The term ‘bhāṣāṅga’ connoted different meaning at different point of time in the history of Karnāṭaka Music. During the period when the “grāma-mūrcana” system was in use, the term bhāṣāṅga denote the rāga-s that reflect other bhāṣā-s. In other words, this term denote the rāga-s that came from other regions. After the development of “mēla-janya” system, many terms which were used in the “grāma-mūrcana” era were used with a different connotation. Bhāṣāṅgā is one such.
term Bhāṣāṅgā in the post “grāma-mūrcana” era appears first in the treatise “Rāga
lakṣaṇam” appended to Caturdaṇḍīprakāṣikā of Vēṅkaṭamakhī. Author of this small
treatise is uncertain and is attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhī or Muḍḍu Vēṅkaṭamakhī
by different musicologists. Though the mentioned text mentions this term,
proper definition of this term can be learnt only from Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya
Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.
Dīkṣitar in his treatise defines bhāṣāṅgā rāga-s are those that take svarā-s
from other rāgāṅga rāga-s (mēla-s) according to its character.1 This
is referred as anya svara in today’s parlance. Though, this is a commonly
accepted terminology now and used unanimously, this term was used differently
by different musicians in the past. One such example is seen in the book by
Bhatkhande. He interviewed various musicians of the South and one such
prominent musician who registered his views to Bhatkhande was Rāmanāthapuram Śrinivasa
Ayyaṅgār (see Footnote 1). He gives a different percept on these rāga-s. He
says these rāga-s do not confirm with the classification given by the śāstrā-s
completely; have folk influences and are usually named after the region from
where they originate. It will be clear from the above discussion that this
term, though now denote the rāga-s which carry one or two anya svarā-s, was
used conveying varied ideas in the past. Hence, 19th century saw not
only a new platform to exhibit the musical talents of artists, it was also a
watershed period in the pages of modern musicology. This heterogeneity of these
bhāṣāṅgā-s and its implications are addressed to in this post.
many texts published during the last century give us a valid information about
the presence of anya svarā-s in these bhāṣāṅgā-s. Though the series of texts by
K V Śrinivāsa Ayyaṅgār and later by Raṅgarāmānuja Ayyaṅgār clearly mention the
presence of these anya svara-s, they fail to mark these svarā-s in notation. Though,
the rāga lakṣaṇa section describes succinctly about the presence of these anya
svāra-s and the phrases in which they appear, this cannot be considered as a
comprehensive guide to know the real svarūpa of these rāga-s as the notation
lack signs to know their presence or absence. To understand this problem and
its ramifications, let us first look into the treatise by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
and the procedure he followed to introduce these bhāṣāṅgā-s, as this is the
first text to include the symbols for anya svarā-s along with an explanation
for all the rāga-s employed in the treatise.
Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
this treatise, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has classified the rāga-s into three
categories: rāgāṅga rāga-s (which may be considered as an equivalent to mēla-s),
upāṅga and bhāṣāṅga rāga-s. Under each rāgāṅga
rāga-s, he gives a list of janya-s: upāṅga
and bhāṣāṅga rāga-s. He then proceeds to explain each rāga in detail. Under
each bhāṣāṅga rāga, its mūrcana, a description about its arterial phrases, anya
svarā-s, if present were given. Anya svara-s when present were marked with a
symbol, both in the text and notated sections. The readers are requested to pay
attention here to observe a valuable finding that anya svarā-s were not given
for all bhāṣāṅga-s. To make it simpler, rāga-s like Śrirañjani,
Dēvamanōhari etc., though mentioned as a bhāṣāṅga rāga, no anya svaram can be
seen either in the rāga lakṣaṇa section or in the notated section. This
discrepancy does not end with this! The lakṣaṇa segment given before each rāga does
not necessarily supplement the lakṣaṇa portrayed in the kṛti-s. There is a
discrepancy in the occurrence of anya svara-s between the lakṣaṇa section and
the lakṣya section. For instance, he considers Saurāṣtram as a bhāṣāṅga janya
of Māyāmāḷavagaula and says śuddha dhaivatam occurs in the prayōga-s PDP and
PDDP in the lakṣaṇa section. Whereas this is strictly observed in the kṛti Sūryamūrte,
in the kṛti Varalakṣmīm the phrase PDP uses both the dhaivatam; PDP with pañcaśruti
(catuśruti) is seen at the beginning of the kṛti and the same phrase with śuddha
dhaivatam occurs in the beginning of caraṇam of the same kṛti!! Another
interesting rāga is Pūrṇacandrika wherein he says the anya svaram kaiṣiki
niṣādham can be seen in the phrases PNS and SDNP. Strangely, none of the
notated compositions show the presence of this svaram in the mentioned phrases
some other bhāṣāṅga-s like Śahāna, same phrase sports svakīya (its default
svara) and anya svara at different occasions. Śahāna is placed under the rāgāṅga
rāga Śri and the preponderant gāndharam, by default is of sādhāraṇa variety.
Antara gāndharam features only in selected phrases. The point here is, a
prescription on the use of antara gāndharam is not clear both in lakṣya and lakṣaṇa
section. For example, the phrase RGMP uses both the gāndhara-s, though at
different locations. How these discrepancies are to be reconciled? Do they have
to be considered as printing errors and be self-corrected or it is an inkling
given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar on the colorful nature of bhāṣāṅga-s ?
us revisit the bhāṣāṅga-s mentioned in Pradarśini and try to classify them to
make this discussion more comprehensible. There are totally 54 bhāṣāṅga rāga-s
mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The distribution of these rāga-s is not
uniform across the rāgāṅga rāga-s. Whereas the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Māyāmāḷavagaula
and Śaṅkarābharaṇam are flooded with a multitude of bhāṣāṅga rāga-s, no janya rāga-s
can be seen for the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Saurasēna or Kiraṇāvaḷi. In between are
the rāgāṅga rāga-s Kanakāmbari and Kāśirāmakriya which have only upāṅga
54 bhāṣāṅga rāga-s can be classified into three types for easy understanding:
Bhāṣāṅga rāga-s with anya svara marked – Rāga-s like Aṭāṇa, Pūrṇacandrika, Śahāna, etc.,
fall under this category.
Bhāṣāṅga rāga-s with anya svara not marked – Madhyamāvati,
Devamanōhari, Nāyaki, etc., come under this category.
Third category rāga-s are those in which the lakṣaṇa śloka
given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar also mention the presence of anya svara, in
addition to being marked by Dīkṣitar. There are three rāga-s in this category –
Saurāṣtram, Bhairavi, Kāmbhōji.
this preliminary discussion, it can be inferred that, the presence of anya
svara might not have been the single criteria to label a rāga as bhāṣāṅga, with
a special reference to the rāga-s classified as type two. There might have been
some other reasons which is not visible from presently available evidences. This
thought is further supported by the finding that, none of the other treatises,
including Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, considered to be written around or prior to 18 CE
mention the term bhāṣāṅga rāga-s (excluding the treatise Rāga Lakṣaṇa cited
initially). More importantly, these treatises don’t even mention about the
presence or absence of anya svaram (see Footnote 2). This raises a doubt
whether these anya svara-s are an integral part of the rāga architecture that
is essential to carve a rāga svarūpa or they are like optional entities that
came into practice later.
us proceed further to dissect the other two types to understand the multiple
hues reflected by these bhāṣāṅga-s. We have mentioned earlier that there are
some exceptions, wherein the presence of anya svara in the bhāṣāṅga rāga-s have
been mentioned across the treatises. Only three rāga-s can be located to have
this unique distinction – Saurāṣtram, Bhairavi and Kāmbhōji. The anya svara
featuring in these rāga-s, pañcaśruti (catuśruti) dhaivatam in Saurāṣtram and Bhairavi
and kākali niṣādham in Kāmbhōji were mentioned in the lakṣaṇa śloka-s in the Pradarśini
of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and the Rāga Lakṣaṇa treatise of disputable authorship. Few
references can also be seen in earlier treatises (see Footnote 3).
can be now inferred that, at least from the period in which Rāga Lakṣaṇa was
written (first quarter of 18th century or a 17 century work, if
proved to be a work of Vēṅkaṭamakhī), use of anya svaram in these three rāga-s
were prevalent. But, in the case of Saurāṣtram, only the presence of pañcaśruti
dhaivatam was hinted and not about the other anya svaram kaiśiki niṣādham. So
we were left with no clue as on the period from which this came into practice.
us move into the other discrepancy, on the use of these anya svara-s in these bhāṣāṅga-s
especially those belonging to the first type. As mentioned earlier, a lot of
discrepancy is noted in handling these anya svara-s between lakṣya and lakṣaṇa
section in the Pradarśini. As they are noticeable in almost all the bhāṣāṅga-s
placed under type one in our classification, it is better to look in for a tangible rationale prevailed during those old
days rather to repudiate it calling it as printing errors. Analyzing the
notations of all the compositions provided for these rāga-s, it can be
hypothesized that the phrases involving these anya svara-s can be grouped into
Phrases that take only svakīya svara-s
Phrases that take only anya svara-s
Fluid phrases that might take either of these svara-s
depending on the choice of the vaggēyakāra.
