The Mystical Rudrapriya of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini


Preamble:

This raga Rudrapriya as listed in the Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) which we take up in this blog post along with the compositions available to us, would confound any student or practitioner of music when viewed against the available musicological texts and musicological history. The objective of this blog post is to evaluate the material available to us and seek a plausible explanation for the confusing or contradictory aspects. This raga belonging to the mela varga or the clan of ragas under Mela 22 Sriraga, is a raga of late 18th century vintage (post 1750 AD), as it is not seen in the prior musicological texts, such as those of Shahaji or Tulaja. 

Overview of Rudrapriya:

In the modern musical parlance, the raga Rudrapriya is an upanga janya under Mela 22 Sriraga, taking all the 7 notes in the arohana lineally while dropping the dhaivata note in the avarohana.

Arohana krama/murcchana: S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S

Avarohana krama/murcchana:  S N2 P M1 G2 R2 S

Simple as the definition may sound, yet the raga plays hosts to a number of unique features beyond what is conveyed by the above skeletal definition, which is also the source of confusion for us. We will start the exercise of dissecting the raga, from the commentary provided by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP and the exemplar compositions provided thereunder.

The SSP’s take on Rudrapriya:

According to Subbarama Dikshitar:

  1. The raga is bhashanga
  2. It is sampurna with dhaivatha being varjya in the avarohana
  3. Sadja is the graha svara of the raga
  4. It is a desya raga
  5. The raga can be sung at all times
  6. Nishadha is a key note of the raga, identified by the dheergha note in the arohana krama and the Janta combination with which it occurs in the avarohana
  7. Rishabha and gandhara are the other jiva and nyasa svaras

A brief evaluation of the above commentary in the modern context is required for us to understand the raga and let us taken them up seriatim.

  1. Though Subbarama Dikshitar says that the raga is bhashanga, it is not so in the modern sense. As pointed out earlier in our other blog posts, such as the one on Gopikavasanta raga, a proper reading of the SSP as a whole would show that Subbarama Dikshitar has presented the term “bhashanga” in its older sense, when ragas were classified as upanga, bhashanga and kriyanga ragas on an entirely different aspect. The perusal of the Lakshya Gitam of Sriraga, the parent raga of the 22nd Mela varga in the SSP would show that Sriranjani, Madhyamavati and Devamanohari are also shown as bhashanga janya ragas of the mela (22), which we know, they are not, in the modern sense. Today we call a raga bhashanga if it takes a note which is foreign to the parent scale. Rudrapriya does not take any note from outside the notes of Mela 22 so is upanga in the modern sense.
  2. In the context of the SSP, it has to be pointed out that Rudrapriya is not mentioned in the Sriraga lakshya gitam either as a upanga or a bhashanga janya thereunder.  Suffice to state that the raga must have been inducted into the Anubandha listing (to the Catur Dandi Prakashika probably authored by Muddu Venkatamakhin) much later in time.
  3. Curiously as a foot note at the very end of the last composition provided as the exemplar, Subbarama Dikshitar makes a mention that the prayoga M1G2M1 in certain places is rendered as M1G3M1 which is called as Hindustani Kapi. Without wading into this controversial point at this juncture as to the usage of G3/antara gandhara alluded to by Subbarama Dikshitar and confining ourselves to Rudrapriya alone, we can safely conclude the following points:
    1. In none of the exemplar compositions that Subbarama Dikshitar cites in the SSP, does MG3M occur or is so notated.
    1. The usage of G3 may have been seen by Subbarama Dikshitar during his times but was not an intrinsic part of the sastraic definition of Rudrapriya.
    1. Rudrapriya for us today therefore is a upanga janya under Mela 22 taking no foreign notes.
  4. Next, Subbarama Dikshitar says that the raga is sampurna. What it meant in the older context was that taking together both arohana and avarohana krama all the seven notes occurred in the raga. And given that dhaivatha was varjya in the avarohana, Subbarama Dikshitar rightly provides his summary so. From a practical perspective thus the musical motif SN2P becomes defining to mark out this raga. Further since D2 is said to be varjya, or avoided in the avarohana, the phrase SN2D2N3P should not occur in the raga.
  5. Subbarama Dikshitar’s reference to sadja being the graha svara of the raga is superfluous for us today, for even by the late 18th Century ragas had adopted the sadja note only as the graha svara. The erstwhile architectural construct of svaras other than sadja, being graha or the commencement/basal note had long been superseded/deprecated.
  6. According to Subbarama Dikshitar, Rudrapriya is a desya raga. The concept of desi/desya ragas as referred to by him relates to the aspect of the origin of the raga. Ragas were classed as Ghana, Naya and Desi right from the days of Shahaji (circa 1700). A century before Shahaji, Venkatamakhin (circa 1620 AD) in his trail blazing ‘Caturdandi Prakashika’ is seen using the term ‘desi raga’ and identifies Kalyani and Pantuvarali/Ramakriya as desi. Venkatamakhin uses the term “turuska”, meaning Turkish or a Moslem import into Indian music. Though the practice of classifying ragas as ghana, naya and desya had gone out of vogue, still in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar has in his commentary of the ragas called out certain ragas as desya ragas- for example Pharaz, Nayaki etc. These so called ‘auttara’ or foreign origin ragas probably imported into our Music from the North were nevertheless seen as ranjaka or pleasing to the ear and hence came to be accepted along with the other established and ordained ragas, by the cognoscenti.
  7. Again, Subbarama Dikshitar’s description that Rudrapriya is a raga which can be sung at all times of the day, relates to a concept which has long since died out in our system of music. As we saw in prior blog posts, SSP still latches on to this concept of ragas and the time of the day in which they are to be rendered, for instance the raga Ahiri is supposed to be sung in the first quarter of the night ( bhANa yAmE pragIyatE). Again, suffice to say that this concept of singing a raga at the anointed time has long since gone out of vogue.
  8. Next according to Subbarama Dikshitar, the janta nishadha is a unique feature of the raga which is reinforced in the arohana/avarohana murchana krama that he provides. It is janta in the arohana krama and dheergha in the avarohana krama.
  9. This apart Subbarama Dikshitar also identifies gandhara (dhirgha) and rishabha as preferred jeeva and nyasa svaras. We can see the import of these when we discuss the exemplar kritis in the sections to follow.

In sum, the Rudpriya of the SSP goes as under:

  1. It is an upanga janya raga under mela 22.
  2. It is sampurna in the arohana and devoid of dhaivatha in the avarohana krama.
  3. Janta Nishadha, dirgha nishadha and gandhara are the hallmarks of this raga with rishabha figuring as a preferred jiva and nyasa note.

Though Subbarama Dikshitar does not specify unique motifs for the raga, nevertheless we will endeavour to identify them when we study some of the exemplar kritis later on in this blog post.

Exemplar Kritis in the SSP:

Apart from providing the lakshana of the raga, Subbarama Dikshitar lists out the following compositions for us in the SSP as illustrating Rudrapriya:

  1. “Rudra Kopa Jaatha Veerabadhram Ashyraye” of Muthusvami Dikshitar in rupaka tala, composed on Lord Veerabadhra, the Lord of the Shiva Ganas and considered an aspect of Lord Shiva Himself in the Hindu mythology.
  2. “Vallideva Senapathi” of Balasvami Dikshitar in Rupaka tala, a composition in Telugu propitiating Lord Subramanya at Kazhugumalai (or Kazhugachalam or Grudhra Giri) wherein he seeks the Lord’s benign blessings for his Royal patron Kumara Ettendra. It may be pointed out here that the Lord at Kazhughachalam/Kazhughumalai was the presiding deity of the Ettayapuram Royals who were the patrons of the Dikshitars.
  3. “Neeve rasikashikamani” a daru (ode) again of Balasvami Dikshitar in Adi tala on his Royal patron Venkatesvara Ettappa, the then Ruler of Ettayapuram.
  4. “Amba paradevate” of Krishnasvami Ayya in matya capu tala
  5. “Muruga Unnai nambinen ayya” a composition by Venkatesvara Ettappa, again on the Lord at Kazhugachalam
  6. His own sancari in matya tala.

While this is the listing from the main SSP, in the Anubandha, Subbarama Dikshitar lists out two more compositions in this raga attributing the same to Muthusvami Dikshitar:

  1. The first being a kriti on Lord Ganesha, “Gananayakam Bhajeham” in Adi tala. It is the notation of this kriti and the extant versions of the same which causes considerable confusion to a discerning listener of music, which we will deal with in the relevant discography section.
  2. The second is “Tyagesam  Bhajare” again in Adi tala.

Outside the ken of the SSP, from amongst the lot of kritis which came to be published by Veenai Sundaram Iyer purportedly from out of the palm leaf manuscripts of Ambi Dikshitar, the son of Subbarama Dikshitar, we have three kritis attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar, available to us:

  1. “Tyagarajasya Bhaktobhavami” (misra capu tala) as part of the set of vibakti kritis on Lord Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur
  2. “Sivakayarohanesaya” in Rupaka tala
  3. “Parasaktim” in Adi tala

While we take up a few key individual compositions for analysis, we will also briefly look at the other collateral aspects of the composition and its subject matter to bolster our understanding and also enhance our appreciation of the raga and the composition, in unison.

