Intriguing ragas – Gopikavasanta

We get to know the structure of many rāga-s only through Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This text has both musical and musicological importance, as the rāga-s are not only explained by their phrases, but also through compositions. One such rāga whose svarūpa can be grasped well by analyzing this text is Gōpikāvasanta. A detailed analysis of this rāga has been done, wherein the author has concluded that Gōpikāvasanta is actually a name given to an old rāga by name Induganṭāravam. The conclusion was made based on the similarities between the two rāga-s and by considering the musicological treatises. Let us revisit this hypothesis in the light of some fresh evidences.

Gōpikāvasanta  – Lakṣaṇa

Perhaps Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and Anubanda to Caturdanḍīprakāśikā attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi were the only teatises that describe this raga (See Footnote 1). Gōpikāvasanta is a bhāṣāṅga, vakra sampūrṇa janya of mēla 20 (Nārīrītigaula or Naṭabhairavi). He gives a śloka and mūrcana and few phrases to explain the rāga and then proceeds to give a kṛti of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and his own sañcāri. We have mentioned in our post on Kamās that interpreting the mūrcana verbatim will not only lead to confusion, but also an incomplete understanding of a rāga and it is always to be combined with the notated compositions. Likewise, in this case we do find some discrepancies between the lakṣaṇa given in the śloka and the prayōga-s seen in the kṛti. Let us first look into the lakṣaṇa ślōka given in Pradarṣini:

                                syāt gōpikāvasantākhyaḥ pūrṇaṣṣaḍjagrahānvitaḥ I

                                       ārōhē ca dhavakraśca avarōhē rivakritaḥ II

The gṛha of this sampūrṇa rāga is ṣaḍjam and the svara-s dhaivata and ṛṣbha are vakra in ārōhaṇa and avarōhaṇa respectively are the maximum possible details that can be gathered from this lakṣaṇa śloka.1 Mūrcana given by Dīkṣitar is RSRGMPDPNNS SNDPMGRMGS which gives a slightly clear picture. It can be observed that the possible phrase that lead us to tāra ṣaḍja is PNNS and to that of madya ṣaḍja is RMGS. More detail can be gathered by studying the salient phrases delineated by Dīkṣitar (See Footnote 2). By this exercise, few details not mentioned in the śloka and mūrcana can be learnt. Also we come to know the additional phrase to reach tāra ṣaḍja is PS. Similarly madya ṣaḍja can also be touched by the phrase RGS. There are special phrases like NDM and RM which is usually suffixed with RG or GS.

The above elucidation clearly shows the importance of reading the rāga as a whole rather than analyzing the mūrcana alone. Our learning further enhances and is completed when the kṛti-s in this rāga notated by Dīkṣitar are analyzed.

Gōpikāvasanta – Consensus

Gōpikāvasanta was taken up by a conclave of musicians in The Music Academy conference as a part of rāga lakṣaṇa discussion. A reference to the mūrcana given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has been made and an utsava sampradāya kīrtanam of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal was sung by Māṅgudi Cidambara Bgāgavatar. A consensus was made and this rāga was considered as a janya of mēla 20 with the presence of antara gāndhāra, catuśruti dhaivata and kākali niṣādha. This rāga followed the scale SRGMPNS  SNDPMGS. This lead us nowhere and we don’t know whether that was a different rāga or a variant (aberrant form?) existed at that time.2

Kṛti-s in Gōpikāvasanta

There are two kṛti-s notated by Dīkṣitar in this rāga. The first one is the well-known ‘bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi’ of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and the second one is ‘gōvindarājam’, a very rare one by Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar tuned the compositions of the latter composer and this is no exception. Though many of the compositions of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya can be seen in Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini, this composition is seen only in the lesser known and perhaps the last publication of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar ‘Samskṛta ānḍra drāviḍa kīrtanālu’ published in the year 1906 (See Footnote 3).3 There is supposed to be a kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svamigal in this rāga which will be taken up soon.

Bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

This is a kṛti on Śrī Kṛṣṇa. No reference to any specific kṣetra is seen in this kṛti. As mentioned earlier, this has many prayōga-s, not mentioned in the mūrcana or in the specific phrases listed like PMPG, P(mandra sthāyi)R, SGR,SMMS and RGMGS. Analysis of this kṛti can be read in the article cited above.

Gōvindarājam of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya – Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya is an underrated composer who has composed many kṛti-s in Sanskrit, Tamiz and Telugu. It is much unfortunate that many of his kṛti-s are not presented on stage. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar’s musical inception can be studied by analyzing these tunes and are definitely useful in understanding the musical style of Dīkṣitar family. This kṛti is on Kṛṣṇa incarnated as Gōvindarājā.