This will be explained by taking Śahāna as an example.
as mentioned earlier is considered as a janya of Śri. Hence, sādhāraṇa gāndharam
is the svakīya svara (its default svaram) and antara gāndharam becomes anya svaram. It is to be
remembered here that Śahāna is now considered as a janya of Harikāmbōji,
implying antara gāndharam is the svakīya svaram to be employed abd the use of sādhāraṇa
gāndharam is nt in practise.
the notations given by Subbārama Dīkṣitar were analyzed, the phrases involving
the gāndharam can be placed into the above-mentioned categories:
Phrases that take only svakīya svara (sādhāraṇa) like GG,
Phrases that take only anya svara (antara) like SRGMPDN,
Fluid phrases that take either of these svara-s
depending on the choice of the vaggēyakāra – RGMPM, MGMR
phrases mentioned above are only explanatory and not comprehensive by any means).
So, a vaggēyakāra has an option of using any gāndhara, when he employs the fluid phrases. This hypothesis also help us to dispel the problem in placing a rāga like this under a particular mēla. For example, if a vaggēyakāra uses profuse (or only) sādhāraṇa gāndharam in these fluid phrases and uses antara variety sparsely, this rāga sounds like a janya of Śri. Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar has followed this in his kṛti “vāśi vāśi” which can be heard here.
the other hand, if a vaggēyakāra uses profuse (or only) antara gāndharam in
these fluid phrases and uses sādhāraṇa variety sparsely, this sounds like a
janya of Harikāmbhōji. Perhaps, this could have been followed by Paiḍāla Gurumūrti
Śāstri, as he considers this as a janya of Kāmbhōji in his gītam. Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar
was relatively more generous in using these anya svara-s when compared to Rāmasvāmy
Dīkṣitar. We have no idea about the stand of Tyagarāja Svāmigal, as the oldest
notations that give his kṛti-s in notation, written by Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa
Bhāgavatar does not specify the svara sthāna-s.
versatility of using these anya svara-s give multiple colors to these bhāṣāṅga-s.
Also, it can be very well guessed, a rāga could have been handled without using
these anya svara-s. Pūrṇacandrika is an example of this type. None of the
compositions notated in this rāgam sport the anya svaram kaiṣiki niṣādham
though we have a mention about this svaram by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in the lakṣaṇa
section of Pūrṇacandrika. This flexibility in handling of these anya svaram is
applicable only to selected rāga-s like Pūrṇacandrika or all the bhāṣāṅga is not clear. But, this is a common finding
in almost all the rāgamālika-s involving these bhāṣāṅga-s. This heterogeneity
and versatility gets multifold when a bhāṣāṅga has more than one anya svara.
This is so with the case of Āhiri, which uses all the svara-s sans śuddha
madhyamaṃ. So, a vaggēyakāra can manipulate these rāga-s in his own imitable
form to paint multiple colors, in order to serve his need of bringing the bhāva
that he wishes. Unfortunately, Āhiri, who was once decorated with colorful
raiment is now seen, always wearing a white sāri. It is also unfortunate to
know that the original tunes in these rāga-s were lost forever, as we cannot
judge the side taken by the vaggēyakāra when composing in these rāga-s, unless
we get a notation as in Pradarśini, which denotes the svara variety too. A
detailed discussion about individual bhāṣāṅga-s, anya svara featuring in these
rāga-s, the fluid phrases seen, details about them in various musicological
texts with an analysis will be covered separately.
findings can also be seen in a book by Popley (see Footnote 4). Several
Christian poems tuned to classical rāga-s can be seen in this book. Several bhāṣāṅga-s
feature there and the anya svara was also marked in notation. This book too
serve to support our hypothesis about these bhāṣāṅga-s, especially those
belonging to type 1. For instance, Bhairavi was handled by him without a trace
of anya svara – catuśruti dhaivatam (the author was well aware of Naṭabhairavi
and has tuned one poem to the latter) !!
to Stephen and Popley, Bhairavi was handled like an upāṅga in the kṛti ‘rāma
lokābhirāma’ of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya (tuned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar). Whereas this kṛti
totally eschews the phrase NDNS, wherein the anya svara catuśruti dhaivatham
occurs, Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar has used this phrase, eschewing the anya svaram in
the rāgamālika ‘śivamōhana’.
are indebted to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar for giving us, at least the kṛti-s known to
him in notation with a svara and gamaka symbol, as we not only can imagine the structure
of these bhāṣāṅga-s, but also get an idea about the colorful architecture of
we were made to believe from the available evidences that the presence of anya
svara is a requisite to label a rāga as bhāṣāṅgā, it is clear that this was not
the only criteria used in the past. Rāga-s like Śrirañjani,
Madhyamāvati which do not use any anya svara serves as an example to prove this
statement. We also have evidences to consider the bhāṣānga-s could have been in
use without anya svara. When present, the vaggēyakāra could have had the
liberty to use or not to use these anya svara-s. Similarly, there could have
flexibility in using svakīya svara or anya svara in a phrase. This versatility
makes them colorful which was used to its maximum by a vaggēyakāra. Much more
research into this field might prove or disprove this hypothesis.
Foote note 1: Vishnu
Narayan Bhatkhande’s memoirs of south India: “Meri Dakshin Bharat ki
Sangeet Yatra” is a Hindi work recording his experiences with various musicians
of South India flourished during his period. Vidvān Śri Navaneethakrishnan is
into the task of translating this monumental work. This information on bhāgāṅga
rāga-s as given by Rāmanāthapuram Śrinivasa Ayyaṅgār to by Bhatkhande
was gracefully shared to me by the mentioned vidvān.
Treatises like Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi do not even mention about the presence or
absence of anya svara-s. We really do not know this lack of mentioning is due
to ignorance of the author or the lack of usage of these svara-s during their
Śahaji in his treatise Rāga lakṣaṇamu describes saurāṣtram as a rāga that uses śuddha
niṣādham (kvaccitu śuddha niṣādham vaccunu). Dr Hema Ramanathan opines this
could be a reference to the use of pañcaśruti dhaivatham in her
gargantuan work “Rāga Lakṣaṇa Saṅgrahamu”.2
note 4: Stephen
and Popley in the year 1914 published a book containing Christian poems set to
classical rāga-s in notation. The book was published to create an awareness
about Christian truth and spread evangelism to Hindu audiences, says the
author. It is a comprehensive book
containing all the basic information about our system – rāga, tāḷa, gamaka and
notation system. Various poems explaining various fables were set to music. A
wide array of rāga-s were employed involving mēla-s, upāṅga and bhāṣāṅga rāga-s.3
1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgītasampradāyapradarśinī (English edition). The Music Academy, Madras, pg 79.
2. Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.
LI, Popley HA. Handbook of Musical Evangelism. The Methodist Publishing House, 1914.
Tanjāvūr during 16-19 CE saw an influx of exotic rāgā-s from North and the other parts of this country. The rāgā-s which had their origin somewhere else and absorbed into our system of music are called as dēśīya rāga-s and one such dēśīya rāgam to be discussed here is Rāmakali.
