‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOhaM’ in Salagabhairavi – A Critical Appreciation

Prologue:

prAthasmArami girijAnkitha vAmabhAgham

bakthAnusaktha hrudayam hrutha-daksa yAgam |

vAthAshanArchita padAmbuja mUrdhnibhAgam

 vandhArupOshamanisham sahajAnurAgam ||

(Meaning: I, SahajA offer my morning salutations to the Lord who took the (daughter of Mountain) Parvati as the left part of His body; who lives in the heart of his devotees, who destroyed Daksha’s sacrifice, who is worshipped by the sages and the one who protects those devoted to Him)

So did the great musicologist King Sahaji of Tanjore belonging to the Royal House of the Marathas pay obeisance to Lord Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur or Arur, in the first of his set of 5 slokas titled ‘Tyagaraja Stotram”. King Sahaji ruled Tanjore between circa 1690-1720 AD and without a child to succeed him, he abdicated the throne in favour of his younger brother Tulaja I and retired to live in Tiruvarur near his ishta-devata, Lord Tyagaraja. Sahaji left us the ‘Ragalakshanamu’ (circa 1710 AD) while Tulaja I gave us the ‘Saramrutha’ (circa 1736AD) both being compendia of ragas along with their lakshanas, as were in vogue at that point in time when they were respectively written. These two treatises together with the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP) dateable to circa 1750 AD, form the triad of musicological sources with which we can evaluate the music of the 18th century and particularly that of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

Three quarters of a century after King Sahaji, towards the end of the 18th century the Trinitarian Muthusvami Dikshitar a votary of his music paddhathi of Venkatamakhin propitiated the Lord of Aroor with a series of 8 compositions each of one being in a vibakthi/declension as his offering. Out of them, 7 are found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshitar. This blog post is about one of those compositions which is, ‘Tyagarajena samrakshitoham’ in the raga Salaga Bhairavi set in adi tala.

As always at the outset I begin by exploring the raga’s history and how it was dealt with by Muthusvami Dikshitar.

Overview of the lakshana of Salagabhairavi:

At the outset readers are forewarned that the raga of “Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham” of Muthusvami Dikshitar and the raga of ‘Padavini sadbaktiyu’ of Tyagaraja, as heard today though called commonly as Salagabhairavi,, are melodically not the same. We will deal with the difference at the end of the blog in the context of the raga as defined in Sangraha Cudamani which is the lexicon of the ragas found utilized by Tyagaraja.

We will evaluate the lakshana of the raga as found documented in the Triad and evaluate

  1. where the lakshana of the Salagabhairavi as found in ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ sits in the context of the Triad and the
  2. difference between the melodies of Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ and ‘Padavini sadbaktiyu’ though both of them are called Salagabhairavi in the context of Sangraha Cudamani.

The Overview of the definitions of the raga Salagabhairavi as dealt with the Triad:

The table below summarizes the lakshana of the raga as dealt with in the treatises which are dateable to different points in time during the 18th Century in the run up to the times of the Trinity.

Attribute/ Lakshana Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu (Circa 1710 AD) Tulaja’s Saramruta (Circa 1736 AD) Anubandha to the CDP (Circa 1750) – as provided in the SSP
Mela 22 (Sriraga) 22 (Sriraga) 22 (Sriraga)
Svaras varjya or vakra in arohana Dha is vakra and ni is varjya; PDPS occurs along with SNS and SRGR; complete sex or five note sequences do not occur Dha is vakra and ni is varjya; PDPS occurs along with SNS and SRGR;complete sex or five note sequences do not occur Pancama and dhaivatha are varjya in arohana
Svaras varjya or vakra in avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana
Time of the day it has to sung Fourth watch of the day (tUri yAmE) Fourth watch of the day (tUri yAmE) Last watch of the day (caramE yAmE)

While this is so, if one were to compare the above definitions with the lakshana as found in the Dikshitar kriti “Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham” the chart below would emerge.