This is set in pallavi-anupallavi-caraṇam format with a muktāyi svara at the end. Many of the key phrases seen in the kṛti ‘bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi’ and the phrases elucidated while describing the rāga can be seen here. Even before we cross the first line of the sāhitya, the phrase P(mandra sthāyi)S is highlighted and this phrases repeats. Similarly, PS too recur often. We do see some new phrases like SRS, PNDNDM, and DNDDM. Phrases used by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar like RGMGS, SMMS are not seen here. Whereas the svara-s ṣaḍja and gāndhāra were used as gṛha svara by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, it is pañcama and gāndhāra by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This kṛti by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has many repetitive phrases like GRGS, DNDNDM and SPS which is not the case with the other kṛti. It is very clear that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has tried to give us a very different picture of this rāga. It is to be remembered here that Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has extracted this rāga to its maximum possible limit without compromising the melody. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, understanding this limitation and being aware of the restricted scope of this rāga has shown us the lesser exposed side of this rāga, thereby giving a different, yet complete picture. This kṛti also serves as an exemplar to understand Dīkṣitar’s musical acumen in the realm of tāla. This kṛti can be heard here.

Sañcāri of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

In the treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini, whether a particular rāga is furnished with a kṛti or not, it invariably has a sañcāri composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Sañcāri in this rāga forms an important role as it is not just an encapsulation of the kṛti ‘bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi’ or the phrases he elucidated while introducing this rāga. Neither is it a replica of the phrases seen in the kṛti ‘gōvindarājam’. It is unique in its own way as it gives us a more complete picture of this rāga. New phrases found here help us to understand this rāga further, which includes PDM,NS, SNS  and GGPP. The phrase SPS is again stressed and also we get to see other phrases in mandra sthāyi like PR and NS (P and N are in mandra sthāyi).

From the above discussion it could be well perceived that Dīkṣitar has not explained all the phrases in his introductory remarks (to this rāga); mūrcana given by him is not comprehensive in explaining a rāga. When we see the phrases which cannot be redacted from the mūrcana and also when older forms like gīta or prabandha were not furnished (in his Pradarṣini), how and from where Dīkṣitar extracted these places?

Following hypotheses can be proposed:

  1. Dīkṣitar (Muddusvāmy and/or Subbarāma) could have had unpublished gīta-prabandha-s with them (See Footnote 4).
  2. Rāga lakṣana said to be written by Vēṅkaṭamakhi, which was in the possession of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar could have an explanatory phrases to understand rāga-s like this. The book what we call it as ‘anubandha’ appears to be an incomplete work. A lakṣaṇa granta tries to explain a rāga with its phrases or more detailed ślōka-s. The ślōka-s in the ‘anubandha’ are totally redundant in understanding a rāga and they more appear to be a part of a main treatise which is yet to be discovered.

Gōpikāvasanta and Indughanṭārava – Two names for a single rāga?

We have reiterated several times that the compositions handed over to us by oral tradition or through the printed texts and the rāga lakṣaṇa therein is not comprehensive in any manner. We need to look into unpublished manuscripts lying untouched at various repositories. Analysis without considering the data given in the manuscripts will be superfluous and will not give us an exact solution.

A manuscript in Tanjāvūr Mahārāja Śerfoji Sarasvati Mahāl Library (TMSSML)

TMSSML is a veritable source to understand the cultural history of Tanjāvūr as it preserves manuscripts related to our culture and many of them are yet to be explored. Many of these manuscripts are believed to be of Nāyak period.3 One among this is a manuscript having a collection of gīta-s and sūlādi-s in notation. This manuscript also has a notation for āyittam in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta (See Footnote 5). Gōpikāvasanta is also mentioned as (a janya of) Bhairavi mēla. This shows the existence of this rāga during or even before the period of Śāhāji and Tulaja. The phrases there in, though much less elaborative that what is seen in the compositions mentioned above, is much suggestive of Gōpikāvasanta. Excluding two phrases, other prayōga-s can be seen in the compositions mentioned above. The unique prayōga-s seen only in this āyittam are GRS and PDNS! How can we reconcile this? This rāga also has the phrases PDND (also seen in the āyittam) and SNS.

Technically, this rāga could have had these phrases (GRS and PDNS) and these composers could have avoided using this phrase. Not necessarily, a composer is expected to exhaust all the phrases in his composition. Secondly, Dīkṣitar has mentioned several phrases in many rāga-s that they are used only in gīta-s or prabandha-s and not in kīrtana-s. Even in this case, Dīkṣitar remarks, the phrase PNS or SNS is seen only in the tānam. GRS and PDNS could have been such unique phrases used only in those genres and not used in kṛti-s.

