For us in the 21st century world of music the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshitar published in 1904 is a true and invaluable magnum opus. The SSP offers a peek into the music of yore, the music of the 18th century, capturing in its pages the very essence of it. And we are in great debt to Subbarama Dikshitar, the scion of the Dikshitar family for having bequeathed to us the tome. Apart from Subbarama Dikshitar, we have seen in past blog posts that there are a number of benefactors who have directly and indirectly assisted Subbarama Dikshitar when he compiled the SSP. The Royals of Ettayapuram who funded the publication, Cinnasvami Mudaliar the man who assiduously followed up to seek the intervention of the Raja of Ettayapuram to issue a Royal edict commanding Subbarama Dikshitar to publish all that he knew, the personages whom Subbarama Dikshitar mentions in his preface to the SSP as having been of great assistance to him, to them all we owe a great debt of gratitude as they were our benefactors in every conceivable way.
But there is one benefactor who stands out, but not mentioned formally anywhere and not connected at all directly in the entire exercise of the compilation of the SSP, which was started sometime 1899 and finished in 1904. In fact this personage had passed way close to a decade earlier in 1891 itself. He is none other than His Holiness Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati, the 65th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta who adorned the same during 1850-1891 AD.
Subbarama Dikshitar records in his two works, SSP -Vaggeyakara Caritamu and in his Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu that he is in gratitude to this 65th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati as he had provided the original manuscripts pertaining to the Caturdandi Prakashika to him at Kumbakonam. His narration both in his own biographic note as well as in the foot note to the Gamakakriya raga gitam in the Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu bears this out.
His Holiness Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati was anointed as Peetadhipati/Pontiff on November 27, 1850 (tamil/lunar month of karthigai, 14th). This week marks the 166th Anniversary of the Acharya’s ascension/peetArohana as a Pontiff of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam. In this blog post we will look at this great Acharya with emphasis from a musical standpoint and Subbarama Dikshitar’s paeans on this Acharya who was an acknowledged rasika & patron of our music.
He is/will be referred to interchangeably in this blog and also in all books and in the compositions on him as Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati or Sri Mahadeva Sarasvati or Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati Samyameendra.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF HIS HOLINESS MAHADEVENDRA SARASVATI:
The Acharya in his pUrvAsrama was named Mahalingam. He was born in Tiruvidaimarudur, which is very near Kumbakonam, in the year 1831 where he grew up. His father Sesha(dri) Sastrigal, a rigvEdin being his tutor, taught him all that he knew. Mahalingam’s paternal grandfather Subramanya Sastri, a Hoysala/Kannada Brahmin was the Mudradhikari – the person in charge of the treasury/finances of the Kanci Kamakoti Mutt, which was then quartered at Kumbhakonam. This family hailed from Kannada region and they were descendants of Govinda Dikshitar. See foot note 1.
Mahalingam was extremely precocious and his knowledge, personality and spiritual profile drew the admiration of many. Not surprisingly the young boy’s capabilities reached the ears of the then Acharya His Holiness Chandrasekharendra Sarasvathi VI (pontificate 1813-1850). This reigning 64th Acharya was in his purvasrama named Venkatasubramanya Dikshita and was himself a direct descendant of Venkatamakhin, the third son of Govinda Dikshitar. Given his/common background and credentials, the 64th Acharya bade Mahalingam to be part of his entourage. So impressed was the Acharya that shortly thereafter the he must have decided that he should succeed him next. Subsequently the hardly 15 year old Mahalingam was ordained into sanyAsA as Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati sometime circa 1843.
Between the years 1845 and 1850, the young disciple/Junior Pontiff/successor designate, His Holiness Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati performed great service to the cause of religion and the Kamakoti Peeta much to the delight of his Guru. The Royals of those time as well as the ordinary public, the followers of the Matha and also learned scholars, musicologists and musicians were drawn to him. We do have records of the communication in the form of epistles written by Maharaja Svati Tirunal Rama Varma of Travancore (1813-1846), a musician/musicologist himself, to Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati, even while he was still a successor designate. Svati Tirunal presented an elephant to His Holiness as an offering to Lord Chandramouleesvara.
It is apparent from the letter that His Holiness desired to visit the holy shrine of Lord Padmanabha and the Maharaja earnestly wishes in his communication that it will be fulfilled in the very near future. His Highness remarks in the first epistle that once the ongoing monsoon/rainy season concludes he would dispatch a young elephant as an offering to Lord Chandramouleesvara the presiding deity of the Acharyas of Kanchi. And he does that soon after as evidenced by his second epistle. See foot note 2.
It must have been a source of great joy for venerated seer, the 64th Pontiff Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati VI to see his ward/disciple playing a great role and vindicating the choice that was made to anoint him successor. The Acharyas of Kanci had been discharging the sacred duty of replacing the tATankAs of Goddess Akhilandesvari at TiruAnaikAval, replacing it once every 60 years. In the year 1848 when the incumbent Pontiff Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati VI embarked on performing the same, many an obstacle arose. His disciple perhaps rose to the occasion by meticulously planning and conducting the event. See foot note 3 & 4.
When his Guru attained samadhi on Nov 21, 1850 at Kumbakonam, His Holiness Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati became the 65th Pontiff in the hoary lineage of the SankarAcharyas of Kanci. Maharaja Sivaji of the Tanjore Kingdom held him in high reverence and performed kanakAbhisheka to this seer. Years later the Raja of Pudukottai also performed kanakabhisheka as well. The Royals of Travancore, Zamorin of Calicut, Satara, Pudukkottai and Ettayapuram were devout followers of this Acharya and they all contributed to the sustenance of the Kanci matha/monastery.
