Ragachudamani – A Crest Jewel amongst ragas

- Ravi Rajagopalan

PROLOGUE:

As one makes this next post after a long hiatus, it is all but a new start. And to make amends the subject matter take on is a melody which also has a composition, albeit a rare one, composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar on Lord Ganesha who should have been rightly propitiated when this series was started. And it is indeed fortuitous that one gets a chance to correct oneself especially on this Chaturthi day. Like quite a few other ragas, this melody called Ragachudamani was perhaps a theoretical derivation of Muddu Venkatamakhin for the mela/clan 32, a post 1700s development, when he codified his scheme of raganga ragas. We do not have references to this raga or scale in any pre Muddu Venkatamakhin tomes available to us such as the works of Govinda Dikshita, Venkatamakhin, King Sahaji or King Tulaja. To reiterate very many of the shlokas and attributions that Subbarama Dikshitar makes in his Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini are, in all possibility those of Muddu Venkatamakhin, except for the exceptions. Under the mela thirty two, save for the gita and the tana that was composed by him, this raga  Ragachoodamani was all but a lifeless scale, till Muthusvami Dikshitar invested life and blood when he composed ‘Sveta ganapatim’. There have been a few other such raaganga ragas which his father Ramaswami Dikshitar had handled, which were again mere scales such as Gangatarangini or Tanukirti. A diligent search of the anubandha to the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) including his monumental raga tala malika does not disclose usage of this raga by him..

Thus for all practical purposes, Muthuswami Dikshitar’s solitary composition ‘Sveta ganapatim’ defines the raga’s svarupa for us. The only other composition for reference is Subbarama Dikshitar’s mela raga malika ‘E kanakambari’, wherein the portion beginning ‘mAnabhUshana’ along with its muktayi svaram features this ragaanga raga.¹

Let us jump rightaway into the raga’s definition.

THE SCALE & ITS STRUCTURE:

Ragachudamani sports the svaras sadja, shatsruti rishabha, antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivatha and kaishiki nishada and is featured with vakra prayogas & a few of the notes being varja as well in the arohana or avarohana. The scalar definition of this raga is found documented first by Muddu Venkatamakhin in his compendium “Ragalakshanam” (as published by the Madras Music Academy)² and followed (not so faithfully in this case) by Subbarama Dikshitar in his SSP.  As in the case of Kambhoji for example, there is diversity on the defining structure of this raga between Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshanam and the SSP, though SSP also alludes to the same shloka of Muddu Venkatamakhin.

Thus the shloka in the Ragalakshanam talks of rishabha being varjya in the avarohana while the shloka attributed by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP talks of gandhara being varjya in the avarohana. One does not know if it was a scribal error or otherwise but there it is for us to reconcile.

To state in summary here are the raga lakshanas as available to us:

Ragalakshanam – Gandhara and dhaivata are dropped (varjya) in the arohana and rishabha is varjya in the avarohana

SSP: Gandhara and dhaivatha are dropped/varjya in the arohana and gandhara also varjya in the avarohana. So the operative scale is SMRGMPNNS/SNDPMMRS

With the operative footnotes of Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP one can get a ringside view of the raga’s structure through salient murccanas.

  1. SRGM and PDNS are not permitted. SMRGM is the ideal opening building block. PNNS is the ideal route to the tara sadja. SNDP is permitted while PMGRS is a no-no given that gandhara is varjya in the avarohana. Thus the further descent to the Madhya sadja can be either as MGMRS or MGPMRS.
  2. So what is clear is that dhaivatha is clearly absent in the ascent. Gandhara and rishabha are vakra rather than varjya. For instance rishabha is accessible only through the madhyama. So from a murccana standpoint SMRGMP or MGMRS or MGPMRS can be the only building blocks or operative phrases/murccanas.
  3. While one is wondering about gandhara being varja, it actually appears in two prayogas RGMP and MGPM and hence not totally eschewed by the raga definition. Neither is gandhara alpa or rare in usage as once can see from the available compositions. In sum if one views the shloka definition and the kriti, it is obvious that gandhara ought to have been defined as vakra and not varjya.
  4. According to Subbarama Dikshitar Nishadha and madhyama are jiva svaras and righly so they are emphasized with janta prayogas. It’s worth noting that they do not feature as nyasa or starting/take off notes in the Dikshitar composition.
  5. In sum, SMRGMPNNS seems to be the defining arohana krama and SNDPMGMRS or SNDPMGPMRS is the avarohana krama for this raga.

