Dr Aravindh Ranganathan
This article was published in the journal “Shanmukha” 2019 issue.
Apart from identifying raga-s sung by a musician, another exercise that enthuse a listener and musician alike is identifying the composer (vaggeyakara) of a song. This is important as sahityam forms the basis of our music and a vaggeyakara expresses his feelings only through the sahityam. Identification of a vaggeyakara becomes simpler if we have a basic knowledge about the ‘mudra’ employed by each one of them.
Mudra used by a vageeyakara is not uniform; it can be his name (svanama mudra), his patron’s name (poshaka mudra) or the place with which he is associated with (sthala mudra) and so on. Also a vaggeyakara can use one or more mudra-s and conversely two or more vageeyakara-s can use a same mudra. For instance, the mudra ‘venkatesa’ was used by Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier, Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Kothavasal Venkatarama Iyer. This has created confusion in attributing a composition to a particular composer. For instance, ‘dhanyudevvado’, a krithi in the ragam Malayamarutham is attributed to both Patnam Subramanya Iyer and his Guru Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier. Another interesting krithi which suffers this identity crisis is ‘parabrahmamu’. When a musician considers this as a composition of Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer, he is supposed to sing this in the ragam Kapinarayani. Whereas, if a musician feels it was composed by Manambuchavadi Venktasubbaier, he should sing this in the ragam Pravalajyothi.
A single musician can use one or more mudra-s too. Kshetrayya and Melattur Virabhadrayya can be cited as examples. Kshetrayya has used the mudra ‘muvva gopala’ in majority of his works where muvva is the sthala mudra. In few of his padam-s we can also see the mudra-s like ‘kanchi varadudu’ and ‘cevvandhi lingudu’. 1 Virabhadrayya, a famous composer of the medieval period has used the mudra ‘pratapasimha’ in few of his compositions. Mudra-s like ‘achudabdhi nilaya’, ‘unnathapurisha’ and ‘achuthapuri’ are seen in his other compositions. Whereas pratapasimha is to be taken as poshaka mudra, achudabdhi nilaya and achuthapuri indicates the sthalam Melattur to which he belonged to and unnathapuri denotes the svami mudra (Unnatapurishvarar is the deity in Melattur).
Ramaswamy Deekshithar, father of Muthuswamy Deekshithar was born in the year 1735 and attained the heavenly abode on Mahasivaratri in the yaer 1819. He was a prolific composer of 18 th century who has composed innumerable compositions, many of them does not even exist in paper, leave alone recordings. His initial training in music was from Melattur Virabhadrayya and later learnt the intricacies of music from Venkata Vaidyanatha Deekshithar, grandson of Venkatamakhi, propagating Venkatamakhi’s illustrious legacy to his disciples. His early years were spent at Tiruvarur, where he codified the raga-s and compositions to be sung by Nagasvaram vidvans in Tyagarajasvamy temple upon the divine instruction by Tyagaraja himself. He was then patronized by the father-son dubashi-s of Manali, Chennai (erstwhile Madras) – Manali Muddukrishna Mudaliyar and Chinnaswamy (Venkatakrishna) Mudaliyar in later part of his life. Unfortunately, not many of his compositions are available and it is Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, which gives us a significant number of compositions. Though, mudra of Ramaswamy Deekshithar is considered to be ‘venkatakrishna’ (poshaka mudra), it will be illustrated from the following discussion that he can be considered as a dvi-mudra vaggeyakara.
Compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar
Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Deekshithar 2 lists the following compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar:
- Sarigani – Todi – Adhi – Svarasthana varnam
- Inkadaya – Vegavahini – Adhi – Keertanam
- Amba ni – Anandabhairavi – Adhi – Keertanam
- Rammanave – Hindola – Ata – Varnam
- Valachi vachi – Hindolavasantha – Rupakam – Varnam
- Sami ninne – Sriranjani – Adhi – Varnam
- Vashivashi – Sahana – Adhi – Keertanam
- Sambho jagadeesa – Shankarabharanam – Adhi – Keertanam
- Ra ra puseyaka Shankarabharanam – Ata – Varnam
- Candaseyala – Hamsadvani – Matya – Lakshya Prabandham
- Ela namne – Purnachandrika – Rupaka – Varnam
- Sivamohana – Ragamalika – Adhi
- Manasaveri – Ragamalika – Rupakam
- Nattakadi vidyala – 108 Ragatalamalika
- Samaja gamana – Ragamalika – Adhi
- Sarasa nayana – Gangatarangini – Tisra ekam – Daru
- Sri kamalamba – Manohari – Adhi – Varnam
- Paga jupa – Mohanam – Ata – Varnam (not mentioned in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini). 3
Analysis of these compositions
Of these available compositions, the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’ is seen in svarasthana varnam, krithi in the ragam-s Vegavahini, Anandabhairavi, Sahana and in the lakshana prabandham. This mudra is also seen in the ragamalika-s natakadi vidyala and sivamohana. Hence, 7 compositions out of 18 bear the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’.
