(Meaning: I offer my obeisance to
that Lord Somaskanda renowned as Tyagaraja, and known so for sacrifice (i.e the
sacrifice of karmaphala leading to liberation) among the four purusharthas.
(Venkatamakhin’s – Invocatory
sloka in his Caturdandi Prakashika, Circa 1620AD)
And so prayed Venkatamakhin, the
revered grand sire of our music and musicology to the great Lord of Tiruvarur
who was the God head for the then reigning Kings of Tanjore, the Royal House of
the Nayakas, as a prelude/benediction to his treatise the
“Caturdandi-Prakashika”(CDP). Venkatamakhin by that single act had consecrated
Lord Tyagaraja as the fountainhead of the music of Tanjore and all that of
Karnataka Sangitam. More than 150 years later, the Temple at Arur had a unique
relevance and nexus to Muthusvami Dikshitar, for he apart from being born at
Tiruvarur went on to compose a number of kritis on Lord Tyagaraja and those
countless deities that adorn the massive temple complex.
One such kriti on Lord Tyagaraja
is “Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha” in Sri raga, by Muthusvami Dikshitar who in the
illustrious tradition of Venkatamakhin pays his obeisance to the Lord, which
has a number of unique significances in terms of music and the lyrics. And this
kriti is rarely heard in modern concerts. The kriti struck a chord in me as I
read two particular texts, one being the translation of “Sri Tyagesa
Maharathosava Varnana Parishloka” of the revered Mahamahopadhyaya Mannargudi
Raju Sastrigal and the other being Dr B M Sundaram’s ‘Alaya Vazhipatil Isai’.
The kriti ‘Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha’ offers a pen picture of the Panguni
Festival of Lord Tyagaraja and is unique in that aspect as there exists no such
similar composition comparable to its underlying concept or grandeur.
Tiruvarur is one of the sapata
vitaka ksetras and the rituals and rites associated with the Temple are found
documented in the Siva Purana, a copy of which forms part of the manuscript
collections of the Sarasvati Mahal Library, Tanjore. Conventionally speaking
the Vasantotsvam or the Panguni Uttiram festival of the Temple lasts for 51
days (mark the concordance of the number with the syllabary of Sanskrit
language) of which about 36 days are reserved for festivities for Lord
Tyagaraja and for Lord Valmikanatha (the presiding deity or the moolavar
of the Temple).
Lyrical Background to the Composition:
The kriti is obviously a
narrative of the festivities of the Vasantotsavam, the Spring Festival
celebrated during the Tamil month of Panguni corresponding to the months of
March-April of the Gregorian calendar. This festival consists of a sequential
set of processions and festivities as under:
– flag hoisting to mark the beginning of the festival.
of the parivara devatas – Ganapathy, Subramanya and Bhairava
of the Lord on the Gaja (Elephant), Vrushaba (Bull) and Kailasa vahanams or
Azhi Ther or the Great Car Festival on the asterism of Aslesha (Star Ayilyam)
natanam by which the Lord in procession dances in a slow cadence of the natana
which is native to the Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur. A form of natana is ascribed as
being unique to every one of the sapta-vitanka ksetras.
in the Kamalalaya tank or the ritual cleansing towards the end of the
– Year throughout, the feet of Lord Tyagaraja are covered with flowers and
cannot be sighted at all. Pada darshanam is exclusively done twice a year by
which His right foot alone is beheld for darshan during the Panguni Festival
and the left foot alone can be similarly beheld during the Tiruvadirai
Festival. Legend has it Sage Patanjali is given the darshan of the right feet
(pAdam) during Panguni Festival while Sage Vyaghrapada is similarly given
darshan of the (other) left feet/pAdam during the Tiruvadirai Festival. This
ritual of Eka pAda darshanam has been masterfully woven into the lyric,
the musical significance of which we will see shortly.
by Lord Chandrasekarar in the paarvetai or the customary hunt and on festival
days as the utsava moorti/representative icon of Lord Tyagaraja.
The celestial wedding ceremony of
the Lord whence He becomes Lord Kalyanasundaresvarar.
of the edition of the festival with the procession of Chandikesvarar
The kriti apart from cataloguing
all these celebrations in the festival seriatim in its lyrics. has references
to the following:
Use of the nagasvara, maddala and
such other instruments during the festival. From the point of view of
(dviteeyakshara) prasa, since the consonantal letter occurring across the
pallavi and anupallavi is ‘ga’ – (tyAga, yE-ga, Aga, nAga, yAga and bhOga), it
is deduced the musical instrument is to be called ‘nAgasvaram’ and not
‘nAdhasvaram’ as we refer to it popularly.
The application of Krishna Gandha
or the black perfume – One may refer to this article by Dr Nagasvami on the perfume.
Lord Tyagaraja is expounded by
the Vedas, is the Lord of the Eight- fold path and who has the ambrosial elixir
itself as his Offering.
reference to the eight-fold path (yamadi-ashtanga-yoga) is reminiscent of the
same phrase used in ‘Sri Matah shivavamanke’ (Begada) and the ‘bodhamrutha’ is
the one that Dikshitar seeks from Lord Jambukesvara (vide the phrase
‘ananda-amrutha-bodham dehi’ occurring the Yamuna Kalyani kriti ‘Jambupate Mam
pahi’). Though not found in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, the
Margahindola kriti “Chandrashekaram sada bhajeham” too carries references found
in this kriti such as ‘suddha maddala’, ‘ashtasiddi dayakam’, ‘ashtapasha hara
teerta vaibhavam’ and ‘ajapa-natana-ananda-vaibhavam’. The kriti is also
replete with philosophical doctrines and precepts along with the reference to
the ‘ajapa’ (meaning un-recited) propitiation of Lord Tyagaraja , an esoteric
yogavidya forming part of the hamsa natanam signifying the supreme vedic
concept ‘hamsah-soham’,symbolizing the inward and outward breath– as being in
the cadence of the ajapa nartanam- of Lord Mahavishnu who is said to be in deep
meditation on Lord Tyagaraja.
a lyrical standpoint, the sequential references to the said spring festival,
the way the narrative has been seamlessly woven as a flowing lyric and the
prasa concordance – the letter ‘ga’ for the pallavi and the anupallavi and the
letter ‘sh’ for the carana section forms the ornamentation for the composition.
That apart as always, Dikshitar weaves in his signature/mudra as well as the
raga name into the fabric of the composition. It is highly likely that one
year, having witnessed the festivities he must have been so enraptured and
taken in by the spirit of the festival that he went on to compose the same in
an auspicious and benedictory raga, being Sriraga.
The text of the kriti together
with the general meaning of the lyrics can be gotten from here.
Background to the Composition:
the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini there are 4 compositions listed out as
having been composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar in Sriraga and this is one among
Muladhara Chakra Vinayaka
Kamalambike Sive Pahimam
from the above, the pallavi portion of the caturdasa ragamalika ‘Sri
visvanatham bhajeham’ (found in the Anubandha to the SSP) is in Sriraga. The
choice of Sriraga for this composition, ‘Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha’ is hardly
surprising given the pithy commentary which Subbarama Dikshitar provides for
the raga and its greatness therein.
following is the summary:
life blood is the rishabha which is both the jiva and nyasa svara.
gandhara note is vakra, occurring in the avarohana krama.
is alpa or rare in its usage and in a composition occurs only once in its body.
and PDNP are the leitmotifs of the raga.
The raga is classified as a ghana
raga and is the preferred or appropriate melody for exposition by accomplished
The raga is to be sung in the
evenings and confers auspiciousness whenever it is sung.
In line with the above key
lakshanas of the raga, when we view the musical setting of ‘Tyagaraja
mahadvajaroha’ the following would become obvious:
Recognizing the primacy of the
rishabha note and as if to reinforce the same, Dikshitar repeatedly begins
every section of this composition, pallavi, anupallavi and carana only on the
The alpa dhaivatha occurs once in
the composition at ‘pAda darshanam’ in the carana.
composition spans all the 3 octaves from mandhara pancama to the tara gandhara
musical phrases RGRS, P/r and M/N occur in profusion in the composition apart
from the singleton PDNP.
Dhaivatha in Sriraga and the its
unique usage in this composition:
As Subbarama Dikshitar points out, the dhaivatha note is rare or alpa and he says that on the authority of the lakshana shloka he cites in the SSP ascribing it to Venkatamakhin. It has to be pointed out here that the sloka which is cited in SSP is likely that of Venkatamakhin’s descendant Muddu Venkatamakhin, as the sloka cited in the SSP is at variance with the lakshana sloka for Sriraga found in the CDP. The sloka in the SSP, tracing to the Anubandha of the CDP refers to the alpa dhaivatha whereas the sloka for Sriraga found in the original CDP makes no reference to the dhaivatha usage in Sriraga.
