Composers

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga

Apurva raga-s handled by Tyagaraja Svamigal – Phalaranjani

Dr Aravindh T Ranganathan

This article was published in “Sruti” May, 2019 issue.

Śrī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi is one of the very few kṛti-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmi on Lord Narasiṃha. It can be considered as a generic kṛti as we don’t see any reference to a particular kṣetraṃ. Earlier texts assign this particular kṛti to a rāgaṃ ‘Phalaranjani’, though we frequently hear this in the rāgaṃ ‘Phalamanjari’. This kind of confusion with respect to rāga nomenclature is very common as Svāmigal himself didn’t reveal the name of these apūrva rāga-s to his disciples (1). Years later, either his disciples or some other musician (s) were instrumental in assigning these rāga names. This topic has been discussed several times in The Music Academy conferences and it is the view of some musicologists that Taccur Siṅgarācāryulu was the musician involved and he named these rāga-s by referring to a treatise, namely Saṅgraha Chūḍamaṇi, whose authorship is unknown (2). Analysis of the available evidences reveals several inconsistencies with respect to the rāgaṃ of this kṛti and its lakṣaṇa. This article will be analyzing the musical aspects of this kṛti addressing the above said issue in the light of  Vālājāpet notations.

Vālājāpet notations

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 (VKB). It is even said Tyāgarājā could have seen this as they were recorded during his life time.(3) 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 (4). These transcripts are the main source for this article. 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 and his son. These notations when used appropriately help us to solve many problems seen with the apūrva kṛti-s of the Saint. 

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in earlier texts

It is not a common kṛti to be seen in the earlier texts published between late 1800 and early 1900; it is even rarer to see this kṛti in notation. For the first time we see this kṛti in the text Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu by Vīṇā Rāmanuja (5). Here, it is mentioned as Phalamanjari, but notations or the lakṣaṇaṃ of the rāgaṃ is not provided. It serves no purpose to our study other than to know that this kṛti was in circulation even during 1857. The contents published in this book, especially those of Tyāgarāja kṛti-s in partial or complete can be seen in several texts published later like the texts published by Rāmanujadāsā (1895), Thangavēlu Mudaliyār (1905) et al. Whether they are exact reproductions of the earlier text or they are reproduced from different sources is not known. All these texts too are blinded towards rāga lakṣaṇaṃ of Phalamanjari. So,  Phalamanjari mentioned by them is the same as Phalamanjari mentioned in various lakṣaṇa granthā-s or it is a different one is unfathomable.

AM Chinnaswāmy Mudaliyār in his text ‘Oriental Music in European Notation’ (1893) mention the rāga of this kṛti as Phalaranjani for the first time placing it under the mēla 28, Harikāmbhoji (6). It is to be remembered that the main resource person for this text was Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavathar, though it was further approved by some other disciples of Tyāgarāja Svāmi. Same information can also be seen in the book published by Tillaisthānaṃ Narasiṃha Bhāgavatar in 1908 (7) and by SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar (8) under the pseudonym Rāmānanda Yogi  in 1910. None of them give us the notations.

Taccur brothers, for the first time gives this kṛti in notation in their book published in the year 1912. They consider it as Phalamanjari and place it under the mēla 22. (9)

From the above discussion it is clear that this kṛti was not a popular one and not every musician was aware of this. Sources from Vālājāpet and Tillaisthānaṃ disciple lineage consider this as Phalaranjani, placing it under the mēla 28. Taccur brothers and other texts, whose source of this kṛti is unknown, placed it under the mēla 22. Also, only the book by Taccur brothers gives us this kṛti in notation.

Rāga lakṣaṇaṃ

Phalaranjani

Before proceeding further, lakṣaṇaṃ of Phalaranjani and Phalamanjari are discussed for getting a better understanding of this kṛti.

Phalamanjari cannot be seen in any of the lakṣaṇa grantha-s available. For the first time, it can be seen in ‘Oriental Music in European Notation’. Vālājāpet manuscripts too mention this name. Knowing the association between VKB and Chinnaswāmy Mudaliyār and the truth that Svāmi didn’t reveal the name of these apūrva rāga-s , it can be speculated that a musician known to Vālājāpet disciple or Vālājāpet disciple like VVB or VKB themselves might have named this rāgaṃ. This was then followed by Tillaisthānaṃ disciples too. Alternatively, a revered disciple of Tyāgarājā could have named this. The scale as deduced from Vālājāpet version (from Vālājāpet notations) is SGMPMDS   SNDPMGMRS.

