The Gold Coin or "Phanam" , the currency issued during the times of King Serfoji I ( Regnal year 1712-1728 AD) who rued after King Sahaji and before King Tulaja I , embossed with a mythical "Sharabha" being part lion and part bird on one side and the "Sri Sarabhaja" in Nagari on the other side.

Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika – A Monograph


Time and again in these blog posts we refer to a musicological work called the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP). In fact this Anubandha or appendix is a raga compendium or lexicon of ragas and is the core or fulcrum of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita.In fact one will not be far from truth if they were to conclude that the SSP is a commentary on the Anubandha and a treatise wherein the ragas of this lexicon are illustrated with compositions. While all musicological writers and researchers allude to this Anubandha as an appendix to the Caturdandi Prakashika, fact is that they are two different and distinct texts, created by different authors at different points in time and structured differently as well. In fact the name of this appendix/musicological work is ‘rAgalakshanam’ as found in the preface to the text. However given very many musicological works are similarly named (for example Sahaji’s work dateable to circa 1700 AD, is called ‘rAgalakshanamU’, in this blog post we will refer to this text as Anubandha.

In this blog post we shall look at the content of this Anubandha, how it came to be unearthed, its author and it probable date.

The discovery of the Anubandha:

We do know that the musicological texts which were in the custody of Subbarama Dikshita when he published the SSP in 1904, included amongst others both the CDP and the Anubandha. From the narrative in the SSP we do know that Subbarama Dikshita treated the Caturdandi Prakashika as well as the Ragalakshanam listing as coeval, meaning he thought that the author of both of these texts was one person and that was Venkatamakhin himself, who lived somewhere between 1580-1650 AD.

We did see in an earlier blog post, the efforts of Subbarama Dikshita to acquire the texts and also the contribution of the 64th Pontiff of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta in enabling the same. Subbarama Dikshita while utilizing the text (Anubandha) in his SSP, did not print the complete text as a separate publication. He utilized the lakshana slokas and the arohana/avarohana murcchanas found therein and reproduced it verbatim in his SSP.

Subbarama Dikshita did share a copy of the CDP or portion of it to Pandit Bhatkhande when the later came visiting him in Ettayapuram. It is not known with certainty if the Anubandha was also shared. Prof Bhatkhande refers to only the original CDP and the other text (also called Ragalakshanam) which embodies the 72 Sampurna Melakarta starting from Kanakangi and ending in Rasikapriya, in his work as evident from his publication “Music Systems in India – A comparative study of some of the leading music systems of the 15th,16th,17th & 18th centuries”). Since the so called Asampurna Mela scheme found documented in the Anubandha is not referred to by Prof Bhatkhande, we can infer that the same was perhaps not shared by Subbarama Dikshita, when he met him at Ettayapuram on 17th December 1904.

Subbarama Dikshita died in 1906 and all these musicological texts & other collateral material such as gitams, tAnams ( portions of which are found in the SSP) were presumably inherited by Ambi Dikshita, the son of Subbarama Dikshita thereafter. Ambi Dikshita came in contact with Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, who met him at Kovilpatti in southern Tamilnadu in May 1931. Justice TLV became enamored of the music as practiced by Ambi Dikshita and brought him to Chennai, then Madras, the provincial capital of the Presidency. It was during this interaction that Justice TLV was perhaps able to access the manuscripts of CDP and the Ragalakshanam, with the result, in 1934 under the auspices of the Madras Music Academy the CDP as well as the Ragalakshanam was published as edited by Pandit Subramanya Sastri, T V Subba Rao and Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer. It was these authors/editors of this edition who first called the Ragalakshanam as Anubandha or Appendix to the CDP.   See foot note 1.

The Ragalakshanam manuscript lacked a formal preamble/introductory portion, colophon, date & such other details and was more like a manual or a lexicon rather than a formal treatise in itself. It was divided into two chapters with 45 and 145 anustubh verses in Sanskrit and was prosaic or free flowing like, in its narrative. It also differed in certain portions from the corresponding verses reproduced by Subbarama Dikshita in his SSP, thus giving rise to the suspicion that there were more than one version of the text.

