Hindolavasantam – The sprightly blossom from the Royal Gardens of Tanjore


We have lost quite a few ragas over the last few centuries either by disuse or abuse. The raga Hindolavasanta or Hindolavasantam under the Nariritigaula/Natabhairavi raganga/mela is one such instance of a raga with a rich textual tradition, having been given a royal treatment by two of the Trinitarians. This raga has a hoary past as evidenced by its documentation by Govinda Dikshitar, Venkatamakhi, King Shahaji, King Tulaja, Muddu Venkatamakhi and finally by Subbarama Dikshitar. The raga lakshana as codified by these greats mentioned above in their musicological works provides us an invaluable lesson as to how our ancients practised the grammar of music which has now been almost forgotten by us. It is a model:

  • Where the tonal color of a melody/raga was driven by bends, turns and twists and not by linear progression of svaras.
  • Where harmonics and aural experience of a raga determined the lakshana or grammar of a raga and not its scalar construction or pedigree as determined by the melakartha.

It is sad that this older process of natural evolution of a raga has now been short circuited by the new mathematically auto generated raga creation model driven by lineal progression of svaras and assignment of ragas to families based on scalar relationship rather than through melodic association. In fact, one can say that, Venkatamakhi wisely refrained from indexing out the set of all 72 permutation/combination scales as he must have strongly felt that such a theoretical exercise would serve no useful purpose- melodically as well as aesthetically. Again it is to the credit of his descendant Muddu Venkatamakhi who while  evolving  the Asampurna mela scheme, attempted to salvage the older ragas and their names, created a harmonic basis for raga creation and classification and thus  provided some continuity to the older model. Alas! This older model is all but dead and many of the hoary ragas have been swept away, in the name of change. The works of Venkatamakhi, King Shahaji and King Tulaja have luckily survived the ravages of these changes and of time and offer us a glimpse of what it was at that point in time in our glorious past.

The raga Hindolavasanta comes to us from that age. I suspect that this raga was/is of a Tanjore/Southern origin for the very simple reason that none of the northern musicologists (north of Tanjore) barring Vidyaranya seem to have noted/documented this raga or its melodic equivalent in their works . Hence I have titled this post, as if this exquisite raga was a sprightly blossom from the Royal Gardens of Tanjore!


I will first outline what is the current state of this raga before we quickly move back in time to circa 1650. The popular definition of this raga as of today is as under:

Hindolavasanta is an upanga janya under the Natabhairavi mela with an operative arohana/avarohana krama as under:

Arohana        : S G M P D N D s

Avarohana     : s N D M G S

The above referred raga lakshana with sadja, sadharana gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivata and kaisiki nishada is as found in the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Ra Ra Seeta ramani manohara’. The dhaivata svara in some of the pathams of this composition is rendered as catusruti in line with the confusion in the allied ragas including Hindolam for example. This raga admits only the suddha dhaivatha as evidenced by the overwhelming body of musicological documentation starting with Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha. Another point worth mentioning here is that this melody has been dealt with slightly differently by Muthusvami Dikshitar.

With this note, let us first look at the historical evolution of this raga starting with the work of Sangita Sudha of Govinda Dikshitar.

Hindolavasanta –As found in Sangita Sudha:

In sum according to Govinda Dikshitar Hindolavasanta comes under the Bhairavi mela and thus has only suddha daivatha. In fact the Sangita Sudha seems to be the first of the texts which documents this melody. From Govinda Dikshitar’s description the contours of this raga that emerges is not much different from what one gets to see today. Phrases starting with rishabha are not to be seen in the murrcanas that Govinda Dikshitar provides in his work.

Hindolavasanta – As found in Venkatamakhi’s Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP):

Of all the musicological works, it is CDP which strikes a note of discordance as to the raga lakshana of Hindolavasanta. According to Venkatamakhi, this raga belongs to Ahiri mela (his 21st mela) which takes kakali nishada. All through musical history, we see this raga being grouped only under the Bhairavi mela taking thus suddha dhaivatha and kaishiki nishada. Nowhere has the raga taken kakali nishada. Was it an oversight on the part of this great giant or was it a scribing error or was the raga indeed rendered with kakali nishada during his times? One does not know and yet there it is documented so in this work.

Hindolavasanta – As found in King Shahaji’s Ragalakshana Sangraha:

Shahaji groups this raga again under Bhairavi mela with sampurna structure (i.e it takes all the seven svaras in the arohana & avarohana taken together). Further in the melodic movement, there is no straight movement upto pancama (i.e there is no SRGMP usage) and beyond the pancama the movement is regular. Similarly in the descent sNDP is permitted.

Hindolavasanta – As found in King Tulaja’s Saramruta:

King Tulaja completely echoes his illustrious predecessor King Shahaji while documenting this raga in his work. As once can see the raga both in terms of name and structure continued to flourish right up to the times of the Trinity in the same form.

Hindolavasanta – As found in the Ragalakshana Anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin (quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar) & Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini :

According to Muddu Venkatamakhi the raga lakshana of Hindolavasanta is as under:

‘syadindolavasantastu rishabhena tu varjitah
arohena nivarjya syadavarohe nivakritah’

In passing, it needs to be mentioned that this lakshana shloka as found in the text of the appendix to the CDP, printed by the Music Academy gives the shloka line as ‘….rishabena hi varjitah’.

On the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhi, Subbarama Dikshitar provides the lakshana of the raga in summary:

  1. The murccana arohana/avarohana is SGMPDs & sNDPDNDMGS
  2. It is grouped under Narireetigaula mela.
  3. Sadja is the graha svara, rishabha is varjya (excluded), nishada is varjya in the arohana and is vakra in the avarohana.

In the SSP, the commentary on the raga is as under:

  • Though as per Muddu Venkatamakhi, rishabha is varjya, according to Subbarama Dikshitar the svara is instead alpa or occurs on a rare basis for the following reasons:
    • Muddu Venkatamakhin has not expressly stated that the raga is shadava.
    • The expression ‘Rishabhena tu varjitah’ in the definition implies that rishaba is alpa in usage instead of being varjya.
    • There are many older tanas and sancaras in this raga with rishabha usage and its on that strength that both Ramasvami Dikshitar and his son Muthusvami Dikshitar have composed, incorporating rishabha.
  • Also the rishabha svara occurs only through a couple of choice phrases such as GRMGS and GRGM only.
  • Key phrases/murccanas of Hindolavasanta include SPP, Sss, DPDNDMG, GGMMPDMG, GGMPD & NDMGS apart from rishabha svara phrases such as GRMG and GRGMGS. Another phrase that Subbarama Dikshitar highlights is the usage of NDNS in the mandhara stayi/lower octave.
Hindolavasanta – As found in Sangraha Cudamani:

According to Sangraha Cudamani the raga is from the mela Narabhairavi with dhaivatha as nyasa and rishaba being omitted. The operative ascent/descent is : SGMPDNDs/sNDPMDMGS. The raga lakshana of Hindolavasanta is more or less aligned to the overall version that comes forth from the other musicologists ( save for the alpa usage of rishabha).  Obviously as per the Sangraha Cudamani, the dhaivatha is only suddha dhaivatha. As one can see later, we can certainly say with this authority that versions of Tyagaraja’s composition ‘Ra ra seetaramani manohara’ with catushruthi dhaivatha are aberrations  or patantharam deviation and as such the composition should be rendered only with suddha dhaivatha.

  1. This raga has throughout its history been always under the Bhairavi mela and thus it sports only suddha dhaivata and kaishiki nishada.
  2. In terms of its scalar structure it has been more or less the same since the time of Govinda Dikshitar.
  3. The versions of this raga with catusruti dhaivata may at best be patantharam deviations and are not supported by musicological texts. Again the documentation of the raga by Venkatamakhi in CDP with kakali nishada may safely be ignored.
  4. The operative arohana/avarohana that are found are:
    1. SGMPDs/sNDMGS as evidenced by the versions of Tyagaraja’s ‘Ra Ra Seetaramani Manohara’.
    2. SGMPDNDs/sNDPDNDMGRGS or sNDMPDMGRMGS as evidenced by the compositions of Ramasvami Dikshitar and Muthusvami Dikshitar. In essence this conception employs more vakra sancaras on one hand and incorporates rishabha svara in certain phrases.
  5. The key phrases that bring out Hindolavasanta include SPP, Sss, DPDNDMG, GGMMPDMG, GGMPD and NDMGS apart from rishabha svara phrases such as GRMG and GRGMGS. In fact according to Prof S R Janakiraman, this raga does not have a straight arohana/avarohana krama. It can at best be delineated with a set of catchy phrases.