Musicological history reveals to
us that Sriraga is an old and hoary raga probably as old as our music itself.
According to Venkatamakhin himself in his CDP:
Meaning: Sriraga is
sampurnam/complete with gandhara and dhaivatha being dropped and is to be sung
in the evening and which confers all fortunes.
While in Venkatamakhin’s scheme, Sriraga
corresponds to the 22nd combination, it was King Shahaji who in his
work “Ragalakshanamu’ (AD 1720) anointed Sriraga as one of the 19 melakartas
and indicates for the first time in the musical history of the sparse
occurrence of dhaivatha in the raga. The same is echoed subsequently by both
Tulaja in his Saramrutha (1736 AD) and by Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD)
in his raga compendium titled ‘Ragalakshanam’ of the so called Anubandha to the
Thus, in short it can be surmised
that in so far as the music of Tanjore is concerned, the dhaivatha note made
its foray into the raga only circa 1700 AD, with the convention that it should
be alpa/sparse in its usage, appearing only once in a composition. Subbarama
Dikshitar too in his SSP provides an older (prior to AD1700 possibly) Raganga
Lakshya Gita (with the refrain ‘Sri Rukmini kalyana karana’) for Sriraga
without the dhaivatha prayoga. The feature
of ragas sporting alpa prayogas is an architectural construct of 17th
Century music, completely lost today in modern day musicology which by its
arohana/avarohana obsessed approach is devoid of mechanisms to capture such
quaint features of raga lakshana. (See Foot Note 1)
In so far as the dhaivatha usage
amongst the 5 compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar listed above, the following
observations can be made.
Sri Muladhara chakra – Dhaivatha does not at all occur in the composition.
Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha – occurs once at ‘pAda darshanam’ as PDNPMRGR.
Sri Varalakshmi – occurs once at ‘keshava hrutkelinyai’ as PDNP.
Sri Kamalambike – occurs once at ‘Srikari sukahari’ as PDNP.
Sri Vishvanatham – occurs once at ‘dharanAntahkaranam’ as PDNP
It has to be thus noted that:
occurrence of the dhaivatha note is just once in the entire composition and
is through the usage, not as a standalone note but as a musical phrase PDNP and
Thus, one can state that ‘Sri
Muladhara Chakra’ was composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar in the older/archaic
Sriraga, bereft of the dhaivatha note and the others were composed in the
later/contemporaneous version of the raga, strictly adhering to the singleton
And from a rendition perspective
possibly in line with the edict of the purvacharyas as alluded to Subbarama
Dikshitar, the dhaivatha laden phrase PDNP should be dealt with in any
expositional segment alapana, tanam, kriti, neraval or svaraprastara by any
performer, by using the dhaivatha note only once.
In so far as this composition
‘Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha’ goes the dhaivatha note occurs via the phrase PDNP
only once in the lyrical portion ‘pAda darsanam’ right at the very end
of the composition. In other words:
has been used by Muthusvami Dikshitar to signify the eka pada darsanam i.e the
once a year occurrence of the pada (right pada in this case) of Lord Tyagaraja.
The same is signified beautifully
through svarakshara usage with the words ‘pAda darsanam’ set to the musical
cadence P D dnp thus rhyming with the lyric as well.
The lyric ‘pAda darsanam’
quaintly occurs at the very end of the charana (equivalent of pAda) segment of
the composition just ahead of the grand finale being the madhyama kala sahitya
Thus, the way the dhaivatha note
and the phrase PDNP along with the festive event namely the ‘eka pAda darsanam’
has been conjoined lyrically and musically by Dikshitar elegantly while
architecting the composition is an ornamentation or a marvel to be enjoyed, as
one beholds it while hearing or singing.
The kriti ‘Tyagaraja
Mahadvajaroha’ is rarely heard on modern concert platforms and therefore there
are just a handful of renderings most possibly being learnt from notation
directly from the SSP. And amongst those there are two rendering styles, on
being in a slow and sedate pace while the other being in a tad faster yet
Presented first is the rendering of the same by Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Seetha Rajan and her disciples in the tad faster kAlapramAnm/speed of rendering.
It is my considered view, based on the notation in the SSP, the way the second kalam phrases are constructed, given the sparser kampita gamaka notes and profuse straighter notes and the pace set by the madhyama kala sahitya the composition has to be rendered in a faster kAlapramanam /tempo. It must be remembered that the 2nd kalam phrases must be rendered with felicity on the veena and that would be the benchmark optimal tempo that would be appropriate for the composition. And off course the rendering has to be taut so that one doesn’t get breathless while rendering the madhyama kala sahitya portion.
Presented next is a slower &
sedate edition of the composition together with a narrative by Vidushi Gayathri
With great respect it has to be mentioned that this pace of rendering/ kAlapramAnam appears dragged and not sitting well with the composition. If rendered slowly, given the preponderance of straight notes, one has to depart from the given notation in the SSP by rendering quite a few of the said notes/phrases with a prolonged kampita gamaka in order to keep the rendering on an even keel.
The composition needs to be rendered in what Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli would call as the madhyama-kAlapramAnam, in contrast to the slower vilamba kAlam or the still faster dhruta kala, the basal speed of rendering of a composition. The innate kAlapramAnam native to a raga or a composition is an aspect which has to be considered in the case.
The above 30 min summary ( in Tamil or Tanglish) of the aspect of kAlapramAnam of a raga or of a composition and how one needs to be aware, is a compulsory must hear and I would greatly commend the same for hearing.
Sriraga like Atana is innately suitable for madhyamakala rendering and further given the construct of the composition and the reasons I have provided hereinabove, the tad faster rendering is the most optimal and appropriate for this composition.
I conclude this blog post with
the rendering of a delectable tanam in Sri raga by the renowned Vaineeka Mysore
Doraiswamy Iyengar in this YouTube audio recording starting at 44:40.
Attention is invited as to how he
starts the Sri raga tanam on the prolonged rishabha note. He renders the tanam in
the known sequence of Natta, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali, Sri the so called ghana
raga pancakam followed by Kedaram as well, which is part of the dviteeya ghana
It is hoped that performers and students of music would stay cognizant of the subtle nuances of ragas and of our musical traditions such as beginning a raga unambiguously on its jiva svara( for example by intoning the rishabha in Sriraga) or by using the dhaivatha note therein only once in deference to sampradaya, even while reserving their spirit of innovation and discovery within the four corners of established tradition.
Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini
(Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy
(1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 445-456 of the 2006 Edition of Vol II
and Pages 1203-1208 of the 2006 Edition of Vol V. The English version of the original
Telugu edition is available online here: Link
Sangraha –Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1326-1341
The Tyagaraja Cult in Tamil Nadu-
Dr Rajeshwari Ghose (1996)- Published by Motilal Banarasidass Publishers P Ltd
-ISBN-10: 81-208-1391-x or ISBN-13: 978-8120813915
ALPA PRAYOGAS OR RARE USAGE
‘alpa’ dhaivatha usage of Sriraga is reminiscent of the ‘alpa’ rishabha usage
in the raga Hindolavasanta, which we saw in an earlier blog post.
The feature was also highlighted in the case of raga Yamuna Kalyani were the
suddha madhyama (M1) note is fleetingly used via the Gm1RS prayoga as seen in
Dikshitar’s ‘Jambupate Mampahi’ which again was dealt with in an earlier blog
prayogas were probably a performance technique, which probably made its way to
the grammar of the raga and which was devised or intended to produce a
proverbial ‘Aha’ moment to a listener during the course of a
performance. A discerning listener, who being aurally satiated by the raga
svarupa with the conventional or regular notes and prayogas of the raga, during
the performance suddenly encounters the supposedly rare foreign note, rendered by
way of an alpa prayoga, providing a sensory jolt. While we see the tradition
sanctified alpa prayoga usage in the exemplars – Sriraga, Hindolavasanta and
Yamuna Kalyani, from a modern perspective as we see in practice, the raga Atana
is a case in point.
Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi as a prelude to Tyagaraja’s ‘Ela Nee daya’ first embarks on a raga vinyasa of the raga Atana parking herself firmly within the traditional bounds of the raga, from 0.29 to 2.33. Mark how pithily without repetition she paints the picture of the raga and rightly concludes it at the tara sadja, as this raga best blossoms forth in the upper reaches of the octave. From 2.34 – 4.14 of the clipping, Sangita Kalanidhi M S Gopalakrishnan(?), her accompanist on the concert embarks on his vinyasa. And at 3.49 he injects the tAra antara gandhara, explicitly for that fleeting moment to produce that contrast in a raga which sports a more oscillated sadharana gandhara, despite being categorized under Melas 28 or 29. It has to be mentioned that the raga and its lakshana is yet another worthy subject matter for a serious blog post.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & SAFE HARBOUR STATEMENT:
The renderings provided through YouTube links as exemplars are the exclusive intellectual property of the artistes concerned. The same has been utilized here strictly on a non-commercial basis, under fair use for study & research, fully acknowledging their rights and that no part of it may be copied, reproduced or otherwise dealt without the consent or permission of the artistes concerned or the IP holders thereof.
This raga Rudrapriya as listed in
the Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) which we take up in this
blog post along with the compositions available to us, would confound any
student or practitioner of music when viewed against the available
musicological texts and musicological history. The objective of this blog post
is to evaluate the material available to us and seek a plausible explanation
for the confusing or contradictory aspects. This raga belonging to the mela
varga or the clan of ragas under Mela 22 Sriraga, is a raga of late 18th
century vintage (post 1750 AD), as it is not seen in the prior musicological
texts, such as those of Shahaji or Tulaja.
Overview of Rudrapriya:
In the modern musical parlance, the raga
Rudrapriya is an upanga janya under Mela 22 Sriraga, taking all the 7 notes in
the arohana lineally while dropping the dhaivata note in the avarohana.
Arohana krama/murcchana: S R2
G2 M1 P D2 N2 S
Avarohana krama/murcchana: S N2 P M1 G2 R2 S
Simple as the definition may sound, yet the
raga plays hosts to a number of unique features beyond what is conveyed by the
above skeletal definition, which is also the source of confusion for us. We
will start the exercise of dissecting the raga, from the commentary provided by
Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP and the exemplar compositions provided
The SSP’s take on Rudrapriya:
According to Subbarama Dikshitar:
raga is bhashanga
sampurna with dhaivatha being varjya in the avarohana
is the graha svara of the raga
a desya raga
raga can be sung at all times
is a key note of the raga, identified by the dheergha note in the arohana krama
and the Janta combination with which it occurs in the avarohana
and gandhara are the other jiva and nyasa svaras
A brief evaluation of the above commentary
in the modern context is required for us to understand the raga and let us
taken them up seriatim.
Subbarama Dikshitar says that the raga is bhashanga, it is not so in the modern
sense. As pointed out earlier in our other blog posts, such as the one on
Gopikavasanta raga, a proper reading of the SSP as a whole would show that
Subbarama Dikshitar has presented the term “bhashanga” in its older sense, when
ragas were classified as upanga, bhashanga and kriyanga ragas on an entirely
different aspect. The perusal of the Lakshya Gitam of Sriraga, the parent raga
of the 22nd Mela varga in the SSP would show that Sriranjani,
Madhyamavati and Devamanohari are also shown as bhashanga janya ragas of the
mela (22), which we know, they are not, in the modern sense. Today we call a
raga bhashanga if it takes a note which is foreign to the parent scale. Rudrapriya
does not take any note from outside the notes of Mela 22 so is upanga in the
context of the SSP, it has to be pointed out that Rudrapriya is not mentioned
in the Sriraga lakshya gitam either as a upanga or a bhashanga janya
thereunder. Suffice to state that the
raga must have been inducted into the Anubandha listing (to the Catur Dandi
Prakashika probably authored by Muddu Venkatamakhin) much later in time.
as a foot note at the very end of the last composition provided as the
exemplar, Subbarama Dikshitar makes a mention that the prayoga M1G2M1
in certain places is rendered as M1G3M1 which is called as
Hindustani Kapi. Without wading into this controversial point at this juncture
as to the usage of G3/antara gandhara alluded to by Subbarama Dikshitar and
confining ourselves to Rudrapriya alone, we can safely conclude the following
none of the exemplar compositions that Subbarama Dikshitar cites in the SSP,
does MG3M occur or is so notated.
usage of G3 may have been seen by Subbarama Dikshitar during his times but was
not an intrinsic part of the sastraic definition of Rudrapriya.
for us today therefore is a upanga janya under Mela 22 taking no foreign notes.
Subbarama Dikshitar says that the raga is sampurna. What it meant in the older
context was that taking together both arohana and avarohana krama all the seven
notes occurred in the raga. And given that dhaivatha was varjya in the
avarohana, Subbarama Dikshitar rightly provides his summary so. From a
practical perspective thus the musical motif SN2P becomes
defining to mark out this raga. Further since D2 is said to be varjya, or
avoided in the avarohana, the phrase SN2D2N3P should not occur in the raga.
Dikshitar’s reference to sadja being the graha svara of the raga is superfluous
for us today, for even by the late 18th Century ragas had adopted
the sadja note only as the graha svara. The erstwhile architectural construct
of svaras other than sadja, being graha or the commencement/basal note had long
to Subbarama Dikshitar, Rudrapriya is a desya raga. The concept of desi/desya
ragas as referred to by him relates to the aspect of the origin of the raga.
Ragas were classed as Ghana, Naya and Desi right from the days of Shahaji
(circa 1700). A century before Shahaji, Venkatamakhin (circa 1620 AD) in his
trail blazing ‘Caturdandi Prakashika’ is seen using the term ‘desi raga’ and identifies
Kalyani and Pantuvarali/Ramakriya as desi. Venkatamakhin uses the term
“turuska”, meaning Turkish or a Moslem import into Indian music. Though the
practice of classifying ragas as ghana, naya and desya had gone out of vogue,
still in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar has in his commentary of the ragas called
out certain ragas as desya ragas- for example Pharaz, Nayaki etc. These so
called ‘auttara’ or foreign origin ragas probably imported into our Music from
the North were nevertheless seen as ranjaka or pleasing to the ear and hence
came to be accepted along with the other established and ordained ragas, by the
Subbarama Dikshitar’s description that Rudrapriya is a raga which can be sung
at all times of the day, relates to a concept which has long since died out in
our system of music. As we saw in prior blog posts, SSP still latches on to this
concept of ragas and the time of the day in which they are to be rendered, for
instance the raga Ahiri is supposed to be sung in the first quarter of the
night ( bhANa yAmE pragIyatE). Again, suffice to say that this concept of
singing a raga at the anointed time has long since gone out of vogue.
according to Subbarama Dikshitar, the janta nishadha is a unique feature of the
raga which is reinforced in the arohana/avarohana murchana krama that he
provides. It is janta in the arohana krama and dheergha in the avarohana krama.
apart Subbarama Dikshitar also identifies gandhara (dhirgha) and rishabha as
preferred jeeva and nyasa svaras. We can see the import of these when we
discuss the exemplar kritis in the sections to follow.
In sum, the Rudpriya of the SSP goes as
an upanga janya raga under mela 22.
It is sampurna
in the arohana and devoid of dhaivatha in the avarohana krama.
Nishadha, dirgha nishadha and gandhara are the hallmarks of this raga with
rishabha figuring as a preferred jiva and nyasa note.
Though Subbarama Dikshitar does not specify
unique motifs for the raga, nevertheless we will endeavour to identify them
when we study some of the exemplar kritis later on in this blog post.
Kritis in the SSP:
Apart from providing the lakshana of the
raga, Subbarama Dikshitar lists out the following compositions for us in the
SSP as illustrating Rudrapriya:
Kopa Jaatha Veerabadhram Ashyraye” of Muthusvami Dikshitar in rupaka tala,
composed on Lord Veerabadhra, the Lord of the Shiva Ganas and considered an
aspect of Lord Shiva Himself in the Hindu mythology.
Senapathi” of Balasvami Dikshitar in Rupaka tala, a composition in Telugu
propitiating Lord Subramanya at Kazhugumalai (or Kazhugachalam or Grudhra Giri)
wherein he seeks the Lord’s benign blessings for his Royal patron Kumara
Ettendra. It may be pointed out here that the Lord at Kazhughachalam/Kazhughumalai
was the presiding deity of the Ettayapuram Royals who were the patrons of the Dikshitars.
rasikashikamani” a daru (ode) again of Balasvami Dikshitar in Adi tala on his
Royal patron Venkatesvara Ettappa, the then Ruler of Ettayapuram.
paradevate” of Krishnasvami Ayya in matya capu tala
Unnai nambinen ayya” a composition by Venkatesvara Ettappa, again on the Lord
own sancari in matya tala.
