History, Raga

Andhali – An Enigma

Andhali – An enigma – Ravi Rajagopalan

Andhali is an old raga with a textual tradition which is now virtually extinct. Its close cousins, Purnachandrika and the much latter born Janaranjani have usurped much of its musical material. We have compositions of both Tyagaraja and Dikshitar in this raga. There is an element of a controversy, nay a puzzle about the nativity of this raga, which we will see while we look at the raga lakshana of this raga. For this blog post I shall use the Dikshitar composition ‘Brihannayaki Varadayaki’ as the benchmark to understand this raga.


There have been several writers of musicological texts since 10th century AD. Vidyaranya, Parsvadeva, Sarangadeva, Pundarikavittala,Ramamatya, Somanatha and others. Each one of them has captured the snap shot of the musical milieu as it existed during their times, in their works. Every one of these illustrious authors took a step forward for us in understanding the science of melody and harmonics and of instruments and voice. They drafted the technical aspect of musicology or the science of intonation & svarasthanas on one hand and the raga lakshanas of ragas, gramas, jaatis on the other. Many of the melodies that they have dealt with have long since died. It has also become irrelevant for us to investigate those melodies for, the ever dynamic system of ours has spawned newer melodies in their place. At best a discussion of those ancient melodies serves to understand history but nothing beyond.

However from a raga lakshana angle and formulation of ragas perspective, especially for the extant/present day ragas, 3 musicological works produced during the 16th & 17th centuries remain relevant to us even today. They can be labeled as the ‘Early Triad” and are:

  1. The Caturdandi Prakasika of Venkatamakhin(circa 1620)
  2. Raga Lakshanamu by King Shahaji ( circa 1700)
  3. Sangita Saramruta (1735)by King Tulaja

These 3 works remain till date, a constant source of reference for us in understanding the ragas that existed in the run up to the Trinity’s time period. They deal with many a raga, which are still with us today either in practice or atleast in text. These 3 works offer us clues and a surfeit of musical material to help us understand the musical transformation that the Trinity undertook in the period of 1765-1835. They also offer us assistance in terms of assessing the musical worth of 3 other subsequent musical works or the “Latter Triad” that came about in the period of 1800-1910, namely:

  1. The Anubanda to the Caturdandi Prakashika (circa1750)
  2. The Sangraha Cudamani of Govinda ( Late 18th century-Early 19th century or possibly late 19th century according to scholars)
  3. The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)

The authorship as well as the timelines of works 1 and 2 above of the ‘Latter Triad’, is a subject matter of dispute and controversy. Additionally the formulation of the heptatonic system and janaka/janya relationship amongst melas/ragas by Sangraha Cudamani through the “Kangi-Priya” or the Kanakangi- Ratnangi scheme and its allied text, “The Meladhikaralakshana” has been a subject of debate & controversy. Be that as it may, the point remains & is undeniable that all these works have had a remarkable & profound impact on the world of music as we see/hear today.

So whenever we get to discuss a raga especially one which the trinity have handled, we need to reach out the Early Triad as these texts shaped up the musical acumen of the trinity and constituted perhaps the very basis of their learning.


Andhali is a raga of antiquity which probably went by the name of Andol or Andola prior to the times of Ramamatya (1550). Ramamatya was the first to capture it in its current name as a raga belonging to the Sriraga mela in his Svaramelakalanidhi. The next mention of Andhali is by Venkatamakhi in the Caturdandi Prakashika. Again Venkatamakhi places Andhali under the Sriraga mela. Next Tulaja in his Saramruta places it under Kambhoji mela. This is carried forward by the Anubandha to the CDP as well as Subbarama Dikshitar(SD) who classify it as a janya raga under the Kedaragaula mela. We have a kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar as notated in the SSP, “Brihannayaki Varadayaki”. Tyagaraja also seems to have a kriti in triputa tala, “Abhimanamu ledemi” in this raga which is not in currency. There are no other available compositions in this raga.


Pre 1700 :Let’s look at Andhali’s raga lakshana through the eyes of Venkatamakhi first. According to him¹:

  1. Andhali has pancama as its graha svara and is also its nyasa and amsa
  2. Its an audava raga of the Sriraga mela

Circa 1735: Tulaja in his Saramruta takes a different view¹:

  1. Its is a shadhava raga, dhaivata varjya of the Kambhoji mela
  2. Shadja is its graham and is sung in the evenings
  3. RGMR is it key murccana
  4. Given Tulaja’s murccanas, the nominal arohana/avarohana is SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS

Circa 1750 – Muddu Venkatamakhi creates the Anubandha² and also composes the lakshana gitam for Andhali. At this juncture it is worth noting that there is evidence on hand that Anubandha and the Kanakambari list is clearly latter to Tulaja’s Saramruta³. The raga Andhali is mentioned along with Devakriya and others as an upanga janya in the Kedaragaula raganga gitam, which is given in the SSP, attributed to Venkatamakhi himself by Subbarama Dikshitar. Needless to say that the gitam based on facts is ascribable only to Muddu Venkatamakhi. His gitam captures the following raga murccanas²:

  1. RGMRS
  3. rmgrsN
  4. MPNPs

Dikshitar’s Interpretation:

Circa 1800 and Dikshitar constructs his ‘Brihannayaki Varadayaki’ . From Subbarama Dikshitar’s notation² we see the following:

  1. The nominal arohana avarohana that Dikshitar employs is SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS under Kedaragaula.
  2. Nishada and Gandhara are adorned with nokku type of gamaka, Madhyama is adorned with kampita and jaarus are encountered as in PR, R/M and MR.
  3. PM-RGMR is a motif that is that is repeatedly emphasized by Dikshitar.
  4. The raga is purvanga centric and spans from the mandhara nishada till tara madhyama.
  5. Ri seems to be the jiva svara and Dikshitar commences both the pallavi and the anupallavi/samshti carana section with Rishaba.
  6. His raga conception is encapsulated in the pithy cittasvara section which gives the essence of his conception of the raga.

Very clearly one can see that the conception of Andhali by Dikshitar is in line with the raga lakshana as laid down by Tulaja in his Saramrutha.

Circa 1900 – Subbarama Dikshitar composes the Sancari for this old raga². Needless to say he follows Dikshitar in emphasizing PM-RGMR and also reaches till mandhara pancama in one place. Subbarama Dikshitar’s raga lakshana commentary implies that SRGM and MGRS are allowed, but as one can see Dikshitar refrains from using these krama murccanas.The gitam of Muddu Venkatamakhi, the Dikshitar kriti and the sancari all find place in the magnum opus Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.


From Venkatamakhi on to Tulaja & Muddu Venkatamakhi and to Muthusvami Dikshitar & Subbarama Dikshitar we see the following two transforms taking place:

  1. Andhali moves from Sriraga mela to Kambhoji/Kedaragaula mela
  2. The graha svara is shifted from pancama to shadja and back to pancama.

In other words, during the late 16th century /early 17th century the gandhara of Andhali morphs from sadharana to antara gandhara, making this raga move from the Sriraga clan to the Kedaragaula clan. This transformation is captured by the 3 compositions that one finds in the SSP.

Subbarama Dikshitar summarizes the raga lakshana for our benefit, crisply² :

  1. A shadava raga, dhaivata varjya
  2. Pancama is graham and can be sung at all times
  3. On the strength of the (Muddu)Venkatamakhi shloka, SD gives a krama murccana arohana/avarohana as SRGMPNS/SNPMGRS under Kedaragaula mela However Muthusvami Dikshitar prefers SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS, which Subbarama Dikshitar highlights in his explanatory notes.
  4. The key murccanas include pnSRGMR and sNPMRGMR. One is constrained to note that the murccana SRGMR is suggestive of Janaranjani and SNPMRGMR suggest Purnachandrika¹ .
  5. The key motif for Andhali is RGMR as Dikshitar illustrates in his kriti. Prof SR Janakiraman says that the gandhara found in the phrase RGaMR is a dheerga gandhara¹ . The true import of this statement will become obvious when we discuss the renditions in the section below.

Before we move to the composition and its renditions, we can have a quick look at the lakshana of this raga as found in the Sangraha Cudamani ¹ .It gives the arohana/avarohana as SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS, which tallies with the Dikshitar conception. However the lakshana shloka curiously states that the dhaivatha of this raga is suddha dhaivatha, when there is no dhaivatha to be found in the raga murccana! Obviously it looks like a transcribing error but nonetheless it is one of the several such issues that one faces with the Sangraha Cudamani.


Thus the Andhali of today is defined and survives through the Dikshitar composition which is modeled in the so called samashti carana format. Composed by Dikshitar on Goddess Brihannayaki at Tanjore, the consort of Lord Brihadeesvara the kriti carries both the raga mudra as well as his colophon ‘guruguha’. The contrasting usage of the word ‘Ahanta’ can be seen in the lyrics ‘Ahantaa svarupini”, in this composition and “Ahantadi rahitam” found in “Mahaganapatim vande” in Todi. The raga name ‘Andhali’ as used in the lyric as “Andhaali harana carana”is used to mean ‘ignorance’. The cittasvara encompasses the entire raga lakshana in a nutshell.