Author of the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha & Its probable date:

Venkatamakhin – by Dr S Rajam
न्यूनं नप्यधिकं वापि प्रस्सिधैरध्वदष्स्वरैः |
कल्पयेन् मेलमेतर्हि ममायासो वृथा भवेत् ||
न हि तत्कल्पने फलालोचानोअपि प्रगलभते |
(Extract from the Caturdandi Prakashika – Venkatamakhin says that he has devised the 72 Melakarta scheme that is absolutely above reproach and not even Lord Siva can improve upon it)

During the first half of the 20th Century, based on Subbarama Dikshita’s averments and on his authority all subsequent writers and musicologists attributed the Anubandha to the authorship to Venkatamakhin himself. We do even have the much respected Dr V Raghavan himself acknowledging to the effect that Venkatamakhin also composed a work on the 72 melas (alluding to the Anubandha), based on the input of Pandit Subramanya Sastri.

It was only after the year 1950 perhaps that researchers started noticing the inconsistencies between the CDP on one hand the Anubandha on the other and they started voicing the same. While that was the state of music research at that point in time sometime after 1975 we have atleast two musicologists who advanced the view that the CDP and the Anubandha were two different texts, created by two different authors at two different points in time. They were Prof S R Janakiraman and Dr Satyanarayana. There may have been other writers/scholars/experts who might have advanced a similar view or opinion perhaps and I should confess that I am not aware and would like to be corrected if so.

The works of these two scholars alone are being considered in this blog post for the simple reason that they are leading and acknowledged authorities on the subject and they have time and again written and spoken about this in all their works and interactions. References 3 and 4 in the section below are the works of these two stalwarts and they advance the view that the Ragalakshanam was a creation of a descendant of Venkatamakhin sometime after 1700 A D.

Between Venkatamakhin who created the CDP in the year AD 1636 and the year AD 1760 which we know to be the possible end period before which the Anubandha should have been created , we have two historical personages from the account of Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP, who are mentioned as descendants of Venkatamakhin. One is Muddu Venkatamakhin, who Subbarama Dikshita attributes the authorship of the gitams published in the SSP & Pratamabhyasa Pustakamu for the ragas Natakurinji, Saveri and Gaulipantu. The other is Ramasvami Dikshita’s preceptor Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita.

The Argument advanced by Prof SRJ

Prof S R Janakiraman in his commentary to the Saramrutha of King Tulaja as published by the Madras Music Academy attributes the Anubandha or the Ragalakshanam – the listing of the arohana/avarohana murccana together with the lakshana sloka for the ragangas and the janya ragas thereunder to Muddu Venkatamakhin or to Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, who was the preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshita. He argues cogently that Subbarama Dikshita is prima facie wrong as the text of the original CDP is never at all a listing of the 72 melas. It was Venkatamakhin who envisaged the mathematical possibility of 72 melas but he saw that it was an exercise in futility to lay out all these 72 combinations as it would be a mere theoretical exercise. In the body of the CDP he drew out/documented only those 19 purva prasiddha melas and added Desi Simharava ( Simhendra Madhyamam of modern times) to it. The Anubandha on the contrary lists out all the 72 ragangas and their offspring which are in direct contradiction to the listing found in the CDP. Thus the Anubandha is a later day compendium obviously and its author could not have been Venkatamakhin. It could be either Muddu Venkatamakhin or Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, who could have authored the Ragalakshanam. This is the crux of the hypothesis advanced by Prof SRJ, implying that the Anubandha must have been created during the first half of the 18th century.