The difference in the treatment once sees between Tyagaraja and Dikshitar are:

  1. The arohana passages sport PDs in Tyagaraja’s conception of this raga while Dikshitar utilizes the vakra sancara PDNDs. Also the nishada is vakra in Dikshitar’s treatment as in DNDM.
  2. The descent is characterized by sNDM avoiding the pancama in Tyagaraja’s visualization of this raga. Dikshitar on the other hand utilizes sNDPDNDM, making the pancama vakra by flanking it between the dhaivata svaras.
  3. While rishabha is altogether omitted in Tyagaraja’s conception, we find rishabha is used sparingly through some choice phrases such GRGM in the compositions of Ramasvami Dikshitar and Muthusvami Dikshitar.
  4. The raga sports only suddha dhaivata without doubt and it is anomalous that we have a version of Tyagaraja’s composition with catushruti dhaivata/D2.

The 3 major compositions in this raga available to us today are:

  1. The Cauka varna of Ramasvami Dikshitar ‘Valaci vaci’ in rupaka tala
  2. The kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar ‘Santana ramasvaminam’ in adi tala
  3. The kriti of Tyagaraja ‘ Ra ra seetaramani manohara’ in adi tala

The raga is not encountered in other compositional forms such as padam or javalis nor is it known to have been dealt with by performers as a part of the Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi exposition.

The raga has its pride of place in the musical paddhati of the Tiruvarur temple which was formalized by Ramasvami Dikshitar. In the ceremonial procession of Lord Tyagaraja around the 4 mada streets (Veedi Ula in Tamil) surrounding the sprawling temple complex in Tiruvarur, the raga Hindolavasanta is to be played as the procession goes down the East Street/Kizhakku Veedi. The nagasvara or the wind pipe that is used in Tiruvarur temple is the bari nayanam as it is called and it is this instrument that is played out during the Lord’s procession.


As mentioned earlier we have three compositions available to us in this raga.


Varnas are said to be the lexicon or repository of raga lakshana and so one is indebted to Ramasvami Dikshitar for bequeathing to us a gem of a varna ‘Valaci vacci’. Composed on Lord Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur, this varna seems to have been created for rendering as a part of the temple’s pooja/festivities. It’s been recorded that Ramasvami Dikshitar moved to Tiruvarur at the behest of the King of Tanjore with the brief to codify the paddathi/protocol to be followed in the temple in terms of rendering of songs, dance etc during the daily poojas and for the festivals observed in the temple. Accounts have it that for this purpose Ramasvami Dikshitar liaised with the nagasvara vidvans and courtesans attached to the temple. He is also credited with having created a number of specific or bespoke compositions for the numerous festive occasions which have since then become part of the repertoire of the temple’s hereditary musicians namely the nagasvara vidvans and the dasis/courtesans. This varna is also one amongst them. In passing, it needs to be mentioned that with the ravage of time, the musical paddathi of the Tiruvarur temple has now been practically lost with the passing away of the old temple performers. Today all we have is only skeletal information or references to the musical practices/protocols that Ramasvami Dikshitar had instituted.

Vidushi Kalpakam Svaminathan a scion of the Dikshitar sishya parampara, opens one of her concert recitals with this beautiful cauka varna.

Presented next is the rendering of the same varnam by Prof S R Janakiraman a repository of many rare compositions and he does so in his inimitable style.

This varna encompasses the salient murccanas of this raga handed down to us from medieval times. It is entirely on the authority of this varna that Subbarama Dikshitar has identified the salient murccanas of Hindolavasanta and listed them out in his commentary to the raga in the SSP. As one can notice, the raga conceptualization is full of bends, turns and twists. Except for the lineal combinations of  SRGM, PDNs , sNDP and MGRS  every other vakra sancara makes its appearance in this raga. Thus one can conclude that the raga does not have a fixed scalar structure but instead has a few catchy phrases with which the svarupa of the raga blossoms forth.

In passing it is worth noting here that Subbarama Dikshitar employs the term ‘cauka’ varna only, in contrast to modern day usage of the word ‘pada’ varna which is used synonymously.


It would be more than appropriate to spend some time first on the kriti per se as it has quite a few very interesting aspects worth looking into. We will cover them first in this section.

  1. The kriti is on Lord Rama enshrined in the temple at Needamangalam, which is on the route from Kumbakonam to Mannargudi in Tanjore/Nagapatinam District in Tamilnadu.
  2. Dikshitar refers to the kshetra by its older name ‘Yamunambapuri’, named after the favorite wife of King Sarabhoji of Tanjore. King Sarabhoji had two wives, Yamunamba Bayee Saheb and Ahilya Bayee Saheb. King Sarabhoji’s successor, King Shivaji was the son of Yamunambha Bayee Saheb. The suffix “Bayee Saheb” is an honorific epithet. This Rani Yamunambha Bayee established an endowment and built a choultry for the pilgrims in this town (Needamangalam). To this day this building called Yamunambha Bayee Chatram exists and presently houses State Government Offices! Perhaps Dikshitar stayed in this choultry when he visited the Santanaramasvami Temple at Needamangalam. It was however a sad ending for her that as Serfoji’s favorite wife, Yamunambha Bayee performed Sati upon his death in the year 1832. ( See Footnote 1 below on an interesting piece of trivia , a ‘rishabha’ connection  between this raga, the composition and the Queen)
  3. Another aspect of this composition is that the text of this composition as found in the Tamil edition published by the Music Academy differs from the one found in the telugu original edition by Subbarama Dikshitar. In the telugu original, one sees only the Pallavi and the Anupallavi sahitya portions and no carana sahitya ( portion starting with ‘Santhana soubhagya vitharanam’) is given. In the Tamil translation as published by the Music Academy, the carana & cittasvara portions have been added with the footnote that it had been provided by Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer. The premise is that the original telugu version was probably incomplete – a printing error perhaps and that was sought to be made good in the subsequent Tamil edition, with the missing carana being sourced from the version as taught by Subbarama Dikshitar’s son Ambi Dikshitar to Justice T L Venkatrama Iyer. Now the problem in this case is that the standard Dikshitar colophon ‘guruguha’ is found only in the carana portion which is not found in the original SSP. So the issue for us is that along with the other kriti ‘Nabhomani Candragni nayanam’ in the raga Nabhomani which also lacks the standard Dikshitar colophon, are these two, authentic Dikshitar compositions? Is the presence of the mudra ‘guruguha’ a pre-requisite for a Dikshitar composition?  Is the carana portion section which was added subsequently, part & parcel of the original composition? Prof N Ramanathan had addressed this issue with his incisive analysis in a monograph. His take is that based on the analysis of the lyric and melody, the carana portion indeed seems to be part & parcel of the original composition and as such there is no internal evidence to the contrary. But the issue is there for one and all to see. A printers devil probably.

In the context of this composition a brief discussion on the cittasvara section is warranted. In the case of Santana Ramasvaminam, the Tamil edition of the SSP carries the cittasvara section below.


SSPP DNDDM PDs gs sNDPD NDMMGG (Santana Ramasvaminam)

(Svaras in upper case signifies madhya stayi; those  in italics & bold font signifies mandhara stayi ; those in lower case signifies tara stayi)

As one can observe the cittasvara embodies the key phrases of Hindolavasanta and is strung together beautifully. Also given the cogency ,  lyrical continuity and the way the carana and the cittasvara sections of ‘Santana ramasvaminam’ segues with the pallavi & anupallavi it indeed appears that they are an integral part of the composition, in complete musical alignment with the raga’s lakshana. They must have perhaps gotten genuinely missed out when the original telugu  edition was printed/proof read/published by Subbarama Dikshitar. In other words the carana section may not be a latter date addition.

Moving on with the discography, two renderings of this composition are presented below. First is the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. It is known with certainty that quite a few Dikshitar compositions were learnt by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer from Tiruvisainallur Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer including the Narayanagaula composition “Sri ramam ravikulabdhi somam”. It would be interesting to know from whom or how Sri Srinivasa Iyer learnt this composition.

As one can observe, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders it in a brisk tempo, 1 kalai adi tAla. Attention is invited to the fidelity of the rendition to the notation as found in the tamil edition of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. Sri Srinivasa Iyer rounds off his rendering with a few rounds of kalpana svaras for the Pallavi line. Attention is invited to the salient murccanas that the veteran uses as illustration for this raga’s lakshana such as the janta prayogas on the madhyama and dhaivata, rishabha svara incorporated phrases such as GRGS & GRGM and standard phrases such as PDNDs and GMGSGSn etc.

