Apurva raga-s handled by Tyagaraja Svamigal – Phalaranjani

Dr Aravindh T Ranganathan

This article was published in “Sruti” May, 2019 issue.

Śrī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi is one of the very few kṛti-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmi on Lord Narasiṃha. It can be considered as a generic kṛti as we don’t see any reference to a particular kṣetraṃ. Earlier texts assign this particular kṛti to a rāgaṃ ‘Phalaranjani’, though we frequently hear this in the rāgaṃ ‘Phalamanjari’. This kind of confusion with respect to rāga nomenclature is very common as Svāmigal himself didn’t reveal the name of these apūrva rāga-s to his disciples (1). Years later, either his disciples or some other musician (s) were instrumental in assigning these rāga names. This topic has been discussed several times in The Music Academy conferences and it is the view of some musicologists that Taccur Siṅgarācāryulu was the musician involved and he named these rāga-s by referring to a treatise, namely Saṅgraha Chūḍamaṇi, whose authorship is unknown (2). Analysis of the available evidences reveals several inconsistencies with respect to the rāgaṃ of this kṛti and its lakṣaṇa. This article will be analyzing the musical aspects of this kṛti addressing the above said issue in the light of  Vālājāpet notations.

Vālājāpet notations

Vālājāpet manuscripts form an important source to understand the kṛti-s of Saint Tyāgarājā. These manuscripts were written by Vālājāpet Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar (VVB) and his son Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar (VKB). It is even said Tyāgarājā could have seen this as they were recorded during his life time.(3) These notations were preserved at Madurai Sourāṣtra Sabha and the transcripts are available in GOML, Chennai. Few of these transcripts can be accessed online here (4). These transcripts are the main source for this article. In the absence of first hand records made by Tyāgarājā, these notations form a very valuable and authentic source to understand the version learnt by his prime disciple Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar and his son. These notations when used appropriately help us to solve many problems seen with the apūrva kṛti-s of the Saint. 

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in earlier texts

It is not a common kṛti to be seen in the earlier texts published between late 1800 and early 1900; it is even rarer to see this kṛti in notation. For the first time we see this kṛti in the text Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu by Vīṇā Rāmanuja (5). Here, it is mentioned as Phalamanjari, but notations or the lakṣaṇaṃ of the rāgaṃ is not provided. It serves no purpose to our study other than to know that this kṛti was in circulation even during 1857. The contents published in this book, especially those of Tyāgarāja kṛti-s in partial or complete can be seen in several texts published later like the texts published by Rāmanujadāsā (1895), Thangavēlu Mudaliyār (1905) et al. Whether they are exact reproductions of the earlier text or they are reproduced from different sources is not known. All these texts too are blinded towards rāga lakṣaṇaṃ of Phalamanjari. So,  Phalamanjari mentioned by them is the same as Phalamanjari mentioned in various lakṣaṇa granthā-s or it is a different one is unfathomable.

AM Chinnaswāmy Mudaliyār in his text ‘Oriental Music in European Notation’ (1893) mention the rāga of this kṛti as Phalaranjani for the first time placing it under the mēla 28, Harikāmbhoji (6). It is to be remembered that the main resource person for this text was Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavathar, though it was further approved by some other disciples of Tyāgarāja Svāmi. Same information can also be seen in the book published by Tillaisthānaṃ Narasiṃha Bhāgavatar in 1908 (7) and by SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar (8) under the pseudonym Rāmānanda Yogi  in 1910. None of them give us the notations.

Taccur brothers, for the first time gives this kṛti in notation in their book published in the year 1912. They consider it as Phalamanjari and place it under the mēla 22. (9)

From the above discussion it is clear that this kṛti was not a popular one and not every musician was aware of this. Sources from Vālājāpet and Tillaisthānaṃ disciple lineage consider this as Phalaranjani, placing it under the mēla 28. Taccur brothers and other texts, whose source of this kṛti is unknown, placed it under the mēla 22. Also, only the book by Taccur brothers gives us this kṛti in notation.

Rāga lakṣaṇaṃ


Before proceeding further, lakṣaṇaṃ of Phalaranjani and Phalamanjari are discussed for getting a better understanding of this kṛti.

Phalamanjari cannot be seen in any of the lakṣaṇa grantha-s available. For the first time, it can be seen in ‘Oriental Music in European Notation’. Vālājāpet manuscripts too mention this name. Knowing the association between VKB and Chinnaswāmy Mudaliyār and the truth that Svāmi didn’t reveal the name of these apūrva rāga-s , it can be speculated that a musician known to Vālājāpet disciple or Vālājāpet disciple like VVB or VKB themselves might have named this rāgaṃ. This was then followed by Tillaisthānaṃ disciples too. Alternatively, a revered disciple of Tyāgarājā could have named this. The scale as deduced from Vālājāpet version (from Vālājāpet notations) is SGMPMDS   SNDPMGMRS.

Rāga pravāhaṃ (10) mentions about this rāgaṃ. Scale given here is same as mentioned above; but it is placed under the mela 22.  Usually, this text mentions the source from which a particular rāgaṃ was taken. For example, when mentioning the rāgaṃ Phalamanjari, it gives three entries and gives the source for these three entries namely Palaiyāzhi (two entries) and Sangīta Svara Prastāra Sāgaramu of Nāthamuni Panditar. Strangely, in the case of Phalaranjani, no such reference is given. Perhaps, the scale in which this kṛti is sung now is given for the sake of completion. Another Phalaranjani is given under mēla 28 with a different scale – SGPDS  SNDPMGMRS ; again source for this scale is not given.


Phalamanjari is mentioned as a janya of mēla 15 by Śahāji and Tulajā. Saṅgraha Chūḍamaṇi and its allied texts consider this as a janya of mēla 22, Kharaharapriya. Scale of this rāgaṃ, and  considering this as a janya of mēla 22 is uniform across the texts – SGMDS  SNDPMGMRS. It is not SGMPMDS in the ārōhaṇaṃ. This rāgaṃ can be seen invariably in any text that acts as a lexicon for these synthetic scales. Many varieties of Phalamanjari seem to exist and they are not discussed here as they do not come under the scope of this paper.

Notated versions of ‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’

Version by Taccur brothers

As said earlier, text by Taccur brothers is the single early text to give this kṛti in notation. Scale given by them is   SGMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Interestingly, a phrase SRGGRS is seen which cannot be fit into the given ārohaṇaṃ-avarōhaṇaṃ. Usually, kṛti-s in rāga-s like this follows the scale exactly. This raises a doubt regarding the rāgaṃ of this kṛti. Taccur brothers not acknowledging the musician who gave this version is to be remembered here.

It is a must to validate the rāgaṃ given in early texts like the books by Taccur brothers, Sangīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu and its like as extreme discordance with the rāga name and the commonly accepted lakṣaṇa can be seen. For instance, Taccur brothers mention the ragaṃ of the kṛti ‘sattaleni dinamu’ of Tyāgarāja Svāmi as Jayantasenā. But an analysis of the notation provided rule out the mentioned rāgaṃ, as ṛṣabhaṃ is seen throughout the krithi and  Jayantasenā, being a ṛṣabha vaṛjya rāgaṃ cannot fit in (11).Though their immense service is to be acknowledged, only notated compositions are to be considered for research and those too only after a scrutiny is emphasized. All these facts raise suspicion regarding the rāgaṃ of this kṛti.

