Samanta – The Raga lost in the wilderness of time


Ragas sporting the vivadi combination of svaras has not been seen much in the world of our Music, prior to the advent of the Trinity.  There have been a couple of exceptions as always and most notable one has been the raga sAmantA, which has the vivadi svara combination D3N3. Nattai is another exception which we saw in a previous blog post. Samanta is found in many old musicological treatises and thus has a hoary past. In modern day musicology it goes under mela 30. Curiously for a raga sporting vivadi note combination, it is both sampurna – having all the notes in its arohana and avarohana together and also krama -sampurna for purposes of modern musicology.

A perusal of musicological history reveals that the raga lost out roughly 200 years ago and was resurrected by Dikshitar and Tyagaraja circa 1800. This blog post is all about Samanta and its allied ragas that we today have in our musical firmament.


Samanta is an old hoary raga with a rich textual history, which sported the vivadi combination D3N3. The earliest reference to Samanta is found in Vidyaranya’s SangitaSara (1320-1380), referenced by Govinda Dikshitar in his later work Sangita Sudha. It also figures in Ramamatya’s Svaramelakalanidhi (Circa 1550) and then in Somanatha’s Ragavibodha (Circa 1609). Somanatha mentions Samanta as one of his 23 melas in this seminal work. Apart from being found profusely in musicological works, it’s very obvious that Samanta was prolifically utilized by vaggeyakaras as well. In his Music Academy Lecture Demonstration of the raga – Prof S R Janakiraman avers that every third or fourth kriti of Annamacharya (circa 1400-1500), found in the copper plates of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, has been composed originally in Samanta. However the original notation of Annamacharya’s kritis have been lost forever and the extant versions that we hear are the tunes as set by musicians/musicologists of recent/current times, like Sangita Kalanidhi Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma & others. Next, in the middle of the 17th century Samanta was one amongst the so called 19 purva prasiddha melas of Venkatamakhi and was listed out by him in his Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP). The popularity of Samanta during its heydays becomes obvious when Subbarama Dikshitar mentions in his notes in the SSP that there are plenty of tanams available in this raga, composed by purvacharyas.

From a melodic standpoint, the raga has been made part of what we today number as melas 28, 29, 34 ,36 and finally mela 30. The first musicologist to formally make Samanta as the representative of Mela 30 of the mela prastara was Venkatamakhin, formally acknowledging the notes of Samanta as catusruti rishabha, antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, shatsruti dhaivata and kakali nishada. Given its melodic closeness to Sankarabharanam (excepting D3), Venkatamakhin even says that it has the chaya/shade of Sankarabharanam. Ramamatya in his Svaramelakalanidhi even calls Samanta an uttama/superior raga while stating that Sankarabharanam is an adhama/inferior raga and that Sankarabharanam has shades of Samanta! So much for musicological history in that, two elements are seen in the narrative of all of them:

  1. The two ragas which differ only on the dhaivatha( Sankarabharanam sports D2 while Samanta sports D3) were dealt with very closely like how Venkatamakhin and Ramamatya narrate as above. In fact post 1800, both Shahaji and Tulaja in their respective works class Samanta under Sankarabharanam mela.
  2. Both Sankarabharanam and Samanta were categorised as evening ragas.

Given the musical history, though Samanta gained independent existence as the head of mela 30, post 1800, in terms of melodic popularity it was eclipsed by Sankarabharanam. Also Samanta or Samantam as it is referred was the 30th entry in the so called earlier Kanakambari list and then it became a janya under Nagabharanam in the later Kanakambari scheme (approx 1700-1750).  In the run up to the Trinity perhaps Samanta was perhaps in hibernation. None of the great pre-trinity composers seem to have taken notice of the raga as evidenced by the lack of compositions available to us from the first half of the 18th century. Later it lost its complete scalar structure & identity to the new kid-off-the-block, Naganandini, the heptatonic 30th Mela raga under the Kanakangi-Ratnangi scheme (19th century) as documented in the Sangraha Cudamani of Govinda which is the lexicon in which the lakshana of much of the ragas in which Tyagaraja composed, can be found.

Today Samanta is nowhere to be seen on our musical horizon and is very rarely encountered in performances as well.


The analysis of the raga’s lakshana can be studied under the following buckets, based on vintage:

  1. Somanatha’s take on the raga, circa 1300, as an example
  2. The Anubandha and the SSP commentary ( circa 1750)
  3. The lakshana of the raga as per the notation of the Dikshitar composition published by Veenai Sundaram Iyer.

Somanatha gives the following as the notes for Samanta:

S(Shadja), R3 ( or as per Somanatha’s nomenclature tivratama rishabha),G3 ( Antara gandhara),M1 (Suddha Madhyama),P ( pancama),D3 ( Shatsruti dhaivata or as per his nomenclature tivratama dhaivata), N3 ( Kakali nishada). It is to be noted that Somanatha’s musical canvas was based on 17 pitches.

Turning next to the SSP, the raga is classified by Subbarama Dikshitar under the asampurna 30th mela Nagabharanam with the following murccana arohana/avaohana on the authority of the Anubandha to the CDP.

S R2 G3 M1 P D3 N3 S / S N3 D3 P M1 G3 R2 S

The Samanta lakshana shloka which Subbarama Dikshitar attributes to Venkatamakhi says “Samanta raga sampurnah, arohe vakra dhaivata…” And in line with the shloka, the tanam as given, also has D3 in vakra in all aroha passages. Curiously in his notes, Subbarama Dikshitar observes that the raga is sampurna without any varja or vakra. He gives just 2 exemplars there under- The gitam attributed to Venkatamakhi and his own sancari.

The lakshya gitam attributed to Venkatamkhin in the SSP offers us interesting insights as to the raga lakshana. Here is the summary of the same.

  1. Prayogas seen in the gitam includes:
    • sNDNs
    • sNDPM
    • MGMPNNs
    • SMGRG
    • PNNs ( no PDNs)
  2. Sancara span : Uttaranga and tara sthayi sancaras( reaching as far up to the tara dhaivata) in seen profusion.
  3. The notes M1 and N3 are seen in numerous janta prayogas.

In his notes, Subbarama Dikshitar wonders how the purvacaryas had given SN3D3P a direct descent instead of SN3D3N3P as vakra, given the semitones involved as it would give rise to vivadhi dosha. Nevertheless he tows Venkatamakhi’s line and uses SNDP once. PDNS is also noticed in his sancari. Subbarama Dikshitar also opines that rendering the D3 in the avaroha as SN3D3P, would be difficult to execute vocally but not so in the vina. See foot note 3.

Incidentally it is rather curious that Muddu Venkatamakhin created a new raga Nagabharanam with arohana PNDNS, a vakra sanchara to get around the vivadhi notes, as the representative of the 30th mela. And he proceeds to make the sampurna Samanta as a member/janya thereunder. Given that Samanta is a purva prasiddha raga dealt with by all musicologists of yore including Ramamatya, Govinda Dikshitar and Venkatamakhin prior to 1700 AD, Muddu Venkatamakhin could have simply made Samanta itself as the clan head of mela 30, prefixing it suitably to yield the number 30 according to the katapayAdi samkhyA scheme. That was not to be the case surprisingly. As an example in contrast for an other pUrva prasiddha raga Desakshi, the prefix ‘shaila’ was prefixed & it was made the clan head for the 35th mela.

In so far as Samanta goes post 1750, notwithstanding Subbarama Dikshitar’s assertion, it’s undeniable that the raga continued to be sampurna and the krama prayoga SN3D3P was treated as permissible. Unfortunately we do not have any kritis of Muthusvami Dikshitar noted in the SSP or the anubandha. Veena Sundaram Iyer (a disciple of Ambi Dikshitar) was the first to publish two Dikshitar kritis in Samanta, one of them in the Music Academy Journal and subsequently both in the Dikshitar Kritimalai series.

We need to remember that when we deal with purva prasiddha ragas, that is ragas which ante-date the Kanakangi-Ratnangi scalar model, we need to assess them in the light of the earlier native prayogas as passed on to us traditionally/textually that were codified for them and practised. In the instant case, it is futile to talk about Naganandini scale & seek/attempt to justify how Samanta is or could be different from it. It is a reality that Naganandini is an ante dated and a ‘derived’ heptatonic scale and is at best an equivalent melody as compared to the purva prasiddha Samanta. Or its yet another name of Samanta under the Sangraha Cudamani.

The Muthusvami Dikshitar composition ‘pranatArthiharAya’ is notated by Vidvan Veena Sundaram Iyer in SRGM notation and the following is the summary of it.

  • He gives the ragas arohana/avarohana only as SRGMPDNS/SNDPMGRS
  • The kriti starts off as P N s s N D P M G S
  • Dhaivata & rishabha are varja in the aroha phrases
  • PNs, Ps, sP, smgr,sNPMGM, sNDP , sDNP , PsND are found
  • In one or two places the sancara goes far up to tara pancama
  • D3 is encountered in 5 places in the composition

We can observe that by-and-large the raga lakshana as per the Venkatamakhi gitam and Sundaram Iyer’s notation is fairly aligned. The profusion of janta prayogas on the Nishada and Madhayama notes, seen in the gitam is however not to be seen in ‘Pranatarthiharaya’. See foot note 1.

The raga Samanta is found documented in the Sangaraha Cudamani as a janya of Naganandini despite the fact that no known compositions of Tyagaraja are assigned to the raga. The arohana/avarohana krama is given as SRSMGMPDNS/SNDNPMGRS. As one can see later, the setting of Samantha for Annamacharya kritis by Rallapalli Sri Anantakrishna Sarma, tracks to this melodic contour.