His Holiness during his lifetime performed Vijaya Yatras and visited many places in modern Tamil Nadu and also Vijayanagaram in Andhra Pradesh and Puri in Orissa. He was feted by the Maharaja of Vijayanagaram Ananda Gajapati Raju in July 1885 (Subbarama Dikshitar in his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Anubandha gives a ragamalika that he had composed on this ruler).
Accounts have it that this Acharya was a great Siva bhakta and his puja to Sri Chandramouleesvara during the Pradosha days, was a sight to behold. Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer in his chronicles has mentioned about this Acharya and his awe inspiring presence.
Apart from agamas, sastras and puranas, this Acharya was very knowledgeable in music apparently and he patronized a number of musicians with whom he enjoyed great rapport. A galaxy of musicians including some of the greatest of that era were patronized by His Holiness and were part of his sangita vidvat sadas/gathering. In the next section we will look at the key contributions of the Acharya to the cause of Music.
During the Acharya’s southern sojourn, circa 1889 after visiting Ramesvaram he visited Ettayapuram where he was again ceremoniously welcomed by the then Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa, who was then a minor. Records have it that a tamil poet attached to the Court of Ettayapuram composed verses in His honor. Needless to add, Subbarama Dikshitar too must have been in attendance during the Acharya’s visit. This Rajah of Ettayapuram was the one who ascended the throne later in 1899 upon attaining majority and he was the one who funded the publication of the SSP.
In early 1890 when the Acharya was in Ilayaatangudi, a village about 20 kms near Karaikudi, Sivaganga District in southern Tamilnadu, he had a premonition of his approaching end. He attained beatitude on 20th March 1890 (tamil/lunar month of panguni the 8th). His mortal remains interned in the Samadhi there, is today an adhishtAnam with a sivalinga installed atop. The premises has been taken care by the Nattukkotai Nagarathar clan who had revered him and one can visit the shrine even today. See foot note 5 10, 11.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE 65th ACHARYA HIS HOLINESS SUDARSANA MAHADEVENDRA SARASVATI:
A study of the Acharya’s divyacarita, makes us realize a number of his contributions to the cause of music which are listed below.
PATRON OF MUSIC:
Much like a patron Royal, this great Acharya was also a great connoisseur of music. He must have been well versed in musicology as well. Never in the history of the monastic orders of Southern India in recent history has an Acharya of such eminence been sung about much and known for hosting the great musicians of his era in his vidvat sadas. Available records indicate that the musicians who flocked to him included Veena Subbukutty Ayya (vaineeka and grandson of Patchimiriyam Adiyappayya and the asthana vidvan of Pudukkottai) Tirumalairayan pattinam Ramudu Bhagavathar, Tirukkadaiyur Bharati (disciple of Muthusvami Dikshitar), Subbarama Dikshitar, Mysore Sadasiva Rao, Kavi Kunjara Bharati and others.
A number of musicians during that age apparently vied with one another in performing before the Acharya. Old timers of those days apparently recalled time and again in awe one such recital with a spellbinding rendering of a pallavi complete with neraval, svarakalpana etc by the legendary Vidvan Talaignyayar Somu Iyer ( refer the book ‘Cameos – The Memoirs of Sulamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar, pp 96-97, for a profile of this vidvan) one evening during the evening/sAyaraksha puja performed by the Acharya to Lord Chandramouleesvara. Vidvans including Padakam Gopala Iyer, Fiddle Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer, Svaragat Krishna Iyer, Dholak Nannumiya regularly performed for the Acharya.
It is also said that the Acharya was greatly enamoured of the compositions of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra and he used to immerse himself in the renderings by vidvans. He also used to emphasise the importance of maintaining the fidelity of the compositions and frequently provide a commentary on the sahitya & its meaning.
SETTING THE TUNES FOR ASTAPADIS:
Acharya was instrumental in re-popularizing the singing of the Gitagovinda Ashtapadis of Jayadeva which had nearly gone extinct during those times, circa 1860. The older tunes of the Ashtapadis had been long forgotten and the practice of reciting the same particularly in the bhajana sampradaya had virtually ceased. The Acharya got Tirumalairajanpattinam Ramudu Bhagavathar to set the Ashtapadis to an appropriate raga and tala.
PROVIDING THE COPY OF THE CATUDANDI PRAKASHIKA OF VENKATAMAKHIN TO SUBBARAMA DIKSHITAR:
Subbarama Dikshitar the scion of the Dikshitar family and a votary of the Venkatamakhin tradition circa 1860’s was on the mission to acquire the original manuscripts of the Caturdandi Prakshika. From his own family he had inherited a number of musicological texts and also the exemplar compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar which practically illustrated the schemata of ragas, of what we call today as the later Kanakambari nomenclature or the so-called Asampurna mela scheme. Subbarama Dikshitar perhaps did not possess the complete framework for the scheme and he perhaps only had only portions or parts of the Caturdandi Prakashika and the document/text which today we call as the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika. It is likely that when Subbarama Dikshitar evaluated all the texts he had and the practical exemplars of the scheme of ragas through the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar, he found gaps between the theory and practice. He perceived therefore that he did not have the complete theoretical basis or the complete manuscript of the Caturdandi Prakashika which he knew was the holy grail of the Venkatamakhin Sampradaya to which his ancestors as well as himself, were followers. See foot note 6.
To this end to secure the original manuscripts, circa 1864 he set about scouring the town of Kumbhakonam and Tiruvaidaimarudur /Madhyarjunam where most of the Hoysala/Kannada Brahmins had settled down, particularly those who were descendants of Govinda Dikshitar/Venkatamakhin. The 64th Acharya, Chandrasekarendra Sarasvati VI whom we saw earlier, in His purvasrama was born and he lived in a house very adjacent to the Sankara Matam premises in Kumbakonam and was a direct descendent of Venkatamakhin himself.
