CompositionAppreciation, Notation, Sahitya

“vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” – A Critical Appraisal

Prologue:

One key aspect in our assessment of the authenticity of Muthusvami Dikshita’s compositions is the reliance we place on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) of Subbarama Dikshita. The SSP published in 1904 AD is the numero uno in this aspect as Subbarama Dikshita had evaluated both the lyric as well as the melody of every composition and presented it in an almost original form. Rare are the instances of a composition in the SSP being doubted for authenticity, though some questions have arisen especially in the case of kritis documented in its Anubandha.

Apart from the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) which was published in 1904 AD, chronologically the next publication that merits our attention is the Dikshita Kirtanai Prakashikai (“DKP”) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (in the lineage from Tambiappan Pillai and Sathanur Pancanada Iyer). This publication made in the year 1936 AD was a compilation of 50 kritis of Dikshita, of which 49 kritis found herein was also found in the SSP. And it had one which was not in the SSP being “Mahaganapatim Vande” in Todi which was covered in an earlier blog post.

Post this during the 1940’s after the death of Ambi Dikshita, the son of Subbarama Dikshita, a large number of compositions from outside of the SSP bearing the colophon “guruguha” came to be published by the disciples of Ambi Dikshita, which have been attributed to Muthusvami Dikshita. All these compositions are documented by Veena Sundaram Iyer who published the same during 1940’s & 50’s as the “Dikshitar Keertanai Mala” (“DKM”).

In so far as compositions not found in the SSP and those which came to published as above and seen in DKM, many questions arise as to whether these compositions not found in the SSP are truly Dikshita’s compositions.

In this blog we will take up one such composition, not found in the SSP but which came to be published in the 1940’s as above. The kriti is “vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” in the raga Devagandhari under Mela 29, in Adi tala. The said composition is not found listed in the SSP or in the DKP. We will look at the kriti and also its antecedents along with renderings of the same to develop a point of view as to its attribution to Muthusvami Dikshita.

In this blog it will be argued that this composition too, much like “Mahaganapatim Vande” in Todi has all the hallmarks of a true composition of Muthusvami Dikshita and based on available extrinsic and intrinsic evidence can be attributed to him, notwithstanding the fact that it is not notated in the SSP.

But first let us take up the composition text for our consideration.

The Composition:

pallavi

bhajE-ahaM                  – I worship

sadA                        – forever

vadAnyESvaraM               – Vadanyeshvara (the great benefactor).

tyajE-ahaM                  – I renounce

mada-Adi vRttiM             – tendencies such as arrogance,

mudA                        – joyfully

anupallavi

pada-aravindaM              – (I worship) the one whose feet are (lovely) as lotuses,

Ananda kandaM              – the root-source of bliss,

pAlita dEva gAndhArava bRndaM – the protector of the multitudes of Devas and Gandharvas,

sadA-arcitaM                – the perennially worshipped one,

vinata vidhi mukundaM       – the one saluted by Brahma and Vishnu,

sadguru guha cidAnandaM     – the bliss of consciousness of the noble Guruguha,

sadA                        – always.

caraNam

paSu pASa mOcanaM           – (I worship) the one who liberates creatures from bondage,

tri-lOcanaM                 – the three-eyed one,

panca-AnanaM                – the five-faced one,

praNata gaja-AnanaM         – the one saluted by the elephant-faced – Ganesha

SiSu bAla gOpa viditaM      – the one well-known even to infants, children and cowherds,

muditaM                     – the joyous one,

SivaM                       – the auspicious one,

bilva vana vaibhavaM        – the splendorous one in the Bilva forest,

bhavam                      – the one who has become everything in this universe,

viSuddhi-Adi nilayaM        – the one residing in Visuddhi and other Chakras,

maNi valayaM                – the one wearing bejewelled bracelets,

vigata vikalpakaM           – the one in whom variations have ceased,

Srita kalpakaM              – the wish-fulfilling divine tree to those who seek refuge,

paSu patiM                  – the master of all creatures,

jnAnAmbikA patiM            – the Consort of Goddess Jnanambika,

paraSu mRga dharaM          – the bearer of the axe and deer,

nIla kandharaM              – the blue-throated one,

aSubha kshaya karaM         – the annihilator of the inauspicious,

abhaya vara karaM         – the one whose hands gesture freedom from fear and granting boons,

anAdi-avidyA haraM          – the remover of primordial ignorance,

Sankaram                    – the causer of welfare and good fortune.

