The Extinct Malavasri

Prologue & A Prelude:

Ragas like Saranganatta, Desakshi, Samantha and Malavasri once upon time ruled the roost but today lie forgotten and unsung. Malavasri is a raga in which both Tyagaraja and Muthusvami Dikshita have composed. This blog post is to document the history of the raga in brief and introduce Dikshita’s composition to the reader of this blog.

But before that, is a prelude. The year was 1945, when the Second World War was winding down, with the day being March 25th, a Sunday. If one had tuned into the All India Radio Madras 1 Station at 10PM that day, after the rendering of  the popular “ Nee Inrangayenil” by the young and sprightly M S Subbulakshmi, the listener would have next heard the kriti of Tyagaraja in the raga Malavasri (“Evarunnaru brova”) played from the vinyl record rendered by the then 26 year old D K Pattammal in her inimitable style, followed by Dikshita’s “Manasa Guruguha rupam” in Anandabhairavi – vide the extract of the day’s broadcast schedule from the “Indian Listener” pinned as the header to this post.

The same recording made by her close to 90 years ago can be heard here:

Yet another is a dance piece for listening- Kubera Stuti- in tisra eka tala set in the raga Malavasri.

The raga Malavasri belongs to the 22nd Mela (Kharaharapriya/Sriraga) taking the following svaras/murrcanas in its ascent and descent, according to the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP).

Arohana: S G2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Arohana: S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S

Mark the emphasis on the gandhara, madhyama and nishadha notes in the progression. This raga is an oddity for more than one reason for it also incorporates a few now-lost 18th century raga architectural attributes. While Natta, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali and Sri were the traditional ghana ragas (pancakam) of the first category, the ragas Reetigaula, Narayanagaula, , Bhauli, Malavasri and Saranganatta are the constituents of the dviteeya ghana pancakam.

Historical Background to the Raga:

The raga right through history has been recorded by musicologists and with the advent of the mela scheme, Venkatamakhin (1620 CE) as well as Shaji (circa 1700 CE) and Tulaja (circa 1732 CE), placed the raga as a shadava raga skipping rishabha altogether under Sriraga mela. And the raga is documented as-is in the Ragalakshanam of Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750). Older texts while helping in validating the broad lakshanas of ragas, do not provide us with the intricate details or compositions and we are left to rely on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita which details this raga for our benefit.

The SSP’s narrative provides us with this nominal raga structure for us.

Arohana: S G2 G2 M1 P N2 N2 D2 N2 S

Arohana: S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S

Attention is invited to the vakra dhaivatha in the arohana and the SNDPM, SNDNPM, SNDNPM combinations that occur in the descent. Further Subbarama Dikshita asserts on the authority of the older texts that there are no sancaras beyond the madhya stayi. In fact, Muthusvami Dikshita’s kriti provided as an exemplar goes one step further as the raga is dealt with only between madhya gandhara and tara pancama, with no sancaras below.

The SSP documents the following compositions as exemplars of the raga, none of which are in currency on the modern concert stage.

  1. Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita in misra jhampa tala
  2. Devi Sathatham” of Krishnasvami Ayya in Matya capu tala – the musical setting perhaps being done by Subbarama Dikshita himself
  3. Indha perumai” – a padam in Tamil by Mukkupulavar in misra eka tala – the sahitya being that of the Ettayapuram Court poet and the musical setting likely of Balasvami Dikshita

The SSP apart from documenting the lakshya gitam ascribing it to Venkatamakhin as authority for the raga’s grammar also documents a unique gitam commencing as “manmadha naLa” called as “mukta-pada-grastham” whereby the ending syllabic constituent unit of the previous sahitya section becomes the first syllabic constituent of the succeeding sahitya portion. (andhadhi). Much like the Narayanagaula gitam documented in the SSP, this gitam must have been in currency and must have been a popular composition. It must be emphasized that gitas or gita prabhandas were the concise repositories of a raga’s lakshanas, encapsulating pithily the set of all possible svara combinations or murrcanas of the raga, akin to how we treat the varna in modern days.

A perusal of the said gita offers us vital clues as to this raga’s lakshana:

  1. The raga delineated spans the madhya sadja to the tara madhyama. There are no mandhara stayi phrases in the gita.
  2. The gita is divided into two parts – the first one being the dhruvam – the so-called opening refrain or what we today call as the pallavi. The second is the javada or the so called anupallavi part which loops back to the dhruvam or the refrain.
  3. Nishadha followed by the madhyama is found greatly emphasized by their repeated usage both in the dheergha and janta varieties.
  4. The salient arohana and avarohana murrcanas found are as under:
    • Madhya stayi- ascent- SGGM-MMP-MPNNDN-NDNS
    • Madhya stayi – descent: -SNS-SNNDPMP- SNDP-SNDNPN-MNDMGS-SNDNPNDMGS-PMGS
    • Tara stayi – S,GS- MMGS-SMGS-MGSMGS-

