Caturanana Pandita I – A Courtier-General & a Pontiff

Prologue:

Our country in the past has sired a great number of men whose valour, glory, contribution and many a times their very existence has been long forgotten, unwept and unsung. One such personality is Caturanana Pandita who is the subject matter of this blog post. He was a monk or the head of a monastic institution and  more precisely a ‘mahAvratin’ – (observer of a great vow) a member of a holy order of monks belonging to the kALAmukha sect of Saivas.  Historical records reveal that there was a succession of Caturanana Panditas between 950 CE-1175 CE, all of them being the head of the monastery at Tiruvottriyur (near Chennai) . The  subject matter of this post is Caturanana Pandita I who in fact set up the monastery at Tiruvottriyur and became its first titular head or Pontiff circa 957 CE. His history is an enigma and only through the works of a handful of epigraphists & historians, are we able to connect the dots and get to know this personality. This blog has been structured to look at the life sketch this Caturanana Pandita, the details as to the kALAmukha tradition of Saivas (which is virtually extinct today) to which he belonged to and we would end it of course with a homage by way of a composition.

An inscription attesting to this great personality was made 1077 years ago or to be exact, 14th of January 943 CE, in a temple in remote Tamilnadu.

kALAmukhas – A brief primer on an old Saivite tradition:

Sadly, as of today, no religious material or text in full pertaining to the practice of Kalamukhas have survived to reach us to provide us with first hand evidence as to their beliefs & practices. Lakulisa is the 28th avatara of Siva as mentioned in the Lingapurana. It is said that Lakulisa had four shishyas – Kusika, Garga, Maitreya and Kaurushya. From each of these four shishyas originated , Pasupata, Kapalika, Kalamukha and Saiva. According to the Vamana Purana, it is said that Kalamukhas were founded by Apastamba and his shishya Kratheshvara. The Kalamukhas based on inscriptional evidence seem to be orthodox brahmanas studying Veda and Sastra and thus different from Kapalikas.

The Kalamukhas were often clubbed together with the Kapalikas in terms of a negative portrayal by Ramanujacharya and Yamunacharya. Similar to the Kapalikas, some of the characters found in literary works such as “mAlatimAdhavA”, has cast even the kALAmukAs too in bad light. Notwithstanding the same it can be said the Kalamukhas were primarily reclusive students of Vedas and sastras – nyayavaisheshika in particular and were worshippers of Lord Shiva, who undertook ascetic vows thereby getting the designation of mahavratins.  They had their own matAs or monasteries and also enjoyed the patronage of the wealthy and the Royals. Their name derives from their practive of smearing their foreheads (sometimes the face) with a dark bhasma.

What commands our attention next is the form of Lord Shiva that these Saivas propitiated. While the fearsome Lord Bhairava was the presiding deity of the kApAlikAs, the Kalamukhas worshipped Lord Lakulisa. Lakulisa is represented as a naked yogi, carrying a japamala, a laguda or a club and a kapala or human skull. Befitting his yogic stance, he is also represented as urdhva-retah (ithyphallic). However there is an interesting form of Lakulisa , interpreted by some to be a form of Lord Dakshinamurti called as Gaulisa.  In this context I invite the attention of the discerning reader to the existence of a shrine in Tiruvottriyur , near Chennai in the temple complex of Lord Adipureesvara, wherein this form is enshrined. See Foot Note 1.

With this quick introduction to kaLAmukhas , we will quickly go back in time when the Medieval Cholas to the late 9th Century were entrenching themselves as a significant power in Southern Tamilnadu with their capital first at Uraiyur and later at Tanjore. Readers may remember that we encountered this piece of history in a previous blog post dealing with the quest for the long-lost Goddess Nishumbasudani of Tanjore.

Medieval Cholas – Circa 930 AD

King Vijayalaya Chola’s (the founder of the lineage of the medieval Cholas) son Aditya I who was the Chola ruler with his capital at Tanjore, at this point in time was buffeted by the Pallavas of Kanci and the Rashtrakutas of Deccan from the North and by the Pandyas and Cheras from the west and without significant military clout was unable to expand the boundaries of the Kingdom. It would be nearly 70 years later that the Cholas would reach their zenith under Emperor Raja Raja Chola ( closer to 1000 AD) and his son Rajendra Chola in establishing complete suzerainty of peninsular India. Nevertheless, it would be Aditya I’ son & grandsons who would lay the foundation for the medieval Cholas at this point in time. Aditya I’s eldest son was Parantaka I. In order to build relationships and neutralize enemies, as was the custom & practice of those times, Aditya I reached out to the Chera King (of mAkOttai as is referred in epigraphs) and had his son Parantaka I married to the Kerala Princess Kokkilan Atikal. Their son was the famous Prince Rajaditya a.k.a Kodandarama. ( see featured image , header to this blog post). This Prince was the scion of that lineage having both the Chola and Chera blood flowing in his veins, reflecting a great royal alliance of those times.