Subbarama Dikshitar’s objective must have been to tap the heirlooms of these families/descendants and get a copy of the elusive original text of the Caturdandi Prakasika and related manuscripts if any. His search proved futile and needless to add he must have been dejected and crestfallen. At Kumbakonam, with all earnestness and sincerity at his command he placed his wish and quest to access the manuscripts to His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati, whom he knew to be a descendant of the Govinda Dikshitar family in his purvasrama.
When Subbarama Dikshitar expressed his ask after seeking the permission of the Acharya, the Pontiff in his boundless Grace let him know that he had those manuscripts in his custody. Given both the Acharyas, the 64th and the 65th Pontiffs were from the Govinda Dikshitar/Venkatamakhin clan, we do not know for sure who had procured it and kept it in custody. Be that as it may, it must have been a moment of great joy and happiness that day at Kumbakonam circa 1865 for Subbarama Dikshitar when he was given the manuscripts by His Holiness.
The copy of the original manuscripts provided by His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati is acknowledged by Subbarama Dikshitar both in the Vaggeyakara Caritamu and his Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu. Needless to add the manuscripts provided, must have given him the complete basis/foundation when he later created the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, which is today the only lexicon of authentic 18th century music for us capturing both the theory and practice of the music of Venkatamakhin Sampradaya.
One can imagine the shining countenance of the Acharya as he summoned the attendants in his entourage to fetch the manuscripts and Subbarama Dikshitar with all humility and respect, bowed reverentially in front of the Acharya all agog and excited beyond words to receive the manuscripts. Later in the day as he retired to his quarters provided by the Acharya for his stay in the premises of the Matha, it must have been sleepless night for Subbarama Dikshitar must have been too excited and filled with joy and contentment for he had achieved what he had set about to do.
And he must have spent the sleepless night, poring over the texts atleast as a cursory glance. And the next day when Subbarama Dikshitar must have gone to the Cauvery banks for his morning bath at the adjacent Bhagavath bathing ghat (paditturai in tamil) he must have started wondering how on earth he can ever repay the debt to this great mahatma who had granted his life’s wish. What is that he, Subbaraman can give to the Pontiff of a hoary monastic order, who had given up everything in life and donned the ochre? And then it must dawned on Subbarama Dikshitar that the best way would be etch this great personage forever in the fabric of our music by creating a couple of compositions as a paean on the Acharya Shresta. And the Acharya being the greatest of connoisseurs meant that he would cherish the same without doubt.
The more Subbarama Dikshitar thought about it the more convinced he was that no greater homage can ever be possible as the Acharya’s Grace and memory will stand reinforced and sung every time the composition is rendered for ages down the line.
And Subbarama Dikshitar must have given considerable thought to the raga and the composition type. A tana varna and a conventional kriti must has easily struck him as obvious ones. And as he decided to choose the ragas, he was in no doubt perhaps. They shall be old and hoary ragas, the greatest amongst melodies-Sankarabharanam and Ramakriya. And so he must have gone about fashioning them that early afternoon in Kumbakonam. As he composed the sahitya and notated it, he must have had his disciple perhaps by his side as a scribe who would have also been made to practice the pieces countless times to meet with the final approval of Subbarama Dikshitar who in turn must have also corrected it then and there to burnish the compositions to a perfect finish. In sum two brilliant compositions formed Subbarama Dikshitar’s offering to his benefactor.
- kriti – ‘sankarAcAryaM’ in Sankarabharanam and Adi tAlA
- tAna varnA – ‘srI kanci kAmakOti’ in Ramakriya and ata tAlA
Shortly thereafter, once Subbarama Dikshitar had gained the confidence that the pieces would secure expert approval he must have approached the Acharya perhaps with great trepidation after the evening puja, one of the following days in the Matha premises at Kumbakonam. With humility he must have submitted to him that he would like to debut the compositions he had newly created and must have sought the Acharya’s blessings, permission and direction.
Subbarama Dikshitar says in his own biography that he presented the two compositions to his Holiness in the presence of several other musical giants of that age, including Veena Subbukutty Ayya (vaineeka and grandson of Patchimiriyam Adiyappayya) Tirumalairayanpattinam Ramudu Bhagavathar and Tirukkadaiyur Bharati (disciple of Muthusvami Dikshitar), who were in the vidvat sadas. We do not know if he played it on the veena or he sang or did both or perhaps had one of his illustrious disciples to render it, we do not know. Nevertheless it must have been a defining moment in time for Subbarama Dikshitar for the occasion was truly momentous. Here he was in the possession of the long sought after manuscripts. He had the blessings of a great savant of those times. The compositions he had created in great debt and gratitude to this great benefactor had met with the approval of not only the Holiness but also of the musical greats of that era. Subbukutty Ayya or Thirukkadaiyur Bharathy must have been no ordinary personages. They were representing the old and hoary musical lineages of the past. It must have been truly euphoric for Subbarama Dikshitar and the effort in terms of both sahitya and melody he has invested in the two songs was monumental. Let’s partake the sweetness of that moment in time for Subbarama Dikshitar by celebrating it by hearing & relishing the renderings of these two classics.
ANALYSIS OF THE KRITIS & DISCOGRAPHY:
‘sankarAcAryam’ – Sankarabharanam – Adi tala
The Sankarabharanam kriti was well known and was part of the repertoire of the Veena Dhanammal family. We do have a record of the 68th Pontiff, the Paramacharya himself saying so as a part of his commentary on Muthusvami Dikshitar’s classic Kambhoji kriti ‘ Sri Subramanyaya namaste’. The web documents an instance of the Paramacharya, having given his commentary for three long hours on this kriti ‘sankarAcAryam’ which is recorded here. But sadly no details are available.
The meaning of the sahitya of the kriti is given in the footnote 7. A number of compositional features or alankaras/ornamentation which are signatures of Subbarama Dikshitar are found in this composition.