SSP/Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750) Muthusvami Dikshitar as evidenced by his kriti ‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOham’ Remarks provided by way of commentary by Subbarama Dikshitar
Pancama and dhaivatha are varjya in arohana Dhaivatha is vakra and nishadha is varjya in the arohana and thus the uttaranga becomes PDPS SRGM PDPS/SNDPMGRS The alternated arohana krama is SRGRPMPDPS. Murccanas such as SRMGRPPDPS; NSDPGGRS and SGRMPDPMGRS also occur
Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana

The following conclusions would flow forth from the SSP Commentary:

  1. The raga lakshana as found in the kriti and so notated in the SSP completely deviates from the Anubandha definition as well as from the Subbarama Dikshitar commentary.
    • The Lakshana sloka and the arohana-avarohana murchanas are contradicting
    • The prayogas found notated in the three compositions thereunder are also in contradiction to the stated lakshana sloka
  2. This contradiction within the SSP is reminiscent of the case of Gopikavasanta which we saw in an earlier blog post.
  3. Further the lakshya gita provided in the SSP (“Sri Nanda tanu’) attributed by Subbarama Dikshitar to Venkatamakhin himself has the following prayogas:
  4. SNSDP, SNDPS, PMGR, GGRS, SRMMGRPPDPS
  5. SGR, SMGR, SRGS, PPNPM
  6. Subbarama Dikshitar’s sancara sports the same prayogas found in the above said lakshya gita.
  7. The lakshana shloka found in the SSP beginning ‘sampUrnO sagrahOpeta’ is obviously of AD 1750 vintage probably of Muddu Venkatamakhin and cannot be of Venkatamakhin. For, the original lakshana sloka found in the CDP for Salagabhairavi runs as under (and not as what the SSP says)

               ‘shrIrAga mEla sambhUthO ragaH sAlagabhairavI |

               sampUrna-svara-samyuktA yAmE-gEya-tUrIyakE ||

  • It is well possible that the raga definition had perhaps changed again between AD 1736 (post Saramrutha) and AD 1750 (the time Anubandha was probably compiled) resulting in the change in the lakshana shloka.
  • It is important to note that even the modern-day contour of for Salagabhairavi – SR2M1PD1S/SN2D2PM1G2R2S is even different, to which we will turn to once we analyse the kriti of Tyagaraja in this scale.
  • To state simply, Muthusvami Dikshitar’s Salagabhairavi is
    • aligned more to Sahaji and Tulaja’s version.
    • Aligned also to a fair extent to the lakshya gita ‘Sri Nanda tanu’

And it sports only a sub-set of prayogas from those and eschews the rest. But the conception does not conform to the lakshana shoka provided by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP.

It is Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP who attempts to bridge the Dikshitar version of Salagabhairavi with the one of Muddu Venkatamakhin by providing an alternate arohana/avarohana, as a part of his commentary.

Analysis of ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham”:

With this high-level overview of the theoretical definition of the raga let us move to the kriti. While that may be so what may be of importance for us is to understand Sahaji’s definition and look at the Dikshitar kriti for comparison. The following points would emerge:

  1. Sahaji in his commentary says about complete or 7 note, six note or five note sequences or phrases do not occur. The implication here is that the phrase should not have sequentially svaras beyond 4 notes. Thus, SRGMGR would be how the phrase would flow to stay in conformance to this constraint. One can logically conclude that taking sadja as the starting note, SRGMPDN or SRGMPD or SRGMP phrases would not occur. Similarly taking rishabha next, RGMPDNS or RGMPDN or RGMPD would not occur. Quite oddly Dikshitar kriti lacks SRGM or RGMPD usage whereas we do find RGM usage via RGMGRS for example. As pointed out , the upshot of this would be that Dikshitar’s conception of Salagabhairavi would be closer to the Salagabhairavi of Sahaji rather than the one laid out in the Anubandha to the CDP, which version of the raga drops pancama and dhaivatha in its ascent. And this is a very curious way of raga construction and delineation, probably native to the 18th century or prior.
  2. And both the pallavi as well as the carana of ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ begins on the rishabha note. It has to be pointed out that for the ragas under Mela 22 under Sriraga, rishabha is a pivotal note and this raga is perhaps no exception. Thus Dikshitar, perhaps for this raga deemed that rishabha was the jiva svara and so he began the pallavi and the carana on the said note. And for good measure the kriti has the note pancama as svara akshara in a number of places.
  3. In sum Dikshitar in this composition uses the following phrases:
    • Mandhara stayi – Sndp, dpS, Sdp
    • Madhya stayi – SRGM, RGMP, DPS, SNDP, MGRS, RGS, PGRS  
    • Tara stayi – SRMGRS
  4. Phrases such as SNSDP or SMGR found profusely in the lakshya gitam is not found in the kriti.
  5. In the carana for the first two avartas /lines of sahitya he spans mandhara pancama to madhya pancama. And for the next two avartas/lines he spans madhya dhaivatha to tara gandhara and back to madhya sadja. The final madhyamakala sahitya of the carana, as always, he encompasses the entire melodic body of the raga.
  6. Leaving out the 18th century construct of the raga – vide point 1 above- purely from a modern perspective, the perusal of the notation of the composition would show that the murccana arohana/avarohana krama of this raga as per Dikshitar’s conception under          Mela 22 would be as under:

