Subbarama Dikshitar’s Compositions:
The jatisvaram found notated under this raga in the SSP can be considered as Subbarama Dikshitar’s second composition composed in the year 1856, the first one being the varna in Durbar “Intamodi”. The reference to his is found in his autobiography that he wrote as a part of the “Vaggeyakara Caritamu”. When he sang the Durbar varna before the Rajah of Ettayapuram, the Rajah to ensure that the Courtiers and other musicians too acknowledge and realize that the seventeen year old Subbarama Dikshitar was truly an original musician, made him compose this jatisvaram in the raga Yamuna as a test. The composition was structured by the young Subbarama Dikshitar as specified by the Rajah such that the pallavi and anupallavi had svaras as sahitya, the next set of svaras started with dhaivata, the final svara set had all the three speeds, and finally ending with the muktayi svaram.
As one can notice from the notation of this composition, Subbarama Dikshitar’s Yamuna is featured with older prayogas like GPDs, sDP etc. The ragamalika too bears out Subbarama Dikshitar’s penchant for the older version/archaic Yamuna rather than the newer Yamuna as embodied in ‘Jambupate’. It is only in the sancari that Subbarama Dikshitar uses the melodic material of the newer Yamuna of Dikshitar with usage of M1 and also prolific usage of nishada. His sancari too contains phrases from the older Yamuna as well as the newer Yamuna. One can surmise that the sancaris were probably composed during the run up to the creation of the SSP by Subbarama Dikshitar and not earlier.
At this juncture, attention is invited to the other notated composition found in the SSP, which is Krishnasvami Ayya’s kriti ‘Cintaye Janakiramanam’. Incidentally the kriti is not encountered in the concert circuit, but the notation in the SSP, features a slightly different Yamuna Kalyani. In this composition, suddha madhyama usage is denser and is not just restricted to the GM1R usage. We do see a GM1P usage as well as a GM2M1 usage in the kriti ! Also the M1 shows up in tara stayi sancaras as gm1r which is extremely rare in Yamuna Kalyani. Given that Subbarama Dikshitar must have in all probability had a role to play in setting the tune for this composition, the treatment of Yamuna Kalyani in this composition is indeed very odd and unusual!
As highlighted elsewhere in this article, modern/present day Yamuna is clearly a further narrowing down of the Yamuna Kalyani of Dikshitar with two important changes:
- The raga is rendered in madhyama sruti
- Usage of suddha madhyama is much more prolific and one can also see that it is used in succession with the prati madhyama note.
On the usage of M2M1 notes in succession, it needs to be pointed that classical versions of the Hindustani raga Yaman do not feature the same. According to Rajan Parrikkar, the suddha madhyama using versions of Yaman should be called Jaimini Kalyan rather than Yaman Kalyan. Fact is that the Hindustani raga Yaman which is an implementation of the ‘thAt’ or raaganga Kalyan, does not sport suddha madhyama at all. The versions of Kalyan sporting suddha madhyama (Yaman Kalyan or Jaimini Kalyan as may be called), use M1 only via GM1G . The phrase M2M1G usage with the glide is considered a “lighter” version. I would invite readers to the two seminal articles on Kalyan and Kalyani by Rajan Parrikkar and Muthukumar and Ramana, respectively on sawf.org.
In this section we will take a look at the recordings of compositions as encountered in the three evolutionary forms of Yamuna Kalyani.
First is the older form, equivalent to the Suddha Kalyan of the Hindustani Music. As pointed out earlier, the Jatisvaram of Subbarama Dikshitar as notated in the SSP is a prime example. Dr Abhiramasundari, a disciple of Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli renders the jatisvaram as per the notation found in the SSP.
Attention is invited to the total absence of the suddha madhyama svara and the nishada in this composition. The tonal color of the raga as delineated in this composition is vastly different.
Dikshitar’s Yamuna Kalyani – Jambupate:
Next is the Yamuna of Dikshitar which is best defined by the pancabhuta kshetra kriti “Jambupate Mam pahi” and exemplified by the notation found in the SSP. The most popular renditions of this composition are that of Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman and Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer, both of whom trace their pAtham to Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer and on to Ambi Dikshitar. For the purposes of this article, I present two interpretations/renderings which appear in my opinion to be closer to the notation as found in the SSP.
But before that, I present an excerpt from a 1993 Lecture Demonstration on select Dikshitar Kritis by Prof S R Janakiraman @ Seattle, USA. He is accompanied by Srividya Chandramouli of the Karaikudi veena school . Here he dwells on the Yamuna Kalyani of Dikshitar.