‘Brihannayaki Varadayaki’ is found notated in the following publications ⁴ :

  • Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904)
  • Tatchur Singaracharya’s Gayakaparijatamu(1877 & 1927)
  • K V Srinivasa Iyengar’s Gana Bhaskaramu(1934)
  • Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai(1936)
  • Vina Sundaram Iyer’s Dikshitar Kirtana Mala ( series from 1941)
  • Chinnasvami Mudaliar’s Oriental Music in Staff Notation (1892-96)
  • Veenai Ananthakrishna Iyer’s Ganamanjusha(1934)
  • Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s Kritimani Malai Vol V(1963)


We have 2 extant renditions of this rare Dikshitar composition and both are from famous scions belonging two different sishya paramparas of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

  1. The first one is by Smt Brinda from the Muthusvami Dikshitar Bi-Centenary year Concert broadcast by AIR originally in the year 1975 where she is accompanied by her daughter Vegavauhini Vijayaraghavan. Her version/patha traces back to Sathanur Panchanada Iyer and to Suddhamaddalam Tambiappan Pillai the disciple of Muthusvami Dikshitar himself.
  2. The second is by ‘Dikshitarini’ Kalpagam Svaminathan who traces her patantharam directly to Ambi Dikshitar himself via Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer & Calcutta Ananthakrishna Iyer. Her rendition is from a chamber recital in 2007 where she is accompanied by Vid Tanjore Kumar on the Mridangam and is supported on the veena by her disciple Vid Ramakrishnan.


Smt Brinda renders “Brihannayaki”

Smt Brinda renders the kriti in a steady vilambakala typical of Dikshitar’s compositions. A number of features of her rendition invite our attention:

  1. She starts the kriti with M…P rather than R…P, which is given in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.
  2. Secondly, her intonation of the gandhara svara portions in the composition is (sadharana gandharam) G2 rather than G3.
  3. The gandhara is shaken much with the kampita gamaka and the sequence of G2M1R2S impart the color of Kanada to Andhali. The words Brihannayaki and sahasradala are examples where the G2 is seen conspicuously along with the Kanada flavor.
  4. The cittasvara as given for this composition in the SSP is not rendered by Smt Brinda.

It’s worth reiterating here that Venkatamakhi in his CDP assigns Andhali to the Sriraga mela. Its only Muddu Venkatamakhi and Tulaja who record that Andhali belongs to the Kedaragaula/Kambhoji mela. One is forced to consider the possibility of the composition having been taught with the raga being in the Sriraga mela itself given the fidelity to patantharam that the Dhanammal family is justly known for. Is it the Andhali of Venkatamakhi, which Dikshitar himself composed in? Did he want to follow the grand patriarch rather than his (great) grandson Muddu Venkatamakhi? We do not know. All that we know for sure is on the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin’s lakshana gitam and the Dikshitar’s kriti as well Subbarama Dikshitar places Andhali under the Kedaragaula mela.

Interestingly this kriti is notated by Sri Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (TNS) in the Dikshita Kirtanai Prakashikai⁴ . Sri TNS is a disciple of Sathanur Pancanada Iyer as well. An examination of the notation therein holds out a clue to us in assessing the gandhara intonation.

  1. In his notation Sri TNS clearly gives the mela for this raga/kriti as Kedaragaula (28th mela) and uses the notation sign for antara gandhara (G3) only.
  2. The key difference between his notation on one hand and SSP’s notation on the other is that Sri TNS gives the kampita gamaka as an adornment for G3 which is not given in the SSP. On the contrary the adornment for G3 by SD is nokku in the SSP
  3. Sri TNS also gives the cittasvara for this composition as given by Subbarama Dikshitar.

It’s thus obvious that the kampita gamaka that is seen in the gandhara of Smt Brinda’s rendition is reflected in the notation seen in the DKP.Apparently its is on the strength of this perhaps that Prof SRJ avers that the gandhara is ‘dheerga’. It needs to be pointed out that the SSP does not make any mention of this ‘dheerga’gandhara. The notation of this composition by both TNS and SD clearly point to only usage of G3. The G2 that one gets to hear is apparently a patanthara variation. Because of the influence of Kanada, the G3M1R motif of Andhali may have morphed to G2M1R the Kanada ang is a surmise one can make. Thus one is unable to justify this version of Andhali uing G2.

Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan renders “Brihannayaki”

Vid Kalpagam Svaminathan renders Brihannayaki, in a faster kalapramana in comparison to Smt Brinda’s version. Her version is very close to the notation as seen in SSP. The gandhara is G3 and is very prominent as one can hear in the cittasvara section as well. There is no trace of the wide oscillation on the gandhara, which one gets to see in Smt Brinda’s version. Both in the sahitya and in the cittasvara, I invite attention to the sequence R/M ( the madhayama being oscillated wih the kampita gamaka (as in Brah (R)/madhi(M)) and also in the cittasvara section. These are the embellishments that one needs to observe & render and indeed goes to show the greatness of the performer and in the instant case it is no wonder Musiri Subramanya Iyer coined the epithet of ‘Dikshitarini’ for her. Also it needs to go on record that Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan has been the only vidvan who has been rendering this rare composition frequently in concerts these days.