Apart from the SSP two other documented sources of this raga from olden times even antecedent to the SSP are as under:

  1. manmadha nala” the gitam in Malavasri found in the SSP is also published in Pallavi Svara Kalpavalli (published in 1900 CE) by Tiruvottriyur Tyagier. There are a few variations here and there save for one crucial aspect which is that in one place the mandhara nishadha is touched.
  2. Sri Ramani kucakumkuma” – a ragamalika gitam of 32 ragas in Dhruva tala of which Malavsri is one is found published in “Sangeetha Sarvaartha Sara Sangrahamu” of Veena Ramanujacharya (1873 CE). The sahitya and the corresponding musical notation which runs for one avarta of tala is as under:
1 2 3 4 5 6
S , M M G S
gA . . . ya ka
N S N D    
pa . rA .    
N N D M    
ya nu rE .    

The notation in italics is the tara sancara notes of the raga. This brief snippet of  the raga encompasses madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, emphasizing   nishadha madhyama notes, corresponding to the treatment of the raga in  “Mangalambayai Namaste” as we will see shortly. And while dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana, it is more seen vakra in the avarohana as well though a lineal SNDP is not forbidden. Vakra sancaras are de rigueur in this raga, which by incorporating multiple flows of murccanas follows the classical 18th century raga architecture.

It has to be pointed out that the raga’s lakshana as embodied in the SSP fully accords with the musical history right from the times of Venkatamakhin staying under the Sri raga mela and omitting rishabha. Both Sahaji and Tulaja in their works reinforce the same lakshana for the raga. Even the Sangraha Cudamani, the lexicon of the ragas of compositions of Tyagaraja omits rishaba in its structure and provides roughly the same arohana-avarohana krama for the raga.

And off course all musical texts are unanimous as to the rishabha being omitted and the raga being a upanga raga under 22nd mela.

Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita

Before we delve into the musical aspects of composition, let’s look at the sahitya and its meaning first:

Pallavi

namastE                        – Salutations to you,

SrI  mangaLAmbAyai              – to (you who are) Goddess Mangalamba!

SrI vAncha linga nija SaktE    – O personal, active power of Shiva (Vanchalinga)!

vilIna cit-SaktE               – O embodiment of the hidden mental power!

anupallavi

sangIta sAhitya sArajna sannutE – O one celebrated by those who know the essence of music and literature,

mangaLa-Alaya gupta gangA taTa sthitE – O one dwelling in the auspicious temple on the bank of (the tank) Gupta Ganga,

ananga-Adi-upAsitE              – O one worshipped by Manmatha and others!

SRngAra-Adi yutE                – O one possessed of the various sentiments (Rasas) beginning with love(Shrngara)!

caraNam

manda smita-AnanE               – O one with a gentle countenance

mALava SrI janE              – O one who has good people (as devotees) in the country of                                                        Malava!

indirA-AlOkanE                  – O one who blessed Lakshmi with your gaze!

ISvara-ArAdhanE                 – O one who worships Shiva!

indIvara-Asana-Adi-IDita      – O one acclaimed by the gods led by the lotus-seated Brahma!

Siva-anganE                     – O young wife of Shiva!

sindUra kastUri candana-AlEpanE – O one anointed with vermillion, musk and sandal paste!

kunda mukuLa radanE             – O one with teeth like small-jasmine buds,

guru guha hRtsadanE             – O one whose abode is the heart of Guruguha,

sundari                                           – O beautiful one!

mRdu gadanE                               – O soft-spoken one!

sukha-tara kara madanE         – O one who grants great joy to Manmatha!

  1. The raga name and the colophon of Dikshita are seamlessly woven into the lyrics referring to the Malava/Malwa region (modern Central India)
  2. The ksetra of the composition is Sri Vanchiyam and Goddess Mangalambika is the consort of Lord Vanchinatha who is the presiding deity.
  3. Sri Vanchiyam is a hoary ksetra and is rich in stala purana from a mythological standpoint. Refer: http://templesoftamilnadu.co.in/srivanchiyam/
  4. Dikshita has composed three kritis, on Lord Vanchinatha and Goddess Mangalambika, of this ksetra as documented in the SSP as under:
    • Mangalambayai Namaste – Malavsri – misra jhampa tala
    • Sri Mangalambike – Kalyani – Khanda Ata
    • Sri Vanchanatham – Surati – Adi

From a musical aspect, the setting of the composition is itself very interesting.