The next is the rendering of this composition by Prof S R Janakiraman (Prof SRJ).

Prof SRJ’s rendering is a true scholarly presentation aligned to the notation & the raga lakshana. In his clipping Prof SRJ as is his wont, first presents a free flowing raga murccana elaboration. He uses the following phrases to paint this beauty of a raga: SGRGM, GMPDNDMG SGRGM MPDs GMPDs sNDMPDNDM MPDM and MGRGS. This is in complete alignment with the raga lakshana as documented by Subbarama Dikshitar. Attention is invited to the way he sings the line ‘sadhujana hrudaya sarasija caranam’ in line with the notation found in the tamil edition of the SSP.

Presented next is a rendering of ‘santAna rAmasvAminam’ by late Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer (BRI), from an AIR Concert.

A number of observations stand out for us when we hear this rendering with the notation of the SSP in front of us.

  1. Sri Rajam Iyer’s version is a literal interpretation down to every single note. In other words, the rendering is a very high fidelity reproduction of the notation or a gold standard in terms of adherence to both the letter and spirit of the notation.
  2. His version is not in not brisk like the version of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Its in an languid pace, a true cauka kAla rendering, almost at half the elapsed duration for a tAla matra in comparison to Sri Srinivasa Iyer’s.
  3. He renders the cittasvara section for our benefit as recorded in the SSP.

It is not known if this was how he learnt it from his Guru Sangita Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer. Besides, Sri Rajam Iyer along with Sangita Kalanidhi Dr S Ramanathan formed the team in translating the SSP from Telugu to Tamil annd having it published by the Music Academy under the expert guidance of Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, Mudicondan Venkatrama Iyer and Dr V Raghavan who guided the exercise by providing lakshya, lakshana and editorial inputs. Its likely that Sri Rajama Iyer as a part of this exercise took inspiration from the notation of Subbarama Dikshitar and perhaps rebaselined his version to what we hear. We may not entirely know, but his textbook rendering is a virtual giveaway, leaving us in no doubt as to the origins of this version. It is well known and also recorded by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer, that Dikshitar kritis are always in cauka kala ( vide his Urai Nadai Noolgal) and Sri BRI’s rendering is a reinforcement of the same.


Beyond the pale of musicology and its texts, the raga svarupa as found in Tyagaraja’s compositions has been much influenced by the sishya paramparas/disciples of the Bard themselves who, whether rightly or wrongly, ended up creating various versions of the same composition. One victim has been ragas belonging to the mela 20 such as Hindola, Hindolavasanta, Abheri, Ritigaula and their ilk. We find that the versions of popular Tyagaraja kritis in these ragas sport D2 instead of D1. Tyagaraja’s ‘rA rA sItAramanI manOhara’ in Hindolavasanta is an exemplar and very many versions of this composition are heard only with D2.

Presented first is an oddity, a rare rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi Dr S Ramanathan with D1. Most probably the musicologist in him took over when he learnt this composition and with that persona he renders it with fidelity to the musical texts which have always said that this raga had only D1.


We next move over to the ubiquitous version of Hindolavasanta with D2/catushruthi dhaivatha as evidenced by popular versions of Tyagaraja’s composition ‘Ra Ra Seetaramani manohara’. As pointed out earlier it is indeed surprising to note that the raga is so presented ( with D2 and so a derivative of Mela 22- Karaharapriya ) despite the fact that the raga is grouped only under Mela 21/Nat(r)abhairavi with a nominal arohana/avarohana of SGMPDNDs/sNDPMDMGS , with D1 in the Sangraha Cudamani, which scheme Tyagaraja is supposed to have utilized and which is the holy grail of modern Carnatic musicology. Its thus a matter of controversy if the bard of Tiruvaiyaru had indeed composed it with D2.

Presented first under this category is the rendering by the legendary Alathur Brothers from a vintage recording , wherein they also render an exquisite cittasavara section.

From a manodharma perspective, presented next are raga vinyasas for our understanding. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan does an alapana of Hindola Vasanta with D2 in his mellifluous voice.

Presented next is a tanam of the raga by the Veena maestro S Balachandar.

We round up this section with Vidvan Balachandar playing kalpana svaras for the pallavi line of ‘Ra ra seetaramani’.

The morphing of the dhaivatha from D1 to D2 especially in murccanas in the ascent/uttaranga PD1N2s is driven by harmonics and felicity of rendition. The PD1Ns almost always morphs off to PD2Ns as in the case of Bhairavi. As one can notice that in all the upanga ragas featured under Narireetigaula mela in the SSP, considering the fact that the transition from suddha dhaivatha to kaishiki nishada and then on to tara sadja from the pancama is not felicitous, the uttaranga portion of all the ragas are either PD1s or PD1ND1 s or PD1Ps almost as a rule. In fact it is in alignment with this logic that the purvanga structure of Hindolavasanta is PD1s or PD1ND1s.

This harmonics issue with the usage of D1 might have in all probability spawned the catusruti dhaivata/D2 only versions of Hindolavasanta though the original version as composed by the bard ‘must’ have been only with suddha dhaivatha. It is our misfortune that lack of an authentic, systematic & standardized documentation of Tyagaraja’s kritis compounded by multiple versions of the same compositions by the different schools of his disciples, effectively prevents us from discovering the original versions of a good number of his compositions.

It needs to be conceded here that though the D2 version of Hindolavasanta does not have the sanction of the older musicological texts, it is indeed beautiful in its own way. Should it be classified as a separate raga in its own right and so documented is an open question. Suffice to say that it would make immense sense to properly reclassify/tabulate these ragas, which are melodically different in the interest of clarity and for the benefit of students of music.

As noted earlier, this raga to the best of knowledge is not seen featured in other composition types or in pallavis.


Given the beauty of the raga one does wonder why the kritis and the varna are not frequently rendered. The raga and the compositions therein are evidence for the the older murccana/motifs based approach of melody construction with its bends, jumps and twists, which has been long forgotten. And in the context of Hindolavasanta, it is in no small measure we are indebted to the great Subbarama Dikshitar for having passed on to us this priceless gem of a raga and the nearly extinct, compositions in it, through his magnum opus, the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.


  1. Hema Ramanathan(2004) – Raga Lakshana Sangraha – Published by Dr N Ramanathan, ISBN 81 7525 536 6; pages 552-558
  2. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini as published in Tamil by the Madras Music Academy
  3. T V Subba Rao & S R Janakiraman(1993)- Ragaas of the Saramruta published by the Madras Music Academy, pp 252-255
  4. N Ramanathan(1991) – ‘Problems in Editing the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar’ – Journal of the Music Academy -1998 Vol XIX pp 59-98
  5. S R Janakiraman(1996) – ‘Raga Lakshanangal'(Tamil) Vol 2, published by the Madras Music Academy,2009 Edition  pp 48-50
  6. Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer(1957) – Lalita & Manji – Journal of the Music Academy, Vol XXVIII Pages 122-125

The clippings used in this blog post have been used solely for educational purpose and covered under fair use  . No part of this article or the clippings can be used for any commercial purpose and the copyrights if any vests with the author and performers as the case may be.

Footnote 1:  A Piece of Historical Trivia – The ‘Bayee Saheb’ Rishabha Vahanam

The mention of ‘Bayee Saheb’ in the context of Rani Yamunamba Bayee, would almost certainly remind old time Tanjore residents of the so the called ‘Bayee Saheb Rishabha vahanam’. Apparently handed out as hearsay or the so called ‘karna paramparai kadai’ ( in Tamil), the episode features this Tanjore Queen. In the Tanjore temple ( as in the case of any Shiva temple), the fifth day of the annual festival ( Utsavam) features the rishabha vahana with the Lord and his consort taken around the town on the bedecked silver Rishabha (bull) as the vahana. The procession typically starts late in the  night on the fifth day of the annual festivities and after going around the town/temple mada streets, it reaches back the temple only by early morning of the next day. The Rani as per practice used to view it from from the precincts of the Royal Palace, closer to midnight when the procession reaches there.

