Author: Aravindh Ranganathan

Composers, Manuscripts, Sahitya

Nirupana-s of Sri Muddusvamy Diksitar




Śri Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, a well-known composer of 18 th century is credited with around 230 compositions in the treatise Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini, written by his grandson Śri Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Of these compositions, excluding two, all are kṛti-s. The standalone compositions are a daru in the rāgaṃ Śriraṅjani and a varṇam in the rāgaṃ Tōdi. Both these compositions lack the mudra ‘guruguha’. Since Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is considered to be veracious in giving us the details, the authenticity of these compositions need not be questioned.

The general opinion that Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has composed only kṛti-s, excluding the two mentioned dispersed when this author descried a manuscript in the possession of Śri Śivakumār, a descendant of Nālvar. This paper manuscript is said to be written by Nālvar themselves and contains around 90 compositions of Dīkṣitar and a few compositions of Nālvar in notation. Of these 90, only 5 are unknown and yet to be published. The rest 85 compositions can be seen in the treatise Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. More about this manuscript can be read here.

The interesting aspect of these 5 unpublished compositions is that they cannot be called as kṛti-s. Based on the structure of the sāhityam, they can be categorized into tōdayam, śaraṇu or maṅgalam. To be more specific, these compositions might be the fragmented components of a much bigger dance based drama form called as “Nirūpaṇam”.

The word “nirūpaṇam” is usually related with Harikatha performances, wherein the singer narrates the main story accompanied with songs and jathi-s. But the nirūpaṇam that we are going to see is a different form used mainly in Bharatanāṭyam performances.

Though our music and the various forms therein can be traced back to Bharatā, the growth of dance-drama reached its peak from the period of Nāyak rulers of Tanjāvūr. This developed into a new dimension called as nirūpaṇa, mainly during the period of Marāṭha King Śerfoji II. Nirūpaṇa-s are dance-drama encompassing various musical/dance forms and are mainly composed in Marāṭi language. The theme of these nirūpaṇa revolve around bhakti and an entire mythological story is enacted in a nirūpaṇa. The musical forms seen here and the order in which they are performed also conform to a sequence that is followed in the ‘mārgam’ format of the present day Bharatanāṭyam.1 The King Śerfoji II, who patronized this form of art also has composed few nirūpaṇa-s like ‘Kumārasaṃbhavam’ and ‘Umā Mahēśvara pariṇayam’.2


Parts of a Nirūpaṇa

In general a nirūpaṇa is considered to have 18 sections and similar to Bhāgavata mēḷa, it starts with an invocation to the Lord called as “Jaya-jaya” or “Tōdayam”.
The various parts of a nirūpaṇa includes:

1. Jaya-jaya                               10. Tillānā
2. Śaraṇu                                  11. Abhinayapada
3. Śērvā                                    12.  Jakkiṇi
4. Collu                                     13. Gītam
5. Śabdam                                14.  Prabandham
6. Varṇam                                 15. Tripuṭam
7. Padam                                   16. Ślōka-varṇam
8. Svarajati                               17.  Kavuttam
9. Abhinayapadam                   18.  Maṅgaḷam

One more important to be remembered here is that all the components of a nirūpaṇa are set to a single rāgam !!


Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has composed nirūpaṇa-s?

The readers were already introduced that the manuscript under consideration contains some unpublished compositions of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Here, we give the list:

Jaya jaya gauri manōhari – 22 janyam (to be identified)
Kāmakṣi namōstute – Pāḍi
Śaranu kāmākṣi – Mēgarañjani
Manōnmaṇi bhavatutē maṅgaḷam – Mēcabauli
Śaranu śaranu mahēśa śaṅkari – Ārabhī

It is to be mentioned here that, except for the last uruppaḍi in the rāgaṃ Ārabhī, the rāga-s for the other compositions were not mentioned. Based on the rāga svarūpam seen in the notations and inputs from Dr Ritha Rajan, the rāga-s were assigned. The rāga for the composition “Jaya-jaya” is yet to be ascertained (See Footnote 1).
When the sāhityam of these compositions are analysed, the first can be classified as a ‘todayam’ or ‘jaya jaya’, the first component of any nirūpaṇam. The uruppaḍi-s in the rāga-s Mēgarañjani and Ārabhī can be placed under “Śaranu”, second section in a nirūpaṇa. The composition in the rāgaṃ Mēcabauli, needless to say is a maṅgaḷam. Kāmakṣi namōstute is more like a gītaṃ. It is clear now that all these compositions might represent different sections of a nirūpaṇam. These compositions seen in the manuscripts written by Nālvar adds credibility to our hypothesis.
Of these 5, the first three are addressed to Goddess Kāmākṣi and the last two are generic kṛti-s addressing the Divine Mother.


Nirūpaṇā-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Śerfoji II – A comparison

A preliminary analysis of these unpublished compositions gives us a clue that these can be a part of nirūpaṇa-s. But, there are few differences between these compositions of Dīkṣitar and the established nirūpaṇa-s of Śerfoji II.
Whereas the nirūpaṇa-s of Śerfoji are always in Marāṭi, all the compositions under study were composed in Sanskrit. Second difference is seen with the rāga-s employed. It is a general rule that all the components of a nirūpaṇa are to be composed in a single rāgaṃ. Here, we find five separate rāga-s employed for these five compositions. This is a major concern to be addressed.

When the five rāga-s used were studied, three of them are the janya-s of the mēla Māyāmālavagaula; other two were the janya-s of Śri and Dhīraśaṅkarābharaṇam. Of the three belonging to the mēla Māyāmālavagaula, two were addressing the deity Kāmākṣi. So, we are not wrong, if we say these two might have been a part of one nirūpaṇām. The maṅgaḷam, being a generic composition addressing Dēvi, might have been a part of this same nirūpaṇām itself. This hypothesis gets more weightage if we consider the rāgaṃ of this maṅgaḷam; Mēcabauli is also a janya of Māyāmālavagaula. So, we have three components in a nirūpaṇām composed in a janya of a single mēlam, Māyāmālavagaula. If this hypothesis is correct, Dīkṣitar, instead of composing a nirūpaṇām in a single rāgaṃ, has used a single mēlam. We don’t have a nirūpaṇa of any composer other than that of Śerfoji II to know the practice that was existent before his period. With the present available evidences, it is difficult to say whether or not Dīkṣitar has deviated from the practice that has prevailed during his time regarding the selection of rāga-s.
If we go by this theory, Dīkṣitar might have composed, at least three nirūpaṇa-s. One with the janya-s of Māyāmālavagaula and the other two using the janya-s of the other two mēla-s mentioned. Even a mere thought of this possibility make us to imagine the various janya-s that he could have used, criteria that he has followed for selecting those rāga-s as the three rāga-s used in this set are all upāṅga janya-s of Māyāmālavagaula and so on.
Of the other two, an entire nirūpaṇam could have been composed in the rāgaṃ Ārabhī, as we have a nirūpaṇam of Śerfoji II in this rāgaṃ. Alternatively, he could have used various other janya-s of Dhīraśaṅkarābharaṇam in this nirūpaṇam too. A reconstructed version of the Śaraṇu in the rāgaṃ Ārabhī can be heard here.



The available evidences make us to believe Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has composed nirūpaṇa-s. If we go by the above mentioned hypothesis, he could have composed at least three nirūpaṇa-s. Also, there is a high possibility that only Nālvar might have been aware of these nirūpaṇa-s, as they are seen only in the manuscripts written by them and we are not aware of any other śiṣya learning from him during his stay in Tanjāvur. These compositions or a mention about these cannot be seen even in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini, a lexicon of authentic Dīkṣitar kṛti-s.

It is to be remembered here, we have a daru and a varṇam in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This opens up another question, whether or not Dīkṣitar has composed any operas during his stay in Tiruvārur? We allow the readers to ponder over this question till we get some more evidence in this line.


Footnote 1
The first three compositions (of the unpublished compositions) were brought to light for the first time by Dr Ritha Rajan, in her monumental thesis. Though she has not mentioned the rāga names in her thesis, she suggested the rāga names to this author in a personal communication. Rāga mudra is incorporated in the sāhityam of the maṅgaḷam in Mēcabauli.


I personally thank Dr N Ramanathan for educating me about these nirūpaṇa-s.


1. Ramanathan N . Evolution of Musical forms used in Bharatanatyam
2. Krishnaswami Mahdick Rao Sahib A, Nagaraja Rao G (ed). Dance pieces in Marati by Śerfoji Raja (1958).

Raga, Uncategorized

The ragam Ramakali and the krti “Rama rama kali kalusa”- Part II

Let us go to the next segment in this series, on the authority of using prati madhyamam in this rāgam, being a janyam of Māyāmālavagaula. It will not be incongruous if the history of this rāgam is explained, before taking up the main question.


Rāmakali was relatively a popular rāga during 16-17 CE and we can see the treatises like Rāgamañjari of Paṇdarika Viṭṭala, Hṛudayakautuka and Hṛdayaprakāśa of Hṛdayanārāyaṇadeva and Anūpasaṅgītaratnākara of Bhāvabhaṭṭa mentioning about this rāgam. It is a general opinion that these treatises represent the Hindustāni tradition of our Classical music, indicating a rāga with this name was common in the Northern territory.

Circumstantial phrases delineating the rāgam was not given and we are left with a simple description – GPDS NDPGMGRS, credits to Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva. It is to be remembered here that many of the earlier treatises belonging to16-17 CE do not describe a rāga with illustrative phrases. Hence, we are clueless about the melodic structure of Rāmakali of 16-17 CE excluding the remark that this rāgam drops madhyamam and niṣādam in the ascent and has the above mentioned phrase.  In the treatises mentioned, this is considered as a sampūrṇa janyam of a melam, equivalent to our present day Māyāmālavagaula, mēla 15 (See Footnote 1). This rāga was not catalogued by the musicologists of the Southern territory like Gōvinda Dīkṣita, Śāhāji or Tulajā.

Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā, published by Music Academy mention this rāgam. This is mentioned as a dēsīya rāgam and a bhāṣāṅga janyam of Māyāmālavagaula, the mela 15. Subbarāma Dīkśitar further elaborates and illustrate the various phrases used in this rāgam. Hence, a complete picture of this rāgam as we see today in the uruppaḍi-s mentioned is obtained only from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar’s treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī. Here, he gives a hitherto unknown points, that it is customary to use prati madhyamam, also called by the name Pibhās and a rāgam imported from North of this country.

From the above discussion it is clear that Rāmakali was a sampūrṇa rāgam popular in the Northern territory of this country. Description of this rāgam is very scanty in the earlier treatises. As we move down the timeline, we can see this was described by a single phrase GPDS NDPGMGRS. This rāgam was totally unnoticed by the major musicologists of the Southern territory and a complete description of this rāgam is seen for the first time only in the year 1904, credits to Subbarāma Dīkśitar.


Bibhās could have been much more popular rāga than Rāmakali, both in both the territories, North and South. Almost every other book seems to mention this rāgam. When the raga structure with the available phrases were analyzed, there seem to be two Bibhās, one as a janyam of the mēla corresponding to the present day Kāmavardhani, mela 51 and the other one corresponding to the present day mela 15.

Bibhās as a janyam of mela 51

Bibhās aka Bibhāsu aka Vibhās aka Vibhāsa is mentioned in Rāga mañjari and Rāga mālā (both by Paṇḍarīka Viṭṭhala), Saṅgīta Pārijāta, Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha, and Anūpa Saṅgīta Vilāsa. Of these, descriptive elements are seen given in Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha and Saṅgīta Pārijāta. The phrase MGRGRS is stressed in Rāga Tattva Vibhōdha, whereas this is not seen in the description available in Pārijāta. Excluding these small differences, over all visualization of Bibhās is similar in both the treatises. In both the treatises, SRGPDS and the phrases involving GPD were given more prominence. Though DND is seen, the phrase DNS is avoided completely. Needless to say, madhyamam employed here is of tīvra variety and can be called as ‘prati madhyama Bibhās’.

Bibhās as a janyam of mela 15

Texts like Hṛudayakautuka and Hṛdayaprakāśa of Hṛdayanārāyaṇadeva, Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śāhāji and Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulajā consider Bibhās as a janya of mēla 15 (śuddha madhyama Bibhās). Considerable difference exist in the descriptions across these treatises to the extent that they deserve an individual treatment. Also, all these treatises give just one or two phrases to illustrate this rāgam.

Bibhās in Hṛudayakautuka, Rāga lakṣaṇamu and Saṣgīta Sārāmṛta has the phrase DNS and is considerably different from the Bibhās seen in the earlier section. Hence, Bibhās mentioned by later lakṣaṇakāra-s like Śāhāji and Tulajā is totally different from the Bibhās prevalent during late 16 CE and early 17 CE (prati madhyama Bibhās).