  1. Subbarama Dikshita in his commentary makes a number of pertinent points about the raga:
    • He says the raga is shadava with rishabha being dropped totally and dhaivatha varja. It has to be pointed out that in the lakshana sloka dhaivatha is said to dropped (varjitha) in the arohana.
    • Malavasri is a ghana raga of the dviteeya category.
    • Gandhara, nishadha and madhyama svara are the key life-giving notes
    • From a lakshya standpoint the raga spans madhya stayi sadja to tara stayi madhyama.
    • SGGMPNNS -NNDPMPNDMMGS is the arohana and avarohana krama
  2. In the kriti however, Dikshita implements the raga as under:
    • While rishabha is dropped, dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana and not varjya. Dhaivatha note occurs as MPNDNS in the arohana and SNDP or SNDMP or SNDNP in the avarohana krama.
    • The raga effectively spans madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, with two outliers/exceptions – in the tara stayi the pancama (“srng-ArAdhiyutE”)is touched in one place and in the madhya stayi gandhara (“vilInacit saktE)” is touched in another place.
    • In other words, there is no sancara below madhya stayi gandhara, while the tara pancama is the outermost svara in the upper register.
    • The madhyama kala sahitya portion appended to the carana commencing “kunda mukula radanE” captures the effective gamut of the raga as visualized by Dikshita in this composition.
    • The primacy of the tara madhyama with which the composition starts and the repeated emphasis on the nishadha note (at “mangalAlaya” for instance) are key aspects to be noted.
    • Kampita gamaka adorns nishadha and gandhara throughout the composition.
    • Given the madhya stayi gandhara to tara madhyama only scope as dealt with in the composition, the murcchanas occurring thereof can be noted as below:
      1. MPNNS; MPNNDNS; GMNNDNS and SNDP, SNDPMPG, MPNNDM, SNDMPM in the madhya stayi
      2. SGS, SGMGS, SMGS and PMGS in the tara stayi
  3. From a rendering perspective the following aspects has to be observed for this composition:
    • The song commences on the tara madhyama and therefore a vocalist should “park firmly” at the madhyama note in the upper register, without deviating in any manner, such as intoning the gandhara instead as the commencing note.
    • Keeping in line with the delineation in the composition, any sancara below madhya gandhara should advisedly be eschewed in any sangati or alapana or neraval or svara prastara, so as to ensure fidelity to the intent of the composer as he has kept to that as the gamut of the raga in this composition.

Discography:

In this section I present the my rendering of “Mangalambayai Namaste” to the best of abilities , keeping to my interpretation of the notation found in the SSP. I should hasten to add that errors and omissions are entirely mine.

In this context the following points are to be noted:

  1. A version of this composition is found in the public domain ascribed to Sangeeta Kalanidhi Smt. Aruna Sairam. It is most respectfully submitted that the said version does not conform to the notation as found in the SSP and much liberties has been taken with the same. Here is the recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHSmlUKZ1PI
  2. It is even more unfortunate that the composition is seen rendered in khanda capu tala as well inflicting even greater damage to the composition. As recorded in earlier blog posts, the Jhampa Tala compositions of Dikshita such as “Sri Venugopala” ( Kurinji), “Sri Kalahasteesa” ( Huseini) are seen rendered in khanda capu tala, doing incalculable harm both the intent of the composer and the rhythmic setting of the kriti.
  3. Notations as well narratives of the raga found in the public domain provides the arohana and avarohana krama of the raga wrongly. Rishabha is seen included in the descent. It has to be noted that the raga is entirely devoid of rishabha note. Students as well as performers need to stay wary of these obvious errors. Example: https://karnatik.com/c5787.shtml
  4. There is another composition “ Kanakasabapatim” passed off as a composition of Muthusvami Dikshita in the raga Malavasri. Again it is most respectfully submitted that this is a plain misattribution as the composition can neither be of Dikshita’s nor is it the Malavasri of the SSP as it does not in any way conform to the lakshana of the raga found in “Mangalambayai” and documented in the SSP. And therefore, the said composition is not considered in this blog post.

Malavasri as featured in Ramasvami Dikshita’s 108-Raga-Tala Malika

This magnum opus as published in the SSP, features the raga Malavasri as the 13th portion/khandika set in rAjacUdAmani tala. The notation shows traversal of Malavasri in the mandhara stayi upto the mandhara madhyama. And above all a considerable portion of the lyrics are notated in mandhara stayi in obvious discordance to Subbarama Dikshita’s own commentary that the raga does not permit sancaras below madhya sadja ! However the raga as delineated is otherwise in line with the stated lakshana of the raga being SGMPNNS/SNDPMGS.

Vidushi R S Jayalakshmi in Dec 2014 gave a lecture demonstration of this mammoth composition of Ramasvami Dikshita. In this Youtube Link she demonstrates the Malavasri portion starting 1:07:18 onwards.

Malavasri & the SSP and Tyagaraja’s Compositions:

Thus, Malavasri has always been a shadava raga of the Sriraga mela, omitting rishabha. And in the SSP as we see there are two other unique aspects:

  1. Dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana and
  2. Sancaras span only from madhya gandhara to tara pancama. And according the Subbarama Dikshita sancaras below madhya stayi sadja are not seen in the raga. This feature of the raga is akin to that of Surati where no sancaras are seen below the sadja of the middle register.