Prof Satyanarayana’s take on the authorship and timeline of the Anubandha:

For his part Prof Satyanarayana in his commentary on ‘Ragalakshanam’, reiterates the points stated by Prof SRJ but attributes it to Muddu Venkatamakhin only/himself. The raja mudra/patron’s colophon of the aforementioned Nattakuriji gitam given in the SSP, has King Sahaji of Tanjore as the royal patron with Muddu Venkatamkhin’s ankita. He concludes firmly that Muddu Venkatamakhin lived during King Sahaji’s times. Given that this Muddu Venkatamakhin was the paternal great grandson of Venkatamakin the Ragalakshanam can be ascribed to him with a date of circa 1700 AD. Readers may please refer to Prof Satyanarayana’s vimarsa/commentary on the Ragalakshanam. His introductory chapter highlights the case for attributing the authorship to Muddu Venkatamakhin and placing the time of the Ragalakshana to the reign of Sahaji. He also lists a number of other features/grounds with which we can say that Anubandha/Ragalakshanam and the original CDP were composed by two different authors.

Logical deduction as to the author of the Anubandha

It is indeed unfortunate that Ragalakshanam text in itself does not have a colophon and we are forced to resort to therefore seek the truth through collateral evidence. Also Subbarama Dikshita himself makes no connection whatsoever between Venkatamakhin, Muddu Venkamakhin and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita together, except stating that Muddu Venkatamakhin was the paternal great grandson of Venkatamakhin.

Be that as it may, armed with data given by Subbarama Dikshita we can still assume personages as place holders of their respective generations, just to ascertain their probability of being the author to the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha. So assuming for overlap of timelines between these personages, a more plausible life span calculation can be approximated as under for our understanding.

  • Venkatamakhin – AD 1590-1640
  • Venkatamakhin’s Son or next generation (Unknown) AD 1620- 1670
  • Venkatamakhin’s grandson or third generation (Unknown) – AD 1650-1700
  • Muddu Venkatamakhin (son of above, perhaps or 4th  generation) – AD 1680-1730 (contemporary of King Sahaji)
  • Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita (maternal great great grandson, possibly) – AD 1700-1760 (guru of Ramasvami Dikshita)

One can logically expect that at the least, a gap of 4 to 5 generations has to be there for the said period considering the average life spans of those days. The listing as above certainly makes it plausible for Muddu Venkatamakhin to have lived during the period 1680-1730 and that coincides with King Sahaji’s regnal years of AD 1684-1712. Assuming the authorship of the Ragalakshanam, as between Muddu Venkatamakhin & Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita we have the period of AD 1700- 1750 as the probable timeline during which the Ragalakshanam could have been authored. See foot note 2.

Subbarama Dikshita’s asserion that Muddu Venkatamakhin was a prapautra of Venkatamakhin and that Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita was a maternal grandson appears a little confusing/contradicting given the timelines.  Or it could be that Venkata Vaidyanatha DIkshita coming from a maternal line too was born circa 1690 to be part of the same generation as Muddu Venkatamakhin, but survived till 1750-1760, which meant he must have lived very long given the mortality of those times.

With this possible set of conclusions/observations let us move on the evidence if any within the Ragalakshanam itself as to its timeline.

Ans so what was the date it was probably created?

Dr V Raghavan postulates in his works that the CDP was written perhaps in 1620 AD by Venkatamakhin. However Prof Vriddhagireesan a historian, in his treatise on the Nayaks of Tanjore authoritatively records with collateral evidence that the Caturdandi Prakashika must have been composed in or around A. D 1637 during the initial years of the rule of King Vijayaraghava Naik (regnal years- AD 1633-1673) who succeeded King Raghunatha, of the erstwhile Royal House of the Naiks/Nayaks of Tanjore. It was in King Vijayaraghava Naik’s Court that Venkatamakhin was a minister, like how his father Govinda Dikshita was in King Raghunatha’s Court, Vijayaraghava’s predecessor. By the years AD 1675-77 the Naiks of Tanjore were decimated and Ekoji of the Maharatta Bhonsale clan had occupied the  Tanjore throne and set up his Kingdom by AD 1680. Records show that this period of AD 1670-1680 had been a period of great political upheaval and peace returned to Tanjore only with the stable rule of the powerful King Sahaji (son of Ekoji) between the years AD 1684-1712. We do know that Muddu Venkatamakhin the great grandson and descendant of Venkatamakhin was patronized by King Sahaji as the Nattakurinji gitam ( in the SSP) composed by him on King Sahaji as attributed by Subbarama Dikshita bears the the ankita very clearly making out beyond doubt that Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Royal patron was King Sahaji.