Today, Rāmakali is survived only with a single kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and a small passage in the rāgamālika-s “sāmaja gamana” and “nāṭakādi vidyāla” composed by Rāmasvāmy Dīkśitar. It is believed Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar was the first composer to employ these dēśīya rāga-s due to his stay in Kāśi. In reality, this composer eclipsed the achievements of his father Rāmasvāmy Dīkśitar. The latter is to be credited for using these rāga-s for the first time in our music. One can find plenty of rāga-s rāgā-s like Rāmakali, Hamvīr, Māruva, in his compositions. Though we find gītam-s in the rāga-s like Hamvīr and Māruva which can be dated to the period of Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar or slightly anterior to him, credits for including them in a kṛti must go only to Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar.
A discussion on Rāmakali gains importance due to its elusive description across the treatises, disputable authorship of the only kṛti available and the authority of using prati madhyamamm in this rāgam. This post tries to address these issues.
“Rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and its disputable authorship
Rāmakali owes its gratitude to the family of Dīkṣitar, as Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar and one of his successor gave a commendable shape to this rāgam. Going by the textual history, the first text to record this kṛti is Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Disputes on the authorship raised when this kṛti was included under Rāma navāvarṇa or Rāma vibhakti set of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in the texts published in the latter half of the last century. Interestingly, this kṛti has the mudra ‘guruguha’ and the rāga mudra ‘Rāmakali’ in the first line itself. These mudra-s along with the language in which this kṛti was composed, perhaps made the musicians to attribute this composition to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Today, excluding Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī, no other evidence exist to proclaim that this is a kṛti of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.
Let us take two set of evidences to fix the author of this kṛti: the first are those evidences that might have helped the musicians to attribute this kṛti to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and the second are those from the treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī itself.
Evidences that helped in assigning the authorship to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar
Vāggeyakārā-s in our music sign their composition with an insignia and Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar used the śabdam ‘guruguha’. Though, it is a routine to see his compositions with this signature, we do have a couple of genuine compositions which do not feature this mudra. Contrarily, we also see some other vāggeyakārā-s using this signature. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and his son Ambi Dīkṣitar fall under this category. Out of 33 compositions of Subbarāma Dīkśitar, 10 has this mudra. The mudrā ‘guruguha’ was not only adopted by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, but also by some of his family members is to be learnt.
It is the practice of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar to lace the sāhityam with a rāga mudrā. This was followed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too, though not in all of his compositions. Punnāgagāndhārī in the Nāgagāndhārī kṛti can be cited as an example.
Language of the composition
Though Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar has primarily composed in Sanskrit, we have two of his compositions in Telugu. The reverse suits for Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, though we have only one Sanskrit composition of Subbarāma Dīksitar, Śaṅkarācāryam in Śaṅkarābharaṇam
It is clear from the above discussion that based on mudra-s or the language used in a composition, authorship of this kṛti cannot be ascertained.
Evidences from Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī
Author mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
Being the author of this text, his words have the final say in arriving at a conclusion. Let us analyze this text in detail before proceeding further. Authorship of any particular composition is mentioned at two places in this treatise. First time in the beginning of this book as a table enlisting all the compositions in alphabetical order. Here, he marks the compositions of all the composers, except that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar by a star symbol. It implies any kṛti without this symbol can be taken as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Second time it is mentioned under the respective rāga section when a kṛti is given in notation.
Under the Rāmakali rāgam, “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha” is the only one notated kṛti and the author is mentioned as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This kṛti is also enlisted in the initial list mentioned above and here, no star symbol is given. Can this kṛti be taken as that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar?
It is always to be remembered that this text was written by an astute musician and musicologist, whose thoughts were always clear, unbiased and genuine and it is up to the researcher to interpret, from the material available. Hence, this text opens up a discussion at multiple layers and results in more than an opinion several times. Many times, it requires a careful study of an entire segment under consideration and if necessary, other parts of this text and/or older treatises to get a solution for the question in hand.
Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has taken efforts to avoid mistakes, advertently or inadvertently to the best of his abilities. He must have scrutinized the manuscript and corrected the errors more than once before the publication of this text. Resultant errors or the errors which cannot be corrected are taken note by giving two sections ‘tappōppalu’ and ‘porabātalu’. Whereas the first section deals with a mistake and its corresponding correction that has to be applied, the second section deals with the ways by which a mistake, that has crept in even after unfeigned preparation of the manuscript can be identified and negotiated.
Hence, to decide the authorship we need to analyze the list, Rāmakali section and the section ‘tappōppalu’. Now, we have contradictory findings between the segments: the list mention this kṛti as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar by not having the star symbol and in the segment under the rāgam Rāmakali, this is mentioned as a work of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Either list or the text under Rāmakali must suffer from a printing error and it is up to us to identify the same.
When the list was carefully analyzed, one another finding glare us. A kṛti in Kāpi ‘raṅgapate’, also lacks this symbol and this too to be taken as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar if we consider the symbol identification system followed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. We know this is a composition of Mārgadarśi Śeśayyaṅgār, a pre trinity composer and similar to “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha”, the authorship gets corrected to Śeśayyaṅgār under the Kāpi section. This denotes the list given in the beginning is not free of mistakes. Also the section ‘tappōppalu’ covers the main text only and does not include the list. This is evident as we don’t find any corrections (‘tappōppalu’) for the content printed in this list.
All sort of corrections can be seen in the segment ‘tappōppalu’. Corrections pertaining to the use of a particular svaram or its variety, use of gamakam, errors in the sāhityam and the errors pertaining to authorship of a kṛti. For instance, author of the kṛti Śri dakśiṇāmūrtim in the rāgam Phēnadyuti is given as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar under the rāgam section; this is corrected as Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in the section ‘tappōppalu’. Hence it, is advised to see this section before interpreting a composition given under the respective rāga section. We can consider the content given under Rāmakali section completely reflects the idea of Dīkṣitar as no changes / corrections were given for the entire segment. Relying only the main text after superimposing with ‘tappōppalu’ section, as followed here is recommended as it might help solving many debatable issues.
Apart from using rāga and ‘guruguha’ mudra, the composing style of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar resembles that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in some other aspects too. We can see madhyama kāla passages almost in all the kṛti-s and svara passages in many kṛti-s. Some of the kṛti-s were also composed in the pallavi – anupallavi format.
The kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha” is composed in the pallavi-anupallavi format with a svara segment. This also has a madhyama kāla sāhityam. Though, at the outset the compositional style is much similar, significant difference can be seen in the pattern used in the svara segment. Before going to the Rāmakali svara segment, svara section in Māruva is explained as we have a composition by both of the composers in this rāgam.
Māruva is a bhāṣāṅga janyam of Māyamālavagaula. Both the kṛti-s Māruvakādi mālini of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Ēmamma of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are composed in the pallavi-anupallavi-svaram format. Both have madhyamakāla sāhityam and both are set to ādi tāḷam.
The svara patterns used by these composers can be easily understood from this table.
For both the kṛti-s, tāḷam is divided as 16+8+8 accounting for laghu + drutam + drutam. This svara segment run for two āvartanam.
Segment in ādi tāḷaṃ
First 8 segment
Second 8 segment
First 8 segment
Second 8 segment
When we compare the svara patterns in these two kṛti-s, symmetrical svara pattern, profuse use of laghu svara-s are more seen in ēmamma. Also attractive patterns like MGRsRND MGRsRGM are seen (small case indicates elongation of that particular svaram as a kārvai).
Attractive svara patterns are seen in almost all the kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Few examples that can cited are DdDPMG, MmPMGR, GgMGRS in the Nādarāmakriyā kṛti of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya (tuned by Subbarāma Dīkśitar) and PmMgGrRs, RmMgGrRSR in a daru in Naṭanārāyaṇi. Contrastingly, complicated laya patterns are more common and is very rare to find rhythmic pattern in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.
The number 4 and 8 are also handled differently by these composers:
In the kṛti “māruvakādi mālini”, 8 is split as 2+1+2+2+1 in the first āvartanam and 1+1+1+2+1+1+1 in the second āvartanam. Whereas in the kṛti ēmamma, it is split as 1+1+1+1 x 2 in the first and 1+1+1+2+1+1+1 in the second āvartanam. 4s are always treated as 1+1+1+1 by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in this kṛti (See Footnote 1).
These patterns can be easily discerned from the audio links.
The kriti “māruvakādi mālini” can be heard in full here.
Having seen the basic pattern handled by these two composers, let us now compare these passages with the svara passage seen in the Rāmakali kṛti.