With this theoretical background let us move on to the discography section.


We first take up the Dikshitar kriti ‘pranatArthiharAya’ notated by Veena Sundaram Iyer. Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli who had her tutelage under Vidvan Kallidaikurici Mahadeva Bhagavathar of the sisya parampara of Ambi Dikshitar, renders this composition. This audio clip is from the Dikshitar Day Concert of hers held in Madurai in 2007.

As one can notice, her version is much closer to the Sundaram Iyer notation. I invite the attention to two aspects of her rendition. The D3 is muted and is heard clearly only at”Pranataarthi haaraya”. In her rendering the avaroha seems more PMGS than PMGRS. And the kalapramana is slightly faster than one can expect to be in a normal Dikshitar krithi.

We move over to the rendering of the same kriti by Prof S R Janakiraman (SRJ). Before that we present his lecture on the raga’s lakshana with Annamacharya’s ‘sahaja vaishnavAcAra vartanula’ given as Samanta in the olden copper plates and set to the raga by Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sarma, as illustration. See foot note 4.

Next is his rendering Annamacharya’s “Sahaja Vaishnavacara” set to Samanta by Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sharma. Mark the opening bars starting SMGMP in the kriti, a point emphasized in the raga’s lakshana as documented in the Sangaraha Cudamani.

As always his emphasis on D3 is pronounced & strong in his conception of Samanta. The first nishadha occurring on the janta phrase PNNS seems to give the effect of D3 as an anusvara, given only a semi-tonal interval.

We next move on to the veteran musician/musicologist rendering ( edited), the Dikshitar kriti in a class session.

In the audio clip of his demonstration of this kriti, Prof SRJ keeps in line with Sundaram Iyer’s notation, overall. However we do see that the Professor invokes D3 in his rendering of Samanta. Watch out for the intonation of D3 at “Pranataarthihaaraya”, “KshtetrapalaSevitaya” and “Ghrini-sasi-vahni-nayana”. So based on the evidence available Prof S R Janakiraman assesses that Samanta’s melodic contour is SMGMPNNS/SNDPMGRS.

The third & final exemplar is the rendering of Pranatharthiharaya by Vidvan Balaji Shankar. This is from his album of Dikshitar kritis released by Sangeetha Music which is already made available by them in the public domain. Vidvan Balaji Shankar’s rendering is punctuated more by PNS and SN3D3P from the kriti point of view. It is worth noting here that he is a sishya of Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman, another vidvan tracing is repertoire to the Dikshitar sishya parampara.

In contrast to all other versions of Samanta/Naganandhini featured in this section, one can perceive that Vidvan Balaji Shankar’s rendering is light and not heavy in its tonal texture, bereft of the so called Carnatic “charge”. It is perhaps due to the fact that it has been rendered with plainer notes to give a lighter feel rather than being embellished with our native gamakas.

We now move on to the rendition of Samanta by “Dikshitarini” Kalpagam Svaminathan. In a private concert from the year 2007, she plays ‘Vishvanathena Samrakshitoham” the other kriti of Dikshitar, available to us, composed on the presiding deity at Kuzhikkarai a very small village near Tiruvarur. She prefaces her rendition of “Vishvanathena” with a raga vinyasa, bringing out the salient features of her conception of Samanta. As one can see the contours of her Samanta is SGMPN3S/SD3PMGRS. Given the svarastanas of the notes, is one to take it so and imply that Samanta is a bhashanga with two nishadhas, each type occurring in the arohana and avarohana respectively then? But that’s how it is played by the veteran Vaineeka who was the storehouse of Dikshitar kritis. See Foot note 2 & 5.

We move over to a vocal rendering of the composition, pretty rare today. Vidushi K Gayatri, a disciple of the late Sangita Kala Acharya Suguna Purushothaman, presents her pAtham of ‘visvanAthEna’ complete with rAgam, kriti and svara prastara for our benefit. For her, this raga is sampurna both in arohana and avarohana and as she comments at the end of her raga vinyasa, it is treated synonymously with Naganandhini.

Thus in sum we find multiple versions of Samanta with same notes under mela 30, through the renderings of the two Dikshitar compositions. We do see lineal as well as vakra/varjya sancaras around D3 and N3 notes.

 And with that we move on to Tyagaraja’s creation ‘sattalEni’.

As pointed out earlier we have it on record that Tyagaraja did not provide names to the ragas of his compositions. Experts opine that raga names were assigned to his compositions, much later based on the melody found therein by correlating it with the definition found in the Sangraha Cudamani. Given that the sampurna krama arohana/avarohana of Naganandini found in the Sangraha Cudamani aligns with the definition of Samanta in the Anubandha to the CDP and the SSP, we can conclude perhaps both the ragas where one and the same. Better still Samanta can be thought of as the forerunner of modern day Naganandhini.

Tyagaraja’s kriti ‘sattalEni dinamU’ is a beautiful creation. See foot note 6.Here is Vidvan S Kalyanaraman rendering this composition. He prefaces the kriti with his alapana followed by that of the violinist Vidvan V V Subramanian Watch out how Vidvan S Kalyanaraman revels in this raga both in the alapana and his svara kalpana on the pallavi line with chaste accompaniment by the violinist.

Attention in invited to the svara vinyasa in the clipping at around 7:44 when the veteran embarks on his svara kalpana anchoring around N3. The vivid portrayal of the vividhi notes D3N3 in the uttaranga is a veritable lesson on how to aesthetically render them. It goes to the credit of the likes of Vidvan Kalyanaraman and Vidvan S Rajam for beautifully rendering vivadi ragas during their lifetimes in an age when singing them were not considered kosher by the so called traditional, more mainstream vidvans.

We next move to an allied raga which is given in modern day lexicons as Gambhiravani which is nothing but Naganandini with vakra sancaras. Tyagaraja’s ‘sadAmathim’ is assigned this raga. Also the raga Gambhiravani with the stated lakshana is not found documented in the Sangraha Cudamani, the authoritative lexicon of the ragas of compositions of Tyagaraja. The provenance of the raga name and its lakshana is highly questionable and seems to be of 20th century vintage, for the raga is found documented only in 20th century publications. Also this kriti came to be known only through the publication of Rangaramanuja Iyengar post 1950 and was not known to be part of the famous lineages of Tyagaraja ( vide the Index of Tyagaraja’s compositions – JMA Vol XXXIX pages 124-167). We do have that composition rendered by Flute Mali, Vidvan Lalgudi Jayaraman and Madurai Somu available in the public domain. See foot note 7.


It indeed inexplicable why this raga, which was popular in the centuries bygone, is today all but forgotten. Musical history tells us that it had always fought a war for space, first with Sankarabharanam prior to 1700 and then later with Naganandhini post 1800, before it finally lost out. Tyagaraja’s kritis have been labelled off under Naganandini/Gambhiravani and so we are left only with the two Muthusvami Dikshitar compositions. The construct of the raga and its beautiful D3N3 makes one wonder why it is still very rarely encountered on the concert circuit. As always one does hope that performing musicians would at least take notice of this purva prasiddha raga and render it more in the days to come.


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol IV– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions – pages 1197-1212
  3. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai-pages 128-133
  4. A Sundaram Iyer(1995) -Sri Dikshita Kirtanamala- Part IV-Reprint, published by Music Book Publishers,Mylapore -pages 42-43

Foot Notes:

  1. The kriti ‘pranatArthiharAya’ is composed on the Lord of Tiruvaiyyaru – Panchanadeesvara or Pranatarthihara. Justice T L Venkatrama Iyer in his biography of Muthusvami Dikshitar says that amongst others, Dikshitar composed ‘Pranatarthiharam” in Nayaki on the Lord, “Sri Vatukanatha” in Devakriya on the Kshetrapala here and “Dharmasamvardhani” in Madhyamavathi on the deities of this holy kshetra. The kshetrapala or Bhairava, whom Dikshitar extols in his Devakriya composition, finds mention in this short Samanta kriti, which is structured with just the anupallavi alone. The kriti is bereft of the raga mudra but has the standard Dikshitar colophon, guruguha.
  2. The kriti ‘visvanAthEna rakshitOham’ is a composition on Lord Vishvanatha at Kuzhikkarai a couple of kilometers away from Tiruvarur. As recorded in his life history, Dikshitar visited this place on the invitation of this temple’s patron one Vaidyalinga Mudaliar to grace the consecration of this temple. Dikshitar composed the following compositions on the Lord (as available to us):
    1. Kashi Vishveshvara – Kambhoji – Ata tala – Found in the SSP, this kriti is a magnum opus of Dikshitar in this raga.
    2. Sri Visvanatham – Caturdasa Ragamalika – Adi – Found in the anubandha, again this ragamalika composition is a marvel in itself.
    3. Visvanathena Samrakshitoham – Samanta
    4. Annapurne Visalakshi – Sama

    These kritis are sometimes mistakenly attributed to have been composed on the deity at Kasi itself by some. But the internal evidence within the compositions themselves clearly shows that these were composed on the Lord at Kuzhikkarai. The reference “gartatIra prabhavEna” found in the Samanta composition refers to Kuzhikkarai. Additionally Dr V Raghavan mentions that ‘ehI annapUrnE” in Punnagavarali has been composed on the Goddess at Kuzhikkarai. I am not sure on what basis Dr Raghavan assigns this kriti to Kuzhikkarai. Suffice to say that there no direct or indirect references to this kshetra in the Punnagavarali composition. Coming back to Vishvanathena, Dikshitar brings out his colophon as well as the raga mudra, explicitly in the anupallavi line as:

    “sAshvatah-gUruguha-sampUjitEna || sAmantapushpamAlAdharEna”

    Similar to the mention in the Tyagaraja Vibakti kriti in the raga Rudrapriya ( ‘Sri Tyagarajasya baktho bhavami’) Dikshitar makes a mention of the Lord delighting in the dance of the rudra ganikas (the dasis attached to the temple).