An old rāga

Based on these evidences, we can clearly say this is definitely an old rāga, existent even before the time of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and due to some unknown reasons, was not catalogued in the treatises like Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śahāji or Saṅgīta Sāramṛta of Tulaja. Having said this, we will now analyze Indughaṇṭārava and see how it differs from Gōpikāvasanta.

Indughaṇṭārava – Lakṣaṇa

This is a janya of Bhairavi mēla says Śahāji and Tulaja. This could correspond to Nārīrītigaula mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. They have given some illustrative phrases and stressed PDNS and MGRS will not occur in this rāga.5

Though it appears much similar to Gōpikāvasanta, certain vital differences can be seen on careful introspection of the phrases given by them. First is the appearance of the phrases PDNS and GRS. This cannot occur in Indughaṇṭārava, but seen in Gōpikāvasanta. Second is the phrase SRGMGS. This is seen only in Indughaṇṭārava and not in the āyittam or any of the available compositions in Gōpikāvasanta. The common avarōhaṇa phrase in Indughaṇṭārava is SNDPM, which is certainly not permissible in Gōpikāvasanta (See Footnote 6).

Based on the available evidences, we can clearly conclude both are old rāga-s and are much allied to each other. We had many gīta-s and tāna-s in both these rāga-s, implying both could have been popular. As mentioned earlier, due to some unknown reasons, some musicologists failed to catalogue Gōpikāvasanta (See Footnote 7). We get to know Indughaṇṭārava is a ghana and naya rāga. Can Gōpikāvasanta be a dēśīya rāga and hence got missed to be catalogued like many other dēśīya rāga-s?

A kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal

We have mentioned about Māṅgudi Cidambara Bāgavatar singing an utsava sampradāya in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta. Though we have no clue on the kṛti, we can narrow down our search based on an information given by Taccur brothers.

Taccur brothers had published a series of books in the earlier part of the last century. One among them is Śrī Bhagavad Sārāmṛtam, published in the year 1916.6 This has a kṛti of Svāmigal in the rāgaṃ Gōpikāvasanta.

Śri rāma rāma rāma is an utsava sampradāya kṛti, now sung in Nīlāmbari. Almost all the texts mention the rāga of this kṛti as Nīlāmbari, but mentioned as Gōpikāvasanta by Taccur brothers. Another significant observation here is the tāla of this kṛti is not specified. It should be sung like an ālāpana, without reckoning tāla says the author. We were unable to find any living tradition singing this kṛti like this.

The melody of this sounds much different from the Gōpikāvasanta that we were discussing. Many phrases like PMR and RGMDP, which are not seen in the compositions mentioned earlier can be seen. The svarūpa seen here does not even seem to match the scale given by them (in the ‘rāga lakṣaṇa proceedings’ happened in The Music Academy); Gōpikāvasanta mentioned by them is devoid of ṛṣbham, but this version has. Combining these evidences with the points mentioned in The Music Academy conference, this could have been some other rāga disguised in the name of Gōpikāvasanta.

Conclusion

Based on the presently available evidences, we can conclude Gōpikāvasanta was a separate entity from Indughaṇṭārava though they share very many similarities. Many rāga-s have not been catalogued by the lakṣaṇa granthakāra-s and it is only by examination of gīta-prabandha manuscripts preserved at various repositories and texts like Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini we get to know the mere existence of these rāga-s. The Dīkṣitar family had done a great service by providing these abstract rāga-s in the form of kṛti-s which are more palatable than any other form and we are indebted to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar for cataloguing rāga-s like Gōpikāvasanta which do not have any textual reference. This also shows Dīkṣitar was much aware of his tradition and assiduously bequeathed to us.

Acknowledgement

I thank Dr Ārati Rao, Research Scholar for providing me a copy of TMSSML manuscript.

References

1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. 1904. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini, Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Samasthānaṃ.

2. Proceedings of the Experts Committee of the Madras Music Academy. 1938. The Journal of  Music Academy, Volume IX, p 17-18.

3. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. 1906. Samskṛta ānḍra drāviḍa kīrtanālu. Eṭṭayyapuram Vidyā Vilāsini Mudrākṣaraśala, p 42-43.  