Svara passage seen in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”
This is set to rūpaka tāḷam and has two āvartanam. 4 complete tāla cycles makes one āvartanam. Rūpaka tāḷam is reckoned as drutam + laghu, the way by which we render a rūpaka tāḷa alaṅkāram. This is divided as 4+8 units in each tāḷa cycle so that the count becomes 12. We see the following svara arrangement:
Tala cycle 1
(3+1) + (4+4)
Tala cycle 2
(2+2) + (2+2+2+2)
Tala cycle 3
(4) + (2+2+2+2)
Tala cycle 4
(2+2) + (2+2+4)
Tala cycle 1
(2+2) + (2+2+4)
Tala cycle 2
(2+2) + (2+2+4)
Tala cycle 3
(2+2) + (2+4+2)
Tala cycle 4
(2+2) + (4+4)
Svara segment in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”
We can see an overall symmetry and use of lot of laghu svarā-s and a svara pattern arranged in even numbers. The first āvartanam itself is weaved with a beautiful pattern. Taken together, this svara segment resemble the svara pattern seen in the kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.
Svara segment in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”
The most common tāḷam handled by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is rūpakam followed by tisra ēkam. When his compositions, other than varṇā-s are taken into consideration, rūpaka tāḷa compositions outnumber others. 6 out of 12 were in rūpaka tāḷam. Among his nine rāgamālika-s, five were in rūpakam. It is reminded here, “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” is also set to the tālam rūpakam !!
A careful analysis of this text, patterns observed in the svara segment and this kṛti being set in rūpaka tāḷam make us to consider Subbarāma Dīkṣitar could have composed this kṛti.
Use of prati madhyamam in this rāgam
Let us go to the next segment of this article, on the authority of using prati madhyamam in this rāgam, being a janyam of Māyāmālavagaula. It will not be incongruous if the history of this rāgam is explained, before taking up the main question.
Rāmakali was relatively a popular rāga during 16-17 CE and we can see the treatises like Rāgamañjari of Paṇdarika Viṭṭala, Hṛudayakautuka and Hṛdayaprakāśa of Hṛdayanārāyaṇadeva and Anūpasaṅgītaratnākara of Bhāvabhaṭṭa mentioning about this rāgam. It is a general opinion that these treatises represent the Hindustāni tradition of our Classical music, indicating a rāga with this name was common in the Northern territory.
Circumstantial phrases delineating the rāgam was not given and we are left with a simple description – GPDS NDPGMGRS, credits to Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva. It is to be remembered here that many of the earlier treatises belonging to16-17 CE do not describe a rāga with illustrative phrases. Hence, we are clueless about the melodic structure of Rāmakali of 16-17 CE excluding the remark that this rāgam drops madhyamam and niṣādam in the ascent and has the above mentioned phrase. In the treatises mentioned, this is considered as a sampūrṇa janyam of a melam, equivalent to our present day Māyāmālavagaula, mēla 15 (See Footnote 2). This rāga was not catalogued by the musicologists of the Southern territory like Gōvinda Dīkṣita, Śāhāji or Tulajā.
Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā, published by Music Academy mention this rāgam. This is mentioned as a dēsīya rāgam and a bhāṣāṅga janyam of Māyāmālavagaula, the mela 15. Subbarāma Dīkśitar further elaborates and illustrate the various phrases used in this rāgam. Hence, a complete picture of this rāgam as we see today in the uruppaḍi-s mentioned is obtained only from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar’s treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī. Here, he gives a hitherto unknown points, that it is customary to use prati madhyamam, also called by the name Pibhās and a rāgam imported from North of this country.
From the above discussion it is clear that Rāmakali was a sampūrṇa rāgam popular in the Northern territory of this country. Description of this rāgam is very scanty in the earlier treatises. As we move down the timeline, we can see this was described by a single phrase GPDS NDPGMGRS. This rāgam was totally unnoticed by the major musicologists of the Southern territory and a complete description of this rāgam is seen for the first time only in the year 1904, credits to Subbarāma Dīkśitar.
Bibhās could have been much more popular rāga than Rāmakali, both in both the territories, North and South. Almost every other book seems to mention this rāgam. When the raga structure with the available phrases were analyzed, there seem to be two Bibhās, one as a janyam of the mēla corresponding to the present day Kāmavardhani, mela 51 and the other one corresponding to the present day mela 15.
Bibhās as a janyam of mela 51
Bibhās aka Bibhāsu aka Vibhās aka Vibhāsa is mentioned in Rāga mañjari and Rāga mālā (both by Paṇḍarīka Viṭṭhala), Saṅgīta Pārijāta, Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha, and Anūpa Saṅgīta Vilāsa. Of these, descriptive elements are seen given in Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha and Saṅgīta Pārijāta. The phrase MGRGRS is stressed in Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha, whereas this is not seen in the description available in Pārijāta. Excluding these small differences, over all visualization of Bibhās is similar in both the treatises. In both the treatises, SRGPDS and the phrases involving GPD were given more prominence. Though DND is seen, the phrase DNS is avoided completely. Needless to say, madhyamam employed here is of tīvra variety and can be called as ‘prati madhyama Bibhās’.
Bibhās as a janyam of mela 15
Texts like Hṛudayakautuka and Hṛdayaprakāśa of Hṛdayanārāyaṇadeva, Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śāhāji and Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulajā consider Bibhās as a janya of mēla 15 (śuddha madhyama Bibhās). Considerable difference exist in the descriptions across these treatises to the extent that they deserve an individual treatment. Also, all these treatises give just one or two phrases to illustrate this rāgam.
Bibhās in Hṛudayakautuka, Rāga lakṣaṇamu and Saṣgīta Sārāmṛta has the phrase DNS and is considerably different from the Bibhās seen in the earlier section. Hence, Bibhās mentioned by later lakṣaṇakāra-s like Śāhāji and Tulajā is totally different from the Bibhās prevalent during late 16 CE and early 17 CE (prati madhyama Bibhās).
Bibhās in Hṛdayaprakāśa omits gāndhāram and madhyamam and is different from both the varieties mentioned.
Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā mentions both Rāmakali and Bibhās and places both under the mela 15. Whereas the former was credited with a ślokam and the latter was not even described.
Rāmakali as described in Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī
More descriptive image of this rāgam comes only from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. As mentioned earlier, despite being a janyam of mela 15, traditionally this uses prati madhyamam says Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. We don’t have adequate evidences from textual or oral tradition either to understand the melodic structure of Rāmakali extant during the days of Subbarāma Dīkśitar nor to compare this Rāmakali with the one described in the treatises. If we consider the single available phrase GPDS NDPGMGRS (refer to the description of Rāmakali mentioned in earlier treatises mentioned elsewhere in this article), GPDS is the recurrent motif seen in all the compositions. We do not find NDPGM; we do find NDPmG at one place where madhyamam occurs more like an anusvaram. Though we are unable to conclusively say that Rāmakali mentioned here is same as the one mentioned by Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva, we can say at least the phrase given there very well fits into the description given by Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva.
More importantly, Rāmakali of Dīkṣitar goes very well with the Bibhāsu of the first type (the type employing prati madhyamam), provided we accept the madhyamam as tīvra.
Presumptions from the above discussion
The following presumptions can be made regarding Rāmakali – Bibhās:
Rāmakali is a rāgam of great antiquity and must have been popular in the Northern part of our country as few treatises make a note of this rāgam . It should have been a suddha madhyama rāgam. It is very difficult to understand the melodic structure of this rāgam with the single phrase available.
At the same time, there existed Bibhās, almost with a similar structure but featuring prati madhyamam. This should have been much more popular than Rāmakali, as every other treatise make a note of this rāgam. The melodic structure of the prati madhyama Bibhās is almost similar to Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This prati madhyama Bibhās could have been alluded to in the Rāmakali section by Subbarāma Dīkśitar. It is emphasized here that the Rāmakali and the prati madhyama Bibhās were only mentioned in the treatises treating Hindustāni rāgā-s and the first Karnāṭaka Music text referring these rāga-s is the Anubandham or Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā published by Music Academy.