“Rudra Kopa Jaatha” of Muthusvami Dikshitar:

This kriti is on Lord Veerabadhra, considered by some as a form of Lord Shiva himself, but yet the popular mythology places the deity as having been born out of Lord Shiva’s wrath as Muthusvami Dikshitar very neatly encapsulates it in the opening pallavi of the composition. Let’s first look at the lyrics and the meaning of the composition.

pallavi

sadA                          – Always,

hRdaye                        – in (my) heart,

AshrayE                        – I surrender to

vIrabadhram                  – Lord Virabhadra,

rudra-kOpa-jAta               – He whose arose from Shiva’s wrath,

anupallavi

bhadrakALI-ramaNam           – the Consort of Bhadrakali,

bhava-haraNam                 – the remover of (the sorrows of) worldly existence,

bhadra-pradAna-nipuNa-charaNam- the one whose feet are adroit in granting prosperity,

rudrAkSha-mAlikA-bharaNam- the one ornamented with garland strung of Rudraksha beads,

kShudra-Adi-nivAraNam- the preventer of petty or cruel effects,

bhakta-bharaNam               – the supporter of devotees,

caraNam

vijita-vidhi-hari-hari-hayam  – the one who subdued Brahma, Vishnu and Indra (who has golden horses),

vira-adhi-vIram               – the bravest of the brave,

abhayam                             – the fearless one,

rajata-parvata-Ashayam        – the one residing in the silver hued mountain, Kailasa,

ravi-vidhu-tEjOmayam          – the one who embodies the sun, moon and fire,

gaja-mukha-gaNEsha raksham     – the protector of the elephant-faced Ganesha,

aja-vadana-daksha-shiksham     – the one who taught a lesson to the goat-faced Daksha,

nija-rUpa-dAna-daksham        – the adept at granting knowledge of one’s real self,

nija-guruguha-svapakShststayiam    – the one who has his preceptor Guruguha on his side.

The composition encapsulates the portion of the story of Sati or Dakshayani, Daksha’s (son of Lord Brahma) daughter who married Lord Shiva, much against Daksha’s objections. When She attempted to seek the rightful share of the sacrificial offering (haavis) in the yajna that her father conducted, without duly inviting Lord Shiva, Daksha insulted her & Lord Shiva and thereupon Sati immolated herself. It was at this juncture Lord Shiva upon hearing the fate of Sati, was subsumed by anger at Daksha. And in wrath he plucked the locks of his matted hair and split them into two. From one rose Lord Veerabadhra or Aghora Veerabadhra and from the other, his consort Goddess Mahakali appeared. Lord Shiva bade them to go and destroy Daksha’s sacrifice in divine retribution for the sacrilege that he had committed. When Lord Veerabadhra leading Shiva’s bhutaganas, descended on the place where Daksha was conducting his yajna, a great war ensued between them and the Gods including Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Indra on Daksha’s side. Lord Veerabadhra defeated the Gods and exacted revenge by slaying Daksha. When Lord Shiva was thereafter duly propitiated by the Gods, he condescended and revived Daksha by fixing a goat’s head on his decapitated torso. Sati was thereafter reborn as Parvati (daughter of Himavan) and she duly reunited with Lord Shiva. The esoteric worship of Lord Veerabadhra and the related mantras propitiating him can be accessed here.

Muthusvami Dikshitar adroitly weaves this puranic lore dealing with Lord Veerabadhra in this composition by the following lyrics:

rudra kOpa jAta, – Veerabadhra being born out of Lord Shiva’s wrath

Bhadra-kAli-ramanam – Veerabadhra being the consort of Bhadra Kali.

 Vijita-vidhi-hari-hari hayam – In the war that took place between Veerabadhra and Daksha’s forces, Veerbadhra vanquishing Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Indra

Rajata-parvata-Ashryam – As a Commander of Lord Shiva’s Ganas, Veerabadhra being a resident of Mount Kailasa, referred to as a silver hued mountain

aja-vadana-dakSha-sikShaM. – Veerabadhra by slaying Daksha for his act of sacrilege thus teaching him a lesson.

As is his wont, in the body of the composition, Dikshitar weaves in part, the raga mudra and his colophon ‘guruguha’ in the lyrics, even while keeping his date with prasa concordance. It has to be mentioned that the lyrics provides no specific stala/ksetra reference as the abode of the deity.

The notation of the composition in the SSP would show the following for us:

  1. SRGM, SGRGM, SGRS (especially in tara stayi) forms the alternative progression of the raga on the purvanga. Actually, SRG is not seen in tara stayi and almost as a rule only SGR is seen.
  2. In the uttaranga, PDNS in the madhya stayi and MPNS in the mandhara stayi, (for example the notation of the lyric “abhayam” in the caranam) are the prayogas seen. It has to be noted that both PDNS and PNS are thus used in the composition with the caveat that PDNS figures in the madhya stayi and PNS in the mandhara stayi.
  3. The foregoing would clearly show that the raga conforms to the 18th Century raga architecture whereby different/multiple progressions in purvanga-uttaranga are taken in the madhya and mandhara stayi.
  4. PDNPM, NgrsNP and sgrsNP along with MGM are recurring motifs with rishabha being a preferred phrase ending note.
  5. Janta nishadha and kampita gandhara are seen used. In fact,the NNsNPM can be anointed as the leitmotif of the raga (the lower case sadja being the tara sadja note). However, this specific murccana is not found explicitly in this composition, though.
  6. In terms of octaval traversal, the kriti stretches from mandhara madhyama to tara madhyama.
  7. As always Dikshitar unveils his conception of the raga with its delectable turns and twists, in the madhyama kala sahitya section starting “gajamukha”. The musical notation of this segment of the composition being the finale goes thus:

GRnS-  GR.G -MM,,                      | PMPD – NS.R -M.GR ||

gajamukha -ganesa-raksham | ajavada-nadaksha-sIksham

NS,N – PM,, – GGRS                      | nSGR – MG.N – P,GR ||

nijaru-padAna-daksham         | nijaguru-guhasva-paksham               (Rudrakopa)

Note: Notes in lower case is mandhara stayi, upper case is madhya stayi and italics is tara stayi.

Discography:

For this composition, presented is a compact and almost close to the SSP notation, rendering of the composition by the Rudrapatnam Brothers in this Youtube audio recording with a raga vinyasa, kriti rendering followed by a few avarta of svaras.

However, the following points merit attention in the context of the rendering above:

  1. The raga vinyasa could have been structured with more janta nishadhas and by ending the musical phrases with rishabha note so as to remove any traces suggestive of Karaharapriya.
  2. The lyrical portions of the caranam being “harihayam” and “abhayam” ought to have been rendered as per SSP with the notation as RnRGM and npmpns respectively. Instead it is heard as SRGM and npdns. To that extent the fidelity to the notation of the SSP is not seen in the rendering barring which the rendering otherwise closely aligns to the SSP.
  3. The madhyama kala carana portion is brought out satisfactorily in accordance with the SSP notation.

There are other renderings of this composition but they do not meet the benchmark set by SSP and are at best left alone. With this we move on the next kriti.

“Gananayakam Bhajeham”

Before we embark on dissecting this composition, a brief note on some aspects of this composition merit our attention.

  1. This composition was published as a part of the Anubandha to the SSP by Subbarama Dikshitar attributing the same to Muthusvami Dikshitar. Some scholars cite this as an infirmity, in a sense, whether the composition was indeed Dikshitar’s and why was it that Subbarama Dikshitar made it part of the Anubandha rather than making it part of the SSP itself.
  2. Further in support of this point of view it is argued that:
    • The eduppu or the take-off of “Gananayakam” (½ edam of the second beat of the adi tala) and it overall rhythmic format is reminiscent of the style of Tyagaraja. This feature is not seen in any kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar and thus is stylistically alien to him.
    • The melody or musical setting/mettu of this composition is uncannily similar or exactly the same as that of “Sri Manini Manohara” a composition of Tyagaraja which goes with the raga name of Poornasadjam. It has to be pointed out that the Anubandha to the SSP states that raga of ‘Gananayakam” as Rudrapriya and not Poornasadjam.

Thus, we are left holding with an issue as to the antecedents of this composition which can boiled down into the following questions:

  1. Is it a composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar?
  2. What is the raga lakshana of Rudrapriya found documented for this composition in the Anubandha to the SSP?
  3. Are Rudrapriya and Poornasadjam same or similar, or are they different?

We will proceed to find a satisfactory explanation for these vexing questions by adopting the following methodology:

  1. Analyse the composition from a lyrical and musical perspective (both with the notation found in the Anubandha and the extant renderings of the composition)
  2. Evaluate the composition from a musical perspective with “Rudrakopa Jaata” and ‘Sri Maanini”
  3. Evaluate the take of musicologists on these questions, if any and summarize our understanding.