S R2 G2 M1 P D2 P S

S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S

               The above would go with the caveat that nishadha or madhyama or gandhara varjya          prayogas such as SDPMGRS, RPMP, PGR and RGS can also occur in profusion.  

The lyrics of the kriti together with the meaning can be had from here. And with that we move on to hear the renderings of the composition.

Discography:

The version of a violinist:

Oddly in this blog post, I seek to first present a version of this beautiful Dikshitar composition as rendered on the violin by an unknown perhaps amateur artiste, and uploaded on the Youtube, for I found it to be concise, complete, beautiful and a high-fidelity rendering/ interpretation of the notation of this composition found in the SSP. It has been rendered to the accompaniment of the tanpura sruti only. Here are the Youtube and audio links to rendering.                                              

Audio of the above rendering

Let us now turn our attention to the notation of the composition as found in the SSP and do a compare with the above rendering.

  1. I invite attention first to the way in which the kAlapramAnam of the composition has been pegged from start to end. Typically, in recitals, the rendering of a given composition for varied reasons gets accelerated and it will be noticeable towards the end of the composition’s rendering. In this case one can notice that the pace in which the pallavi for example is rendered at the beginning is the same when the song concludes at the end of the 6th minute. The violinist was perhaps helped by the fact that there was no percussion accompaniment. It is generally true that for many vocalists, more so in the case of Dikshitar compositions, after singing the madhyamakala sahitya rarely do they exactly land back to the original tempo/kalapramanam of the sama kala pallavi segment of the composition. More so, this composition is likely to get more than accelerated as it has sparser sahitya conforming to the ati citra tama marga, that we saw in a previous blog post in the context of the Kannada Bangala kriti ‘Renuka Devi Samrakshitoham’.
  2. There are no blemishes, sruti/svara lapses or staccato notes, anywhere in this rendering.
  3. In the pallavi rendering while keeping to the notation a few melodic extensions are done, for example for the sahitya ‘sAgarEna srI’ the violinist employs janta prayogas NNDDP MMGGRRS.
  4. In the anupallavi, attention is invited to the rendering of ‘yativarAdyupA-sitEna-bhavEna’ which goes as ndpSdp-GR.G-MP.P which vocalists do not properly render (see editions below). The phrase “upA” should land on the mandhara pancama and not on the madhya pancama. Moreover, vocalists tend to take a breather/pause just after yativarAdyupA-. The jump from the mandhara pancama(‘upA’) to the madhya gandhara(‘sitEna’) is the beauty here which needs to be listened to. This motif pG repeats elsewhere as Pg, from the madhya pancama to the tara gandhara, in the composition and needs to be highlighted. The violinist does complete justice to the two samakAla lines of the anupallavi, rendering it seamlessly providing us complete satisfaction.
  5. I again invite attention to the continuous playing/phrasing by the artiste of the carana lines each seamlessly segueing into one other resulting in a continuous fluid flow of melody right through the carana.
  6. One would also find that the melodic extensions with which the artiste ends the pallavi, anupallavi or the carana are very aesthetic and in conformance with the lakshana delineated in the kriti proper.