- The kriti is constructed like a magnificent edifice. For example the pallavi section has three subsections to be rendered as if it were a refrain with ‘sankarAcAryam’. A similar construct can be seen in the Ahiri navAvaraNa kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar which has 4 individual segments in the pallavi itself.
- Both the anupallavi and the caranam are invested with distinct madhyama kAla sahityas.
- The cittasvara section is uniquely constructed in two aspects:
- It is set in two avartas of adi tala. Assuming that the main composition is set to vilamba kAla, the the first avarta is set to the madhyamakAla just as the preceding madhyamakAla section of the carana beginning ‘karakalita danda’ while the second avarta is set to the druta kala, twice the speed of the previous avarta.
- The svaras forming part of the cittasvara section are arranged uniquely with the entire sequence of the first avarta, repeated in the first 4 aksharas of the second avarta at twice the speed and ending with a crowning makuta svara sequence.
- In the pallavi,anupallavi and caranam he uses the words ‘pankajAta, ‘sankara’ and ‘parama’, repeatedly, a form of sabdalankara or ornamentation with words. One can find a similar device used by Subbarama Dikshitar for example in ‘pArthasArathini’ in Yadukulakambhoji.
- The pallavi and anupallavi have a profusion of words ending with ‘ra’ while in the caranam they end with ‘lam’
- The kriti has many P/s, S/s which has to be sung very inimitably.
We do have renderings of very many Vidvans and Vidushis of the composition including Sangita Kalanidhis Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Smt M S Subbulakshmi. Considering the authentic rendering which can be truly expected of the Veena Dhanammal lineage, presented below is the rendering by the doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda. In this excerpt from the National Program of Music for AIR, she is assisted by her daughter Smt Vegavahini Vijayaraghavan and by Kandadevi Alagiriswami on the Violin and Coimbatore Ramaswami on the mrudangam. She first prefaces the kriti with a succinct vinyasa of the raga and later at the caranam portion begining ‘parama jnAna’ in the rendering she performs neraval and svaraprastara as well.
In the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar provides a cittasvara section as well for this composition, which is not rendered at all in the concert circuit. Presented below is a rendering of the same by me presented for the purposes of understanding the construction of the same.
‘Sri Kanci Kamakoti’ – Ramakriya – Ata tala:
Let us first look at the construction of the varNa. See foot note 8.
- The varNa is found to be in the older format with a pallavi, anupallavi, muktAyi svara section with sahitya, carana, 5 ettugada svara section and an anubandha which has to be sung following the final ettugada svara section. After singing the anubandha, the anupallavi and the muktayi svara has to be sung before ending with the pallavi refrain.
- As is his self-imposed norm, Subbarama Dikshitar makes the fourth carana ettugada svara section as sarva laghu.
- Along with his other varnas in Balahamsa, Sahana, Durbar and Purnacandrika, Subbarama Dikshitar’s Ramakriya varna is the perfect example of an ideal varna replete with all the features and complete with all the melodic contours of the raga as aforesaid.
- The anupallavi muktAyi svara section and its lilting sahitya captures all the salient features of Ramakriya.
- The anubandha section features the sahitya ‘ srI cakrOdhAraka’ – an apparent reference to the Acharya being a Sri Vidya upasaka as well. We have records that on more than one occasion he had performed Sri Cakra puja. Given that Sir Subbarama Dikshitar was a Sri Vidya upasaka too, it is no surprise that the reference is made in the composition.
The text of the varNa and its meaning is provided in foot note 9.
Let us next look at the musical construct of the varna. The raga of this composition is Ramakriya or Kasiramakriya the raganga raga of the 51st mela and it sports sadja, suddha rishabha, antara gandhara, prati madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivatha and kakali nishadha. A very old and hoary raga of great antiquity, it was once known as Suddha Ramakriya. The name Ramakriya or Ramakriti was used for a scale known as Ramkali, a raga which is different in its scalar structure and also sported both the madhyamas. However Suddha Ramakriya and Kasiramakriya are today used synonymously with Ramakriya to refer to the raganga raga of the 51st mela. Suffice to say that this raga is melodically very different from the heptatonic scale of mela 51 Kamavardhani which is also synonymously called as Pantuvarali today. Unfortunately today Ramakriya is all but forgotten and the melodic implementation of mela 51 as available today is the raga Pantuvarali, which is called so rightly or wrongly.
Ramakriya was not a linear svara implementation of the 51st mela. Its melodic svarupa can never be explained with the modern arohana/avarohana constructs, a legacy of the Sangraha Cudamani. We can understand Ramakriya by evaluating the contours/melodic svarupa that Subbarama Dikshitar presents to us in the varna. One sees the following features in the varna.
- Ramakriya’s salient murcchanas/motifs are SGRGMP, SRGMGR, GPD, dSR,Dgrs,SNDP, PMGR, DMGR, SDS.
- If the arohana were to lead to the pancama then the route would be SGRGMP. If the movement from the sadja were to end with the gandhara or rishabha or back to sadja itself then SRGMGR appears. In other words SRGMP is never seen.
- Nishadha is a very weak svara, langhana/skipped if not varjya. On a similar note PDNS is never seen. PDs is prolific in its usage. Neither does one see DNsrg as well. Nishada is significantly underplayed and it is never a graha, amsa or nyasa.
- Also SNDP is not copious. Nishada varjya prayogas abound. dGRs leading from the madhya stayi dhaivata to tara gandhara is an oft repeated leitmotif.
- GPD or GMD, DMGR , PGRS making the pancama or the madhyama langhana/skipping over is the norm in the raga.
Though in the SSP, the Muthusvami Dikshitar kriti ‘Uccishta ganapatou’ and the Purandara Dasa composed suladi are also given for this raga as exemplars, it is the varna of Subbarama Dikshitar which is the encyclopedia for us in understanding this old raga in its entirety.
A detailed analysis of the raga and the kriti exemplars will be dealt with in an upcoming blog post.