In this context we have to assess the melodic contours of the Malavasri found in Tyagaraja’s compositions “Evarunnaru” and “Ennalu tirigedi”. It is to be noted that this composition of Tyagaraja – “Evarunnaru” is only found listed in Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s publication and is not found documented in other publications or compendia of Tyagaraja’s compositions.

The lyrics of the composition can be found here: http://thyagaraja-vaibhavam.blogspot.com/2007/09/thyagaraja-kriti-evarunnaaru-brova-raga.html

While the rendering of Smt D K Pattammal was presented earlier, the other rendering being that of Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan is given below:

https://wynk.in/music/song/evarunnaru/am_INM159200051?page=0

The following conclusions can be drawn from these renderings:

  1. The melody indeed involves the notes of Mela 22, duly eschewing the rishabha note.
  2. The composition as well as the renderings span the full middle register and up to tara madhyama.
  3. Dhaivatha is seen rendered vakra in the arohana krama.
  4. The carana section “manasAraga dhyanimpanu– manasu nilupu marmambu telipi” seems tinted with rishabha (perhaps due to an oscillated flatter gandhara) which is avoidable. It has to be mentioned that the tara sancaras are rendered with SMGS or its variants without any trace of rishabha.

A cleaner version devoid of even a faint suggestion of rishabha in the said places in the kriti along with a sharper sadharana gandhara intonation, is this rendering of Vidvan Dileepkumar which is presented below:

The other kriti of Tyagaraja “ennalu tirigedi” of Tyagaraja is rendered by Dr Ritha Rajan which can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdvhTBoydpY

Conclusion:

The evaluation of the musical material available to us shows that for Malavsri, the gitam as well as the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita and Tyagaraja present an unalloyed and complete picture of the raga, which is sufficient for one to comprehend, understand and assimilate the raga, from the point of view of both a student and a performer. Further the raga as well as the Dikshita’s composition “Mangalambayai Namaste” can not only be rendered with practice but can be dealt with along with alapana, neraval and svaraprastara. By properly imbuing the composition and the raga lakshana therein, with fidelity to the notation and the intent of the composer, the composition can be performed competently. It is earnestly hoped that this beautiful composition with its uttaranga and upper register centric pivot, will be encountered more frequently on the concert circuit in the days to come.

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol II- Sriraga Mela- Pages 489-496
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – “Ragalakshana Sangraha”- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 816-828
  3. Prof S R Janakiraman & Subba Rao (1993)- “Ragas of the Saramrutha”- published by the Madras Music Academy -pp 34-35
  4. Savitri Rajan & Michael Nixon (1982)–“Sobhillu Saptasvara” – published by CBH Publications -pp 115 & 135

A Critical Appreciation of the raga Jujavanti and ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’

Prologue:

The raga Jujavanti is typically spoken about in our world of music as a Northern import. The first historical reference to the raga is the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (dateable to circa 1750 AD) of Muddu Venkatamakhin. None of the prior Southern musicological texts talk about this raga. Therefore for us today, the definition of this raga according to the Anubandha, the commentary of Subbarama Dikshita for the same in the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) and the exemplar compositions thereunder which he has provided are the ones which can help us understand the raga.

We can see that the raga as presented in the SSP ( its original construct) has during the 20th century and till date has acquired a slightly evolved hue. And in this blog post we seek to uncover the correct original structure of the composition and the authentic versions from our oral traditions.

SOME INITIAL DISCLAIMERS:

But before we jump headlong, a few disclaimers need to go on record.

  1. As the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika is the first and earliest authoritative musicological text which talks about the raga, I have provided pre-eminence to the same in this blog post.
  2. Secondly the Anubandha gives the raga name as ‘jujAvanti’. And so that will be the name which we will stick to.
  3. We have modern music books and composition banks giving the raga name as Dvijavanti. For this assertion, the authority is the Sangraha Cudamani, a lexicon which we have encountered much in our earlier blog post, wherein the raga is listed with the name as Dvijavanti and not Jujavanti. It has been held beyond reasonable doubt that the Sangraha Cudamani is much anterior to the Anubandha in terms of its creation/authorship. And hence we are not seeking to consider the raga name/definition of Dvijavanti therein. Besides the Sangraha Cudamani can be considered a lexicon of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions. Even from that perspective we see little relevance to this blog post, as we do not have any Tyagaraja composition handed down to us in this raga. We do have some records of compositions being in this raga from later times- see foot note below.
  4. We do have modern texts of music talking about this raga’s kinship to the Hindustani raga Jaijaivanti and Dikshita having a hand in getting to know the Northern melody during his Kashi sojourn. In so far as this blog post goes, given that there is no solid evidence to prove nexus between the northern melody and Jujavanti found in the SSP and on the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin who has listed it in the Anubandha circa 1750 AD, the proximity if any between the ragas is purely coincidental perhaps unless proof is unearthed to prove nexus.
  5. Given that Muthusvami Dikshita alone has composed in this raga and we do not have any record of pre-trinity composers composing in this, the SSP is taken the final and authentic authority for the composition- see foot note 1.
  6. Post SSP we did have the Dikshitar Keertanai Malai (DKM Series) bring forth a new composition ‘akhilAndEsvarI rakshamAm’ attributed the same to Muthusvami Dikshita himself. The same has not been considered again for this blog post and for reasons vide foot note below.
  7. Again, many 20th century composers have taken up this raga which again is not in scope for this blog post.