While this is the listing from the main
SSP, in the Anubandha, Subbarama Dikshitar lists out two more compositions in
this raga attributing the same to Muthusvami Dikshitar:
first being a kriti on Lord Ganesha, “Gananayakam Bhajeham” in Adi tala. It is
the notation of this kriti and the extant versions of the same which causes
considerable confusion to a discerning listener of music, which we will deal
with in the relevant discography section.
second is “Tyagesam Bhajare” again in
Outside the ken of the SSP, from amongst
the lot of kritis which came to be published by Veenai Sundaram Iyer
purportedly from out of the palm leaf manuscripts of Ambi Dikshitar, the son of
Subbarama Dikshitar, we have three kritis attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar,
available to us:
Bhaktobhavami” (misra capu tala) as part of the set of vibakti kritis on Lord
Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur
in Rupaka tala
in Adi tala
While we take up a few key individual
compositions for analysis, we will also briefly look at the other collateral
aspects of the composition and its subject matter to bolster our understanding
and also enhance our appreciation of the raga and the composition, in unison.
Kopa Jaatha” of Muthusvami Dikshitar:
This kriti is on Lord Veerabadhra,
considered by some as a form of Lord Shiva himself, but yet the popular
mythology places the deity as having been born out of Lord Shiva’s wrath as Muthusvami
Dikshitar very neatly encapsulates it in the opening pallavi of the
composition. Let’s first look at the lyrics and the meaning of the composition.
sadA – Always,
hRdaye – in (my) heart,
AshrayE – I surrender to
vIrabadhram – Lord Virabhadra,
rudra-kOpa-jAta – He whose arose from Shiva’s
– the Consort of Bhadrakali,
bhava-haraNam – the remover of (the sorrows
of) worldly existence,
the one whose feet are adroit in granting prosperity,
one ornamented with garland strung of Rudraksha beads,
preventer of petty or cruel effects,
bhakta-bharaNam – the supporter of devotees,
vijita-vidhi-hari-hari-hayam – the one who subdued Brahma, Vishnu and
Indra (who has golden horses),
vira-adhi-vIram – the bravest of the brave,
abhayam – the fearless one,
rajata-parvata-Ashayam – the one residing in the silver hued mountain,
ravi-vidhu-tEjOmayam – the one who embodies the sun, moon
gaja-mukha-gaNEsha raksham – the protector of the elephant-faced
aja-vadana-daksha-shiksham– the one who taught a lesson to the goat-faced Daksha,
nija-rUpa-dAna-daksham – the adept at granting knowledge of
one’s real self,
nija-guruguha-svapakShststayiam – the one who has his preceptor Guruguha on
The composition encapsulates the portion of the story of Sati or Dakshayani, Daksha’s (son of Lord Brahma) daughter who married Lord Shiva, much against Daksha’s objections. When She attempted to seek the rightful share of the sacrificial offering (haavis) in the yajna that her father conducted, without duly inviting Lord Shiva, Daksha insulted her & Lord Shiva and thereupon Sati immolated herself. It was at this juncture Lord Shiva upon hearing the fate of Sati, was subsumed by anger at Daksha. And in wrath he plucked the locks of his matted hair and split them into two. From one rose Lord Veerabadhra or Aghora Veerabadhra and from the other, his consort Goddess Mahakali appeared. Lord Shiva bade them to go and destroy Daksha’s sacrifice in divine retribution for the sacrilege that he had committed. When Lord Veerabadhra leading Shiva’s bhutaganas, descended on the place where Daksha was conducting his yajna, a great war ensued between them and the Gods including Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Indra on Daksha’s side. Lord Veerabadhra defeated the Gods and exacted revenge by slaying Daksha. When Lord Shiva was thereafter duly propitiated by the Gods, he condescended and revived Daksha by fixing a goat’s head on his decapitated torso. Sati was thereafter reborn as Parvati (daughter of Himavan) and she duly reunited with Lord Shiva. The esoteric worship of Lord Veerabadhra and the related mantras propitiating him can be accessed here.
Muthusvami Dikshitar adroitly weaves this
puranic lore dealing with Lord Veerabadhra in this composition by the following
rudra kOpa jAta, – Veerabadhra
being born out of Lord Shiva’s wrath
Veerabadhra being the consort of Bhadra Kali.
Vijita-vidhi-hari-hari hayam – In the war that
took place between Veerabadhra and Daksha’s forces, Veerbadhra vanquishing Lord
Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Indra
Rajata-parvata-Ashryam – As a
Commander of Lord Shiva’s Ganas, Veerabadhra being a resident of Mount Kailasa,
referred to as a silver hued mountain
Veerabadhra by slaying Daksha for his act of sacrilege thus teaching him a
As is his wont, in the body of the composition,
Dikshitar weaves in part, the raga mudra and his colophon ‘guruguha’ in the
lyrics, even while keeping his date with prasa concordance. It has to be
mentioned that the lyrics provides no specific stala/ksetra reference as the
abode of the deity.
The notation of the composition in the SSP
would show the following for us:
SGRS (especially in tara stayi) forms the alternative progression of the raga
on the purvanga. Actually, SRG is not seen in tara stayi and almost as a rule
only SGR is seen.
uttaranga, PDNS in the madhya stayi and MPNS in the mandhara stayi, (for
example the notation of the lyric “abhayam” in the caranam) are the prayogas
seen. It has to be noted that both PDNS and PNS are thus used in the
composition with the caveat that PDNS figures in the madhya stayi and PNS in
the mandhara stayi.
foregoing would clearly show that the raga conforms to the 18th
Century raga architecture whereby different/multiple progressions in
purvanga-uttaranga are taken in the madhya and mandhara stayi.
NgrsNP and sgrsNP along with MGM are recurring motifs with rishabha being a
preferred phrase ending note.
nishadha and kampita gandhara are seen used. In fact,the NNsNPM can be anointed
as the leitmotif of the raga (the lower case sadja being the tara sadja note).
However, this specific murccana is not found explicitly in this composition,
terms of octaval traversal, the kriti stretches from mandhara madhyama to tara
always Dikshitar unveils his conception of the raga with its delectable turns
and twists, in the madhyama kala sahitya section starting “gajamukha”. The
musical notation of this segment of the composition being the finale goes thus:
Note: Notes in lower case is mandhara
stayi, upper case is madhya stayi and italics is tara stayi.
For this composition, presented is a
compact and almost close to the SSP notation, rendering of the composition by
the Rudrapatnam Brothers in this Youtube audio recording with a raga vinyasa,
kriti rendering followed by a few avarta of svaras.
However, the following points merit
attention in the context of the rendering above:
raga vinyasa could have been structured with more janta nishadhas and by ending
the musical phrases with rishabha note so as to remove any traces suggestive of
lyrical portions of the caranam being “harihayam” and “abhayam” ought to have
been rendered as per SSP with the notation as RnRGM and npmpns respectively.
Instead it is heard as SRGM and npdns. To that extent the fidelity to the
notation of the SSP is not seen in the rendering barring which the rendering otherwise
closely aligns to the SSP.
madhyama kala carana portion is brought out satisfactorily in accordance with
the SSP notation.
There are other renderings of this
composition but they do not meet the benchmark set by SSP and are at best left alone.
With this we move on the next kriti.
Before we embark on dissecting this
composition, a brief note on some aspects of this composition merit our
This composition was published as a part of the Anubandha to the SSP by Subbarama Dikshitar attributing the same to Muthusvami Dikshitar. Some scholars cite this as an infirmity, in a sense, whether the composition was indeed Dikshitar’s and why was it that Subbarama Dikshitar made it part of the Anubandha rather than making it part of the SSP itself.
Further in support of this point of view it is argued that:
The eduppu or the take-off of “Gananayakam” (½ edam of the second beat of the adi tala) and it overall rhythmic format is reminiscent of the style of Tyagaraja. This feature is not seen in any kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar and thus is stylistically alien to him.
The melody or musical setting/mettu of this composition is uncannily similar or exactly the same as that of “Sri Manini Manohara” a composition of Tyagaraja which goes with the raga name of Poornasadjam. It has to be pointed out that the Anubandha to the SSP states that raga of ‘Gananayakam” as Rudrapriya and not Poornasadjam.
Thus, we are left holding with an issue as
to the antecedents of this composition which can boiled down into the following
a composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar?
is the raga lakshana of Rudrapriya found documented for this composition in the
Anubandha to the SSP?
Rudrapriya and Poornasadjam same or similar, or are they different?