I have also heard a vocal rendition of this composition from another musician Vidvan Radhakrishnan who learnt it from Kaliddaikurichi Ramalinga Bhagavathar another Dikshitar sishya parampara member. The patantharam of the composition as well as the kalapramana was the same as that of Smt.Kalpagam Svaminathan.


Given the variation in the treatment of the gandhara in this kriti of Dikshitar, it is worth examining some precedents and also analyze the fact of existence of such variations as well.

  1. It goes without saying that the values of the different svarasathanas/srutis have been generalized across the board with the advent of the Melakartha system. Many of the older ragas & scales which were anterior to the current Melakartha system will/do not have these so called ‘normalized’ sruti value for some of its svaras. For example the Rishabha of Gaula is ekasruti and not dvisruti as is applicable to Malavagaula’s generic Ri. Is Andhali’s Gandhara a variant to be sung with a lower sruti value?
  2. The value of the G3 in Sahana is another case in the point. Subbarama Dikshitar classifies Sahana under Sriraga mela and thus Sahana should have predominantly G2 with G3 also occurring occasionally as per his raga lakshana. Over a period of time, the gandhara of Sahana has morphed. Today Sahana is placed under the Kedaragaula mela with the gandhara being ‘only’ G3. In fact some of the practitioners as well as musicologists strongly believe that Sahana’s gandhara is neither G2 nor G3 per se but something in between, the so called tri-shanku gandhara!
  3. The G2/G3 of Sahana as well as the fact that Sahana has the GMR has an interesting point of comparison with Andhali as Sahana also has moved from being under the Sriraga mela to Kedaragaula mela. While the Sahana gandhara is termed ‘trishanku’, Prof SRJ terms the gandhara of Andhali as a ‘dheerga’ version.The gandhara intoned by Smt.Brinda ‘may’ be a version of this. Or it can also be theorized that this Andhali ( with G2) is an archaic version. Suffice to state that we do not have any textual evidence to advance this hypothesis.
  4. The deviation that one notices in versions especially as between authentic sishya paramparas needs to be analyzed and dealt with carefully. These variations or interpretations have come to us via an authentic lineage and should not be just dismissed in a cavalier fashion. These instances need to be differentiated from instances , where contrary to established raga lakshana as obvious from texts as well as authentic oral traditions, ragas of compositions have been short changed or raga lakshana itself changed, inflicting much damage to our musical fabric. Kritis & the ragas thereof composed by Tyagaraja as well as Dikshitar have been subject to such changes and in the absence of a reliable mechanism to capture orally/textually, authentic patantharams, we have issues in dealing with these changes.
  5. In the instant case given the facts on hand, one can observe with certainity that the version of Andhali & the kriti by Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan is aligned to the raga lakshana as seen in the Saramrutha and in line with the notation in the SSP.

Let me hasten to add that to comment on the music of these great masters would be construed as impudence. Readers may be rest assured that observations herein have been made in good faith in furtherance of the sole objective to understand our music better. Nothing more and again if there are additional facts or points that need consideration, do let know so that they can be taken in the right perspective.


In summary, the raga lakshana of Andhali is encapsulated by the Dikshitar composition and the cittasvara as notated by Subbarama Dikshitar. The operative arohana and avarohana murccana is SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS with repeated use of the motif RG3MRS. The raga is almost extinct today in the popular concert platform. One hopes that Andhali would get some air-time atleast as a filler in recitals, going forward. and performers should render this Dikshitar composition with its elegant cittasvara as well.

Tailpiece: There is a rendition of the Tyagaraja composition in Andhali, “Abhimanamu ledemi” which I did hear. The raga lakshana closely mapped to the one found in the Dikshitar composition as played by Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan, without any flavor of Kanada. Given the antiquity of the raga, Tyagaraja could have definitely composed in this raga. However in the absence of details as to authenticity of the kriti, patantharam of the said version and also the notation of the said composition, I am refraining from posting any further observations. I would greatly appreciate further inputs from readers of this blog in this regard.


  1. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr.S R Janakiraman(1993) – “Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta by King Tulaja of Tanjore” – First Edition- Published by The Music Academy, Madras
  2. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini – Published in Tamil by the Music Academy
  3. V Raghavan (1941) – “Venkatamakhin and his 72 Melas” – Journal of the Music Academy Vol XII Pages 67-79
  4. Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai(1936)- ‘Dikshita Kirtanai Prakashikai’- Part 1 ( Tamil)
  5. Dr V Raghavan(1975) – Muttuswami Dikshitar – Special Bicentenary Number – National Center for Performing Arts- Quarterly Journal – Vol IV Number 3 September 1975