Tillaisthānaṃ version

Pārthasāradhi has given this kṛti in notation in a book published by him. He has learnt from Dr Srīnivāsa Rāghavan, a descendant of Tillaisthānaṃ Rāma Ayyaṅgār, a disciple of Tyāgarāja Svāmi (12). He mentions as Phalaranjani, a janya of mēla 28 and gives the scale as SGMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Here too, phrases like MPM,DNP and GRGM are found which don’t fit into the given scale.

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in unpublished manuscripts

Much valuable information can be obtained by analyzing these unpublished manuscripts existing as a private collection. Inference obtained from few of these is provided here.

Vālājāpet notations                                                           

Importance of these notations is already mentioned. These notations, though mention the rāgaṃ of this kṛti as Phalaranjani, did not give information about the mēla (of this rāgaṃ) or its scale. Scale can be easily deduced from the notation provided. For mēla assignation, book by Chinnaswāmy Mudaliyār is followed as the resource person is same (belongs to Vālājāpet lineage).

Version given here adhere exactly to the scale SGMPMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Phrases outside this scale can never be seen. The saṅgati-s are organized in such a way that the rāga structure is easily grasped. This is set to the tālaṃ  dēśādhi.

First two saṅgati-s clearly gives us an idea about the lakṣaṇa of this rāgaṃ and the same continues throughout the kṛti without creating any ambiguity. Gandaram, pañcamaṃ and dhaivathaṃ were used as gṛha svaraṃ-s and lot of pratyāgata phrases like NDD,DPP, PMM and RSS can be seen thoughout the kṛti.   Vālājāpet version can be heard here.                             

Manuscript of SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar

SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar is a disciple of both Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavathar and Umayāḷpuraṃ Kṛṣṇa and Sundara Bhāgavathar. Both were the direct disciples of Tyāgarāja Svāmi and he was a fortunate disciple to represent both these schools. He has notated (11) this kṛti and it is exactly in line with the Vālājāpet notations with respect to rāga lakṣaṇaṃ and basic structure of the kṛti. He has published a book (text only) wherein he clearly mentions the rāgaṃ and tālaṃ of this kṛti (see above discussion). To identify the source from which he learnt this kṛti (Vālājāpet or Umayāḷpuraṃ), sāhityam may be taken as a guide. Whereas Vālājāpet version (and the version by Tillaisthānaṃ Narasiṃha Bhāgavatar) reads the first line in anupallavi as ‘dīnārthi nivāraṇa bhavya guṇā’ , Umayāḷpuraṃ version (and the version by Taccur brothers) read as ‘dīnārthi bhaya hara bhavya guṇā’. It can be surmised that his source for this kṛti was from a Valajapet disciple. Additionally this also authenticates Vālājāpet notations.  

Umayāḷpuraṃ version

Umayāḷpuraṃ version too consider this as a janya of mēla 28. Scale is not given though we can redact it as SGMPDPMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Here too, Gandaram, pañcamaṃ and dhaivathaṃ were used as gṛha svaraṃ-s and lot of pratyāgata phrases like NDD,DPP, PMM and RSS can be seen thoughout the kṛti (13). Basic outline is much in line with Vālājāpet version. Main point of difference between this and Vālājāpet version is the phrase PDP which occurs only once. Whether it is to be considered as a time related change or not is a point to ponder.

Manuscript in the possession Srīvañchiyaṃ Rāmachandra Ayyar

A manuscript of unknown authorship in the possession of  Srīvañchiyaṃ Rāmachandra Ayyar mentions the rāgaṃ of this kṛti as Pratāpacintāmaṇi, a janya of mēla 28. No inference can be made as the manuscript lack notation.

Comparison between Vālājāpet notations and the version by Taccur brothers

If we replace the sādhāraṇa gāndhāraṃ with antara gāndhāraṃ (making it as a janya of mēla 28), version by Taccur brothers resemble Vālājāpet version in the basic structure excluding the phrase SRGGRS. This makes one to hypothesize – was the kṛti sung only as a janyaṃ of mela 28 and Taccur brothers changed that to mēla 22 as Phalaranjani was totally unknown to them and earlier texts like Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu, which they followed say it as Phalamanjari ?

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in oral tradition

Very few recordings of this kṛti are available in the public domain. All except one were labeled as Phalamanjari and consider it as a janyaṃ of mēla 22. The recordings adhere to the scale SGMPMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Frequency of hearing the phrase of MPM varies with the rendition. In one rendition the phrase GMDNSNDMGMRS is also found. A version considering Phalaranjani as a janya of mēla 22 can be heard here.

Version by Sangīta Kalānidhi Smt R Vēdavalli is labeled as Phalaranjani and considered as a janyaṃ of mēla 28. That too, adheres to the mentioned scale of Phalaranjani, but different from the Vālājāpet version with some additional phrases like DNP.


The following conclusions can be drawn from the above discussion:

1. Vālājāpet notations were the first one to use the name Phalaranjani and there is extreme adherence to the scale.

2. Almost all the earlier texts give the name Phalaranjani and consider this as a janyaṃ of mēla 28. Only Taccur brothers consider this as Phalamanjari, considering it as a janyaṃ of mēla 22. Were they influenced by the texts like Sangīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu, as they were the editors of the later editions of the mentioned text is to be considered.

3. Vālājāpet version, an existing old version was passed on to next generation as evidenced by analyzing unpublished manuscripts. Identical basic structure of this kṛti seen in Vālājāpet notations, version by SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar and Umayāṃpuraṃ version can be remembered here denoting the validity of the basic musical structure seen in the Vālājāpet notations.

4. Whereas Phalaranjani version (janya of mēla 28) is commonly associated with this kṛti in textual tradition, Phalamanjari (janya of mēla 22) version is commonly associated with this kṛti in oral tradition.

5. This article highlights the importance of analyzing Vālājāpet versions and other unpublished manuscripts.


I thank Srivanchiyam Sri Chandrasekar, son of Srivanchiyam Sri Ramachandra Ayyar for sharing the rare manuscripts collected and preserved by his father.

I thank Ms Janaki, Editor, Sruti Magazine for publishing this musicological work.

The library in The Music Academy is a repository of many valuable manuscripts written in the early part of the last century, like that of S A Ramaswamy Ayyar. I thank Sri V Sriram, Secretary, The Music Academy for permitting me to access those valuable manuscripts.