Bibhās in Hṛdayaprakāśa omits gāndhāram and madhyamam and is different from both the varieties mentioned.

Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā mentions both Rāmakali and Bibhās and places both under the mela 15. Whereas the former was credited with a ślokam and the latter was not even described.

Rāmakali as described in Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī

More descriptive image of this rāgam comes only from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. As mentioned earlier, despite being a janyam of mela 15, traditionally this uses prati madhyamam says Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. We don’t have adequate evidences from textual or oral tradition either to understand the melodic structure of Rāmakali extant during the days of Subbarāma Dīkśitar nor to compare this Rāmakali with the one described in the treatises. If we consider the single available phrase GPDS  NDPGMGRS (refer to the description of Rāmakali mentioned in earlier treatises mentioned elsewhere in this article), GPDS is the recurrent motif seen in all the compositions. We do not find NDPGM; we do find NDPmG at one place where madhyamam occurs more like an anusvaram. Though we are unable to conclusively say that Rāmakali mentioned here is same as the one mentioned by Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva, we can say at least the phrase given there very well fits into the description given by Hṛdayanārāyaṇadēva.

More importantly, Rāmakali of Dīkṣitar goes very well with the Bibhāsu of the first type (the type employing prati madhyamam), provided we accept the madhyamam as tīvra.

Presumptions from the above discussion

The following presumptions can be made regarding Rāmakali – Bibhās:

Rāmakali is a rāgam of great antiquity and must have been popular in the Northern part of our country as few treatises make a note of this rāgam . It should have been a suddha madhyama rāgam. It is very difficult to understand the melodic structure of this rāgam with the single phrase available.
At the same time, there existed Bibhās, almost with a similar structure but featuring prati madhyamam. This should have been much more popular than Rāmakali, as every other treatise make a note of this rāgam. The melodic structure of the prati madhyama Bibhās is almost similar to Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This prati madhyama Bibhās could have been alluded to in the Rāmakali section by Subbarāma Dīkśitar. It is emphasized here that the Rāmakali and the prati madhyama Bibhās were only mentioned in the treatises treating Hindustāni rāgā-s and the first Karnāṭaka Music text referring these rāga-s is the Anubandham or Appendix to Caturdaṇdi Prakāśikā published by Music Academy.
This could have a been period when all the three rāga-s co-existed; Rāmakali, a janyam of mēla 15 and the two Bibhās. It can be hypothesized here, Rāmakali was only practiced in North India and the prati madhyama Bibhās could have been referred as Rāmakali by Vēṅkaṭamakhin in the South (he is specifically mentioned considering the link given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar) in the South. Considering the old nomenclature, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives an additional information that Rāmakali is also called as Bibhās (See Footnote 2).
Subbarāma Dīkśitar mentions more than a time that Vēṅkaṭamakhin has authored another text dealing with the rāga lakṣaṇa. If we go by his words, that missing text could have been composed in the second half of 17 CE, the time when majority of the texts mentioning prati madhyama Bibhās were composed. Either Rāmakali or prati madhyama Bibhās or both of them could have been mentioned there.
Śuddha madhyama Bibhās could have flourished earlier or more popular than its prati madhyama counterpart in the South. This tradition later continues to Śāhāji and Tulajā wherein they have made a mention only about śuddha madhyama Bibhās. Not all the lakṣaṇa granthā-s are comprehensive in cataloguing the rāga-s prevalent during their time; hence Rāmakali could have been missed by Śāhāji and Tulajā (See Footnote 3).
Having seen the history and lakṣaṇa of Rāmakali and its ally Bibhās with its variations, an attempt will be made now to address the question on the use of prati madhyamam in this rāgam. As mentioned, the only evidence of using prati madhyamam comes from Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The problem in use of this svaram arise not because of this rāgam being considered as a janyam of mēla 15, but only due to lack of a symbol denoting this svaram in the notation provided.

Rāmakali, being a janyam of mela 15 has śuddha madhyamam as a default svaram, and the anya svaram prati madhyamam is to be denoted with a symbol. This is the system followed by Dīkṣitar in his treatise for every other rāgam having an anya svaram. Strangely, despite using a symbol to denote this anya svaram (prati madhyamam) in the section wherein this rāgam is described, the notation system totally lacks this symbol. A question arises on the use of prati madhyamam and we are left with three interpretations – either to use śuddha madhyamam completely as this is a janya of Māyāmālavagaula (which takes only śuddha madhyamam) or to use prati madhyamam alone as he says it is customary to use only prati madhyamam or to use prati madhyamam only in the phrases DMPG, DPMG, MGDPMG and DPMG, as he has inserted the symbol to denote prati madhyamam for these phrases under the section explaining rāga lakṣaṇam.

To get an answer to this question we need to look into two aspects – history of this rāgam and the observations and interpretations we get it by analyzing this same text. History of this rāgam was explained and it will be recalled at a later period. Now, we will look in for the evidences/observations from this text.

This kind of discrepancy between the lakṣaṇa section (section explaining rāga lakṣaṇam) and the lakṣya segment (section giving the kṛti-s in notation) exist at various other places too in this same text at various other places. When a discrepancy is seen between any two segments, for example, difference in the assignment of foreign notes between the lakṣaṇa segment and the lakṣya section, do we have to take it as a printing error (or) considering the painful scrutinizing procedures followed and the various methods adopted to overcome these errors, these are to be taken as the actual ideas of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar himself? (Readers are requested to refer tappōppalu and porabāṭalu section explained elsewhere in this article).

Considering the above discussion, a student who tries to interpret this treatise is thus left with two options – first one is to believe these discrepancies as an inadvertent errors and tries to reconcile the errors with his level of knowledge and understanding. Second one is to accept as it is, confidently believing in Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and his sagacious grasp over the subject.   Both the options are acceptable as any research is open to interpretations. For this author, second approach appears to suit well as we are totally blind about the traditions that prevailed in the past, say around 200 years ago, and by following this approach, the individual fancies and inclinations of the researcher are kept to a bare minimum; it is more like an untainted aural reproduction of the visual representation. The second approach is also followed as this author believes the complete text is protected by the two sections mentioned.  errors could have crept in, but they are unfathomable to us.

When interpreting the notations given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it is not only required to understand the context, but also develop an ability to relate other segments or rāgam-s given in this text. Now, let us go away from Rāmakali for a while and try to understand the lakṣaṇa of the rāga-s Ghanṭa and Sāvēri. Let us see an unseen similarity between these three rāga-s and how this can be used to solve the problem related to the madhyamam. Ghanṭa, now is a bhāṣāṅga janyam of mēla 8 and uses two varieties of ṛṣabham – śuddha and catuśruti (pañcaśruti). Subbarāma Dīkṣitar consider this as an upāṅga janyam of mela 20 and recommends the use of catuśruti ṛṣabham only. He clearly says the use of śuddha ṛṣabham came into practice only after the demise of Vēṅkaṭamakhin. Though he give phrases in the lakṣaṇa section wherein śuddha ṛṣabham is used, he never gives the symbol to denote the use of śuddha ṛṣabham in the notation (lakṣya section). This is exactly similar to Rāmakali, wherein he says only prati madhyamam is used as per the tradition in the lakṣaṇa section but fail to use the symbol for prati madhyamam in notation. This is clearly an indication that this text is filled with many abstruse details and these disparateness cannot be dismissed or neglected as a printing error for the lack of understanding on our side. To understand more, let us see the rāgam Sāvēri. Sāvēri is placed under the mēla 15, as a bhāṣāṅga janyam, implying it takes some anya svaram. Going by the normal rules, this should take antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar says the common gāndhāram and niṣādham seen in this rāgam are sādharaṇa and kaiśiki respectively and he will give the symbols only for antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham whenever they occur (svagīya svaram or default svaram in this rāgam). This is the only rāgam in the entire treatise, wherein symbols are given for the default svaram (See Footnote 4). This pattern is followed since, if we need to mark the anya svaram in this ragam, namely sādharaṇa gāndhāram and kaiśiki niṣādham, the entire notation will be filled with these symbols as the default antara gāndhāram and kākali niṣādham occur very very rarely. This looks not only cumbersome but also could have been posed difficulties while printing.

Let us go back to Ghanṭā and Rāmakali. Though the discrepancies seen between the lakṣaṇa and lakṣya section is similar in both the rāga-s as pointed out earlier, they are introduced differently by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and this is very vital for understanding any rāgam and employing a particular svaram – dhaivatam and madhyamam respectively in these rāgam. Whereas Ghanṭā is introduced as an upāṅga rāgam, Rāmakali is introduced as a bhāṣāṅga rāgam. If Rāmakali is to be used only with śuddha madhyamam and the use of prati madhyamam was introduced later, he could have tagged it as an upāṅga rāgam like Ghanṭā.

Hence we can surmise, either prati madhyamam alone can be used or a combination of śuddha and prati madhyamam can be used. Rāmakali share similarities with Sāveri and the method adopted for the latter is followed with the former for marking the anya svaram. Though the default svaram is śuddha madhyamam, it was a tradition to use only prati madhyamam is reminded again. If this rāga had both the madhyamam and the anya svaram prati madhyamam is the preponderant svaram, he would have marked the default svaram śuddha madhyamam with a symbol and given us a note (compare this with Sāvēri). But this rāgam, unlike Sāvēri, does not use its svagīya svaram – śuddha madhyamam and hence he didn’t mark madhyamam with any symbol in the lakṣya section allowing us to interpret this rāgam can be/to be sung with prati madhyamam only.

This finding can now be related with the history of this rāgam. We have seen Rāmakali was popular in the North and being recorded only in few treatises, indicate its limited popularity. We have also seen that the Rāmakali given in Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī resembles more like prati madhyama Bibhās. This Bibhās could have been called as Rāmakali in the South. So, the Rāmakali of the North, a śuddha madhyamam rāgam, though similar to prati madhyama Bibhās, is different from the Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The Rāmakali described by Subbarāma Dikṣitar is similar or could have been the same as the prati madhyama Bibhās. Hence, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives a disclaimer it is customary to sing this with prati madhyamam.

Now an explanation is invited for placing this rāgam under mēla 15. No conclusive explanations can be given until we get the treatise referred by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. However, this can be a rāgam similar to Dhanyāsi, getting allocated to a different mēla than where it ought to be.

Rāgamālika passages in the anubandham of Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī

Apart from the kṛti discussed, we see this rāgam in two rāgamālika-s, “sāmaja gamana” and “nātakādi vidyāla” composed by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar. We face a different problem with the Rāmakali lakṣya in these rāgamālika passages. In both the rāgamālika segments, prati madhyamam symbol is inserted, but at only one place.

Rāmakali passage in the rāgamālika “nātakādi vidyāla”

This rāgam comes at the end of this composition. Madhyamam is utilized in the following phrases – DPMG,DPPMG, MGPD and GMGRS. First phrase is the most common of all. The madhyamam in all these phrases are of śuddha variety only. Prati madhyamam is seen once in the phrase DPMG.  Interestingly, we see a new phrase SNSRS. This phrase SNS is not at all seen in the uruppaḍi-s featured under Rāmakali section. Also, the glide from avarōhaṇam to ārōhaṇam is always through the phrase DPMG in this rāgamālika. Phrases like PDM DMPG were not used (which are there in the Rāmakali section given in the main text). Now, can we hypothesize the Rāmakali seen in this rāgamālika is different from the Rāmakali described in the main text? If that is so, can this be the Rāmakali of the North, a janya of mēla 15 ?

We have seen before the Rāmakali of the North much resembles the prati madhyama Bibhās except in having a śuddha madhyamam (as a dominant svaram). So, the difference between these two rāga-s could have been the presence of the phrase SNS and the absence of the phrases PDM and DMPG in the Rāmakali of the North. This Rāmakali might also have had prati madhyamam as an anya svaram. To distinguish this Rāmakali (of North) from another Rāmakali (prati madhyama Bibhās), Subbarāma Dīkṣitar might have given an additional information that the Rāmakali given by him is also called as Bibhās. This hypothesis can be confirmed only if we get the text referred by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar or any other treatise or references taking us to the period between 16-17 CE.

Rāmakali passage in the rāgamālika “sāmaja gamana”

Rāmakali passage in this rāgamālika is very short to make any conclusions. The passage starts with the phrase MGGP, where the madhyamam is of tīvra variety. Madhyamam occur in two other phrases – DPMG and DPPMG, wherein it is of śuddha variety.

Though the phrase SNS is not seen, DPMG is the only linking phrase between avarōhaṇam and ārōhaṇam is to be noted.

With the present level of understanding, these are recondite findings and we need to search for more evidence.

