Apurva raga-s handled by Tyagaraja Svamigal – Karnataka Kamas

Dr Aravindh T Ranganathan

This article is a continuation of the previous one on the rāga Kamās. It is advisable to get acquainted with that article before proceeding further as the mentioned article will be quoted often.

Like K V Rāmachandran has mentioned in one of his article, Tyāgarāja Svāmigal is like Prajāpati in creating his own rāga-s.1 Many of these rāga-s were hitherto unknown and many have only his compositions. This uniqueness had posed a problem for the musicians, compilers and researchers in the last century. Many rāga-s were given more than one name, some had scale-lakṣaṇa discrepancies, that is the rāga name does not match with the rāga svarūpa portrayed in the rāga and some were corrected to the nearest scale. The basic reason for such a discrepancy is the name of these rāgas-s remained anonymousand the compilers adopted their own indigenous ways to name these rāga-s (See Footnote 1).Frequently Taccur brothers were impeached for adopting the names from the text by name Saṅgraha Cūdāmani.2 Rāga-s handled by Tyāgarāja and Dīkṣitar with varied lakṣaṇa were given a single name and in this process a theory was devised to behold this glaring anomaly, Tyāgarāja and Dīkṣitar followed two different schools and a same rāga was handled differently depending on the school to which they belong to. Whereas Dīkṣitar’s musical ancestry was traced back to Vēṅkaṭamakhi, sincere thanks to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, Svāmigal’s ancestry was traced back to the text Saṅgraha Cūdāmani whose authorship is unknown. But this theory was questioned by Chērmadevi Subraḥmaṇya Sāstrigal as early as in 1936, a Veena vidvan belonging to Dīkṣitar school (See Footnote 2).3 This thought was later echoed in many of the articles by K V Ramachandran.1,2 Their reasoning and querying the authenticity of this theory is genuine, when we see a similar handling of ghana, rakti and dēśīya rāga-s, how or why should these contemporary composers follow different schools while handling apūrva rāga-s? This question remains open even now; but we still believe they propagated two different schools. This author tries to supplement the thoughts put forward by these musicians/musicologists, by analyzing Vālājāpeṭṭai manuscripts and other older versions and articles in this series can be accessed in this site.

K V Rāmachandran also made two valid observations which help us to understand these apūrva rāga-s better and help us to continue his quest in identifying the original tunes and the original rāga names. First, he mentions, in the event of identifying or tagging a rāga name to a composition, the original tune has been vitiated. Secondly, Vālajāpet Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar (grandson of Vālajāpet Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar) has admitted to him that many rāga names has been assigned to the kṛti-s without proper scrutiny.2 The latter point becomes more important as the names that we see today for many of these apūrva rāga-s appear for the first time in the book “Oriental Music in European Notation” by A M Chinnasāmy Mudaliyar published in the year 1893. The main source for this publication is Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar, along with some other prominent musician whose identity is anonymous. However Rāmachandran and Sāmbamūrti expounded the genuineness of Vālajāpeṭṭai notations and Rāmachandran even advises that these notations are to be analyzed to know the true svarūpa of the compositions of Svāmigal.2,4

With this introduction, let us move to the kṛti ‘sītāpate nā manasuna’. Nowhere else the rāga of this kṛti is disputed and this is such an innocuous kṛti always sung in the rāga Kamās. But our understanding on the Kamās made us to revisit all the available versions for this kṛti – both oral and textual and we are here to report an unusual misattribution; a kṛti composed in an apūrva rāga could have been attributed to the rāga Kamās!

Sītāpatē nā manasuna

We had mentioned several times that the popularity enjoyed by a kṛti too vary and is much time dependent. We have seen such instances in the rāga-s Balahamsa and Kamās. This is one another instance, a kṛti which was not common in the early part of the last century, gained prominence in the later half. Very few texts give this kṛti in notation and this is the same trend seen in the manuscripts examined.

Oral renditions

We hear almost a similar version with the sparse use of ṛṣbham. It is one of the fortunate kṛti-s wherein the basic structure of the kṛti is fairly similar across the renditions. As seen in the article on Kamās, none of the renditions are devoid of the svara ṛṣbham (See footnote 3).

Textual versions – An analysis

As mentioned earlier, very few texts give this kṛti in notation; three texts and three manuscripts in our collection gives us this kṛti. The first text to give this kṛti is ‘saṅgīta kalānidhi’ of Taccur brothers.5 This version is totally devoid of ṛṣbham, has Kamās phrases like SGMS, MNDN and PNDP and set to ādi tāla. To make it more precise, it represents the variant Kamās mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar with unfeigned adherence to the scale SGMPDNS  SNDPMGS, yet maintaining other important phrases of Kamās. If we include the svara ṛṣbham, this version will be much closer to the version that we hear commonly.