Tanjore Royal Palace

(The Photograph above of the eastern side of the Royal Palace at Thanjavur was taken by Edmund David Lyon c. 1868. It was probably from one of these ornate balconies/entrance that Yamunambha Bayee Saheb might have witnessed the Rishaba Vahana seva of the Lord. Photo courtesy: Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

One year due to some reason, the Rani missed having the darshan of the Lord, perhaps having fallen asleep. The maids in attendance were apparently too scared to wake up the Queen. Outside the Palace the procession waited seemingly for eternity for the Rani to come out but that was not to happen that day. The Lord could not be kept waiting thus and so the procession moved on without the Rani having had her customary darshan. But belief had it that if a person having had the opportunity to witness the darshan of the Rishabha vahana seva , fails to do so then he/she will be reborn as a dog in the next birth. The Rani having missed  having the darshan coupled with this belief, sent the Royal Palace and temple authorities into a tizzy as it was scandalous to have allowed this very episode to happen. Who was to be blamed, the Queen ? Or was it her Royal entourage who ought to have woken her up or was it the temple establishment which should have waited for some more time before allowing the procession to move on ? It must have been the ultimate scandal of those times and would have become the talk of the town. And above all with the Royals at the very epicenter, it would have been a great public relations disaster as well.  One can imagine the Ministers, Courtiers , Royal Advisers, the Temple Chief Priests and their assorted underlings running helter-skelter to get the situation under control, assuage the Royals and mollify the indignant Queen.

A get-well plan was quickly hatched. We do not have a factual account of what transpired in the background or the ‘dramatis personae’ who orchestrated this plan.  Be that as it may, as per this ‘get-well’ plan, a second rishabha vahana was organized once again on the third day after the conclusion of the festivities for the queen’s exclusive benefit. This  re-run  was  structured in such a way so that it did not break the custom/practice/agama sastras and it offered one more chance for the queen to have her darshan without further delay as it formed part of that year’s festival itself.

The plan satisfied the pundits, the astrologers & the Royal establishment. And so that year the ‘Rishabha vahana replay’  was witnessed by the Queen  as per plan and the ruffled Royal feathers were assuaged.  Needless to say the second outing of the Lord on his favorite mount was much grander than the first one and was apparently the talk of the town for very many years. Thus the unfortunate situation of the Rani  having to shoulder the sin of having missed the darshan of the Lord on the bedecked bull was thus averted to everyone’s satisfaction. This action replay  or second rishabha vahana seva went on to become a permanent feature when it was made a part of the festival every year thereafter and was formally called the ‘Bayee Saheb Rishabha vahanam’. And it is only in the Tanjore Temple that one have the opportunity to  witness the rishabha vahana twice and it is courtesy of the Rani Saheba !

In parting, one is left wondering at this ‘rishabha’ connection, i.e. this second ‘rishabha’ vahana being rare or alpa as the ‘rishabha’ svara one encounters in Dikshitar’s conception of Hindolavasanta !

Update History:

  1. Dr.B Rajam Iyer’s rendering of ‘santAna rAmasvAminam’ and the commentary for the same added in Nov 2016
  2. Rendering of ‘rA rA sItAramani manOhara’ by Dr S Ramanathan with D1 and the commentary for the same added in Nov 2016

Tana Varna Margadarshi Adiyappayya


Adiyapayya (Adippayya or Adiyappa Iyer/Ayya), whom Subbarama Dikshitar refers to in awe as a Margadarshi or trailblazer for the genre of tana varnas, shall forever be remembered just for his magnum opus, the Bhairavi ata tala varna “Viribhoni”. This varna has captured the imagination of both lay rasikas and the cognoscenti spanning across centuries. Sangita Kalanidhi Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, an acknowledged authority, even advances a hypothesis that it was this varna and its popularity that propelled Bhairavi to the forefront, enabling it to capture popular imagination and thus eclipsing its sibling Manji.  Adiyappaya will also be remembered as the guru/preceptor of the great Trinitarian Syama Sastri. The worthy disciple went on to craft another monumental classic in Bhairavi, the svarajati.

We have a historical account of Adiyappayya by Subbarama Dikshitar. Later day writers like Prof Sambamoorthi, Dr S Seetha and Dr B M Sundaram too have documented details about him both from oral traditions and from manuscripts from the Saraswati Mahal Library in Tanjore. Dr.U.Ve.Saminatha Ayyar also records  a short biographical sketch of his while listing the eminent personages who adorned the Udayarpalayam Zamindari.This post is a consolidation of the information on Adiyapayya available to us together with a discography of his compositions.

Adiyapayya – His Life time:

In so far as the time period that Adiyappayya lived, we have four important references:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar in his Vaggeyakara Caritamu says that he was Madhva Brahmana, hailing from modern day Karnataka who lived during the times of the Tanjore Mahratta kings Pratapasimha (regnal years 1739-1763 as per historical records, while according to Subbarama Dikshitar it is 1741-1765) and Tulaja II(1763-1787). Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP, under raga Huseini gives the composition “Emandayanara” with the ankita “pratapasimha” and credits Adiyappayya as the composer. Based on Subbarama Dikshitar’s record, Adiyappa’s life time can be placed as 1725-1775. Dr Seetha too in her seminal work “Tanjore as a Seat of Music” echoes Subbarama Dikshitar as to Adiyapayya’s timeline.
  2. According to the book Gayakasiddanjanam (1904) of Taccur Singaracar, Adiyappayya was a musician of the Pudukottai Court and his period was 1750-1820.
  3. Prof Sambamoorthi in his biography on Syama Shastri(1762-1827) records that Adiyappayya was over 50 years , when the 18 year old Syama Sastri came under his tutelage. Extrapolating based on this evidence, Adiyappayya must have been born no latter than 1730.
  4. According to Dr V Raghavan, Adiyappayya lived even during the reign of Tulaja II. Thus Adiyappayya might not have lived beyond 1780 or thereabouts.

All the above historical references point to Adiyapayya having lived during the period of 1725-1780. In all probability, Adiyappaya must have been a contemporary of Melattur Veerabadrayya, the other ‘margadarshi’ who  was a guru and musical preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshitar (1735-1817). Subbarama Dikshitar in his work adds that Adiyappayya followed the footsteps of Veerabhadrayya when it came to the style of music. According to Dr B M Sundaram,  Adiyapayya must have lived for a long time in Tanjore and later in Pudukkottai. In Pudukottai, he must have been patronized by King Vijaya Raghunatha Tondaiman (1730-1769), perhaps. A descendant of his was part of the Pudukottai Court.

His Family/Descendants:

Subbarama Dikshitar lists out one Veena Krishnayya as a son of Adiyapayya. Veena Krishnayya was adept in playing veena and was also a composer prabandhas such as saptataleshvaram. Krishnayya’s son was Veena Subbukutti Ayya who was another veena expert. When Subbarama Dikshitar composed & presented his Ramakriya varna and the Sankarabharana kriti “Sankaracaryam” extolling Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvathi, the 65th Pontiff of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam at Kumbakonam (which was then the seat of the mutt) circa 1860, Subbukutti Ayya was also present in the sadas. Additionally Dr Seetha in her work, mentions in the context of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844-1893) that when he performed the raga Darbar in the Court of Raghunatha Tondaiman, the Rajah of Pudukkottai ( the reigning Raja should have been Ramachandra Tondaiman who ruled between 1839-1886. I am unsure how Dr Seetha says it was Raghunatha Tondaiman) Vina Subbukutti Iyer who was in the Court along with the other assembled expert vidvans, appreciated Vaidyanatha Iyer’s rendition.

Veena Subbukutti Ayya/Iyer seems to have visited Svati Tirunal Maharaja’s Court as well.

King Ramachandra Tondaiman in Durbar (1858)

Photograph by Linnaues Tripe. Courtesy V&A

Prof Sambamoorthi records that the great Veena virtuosos Veena Seshanna (1852-1926) and Veena Venkataramana Das of Vijayanagar are the descendants of Adiyapayya. No reference is given regarding the prefix Pachimiriya or Pacchimiriyan. Perhaps the epithet represents his native village or is a familial name.

His Disciples:

Syama Sastri, Pallavi Gopala Iyer and BhUlOka Gandharva Narayanasvami Iyer are recorded as Adiyappayya’s illustrious disciples by almost all authorities.  A yati by name Sangeeta Svami is recorded by Prof Sambamoorthi as the first musical guru of Syama Sastri. It is further recorded by him that it was this Sangeeta Svami who recommended that Syama Sastri develop his musical skill /prowess by hearing to Adiyappayya. Prof Sambamoorthy also records the (apocryphal?) betel juice episode as a part of Syama Sastri’s life history which involved Adiyappayya.

Pallavi Gopala Iyer was another illustrious disciple, who has been covered in an earlier article in this series. Bhuloka Gandharva Tanjore Narayanasvami Iyer is the third disciple of Adiyappayya. He is recorded as having been patronized by the Udayarpalayam Zamindar, Kaci Yuvaranga BhUpati. According to Dr B M Sundaram, Narayanasvami Iyer too was a composer of great merit. Again we do not have any compositions of him, handed down to us.