JUJAVANTI – RAGA LAKSHANA:

The Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika ( the text Ragalakshanam attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin) places the raga Jujavanti under Kedaragaula Mela (28). There are five important dimensions we have to consider to discern a raga’s lakshana, when we say that it is under a particular mela in the Anubandha.

  1. The Anubandha is just a seriatim listing of ragas and their murccana arohana/avarohana, mela wise as one can see from the text of the Anubandha published by the Madras Music Academy.
  2. Beyond this listing one has to look at whether the raga name is found as an upanga or bashanga under the lakshya gita of the parent mela- for example the raga name Jujavanti has to be found under the relevant kandikha of the Harikedaragaula lakshya gitam.
  3. The lakshana sloka for the raga if available has to be looked into.
  4. Gitas and tAnas if any in the raga as to be finally vetted in order to develop the complete picture of the raga.

For points 2, 3 and 4 as above, we have Subbarama Dikshita’s inestimable SSP to assist us. The SSP provides these data point along with Subbarama Dikshita’s commentary on the raga along with his exemplar – kritis and his very own sancaris which we can evaluate as the 5th dimension.

When we evaluate the above dimensions in the context of Jujavanti, the following are the findings:

  1. The Anubandha lists it as the 15th & final raga under the Harikedaragaula mela/clan.
  2. However the Harikedaragaula rAgAnga lakshya gitam  in triputa tAla having ‘Nanda gopa nanda’ as its refrain ( antari section) does not list the raga in its upanga or bashanga raga section.
  3. The raga’s lakshana shloka goes as :

 जुजावान्ताख्यरागश्चसंपूर्णःसग्रहानवितः |

 लक्ष्यमार्गानुसारेणगीयतेगानवेदिभिहि ||

In other words,

  1. the raga jujAvanti is sampurna – meaning it has all the seven notes in both the arohana and avarohana together
  2. the note ‘sA’ – the sadja is the graha or starting note of the raga
  3. the raga has to be sung and understood from practice

While the above shloka is as given by Subbarama Dikshita, the text of the Anubandha as published by the Madras Music Academy is slightly different yet conveying the same meaning as to the lakshana of the raga.

  • There are no available gitas or tanas in the SSP.
  • Subbarama Dikshita provides a kriti of Muthusvami Dikshita ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ in rupaka tAla and his own sancAri in matya tAla as exemplars. He has also provided an elaborate commentary to the raga, which is as we would be seeing in a while, the lodestar for us to get a grasp of the salient features of the raga. At the end of the sancari he provides a foot note to the effect that this raga also displays the shades of Yadukulakambhoji( Yerukalakambhoji as he calls), Darbar, Sahana and Bhairavi, even as it shines forth with its own native shade.

 SUMMARY OF THE LAKSHANA:

With the material at our disposal as above we can proceed to deconstruct their import and deduce the theoretical framework of the raga. Once we have done that can move to the discography to discern the aural contours of Jujavanti through the exemplars cited by Subbarama Dikshita.

The analysis of the above would reveal to us the following findings:

  1. As we can see while the listing of ragas in the Anubandha talks of Jujavanti there is no mention of the raga name in the rAgAnga rAga’s lakshya gita. The deduction can be that the lakshya gita is even prior to the seriatim listing and hence the raga was not formally inducted as a janya to Harikedaragaula at that point in time.
  2. The above also perhaps explains why we do not have gitams and tanams in the raga.
  3. The raga is thus only a post AD 1750 development finding place only in the Anubandha listing with the two Subbarama Dikshita provided exemplars alone as repositories of the raga’s lakshana in the SSP. Obviously the works of Sahaji ( AD 1700) and Tulaja ( Ad 1732) do not mention Jujavanti or any other raga with scalar equivalence.