The varna to the best of knowledge is not part of the modern day repertoire. Very strangely it has never been known to be rendered at all, despite its beautiful structure. This observation would go for almost all of Subbarama Dikshitar’s varnas and sadly the loss is certainly ours. Given the lack of a recording, I have endeavored to learn and sing the same to the best of abilities, interpreting the notation found in the SSP.
We do have compositions of Mysore Sadasiva Rao and couple of other anonymous compositions. Records from the early 20th century reveal that there has been a number of compositions on this savant. Here is the listing.
|Sl No||Kriti||Raga & tala||Composer||Remarks|
|1||Sri Sanmukha Janaka||Sankarabharanam – catusra Dhruva tala||Mysore Sadasiva Rao||The kriti is on Lord Chandramouleesvara the icon which is the puja vigraha of of the Kanci Acharyas. The said kriti has a line eulogizing the AchAryA- “pAsandamata kandana sanmatastApana sriman mahAdEvEndra sarasvatI sri bhagavat pAdAcArya pUjita pAda nandanadanahita namAmi lOkakAnta parama shAnta”|
|2||nAmAmi sriman mahadEvEndra sarasvati||Chandrachooda Raga Misra jhampa tala||Mysore Sadasiva Rao||See note below in discography section|
|3||Guruvaram AsrayE||Mohanam, capu||Anonymous||Notation is unavailable|
|4||sankaracarya SadguruvArya||Sriragam, misra capu||Anonymous||Notation is unavailable|
|6||GurucaranAravindamE (telugu)||Kambhoji||Anonymous||Notation is unavailable|
|7||lOka guruvE sankara nAma taruvE( tamil)||NA||Mazhavai Cidambara Bharati||Notation is unavailable|
Mysore Sadasiva Rao (circa 1804-1880) a disciple of Walahahpet Venkataraman Bhagavathar in the sishya parampara of Tyagaraja, seems to have been closely associated with Acharya Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati. None of his available biographies talk about this association with the Acharya. We are left to deduce the same only from the compositions themselves. It is likely that Sadasiva Rao a senior contemporary of the Acharya made frequent visits to Kumbakonam to have his darshan. The visits must be been musical interactions of the highest order. And it is no surprise that Sadasiva Rao has composed one kriti exclusively as his obeisance. He has utilized a new raga melodically akin to Kamalamanohari under mela 15. Chandrachooda raga is the name that Vidvan Chennakesavayya assigns during his presentation of this composition for the first time in Music Academy in the year 1957. Incidentally this composition does not find place in the publication of Mysore Sadasiva Rao Kritis by Sangeeta Kalabhivardhini Sabha, Mysore in 1954. Vidvan Chennakesavayya indicates in his demonstration that these compositions were discovered after much effort – vide JMA XXX1 pages 161-164.
Chandrachooda raga is a melody, a janya under mela 15 malava gaula with an operative arohana/avarohana as under, resembling Kamalamanohari, very much.
Arohana : S M1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S
Avarohana: S N3 D1 P M G3 S
Much like the Ramakriya varna of Subbarama Dikshitar, this kriti too has remained unsung and unseen from the point of view of modern Carnatic repertoire. Again given its novelty value, I have ventured to interpret the notation of the song provided by Vidvan Chennakesavayya, the rendering of which is presented next.
The raga as implemented by Sadasiva Rao spans from mandhara nishadha to tAra madhyama. To keep it distinct from Kamalamanohari he has emphasised both the SMGM as well as PDNS in the kriti. Though the kriti is in jhampa I have rendered it in khanda eka, without in anyway impacting the rhythmic gait of the composition. The notation of the composition in Tamil as published in JMA is given above.
In the Bangalore Univ publication “Kannada Javaligalu”, wherein many javalis are given with lyrics alone, a few are found notated. Therein there is a javali listed as being in Kamalamanohari, but an occasional PDNS and SNDP is seen notated ( information courtesy Sri Keerthi)
See foot note 12 for the text and meaning of the kriti. Also see foot note 13.
Apart from this composition, we find that the Acharya is mentioned in the Sankarabharanam kriti ‘Sri Sanmukha Janaka’. Sadasiva Rao’s Sankarabharanam kriti has been released as a part of the music disc ‘Sankara Stuti’ by Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi. Provided is a brief excerpt of the composition, the rendering of the anupallavi portion which refers to His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati- vide table above.
Provided next is a rendering of the full composition – courtesy Sangeethapriya.
The objective of these blog posts including the current one on His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati is to understand our music and its artefacts in a historical context and to bolster our understanding and our appreciation of the music with other facets as well. Apart from the musical aspect it’s indeed an opportunity to know and understand the contributions of some of these great personalities to the cause of our music.
One wishes that the Ramakriya varna and the other nearly extinct compositions are learnt and rendered more by vidvans and vidusis. It has to mentioned here that more than 115 year later we still continue to uncover golden nuggets like these compositions buried in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini and as often reiterated in this blog, we will continue to be in eternal debt to the great karmayogi, the great Subbarama Dikshitar.
- Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
- Pudukkottai Malladi Dakshinamurti Sastri(1954)- Sankaracarya Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati – A Biography (Tamil)– Published by Sri R Svaminatha Iyer, Sri Kailasanatha Svami Nityakalyani Amman Devasthanam, Ilyathangudi, Ramanathapuram District.
- Vidvan V Mahadevan(1988) – Jagadguru Sri Sankaracarya Svamigal Thirumarabu Arul Varalaru (Tamil) published by Sri Kamakoti Aivu Mayyam, Kumbakonam(Tamil)
- Vyasa Vidvat Sadas Souvenir (1963)- An account of the proceedings of the Sadas (convened by the 68th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam at Ilayathangudi in the year 1962)and a collection of valuable articles contributed and the speeches made by eminent men in the fields of agama, silpa, temple-building, bharata-pravachana, temple-arts, etc published by the Sri Kamakoti Kosasthanam( English/Tamil)
- Dr R Satyanarayana(2008) – Karnataka Music as a Aesthetic form- Published by PHISPC
I am in deeply indebted to Vidvan Sri Ganesa Sarma, Scholar and well versed in the genealogy and life histories of the Acharyas of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam, for providing me with inputs in collating the biography of His Holiness.