  3. It is indeed a matter for deep deliberation for us as to why for certain ragas Subbarama Dikshitar did not provide any Dikshitar kriti as exemplars when we do have kritis, which made its way to the public domain long after his death, from the very same collection that he bequeathed to his son Ambi Dikshitar. Samanta and Camaram are stark examples wherein in the SSP we do have Subbarama Dikshitar giving his commentary for the raga and yet he does not provide the compositions ‘siddhi vinAyakam anisham’ or the two sAmantA compositions ‘pranatArthi harAya’ and ‘visvanAthEna rakshitOham’ as exemplars. It is likely that Subbarama Dikshitar ‘curated’ the available Dikshitar compositions with him and their notations and those which passed his ‘test’ were alone published in the SSP. We do not know Subbarama Dikshitar’s logic/test for selection till date. Yet this is what we are today left grappling with along with the unfortunate circumstance of being left with kritis of questionable sahitya and/or musical setting attributed to Dikshitar. In the case of Samanta, we have another factor to consider, which is that the SSP has a composition in Nagabharanam the nominal head of the clan of mela 30 as per the scheme of Muddu Venkatamakhin. Except for the vakra sancara around D3N3, there is no great melodic difference between the two ragas (Samanta and Nagabharanam).
  4. Prof SRJ’s way of rendering ragas reminds one of what Srini Pichumani had to say years ago on the Usenet news group.“….For lack of a better word or phrase, let me say that (Prof) SRJ’s  alapanas are for the major part composed of “constantly swirling” melodic phrasings. The rapids or eddies of a river come to mind instantly. Maybe this is how the great Tiger ( Varadacariar, his guru )sang.” I invite attention to the way Prof SRJ sings Samanta with great verve and passion in the lec dem ahead of ‘sahaja vaisnavAcAra vartula’ with the so called swirls, which Srini Pichumani alludes to.
  5. As we have seen in earlier posts, if a vivadhi raga is employed by Dikshitar he ornaments the same in his kritis, with appropriate gamakas. In this case we have no way of knowing the same as the compositions are not found documented in the SSP style notation.
  6. The lyrics of kriti of the Bard of Tiruvaiyaru, is a throwback in time, signifying perhaps his agony about the degradation of the society and its moral fabric. Perhaps those times weren’t different at all, one wonders. Here is the text and meaning of the kriti.
  7. It’s my personal opinion that mere usage of vakra sancaras in a melodic implementation doesn’t create a new raga. The vakra sancaras must cause a separate and distinctive melodic identity to be built and only then can it be deemed to be a new raga worthy of a separate existence from the parent. In the instant case one can notice that there is no melodic distinctiveness for Gambhiravani/Nagabharanam in comparison to Samanta/Naganandini. Even in Naganandhini’s case just because Samanta “also” uses SMGMP or SNPM, doesn’t in anyway confer melodic distinctiveness. Thus for all practical purposes, the melodies going by the names of Naganandhini, Samanta and Gambiravani are all one and the same. The melodic distinctiveness of all these ragas hinge on the usage of D3N3 combination as otherwise they can be subsumed by the ragas under Sankarabharanam mela.

The Melodic setting of ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ of Muthusvami Dikshitar


It is one of the settled principles of music or for that matter any art form, that utmost fidelity to the intent of the composer/creator should be maintained. The original structure of a composition as intended by the composer must be reproduced at all costs/as much as possible, by all those who perform the same. In fact modern intellectual property law acknowledges this as a formal right of a composer, calling it the Right of Integrity of the composer creator or “droit de respect de l’oeuvre”. It effectively forbids all performers from mutilating, distorting or modifying his creative work. In our Music one instead witnesses the fact that we have taken much liberties with the compositions of very many composers particularly the Trinity. A comparison of the versions of the compositions that we hear today, say for example of Muthusvami Dikshitar with that of an authentic reproduction of the original setting as recorded in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini would show how much we have deviated considerably from the original setting. We have seen this as a regular theme in almost all cases which we have analyzed in this blog series.

In this blog post we will take up the case of a very well-known composition in a ubiquitous raga. And as we analyse it in the context of its original notation, it can be demonstrated how we have:

  1. Modified the very lakshana of a raga
  2. Changed the musical setting or mettu/mAthu of the composition

The composition is ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ in raga Nattai in adi tala. The core idea of this short blog post is not to censure ourselves, though we might deserve one, but is to demonstrate how Muthusvami Dikshitar has presented the grammatically correct laid down form of the raga for us.  And at the same time imprinted his own style in the musical setting of the composition.

The goal for a student or listener of music is to appreciate the original beauty of this composition and ruminate on the takeaways it provides us.

Overview of composition and modern lakshana of Nattai:

Let us first look at the sahitya or the lyrical setting of the composition in question.

  1. ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ is a composition ostensibly composed on the Lord at Svamimalai by Muthusvami Dikshitar, though its sahitya does not bear any details as to situs such as puranic or stala references etc.
  2. It is the pallavi-anupallavi-madhyamakala sahitya format, lacking the carana. Neither do we see a cittasvara section for this composition.
  3. It carries both the colophon (as in ‘vallIsa guruguha dEvasEnEsa’ in the pallavi) and raga mudra (‘kAvya nAtakAlankArabharana’ in the madhyama kala sahitya) in its sahitya body.
  4. It is found documented/notated in both Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshitar and in the Dikshitar Keertanai Prakashikai (DKP) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, the two most authentic textual authorities for Dikshitar’s compositions.

It is composed in Nattai, a raga which almost every text book on music would provide the modern day lakshana , under the 36th mela as under:

Arohana : S R3 G3 M1 P N3 S ( some give it as  SRGMPDNS)

Avarohana: S N3 P M1 R3 S

While prescribed theory is so, a perusal of available renderings of compositions in this raga feature the following svaragati/progression :

Arohana : S R3 G3 M1 P N3 S

Avarohana: S N3 P M1 G3 M1 R3 S

In modern musicological parlance it is almost always presented as a derivative of the heptatonic calanAta mela , excluding the shatsruti dhaivata D3in both arohana & avarohana, with both PMRS and GMRS in its descent.

Modern Nattai is encapsulated in this concise edited presentation below by Vidvan Neyveli Santhanagopalan, who provides his delineation of the raga for us through a short adi tala pallavi ‘nAttai kApadu nam kadamai, nallor vazhum bhAratha’, the raga name being embedded therein. He prefaces it with an alapana, tops it up with a few rounds of neraval and kalpana svaras as well.

There are very many compositions in this raga and for us the subject matter for this blog post is ‘Svaminatha Paripalaya’ kriti, which we take up concentrating on the extant version/rendering of the composition. Arguably one of the earliest popular vocalist to frequently render this composition was Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramaniam. And his version/presentation of the composition is what almost all modern day performers have adopted. Let us first hear that out.

I would like to invite specific attention to the following factors in this rendering.

  1. The rhythmic setting – Many the eduppus/take off in the kriti lines are after 1/2 akshara (edam) after the first beat including the pallavi itself.
  2. The pace of the composition is medium & fast tempo. There is no slow or cauka kala exposition.
  3. The ragalakshana as is obvious from the svarakalpana is very clear. The above given arohana and avarohana, devoid of D3 and using both PMRS and GMRS is observed to the tee.

Now that we have looked at the raga and the popular exposition of this Muthusvami Dikshitar composition, let’s evaluate the form as notated in the SSP and DKP, which we alluded to before. But before that let’s evaluate the raga lakshana as summarized by Subbarama Dikshitar.

‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ in the SSP :

  1. The raga’s correct/complete name is cAlanAta, the same which has been assigned to the sampurna/heptatonic scale in Sangraha Cudamani.
  2. The arohana/avarohana murrcana is SRGMPDNS/SNPMRS
  3. Dhaivata and gandhara are varja in the avarohana. The reasoning is fairly obvious as in the Muddu Venkatamakhin scheme. D3N3 and R3G3 the vivadhi combinations are facile in their arohana krama. However in the avarohana krama they are worked around either as vakra or varja as SN3D3N3P or M1R3S.

In contrast to the modern lakshana, two features that we need to note at the outset are the prescribed usage of PD3N3S and PM1R3S. As we saw in the modern expositions in the discography above, PNS and GMRS seems to dominate the scheme of Nattai today. Nattai of today is totally bereft of D3 making it an shadava raga. See Foot Note 1.

Moving over to the notation of the kriti in the SSP, one is surprised to note the amount of deviation that we see in modern expositions compared to the notation provided in the SSP.

  1. PDNS occurs expressly in the composition in two places (‘guruguha’ and ‘vitarana’), the portions being in madhyama kAla. Along with PDNS we also see PS and Pr as well.
  2. GMRS does not occur, atleast in this composition. Everywhere it is only PMRS. Though GMRS is permissible or is not forbidden, it was perhaps a convention that in Nattai PMRS was to dominate ( i.e gandhara would not be vakra in avarohana passages) and which is why Subbarama Dikshitar gives the avarohana murccana as SNPMRS. And Dikshitar does not use that in ‘svAminAtha paripAlayA’.