  1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Pg 129.  Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905.
  2. Ramachandran K.V. (1938) – “The Melakarta – A Critique” – The Journal of the Music Academy 1938 volume IX: pg 31-33.
  3. Sāmbamurti P. The Walajapet manuscripts. Journal of Music Academy 1947: Pg 114-129.
  4. Vālājāpet manuscripts.   http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/browse?collection=1&sort_field=Dublin+Core%2CTitle&page=12
  5. Vīṇā Rāmānujayya. Saṅgīta Sarvārta Sāra Saṅgrahamu, Pg. 231. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/666
  6. Chinnasvāmy Mudaliyār. Oriental Music in European Notation, pg 75. Ave Maria Press, Madras,1893. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/507
  7. Ghṛtasthānaṃ Narasimha Bhāgavatar., ed.,Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanalu , Pg 13; Sarasvathi Power Press, Rajahmundry, 1908.
  8. Rāmānanda Yōgi., ed., Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanaṅgaḷ, Pg 120 . Kṛṣṇasvāmy and Sons, 1910.
  9. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu . Gānenduśekharaṃ, Pg 57-61. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1912 
  10. Dr MN Dhandapāṇi, D Pattaṃṃāḷ. Rāga Pravāhaṃ. The Trinity Music Book Publishers, Chennai, 1984.
  11. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu . Gāyaka Siddhāñjanaṃ, Pg 69-70. http://www.ibiblio.org/guruguha/MusicResearchLibrary/Books-Tel/BkTe-TaccuruBros-gAyaka-siddhAnjanam-Pt2-1905-Xrx-0084.pdf
  12. Pārthasāradhi, S., ed., Śri Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanaigaḷ – Tillaisthānaṃ pāṭaṃ – part 1, Pg 6-9. Guru Sri Tyāgabrahma Ārādana Kainkaryaṃ, 1987.
  13. Manuscripts given by Vidvān Sri B Kṛṣṇamūrti, the versions he learnt from Umayāḷpuraṃ Sri Rājagōpāla Ayyar – http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/files/original/83b9276a2529b0a8e26bf08c4cb7ba7e.pdf

Sarasvati Manohari – A Conundrum?


At the very outset before we deal with the raga Sarasvati Manohari as documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita in this blog post, the following disclaimers are in order:

  1. This raga as documented in the SSP, belongs to the 29th Mela and it has nothing to do with the melody as found in “Entha Veduko” of Tyagaraja, which is provided with the name of Sarasvati Manohari as well but is under the 28th Mela.
  2. The raga name “Sarasvati Manohari” has been assigned to the melody of “Entha Veduko” of Tyagaraja by all musical authorities post 1900 AD on the authority of the Sangraha Cudamani which is purportedly the lexicon of the ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja. It has been reiterated in these blog posts that the “Sangraha Cudamani” is a musical text of a much later vintage (19th century, most probably second half) in comparison to the Anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin which is dateable at the latest to 1750AD. The views of the noted music critic K V Ramachandran, the man who discovered the Sangraha Cudamani in the Adayar Library, in this regard are recorded for posterity and in these blogs as well. ( See Reference section below)
  3. Therefore, in our discussion of this raga in this blog post we will not be referring at all to the raga as found in “Entha Veduko” or the treatment thereof under Sangraha Cudamani. All references are to the treatment of the raga as found in the SSP.
  4. The authority for the raga Sarasvati Manohari under Mela 29 as documented in the SSP, comes from the three unassailable 18th century authorities (the Triad as we refer to these three texts in unison in these blog posts) of the likes of Sahaji (circa 1700 AD) , Tulaja (circa 1832 AD) and Muddu Venkatamakhin (1750AD) and crystallized with the exemplar composition of Muthusvami Dikshita.
  5. It’s a folly to talk of the Sarasvati Manohari of Tyagaraja and the Sarasvati Manohari of Dikshita given the weight of historical evidence we have in this regard. In these blog posts it is simpliciter stated the raga names as found in the Anubandha and documented in the SSP, are much older and are of far greater antiquity and authority. The assignment of such older names of ragas to the melodies of the compositions of Tyagaraja (such as Sarasvati Manohari) without relevance as to the identicality, was a post 1850 AD development. In fact, it is on record that Tyagaraja never revealed the raga names when he taught the compositions to his disciples and only much later after his death with the advent of printing did the assignment of raga names to the melodies happen. The effect was that in quite many cases wrong names came to be assigned to the ragas arbitrarily without taking into account the textual history of the raga concerned. Sarasvati Manohari is one such victim of misnaming whereby the older raga name came to be assigned to the melody of “Enta Veduko” without effecting a check whether the melody found in the composition corresponded to the scale of the raga as per grammar.
  6. Ironically today so synonymous is the raga name “Sarasvati Manohari” with “Enta Veduko” so much so that the actual or true melodic identity which is found in Dikshita’s composition “Sarasvati Manohari” is looked upon with suspicion!
  7. And it has to be placed on record that this aberration which came to be inflicted on this raga cannot and should not be used to advance the proposition that the raga itself evolved by dropping N3 and acquiring N2, as we have musical history of spanning 1700 to 1906 AD recording the raga as a janya of Mela 29. The raga of “Enta veduko” should have been assigned another new name without any confusion whatsoever, leaving the older name of “Sarasvati Manohari” out of this entire controversy. This mis-assignment of name is a self-inflicted wound by us on our very known musical theory and musicological history without any justification whatsoever. The only way is to acknowledge this aberration ex facie, and safely navigate the study of ragas and raga lakshanas, rather than trying to justify the same needlessly.

With these disclaimers in place, in this blog post we will embark on dissecting this old raga which is hardly ever rendered in the modern concert stage, save for the occasional rendering of just the kriti of Dikshita, sans alapana, neraval or svaraprastara.

It is reiterated that the raga Sarasvati Manohari of Dikshita is under Mela 29 (Sankarabharanam with N3) as documented in his composition “Sarasvati Manohari”, beginning on the raga mudra itself and no attempt should be made to corrupt the same and attempt to render it under Mela 28 by replacing the N3 with N2. There is no authority for it whatsoever in either the textual or the oral traditions.

Contours of the raga as found in Dikshita’s Composition:

On an entirely different note it can be demonstrated that the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita are best understood by triaging the lakshana as found in the composition with the stated grammar of the raga in the “Triad” of musical works which are Sahaji’s “Raga Lakshanamu” (circa 1700 AD), Tulaja’s “Saramruta” (circa 1832 AD) and the “Ragalakshanam” of Muddu Venkatamakhin ( circa 1750 AD) being the Anubandha to the original Caturdandi Prakashika of Venkatamakhin ( the main text which is dateable to circa 1620 AD).

The SSP records for us by way of a snapshot, the composition (being the notation) and the raga lakshana which is the sole basis for this blog post and the analysis thereof. In the instant case, the treatment of the raga Sarasvati Manohari by Dikshita will be investigated to derive a proper understanding by solely looking at:

  1. The documentation as found in the SSP and other ancillary sources which have a high-fidelity nexus to the musical heritage of Muthusvami Dikshita
  2. The details for the raga as found in the “Triad” of musical works
  3. The oral renderings of the compositions as passed on to us being authentic versions or pAtAntharams.

This blog post has to be read focussing only on the above and any other extraneous material outside of the above is patently irrelevant for the subject on hand and hence a discussion on those is safely avoided. And which is why the aforesaid disclaimers become important in the context of this discourse.