Prince Rajaditya was a young and brave warrior and as Crown Prince he went on to become the Commandant of the garrison of Chola forces at the northern borders of the Kingdom being thirumunaipAdi nAdu quartered at the place today known as Tirunavalur or Tirunamanallur. This region of modern-day Tamil Nadu is called Tondaimandalam and the valiant Crown Prince was anointed as the Viceroy of this northern bulwark of the Chola Kingdom. And most likely his entire retinue including probably his mother Queen Kokilan as well perhaps moved to this place to be with him. Or at the least the Queen must have visited this place frequently to be with her son. For, this Tirunavalur is also known to epigraphists as “Rajadityapuram” and the Siva temple there is recorded as having been endowed by Prince Rajaditya’s mother, the aforesaid Queen Kokkilan, of the Chera Royal House. Earlier when this Kerala Princess moved to her matrimonial home at Tanjore and into the Royal Chola household, a retinue of noblemen, warriors and also retainers too moved along with her from the Chera land accompanying her to Tanjore. And likely one amongst those, was a young Chera warrior by name Vellan Kumaran or to be precise Vallabhan Kumaran (corrupted to Vellan Kumaran) who was perhaps a son of one of those who moved in with the Chera Princess. And this young warrior went on to become a retainer, an aide-de-camp and thereafter a close, intimate friend and confidante of Crown Prince Rajaditya. The Chola records dating back to those times indicate that this Vellan Kumaran hailed from a place called Puttur on the banks of the Nandi river and he was a man of eminence hailing from Kerala (malainAdu)and he was a loyal and unswerving commander of the Prince (Rajaditya). The records further record that this warrior despite being a migrant to the Chola land had a meteoric rise in the Chola military ranks rising to the level of dandanAyakA or a Commander (perumpadai nAyakar in Tamil) and also was perhaps a vassal or perhaps an anointed chieftain of a Chola fiefdom as well. Chola records dating to this period hold that Vellan Kumaran was a ‘mUlabhritya’ of Prince Rajaditya and Dr V Raghavan records the following inscription from thsoe times, which attests to the foregoing:

Epigraphist S R Balasubramanian deduces the date of this inscription, found at the temple of Lord Siva at Tirumundeesvaram or Tirumudiyur or Mouligramam or Gramam ( as it is called today),  to 14th January AD 943, 1077 years ago ! ( see Foot note 2)

Dr Raghavan goes on to deduce that Vallabhan Kumaran alias Vellan Kumaran was not merely a warrior but he also exhibited scholarly and spiritual attainments and thus was ‘supratishthita-dhi’ or to use the vocabulary of Gita, a stitha-prajna .

And thus in short, Vellan Kumaran was a close companion and an indispensable member of Crown Prince Rajaditya’s Royal entourage ever since Prince Rajaditya assumed command of the Tirumunaipadi garrison, circa 930 AD leading up to the Battle of Takkolam (in 949 AD). During this period as Dr V Raghavan notes, a number of epigraphical evidences underlines Vellan Kumaran ‘s munificence and also the special relationship he shared with Prince Rajaditya.

In a while we will see that this epic Battle of Takkolam would prove a proverbial turning point not just for the Royal House of Medieval Cholas but also for Vellan Kumaran personally.

The Battle of Takkolam & Vellan Kumaran’s remorse

This is a contemporary depiction of the Battle of Takkolam (949 CE) as it is shown on a pillar of a temple built by Butuga II (939-960 CE) of the Western Ganga dynasty (a Rashtrakuta empire vassal) as a fitting finale to his victory over the Cholas of Tanjore at the Takkolam battle. The reliefs on the circular pillars of the Nandi Mandapa depict the defeat of Chola commander Rajaditya by Butuga Il who fought for the Rashtrakutas. Location: Arakeshwara temple (also spelt Arakeshvara or Arakesvara) in Hole Alur, Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka state, India.

Ever since Crown Prince Rajaditya was anointed as the commander of the northern Chola outpost at thirumunaipAdi nAdu, things began boiling on those frontiers. The Rashtrakuta King Krishna III ( referred to as Kannaradeva in inscriptions) , an adversary of the Cholas , during those times, decided to take on the Cholas led by the valiant Crown Prince Rajaditya and the battle was fought in Takkolam, a town today in North Arcot/Vellore District in Tamilnadu in the year 949 AD. According to Prof Nilakanta Sastri, the Rashtrakutas allied with the Banas and Vaidumbas along with the Western Ganga clan of Kings and went into the battle against the Cholas. Crown Prince Rajaditya died in this battle leading the Chola forces.