But, Rāmakali employing only prati madhyamam can be very well applied for the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” as both the laskṣaṇa segment and this kṛti was authored by Subbarāma Dīkśitar. Regarding the use of prati madhyamam in the rāgam Rāmakali before the time of Subbarāma Dikṣitar and our hypothesis, we allow the readers to make their own interpretations and this post will be updated, if any valuable evidence surface out.


Regarding the use of prati madhyamam, though we cannot say about the system that was in existence before the period of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it can be clearly inferred that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar must have had some authentic references to use only prati madhyamam and he must have used the same in his kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”. We also hypothesized the Rāmakali handled by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar could have been Rāmakali of the North and differs from the Rāmakali mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in the main text.

This kṛti rendered with only prati madhyamam can be heard here.

Link to the first part of this series –


Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgītasampradāyapradarśinī, Vidyavilasini Press, 1904.


  1. From the days of Rāmamāṭya (or Vidhyāraṇyā), mēla system is in use and the number of mēlā-s vary across the treatise. Also varies the name of the head representing each clan. Hence, in this post, whenever the older mēla-s are mentioned, they are not mentioned by their names or number, but are just equated with the present mēlakarta number for easier understanding.
  2. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar mentions Vēṅkaṭamakhin authored a separate text on rāga lakṣaṇam. We have no clue about that work and musicologists are of the opinion that the Anubandham to Caturdanḍi Prakāśikā might be the work, as it contains the same rāga lakṣaṇa śloka-s mentioned by Dīkśitar in his treatise. Also, they believe Dīkśitar could have referred to Muddu Vēṅkaṭamakhin, a descendant of Vēṅkaṭamakhin whenever he mentions about a text on rāga lakśaṇam. This author has a different opinion and follows the idea of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar; will be uploaded as a separate post.
  3. Not all the treatises are comprehensive in cataloguing the rāga-s of their period. We do have evidence that the rāga-s like Bēgaḍa, Aṭāṇa and Suraṭi were used by Śāhāji; but they are not mentioned in his treatise !!
  4. When a rāgam takes a svaram which is foreign to its parent scale, that foreign svaram is considered as ‘anya’. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, always mentions this anya svaram with a symbol. Only for the rāgam Sāvēri, the svara-s inherent to that rāgam are denoted with a symbol.

Composers, Raga

The ragam Ramakali and the krti “Rama rama kali kalusa”- Part I


Tanjāvūr during 16-19 CE saw an influx of exotic rāgā-s from North and the other parts of this country. The rāgā-s which had their origin somewhere else and absorbed into our system of music are called as dēśīya rāga-s and one such dēśīya rāgam to be discussed here is Rāmakali.

Today, Rāmakali is survived only with a single kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and a small passage in the rāgamālika-s “sāmaja gamana” and “nāṭakādi vidyāla” composed by Rāmasvāmy Dīkśitar. It is believed Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar was the first composer to employ these dēśīya rāga-s due to his stay in Kāśi. In reality, this composer eclipsed the achievements of his father Rāmasvāmy Dīkśitar. The latter is to be credited for using these rāga-s for the first time in our music. One can find plenty of rāga-s rāgā-s like Rāmakali, Hamvīr, Māruva, in his compositions. Though we find gītam-s in the rāga-s like Hamvīr and Māruva which can be dated to the period of Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar or slightly anterior to him, credits for including them in a kṛti must go only to Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar.

A discussion on Rāmakali gains importance due to its elusive description across the treatises, disputable authorship of the only kṛti available and the authority of using prati madhyamamm in this rāgam. This post tries to address these issues.

“Rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and its disputable authorship

Rāmakali owes its gratitude to the family of Dīkṣitar, as Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar and one of his successor gave a commendable shape to this rāgam. Going by the textual history, the first text to record this kṛti is Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Disputes on the authorship raised when this kṛti was included under Rāma navāvarṇa or Rāma vibhakti set of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in the texts published in the latter half of the last century. Interestingly, this kṛti has the mudra ‘guruguha’ and the rāga mudra ‘Rāmakali’ in the first line itself. These mudra-s along with the language in which this kṛti was composed, perhaps made the musicians to attribute this composition to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Today, excluding Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī, no other evidence exist to proclaim that this is a kṛti of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Let us take two set of evidences to fix the author of this kṛti: the first are those evidences that might have helped the musicians to attribute this kṛti to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and the second are those from the treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī itself.

Evidences that helped in assigning the authorship to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Guruguha mudra
Vāggeyakārā-s in our music sign their composition with an insignia and Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar used the śabdam ‘guruguha’. Though, it is a routine to see his compositions with this signature, we do have a couple of genuine compositions which do not feature this mudra. Contrarily, we also see some other vāggeyakārā-s using this signature. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and his son Ambi Dīkṣitar fall under this category. Out of 33 compositions of Subbarāma Dīkśitar, 10 has this mudra. The mudrā ‘guruguha’  was not only adopted by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, but also by some of his family members is to be learnt.

Rāga mudra
It is the practice of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar to lace the sāhityam with a rāga mudrā. This was followed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too, though not in all of his compositions. Punnāgagāndhārī in the Nāgagāndhārī kṛti can be cited as an example.

Language of the composition
Though Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar has primarily composed in Sanskrit, we have two of his compositions in Telugu. The reverse suits for Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, though we have only one Sanskrit composition of Subbarāma Dīksitar, Śaṅkarācāryam in Śaṅkarābharaṇam

It is clear from the above discussion that based on mudra-s or the language used in a composition, authorship of this kṛti cannot be ascertained.

Evidences from Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī

Author mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Being the author of this text, his words have the final say in arriving at a conclusion. Let us analyze this text in detail before proceeding further. Authorship of any particular composition is mentioned at two places in this treatise. First time in the beginning of this book as a table enlisting all the compositions in alphabetical order. Here, he marks the compositions of all the composers, except that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar by a star symbol. It implies any kṛti without this symbol can be taken as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.  Second time it is mentioned under the respective rāga section when a kṛti is given in notation.

Under the Rāmakali rāgam, “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha” is the only one notated kṛti and the author is mentioned as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This kṛti is also enlisted in the initial list mentioned above and here, no star symbol is given. Can this kṛti be taken as that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar?

It is always to be remembered that this text was written by an astute musician and musicologist, whose thoughts were always clear, unbiased and genuine and it is up to the researcher to interpret, from the material available. Hence, this text opens up a discussion at multiple layers and results in more than an opinion several times. Many times, it requires a careful study of an entire segment under consideration and if necessary, other parts of this text and/or older treatises to get a solution for the question in hand.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has taken efforts to avoid mistakes, advertently or inadvertently to the best of his abilities. He must have scrutinized the manuscript and corrected the errors more than once before the publication of this text. Resultant errors or the errors which cannot be corrected are taken note by giving two sections ‘tappōppalu’ and ‘porabātalu’. Whereas the first section deals with a mistake and its corresponding correction that has to be applied, the second section deals with the ways by which a mistake, that has crept in even after unfeigned preparation of the manuscript can be identified and negotiated.

Hence, to decide the authorship we need to analyze the list, Rāmakali section and the section ‘tappōppalu’. Now, we have contradictory findings between the segments: the list mention this kṛti as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar by not having the star symbol and in the segment under the rāgam Rāmakali, this is mentioned as a work of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Either list or the text under Rāmakali must suffer from a printing error and it is up to us to identify the same.

When the list was carefully analyzed, one another finding glare us. A kṛti in Kāpi ‘raṅgapate’, also lacks this symbol and this too to be taken as a composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar if we consider the symbol identification system followed by  Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. We know this is a composition of Mārgadarśi Śeśayyaṅgār, a pre trinity composer and similar to “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha”, the authorship gets corrected to Śeśayyaṅgār under the Kāpi section. This denotes the list given in the beginning is not free of mistakes. Also the section ‘tappōppalu’ covers the main text only and does not include the list. This is evident as we don’t find any corrections (‘tappōppalu’) for the content printed in this list.

All sort of corrections can be seen in the segment ‘tappōppalu’. Corrections pertaining to the use of a particular svaram or its variety, use of gamakam, errors in the sāhityam and the errors pertaining to authorship of a kṛti. For instance, author of the kṛti Śri dakśiṇāmūrtim in the rāgam Phēnadyuti is given as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar under the rāgam section; this is corrected as Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in the section ‘tappōppalu’. Hence it, is advised to see this section before interpreting a composition given under the respective rāga section. We can consider the content given under Rāmakali section completely reflects the idea of Dīkṣitar as no changes / corrections were given for the entire segment. Relying only the main text after superimposing with ‘tappōppalu’ section, as followed here is recommended as it might help solving many debatable issues.

Svara segment

Apart from using rāga and ‘guruguha’ mudra, the composing style of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar resembles that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in some other aspects too. We can see madhyama kāla passages almost in all the kṛti-s and svara passages in many kṛti-s. Some of the kṛti-s were also composed in the pallavi – anupallavi format.

The kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha” is composed in the pallavi-anupallavi format with a svara segment. This also has a madhyama kāla sāhityam. Though, at the outset the compositional style is much similar, significant difference can be seen in the pattern used in the svara segment. Before going to the Rāmakali svara segment, svara section in Māruva is explained as we have a composition by both of the composers in this rāgam.

Māruva is a bhāṣāṅga janyam of Māyamālavagaula. Both the kṛti-s Māruvakādi mālini of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Ēmamma of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are composed in the pallavi-anupallavi-svaram format. Both have madhyamakāla sāhityam and both are set to ādi tāḷam.

The svara patterns used by these composers can be easily understood from this table.

For both the kṛti-s, tāḷam is divided as 16+8+8 accounting for laghu + drutam + drutam. This svara segment run for two āvartanam.

Āvartanaṃ Segment in ādi tāḷaṃ   Māruvakādi mālini          Ēmamma

Āvartanaṃ 1

      16 segment 7+6+3 4+4+4+4
    First 8 segment 8 6+2
 Second 8 segment 5+3 4+4

Āvartanaṃ 2

      16 segment 8+3+5 3+3+4+6
    First 8 segment 8 8
 Second 8 segment 5+3 8

When we compare the svara patterns in these two kṛti-s, symmetrical svara pattern, profuse use of  laghu svara-s are more seen in ēmamma. Also attractive patterns like MGRsRND MGRsRGM are seen (small case indicates elongation of that particular svaram as a kārvai).

Attractive svara patterns are seen in almost all the kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Few examples that can cited are DdDPMG, MmPMGR, GgMGRS in the Nādarāmakriyā kṛti of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya (tuned by Subbarāma Dīkśitar) and PmMgGrRs, RmMgGrRSR in a daru in Naṭanārāyaṇi. Contrastingly, complicated laya patterns are more common and is very rare to find rhythmic pattern in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.

The number 4 and 8 are also handled differently by these composers:

In the kṛti “māruvakādi mālini”, 8 is split as 2+1+2+2+1 in the first āvartanam and 1+1+1+2+1+1+1 in the second āvartanam. Whereas in the kṛti ēmamma, it is split as 1+1+1+1 x 2 in the first and 1+1+1+2+1+1+1 in the second āvartanam. 4s are always treated as 1+1+1+1 by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in this kṛti (See Footnote 1).

These patterns can be easily discerned from the audio links.

Svara segment in the kṛti“māruvakādi mālini”

Svara segment in the kṛti “ēmamma”

The kṛti “ēmamma” can be heard  in full here.

The kriti “māruvakādi mālini” can be heard in full here.

Having seen the basic pattern handled by these two composers, let us now compare these passages with the svara passage seen in the Rāmakali kṛti.

Svara passage seen in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”

This is set to rūpaka tāḷam and has two āvartanam. 4 complete tāla cycles makes one āvartanam. Rūpaka tāḷam is reckoned as drutam + laghu, the way by which we render a rūpaka tāḷa alaṅkāram. This is divided as 4+8 units in each tāḷa cycle so that the count becomes 12. We see the following svara arrangement:

             Āvartanaṃ Tāḷa cycle Svara pattern

Āvartanaṃ 1

Tala cycle 1 (3+1) + (4+4)
Tala cycle 2 (2+2) + (2+2+2+2)
Tala cycle 3 (4) + (2+2+2+2)
Tala cycle 4 (2+2) + (2+2+4)

Āvartanaṃ 2

Tala cycle 1 (2+2) + (2+2+4)
Tala cycle 2 (2+2) + (2+2+4)
Tala cycle 3 (2+2) + (2+4+2)
Tala cycle 4 (2+2) + (4+4)

Svara segment in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”

We can see an overall symmetry and use of lot of laghu svarā-s and a svara pattern arranged in even numbers. The first āvartanam itself is weaved with a beautiful pattern. Taken together, this svara segment resemble the svara pattern seen in the kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Svara segment in the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”

Rūpaka tāḷam
The most common tāḷam handled by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is rūpakam followed by tisra ēkam. When his compositions, other than varṇā-s are taken into consideration, rūpaka tāḷa compositions outnumber others. 6 out of 12 were in rūpaka tāḷam. Among his nine rāgamālika-s, five were in rūpakam. It is reminded here, “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” is also set to the tālam rūpakam !!