Therefore can  we presume that the “Ragalakshanam” a.ka. Anubandha too was composed during the regnal years of Sahaji, just as how Prof Satyanarayana concludes? No so fast, for we have a problem and lets turn to it.

The Litmus test – Evidence of the lakshana of the raga Velavali:

Sahaji created the Ragalakshanamu – a lexicon of ragas which were current during his life time/at that point in time during his regnal years at the latest say circa AD 1710.  Now to determine if Ragalakshanam/Anubandha was composed during the same time as that of Ragalakshanamu, a comparison of ragas between the two texts can be done. The ragas recorded by Sahaji (as he observed in practice) must logically be a sub set of the set of theoretical ragas propounded in the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha assuming them to be coeval. So if we identify one raga at least which is defined in say Sahaji’s work as having a particular svarupa but is differently described of has a different svarupa in the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha then we have an issue. Because if the raga was in practice/vogue at a given point in time but is assessed differently by the two works created at the same place and time, then we can logically deduce that they cannot be coeval.

Now if we indeed do that analysis with the Anubandha on one hand and Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu on the other, we hit at least with one roadblock pertaining to one raga’s lakshana. And the raga whose raga lakshana differs in the 2 texts is the raga Velavali !

The Velavali documented by King Sahaji:

Velavali, according to Sahaji, is categorized as a janya raga under the Sriraga mela (modern mela 22) with Nishadha dropped/varja in the arohana and sampurna in the descent. The Nishadha in Sriraga mela is N2 or kaishiki and the raga is to be sung at sunrise/day break. Thus Velavali which was in currency during 1710 or thereabouts, according to Sahaji was a raga having N2. In fact if we go back in time it was so even in Govinda Dikshita’s as well as during Venkatamakhin’s times. Both in Sangita Sudha and CDP,  the raga Velavali had always been classed under the Sriraga mela with its nishadha being N2 only. See foot note 3.

In fact Venkatamakhin in his CDP ( circa 1636 AD) gives this as the lakshana sloka for Velavali :

vElAvaLI tu bhAshAngaM jAthAh srIrAga mElathah |

sampUrna BhAvaM BhajatE praBhAtE chEsha gIyatE  ||

In fact comparing the definitions between Venkatamakhin and Sahaji, they match perfectly even about the time of rendering the raga, which is day break! And in fact Sahaji betrays no knowledge of CDP and thus becomes a perfect independent source for us. Thus all the way from circa AD 1637 to 1710, the raga’s lakshana has been stable under Sriraga mela with N2 as the nishadha svara occuring only in the avarohana.

In contradistinction, for the author of the Ragalakshana/Anubandha, (Gauri) Velavali is the raganga of mela 23. “Gauri” is a prefix added in the Ragalakshanam to get the sankhya so that the mela number of 23 can be derived as per Katapayadhi formula. Since it is mela 23, the nishadha can only be N3 or kakali ! Thus if the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha were to say that the nishadha of Velavali was only N3 and is not under Sriraga, it goes without saying that the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam must be dated only much later to 1710. It cannot be earlier to 1710 with certainty because for Sahaji and for Venkatamakhin, Velavali has only N2. One may ignore the reference to the term bhashanga used by Venkamakhin, Sahaji and Tulaja in the context of Velavali. The term signified a different raga attribute which has since been deprecated and did not refer to the presence of notes foreign to the raga’s mela, which is what it refers to today. We may be rest assured that Velavali always had only notes of the mela to which it pertained, in other words it was upanga from a modern standpoint.

If the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam were to be much later than AD 1710 then we need to do a similar compare with Tulaja’s Saramruta which is chronologically the next musicological text, available to us, being composed circa AD 1736, to determine Ragalakshanam’s timeline.