The raga according to Subbarama Dikshita:

The SSP records the lakshana of the raga strictly in line with the “Ragalakshanam” of Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD) along with Subbarama Dikshita’s commentary and does not record the lakshana as found in the works of Sahaji and Tulaja. According to the SSP the following are the features of the raga:

  1. The raga is a bashanga janya of Sankarabharanam according to the SSP. For us in modern parlance it can be safely concluded that the raga is an upanga janya and takes only the notes of the parent Mela 29 only. It has been pointed out earlier that the term upanga/bashanga as used in the SSP, connotes a very different attribute of the raga and not the modern meanings that are ascribed to the said terms. The unassailable point here is that from a modern musicological perspective, the raga is without doubt upanga and the native nishadha note of the raga is N3 or kAkali variety only.
  2. The raga is sampurna and carries all the 7 notes, taking the arohana and avarohana together.
  3. Pancama is varjya or dropped in the arohana. Therefore MPD prayoga should be eschewed.
  4. Rishabha is vakra or deviant in the descent.
  5. Dhaivatha is the jiva svara of the raga.
  6. Despite the nominal arohana and avarohana progression of the raga being SRGMDDNS/SNDPMGMRS (as seen in the Ragalakshanam anubandha), DNS prayoga is not seen in the compositions.
  7. Therefore, the operative arohana progression of the raga is more like SRGM-DP-MDS or SRGM-DNDS or SRGMDDS
  8. Similarly, the operative avarohana progression is SNDPMGMRS or SNDNP-MGMRS

The perusal of the SSP would reveal the following beyond Subbarama Dikshita’s narrative.

  1. The Sankarabharana lakshya gita, lists Sarasvati Manohari as a bhashanga janya of the raga.
  2. The lakshya gita of the raga eschews DNS in toto despite the fact that the nominal arohana states DNS occurring.
  3. Though the sloka as found in the Anubandha cited in the SSP refers to the raga name as “sarasvata manohari”, Subbarama Dikshita labels the raga as “sarasvatI manOhari” only.

Armed with the above details let us look at the evidence provided by Sahaji and Tulaja in their respective works as to this raga.

“Sarasvati Manohari” according to Sahaji and Tulaja:

  1. The raga is named only as Sarasvati Manohari.
  2. Both the royal authors are unanimous in their view that pancama and nishadha are skipped in the arohana and gandhara in the avarohana.
  3. In fact, SRGMDDS and GMDDNDPM are oft repeated murrcanas in the raga.
  4. In essence MPD, DNS and MGRS are forbidden murrcanas of the raga.

In fact amongst the Triad, Sahaji and Tulaja are completely ad idem on the lakshana while Muddu Venkatamakhin alone strikes the sole discordant note by allowing DNS prayoga. However, Subbarama Dikshita explains away this sole discordance stating that DNS is not seen in practice.

Summary of the raga lakshana according to the Triad:

From the foregoing the raga lakshana can be restated in the classical 18th century vernacular as under:

  1. Sankarabharana is the mela or the raganga under which Sarasvati Manohari is classed.
  2. The raga is sampurna and all the 7 notes occur in its body and the notes are S, R2, G3, M1, D2 and N3. No other variety of the notes occurs.
  3. Pancama and nishadha are dropped in the arohana.
  4. Gandhara is vakra in the avarohana.
  5. Dhaivatha is a prime note emphasized via the repeated/janta notes.
  6. PDNS, MPD and DNS are forbidden in the arohana krama; MGRS is forbidden in the avarohana krama.
  7. SRGM, GMDD, PMDD, SNDP, NDPM, SNDNP, GMRS are the permitted murrcanas which join together to form the skeletal structure of the raga.

Dikshita’s Implementation of Sarasvati Manohari:

The notation of the Dikshita composition which begins with the raga name itself as its refrain reveals the following:

  1. d/R and D/r being the jump from mandhara dhaivatha to madhya rishabha and madhya dhaivatha to tara rishabha is seen repeatedly used apart from d/G and D/g as well.
  2. GMDP, MGMDD, RG-GMR, SNDSN, SNPM, RGMND are seen used in the composition aligning to the 18th century definition of the raga as laid.
  3. In the arohana krama RGMP cannot be used while RGMDP is permissible.
  4. The two madhyama kala sahitya portions provide a pithy/concise delineation of the raga’s lakshana.
  5. And the kriti is littered with svaraksharas particularly of the rishabha and pancama notes.

Key take-ways from the analysis:

  1. It is thus seen that Dikshita has meticulously stuck to the early 18th century version of the raga as documented by Sahaji and Tulaja, keeping out the DNS prayoga as well. His novelty has been the employment of the d/R and D/r, which is seen in Purnachandrika as a leitmotif. Dikshita has also eschewed DDS and is consistently seen approaching the tara sadja via the tara rishabha and not directly from the madhya dhaivatha.
  2. The raga shines forth with its native progressions being SRGM, GMDD, PMDD, SNDP, NDPM, SNDNP, GMRS, GMDP, MGMDD, RGMR, SNDSN, SNPM and RGMND.
  3. The raga may be considered as melodically close to modern Kannada which is different from the Kannada as documented in the SSP. In contradistinction, the Kannada of the SSP sports N2 prominently and is classed under Mela 28. In this context care should be taken in rendering Sarasvati Manohari as the phrase SNS is likely to creep in. the phrases SNDP or SNDS alone are allowed in contradistinction to modern Kannada.
  4. Under the SSP the raga Suddha Vasantha (under Mela 29) is a close raga which shares a common melodic bonding with Sarasvati Manohari and unfortunately the SSP does not record any composition of Dikshita is this raga.
  5. The two ragas namely Kannada and Suddha Vasantha are also documented by Sahaji and Tulaji under Mela 28 and 29 respectively and thus it may not be of much help.
  6. In summary a simple compare of Sarasvati Manohari with modern Kannada can help us differentiate and understand the ragas better.
Attribute Sarasvati Manohari of SSP Modern Kannada
Mela 29 29
Type Upanga Upanga
Arohana purvanga SRGM SGM and SMGM
Arohana uttaranga DDS and DrS MDNS ;PMDNS
Avarohana uttaranga SNDP and SNDNP SNSDPM
Avarohana purvanga PMGMRS PMGMRS
Differences inter se
Pancama and nishadha are dropped; SRGM and GMDP are permitted Rishabha & Pancama are both dropped in the ascent
Differences inter se-avarohana SNDP and SNDNP are the permitted prayogas Nishada is dropped in the descent.

In summary the difference between the ragas is slender and the Dikshita composition does well to capture the difference and also emphasizing the d/R prayoga given that rishabha is a much muted svara in modern Kannada.

It has to be recorded that “Sri Matrubhutam” of Muthusvami Dikshita is today rendered only in modern Kannada, thoroughly eschewing the N2 note which is supposed to dominate the raga Kannada according to SSP, which classes the raga under Mela 28, with N3 being an anya svara ( a bashanga janya under Mela 28).

From a practical perspective Sarasvati Manohari can be distinguished by emphasizing SRGM and SNDP prayogas along with d/RR, D/rr so as to safely keep Kannada out of the ken of the raga delineation.

Some collateral data points:

The “Dikshitar Keertanai Prakashikai” (DKP) published by Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (a disciple of Satanur Panju Iyer of the Dikshita sisya parampara) records this composition only under Mela 29without any ambiguity whatsoever. In fact, this composition was taught both to Natarajasundaram Pillai and to Veena Dhanammal by Satanur Panju Iyer who was their guru and it can be seen that the version tallies if the notation in DKP is compared with the oral version of the composition as sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda, the scion of the Dhanammal tradition.

Apart from this the version of the composition as rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt D K Pattammal, who in turn traces her pAtham to Justice T L Venkatrama Iyer and on to Ambi Dikshita son of Subbarama Dikshita, is aligned to the version as seen in the SSP.