A careful analysis of this text, patterns observed in the svara segment and this kṛti being set in rūpaka tāḷam make us to consider Subbarāma Dīkṣitar could have composed this kṛti.

Note on the method of rendering the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣha”  

Various renditions of this kṛti are easily available in various public domains. We frequently hear this kṛti rendered in Hindustāni style, perhaps due to the roots of this rāgam in the Hindustāni syatem and a popular belief that it was composed by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Having revisited these thoughts and arriving at a conclusion which is contrary to the belief, at least, few of us will be interested to know the rāgam as conceptualized by Subbarāma Dīkśitar.  Analysis of the notations reveal, almost all the variety of gamaka-s were used – kaṃpitam, nokku, ōrika and jāru. The preponderance of jāru is not seen, making us to believe this can be sung in our style. Also, no instruction regarding the style for this kṛti was attached. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, being precise in his views would have mentioned the same if his intent was to render it in Hindustāni style . Hence, a humble attempt was made to render this composition in our style.

Research in any field allows multiple interpretations and every researcher is allowed to put forward his findings for the growth of any field. These views are not proposed to controvert with the prevalent notions; rather to give a different interpretation based on the available evidences.


We started with two queries – disputes regarding the author of the kṛti “rāma rāma kali kaluṣa” and the authority of using prati madhyamam in the rāgam Rāmakali.

Available evidences make us to believe this kṛti was composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

This kṛti of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can be heard here.

The authority on treating this as a prati madhyama rāgam will be covered in part II of this series.

The rāgam Rāmakali and the kṛti “Rāma rāma kali kaluṣa”- Part II


Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgītasampradāyapradarśinī, Vidyavilasini Press, 1904.


  1. In general, we can find 1+2+1, 2+1+1 or 1+1+2 pattern more commonly than all laghu svarā-s while handling 4s in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Odd numbers are commonly used giving them a complicated and asymmetric appearance. We do have few kṛti-s wherein the pattern is simple, like the one we see in the kṛti śrī mātaḥ in Bēgaḍā; they are only exceptions. On the other kind, kṛti-s of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are flooded with all 4 laghu svarā-s and most of the svara passages sound simple.
History, Manuscripts, Notation, Personalities

Manuscripts in the possession of Sivakumar, a descendant of Tanjavur Quartette


Our music was propagated by two routes – oral and textual. Though we have a textual history of approximately 150 years recording the compositions of prominent composers, the corpus of compositions recorded by this way cannot said to be complete. Also, many compositions exist only in paper as they are not extant in the oral tradition. The converse is also true. Despite this extensive recording, many compositions have not seen the light and remain only in manuscripts and are yet to be published.

Tanjōre Quartette or Tanjai Nālvar as they are fondly called, hail from a family of rich musical heritage with their father and grandfather adorning the court of Maraṭṭa Kings. Cinnaiah (1802), Ponniah (1804), Śivānandam (1808) and Vațivēlu (1810) were born to Subbarāya Naṭṭuvanār, who was delegated to perform musical rites in Tanjāvūr Bŗhadīsvara temple. They were prodigious even at their young age and learnt the basics from their father and grandfather Gaṅgaimuttu Naṭṭuvanār.  Later they had their advanced training from Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar for a period of 7.5 years under ‘gurukulavāsam’.

We do not have exact details regarding the period of their stay with Dīkṣitar. But it can be presumed, these events could have happened during 1810-1820. Nālvar being exceptional musicians and related to a family having a hoary tradition related to classical dance, turned their focus towards Sadir (as it was called) and created a mārgaṃ, which is still followed. They have authored innumerable kṛti-s, padam-s, varņam-s, jāvaỊi-s, rāgamālikā and tillanā-s. Their compositional style for kṛti-s considerably differs from their dance compositions. It is said Nālvar has recorded their compositions and uruppaḍi-s they have learnt from Dīkṣitar in palm-leaf and paper manuscripts.

This family has given us illustrious musician-composers like Sri K Ponniah Pillai, Veena Vidvan Sri KP Śivanandam, who belong to the sixth and seventh descendant respectively from Gaṅgaimuttu Naṭṭuvanār, through the lineage of Śivanandam (of Tanjai Nālvar). These members are not only involved in the transmission and propagation of the compositions of Nālvar, but also involved in the preservation of these manuscripts.

These manuscripts are now, in the possession of Sri Śivakumār, an eight generation descendant and a proficient Veena and Violin vidvān. It is due to the persevering effort of this family, some of the unpublished compositions of Nālvar saw the light.

Paper manuscripts

Śivakumar has, in his possession several bundles of paper and palm leaf manuscripts. Though the palm-leaf manuscripts are under good condition, paper manuscripts require immediate attention.

Of the paper manuscripts available, a segment of a manuscript replete with the kṛti-s of Tanjai Nālvar and Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar are considered now. Though, the report cannot be considered as complete, this can definitely give us an idea about the repertoire of Nālvar.

As with any other manuscripts written before the advent of standardized notations, notational style is primitive; lacks a mark to identify sthāyi, anya svaram and ending of an individual āvartanam. Also, these notations do not indicate about second and third speed. Rāga names too was not mentioned for many kṛti-s. Savingly, svarasthāna and the parent mēla of the rāga are given clearly alongside the notations.

The available material can be divided into three segments based on the composer:

  1. Kṛti-s of Nālvar
  2. Kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar
  3. Others
  1. Kṛti-s of Nālvar

In the section analyzed, Guru-navaratnamālika kṛti-s are seen with notation. This set of 9 compositions was composed by Nālvar as a Guru stuti. This cannot be considered as a regular Guru stuti. Nālvar invoke their Lord Bŗhadīsvara and they are not paeans composed on their Guru.  Very few direct references to their Guru or his personality can be seen. These are to be compared and contrasted against the Guru kṛti-s composed by Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkataramaṇa Bhāgavatar and/or other disciples of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ.

Navaratnamālika of Nālvar

The following kṛti-s are held at high esteem due to the reasons mentioned above:

Māyātīta svarūpiņi – MāyāmālavagauỊa

Śrī guruguha mūrti – Bhinnaṣaḍjam

Jewel box made of Ivory gifted by Mahārājā Svāti Tirunāḷ to Vaṭivēlu Naṭṭuvanār

Sāṭilēni guruguha mūrtini – Nāța

Śrī karambu – Kanakāmbari

Sārekuni – Cāmaram

Śrī rājarājēsvari – Ramāmanōhari

Paramapāvani – VarāỊi

Sārasākși – Śailadēsākși

Nīdu pādamē – PantuvarāỊi

Two interesting observations can be made from this list. First, the rāga of the kṛti-s sāṭilēni and śrīkarambu is different from the present renditions. Now they are sung in the rāgam PūrvikaỊyāņi and Kāmbhojī respectively.  Second, all the kŗtis-s are set in the “Rāgāṅga rāgā-s” (a term equivalent to the term mēḷakarta, usually referred to the scales in the asaṃpūrṇa mēḷa system). Pantuvarāli is specifically mentioned as a rāgam with sādhāraņa gāndhāra. This is in line with the old practice of calling the present day Śubhapantuvarāli as Pantuvarāli. This was remarked by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too in his Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu.

We also can see other kṛti-s of Nālvar in other rāgāṅga raga-s namely bṛhadīśvara in Gānasāmavarāli and bhakta pālana in Phēnadyuti. This totals to 11 kṛti-s belonging to this category. This makes us to surmise that Nālvar could have composed in all the 72 rāgāṅga rāga-s following the footsteps of their Guru. It is emphasized again that the manuscript referred here represents only a portion of their collection and the entire corpus is to be analyzed to get a definitive conclusion.

Though, an in depth analysis of the version given in this manuscript and the other printed versions is to be done, namely “Tanjai Peruvudaiyān Perisai” and “Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini”, the two authentic texts which give these kṛti-s (either all or a few) in notation, preliminary analysis revealed a significant finding which is worth discussing here. The version given here for the Māyātīta svarūpiṇi is exactly the same as given in Saṃpradāya Pradarśini !! There might be subtle differences which are trivial and some allowances need to be given considering the fact we are dealing with a manuscript.

Another interesting finding is related to the kṛti, “śrī rājarājeśvari” in the rāgam Ramāmanōhari. The version given in this manuscript has phrases like PRRSNN, PNS which are not seen in both the books mentioned though the version given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar closely follows the manuscript excluding the presence of the mentioned phrases. Though, these phrases appear to be outlandish in Ramāmanōhari, they feature in a gītam notated in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This shows Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini is a veritable source to know the rāga structure of the by-gone centuries. One more noticeable feature seen in these manuscripts is the total absence of ciṭṭa svāra segment for all the kṛti-s, irrespective of the composer involved.

Three other kṛti-s found in this manuscript deserve a special mention – Sarasvati manōhari gauri, Śrī jagadīṣamanōhari and Śrī mahādēvamanohari. Rāgā-s are not marked for these compositions. The kṛti śrī mahādēvamanohari was published in the book “Tanjai Peruvudaiyān Perisai” by the descendants of Tanjai Nālvar with a slight variations in the sāhityam. Whereas their version starts as mahādēvamanohari, the manuscript adds a prefix ‘śrī’ to mahādevamanōhari. Adding ‘śrī’ satisfy the rules of prosody as anupallavi reads as ‘sōmaśekhari’. Dhātu of this composition, as given in this manuscript too give us an interesting finding. Dēvamanōhari described in the treatises belonging to 17-19 CE whose authorship is known always stress the phrase PNNS and a straight forward DNS was never accepted by them. PNNS can be seen only in the version given in these manuscripts.

Rāga of the other two kṛti-s is to be determined. Rāgam of the first kṛti can be presumed to be Gauri as Nālvar had the practice of incorporating the raga mudra in many of their sāhityam. The notation will be analyzed and updated.

Beside these kṛti-s, varṇam-s like viriboṇi and mā mohalāhiri are seen.

        2. Kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Around 90 compositions can be identified to be that of Dīkṣitar and all are available with notations. Out of these 90, 5 are unpublished. The remaining 85 can all be seen in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. As mentioned earlier, the kṛti-s seen in this small portion of the corpus cannot be considered as the complete repertoire of Nālvar. Nevertheless, 85 denotes a significant number and it is to be borne in mind that not even a single composition seen here is outside Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This shows any kṛti not mentioned in this text is always to be taken with a grain of salt.

A. Majority of the kṛti-s in the majority 85 belong to the clan of ”Rāgāṅga rāga-s”. Kṛti-s of Dīkṣitar can be seen in all the rāgāṅga rāgā-s except for ten. They include Toḍi (8), Bhinnaṣaḍjam (9), Māyamālavagaula (15), Varāli (39),  Śivapantuvarāli (45), Ramāmanōhari (52), Cāmaram (56), Niṣada (60), Gītapriyā (63), Caturaṅgiṇi (66), Kōsalam (71). It is to be remembered here that Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini too didn’t furnish the kṛti-s of Dīkṣitar in the rāga-s 9, 45, 52 and 56. Of these four, a kṛti of Ponniah (of Nālvar) was given for three rāga-s – 9, 52 and 56. Śivapantuvarāli was not awarded with any kṛti. Same pattern was followed in this manuscript too. Kṛti-s were given in order of the rāgāṅga raga. After the rāgāṅga rāga 7, we find the kṛti of Nālvar in the rāgam Bhinnașaḍjam (śrī guruguha mūrti) followed by a kṛti of Dīkṣitar viśvanātham bhajēhaṃ in the rāgāṅga rāgam Naṭābharaṇam (10). This pattern is being followed for the rest too [after Bhavānī (44), Kāśirāmakriyā (51) and Śyāmaḷā (55) we find a kṛti of Ponniah in 45, 52 and 56 followed by a kṛti of Dīkṣitar]. Blessed is Śivapantuvarāli to have a kṛti of Nālvar in this manuscript. This raises a doubt on the authenticity of the Dīkṣitar kṛti-s presently prevalent in the rāga-s 9, 45, 52 and 56.