Students of music aspiring to learn this composition ought to do so by hearing this version with the SSP notation in hand. It is complete, for I find it to be a very purposive and aesthetic interpretation of the notation. And thus one is indebted to him/her, for such a splendid rendering, sans any blemish whatsoever.

Other interpretations:

We next present other renderings of Dikshitar’s ‘tyAgarAjEna rakshitOham’. Below are the presentations by a couple of Sangita Kala Acharyas.

Vidushi Suguna Varadacari renders the composition next and is from an AIR Concert of hers.

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/tvg/UPLOADS-1601—1800/1617-Suguna_Varadachari-Thyagaraja_Vibarthi_Krithis/

(Would require Yahoo/Google ID for Log In)

And, the venerable Prof S R Janakiraman renders the composition.

Vidushi Kalpakam Svaminathan a scion of the Dikshitar sishya parampara, recorded the Tyagaraja Vibakti kritis which includes this composition as well, as a commercial album, details of which are here.

Dikshitar’s Salagabhairavi and the popular modern version of the raga as found in Tyagaraja’s ‘padavini sadbaktiyu’:

The modern version of the raga Salaga Bhairavi as available us through ‘padavini sadbakti’ is documented in the Sangraha Cudamani as SRMPDS/SNDPMGRS under Mela 22.  

The legendary vidvans, the Alathur Brothers render the composition in this link, prefaced by a raga vinyasa.

Attention is invited to the opening phrase of the pallavi which begins as SRMP itself. A quick comparison between the raga as found in the composition of Dikshitar and Tyagaraja would thus yield the following table for us:

Muthusvami Dikshitar as evidenced by his kriti ‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOham’ Tyagaraja as evidenced by the modern day mettu of ‘padavini sadbakthi’
Dhaivatha is vakra and nishadha is varjya in the arohana Gandhara and nishadha are varjya in the arohana
Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana
The conception is characterized by jumps and turns as well and more avarohana pradhana/centricity of the raga. Fairly straightforward progression of the raga.

The question whether the scale found in ‘padavini’ being SRMPNS/SNDPMGRS was the original one adopted by Saint Tyagaraja when he composed the same is questionable & not beyond reasonable doubt for the following reasons:

  1. When the raga of the composition ‘padavini’ was discussed in the Music Academy on 26-Dec-1942 (documented in pages 17-18 of JMA XIV, see reference section below) a personage no less than the great Vidvan Tiger Varadacariar, placed on record that he had heard the kriti being rendered with RGMP.
  2. Another musical authority, Sri M S Ramasvami Iyer went on to sing a cittasvaram composed by Patnam Subramanya Iyer for ‘padavini sadbakti’ which incorporated RGM phrase as support /proof for the prayoga having been in vogue.
  3. Prof Sambamoorthi & Dr T V Subba Rao too agreed with the proposition that SRGMP was in vogue and textual authorities too had recorded it.
  4. Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer a votary of the so called Dikshitar school, put forth the case for SRGMPDPS on the authority of the Dikshitar kriti and the documentation in the SSP.

In fact, Sri Tiger Varadacariar even suggested perhaps as a compromise that SRMRGMPDPS can be the recommended arohana krama accommodating the RGMP prayoga. The records of the JMA show that in that discussion that day, Tiger Varadacariar, M S Ramasvami Iyer, Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer & T V Subba Rao were arrayed on one side. However, the acolytes of the Sangraha Cudamani led by the President of the Conference that year, Sangita Kalanidhi Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar had their way making SRMPDS/SNDPMGRS as the nominal arohana/avarohana krama of the raga, based on the then contemporaneous version of ‘padavini’.

The question thus we are left with is whether RGM and PDPS exists for Salagabhairavi. For, Dikshitar uses RGM and PDPS while the same is not so in the case of Tyagaraja based on the evidence of modern-day version of ‘padavini’ available to us & the lakshana as documented in the Sangraha Cudamani. Also, Dikshitar has utilized prayogas documented by all musicologists of yore right up to Tulaja.