 The narrative of Subbarama Dikshita for this raga in the SSP can be summarized as under:

  1. He says it is a desi raga or raga which had its origins from the public space.
  2. The raga can be discerned only from practice/lakshya
  3. The notes rishabha and madhyama are the life-giving notes. In fact, the prolonged RRR and MMM are given as illustrative murccanas.
  4. Both sadharana gandhara and antara gandhara occur copiously in this raga. Implicitly the other notes are R2, M1, P, D2 and N2 which are the default svaras for Mela 28.
  5. R/M\G2.R.G2R is a recurring leitmotif. The phrase begins with the catusruti rishabha gliding to the madhyama through jaru gamaka, gliding back to a prolonged sadharana gandhara followed by back-and-forth movement between catusruti rishabha and sadhara gandhara.
  6. Apart from RRR and MMM – prolonged exposition on rishabha and madhyama notes, MGMPD, MPDSPMG, RMG1.R, SRN.D.NS also add color to the raga.
  7. The phrase RGMGR occurs aplenty using both G1 and G3. However given that the raga is under Mela 28, the default gandhara is G2 ant it also occurs aplenty.

While the above is the commentary, from a musical standpoint Subbarama Dikshita while providing the notation for ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ has ensured that the gandhara type- G2 of G3 is marked appropriately as necessary leaving us in no doubt as to when a particular gandhara type occurs in the composition. One can also notice that the rare ‘vaLI’ gamaka occurs extensively in this composition ornamenting almost all the note types and especially the madhyama as seen in the opening lines of the carana.

ANALYSIS OF THE NOTATION OF ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’:

The notation of the kriti by Subbarama Dikshita provides us with a number of useful insights.

  1. Muthusvami Dikshita almost as a rule always commences his composition right on the jiva svara- especially the graha or take off of the kriti sections namely Pallavi, anupallavi & caranam. In this case given that rishabha is the primary note, Dikshita rightfully begins the composition on a prolonged Rishabha. The lakshana shloka of the raga attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin makes no such assertion. It is likely that Subbarama Dikshita’s comment that the rishabha is one of the raga’s jiva svara was driven by the pride of place given by DIkshita right at the start of the composition.
  2. Again it is this Dikshita kriti which is the authority for the usage of both the gandharas and the way it is to be used.
  3. The kriti notation makes it clear that G2 is always a transitory note. It is not a graha or a nyasa note. G2 occurs almost always as RG2R & MG2R in avarohana phrases ending with rishabha. And is typically accessed through the jaru or the glide. This is the aesthetic usage of the sadharana gandhara in Jujavanti. G3 can be a graha or starting note.
  4. Subbarama Dikshita says the raga is sampurna- considering both the arohana and avarohana together, which leaves us to determine what the salient arohana/avarohana & purvanga and uttaranga phrases of the raga are, using the composition as our compass.
    1. In the purvanga section SRG3MP, SRG2R, SRMG2R , SRPMG2R, SRG3MG1R, MG3MP,RG3MPDN
    2. In the inter-octaval movements pR- jump from the pancama ( mandhara/Madhya) to the rishabha ( Madhya/tara) respectively is an oft repeated motif adding beauty to the raga.
    3. In the uttaranga one can notice that PDNS is eschewed as an ascending phrase. We see PS, DPS, DNS and NDNS being used. Also we can see that RGMPDN can also be used.
    4. In the descent SNDP is to be used as a rule without skipping any of the notes.
    5. PMGRS is again not used and instead the double gandhara prayoga PMG3MRG2RS, PMG3RG2RS and MG3S (skipping rishabha in the descent, but using G3 and not G2) are seen.
  5. Subbarama Dikshita adds that RGMGR phrase which recurs again and again uses G2 and sometimes G3. Practically speaking however, the first gandhara occurring in the said phrase is a trishanku gandhara neither as sharp as G3 nor as flat as G2. So much for the gandhara and the way the raga has to be sung with bhava to bring out the unique flavor, that the ancients/Muddu Venkatamakhin decided to give up defining the raga and instead took shelter under the edict “ लक्ष्यमार्गानुसारेणगीयते “
  6.  In the krit notation if one were to observe, Subbarama Dikshita notates the gandhara as G2 in some places, G3 in some places and in quite a few places the gandhara is left without indication as to the variety – G2 or G3. It may be implied that in those places, since the default gandhara is G3 for the raga (as it belongs to Mela 28, for which the gandhara is G3), those places need to be sung only with G3.
THE NOTATION OF THE COMPOSITION AS FOUND IN THE DKP:

As mentioned in previous blog posts, the Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai (DKP) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai is yet another documentation of authentic notation of Dikshita’s kritis. The study of the composition’s notation in the DKP, reveals the following :

  1. The raga name is given as Jujavanti only and not Dvijavanti for instance, exactly in line with SSP.
  2. The raga is under mela 28 – Harikedaragaula having the same murccana progression as found in the SSP.
  3. The notation closely matches SSP, save for one factor which is that the sadharana gandhara occurrences are not clearly discernible.

DISCOGRAPHY:

Presented first is the doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda presenting the composition.