4. Sīta, S. 1976. Dīkṣitar and Vēṅkaṭamakhin’s tradition. The Journal of Music Academy, p 129.

5. Hema Ramanathan. 2004. Ragalakshana Sangraha – Collection of Raga Descriptions, p 565-567.

6. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. 1916. Gāyaka siddhāṅjanamu. Cennapuri Śaśilēkhā Mudrākśaraśālā, p 45-46.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi and its allied texts do make a note of this rāga. But the scale given there lacks ṛṣbham completely and is much different from the Gōpikāvasanta described here.

Footnote 2

RgmrG, RmrG, Rggs, RgM, PdpM, GmP, rgmP, ndM, grmgS, rmrgS, PsPPs, GRmgS, Pnns, psns were few of the phrases mentioned by Dīkṣitar (P is in mandra sthāyi).

Footnote 3

Raṅga Rāmānuja Ayyaṅgār has notated this composition in his book ‘kṛti maṇi mālai’. We find a completely different version there. This version is not taken for comparison, as we have an authentic version given by the composer himself and the version by Ayyaṅgār is definitely a retuned one irrespective of his source. The tāla intricacies seen in the composer’s version is not maintained here and this version also lacks the citta svaram.

Footnote 4

Dīkṣitar, at many places in Pradarṣini proclaims he has supplementary material in the form of tāna-s and gīta-s and not publishing them because of space restraint. One such example that might be of relevance here is the note that he gives in the Ābhērī rāga lakṣana. He clearly mentions he has tāna-s to support the statement given by him regarding the lakṣaṇa and not publishing them. For the same reason, he could have refrained himself from publishing tāna-s in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta.

Footnote 5

Rāga ālāpana was also referred as ‘āyitam’.

Footnote 6

It is to be accepted that the phrases available to us are very limited and we need to see the compositions in full to understand the rāga Indughaṇṭārava.

Footnote 7

In this regard, Gōpikāvasanta alone is not a solitary exclusion. Many dēśi rāga-s like Bhairavam, Aṭhāṇa, Bēgaḍa etc., were not catalogued by Śāhāji and Tulaja.

The birth of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

The Tamiz month Thai (January – February) in the year 1904 marked a new beginning in the history of Karnataka Music. 15th February, 1904 (Rakshasa, Krishnapaksha chaturdashi) saw the first printed copy of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini written by Brahma Sri Subbarama Dikshitar. SSP, as it is frequently called was a brainchild of AM Chinnasamy Mudaliyar, but got the present shape only by the benevolence and munificence of the ruler of Ettayapuram, Raja Jagadveera Rama Venkateswara Ettappa Maharaja.

Though we consider SSP as a single book, it is indeed a collection of various aspects of our music and musicology. The book is mainly divided into two segments – theory and practical sections and this was  much intended by Subbarama Dikshitar himself. An adequate knowledge on these segments is a must to understand and interpret this treatise.

Segments

The theory segment consists of the following sub-divisions:

                         An index to the compositions notated in SSP.

                                      Vaggeyakara caritramu.

   Sangita lakshana pracheena padhathi dealing with grama,jati etc.

     Sangita lakshana sangrahamu dealing with svaras, gamakas etc.

Ragaangopaanga bhaashanga murchanaalu dealing with the arohana-

avarohana of various ragas.

Errata (tappoppulu) and section on identifying and rectifying the mistakes

(porabatalu).

The practical segment starts by giving notations with gamaka symbols for various kritis which extends as anubandham.

Whereas Sri Subbarama Dikshitar is much appreciated for his treatise which deals with both the lakshana and lakshya of music, his accomplishment as a composer is often abated. This article will deal only with Subbarama Dikshitar as a tribute to his priceless contribution.

Before embarking into the versions notations in SSP, it is imperative to understand that the svarupa of ragas shown there in not only reflect the lakshna seen during his time, but also that of an era which saw the birth of Trinity. Understanding this concept alone helps us to relate with the music provided by him.

Works of Subbarama Dikshitar

The creations of Subbarama Dikshitar can be equalled with that of well celebrated Trinity of Karnataka Music. His handling of ragas, use of alliterations, scrupulously obliging the rules of prosody are all unsurpassed and are to be enjoyed personally. He has composed around 35 compositions across various genres like varnam, daru, jatisvaram, keertanam and ragamalika and also tuned the compositions of other poets like Sri Krishnaswamy Ayya. The kriti ‘amba paradevate’ which is almost synonymous with the raga Rudrapriya was a creation of both Krishnaswamy Ayya (lyrics) and Subbarama Dikshitar (music). Though, the quantity appears to be less, they are all replete with arterial phrases of a raga which not only appeal the mortals like us, but also evoke the raga devata which are a personification of ever pervading ‘nadabrahmam’. Quite in the line of his predecessors, archaic phrases which can be seen only in ancient gitas can be seen aplenty in his works. Perhaps, he could be one of the modern composer to visualise the varnas in its old form – with an anubanda. All his varnas end with the pallavi (due to the presence of anubanda at the end of citta svara) and not with the caranam as is seen with majority of the varnas.