Be that as it may, the discussion in the Academy clearly shows that ‘padavini’ was rendered in the past with SRGMP and not SRMP, indicating the possibility that the modern version/musical fabric of ‘padavini sadbakti’ is probably a “normalized” or “truncated” version. It’s likely that perhaps the original version of the composition was in line with the Salagabhairavi of Sahaji or Tulaja or of Muthusvami Dikshitar which was perhaps the defacto standard during the1800’s. Meaning, Salagabhairavi had vakra dhaivatha & nishadha varjya in the arohana and complete/sampurna in the avarohana and perhaps admitting gandhara varjya phrases as well.

Similar perhaps has the been the fate of ‘manavini vinuma’ a Tyagaraja composition, which is assigned a raga name of ‘Jayanarayani’ not found in any musical record save for Sangraha Cudamani which goes with the arohana/avarohana krama as SRGMPDS/SNDPMGRS under mela 22. It may sound like a ‘conspiracy’ theory but nevertheless it is a matter of great concern that the musical material of very many Tyagaraja kritis especially in eka kriti ragas has been subject to controversy and the available melody as on date/assigned, has not been beyond the pale of controversy. If one were to consider the logic and arguments advanced by the noted critic of the previous century Sri K V Ramachandran, one can conclude or at the least suspect that the ragas of ‘padavini sadbaktiyu’ and ‘manavini vinuma’ were perhaps only Salagabhairavi as documented in Muthusvami Dikshitar’s ‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOham’.

One is disconcerted by the fact that disciples or certain lineages have not properly transmitted the composition over the centuries, with the result today, we a corrupted version of what was originally composed. And we need not look far for one more proof, paart from what was placed on record by Tiger Varadachariar as in the case of ‘padavini’. It can be immediately demonstrated with this very Dikshitar composition, ’tyagarajena Samrakshitoham, how tradition can be turned on its head by musicians ignorant of both lakshya and lakshana.

 Here is a modern-day performing musician, Vidushi Shyamala Venkateshwaran who casts the Dikshitar composition ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ completely in the garb of the Salaga Bhairavi, not the one expounded by Dikshitar but with SRMPDS/SNDPMGRS as found in the Tyagaraja kriti ‘padavini’) with total impunity and contempt of the authentic notation of the composition found in the SSP.

( The photo used in the video upload is not of the artiste concerned but of Vidushi Rama Kausalya and readers ought to take note of the same)

Not just the kriti rendering, but we have a full suite of alapana and a svaraprastara to boot for this close to 20 min long presentation, providing ripe evidence for us as to how performers/sishyas/sishya paramparas could have and can misinterpret compositions/raga lakshana down the line, doing the greatest of disservice to a composer and his intent. Nothing can be farther from injustice when such musicians are called upon to adjudicate competitions on Dikshitar compositions !

It is indeed sad that this spurious version will most likely be taught to unknowing students of music and will be perpetuated as an authentic edition of the kriti.

Epilogue:

Vigilance they say is the price of liberty and the foregoing is a warning to the discerning listener of our music. Beware of peddlers of spurious music- would be an understatement. However, it is comforting to note that as against these transgressions a non-descript amateur musician is able to hold fort with an authentic interpretation of this rare kriti of Dikshitar, Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham, which was presented first in the discography. And one does wish & pray that known and popular musicians & teachers emulate this worthy example in the days to come and they in turn bequeath an authentic tradition true to the intent of the great composers of the past.

References:

  1. Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy (1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 462-466 of the 2006 Edition of Vol II: Link
  2. Ragalakshana Sangraha –Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1173-1180
  3. Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta (1993) – Edited by Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr S R Janakiraman-Published by the Madras Music Academy – pp 26-27
  4. The Raga Lakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja of Tanjavur (1983) -JMA Volume LVI Published by the Madras Music Academy-pp 140-182
  5. Salagabhairavi Raga lakshana Discussion – Proceedings of the Experts Committee of the Madras Music Academy on 26-Dec-1942 – 16th Music Conference – Published in JMA Volume XIV (1943) -pp17-38

Safe Harbour Statement

The recording of the renderings provided through YouTube or audio links as exemplars are the exclusive intellectual property of the artistes concerned. The same has been utilized here strictly on a non-commercial basis, under fair use for study & research, fully acknowledging their rights and no part of it may be copied, reproduced or otherwise dealt without the consent of the artistes or the concerned IP right holders.

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