FOOT NOTE 1:
Accounts have it that since Kanci was northernmost from a geographical perspective, it was open to invaders especially from the Muslim Kingdoms of Deccan and from North. King Pratapasimha the powerful King of Tanjore whose regnal years were 1749-1765, requested the then Kanci Acharya, the 62nd in the lineage, His Holiness Chandrasekarendra Sarasvati V, to move his quarters to Tanjore. The Acharya acceded to his request sometime circa 1750 perhaps and later he moved the quarters to Kumbakonam.
FOOT NOTE 2:
The epistle from the Maharaja of Travancore is subject to a controversy of authorship. The version that I have provided to the effect that they were written sometime circa 1845 by Svati Tirunal to His Holiness Mahadevendra Sarasvati the 65th Acharya is based on the narration provided by “Select Epistles of the sovereigns of Travancore addressed to the Acharyas of the Kamakoti Peetha”, edited by K. G. Natesa Sastri and published by G S Sarma Eliyurkar, Kalyanasrama, Mylapore, Madras, in 1928. The same is the authority cited by the biographers of Svati Tirunal as well. However a contrary view is expressed by Sri N Ramesan in his article ‘Sri Kamakoti Peeta of Sankaracarya’ found in the book ‘Preceptors of Advaita’ published by Sri Kanci Kamakoti Sankara Mandir , Secunderabad (1968) pages 439-440, which was published to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the Ascension of the 68th Acharya to the Kamakoti Peeta. In his account Sri Ramesan advances the view that the said epistles were written much earlier by Svati’s predecessor King Bala Rama Varma I or Avittam Tirunal ( regnal years 1798-1810) as he was known to then Kanci Acharya who was His Holiness Mahadevendra Sarasvati (1783-1814) who was the 63rd Acharya.
The Kings of Travancore sharing the same name as well as the titular names of the Acharyas of the Kamakoti Peetam too getting repeated is a probable cause of confusion. It would not be appropriate to ascertain the fact using secondary evidences such as those found narrated in books. Only a first hand analysis of the actual epistles together with other collateral evidences by professional historians/paleographers could possibly help us in finding out the truth.
FOOT NOTE 3:
Legend has it that the Devi enshrined at Tiruvanaikaval/Jambukesvaram at Trichy was an embodiment of fury/ugra so much so that Adi Sankara himself in order to mitigate the effulgence of the deity and make her benign, invested the tATankAs or ear rings to Goddess Akhilandesvari with Sricakra encrusted on it. He also proceeded to install the figurine of Lord Mahaganapathy right in front of the sanctum sanctorum in the Temple at Trichy to subdue her anger/radiance and bring about the benign, merciful Grace of the Devi to the devotees visiting the temple. Muthusvami Dikshitar in his kriti ‘Sri Matah SivavAmAnke’ in raga Begada alludes to this as ‘sri cakra rupa tATankE’. More can be read here:
FOOT NOTE 4:
The Mahasvamigal of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam, the 68th Acharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati has reportedly narrated a version of the event as told to him by his grandmother ( from his pUrvAsramA) surrounding the litigation about the right to perform the tATanka pratishta to Goddess Akhilandesvari and some subsequent events including the role the Rajah of Tanjore Sivaji, in the matter. http://www.kamakoti.org/souv/4-12.html
From this narrative it emerges that there was one Hoysala brahmin a descendant from the family of Govinda Dikshitar who had settled down in Tiruvidaimarudur by name Subramanya Sastri. He was held in high esteem in the Court of Raja Amarasimha of Tiruvidaimarudur/Madhyarjunam. From Tiruvidaimarudur he used to go over to the Kanci Kamakoti Mutt at Kumbakonam where he was employed as a mudrAdhikari. He had two sons Sesha Sastrigal the elder one and Ganapati Sastri the younger one. Sesha Satrigal’s son was Mahalingam who went on to become His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati, the 65th Acharya. The younger son Ganapati Sastri was the paternal grandfather (in pUrvAsrama) of the Mahasvamigal, the 68th Acharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati.
The same narrative is given as a biography of the Mahasvamigal Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati here:
This narrative is ascribed to the Paramacharya himself with his source of information being his own paternal grandmother Kamakshi Ammal, wife of Ganapati Sastri.
FOOT NOTE 5:
People who interacted very closely with the Paramacharya, the 68th Pontiff, would recall his performing the Vyasa Puja at Ilayathangudi in the year 1962. On the occasion of the same, during the almost year-long celebrations, the Acharya conducted seminars and exhibitions. The same was published as a souvenir which offers a wealth of information.
The town/village of Ilayathangudi is a Siva stala, having a temple dedicated the Lord Kailasanatha and his consort Goddess Nityakalyani, apart from the Adhistanam of the 65th Acharya which is in a separate premises. Many of the devout and the followers of the Kanci Kamakoti Acharya, who participated in the said Vyasa Puja festivities, named their daughters or grand-daughters born that year as Nityakalyani, considering its newness and novelty! Close associates to the Paramacharya would recall that he would request the Matha employees to arrange for jackfruit to be included as a part of the offerings on the 65th Acharya’s Annual Jayanthi day, mentioning nostalgically that the 65th Acharya Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati used to like Jackfruit.