The Velavali of Tulaja

After Sahaji’s abdication of the Tanjore throne in AD 1711 and given that he was childless, his younger brother and successor Sarabhoji I ruled Tanjore from AD 1711-1729 for a period of 18 years. See foot note 4. He too died childless and was succeeded by his next brother Tulaja I, who ruled for a short period of 7 years between AD 1729 and 1736. This Tulaja I was the author of ‘Sangita Saramrutha’ a work very similar to his elder brother Sahaji’s ‘ Ragalakshanamu’. Again this Saramrutha indexed all ragas that were in currency during Tulaja I ‘s times or circa 1732-36 approximately. For the puposes of our onging analysis we can look at Saramrutha and see if Velavali is there and if so find its lakshana.

Luckily for us Velavali had survived till AD 1732 or latest till AD 1736 (when Tulaja I died). And to our surprise, he catalogues Velavali not under Sriraga mela but as a separate raganga with N3 to boot, exactly like how Anubandha/Ragalakshanam classifies it as melA 23. The raga continued to be sampurna and is bereft of nishadha in the arohana. It has all the notes of Sriraga except the nishadha has changed from N2 to N3.

So can we now conclude now that the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam is atleast coeval to the Saramrutha? There is still one more hitch. For, both Sahaji and Tulaja (leaving out the N2 being dropped and N3 being taken) Velavali lacked nishadha alone in the arohana, and it was sampurna in the avarohana. But for the author of the Anubandha/Ragalakshana, Velavali lacked gandhara as well as nishadha in the arohana, while the avarohana was sampurna!

Now this gets interesting. Between AD 1710 and 1736, the raga Velavali changes its nishadha from N2/kaisiki to N3/kakali, as evidenced by the Saramrutha. Now additionally gandhara too is lost in the ascent. What it means is that this could have happened only after 1736 because the dropping of the gandhara in the arohana is not recorded by Tulaja in Saramrutha circa 1736. For both of them i.e Sahaji and Tulaja, the raga had gandhara both in the arohana and avarohana.

Thus by deduction the Anubandha is dateable only to a date later than AD 1736. It was certainly not coeval to both Sahaji’s “Ragalakshanamu” or Tulaja’s “Saramrutha”. It was certainly much later to these two texts.

The other collateral evidence – Gopikavasanta & Gamakakriya

So we now see some light at the end of the tunnel. Velavali which was a janya under Sriraga till around AD 1710, is now elevated to be a raganga/mela in its own right during Tulaja’s times, circa 1732. In a span of 25 to 30 years outermost, Sahaji’s Velavali dropped its N2 acquired N3 and in one stroke moved out from being under the Sriraga mela to become a mela or a raganga in its own right. And after AD 1736 sometime circa 1750 perhaps, the raga additionally dropped the gandhara as well which is evidenced by the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha.

There is yet another set of evidence that we should consider. In an earlier blog post on the raga Gopikavasanta, we saw that the raga which was called Indu Ghantarava by both Sahaji and Tulaja in their works, had the name of Gopikavasanta in the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam. Both these ragas had the same melodic contour. If the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha was composed prior to 1736, the author would have called it Indu Ghantarava (the name assigned to that melody by Tulaja) as that was the name by which the melody went in practice in 1736. He would not have called it Gopikavasanta. Now that Tulaja’s Indu Ghantarava, post 1736 AD must have gone out of vogue by say AD 1740-1750. So circa 1750 AD , the melodic skeleton of Indu Ghantarava was then exhumed and given the name Gopikavasanta, by the author of Ragalakshanam/Anubandha. Meaning it could only be that the work was closer to 1750.

We also saw the case of the raga Gamakakriya and the earliest available composition in that raga by Sonti Venkatasubbayya dating back to circa 1770 AD. Gamakakriya again is a raga never seen in the CDP or in Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu or Tulaja’s Saramrutha. It makes its first appearance only in the Anubandha as the raganga raga for Mela 56. This is another evidence to the fact that the Anubandha is dateable only to AD 1750 or later.