This could have a been period when all the three rāga-s co-existed; Rāmakali, a janyam of mēla 15 and the two Bibhās. It can be hypothesized here, Rāmakali was only practiced in North India and the prati madhyama Bibhās could have been referred as Rāmakali by Vēṅkaṭamakhin in the South (he is specifically mentioned considering the link given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar) in the South. Considering the old nomenclature, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives an additional information that Rāmakali is also called as Bibhās (See Footnote 3).
Subbarāma Dīkśitar mentions more than a time that Vēṅkaṭamakhin has authored another text dealing with the rāga lakṣaṇa. If we go by his words, that missing text could have been composed in the second half of 17 CE, the time when majority of the texts mentioning prati madhyama Bibhās were composed. Either Rāmakali or prati madhyama Bibhās or both of them could have been mentioned there.
Śuddha madhyama Bibhās could have flourished earlier or more popular than its prati madhyama counterpart in the South. This tradition later continues to Śāhāji and Tulajā wherein they have made a mention only about śuddha madhyama Bibhās. Not all the lakṣaṇa granthā-s are comprehensive in cataloguing the rāga-s prevalent during their time; hence Rāmakali could have been missed by Śāhāji and Tulajā (See Footnote 4).
Having seen the history and lakṣaṇa of Rāmakali and its ally Bibhās with its variations, an attempt will be made now to address the question on the use of prati madhyamam in this rāgam. As mentioned, the only evidence of using prati madhyamam comes from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The problem in use of this svaram arise not because of this rāgam being considered as a janyam of mēla 15, but only due to lack of a symbol denoting this svaram in the notation provided.
Rāmakali, being a janyam of mela 15 has śuddha madhyamam as a default svaram, and the anya svaram prati madhyamam is to be denoted with a symbol. This is the system followed by Dīkṣitar in his treatise for every other rāgam having an anya svaram. Strangely, despite using a symbol to denote this anya svaram (prati madhyamam) in the section wherein this rāgam is described, the notation system totally lacks this symbol. A question arises on the use of prati madhyamam and we are left with three interpretations – either to use śuddha madhyamam completely as this is a janya of Māyāmālavagaula (which takes only śuddha madhyamam) or to use prati madhyamam alone as he says it is customary to use only prati madhyamam or to use prati madhyamam only in the phrases DMPG, DPMG, MGDPMG and DPMG, as he has inserted the symbol to denote prati madhyamam for these phrases under the section explaining rāga lakṣaṇam.
To get an answer to this question we need to look into two aspects – history of this rāgam and the observations and interpretations we get it by analyzing this same text. History of this rāgam was explained and it will be recalled at a later period. Now, we will look in for the evidences/observations from this text.
This kind of discrepancy between the lakṣaṇa section (section explaining rāga lakṣaṇam) and the lakṣya segment (section giving the kṛti-s in notation) exist at various other places too in this same text at various other places. When a discrepancy is seen between any two segments, for example, difference in the assignment of foreign notes between the lakṣaṇa segment and the lakṣya section, do we have to take it as a printing error (or) considering the painful scrutinizing procedures followed and the various methods adopted to overcome these errors, these are to be taken as the actual ideas of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar himself? (Readers are requested to refer tappōppalu and porabāṭalu section explained elsewhere in this article).
Considering the above discussion, a student who tries to interpret this treatise is thus left with two options – first one is to believe these discrepancies as an inadvertent errors and tries to reconcile the errors with his level of knowledge and understanding. Second one is to accept as it is, confidently believing in Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and his sagacious grasp over the subject. Both the options are acceptable as any research is open to interpretations. For this author, second approach appears to suit well as we are totally blind about the traditions that prevailed in the past, say around 200 years ago, and by following this approach, the individual fancies and inclinations of the researcher are kept to a bare minimum; it is more like an untainted aural reproduction of the visual representation. The second approach is also followed as this author believes the complete text is protected by the two sections mentioned. errors could have crept in, but they are unfathomable to us.
When interpreting the notations given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it is not only required to understand the context, but also develop an ability to relate other segments or rāgam-s given in this text. Now, let us go away from Rāmakali for a while and try to understand the lakṣaṇa of the rāga-s Ghanṭa and Sāvēri. Let us see an unseen similarity between these three rāga-s and how this can be used to solve the problem related to the madhyamam. Ghanṭa, now is a bhāṣāṅga janyam of mēla 8 and uses two varieties of ṛṣabham – śuddha and catuśruti (pañcaśruti). Subbarāma Dīkṣitar consider this as an upāṅga janyam of mela 20 and recommends the use of catuśruti ṛṣabham only. He clearly says the use of śuddha ṛṣabham came into practice only after the demise of Vēṅkaṭamakhin. Though he give phrases in the lakṣaṇa section wherein śuddha ṛṣabham is used, he never gives the symbol to denote the use of śuddha ṛṣabham in the notation (lakṣya section). This is exactly similar to Rāmakali, wherein he says only prati madhyamam is used as per the tradition in the lakṣaṇa section but fail to use the symbol for prati madhyamam in notation. This is clearly an indication that this text is filled with many abstruse details and these disparateness cannot be dismissed or neglected as a printing error for the lack of understanding on our side. To understand more, let us see the rāgam Sāvēri. Sāvēri is placed under the mēla 15, as a bhāṣāṅga janyam, implying it takes some anya svaram. Going by the normal rules, this should take antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar says the common gāndhāram and niṣādham seen in this rāgam are sādharaṇa and kaiśiki respectively and he will give the symbols only for antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham whenever they occur (svagīya svaram or default svaram in this rāgam). This is the only rāgam in the entire treatise, wherein symbols are given for the default svaram (See Footnote 5). This pattern is followed since, if we need to mark the anya svaram in this ragam, namely sādharaṇa gāndhāram and kaiśiki niṣādham, the entire notation will be filled with these symbols as the default antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham occur very very rarely. This looks not only cumbersome but also could have been posed difficulties while printing.
Let us go back to Ghanṭā and Rāmakali. Though the discrepancies seen between the lakṣaṇa and lakṣya section is similar in both the rāga-s as pointed out earlier, they are introduced differently by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and this is very vital for understanding any rāgam and employing a particular svaram – dhaivatam and madhyamam respectively in these rāgam. Whereas Ghanṭā is introduced as an upāṅga rāgam, Rāmakali is introduced as a bhāṣāṅga rāgam. If Rāmakali is to be used only with śuddha madhyamam and the use of prati madhyamam was introduced later, he could have tagged it as an upāṅga rāgam like Ghanṭā.
Hence we can surmise, either prati madhyamam alone can be used or a combination of śuddha and prati madhyamam can be used. Rāmakali share similarities with Sāveri and the method adopted for the latter is followed with the former for marking the anya svaram. Though the default svaram is śuddha madhyamam, it was a tradition to use only prati madhyamam is reminded again. If this rāga had both the madhyamam and the anya svaram prati madhyamam is the preponderant svaram, he would have marked the default svaram śuddha madhyamam with a symbol and given us a note (compare this with Sāvēri). But this rāgam, unlike Sāvēri, does not use its svagīya svaram – śuddha madhyamam and hence he didn’t mark madhyamam with any symbol in the lakṣya section allowing us to interpret this rāgam can be/to be sung with prati madhyamam only.
This finding can now be related with the history of this rāgam. We have seen Rāmakali was popular in the North and being recorded only in few treatises, indicate its limited popularity. We have also seen that the Rāmakali given in Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī resembles more like prati madhyama Bibhās. This Bibhās could have been called as Rāmakali in the South. So, the Rāmakali of the North, a śuddha madhyamam rāgam, though similar to prati madhyama Bibhās, is different from the Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The Rāmakali described by Subbarāma Dikṣitar is similar or could have been the same as the prati madhyama Bibhās. Hence, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives a disclaimer it is customary to sing this with prati madhyamam.
Now an explanation is invited for placing this rāgam under mēla 15. No conclusive explanations can be given until we get the treatise referred by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. However, this can be a rāgam similar to Dhanyāsi, getting allocated to a different mēla than where it ought to be.
Rāgamālika passages in the anubandham of Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī
Apart from the kṛti discussed, we see this rāgam in two rāgamālika-s, “sāmaja gamana” and “nātakādi vidyāla” composed by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar. We face a different problem with the Rāmakali lakṣya in these rāgamālika passages. In both the rāgamālika segments, prati madhyamam symbol is inserted, but at only one place.
