike Rītigaula wherein the phrase NPNNS is used only in the mandra sthāyi.

Rudra kōpa of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

This kṛti-s follows the lakṣana mentioned above. The āvarta-s start only with the above mentioned four pivotal svara-s apart from sadja and pañcama. Janṭa ṛṣabha as GRR is more commonly used other janta niṣādha and gāndhāra. We see dhāṭṭu prayōga-s like MGNPGR. In all these aspects, we see similar handling of this rāga among the Dīkṣitar Trio.

The differences seen are as below:

  1. The use of janṭa svara is much less than that used by Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar. Also, the gamakam used for these janṭa svara-s are different. Apart from spuritam, we also find kampitam and nokku for these janṭa svara-s.
  2. The predominant avarōhaṇa phrase in this kṛti is SDNP and SNP. We never get to see the phrase SNDNP. Though a composer is not expected to use all the phrases to visualise his rāga, certain phrases become important as either they define a rāga or has been by all the composers whomsoever has handled that rāga. SNDNP, being such an important phrase can be in the kṛti-s of Rāmadāsu, Cidambara Bharati, Bālasvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. It is surprising that this was not used in this kṛti.
  3. To compensate for the phrase SNDNP, we find a new phrase seen in this kṛti – MN(N)G. This occur twice, first in bhadrakāli and second in mālikā, both in anupallavi. This phrase is not seen in any of the compositions mentioned above, inclusive of the kṛti-s of Rāmadāsu and Cidambara Bharati. This phrase reminisce the composition ‘suma sāyaka’ of Svāti Tirunāḷ. The first text to publish this Kṛti with notation is Bālāmṛtam by S Raṅganātha Ayyar. He mention the rāga of this varṇam as Kāpi. The present version has plenty of ṠNP, ṠNDNP, NRG which all feature in Rudrapriyā. On the other hand, these are not found in the old Kāpi. The old Kāpi is now living through the compositions of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and other Pre-Trinity composers notated in Pradarśini. We too have Vālājapeṭṭai manuscripts giving the compositions of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ in this rāgaṃ (the kṛti-s of Svāmigaḷ that we commonly hear in the rāga Kāpi were all mutated and mutilated in the last century). Interestingly this phrase MNG is not seen in any of the old Kāpi compositions. All these might make us to surmise Rudrapriyā could have been alternatively called as Karṇāṭaka Kāpi in the past (along with its other known and unknown names). We are now left with another question – the reason for not seeing this phrase in the composition of other composers. We can exclude the compositions of Rāmadāsu and Cidambara Bharati, as they are small kṛti-s. But, not seeing even in magnificent edifices of Bālasvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is absorbing.

A vocal interpretation of the textual representation of this kṛti given in the treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī is attempted to the best abilities of this author. The readers are invited to observe unique phrases like MNGG, GRR, ṠNP and ṠDNP (see Footnote 1).

Vaḷḷī dēvasēnāpati and Nīvē raśikhāmaṇi of Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar

The kṛti ‘nīvē raśikhāmaṇi’ could have been one of the initial compositions of Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar on Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Maharāja. The kṛti ‘vaḷḷī dēvasēnāpati’ is unique in that it is one of the three compositions composed by Bālasvāmy on Kazugumalai Subraḥmaṇya Svāmi. Rest of his compositions were all on various Maharāja-s of Eṭṭayapuram.  

These two kṛti-s are better exemplars, even more than the ‘rudra kōpa’ of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Plenty of janṭa gāndhāra and niṣadha can be seen in these kṛti-s. Here the janṭa svara-s are handled predominantly with the spurita gamakam. The predominant avarōhaṇa phrases are PDNDP, PDNDNDP, ṠDNP, ṠNDNP and ṠNDNṠ (the last two phrases are absent in ‘rudra kōpa’). We also find phrases SMGM, GRR, NG and NR, PDNS (in mandra sthāyi). All these phrases give a wholesome structure covering an entire gamut of this rāga. Rudrapriyā flows through the dhāṭṭu prayōga-s and the ciṭṭa svaram affixed to the kṛti ‘nīvē raśikhāmaṇi’ is captivating. The third āvarta goes as NṠṘN GNDN MGNP GR with plenty of three-s. Also, ṠṘĠṀ can be noted.

The kṛti nīvē raśikhāmaṇi interpreted from the treatise of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can be heard here.

Murugāvunai nambinēn of Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Mahārāja          

This is much in line with the other kṛti-s and uses some special phrases used like ṘDD. Also, extreme importance is given to riṣabham as a jīva svaram. This was composed by Jagadvīra Rāma Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭappa Mahārāja who ruled between 1853 and 1858.

Ambā paradēvatē and Enduku rā rā of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

The rāga approach by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can be considered as a combination of both Muddusvāmy and Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar. Whereas we find almost all the prayōga-s used by Bālasvāmy in these two compositions, we also find some phrases like PDP, PNṠ, ṘDD and PDNM which are not seen in the compositions of Bālasvāmy. Though the janṭa svara prayōga-s are more seen in this kṛti when compared to that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, it is certainly lesser than what is seen in the works of  Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar.

The ciṭṭa svara segment attached to this kṛti is very unique and displays the craftsmanship of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. It runs for 32 āvarta-s and every āvarta starts with ṛṣabham. This 32 āvarta svara segment composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is much different from the abridged version that we hear today and it is a question to ponder on the composer of this abridged version. Also, the manōdharma that we hear frequently only display the scalar Rudrapriyā. Though we enjoy the modern versions and are equally pleasant to hear, these old tunes conceived by the composer are to be at least archived as they not only serve as an example to understand the rāga conceived by the composer, they also teach us the svarūpa of the rāga extant during their times. Here, the various ways in which the jīva svara ṛṣabham can be employed in various ways is demonstrated. These can be adopted by us to resurrect the rāga Rudrapriya, rather than following the scale.

The presence of the phrase ṘDD along with an importance given to ṛṣabham makes us to understand the influence of Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Mahārāja on Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Conclusion

Rudrapriyā, a grand rāga of the past is mainly characterised by janṭa and dhāṭṭu prayōga-s. This rāga has very many phrases outside the prescribed mūrcana and only an untainted version of the kṛti-s preserved by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and from other older/original versions help us to understand this rāga. The kṛti-s of Bālasvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar epitomize this rāga more than even the mentioned kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Sadly, the rāga portrayed in majority of the versions that we hear today is mainly scalar and fail to project the beauty of this rāga in its full capacity.

Unlike Rītigaula, the phrases in this rāga are not sthāyi specific – all the phrases occur in all the octaves.The name Rudrapriyā could have been in circulation only with the family of Dīkṣitar and this rāga could have been called by multiple names in the past. Perhaps, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar could have been the single person endorsing this name. The rāga Kārnāṭaka Kāpi mentioned in various texts could be this Rudrapriyā and we need to search for original versions to get a clear picture.

This also highlight the importance of collecting the manuscripts preserved at various places to understand rāga-s of the past.

References

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī, Vidyavilasini Press, 1904.

Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī – Tamiz edition published by The Music Academy.

Mazavai Cidambara Bhārati Pādalgal. Edited by PC Sitarama Ayyar. Published by The Music Acedemy. This can be accessed in http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/2713

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – Whereas the Tamiz edition of Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī read as ‘anuvadana’ in anupallavi, the original Telugu version read as ‘ajavadana’. This difference was overlooked by this author in his rendition. This is a mistake and is deeply regretted.

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