Brief History of Nattai:

The above two features are not just found in the Natta of the Anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin which was supposed to have been followed by Muthusvami Dikshitar and which Subbarama Dikshitar uses as authority for his SSP. It was also the intrinsic component of the Natta of the 18thcentury for we see the same as documented by Tulaja in his Saramrutha (circa A D 1835). In fact Sangita Kalanidhi B Subba Rao and Prof S R Janakiraman in their commentary to Tulaja’s Saramrutha emphatically state that the raga’s lakshana had remained the same over centuries till today. In fact they add that in contrast to the older Nattai, modern Nattai had narrowed down by dropping the shatsruti dhaivatha completely from its melodic body.

Tulaja records the name of this melody as ‘Suddha Natti’ anointing it as a mela. He states:

  1. The raga lacks dhaivatha and gandhara in the avaroha
  2. And the svaragati/progression is straight both in arohana and avarohana, meaning it was SRGMPDNS and SNPMRS. Thus dhaivatha and gandhara were not again appearing vakra in the avarohana such as SNDNP or PMGMRS. He effectively rules out GMRS.

Needless to add, Nattai has a history tracing back centuries prior and is seen recorded in the works of Somanatha, Pandarika Vitthala, Venkamakhin and others. Even the Sangraha Cudamani which ploughs a lone furrow on many ragas gives the same svara progression for Nattai. In short Nattai is a purva prasiddha raga sporting the two vivadi combinations R3G3 and D1N1 in full in its melodic body. See Foot Note 2.

Thus we can safely conclude that Muthusvami Dikshitar’s ‘svAminAtha paripAlaya’ as notated in the SSP completely embodies the older, complete Nattai that was prevalent in the 18th century.

As stated, the two contrasting features between the Nattai of yore and the one today is that present day renderings of this composition and modern day delineation of the raga are devoid of PDNS. And they include GMRS as well, which prayoga is not found in the old Nattai.

Muthusvami Dikshitar’s Conception:

Even as he faithfully went about adhering to the older definition of Nattai, Muthusvami Dikshitar in his ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsu mAm’ chiseled out his own features, which are today not visible or conspicuous in modern day renderings.

  1. We have been repeatedly seeing in these blog analysis that jumps,bends,turns and twists were how the melodic progression of svaragati of ragas was in the 18th century. Taking that as a cue, Dikshitar implements the same through the repeated use of the prayoga/motif M/N and N\MP with the nishadha being ornamented with the kampita gamaka. Examples are the sahitya portions ‘nAradAdi bhAvita’ & ‘sammOhitAkAra’.
  2. Dikshitar has also kept the gandhara (G3) usage to the absolute minimum in this composition which spans 8 complete tala avartas, as a signature construct for the Nattai of ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm. The 3 usages, namely two dIrgha and one hrsva usage is seen at :
    1. ‘svAminAtha’
    2.  ‘vAmadEva’
    3. ‘nipunacarana’

He works around the gandhara note by jumping over as SM or SP in his progression. But he does give G3 its pride of place elegantly/tellingly at ‘vAmadEva’ and this dIrgha gandhara placement right at the middle of the composition at the beginning of the 5th avarta, half way in this 8 tala avarta composition is poignant. See Foot Note 3.

  1. He has further clustered the sahitya and the underlying notes into a pattern almost – alternating hrsva and dIrgha syllables in the body. This point is brought out for the simple reason that this original setting has been completely lost due to the modern rendition style of this composition or what we can call as normalization.

A Comparison:

A compare of this notation with the modern day rendering provides us a number of insights:

  1. Sahitya for many tala avartas are started off (eduppu) at 1/2 edam/ after the first beat, by performers. One can see from the SSP notation of this composition that the sahitya for every one of the tala avartas ( 8 in total) start only at samam/on the beat.
  2. The sahitya syllables are equally spread out over the rest of the tala cycle, in contrast to the original notation.
  3. In the original scheme we see that there are either two hrasva svaras or one dIrgha svara per akshara in the sama kAla and double that in the madhyama kala. This is tampered with in modern renderings with the result that the actual svara notation deviates considerably from the SSP notation in very many places. One can even see that it is perhaps even 4 svaras per aksharas in sama kala sometimes, giving us the speeded up impression and also melodically denser, which was not the original construct.

For example the sahitya lines starting ‘svAminAtha’, ‘kArtikEya’ and ‘vAmadEva’ are all rendered not starting at samam but 1/2 after the beat. The word ‘kArtikEya’ which is notated for the first 4 aksharas of the adi tala cycle are sung as,SRGM rather than SRSMR. Similar is the fate of the line ‘vAmadEva’ which is again not rendered at samam/beat start and is rendered as GMPNSNP whereas the actual notation is GGMMP. As pointed out earlier, from the anupallavi start till the madhyama kala start, spanning 4 adi tala avartas, Muthusvami Dikshitar uses the gandhara note only one at the place vAmadEva. Whereas in all modern renderings we see that these 4 tala avartas are rendered with gandhara being indiscriminately used. The madhyama kala sahitya mettu too has been tampered with as one can see.

4. In a number of places the unique kampita gamakas as well as the jArus that are embedded in the composition is hardly ever heard in the modern day renderings of this composition. Simply put, the melodic artwork innate in the composition has been sacrificed at the altar of speed. See Foot Note 4.

These changes are a consequence of our poor understanding of the legacy bequeathed to us. Sadly the tempo of the rendering is speeded up and the composition is rendered as if it were a kriti of Tyagaraja. While we bear no ill will to that format, it is reiterated that this was not the style/format in which Dikshitar composed ‘svAminAtha paripAlaya’. And it does no justice to us to wrongly render a magnificent construction carelessly with scant respect for raga lakshana as well, by needlessly singing the unwarranted GMRS or eliding the PDNS.

We can aurally sense the normalization that we have done to the melodic body and gait of the composition in the discography section.


Vidvan T M Krishna sings ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ as per notation found in the SSP. He first prefaces the composition with his take on the construct of the composition.

And then he renders the composition.

Attention is invited amongst others to:

  • Leisurely progression or tempo of the composition
  • N\MP and M/N usages,
  • The sama eduppu for all the tala avartas
  • The unique/poignant dIrgha gandhara take off at ‘vAmadEva’
  • The original musical setting of the madhyamakala sahitya in particular the mandhara stayi sancara which is not correctly rendered in modern versions.

In his presentation, the ‘PDNS’ usage atleast at the pallavi (‘guruguha’) isn’t very aurally perceivable and personally I wish it were articulated a little more.  Barring the same, this edition more or less reflects a very practical/faithful presentation of the intent of the notation in the SSP for me. In fact the PDNS is also incorporated in Vidvan Krishna’s kalpana svara section and the violinist response captures the D3N3 very well. Its worth noting that Vidvan Krishna only once ( inadvertently perhaps?) in his svarakalpana does use the prayoga GMRS in the tAra stAyi.

For many of us, this version interpreted from the notation from the SSP, may be a revelation. The contrast and the takeaways provided by this version in comparison with the modern version, presented earlier in this post, is something that is now left to the rumination and judgement of a discerning listener/connoisseur of our music.


Many of the modern day presentations of Muthusvami Dikshitar’s compositions are found normalized both for melody and for rhythm/structure, deviating significantly from their original construct. Thankfully we have an authentic repository of notations of his compositions preserved by Subbarama Dikshitar in the form of the magnum opus, SSP as a benchmark/gold-copy for us. This blog post was to precisely demonstrate how we have significantly deviated from the original setting of Dikshitar’s creations. It is earnestly & sincerely hoped that students and performers of music would at least now, relearn & recalibrate their repertoire of Dikshitar compositions to be in alignment to the original intent of the composer. And finally rendering them on concert platforms in true fidelity to that would be the only greatest homage to composer nonpareil.

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 980-998
  3. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai – pages 41-43

I am indebted to Vidvan Sri T M Krishna for permitting me to share the recording of his rendering of ‘svAminAtha paripAlayasumAm’ for this blog post. This is from his concert for Guruguhamrutha, held on 13th Nov 2016 @ Raga Sudha Hall, Chennai. Accompanying him in this recital were Vidvans Sri H N Bhaskar on the violin, Sri Manoj Siva on the mrudangam and Sri B S Purushotham on the kanjira.


  1. The PD3N3S usage has always been problematic to many schools of music especially between the 1850 to 1950 time period. The vivadi combination was attributed with dosha so much so purists wouldn’t render them at all, fearing ill health upon doing so. Many ragas sporting this vivadi svara combination too were mutilated. In the case of Nattai, Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer went one step further when he stripped R3G3 vivadhi combination too in his rendering of ‘mahA ganapatim’, a famous kriti attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar and not found in the SSP. Here, in this clipping from the Music Academy Concert of the year 1964, dubbed the Ghana Raga concert , the Carnatic veteran opens the concert at the Academy presenting his version of ‘mAhAganapatim’ and Nattai sans R3 and D3, a raga which we can call as Gambhira Nattai, prefacing it with a brief tanam !

Attention is invited both to the kriti and the kalpana svara section. One wonders what the rasikas and the cognoscenti of those times had to say upon hearing the veteran render the composition so! For a sharp ear a very muted R3 is discernible tinting the sadja as an anusvara in quite a few places, for example when he ends ‘mahAganapatim’ before commencing the svarakalpana.