According to historical records, Butuga II of the Western Ganga clan who was fighting the Cholas alongside the Rashtrakutas, killed Prince Rajaditya, seated on an elephant, by deceit. Chola records of the period bemoan the death of the young & valiant Chola Prince & heir apparent eulogizing him as ‘AnaimEl tunjiya tEvar’ (the Prince who gave up his life, atop an elephant).  The Leyden Copper Plates tracing the Chola history recounts the event in its narrative as under:

“ The heroic Rajaditya, the ornament of the Solar race, having shaken in battle the unshakeable Krishna Raja with his forces by means of his sharp arrows flying in all directions, was himself pierced in his heart while seated on the back of  a large elephant, by the sharp arrows of the enemy and thus won the praise of the three worlds even as he ascended to the heaven of heroes in a tall vimana.”

While it definitely plunged the Royal House and the entire Chola Kingdom into grief, for Vellan Kumaran the Prince’s unfortunate and sudden demise would have been emotionally catastrophic, for he was the Prince’s vayasya – a constant companion and friend. It is known that for some unknown reason, Vellan Kumaran had not been by the side of the Crown Prince that fateful afternoon at the battlefield at Takkolam and most probably it added a further element emotional & mental trauma of not being there to defend his bosom friend and master.

Left to survive alone, without his much beloved Crown Prince, master and a bosom friend, this great warrior Vellan Kumaran went through pangs of guilt. The trauma that he underwent is captured by the following Sanskrit inscription which also captures the atonement that this great warrior resorted to, so as to assuage and rid himself of his feelings of guilt.

”bālye vidyāsamastās svayam adhigatavān bāhuśālī viśālībhūtoras sthāpitaśrīr bhuvanahitarataś coladeśaṃ sametya |

rājādityasya rājñaḥ prakaṭataragurusnehasamāntabhāvaṃ yaḥ prāpto’sannidhānāt sahamaraṇasukhaṃ saṃyuge tena nāptataḥ ||

Epigraphia Indica 27 (1947–48), no. 47: v. 2. Page 292-

Translation:

That strong armed one, having acquired as a child all the sciences of the world, and with Śrī fixed on his broad chest, and devoted to the welfare of the world ( i.e Vellan Kumaran) , entered the lands of the Chola, and achieved the position of a vassal of king Rājāditya on account of his great and very transparent affection, but did not obtain, owing to his absence, the happiness of dying with him together on the battlefield.

While we have no access to the feelings of Rājāditya and can only guess that Veḷḷaṉ Kumāraṉ’s remembrance and words such as Sneha points to a very close intimacy that is now sadly lost to us.  This is however attested by scholars who have studied this part of history.

Vellan Kumaran becomes Caturanana, the mahavratin :

Left to fend for himself emotionally and inwardly consumed by his pangs of guilt, history tells us this warrior left for Kashi seeking to cleanse his so-called sin that he himself deemed to have incurred (albeit for no fault of his). Dr V Raghavan in his commentary on the aforesaid inscription in Epigraphia Indica, mentions that Vellan Kumaran came to be inspired by one Niranjana Guru of Tiruvottriyur (Adigrama or Adipuri as it was known in ancient times) and whereupon sometime between 952 AD- 957AD, he perhaps first lived as a recluse in a cave at Tiruvottriyur which was perhaps the same cave which was inhabited decades prior by the said Niranjana Guru (Niranjana -guha). He then took upon the vow to cleanse his conscience, became a mahavratin and thereafter came to be known as Caturanana Pandita. Dr V Raghavan makes very interesting observations and deductions as to this transformation of Vellan Kumaran, a warrior into a monk Caturanana who then established a monastery (matha) at Tiruvottriyur.

In sum, Caturanana Pandita I was Vellan Kumaran is his pUrvAsrama and a warrior, between 930 AD – 945 or 949 AD (the year of the battle of Takkolam) and as the monk and as a Pontiff with the name of Caturanana Pandita between 949 or 950 till 959 AD where upon all records about his existence as available to us, fall silent. It is known that he was succeeded by a lineage of Pontiffs who all took the same titular appellation of Caturanana Pandita all the way till 1173 AD again where after, no mention of any Caturanana Panditas or of the matha at Tiruvottriyur survives for our benefit. According to Dr Raghavan there is no trace of this matha or its remnants anywhere in Tiruvottriyur today. It has to be mentioned that it was at the instance of one of the subsequent Caturanana Panditas that the vimAnam / temple tower for Lord Adhipurisvara of the Tiruvottriyur temple was built by the Chola Kings later in the 11th century.