Dr.U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer records that Ramaswami Iyer of Tanjavur sent his sons Periyatirukkunram Subbarama Iyer, Ghanam Krishna Iyer to Tanjavur to be educated under Pachimiriyan Adiyappayya. They too turned out to be master composers. Dr U Ve Sa further records that Adiyappayya appreciated the compositions of Subbarama Iyer and called him by the epithet “Chinna Srinivasan” alluding to another composer of great merit from Srirangam.

His Music:

As mentioned earlier according to Subbarama Dikshitar, Adiyappayya was well versed in music and Telugu and he followed the footsteps of Melattur Veerabadrayya who was probably an iconic figure of that generation. Adiyappayya was the one to standardize “Pallavi” as a unique platform for musical exposition comprising of raga alapana, tana or madhyamakala rendering followed by the Pallavi. His two disciples namely Pallavi Gopala Iyer and Syama Sastri went on to become exponents nonpareil in this genre. Prof Sambamoorthi also records the story of a pallavi contest involving vidvan Bobbili Kesavvayya and Adippayya’s illustrious disciples held in the Tanjore Court.

Adiyappayya – The Vaggeyaka/Composer:

He was a composer of kritis which were ornate with exquisite gamakas and composed with the ankita  ‘sri venkataramana’. Subbarama Dikshitar further adds that he followed the path of Veerabhadrayya in his compositional style. U.Ve.Svaminatha Iyer further notes that Adiappayya has composed in many languages including Telugu, Sanskrit, Marathi and Tamil and had visited Udayarpalayam during the reign of Kacchi Yuvaranga and had composed on him in ragas such as Nattakuranji and Sahana and that  musicians such has Pudukkottai Veena Subbayyar have sung two  of his compositions.

None of the kritis composed by him has been handed down to us. As of date we have only the following three compositions ascribed to him:

  1. The ata tala tana varna in Bhairavi, “Viribhoni”
  2. The ata tala tana varna in Pantuvarali ( mela 51- Kamavardhani), “Madavati”
  3. The rupaka tala svarajathi in Huseni, “Emandayanara”

In the context of Adiyappayya’s available compositions, the following merit our attention.

  • The standard colophon of Adiyappayya ‘sri venkataramana’ (according to Subbarama Dikshitar) is not found in any of the above compositions. Compositions 1 & 2 have ‘sri rajagopala’ as mudra while the third composition, the svarajati has ‘pratapasimha’ as the ankita representing the patron of Adiyappayya, namely the Mahratta King of Tanjore Pratapasimha. The ankita ‘rajagopala’ (of different varieties) has also been used by Moovanallur Sabhapatayya, who is said to have lived during the times of the Trinity, slightly latter than Adiyappayya.
  • Compositions 1 & 3 are found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini with Subbarama Dikshitar  ascribing authorship to Adiyappayya.
  • While Composition # 1 is universally acknowledged as Adiyappaya’s, as we will see presently there is some ambiguity or rather, lack of unanimity on the other two compositions.
  • Composition # 2 was brought to light by Vidvan Mysore Chennakesavayya, a disciple of Tiger Varadacariar and was published by the Madras Music Academy. Vidvan N Chennakesavayya published a number of rare varnas from out of his family’s manuscripts dating back to early 19th century. As a member of the Experts Committee of the Music Academy, he did a number of lecture demonstrations on some of these rare compositions. The authorship of this varna has been ascribed to Adiyappayya on the strength of the ankita found within the composition and as such no other independent source of reference or authority is available. Dr Seetha in “Tanjore as a Seat of Music’ unequivocally says that “Viribhoni” is the only composition of Adiyappayya as available to us.
  • On composition # 3, Subbarama Dikshitar ascribes authorship of the Huseni svarajathi to Adiyappayya with an accompanying footnote to the effect that the sahitya for the jatis were done by Melattur Venkatrama Sastri. This attribution is controversial and disputable on more than one ground. Dr  V Raghavan and Dr B M Sundaram on different grounds negate, directly or indirectly the attribution of this piece to Adiyappayya. An additional aspect is the fact that this svarajati is a scaled down version of the legendary Melattur Veerabadrayya’s original Huseni svarajati raising the question as to Adiyapayya’s authoring a composition of such a nature. The svarajati and its companion pieces (composition having the same dhatu (musical setting) but different matu (lyrics)) namely ‘Emayaladira’, ‘Pahimam Bruhannayike’ etc are ascribed to members of the family of the Tanjore Quartet and forms part of their family manuscripts.

So considering all these factors, this svarajati is not held by the musicologists, historians and the cognoscenti in the same breath as “Viribhoni” as Adiyappayya’s composition, not withstanding Subbarama Dikshitar’s attribution in the SSP. The Bhairavi varna and the svarajati, will be dealt in a seperate blog post on Bhairavi and  the Pantuvarali varna is presented in the discography section of this post.


In this section let us look at renderings of the two masterpieces of Adiyappayya. While the Bhairavi varna is frequently encountered and is synonymous with Bhairavi even for a lay listener of classical music, the Pantuvarali varna “Madavati’ is seldom heard. The Bhairavi varna is almost always presented in its truncated form.

Madavati in Pantuvarali:

Lets first take up Madavati. Vidushi Mythili Nagesvaran who learnt music from Vidvan Chennakesavayya ( amongst many other including Jayammal, Savitri Rajan & others) presents the varna in a chamber recital circa 1990. As mentioned earlier this varna made its way out of obscurity when it was presented by Vidvan Chennakesavayya in the portals of the Music Academy. Given the rarity of the varna, link is provided to the notation of the composition as well for the benefit of the readers of this blog.

Clip 1 :

Notation : English version of the Notation of the  Pantuvarali Varnam as notated by Vidvan Chennakesavaiah

In the past, there has been a confusion as to the raga Pantuvarali & whether the name referred to Subhapantuvarali or to the scale which is presently assigned to Kamavardhani. The version of this varna as documented and available to us is only the scale of Mela 51.


Current day performers should learn these long forgotten and rare masterpieces, polish and burnish them and present them with absolute fidelity in their concerts and that would be the best homage one can ever provide to the great composers of our past. One hopes that this Pantuvarali varna will be resurrected and sung and will be passed on to the next generation in the same way as Adiyappayya’s Bhairavi varna.


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini – Reprinted in Tamil by the Madras Music Academy, India
  2. DR B M Sundaram (2002) – “Varna Svarajathi” – Published by Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Tanjore, India
  3. Dr S Seetha (2001)- “Tanjore as a Seat of Music “- Published by the University of Madras, India
  4. Chennakesavaiah. N (1964) -” Four Rare Compositions” – Edited and published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol XXXV, Pages 175-179 Madras, India
  5. Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer – ‘Ragas Lalita and Manji’ – Journal of the Music Academy XXVIII- Pages 122-125
  6. Prof Sambamoorthi – ‘Great Composers – Book 1’ Seventh Edition (2004)
  7. Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer – ‘En Caritiram’ – series of books published by Dr U Ve Sa Library, Chennai ( 2008 Edition)
  8. Savithri Rajan & Michael Nixon – ‘Sangita Sarvartha Sarasangrahamu’ – Edited and published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol LII, Pages 169-188 Madras, India

Tarangini – The story of a Quaint Beauty


Tarangini is a fairly old raga of the Carnatic Music system. It was the 26th mela both in the earlier as well as the later Kanakambari list (circa 1750), sporting chatushruti rishabham, antara gandharam, suddha madhyama, pancamam, suddha dhaivatam and kaisiki nishadam, with the mela being asampurna or vakra sampurna ( in modern day terminology). In the Kanakangi-Ratnangi scheme, the 26th slot was taken over by the heptatonic, krama sampurna Charukesi. Tarangini is one of the ragas which was mutilated during the 20th century. The suddha dhaivatha it sported was replaced by chatushruthi dhaivatha & the sole krithi composed in it by Dikshitar, “Maye tvam yahi” came to be rendered in a melody which resembles Jhanjuti.

In the popular press/reviews, in some standard music books/works and even amongst musicians, the raga of ‘Maye” is referred to as Sud(d)ha Tarangini ( which sports the chatushruti dhaivatha). Fact is that there is no raga called Sud(d)ha Tarangini. Suffice it to say that the raga with a textual tradition and which sports D1, is Tarangini only. Apart from the dhaivata being flipped to D2, the mathu of the kriti “Maye” has also been changed in few places. The result is the modern, popular and prevalent version of Tarangini which is nothing but a pale anemic copy of the original.