The evidence provided by the two forms of Velavali , the musical identities of Indu Ghantarava & Gopikavasanta and the inception of Gamakakriya all make it clear and point to the conclusion that the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha was composed sometime after 1740 and closer to 1750 and certainly before 1760, the date by which Ramasvami Dikshita had probably finished his tutelage under Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita and had learnt the ragas of the Anubandha.

The unsaid evidence provided by the political turmoil in Tanjore

We can also strengthen our deduction based on the political situation during these relevant times in Tanjore. It goes without saying that a stable political atmosphere, absence of political turmoil or long drawn wars or marauding invaders is an essential prerequisite for arts to blossom forth. And without doubt a strong, militarily powerful and able ruler who is a good administrator, a lover and patron of arts and the learned is a sine qua non for arts and music to flourish . All these are all required to enable fine arts and music  along with musicians to prosper in a given geography or Kingdom.

As historical records show, close on the heels of Tulaja I’s death in 1736, the Kingdom of Tanjore was plunged in chaos, without a legitimate heir to the throne and a bunch of illegal contenders fighting for the throne. The neighboring Kingdom of the Nayaks of Madura too was in political foment. That said in all probability between 1736 and 1740 nothing ever worthwhile could have happened from the point of music and arts as the Tanjore kingdom was in turmoil till then. The most powerful of the contenders to emerge successful was Pratapasimha the son of a concubine of Tulaja I and he seized the Tanjore throne for himself towards the end of AD 1739. Thus it was in AD 1740 that that some semblance of order came to being in TanJore. And over the next decade stability and patronage of arts restarted with the ascension of King Pratapasimha to the Tanjore throne and has he firmly ensconsed himself. Much like his paternal uncle, King Sahaji, he too was a militarily powerful King, a great administrator and a great patron of arts and he too went on to earn the tile of “Abhinava Bhoja”. As we see later, this period of Pratapasimha’s rule (1740-1765) witnessed the greatest of the pre-trinity composers blossoming forth from the fertile land of Tanjore.

Therefore the Ragalakshanam/anubandha’s date being decidedly after AD 1736, could have been created only during Pratapasimha’s golden rule, circa 1750 or thereafter, in all probability.

And who could have been the Author?

Now that we have nailed down the year of the text closer to AD 1750 we turn over to the question of who could have been the author of the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha, as between the two personages, Muddu Venkatamkhin and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita. Now if the most probable time period was around 1750, given our estimated life time of Muddu Venkatamakhin (1680-1730) and that of Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita (1710-1760), it is more probable that it was Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita the preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshita perhaps who could have been the author of the Anubandha. Statistically speaking Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita has a significantly higher probability of being the author of the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha compendium, than Muddu Venkatamakhin. See foot note 5.

It is not to say that Muddu Venkatamakhin being the author is impossible. If he were born sometime later say in A D 1690 and had composed the Natakurinji gitam at worse say in the year of Sahaji’s abdication AD 1711, meaning he had gained royal favors even at a young age of 21 years, he would be around 60 years old in 1750 and could have still created the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam. Probable? Yes. Possible? Only ‘perhaps’ can be the answer. Too many positive assumptions have been made in this case. Too young to get royal favors at age 21 and too old for those times to have survived till 1750 or later.

Other possibilities

There are even more possibilities/scenarios which are probable. It could have been neither Muddu Venkatamakhin nor Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, as well being the authors of the Anubandha.