Rāmakali passage in the rāgamālika “nātakādi vidyāla”
This rāgam comes at the end of this composition. Madhyamam is utilized in the following phrases – DPMG,DPPMG, MGPD and GMGRS. First phrase is the most common of all. The madhyamam in all these phrases are of śuddha variety only. Prati madhyamam is seen once in the phrase DPMG. Interestingly, we see a new phrase SNSRS. This phrase SNS is not at all seen in the uruppaḍi-s featured under Rāmakali section. Also, the glide from avarōhaṇam to ārōhaṇam is always through the phrase DPMG in this rāgamālika. Phrases like PDM DMPG were not used (which are there in the Rāmakali section given in the main text). Now, can we hypothesize the Rāmakali seen in this rāgamālika is different from the Rāmakali described in the main text? If that is so, can this be the Rāmakali of the North, a janya of mēla 15 ?
We have seen before the Rāmakali of the North much resembles the prati madhyama Bibhās except in having a śuddha madhyamam (as a dominant svaram). So, the difference between these two rāga-s could have been the presence of the phrase SNS and the absence of the phrases PDM and DMPG in the Rāmakali of the North. This Rāmakali might also have had prati madhyamam as an anya svaram. To distinguish this Rāmakali (of North) from another Rāmakali (prati madhyama Bibhās), Subbarāma Dīkṣitar might have given an additional information that the Rāmakali given by him is also called as Bibhās. This hypothesis can be confirmed only if we get the text referred by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar or any other treatise or references taking us to the period between 16-17 CE.
Rāmakali passage in the rāgamālika “sāmaja gamana”
Rāmakali passage in this rāgamālika is very short to make any conclusions. The passage starts with the phrase MGGP, where the madhyamam is of tīvra variety. Madhyamam occur in two other phrases – DPMG and DPPMG, wherein it is of śuddha variety.
Though the phrase SNS is not seen, DPMG is the only linking phrase between avarōhaṇam and ārōhaṇam is to be noted.
With the present level of understanding, these are recondite findings and we need to search for more evidence.
But, Rāmakali employing only prati madhyamam can be very well applied for the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” as both the laskṣaṇa segment and this kṛti was authored by Subbarāma Dīkśitar. Regarding the use of prati madhyamam in the rāgam Rāmakali before the time of Subbarāma Dikṣitar and our hypothesis, we allow the readers to make their own interpretations and this post will be updated, if any valuable evidence surface out.
Note on the method of rendering the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha”
Various renditions of this kṛti are easily available in various public domains. We frequently hear this kṛti rendered in Hindustāni style, perhaps due to the roots of this rāgam in the Hindustāni syatem and a popular belief that it was composed by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Having revisited these thoughts and arriving at a conclusion which is contrary to the belief, at least, few of us will be interested to know the rāgam as conceptualized by Subbarāma Dīkśitar. Analysis of the notations reveal, almost all the variety of gamaka-s were used – kaṃpitam, nokku, ōrika and jāru. The preponderance of jāru is not seen, making us to believe this can be sung in our style. Also, no instruction regarding the style for this kṛti was attached. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, being precise in his views would have mentioned the same if his intent was to render it in Hindustāni style . Hence, a humble attempt was made to render this composition in our style.
Research in any field allows multiple interpretations and every researcher is allowed to put forward his findings for the growth of any field. These views are not proposed to controvert with the prevalent notions; rather to give a different interpretation based on the available evidences.
We started with two queries – disputes regarding the author of the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and the authority of using prati madhyamam in the rāgam Rāmakali.
Available evidences make us to believe this kṛti was composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.
Regarding the use of prati madhyamam, though we cannot say what the system existed was before the period of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it can be clearly inferred Subbarāma Dīkṣitar must have had some authentic references to use only prati madhyamam and he must have used the same in his kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”. We also hypothesized the Rāmakali handled by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar could have been Rāmakali of the North and differs from the Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in the main text.
This kṛti rendered with only prati madhyamam and in the style of our Karnāṭaka music can be heard here.
Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.
In general, we can find 1+2+1, 2+1+1 or 1+1+2 pattern more commonly than all laghu svarā-s while handling 4s in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Odd numbers are commonly used giving them a complicated and asymmetric appearance. We do have few kṛti-s wherein the pattern is simple, like the one we see in the kṛti śrī mātaḥ in Bēgaḍā; they are only exceptions. On the other kind, kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are flooded with all 4 laghu svarā-s and most of the svara passages sound simple.
From the days of Rāmamāṭya (or Vidhyāraṇyā), mēla system is in use and the number of mēlā-s vary across the treatise. Also varies the name of the head representing each clan. Hence, in this post, whenever the older mēla-s are mentioned, they are not mentioned by their names or number, but are just equated with the present mēlakarta number for easier understanding.
Subbarāma Dīkṣitar mentions Vēṅkaṭamakhin authored a separate text on rāga lakṣaṇam. We have no clue about that work and musicologists are of the opinion that the Anubandham to Caturdanḍi Prakāśikā might be the work, as it contains the same rāga lakṣaṇa śloka-s mentioned by Dīkśitar in his treatise. Also, they believe Dīkśitar could have referred to Muddu Vēṅkaṭamakhin, a descendant of Vēṅkaṭamakhin whenever he mentions about a text on rāga lakśaṇam. This author has a different opinion and follows the idea of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar; will be uploaded as a separate post.
Not all the treatises are comprehensive in cataloguing the rāga-s of their period. We do have evidence that the rāga-s like Bēgaḍa, Aṭāṇa and Suraṭi were used by Śāhāji; but they are not mentioned in his treatise !!
When a rāgam takes a svaram which is foreign to its parent scale, that foreign svaram is considered as ‘anya’. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, always mentions this anya svaram with a symbol. Only for the rāgam Sāvēri, the svara-s inherent to that rāgam are denoted with a symbol.
We did see the detailed analysis of Narayanagaula in our earlier blog post. Now in this short blog post we shall see a few more aspects of this raga including a comparative study with some allied ragas along with a note on Kuppayyar’s beautiful kriti which is never at seen in the concert circuit.
COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS – SUMMARY:
There is considerable melodic relationship between Narayanagaula and the following set of ragas:
While the first two have considerable music history backing them, the last raga Kapi Narayani is a eka kriti raga the creation of which is attributed to Tyagaraja. Given the common svaras and murcchanas which form the single body for these ragas/melodies, one needs to get down to the musical analysis using the notes and the motifs and jiva, nyasa and graha svaras on one hand and the practical musical exposition of the ragas on the other.
Let’s first look at the comparative chart of these ragas as above. The chart below is prepared with Narayanagaula as focus raga and how it contrasts from its siblings.
S R M P N S
S N D P M G R S
S R M P N S
S N D P M G R S
S R M P N D N S
S N D P M G R G R S
S R M P D N S
S N D P M G R G R S
Key aroha phrases
SRMPNNS ;SRMPNDNS ;Ghana raga; tristayi raga
PNDNS not seen ; rakti raga; tristhayi raga
SNDNS & NDNS are seen; No movement below mandara Nishada
Distinctive avarohana krama combinations
SNDPMGPMRS ; SNDPMGRS
PDM and PNDM; G.RGR. is seen while MRS does not occur. Again MGS is used; MGRGR is a patented murccana for this raga & is to be avoided in allied ragas
MG..RGr… with a marked emphasis on the G and R & r as a repeated nyasa marks this raga
MGS is never used; Use of MGMPR is distinctive of Surati.
Gandhara is an extremely strong note. Dhaivata is an accepted graha svara as well. Gandhara falls to sadharana value in some phrases ( nGRS)
G2 is not seen. Emphasis is always on the nyasa note rishabha.
True to its rAgAngA status, it cannot be tinted with G2 at all.
Gandhara & dhaivata are very weak notes & is never a graha or nyasa. Gandhara is very close to madhyama as if it were a simple place holder svara and similarly dhaivata is close to nishada.
Ni and Ma are very strong and are preferred graha svaras /starting notes. Always begin murcchanas with them and end them/nyasa svara with Ri.
Given PDNS as a complete uttaranga, all these notes are powerful graha/nyasa notes.
