CompositionAppreciation, Raga

O Mother! Embodiment of Auspiciousness! May there be prosperity

Prelude:

In these trying and uncertain times, connecting or attempting to connect to the Supreme One through one’s inner self is perhaps the soothing balm. And what can be better than music, especially compositions of our Trinity. And personally as I ruminated over the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshita, the one that stuck most aptly in terms of its haunting melody, lyrics and its plaintive appeal was the solitaire “Mangaladevate” in the raga Margadesi, under Mela 15 Malavagaula, a long lost archaic melody, for which this composition is the sole exemplar.

First let us look at the lyrics, before we embark on dissecting the raga.

Sahitya & Meaning:

pallavi

mangaLa dEvatE                – O auspicious goddess!

para dEvatE                         – O supreme goddess!

mangaLaM bhavatu           – May there be prosperity!

nata dEvatE                          – O one saluted by the gods!

anupallavi

angaja pura kAla vairi sahitE – O one in the company, the One inimical to (vanquisher of) Manmatha, Tripura and Yama i.e. Lord Shiva

anAdi-avidyA prapanca rahitE ­ O one distinct, from this eternal universe pervaded by ignorance

pungava guru guha-Adi mahitE – O one venerated by the eminent/valorous Guruguha and others

satsanga mArga darSitE        – O one who shows the path to association with the good (men)

sura hitE                                    – O the benefactress of the Devas.

The sahitya as above would show that apart from his colophon, Dikshita has skilfully woven the raga mudra (indirectly– mArgadarsitE) in the composition, while keeping his date as always with the dviteeya akshara prasa (2nd letter consonance). The sahitya clearly is an appeal to the Mother Goddess (Devi), the consort of Lord Shiva seeking her to bestow prosperity and auspiciousness. From a compositional construct perspective, the composition lacks a carana segment but has a pithy and beautiful cittasvara section which we will see when we delve into the musical aspects. The kriti does not bear any stala/ksetra reference and is thus only a generic composition.

A brief note on the raga Margadesi:

It has to be mentioned that save for the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) no other treatise prior to it mentions this raga. In other words, this raga finds place only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshanam compendia (dateable to circa 1750 AD) and Dikshita’s kriti being the sole exemplar thereof – an eka-kriti raga. Thus, the SSP, by its commentary of the raga and documentation of Muthusvami Dikshita’s composition becomes the only repository for us in so far as this raga is concerned.

According to the SSP, the raga is placed under the 15th mela taking the notes of R1, G3. M1, P, D1 dropping nishadha altogether. And very oddly it takes M2 (prati madhayama) in its melodic body.

Normally it is seen that under mela 65 (Kalyani) for which M2 is the dominant note M1 is taken as a anya svara via the G3M1R2S motif. Under Mela 15, in SSP we do see that there are number of ragas documented therein, which take the M2 as an anya svara. Margadesi is one such which takes M2. But it is not that straight forward as there is an “interpretative” issue as to when M1 or M2 would occur in the melodic progression of raga. Lets us take up Subbarama Dikshita’s narrative of the raga:

  1. The raga is classified under Mela 15 on the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin.
  2. The raga name occurs in the Malavagaula Raganga Lakshya Gita “ravikOti tEja” as a bashanga janya under malava gaula mela. Please note that the reference to the “bashanga” in the context of SSP bears no relevance to how we construe the expression today.
  3. As per the provided lakshana shloka:
    • The raga is shadava, lacking nishada (both in arohana and avarohana krama)
    • Madhyama note is vakra, both in arohana and avarohana
    • SRGRGDMPDS is the arohana and SDMPGRS is the avarohana krama, duly accommodating the vakra madhyama note
  4. While the lakshana shloka does not say anything about M2 or its equivalent cyuta pancama being used in the raga, Subbarama Dikshitar in his commentary makes two assertions, based on the prevalent convention:
    • Assertion 1: According to him RGD#MP, RGP#MGRG, DMPP, DSDMPG are the motifs of the raga. Mark #M being the sharper variety of the madhyama that is being singled out in the first two motifs (RGD#MP, RGP#MGRG) and which do not occur in the third and fourth (DMPP, DSDMPG) murccanas.
    • Assertion 2: Further according to him, intoning the madhyama of the raga as pratimadhyama (M2 or #M as notated) is the convention followed by the cognoscenti.
  5. The inescapable conclusion flowing from these 2 assertions is that M1 does not at all occur in the raga (despite being classed under Mela 15), safely ignoring the non-provision of the sharp sign for the madhyama that occurs in the third and fourth murrcana as above.
  6. And confusingly enough, in the notation proper for the composition of Dikshita “mangaladevatE” (and also the Lakshya gita and his own sancari) Subbarama Dikshita does not notate the madhyama with the sharp sign (#).
  7. Thus, we are left to infer that M1 does not occur in the raga and that in all places only M2 is intoned. However according to Prof S R Janakiraman the arohana krama has M1 while the descent SDM2P has the prati madhyama prayoga – see his lecture demonstration below.
  8. Viewing the notation from a madhyama note stand point the following murccanas occur in the composition including the cittasvaras.
    • RGD\MP
    • PDMPG
    • SDMPDMPG
  9. And thus, given the omnibus statement found in assertion 2, it can be said that in all these places, M2 is to be used. We will deal with this point further in the discography section as to when M1 and M2 are seen used, in the renderings.
  10.  Along with the cittasvara section, the composition spans the mandhara madhyama to the tara stayi gandhara of the raga.
  11. The raga mudra occurs with a svarakshara on the madhyama and dhaivatha note apart from other such instances.