  1. Tulaja’s commentary in the Sangita Saramrutha to the effect that Suddha Natti or Nattai of today is a Ghana raga and is to be sung in evenings is echoed verbatim by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP. We have seen in an earlier blogpost what ‘ghanam’ means and in that context Nattai rightfully is a Ghana raga, being the first amongst equals in the Ghana raga pancakam. The attribute of a raga pegging its rendering to the time of a day seems to have lost its relevance except for a few ragas. One is unable to divine today, the reason why Nattai should be sung in the evenings only.
  2. Antara gandhara- G3 in the case of Nattai is found in the arohana alone. Normally as a rule a note found only in the arohana is very likely to be a weak note in the raga. If the note finds place in the avarohana as well, atleast as a vakra note then it is likely to emerge as a powerful pivot note. With PMRS alone being used, or in other words PMGMRS being excluded, it is likely that Dikshitar given the implicit deduction that G3 became weak, perhaps made its occurrence rare in this composition. It could also be hypothesized that the older or vintage form/definition of Nattai warranted this. It could also be that by his times Nattai had perhaps acquired in the meanwhile, GMRS or a vakra gandhara formally in its avarohana. And in this, then nouveau form of Nattai, Dikshitar perhaps composed the other composition ‘pavanAtmaja’, which has GMRS usage in its final madhyama kala sahitya section. An interesting line of thought one can say.
  1. The almost same notation of this composition that one sees both in the SSP and DKP is amazing to say the least. Barring a few extra kampita gamaka ornamentations that is seen in DKP, the two notations reinforce our belief in the original creation as the same comes through to us through two independent sishya paramparas of Muthusvami Dikshitar. One is humbled by the fact that the sishya paramparas to that point, namely Tambaippan Pillai –> Sattanur Pancanada Iyer –> Natarajasundaram Pillai for DKP on one hand and Balasvami Dikshitar –> Subbarama Dikshitar for the SSP on the other, have maintained the greatest of fidelity in transmitting the tradition without polluting/morphing it in anyway.

Kannada Bangala & Malahari – The Conjoined Twins


Popular commentary as well as accounts of musicologists always has it that Muthusvami Dikshitar was a staunch follower of the Venkatamakhin sampradaya and to that end he followed the Anubandha to the CaturdandiPrakashika faithfully. There are quite a number of exceptions, caveats or issues with this statement. As we saw in a number of previous blog posts, in the case of quite a few ragas such as Tarangini, Khamboji, Gopikavasanta etc, there is a dichotomy between the lakshana as per the sloka found for the raga in the Anubandha and the corresponding Dikshitar kriti in that raga. Besides we find that Subbarama Dikshitar on his own authority has classified ragas which are not in the rAganga lakshana gitams and/or the Anubandha itself. While we find the Anubandha and the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) together to be a great source of information, we do have instances where we are unable to reconcile satisfactorily the lakshanas of quite a few ragas. In those cases the commentary of Subbarama Dikshitar while helpful is not much instructive as one would like it to be. So much so we are just left with the notation of the very kritis of Muthusvami Dikshitar to divine the ragalakshana unambiguously. Which also shows us that Muthusvami Dikshitar innovated, breaking himself from the shackles of the laid down tradition. It is this point that we would seek to explore through this blog post as we look at the raga lakshana of two ragas – Kannada Bangala and Malahari both under Mela 15, Malavagaula.

In so far as the raga lakshanas of these two ragas, Malahari and Kannada Bangala we see that the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika as well as the prior 18th century texts are not so helpful for us to distinguish unambiguously the raga lakshanas of these two conjoined twins – twins that are intertwined both in terms of the scale and also history. This is so because they share the same melodic scale or arohana/avarohana under Mela 15, Malavagaula and they grew together perhaps each intruding into the other’s melodic territory. If we were to look for clues from our oral tradition available today, with reference to these two ragas, sadly they offer no assistance whatsoever to help us melodically distinguish them. The oral tradition by and large treats these two ragas as practically synonymous so much so that Kannada Bangala is today all but extinct and the sole/solitary Dikshitar kriti therein is practically rendered in Malahari.

In this blog post we will see the history, lakshana of the two ragas and also to see how Muthusvami Dikshitar went about chiselling the attributes of these two ragas so as to make them as much as possible melodically distinct for us.



Kannada Bangala is a very old raga with a long musical history to boot. It was known in olden times as Karnata Bangala or Karnataka Bangala as well signifying its hoary ancestry. In this blog post we will use Kannada Bangala to refer to this raga, uniformly.

A galaxy of musicological writers right from Ramamatya (1550 AD Svaramelakalanidhi), Pandarikavitthala (1576 AD), Govinda Dikshitar ( 1615 AD Sangitasudha) and Venkatamakhin (1626 Caturdandi Prakashika), all refer to Kannada Bangala as having the svaras which today fall under mela 15 Malavagaula.  The parent raga for them was different for them at that point in time and one would see Gurjari, Gaula etc being mentioned as the clan leader which is typically referred to as melaprastara, mela, melakartha, meladhikara or raganga.

From a lakshana perspective, since its recorded inception the raga lacked nishadha both in the arohana and avarohana. Gandhara svara was the graha and almost all of them say that the raga is to be rendered in the early morning. Into the 18th century both Sahaji in his Ragalakshanamu ( circa AD 1710) as well Tulaja in his Saramruta ( AD 1736) document the raga as existing during their times with the very same melodic contour. The very distinctive point to note is that all the way from 1500 to 1750, the raga’s lakshana has remained unchanged, over centuries and has comes to us with almost the same form and melodic content.

Circa 1750 the raga’s lakshana is found documented in the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika. And after this reference in the Anubandha, the raga’s trail goes cold. Save for the solitary kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar we have no other kriti by any composer till date. So much so it has always been articulated that Muthusvami Dikshitar revived or resurrected this raga which had all but become extinct by 1775.

Now the last musicological reference to Kannada Bangala is documented by Subbarama Dikshitar in his SSP and he documents the lakshana sloka for Kannada Bangala thus:

rAgaH karnAtabangAlAH sAdavO ga grahAnvitAH

nI varja prAtaruth gEyO arOhE ga cyutah kvAchit  ||

 This raga lakshana sloka from the Anubandha to the CDP (circa1750) attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin the paternal grandson of Venkatamakhin makes it clear that:

  1. The raga is shadava, i.e, in in total it has only 6 svaras with nishadha absent both in arohana and avarohana
  2. Gandhara is the graha and in certain arohana/ascent phrases gandhara is dropped- cyuta.
  3. It is an early morning raga.

More than century prior to this, circa 1636 his great ancestor Venkatamakhin in his Caturdandi Prakashika gives the lakshana of Kannada Bangala thus :

ragaH karnAtabangalO bhashAnghAm gaula mElaja

prataHkAlEshu gAtavyaH shAdhvOyam nivarjitAH

sarvadApyEsha gAthabyO gItagnIH shubharakthidaH

In other words here is what Venkatamakhin says as the raga’s lakshana under Gaula mela (his equivalent of Malavagaula – Mela 15 which is the placeholder parent for us):

  1. Venkatamakhin’s reference to the raga being bhashanga has no modern day relevance for us and hence can be safely ignored.
  2. The raga is shadava, that in in toto it has only 6 svaras with nishadha absent both in arohana and avarohana
  3. Gandhara is the graha.
  4. It is an early morning raga.
  5. It grants welfare/goodness and delight and can be sung at all times by practitioners of music.


Subbarama Dikshitar on the strength of the Anubandha lakshana shloka provides the murccana arohana/avrohana thus :

S R1 M1 P D1 S

S D1 P M1 G3 R1 S

Apart from the gitam attributed to Venkatamakhin and his own sancari, Subbarama Dikshitar provides the kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar, ‘rEnukAdEvi samrakshitOham’ in misra jhampa tala. He also says that:

  1. In ancient texts it is given that MGM should be added and it is similar to Saveri
  2. On the authority of Muthusvami Dikshitar’s kriti, RM.P with a kampita gamaka on madhyama which is dhirgha, RMMP, PDMP, PDMGR, RM.GR and RMGR are salient phrases as documented in the kriti provided as illustration.
  3. These prayogas along with the appropriate gamakas should be carefully used.

The perusal of the notation of the kriti reveals the following from a content perspective:

  1. The kriti is on Goddess Renukadevi enshrined at Vijayapuram in Tiruvarur. See foot note 1.
  2. The raga mudra as well as Dikshitar’s colophon ‘guruguha’ are embedded in the composition.

From a musical perspective one is able to decipher the following:

  1. The kriti opens on the dhirgha dhaivata note. Though gandhara is given as graha, it is the dhaivata and madhyama of the dirgha varieties that are mostly utilized by Dikshitar as take-off notes.
  2. D\MP, PMGRS, MGM/D, SRMDP, MDMPGRS, RMGMDS, RMGR, DMPGRS & PDS are seen copiously used. In the cittasvara section we also see DPMGRS as well along with MGM as well.
  3. D\MP is the most recurring leitmotif even though MGM is stated to be so by Subbarama Dikshitar
  4. The cittasvara section sports the graha svara passage. We will look at this in detail in the discography section.
  5. Though a lineal progression of SRMPDS/SDPMGRS is given, given the murccanas as above an unambiguous purvanga/uttaranga arohana and avarohana cannot be defined. Vakra sancaras abound.
  6. Though the commentary by Subbarama Dikshitar says that in some places gandhara is not found there in some places in the arohana, except SRMGM, gandhara phrases in ascent is not at all seen. Perhaps what is sought to be conveyed is that both SRM as well as SRMGM is part of purvanga of Kannada Bangala. A strict interpretation of the lakshana sloka would imply a sparing usage of SRGM put the exemplar clearly shows that SRGM should be eschewed.

The raga lakshana of Kannada Bangala is also found documented in the Sangaraha Cudamani (SC), which is for all practical purposes the compendia of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions. And curiously we find that the arohana/avarohana of the raga documented therein is:

S R1 M1 G3 M1 D1 P D1 S

S D1 P M1 G3 R1 S

It encompasses the two salient murcchanas highlighted by Subbarama Dikshitar and found in Renukadevi, which is MGM and MDP, though not DMP. Sangaraha Cudamani talks of sadja as the graha, which is the case for all the ragas that it documents. We find that given the lakshana of the raga per the notation of Renukadevi , the arohana/avarohana krama provided by Sangraha Cudamani is a better fit.