We will review these two oral versions in the discography section.

The Composition:


sarasvatI manOhari             – O one who captivates the heart of Goddess Sarasvati!

Sankari                                      – O wife of Shiva (Shankara)!

sadA-Ananda lahari             – O eternal wave of bliss!

gauri                                             – O fair one!

Sankari                                       – O the beneficent One!


sarasI-ruha-akshi              – O lotus-eyed one!

sadASiva sAkshi                – O one always with Sadashiva

karuNA kaTAkshi                – O one with compassionate side-glances!

pAhi                                       – Protect (me)!

kAmAkshi                             – O Kamakshi!

mura hara sOdari               – O sister of Vishnu (slayer of the demon Mura)!

mukhya kaumAri                 – O eminent Kaumari!

mUka vAkpradAna-kari     – O giver of speech to the mute poet Mooka!

mOda-kari                            – O source of bliss!


akAra-Adi-akshara svarUpiNi    – O embodiment of all the letters beginning with “a”!

antaH-karaNa rUpa-ikshu cApini – O one who has a sugarcane-bow that represents the mind!

prakASa parama-advaita rUpiNi – O shining embodiment of supreme non-dualism!

parE                                                        – O supreme one!

tripura sundari                                     – O Tripurasundari!

tApini                                                 – O glowing, effulgent one!

prakalpita prapanca prakASini  – O one who shines forth as this created universe!

prasiddha guru guha janani     – O mother of the renowned  Guruguha!

pASini                                            – O one holding a noose!

vikalpa jaTila viSva viSvAsini – O one who is reliable in this diverse, complicated universe!

vijaya kAncI nagara nivAsini   – O one dwelling in the victorious city of Kanchi!


It can be seen from the composition that:

  1. The composition is on Goddess Kamakshi of Kancipuram as it is so stated unambiguously.
  2. The raga mudra occurs right at the beginning of the composition and has been used to mean that Goddess Kamakshi is one who captivates Goddess Sarasvati. The epithet is reminiscent of the opening lines of the Manji composition “Sri Sarasvati Hite” meaning “O the benefactress of Goddess Sarasvati”.
  3. The phrase “akArAdyA-kshara svarupini” reminds one of the similar phrase – “ahantA svarUpini” occurring in “Brihannayaki Varadayaki” in Andhali.
  4. The composer’s colophon “guruguha” occurs as well in the composition which is set in Adi tala.

Sarasvati Manohari featured in the ragamalika “pUrna candra bimba”

Apart from this solitaire, the raga is also found featured in the ragamalika which is found documented in the Anubandha to the SSP. There are those who argue that this ragamalika being bereft of Dikshita’s colophon “guruguha” is not his but that of Ramasvami Dikshita. Be that as it may, Subbarama Dikshita has assigned the same to Muthusvami Dikshita in the Anubandha. The said ragamalika features ragas which are only janyas of Mela 29 Sankarabharana and they being Purnchandrika, Narayani, Saravati Manohari, Suddha Vasantha, Hamsadhvani and Nagadhvani.

The lyrics “pUrna phala prada caranE sarasvati manoharI” being the second anupallavi section to the main pallavi section being “pUrnacandra bimba vijaya vadanE kamalAbikE”, is set in Sarasvati Manohari. The notation and lyrics in rupaka tala runs thus:

1 2 3 1 2 3
pU rNaph ala prada cara nE
S/R ,S n, pd ,d R,
sara sva tI manO ,ha rE

As can be seen the motif d/R being Dikshita’s novelty or improvisation as to this raga is seen employed with the overall grammar of the raga being in accordance with what is seen in the kriti “Sarasvati Manohari”. This can perhaps be taken as a point of evidence that this composition is likely to be Dikshita’s given the employment of his novel leitmotif, which is not seen in the generic raga lakshana.


Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda renders the composition “Sarasvati Manohari” here:


Sangita Kalanidhi D K Pattammal sings the composition “Sarasvati Manohari” here:


(Google/Yahoo ID would be required. Hit the URL and scroll down the items listed in the page)

Sangita Kalanidhi M Balamuralikrishna renders “Purna candra bimba” in this recording. Saravati Manohari portion is featured between 3:36 -4:10. The said portion of the rendering accords with the notation found in the Anubandha for the composition.


Musical history must be properly evaluated and understood and due regard must be had to the authentic versions of the compositions as passed on to us. The fact that raga name Sarasvati Manohari came to be wrongly assigned to the raga of “Entha Veduko” should be acknowledged which would help us in appreciating the creations of both Tyagaraja and Dikshita for their individual beauty, without any confusion whatsoever. Tyagaraja spun many nouveau ragas which weren’t in existence prior to his times and his kritis are the sole exemplars for those ragas. The raga of “Entha veduko” too is one such creation of his, which must have been assigned a new name, instead of repurposing an existing older raga name causing confusion for all concerned. Further no normalization should be inflicted by attempting to render Dikshita’s kriti with N2 or Tyagaraja’s with N3. Each kriti should be preserved and sung as documented. And if we do this Sarasvati Manohari is no conundrum for anyone.

It is indeed sad that discussions and lecture demonstrations are held, the subject being how the same raga has apparently been dealt with differently by Dikshita and Tyagaraja, without realizing the folly committed in the late 19th century and perpetuated into the 20th century and till date. It is humbly submitted and hoped that the Music Academy will  take the lead in documenting this anomaly formally and assign newer names to these ragas of Tyagaraja so that the same is not just recorded for posterity but also serves to illuminate students and  listeners alike, with the confusion being avoided once and for all.


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) -Part IV- Mela 29 Pages 915-919
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 1261-1264
  3. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr S R Janakiraman (1993)- “Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta” – Published by the Madras Music Academy – pp 113-118
  4. Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
  5. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Carnatic Ragas and the Textual Tradition” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 99-106, Madras, India.
  6. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Apurva ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109, Madras, India.


The Kamakshi icon painting, being the featured image in this blog post heading is by artist Shri Rajeshwar Nyalapalli and was sourced from his online webstore.

The Kurinji of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini


The raga Kurinji under Mela 29- Sankarabharana is a well-known dhaivatantya raga and popularly rendered in a lineal fashion in madhyama sruti. Along with its siblings Neelambari and Navaroz with which Kurinji shares the melodic fabric, it can be seen that these three melodies are used in compositions such as lullabies, lAlis, Oonjal and songs of similar genre. Being an old and hoary raga, without engendering a much broader discussion, this blog post just focusses on the raga dealt with in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradashini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita.

Kurinji’s Raga Lakshana:

Kurinji is a melodic scale under Mela 29 Sankarabharanam, taking only the notes from this scale, with the nominal arohana/avarohana krama as under:

                        n3 S R2 G3 M1 P D2 and D2 P M1 G3 R2 S n3

Given the lack of movement below N3 in the mandhara stayi and D2 in the madhya stayi, the raga for felicity of rendition is rendered in madhyama sruti, whereby the madhyama note of the octave becomes the tonic. There are no sancaras below mandhara nishadha or above the madhya dhaivatha.

From an antiquity perspective it may be noted that the composition “Jaya Jaya Gokula Bala” a tarangam of Narayana Teertha which was famous once upon a time, was originally set fully to Kurinji. It was later fully reset to Bhairavi (published by K V Srinivasa Iyengar) and much later the modern extant version came into being, with the lyrics being set as  a ragamalika to Bhairavi, Atana, Kalyani, Kambhoji and Surati, with the retuning being ascribed to Tiruvotriyur Tyagier.

The raga lakshana of Kurinji heavily overlaps with that of Navaroz and is compounded by the fact that both the ragas have octaval constraint imposed by grammar and both of them are rendered in madhyama sruti. Navaroz runs as pdnSRGMP-PMGRSndp, traversing the madhya stayi pancama to the mandhara pancama alone. DIkshita has also composed both in Kurinji – “Sri Venugopala” and Navaroz- “hastivadanaya namstubhyam” which again is a magnum opus in itself.

According to the SSP, Kurinji once upon a time possessed a different contour (while being under the same Mela 29 – Sankarabharanam). This archaic Kurinji is recorded by Subbarama Dikshita on the authority of the eka tala lakshya gita of Muddu Venkatamakhin “Srimad Gopi nathure” as the refrain or udgraha. According to Subbarama Dikshita archaic Kurinji had the following features:

  1. It had tristayi sancaras, progressions spanning all three octaves
  2. It lacked dhaivatha (varjya) in its ascent and dhaivatha being vakra in the descent.
  3. The nominal arohana/avarohana went as SRGMGMPMPNNS – SNPNDDPMGGRS, which is provided by Subbarama Dikshita on the authority of the raga lakshana sloka of Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD)
  4. Nishadha was its jiva svara

It has to be pointed out here that this archaic Kurinji does not exists today.

Subbarama Dikshitar proceeds to record that post Muddu Venkatamakhin’s times the raga got truncated and had the following features, which we can call as the modern or the extant Kurinji in contrast to the archaic version as delineated above.

  1. It became a madhyama sruti raga.
  2. The raga’s melodic progression was nSRGMPD, traversing mandhara nishadha to madhya dhaivatha only.
  3. It had an exceptional n\pSS  prayoga commencing on mandhara nishadha to the mandhara pancama and back to the madhya sadja.
  4. The raga cannot be lightly dismissed as a minor madhyama sruti raga, for the ancients had accorded it the highest importance by placing it as the first upanga raga janya under Mela 29 Sankarabharanam as seen in the Sankarabharana lakshana gitam “ripupala khandanure”.

Additionally, Prof S R Janakiraman points out that the dhaivatha note (of the madhya stayi) is seen to occur very sparingly in this raga, more as a foray from the pancama note and back.

Thus, what survives today is the modern Kurinji that we hear today and as authority for the same Subbarama Dikshita provides two compositions, apart from his sancari.

  1. Sri Venugopala” – Muthusvami Dikshita – Jhampa tala
  2. Siva deeksha paru” – Ghanam Seenayya – Adi

We shall look into both these compositions in this blog post. But before that we will evaluate the Kurinji as was recorded atleast a little prior to 1750 AD.

Kurinji according to Sahaji & Tulaja:

The raga Kurinji is found recorded in both Sahaji’s “Ragalakshanam” (circa 1700 AD) and Tulaja’s “Saramruta” (circa 1732 AD) and the commentary of these two author Kings of Tanjore on this raga Kurinji in their respective works resonate with the definition of the archaic Kurinji of the SSP and of Muddu Venkatamakhin. However, one assertion made by Sahaji and Tulaja in their respective treatises which is relevant to us, as we will see shortly, is that “SRGM and PDNS should not occur in the raga.”

As we saw in previous blog posts this is a key architectural construct of the 18th century. The raga definitions were provided (apart from being categorized under a particular mela or raganga) in the following ways:

  1. A particular note is to be repeatedly emphasized being the raga’s jiva svara
  2. Certain notes being the choice notes to begin or end a musical phrase – graha, nyasa svaras
  3. Certain notes which cannot be used as the take-off or ending note, but which should only be used as a transit note – amsa svara
  4. A particular note being varjya (dropped)
  5. A particular note being vakra (devious)
  6. A specified murrcana (motif) was to occur or was to be emphasized repeatedly (leitmotif) in the raga in its progression.
  7. A specified murrcana (motif) was not supposed to occur.

This “composite” way of specifying the lakshana of a raga is completely lost to us today where we simply proceed lineally based on a single arohana or avarohana krama under a given mela. This ancient, archaic and now extinct practice of the 18th century is expressly found recorded in the works of Sahaji and Tulaja.

In so far as Kurinji is considered in terms of the aforesaid rules, Rule 7 above, specified that SRGM shall not occur in the melodic body of the raga according to Sahaji and Tulaja. With this in mind let us take up the first exemplar composition from the SSP, which is “Sri Venugopala” of Muthusvami Dikshita.

 “Sri Venugopala” of Muthusvami Dikshita:

The lyrics and the meaning of the composition is as under:


SrI vENu gOpAla     –  O Lord the Cowherd bearing the flute!

SrI rukmiNI lOla    – O one who frolics in the company of Goddess Rukmini!

dEva nAyaka         – O lord of all the gods!

SriyaM dEhi dEhi    – Give, give (me) wealth and auspiciousness!

madhu mura hara     – O vanquisher of the demons Madhu and Mura!


dEvakI su-kumAra    – O illustrious son of Devaki!

dIna jana mandAra   – O wish-fulfilling celestial tree of the downtrodden!

gOvardhana-uddhAra  – O the one who lifted the Govardhana mountain!

gOpa yuvatI jAra    – O beloved of the young Gopi maidens!


gOkula-ambudhi sOma – O moon to the ocean of Gokula!

gOvinda             – O friend of the cows!

nata bhauma         – O one saluted by Angaraka – son of Bhumi (Earth Goddess)!

SrI-ku-ranjita kAma – O one who delights Lakshmi (Sri) and Bhumi (Ku) with your love!

Srita satya bhAma   – O one who has embraced Satyabhama!

kOka nada pada      – O one with feet hued like red lotus!

sOma guru guha hita – O one congenial to Shiva (in the company of Uma) and Guruguha

SyAma               – O dark one!

SrI kara tapa hOma SrI jayantI nAma – O one well-known for the Sri Jayanti (birthday festivities) in which penance and sacrifices cause welfare and prosperity!

prAkaTya raNa bhIma – O one who is formidable in battle!

pAlita-arjuna bhIma – O protector of Arjuna and Bhima!

pAka ripu nuta nAma – O one whose name is glorified by Indra (the slayer of the demon Paka)!

bhakta yOga kshEma  – O one who bestows welfare to the devotees!

It appears to be a generic composition without any reference to any ksetra or its presiding deity. Based on the lyrics which occur which is “sri jayanthi nama” there are those who opine that much like “Sri Varalakshmi namastubhyam” and “Siddhi Vinayakam” which were purportedly created to propitiate Goddess Lakshmi on Varalakshmi Pooja day and Lord Ganesa on Vinayaka Caturthi day respectively , Dikshita composed this kriti for “Sri Jayanthi”/”Krishna Jayanthi” – Lord Krishna’s birth day. The raga mudra is seamlessly interwoven as:

“SrI-ku-ranjita kAma” meaning “O the one who delights Lakshmi (Sri) and Bhumi (Ku) with your love!