Rāga pravāhaṃ (10) mentions about this rāgaṃ. Scale given here is same as mentioned above; but it is placed under the mela 22.  Usually, this text mentions the source from which a particular rāgaṃ was taken. For example, when mentioning the rāgaṃ Phalamanjari, it gives three entries and gives the source for these three entries namely Palaiyāzhi (two entries) and Sangīta Svara Prastāra Sāgaramu of Nāthamuni Panditar. Strangely, in the case of Phalaranjani, no such reference is given. Perhaps, the scale in which this kṛti is sung now is given for the sake of completion. Another Phalaranjani is given under mēla 28 with a different scale – SGPDS  SNDPMGMRS ; again source for this scale is not given.

Phalamanjari

Phalamanjari is mentioned as a janya of mēla 15 by Śahāji and Tulajā. Saṅgraha Chūḍamaṇi and its allied texts consider this as a janya of mēla 22, Kharaharapriya. Scale of this rāgaṃ, and  considering this as a janya of mēla 22 is uniform across the texts – SGMDS  SNDPMGMRS. It is not SGMPMDS in the ārōhaṇaṃ. This rāgaṃ can be seen invariably in any text that acts as a lexicon for these synthetic scales. Many varieties of Phalamanjari seem to exist and they are not discussed here as they do not come under the scope of this paper.

Notated versions of ‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’

Version by Taccur brothers

As said earlier, text by Taccur brothers is the single early text to give this kṛti in notation. Scale given by them is   SGMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Interestingly, a phrase SRGGRS is seen which cannot be fit into the given ārohaṇaṃ-avarōhaṇaṃ. Usually, kṛti-s in rāga-s like this follows the scale exactly. This raises a doubt regarding the rāgaṃ of this kṛti. Taccur brothers not acknowledging the musician who gave this version is to be remembered here.

It is a must to validate the rāgaṃ given in early texts like the books by Taccur brothers, Sangīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu and its like as extreme discordance with the rāga name and the commonly accepted lakṣaṇa can be seen. For instance, Taccur brothers mention the ragaṃ of the kṛti ‘sattaleni dinamu’ of Tyāgarāja Svāmi as Jayantasenā. But an analysis of the notation provided rule out the mentioned rāgaṃ, as ṛṣabhaṃ is seen throughout the krithi and  Jayantasenā, being a ṛṣabha vaṛjya rāgaṃ cannot fit in (11).Though their immense service is to be acknowledged, only notated compositions are to be considered for research and those too only after a scrutiny is emphasized. All these facts raise suspicion regarding the rāgaṃ of this kṛti.

Tillaisthānaṃ version

Pārthasāradhi has given this kṛti in notation in a book published by him. He has learnt from Dr Srīnivāsa Rāghavan, a descendant of Tillaisthānaṃ Rāma Ayyaṅgār, a disciple of Tyāgarāja Svāmi (12). He mentions as Phalaranjani, a janya of mēla 28 and gives the scale as SGMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Here too, phrases like MPM,DNP and GRGM are found which don’t fit into the given scale.

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in unpublished manuscripts

Much valuable information can be obtained by analyzing these unpublished manuscripts existing as a private collection. Inference obtained from few of these is provided here.

Vālājāpet notations                                                           

Importance of these notations is already mentioned. These notations, though mention the rāgaṃ of this kṛti as Phalaranjani, did not give information about the mēla (of this rāgaṃ) or its scale. Scale can be easily deduced from the notation provided. For mēla assignation, book by Chinnaswāmy Mudaliyār is followed as the resource person is same (belongs to Vālājāpet lineage).

Version given here adhere exactly to the scale SGMPMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Phrases outside this scale can never be seen. The saṅgati-s are organized in such a way that the rāga structure is easily grasped. This is set to the tālaṃ  dēśādhi.

First two saṅgati-s clearly gives us an idea about the lakṣaṇa of this rāgaṃ and the same continues throughout the kṛti without creating any ambiguity. Gandaram, pañcamaṃ and dhaivathaṃ were used as gṛha svaraṃ-s and lot of pratyāgata phrases like NDD,DPP, PMM and RSS can be seen thoughout the kṛti.   Vālājāpet version can be heard here.                             