It needs to be pointed out that most of the time in the past, Acharyas of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta were chosen only from a Brahmin sub-sect, particularly those hailing from Kannada country or Hoysala brahmins. Govinda Dikshitar was one such, whose ancestors were residents of the ancient city of Vijayanagar (modern day Hampi) and after the demise of the Vijayanagar empire circa 1550 they sought Royal patronage by migrating to Tanjore which became the hot bed of learning and music. Tanjore was under the Rule of the powerful Nayaks who were then feudatory to the powerful Vijayanagar Kings. With the demise of the suzerain power of the Vijayanagar Empire, these vassals including those of Tanjore, Madurai etc they began to assert themselves as independent Kings. Circa 1580 Govinda Dikshitar became the Chief Minister of the Nayak King Raghunatha who was one of the most powerful Tanjore Rulers of the Nayak dynasty. He composed the Sangita Sudha. His son Venkatamakhin adorned the Court of his son Vijayaraghava and composed the Catudandi Prakashika circa 1636. The demise of the Nayak rule in Tanjore circa 1670, coincided with the installation of Ekoji of the Mahratta Royal House of Bhonsales as the Ruler of Tanjore. His successor Sahaji (1680-1712) composed Ragalakshanamu and he is seen as the patron of Venkamakhin’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin as recorded by Subbarama Dikshitar. The records of the period of 1700-1750 provides us with reference to two personages as descendants of Venkatamakhin as having lived then namely Muddu Venkamakhin, the paternal grandson and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita a maternal grand/great rand son who was the preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshitar. As we saw earlier, the 64th Acharya Chandrasekarendra Saravati VI in his purvasrama was called as Venkatasubramanya DIkshita and is recorded as a direct descendant of Venkatamakhin himself. The 65th Acharya Mahadevendra Sarasvati and the later 68th Acharya Chandrasekarendra Sarasvati are in their purvasrama, descendants from an other line from Govinda Dikshitar . The connection between the Govinda Dikshitar/Venkatamakhin family and the lineage of the Kanci Kamakoti Acharyas is unmistakable.
FOOT NOTE 7:
sankarAcAryaM SrImacchhankarAcAryaM bhaktamanovasankarAcAryaM smarAmyaham Sri (sankarAcAryaM)
शङ्कराचार्यं श्रीमच्छङ्कराचार्यं भक्तमनोवशंकराचार्यं स्मराम्यहम्
I remember the revered Sankaracharya who captivates the mind of devotees.
pankajAta-bhava-vedyam hRdyam pankajAta-bhavarOga-vaidyam Aadyam (sankarAcAryaM)
पङ्कजातभववेद्यं ह्रदयं पङ्कजातभवरोगवैद्यम् आद्यम् (शङ्कराचार्यं)
(I remember Him) who has realized (the likes of ) Brahma – the lotus-born, who looks inward / is pleasant,
who cures the diseases of the world – made of dust.
sadguNasAndraM srImahAdEvasarasvatIsamyamIndra-candram (sankarAcAryaM)
(I remember Him) who is full of virtues, (who bears the name) MahadevaSarasvati, The one shining like a moon amidst the kings of ascetics (who have controlled their senses).
sankarAgasita-yasho-dhuryam ani- saM karAbjamavArya-tapashshauryam
शङ्करागसित-यशो-धुर्यम् अनिशं कराब्जमवार्य-तपश्शौर्यम्
(I remember Him) who is extremely revered as dedicated to the sacred feet of Sankara(charya) and whose prowess grows due to the grace of Sankara. Whose lotus hands are known for forever warding off doubts and desires.
Who possess unparalleled penance and valor.
(I remember Him) Who is the sustaining base that irrigates the creeper of supreme knowledge,
Who captivates the minds that are good and extremely humble,
who is unsurpassable in refuting the other paths,
who as if by mere sport, established the great Advaita philosophy.
karakalita-daNDa-kamaNDalaM kAshAyadharaM vinata-munimaNDalaM
varamativijitahara-kuNDalaM shubhavaradaM natadharAkhaNDalam (shrI)
करकलित-दण्ड-कमण्डलं काशायधरं विनत-मुनिमण्डलं
वरमतिविजितहर-कुण्डलं शुभवरदं नतधराखण्डलम् श्री
Whose hands bear the staff and a kamaNDala, Who wears the ochre robes, One who is worshipped by sages
Whose wisdom outshines Siva’s earrings (Sesha), Who bestows auspicious boons, Who is worshipped as Siva
(the bearer of the regions)
FOOT NOTE 8:
Subbarama Dikshitar apart from kritis has created a good number of varnas in ragas like Khamas, Surati, Sahana, Durbar, Purnacandrika, Yadukulakambhoji,Atana and Balahamsa apart from Ramakriya. We get to hear very few of these on the concert stage. That apart from a musicological perspective, his varnas are a compendium of the respective raga’s lakshana and sadly that factor has never been appreciated in any quarters. As the late music critic Sri K V Ramachandran lamented in 1950, in his lecture titled ‘ Carnatic ragas from a new angle- Sankarabharana’ (vide JMA XXI pages 88-89) – Subbarama Dikshitar was respected but not followed while Taccur Singaracariar was not respected but was followed.
FOOT NOTE 9:
shrI-kanci-kAmakOtI-pIThAbhishikta shrI-sankarAcArya-vArya nannu brovumu
O revered Sankaracharya anointed as the head of the KanchikamakotipITa – Protect me!
shrIkaNTharupa lOkAnugrahakAra shrImahAdEvEndrasarasvatIyatIndra anantakalyAnaguNagaNA
SrimahAdevendrasarasvati -the king of ascetics, The form of Siva Himself, and the one graces the world, the one whose is the repository of all the auspicious virtues
muktayi svara sahitya
sAdhujanavinuta natamahipAlala mAnitagunA sAntarasarUpa yOgasastramArganubhava
bhavajaladhidharana subhamulOsagumu deva sArasanayana sankarAvatAra nIdu sumahita
padamulanu santatambu chinta jEsedanu
Who is worshipped by sage and kings, Whose qualities are admired, who is of serene countenance, who is a torchbearer in the path of yogasastra. Who is a support in this ocean of samsara – Bestow auspiciousness on me, O Lord, I Lotus-eyed one, The incarnation of Sankara, your petal-like benevolent feet, I forever meditate. One who is blessed with the grace of Kamakshi, the one who worships the Sri chakra.