Prof S R J first outlines the salient features of Dikshitar’s Yamuna Kalyani and shows how different it is from Kalyani, even without usage of suddha madhyama. Watch out for the Professor tellingly use the nRGMP or nRGP (lower case signifying mandhara stayi and uppercase madhya stayi) and again PNDs (italics signify upper or tara stayi) to proceed to the upper octave, reminding us of the Hindustani Yaman. He renders portions of the composition as illustration and shows how by the mere intonation of the gandhara and purvanga svaras, Kalyani can be distinguished very clearly from Yamuna Kalyani.
Next, Prof S R J presents Jambupate in full, to the accompaniment of tanpura sruti, preceding it with a crisp raga outline. Attention is invited to the total exclusion of suddha madhyama svara in the alapana and the sparing use of it in the kriti, in line with the notation as found in the SSP.To reiterate, in Dikshitar’s version of Yamuna Kalyani the suddha madhyama svara usage is supposed to be sparing in usage and is seen only via the murccana GM1RS only. An example, is the negotiation of the sahitya line of the anupallavi, “tumburu nuta hrudaya tapopasamana”. Also note that fact that the rendering is “not” in madhyama sruti, driven by the fact that the kriti has sancaras spanning upto the tara gandhara. Attention is again invited to the way in which Prof S R J explicitly intones prati madhyama at the anupallavi line “AmbujAsanAdi sakala deva namana”.Within the framework of the original notation, the Prof melodically extends , interprets and develops the sahitya line revealing the myriad melodic hues of Yamuna. The entire anupallavi presents in a nutshell, Dikshitar’s conception of the modern Yamuna in its so called bhashanga form with M1, a veritable lesson indeed for us.
A note on kampita gamaka and its usage in Yamuna Kalyani is warranted at this juncture. It is not that kampita gamaka is not to be used in Yamuna. Modern interpretations of this raga near totally eschew kampita gamaka usage, driven perhaps by the logic that since it is a raga with northern origins, its notes should be plainer and not oscillated with this gamaka. The notation of “Jambupate” in the SSP and its interpretation by the Professor clearly shows how misconceived this view can be. In his rendering, attention is invited to the portion where the Professor tellingly uses the gamaka on the gandhara as he interprets the caranam line “sarva jeeva dayakara sambho”, for example, in line with the SSP notation. Gandhara, dhaivatha and the pancama svaras , especially in the caranam are ornamented with the kampita gamaka notation, debunking this common misconception that this raga needs to be rendered “only” in a plainer/lighter fashion, lest it may probably be mistaken for Kalyani.
I present next, Sangita Kala Acharya Seetha Rajan interpreting the composition, again with fidelity to the notation of Subbarama Dikshitar, in this August 2009 recording from a chamber music recital.
As I understand, she has re-learnt it on the basis of the notation found in the SSP. Her grounding in Hindustani Music as well comes to the fore as she interprets the Pallavi line ‘amruta bodham dehi” executing the GMPD/rs svara sequence via jaaru gamaka, jumping from the madhya stayi dhaivatha to the tara rishabha. One can appreciate and savor Dikshitar’s extraordinary depth of imagination as it comes to the fore when he flips the GPDs of the older Yamuna as GMPDrs imparting a different hue in this composition. The fundamental axiom of raga lakshana and its interpretation which was practiced by Dikshitar is best embodied by the assertion of noted music critique, the Late K V Ramachandran, in one of his lecture demonstrations where he avers that jumps, bends, twists were the rule for svaras in ragas and that rarely do they proceed in a linear succession. Attention is invited to the grand finale of this composition, which is the concluding carana sahitya in madhyamakala, begining “nirvikalpa samAdhi nishta…”. Students and learners of this composition should listen to the Vidushi Seetha Rajan’s interpretation with the SSP notation by the side, to appreciate how Dikshitar provides us with an unalloyed summary of his Yamuna in this final section, devoid of even the suddha madhyama.
Dikshitar’s other compositions:
Apart from “Jambupate” which is the sole composition in Yamuna Kalyani of Muthusvami Dikshitar as documented in the SSP, we have two other compositions “Nandagopala” and “Paramashivatmajam”, which have been documented by Veenai Sundaram Iyer and attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar. Recordings of “Nandagopala” by both Dr B Rajam Iyer and by Sri Maharajapuram Santhanam are available to us. For sake of analysis, I take up “Paramashivatmajam”, which is hardly encountered in the concert circuit. Vidvan R Suryaprakash interprets this composition as he learnt it from Dr V V Srivatsa.
Clip 5: Vidvan Suryaprakash – Paramashivatmajam-Yamunakalyani
Attention is invited to the usage of the svarakshara “sDP” in the Pallavi line “sadA bhajeham”, which is a signature prayoga or motif of the older Yamuna. Attention is invited to the treatment of the raga in the composition (not found in SSP) in contradistinction to ‘Jambupate’ (found in SSP). In fact this divergence of raga lakshana and its treatment is encountered in few other ragas , such as for example Vegavauhini and Chaturangini, exemplified by the SSP kritis on one hand and the non SSP kritis on the other, as composed by /attributed to Dikshitar.