In the context of Vellan Kumaran’s absence from Prince Rajaditya’s side in the Takkolam Battle theories abound and the take of historians on the same is given in Foot note 3.

MUSICAL HOMAGE TO THE GREAT SOUL

As attested to by Dr V Raghavan nothing survives to us from that age of roughly 1000 odd years back from today. Neither is there any trace of the matha/monastery at Tiruvottriyur or that of any immediate vestiges or artifacts attesting to the existence of the first Caturanana Pandita nee Vallabhan or Vellan Kumaran, save for the inscriptions that have come to us from those times. The temple complex at Tiruvottriyur being the shrine of Lord Adhipurisvara and the shrine of Lord Dakshinamurti or Gaulisa, the presiding deity of the kALAmukhas, therein are the only mute witnesses who can testify to this historical character and his existence. As we know Tiruvottriyur is one of the seven viTanka ksetras, being an abode of Lord Tyagaraja, the sOmAskanda form of Lord Shiva. And as a musical homage to that great soul Caturanana Pandita I, presented here is a composition on Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvottriyur by Tiruvottriyur Tyagier, son of the great composer Veena Kuppayyar.

Both Dr V Raghavan and Dr Daud Ali in their works espouse a much higher and different level of friendship / affinity / closeness / intimacy that Vellan Kumaran and Prince Rajaditya shared. It is inferable that the protagonists must have shared this affinity mutually. For us today the closest emotion or bhava one can get to, in terms of the yearning they must have shared for each other can at best only be equated to the emotion of Virahotkantitha Nayika (विरहोत्कंठित नायिका – One distressed by separation), a highly aesthetic emotion being one amongst the so-called bouquet of eight, in the world of dance & music. And it certainly would have been an equivalent emotion, one of separation that Vellan Kumaran would have suffered post 949 AD along with his feelings of guilt and remorse.

In line with this bhAva, I seek to present a composition which in fact depicts a love lorn nAyikA, dispatching her friend with a message to her nAyakA, Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvottriyur, asking him not to tarry and be in communion with her. And one can certainly place the song in perspective, as Vellan Kumaran in his metamorphosis as the mahAvratin Caturanana Pandita would have transformed that yearning or emotion, by directing that to Lord Tyagaraja, the Lord of Tiruvottriyur, the very place where he spent the rest of his life.

This composition ‘sAmi nI rammanavE sArasAkshirO’ is a sprightly pada varna in the raga Kedaram, set in rupaka tala rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subramanian. The varna as one can notice has sahitya for its cittasvara and ettugada svara sections which are rendered fully by the Vidvan.

CONCLUSION:

History is littered with many such undiscovered personalities and great men who made a lasting contribution during their life time. In the instant case from amongst several warriors Vellan Kumaran, a person who wasn’t a member of the Chola Royal House, is singled out in the Chola inscriptions of those times. And it must have been doubtless for some great contribution and importance, to the Kingdom. Again, given that he was a man of letters as well, it’s a tragedy that we know next to nothing about his contribution in his second life as Caturanana Pandita , except that the matha / monastery that he founded survived for more than 200 years after his demise and with his successors commanding the greatest of respect from successive Chola Kings, which is no mean feat. And so, His Holiness Caturanana Pandita I, a preceptor and founder of the great and now lost kALAmukha matha at Tiruvottriyur must have truly been a great man of those times. May glory be to him!

References:

  1. David N Lorenzen (1972) – “The Kapalikas and Kalamukhas”- Published by Thomson Press (India) Ltd – pp 73-140
  2. Dr V Raghavan (1947-1948) – Item No 47: “Tiruvorriyur Inscription of Caturanana Pandita”- Epigraphia Indica Vol XXVII- Printed & Published by the Govt of India; pp 292-303
  3. K V Subramanya Aiyar (1923)- ‘Travancore Archaeological Series Vol III – page 202
  4. K A Nilakanta Sastri (1955) – The Colas (English)– University of Madras- pp 128-139
  5. Dr Daud Ali (2017)- “The Death of a Friend: Companionship, Loyalty and Affiliation in Chola South India” – Studies in History Volume: 33 issue: 1, page(s):36-60 – Published by Jawaharlal Nehru University & Sage Publications
  6. Rajeswari Ghose (1996)- “The Lord of Arur, The Tyagaraja Cult in Tamil Nadu-A Study in conflict and Accommodation” published by Motilal Banarsidass – pp 148-181
  7. S R Balasubramanian (1971) – “Early Chola Temples”- published by Orient Longman Ltd – pp 299-309
  8. S R Balasubramanian (1975) – “Middle Chola Temples”- published by Thomson Press India Ltd – pp 299-309
FOOT NOTE 1:

The Gaulisa icon, being a variant of Lord Dakshinamurti, worshipped by kALAmukhAs, as enshrined in the temple complex at Tiruvottriyur has a yogic posture, four-armed, lower right arm in cin-mudra pose, the lower left hand is held parallel to the ground and close to the torso with the palm open upwards, the upper right hand holds a trident and the upper left hand holds a bowl. This unique icon has bewildered iconographers and historians as it is an odd and a not encountered elsewhere, form of Lord Shiva. The article tilted “Kalamukhas and an Interesting Dakshinamurti Image” – available in the URL below is an excellent commentary on this icon by Dr R Nagaswamy which can be read profitably – http://tamilartsacademy.com/articles/article04.xml

FOOT NOTE 2:

Archaeologist & Epigraphist S R Balasubramaniyan in his work opines that Tirumundeesvaram or Tirumudiyur or Mouligramam or Gramam (as it is called today) was perhaps the place which was the garrison town of the Cholas which was commanded by Prince Rajaditya. He even ventures to state that the name Tirumudiyur came to be assigned to this place as perhaps the anointment of Prince Rajaditya as the Crown Prince and heir apparent took place here and its from here that Prince Rajaditya perhaps held Court as the region’s Viceroy. The inscription records a number of grants made by Vellan Kumaran to this temple of Lord Sivalokanathasvami, situated on the south banks of the Pennai river, near Tirukkoyilur.

http://know-your-heritage.blogspot.com/search/label/Sivalokanathar%20Temple

In so far as the nativity of Vellan Kumaran is concerned , on a similar vein the Travancore Archaeological Series records that the village of Puttur situated in the banks of the Nandi River (as described in the Chola inscription) in Kerala, refers to the village of the same name located near Tirparappu, in Kanyakumari District, the river now being known as Nandiaaru.

http://tourmet.com/thirunandhikarai-cave-temple/

FOOT NOTE 3:

Historians like Prof Fleet,  based on Rashtrakuta inscriptions have hypothesized that Vellan Kumaran was a spy of the Rashtrakuta King Krishna and had a hand in the treacherous killing of Prince Rajaditya and which is why he wasn’t fighting beside him in the Battle of Takkolam. Both Prof Nilakanta Sastri and Dr V Raghavan with authority and proper reading of the Chola and Rashtrakuta inscriptions, cogently, authoritatively and conclusively negate Prof Fleet’s hypothesis as untrue. Dr V Raghavan goes on to say that such a conclusion is a baseless conjecture. Nevertheless, he also points out there is no inscription referring to Vellan Kumaran during the period of 943 AD and 957 AD & given that the Battle of Takkolam being dateable to the year 949 AD, the question that begs for an answer is where was this Commander Vellan Kumaran between AD 943-949?  Though historians like Prof Fleet probably looked at that as an evidence of Vellan Kumaran being a spy of the Rashtrakutas and having weaned him away, Krishna III found it easier to eliminate Prince Rajaditya, one is left grappling with a very tricky question. One wonders whether Prince Rajaditya directed Vellan Kumaran to be with his father Parantaka I, in case the war with the Rashtrakutas turned against the Cholas and Krishna III landed up outside the Tanjore Fort? And is that why Vellan Kumaran did not fight alongside Prince Rajaditya at Takkolam? This line of argument is a hypothesis and there is no shred of direct or collateral evidence to back this up. Be that as it may, the Tiruvottriyur inscription of 957 AD which captures the grief and the act of atonement of Vallabhan/Vellan Kumaran still leaves this question tantalizingly open for us.

Intriguing raga-s – Kamas

Dr Aravindh T R

It has been reiterated several times that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has not explained many tenets explicitly in his treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini.  It is up to the reader to comprehend the information given by reading and analyzing various evidences published before and after this treatise. One such tenet is bhāṣāṅga rāgas which was covered here. Another such example will be the point of discussion in this article – rāga-s with more than one mūrcana.

One cannot stop exclaiming seeing the lakṣaṇa of few rāga-s when we go through Pradarṣini. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has explained these rāga-s by giving more than one mūrcana (ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa) [1]. Rāga-s like Takka, Sālagabhairavi, Kannaḍagaula and Kamās can be placed under this category. By this we get to know, multiple variant lakṣaṇa-s existed for some rāga-s even during the period of Dīkṣitar and he was in approval of all these variants.