The notation of the composition:

The Anubandha to the SSP documents the notation of “Gananayakam” ( catusra eka tala). The perusal would show a number of distinctive aspects:

  1. Dhaivatha is completely avoided both in the arohana and avarohana
  2. The kriti itself is architected with the nominal arohana/avarohana murchanas as under:

S G R G M N N S / S N P M G R S

  • As if to emphasize the core raga lakshana of Rudrapriya, Nishadha note is made the pivot of the composition both the dheergha and the janta variety littering this short and exquisite piece.
  • Attention is invited to stark contrast between the musical texture of “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” and “Gananayakam” especially the dropping of the dhaivatha note in both arohana & avarohana and pancama in the ascent.

Discography:

When we examine the available recordings of this composition, we have two main varieties of rendering:

  1. Version 1 -Rendering strictly based on the Anubandha notation eschewing dhaivatha completely in both the arohana and avrohana while pancama in avoided in the aroha phrases.
  2. Version 2- Rendering of the composition by normalizing the phrases to incorporate PDNS wherever MNNS occurs, throughout the composition. This would make the raga lakshana of the composition to accord with the version laid out in the main SSP of which ‘Rudrakopa Jaatha” is the exemplar.

Version 1:

In this I present the mellifluous vocalist Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari rendering the composition fully in accordance with the Anubandha to the SSP notation. Attention is invited to the musical notes of the lyrics “dayakam” in the anupallavi, “viradham” in the carana and the svara kalpana sally on the pallavi wherein the MNNS (not PDNS) figures as the building block for her. Both “dayakam” and “viradham” are notated as MNNS in the anubandha to the SSP and she sings the same in strict accordance with the notation.

Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman of the Ambi Dikshitar sishya parampara sings in accordance with the notation found in the Anubandha:

If we surmise that this was the Ambi Dikshitar version was this how it was taught?

Version 2:

I present the rendering of the legendary Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M S Subbulakshmi who begins one of her innumerable concerts with ‘Gananayakam Bhajeham”. Attention is invited to the musical notes of the lyrics “dayakam” in the anupallavi, “viradham” in the carana and the svara kalpana sally on the pallavi wherein the PDNS figures as the building block for her. Both “dayakam” and “viradham” are notated as MNNS in the Anubandha to the SSP and NOT as PDNS as she sings.

I next present a detailed exposition by Sangita Kalacharya Dr S Rajam who too traced his patham to Ambi Dikshitar.

Attention is invited to the introduction he provides to the raga before commencing his recital. Again, if he too had learnt it from Ambi Dikshitar, why is the version of the composition is different as between him and Sri D K Jayaraman? Food for thought, one should say.

Dichotomy in the Raga Lakshana:

The discography above as evidenced by the two versions poses us with the further question whether the raga of Gananayakam is Rudrapriya, as exemplified by “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”. The raga seen in ‘Gananayakam’, being totally devoid of dhaivatha and eschewing panchama in the ascent, cannot be melodically equated to the Rudrapriya of “Rudra Kopa jaatha”. Yet Subbarama Dikshitar in his wisdom calls the raga of both the compositions as Rudrapriya.

It is in this context that the raga lakshana found in ‘Gananayakam” came to be found as being exactly like the one in Tyagaraja’s “Sri Manini” and similar to the famous ‘Lavanya Rama” which are labelled in all musical texts as being in the raga by name Poornasadjam. Without wading into the two Tyagaraja kritis, lest we deviate away from the subject matter Dikshitar kritis on hand, I refer the reader to the rendering of the two compositions by the late Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan, available in the public domain.

 Which now leaves us with the question as to the difference between Rudrapriya and Poornasadjam.

Poornasadjam and Rudrapriya:

The two ragas can be compared with the available musicological records as summarized below:

Detail Rudrapriya Poornasadjam
Musicological textual reference Rudrapriya is found mentioned only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshanam and in Subbarama Dikshitar’s SSP. No other prior musicological text talks about this raga Poornasadjam is found documented only in Sangraha Cudamani and the later Ragalakshanamu. As reiterated in these blog posts the Sangraha Cudamani (SC) is found to be documenting the ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja.
Mela of the raga Mela 22 – Sri Raga or the equivalent heptatonic mela Karaharapriya Mela 20 – Natabhairavi or Narabhairavi, as SC calls the Mela, the raga is seen documented in SC.
Arohana/ Avarohana S R G M P D N S S N P M G R S S P M P D P S and S N D M G R S
Notes varjya or vakra Dha is omitted in the descent Ri, Ga and Ni omitted in ascent and Pa being omitted in the descent. The sloka in the SC as well as the Ragalakshanamu are individually as well as mutually, noticed to be inconsistent
Exemplar Compositions we hear today “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” of Muthuswami Dikshitar and “Amba Paradevate” by Krishnaswami Ayya No known composition exists in this scale

The very perusal of the authoritative musicological texts would show that the ragas going by the names of Rudrapriya (found only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s raga compendium and the SSP) and Poornasadjam (found only in the Sangraha Cudamani and its related text called Ragalakshanamu) are so dissimilar originating in different melas and having different scales. And further there is no raga similar to Rudrapriya (of SSP) documented in the Sangraha Cudamani. The facts as above would lead us to only one conclusion:

  1. The raga of “Sri Manini Manohara” is not Poornasadjam as the notes found in the composition belong to the 22 Mela, given that Purnasadjam is a janya of the 20th mela, on the authority of the Sangraha Cudamani.
  2. The assignment of the name Poornasadjam as the raga of “Sri Manini” is most possibly a misattribution, borne out of ignorance of musicological history, a phenomenon we have seen repeatedly in the case of a number of instances as documented in these blog posts, by which some name has been randomly been assigned to the raga.
  3. Certainly, the raga of “Sri Manini Manohara” is therefore not Poornasadjam as defined by Sangraha Cudamani

The above table for the raga that we today call as Poornasadjam will be thus:

Detail The raga that we today call as Poornasadjam
Musicological textual reference No textual or musicological authority exists for the raga. Only Post 1906 AD publications talk about this raga.
Mela of the raga Mela 22 –Karaharapriya
Arohana/Avarohana S R G M N (N) S /S N P M G R S
Notes varjya or vakra Dha is completely omitted in the raga and pancama is omitted in the ascent
Exemplar Compositions we hear today “Sri Manini Manohara” and “Lavanya Rama” Though the raga of certain oral versions of “Gananayakam” (as we saw by Dr M S Subbulakshmi) and the notation that is given in the Anubandha to the SSP conform to this scale, we still call the raga of “Gananayakam” as Rudrapriya only and NOT as Poornasadjam.

Therefore, the question that survives for our consideration is given the similarity of the tonal material of “Sri Manini” with “Gananayakam” and on the authority of the Anubandha to the SSP, can the raga of “Sri Manini” also be Rudrapriya?

Amba Paradevate of Krishnasvami Ayya:

But before we embark to find the answer to this question, we should look at the other compositions, renderings of which are available for us. In the same breath we have to note that the other compositions in the SSP, being the two compositions of Balasvami Dikshitar, the kriti of Venkatsvara Ettappa and the sancari are aligned to the Rudrapriya described by Subbarama Dikshitar and delineated in “Rudra Kopa Jaata”. All these compositions go with the SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS as the common murccana arohana/avarohana, whereas “Gananayakam” goes with the melodic structure of SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS in stark contrast.

Leaving this at this point, we take up the exposition of Rudrapriya by the renowned Sangita Kalanidhi Flute T Visvanathan who prefaces his demonstration of Krishnasvami Ayya’s “Amba Paradevate” with his commentary of the raga and its lakshana.

Here is the audio of the rendering: Link   (requires Yahoo or Gmail sign in credentials)

Here is a live video of his rendering (excerpt) of the same: Link

It has to be said that though the doyen’s presentation of the composition is par excellent, it is tinted much with Karaharapriya, with no distinguishing features in place. The rendering may be immaculate from a scalar grammar perspective duly avoiding the dhaivatha in the descent but does it convey the melodic idea of Rudrapriya as a scale distinctive in itself? I leave the answer to a discerning listener to decide for himself. One can however say with certainty that the musical texture and conception of Rudrapriya as seen in “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” is nowhere seen in ‘Amba Paradevate” atleast from this popular rendering of the composition.

And to conclude our exploration of Rudrapriya we move over to the final piece of this discography section.

“Sri Tyagarajasya Bakthobhavami” of Muthusvami Dikshitar:

We move on next to this composition which is not found in the SSP. This composition is identified by certain musicologists as being part of a set of compositions being the Vibakti set/series of kritis on Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur. While in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar clearly identifies such sets of compositions (example the Vaara kritis and the Navavarana Kritis on Goddess Kamalamba) by way of his foot notes, no such reference is made by him in so far as this set of compositions go. Be that as it may I first take up the rendering of the composition by Vidushi Neela Ramgopal.