Manuscript of SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar

SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar is a disciple of both Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavathar and Umayāḷpuraṃ Kṛṣṇa and Sundara Bhāgavathar. Both were the direct disciples of Tyāgarāja Svāmi and he was a fortunate disciple to represent both these schools. He has notated (11) this kṛti and it is exactly in line with the Vālājāpet notations with respect to rāga lakṣaṇaṃ and basic structure of the kṛti. He has published a book (text only) wherein he clearly mentions the rāgaṃ and tālaṃ of this kṛti (see above discussion). To identify the source from which he learnt this kṛti (Vālājāpet or Umayāḷpuraṃ), sāhityam may be taken as a guide. Whereas Vālājāpet version (and the version by Tillaisthānaṃ Narasiṃha Bhāgavatar) reads the first line in anupallavi as ‘dīnārthi nivāraṇa bhavya guṇā’ , Umayāḷpuraṃ version (and the version by Taccur brothers) read as ‘dīnārthi bhaya hara bhavya guṇā’. It can be surmised that his source for this kṛti was from a Valajapet disciple. Additionally this also authenticates Vālājāpet notations.  

Umayāḷpuraṃ version

Umayāḷpuraṃ version too consider this as a janya of mēla 28. Scale is not given though we can redact it as SGMPDPMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Here too, Gandaram, pañcamaṃ and dhaivathaṃ were used as gṛha svaraṃ-s and lot of pratyāgata phrases like NDD,DPP, PMM and RSS can be seen thoughout the kṛti (13). Basic outline is much in line with Vālājāpet version. Main point of difference between this and Vālājāpet version is the phrase PDP which occurs only once. Whether it is to be considered as a time related change or not is a point to ponder.

Manuscript in the possession Srīvañchiyaṃ Rāmachandra Ayyar

A manuscript of unknown authorship in the possession of  Srīvañchiyaṃ Rāmachandra Ayyar mentions the rāgaṃ of this kṛti as Pratāpacintāmaṇi, a janya of mēla 28. No inference can be made as the manuscript lack notation.

Comparison between Vālājāpet notations and the version by Taccur brothers

If we replace the sādhāraṇa gāndhāraṃ with antara gāndhāraṃ (making it as a janya of mēla 28), version by Taccur brothers resemble Vālājāpet version in the basic structure excluding the phrase SRGGRS. This makes one to hypothesize – was the kṛti sung only as a janyaṃ of mela 28 and Taccur brothers changed that to mēla 22 as Phalaranjani was totally unknown to them and earlier texts like Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu, which they followed say it as Phalamanjari ?

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in oral tradition

Very few recordings of this kṛti are available in the public domain. All except one were labeled as Phalamanjari and consider it as a janyaṃ of mēla 22. The recordings adhere to the scale SGMPMDS  SNDPMGMRS. Frequency of hearing the phrase of MPM varies with the rendition. In one rendition the phrase GMDNSNDMGMRS is also found. A version considering Phalaranjani as a janya of mēla 22 can be heard here.

Version by Sangīta Kalānidhi Smt R Vēdavalli is labeled as Phalaranjani and considered as a janyaṃ of mēla 28. That too, adheres to the mentioned scale of Phalaranjani, but different from the Vālājāpet version with some additional phrases like DNP.

Conclusion

The following conclusions can be drawn from the above discussion:

1. Vālājāpet notations were the first one to use the name Phalaranjani and there is extreme adherence to the scale.

2. Almost all the earlier texts give the name Phalaranjani and consider this as a janyaṃ of mēla 28. Only Taccur brothers consider this as Phalamanjari, considering it as a janyaṃ of mēla 22. Were they influenced by the texts like Sangīta Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu, as they were the editors of the later editions of the mentioned text is to be considered.

3. Vālājāpet version, an existing old version was passed on to next generation as evidenced by analyzing unpublished manuscripts. Identical basic structure of this kṛti seen in Vālājāpet notations, version by SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar and Umayāṃpuraṃ version can be remembered here denoting the validity of the basic musical structure seen in the Vālājāpet notations.

4. Whereas Phalaranjani version (janya of mēla 28) is commonly associated with this kṛti in textual tradition, Phalamanjari (janya of mēla 22) version is commonly associated with this kṛti in oral tradition.

5. This article highlights the importance of analyzing Vālājāpet versions and other unpublished manuscripts.

Acknowledgements

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

I thank Ms Janaki, Editor, Sruti Magazine for publishing this musicological work.