We will proceed to find a satisfactory
explanation for these vexing questions by adopting the following methodology:
the composition from a lyrical and musical perspective (both with the notation
found in the Anubandha and the extant renderings of the composition)
the composition from a musical perspective with “Rudrakopa Jaata” and ‘Sri
the take of musicologists on these questions, if any and summarize our
The notation of the composition:
The Anubandha to the SSP documents the
notation of “Gananayakam” ( catusra eka tala). The perusal would show a number
of distinctive aspects:
is completely avoided both in the arohana and avarohana
kriti itself is architected with the nominal arohana/avarohana murchanas as
S G R G M N
N S / S N P M G R S
to emphasize the core raga lakshana of Rudrapriya, Nishadha note is made the
pivot of the composition both the dheergha and the janta variety littering this
short and exquisite piece.
is invited to stark contrast between the musical texture of “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”
and “Gananayakam” especially the dropping of the dhaivatha note in both arohana
& avarohana and pancama in the ascent.
When we examine the available recordings of
this composition, we have two main varieties of rendering:
1 -Rendering strictly based on the Anubandha notation eschewing dhaivatha
completely in both the arohana and avrohana while pancama in avoided in the
2- Rendering of the composition by normalizing the phrases to incorporate PDNS
wherever MNNS occurs, throughout the composition. This would make the raga
lakshana of the composition to accord with the version laid out in the main SSP
of which ‘Rudrakopa Jaatha” is the exemplar.
In this I present the mellifluous vocalist Sangita
Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari rendering the composition fully in accordance
with the Anubandha to the SSP notation. Attention is invited to the musical
notes of the lyrics “dayakam” in the anupallavi, “viradham” in the carana and
the svara kalpana sally on the pallavi wherein the MNNS (not PDNS) figures as
the building block for her. Both “dayakam” and “viradham” are notated as MNNS
in the anubandha to the SSP and she sings the same in strict accordance with
Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman of the Ambi
Dikshitar sishya parampara sings in accordance with the notation found in the
If we surmise that this was the Ambi
Dikshitar version was this how it was taught?
I present the rendering of the legendary
Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M S Subbulakshmi who begins one of her innumerable
concerts with ‘Gananayakam Bhajeham”. Attention is invited to the musical notes
of the lyrics “dayakam” in the anupallavi, “viradham” in the carana and the
svara kalpana sally on the pallavi wherein the PDNS figures as the building
block for her. Both “dayakam” and “viradham” are notated as MNNS in the Anubandha
to the SSP and NOT as PDNS as she sings.
I next present a detailed exposition by
Sangita Kalacharya Dr S Rajam who too traced his patham to Ambi Dikshitar.
Attention is invited to the introduction he
provides to the raga before commencing his recital. Again, if he too had learnt
it from Ambi Dikshitar, why is the version of the composition is different as
between him and Sri D K Jayaraman? Food for thought, one should say.
Dichotomy in the Raga Lakshana:
The discography above as evidenced by the
two versions poses us with the further question whether the raga of Gananayakam
is Rudrapriya, as exemplified by “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”. The raga seen in ‘Gananayakam’,
being totally devoid of dhaivatha and eschewing panchama in the ascent, cannot
be melodically equated to the Rudrapriya of “Rudra Kopa jaatha”. Yet Subbarama
Dikshitar in his wisdom calls the raga of both the compositions as Rudrapriya.
It is in this context that the raga
lakshana found in ‘Gananayakam” came to be found as being exactly like the one
in Tyagaraja’s “Sri Manini” and similar to the famous ‘Lavanya Rama” which are
labelled in all musical texts as being in the raga by name Poornasadjam.
Without wading into the two Tyagaraja kritis, lest we deviate away from the
subject matter Dikshitar kritis on hand, I refer the reader to the rendering of
the two compositions by the late Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan, available in the public
Which now leaves us with the question as to
the difference between Rudrapriya and Poornasadjam.
two ragas can be compared with the available musicological records as
is found mentioned only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshanam and in
Subbarama Dikshitar’s SSP. No other prior musicological text talks about this
is found documented only in Sangraha Cudamani and the later Ragalakshanamu.
As reiterated in these blog posts the Sangraha Cudamani (SC) is found to be documenting
the ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja.
of the raga
22 – Sri Raga or the
equivalent heptatonic mela Karaharapriya
20 – Natabhairavi or
Narabhairavi, as SC calls the Mela, the raga is seen documented in SC.
S R G M P
D N S
S N P M G
S P M P D
P S and
S N D M G
varjya or vakra
omitted in the descent
and Ni omitted in ascent and Pa being omitted in the descent. The sloka in
the SC as well as the Ragalakshanamu are individually as well as mutually,
noticed to be inconsistent
Compositions we hear today
Kopa Jaatha” of Muthuswami Dikshitar and “Amba Paradevate” by Krishnaswami
composition exists in this scale
The very perusal of the authoritative
musicological texts would show that the ragas going by the names of Rudrapriya (found
only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s raga compendium and the SSP) and Poornasadjam (found
only in the Sangraha Cudamani and its related text called Ragalakshanamu) are
so dissimilar originating in different melas and having different scales. And
further there is no raga similar to Rudrapriya (of SSP) documented in the
Sangraha Cudamani. The facts as above would lead us to only one conclusion:
raga of “Sri Manini Manohara” is not Poornasadjam as the notes found in the
composition belong to the 22 Mela, given that Purnasadjam is a janya of the 20th
mela, on the authority of the Sangraha Cudamani.
assignment of the name Poornasadjam as the raga of “Sri Manini” is most
possibly a misattribution, borne out of ignorance of musicological history, a
phenomenon we have seen repeatedly in the case of a number of instances as
documented in these blog posts, by which some name has been randomly been
assigned to the raga.
the raga of “Sri Manini Manohara” is therefore not Poornasadjam as defined by
The above table for the raga that we today call
as Poornasadjam will be thus:
raga that we today call as Poornasadjam
textual or musicological authority exists for the raga. Only Post 1906 AD
publications talk about this raga.
of the raga
S R G M N
(N) S /S N P M G R S
varjya or vakra
completely omitted in the raga and pancama is omitted in the ascent
Compositions we hear today
Manini Manohara” and “Lavanya Rama”
the raga of certain oral versions of “Gananayakam” (as we saw by Dr M S
Subbulakshmi) and the notation that is given in the Anubandha to the SSP
conform to this scale, we still call the raga of “Gananayakam” as Rudrapriya
only and NOT as Poornasadjam.
Therefore, the question that survives for
our consideration is given the similarity of the tonal material of “Sri Manini”
with “Gananayakam” and on the authority of the Anubandha to the SSP, can the
raga of “Sri Manini” also be Rudrapriya?
Amba Paradevate of Krishnasvami Ayya:
But before we embark to find the answer to
this question, we should look at the other compositions, renderings of which
are available for us. In the same breath we have to note that the other
compositions in the SSP, being the two compositions of Balasvami Dikshitar, the
kriti of Venkatsvara Ettappa and the sancari are aligned to the Rudrapriya
described by Subbarama Dikshitar and delineated in “Rudra Kopa Jaata”. All
these compositions go with the SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS as the common murccana arohana/avarohana,
whereas “Gananayakam” goes with the melodic structure of SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS in
Leaving this at this point, we take up the
exposition of Rudrapriya by the renowned Sangita Kalanidhi Flute T Visvanathan
who prefaces his demonstration of Krishnasvami Ayya’s “Amba Paradevate” with
his commentary of the raga and its lakshana.
Here is the audio of the rendering: Link (requires Yahoo or Gmail sign in credentials)
is a live video of his rendering (excerpt) of the same: Link
It has to be said that though the doyen’s
presentation of the composition is par excellent, it is tinted much with Karaharapriya,
with no distinguishing features in place. The rendering may be immaculate from
a scalar grammar perspective duly avoiding the dhaivatha in the descent but
does it convey the melodic idea of Rudrapriya as a scale distinctive in itself?
I leave the answer to a discerning listener to decide for himself. One can
however say with certainty that the musical texture and conception of
Rudrapriya as seen in “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” is nowhere seen in ‘Amba Paradevate”
atleast from this popular rendering of the composition.
And to conclude our exploration of
Rudrapriya we move over to the final piece of this discography section.