  1. The peculiar phrases found in rEnukAdEvi which can be taken to be unique to Kannada Bangala as distinct from Malahari are not found so as lakshana for the raga in any prior treatises including that of Sahaji and Tulaja. Even the older tanams which are pointed out by Subbarama Dikshitar, make MGM the letitmotif which is not used that much by Dikshitar. In fact on his own authority perhaps Muthusvami Dikshitar seems to have provided a fresh and unique svarupa to Kannada Bangala with vakra phrases like DMP or MDP or PGRS apart from MGM.
  2. It is a little curious conceptually to note that despite gandhara is a graha svara, it is not a graha for the raga in its modern sense. A melodic phrase in Kannada Bangala is not seen to begin with gandhara. It always appears as MGM or MGR and functions more like an amsa svara which cannot be a graha or a nyasa by any stretch of imagination. But the presence of the gandhara is required to add beauty and melodic individuality much like the gandhara of Sahana, where the note occupies a similar role, making itself an exception to the standard rule propounded by Sarangadeva in the Sangitaratnakara as to a svara being one automatically becomes the other in the case of graha, amsa, nyasa.
  3. Given the fact that Muthusvami Dikshitar begins the kriti rEnukadEvi on dhaivatha of the dirgha type and also the graha svara section, it appears that dhaivatha is the real graha svara ( in modern parlance) or the note on which phrases can be unambiguously commenced for Kannada Bangala.


As pointed out in the introduction, Muthusvami Dikshitar’s ‘rEnukA dEvi samrakshitOham’ is the solitary composition in this raga. And there are two key popular editions of this song, by Sangita Kalanidhis D K Jayaraman and T M Thyagarajan. In comparison to the notation of the kriti found in the SSP, two key aspects with the edition of this composition by both these stalwarts are:

  1. The tala of the composition has been changed from misra jhampa to khanda capu. According to the SSP, the tala of the composition is very clearly Jhampa tala, while many modern music compilations of Muthusvami Dikshitar give the tala as khanda capu, for example Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao’s edition of Dikshitar Compositions. See foot note 2.
  2. The melodic body also stood normalized in most parts with the result that some of the key phrases such D\MP got deprecated. The consequence of this ‘melodic cleansing’ was that Kannada Bangala of this composition resembled Malahari.

Firstly we present the extant popular version of the composition ‘rEnukA dEvi’. In fact renderings of almost all artistes except that of Vidvan T M Krishna, is traceable to this version. Here is the video recording of the rendering by Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman which is the popular version to which this composition has become unfortunately synonymous with.

Youtube – Rendering of Sri D K Jayaraman

We move on the next version, interpreted from the notation found in the SSP. Vidvan T M Krishna presents the composition as he interprets from the SSP. In the recording below he first presents his commentary to the raga describing his view of how the raga can be practically delineated in contradistinction to Malahari. He also dwells on the feature of graha svara as found in the cittasvara section of the composition. It is worth mentioning here that the first detailed theoretical account of the graha svaras in the compositions of Muttusvami Dikshitar was done by Dr N Ramanathan – see reference 4 given below. Lets take a look now as to what this feature means, before we listen to Vidvan T M Krishna who provides an overview of the raga, the composition and the graha svara feature.

Graha Svara

What does it mean? In modern times, the term graha refers to the starting note or base note/tonic. Today all ragas have sadja as the base tonic. And in such a scenario, graha has now come to imply the note of the raga with which the melodic phrases of that raga typically start. While sadja as a note serves as the default graha, some of the so called jiva svaras of the raga also become its graha svara. A melodic phrase of a raga is supposed to start on a graha svara and end with its nyasa svara and almost as a rule consists of its jiva and amsa svaras in between. Or in other words the life giving as well as key notes with which the raga comes to life forms a murccana or phrase of a raga. While this is the modern context, we do see in all older musicological texts barring the Sangraha Cudamani (where sadja is given as the graha svara of every raga described) certain ragas have notes other than sadja defined as the graha svara. For example on the authority of the Anubandha to the CDP, the SSP lists a number of ragas which have notes other than sadja as the graha svara. The SSP documents a total of 192 ragas out of which 23 feature a non sadja note as a graha svara.

Out of these 23 ragas, Muthusvami Dikshitar has composed the so called graha svara passage for the following ragas/kritis.

  1. Geyahejjuji – rAmacandra BhaktaM
  2. Revagupti – sadAvinata sAdarE
  3. Kannadabangala – rEnukA dEvi
  4. Gurjari – GunijanAdinuta

The perusal of these kritis would show that the cittasvara passage has a svara line which is the first line followed by sahitya made up of svaras syllables itself, as the second line. According to Subbarama Dikshitar the authority for this feature is one Govindamatya author of the text Ragatalacintamani. Readers may refer to Prof Ramanathan’s article for a detailed analysis including the history thereof. For this blog post I am confining myself to the point as to how a graham passage if given for a kriti has to be sung.

  1. The graha note for a raga has to be sung in the position of sadja. Subsequent svaras have to be shifted accordingly as per the scale of the raga. Thus if gandhara is a graha svara, then it takes the position of Sa. In the case of Kannada Bangala barring Ni all other svaras occur. So if Ga takes Sa or the so called tonic, then the syllables to the intoned for the others are as under. Attention is invited to the fact in the list of svara syllable to intoned, ni comes though from a svara is not found in the raga.

Svara as per raga scale:  S             R             G             M            P             D

Syllable to be intoned:    G            M            P             D             N             S

  1. Thus in the cittasvara section, the svaras found like sahitya in the second line has to be sung to the tune of the svaras in the first line. So if the cittasvara is DMPmddmgg then the so called sahitya/syllables to be sung would be SDNdssdnpp, for example. Obviously this is for vocal music while in the case of instrumental music this makes no difference, as there is no vocalization of the text involved.

Now let us now listen to Vidvan T M Krishna . In his nearly 18 mins long exposition, he discusses the features/leitmotifs of the ragas and also about the graha svara feature.

There are neither any extant compositions nor unique renderings for presentation and so we move on to the melodic twin, Malahari.


Again much like Kannada Bangala, Malahari has a long history and has fairly remained the same over centuries. Here is the gist of its history:

  1. In Svaramelakalanidhi, Ramamatya (AD 1550) says that the raga is audava, devoid of ga and ni, has dhaivatha as its graha and is sung early in the morning the wise.
  2. Both Govinda Dikshitar and Venkatamkhin record Malahari in their works echo Ramamatya but say that gandhara is sometimes found in the descent and so with nishadha being absent it is shadhava.
  3. Sahaji in 1710 records that it is shadhava with gandhara dropped in the ascent. Tulaja follws suit in the year 1736.

Thus we see while initially Malahari lacked both nishadha and gandhara totally, by A D 1600 it seems to have added gandhara to the descent, perhaps sparingly but by 1700 it became to be a permanent svara in the descent. See foot note 3.

During circa 1750, what Malahari was, is documented by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP is on the authority of the Anubandha to the CDP, the sloka for which goes as under:

Bhavenmalahari rAgO nIcyutO dhaivataHgraHaH |

shadhvO gIyatE prathararohE tu gA varjitaH ||

According to Subbarama Dikshitar, the raga is upanga, shadhava, nishadha varjya, has dhaivatha as graha, while gandhara is varjya in the arohana and is suitable for singing in the mornings.

We are left to understand Malahari from the body of Dikshitar’s composition, which can be summarized as under: (See foot note 4)

  1. The kriti uses MDP and PDM copiously and SRGMR and SDPM as well.
  2. Though for this raga dhaivatha is graha svara, Dikshitar has not composed the cittasvara with the graha svara passage for this composition.
  3. The composition has both anupallavi and caranam to boot.
  4. The composition is usually assigned to the Shodasha kritis on Ganapathy. Dikshitar provides a number of iconographic details of the Ganapathy in this kriti which makes it the ‘hEramba ganapathI’ form. See foot note 5.


The similarity between Malahari with Kannada Bangala cannot be missed at all. The only feature on which they probably differ from a definition point of view is that for Kannada Bangala gandhara was graha whereas for Malahari it was dhaivatha. From a modern day perspective, sadja is the defacto graha for all ragas. The feature of gandhara/dhaivatha being the graha svaras and the construction of the graha svara passage for the citta svara in Kannada Bangala are relics of an older practice that has since long been deprecated and has no practical relevance today. On a related note, from the CDP (AD 1736) perspective, Kannada Bangala is recorded as a bashanga raga while Malahari is not. We know that the concept of bashanga as prevalent during those times is not applicable today and hence can be ignored. Yet that was a point of difference between the ragas, then.

From a historical evolutionary perspective, we can now reconstruct the probable course of events based on what we have seen till now.