The usage of madhyama note of the sharper variety imparts a haunting tinge to the raga that segues very well with the appeal to Her in the sahitya.

I have to note that this raga is dealt with in the Sangraha Cudamani as Margadesika (dropping madhyama in the ascent) and also further to the fact that there is no composition of Tyagaraja is either forms, I have not dealt with this, in this blog and I have confined myself only to the Margadesi of the SSP here.

Discography:

Presented first in the close to the SSP rendering sans any embellishment, rendering of the composition along with the cittasvara section, by Vidvan G Ravi Kiran.

Attention is invited to the places where m1 and m2 are rendered. Thus, he renders:

  • Mangaladevate” with M2 the prayoga being is G/DM2P
  • bhavathu nata tE” comes through with M1 as the prayoga is GPDM1PG.
  • angajapura” is sung as R,G/DM2P
  • “anAdyavidyA” is again sung as rsDM1P
  • guruguhAdi” employs G/DM1P
  • sat-sanga-mArga” is sung as s,sDM1P
  • The cittasvara section goes as under:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
R,,S ,RRG D,,M2 ,PGR ,RSd m1pdS RRGR ,GRS
RG,G DDM2P ,DM2P ,Dsr Dg,r sDM1, PGRS ,RSd

NB: tara stayi svaras are denoted in italics, madhya stayi in upper case and mandhara stayi svaras in lower case.

It can be noticed that not all G/DMP combinations are intoned with the sharper prati madhyama, on this rendering. M1 and M2 are used “as needed” alternatingly as an ornamental device.  

Presented next is the rendering by the revered Prof S R Janakiraman who prefaces the composition with a raga vinyasa and also sings kalpana svaras, demonstrating the raga can well be delineated competently without any confusion whatsoever.

His erudite lecture demonstration of a raga is always revelatory and its indeed fortuitous that Margadesi was one such covered by him of which a recording is available. Here is a clipping from his Lec-Dem titled ‘Ragas Unique to the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini’ before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy in the year 2005.

Mark the vivaciousness with which he presents the raga for us, as always. Attention is invited to his point that he makes to the effect that when M1 occurs as an ascent (ascent only) and M2 (via DMP) occur in this raga.

Some reflections on this kriti:

The sangita and sahitya of the compositions, for me stands out in very many ways. When one looks at the sahitya one cannot but appreciate the apparently simple lyrics which actually enjoin a much broader and enigmatic meaning in its conception.