“Sri Tyagarajasya Bakthobhavami” of
We move on next to this composition which
is not found in the SSP. This composition is identified by certain
musicologists as being part of a set of compositions being the Vibakti
set/series of kritis on Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur. While in the SSP,
Subbarama Dikshitar clearly identifies such sets of compositions (example the
Vaara kritis and the Navavarana Kritis on Goddess Kamalamba) by way of his foot
notes, no such reference is made by him in so far as this set of compositions
go. Be that as it may I first take up the rendering of the composition by Vidushi
The evaluation of this rendering assuming
it is as per the published notation of this composition would yield us the
Vidushi embarks first on an alapana embellishing it liberally with PDNP and
phrases ending with rishabha. Every time she fleshes out a musical phrase, she
keeps the DNP or SNP as a refrain so as to keep any trace of Karaharapriya at
same time quite controversially, she repeatedly uses PDNPGR in the madhya stayi
descent phrases, while it ought to be PDNPMGR. These madhyama varjya
sancaras bring a different texture to the raga (tinting it with the feel of
Rathipatipriya – Mela 22- SRGPNS/SNPGRS). The madhyama has a solid pride of place
in the raga Rudrapriay both in the ascent and descent and hence while a casual
or one-off rendering of madhyama varjya phrases could be artistically
supported, repeatedly or only using the phrase PDNPGR almost as a rule is
certainly unwarranted. Similar is her usage of the MGS in the tara sancaras which
conveys a very different feel to the raga.
her rendering of the composition too seems to carrying these phrases as well
lending a different feel to the raga, in contradistinction to the one
delineated in the SSP and ‘Rudra Kopa Jaatha”.
perusal of the notation of the composition as published by Veeni Sundaram Iyer
reveals a few puzzling aspects. In more than one place the phrase PMNDN and DND
figure prominently. Further phrases such SNDS, PNDNS too occur. Grammatically
speaking these phrases do not conform to the laid down lakshana and if the
composition is so notated with these non-kosher phrases not seen in the SSP, it
certainly needs further explanation and authority. And it would be yet another
flavour or variant of the Rudrapriya apart from the versions found in “Rudra
Kopa Jaatha” and “Gananayakam”
Thus, neither does the musical setting of
the composition strictly conform to the lakshana of the raga as found in “Rudra
kopa jaatha” or SSP nor does it sound stylistically aligned to how Dikshitar
would set the melody of the composition. It must have been perhaps for this
reason that Subbarama Dikshitar in his wisdom decided to keep the composition
out of the SSP (assuming that he had the lyrics with him). Given this problem I
keep this composition out from further discussion in this blog post.
It must be pointed out that from a lyrical content
perspective the kriti is replete with references to the hoary traditions and mythologies
surrounding the Tyagaraja Temple. To conclude this section, it is observed that
this kriti too does not take us any further in resolving the dichotomy that we
see in the raga’s lakshana.
The foregoing thus shows that:
kriti “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” is the benchmark or standard or exemplar which
conforms to the laid down lakshana of Rudrapriya and evidenced by Subbarama
Dikshitar’s commentary of the same in the SSP.
raga as conceptualized by Muthusvami Dikshitar in the said composition is
unique like Reetigaula ( different prayogas in the different registers) by
sporting PNS and not PDNS in the mandhara stayi (and) PDNS and not PNS in
madhya stayi and again sporting SRGM in madhya stayi while its equivalent tara
stayi prayoga being SGRS, reinforcing the 19th Century raga
architecture tenet that multiple progressions for a raga are permissible in its
purvanga and or uttaranga and/or in the mandhara/madhya/tara registers/octaves.
mettu of ‘Gananayakam” and ‘Sri Manini” being the same/similar, the raga of the
composition is certainly not Poornasadjam (as defined under Sangraha Cudamani)
the scale SGRGMNNS/SNPMGRS found in these two kritis should probably be treated
as a form/variant or a truncated version of Rudrapriya.
One could possibly reconcile
the foregoing and conclude that this variant of Rudrapriya (SGMNNS/SNPMGRS as seen
in “Sri Manini Manohara”/”Gananayakam”) was perhaps an offshoot of the original
Rudrapriya whereby primacy was given to janta nishadha by dropping dhaivatha
altogether. Hence the Rudrapriya found in “Gananayakam”/”Sri Manini” represents
yet another interpretation of the raga. Harmonically speaking it can be
reasoned that only when dhaivatha is absent will dheergatva and janta prayoga
on the nishadha note make musical sense.
Compositions in Rudrapriya by other
Leaving aside the case of the kritis “Lavanya Rama” or ‘Sri Manini Manohara” of Tyagaraja which are obviously not in the same musical mould as the Rudrapriya found in “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”, there are no other available compositions in the raga. The only known composition from the post Trinity composers in this Rudrapriya, seems to be the kriti “Nee Dasudani” of Veena Varadayya (AD1877-1952). A recording of the same is available on the web –Link.
Is the composition “Gananayakam” really
Muthusvami Dikshitar’s, given the points as to the stylistic aspects which has
been raised? In this regard we should take notice of the following factors:
Anubandha to the SSP also documents a few other compositions of Muthusvami
Dikshitar including the famous Caturdasa Ragamalika. On the strength of
Subbarama Dikshitar’s assertion we have to go with this attribution. Further
along with “Gananayakam”, Subbarama Dikshitar also provides ‘Ananta
Balakrishnam” in Isamanohari, ascribing it to Muthusvami Dikshitar. And again,
he provides ‘Ananta Balakrishnam’ in the Prathamabyasa Pustakamu as well.
Considerable thought must have gone into his decision to make these kritis part
of the SSP Compendium attributing authorship to Muthusvami Dikshitar and
therefore it would be in the fitness of things to acknowledge his call at face
value and accept that the kriti is indeed of Muthusvami Dikshitar despite the
stylistic reservations as aforesaid.
respected music critic of the last century Sri K V Ramachandran in his erudite
Music Academy lecture demonstration, published in the Journal titled “Apurva
Ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” (The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109,
Madras) has this to say:
the two composers (Tyagaraja and Dikshitar) have composed several songs with
the same dhatu as though in friendly rivalry: –
Sri Venugopala and sri Rama in Kurinji, Kamakshi Mampahi and Sri Rama
padama (Suddha Desi), Syamale Meenakshi and Pahi Ramachandra (
Sankarabharanam), Gananayakam and Sri Manini (Rudrapriya), Gatamoha and
Gurumurte ( Sankarabharanam),Ananta Balakrishnam and Dinamani vamsa (
Isamanohari); and Eramuni of Tyagaraja resembles a Dikshitar song in
Vasantabhairavi. If a diligent search is made, we could find many other songs
with the same musical idea…………..”
And rightly so in olden days,
composers used to conjure lyrics for a popular captivating tune and that was
never frowned upon as plagiarism. It may be pointed out that the famous
Svarajati of Melattur Virabhadrayya in Huseini spawned many a copy. As it is
said imitation is the best form of flattery. In this instant case of
“Gananayakam” and “Sri Manini”, who imitated whom, will never be known. Yet
here are these compositions for us to hear, learn and relish with the full
knowledge of all these contradictions and confusions. With passage of time,
none of this will ever be resolved.
In so far as the question of what is
Rudrapriya and what is Poornsadjam, the following points merit our attention.
The Music Academy Experts Committee in the year 1955 (JMA Volume 27 1956 pp 27-28) took up the detailed discussion on the raga Rudrapriya. After discussing the lakshana laid down in the SSP and the musical setting of “Lavanya Rama” and the identical progression of the raga in “Gananayakam” the Committee reiterated the position that we see today: Rudrapriya is SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS under Mela 22 and the other being Purnsadjam with SRGMNS/SNPMGRS under mela 22 as well.
Unfortunately, the Committee never went into issue of the textual authority supporting the parent mela of raga Purnasadjam as Mela 20 nor did they get into the other aspects of Rudrapriya such as the janta/dheergha nishadha and the usage of MPNS, PDNS and SGR as some motifs as found in ‘Rudra Kopa”. Nobody seems to have even come forward to sing “Rudra Kopa”. Further the kriti “Sri Manini” and its melodic closeness with “Gananayakam” is not even mentioned in the said discussion. It can be noted from the discussion, that the divergence between the stated SSP lakshana and the melodic progression in “Gananayakam” seem to have troubled the veteran Sangita Kalanidhi Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, who has ventured to explain it away by suggesting that with passage of time the raga’s structure might have changed.
The Music Academy Experts Committee again in the year 2009 (JMA Volume 80 2009 pp 103-114) discussed the raga Rudrapriya along with its allied ragas without any definitive conclusion as to its individual lakshana. According Dr N Ramanathan, who has summarized the said discussion as an article in the JMA:
The original musical setting of the kriti “Gananayakam” must have been lost and therefore the composition possibly must have come to be rendered in the tune of “Sri Manini”. Subbarama Dikshitar wary of this therefore relegated it to Part B of the Anubandha and not presenting it in the main SSP.
The phrase ‘MPNS’ seen in “Rudrakopa Jaatha” is reminiscent of Hindustani Kapi but there the nishadha is kakali. The phrases RMP too occurs in profusion along with NPMGR and NPGR in “Rudrakopa” and “Sri Tyagarajasaya”
K V Srinivasa Iyengar mentions the raga of “Sri Manini” as Purnasadja and “Lavanya Rama” as Rudrapriya. In the absence of a reliable notation of these two Tyagaraja compositions it is difficult to determine what the melodic forms of these compositions.