Saṅgītānandaratnākaram is the next text to make a note of this kṛti.6 The version given here is also devoid of ṛṣbham, but more closer to the one given in Vālājāpeṭṭai version which will be described soon. The pallavi has five saṅgati-s, of which four show its presence in Vālājāpeṭṭai version. One saṅgati here sports the phrase MNDN, which occur only once in this kṛti. This phrase is absent in Vālājāpeṭṭai version. Similarly the first line of anupallavi has a saṅgati which has the phrase SGMSN. This phrase is again not seen in Vālājāpeṭṭai version. It can be concluded that the basic Vālājāpeṭṭai version could have been followed in this text with few additional saṅgati-s. Whether this version has a Vālājāpeṭṭai source or this was the musical tune of this kṛti prevalent among all the disciples, directly learnt from Svāmigal cannot be ascertained.

Dākṣinātyagānam is the third text to take a note of this kṛti (See footnote 4).7 In contrast with the other two versions mentioned above, this has ṛṣbham. Also, tāla of this kṛti is given as dēśādhi. The svara ṛṣbham occurs in the phrases like SRS, RSNDN and RGM; but phrases like SMGM or MNDN are not seen. Can we then call it as Kamās, when its integral phrases are not present? It is acceptable that a composer need not use all phrases in a rāga. But is he entitled to envisage a rāga with none of its integral phrases?

Coming to manuscripts, this is seen in Vālājāpeṭṭai transcripts and a manuscript written by Śrīnivāsarāghavan and Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar. Śrīnivāsarāghavan has collected manuscripts from various sources and we cannot point it to any particular source. This has ṛṣbham in the phrases SRGM and NRS, but only in two or three places. This version corresponds to SGMPDNS  SNDPMGS with occasional SRGM. Again, no other vital phrases of Kamās can be seen.  

The version by Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar8 does not have ṛṣbham (See footnote 5). The version given here strictly adheres to the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS. He was a disciple of Umayālpuram Svāminātha Iyer and consider to represent late Umayālpuram lineage.

Vālājāpeṭṭai transcripts give a version which is different from the commonly heard version, yet identical with the rāga Kamās. The version strictly adheres to the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS, a variant of Kamās mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, totally devoid of ṛṣbham. This is set to the tāla dēśādhi and the melody when sung in this tāla gives a different feel. In the article on Kamās we have seen the scale mentioned can be a variant and with the occasional presence of ṛṣbham can be considered as Kamās as seen in the kṛti ‘sujana jīvana’. Now a doubt can arise for an astute observer, the reason for us to discuss this kṛti separately when we have seen a Kamās variant.

The Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti, though appears much similar to the kṛti ‘sujana jīvana’, has much pertinent differences. First, this lacks ṛṣbham completely. Nowhere in the literature, have we come across an evidence to consider Kamās as a ṣādava rāga. Hence calling this kṛti as Kamās is debatable. We had raised this query in the article on Kamās too. Second, the kṛti strictly follows the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS, excluding the presence of DNP. Whereas the kṛti ‘sujana jīvana’ had many outliers like SMGS, GPM which can be seen in any old composition composed in the rāga Kamās. Third, the gṛha and nyāsa svara-s used in this kṛti are ṣadjam and pancamam. If we contrast this kṛti with ‘sujana jīvana’, this point can be understood well. The latter kṛti starts with madyamam and almost every āvarta ends with madyamam. Lastly, dhaivatam, though we didn’t see it as a gṛha svara in the latter kṛti, can be considered as an amsa svara. Madhyama and dhaivata are the important svara-s that form a base for Kamās. This cannot be applied for this kṛti in hand. Niṣādha is actually a prominent nyasa svara in this kṛti. Madhyama and dhaivata were not given a prominent place. Considering all these differences, it can be very well precluded that this kṛti could have been composed in some apūrva rāga, having a lakṣaṇa much similar to Kamās. Vālājāpēṭṭai version can be heard here.

When other old versions were compared, it can be seen that all except one follow this variant scale.  Of these versions, the version in Saṅgītānandaratnākaram is almost a reproduction of Vālājāpeṭṭai version. The version by Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar also supports the scale and though the version is not a verbatim reproduction of Vālājāpeṭṭai version, it is melodically much similar with the latter version. It can very well be considered as a modification of Vālājāpeṭṭai version. Śrīnivāsarāghavan too follows this scale but has ṛṣbham. Going by these versions, can we speculate the basic melody could have been in some rāga with the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS. Texts could have mentioned it as Kamās due to its inherent similarity with the latter rāga. In that case, phrases suggestive of Kamās were added later? This name confusion and mixing up of rāga-s is not uncommon. We had discussed earlier about this in the rāga Rudrapriya and how Rudrapriya mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can very well be called as Karnāṭaka Kāpi by many others.