  1. Perhaps another anonymous/unnamed yet descendant in between Muddu Venkatamakhin and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita could have been the author. We don’t know.
  2. One other very plausible scenario is that the Venkatamakhin clan kept the Ragalakshanam / Anubandham compendium periodically updated with the raga lakshanas in vogue at various points in time and kept it as a living document. Thus the document or work had no single author but was instead a versioned document constantly updated at different points in time. This surmise can be validated with the finding that the Ragalakshanam listing contains raga names not found in the Raganga Lakshana gitas of the corresponding mela ragas. For example the Sankarabharana raganga gita does not refer to Nilambari whereas under the Anubandha we have the lakshana sloka and arohana/arohana murrcana krama being provided. Such misses can only arise if it were a running document. Therefore in such a dynamic situation our analysis needs to be slightly modified. We can simply conclude that the last such update to this Ragalakshanam / Anubandha as a living document was done perhaps by 1750 or latest 1760 AD as by then Ramasvami Dikshita had been taught the ragas of the Venkatamakhin Sampradaya presumably by Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita. The Ragalakshanam stands frozen since then!  See footnote 5.

I should confess that based on the preponderance of probabilities, my personal view is that the scenario per Point 2 above is he most plausible, if one were to view all the available facts logically.

All that we surmise now, is based on:

  1. The character references we get from Subbarama Dikshita,
  2. The dating of the texts CDP, Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu and Tulaja’s Saramrutha and with life times and mortality factored in.

To conclude, from the perspective of musiologists and scholars today, as we see with the available evidence, the balance of probabilities favor Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita more than Muddu Venkatamakhin. If Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita was older than the 50 years which we assume he might have been during AD 1750-60 when he taught Ramasvami Dikshita, it would only strengthen our conclusion.


The objective of this monograph, if I might deign to call it one, was to provide an insight into the antecedents of the Ragalakshanam, the work which was called as the Anubandha or Appendix to the Caturdandi Prakashika. In contrast to the much popular perception, we saw that on the authority of Prof S R Janakiraman and that of Dr Satyanarayana, the work was by a different author done much later in time. And with a little more analysis using the raga Velavali as a litmus agent, we saw that the most probable author could be Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, dateable closer to 1750 or thereafter and definitely not earlier. We also saw the two alternate hypothesis particularly the the one where the Ragalakshanam was likely treated by the descendants of the Venkatamakhin family as a living document and they kept it updated frequently, which appears the most plausible explanation. And if that is so then there cannot be a single author for the work. See foot note 6.

As a corollary to this monograph we will cover the curious history of the raga Velavali which we dealt with in passing for the litmus test, in the next blog post, which could logically conclude our study of that raga as well.

References :

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr.Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 485-486 & 565-567
  3. Prof R. Satyanarayana(2010) – ‘Ragalakshanam’ – Kalamoola Shastra Series- Published by Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi
  4. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai, pages 241-245
  5. V Vridhagireesan ( 1942) – The Nayaks of Tanjore- Published by the Annamalai University
  6. S N Ratanjankar (1940) -V N Bhatkhande’s – Music Systems in India- A Comparative Study of some of the leading music systems of the 15th,16th,17th and 18th centuries- Republished by S Lal & Co(1984)
  7. Dr S. Sita (1983) – “The Ragalakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja’ – Pages 140-182- JMA Vol LIV
  8. Dr V Raghavan – ‘Later Sangita Literature’ – Republished in JMA Platinum Jubilee Commemoration Volume – Compilation from the years 1930-1940, published by the Madras Music Academy in 2001 – pages 121-124