Be that as it may, fortunately for us we have authentic renditions by a few masters who have endeavored to protect  and preserve the pristine heritage left behind by Dikshitar. In this post, let us get a peek into this melody through this kriti of Dikshitar and also look at the musicological treatment of this raga.


The combination of R2G3M1PD1N2 is not to be seen in earlier works such as that of Somanatha or others. The earliest reference available to us is in the Kanakambari list as codified in the raga lakshana anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika dateable to 1700-1750 CE. The Sangraha Cudamani too makes a mention of this raga. The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshitar is the next authority and in it we have the following compositions made available to us:

  1. The lakshana gitam of Muddu Venkatamakhi
  2. The 2 tanams given by Subbarama Dikshitar again most probably composed by Muddu Venkatamakhi
  3. Maye Tvam yahi – Kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar
  4. The sancari of Subbarama Dikshitar
  5. The portion of the ragamalika ” E Kanakambari”, starting with “Peru Jenthina”, composed by Subbarama Dikshitar and given in the Anubandha to the SSP.

Apart from the above compositions we have the following two other compositions outside the SSP:

  1. “Palayamam” attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar, not found in the SSP, brought out by Veenai Sundaram Iyer in his publications.
  2. The portion of the catur-raga shlokamalika “Saanandam Kamalamanohari”, starting with ‘Devam ksheeratarangini”, which is rendered in Tarangini, composed by Maharaja Svati Tirunal, notated and published in the Tanjai Pervudiayan Perisai and Ponnayya Manimalai with the footnote that Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet set the lyric to music.

Tyagaraja, a supposedly avowed votary of the Sangraha Cudamani, has apparently composed only in Charukesi as exemplified by his kriti ‘Adamodi Galade’. As we will see later we have an account of a Tyagaraja composition being originally in Tarangini.


As mentioned earlier none of the older musicological texts (pre 1700 AD) including the Caturdandi Prakashika talk of Tarangini or its melodic equivalents. The first mention of this raga is in the Raga Lakshana anubandha of the Caturdandi Prakashika with a date of around 1700-1750 (See Foot Note 1). The lakshana shloka found therein provides a very illuminating lakshana for Tarangini.

pUrNastarangini ragArohe riga varjitah

avarohe padhanidha rigamagari samyutah

gIyate sarvakaleshu sagrahacaucyate budhaih

According to the above anubandha shloka:

  • The raga is sampurna- meaning it takes all the 7 notes in the arohana and avarohana murccana, taken together
  • The raga drops the svaras ri and ga in ascent and
  • Includes the phrases PDND and RGMGR in descent – that is in the descent, the nishada and madhyama are vakra
  • It has sadja as graham and can be sung at all times
  • It is the raganga raga of the 26th mela.

This raga lakshana shloka is a rare instance from the Raga Lakshana anubandha, wherein entire phrases are given as a part the raga description. As we will see next, this lakshana is contrary to what one sees in the SSP.


Moving on to the SSP, a lakshana shloka attributed to Venkatamakhi is quoted as under:²

ragastarangini purnah aarohe mani varjitah

avarohe padhanidha rigamagari samyutah

gIyate sarvakaleshu sagrahacaucyate budhaih

Generally the lakshana shloka found in the anubandha is almost always verbatim reproduced by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP. However in the case of Tarangini the shloka as quoted is at variance (similar to the case of Kambhoji which was discussed in a previous article), especially the first line ( emphasis is mine) which states, which svaras are varja or excluded in the ascent.

The implication is not difficult to understand. The Anubandha lakshana shloka talks of the svaras R and G as being absent in the ascent, whereas the shloka quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar says that the svaras M and N are dropped in the ascent. Indeed this is source of confusion for we do not know from where Subbarama Dikshitar sourced this shloka. However based on the murccanas found in the Dikshitar composition ‘Maye’, we can convincingly conclude that M and N are the svaras which are dropped in the ascent and probably the shloka quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar is the authentic one or the one relying on which Dikshitar composed ‘Maye’. (See Footnote 2)

The SSP is today our only source to ascertain the raga lakshana of this raga which perhaps came into vogue with the dawn of the 18th century. Subbarama Dikshitar paints the melodic canvas of Tarangini with the following attributes in his commentary:

  1. A sampurna raga, shadja as graham
  2. Both M1 and N2 are vakra, appearing only as SR2G3M1G3R2 or PD1N2D1S. In other words the M1 note is always flanked by the gandhara and the dhaivatha is sandwiched between 2 nishadas.
  3. The murccana arohana is SR2G3PD1N2D1PD1S
  4. Avarohana is SD1PG3R2SR2G3M1G3R2S
  5. R2 is a favoured amsa svara apparently & being used as graha as well as nyasa.
  6. G3 is another favoured note, used in janta prayogas such G3M1G3G3R2S

Subbarama Dikshitar gives a tanam and a lakshana gitam as well for Tarangini ascribing authorship to Venkatamakhi. Needless to add, these compositions must be creations of Muddu Venkatamakhin. In the gitam and tanam, the Tarangini that is conceived is fairly the same as found in the lakshana shloka (SSP version) save for one point. The tanam seem to have the prayoga DPNDP which is not found even in his lakshana gitam. As we can see this murccana/prayoga is latter on completely deprecated. In Subbarama Dikshitar’s creations too, namely the sancari and the Tarangini raga portion of the ragamalika “E Kanakambari” found noted in the SSP and its anubandha respectively, the raga lakshana is aligned to the Dikshitar composition.

The Sangraha Cudamani provides the ragalakshana of Tarangini as SRMGRMPDs / sNDPMGRS under mela Carukesi. As one can see the svaras R and G are vakra in this version. In passing one may hypothesize that if the Muddu Venkatamakhin shloka in the anubandha is recast as “pUrnastarangini ragaarohe riga vakritah” (replacing varjitah with vakritah) then the Tarangini definition as between the anubandha and that of Sangraha Cudamani would be completely aligned!


As of today, the Tarangini that prevails is the one as codified by Subbarama Dikshitar in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini with the operative murccana arohana/avarohana of SRGPDNDPDs/sDPGRSRGMGRS on the authority of the kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar and the not the one as postulated in the Anubandha or the Sangraha Cudamani. This Tarangini one can say belongs to SSP and SSP alone.


The raga lakshana of this raga does not seem to have been discussed by the Experts Committee of the Music Academy. However a perusal of the Journals of the Music Academy indicates that the raga has been discussed/referenced in two instances:

  1. By the renowned critic Sri K V Ramachandran as a part of his lecture in the year 1938.
  2. By Dr T S Ramakrishnan, Experts Committee member and an acknowledged authority on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, in the year 1977.

Noted critic Sri K V Ramachandran (KVR) in his seminal paper presented before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy3, with authority says that many of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions were wrongly identified using the Sangraha Cudamani as a reference. He says that the raga of the composition “Nenendhu Vedakudura”  was  not Karnataka Behag but  Tarangini or rather the Tarangini of Dikshitar as exemplified by “Maye”. During this lecture demonstration Sri KVR also argues that the ragas of quite a few kritis of Tyagaraja had been changed.

The point to be highlighted here is that Tarangini was also utilized by Tyagaraja for the composition “Nenendhu Vedakudhura”, but this melodic setting is now all but extinct/dead.


For Dr T S Ramakrishnan (TSR), Subbarama Dikshitar was a parama guru of sorts as his father had worked with Subbarama Dikshitar and Chinnasvami Mudaliar during the publication of the SSP. He was a member of the Experts Committee of the Music Academy and a recipient of the Academy’s Certificate of Merit. Above all he was an acknowledged authority on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini and had been called upon to present many lecture demonstrations in connection with SSP and the music of the so called Dikshitar/Venkatamakhi sampradaya.

Dr TSR in the 1977 Academy session4 (on 22 Dec 1977) demonstrated the raga lakshana of Tarangini by singing (Muddu) Venkatamakhi’s gitam and the kriti “Maye”. He underlined the change that has been made to the raga and the kriti by changing it over to the 28th mela and calling it as ‘Sudha Tarangini’. Dr TSR emphasized that there was no raga by name ‘Sudha Tarangini’ and that the raga’s lakshana and the kriti has been tampered with through ignorance or sheer disregard for authentic tradition. In his concluding remarks for that lecture demonstration, Dr V Raghavan also pointed out that Tarangini was the correct name of the raga and the word ‘sudha’ had been appended by Dikshitar to the raga mudra to provide the meaning “as a flowing stream of ambrosial bliss”.