The evaluation of this rendering assuming it is as per the published notation of this composition would yield us the following findings:

  1. The Vidushi embarks first on an alapana embellishing it liberally with PDNP and phrases ending with rishabha. Every time she fleshes out a musical phrase, she keeps the DNP or SNP as a refrain so as to keep any trace of Karaharapriya at bay.
  2. At the same time quite controversially, she repeatedly uses PDNPGR in the madhya stayi descent phrases, while it ought to be PDNPMGR. These madhyama varjya sancaras bring a different texture to the raga (tinting it with the feel of Rathipatipriya – Mela 22- SRGPNS/SNPGRS). The madhyama has a solid pride of place in the raga Rudrapriay both in the ascent and descent and hence while a casual or one-off rendering of madhyama varjya phrases could be artistically supported, repeatedly or only using the phrase PDNPGR almost as a rule is certainly unwarranted. Similar is her usage of the MGS in the tara sancaras which conveys a very different feel to the raga.
  3. In sum her rendering of the composition too seems to carrying these phrases as well lending a different feel to the raga, in contradistinction to the one delineated in the SSP and ‘Rudra Kopa Jaatha”.
  4. The perusal of the notation of the composition as published by Veeni Sundaram Iyer reveals a few puzzling aspects. In more than one place the phrase PMNDN and DND figure prominently. Further phrases such SNDS, PNDNS too occur. Grammatically speaking these phrases do not conform to the laid down lakshana and if the composition is so notated with these non-kosher phrases not seen in the SSP, it certainly needs further explanation and authority. And it would be yet another flavour or variant of the Rudrapriya apart from the versions found in “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” and “Gananayakam”

Thus, neither does the musical setting of the composition strictly conform to the lakshana of the raga as found in “Rudra kopa jaatha” or SSP nor does it sound stylistically aligned to how Dikshitar would set the melody of the composition. It must have been perhaps for this reason that Subbarama Dikshitar in his wisdom decided to keep the composition out of the SSP (assuming that he had the lyrics with him). Given this problem I keep this composition out from further discussion in this blog post.

It must be pointed out that from a lyrical content perspective the kriti is replete with references to the hoary traditions and mythologies surrounding the Tyagaraja Temple. To conclude this section, it is observed that this kriti too does not take us any further in resolving the dichotomy that we see in the raga’s lakshana.

Summary:

The foregoing thus shows that:

  1. The kriti “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” is the benchmark or standard or exemplar which conforms to the laid down lakshana of Rudrapriya and evidenced by Subbarama Dikshitar’s commentary of the same in the SSP.
  2. The raga as conceptualized by Muthusvami Dikshitar in the said composition is unique like Reetigaula ( different prayogas in the different registers) by sporting PNS and not PDNS in the mandhara stayi (and) PDNS and not PNS in madhya stayi and again sporting SRGM in madhya stayi while its equivalent tara stayi prayoga being SGRS, reinforcing the 19th Century raga architecture tenet that multiple progressions for a raga are permissible in its purvanga and or uttaranga and/or in the mandhara/madhya/tara registers/octaves.
  3. The mettu of ‘Gananayakam” and ‘Sri Manini” being the same/similar, the raga of the composition is certainly not Poornasadjam (as defined under Sangraha Cudamani)
  4. Therefore, the scale SGRGMNNS/SNPMGRS found in these two kritis should probably be treated as a form/variant or a truncated version of Rudrapriya.

One could possibly reconcile the foregoing and conclude that this variant of Rudrapriya (SGMNNS/SNPMGRS as seen in “Sri Manini Manohara”/”Gananayakam”) was perhaps an offshoot of the original Rudrapriya whereby primacy was given to janta nishadha by dropping dhaivatha altogether. Hence the Rudrapriya found in “Gananayakam”/”Sri Manini” represents yet another interpretation of the raga. Harmonically speaking it can be reasoned that only when dhaivatha is absent will dheergatva and janta prayoga on the nishadha note make musical sense.

Compositions in Rudrapriya by other Composers:

Leaving aside the case of the kritis “Lavanya Rama” or ‘Sri Manini Manohara” of Tyagaraja which are obviously not in the same musical mould as the Rudrapriya found in “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”, there are no other available compositions in the raga. The only known composition from the post Trinity composers in this Rudrapriya, seems to be the kriti “Nee Dasudani” of Veena Varadayya (AD1877-1952). A recording of the same is available on the web –Link.

The lyrics of this kriti can be found here: Link

And the Final Question:

Is the composition “Gananayakam” really Muthusvami Dikshitar’s, given the points as to the stylistic aspects which has been raised? In this regard we should take notice of the following factors:

  1. The Anubandha to the SSP also documents a few other compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar including the famous Caturdasa Ragamalika. On the strength of Subbarama Dikshitar’s assertion we have to go with this attribution. Further along with “Gananayakam”, Subbarama Dikshitar also provides ‘Ananta Balakrishnam” in Isamanohari, ascribing it to Muthusvami Dikshitar. And again, he provides ‘Ananta Balakrishnam’ in the Prathamabyasa Pustakamu as well. Considerable thought must have gone into his decision to make these kritis part of the SSP Compendium attributing authorship to Muthusvami Dikshitar and therefore it would be in the fitness of things to acknowledge his call at face value and accept that the kriti is indeed of Muthusvami Dikshitar despite the stylistic reservations as aforesaid.
  2. The respected music critic of the last century Sri K V Ramachandran in his erudite Music Academy lecture demonstration, published in the Journal titled “Apurva Ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” (The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109, Madras) has this to say:

“Indeed, the two composers (Tyagaraja and Dikshitar) have composed several songs with the same dhatu as though in friendly rivalry: –  Sri Venugopala and sri Rama in Kurinji, Kamakshi Mampahi and Sri Rama padama (Suddha Desi), Syamale Meenakshi and Pahi Ramachandra ( Sankarabharanam), Gananayakam and Sri Manini (Rudrapriya), Gatamoha and Gurumurte ( Sankarabharanam),Ananta Balakrishnam and Dinamani vamsa ( Isamanohari); and Eramuni of Tyagaraja resembles a Dikshitar song in Vasantabhairavi. If a diligent search is made, we could find many other songs with the same musical idea…………..”

And rightly so in olden days, composers used to conjure lyrics for a popular captivating tune and that was never frowned upon as plagiarism. It may be pointed out that the famous Svarajati of Melattur Virabhadrayya in Huseini spawned many a copy. As it is said imitation is the best form of flattery. In this instant case of “Gananayakam” and “Sri Manini”, who imitated whom, will never be known. Yet here are these compositions for us to hear, learn and relish with the full knowledge of all these contradictions and confusions. With passage of time, none of this will ever be resolved.

In so far as the question of what is Rudrapriya and what is Poornsadjam, the following points merit our attention.

  1. The Music Academy Experts Committee in the year 1955 (JMA Volume 27 1956 pp 27-28) took up the detailed discussion on the raga Rudrapriya. After discussing the lakshana laid down in the SSP and the musical setting of “Lavanya Rama” and the identical progression of the raga in “Gananayakam” the Committee reiterated the position that we see today: Rudrapriya is SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS under Mela 22 and the other being Purnsadjam with SRGMNS/SNPMGRS under mela 22 as well.
  2. Unfortunately, the Committee never went into issue of the textual authority supporting the parent mela of raga Purnasadjam as Mela 20 nor did they get into the other aspects of Rudrapriya such as the janta/dheergha nishadha and the usage of MPNS, PDNS and SGR as some motifs as found in ‘Rudra Kopa”. Nobody seems to have even come forward to sing “Rudra Kopa”. Further the kriti “Sri Manini” and its melodic closeness with “Gananayakam” is not even mentioned in the said discussion. It can be noted from the discussion, that the divergence between the stated SSP lakshana and the melodic progression in “Gananayakam” seem to have troubled the veteran Sangita Kalanidhi Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, who has ventured to explain it away by suggesting that with passage of time the raga’s structure might have changed.
  3. The Music Academy Experts Committee again in the year 2009 (JMA Volume 80 2009 pp 103-114) discussed the raga Rudrapriya along with its allied ragas without any definitive conclusion as to its individual lakshana. According Dr N Ramanathan, who has summarized the said discussion as an article in the JMA:
    • The original musical setting of the kriti “Gananayakam” must have been lost and therefore the composition possibly must have come to be rendered in the tune of “Sri Manini”. Subbarama Dikshitar wary of this therefore relegated it to Part B of the Anubandha and not presenting it in the main SSP.
    • The phrase ‘MPNS’ seen in “Rudrakopa Jaatha” is reminiscent of Hindustani Kapi but there the nishadha is kakali. The phrases RMP too occurs in profusion along with NPMGR and NPGR in “Rudrakopa” and “Sri Tyagarajasaya”
    • K V Srinivasa Iyengar mentions the raga of “Sri Manini” as Purnasadja and “Lavanya Rama” as Rudrapriya. In the absence of a reliable notation of these two Tyagaraja compositions it is difficult to determine what the melodic forms of these compositions.
  4. It is respectfully noted that this discussion of the Committee of Experts of the Music Academy in 2009 seems to have taken no notice of the earlier discussion made in the year 1955, cited above. The 2009 discussion too seems to have completely ignored the fact that the raga Purnasadja as documented by Sangraha Cudamani belonged to Mela 20. Further the analysis of the raga has been done mainly with reference to Hindustani Kapi and the sibling ragas Kanada, Durbar and Karnataka Kapi, without getting in depth into the raga Rudrapriya’s contours on a standalone basis.
  5. For us, the raga name ascribed to “Lavanya Rama” as Rudrapriya by Sri K V Srinivasa Iyengar adds yet another twist to the tale, making us doubt whether the raga of that composition too has been normalized by dropping dhaivatha completely and aligning it to the nominal structure of SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS. Could it have been that “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” and “Lavanya Rama” were in one bucket while “Gananayakam” and “Sri Manini” were in another? One would never know.
  6. Be that as it may, right or wrong, one silver lining in this entire controversy is the final conclusion drawn by the 1955 Music Academy Experts Committee Meeting supra, which for us today resolves the naming convention of the raga found in the compositions so that students of music of today aren’t confused as to the raga and it name in the context of these compositions. Thus, if the scale used is SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS then it is Rudrapriya and if it is SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS it is Poornasadja, both under Mela 22, notwithstanding the assignment of the raga name as Rudrapriya to “Gananayakam” in the Anubandha to the SSP. Despite this, today we still see Dikshitar’s compositions being called only as Rudrapriya and the Tyagaraja compositions being called as Poornsadjam.