His compositional style, though resemble that of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in many aspects, has its own inimitable style. Incorporating raga mudras (punnagagandhari in the kriti mannaru ranga deva and rama ramakali kalusha in the kriti rama rama) and use of the mudra ‘guruguha’ in some of the kritis might resemble the style of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. As with any other member of Dikshitar family, he has also employed many antique ragas like Gauri, Kapi and Mechabauli in his kritis.  

A bulk of his compositions are ragamalikas. In general, ragas employed in his ragamalikas were the usual members patronized by Diksitar family like Gauri, Padi, Paraju, Darubaru and Sri. In this regard, extraordinary resemblance is seen between Subbarama Dikshitar and Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar. Another pathognomonic feature, unique to the family of Dikshitar is the serial use of allied ragas. In his 32 ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavathira’ on Vizianagaram Raja Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, he has used Lalitha, Paraju and Gauri adjacently (all are janyas of Mayamalavagaula).

He has a long ragamalika to his credit ‘I kanakambari’, a grammar to understand the 72 raganga ragas.  The sahitya of this ragamalika was composed by one Krishna Kavi and was tuned by Subbarama Diksitar. Ragamalika demands the use of raga mudra in the sahityam and we can see a seamless integration of raga name into the sahityam in the compositions of Subbarama Dikshitar. Be it the phrase “kaamita subha phaladayakaa pinaakapani” wherein the raga mudra Kapi is woven or “priyamunaayame kori” wherein the raga mudra Yamuna features in, one cannot stop wondering the genius of this composer.  

Plenty of anu-prasa and ‘yamaka’ can be seen in the compositions of Subbarama Dikshitar. One such example is the usage of the word “maana” in his daru in the ragam Natanarayani. Maanani, maanavati and maanamagu are the few forms in which this word features.

Unfortunately only few of his compositions like ‘kanthimathim’, ‘sankaracharyam’ and ‘parthasaradhi’ are in circulation. This author has attempted to give life to few of his compositions as a part of his 180th Birthday Celebrations (1839 – 2019), which can be viewed here.

Colorful Bhashanga-s

The term ‘bhāṣāṅga’ connoted different meaning at different point of time in the history of Karnāṭaka Music. During the period when the “grāma-mūrcana” system was in use, the term bhāṣāṅga denote the rāga-s that reflect other bhāṣā-s. In other words, this term denote the rāga-s that came from other regions. After the development of “mēla-janya” system, many terms which were used in the “grāma-mūrcana” era were used with a different connotation. Bhāṣāṅgā is one such.

The term Bhāṣāṅgā in the post “grāma-mūrcana” era appears first in the treatise “Rāga lakṣaṇam” appended to Caturdaṇḍīprakāṣikā of Vēṅkaṭamakhī. Author of this small treatise is uncertain and is attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhī or Muḍḍu Vēṅkaṭamakhī by different musicologists. Though the mentioned text mentions this term, proper definition of this term can be learnt only from Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his treatise defines bhāṣāṅgā rāga-s are those that take svarā-s from other rāgāṅga rāga-s (mēla-s) according to its character.1 This is referred as anya svara in today’s parlance. Though, this is a commonly accepted terminology now and used unanimously, this term was used differently by different musicians in the past. One such example is seen in the book by Bhatkhande. He interviewed various musicians of the South and one such prominent musician who registered his views to Bhatkhande was Rāmanāthapuram Śrinivasa Ayyaṅgār (see Footnote 1). He gives a different percept on these rāga-s. He says these rāga-s do not confirm with the classification given by the śāstrā-s completely; have folk influences and are usually named after the region from where they originate. It will be clear from the above discussion that this term, though now denote the rāga-s which carry one or two anya svarā-s, was used conveying varied ideas in the past. Hence, 19th century saw not only a new platform to exhibit the musical talents of artists, it was also a watershed period in the pages of modern musicology. This heterogeneity of these bhāṣāṅgā-s and its implications are addressed to in this post.