This hypothesis becomes stronger when we consider the version given in Dākṣinātyagānam. That version too has some melodic similarities with Vālājāpeṭṭai verion, especially in the pallavi segment. But the presence of ṛṣbham makes the melody sound different. C R Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār, author of this text has mentioned that the kṛti-s were procured from his personal collection and from Flute Śarabha Śāstrigal. But the source of individual kṛti was not given. In this version, excluding the presence of SRGM and SRS, no other phrase typical to Kamās can be seen. In such a case, is it acceptable to call it as Kamās? We leave this question to musicologists.  

Name of the rāga

Having seen these versions, it is necessary to name the scale seen in this kṛti. Our idea is not to obfuscate the readers by giving some obscure names; rather this an attempt to create an image in the mind of readers that this could have been composed in a rare rāga. Ideally kṛti-s like this are to be discussed in music conferences and consensus has to be made. But to begin with, an attempt is being made here to name this scale. The text Rāga Pravāham gives three different names for this single rāga culled from three different sources – Bilaval, Dhivyamavathi and Karnāṭaka Kamās.9 Of these the last one suits better than the other two, as the this scale represents Kamās in many aspects.

Conclusion

This kṛti, like many kṛti-s of Svāmigal display heterogeneity, across the versions with respect to rāga lakṣaṇam. Though every other version label it as Kamās, the lakṣaṇa given therein differ considerably. From our analysis, it can be seen the lakṣaṇa seen in the majority of the examined versions do not correspond with the lakṣaṇa of Kamās or its variant.

Though this kṛti and ‘sujana jīvana’ were considered to be set in the same rāga, there exist differences between these two as it is evident from our analysis. But all these differences testimony the past and we nowhere can hear those differences, either now or in future.

The rāga handled here could be a scale much resembling Kamās and somewhere down in the line Kamās phrases could have been added. This ṣādava scale has many other names and the one that is much closer to Kamās, less confusing and also which can be taken by us easily is Karnāṭaka Kamās.

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – From Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, several musicians had made a note that Svāmigal didn’t reveal the name of the apūrva rāga-s to his disciples. Someone, perhaps after the beatitude of Svāmigal has named by referring to some lexicon available to them.

Footnote 2 – Cermādēvi Subraḥmaṇya Śāstrigal represents the disciple lineage Śrī Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, being a disciple of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and Ambi Dīkṣitar. He also had his training from Vīna Śēṣaṇṇaof Mysore. In a series of articles in the magazine The Saṅgīta Abhimāni, he expressed his views on the rāga variations seen in the compositions of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ. He raises the same query, how or why the changes are seen only in these apūrva rāga-s of these composers when we have the same lakṣaṇa for rāga-s like Kāmbhōji or Tōḍi? He also mentions both of them belonged to the śiṣya parampara of Vēṅkaṭamakhin.

Footnote 3 – This author was told by Dr Rājaśrī Srīpati, Vaiṇika, that she has learnt this kṛti completely devoid of ṛṣbham from Viduṣi Smt Suguṇa Varadācāri.

Footnote 4 – The exact year of publication of this text cannot be identified. Based on the introductory notes given by Ayyaṅgār, it can be speculated that this text must have been published before 1917.

Footnote 5 – At one place in the anupallavi, we were unable to ascertain the exact svara he has written. Though it appears like ṛṣbham, its complementary part that occurs in caraṇam does not read as ṛṣbham. 

Acknowledgements

I sincerely thank Smt Nandhini Venkataraman, descendant of Kumbakonam Sri Visvanatha Iyer and Dr Chandran, descendant of Dr Srinivasa Raghavan for parting me with the manuscripts in their possession.

My sincere thanks to Dr Rājaśrī Srīpati for educating me about the rare version of this composition.

References

  1. K.V. Rāmacandran. The mēlakartā – A critique. The Journal of Music Academy, pg 31-33, 1938.
  2. K.V. Rāmacandran. Karnatic rāga-s from a new angle. The Journal of Music Academy, pg 105-127,1996.
  3. Cermādēvi Subraḥmaṇya Śāstrigal. Vaiṇīka, gāyaka samvādam. Sila janya rāgaṅgalin kuzappam. The Saṅgīta Abhimāni, pg 101-103,1936.
  4. P. Sāmbamūrti. The Wālājāhpet manuscripts. The Journal of Music Academy, pg 114-129, 1938.
  5. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu . Saṅgīta Kalānidhi, pg . Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1912 
  6. Tenmaṭam Vēṅkaṭācāryulu, Tenmaṭam Varadācāryulu. Saṅgītānanda ratnākaramu, pg 51-52. Śrīnikētana mudrāyantramu, Madras, 1917.
  7. C.R. Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār. Dākṣinātyagānam, pg 156-157.
  8. Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/browse?collection=1&sort_field=Dublin+Core%2CTitle&page=2

9. M.N. Danḍapāṇi, D. Paṭṭammal. Rāga Pravāham. The Trinity Book Publishers, 2007.