The raga name with a slightly different scalar structure is found documented in the ‘Sangraha Cudamani’ albeit under the same mela. This raga is defined therein with dhaivatha and nishadha omitted in the ascent and pancama being omitted in the descent. There are no extant compositions available to us in this version of the raga. It’s worth noting here that the equivalent heptatonic krama sampura scale in the Kanakangi scheme is the raga Ragavardhani doubtlessly well delineated by Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer in his mela raga malika “Pranathartihara prabho”.

The connection between a raga and the time of the day in which it has to be rendered and of rasa the raga is said to evoke hasn’t been formalized in our music, in contrast to Hindustani Music. Though we see mentions of it in treatises such as SSP, it’s much more exceptional than a rule. According to the SSP this raga can be sung at all times.

From a rasa standpoint we are given to understand that given this svara combination of lower varieties of dhaivatha and nishada and higher varieties of rishabha and gandhara, the raga evokes bheebatsa or disgust.²

DIKSHITAR’S COMPOSITION:

Let us move on to the Dikshitar composition in this supposedly eka kriti raga. This is a small composition (labeled as a samashti carana composition in popular Dikshitar literature) obviously composed to concisely present the raga lakshana. More than the composition it is the cittasvaram or muktayi svaram or the svara appendage to the composition which completes Dikshitar’s pen picture of this melody. The usage of the SMRGMP and the emphasis on the svaras – nishada and madhyama through the janta prayogas can be rightfully cited as authority for the raga’s lakshana as textually given by Subbarama Dikshitar.

A few points need mention here:

  1. The song is on the white colored/hued Lord Ganesa and no mention is made of any temple or ksetra by Dikshitar in this composition. There are those who attribute this composition as having been composed on the Lord Ganesa at Tiruvalanchuzhi. There is another attribution that the kriti was composed on the Vellai Pillaiyar at Kizhavasal in Tanjavur3. This attribution is also in line with the common assertion that it was on the Quartet’s request that Dikshitar went to stay in Tanjavur and deigned to compose a composition atleast in each of these raagangas so that they can serve as lodestar for those who would like to know their svarupa. Alternatively one can also surmise perhaps that in the midst of the myriad and innumerable number of Ganapatis enshrined in the Tyagaraja temple, there is one white colored vigraha to whom Dikshitar pays obeisance through this composition. There are no internal evidences or authority to support any of these claims. However considering the balance of possibilities, the kriti being on the Vellaipillayar at Tanjavur seems plausible.
  2. The text of the Pallavi as given in the SSP is only ‘Sveta ganapatim vamadeva pratipadyam anadyam’ and not ‘sveta ganapatim vande vama deva…..’. The word vande is omitted in the notation found in the SSP. However for completeness of meaning, the word vande might have been added to fill in as a verb. The version with’ vande’ is found documented by Rangaramanuja Iyengar in his kriti compendium. Sri.Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sarma has mentioned the absence of the verb in this as well as the saurasena kriti in the Andhra Sahitya parisad edition of the SSP. The Anantakrishnayyar school sings it as bhajEham instead of vande, and begins as p,,mgmrs,, instead of s,,mgmrs,, for swetaganapatim.
  3. The tala for this composition is only (tisra jati) triputa tala. Renderings of this composition by a particular lineage/school feature in Misra capu tala. In this context, this kriti is in the company of the famous Gaula composition ‘Sri Mahaganapatiravatumam’. See Footnote 1.
  4. The composition seems to have been part of the repertoire of some of the great lineages and has not been resurrected just on the strength of the notation found in the SSP. It has been so documented as rendered in the Madras Music Academy in 1966. See footnote 2.

Subbarama Dikshitar’s sancari and of course his conception as evidenced by the notation and svaram for the Ragachudamani section of ‘E kanakambari’ is aligned to the Muthusvami Dikshitar conception of the raga.

DISCOGRAPHY:

Featured first is Prof S R Janakiraman who in his inimitable style outlines the lakshana of this raga in this clip from his lecture demonstration titled ‘Ragas Unique to the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini’ before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy in the year 2005 4 . He then follows up by rendering the Dikshitar composition ‘ Sveta Ganapatim’.

Prof SRJ-Ragachudamani’s raga lakshana

Attention is invited to the version of the cittasvaram he renders which he has apparently modified while being within the four corners of the slated lakshana.

Presented next is a high fidelity interpretation of the raga followed by the composition by Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Seetha Rajan, again from a lecture demonstration, circa 2008.

Svetaganapatim – Ragacudamani -Smt Seetha Rajan

Vidushi Seetha Rajan expounds first the vivadhi nature of the raga in the purvanga and how in the Muddu Venkatamakhin scheme the dissonance is avoided by making the relevant notes vakra/varja as the case may be.

Attention is again invited to the rendering of the cittasvaram as found in the SSP. One can get a handle on the finite possibilities of envisioning this raga, as Smt Seetha Rajan shows when she sings kalpana svaras for the pallavi line.