Not many texts published during the last century give us a valid information about the presence of anya svarā-s in these bhāṣāṅgā-s. Though the series of texts by K V Śrinivāsa Ayyaṅgār and later by Raṅgarāmānuja Ayyaṅgār clearly mention the presence of these anya svara-s, they fail to mark these svarā-s in notation. Though, the rāga lakṣaṇa section describes succinctly about the presence of these anya svāra-s and the phrases in which they appear, this cannot be considered as a comprehensive guide to know the real svarūpa of these rāga-s as the notation lack signs to know their presence or absence. To understand this problem and its ramifications, let us first look into the treatise by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and the procedure he followed to introduce these bhāṣāṅgā-s, as this is the first text to include the symbols for anya svarā-s along with an explanation for all the rāga-s employed in the treatise.

Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Śrī Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

In this treatise, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has classified the rāga-s into three categories: rāgāṅga rāga-s (which may be considered as an equivalent to mēla-s), upāṅga and  bhāṣāṅga rāga-s. Under each rāgāṅga  rāga-s, he gives a list of janya-s: upāṅga and bhāṣāṅga rāga-s. He then proceeds to explain each rāga in detail. Under each bhāṣāṅga rāga, its mūrcana, a description about its arterial phrases, anya svarā-s, if present were given. Anya svara-s when present were marked with a symbol, both in the text and notated sections. The readers are requested to pay attention here to observe a valuable finding that anya svarā-s were not given for all bhāṣāṅga-s. To make it simpler, rāga-s like Śrī rañjani, Dēvamanōhari etc., though mentioned as a bhāṣāṅga rāga, no anya svaram can be seen either in the rāga lakṣaṇa section or in the notated section. This discrepancy does not end with this! The lakṣaṇa segment given before each rāga does not necessarily supplement the lakṣaṇa portrayed in the kṛti-s. There is a discrepancy in the occurrence of anya svara-s between the lakṣaṇa section and the lakṣya section. For instance, he considers Saurāṣtram as a bhāṣāṅga janya of Māyāmāḷavagaula and says śuddha dhaivatam occurs in the prayōga-s PDP and PDDP in the lakṣaṇa section. Whereas this is strictly observed in the kṛti Sūryamūrte, in the kṛti Varalakṣmīm the phrase PDP uses both the dhaivatam; PDP with pañcaśruti (catuśruti) is seen at the beginning of the kṛti and the same phrase with śuddha dhaivatam occurs in the beginning of caraṇam of the same kṛti!! Another interesting rāga is Pūrṇacandrika wherein he says the anya svaram kaiṣiki niṣādham can be seen in the phrases PNS and SDNP. Strangely, none of the notated compositions show the presence of this svaram in the mentioned phrases !!

In some other bhāṣāṅga-s like Śahāna, same phrase sports svakīya (its default svara) and anya svara at different occasions. Śahāna is placed under the rāgāṅga rāga Śri and the preponderant gāndharam, by default is of sādhāraṇa variety. Antara gāndharam features only in selected phrases. The point here is, a prescription on the use of antara gāndharam is not clear both in lakṣya and lakṣaṇa section. For example, the phrase RGMP uses both the gāndhara-s, though at different locations. How these discrepancies are to be reconciled? Do they have to be considered as printing errors and be self-corrected or it is an inkling given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar on the colorful nature of bhāṣāṅga-s ?

Bhāṣāṅga-s

Let us revisit the bhāṣāṅga-s mentioned in Pradarśini and try to classify them to make this discussion more comprehensible. There are totally 55 bhāṣāṅga rāga-s mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The distribution of these rāga-s is not uniform across the rāgāṅga rāga-s. Whereas the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Māyāmāḷavagaula and Śaṅkarābharaṇam are flooded with a multitude of bhāṣāṅga rāga-s, no janya rāga-s can be seen for the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Saurasēna or Kiraṇāvaḷi. In between are the rāgāṅga rāga-s Kanakāmbari and Kāśirāmakriya which have only upāṅga janya-s.

These 55 bhāṣāṅga rāga-s can be classified into three types for easy understanding:

  1. Bhāṣāṅga rāga-s with anya svara marked – Rāga-s like Aṭāṇa, Pūrṇacandrika, Śahāna, etc., fall under this category.
  2. Bhāṣāṅga rāga-s with anya svara not marked – Madhyamāvati, Devamanōhari, Nāyaki, etc., come under this category.
  3. Third category rāga-s are those in which the lakṣaṇa śloka given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar also mention the presence of anya svara, in addition to being marked by Dīkṣitar. There are three rāga-s in this category – Saurāṣtram, Bhairavi, Kāmbhōji.

From this preliminary discussion, it can be inferred that, the presence of anya svara might not have been the single criteria to label a rāga as bhāṣāṅga, with a special reference to the rāga-s classified as type two. There might have been some other reasons which is not visible from presently available evidences. This thought is further supported by the finding that, none of the other treatises, including Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, considered to be written around or prior to 18 CE mention the term bhāṣāṅga rāga-s (excluding the treatise Rāga Lakṣaṇa cited initially). More importantly, these treatises don’t even mention about the presence or absence of anya svaram (see Footnote 2). This raises a doubt whether these anya svara-s are an integral part of the rāga architecture that is essential to carve a rāga svarūpa or they are like optional entities that came into practice later.

Let us proceed further to dissect the other two types to understand the multiple hues reflected by these bhāṣāṅga-s. We have mentioned earlier that there are some exceptions, wherein the presence of anya svara in the bhāṣāṅga rāga-s have been mentioned across the treatises. Only three rāga-s can be located to have this unique distinction – Saurāṣtram, Bhairavi and Kāmbhōji. The anya svara featuring in these rāga-s, pañcaśruti (catuśruti) dhaivatam in Saurāṣtram and Bhairavi and kākali niṣādham in Kāmbhōji were mentioned in the lakṣaṇa śloka-s in the Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and the Rāga Lakṣaṇa treatise of disputable authorship. Few references can also be seen in earlier treatises (see Footnote 3).

It can be now inferred that, at least from the period in which Rāga Lakṣaṇa was written (first quarter of 18th century or a 17 century work, if proved to be a work of Vēṅkaṭamakhī), use of anya svaram in these three rāga-s were prevalent. But, in the case of Saurāṣtram, only the presence of pañcaśruti dhaivatam was hinted and not about the other anya svaram kaiśiki niṣādham. So we are left with no clue as on the period from which this came into practice.

Let us move into the other discrepancy, on the use of these anya svara-s in these bhāṣāṅga-s especially those belonging to the first type. As mentioned earlier, a lot of discrepancy is noted in handling these anya svara-s between lakṣya and lakṣaṇa section in the Pradarśini. As they are noticeable in almost all the bhāṣāṅga-s placed under type one in our classification, it is better to look in for a  tangible rationale prevailed during those old days rather to repudiate it calling it as printing errors. Analyzing the notations of all the compositions provided for these rāga-s, it can be hypothesized that the phrases involving these anya svara-s can be grouped into three types. 

  1. Phrases that take only svakīya svara-s
  2. Phrases that take only anya svara-s
  3. Fluid phrases that might take either of these svara-s depending on the choice of the vaggēyakāra.

This will be explained by taking Śahāna as an example.

Śahāna, as mentioned earlier is considered as a janya of Śri. Hence, sādhāraṇa gāndharam is the svakīya svara (its default svaram) and antara gāndharam becomes anya svaram. It is to be remembered here that Śahāna is now considered as a janya of Harikāmbōji, implying antara gāndharam is the svakīya svaram to be employed and the use of sādhāraṇa gāndharam is not in practice.

When the notations given by Subbārama Dīkṣitar were analyzed, the phrases involving the gāndharam can be placed into the above-mentioned categories:

  1. Phrases that take only svakīya svara (sādhāraṇa) like GG, RGRS
  2. Phrases that take only anya svara (antara) like SRGMPDN, PRGDP
  3. Fluid phrases that take either of these svara-s depending on the choice of the vaggēyakāra – RGMPM, MGMR

(The phrases mentioned above are only explanatory and not comprehensive by any means).

So, a vaggēyakāra has an option of using any gāndhara, when he employs the fluid phrases. This hypothesis also help us to dispel the problem in placing a rāga like this under a particular mēla. For example, if a vaggēyakāra uses profuse (or only) sādhāraṇa gāndharam in these fluid phrases and uses antara variety sparsely, this rāga sounds like a janya of Śri. Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar has followed this in his kṛti “vāśi vāśi” which can be heard here.

On the other hand, if a vaggēyakāra uses profuse (or only) antara gāndharam in these fluid phrases and uses sādhāraṇa variety sparsely, this sounds like a janya of Harikāmbhōji. Perhaps, this could have been followed by Paiḍāla Gurumūrti Śāstri, as he considers this as a janya of Kāmbhōji in his gītam. Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar was relatively more generous in using these anya svara-s when compared to Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar. We have no idea about the stand of Tyagarāja Svāmigal, as the oldest notations that give his kṛti-s in notation, written by Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar does not specify the svara sthāna-s.

This versatility of using these anya svara-s give multiple colors to these bhāṣāṅga-s. Also, it can be very well guessed, a rāga could have been handled without using these anya svara-s. Pūrṇacandrika is an example of this type. None of the compositions notated in this rāgam sport the anya svaram kaiṣiki niṣādham though we have a mention about this svaram by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in the lakṣaṇa section of Pūrṇacandrika. This flexibility in handling of these anya svaram is applicable only to selected rāga-s like Pūrṇacandrika or all the bhāṣāṅga  is not clear. But, this is a common finding in almost all the rāgamālika-s involving these bhāṣāṅga-s. This heterogeneity and versatility gets multifold when a bhāṣāṅga has more than one anya svara. This is so with the case of Āhiri, which uses all the svara-s sans prati madhyamaṃ. So, a vaggēyakāra can manipulate these rāga-s in his own imitable form to paint multiple colors, in order to serve his need of bringing the bhāva that he wishes. Unfortunately, Āhiri, who was once decorated with a colorful raiment is now seen, always wearing a white sāri. It is also unfortunate to know that the original tunes in these rāga-s were lost forever, as we cannot judge the side taken by the vaggēyakāra when composing in these rāga-s, unless we get a notation as in Pradarśini, which denotes the svara variety too. A detailed discussion about individual bhāṣāṅga-s, anya svara featuring in these rāga-s, the fluid phrases seen, details about them in various musicological texts with an analysis will be covered separately.

Similar findings can also be seen in a book by Popley (see Footnote 4). Several Christian poems tuned to classical rāga-s can be seen in this book. Several bhāṣāṅga-s feature there and the anya svara was also marked in notation. This book too serve to support our hypothesis about these bhāṣāṅga-s, especially those belonging to type 1. For instance, Bhairavi was handled by him without a trace of anya svara – catuśruti dhaivatam (the author was well aware of Naṭabhairavi and has tuned one poem to the latter) !!

Prior to Stephen and Popley, Bhairavi was handled like an upāṅga in the kṛti ‘rāma lokābhirāma’ of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya (tuned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar). Whereas this kṛti totally eschews the phrase NDNS, wherein the anya svara catuśruti dhaivatham occurs, Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar has used this phrase, eschewing the anya svaram in the rāgamālika ‘śivamōhana’.

We are indebted to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar for giving us, at least the kṛti-s known to him in notation with a svara and gamaka symbol, as we not only can imagine the structure of these bhāṣāṅga-s, but also get an idea about the colorful architecture of these rāga-s.

Conclusion

Though we were made to believe from the available evidences that the presence of anya svara is a requisite to label a rāga as bhāṣāṅgā, it is clear that this was not the only criteria used in the past. Rāga-s like Śrī rañjani, Madhyamāvati which do not use any anya svara serves as an example to prove this statement. We also have evidences to consider the bhāṣānga-s could have been in use without anya svara. When present, the vaggēyakāra could have had the liberty to use or not to use these anya svara-s. Similarly, there could have flexibility in using svakīya svara or anya svara in a phrase. This versatility makes them colorful which was used to its maximum by a vaggēyakāra. Much more research into this field might prove or disprove this hypothesis.

Footnotes                              

Foote note 1: Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande’s memoirs of south India: “Meri Dakshin Bharat ki Sangeet Yatra” is a Hindi work recording his experiences with various musicians of South India flourished during his period. Vidvān Śri Navaneethakrishnan is into the task of translating this monumental work. This information on bhāgāṅga rāga-s as given by Rāmanāthapuram Śrinivasa Ayyaṅgār to by Bhatkhande was gracefully shared to me by the mentioned vidvān.

Foot note 2: Treatises like Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi do not even mention about the presence or absence of anya svara-s. We really do not know this lack of mentioning is due to ignorance of the author or the lack of usage of these svara-s during their period.

Foot note 3: Śahaji in his treatise Rāga lakṣaṇamu describes saurāṣtram as a rāga that uses śuddha niṣādham (kvaccitu śuddha niṣādham vaccunu). Dr Hema Ramanathan opines this could be a reference to the use of pañcaśruti dhaivatham in her gargantuan work “Rāga Lakṣaṇa Saṅgrahamu”.2

Foot note 4: Stephen and Popley in the year 1914 published a book containing Christian poems set to classical rāga-s in notation. The book was published to create an awareness about Christian truth and spread evangelism to Hindu audiences, says the author.  It is a comprehensive book containing all the basic information about our system – rāga, tāḷa, gamaka and notation system. Various poems explaining various fables were set to music. A wide array of rāga-s were employed involving mēla-s, upāṅga and bhāṣāṅga rāga-s.3

References

1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgītasampradāyapradarśinī (English edition). The Music Academy,  Madras, pg 79.  

2. Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.

3. Stephen LI, Popley HA. Handbook of Musical Evangelism. The Methodist Publishing House, 1914.