Moving away from Dikshitar, in the absence of authentic versions or notations of the available Tyagaraja kritis in this raga, I am unable to divine if indeed the Bard of Thiruvayyaru’s, interpretation of this beautiful raga was on the lines of the archaic Yamuna or of Dikshitar’s Yamuna. The analysis of the notation of the kriti “Haridasulu vedale” as documented in detail by Rangaramanuja Iyengar presents us with some data as to the form it was at least during the first half of the 20th century.
MODERN YAMUNA KALYANI:
I next take up the interpretation of Tyagaraja’s composition “Haridasulu Vedale” by the veteran vocalist Prof T R Subramaniam (Prof TRS). He along with Prof SRJ, Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao and the well known music guru Bombay Sri Ramachandran were batch mates, learning music at the Madras Music College during the 1950’s from the likes of Musiri Subramanya Iyer, T Brinda and others.
In this old recording, we can find how pristine and felicitous, Prof T R S’s voice was. The fast brighas he executes with razor sharp precision remind us of the style of the late Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramaniam, whom he idolized. First, Prof T R S embarks on an alapana of Yamuna Kalyani. He lets his imagination run riot literally as he takes us far into upper reaches of Yamuna Kalyani and fleetingly uses the prayoga incorporating the two madhyamas in succession, which is well within the province of modern Yamuna Kalyani, which permits a much denser and unrestrained use of suddha madhyama. He concludes by outlining the eduppu/take-off of the famous Yamuna Kalyani kriti “Krishna Nee” probably for the benefit of the audience and moves on to render the kriti.
In in his rendering of the final sangati of the Pallavi line “Ananda mAye dayalo”, Prof TRS uses the two madhyamas in succession as a svarakshara. Clearly this edition of the Tyagaraja composition is classifiable under the modern version of Yamuna Kalyani.
It is indeed a pity that we are unable to divine the true/original conception of Yamuna by the bard, beyond doubt. The different patantharams and the lack of a reliable oral or textual notation as authority prevents us from understanding many of Tyagaraja’s original melodies. In fact the Experts Commitee of the Music Academy debated it without a conclusion being reached, in the year 1958, the year in which Sri G N Balasubramanian became the Sangita Kalanidhi. During those deliberations, the Experts Committee member C S Iyer ( father of Vidushi Vidya Shankar and disciple of Sangita Kalanidhi Sabhesa Iyer) raised the question as to the original raga of the famous Tyagaraja composition “Etavunara”, which is presently rendered in Kalyani. According to him the raga of the composition was not Kalyani but Yamuna ( vide JMA Vol XXX, Page 30, Proceedings dated 23-Dec-1958 ).
We now move over to Vyasaraya’s ‘Krishna Nee’ which is a shining example of modern Yamuna Kalyani.
Krishna Nee Begane Baro:
In the context of the ‘Krishna Nee Begane” , the composition or atleast the text/lyrics dates back to the 15th/16th century. I am unable to speculate on the antiquity of the tune. It might be very old or may not be, but needless to say that this song as immortalized by Sangita Kalanidhi T Balasarasvati (1918-1984) is the extant version of the popular Yamuna Kalyani. For connoisseurs of fine arts, Tanjore Balasarasvathi was the very embodiment of the music and dance of Tanjore. She was the star student of Kandappa Nattuvanar (1899-1941) who was the great grandson of Cinnayya of the illustrious Tanjore Quartet. For the benefit of those of us who may not be aware as to why this legendary scion of the Veena Dhanammal family is justly identified with this composition, Dr B M Sundaram’s in his work “Marabu Thanda Manikkangal” (Tamil) has captured that moment in history ! The following paragraph is a rough translation of his account.
The year was 1934 and the venue was the Rasika Ranjani Sabha at Mylapore , Madras the Mecca of Carnatic Music. The cognoscenti of the City had assembled to watch ‘their’ Bala ( as she was adoringly referred to by her avid rasikas) performing to the singing of her mother, the incomparable Jayammal. During the course of the recital Jayammal, extempore launched into “Krishna Nee Begane”, the devaranama which was one of the several, she had learnt from the great Dasa pada exponent and guru, Dharwad Hayagrivachar. Bala was caught unawares as she had not danced to the piece before that day and her hesitation if any was perhaps momentary as she instantly and naturally drew on her consummate artistic genius and innate skill of abhinaya. For the next thirty minutes or more, she held the audience spell-bound with her remarkable interpretation of the lyrics, conjuring up the very image of Krishna of Udipi before them. As they say, the rest is history. It went on to become the talk of the town for the next several years, setting a new benchmark for this composition and its interpretation.
Hear the meltingly rendered composition with the abhinaya. Luckily for us, it has been captured by the doyen Satyajit Ray on film and has thus been preserved for posterity: