Raga Lakshana – Vamsavati – A Sequel

Raga Lakshana – Vamsavati – A Sequel – Ravi Rajagopalan


Since the original post and the feedbacks that were received, an update to the post had become imperative. This sequel is intended to cover 3 areas:

  1. Update the discography by providing audio links to the renditions, to illustrate raga lakshana as found in the Dikshitar kriti “Bhaktavatsalam”
  2. Consider one other rendition, that of “Bhaktavatsalam” by Vid Kalpagam Svaminathan, to complete the analysis.
  3. Discuss in brief the raga lakshana of 2 ragas allied to Vamsavati, namely Mandhari and Vijayavasantam.

Audio Links:

  1. Here is the link to the Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s rendition: Bhaktavatsalam – SSI .
  2. Here is the link to the rendering of the same composition by a lady duet (not by Lalitha Sivakumar as the label/link says), probably the Mambalam Sisters: Bakthavatsalam – Duet .
  3. Here is the link to the rendition of Vid. Kalpagam Svaminathan: Bhaktavatsalam – Vamsavati -KSw
  4. Here is the link to the rendition of the other Vamsavati kriti of Dikshitar, “Vamsavati Sivyuvati” by Vid Kalpagam Svaminathan: Vamsavati – Sivayuvati – KSw


Since the original blog post, I have heard the rendering of “Baktavatsalam” by Vid. Kalpagam Svaminathan. Her rendering closely follows the notation in the SSP. I invite the attention to pR1S that she emphasizes as in the notation, which is the motif that Dikshitar has employed in his Vamsavati. She intones the D3N3 in all the 3 places. The intonation is similar to the one found in her rendition of the other Vamsavati kriti “Vamsavati Sivayuvati”. One other observation is that in some places where PNS is notated in SSP, one hears PNDNS (as in the place paakashasa naadi).

I also invite the attention to the D3N3 intonation ( the lyric “vataka”) in the kriti rendered by the lady duet in the recording, around the madhyamkala portion in the carana, as in “…Sushobito utpala vataka sthitam suramaya…..”,which I believe is fairly close to the way in which it can be rendered to bring out the SND/NS which is notated for Vamsavati. The depth and extent of intonation, the interpretation of the notation or how it was taught/learnt (the patantharam in other words) are relevant factors, which makes this exercise of determining D3N3 intonation very subjective.

That said, the most relevant factor in the intonation of D3 in succession to N3 “adequately”, is melody and aesthetics. From an acoustic/aural perspective, the D3 sruti occupies the level of 9/5, with the Madhya shadja at 1, pancama at 1.5 and tara shadja at 2. In fact Prof N S Ramachandran says that with shadja at 256 vibrations per sec, D3 would be at 474 Hz.1 or 50/27 (not 9/5) for Naganandhini mela¹. Let’s consider the scenario where the vocalist prepares to execute the sND/Ns sancara. He starts off at the tara shadja(factor 2 or 512 Hz) and then “jump” to N3(15/8 or about 480 Hz). Now from N3 position the short downward journey to D3 (460 Hz) is to be executed via the erakka jaaru or the downward glide. This is not a “jump” but a downward glide & so all the microtones in that band 480Hz-460Hz should be heard when one executes the N3D3 and then rise back to the N3 sruti and then on to tara shadja.Needless to say the 480Hz-460Hz jaaru is the key component which has to be rendered in an aurally aesthetic manner. Thus the intonation of D3 will be weak if the drop in frequency from N3 level is small /inadequate to touch the D3 sruti zone (around the 460Hz) or where the vidvan jumps over to the D2 sruti level to gloss it over.

So the moot point is how strong or adequate should the intonation be & that is where subjective’ness steps in. In that context we can discuss a number of other ragas which use the D3N3 combination, but that can wait for now. In this blog post sequel, let’s quickly look at 2 melodically allied ragas of Vamsavati, both of them being much younger to Vamsavati in our music.




This raga can be said to be a creation of Tyagaraja vide his ekaika composition “Nee Cittamu”. However no mention of this raga is found in the Sangraha Cudamani. The raga and the kriti can be found from the books of S.Parthasarathy of the Tillaisthanam school of Tyagaraja’s disciples² who give its arohana and avarohana as follows:

Aro :S P M2 P D3 N3 S

Avaro: S N3 D3 N3 P M2 G3 S

However Nadamuni Pandita³ gives its Arohana and Avarohana, slightly differently as:

Aro: S M2 P D3 N3 S

Avaro: S N3 D3 P M2 G3 S

Under the sampurna mela scheme, Vijayavasantam is placed as an upanga janya under the 54th Mela Vishvambari. It’s worth noting here that the avrohana murccanas SN3D3P and SN3D3N3P will be melodically very different. The Tyagaraja composition as per the Tillaistanam sishya parampara has predominantly SN3D3N3 and D3N3S prayogas. Incidentally, one can also observe that there are patantharams/version of the composition which do not use D3. Devoid of D3 this raga will sound like Amritavarshini. The jeevasvaras of this raga are M2, D3 and N3.

There is apparently another composition, “Kamalambike” in this raga by Sri N S Ramachandran set to rupaka tala.


I am venturing to add this section for Vijayavasantam as it sports the D3N3 combination and provides us an opportunity to understand the svarupa of this raga through the kriti of Tyagaraja. I have perused 2 available renditions of this composition.

  1. First is an excerpt of a Lec Dem by Prof S R Janakiraman on raga lakshana and a clip of his rendition of the Tyagaraja composition “Nee cittamu”.
  2. Second is the rendering of the same kriti by Vidvan Madurai G S Mani . The details of this recording are not available.

First is the demonstration of the raga itself by Prof S R Janakiraman. He has in the recent past done a number of Lec-dems on the Ekakriti ragas of Tyagaraja, including the latest one in the Music Academy during Season 2008. An album, recording one of his Lec-Dem for posterity is commercially available with his pithy analysis⁴. His delineation of the lakshana of Vijayavasantam and his rendering of “Nee Cittamu” is available therein.

In the first clip, Prof SRJ outlines the contours of Vijayavasantam here : Vijayavasantham – Ragalakshana -Prof SRJ

I invite attention to the intonation of D3N3S and that of the D3 svara in the murccana SN3D3N3S by Prof SRJ. There can be no better illustration of how D3 needs to be intoned in succession with N3, other than this.Prof SRJ follows up with the kriti rendition. Here is the link for the clip, with the rendition of the pallavi of the composition of Tyagaraja : Nee Cittamu – Excerpt – Prof SRJ

We end this section with the rendition of the same kriti by Vidvan Madurai G S Mani, who is usually known for his no holds barred, zestful rendering of vivadi ragas. Here is the link to the Vidvan Madurai G S Mani rendition of kriti: Nee Cittamu – GS Mani.

Surprisingly his version is devoid of D3 and is much less colorful than the effervescent D3 flavored version of Prof SRJ. As pointed out earlier, shades of Amrutavarshini show up in the absence of D3.

Tailpiece : This Vijayavasantham kriti of Tyagaraja finds place in the one of the oldest, professionally recorded gramophone disc dating back to 1913 . An artiste by name Ms Godaveri ( from Salem, probably the third or fourth Indian lady to have her voice recorded, the first one being the legendary Gauhar Jan) has recorded this along with other kritis such as Paridanamichite(Bilahari), Ennadu Jutano ( Kalavati) and Cetah Sri Balakrishnam (Dvijavanti). If somebody can get hold of a copy of this recording, let me know!

The Vamsavati kriti of Dikshitar has been rendered in the past by Sangita Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer and also by his disciple and Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer in the Music Academy as a part of the Experts Committee lecture demonstrations. I would be grateful if somebody can share the recording if they have it.


We consider Mandhari as an allied raga for the simple fact that if D3 is not intoned or avoided totally in Vamsavati it “may” morph into Mandhari.