The colophon of Dikshita “guru-guha” as always occurs in the composition.

The Melodic structuring of the composition:

From a melodic standpoint it is noticed that the composition is in line with the “extant” or modern version of the Kurinji. From the notation provided therein, Dikshita’s raga conception in the composition conforms to the modern Kurinji:

  • The melody traverses between mandhara nishadha and madhya dhaivatha only
  • Uses the occasional nn\pSS prayoga- seen at the first occurrence of the lyric ‘dEhi’ in the pallavi itself

It was pointed out earlier that according to Sahaji and Tulaja, in the case of Kurinji “SRGM and PDNS should not occur in the raga”. This is however not seen expressly commented upon or recorded in the SSP.

In this context the occurrence of SRGM or PDNS phrase in “Sri Venugopala” can be evaluated thus:

  • It is seen that the SRGM prayoga is avoided in the melodic setting after duly taking into account the caesura (s)which occur in the composition.
  • Though superfluous, it has to be formally noted that PDNS has no occasion to arise as the raga’s truncated progression provides no room for the same.
  • The following portions/lyrics of the composition would reveal that:
    • The composition begins as RGMR (“sri vEnugOpAla”) and thus SRGM is avoided. Though SRGM is forbidden, RGM or RGMP is a permitted prayoga
    • Caesura occurs at “lOla” which ends on rishabha note and when “dEvanAyaka” begins with the phrase being GMP. Thus, the SRGM phrase has been avoided.
    • Pointedly the anupallavi lyric “Devaki sukumara” begins as SRSMGM RGMP, avoiding a direct SRGM phrase.
    • Both “govardhanO” and “gOpayuvati” use SM and SP phrases to the exclusion of SRGM phrase.
    • The lyrics “sri kurinjita” and “kokhanatha pada” are again SMGMP and not SRGMP
    • The madhyama kala sahitya lyrics “pAlita-arjuna bhIma” is notated as SMGRGM to the exclusion of SRGMP
    • Though the ending of the pallavi, anupallavi and the madhyama kala sahitya portions is on the sadja and the pallavi take off being rishabha, on account of the intervening caesura/conclusion of tala marking the logical ending of the musical phrase, the rule of avoidance of SRGM can be deemed as kept.
  • Thus, it can be seen, that subject to the one exception below, Dikshita has eschewed the use of SRGM and has instead used SMGMP in the composition, as the default ascent phrase.


From the SSP notation of this composition one outlier that is noticed, without in anyway being disrespectful, is that the lyric “srikara tapO hOma” is notated as SnSRGMP.. It is likely that this phrase too ought to have been “SnSMGMP” in line with the rest of the composition, as nowhere else where an ascent phrase is warranted, is the phrase SRGMP used. It can be very well deuced that Dikshita being completely aware of this ancient practice having avoided the use of SRGM everywhere would not have deigned to use that just in one place and most likely the notation seen in the SSP is an aberration.

It is very likely that the notation SnSRGMP is a typographical error/printer’s devil at play in the SSP or an error in the pAtham itself as was transmitted, which begs for a correction. Therefore, it is most respectfully submitted that this phrase ought to be rendered as SnSMGMP and NOT as SnSRGMP as given, keeping in view of the fact that SRGM has been consciously avoided everywhere else and it was perhaps how it was composed.

Thus, subject to the above exception we can safely conclude that the Kurinji of Dikshita and which evolved post 1700 was actually an improvisation of the old archaic Kurinji with SRGM being eschewed as well. In the modern version of the Kurinji we have completely forgotten this aspect of SRGM to be avoided.

The prayogas dealt with in the Kurinji as found in “Sri venugopala” are:

  • n\pSS being the outlier prayoga at “dEhi”
  • The use of a dainty phrase MRG\S at “madhu murahara”, skipping the rishabha- in the pallavi.

 If SRGM is to be eschewed, SRGR and SMGMRGM can take its place and cannot be generically stated that rishabha and/or gandhara should be vakra. This rule can only be stated negatively as “SRGM cannot occur” and cannot be stated otherwise.

The madhyama kala sahitya perfectly, pithily and unambiguously captures Dikshita’s conception of Kurinji and is the perfect & complete authority for the Kurinji that had evolved post 1700’s, the version truly documented in the SSP, albeit implicitly.

S,S,n               –           SRS,n             –           S,MGMG,       –           RGM,M             ||

prAktaya       –           raNabhIma   –           pAlitA            –            rjunabhIma ||          

P,DPM           –           GMP,P           –          M,GR              –           GMGGRS            ||

pAkaripu      –           nutarAma     –           bhakta-yO     –           ga..ksEma         ||

It can be seen that Dikshita has skilfully avoided the SRGM phrase by resorting to SMGMRGMM-PDPM at the juncture of the two jhampa tala avartas.

Discography – “srI vEnugOpAlA”:

There are very many versions of this oft-rendered composition. The version that best tallies with the notation found in the SSP is the one by Vidushi Sumitra Vasudev and I present the same (courtesy Sangeethapriya):

And off-course if one were to learn from this rendering, care should be taken to correctly render “srikara tapO hOma”rendering as SnSMGMP to ensure the consistency ( avoid the inconsistency) that I pointed out earlier.

With this I move on to the next exemplar found in the SSP.

“Siva deeksha paru” – The forgotten oeuvre

The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) records a few pre-trinity compositions in its main work (excluding the Anubandha) and one such is “Sivadeekshaparu” in Kurinji composed by Ghanam Seenayya. This classic composition, a padam, was very popular a hundred years ago and today barring a few instances of it being performed in dance recitals, the composition is nowhere found rendered on concert platforms.

The composition is recorded in the SSP by Subbarama Dikshita as the second exemplar of Raga Kurinji. From a historical perspective this composition comes from era (early 18th Century AD) when the Saivite and Vaishnavite doctrines of Hindu worship vied with each other to be in royal favour and patronage and the song is reflective of this politico-religious undercurrent. We will evaluate the song in that context as well.

Before we address the composition proper, lets first look at the composer and his times.

Composer of “Sivadeeksha paru” – Ghanam Seenayya:

Subbarama Diksita in his “Vaggeyakara Caritamu” records that Ghanam Seenayya, the composer of this Kurinji composition, was a Vaishnavite and the Chief Minister in the Court of the Nayak King Vijayaranga Cokkanatha (1706-1732 AD). We did refer to this Nayak King of Madurai in the context of the Yamuna Kalyani blog post

Ghanam Seenayya was learned man, very proficient in Sanskrit, Telugu and in music and this is found recorded in Sasanka Vijayam (of Seshamu Venkatapati Kavi). In fact, Subbarama Dikshita quotes a couplet from the said work as authority to state that Ghanam Seenayya composed with the ankita/colophon “mannaru ranga”. According to C R Srinivasa Iyengar (in his book “Indian Dance”- Natya and Nritya) Ghanam Seenayya composed the following padas with the ankita being “mannaru ranga”.

  • Magavaadani” in Durbar
  • Magavadu Valaci” – Neelambari
  • Siva Deeksha paru” – Kurinji
  • Vadevvaro” – Sankarabharanam –https://karnatik.com/c18080.shtml

The same is also echoed in toto by Vidvan Vinjamuri Varaha Narasimha-chari in his article titled “Contribution to the Telugu region to the Dance Art” – JMA (Vol XLV – 1974) pp 200.