Attention is invited to the specific areas of the composition to show how her version has utmost fidelity to the notation found in the SSP & DKP. The “PDSP” usage in the raga and the rendering of the portion ‘purushOttamAvatAram’ in the composition provide the Yadukulakhambhoji like feel to the raga. Some modern day performers therefore elide/modify the portion as if to keep Yadukulakambhoji out. One can see in the versions presented in this section that this is not the case and she does not shy away from the prayoga.

It has to be reiterated that Smt T Brinda traces her patham to her mother / grand mother Dhanammal on to Sathanur Pancanada Iyer  on to Tambiyappan and finally to Dikshita himself. Smt Dhanammal and Sri Natarajasundaram Pillai ( the compiler of the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai”) learnt Dikshita’s kritis together from Sathanur Pancanada Iyer during the 1880-1900 timeframe. This aspect can be considered while reviewing her rendering with the notation found in the DKP.

Arguably Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer must be credited for rendering this magnum opus of Dikshita frequently in his recitals and invariably he has rendered svara kalpana for the pallavi line almost as de rigueur. Presented first is the kriti proper.

Next is his svarakalpana. Attention is invited to the unique SRG2R, SRMG2R, G3MG3MRG2R and such other purvanga usages highlighting the core of the raga. Attention is invited to the chaste and polished mrudangam accompaniment, filling the gaps and pauses with beautiful rhythmic patterns in the process showing that the composition is a percussionist delight as well.

In passing it needs to be noted that this composition is yet another exemplar for the stylistic construct of Dikshita as is usual for him- a languorous and lilting gait, slow and sedate yet majestic marked by the cadences of the rupaka tala which gives enough visranthi or stretch to the fabric of the kriti. Across the board all performers of this composition render it in the sedate cauka kala as the compositional structure as well as the mood of the raga affords no opportunity to accelerate. As the veteran performer Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s rendering shows, the composition can be artistically rendered in cauka kala and finally topped up with a few round of sedate 1st kala svaras to give a wholesome effect.

PROXIMITY OF SAHANA TO JUJAVANTI:

Subbarama Dikshita’s cryptic foot note on this is rooted to a very subtle point. Many musicians and rasikas alike confuse the point and make a comparison of Jujavanti with modern Sahana. Modern Sahana has practically only G3/antara gandhara. However for Subbarama Dikshita, as we saw in a previous blog post, Sahana is a raga under Mela 22 – with sadharana gandhara dominating and antara gandhara occurring sparsely. Thus this older Sahana and the Jujavanti of Ceta Sri Balakrishnam documented in the SSP has much melodic overlap as

  • Both them utilize the same notes, including the two types of gandhara.
  • GMRS and RGMP the motifs of Sahana, are shared by Jujavanti as well.
  • Both are sampurna utilizing all the seven notes in both arohana and avarohana.
  • The Muddu Venkatamakhin sloka for both the ragas talks about knowing or understanding the raga from practice / lakshya / empirically.

In fact, one can say that with the ascent of modern Sahana ( with G3 and  almost totally eschewing G2), Sahana has itself eveolved and created its own niche and a well-marked domain differentiating itself from Jujavanti markedly. And so the raga Dvijavanthi can at best be treated as a sibling of modern Sahana sharing common musical material.

CONCLUSION

‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ created by the composer nonpareil Muthusvami Dikshita is a magnum opus. Thankfully apart from the notation in the SSP and DKP we do have authentic and high fidelity vocal renderings which assists us in uncovering the original construct of the composition.

REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 1005-1013
  3. Prof R. Satyanarayana (2010) – ‘Ragalakshanam’ – Kalamoola Shastra Series- Published by Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi
  4. Vidvan Thiruppamburam Svaminatha Pillai (1936) – Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai (Tamil) – pages 105-108
  5. T L Venkatarama Iyer (1968) – “Muthusvami Dikshitar” ( English) – Biography Series Published by the National Book Trust, New Delhi
FOOT NOTES:
NOTE 1: A NOTE ON THE KRITI “AKHILANDESWARI RAKSHAMAM” :

This kriti surfaced in the 20th century along with numerous others, ascribed to the authorship of Muthusvami Dikshita. Set in raga Jujavanti and adi tala it was ostensibly composed by Dikshita on Goddess Akhilandesvari at Tiruvanaikaval/Trichirappalli, the Consort of Lord Jambukesvara. In fact, it was also given pride and prominence by being catalogued as a premier composition in the famous NCPA Red Book by no less a personage than Dr V Raghavan. However, both on the internet discussion boards and also in private and public domains, numerous individuals have questioned the attribution of this kriti to Muthusvami Dikshita. One example is this old USENET group discussion archived here. A range of reasons has been quoted in this context including the following.