Mandhari is another raga without a textual tradition. It is known to us for the first time through the composition “Paraloka Bhayamu” of Tyagaraja.The origins of this raga seems shrouded in mystery. As per books published during the early 20th century, the raga for this composition (Paraloka Bhayamu) is given as Yamuna ( Yamunakalyani). K V Srinivasa Iyengar in his preface to his own publication “Tyagaraja Hrudayam” (1922) alludes to this & bemoans saying that the valuable compositions {of Tyagaraja} have been mutilated beyond recognition by the musicians and singers of South India. Other glaring instances of Tyagaraja’s compositions getting short changed of their original ragas include “Marubalka” ( originally Abheri as per books while the current/popular version is in Sriranjani) and “Sujana Jeevana” ( Nattakurinji as per books while the extant version is in Khamas)! ⁵

Leaving aside the controversy, which itself merits a seperate blog post, suffice to say “Paraloka Bhaya” is currently rendered in Mandhari. The raga is considered to be the janya of Kamavardhani, the 51st mela by musicologists with the following arohana/avarohana⁶.

Aro: S R1 G3 M2 P N3* S

Avaro: S N3* P M2 G3 R1 S

*-There were some differences of opinion on the nishada in this raga. Some were of the opinion that Kaishiki nishada(N2) ought to be employed and this raga to be considered as a janya of Namanarayani(50th melakarta). The Experts Committee of the Music Academy has however decided that the nishada is only kakali nishada (N3) and that this ought to be reckoned as a janya of the 51st mela⁶.

The svaras R,G,M,N – provide raga chaya and are mRdu kampita swaras. The raga has a range from mandhra sthayi panchama to tara sthayi prati madhyama. Mandhari is considered a madhyama kala pradhana raga where Jantai, dhAtu, pratyAhata and Ahata prayogas abound.In the phrases P N3 P M2 and M2 N3 P M2 the kakali nishada “may be” softened but in prayogas like p n N S and in s n N P there is no scope for nishada to sound lowered⁶.

Compositions in the raga:

We have a tana varna each from Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Mysore Vasudevacar. Apart from the Tyagaraja Kriti “Paraloka Bhaya” we have “Ninnu jeppa ” and “Endukitu capalamu”, both of Patnam. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar has composed “EnnALu tirigedanu”, “Atishaya Varaprasadhini” and “Anagham Akhilanda nayakam” in Mandhari.

Addendum:  Izuppur(Illupur) Ponnusvami Pillai – vocalist & violinist of the late 19th century & composer of the Adi tala tana varnam ‘Taruni Ninu pasi” in Kambhoji, has composed a kriti in Mandhari – “Sri Sugunakara Seetamanohara” in tisra rupakam. The notation of this rare kriti has been published in the Music Academy Journal by Prof. T Visvanathan ( Journal of the Music Academy XXXIV Pages 174-175)


  1. Prof.N.S.Ramachandran( 1938& 2003) – “Ragas of Carnatic Music”-Published by Trinity Music Book Publishers, Chennai. Chapter VII, pages 162-164 & 197
  2. Tillaistanam Narasimha Bagavathar (1908) -”Tyagaraja Swami Keertanalu” (Telugu)
  3. Naadamuni Panditar (1914) – Sangita Svaraprasthara Sagaramu
  4. Prof S R Janakiraman (2005) – “Tyagaraja’s Ekaika Kriti Ragas” – Twin CD Album – Parampara – Vintage Classics Series, Product Code:CAR CD 134/35 – Produced & Distributed by Shristi’s Carnatica P Ltd, Chennai
  5. Prof N Ramanathan(1994) – “Indian Musicology in the Early Modern Period – A Survey of the Pre-1940 Publications”- extracted from “Music Publications From 1800-1930 In Tamiz, Telugu And Malayalam” – Paper presented on 08-11-1994 at a Seminar organised as part of the Thakur Jaidev Singh Centenary Celebrations organised by INTACH Foundation, Varanasi held from 7th to 11th November, 1994.
  6. S R Janakiraman(1995) – Raga Lakshanangal (Tamil) – Published by the Music Academy, Madras
  7. Michael S Kinnear (1994) – “The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings- 1899-1908″ – Page 120-Published by Popular Prakashan P Ltd, Bombay