It is to be accepted that we don’t find a kṛti of Dīkṣitar in others rāgāṅga rāga-s namely 15, 60, 63, 66, 70 and 71. Excluding 15 and 39, the rāga-s preceding and succeeding these left–outs do not occur in sequence. They occur haphazardly; perhaps they might have been written separately and those pages are lost. 15 is an exception here as it is seen in sequence succeeding Vasantabhairavī (14) and preceding Vegavāhini (16). Reason for māyātīta svarūpiṇi replacing śrīnāthādi is not clear. But, it could have been separately written and lost. We have another example to support this view – the kṛti bhajarē citta in Kaḷyāṇi (65) is found separately and not after Bhūṣāvati (64). We find only one kṛti in Kamalāmbā navāvaraṇam (śri kamalāmbikayā in Śaṅkarābharaṇam) and three in Navagraḥa series, namely divākaratanujam, bṛhaspate and sūryamūrte. Reason for not seeing any entry in 39 is an enigma.

B. It can be noticed, after the rāgāṅga raga 7, we see a kṛti of Ponniah in the rāga 9. Rāga 8, Tōḍi does not have any entry. Can we presume Kamalāmbike was the only kṛti composed by  Dīkyṣitar in Tōḍi before and/or during his stay in Tanjōre and due to some reasons  that  was not notated ? Either that was not known to Nālvar or that was composed by Dīkṣitar after his stay in Tanjōre ? Alternatively, was that notated separately and yet to be identified ? But not seeing a composition in such a major rāga is strange.

C. Regarding grouping a rāga under a mēla, this manuscript conforms with the grouping system followed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Āndāḷi is given under mēḷa 28 and Sāma under 29. The only exception to this is Saurāṣtram; considered as a janya of Vēgavāhini in this manuscript. This is understandable due the presence of anya svaram in this this rāgam.

D. Four kṛti-s belonging to Guruguha vibhakti kṛti-s are seen – śri guruguha mūrtē in Udayaravicandrikā, śri guruguhasya dasōham in Pūrvi, guruguhādanyam in Balahaṃsa and guruguhāya in Sama. Bhānumati, though a rāgāṅga rāgam is represented only by the kṛti ‘bṛhadambā madambā’ and not ‘guruguha svāmini’.

E. None of the kṛti-s belonging to Tyāgarāja vibhakti group can be seen. Does it mean these kṛti-s were composed after his stay in Tanjōre ?

F. Almost all the kṛti-s addressing Bṛhannayaki or Bṛhadīśvarar, notated in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini are seen here.

G. Mīnākṣi mēmudham dēhi is seen in this manuscript suggesting this kṛti must have been composed when he visited Madurai before his stay in Tanjōre.

H. Minority 5 is much more interesting. We see these compositions for the first time. They appear to be a part of Nirūpaṇam than kṛti-s. They include:

Jaya jaya gauri manōhari – 22 janyam (to be identified)

Kāmakṣi namōstute – Pāḍi

Śaranu kāmākṣi – Mēgarañjani

Manōnmaṇi bhavatutē maṅgaḷam – Mēcabauli

Śaranu śaranu mahēśa śaṅkari – Ārabhī

Of these, the first three has been mentioned by Dr Rīta Rājan in her thesis.

A reconstructed version of the Śaraṇu daru – ‘śaraṇu śaraṇu’ in the rāgam Ārabhī can heard here

I. Though, an in-depth comparison is to be done with the version given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, at the outset, can be confidently said not much difference exist between the two.

       3. Others

Other than the works of Dīkṣitar and Nālvar, we also find  padam-s of Kṣetrayya and some other kṛti-s of unknown authorship. Sri Śivakumar also possess another paper manuscript having around 300 gītam in notation. Examination of a sample showed that they are the replica of the gītam-s notated in Saṅgraha Chūḍāmaṇi. This could been written by some other member in the family.


This inventory is not complete and highlights only some important findings seen in a section of a major collection. It is believed these findings will be more helpful to the researchers and musicians alike to get an idea about the Dīkṣitar kṛti-s learnt by Nālvar. When these kṛti-s are compared with the versions given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, we can get an overall image about the melodic structure of Dīkṣitar kṛti-s in general. This might be of some help In clearing the controversies revolving around these kṛti-s. Some other points in identifying the ‘real’ Dīkṣitar kṛti too is highlighted so that these findings can be applied or recollected when we progress further and get some additional material.


I profusely thank Sri KPS Śivakumar, an eighth generation descendant belonging to the family of Nālvar and the son of Sangīta Kaḷānidhi Sri KP Śivānandam for sharing these valuable manuscripts.

Composers, Raga

Apurva raga-s handled by Tyagaraja Svamigal – Svarabhusani


Out of 600 or 700 compositions of Saint Tyāgarājā available to us, a significant fraction was composed in vinta or apūrva rāgā-s. Tyāgarājā was the first to use these rāgā-s and the source of these rāgā-s remain obscure. Saint didn’t reveal the name of these rāgā-s to his disciples. Thus, they remain a source of confusion as many kṛti-s composed in these rāgā-s has multiple lakṣaṇā-s, as transmitted by different disciple lineage. Hence, it becomes essential at least, at this point of time to collect and analyze the present available evidences, to know the lakṣaṇaṃ seen in the older versions transmitted by authentic sources. In this post, we are going to discuss few issues related to a kṛti composed in one such vinta rāgāṃ. Before going to the topic proper, a few facts are provided which are helpful in studying the kṛti-s composed in these vinta rāgā-s.

Fact 1 : Generally, rāgā-s handled by this composer can be broadly divided into three categories:

  1. Rāgā-s mentioned in the earlier musical treatises and popular during his time like Nāṭa
  2. Rāgā-s not mentioned in the earlier musical treatises but popular during his time like Begaḍa.
  3. Rāgā-s seen in relatively later treatises (like Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sāraṃ, Saṅgraha Chūḍāmaṇi etc) or created by him like Kāpi nārāyaṇi.

Fact 2 : Tyāgarājā didn’t reveal the name of these apūrva rāgā-s to his disciples. This is an important fact as the name that we hear today or see today in various texts were named either by his disciples or by musicians of the gone century. 1

Fact 3 : When the composer himself has not revealed the name of these rāgā-s , it is illogical to say that Tyāgarājā has composed in the rāgā-s seen in the treatise Saṅgraha Chūḍāmaṇi of Gōvinda. This point will be emphasized in future posts too.

Fact 4 : The main difference between the earlier musical treatises (treatises composed till Sangīta Sārāmṛtā, dated approximately to 1735, like Sangīta Sudhā , Catuṛdanḍi Prakāśika etc) and the later ones (like Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sāraṃ (SSS), Saṅgraha Chūḍāmaṇi (SC) etc) lies in the way in which a particular rāgā was handled. Whereas in the former treatises, each rāgā was explained by the phrases they take, latter treatises explain by giving a scale – ārohaṇa and avarōhaṇa. In some, we find a lakśaṇa gītaṃ. Hence, a rāgaṃ is visualized as an synthetic entity which strictly obeys its scale by the proponents of the later treatises; whereas the proponents of the earlier treatises view these rāgā-s as an organic structure which cannot be explained by a scale always.

Fact 5 : Rāgā-s that we come to know by SSS and/or SC is not a complete list; they are just a sample. We have got many manuscripts preserved carefully in various libraries waiting to confuse us. The point that this author tries to establish by quoting this point is, a rāgā can have multiple scales, depending on the author who writes the treatise. A rāgā which is placed under a particular mēḷā could have been placed under a different mēḷā by a different author. Also, a rāgā with a similar set of svarā-s could have been called by a different name by various authors.

Fact 6 : Unless, we see the notation, it is not advisable to get carried away by the rāgā name alone (see Fact 5).

With this basic understanding, we shall move to the post “Varadaraja ninnu kori”.

This is a relatively rare kṛti composed on the Lord Varadarājā of Kāñcipuram. This is believed to have been composed by the Saint during his sojourn to holy places like Kāñcipuram, Tirupati etc. Much about this composition has been mentioned in another relevant article in this site. This article will focus on the history of this rāgaṃ with a special emphasis on Vālājāpet notations.

Svarabhūṣaṇi in treatises and texts

Svarabhūṣaṇi belongs to the third category in the classification mentioned above. Strangely, it is not mentioned in SSS or SC. Hence, it must be in some treatise which is yet to be discovered or it can be a creation of the Saint itself.

It is one kṛti of the Saint which is not frequently seen in the texts published in the last century. First text to link the rāgaṃ with this kṛti is “Oriental Music in European Notation”, published by Sri AM Chinnasvāmy Mudaliyār (AMC) in 18932 (see figure 1) . He tried to collect and record the authentic versions and kṛti-s of Tyāgarājā and hence approached one of his direct disciple, Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar (VKB). His versions were cross checked with other disciples of the Saint and what we see today is the version approved by more than musician excluding VKB. Though, this kṛti is not notated here, we clearly see for the first time, the rāgā for this kṛti is mentioned as Svarabhūsaṇi, a janya of mēḷā 22. Later this rāgaṃ placed under mēḷa 22 can be seen in various texts including Nathamuni Panḍitar’s Saṅgīta Svara Prastāra Sāgaraṃ published in 1914.

It is to be pointed here we are really clueless on who named this rāgaṃ as it is not seen in any treatises that are presently available to us. But, it can be safely said that the rāgaṃ of this composition is a janyam of mēḷā 22 and is much different from its allied rāga Dēvamanōhari. The musicians who worked with AMC and AMC were well aware of Dēvamanōhari. Listing of few kṛti-s of the Saint under Dēvamanōhari and notating a composition of Gōpāla Krṣṇa Bhārati in Dēvamanōhari in the same book proves the same.

From what we have seen till now, it can be summarized Tyāgarājā has not revealed the name of any of the apūrva rāgā used by him. Some unknown musician has named it as Svarabhūṣani. AMC, who was in search of the authentic compositions and versions of the Saint, accepted this as such.


Fig1 : This shows the index of kritis published in Oriental Music in European Notation (1893) by AM Chinnasamy Mudaliyar. Varadaraja ninnu kori can be seen here with the ragam mentioned as Svarabhushani, a janya of mela 22.

Svarabhūṣaṇi and Varadarāja ninnu kori in manuscripts

Though, efforts have been made from late 1800s to record our music in the form of printed texts, several material remain unknown in manuscripts and they exist as a private collection. A study of these manuscripts is a must as they give a broader picture of the issue in hand.

It is quite rare to find this kṛti in manuscripts too. This shows that this kṛti was not learnt by many disciples and this should have been in the repertoire of only very few. Vālājāpet Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar was one amongst them to learn this directly from the Saint.

Let us now see few manuscripts which make a mention about this kṛti.

Manuscript 1

Dr V Rāghavan, in a paper published in the Journal of Music Academy mentioned about the discrepancies in allotting a particular rāgā name to a particular kṛti (of Tyāgarājā). He has presented a paper based on a palm leaf manuscript which he had in his possession. This kṛti find its presence there and the rāgā of this kṛti is mentioned as Śāradhābharaṇaṃ, a janya of mēḷa 34, Vāgadhīṣvari. We are totally unaware of the musical structure as notation was not provided in the paper. 3

Manuscript 2

A manuscript by one Bālasubraḥmaṇya Ayyar, written in the year 1922 says the rāgaṃ of this kṛti as Svarabhūṣaṇi. Notation is provided.

 Manuscript 3

A granta manuscript in the collection of Late, Srivanchiyam Sri Ramachandra Ayyar says the rāgaṃ of this kṛti as Śāradhābharaṇaṃ. Again, notation is not provided.

Manuscript 4

A manuscript written by Vīṇa Kuppaier mentions this kṛti. Unfortunately, rāgā name was not mentioned and notation too was not provided.

Manuscript 5

Vālājāpet notations mention as Svarabhūṣani.

From the study of manuscripts, it becomes clear that there was confusion in the rāgā of this kṛti. Two different sources saying the rāgā as Śāradhābharaṇaṃ is an issue to ponder. Also, two different sources ascribing this kṛti to Svarabhūṣaṇi also validates the musical structure, where in the rāgā takes the svarā-s of mēḷa 22. Unless, we get a manuscript or text which gives the version in Śāradhābharaṇaṃ, we cannot come to a conclusion that Śāradhābharaṇaṃ and Svarabhūṣaṇi are two different versions (See fact 4).


Svarabhūṣaṇi – its scale

To the best knowledge of this author, Saṅgīta Candrikai of Māṇikka Mudaliyār, published in the year 1902 is the first printed text to mention the scale of this rāgaṃ as SGMPDNS  SNDPMRS, placing it under the mēḷa 22. The two manuscripts mentioned above (manuscript 2 and 5) give the same scale. Vālājāpet notations give additional information that this takes the notes of Kharaharapriya.

Earlier texts and manuscripts are uniform in their opinion that this is a janyaṃ of Kharaharapriya and the scale can be taken as SGMPDNS   SNDPMRS.

Varadarāja ninnu kōri – Vālājāpet version

Vālājāpet manuscripts form an important source to understand the kṛti-s of Saint Tyāgarājā. These manuscripts were written by Vālājāpet Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar (VVB) and his son Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar. It is even said Tyāgarājā could have seen this as they were recorded during his life time.4 These notations were preserved at Madurai Sourāṣtra Sabha and the transcripts are available in GOML, Chennai. Few of these transcripts can be accessed online here. These transcripts are the main source for this post.

In the absence of first hand records made by Tyāgarājā, these notations form a very valuable and authentic source to understand the version learnt by his prime disciple Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar.

In the notations, it is mentioned as Svarabhūṣaṇi with the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMRS. This scale is much adhered to in the version given.

Pallavi starts from dhaivataṃ, reaches madhya ṣaḍjaṃ and goes to gāndhāraṃ as DPMRSGMP. This clearly shows the rāga lakshaṇaṃ without any ambiguity. Anupallavi again starts from dhaivataṃ, but here proceed upwards and reaches tāra ṣaḍjaṃ. From here again reaches tāra gāndhāraṃ. The intelligent use of dhaivataṃ as a graha svaram and careful emphasis on the scale gives a melodic structure much different from Dēvamanōhari. Nowhere we find the phrase NDNS in this version. It is only DNS.

Caraṇaṃ has something interesting to say. It has got an additional line “maruḍu śiggu chē manḍarāḍaṭa”.

This is not seen in any of the versions recorded – either oral or textual. Interestingly, this additional line is seen in the manuscripts of Vīṇa Kuppaier!! Knowing the association between VVB and Vīṇa Kuppaier, this line adds authenticity to this version.

But, in the manuscripts of Vīṇa Kuppaier, there is a slight change in the sāhityaṃ. It reads as “maruḍu  śiggu  chē    munḍararāḍaṭa”.    This was the correction mentioned by Ravi too (See another article on this topic in this site).

Errors like this where there is a replacement of one syllable to another is much common in manuscripts. They are not the printed texts which are proof-read several times before publication (even they are prone to errors!!) What we see now, the transcripts are the genuine duplicates of the manuscripts preserved at Madurai Sabhā. The scribe, when trying to duplicate the contents from manuscripts could have made this error involuntarily. In this case, except that syllable, absolute concordance is seen between the two manuscripts under consideration. An unbiased researcher who is accustomed in reading the manuscripts will never judge the authenticity of the composition or the source which gives this composition based on the errors of this magnitude.


Let us now see the importance of this additional line. Caraṇaṃ with the additional line is represented below:

varagiri vaikuṇṭha maṭa      varṇiṃpa taramukāḍaṭa

maruḍu śiggu chē  man      ḍarāḍaṭa – nir       (munḍararāḍaṭa)

-jarulanu tārakamulalō        candrudai merayuḍu vaṭa

vara tyāgarāja nuta             garuḍa sēva jūḍa srī


‘Ra’ is used as dvitīyākśara prāsaṃ in this caraṇaṃ. When it is sung in rūpaka tāḷaṃ (catusra rūpakaṃ), each tāḷa cycle ends with maṭa, dhaṭa, man, nir, mulalō, vaṭa, nuta and juḍa. Hence each āvartanaṃ starts with a word which has ‘ra´ as its second syllable. Totally, we get 8 tāḷa āvartanaṃ only due to the presence of this additional line. In the commonly heard versions, if sung in rūpakaṃ, runs only for 6 āvartanaṃ!! Also, ‘nir’ is pushed to previous āvartanam to be in accordance with the rules of prosody.

Hence, this line must have been an integral part of this kṛti known only to the disciples learnt directly from the composer and singing without this line is an aberration.


Here is the link to Vālājāpet version of this kṛti.


A note on the version by Sri Bālasubraḥmaṇya Ayyar

No detail can be collected about this musician. The version given by him is much in line with the version that we hear starting in tāra saḍjaṃ, though differences exist. A ciṭṭa svara passage is too seen. Additional line seen in the two manuscripts mentioned above is missing. This version too does not sound like Dēvamanōhari. Needless to say, the version given here is much different from that of Vālājāpet version.



The following are “take-home” messages from this post:

Our music is transmitted very well through both textual and oral tradition. In the absence of one, the other is to be taken into consideration. A wise researcher will never neglect an evidence gained through one source when the other one is unaware of the same. Oral renditions and the available texts are only samples to show what was sung in he past. Voice of many musicians were not recorded and the knowledge of many researchers remain unpublished. If we get an additional evidence from unpublished source, that should be analysed and digested. This an only be considered as a true research. In this case, Valajapet versions were in the dark for many years.  When the notations adhere well to the scale, it should be accepted as  an old version. This will be explained more in further posts too.

“Varadarāja ninnu kōri” was composed in a rāgaṃ which takes the svarā-s of mēḷa 22. (till we get an evidence from other authentic source saying it as Śāradhābharaṇaṃ or something else).

It is better to call this rāgaṃ as Svarabhūṣaṇi as it is the name seen in one of the earlier texts published (as gleaned from the available evidence) and no other rāgaṃ exist with that name.

We don’t have any textual tradition to call it as Dēvamanōhari. Even oral traditions call it as Svarabhūṣaṇi, though versions differ. Older version like Vālājāpet notations gives us the real lakṣaṇaṃ of a rāgaṃ like this. Svarabhūṣani had a distinct melody which can be best experienced by listening to Vālājāpet version.

The additional line, seen in Vālājāpet version and manuscript of Vīṇa Kuppaier is integral to this composition. That line is to be included to make this kṛti a complete one.

Vālājāpet notations help us to know about the authentic versions learnt by VVB, directly from the Saint and solve many issues pertaining to the rāga lakṣaṇaṃ of vinta rāgā-s like this.

This example also highlights the importance of collecting and analyzing unpublished manuscripts to understand the rāgā-s handled by the Saint.



I like to thank Sri V Sriram, Secretary, Music Academy for allowing me to peruse the manuscript of Sri Balasubrahmanya Ayyar preserved at Music Academy library.

I thank Srivanchiyam Sri Chandrasekar, son of Srivanchiyam Sri Ramachandra Ayyar for sharing the rare manuscripts collected and preserved by his father.

I thank Sri Ravi Rajagopal for taking efforts to correct the error in sāhityam seen in the additional line .



  1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Pg 129. Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905.
  2. Chinnasvāmy Mudaliyār. Oriental Music in European Notation. Ave Maria Press, Madras,1893.
  3. Raghavan V. Two manuscript of Tyagaraja Songs. Journal of Music Academy. 1947: Pg 142.
  4. Sāmbamurti P. The Walajapet manuscripts. Journal of Music Academy. 1947: Pg 114-129.


History, Repertoire

The Quest for the true melodic contours of Tyagaraja’s “varadarAja ninnEkOri”



The raga names and their associated melodic contour for Tyagaraja’s compositions, from a theoretical framework can be assessed by referring to the Sangraha Cudamani attributed to Govinda and to the Andhra edition of a manuscript called Ragalakshanam. The date of Sangraha Cudamani is not without controversy though. Votaries of the Sangraha Cudamani advance the argument that the work is antecedent to Tyagaraja and he composed and assigned ragas only using this treatise.  There are those who cogently put forth reasoned arguments that the Sangraha Cudamani is neither authoritative nor is it dateable atleast to the times of Tyagaraja. There are others who advocate the theory that Tyagaraja had a set of inherited ‘scale dictionaries’ through Vina Kalahasti Ayya and others (‘Katakamus’) which he then breathed life into as ragas. We have seen much of these in previous blog posts in this series. Leaving aside the question as to the authenticity and whether Sangraha Cudamani is ex post or ex ante to Tyagaraja’s life time, for us at the least it serves a useful reference or a lexicon for us to determine the true melody of Tyagaraja’s compositions.

 While assessing the correct melody of a Tyagaraja composition, though we can rely on the oral traditions – such as the primary sishya paramparas- we still have two important problems.

  1. It is very much discernible from history that Tyagaraja did not assign or disclose the name of the raga of a composition, when he taught it to his students. Therefore, in quite a few instances the different sishya paramparas held different raga names and/or different melodic contour for the same composition.
  2. The second issue is that outside of the sishya paramparas, early publishers of Tyagaraja’s compositions (1870-1920) gave the raga name/description simply as ‘apuroopam’ meaning rare for melodies which were uncommon or not discernible with certainty by them/at that point in time for quite a few of his compositions.

Doubts have been expressed about the correct raga and or /raga lakshana of many Tyagaraja compositions which have remained unresolved and unsettled for many different reasons till date. Examples include the popular as well the rare ones such as ‘nAdatanumanisam’, ‘sItamma mAyamma’& ‘nEnendhu vEdakudhurA’ on one hand and ‘nannu kanna talli’ and ‘prAnanAtha’ on the other to name a few. Our quest to identify the correct raga /melodic contour of compositions becomes severe in the case of compositions which are:

  1. Not much in currency
  2. In uncommon ragas
  3. In ragas not found described in the Sangraha Cudamani and also if many of the late 19th century and early 20th century publications do not offer much clue.

Paucity of systematic musicological research, proper tabulation/classification and scientific analysis of data/information have ensured that we have never gotten to certainty or truth on these questions. In this series of blog posts, we have looked at some of these compositions and with available data attempted to piece together a credible case for a particular raga as being the one in which Tyagaraja might have possibly composed a particular piece.

The composition ‘varadarAja ninnukOri’ set apparently to a raga called SvarabhUshani is a case in point and we will look at it in this blog post.


Let’s first look at the history and other aspects of the composition ‘varadarAja ninnukOrI’. Though Tyagaraja was apparently not an itinerant composer in the mould of Muthusvami Dikshitar, he reportedly did undertake a few journeys/pilgrimages to places away from Tiruvaiyyaru during his life time. His biographers including Prof Sambamoorthi and others based on his compositions/internal evidence, accounts of his disciples and such other collateral information, aver that he visited places like Srirangam, Nagapattinam, Tiruvottiyur, Kovur, Tirupati & Kancipuram. In fact, musical historians based on the kritis also advance the view that the following four deities, have been sung upon by every member of our Trinity

  1. Lord Varadaraja at Kancipuram
  2. Goddess Kamakshi at Kancipuram
  3. Goddess Nilayathaksi at Nagapattinam
  4. Goddess Dharmasamvardhini at Tiruvaiyyaru

Taking the case of Lord Varadaraja at Kancipuram, while Dikshitar composed ‘varadarAja avAva’ in Gangatarangini and Syama Sastri is said to have composed the Anandabhairavi varnam ‘sami nI rammanavE’ on Lord Vardaraja, Tyagaraja is said to have composed two compositions on Him:

  1. ‘varadarAja nine kOri’ in raga SvarabhUshani – rupaka tAlA
  2. ‘varada navanItAsha’ in raga rAgapanjaram- misra cApu tAlA

Standard texts of Tyagaraja’s compositions such as T S Parthasarathy’s give the text of ‘varadaraja ninnukori’, our subject matter composition as under:


varadarAja ninnu kOri vacciti mrokkErA


surulu munulu bhUsurulu cuTTi cuTTi sEvince


varagiri vaikuNTha maTa varNimpa daramugAdaTa nirjarulanu
tArakamulalO candruDai merayaduvaTa vara tyAgarAjanuta garuDasEva jUDa


Dr. V Raghavan’s Index of Tyagaraja’s compositions has an entry for this piece based on its availability in the records of Chinnasvami Mudaliar/Walajapet manuscripts and that of Rangaramanuja Ayyangar. The raga name is given as Svarabhushanl. As pointed out earlier none of the lexicons of Tyagaraja’s songs namely Sangraha Cudamani or the Andhra text of the Ragalakshanam or the Tamil text Mahabharata Cudamani makes a mention of a raga by this name or the scale under the 22 mela. Again only 20th century listings of ragas make a mention of Svarabhushani with the varying arohana/avarohana kramas under mela 22. They do not have any prior authority whatsoever other than their very own which makes the raga a suspect for being tagged to a composition of Tyagaraja. This name is first documented in Nadamuni Panditar’s Svaraprastara Sagaram, circa 1914. And modern publications assign this raga name to the composition as Svarabhushani/Svarabhushini under mela 22 with SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS as the nominal arohana/avarohana.

It needs to be pointed out that mere mention of raga names in older manuscripts by itself does not confer legitimacy for ascribing a particular melody in the case of assigning that to Tyagaraja’s compositions. The learned critic of the last century Sri K V Ramachandran, records that Walajapet Ramasvami Bhagavathar Bhagavathar the scion of the authentic Walajapet line of sishyas confided to him that the raga names assigned in manuscripts were sourced from questionable sources without scrutiny ( “Apurva Ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs”. – 1950 JMA XXI pp109)

With not much inputs available to us from a textual history standpoint beyond this, we move over to the oral tradition to determine the true melodic svarupa/contours of this raga and that of the composition.


Vidvan S Rajam's depiction of the garudaseva which Tyagaraja refers in this composition
Vidvan S Rajam’s depiction of the garudaseva which Tyagaraja refers in this composition

Unfortunately, even here we do not have renderings of this composition from stalwarts of the previous century and hence the composition falls into the rare category. We have an account of Dr S Rajam narrating that Kancipuram Naina Pillai used to beautifully render this composition. But we do not have a recording of Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda, who learnt from him, rendering this composition. Similarly though it is known that Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao had been heard singing this composition, the composition has not been known to be sung popularly.

However, we do have a record of Vidvan Madurai Somasundaram who had his tutelage under Chittoor Subramanya Pillai, rendering this composition. Let’s first hear out his version of ‘varadarAja ninnukOri’.

Watch the video of the garuda seva of Lord Varadaraja with Vidvan Somu’s rendering as the sound track.

Vidvan Somu’s rendering ( Video with footage of Lord Varadaraja’s Garuda seva)

Its fortuitous that he renders svaras for this composition @ vara tyAgarAja, providing additional insights for us. But first if we were look at the opening bars of the composition that he renders and then the reminder of the composition, it’s very obvious that:


  1. The raga is sampurna having all svaras of the mela 22 having SNDP, PMGRS and SRS, SGRS and SGMPDNS
  2. He does not render the carana line “nirjarulanu tArakamulalO candruDai merayaduvaTa”.
  3. His articulation of the mettu/music of the sahitya ‘vacciti’ of the Pallavi line or the ‘daramugAdata’ is not clear at all, which could have thrown light on the purvanga prayoga, whether it is SRGMP or SGMP.
  4. While he rounds up the pallavi rendering between 0.47 to 0.52, he lends a touch of Anandabhairavi suggesting SGRGM.
  5. Similarly, in the tAra stayi uttaranga sancharas at ‘cutti cutti’ or ‘garuda sEva’ is clearly suggestive only of SRS or SGRS.   And in the svarakalpana he renders SGMP (an oscillated gandhara much like in Anandabhairavi) in the madhya sthayi and again SGRS in the tAra sthayi.

Leaving aside other factors, his rendering enables us to place the contours of this raga as per his pAtham as under:

                                         Arohana krama:     S G R G M P D N S

                                         Avarohana krama: S N D P M G R S

In other words, the melody he paints is a raga of mela 22 with a vakra gandhara in the arohana and a krama sampurna avarohana, without any anya svaras.

Now with this first version of the composition let us move to the next one presented by Sangita Kalanidhi M S Gopalakrishnan. The source of his pAtham of the composition is unknown.

The following points emerge from his presentation.

  1. His version stands out for the use of the oscillated sadharana gandhara through the “GMR” prayoga, a staple of the Kapi/Kanada family. SGMP also occurs which impart the Devagandharam flavour to the alapana.
  2. In the kriti rendering as well he uses the GMRS. Attention is invited to the pallavi closing ahead of the anupallavi commencement and the tAra sthAyi at the anupallavi sahitya section ‘cutti cutti’.
  3. SNDP is the way the pallavi begins. GMPDNS and such other prayogas native to the 22 mela occur otherwise. MRS or GMRS is the way the avarohana krama progresses as is obvious from the svara kalpana as well.

 In sum, this version of the raga and the kriti as painted by the violin virtuoso, provides us the melodic contours as:

            Arohana krama :     S G M P D N S

                                            Avarohana krama : S N D P M G M R S

The gandhara intoned in this version is of two types – one which occurs as GMPDNS and the other which occurs in the GMRS reminiscent of the kAnadA ang/motif native to the Kapi family. In contrast to Vidvan Madurai Somasundaram’s version, Sri MSG’s version though adopting apparently the same svara sets, imparts a different hue and color, due to the GMRS that occurs in his conception. Again, to reiterate we have no clue as to the source of Sri MSG’s pAtam and whether it has nexus to any of the main schools of Tyagaraja’s sishya parampara namely Walajapet, Umayalpuram or Tillaistanam.

We now move to the version of this composition by vocalist Vidushi Dr Vijayalakshmi Subramanian.

 Video recording from her Kshetra series concert is here.

  1. She begins with SNDP and uses SGMP for ‘vacciti’ in the pallavi. The gandhara occurring in the madhya stayi sounds like the one in Karnataka devagandharam and the tara stayi usage of GMRS at cutti cutti is the kAnada motif.
  2. Her rendering is more disjointed making the purvanga, uttaranga on one hand and the mandhara, Madhya and tara stayis on the other hand sound like different raga sets giving the impression of a misra raga rather than a cohesive/singular melody
  3. In the kalpana svara section the MRS sounds more like MGS. Her version is proximate to Sri MSG’s edition using the same svara sets. However, Sri MSG’s conception is apparently more homogenous for the ears.


In the first cut of the analysis, one can clearly say that Vidvan Somasundaram’s edition is one bucket while the editions of Sri MSG and Dr Vijayalakshmi Subramanian is clearly of the second bucket. The versions of Sri MSG as well as Smt Vijayalakshmi Subramanian suggests that present day available editions that we hear are most possibly interpretations of available notations by the individual musicians. In other words, they learnt it from text and their reproduction is constrained by the initial conditions – the fidelity and correctness of the raga, it lakshana and the notation, from the book they learnt.

There are a few initial conditions/caveats that hold true for our discussion:

  1. The raga name Svarabhushani or its melodic contours suggested by prevailing musical texts beginning with Nadamuni Panditar are of recent 20th century vintage only.
  2. This raga name does not figure in the Sangraha Cudamani. Given that Tyagaraja did not assign raga names to his compositions, the absence of the lakshana of ‘svarabUshani’ in Sangraha Cudamani makes it clear that in this case the assignment of the raga name was clearly a very late 19th century or early 20th century development at best.
  3. Using the rendering available in the public domain of a composition, it is likely that the notional mela and arohana/avarohana krama that was implicit in the melodic fabric of this Tyagaraja composition under question was perhaps determined at that point in time.
  4. A perusal of historical records particularly musical books published during late 19th century and early 20th century validates the fact that ragas which were not as popular/well known/common as Sankarabharanam, Todi, Bhairavi, Sriranjani etc couldn’t be identified by them. The publishers of these printed musical books simply left it unspecified by giving the raga name ‘apurUpam’ or ‘rare’. Such was the state of our knowledge and capability from a musical publishing standpoint. Critics of the past century like Sri K V Ramachandran in their presentations before the Music Academy highlighted the need to research and catalogue the compositions and the correct ragas thereof of Tyagaraja. (See foot note 1)
  5. Given the situation the true melodic contours of a raga of Tyagaraja’s composition can be gauged only by triangulating/reconciling the three inputs namely:
    1. available notations from authentic sources & lakshana commentary of any from Sangraha Cudamani/Andhra edition of a document called Ragalakshanam
    2. renderings of vidvans/vidushis who learnt it through the oral tradition route
    3. the internal evidence if any within the composition with minimum but plausible assumptions.
  6. There seem to be no dependable research material or proper research done on this subject, for us to rely upon. See foot note 2.


This section and the next completely reflects my view point of this entire problem. Additional facts or authentic versions if any unknown till date, if made available can potentially help in resetting our findings/conclusions. With the available data so far, the following conclusions could be drawn based on the musical material on hand.

  1. The point that the raga name ‘Svarabhushani’ is missing from the listing in Sangara Cudamani makes it clear that the raga of the composition is suspect at the very outset. Most possibly the melody of this composition is already one which is found in the Sangraha Cudamani and is not Svarabhushani.
  2. The analysis of the available recordings as that of Vidvan Somu, Sri M S Gopalakrishnan (MSG) or Smt Vijayalakshmi Subramanian(VS) do not reconcile against each other for many different reasons:
  3. The contours of the raga itself differ considerably as between Vidvan Somu and the rest.
  4. The versions of Sri MSG and Smt VS employ SGMP and PMRS which do not provide a homogenous color to the raga nor does it appear facile. The artistes seem to have learnt it from notation intoning the notes as is and thus constrained by the nature of the source and its fidelity. The contours that they paint also lack musical authority from any known musicological text.
  5. Available notations too seem to have reconciled the composition to the prescribed scale. Who assigned this composition to this scale and/or who prescribed the arohana avarohana of SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS remains cloaked in mystery. We do have texts which give SNPMGMRS as avarohana krama.
  6. Even notations appear suspect and seem to have been written down from oral tradition without having clarity of the source. For example, the available notations do not seem to prescribe gandhara in the Madhya sthayi sancaras whereas the gandhara makes it appearance in the tAra sthAyi through the GMRS phrase (e.g the sahitya.  “cutti cutti” in the anupallavi). The notation seems to have been written from a source who perhaps did not properly render the tAra stayi phrases. The kriti even with the GMRS does not seem to belong to Kapi clan ragas as well such as Karnataka Kapi or Kanada, Durbar and their ilk. The aural effect, one can feel is that the gandhara appears to have been “thrust” into this composition. Vidvan Somu’ version sadly seems to be no better on this count as well. For the moment, we may treat this point as a hypothesis and we will revisit this point in a little while, as it will prove a clincher for us in determining the “possible true raga” of ‘varadarAja ninnEkOri’.


tyagayya-1946-VNagayyaArmed with this provisional finding I embarked on getting hold of an older rendering possibly of the composition which could provide a clue as to the true raga of this composition. And help came from not from our world of classical music but from unexpected quarters.  The composition was part of the Telugu musical cinema ‘tyAgayya’ starring V Nagayya of 1945 vintage. This movie being a bio-pic of Saint Tyagaraja, featured more than 20 of the his compositions.

The entire movie can be viewed here: Movie

The musical tracks featuring Tyagaraja’s compositions are marked in the progress bar of the movie.

While serious researchers can embark on determining the pAtham of the compositions in detail along with the sahitya and attempt it match it to a specific school of Tyagaraja’s, but for the purposes of the analysis on hand, a quick & dirty summary/high level assessment tells us a number of facts:

  1. All the compositions featured in the movie are of impeccable authenticity. None can be doubted as not being of Tyagaraja’s/spurious.
  2. One can reasonably surmise that given the attention the movie could have garnered, the choices of the compositions and their version must have been of the highest order. If not, they can potentially attract adverse criticism and or reviews.
  3. The melodic constructs of the commonly heard compositions, tracks to the classical versions and no dilution could potentially be imputed to the renderings.
  4. As a caveat, it must be acknowledged that the renderings in the movie do have, what I prefer to call as ‘desi’ quality. They are not pure concert-editions and are more ‘bhajana-sampradaya’ version. And thus, here and there they sport melodic extensions or a few sangathis which may not be completely aligned to the classical lakshana of the raga. In other words, given the source (cinema), one could & should anticipate a few phrases here and there which may not be kosher from the point of view of the classical definition of the raga.

Subject to these disclaimer(s) the musical idea, skeleton or musical construct of a composition sung in this film/available in the musical track of this movie, can (in my opinion) be used as evidence/input to determine the raga contour of that composition.

Here is the Youtube track of the video of the particular song: varadarAja

The audio track of the song is given below:

The analysis of the rendering of ‘varadarAja ninnEkOri’ from the film Tyagayya reveals the following:

  1. The core melody is unquestionably the raga Devamanohari as one can hear. The elements of the raga are all there.
  2. It conforms to the 22 mela, without any gandhara. The usage of the leitmotif DNP which for example appears at “ninnEkOri’ and other places makes it obvious. We do not see any SGM or GMRS anywhere in the melodic body.
  3. The gamut of the raga in the Madhya sthayi captured by the initial sangatis of the pallavi line and the anupallavi line ‘varnimpa  taramu gAdhada’ is plain unadulterated Devamanohari.
  4. The suspect tAra sancara movements at ‘chUti chUti’ does not paint an outright R..MRS which is what I referred to as ‘dEsI’ in its presentation/intonation. I suspect that these so called prayogas could have found its way to popular/mass version of the song and thus becoming a “corrupted” version of the composition.
  5. These suspect musical expressions together with certain prayogas such as SNDP in certain sangathis can be safely isolated as ‘’subsequently injected aberrations”, for Tyagaraja could not have created his composition with questionable phrases (SNDNP and SNDP in the same breath) that too in a raga of hoary antiquity.
  6. One can safely conclude that the core musical material of the song is Devamanohari and that must have been original raga of the song.
  7. The raga of the version presented by Sri MSG and Smt VS seems very contrived and artificial and no wonder the theoretical progression of that melody SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS did not at all gain traction as the resulting melody was not homogenous. Neither do we have any other compositions in this scale today. This is an aesthetic/harmonic aspect which can only be sensed & concluded aurally.
  8. Moreover, the foregoing makes one to logically conclude that the available notation too may have been derived from a corrupted version of the composition. The film version that we saw perhaps represents a least corrupted version of the composition as available to us.
  9. Devamanohari is an old raga recorded by Tulaja and Sahaji during the early 18th century. However it is sad, but true that during the late 19th and early 20th century, the raga Devamanohari was not known to a good proportion of the public. So much so many of the publications during that period simply labelled compositions in Devamanohari as ‘apuroopam’ or rare. The available copies of these publications are mute witness today to this blissful ignorance. The famous music critic Sr K V Ramachandran laments on the very same point in his seminal lecture/research paper titled ‘Apurva Ragas of Tyagaraja’ & “Carnatic angles from a new angle’- presented in the portals of the Music Academy decades ago. He mourns that the Bard’s compositions were normalized/mutilated by teachers of music and publishers as well, to standard versions based on their own knowledge with scant respect for textual tradition.