Ni is the graha svara
Ni is a strong note and is a preferred jiva svara; Sadja is the graha svara
Jhanta notes to be favoured ; sA or pA to be avoided as resting notes. In an exposition of the raga always place the pivot of the raga on the graha/jiva notes and start on the graha and end on the preferred nyasa note.
Jhanta notes to be favoured.
Sa and Pa are preferred resting notes.
Ri is a preferred resting note was well while sa and pa preferred graha svaras apart from Nishada . PMR, NDPPMR and MGMPR , is used profusely.
An excellent svara gnanam/musical competence and practiced experience is needed to perform manodharma/Kalpana sangitam in this raga. It is certainly not a raga for the faint-hearted. It cannot be sung with traces of Kedaragaula or Surati. It demands intimate knowledge of rendering the unique micro tones of nishadha and madhyama, usage of appropriate start and ending notes, emphasis on janta notes and ability to sing the raga in the first kalam/speed. The renditional complexity of the raga increases as under:
Plain Kriti ->plain varnam -> svara Kalpana in second speed -> svara Kalpana in first speed – > tanam –> alapana -> neraval
Kedaragaula, Narayanagaula and Surati can never be understood and distinguished just on the basis of grammar or svaras. A student who has not heard these ragas can never sing them true to form from notation. Only by hearing the practical exposition of these ragas by great masters can one really be able to understand the notation, as well as the melodic contours and the distinguishing features of these ragas.
A NOTE ON ‘NANNU BROCEVAREVVARE’ of KUPPAYYAR:
A common theme underlying the practical exposition of these ragas is the telling use of individual notes as a graha or nyasa, emphasizing the jiva and dhirga svaras and the leitmotifs in the svara prastara. These are the keys to present a proper picture of these ragas distinctly. The exemplars for Narayanagaula has been shared in the earlier blog post covering the Varna, kriti and a couple of svara Kalpana clippings. The Narayangaula kriti of Veena Kuppayyar was mentioned in passing in my previous post but I would like to present a personal rendering of the same. Given the fact that the composition is never ever rendered plus the fact that the composer specialized in the raga, intrigued me so so much that I learnt it from notation with the raga knowledge gained from Dikshitar’s ‘Sri ramam’ and the Kuppayyar varna. Any errors or omission is entirely due to my amateurish knowledge/presentation.
A few points merit our attention in the architecture of this composition:
Much like Dikshitar, Kuppayyar gives pride of place to Dha. He starts the anupallavi with Dha, like the anupallavi take off at ‘dhIrAgraganyam’ in Sriramam.
The anupallavi is decorated with a sprightly cittasvara section while the carana loops back to the pallavi through a crowning madhayama kala sahitya section a la Dikshitar!
MGRGRS, the leitmotif occurs aplenty in the composition. It occurs 2 times in the pallavi, 3 times in the anupallavi and 9 times in the carana excluding the cittasvara section. A staggering 14 total occurrences with at least one for every tala avarta! So much for this leitmotif. He also uses DMP deliberately as well. One is forced recollect the intervention of Gayakasikhamani Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar during the Experts Committee meeting of the Music Academy when it met to deliberate on this raga’s lakshana, which I have summarized elsewhere in this blog post. He wanted DMP to enshrined in the avarohana murrcana which will distinguish it from Kedaragaula beyond doubt. He wanted it to be SNDMPMGRGRS, so much for the veteran’s formidable lakshya and lakshana gnana! The same is recorded in JMA 1935-37 pp156-157. The Experts Committee unsurprisingly without much ado concluded that SRMPNDNS and SNDPMGRGRS as the arohana and avarohana krama on 31st December 1934. They too agreed that MGRGRS was a lietmotif to be used and enshrined it as a part of the avarohana.
In sum this kriti encompasses the set of all permissible murccanas which distinctively form the basis of the lakshana of Narayangaula – SRMP ; MPNNS ; MPNDNS ; Nsrmgrgrs; NNDPMP ; NDMP; PMNNDP; MGRGRS ; MGS; nndpnnsS ( the svaras in normal upper case are mandhara stayi svaras; lower case are tAra stAyI and lower case italics are mandhara stayi svaras.
DISCOGRAPHY OF ALLIED RAGAS:
Covered next is a set of curated renderings of Surati, Kapi Narayani and Kedaragaula as svarakalpana or as viruttam singing as they offer the most in terms of understanding raga architecture.
First of the lot is Surati and presented herein is the improvisation as a part of the pallavi ragamalika by Vidvan T M Krishna, from a concert in the public domain.
The rendering is a part of the pallavi in the raga Janaranjani with its sahitya being the pallavi portion of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer’s composition ‘ Pahimam Sri Rajarajesvari krupAkari sankari’. Attention is invited at the unique nishadha svara with which the vidvan invokes the imagery of Surati for us.
Presented next is the svara kalpana rendering of Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer for the classic Veenai Kuppayyar adi tala tana varnam in Surati, ‘entO prEma’. We pick up action at the beginning of the last ettugada svara section for the caranam line ‘panta mEla jEsEvu IvEla’ . The veteran almost concludes the piece with the last avarta with the mrudangist too playing the concluding stroke even as Sri Srinivasa Iyer changes his mind at the very last moment and launches his sarva laghu svaraprastara. The way the legendary Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman follows the maestro like a devoted slave, as somebody put it, is a treat.
As one an see the raga blossoms forth in the uttarAngA around nishada svara and in the pUrvAngA of the top octave.
Surati is always included as a part of the suite of ragas in viruttam singing at the fag end of any concert, tailing into the mangalam. The legendary doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda takes a beautiful anonymous Sanskrit sloka, ‘vihAya kamalAlaya’ and strings the verses in a garland of ragas including Purvikalyani, Sahana, Behag, Kanada, Surati and finally Madhyamavathi. I am presenting the entire rendering of her’s for the simple reason that it is wholesome and she packages all our crown jewels that our music can offer, in less than 10 minutes.
Here is the text of the sloka for those of us who may be interested.
vihAya kamalAlayA vilasitAni vidyunnaTI viDambana paTUni mE viharaNam vidhattAm manaH | kapardini kumudvatI ramaNa khaNDa cUDAmaNau kaTI taTa paTI bhavat-karaTicarmaNi brahmaNi ||
विहाय कमलालया-विलसितानि विद्युन्नटी-
विडम्बन-पटूनि मे विहरणं विधत्ताम् मनः ।
कटी-तट-पटी-भवत्-करटिचर्मणि ब्रह्मणि ॥
Hark at how ravishingly she packs the entire essence of Surati within a minute. She starts Surati at 7:26 into this clip, distilling all that perfume of the East in a minute and rapidly transitioning into its close cousin Madhyamavati. A veritable lesson for a student of music in elaborating a raga in a sloka/viruttham.
For Kapi Narayani , Tyagaraja’s sole exemplar kriti ‘Sarasamadhana’ has been made his own by the great vocalist Ganakaladhara Madurai Mani Iyer. His inimitable rendering of the composition, his copious mandharma in his execution of the neraval and sarvalaghu svarakalpana littered with janta prayogas on the carana line, ‘hitavumAta’ gives goose bumps, to a listener even to this date, decades after his passing away. In his recording which is available in the public domain, Mani Iyer uses the dhaivatha note as a graha and nyasa note for his imaginative svaraprastara. For our understanding, I present the rendering of contemporary performer, Vidushi Amrutha Murali. The Vidusi in the company of her guru, Vidvan R K Sriramkumar and mrudangist Arun Prakash leverages the nishadha note instead as her pivot/anchor svara for her svara kalpana sorties. As pointed out earlier Narayanagaula has a vakra uttaranga PNDNS while Kapi Narayani has a lineal PDNS as its uttaranga. The clipping commences with her neraval on the caranam line ‘hitavUmAta’. Did the raga Narayangaula give Tyagaraja the inspiration to sculpt this noveau raga Kapinarayani, a raga without a textual history ? We do not know.
We move on finally to Kedaragaula, a raganga raga of yore. The readers are invited to hear out the versions of Kedaragaula which is available in abundance in the public as well commercial domain. But personally nothing beats the beautifully encapsulated pristine, classical Kedaragaula by Smt K B Sundarambal from a Tamil film of yester years. She starts her viruttam in Mohanam, moves on to Kedaragaula and finally on to Kanada. Hear her dwell on Kedaragaula starting at 0.28.