Notes:

  1. The kriti is on the Lord Siva enshrined at Vallalar Kovil in Mayuram / Mayavaram / Mayiladuthurai, Lord Vadanyesvara and whose consort is Goddess Gnanambika
  2. The raga mudra is indirectly embedded in the composition in a slightly truncated fashion in “dEvagandharva brindham”
  3. The composer’s colophon is also found in the composition in “sadguruguha cidAnandam”.
  4. The kriti is a paean to Lord Shiva with epithets in his glory strung together as a composition.

The Provenance of this Composition:

What sets this composition apart in our analysis is the very source of the pAtham of this composition. As pointed out this composition is not found in the SSP (1904). Nor is it notated in the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai” (1934) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, which was the next authoritative publication of Dikshita’s compositions. Up and until 1940, these two publications were the most authoritative compilations of the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshita.

The composition “Vadanyesvaram” crops up from an unexpected source in the year 1943, when it was published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol XIV (1943)- pages 147-149 (“JMA“) -see header to this blog post.

As the notes to the composition make it clear, it is obvious that:

  1. The kriti has been edited by Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer.
  2. The source of this pAtham is attributed to Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer.
  3. The text as well as the notation of the composition is provided therein. It is in the regular SRGM notation, with 1st and 2nd kala markings and does not carry any other gamaka signs or such other embellishments/ ornamentations.

Unfortunately, nothing is known as to the identity of this Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer and if ever he belonged to the sisya parampara of Muthusvami Dikshita. It can be safely concluded that outside of the regular sources of Dikshita compositions, this source is an odd/unique and yet refreshing fount. And it was only later that this composition figured firstly in Veenai Sundaram Iyer’s “Dikshitar Kirtanai Mala -Volume 2- Song No 21” and then in Rangaramanuja Iyengar ‘s Kritimanimalai Vol 5 – Song No 142.

Suffice to state that this source is ex-facie of unimpeachable fidelity and we will examine the notation further to confirm the same.

Key structural aspects of the composition:

It can be seen from a stylistic perspective, the composition is Dikshitar’esque in its form.

  1. The language and style of the lyrics, the prAsA concordance, the gait of the composition, the construct of the pallavi-anupallavi- carana as well as the colophon and the ‘sUcita” raga mudra embedded in the composition all point to this conclusion.
  2. The melodic material is expanded in an organized manner first in the pallavi, then in the anupallavi and finally in the carana section.
  3. Akin to quite a few compositions, the lyrics commencing “pasupatim jnanambika patim” and ending with “…anadya vidya haram sankaram” appended to the final carana section seemingly looks to be a madhyama kala sahitya section, but is not. It has to be pointed out that to qualify as a madhyamakala sahitya section the lyrics in question must be set to exactly half the duration of the immediately preceding carana/anupallavi sahitya section.
  4. The raga “Devagandhari” of Mela 29 is kept musically beautiful in this composition.

Notation of the Composition:

Given below is the notation as published in the aforesaid JMA.