  • Circa 1550, Malahari lacked gandhara totally as evidenced by Ramamatya. It must have looked like SR1M1PD1S/SD1PM1R1S. This is also the scale of Suddha Saveri as documented by Govinda Dikshitar and later by Sahaji and Tulaja. It is likely that problem was brewing on this front, because of the shared melodic affinity between the ragas Malahari and Suddha Saveri. However at this point in time Kannada Bangala sported gandhara in its scale and so it stood distinguished beyond reasonable doubt from Malahari.
  • Circa 1580 or thereabouts trouble started with Malahari sometimes taking gandhara in its avarohana passages to perhaps distinguish itself from Suddha Saveri. Now this started to encroach on Kannada Bangala’s space.
  • Circa 1700- Malahari continued to cohabit with Kannada Bangala occupying the same melodic space and this continued on till 1738 as well and well up to 1750 AD, as is obvious from the works of Sahaji, Tulaja and Muddu Venkatamakhin. Perhaps the difference in the graha svaras between the ragas afforded some form of space to both of them. But by AD 1750 the graha concept must have totally died out with sadja taking over as the defacto graha svara for all ragas.
  • Circa 1775- It is likely that due to demise of the graha svara concept and the lack of melodic differentiation between Malahari and Kannada Bangala, given the preponderance of popularity, Malahari won the right of survivorship and Kannada Bangala probably became archaic/extinct, with its melodic body and identity completely usurped by Malahari and its only proof of existence being the references in the texts. We do see that Ramasvami Dikshitar has used Malahari in his ragamalikas (for example the ragamalika Sivamohana sakti in adi tala where the Malahari raga section is vimalaharina nayana yanatagu vara vasantAdiyOtsava sEva”. 
  • Circa 1800- Which is when Muthusvami Dikshitar likely decided to give a fresh breathe of life for Kannada Bangala but was hampered by the same musical material it shared with the popular Malahari. This is how the differences looked like for him at that point in time:


Kannada Bangala


Mela Malavagaula Malavagaula
Svara varjya/vakra Ni is absent ; in Arohana gandhara is langhana & figures only in vakra prayogas; Avarohana is sampurna Ni is absent
Graha svara Ga Dha
Other Bashanga raga as per CDP Not applicable
Time of rendering Morning Morning
Motifs as utilized by Dikshitar to distinguish the ragas D\MP.G.. & MGMPGRS SRMGR; M/DP; PDMPMGRS

As we can see all along while the two ragas shared the same musical material, Muthusvami Dikshitar thought it fit to impart uniqueness to the two ragas without impacting their individual melodic worth. Thus he made D\MP along with MGM as the motif for Kannada Bangala. Thus at a murccana level SRM.GRSRGRS is Malahari, SRMGMDP is a Kannada Bangala phrase. If the phrase is an avarohana mode, in Kannada Bangala PGRS can be used, while PMGRS is to be used in Malahari. Janta dhaivatha is perhaps a property of Malahari while the dhirgha variety belongs to Kannada Bangala. In the context of Malahari the intonation of the phrase GRS is probably little unique. Prof S R Janakiraman in his lecture demonstration of the raga Saranganatta in the Music Academy says that the ragas Gauri, pAdi, Malahari et al share a unique GRS usage and he likens it to ‘grease’, a play on the murccana GRS !

  • Today Kannada Bangala is all but extinct, it still lives through the SSP and the Dikshitar kriti notated therein namely ‘rEnukA dEvi samraksitOham’.


Amongst the Trinitarians we only have DIkshitar who has composed in Malahari. The introductory gitas of Purandaradasa are the other well know compositions available in this raga. Presented first is the rendering of Pancamatanga by Dikshitarini Sangita Kala Acharya Kalpakam Svaminathan.

The composition seems to have been a favourite of the Kancipuram Naina Pillai school, so much so very many from that lineage have rendered this. Presented is a rendering by Vidvan Tadepalligudem Lokanatha Sarma.

See foot note 6.


The two key post 1700 A D musicological works namely Ragalakshanamu of Sahaji (circa 1710) and Saramrutha of Tulaja (circa 1735) records two sets of ragas under Mela 15 and Mela 28 with the same set of svaras of albite different varieties. They are Sama and Natanarayani under Mela 28 and Malahari and Kannada Bangala under mela 15, whose arohana and avarohana murccana are given under:




Malahari/Kannada Bangala S R1 M1 P D1 S S D1 P M1 G3 R1 S
Sama / Natanarayani S R2 M1 P D2 S S D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

The rishabha and dhaivatha alone are of different varieties. Curiously all these four nishada varja ragas are documented with the same scalar structure by Sahaji and Tulaja and they have been carried forward to the Anubandha to the CDP faithfully documented by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP. The following facts stand out as observations for us:

  1. The scales are musical isomers as pointed out in the previous blog post about Natanarayani, with the same scalar structures under the said melas but with a different and distinct melodic identity.
  2. They have survived together as individual melodic entities with their own uniqueness and have been recorded so as existing in the musical world by Tulaja and Sahaji. They never subsumed one another and existed independently till 1750, with Dikshitar composing a kriti in each of these four ragas. In other words the 18th century raga architecture supported and ensured their independent existence. We do not have a name for this model, but we can see that model in flesh and blood as documented in the works of Sahaji and Tulaja.
  3. However in the second half of the 19th century and into the 20th century the ragas all got consolidated, with Kannada Bangala being subsumed by Malahari and Natanarayani yielding place to Sama and going extinct in the process.
  4. The ragas have been documented even in the Sangraha Cudamani ( the text which reigns supreme in modern musicology) and the corresponding comparison of the scales of these ragas are tabulated hereunder.
Sangraha Cudamani


S R1 M1 P D1 SS D1 P M1 G3 R1 S S R1 M1 P D1 SS D1 S D1 P M1 G R1 S

Kannada Bangala

S R1 M1 P D1 S 

S D1 P M1 G3 R1 S

S R1 M1 G3 M1 D1 P D1 S

S D1 P M1 G3 R1 S


S R2 M1 P D1 S 

S D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

S R2 M1 M1 P D2 S

S D2 P M1 G3 R2 S R1 S


S R2 M1 P D1 S

S D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

S R2 G3 M1 D2 N2 D2 S

S N2 D2 P M1 G3 M1 R2 S

Pratapavarali Not documented in theAnubandha to the CDP

S R2 M1 P S

S D2 P M1 G3 R2 S


One is not sure as to the factors which led to the extinction of these two ragas- Kannada Bangala and Natanarayani. Despite the fact that the ragas got documented under the Sangraha Cudamani which emerged as the defacto musical standard for the 20th century, did not help their survival in anyway. It is worth noting that we do not have compositions handed down to us for Malahari and Kannada Bangala as composed by Tyagaraja. Malahari survives through the kriti of Dikshitar and that the couple of abhyasa gana pieces of Purandaradasa. Except Sama and to an extent Malahari, Natanarayani, Pratapavarali and Kannada Bangala are eka kriti ragas. The lack of rakthi’ness on the part of these ragas barring Sama could perhaps be an obvious reason for their going practically extinct as today these ragas are rendered or known only through the exemplar kritis only.

Kannada Bangala suffered an even worser fate when the melodic as well as the rhythmic structure of ‘rEnukA dEvi’ was changed or standardized for probable ease of performance as evidenced by the renderings of the composition in the 20th century. It is however possible, as demonstrated by the exemplar renderings that a very short meaningful alapana and svara kalpana rendering along with a high fidelity rendering of the exemplar compositions namely ‘Pancamatanga’, ‘Renukadevi’, ‘Mahaganapate palayasumam’ and ‘vinanAsakoni’ sans frills is certainly possible. And that is the only possible way to keep the ragas and the exemplars alive and well in our music.


As we examine musical history and the contributions of the Trinity it becomes very obvious that they played a great role in harnessing the past as well as present. Muthusvami Dikshitar particularly gave emphasis to reviving some of the extinct melodies and his solitaire ‘rEnukA dEvi’ stands testimony to his great service to musical history by archiving the raga lakshana through his composition. Needless to add his kritis and their musical construction provides us a window to the world of 18th Century raga architecture.


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions
  3. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai
  4. Dr N Ramanathan (1998) – ‘Graha Svara passages in Dikshitar Kritis’ – Proceedings of the 71st Music Conference – Pages 15-58 – JMA LXIX

Thanks are due to Vidvan Sri T M Krishna for providing me with a copy of his rendering of ‘rEnukAdevi samrakshitOham’ and for permitting me to use the same for this blog post. This is from his recent concert for Guruguhamrutha, held on 13th Nov 2016 @ Raga Sudha Hall, Chennai. Accompanist in this recording are Vidvans Sri H N Bhaskar on the violin, Sri Manoj Siva on the mrudangam and Sri B S Purushotham on the kanjira.


Renukadevi appears as a character, finding mention in the epic Mahabharatha. She was the wife of Sage Jamadagni and she sired 5 sons for him, one of whom was Parasurama (also known as Bharghava Rama). Suspecting her infidelity as she harboured thoughts about a Gandharva she had seen, the Sage Jamadagni went into a rage and he ordered his sons to kill her. As they refused he burnt them down to ashes leaving out Parasurama who was away. When he returned he was ordered by his father to find his mother and kill her, which he promptly did. Legend has it that it pleased the Sage who then asked Parasurama what he wanted in return . Parasurama is supposed to have asked for his mother and his brothers to be revived. In that process the sage also seems to have realized his mistake in suspecting his wife and thus Renukadevi gets elevated to a iconic village goddess who stood for virtuousness and chastity. She is revered in the rural hinterlands of Southern India along with Yellama, Mariyamman and other village dieties. The story also has a number of local variants for very many Amman temples especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. There are quite a few temples dedicated to Renukadevi. One such temple is located in Vijayapuram at the outskirts of Tiruvarur, Tamilnadu and the kriti ‘rEnukA dEvI samrakshitOham’ in Kannada Bangala is an ode to the presiding deity of this temple. The video clipping of the consecration of this temple can be seen here.