In this clip, the veteran stage singer famed for her majestic voice spanning 3 full octaves, open throat singing and impeccable purity of sruti paints a perfect Kedargaula fit for a novice and the cognoscenti, in the same breath. For me it is much like how Prof SRJ waxes eloquent on the beauty of M K Tyagaraja Bagavathar’s rendering of ‘Siva peruman krupai vendum” in Surati ( at 9:47 in the clipping) which was alluded to in an early blog post.
As the respected Professor points out, by extension just on the gandhara and dhaivata the distinction between the the three ragas Surati, Kedaragaula and Narayanagaula can be brought out in conjunction with the graha/nyasa svaras.
In sum Narayanagaula is not a raga for novices or for the faint hearted. It demands an in-depth or intimate if not extraordinary knowledge of the raga on the part of a performer, given the melodic overlap it has with its neighbouring ragas, which share the same melodic material.
We always like some sort of an apocryphal/sensational/spicy story or two about melodies or musical personages. And chroniclers both present and past seem to have a predilection for exaggerating the facts or events as they go about recording them during their lifetimes. I end this rumination blog post with one such story/event, probably true, about how the vocalist nonpareil Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844-1893) used this raga Narayanagaula to stump his opponent in a musical contest. True or untrue, the raga becomes the pivot of the story which is recorded for posterity by Vidvan Gomathisankara Iyer ( “Isai Vallunargal” published in 1970) as told to him by his musician father Pallavi Subbiah Bhagavathar, who was a disciple of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer being his pupil between the years 1876-1882. In his almost panegyric narration, Vidvan Gomathi Sankara Iyer provides all the elements of suspense and intrigue.
In the late 1880’s, Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer was on an extended stay at Madras on a musical sojourn enjoying his popularity, the adulation and patronage extended by the denizens of the city and the of the officials of the administration including the Governor of Madras. A special dinner was hosted in his honor by the Governor Robert Bourke known more by his peerage name of Baron/Lord Connemara along with his wife Baroness/Lady Connemara. Post the dinner, the invited celebrities were treated with a sumptuous concert by the legend, who apparently even sang English notes for the benefit of the assembled English speaking glitterati. Perhaps they must have been the nottusvara sahityas of Muthusvami Dikshitar !
This public display of adulation for Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer did not fail to make a few of the vidvans envious or jealous, for so popular and sought after he was that many thought, never mind if music emanated or not, thousands would gather at the mere move of his mouth! Vidvan Venugopal Das Naidu, a vocalist of not so well known provenance and a citizen of the City, was one of those who viewed the entire spectacle with envy. A man who prided himself by decking in a royal demeanour, Venu as he was endearing called vented his fury to his violinist friend ‘Photograph” Masilamani Mudaliar. His opinion was to the effect that “Maha” was a fake appellation which Vaidyanatha Iyer did not at all deserve and he was simply putting up a charade without an ounce of practical musical worth. According to Subbiah Bagavathar, Venu and Mudaliar acting “in concert” so as to put it, decided that forthwith Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer should be challenged for a contest and went public with that. In pursuance to that, a fund raising spree was launched, mopping up a princely sum of more than Rs. 2000/, which was to defray the cost of a huge silver salve and gold ear studs which the winner would eventually take. Notices were printed and distributed as advertisement, fixing the terms of the concert, unilaterally, virtually rigging up the entire contest. Thus the duo put it out that the residence of Fiddle Ramayya Pillai, a wealthy musician of George Town would be the venue, Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer would be given the first opportunity to sing first, choosing the raga of the Pallavi and elaborating it. Venugopal Naidu will then sing a Pallavi in that raga following which Vaidyanatha Iyer would have to elaborate it. If he could not he would have to relinquish his title in public. The duo set the rules of the game, the time, date and venue as well to their advantage apparently and threw the gauntlet at the great vocalist.
The stratagem was not too complicated. Given that pallavis were traditionally sung in the heavy ragas namely Bhairavi, Kambhoji, Sankarabharanam or Kalyani, the idea was to entrap Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer with Venu setting the Pallavi in a complicated rhythmic setting, without openly putting the tala so that it would stump the veteran vocalist. As if to result-proof this contest even further, Masilamani Mudaliyar himself was anointed as the arbiter/referee of this contest!
When Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer and his elder brother Ramasvami Sivan, who was his alter ego and accompanying junior partner/vocalist in his concerts, heard of the challenge, they grew extremely uncomfortable. Subbiah Bagavathar’s version has it that Vaidyanatha Iyer’s ardent & leading rasikas/admirers would have none of it and they goaded Vaidyanatha Iyer into accepting the challenge.
On the appointed day and time at the venue in George Town, rasikas agog with excitement had assembled to watch the proceedings with bated breath. With Masilamani Mudaliar as referee the proceedings commenced in right earnest and in deference to protocol, Vaidyanatha Iyer asked Venu his challenger if he had any raga as his preference for the Pallavi exposition. We do not have any evidence if there was any premeditated strategy on tackling the situation on his part. On Vaidyanatha Iyer’s seemingly innocuous question, Venugopal Naidu perhaps haughtily, responded “Any raga of your choice”. Vaidyanatha Iyer in line with the prevailing practice had planned to sing the Pallavi in Sankarabharanam and he prepared himself to do so. Perhaps as fortune would have it, a brainwave struck Ramasvami Sivan who was sitting behind next to his brother, strumming the tanpura perhaps. In a trice he leaned forward and whispered into Vaidyanatha Iyer’s ears to junk the plan to sing the Pallavi in Sankarabharanam. He proceeded to suggest Narayanagaula as the raga of the Pallavi and he said so in their secret coded language (pAnDava bAshA is the name, Pallavi Subbiah Bagavathar gives for that coded language that was used by the brothers), lest it may be over heard & understood by Venu. Apparently the rarity of the raga and the equally rare practice perhaps to use it as a vehicle of Pallavi exposition was the plan that what Ramasvami Sivan had to win this contest, hands down. Gomathi Sankara Iyer records further that the raga Narayanagaula with its vakra sancaras or its “turn of notes” makes it difficult for manipulation in a Pallavi and this proved to be a master stroke! As the great titan held in awe by his contemporaries, began humming (Vaidyanatha Iyer had a ‘hUmkAra way of raga elaboration) the raga and began his exposition, a cloud of silence descended on the venue. The unique and and not so frequently heard raga coming forth from the vocal chords of the Prince Charming of Music of those days, cast a spell on the crowd.
One can easily envision Vaidyanatha Iyer performing his alapana in a grand and eloquent manner, for Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar and Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer in their respective memoirs, provide that vivid picture of Vaidyanatha Iyer’s inimitable way of singing. Subbiah Bagavathar records that on that day, Vaidyanatha Iyer had performed a complete alapana of Narayanagaula for about 45 minutes perhaps spanning the three octaves he was known for. Needless to add it must have been a veritable feast for the celestials.
The narration goes on to say that not surprisingly, Venu had no clue as to the raga. So bedevilled and muddled he was that even as Iyer was immersed in his exposition, he retired from the stage to a quiet corner to re-plan by retrofitting his preplanned pallavi to the melody that he was hearing, without any success. By then Vaidyanatha Iyer had finished his tour-de force alapana and perhaps the tanam as well and Venu was nowhere to be seen. It must have been a great tanam, par excellence, as the raga is so amenable to madhyama kala exposition for which Vaidyanatha Iyer was justly famous for during his heydays. And with the challenger Venu who went missing from the stage, not seen at all, the referee Masilamani Mudaliar grudgingly requested Vaidyanatha Iyer to complete the rendering with his own Pallavi which the veteran did as if like a fish taking to water. The final Pallavi rendition must have been a proverbial icing on the cake for the assembled cognoscenti of Chennapattana. And not surprisingly at the end of the performance, Vaidyanatha Iyer was felicitated and presented with the prize money and gifts.
Thus ends the story of Vaidyanatha Iyer leveraging this great raga Narayanagaula to defend his title ‘Maha’ conferred on him by the Pontiff of the Siva Mutt at Tiruvavaduthurai, decades prior. Needless to add, he returned home adding one more exotic event to his already legendary reputation and also richer by the gifts bestowed on him. So much for the raga Narayanagaula!