And in this instant case, based on the available evidence and the logic that we have employed, we can conclude the possible sequence of events that came about as under:

  • The melodic construct of this composition got corrupted due to abuse or disuse making the composition rare.
  • It came to be assigned a brand-new raga name ‘Svarabushani’ by editors/teachers who perhaps were impervious of Devamanohari and/or were they never knew the true & original melody of the composition, sometime during the latter half of the 19th century/early 20th century.
  • While the mainstream 20th century musicians totally forgot the raga & the composition, it possibly survived in a corrupted form in the oral tradition such as the one captured in the movie made in 1946.
  • Later day publishers probably got only these corrupted versions to notate which meant that they retrofitted a raga name for the corrupted version, for example accommodate only the tara gandhara phrases and hence normalized the body of the melody to create a brand-new raga SGMPDNS and SNDPMRS, without rhyme or reason. This line of reasoning is not novel and has been documented/seen in compositions such as ‘nagumOmU ganalEnI”, “sOgasu jUda taramA”, “nannu kanna talli’ et al.
  • The original score of the composition being lost, the composition today appears in a famished melody which lacks textual tradition, did not gain traction or public appeal.

On the left is the cover and on the right is the relevant page of the publication ‘sangIta nunmanimAlai’ featuring the compositions of TyAgaraja, published in 1908.The right page features the text of the composition ‘evarikai avatAramEtithivO’ for which the rAga name is given as ‘apurUpam’ or rare in Tamil)
On the left is the cover and on the right is the relevant page of the publication ‘sangIta nunmanimAlai’ featuring the compositions of TyAgaraja, published in 1908.The right page features the text of the composition ‘evarikai avatAramEtithivO’ for which the rAga name is given as ‘apurUpam’ or rare in Tamil)

In the light of the reasoning as above and unless we have further credible facts to rebut, the raga of the composition can only be presumed to be in Devamanohari. And the lyrics of the composition below as available from the music track seem to be most appropriate.

వరదరాజనిన్నేకోరి వచ్చితిరామ్రొక్కేరా
varadarAja ninnE kOri vaccitira mrokkErA             (varadarAja)

సురులుమునులుభూసురులు చుట్టిచుట్టిసేవించే
surulu munulu bhUsurulU chUti chUti sEvincE    (varadarAja)

varagiri vaikunta matA varnimpa taramuga dhadA

nirjarulanu tArakalalO candrudai nErayulu vata

vara tyAgarAja nuta garuda sEva jUda srI             (varadarAja)

And much after I done this deduction I stumbled upon this presentation of the Tyagaraja composition by the scion of the Lalgudi sishya parampara of Tyagaraja, Sri G J R Krishnan.

Sri Krishnan renders the composition here in the company of Vidushi Vijayalakshmi which I have split into two parts.

Apparently in deference to tradition which assigns the raga name of Svarabhushani, at the outset the Vidvan announces the raga name as is, perhaps. But in his raga outline, the composition proper and the ensuing svarakalpana there is no doubt that the raga is Devamanohari. There is no gandhara “heard”at all, not even a trace of it anywhere in his rendering. SNDP occurs prominently both at the start of the pallavi and the anupallavi. Contrastingly the V Nagayya film edition started with PDNS. According to the pAtham of Sri G J R Krishnan, the raga’s kramA is SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS. If one were to reconcile the intonation of the gandhara and account for it, the explanation is perhaps it is so oscillated & close to rishabha.

It can also be argued that for all practical purposes the Swarabhushani in this edition is practically SRMPDNS/SNDPMRS, a gandhara varjya janya under Mela 22 with SNDNP occurring here and there. But that would beg the question ‘Does that make this raga any different from Devamanohari?’ Is there any textual authority for such a scale in our history so far?

One other version that can be considered is by Vidvan Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana given below.

The kriti rendering as well as the svaras can be dissected on the above lines and conclusions can be drawn. Again the authority for the SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS, the raga lakshana, the presence or absence of the gandhara, its intonation etc lack authority, textual or otherwise.

‘vAradarAja ninnEkOri’ is thus a classic case where in the absence of a supposed authority like Sangraha Cudamani or an authentic pAtham with considerable authority, we have struggled & are struggling to determine the contours of the raga. The presence or absence of the gandhara is the real clue but eludes a determination.

Actually, the solution to this question/struggle is rather straightforward . The raga is Devamanohari and we have to edit the available closest version of the song to the lakshana of this hoary raga, eschewing all ‘non-Devamanohari’ phrases/sangatis (particularly SNDP) and attempt to recreate a close to possibly original version.

This is the complication we have had with our tradition/past and I think we would continue with that without any resolution. In so far as this composition goes, it is my humble opinion that it was once a upon a time Devamanohari. An improperly sung Devamanohari down the line much later from the times of Tyagaraja has been legitimized over time by providing a name to it (as Svarabhushani) without any authority whatsoever with poor manuscript copying and careless publication and/or propagation causing all these dissimilar copies/versions. Some versions/pAthams included the gandhara. Some excluded it. And thus, today it speaks of the poor fidelity with which the compositions of the Saint have been transmitted over the centuries.

We also saw the similar cases of Natanarayani/Pratapavarali (how the p/S and S\p of Natanarayani morphed to PDS and SDP) and Sindhu Kannada/ Kesari/Sharavathi (how the D1/N1 morphed) in our previous blogs. The pattern keeps repeating and now these confusions are part and parcel of our tradition. We also touched upon this in the context of the previous blog on 18th century raga architecture when we dealt with Devamanohari itself.

I am atleast fortified in this aspect that this modern-day version of Vidvan G J R Krishnan stands as a solid proof that the melodic fabric of this raga is Devamanohari and not a scalar melody theoretically derived by Nadamuni Panditar decades after Tyagaraja had passed away.

I now leave this for the rumination of a discerning rasika of our music.


The story for me did not end here. Whence investigating this there were at least a couple of more problems which were potential loose ends which had to be ironed out.

  1. The prAsA concordance of the carana lyric – line starting “nIrjarulanu” was an irritant. Potentially the ‘nIr’ had to figure as the ending sahitya for the previous line/previous rupaka tala avarta. But it cannot be accommodated within the tala akshara as the previous line sahitya itself was dense enough.
  2. Coincidentally the Walajapet manuscripts had an extra line added in its running notation as marudu siggu cE mandarara Athadu”which did not make meaningful sense. See foot note 3.

What these two points meant was potentially, the original composition had 4 rupaka tAla avartas worth of sahitya which were probably left out when the manuscript was copied. And the melodic flow of the composition had to be reorganized to accommodate these lines which can be done using the running notation found in the manuscripts themselves. This sahitya as available from the Walajapet manuscripts had to be edited to mean correctly in the context of the composition as well. See foot note 4.

The revised (edited) sahitya/lyrics for the entire composition and the meaning are given below: (See foot note 5)


 వరదరాజనిన్నేకోరి వచ్చితిరామ్రొక్కేరా
varadarAja ninnE kOri vaccitira mrokkErA                  (varadarAja)

Meaning: O Varadaraja! I have come seeking you. I salute you!


సురులుమునులుభూసురులు చుట్టిచుట్టిసేవించే
surulu munulu bhUsurulU chUti chUti sEvincE            (varadarAja)

Meaning: O the one whom the Devas, rishis & denizens of the earth surround and worship.


varagiri vaikunta matA varnimpa taramuga dhadA

Hasthigiri (Kanchipuram, referred to here as the sacred giri) is considered equal to Vaikuntham and beyond all description.

మరుడుసిగ్గుచే     ముందురాడట

marudu siggucE mundhu rAdata (nir)

Manmatha abashed by your beauty hesitates to come forward.


-jarulanu tArakalalO candrudai nErayulu vata

Amidst the stellar assemblage of the Devas you shine like the moon.

vara tyAgarAja nuta garuda sEva jUda srI                    (varadarAja)

O the one worshipped by Tyagaraja,I have come to have darshan of the Garuda Seva.


As we saw both the textual tradition as evidenced by the notations on one hand and the oral traditions on the other provided discordant views to us as to the correct raga and mettu/musical contours of ‘varadarAja ninnEkOri’. The analysis based on available evidence indicates a balance of convenience in favour of Devamanohari.

What has been attempted is an amateur/armchair effort to uncover the truth from diverging musical material and history. It is fervently hoped that issues like these are taken up by professional/qualified researchers and the same goes to add to our body of knowledge so that students and serious listeners of music get the correct perspectives as to the versions of the compositions of the Trinity.


  1. There are very many articles and also lecture-demonstrations done on the subject of ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja as given in pre-1930 publications and the dichotomy it has with the ragas that are actually sung in practice. Many of the items listed, would leave us agitated. While it is true that quite a few compositions suffered a change in the raga, ragas of well know compositions are printed differently in these texts. During the Dec 2016 Music Season Festival of the Madras Music academy atleast a couple of lecture demonstrations were done on this subject including one by Dr Hemalatha. The to be released JMA of 2017 would have that recorded. From the past one such example of a tabulation of the list of compositions whose actual currently rendered ragas is different from what appears in pre-1930 publications is by Smt.Radha Sarangapani in the Shanmukha (Vol XXXIII No 3& 4, July-Sep & Oct-Dec 2007). Suffice to say that the ragas of compositions listed in the publications and the actual ragas as per the authentic sishya paramparas in practice, manuscripts of the Walajapet Sishya parampara or of Chinnasvami Mudaliar or Subbarama Dikshitar as available should be compared before drawing a conclusion as to the actual raga of those compositions.
  2. The current state of musicological research more so in the context of this raga and composition can be rated by the Ph.D thesis ‘Rare and New ragas handled by Tyagaraja- A critical Study’, submitted at the Department of Music, Kannur University available here. In Chapter 3 of this thesis on pages 117-118, this raga ‘Swarabhushani’ and the composition ‘varadaraja ninnukori’ is dealt with by the Researcher.

   At the outset, the Researcher provides the arohana/avarohana of the raga as under, on the authority of Nadamuni Panditar.

Arohana        – s g m p d n s 

Avarohana   – s n p m g m r s

Attention is invited to the lack of dhaivatha in the avarohana krama as provided. Providing the narrative of the exemplar kriti, the Researcher goes on to say  that Tyagaraja brings in the phrase ‘s n d p, m’ even at the beginning. Mark the dhaivatha that makes its appearance now. What is the researcher trying to convey? Is there a dhaivatha in the descent or not. So much for the Researcher, the Guide and the Thesis. Such is the pitiable state of our research, academia and institutions. Not that I am nit-picking selectively from this so-called thesis. One can also find innumerable such faux pas. The raga Vegavauhini dealt with in page 141-142 suffers a similar fate. A reading of the passage thereunder will convey that Muthusvami Dikshitar composed in Vegavauhini with an arohana krama of SRGMPDNDS!

  1. I am thankful to Sri Aravindh Ranganathan for providing me with his copy of the extract of the notation of this composition as seen in the Walajapet manuscripts.
  2. A perusal of the Walajapet notation taking into account the defective sahitya, perhaps makes one surmise that the kriti was perhaps not part of the core set of compositions which was learnt/notated originally by Venkataraman Bagavathar. It is most likely that somebody subsequent to Walajapet Venkataraman Bagavathar in his sisya parampara must have heard this being sung from some others and must have then notated it as a part of their digest/record of Tyagaraja compositions. Walajapet Venkataramana Bagavathar himself was proficient in Telugu and also a composer of merit. And it would be rather unfair to tag the kriti with a defective sahitya line to his repository. If he had learnt it originally from the Bard himself, he for sure would have notated it correctly to make a proper meaning of the sahitya.
  3. I am indebted to Spencer Sri R Venugopal for helping me to understand the lyrical aspect of the composition and editing the Telugu lyrics suitably to make it meaningful, particularly the missing carana line of the composition.