It is respectfully noted that this discussion of the Committee of Experts of the Music Academy in 2009 seems to have taken no notice of the earlier discussion made in the year 1955, cited above. The 2009 discussion too seems to have completely ignored the fact that the raga Purnasadja as documented by Sangraha Cudamani belonged to Mela 20. Further the analysis of the raga has been done mainly with reference to Hindustani Kapi and the sibling ragas Kanada, Durbar and Karnataka Kapi, without getting in depth into the raga Rudrapriya’s contours on a standalone basis.
For us, the raga name ascribed to “Lavanya Rama” as Rudrapriya by Sri K V Srinivasa Iyengar adds yet another twist to the tale, making us doubt whether the raga of that composition too has been normalized by dropping dhaivatha completely and aligning it to the nominal structure of SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS. Could it have been that “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” and “Lavanya Rama” were in one bucket while “Gananayakam” and “Sri Manini” were in another? One would never know.
Be that as it may, right or wrong, one silver lining in this entire controversy is the final conclusion drawn by the 1955 Music Academy Experts Committee Meeting supra, which for us today resolves the naming convention of the raga found in the compositions so that students of music of today aren’t confused as to the raga and it name in the context of these compositions. Thus, if the scale used is SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS then it is Rudrapriya and if it is SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS it is Poornasadja, both under Mela 22, notwithstanding the assignment of the raga name as Rudrapriya to “Gananayakam” in the Anubandha to the SSP. Despite this, today we still see Dikshitar’s compositions being called only as Rudrapriya and the Tyagaraja compositions being called as Poornsadjam.
In this blog post I have consciously
avoided discussing the raga Rudrapriya in the context of its allied ragas as
well as its melodic affinity if any to the Northern Kafi. Instead I have
focussed only on the determination or examination of Rudrapriya’s core musical
form as available to us through the SSP.
At this juncture it must be reiterated that
any work of art must always be represented with utmost fidelity to the intent
of the composer, of which we have cognizance based on appropriate facts and
circumstances. In the instant case on hand one therefore ought to conclude
kriti “Gananayakam” ought to be sung as notated in the Anubandha to the
SSP (vide the rendering of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari) and should
not be normalized to the nominal arohana/avarohana krama given in the main SSP.
There is no need to apply our judgement in this matter in the light of the
proper notation as provided by Subbarama Dikshitar for “Gananayakam” in the
the kriti “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” ought to be sung duly emphasizing the MPNS &
avoiding PDNS in the mandhara stayi and by using only PDNS in the madhya stayi
and SGRS in the tara stayi. Again, there is no need to normalize the prayogas by
replacing the MPNS with the PDNS and rendering the same, based on our defective
belief that ragas must have octaval symmetry or that it can be only of one
Thus, in sum, compositions ought to be
rendered with complete adherence to the composer’s intent as found in the
composition and any transgression from the same ought to be eschewed
completely. Similarly attempting to morph raga lakshanas by standardizing the
svaras/combinations is a pernicious tendency which we must get rid of. Under
the garb of normalization, we have mauled or mutilated the compositions of the
Trinity, which we have repeatedly been seeing this these blog posts. We must
accept and acknowledge that two or more variants of a raga can be there
(musical isomerism) and no harm will be caused by rendering the kriti properly
in accordance with the raga lakshana found therein.
It is sincerely hoped that students as well
as professional performers of our music would respect these aspects as to
lakshya, lakshana and the adherence or fidelity to the laid down lakshana in
the composition are kept in mind, to the best of ability, while learning and rendering
compositions of the great vaggeyakaras.
Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy (1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 556-567 of the 2006 Edition of Vol III and Pages 1359-1361 of the 2006 Edition of Vol V and the English version available online here: Link
Ragalakshana Sangraha – PhD Dissertation of Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1084 and 1158
Dr V Premalatha – Note on Ghana Naya Desya Ragas – Link
Journal of the Music Academy Madras (2009) – JMA Volume 80 – Editor Pappu Venugopala Rao – pp 103-114
Journal of the Music Academy Madras (1956) -JMA Volume 27 – Editor T V Subba Rao & Dr V Raghavan- pp 27-28
Journal of the Music Academy Madras (1950) -JMA Volume 21– Editor T V Subba Rao & Dr V Raghavan- pp 107-109
The proof of the pudding always lies in eating it. And with that note & on this Vijayadasami Day I present my amateur interpretation of Dikshitar’s “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” duly prefaced with a brief raga vinyasa just to highlight that indeed a very professional and thoroughly delectable presentation of the raga is in the realm of possibility.
I learnt this SSP interpretation from the revered Prof C S Seshadri, a guru of sorts for me. However, all errors and omissions in this rendering are entirely mine and I have also further improvised the version I learnt from him. As can be noticed, in the rendering, my first sangati for a line of lyric will always be completely aligned to the SSP while the second/additional sangatis if any thereafter shall be fully in consonance with the laid down lakshana seen in the composition.
The raga Kāmbhoji needs no introduction to a discerning listener of our music. In it, is a composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar, which is the subject matter of this brief post, which is the first one in this new composition appreciation series of short blogposts. Personally, I consider this as one of the serious and contemplative pieces ever composed in our music and particularly by Dikshitar. Considerable thought ought to have gone into this composition as it is truly a magnum opus of epic proportions set in khanda ata tala, 14 aksharas, with a full suite of pallavi, anupallavi and carana and the last two sections invested with a madhyama kala portion, the sahitya rich in lyrics, sthala/ksetra references and needless to add, infused with Kambhoji as its life and blood.
The Kriti – A Background
During his stay at Tiruvarur, sometime CE 1820 , the itinerant he was, Dikshitar visited the nearby village of Kuzhikkarai perhaps on the occasion of the consecration of the Shiva temple there, whose patron was one Vaidyalinga Mudaliar. The temple being analogous to the one at Kasi, has Lord Kasi Visvanatha as its presiding deity. Musical history tells us that during his sojourn there, Dikshitar composed quite a few kritis including this Kambhoji masterpiece. ‘śrī viśvanātham’, the caturdasha ragamalika, ‘annapūrṇe viśālākṣi’ in sama, ‘viśvanāthena samrakṣitoham in samanta are the other ones which are recorded in history as having been composed by Dikshitar in this ksetra. Near the temple precincts in a water body/tank /kuLaM (in tamizh). The legend associated with the temple has it that by bathing in it, a person afflicted by leprosy would be cured of the same (“kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho”) and that, propitiating the Lord in this kshetra would give one, benefits greater than what can be got by being to kashi itself (“kāśī-kśetra-sadṛśa-adhika-phalada-garta-tīra-vāsa”).
The kriti in its sahitya sports all these references directly or indirectly as under:
भवरोगहर-चतुर-वैद्यलिङ्ग-विभो (bhava-roga-hara-catura vaidya-linga-vibho) – reference indirectly to Vaidyalinga Mudaliar
गर्ततीर-वास भक्तविश्वास ( gartatīra-vāsa bhaktaviśvāsa) & कुष्ठ रोगापह-गर्ततीर्थ-शम्भो (kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho) – Reference to the sacred water tank ‘gartatIra’ and its medicinal property to ward off leprosy (kushta roga)
And as is Dikshitar’s wont, the raga mudra and his colophon are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the composition as under:
भद्रदायक-अम्भोजकर-विभो – meaning “O the one whose lotus hands grant benign fortune and happiness!”
शिवगुरु-गुहजनक-पशुपते – meaning “O the auspicious one, the progenitor of Guruguha and master of all creatures!”
The complete lyrics and the meaning of this composition in Sanskrit can be found here:
Kambhoji Quartet – The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP’s) take:
Subbarama Diksitar’s treatise documents the following compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar in the raga Kambhoji:
Shri Subramanyaya Namaste – Rupaka
Shri Valmikalingam – Ata
Kamalambikayai Kanakamshukayai – Ata
Kashi Vishvesvara -Ata
Each one of the above ‘Kambhoji Quartet’ is a musical marvel, presenting the raga Kambhoji in its seemingly infinite variations and facets and rivalling only each other in their beauty of the melodic construction and intricacy of architecture. But before one looks at the construct of the composition, it has to be first heard. Sadly, the composition “kAsi visvesvara” is never heard on the concert circuit and gives one the impression whether it is even being taught and learnt, leave alone being sung! While the performers, from amongst the above listing of compositions of Dikshitar, take to the ubiquitous ‘Sri Subramanyaya Namaste’, the three others have never been known to be taken up for rendering or serious elaboration. And sadly, keeping the above Kambhoji Quartet aside, performers have taken recourse to the other kritis, (mis)attributed to Muthuswami Dikshitar, such as “Marakatavallim” or “Kailasanathena” which are not only of doubtful antecedents but also not at all comparable or in the same league as the aforesaid Quartet of compositions.