FOOT NOTE 10 :
The full titular appellation of this Acharya can be given as under:
‘srImat-paramahamsa-parivrAjakAcArya srImat-sankarabhagavatpAdapratishTita srIkAmakOtipItAdhIsvara srImat sudarshanamahadEvEndrasarasvatI samyamIndra’
FOOT NOTE 11 :
The records of the Kanchi Mutt indicate that the seat moved from Kanci to Tanjore and on to Kumbakonam circa 1745. Between 1750 and 1850 Kumbakonam became the seat of the monastery. During the fag end of the Pontiffship of the 64th Acharya His Holiness Sri Chandrasekarandra Saravati VI, moves were initiated to move back the Matham/monastery back to its old seat, that of Kanci. By 1850, most of India was already under British Rule and all principalities had more or less been subsumed or played a very nominal political role. The political and military issues faced earlier due to Muslim rulers of Deccan, Mysore and Wallajah which had necessitated the move to be under a protective Hindu ruler at Tanjore had by now completely dissipated. Thus on 22 Jan 1840 the 64th Acharya arranged for the Kumbabishekam of the Kanci Kamakshi Amman temple. In fact this 64th Acharya is the last of the Pontiffs to be interned in the Matham premises at Kumbakonam. The 65th Acharya attaned samadhi while travelling in Southern Tamilnadu in Ilayathankudi. His successors the 66th and 67th Acharyas were interned at Kalavai a village near Kancipuram. By 1891 soon after the attainment of beatitude by the 65th Acharya, the Matham had for all practical purposes moved back to Kancipuram. And thus after a gap of nearly 150 years, circa 1900 it once again became the permanent abode, to the lineage of the Acharyas of Kanci.
FOOT NOTE 12 :
namAmi srimanmahAdevendrasarasvatIM srI bhagavatpAdAcArya guro
नमामि श्रीमन्महादेवेन्द्रसरस्वतीं श्रीभगवत्पादाचार्य गुरो
I prostrate the revered mahAdevendrasarasvati. O preceptor in the line of Sankarabhagavatpada.
Foremost in drinking the nectar of the feet of Candramaulisvara – worshipped by Vishnu – the Lord of Rama.
Foremost in realizing the essence of vedas – born of Brahma’s mouth and vedanta .
sakala-sishyajana-hRt-tApa-hara subhakara sadAsivavinuta sujnAnAlamkAra
sakala-hrudaya-panditOttama-samudAya-mahA-tapah-kAya bhava-jaya mAmpAlaya
सकल-शिष्यजन-हृत्तापहर शुभकर सदाशिवविनुत सुज्ञानालङ्कार
सकल-हृदय-पण्डितोत्तम-समुदाय महा-तपः-काय भवजय मां पालय
Remover of the afflictions of every disciple’s heart, Worshipped by Sadasiva (the composer) and decorated with the ornament of knowledge;
Surrounded by the learned assembly of scholars, Personage sanctified by penance.
One who is victorious over samsara. Protect me!
gurucaraNa-sarOruha-madhu-pAna kritisurasana sphaTika-maNimayahAra-gala mrudulacarana
गुरुचरण-सरोरुह-मधुपान कृतिसुरसन स्फटिक-मणिमयहार-गल मृदुलचरण
One who relishes the drinking of honey from the lotus feet of the guru
One who wears a sphaTika garland and one whose feet are soft.
FOOT NOTE 13:
Mysuru Sadasiva Rao seems to have created compositions similarly on another seer. There are two compositions of his, worth recording here:
- ‘krupAlaya srI gurumadvarAya’ in Todi and adi tala
- ‘namAmi satyavijaya svAmi gurO’ in Dhanyasi and adi tala
The examination of these two kritis reveal that they are composed on Sri Satya Vijaya Teertha, a Madhva monk of the Uttaradhi Mutt who lived during the first half of the 18th century and who lived in a village in Tiruvannamalai District, near Aarani, presently called Satyavijayanagaram. The Ruler/Raja/Jaghirdar of Aarani one Venkatanatha Rao Sahib patronized the seer. During the 19th century the monastery was led by Swami Satyaveera Teertha who was patronized by the then Raja of Arani Srinivasa Rao Saheb and later his son Tirumala Rao Sahib. The name of the patron of this Acharya is found embedded in the composition. The details of this seer and also that of place are available here.
According to the biography published by Vidvan Chennakesavayya in the compilation of the Composer’s kritis as aforesaid, Sadasiva Rao’s wife Sundara Bayee was the aunt of the aforesaid Tirumala Rao Saheb.
On an entirely unrelated note, Subbarama Dikshitar’s profile of musicians who lived during his times also included Sadasiva Rao. Amongst so many others it appears that Subbarama Dikshitar has singled out this composer from the sprawling sisya parampara of Tyagaraja, and documented him perhaps driven by the common bond they shared, the devotion to Acharya Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati. They could have perhaps met in Kumbakonam during the sojourns they would have undertaken to pay their obeisance to the Acharya Sreshta.
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- The rendering of the Sadasiva Rao kriti ‘ namAmi sriman’ in Chandrachooda raga has been added along with the commentary and the picture of the notation. 10 Dec 2016
- The narration as to the authorship of the epistle of the Maharaja of Travancore has been added as foot note 2. 10-Dec-2016
- The raga being found notated in the Kannada Javali publication, courtesy information provided by Sri Keerthi.