While there are a couple of compositions such as ‘kalangAdiru manamE’ by Koteesvara Iyer in Ragavardhani which is krama sampurna, there seems to be only one janya raga in this clan under mela 32  worth mentioning, the raga Vishnupriya, which has been well delineated by the veteran composer Tanjavur Sankara Iyer in his Tamil composition ‘bAlasubramanyan pAdame tunai’ . A commercial rendering of this composition along with svaraprastara by Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan is available. No compositions of Tyagaraja are available in Ragavardhani or Ragachudamani.

CONCLUSION:

One cannot be sure if this raga could have truly been a crest jewel as its name symbolizes, nevertheless one does wish and hope that the raga and the solitary ‘Svetaganapatim’ is sung frequently  just to keep it alive and living.

REFERENCES / ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

  1. Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904) – Subbarama Dikshitar
  2. Ragalakshana Sangraha (2004)- Hema Ramanathan – Pages 1104-1107, published by Dr N Ramanathan Chennai
  3. Pradeep Chakravarthy (2009)-‘Literary Connection’ – Article in THE HINDU dated 24 Nov 2009 available at the URL http://www.hindu.com/fr/2009/11/06/stories/2009110651320400.htm
  4. Pappu Venugopala Rao (2005)– Proceedings of the Experts Committee of the Music Academy – The Hindu dated Jan 7,2005 available at the URL http://www.hindu.com/fr/2005/01/07/stories/2005010702590600.htm
  5. Thanks to Naresh Keerthi for bringing up a few pertinent points with respect to this post.

FOOT NOTES:

Foot Note 1:

It is worth highlighting here on the authority of the notation given in the SSP, that the rhythmic gait of quite a few of Dikshitar’s composition has been changed and the composition has been speeded up through the usage of capu talas – khanda and misra. Notable examples include the following:

  1. Documented in SSP  as tisra triputa tala but rendered in Misra capu in practice
    1. Sri Mahaganapati – Gaula
  2. Documented in SSP as misra ekam – one beat followed by 6 finger counts, but rendered in misra capu in practice
    1. Sri Matrubutam – Kannada
    2. Hastivadanaya – Navaroz
    3. Anandanatana – Kedaram
    4. Akshayalinga vibho -Sankarabharanam
    5. Mamava Pattabhirama – Manirangu
    6. Mamava Raghuveera – Mahuri
    7. Bhajare re citta – Kalyani
    8. Mamava Meenakshi – Varali
    9. Sri Balasubramanya – Bilahari
  3. Documented in SSP as in misra jhampa but rendered in khanda capu in practice
    1. Renukadevi – Kannadabangala
    2. Abhayambam anyamnajaneham – Kedaragaula
    3. Mangalaambayai Namaste – Malavasri

While the Kannada, Kedara, Manirangu and Sankarabharana compositions for example seem ideal for misra capu – in terms of lyrics, the natural stress points in the composition together with the words themselves  and the rhythmic gait, the same may not hold true for the others and certainly not for this composition. Incidentally the “Dikshitar Keertanai Prakashikai’ authored by Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (1936), a disciple of Sathanur Pancanada Iyer also documents the Kalyani, Kedara , Manirangu, Varali, Bilahari and  Sankarabharana compositions in misra eka and not as misra capu. In fact none of the 50 compositions found notated therein feature any capu talas. Interestingly, renderings of these compositions by the Dhanammal school who learnt Dikshitar compositions from Sathanur Panacanada Iyer or Kekkarai Muthu Iyer are to be seen only in misra capu.

Foot Note 2:

Vidvan Chennakesavayya (25th Dec 1966 vide JMA Vol XXXVIII Pages 33-34) a senior disciple of Mysore Vasudevachar and an authentic repository of the Mysore tradition has rendered ‘Svetaganapatim’ before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy. In fact Sri Chennakesavayya rendered a set of compositions, which he says were taught to him by Sri Vasudevachar. The listing is as under:

(a)    Intachalamu – Kambhoji-  Ata tala tana varna – Pallavi Gopala Iyer ( documented in SSP)

(b)   Svetaganapathim – Ragachudamani – Triputa – Muthusvami Dikshitar

(c)    Nannu broce – Narayanagaula – Adi – Veena Kuppier

(d)   Madirakshi – Mukhari – Adi tala tana varna – Tiruvottriyur Tyagier

(e)   Tillana – Kalyani – Vasudevachar

Safe Harbor Statement: The clippings used in this blog post have been exclusively used for educational/understanding/research  purpose and cannot be commercially exploited or dealt with. The intellectual property rights of the performers are fully acknowledged and recognized.