Be that as it may, before we look at the lyrical and musical construct of the composition, the available renderings must be first heard.
It is known with certainty that this composition formed part of the repertoire of the late Sangita Kalanidhi D K Pattamal who used to wonder at it saying that singing this composition was nothing short of performing a yagna. Unfortunately, we do not have any recordings of her rendering of this piece. In all probability she must have learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, the repository of Dikshitar compositions, from whom she learnt many Dikshitar compositions.
Presented first in this section is the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer who too learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, which we fortunately have.
Presented next is a rendering of the same by the revered Prof S R Janakiraman, who has rendered it in his own inimitable style.
It has to be pointed out here that the above two are the only available rendering of the composition in the public domain and perhaps luckily become a high-fidelity or pristine version/gold copy of the composition, unsullied by likely extensions or interpolations. A discerning listener ought to immerse himself/herself in the rendering, with the SSP notation by the side to soak up the musical and lyrical essence of the composition.
Musical & Lyrical Construct of the Composition:
From a musical perspective the following points stand out:
The musical phrase ‘DP DM MG MR GR GS’ is the recurring leitmotif which occurs in this composition. The notation for the anupallavi & charana lyrical portions ‘bhakta viś v ā sa’, ‘vaidyalingavibho’, ‘gartatīrtha śambho’ and ‘cinmātra’ would show that they are set to this phrase as it were a refrain of sorts. The pallavi lyrical portion ‘karuṇānidhe’ too sports an equivalent phrase ‘DP DM MG MR rpmG MG MR GS’ as its mettu. By design this musical motif is found in the anupallavi and the charana portions, occurring in the 8th to the 14th akshara of the ata tala cycle.
SN3P finds an acknowledged place in the musical setting. The loop back portions from the anupallavi and the charana back to the pallavi, respectively at ‘dakshina’ and ‘citsabhāpate’ sport SN3P explicitly.
The raga’s purvanga as it appears in the composition eschews SRGMP completely save for a tāra sancara usage at the sahitya ‘rogāpaha’ occurring in the carana. Thus, it is SGRGM, SP or SMGM which dominate the raga’s purvanga prayogas. And the quaint MGPDS as well as the standard SMGMPD appear aplenty in the composition.
The madhyama note is seemingly given a pride of place in the composition. For instance, the anupallavi section of the composition commences with a dheerga madhyama.
The two madhyama kala sahitya portions appended to the anupallavi and the carana portions are a marvel in themselves. The word ‘deva’ is used consecutively but yet to connote different epithets of the Lord, a form of aNi (அணி)or a lyrical motif. This form of lyrical ornamentation is found in a number of compositions of both Muthusvami Dikshitar and Subbarama Dikshitar, as documented in the SSP.
Similarly, the prathamakshara and dvitIyakshara prAsa concordance is found in the two madhyama kala sahityas as under:
The syllable ‘de’ occurring at the 1st and 8th (exact half of ata tala 14 beat cycle) aksharas covering the two full tAla avartas of the anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section “dEśika kaṭākṣeṇa darśita
|dEvatā-sārvabhauma-mahā || dEva-devadeva-deva nuta |dEva rāja pūjita dakshiṇa||”
The syllable ‘va’ occurring at the 2nd and 9th aksharas covering the two full tala avartas of the carana madhyama kala sahitya section “bhuvana bharaṇa-bhūtagaṇapate -bhava hara-nata-vidhi-śrIpate|| Siva guruguha-janaka-paśupate |nava maṇi-vilasita-citsabhāpate ||
Dikshitar has made the composition capacious. In other words he distributes the sahitya in such a way that even while he keep prAsa in mind, he also incorporates long kArvais, pauses and musical phrases to fill every one of the 14 aksharas. I draw the attention of the reader to what we saw in the previous post on the composition ‘rEnuka dEvi samrakshitOham’ in Kannada Bangala. There Dikshitar took the stylistic route of matching the hrasva and dhirghA syllables of the sahitya to exactly fit the sahitya in a 1:2 ratio- for example if every hrasva sahitya syllable were to be sung for 1 akshara of the tala ( jhampa in that case) then the dhIrgha syllables would be at 2 aksharas and the entire sahitya of the composition would be structured as well to fit into exactly the total tala cycle, leaving no surplus or deficit of either sahitya syllables or tala aksharas. In other words, there was no need for a pause/kArvai to extend sahitya to fill the tala nor was there a need to accelerate to second speed in the midst in order to complete the sahitya within the tala cycle. This construct of mAtu laya is not adopted by Dikshitar here. Contrastingly in ‘kAsi visvEsara’ he liberates himself from this self-imposed constraint of matching the sahitya and tala in perfect mAtu laya. Instead he pitches for long kArvais – sustained intonation/elongation of sahitya/note on to multiple contiguous tala aksharas and gamakas keeping in mind the raga of his choice for the composition namely Kambhoji. Kambhoji as a rakti raga can we melded to this compositional style with elaborate gamakas or kArvais, which we can say as mellismatic whereas a raga like Kannada Bangala which is more note or phrase based would be amenable to a matu laya model composition. It is an accepted tenet that kArvais or elongation of svaras is generally responsible for bringing visrAnti or reposefulness to rAga elaboration.
In preparing his compositional canvas with ata tala , Dikshitar also pegs the pace of rendering the composition – the rendering ought to be sedate and languorous without either rushing the sahitya through or eliding/abbreviating the pauses. There are those who have attempted to abbreviate the compositions of Dikshitar to shorter talas, as we saw in the case of ‘rEnukA dEvi samrakshitOham’. In fact there are those who render the other Kambhoji ata tala creation of Dikshitar namely ‘srI valmIkalingam in a faster tempo, wreaking havoc on the composition and also eliding the kArvais therein. In sum Dikshitar’s idea of a longer tAla cycle with sparser sahitya per tala must have been to potentially make the performer linger a lot more on every note and have it rendered in a sedate style so that every note and its movement can be slowly partaken by the listeners.
While the sahitya is rich, Dikshitar has strung them in the section with the greatest of care, creating a monumental edifice. From a tala perspective for example the Pallavi itself takes 4 cycles, anupallavi takes 6 cycles with two of them being madhyama kala sahityas and the caranam in 14 cycles again with two of the them being madhyama kala sahitya sections.
And as Dikshitar proceeds to set the composition to music he has for some reason has chosen the phrase in second kAla DP DM MG MR GR GS as the quintessential leitmotif for this composition, repeating this in atleast 5 places spread over the composition as pointed out earlier.
The anupallavi of the composition has been constructed effectively taking Kambhoji’s uttaranga followed by a foray into the tara stayi and back to the Madhya sadja. Launching thus on the madhyama note ( at ‘kAsi ksEtra’) the khandika or section proceeds all the way to the tAra gandhara ( fleetingly touching the tAra madhyama at ‘garthatIra”) before descending to sadja ar ‘vishvAsA’. The delectable anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section ‘dEsika katAksEna’ distills the Kambhoji of yore for us, spanning exactly the same octaval coverage made earlier in the anupallavi proper.. Attention is invited to the different varieties of madhyama employed in the anupallavi, for example the straight/plain variety at ‘Kasi’ and the quivering variety at ‘ksEtra’.
While this is so of the anupallavi, a serious commentary on the construct of the caranam is best provided by the late Veena Vidushi and Musicologist Smt Vidya Shankar in one of her articles ( “A Comparative Study of the Music Trinity”), wherein she demonstrates that the musical setting of this composition is the best exemplar as to how a raga has to be elaborated or laid out in a composition in a systematic/structured manner, which she refers to as ‘AlApana paddhathi’. Again the final madhayama kala sahitya section of the carana ‘bhuvana bharana…………citsabhApatE’ stands out as a grand finale of this magnum opus of Muthusvami Dikshitar.
This magnificent composition deserves a thoroughly scholarly and aesthetic presentation by an artiste after duly absorbing the melody and lyrics. And it is probably for the likely effort involved in doing so which perhaps deters performers from learning and rendering it. One fervently hopes that this would change in the days to come.
And in parting I conclude this blog post with a piece, a tillana rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari, in a very contrasting raga. It is in a haunting melody Dayavati which goes with the notes: Arohana : S R2 G2 P N2 S and Avarohana: S N2 P M1 G2 S composed by Late N S Ramachandran in khanda triputa tala. The composition is obviously a solitaire, the only one of its kind serving as the sole exemplar of this raga.