Let us see the 11 compositions without the mudra “venkatakrishna” in detail.
1. Varnam in Hindola
This ata tala varnam ‘rammanave tyagaraja sami neevu’ is on Tyagarajaswamy of Tiruvarur. This is a cauka varnam with 4 ettugada svaram-s.
2. Varnam in Hindolavasantha
This is a cauka varnam is set to rupaka talam. Interestingly this varnam has only 3 ettugada svaram. This is on Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. Anupallavi of this varnam reads ‘velayu sripuravasa veeravasantha tyagesha’. The epithet ‘veeravasantha’ is used only for Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur and this was used only by vaggeyakaras linked personally and intimately with that deity like Ramaswamy Deekshithar and Muthuswamy Deekshithar.
3. Varnam in Sriranjani
This adi tala varna was also composed on Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. Anupallavi reads as ‘tamasamika seyaku mrokkera tyagaraja dayasagara sri’. This varnam has 4 ettugada svaram-s. Of these, only the first svara passage was composed by Ramaswamy Deekshithar. Second, third and fourth svara passages were contributed by Syama Sastri, Chinnaswamy Deekshithar and Muthuswamy Dekshithar respectively. 4
4. Varnam in Shankarabharanam
This grand ata tala varnam follows an old varna template seen with the varnam-s like ‘viriboni’ (Bhairavi) and ‘sami nine’ (Shankarabharanam). Contrast to his other varnam-s, this one has an anubandham which is linked to anupallavi and mukthayi svaram-s. Hence, this varnam is finished by singing pallavi. This is again on the Lord Tyagesha and he describes Tyagaraja as ‘koti lavanya tyagaraja maharaja’.
5. Varnam in Purnachandrika
This rupaka tala varnam is again on the Lord Tyagaraja and he asks him ‘jalamelara natho sami sri tyagesha’? This is a pada varnam with sahityam for mukthayi and ettugada svaram-s.
7. Varnam in Mohanam
This is a rare work of Deekshithar not found in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. This can be seen in few private manuscripts too. We find the epithet ‘veerasantha tyagaraja sami’ again here in anupallavi.
This ragamalika is a string of 20 ragas composed on the Raja Amarasimha of Tanjore. It is said Deekshithar praised Amarasimha with this garland when the latter visited Tiruvarur. This is one of his best creations wherein he has skillfully woven the raga mudra into the sahityam. Though this is a pean to Amarasimha, Deekshithar has invoked Tyagesha too – ‘aharindruni pujinchu tyageshu krupanijamu’.
From the above discussion, it becomes clear that, of the 11 compositions lacking the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’, 6 were composed on the Lord Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. All these bear the mudra ‘tyagesha’ or its variant. Of the remaining compositions, the ragamalika ‘samaja gamana’ has the mudra ‘tyagesha’ though the ‘nayaka’ glorified there was Amarasimha.
The remaining 4 compositions namely the kriti in Sankarabharanam, ragamalika ‘manasaveri’, daru and the varnam in the ragam Manohari does not possess any of the mentioned mudra, though “venkataramana” can be seen in the ragamalika mentioned. It can be understood that this krithi was composed on the Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi.
The above discussion shows Ramaswamy Deekshithar was a ‘dvi-mudra vaggeyakara’ with ‘tyagesha’ and ‘venkatakrishna’ as his mudra-s. It can also be assumed that he has used the mudra ‘tyagesha’ when he spent his life in Tiruvarur and used the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’ when he was in Manali, in memory of his benefactor Venkatakrishna Mudaliyar. It is a must to visit and analyse other compositions with the mudra ‘tyagesa’ as they could also be the compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar !!
A rare composition of ramaswamy Deekshithar can be heard here.
- Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini, Pg 16-18. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.
- Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.
- BM Sundaram, ed. Tana Varna Tarangini, Part 3 – Pg – 228-229. Rajalakshmi Arakkattalai.
- Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini, Pg – 602-604. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.