Kamās as described by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Kamās is considered as a dēśīya, bhāṣāṅga janya of Harikēdaragaula. Madhyama and dhaivata are jīva svara-s. This rāga has a restricted range between mandra sthāyi nishāda to tāra sthāyi gāndara. At some places like RGRS in tāra sthāyi, gandhāra is sādharaṇa in nature. What is more interesting here is the mūrcana given for this rāga. Though SRGMPDNS and SNDPMGRS is the mūrcana given for this rāga, it can also have other ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa like SGMPDNS/SMGMPDNS/SMGMNDNS – SNDPMGS says Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. In all the compositions notated by him, Kamās is dealt only as a sampūrṇa janya of Harikēdaragaula. In such a case, it is unavoidable for any reader to get a query – the relevance of the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa SGMPDNS – SNDPMGS, as it is totally devoid of the svara ṛṣbham. This scale was very well accepted by Dīkṣitar can be understood from the fact that it was not affixed with any other (derogatory) remarks as seen with the rāga-s Husēni or Kāpi. Hence this article will cover only this variant form and look for the presence of available compositions by analyzing older versions. Neeedless to say, analysis of the rāga Kamās that we hear today will not be attempted.

Kamās in treatises

This rāga has not been catalogued by Śahaji, Tulajā or other musicologists before their period [2]. The Rāga lakṣaṇa, attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too do not mention this rāga. It is interesting that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar had made a note of this rāga, without furnishing a single composition of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar or any other member of his family. The only old composition notated there is that of Svāti Tirunal and the lakṣaṇa there well abides with the structure described by Dīkṣitar.

But Kamās is seen in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi and its allied texts. The scale given in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi is SGMPDNS – SNDPMGS. An absolute discordance is seen between the scale given and the lakṣaṇa gīta notated therein. In the gīta notated in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, many phrases alien to the scale like SGP, GPMG and GPDN can be seen [3]. The ascend form pūrvāṅgam to uttarāṅgam is always by SGP despite the scale being SGMPDN. The phrase SGMP is conspicuously absent in the gītam. Similarly, RSNDP is to be noted, as the svara ṛṣbham is not mentioned in the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa.  Also the phrases characteristic of Kamās like SMGM, MNDN can also be not seen. Though we are able to locate a scale given by Dīkṣitar in the treatise Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, the scale in no way is related to the lakṣaṇa portrayed in the gītaṃ.  When the gītaṃ is reconstructed, the melody appears totally different from the Kamās described by Dīkṣitar or heard now.

Kamās in other texts

Many texts have been published by the musicians to understand rāga lakśaṇa. They serve to understand the crystallized structure of any particular rāga and when many such publications published over the period of time were analyzed, evolution of a rāga can be understood.

One such book, perhaps the first of its kind was published by Pazamanēri Svāminātha Ayyar in the year 1901 [4]. Rāgavibhōdini, as it is called was also mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his Pradarṣini. Svāminātha Ayyar was a disciple of Mahā Vaidyanātha Ayyar and represents the śiṣya parampara of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal. This book help us to understand the rāga lakśaṇa prevailed in a single branch of Mānambucāvaḍi lineage (See foot note 1). Kamās is mentioned as a janya of Harikāmbhoji with the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa SMGMPDNS SNDPMGRS. He also mentions about the usage of kākali niṣādham in the phrase SNS. Perhaps this could be the first textual evidence regarding the use of kākali niṣādham. He then proceeds to describe this rāga by mentioning various phrases, including the one with ṛṣbham.

Kamās was explained with other dēśī rāgas by S Ramanathan in The Music Academy conference held in 1966. He has mentioned about the presence of kākali niṣādham and made a note that it is not seen in the earlier compositions [5]. A much detail description of this rāga comes from S R Janakiraman. He avers the structure of this rāga has changed over the period of time. He proceeds to give the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa as SMGMPDNS  SNDPMGRS  and its variant SNDPMGRGS. He emphasizes on the alpatva of the svara ṛṣbham [6]. Though we are able to get a clear definition of this rāga, our question on the scale without ṛṣbham, mentioned by Dīkṣitar remains unanswered.

Mūrcana in Pradarṣini

Before proceeding further, we wish to add a note on the mūrcana given in Pradarṣini and its relevance in understanding the rāga lakṣaṇa. Though Dīkṣitar provides mūrcana for every rāga he describes, in many cases reading mūrcana alone can mislead us in understanding a rāga. A comprehensive examination of all the compositions notated by him inclusive of the notes provided at the beginning is a must to get a picture of any rāga. In other words, mūrcana is just a delineation; even worser than a scale in describing a rāga in many instances.