  • Deficiency of the sahitya including usage of terms such as “jalli jarjhara” which occurs in the body of the composition.
  • The musical construct of the composition not being in consonance with Dikshita’s usual style

Be that as it may for me one particular evidence that this composition is most likely not Dikshita’s comes from Sangita Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer (TLV) a legal personage who retired as a Chief Justice of India. He had in my opinion the greatest opportunity to provide first-hand information on this. Enamored by Muthusvami Dikshita’s kritis, he was the one who brought Subbarama Dikshita’s son Ambi Dikshita to Madras and learnt many compositions of Dikshita from him. At that point in time he was a sitting Judge of the Madras High Court and later Chief Justice and therefore the respect and awe that he commanded from the society then was considerable. Much later after his retirement from the Supreme Court, he along with Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, assisted by Dr S Ramanathan and Dr B Rajam Iyer brought out the Tamil translation of the SSP. In other words, Justice TLV had an insider view of this and he had in all probability complete access to the repertoire and manuscripts of Ambi Dikshita himself from where much of the Dikshita compositions, post Ambi Dikshita’s demise surfaced. Now, Justice TLV in his biography of ‘Muthuswami Dikshitar’ National Book Trust published in November 1968, makes the following two statements & I quote him verbatim:

  1. On page 18 he says “The song Ceta Sri Balakrishnam of Dikshitar in this raga ( Dvijavanti) is a magnificent edifice giving the full view of the raga in all its aspects and is rightly regarded as the most impressive song in this raga….”
  2. On page 72 he makes a telling remark thus: – “In Dwijavanthi the piece Ceta Sri of Dikshitar stands out in solitary splendour…..” (emphasis mine).
  3. Again, on page 39 when he narrates the ksetra kritis of Tiruchirapalli he narrates that Dikshita created ‘Jambupate’ in Yamuna Kalyani. And he says “……On the Devi in that temple he composed the kriti “ Sri Matah siva vamanke” in Begada….”. But does not mention the Dvijavanthi composition.
  4. Nowhere in this book does he catalogue the kriti “Akhilandesvari” in Dvijavanthi.

Attention is invited to the use of the word ‘solitary’ which means a “singular” creation in this raga by Dikshita, in this context. Given his background as a jurist as well one must accord the right weightage to his written view or statement. Moreover, nowhere in his book does he make a mention of the kriti “Akhilandeswari” in this raga, even as he refers to a number of other kritis which came to be published later & not found in the SSP. He makes no mention of this kriti even in the context of his narrative on the kritis composed by Dikshita on the temples in Trichirappalli. And this book is dated 1968 more than a decade or so after the composition surfaced as a part of Dikshita Kriti Mala Series published by Kallidaikurici Sundaram Iyer in the 1940’s-1950’s.

If Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer’s take on this subject is that “Ceta Sri Balakrishnam” is the “solitary” i.e. the “only creation” of Dikshita in Jujavanti, it surely is an added & forceful weight to the argument that ‘Akhilandeswari rakshamam’ is not a composition of Dikshita. For this reasoning and others outlined above which casts doubts over the authenticity of the kriti , the same has been kept out of the analysis of the raga in this blog post.

NOTE 2: COMPOSITIONS IN JUJAVANTI/DVIJAVANTI- SOME COLLATERAL EVIDENCE:
  1. Dr Sita in her ‘Tanjore as a Seat of Music’ avers on the authority of old manuscripts found in the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Library that there is a composition in raga Jujavanti by a composer by name Giriraja Kavi who was patronized by King Sarabhoji, making it dateable to round 1800’s or thereabouts coinciding with the period of Trinity. However the musical setting is not available for the composition. Technically this composition is probably of the 1800 vintage coinciding with Muthusvami Dikshita’s times.
  2. Tiruvottiyur Tyagayya’s Pallavi Svarakalpavalli lists a lakshya gitam in raga Jujavanti, again which is post 1850 AD.
  3. Dr S Ramanathan has notated in the JMA 1965 Vol XXXVI a kriti of Gopalakrishna Bharathi in raga Dvijavanthi. Again this is a composition of post 1850 AD vintage.
  4. A composition of Margadarsi Sesha Iyengar, a pre-trinity composer is also seen assigned this raga.

Sarasvati Manohari – A Conundrum?

Prologue:

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
Arohana
krama
SRGMDDS SMGMPMDNS
Avarohana uttaranga SNDP and SNDNP SNSDPM
Avarohana purvanga PMGMRS PMGMRS
Arohana
krama
SNDP or SNDNP-PMGMRS SDPMGMRS
Differences inter se
-arohana
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:

pallavi

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!

anupallavi

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!

caraNam

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!

Notes:

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
G, MD P, MD MG M,
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.

Discography:

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

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/tvg/UPLOADS-1201—1400/1376-T-Brinda-Muthuswamy_Dikshithar_Krithis/

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

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/ksj/D-K-Pattammal/DKP–004–Dikshitar-Day-/

(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.

Conclusion:

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.

References:

  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.

Acknowledgement/Credits:

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.