The prefix “Ghanam” especially appended to the name of a vocalist/ musician may perhaps be linked to the expertise the person had in the “ghanam” mode of vocalization/singing. In the recent past Ghanam Krishna Iyer is recorded by Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer as an exponent and past master in the art of “ghanam” singing though not much detail is know as to what it really meant. Be that as it may given that Subbarama Dikshita has recorded the musical capability of Seenayya, it may well be perhaps that he was adept in this quaint musical art form.

The ankita “mannaruranga” refers to Lord Rajagopala of Mannargudi who was the titular deity of some of the Royal Houses of the medieval Tamil history. During circa 1600-1700 time period, it is seen that the Saivite and Vaishnavite cults had been vying for exclusive royal patronage at the expense of the other. For instance, Venkatamakhin (1620 AD) is said to have composed the Reetigaula gitam “sanka chakkrAnka nAtya ca rE rE” appealing to Lord Mahalingasvami at Madhyarjunam as the King a Vaishnavite acolyte was persecuting followers of Saivism. Apparently, the King Vijayaraghava Nayak of Tanjore, Venkatamakhin’s Royal patron was a staunch Vaishnavite so much so that he exhorted all his subjects to wear the sanka-chakra and other Vaishnavite emblems. Later the King took to bed and suffered stomach pains. Legend has it that he soon thereafter realized his folly and made amends and which is attributed to Venkatamakin’s prayers to Lord Mahalingasvami.

Returning to the subject matter on hand, the times of Nayak King Vijayaranga Chokkanatha of Madurai is captured by Sathianatha Iyer in his classic work “Nayaks of Madura” and according to him during this Nayak’s reign the kingdom seem to have gone into terminal decline. Sathianatha Iyer records that the King was very religious and barring a grant to the temple of Lord Shiva at Tiruvanaikka (Lord Jambukesvara) he seems to have made grants munificently to Vaishnavite temples underlining the fact that he was very favourably disposed towards the Vaishnavite cult.

The setting of the padam “Siva Deeksha” runs thus. The nAyika/heroine is ordained to the worship of Lord Shiva and she happenstance encounters the nayaka/hero who is irresistible and leaves her smitten. The padam attempts to capture her predicament as she is caught between the obligations cast on her because of the ochre she has donned and the craving from her very heart and soul tugging her to the nayaka/hero being none other than “mannaru ranga” or Lord Rajagopala, a vaishnavite God. Should she continue with the rites & duties to be done by her as per the holy order of Shiva worship to which she has been initiated by her Gurus or should she succumb to the call of her heart and allow the nayaka to take her body and soul?

The piece has been a traditional composition much amenable to abhinaya and depiction of a variant of the khandita type of nayika.

From a raga lakshana perspective, the following aspects can be noted:

  1. The padam composed in the first quarter of the 16th century/early 1700’s is in the modern version of the raga, spanning from mandhara nishada to madhya dhaivatha only. We do not know if it was composed so in circa 1700 AD, for Sahaji (circa 1700 AD) and Tulaja (1732 AD) record Kurinji as being archaic as documented in the SSP.
  2. Leaving this point as to the originality of the melodic setting of the composition, the notation as provided by Subbarama Dikshita of this composition in the SSP reiterates the point made in “Sri Venugopala” above. The same is bereft of SRGM and only SMGMP or RGMP or SMGMRGMP occurs as the uttaranga ascent phrases.

Thus, given that “Siva Deeksha” too uses only SMGM and not SRGM, can be cited as proof and in support of the assertion that Dikshita too would have followed the same rule and could not have used SRGM at all. Therefore, the SRGM notated in the SSP in one place in the composition “Sri Venugopala” is perhaps an aberration that we need to correct and render as SMGM.

Discography – “siva deeksha”:

I present two renderings of this composition, which are not strictly in line with the SSP but are nevertheless within the confines of the notation provided in SSP and making only reasonable departures from the same.

  • I present the vocal rendering of the song by Vidushi Preethy Mahesh being the audio track of the accompaniment to the dance performance of this song by Smt Priyadarshini Govind, an excerpt of which is available in the public domain. Clip 1 and Clip 2

The second rendering above, made for a dance performance is much richer, slower and improvised reflecting the true content and spirit of the song.

Kurinji in Ramasvami Dikshita’s 108 Raga Tala Malika:

The Anubandha to the SSP also provides the said composition in notation and the 40th khandika or portion of the said composition commencing with the lyric “Sri Parthasarati” set in Kurinji, too does not bear SRGM in its melodic construct. This provides additional evidence that SRGM phrase was to be eschewed in toto in Kurinji.

Vidushi R S Jayalakshmi presented a lecture demonstration of this mammoth composition of Ramsvami Dikshita in the Dec 2014. Here is the Youtube link to the same. The Kurunji portion is demonstrated starting from 1:48:05 onwards.

Kurinji in Subbarama Dikshita’s compositions:

Subbarama Dikshita’s own sancari and his raga malika too feature Kurinji. However his sancari is modelled on the archaic Kurinji and it seems that he has stuck to the old version on the supposed authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin, whom he always mistook for Venkatamakhin himself. It has to be pointed out that Venkatamakhin’s Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP) does not talk about Kurinji and it is only the Anubandha or the compendium / appendix to the CDP authored by Muddu Venkatamakhin circa 1750 AD which talks about Kurinji.


While compositions can be rendered ad nauseum as taught, it is important that we correctly assimilate and imbibe the true spirit, grammar and confines of the raga and the composition. The raga Kurinji is an example in this regard. If one were to go with the public material and not-properly appraised pAthams, the raga’s definition would be wrongly learnt/taught with the raga progression of Kurinji as  nSRGMPD/DPMGRSn, whereas as the two exemplar compositions demonstrate that the raga’s progression is nSMGMRGMPD/DPMGRSn, duly disallowing the SRGM as the ancients did in this melody. And hopefully students/learners would take notice of this and properly render these compositions in this raga. And given this rich history of more than 300 plus years Kurinji like its illustrious parent Sankarabharana has stood athwart for centuries!

And in parting I leave readers with a thought. Was and is this raga Kurinji synonymous with Lord Venugopala/Rajagopala/Krishna, for the “nayaka” or the subject/object of all the three compositions found in the SSP (“srimad gOpi nAturE” of Muddu Venkatamakhin, “Sri Venugopala” of Dikshita and “Siva Deeksha” of Ghanam Seenayya) are all coincidentally Lord Krishna?


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) -Vol IV- Mela 29 Pages 837-842
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 742-746
  3. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr S R Janakiraman (1993)- “ Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta” – Published by the Madras Music Academy – pp 134-139
  4. Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
  5. R. Sathianatha Iyer (1924) – “History of the Nayaks of Madura” -pages 223-231

Safe Harbour Statement:

  1. The renderings used or linked as above in the body of this blog has been made strictly for purposes of education and knowledge under fair use category. The intellectual property belongs to the respective artistes and the same cannot be shared or exploited without their consent.
  2. I place on record my gratitude to Smt Preethy Mahesh for permitting me to share the vocal rendering of the padam “siva deeksha” as was available in the public domain from where it was sourced.