In this case, the mūrcana resembles the scale of Harikāmbhōji. But the notes given by him regarding the nyāsa svarā-s, various illustrative phrases gives us a picture about Kamās. When this is combined with a study of the notated compositions, a clear picture of Kamās and possible ways to differentiate it from Harikāmbhōji can be learnt. This rāga could have not posed any problem if he had stopped with this discussion. The presence of an additional information, that SGMPDNS SNDPMGS can be a mūrcana confuses as this lakṣaṇa can nowhere be seen in the notated works. No single composition notated there is devoid of the svara ṛṣbham. As we have mentioned earlier, this scale too is to be taken with a pinch of salt. This scale doesn’t mean an entire composition could have been constructed only with this scale going up and down; rather the phrases given here must form a bulk of the composition and that version should be bereft of ṛṣbham or should have used ṛṣbham sparsely. We wish the readers to remember the phrase SRGMPMR in the rāga Balahamsa and its importance which we have discussed earlier. This phrase is nowhere seen in the compositions notated by Dīkṣitar in the rāga Balahamsa, but it was an arterial phrase mentioned in various treatises and seen in few old version of the kṛtis-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal in this rāga. The link between these treatises and the practice became evident only after examining the older versions.

Compositions

Rāga-s live through compositions and a study of these compositions not only help us to understand a rāga, but also aid us in understanding the various ways in which a particular rāga was exploited. In the absence of gita-s in this rāga, we are left with the available old versions of kṛti-s, svarajati-s and jāvali-s in this rāga. A detailed analysis of  jāvali-s in this rāga can be heard here (See footnote 2). Though the first evidence of jāvali in this rāga can be traced back to 17 CE, the musical structure is much similar to what we hear today.

We do have two kṛti-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal in this rāga – ‘sujana jīvana’ and ‘sītāpate nā manasuna’. Excluding these two kṛti-s none of the compositions deserve a special mention in this regard.

Sujana jīvana

This is a well-known kṛti in this rāga set to the tāla rūpakam and needs no introduction. Renditions of this kṛti are plenteous and we do not see much variation in the versions. Uniformly, all these renditions use the svara ṛṣbham as an alpa svara. But we get a different picture when textual versions were examined.  Despite being a rare find, both in manuscripts and in the texts published in the early part of the last century, the versions sketched there is common, all devoid of ṛṣbham! All the texts – ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’ [7], ‘saṅgītānanda ratnākaramu’ [8], ‘saṅgīta raja raṅgōm’ [9] and ‘gandarva gāna kalpavalli’ [10] give us the variant form of Kamās mentioned by Dīkṣitar. Though the scale followed is SGMPDNS SNDPMGS, we do find phrases like SMGM, PDM, PDS, NDN and SP. The combination of these oft heard phrases in the basic melody condition us to an extent that we don’t feel the real absence of ṛṣbham. These versions does not record a mere scale; rather they paint us the rāga Kamās in its variant form. Now we are left with a question, a vital one to understand the svarūpa of this rāga – can Kamās be outlined without the svarā ṛṣbham? Though the ‘alpa’ nature of this svara is mentioned everywhere and even the oral renditions attest the same, none of the oral versions are available for this kṛti which totally eschew this svara. There are few rāga-s wherein inclusion or exclusion of a particular svara is up to the wish of a composer. The svara dhaivatam in Nāta and ṛṣbham in Hindōlavasanta can be cited as examples. Dīkṣitar provides gīta-s with and without these svara-s in both these rāga-s. But such an indication is not given for Kamās!

Let us look into the Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti. The rāga and tāla of this kṛti is mentioned as Kamās and rūpaka respectively. The basic version is relatively similar to the textual versions, though the structure of the saṅgati-s differ. An important observation noted include the restricted usage of ṛṣbham. The svara ṛṣbham is seen only once in anupallavi in a saṅgati as GRRS. Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti can be heard here.

Whereas in the textual versions described earlier, we were able to see many Kamās defining versions. This version lacks those phrases; instead has some other like SMGS and GPMG. The phrase GPMG is totally new, but seen in a sañcāri by Dīkṣitar. As said earlier, we lack gītas, prabandās or other earlier works in this rāga and description by Dīkṣitar alone stand as a pramāṇa. Based on the above discussion, it can be concluded this version best fits into the variant Kamās mentioned by Dīkṣitar, without deviating from its sampūrṇa nature. Many of the āvarta ends with the svara madhyamaṃ highlighting its use as a nyasa svara. But dhaivata is not used extensively as a gṛha svara, though can be considered to be used as an amsa svara.

Also the pada-s in each āvarta are segregated differently than the commonly heard version. The second tāla āvarta in anupallavi starts from ‘cita’ instead of ‘budha’ as we hear now. Same with ‘nana’ instead of ‘dharma’ in the caraṇam (see below).   This kind of pada segregation is not only followed in the Vālājāpeṭṭai version, but also in the books ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’ and ‘gandarva gāna kalpavalli’. In these texts, sāhitya reads differently; ‘cita’ (in anupallavi) and ‘nana’ (in caraṇam) were replaced by ‘śrita’ and ‘vana’ respectively (‘ghana’ in ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’). Gāyaka siddhānjanamu reads ‘dharma pālaka’ as ‘dharma pālana’.