  1. The composition is replete with svaraksharas on the
    1. dhaivatha note as in “madAdi”,”mudA” in the pallavi
    2. pancama note as in “padhAravindam” and “pasupAsa mOcanam
  2. Jumps are seen at “sisupAla” going directly to pancama from sadja note with R/P MP prayoga. The S/D and S\d prayogas, launched from the madhya sadja note are also found in the composition. The said jumps are reminiscent of the prayogas found in the cittasvara section of the Dikshita composition “ksitijAramanam” which is found documented in the SSP.
  3. The sama kAla and dhruta kAla sections are marked as plain and line-on-top respectively with 2 kalai caukam as the rendering mode of the composition.

The overall musical setting, the way the raga progresses in the individual sections and the usage of adulatory paeans on Lord Siva as seen in the composition all of them attests to the fact that the composition should have been composed by Muthusvami Dikshita. It has to be pointed out that Dikshita has visited the ksetra as evidenced authoritatively ( vide the kriti “Abhayambayah anyam na janEham” in Kedaragaula on the Goddess enshrined in Lord Mayuranathasvami Temple) in the SSP and it is therefore very well possible that he visited the nearby temple of Vallalar Kovil as well, which is the subject matter of the composition on hand. As an aside it can be noted that one of Dikshita’s disciples was Vallalar Kovil Ammani which is recorded by Subbarama Dikshita in his biography of Dikshita, who likely hailed from this place.

Thus viewed from multiple angles including the sangita, sahitya, likelihood of his visiting the ksetra and the stylistic aspects and further given the independent source of this composition coming to us through the patham of Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer ( outside of the known lineages or sisya parampara of Dikshita), all of them attest to the fact that this composition is not a spurious one and an overwhelming body of evidence exists to accept this as an authentic composition of Muthusvami Dikshita himself.

From a ksetra perspective, today the place is famous for its shrine of “medha dakshinamurti” which is located within the precincts of this Temple.

Discography:

Arguably one of the finest renderings of this composition is that of the legendary Vidvan Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. I present the composition sung by him in his 1966 Music Academy recital accompanied by Vidvans Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin, Umayalpuram Sivaraman on the mrudangam and Narayanasvami on the ghata.

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders “vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” in Devagandhari of Muthusvami Dikshita

In this recording, the veteran embarks first on an alapana of the raga and then proceeds to the kriti. It’s a trifle unfortunate that the recording is truncated in a few places. Nevertheless the recording is complete in itself. It can be noted that the pAtham as sung, sticks closely to the notation as published by Mudicondan Venkatrama Iyer (supra). The veteran sings it in the sedate cauka kalam bringing out the essence of Devagandhari so distilled by Dikshita in this composition.

From the past, Veena Vidvan K S Narayanasvami too is recorded to have brilliantly rendered this composition. Here is his rendering of the composition excerpted from his 1972 Music Academy Concert accompanied by Vidvan Vellore Ramabadran on the mrudanga.

Veena Vidvan K S Narayanasvami renders “vadAnyEsvaram

Hark at the sowkhyam with which plays the carana beginning with “pasupAsa mOcanam” and his rendering of the finale “pasupatim jnanambika patim“.

And presented finally is the full suite of alapana-kriti-svaraprastara for the composition by Vidusi Seetha Rajan from a chamber recital to complete our understanding and how the composition can be melodically extended and exploited to its fullest potential to maximize ranjakatva. Attention is invited to the 2nd kala svaras sung for the composition for the pallavi line at the fag end of the svaraprastara, skillfully avoiding Arabhi in its wake, lest the color of Devagandhari is lost.

Vidushi Seetha Rajan renders “vadAnyEsvaram” with alapana and svaraprastara

Conclusion:

Thus, for all these aforesaid reasons, the composition “vadAnyEsvaram” in Devagandhari can be attributed to the authorship of Muthusvami Dikshita, beyond reasonable doubt. However it is indeed a puzzle why it was left out of the SSP. And as always one hopes that modern day performers will keep this kriti alive on the concert circuit by singing it frequently.

Update History:

19-Aug-2020: Since the first posting, I have updated the post to include the rendering of the composition by Vidvan K S Narayanasvami and Vidushi Seetha Rajan.

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