In this context it needs to be re-asserted that there is no raga called Sudha Tarangini at all and versions of the raga and of ‘Maye’ sung in this so called melody are spurious. Sadly even a few works on music authored by musicologists & authorities such as Prof Sambamoorthi have codified this raga5 which has no textual tradition.


Dikshitar’s conception of Tarangini as found in the SSP is a masterpiece in itself. He builds on the edifice that Muddu Venkatamakhin left behind. The composition in its lyrical and musical structure is unique in more than one aspect. There are a few kritis that authorities say reflects incidents in Dikshitar’s life such as “Mangaladevataya” (Dhanyasi) or “Tyagarajam Bhajare” (Yadukulakambhoji). I strongly feel that the pathos that the kriti evokes reflects some personal pain or incident in his life. The salient features of this composition are as follows:

  1. The kriti is structured oddly with an anupallavi and 3 caranas (though the SSP rather “counts” it only as 2 each with a different dhatu. No other krithi of Dikshitar is so structured with the refrain/pallavi  seamlessly segueing with the anupallavi and caranas.
  2. Dikshitar’s development of the raga can be gauged by the way in which he progressively expands the raga in each of the composition’s anga. The svaras S, G and P are used as the starting notes for these segments.
  3. Every time (barring the final carana) Dikshitar forays into the mandhara stayi to reach the pancama before traversing back to the madhya stayi.
  4. Sancara is seen from mandhara pancama to tara gandhara in the kriti. Tara madhyama is touched in the cittasvara.
  5. GMGGR or GMGR is a recurring motif throughout this kriti along with the PDND prayoga.
  6. The M1 is very deergha in its intonation
  7. The essence of Tarangini is captured by the cittasvara which encompasses the entire gamut of the raga.


Before we look at the renderings of Dikshitar’s composition “Maye”, an analysis of the treatment of this raga in another composition “Saanandam Kamala manohari’ is required here. This composition is a shloka which is set to music in a raga malika format and is referred to as a catur raga shloka malika with the four ragas Kamalamanohari, Revagupti, Hamsadhvani and finally Tarangini. Kamalamanohari is the raga for the pallavi refrain (‘Saanandam Kamalamanohari’). A few interesting aspects in relation to this composition needs to be mentioned.

  1. This shloka malika has the raga names as well the composer’s colophon appearing in the sahitya. The Tarangini raga portion features last, with the sahitya line “Devam ksheerataranginisa shayanam sri padmanabham bhajeham”.
  2. The composition is found notated in the Tanjai Pervudiayan Perisai6 & Ponnayya Manimalai7 as edited & published by Sangita Kalanidhi Ponnaya Pillai and latter by Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam. The footnote very clearly states that the sahitya was done by Maharaja Svati Tirunal and the music was set by Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet.
  3. Au contraire, according to Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s disciple Sri K Subramaniam, the sahitya was set to music by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer 10. Interestingly Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer has himself written the foreword to the edition7 which carried the notation of this shloka malika, which had the footnote to the effect that the music for this composition was set by Vadivelu of the Quartet. So given that, one can rule out the possibility of Sri Srinivasa Iyer having set the music to this composition.

From a raga lakshana perspective the Tarangini raga presented in ‘Saanandam’ is slightly different. To recapitulate, according to Subbarama Dikshitar and as evidenced by “Maye”, the operative arohana/avarohana murccana is SRGPDS/SDPGRS with GMGGRS and PDNDs occurring in profusion, In other words both N and M are vakra.

The notation given for the sahitya of the Tarangini portion of ‘Sanandam Kamalamanohari” namely “Devam ksheeratarangineesa shayanam sri padmanabham bhajeham” as well as the cittasvara section sports a lineal descent- sNDPMGRS which is not in accordance with the raga lakshana of this raga as found in the SSP. The raga thus seems to have been modified with the arohana/avarohana as SRGPDNDs/sNDPMGRS with both nishada and madhyama not being vakra at all. Given that the Quartet were the disciples of Muthusvami Dikshitar, it is indeed quite surprising and perplexing to observe such a deviation ( a krama sampurna avarohana) in the conception itself or the notation as published.

Was it the printer’s devil at work? One does not know. But for a student/connoisseur of music there it is: Three versions(melodic/structural) of Tarangini found documented, first in the Raga Lakshana anubandha of Venkatamakhin, second in the SSP and lastly in the composition ‘Saanandam Kamalamanohari’.


Fortunately we have some authentic renditions of this beautiful Dikshitar composition “Maye Tvam Yahi”, in the original melody with the suddha dhaivatha.

Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer who passed away in 2009, was a repository of many rare Dikshitar compositions having learnt it first hand from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer. Here is a clip of his rendering of Maye.

Clip 1: Dr B Rajam Iyer sings “Maye”

Prof S R Janakiraman another scion of the Dikshitar sishya parampara, first elaborates raga Tarangini in this clip. And then he sings the composition along with the elegant & pithy cittasvara.

Clip 2: Prof SRJ sings “Maye”

Next Vidushi Sowmya, a disciple of Dr S Ramanathan sings Maye in this commercially available rendition of the kriti. Her patham is slightly different in texture especially the pallavi sangatis with emphasis on rishaba.

Clip 3: Vidushi Sowmya sings “Maye” – Excerpt

Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli a disciple of Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer is always known for rendering kritis in their authentic/original form. Here she teaches (her students at Cleveland under the auspices of the Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana Committee) the version as found in the SSP.

Clip 4: Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli teaches ‘Maye’ – Excerpt

The raga Tarangini and the kriti Maye with chatushruti dhaivatha(D2) enjoyed considerable airtime in the last century, sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Sangita Kalanidhi Madurai Mani Iyer, Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi amongst others, with the result that the D2 version is now recorded for posterity as apparently authentic & original. In these versions apart from the replacement of D1 with D2 changes too have been made to dhatu/musical setting of the kriti. For example the 1st and 2nd caranas are sung in the same fashion with the gandhara svara as the eduppu/take off. Curiously the version of this composition by Vidushi Kalpakam Svaminathan is also with D2 as evidenced by the rendering of this kriti with the catushruthi dhaivatha in a Music Academy Lecture demonstration on Gamakas in the year 2005.  Given that she had learnt it so from Ananthakrishna Iyer, it is indeed a matter of speculation & controversy as to who could have changed the patham of this composition with D2 instead of D1. We also have discs cut by N C Vasanthakokilam(1919-1951) of this composition in the D2 version!

Presented next is a slightly different take or interpretation of the composition, by the revered vaineeka Prof R Visveswaran. Here is the rendering of the alapana of Tarangini , followed by the kriti from an AIR Concert( courtesy Sangeethapriya).

Prof. Visveswaran’s interpretation of the kriti is remarkably different for more than one reason. Additionally the rendering being on the veena enables one to compare the version with the notation of the composition found in the SSP and helps us in understanding the nuances of the original conception of the raga by Dikshitar.

First in his alapana, Prof. Visveswaran highlights the core skeletal structure of Tarangini i.e SRGPDs/sDPGRS with the additional PDNDP murrcana with emphasis on the gandhara & pancama (not madhyama as one could observe in all other versions). The RGPD murccana dominates and PDNDP is also given prominence. But the GMGGR murccana and consequently madhyama is relegated to the background. The madhyama note too, whenever it is rendered in his sangathis, seems to be intoned more as an anusvara of the gandhara and not prominently. 

Moving over to the kriti, in almost all other interpretations cited supra, one can notice that the Pallavi “Maye” is started off as a svarakshara on madhyama itself. The notation is GMG in the SSP, for the first sangathi with the take off note being gandhara. The Professor’s interpretation rightfully so, including the four additional variations/sangathis to the Pallavi line that he plays, avoids the madhyama note being the takeoff/nyasa. The Professor in fact tellingly uses GPDNDPGRSR with variations for the pallavi refrain/sangathis without utilizing madhyama note. Attention is invited to the variations in the pallavi after rendering the anupallavi and the carana segments. As one can note, the first sangathi (of all the sections of the composition) is always completely cued to the notation in the SSP but the subsequent sangathis are improvisations based on his interpretation he outlines in his alapana. Perhaps the only place where the madhyama note is conspicuously heard is at the fag end of the carana line UpAye before it loops back to the pallavi line.

In sum here is what makes the Professor’s creative interpretation of the raga/composition, stand apart from the rest: 

  1. Gandhara and pancama notes are the chosen pivots in the Professor’s interpretation while madhyama is very rare & is used an auxiliary note at best and never a takeoff note/nyasa.
  2. The dhaivatha & nishada are sharply intoned and in sum the Professor emphasizes the uttaranga portion of the raga much more than in other editions of this composition/raga.
  3. The skeletal structure emphasized throughout is SRGPDS/SDPGRS with a good usage of PDND. The madhyama note and the murccana GMGGR is kept to the very minimum.