The library in The Music Academy is a repository of many valuable manuscripts written in the early part of the last century, like that of S A Ramaswamy Ayyar. I thank Sri V Sriram, Secretary, The Music Academy for permitting me to access those valuable manuscripts.

References

  1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Pg 129.  Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905.
  2. Ramachandran K.V. (1938) – “The Melakarta – A Critique” – The Journal of the Music Academy 1938 volume IX: pg 31-33.
  3. Sāmbamurti P. The Walajapet manuscripts. Journal of Music Academy 1947: Pg 114-129.
  4. Vālājāpet manuscripts.   http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/browse?collection=1&sort_field=Dublin+Core%2CTitle&page=12
  5. Vīṇā Rāmānujayya. Saṅgīta Sarvārta Sāra Saṅgrahamu, Pg. 231. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/666
  6. Chinnasvāmy Mudaliyār. Oriental Music in European Notation, pg 75. Ave Maria Press, Madras,1893. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/507
  7. Ghṛtasthānaṃ Narasimha Bhāgavatar., ed.,Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanalu , Pg 13; Sarasvathi Power Press, Rajahmundry, 1908.
  8. Rāmānanda Yōgi., ed., Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanaṅgaḷ, Pg 120 . Kṛṣṇasvāmy and Sons, 1910.
  9. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu . Gānenduśekharaṃ, Pg 57-61. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1912 
  10. Dr MN Dhandapāṇi, D Pattaṃṃāḷ. Rāga Pravāhaṃ. The Trinity Music Book Publishers, Chennai, 1984.
  11. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu . Gāyaka Siddhāñjanaṃ, Pg 69-70. http://www.ibiblio.org/guruguha/MusicResearchLibrary/Books-Tel/BkTe-TaccuruBros-gAyaka-siddhAnjanam-Pt2-1905-Xrx-0084.pdf
  12. Pārthasāradhi, S., ed., Śri Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanaigaḷ – Tillaisthānaṃ pāṭaṃ – part 1, Pg 6-9. Guru Sri Tyāgabrahma Ārādana Kainkaryaṃ, 1987.
  13. Manuscripts given by Vidvān Sri B Kṛṣṇamūrti, the versions he learnt from Umayāḷpuraṃ Sri Rājagōpāla Ayyar – http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/files/original/83b9276a2529b0a8e26bf08c4cb7ba7e.pdf

Composers, History, Notation, Personalities

“Svarakalanidhi” Narayanasvami Iyer – A titan from an age bygone

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Prologue:

The world of Carnatic music has sired many a great musician in the past. We do have oral as well as recorded accounts of many of such great personalities. One amongst them, featured in this blog post is Tiruvisanallur “Pallavi” Narayanasvami Iyer a giant from another era. My introduction to his name was through an oral account to the effect that the legendary Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer learnt Muthusvami Dikshita’s kriti “Sri Ramam Ravikulabdhi somam” in Narayanagaula from Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer. My attempt to know more about this personality, fructified finally when I got hold of a brief biography of this great musician, published by the Madras Music Academy in one of its early Journals, written by his son Vidvan T N Radhakrishna Iyer (see reference section below).

From this account, it is seen that Narayanasvami Iyer lived for about 60 years of age somewhere during the time period between 1860-1930. He has been known as “Narayanasvami Anna” or “Tiruvisanallur Narayanasvami Iyer” or “Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer”.

Biography in brief:

One Narayana Avadhani, a polyglot who had mastered the Yajur and Samaveda had two sons Krishna Bhagavathar (elder) and Sundara Bhagavathar (younger) who were both one of the prime disciples of Saint Tyagaraja and were the votaries of the Umayalpuram school of the Tyagaraja sishya parampara.

Narayanasvami Iyer was the son of this Sundara Bhagavathar and trained under him. Apart from father, he also trained under Tiruvisainallur Subramanya Iyer, a disciple of Krishna Bagavathar, his uncle. Even at a very early age, Narayanasvami Iyer achieved very good proficiency in music. An early break for him came when his father took him to Kumbakonam to introduce him to Munsiff Venkacchi Iyer a wealthy patron of those days. Fortuitously for him, the great vidvans of those times Bikshandar Koil Subbarama Iyer and Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844-1893) too were at Kumbakonam to meet Munsiff Venkacchi Iyer as well. Young Narayanasvami Iyer at Venckacchi Iyer’s bidding performed in front of them and was greatly appreciated. In fact, so impressed were the assembled cognoscenti that he was asked to sing along with Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer in a concert scheduled for the following day. And needless to add Narayanasvami Iyer acquitted himself creditably by singing with elan earning recognition as well as gifts from his patron. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer was apparently very much impressed with Narayanasvami Iyer’s svara singing acumen.