  1. The lyrics proclaim her as the very embodiment of auspiciousness at the outset. There are atleast two shrines in the Tamil lands, which Dikshita has visited, where the presiding Goddess of the temple is Mangalanayaki (in Tamil) or Mangalambika. One is Kumbakonam where She is the Consort of the Lord Adi Kumbeshvara. Dikshita eulogized her by composing the  rare Ghanta kriti “Sri Mangalambikam”, which we dealt with in an earlier blog. The deity at Srivanchiyam is also Goddess Mangalambika who has been invested another beauty of a kriti Mangalambayai namaste, this time in the rarer raga Malavasri. As pointed out this composition does not specify the ksetra and is a generic composition only.
  2. The kriti declares- “mangalam bhavatu” – let there be prosperity- as an ask. Dikshita does not seek the ambrosial bliss (amruta bOdham dEhi – as in “Jambupate Mampahi” – Yamuna Kalyani). Nor does he personally seek auspiciousness or fortune (“bhadram dEhi as in Sri Bhargavi in Mangalakaisiki). The kriti contemplates a prayer – “let there be auspiciousness or prosperity for all”. The kriti is therefore a benedictory hymn and is couched in a rare raga.
  3. The kriti, apart from being a benedictory invocation is full of epithets to the Mother. And as his wont will keeping his date with prAsA, Dikshita address Lord Shiva indirectly via the puranic references to Him having vanquished or subdued Kama, the God of Love (angaja), the impregnable City of Tripura (pura) and its denizens and Lord Yama (kAla). He further alludes to the philosophical precept of Her being devoid or being apart from the eternal maya prapancha, which is beginning-less and pervaded with ignorance.
  4.  The first anupallavi sahitya line commencing “angajapura” is structured with jumps in its progression as R,G/DM2PD,sD,/rsDs which is the arohana krama of the raga. Mark the jumps from gandhara to dhaivatha, back to madhyama, from dhaivatha to tara rishabha and the pendulum like movement between madhya dhaivatha and tara rishabha before settling at the tara sadja.
  5. The second line marks the achievement of the crescendo at tara gandhara before commencing the descent and settling down to the basal madhya sadja. The single avarta madhyama kala portion appended to the anupallavi succinctly traverses the entire gamut of the raga, concluding with a pithy cittasvara section.
  6. The usage of the prati madhyama in this raga or to be more precise, when it is to be used in contradistinction to M1 is sort of left open. It has to be said here that if Subbarama Dikshita’s second assertion is given effect to then, the raga is to be rendered wholly with M2 only. Though the raga is classed under Mela 15 and M2 is left unmarked yet like Gaulipantu, this raga should be rendered only with M2, going with Subbarama Dikshita’s second assertion. But yet as we will see in the renderings of the venerable Prof SRJ and Vidvan G Ravikiran, in the discography section the rendering is interspersed with both M1 and M2 with no standard rule as to “when” the M2 note is to be intoned. Thus, for instance all GDMP occurrences in the composition are not seen with M2 only, per Subbarama Dikshita’s first assertion.
  7. SDM2PDM1PGRS is a very elegant murccana incorporating both the madhyama notes in quick succession which can be employed in this raga.
  8. The case of Margadesi, the usage of M2 being recorded in the commentary but unmarked in the notation, reminds us of the case of Anandabhairavi as documented in the SSP where Subbarama Dikshita makes a reference to the usage of D2 in the raga in his commentary as a development seen in practice but yet he does not mark D2 in the notation in the compositions thereunder.
  9. Margadesi is not seen classed under the ghana, naya or desi raga listings either by Subbarama Dikshita or by others.
  10. Mela 15 seems to be the counterpart of Mela 65 (Kalyani) in admitting the use of the other madhyama note by its janya ragas. None of the other mela’s are seen with janyas with both varieties of madhyama being used, atleast as seen in the SSP or in practice.

Conclusion:

The composition “Mangaladevate” and the raga Margadesi are thus unique as they stand out in many aspects. We have long forgotten the feature of ragas which principally sport the suddha madhyama note and use the pratimadhyama as well, especially under Mela 15. These ragas perhaps had died out even by CE 1800. It was left to the sans egal composer Muthusvami Dikshita to resurrect these long-forgotten ragas which had gone out of vogue.

I have chosen to present this raga in this blog post as I stumbled upon this composition and found it to be both, from the melodic and lyrical perspective so apt and resonating with the present times. The Goddess symbolized by Dikshita in this composition as the very embodiment of auspiciousness ( Mangalam) and the fact that the raga is a long forgotten one, reminded me of the the dilapidated and desolate temple of Goddess Mangaladevi in remote Tamilnadu, though the composition on hand bears no nexus of any sort, with this temple. I have used the photograph of that in the panel above, details of which are in the hyperlink. The haunting use of M2 via the DM2P prayoga imparts an ethereal feel for the raga. Immersing oneself in the beauty of the composition and making the prayer out to Her by learning or rendering this composition will without doubt confer Her benign blessings to one and all.

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol 1- Mela 15 Pages 243-246
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 857-857
  3. Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
  4. Proceedings of the Meetings of the Advisory Committee of the Madras Music Academy ( 3rd Jan 2005)- Journal of the Madras Music Academy (JMA) Vol LXXVI 2005 page 160

Safe Harbour Statement:

The renderings used or linked as above in the body of this blog has been made strictly for purposes of education and knowledge under fair use category. The intellectual property therein belongs to the respective artistes and the same cannot be shared or exploited without their consen