Conclusion:

In this blog post I have consciously avoided discussing the raga Rudrapriya in the context of its allied ragas as well as its melodic affinity if any to the Northern Kafi. Instead I have focussed only on the determination or examination of Rudrapriya’s core musical form as available to us through the SSP.

At this juncture it must be reiterated that any work of art must always be represented with utmost fidelity to the intent of the composer, of which we have cognizance based on appropriate facts and circumstances. In the instant case on hand one therefore ought to conclude that:

  1. The kriti “Gananayakam” ought to be sung as notated in the Anubandha to the SSP (vide the rendering of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari) and should not be normalized to the nominal arohana/avarohana krama given in the main SSP. There is no need to apply our judgement in this matter in the light of the proper notation as provided by Subbarama Dikshitar for “Gananayakam” in the Anubandha.
  2. Again, the kriti “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” ought to be sung duly emphasizing the MPNS & avoiding PDNS in the mandhara stayi and by using only PDNS in the madhya stayi and SGRS in the tara stayi. Again, there is no need to normalize the prayogas by replacing the MPNS with the PDNS and rendering the same, based on our defective belief that ragas must have octaval symmetry or that it can be only of one form.

Thus, in sum, compositions ought to be rendered with complete adherence to the composer’s intent as found in the composition and any transgression from the same ought to be eschewed completely. Similarly attempting to morph raga lakshanas by standardizing the svaras/combinations is a pernicious tendency which we must get rid of. Under the garb of normalization, we have mauled or mutilated the compositions of the Trinity, which we have repeatedly been seeing this these blog posts. We must accept and acknowledge that two or more variants of a raga can be there (musical isomerism) and no harm will be caused by rendering the kriti properly in accordance with the raga lakshana found therein.

It is sincerely hoped that students as well as professional performers of our music would respect these aspects as to lakshya, lakshana and the adherence or fidelity to the laid down lakshana in the composition are kept in mind, to the best of ability, while learning and rendering compositions of the great vaggeyakaras.

Bibliography:

  1. Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy (1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 556-567 of the 2006 Edition of Vol III and Pages 1359-1361 of the 2006 Edition of Vol V and the English version available online here: Link
  2. Ragalakshana Sangraha – PhD Dissertation of Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1084 and 1158
  3. Dr V Premalatha – Note on Ghana Naya Desya Ragas – Link
  4. Journal of the Music Academy Madras (2009) – JMA Volume 80 – Editor Pappu Venugopala Rao – pp 103-114
  5. Journal of the Music Academy Madras (1956) -JMA Volume 27 – Editor T V Subba Rao & Dr V Raghavan- pp 27-28
  6. Journal of the Music Academy Madras (1950) -JMA Volume 21– Editor T V Subba Rao & Dr V Raghavan- pp 107-109

Epilogue

The proof of the pudding always lies in eating it. And with that note & on this Vijayadasami Day I present my amateur interpretation of Dikshitar’s “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” duly prefaced with a brief raga vinyasa just to highlight that indeed a very professional and thoroughly delectable presentation of the raga is in the realm of possibility.

Rendering of the “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”

I learnt this SSP interpretation from the revered Prof C S Seshadri, a guru of sorts for me. However, all errors and omissions in this rendering are entirely mine and I have also further improvised the version I learnt from him. As can be noticed, in the rendering, my first sangati for a line of lyric will always be completely aligned to the SSP while the second/additional sangatis if any thereafter shall be fully in consonance with the laid down lakshana seen in the composition.

“kāśīviśveśvara ehi mām pāhi’ – The forgotten magnum opus in Kāmbhoji

Prologue:

The raga Kāmbhoji needs no introduction to a discerning listener of our music. In it, is a composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar, which is the subject matter of this brief post, which is the first one in this new composition appreciation series of short blogposts. Personally, I consider this as one of the serious and contemplative pieces ever composed in our music and particularly by Dikshitar. Considerable thought ought to have gone into this composition as it is truly a magnum opus of epic proportions set in khanda ata tala, 14 aksharas, with a full suite of pallavi, anupallavi and carana and the last two sections invested with a madhyama kala portion, the sahitya rich in lyrics, sthala/ksetra references and needless to add, infused with Kambhoji as its life and blood.

The Kriti – A Background

During his stay at Tiruvarur, sometime CE 1820 , the itinerant he was, Dikshitar visited the nearby village of Kuzhikkarai perhaps on the occasion of the consecration of the Shiva temple there, whose patron was one Vaidyalinga Mudaliar. The temple being analogous to the one at Kasi, has Lord Kasi Visvanatha as its presiding deity. Musical history tells us that during his sojourn there, Dikshitar composed quite a few kritis including this Kambhoji masterpiece. ‘śrī viśvanātham’, the caturdasha ragamalika, ‘annapūrṇe viśālākṣi’ in sama, ‘viśvanāthena samrakṣitoham in samanta are the other ones which are recorded in history as having been composed by Dikshitar in this ksetra. Near the temple precincts in a water body/tank /kuLaM (in tamizh). The legend associated with the temple has it that by bathing in it, a person afflicted by leprosy would be cured of the same (“kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho”) and that, propitiating the Lord in this kshetra would give one, benefits greater than what can be got by being to kashi itself (“kāśī-kśetra-sadṛśa-adhika-phalada-garta-tīra-vāsa”).

The kriti in its sahitya sports all these references directly or indirectly as under:

भवरोगहर-चतुर-वैद्यलिङ्ग-विभो (bhava-roga-hara-catura vaidya-linga-vibho) – reference indirectly to Vaidyalinga Mudaliar

गर्ततीर-वास भक्तविश्वास ( gartatīra-vāsa bhaktaviśvāsa) & कुष्ठ रोगापह-गर्ततीर्थ-शम्भो (kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho) – Reference to the sacred water tank ‘gartatIra’ and its medicinal property to ward off leprosy (kushta roga)

And as is Dikshitar’s wont, the raga mudra and his colophon are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the composition as under:

भद्रदायक-अम्भोजकर-विभो – meaning “O the one whose lotus hands grant benign fortune and happiness!”

शिवगुरु-गुहजनक-पशुपते – meaning “O the auspicious one, the progenitor of Guruguha and master of all creatures!”

The complete lyrics and the meaning of this composition in Sanskrit can be found here:

http://guru-guha.blogspot.com/2007/09/dikshitar-kriti-kasi-visvesvara-raga.html

Kambhoji Quartet – The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP’s) take:

Subbarama Diksitar’s treatise documents the following compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar in the raga Kambhoji:

  1. Shri Subramanyaya Namaste – Rupaka
  2. Shri Valmikalingam – Ata
  3. Kamalambikayai Kanakamshukayai – Ata
  4. Kashi Vishvesvara -Ata

Each one of the above ‘Kambhoji Quartet’ is a musical marvel, presenting the raga Kambhoji in its seemingly infinite variations and facets and rivalling only each other in their beauty of the melodic construction and intricacy of architecture. But before one looks at the construct of the composition, it has to be first heard. Sadly, the composition “kAsi visvesvara” is never heard on the concert circuit and gives one the impression whether it is even being taught and learnt, leave alone being sung! While the performers, from amongst the above listing of compositions of Dikshitar, take to the ubiquitous ‘Sri Subramanyaya Namaste’, the three others have never been known to be taken up for rendering or serious elaboration. And sadly, keeping the above Kambhoji Quartet aside, performers have taken recourse to the other kritis, (mis)attributed to Muthuswami Dikshitar, such as “Marakatavallim” or “Kailasanathena” which are not only of doubtful antecedents but also not at all comparable or in the same league as the aforesaid Quartet of compositions.

Be that as it may, before we look at the lyrical and musical construct of the composition, the available renderings must be first heard.

Discography:

It is known with certainty that this composition formed part of the repertoire of the late Sangita Kalanidhi D K Pattamal who used to wonder at it saying that singing this composition was nothing short of performing a yagna. Unfortunately, we do not have any recordings of her rendering of this piece. In all probability she must have learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, the repository of Dikshitar compositions, from whom she learnt many Dikshitar compositions.

Presented first in this section is the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer who too learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, which we fortunately have.

Presented next is a rendering of the same by the revered Prof S R Janakiraman, who has rendered it in his own inimitable style.