  1. Pandit Subramanya Sastri a great Sanskrit scholar had done yeoman service to the cause of editing older musicological text and making them ‘ready’ for publication during the greater part of the 20th century. He has been instrumental in editing not just the Ragalakshanam, but also Govinda’s Sangraha Cudamani, which is today the Bible for modern Carnatic musicology. It is very likely that he must have substantially corrected the grammatical and scribal issues with the Ragalakshanam manuscript as well.
  2. The personage named “Govinda Dikshita” who apparently met the Dikshita family at Manali circa 1790-1800, according to Subbarama Dikshita though described as a descendant of Venkatamakhin, is not known to Ramasvami Dikshita before obviously as he had to prove his credentials that he learnt the Venkatamakhin sampradaya from Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita ( who was descendant on the maternal side). This Govinda Dikshita based on his own introduction was probably a son or grandson of Muddu Venkatamakhin who himself was Venkatamakhin’s patrilineal great grandson ( prapaautra according to Subbarama Dikshita)
  3. Earlier to both Govinda Dikshita and his son Venkatamakhin, Ramamatya in his Svaramelakalanidhi mentions Velavali. His Velavali too is bunched under Sriraga mela. But he says that in some places rishabha and pancama svaras are not seen. That doesn’t completely conform to the svarupa of Velavali under Sriraga as articulated by Govinda Dikshita, Venkatamakhin and Sahaji in their works namely Sangita Sudha, Caturdandi Prakashika and Ragalakshanamu, respectively. Hence leaving aside Ramamatya, we can consider Govinda Dikshita to have first mentioned the raga Velavali of the form with N2 that we have considered for this blog post.
  4. During his regnal years Sahaji, a musicologist & composer, created the “Ragalakshanamu” a compendium of ragas which were prevalent during his life time. We know that upon the death of his father Ekoji he ascended the throne at a very tender age of 12 in the year A.D. 1684 (born 1672). So much for his generosity and patronage, he was referred as Abhinava Bhoja. It is also known that Sahaji was childless and he actually abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Serfoji I in the year 1712, having ruled over the Tanjore domain for 28 years. He was an avowed devotee of Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur. Legend has it that he retired to live a life of an ascetic in Tiruvarur where he had his abode very near the temple and overlooking its precincts so that he could have a darshan of his Lord Tyagaraja everyday as he woke up. While we do know he renounced the throne in 1712, we do not when he finally died perhaps in Tiruvarur. Assuming once again a time span of around 50 years, Sahaji must have lived atleast until 1722 or thereabouts.
  5. While Govinda Dikshita and his son Venkatamakhin enjoyed great authority and wielded considerable patronage and the respect of the Nayak Kings in the 17th century, their descendants in the 18th century do not seem to have garnered a similar patronage from the succeeding Bhonsale Kings. For example King Sahaji circa 1710 renamed the village of Tiruvisainallur as Sahajirajapuram and converted into a tax free grant for a set of prominent learned individuals. The Venkatamakhin descendants, including Muddu Venkatamkhin or Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita are not found in that listing nor is anyone having nexus to the family, are recorded as recipients of Sahaji’s grants or patronage elsewhere. Either they were not interested in patronage or perhaps they were not prominent enough to be a recipient, we do not know. From a historical record perspective the next great practitioner of Venkatamakhin’s musical legacy/sampradaya who rose to prominence and was much feted was only Sonti Venkatasubbayya, the creator of the immortal Gamakakriya varna (found in the SSP). He must have perhaps been part of Pratapasimha’s Court, but he certainly attained his pinnacle of glory during the reign of Pratapasimha’s son Tulaja II (1765-1788) in who’s Court he became the Dean of the Palace musicians. As pointed out elsewhere, Subbarama Dikshita in his Pratamabhayasa Pustakamu records Sonti Venkatasubbaya as a prime disciple of Muddu Venkatamakhin.
  6. It needs to be stated that this is pretty much an outcome of my personal armchair research with the available secondary references. It needs to be recorded here that notwithstanding the above finding/premise/hypothesis, in these blog posts we shall continue to refer to the Anubandha as being authored by Muddu Venkatamakhin sometime during the first half of the 18th century or circa 1750 AD.  With the analysis we did in this blog post, one fervently hopes that music researchers will focus on exactly dating this precious document based on a serious study of not only the ragas therein, but also the style and such other collateral evidence. That would provide some form of finality or closure to the date/authorship issue.


The featured image in this blogpost’s header is that of a gold coin or “Phanam” ( spelt as fanam perhaps the precursor to the Tamil word பணம் ) as it was called, being the coinage /currency issued during the times of King Serfoji I ( Regnal years 1712-1728 AD). This Tanjore sovereign, ruled after King Sahaji who had earlier abdicated the throne (and being childless) and before King Tulaja I, his brother who succeeded him. This coin is embossed on one side with the “Sharabha“, a mythical creature being part lion and part bird and the text “Sri Sarabhaja” in Nagari script on the other side.

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