Gravely beautiful and beseeching is the emotion of this raga and no wonder the bard of Tiruvaiyaru chose this raga for his heart wrenching ‘Nenendu vedhakudura’! And so this is the pen picture of Tarangini as painted by the Professor with its own shade and texture reminding us of the noveau raga Vasanthi (in which there is a tillana composed by Sri Lalgudi G Jayaraman). And it is rightfully so within the framed lakshana of the raga as documented in the SSP. Can one fault this interpretation, given the primacy shown for the madhyama (and for GMGGR murccana) in the notation (the cittasvara section actually begins on the madhyama note and the composition’s dhatu is littered with quite a few GMGGRS) for the composition? But that’s what artistic creativity is all about. One can comprehend that within the four corners of the raga’s stated lakshana, by emphasising certain notes/murrcanas while de-emphasizing a few others different flavors/facets of a raga could be derived. And that’s the evidence of the consummate skill and artistic genius/virtuosity of a musician even while he maintains fidelity to the musical intent of the composer and the laid down lakshana. 

As an aside , Prof Visveswaran’s equally illustrious brother Prof. Satyanarayana ran his own crusade to resurrect the correct version of Tarangini with suddha dhaivata more than half a century ago. Read it here.

Other editions:

Two other known instances of Maye having been sung as per the SSP raga lakshana in the last century and recorded are:

  1. Dr S Ramanathan’s rendition at the residence of former UN Chef-de-Cabinet, music aficionado, vocalist and disciple of Musiri Subramanya Iyer, Sri C V Narasimhan in the United States in the year 1967, both on veena and vocal!8
  2. Sri C V Narasimhan himself has rendered “Maye” as per the SSP raga lakshana at a home concert.9

Both the above versions have been recorded by the late James Rubin and is a part of this Oriental Music Collection which has been archived in the Harvard University Library.

I conclude this section with the rendering of Svati Tirunal composition, ‘sAnandam kamalA manOharI”. Presented below is the rendering of the shloka malika, a joint production of Maharaja Svati Tirunal and Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet, from a 1966 Concert of Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who presents it with absolute fidelity to the notation as found in the “Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai”. Accompanying him is V V Subramanyam on the violin and Ramnad Raghavan on the mridangam.

Clip 5: Dr Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders “Saanandam kamala manohari”

One can surmise that Vadivelu having learnt the raga and the composition during his tutelage under Muthusvami Dikshitar must have sung it before Svati Tirunal who got enamored about it and went on to compose the lyric incorporating the raga and the mudra (in the composition the word “tarangini’ has been used to imply the Ocean of Milk which is the abode of Lord Vishnu/Padmanabha) for which Vadivelu set the music.


Given the beautiful conception of Tarangini by Dikshitar in this kriti one is forced to consider the possibility of he himself  having changed the raga’s contour ( assuming that the raga lakshana anubandha shloka of (Muddu) Venkatamakhin being the right/original one) . As a trail blazer and innovator Dikshitar could indeed have done so but we have no direct evidence in this case. Which ever way it is, one cannot deny the fact that this 26th raaganga was a mere theoretical derivation of Muddu Venkatamakhin. And it was left to to the ‘composer non pareil’ Muthusvami Dikshitar to provide flesh & blood and bring life to this beauty of a raga with its jumps, twists and bends. Tarangini’s structuring  & the composition ‘Maye’ again stand as shining examples to the long forgotten fundamentals of our ancient music namely non lineal progression, aesthetics and harmonics.


  1. Hema Ramanathan(2004) – Raga Lakshana Sangraha – Published by Dr N Ramanathan, ISBN 81 7525 536 6; pages 1455-57
  2. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini
  3. Ramachandran K.V. (1938) – “The Melakarta – A Critique” – The Journal of the Music Academy IX, pp. 31-33, Madras, India.
  4. Dr T S Ramakrishnan (1977) – ‘Tarangini & Navaroz’ – Lecture Demonstration conducted on 22 Dec 1977, Journal of the Music Academy Vol XLIX- Pages 33-34
  5. Prof P Sambamoorthi(1966) – South Indian Music Volume 6 – Pages 221-222
  6. Sivanandam K P (2001) – Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai, III Edition
  7. Sivanandam K P (2001)- Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai III Edition
  8. James Rubin(1967) – Recording of the home concert of Dr S Ramanathan dated Aug 13,1967 – reference AWMRL 15731- Harvard University Library Collection
  9. James Rubin(1975) – Recording of the home concert of Sri C V Narasimhan dated Oct 26, 1975 – reference AWMRL 15758- Harvard University Library Collection
  10. V Subrahmaniam & V Sriram (2008)- ‘Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer : Life & Times”, Published by East West
FOOT NOTE 1: Note on Muddu Venkatamakhin

The Caturdandi Prakashika is dated to the reign of King Vijayaraghava Nayak (1614-1672) & is said to have been written sometime around 1620. It’s the consensus opinion of all modern musicologists that though the Raga Lakshana listing (asampurna mela scheme) is treated as an appendix or anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika, it was in all probability created close to a 100 years later. For all practical purposes the anubandha is attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin a grandson or great grandson of Venkatamakhin, who lived during the reign of King Shahaji of Tanjore. While Govinda Dikshitar & his son Venkatamakhi ornamented the Nayak Court, this descendant Muddu Venkatamakhin was probably part of the Mahratta Court of King Shahaji.

We do not have any direct evidence to this effect. However in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar has given gitams & tanams for certain ragas attributing it to Muddu Venkatamakhi himself. One such is the gitam given for the raga Nattakurinji which bears the ankita/raja mudra of Sahaji with the composer name given by Subbarama Dikshitar as ‘Muddu Venkatamakhin” . King Shahaji ruled Tanjore during 1684-1710. He crowned his successor Serfoji I and retired to live in the Royal Estate at Tiruvarur very near the Tyagaraja temple, till the end of his life. For all practical purposes we may approximate the date of Muddu Venkatamakhin and the Anubandha to the CDP to the time period of 1700-1750. Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar, who finds mention in the SSP and the Vaggeyakaracaritamu of Subbarama Dikshitar, was probably a son/grandson/ descendant of this Muddu Venkatamakhin. The 65th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvathi (1857-1890) in his purvashrama was a descendant of Venkatamakhin/Muddu Venkatamakhin. And not surprisingly, Subbarama Dikshitar sought this Acharya’s good offices to procure a copy of the Caturdandi Prakashika.

FOOT NOTE 2: Subbarama Dikshitar’s version of the Caturdandi Prakashika

Dr.R.Sathyanarayana in his critical commentary to the Caturdandi Prakasika says that Subbarama Dikshitar’s  source was a Telugu version of the Caturdandi . He also lists the differences and patha bedhas between what Subbarama Dikshitar had and what was made available to Pt. Bhatkande. Perhaps these differences are due to scribal errors or version differences between copies of manuscripts as we know for sure that Pt Bhatkande copied it from Subbarama Dikshitar only.

FOOT NOTE 2: Raga of Nenendhu Vedakudhura

The raga for Nenendhu Vedakudhura, according to Sri K V Ramachandran was arbitrarily assigned by Taccur Singarachar to Karnataka Behag when he passed on the details of Tyagaraja’s compositions to Chinnasvami Mudaliar who was collating them for his work the Oriental Music in Western Notation. The raga of this composition is given as Harikambhoji in Chinnasvami Mudaliar’s work, Kannada Behag by K V Srinivasa Iyengar and Karnataka Behag by Rangaramanuja Iyengar.

On the assumption that the svaras were flipped one can analyze the mathu or the musical construct of the composition to see if indeed if the composition’s available mathu matches the melodic hue of Tarangini with an operative arohana/avarohana of SRGPDNDs/sDPGRMGRS. One other aspect that one can consider is the lyric itself. One can do an analysis if the lyric is melodically aligned to the raga in which it is set. In this composition Tyagaraja appears to be in a very sad and remorseful state of mind. Tradition has it that this song was composed after he lost the idol of Lord Rama that he was worshipping and his continuous but unavailing search till then. Given the melancholic mood that Tyagaraja would have been in, the tune for this composition as it exists seems inappropriate. Given the melodic mood that Tarangini with the suddha dhaivatha and prayogas such as SD1P, PD1ND1s etc would impart, one can surmise that it would be most appropriate and fitting for this composition.

Update History:
  1. The rendering of ‘mAyE’ by Prof Visvesvaran along with the commentary added in Nov 2016