It has to be pointed out here that the above two are the only available rendering of the composition in the public domain and perhaps luckily become a high-fidelity or pristine version/gold copy of the composition, unsullied by likely extensions or interpolations. A discerning listener ought to immerse himself/herself in the rendering, with the SSP notation by the side to soak up the musical and lyrical essence of the composition.

Musical & Lyrical Construct of the Composition:

From a musical perspective the following points stand out:

  1. The musical phrase ‘DP DM MG MR GR GS’ is the recurring leitmotif which occurs in this composition. The notation for the anupallavi & charana lyrical portions ‘bhakta viś v ā sa’, ‘vaidyalingavibho’, ‘gartatīrtha śambho’ and ‘cinmātra’ would show that they are set to this phrase as it were a refrain of sorts. The pallavi lyrical portion ‘karuṇānidhe’ too sports an equivalent phrase ‘DP DM MG MR rpmG MG MR GS’ as its mettu. By design this musical motif is found in the anupallavi and the charana portions, occurring in the 8th to the 14th akshara of the ata tala cycle.
  2. SN3P finds an acknowledged place in the musical setting. The loop back portions from the anupallavi and the charana back to the pallavi, respectively at ‘dakshina’ and ‘citsabhāpate’ sport SN3P explicitly.
  3. The raga’s purvanga as it appears in the composition eschews SRGMP completely save for a tāra sancara usage at the sahitya ‘rogāpaha’ occurring in the carana. Thus, it is SGRGM, SP or SMGM which dominate the raga’s purvanga prayogas. And the quaint MGPDS as well as the standard SMGMPD appear aplenty in the composition.
  4. The madhyama note is seemingly given a pride of place in the composition. For instance, the anupallavi section of the composition commences with a dheerga madhyama.
  5. The two madhyama kala sahitya portions appended to the anupallavi and the carana portions are a marvel in themselves. The word ‘deva’ is used consecutively but yet to connote different epithets of the Lord, a form of aNi (அணி)or a lyrical motif. This form of lyrical ornamentation is found in a number of compositions of both Muthusvami Dikshitar and Subbarama Dikshitar, as documented in the SSP.
  6. Similarly, the prathamakshara and dvitIyakshara prAsa concordance is found in the two madhyama kala sahityas as under:
  7. The syllable ‘de’ occurring at the 1st and 8th (exact half of ata tala 14 beat cycle) aksharas covering the two full tAla avartas of the anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section “dEśika kaṭākṣeṇa darśita
    |dEvatā-sārvabhauma-mahā || dEva-devadeva-deva nuta |dEva rāja pūjita dakshiṇa||”
  8. The syllable ‘va’ occurring at the 2nd and 9th aksharas covering the two full tala avartas of the carana madhyama kala sahitya section “bhuvana bharaṇa-bhūtagaṇapate -bhava hara-nata-vidhi-śrIpate|| Siva guruguha-janaka-paśupate |nava maṇi-vilasita-citsabhāpate ||
  9. Dikshitar has made the composition capacious. In other words he distributes the sahitya in such a way that even while he keep prAsa in mind, he also incorporates long kArvais, pauses and musical phrases to fill every one of the 14 aksharas. I draw the attention of the reader to what we saw in the previous post on the composition ‘rEnuka dEvi samrakshitOham’ in Kannada Bangala. There Dikshitar took the stylistic route of matching the hrasva and dhirghA syllables of the sahitya to exactly fit the sahitya in a 1:2 ratio- for example if every hrasva sahitya syllable were to be sung for 1 akshara of the tala ( jhampa in that case) then the dhIrgha syllables would be at 2 aksharas and the entire sahitya of the composition would be structured as well to fit into exactly the total tala cycle, leaving no surplus or deficit of either sahitya syllables or tala aksharas. In other words, there was no need for a pause/kArvai to extend sahitya to fill the tala nor was there a need to accelerate to second speed in the midst in order to complete the sahitya within the tala cycle. This construct of mAtu laya is not adopted by Dikshitar here. Contrastingly in ‘kAsi visvEsara’ he liberates himself from this self-imposed constraint of matching the sahitya and tala in perfect mAtu laya. Instead he pitches for long kArvais – sustained intonation/elongation of sahitya/note on to multiple contiguous tala aksharas and gamakas keeping in mind the raga of his choice for the composition namely Kambhoji. Kambhoji as a rakti raga can we melded to this compositional style with elaborate gamakas or kArvais, which we can say as mellismatic whereas a raga like Kannada Bangala which is more note or phrase based would be amenable to a matu laya model composition.  It is an accepted tenet that kArvais or elongation of svaras is generally responsible for bringing visrAnti or reposefulness to rAga elaboration.
  10. In preparing his compositional canvas with ata tala , Dikshitar also pegs the pace of rendering the composition – the rendering ought to be sedate and languorous without either rushing the sahitya through or eliding/abbreviating the pauses. There are those who have attempted to abbreviate the compositions of Dikshitar to shorter talas, as we saw in the case of ‘rEnukA dEvi samrakshitOham’. In fact there are those who render the other Kambhoji ata tala creation of Dikshitar namely ‘srI valmIkalingam in a faster tempo, wreaking havoc on the composition and also eliding the kArvais therein. In sum Dikshitar’s idea of a longer tAla cycle with sparser sahitya per tala must have been to potentially make the performer linger a lot more on every note and have it rendered in a sedate style so that every note and its movement can be slowly partaken by the listeners.
  11. While the sahitya is rich, Dikshitar has strung them in the section with the greatest of care, creating a monumental edifice. From a tala perspective for example the Pallavi itself takes 4 cycles, anupallavi takes 6 cycles with two of them being madhyama kala sahityas and the caranam in 14 cycles again with two of the them being madhyama kala sahitya sections.
  12. And as Dikshitar proceeds to set the composition to music he has for some reason has chosen the phrase in second kAla DP DM MG MR GR GS as the quintessential leitmotif for this composition, repeating this in atleast 5 places spread over the composition as pointed out earlier.
  13. The anupallavi of the composition has been constructed effectively taking Kambhoji’s uttaranga followed by a foray into the tara stayi and back to the Madhya sadja. Launching thus on the madhyama note ( at ‘kAsi ksEtra’) the khandika or section proceeds all the way to the tAra gandhara ( fleetingly touching the tAra madhyama at ‘garthatIra”) before descending to sadja ar ‘vishvAsA’. The delectable anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section ‘dEsika katAksEna’ distills the Kambhoji of yore for us, spanning exactly the same octaval coverage made earlier in the anupallavi proper.. Attention is invited to the different varieties of madhyama employed in the anupallavi, for example the straight/plain variety at ‘Kasi’ and the quivering variety at ‘ksEtra’.
  14. While this is so of the anupallavi, a serious commentary on the construct of the caranam is best provided by the late Veena Vidushi and Musicologist Smt Vidya Shankar in one of her articles ( “A Comparative Study of the Music Trinity”), wherein she demonstrates that the musical setting of this composition is the best exemplar as to how a raga has to be elaborated or laid out in a composition in a systematic/structured manner, which she refers to as ‘AlApana paddhathi’. Again the final madhayama kala sahitya section of the carana ‘bhuvana bharana…………citsabhApatE’ stands out as a grand finale of this magnum opus of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

Epilogue:

This magnificent composition deserves a thoroughly scholarly and aesthetic presentation by an artiste after duly absorbing the melody and lyrics. And it is probably for the likely effort involved in doing so which perhaps deters performers from learning and rendering it. One fervently hopes that this would change in the days to come.

And in parting I conclude this blog post with a piece, a tillana rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari, in a very contrasting raga. It is in a haunting melody Dayavati which goes with the notes: Arohana : S R2 G2 P N2 S and Avarohana: S N2 P M1 G2 S composed by Late N S Ramachandran in khanda triputa tala. The composition is obviously a solitaire, the only one of its kind serving as the sole exemplar of this raga.

Some reflections on Raga Narayanagaula and its allied ragas

INTRODUCTION:

 

We did see the detailed analysis of Narayanagaula in our earlier blog post. Now in this short  blog post we shall see a few more aspects of this raga including a comparative study with some allied ragas along with a note on Kuppayyar’s beautiful kriti which is never at seen in the concert circuit.

Read on!

COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS – SUMMARY:

There is considerable melodic relationship between Narayanagaula and the following set of ragas:

  1. Kedaragaula
  2. Surati
  3. Kapinarayani

While the first two have considerable music history backing them, the last raga Kapi Narayani is a eka kriti raga the creation of which is attributed to Tyagaraja. Given the common svaras and murcchanas which form the single body for these ragas/melodies, one needs to get down to the musical analysis using the notes and the motifs and jiva, nyasa and graha svaras on one hand and the practical musical exposition of the ragas on the other.

Let’s first look at the comparative chart of these ragas as above. The chart below is prepared with Narayanagaula as focus raga and how it contrasts from its siblings.