The construction of the kriti ‘rEnukA devi samrakshitOham’ in jhampa tala and the fact that it is rendered in practice in a faster tempo with khanda capu tala offers an opportunity for us to discuss an interesting aspect with reference to what is called as mAtu laya or the rhythmic flow of the composition. Prof N Ramanathan in the Journal of the Music Academy 1998- Vol LXIX pages 59-98 and Prof S R Janakiraman in his essay on this aspect in his book ‘Essentials of Musicology’ (2008) pages 239-261, deal with this and I am relying on these two texts for this section.

Matu laya refers to the arrangement of the syllables of the text/sahitya over the tala aksharas and consequently the flow of the sahitya over the tala cycle. The theory behind this can be stated thus.

Sahitya aksharas can be hrasvA/short or dhIrgha/long. In an ideal composition the durations of the hrasva syllables of the text and the dhirga syllables should be proportionate. For example if the hrasva syllable is one unit, the dhirgha syllable should be two units. Sahitya is so composed and set for a tala in such a way that the sahitya – hrsva and dhirgha syllables are distributed such that the number of syllables in one unit of tala is never exceeded. This concept can be illustrated with the sahitya of renukAdevi which is set in jhampa tala as seen notated in the SSP.


2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


rE , nu kA , dE , vi sam ,
ra , ksi tO , ha ma ni sam ,
vE , nu vA , dhyA , dhi yu ta
vi ja ya na ga ra , sti tE ,

The following points are worth observing:

  1. Here the hrasva syllables are allocated 1 unit/mAtrA and dhIrgha one are twice i.e, two units/matras of tala.
  2. The entire sahitya is thus distributed in this proportion over the 10 matras of one tala cycle of jhampa tala. There is no spill over of syllables or so within the tala cycle. In the pallavi for example the syllables rE, kA, dE and sam are dhirgha taking 2 units each, totalling 8 matras and the remaining two hrasva syllables nu and vi taken one each, totalling 2 matras. Thus a total of 10 matras which constitutes a tala cycle of misra jhampa is taken by the 4 dhirgha syllables (4X2) and the 2 hrsva syllables (2X1), correctly without any surplus or deficit.
  3. The above is the case for the so called sama kala or the base layam of the composition. Now if the kriti has a section which is called madhyamakala sahityam as is usual in Dikshitar kritis then it has to exactly double this ratio.


2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Ko, Na, traya Va, sini guru guha Vi, svA sini
Kan, nada Ban, gA, La, gA, ndhar Va, bhan jani

In the instant case let us consider the first line commencing ‘kOnatraya vAsini’. We see that the 20 equivalent aksharas of sahitya (5 dhirgha syllables and 10 hrasva syllables) the same is fitted into the 10 tala matras and thus qualifies as a true madhyama kala sahitya. Thus in the madhyama kala section, we see that every beat has one dheergha or two hrasva syllables, whereas the sama kAla pallavi has one hrasva or half a dheerga syllable for every beat.

  1. In sum Dikshitar in a text book fashion, exactly fits in the svaras as well as the matching syllables within the 10 matra cycle of jhampa tala. This mode of rhythmic construction of a composition fitting sahitya into a tala, with one akshara/beat per hrsva syllable (in the so called sama kAla or first/prathama kAla) is called Ati citra tama mArga. Marga is the second of the tAla dasha prAnAs or the 10 constituent elements of tala. Ati citra tama marga is the usual for gitas. And that is the way Subbarama Dikshitar notates most of the Dikshitar compositions in the SSP. But this doesn’t itself mean that the tempo/laya of the song is slow. Even in ati citra tama marga the composition can be dhruta/fast, madhya/medium or vilamba/slow. Laya is yet another different aspect of tala and of kriti rendering. Suffice to say that we have a whole body of evidence to state that Dikshitar kritis are usually rendered in cauka or vilamba laya or tempo.
  2. This kriti ‘rEnukA dEvi’ has currently been retro-fitted to khanda capu tala which has resulted in two cognizable effects on the composition:
    1. The kriti per se because of these shorter beats has gotten accelerated.
    2. Newer stress points have been created in the sahitya coinciding with the beats with the result that the composition gains a different rhythmic feel quite different from the original texture. The hrasva and dhirgha syllables as also the svaras/notes are artificially contained within the capu beats in the process.

It is likely that a 10 tala matra cycle was considered too long and hence the composition got abridged into a shorter tala cycle. Quite a few other compositions of Dikshitar composed in misra eka tala or tisra triputa has morphed into misra capu tala for instance. In a few cases the natural distribution of the hrsva and dhirgha syllables in the composition may naturally coincide with the capu tala stress points and thus making it amenable for being sung in misra capu. But in the case of Renuka Devi no such melodic or sahitya specific case exists to warrant rendering it in a truncated manner in khanda capu tala. We do have a couple of other kritis from the SSP namely “Abhyambam anyam na janeham” in Kedaragaula and “Mangalambayai Namaste” in Malavasri whose tala has been reset.


In the lakshana sloka definitions of both Kannada Bangala and Malahari, we notice that the word ‘cyuta’ is used. For Kannada Bangala the sloka says ‘gA cyutO’ while for Malahari the sloka says that ‘nI cyutO’. The usage in the slokas implies that the word cyutaH is synonymous with ‘varjya’. In a sense the usage of the word ‘cyuta’ with such a meaning is disconcerting since today it is used in a formal musicological context to yield the meaning of ‘fallen’, for example cyuta pancama- which means a pancama whose frequency/tonal value is lesser than what it is supposed be or which has fallen from its regular value. An example which could be cited here is that of raga lakshana sloka for Vasanta:

vasanta rAga sampUrna cyutapancamaH samyutAH

Similar is the case with the Mangalakaisiki lakshana sloka where the sloka says ‘cyutapancamasamyuktA’. The contextual usage of the word as in this case deserves our attention.

In the case of Ragalakshanamu of Sahaji and Saramruta of Tulaja, the term varjya and langhana are used synonymously to imply the absence of a note either in the arohana or avarohana or both. Whereas in the Anubandha to the CDP, the raga lakshana slokas use to terms varjya and cyuta while the term langhana is not at all used.

Another aspect is the usage of the term jAti to refer to what we know as a leitmotif. The word jAti has been used in the SSP with this contextual meaning by Subbarama Dikshitar for example in the following instances:

  • Under mela 1 Kanakambari, a couple of prayogas including m\Grs is called as Asaveri jAtI
  • And Mangalakaisiki under mela 15 where he refers to the prayoga ddrr as a jAtI

In the instant case for Kannada Bangala, Subbarama Dikshitar does not label the MGM as a jati for example.


In the context of the notation of the composition ‘pancamAtanga mukha’ as found in the SSP, the analysis of the sahitya of the madhyamakala section of the composition is warranted. The SSP Telugu original goes with the sahitya as :

karunAnga gauratarEna kalimalaharana tarEna

According to Prof N Ramanathan, given the need to maintain proper meaning and to have sahitya syllables match to the beat/tala aksharas the composition’s sahitya needs to be edited as under:

karunArdra gauratarEna kalimalaharana caturEna

According to him the above sahitya is seen both in the Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai of Natarajasundaram Pillai (Sathanur Pancanda Iyer patham) and also the notation of Sri Mahadeva Bagavathar who learnt form Ambi Dikshitar, the son of Subbarama Dikshitar. Based on consensus of views and triangulation of the facts as available, Prof Ramanathan advances the view that the lyric “karunArdra gauratrEna kalimalaharana caturEna’ seems more appropriate and correct and the SSP text could be a possible printing error. One can refer to Prof N Ramanathan’s article, ‘Problems in the editing of the kirtanas of Muddusvami Dikshita’ in the Journal of the Music Academy 1998- Vol LXIX pages 59-98. Thus if one were to revisit the entire line holistically looking at both the lyrics/meaning and also the mathu laya we can determine that the second line as seen in Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakasikai would be the most appropriate.


One can see from the following sloka on hErambha ganapatI from the Mudgala Purana, that Dikshitar visualizes the same iconography in his kriti, ‘pancamAtanga mukha’.

abhaya varada hastah pAsha dantAkshamAlA

srni parashu dhAdhanO mudgaram mOdakam ca

phalamAdhi gatasimhah pancamAtanga vaktrah

ganapati rati gaurah pAtu hErambanAmAH

The Heramba Ganapathy’s key iconographic features mentioned both in the sloka and the kriti includes:

  • the abhaya varada hastha- the hand gesture for both protection and as a giver of boons
  • pAsa – noose
  • dantA – broken tusk
  • akshamAlA – rosary of beads
  • parashU- battle axe
  • mudgara – mallet or a hammer like weapon
  • sRNI – elephant goad
  • modaka – sweet

The mention of ‘kapAla’ as a part of iconography by Muthusvami Dikshitar for Heramba Ganapathi needs a little more investigation, as it is not mentioned as a part of the Mudgala purana sloka or is it found in the portrayal of the the Ganapathy icon in paintings such as those found in the Kannada work ‘Srittatvanidhi’. There are a couple of points for consideration in this context:

  1. The Heramba form (apart from the Uchhista ganapathy form) is associated with the Tantric worship of Ganesha and in certain iconic implementations thereof perhaps kapala or skull is part of the iconography.
  2.  Pritvish Neogy in his work ‘An Ivory Ganesa’ talks of a Heramba form with 5 faces and ten arms, where in one of the heads there is a kapala or a skull chalice, which is perhaps part of the iconography referred to by Dikshitar.

We have post trinity compositions in Malahari including the following. Sri Mahaganapte – a kriti by Muthiah Bagavathar, Vara siddhi Vinayaka – tana varnam by Pinakapani. Sangita Kalanidhi T N Seshagopalan has rendered frequently the Muthiah Bagavathar kriti as well as an RTP which are available in the public domain.

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