Anupallavi

                        bhujaka bhūṣanār  II cita budha janāvanāt II

               maja vandita śruta candana II daśa turaṅga māmava  II

                                                        Caraṇam

                          cāru nētra śrī kalatra  II śrī ramya gātra II

                          tāraka nāma sucaritra  II daśaratha putra  II

                          tārakādhipā  II nana dharma pālaka  II

                                          tāraya raghuvara nirmala  II tyāgarāja sannutha II

From the analysis of these old versions, it appears the Kamās handled by Svāmigal could have used ṛṣbham to the minimal extent or not used at all. But going with the latter hypothesis creates an impression Kamās was visualized as a shādava rāga by Svāmigal. As we don’t have any evidence to prove that and from the knowledge gained by analyzing the mūrcana seen in Pradarṣini, the first option suits well. In that instance, Vālājāpeṭṭai version stands distinctly as the frequently heard phrases like SRS, NRS, SMGM and MNDN were not seen. But we do see other rare phrases like SMGS and GPM.

Conclusion

Though the aim of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is to archive the compositions known to him, he also took efforts to make a note on other contemporary accepted practices. In this regard, Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini is indeed a valuable treatise to not only learn the compositions of Dīkṣitar, but also serve as a medium to understand the music of the past.

The liberty extended to vāggēyakāra-s by our music is incomparable and they have utilized it to the maximum extent.

Analysis of all the older versions and Vālājāpeṭṭai versions is of paramount importance to understand the music of the past.

Readers must have wondered in not seeing any note on the kṛti ‘sītāpati nā manasuna’. It will be dealt as a separate essay to do justice to the information that it carries.

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – Though we place many musicians into a single family, like Umayālpuram, Tillaisthānam or Mānambucāvadi, differences in the versions do exist between them. This can is more pronounced in Umayālpuram disciples. Such a difference also exist among the disciples of Mānambucāvadi lineage. This is a generalized statement and not related to this kṛti as this kṛti is a hard find in manuscripts and this author was unable find this manuscript in more than one musician in the Mānambucāvadi lineage.

Footnote 2 – The tune of the jāvali sung by Subhashini Parthasarathy is more modern. She has reconstructed the tune or sung a version tuned version by a contemporary musician is to be determined.

References

1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini. Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ  Samasthānaṃ, 1904.

2. Hema Ramanathan. Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.

3. Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi – Kamās lakṣaṇa gītaṃ – Pg 164. The Adyar Library, 1938.

4. Pazamanēri Svāminātha Ayyar: Rāga Vibhōdini, 1901.

5. Rāmanāthan S : Desi rāga-s in Karnātik music. Journal of Music Academy, pg 24-25, 1966.

6. S R Janakiraman. Rāga lakṣaṇaṅgal – Part 1, pg 128. The Music Academy, Madras, 1995.

7. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gāyaka siddhāṅjanamu, Part 1, pg 137. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905.  

8. Tenmaṭam Vēṅkaṭācāryulu, Tenmaṭam Varadācāryulu. Saṅgītānanda ratnākaramu, pg 53. Śrīnikētana mudrāyantramu, Madras, 1917.

9. Reṅganātha Ayyar. Saṅgīta raja raṅgōm, pg 289, 1928.  

10. Rāmulu Ceṭṭi. Gandarva gāna kalpavalli, pg 56. Śrī ‘Rāma’ Mudrākṣaraśāla,1929.

Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika – A Monograph

Prologue:

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

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

The discovery of the Anubandha:

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

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

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

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

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

Author of the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha & Its probable date:

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

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

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

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

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

The Argument advanced by Prof SRJ

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

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

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

Logical deduction as to the author of the Anubandha

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ans so what was the date it was probably created?

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

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

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

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

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

The Velavali documented by King Sahaji:

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

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

vElAvaLI tu bhAshAngaM jAthAh srIrAga mElathah |

sampUrna BhAvaM BhajatE praBhAtE chEsha gIyatE  ||

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

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

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

The Velavali of Tulaja

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

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

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

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

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

The other collateral evidence – Gopikavasanta & Gamakakriya

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

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

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

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

The unsaid evidence provided by the political turmoil in Tanjore

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

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

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

And who could have been the Author?

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

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

Other possibilities

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

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

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

All that we surmise now, is based on:

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

References :

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

 FOOT NOTES:

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

Tailpiece:

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