Raga Nominal arohana Nominal avarohana
Kedaragaula S R M P N S S N D P M G R S
Surati S R M P N S S N D P M G R S
Narayanagaula S R M P N D N S S N D P M G R G R S
Kapi Narayani S R M P D N S S N D P M G R G R S

 

Narayanagaula Kapi Narayani Kedaragaula Surati
Key aroha phrases SRMPNNS ;SRMPNDNS ;Ghana raga; tristayi raga SRMPDNS PNDNS not seen ; rakti raga; tristhayi raga SNDNS & NDNS are seen;  No movement below mandara Nishada
Distinctive avarohana krama combinations SNDPMGRGRS ;SNDMPMGRGRS SNDPMGRG.R.. SNDPMGRS SNDPMGPMRS ; SNDPMGRS
Distinctive murcchanas PDM and PNDM; G.RGR. is seen while MRS does not occur. Again MGS is used; MGRGR is a patented murccana for this raga & is to be avoided in allied ragas MG..RGr… with a marked emphasis on the G and R & r as a repeated nyasa marks this raga MGS is never used;  Use of MGMPR is distinctive of Surati.
Weak notes Gandhara is an extremely strong note. Dhaivata is an accepted graha svara as well. Gandhara falls to sadharana value in some phrases ( nGRS) G2 is not seen. Emphasis is always on the nyasa note rishabha. True to its rAgAngA status, it cannot be tinted with G2 at all. Gandhara & dhaivata are very weak notes & is never a graha or nyasa. Gandhara is very close to madhyama as if it were a simple place holder svara and similarly dhaivata is close to nishada.
Strong notes Ni and Ma are very strong and are preferred graha svaras /starting notes. Always begin murcchanas with them and end them/nyasa svara with Ri. Given PDNS as a complete uttaranga, all these notes are powerful graha/nyasa notes. Ni is the graha svara Ni is a strong note and is a preferred jiva svara; Sadja is the graha svara
Melodic structuring Jhanta notes to be favoured ; sA or pA  to be avoided as resting notes. In an exposition of the raga always place the pivot of the raga on the graha/jiva notes and start on the graha and end on the preferred nyasa note. Jhanta notes to be favoured. Sa and Pa are preferred resting notes. Ri is a preferred resting note was well while sa and pa preferred graha svaras apart from Nishada . PMR, NDPPMR and MGMPR , is used profusely.

 

An excellent svara gnanam/musical competence and practiced experience is needed to perform manodharma/Kalpana sangitam in this raga. It is certainly not a raga for the faint-hearted. It cannot be sung with traces of Kedaragaula or Surati. It demands intimate knowledge of rendering the unique micro tones of nishadha and madhyama, usage of appropriate start and ending notes, emphasis on janta notes and ability to sing the raga in the first kalam/speed. The renditional complexity of the raga increases as under:

Plain Kriti ->plain varnam -> svara Kalpana in second speed -> svara Kalpana in first speed – > tanam –> alapana -> neraval

Kedaragaula, Narayanagaula and Surati can never be understood and distinguished just on the basis of grammar or svaras. A student who has not heard these ragas can never sing them true to form from notation. Only by hearing the practical exposition of these ragas by great masters can one really be able to understand the notation, as well as the melodic contours and the distinguishing features of these ragas.

A NOTE ON ‘NANNU BROCEVAREVVARE’ of KUPPAYYAR:

A common theme underlying the practical exposition of these ragas is the telling use of individual notes as a graha or nyasa, emphasizing the jiva and dhirga svaras and the leitmotifs in the svara prastara. These are the keys to present a proper picture of these ragas distinctly. The exemplars for Narayanagaula has been shared in the earlier blog post covering the Varna, kriti and a couple of svara Kalpana clippings. The Narayangaula kriti of Veena Kuppayyar was mentioned in passing in my previous post but I would like to present a personal rendering of the same. Given the fact that the composition is never ever rendered plus the fact that the composer specialized in the raga, intrigued me so so much that I learnt it from notation with the raga knowledge gained from Dikshitar’s ‘Sri ramam’ and the Kuppayyar varna. Any errors or omission is entirely due to my amateurish knowledge/presentation.

A few points merit our attention in the architecture of this composition:

  1. Much like Dikshitar, Kuppayyar gives pride of place to Dha. He starts the anupallavi with Dha, like the anupallavi take off at ‘dhIrAgraganyam’ in Sriramam.
  2. The anupallavi is decorated with a sprightly cittasvara section while the carana loops back to the pallavi through a crowning madhayama kala sahitya section a la Dikshitar!
  3. MGRGRS, the leitmotif occurs aplenty in the composition. It occurs 2 times in the pallavi, 3 times in the anupallavi and 9 times in the carana excluding the cittasvara section. A staggering 14 total occurrences with at least  one for every tala avarta! So much for this leitmotif. He also uses DMP deliberately as well. One is forced recollect the intervention of Gayakasikhamani Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar during the Experts Committee meeting of the Music Academy when it met to deliberate on this raga’s lakshana, which I have summarized elsewhere in this blog post. He wanted DMP to enshrined in the avarohana murrcana which will distinguish it from Kedaragaula beyond doubt. He wanted it to be SNDMPMGRGRS, so much for the veteran’s formidable lakshya and lakshana gnana! The same is recorded in JMA 1935-37 pp156-157. The Experts Committee unsurprisingly without much ado concluded that SRMPNDNS and SNDPMGRGRS as the arohana and avarohana krama on 31st December 1934. They too agreed that MGRGRS was a lietmotif to be used and enshrined it as a part of the avarohana.
  4. In sum this kriti encompasses the set of all permissible murccanas which distinctively form the basis of the lakshana of Narayangaula – SRMP ; MPNNS ; MPNDNS ; Nsrmgrgrs; NNDPMP ; NDMP; PMNNDP; MGRGRS ; MGS; nndpnnsS ( the svaras in normal upper case are mandhara stayi svaras; lower case are tAra stAyI and lower case italics are  mandhara stayi svaras.

DISCOGRAPHY OF ALLIED RAGAS:

Covered next is a set of curated renderings of Surati, Kapi Narayani and Kedaragaula as svarakalpana or as viruttam singing as they offer the most in terms of understanding raga architecture.

First of the lot is Surati and presented herein is the improvisation as a part of the pallavi ragamalika by Vidvan T M Krishna, from a concert in the public domain.

The rendering is a part of the pallavi in the raga Janaranjani with its sahitya being the pallavi portion of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer’s  composition ‘ Pahimam Sri Rajarajesvari krupAkari sankari’. Attention is invited at the unique nishadha svara with which the vidvan invokes the imagery of Surati for us.

Presented next is the svara kalpana rendering of Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer for the classic Veenai Kuppayyar adi tala tana varnam in Surati, ‘entO prEma’. We pick up action at the beginning of the last ettugada svara section for the caranam line ‘panta mEla jEsEvu IvEla’ . The veteran almost concludes the piece with the last avarta with the mrudangist too playing the concluding stroke even as Sri Srinivasa Iyer changes his mind at the very last moment and launches his sarva laghu svaraprastara. The way the legendary Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman follows the maestro like a devoted slave, as somebody put it, is a treat.

As one an see the raga blossoms forth in the uttarAngA  around nishada svara and in the pUrvAngA of the top octave.

Surati is always included as  a part of the suite of ragas in viruttam singing at the fag end of any concert, tailing into the mangalam. The legendary doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda takes a beautiful anonymous Sanskrit sloka, ‘vihAya kamalAlaya’ and strings the verses in a garland of ragas including Purvikalyani, Sahana, Behag, Kanada, Surati and finally Madhyamavathi. I am presenting the entire rendering of her’s for the simple reason that it is wholesome and she packages all our crown jewels that our music can offer, in less than 10 minutes.

Here is the text of the sloka for those of us who may be interested.

vihAya kamalAlayA vilasitAni vidyunnaTI
viDambana paTUni mE viharaNam vidhattAm manaH |
kapardini kumudvatI ramaNa khaNDa cUDAmaNau
kaTI taTa paTI bhavat-karaTicarmaNi brahmaNi ||

 

विहाय कमलालया-विलसितानि विद्युन्नटी-
विडम्बन-पटूनि मे विहरणं विधत्ताम् मनः ।
कपर्दिनि कुमुद्वती-रमण-खण्ड-चूडामणौ
कटी-तट-पटी-भवत्-करटिचर्मणि ब्रह्मणि ॥

 

Hark at how ravishingly she packs the entire essence of Surati within a minute. She starts Surati at 7:26 into this clip, distilling all that perfume of the East in a minute and rapidly transitioning into its close cousin Madhyamavati. A veritable lesson for a student of music in elaborating a raga in a sloka/viruttham.

For Kapi Narayani , Tyagaraja’s sole exemplar kriti ‘Sarasamadhana’ has been made his own by the great vocalist Ganakaladhara Madurai Mani Iyer. His inimitable rendering of the composition, his copious mandharma in his execution of the neraval and sarvalaghu svarakalpana littered with janta prayogas on the carana line, ‘hitavumAta’ gives goose bumps, to  a listener  even to this date, decades after his passing away. In his recording which is available in the public domain, Mani Iyer uses the dhaivatha note as a graha and nyasa note for his imaginative svaraprastara. For our understanding, I present the rendering of contemporary performer, Vidushi Amrutha Murali. The Vidusi in the company of her guru, Vidvan R K Sriramkumar and mrudangist Arun Prakash leverages the nishadha note instead as her pivot/anchor svara for her svara kalpana sorties. As pointed out earlier Narayanagaula has a vakra uttaranga PNDNS while Kapi Narayani has a lineal PDNS as its uttaranga. The clipping commences with her neraval on the caranam line ‘hitavUmAta’. Did the raga Narayangaula give Tyagaraja the inspiration to sculpt this noveau raga Kapinarayani, a raga without a textual history ? We do not know.

We move on finally to Kedaragaula, a raganga raga of yore. The readers are invited to hear out the versions of Kedaragaula which is available in abundance in the public as well commercial domain. But personally nothing beats the beautifully encapsulated pristine, classical Kedaragaula by Smt K B Sundarambal from a Tamil film of yester years. She starts her viruttam in Mohanam, moves on to Kedaragaula and finally on to Kanada. Hear her dwell on Kedaragaula  starting  at 0.28.

In this clip, the veteran stage singer famed for her majestic voice spanning 3 full octaves, open throat singing and impeccable purity of sruti paints a perfect Kedargaula fit for a novice and the cognoscenti, in the same breath. For me it is much like how Prof SRJ waxes eloquent on the beauty of M K Tyagaraja Bagavathar’s rendering of ‘Siva peruman krupai vendum” in Surati ( at 9:47 in the clipping) which was alluded to in an early blog post.

As the respected Professor points out, by extension just on the gandhara and dhaivata the distinction between the the three ragas Surati, Kedaragaula and Narayanagaula can be brought out in conjunction with the graha/nyasa svaras.

CONCLUSION:

In sum Narayanagaula is not a raga for novices or for the faint hearted. It demands an in-depth or intimate if not extraordinary knowledge of the raga on the part of a performer, given the melodic overlap it has with its neighbouring ragas, which share the same melodic material.

We always like some sort of an apocryphal/sensational/spicy story or two about melodies or musical personages. And chroniclers both present and past seem to have a predilection for exaggerating the facts or events as they go about recording them during their lifetimes. I end this rumination blog post with one such story/event, probably true, about how the vocalist nonpareil Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844-1893) used this raga Narayanagaula to stump his opponent in a musical contest. True or untrue, the raga becomes the pivot of the story which is recorded for posterity by Vidvan Gomathisankara Iyer ( “Isai Vallunargal” published in 1970) as told to him by his musician father Pallavi Subbiah Bhagavathar, who was a disciple of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer being his pupil between the years 1876-1882. In his almost panegyric narration, Vidvan Gomathi Sankara Iyer provides all the elements of suspense and intrigue.

In the late 1880’s, Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer was on an extended stay at Madras on a musical sojourn enjoying his popularity, the adulation and patronage extended by the denizens of the city and the of the officials of the administration including the Governor of Madras. A special dinner was hosted in his honor by the Governor Robert Bourke known more by his peerage name of Baron/Lord Connemara along with his wife Baroness/Lady Connemara. Post the dinner, the invited celebrities were treated with a sumptuous concert by the legend, who apparently even sang English notes for the benefit of the assembled English speaking glitterati. Perhaps they must have been the nottusvara sahityas of Muthusvami Dikshitar !

This public display of adulation for Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer did not fail to make a few of the vidvans envious or jealous, for so popular and sought after he was that many thought, never mind if music emanated or not, thousands would gather at the mere move of his mouth! Vidvan Venugopal Das Naidu, a vocalist of not so well known provenance and a citizen of the City, was one of those who viewed the entire spectacle with envy. A man who prided himself by decking in a royal demeanour, Venu as he was endearing called vented his fury to his violinist friend ‘Photograph” Masilamani Mudaliar. His opinion was to the effect that “Maha” was a fake appellation which Vaidyanatha Iyer did not at all deserve and he was simply putting up a charade without an ounce of practical musical worth. According to Subbiah Bagavathar, Venu and Mudaliar acting “in concert” so as to put it, decided that forthwith Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer should be challenged for a contest and went public with that. In pursuance to that, a fund raising spree was launched, mopping up a princely sum of more than Rs. 2000/, which was to defray the cost of a huge silver salve and gold ear studs which the winner would eventually take. Notices were printed and distributed as advertisement, fixing the terms of the concert, unilaterally, virtually rigging up the entire contest. Thus the duo put it out that the residence of Fiddle Ramayya Pillai, a wealthy musician of George Town would be the venue, Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer would be given the first opportunity to sing first, choosing the raga of the Pallavi and elaborating it. Venugopal Naidu will then sing a Pallavi in that raga following which Vaidyanatha Iyer would have to elaborate it. If he could not he would have to relinquish his title in public. The duo set the rules of the game, the time, date and venue as well to their advantage apparently and threw the gauntlet at the great vocalist.

The stratagem was not too complicated. Given that pallavis were traditionally sung in the heavy ragas namely Bhairavi, Kambhoji, Sankarabharanam or Kalyani, the idea was to entrap Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer with Venu setting the Pallavi in a complicated rhythmic setting, without openly putting the tala so that it would stump the veteran vocalist. As if to result-proof this contest even further, Masilamani Mudaliyar himself was anointed as the arbiter/referee of this contest!

When Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer and his elder brother Ramasvami Sivan, who was his alter ego and accompanying junior partner/vocalist in his concerts, heard of the challenge, they grew extremely uncomfortable. Subbiah Bagavathar’s version has it that Vaidyanatha Iyer’s ardent & leading rasikas/admirers would have none of it and they goaded Vaidyanatha Iyer into accepting the challenge.

On the appointed day and time at the venue in George Town, rasikas agog with excitement had assembled to watch the proceedings with bated breath. With Masilamani Mudaliar as referee the proceedings commenced in right earnest and in deference to protocol, Vaidyanatha Iyer asked Venu his challenger if he had any raga as his preference for the Pallavi exposition. We do not have any evidence if there was any premeditated strategy on tackling the situation on his part. On Vaidyanatha Iyer’s seemingly innocuous question, Venugopal Naidu perhaps haughtily, responded “Any raga of your choice”. Vaidyanatha Iyer in line with the prevailing practice had planned to sing the Pallavi in Sankarabharanam and he prepared himself to do so. Perhaps as fortune would have it, a brainwave struck Ramasvami Sivan who was sitting behind next to his brother, strumming the tanpura perhaps. In a trice he leaned forward and whispered into Vaidyanatha Iyer’s ears to junk the plan to sing the Pallavi in Sankarabharanam. He proceeded to suggest Narayanagaula as the raga of the Pallavi and he said so in their secret coded language (pAnDava bAshA is the name, Pallavi Subbiah Bagavathar gives for that coded language that was used by the brothers), lest it may be over heard & understood by Venu. Apparently the rarity of the raga and the equally rare practice perhaps to use it as a vehicle of Pallavi exposition was the plan that what Ramasvami Sivan had to win this contest, hands down. Gomathi Sankara Iyer records further that the raga Narayanagaula with its vakra sancaras or its “turn of notes” makes it difficult for manipulation in a Pallavi and this proved to be a master stroke! As the great titan held in awe by his contemporaries, began humming (Vaidyanatha Iyer had a ‘hUmkAra way of raga elaboration) the raga and began his exposition, a cloud of silence descended on the venue. The unique and and not so frequently heard raga coming forth from the vocal chords of the Prince Charming of Music of those days, cast a spell on the crowd.

One can easily envision Vaidyanatha Iyer performing his alapana in a grand and eloquent manner, for Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar and Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer in their respective memoirs, provide that vivid picture of Vaidyanatha Iyer’s inimitable way of singing. Subbiah Bagavathar records that on that day, Vaidyanatha Iyer had performed a complete alapana of Narayanagaula for about 45 minutes perhaps spanning the three octaves he was known for. Needless to add it must have been a veritable feast for the celestials.

The narration goes on to say that not surprisingly, Venu had no clue as to the raga. So bedevilled and muddled he was that even as Iyer was immersed in his exposition, he retired from the stage to a quiet corner to re-plan by retrofitting his preplanned pallavi to the melody that he was hearing, without any success.  By then Vaidyanatha Iyer had finished his tour-de force alapana and perhaps the tanam as well and Venu was nowhere to be seen. It must have been a great tanam, par excellence, as the raga is so amenable to madhyama kala exposition for which Vaidyanatha Iyer was justly famous for during his heydays. And with the challenger Venu who went missing from the stage, not seen at all, the referee Masilamani Mudaliar grudgingly requested Vaidyanatha Iyer to complete the rendering with his own Pallavi which the veteran did as if like a fish taking to water. The final Pallavi rendition must have been a proverbial icing on the cake for the assembled cognoscenti of Chennapattana. And not surprisingly at the end of the performance, Vaidyanatha Iyer was felicitated and presented with the prize money and gifts.

Thus ends the story of Vaidyanatha Iyer leveraging this great raga Narayanagaula to defend his title ‘Maha’ conferred on him by the Pontiff of the Siva Mutt at Tiruvavaduthurai, decades prior. Needless to add, he returned home adding one more exotic event to his already legendary reputation and also richer by the gifts bestowed on him. So much for the raga Narayanagaula!