There was no looking back thereafter for the young Narayanasvami Iyer. He was adept in every department of performing music and specifically in pallavi exposition and extempore svara singing. So much so that in recognition of his prowess, as we will see, the epithets “Pallavi” and “Svarakalanidhi” came to be prefixed to his name and he came to be addressed with them by one and all, with awe during his life time.

His vidvat blossomed forth as a vaggeyakara as well and he composed exquisite cittasvara sections to very many Tyagaraja compositions. Apart from vocal music, Narayanasvami Iyer also played the Gottuvadyam as well.

With his fame reaching far and wide, Panditurai Tevar, the Zamindar of Pazhavanattam and the maternal uncle of Bhaskara Setupati of the Royal House of the Sethupatis of Ramanathapuram ,and one of the great patrons of those days, sought Narayansvami Iyer’s services to provide advanced training to the then young and upcoming musician Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar ( 1860-1919) in pallavi and svara singing. Consequently Narayanasvami Iyer moved to be at Ramanathapuram to teach the young Poochi for some time.

When the great Maharaja of Mysore Nalvadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar IV ascended the throne in 1902 , Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer was one of the musicians invited to perform in the coronation celebrations and he did so magnificently earning the respect of the assemblage of the great vidvans of those days, which included Veena Subbanna, Veena Seshanna, Namakkal Narasimha Iyengar, Umayalpuram Svaminatha Iyer and others. Veena Subbanna being the dean of the musicians of the Mysore Royal Durbar, at the end of Narayanasvami Iyer’s recital, on behalf of the Durbar and the assemblage, conferred on him the title of “Svarakalanidhi” and reminisced that Narayanasvami Iyer’s svara singing reminded him of Mysore Sadashiva Rao’s (of Tyagaraja sishya parampara) singing.

Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar (1866-1943), the legendary harikatha exponent in his memoirs recalls with rapturous delight a concert of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer, which was arranged on the occasion of the legendary Flute Sarabha Sastri’s ‘seemantham” held to herald the arrival of Sastri’s first child. In that concert Narayanasvami Iyer was accompanied by the veteran Thirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer (Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s maternal uncle) on the violin and Pazhani Krishna Iyer on the ghatam. Narayanasvami Iyer rendered the pallavi “hrudaya kamala vasa hare krishna” in the raga Sankarabharanam set to adi tala. According to Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Iyer, Narayanasvami Iyer sang kalpana svaras for the pallavi, crafted so beautifully as if they were ettugada svaras of a varna! And Bagaavathar adds that in that concert the two accompanists were “Nara-Narayana” in their performance.

Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Iyer also records that Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer was the stock accompanist of Narayanasvami Iyer for the later’s concerts Narayanasvami Iyer taught many sishyas as well, which included Thiruppazhanam Panchapakesa Sastri (1868-1924) – see Epilogue below- Nallur Visvanatha Iyer, Thirukkarugavur Fiddle Narayanasvami Iyer, Paravakkarai Narayanasvami Iyer, Fiddle Seetharama Iyer, Coimbatore Thayi and others.  There are references to the effect that the famed Violin vidvan Kumbakonam Rajamanikkam Pillai too trained under him.

Narayanasvami Iyer was on a very intimate acquaintance with the legendary flute vidvan Kumbakonam “Venugana” Sarabha Sastri (1872-1904), a junior contemporary. The two apparently performed together in concert very many times. The same is recorded both by Narayansvami Iyer’s son and by Sulamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar. The Bagavathar in his memoir records one such recital, which he himself had organized at his house for a “Radha Kalyana Utsava” wherein Narayanasvami Iyer had rendered a brilliant svara kalpana for a Begada main composition on that day.

In the context of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer having composed cittasvaras for compositions, Sri T S Parthasarathi in his article in the JMA advances the proposition that according to the senior vidvans of the late 19th and early 20th century, Tyagaraja did not compose cittasvaras for his compositions and they were composed much later by his sishyas in his parampara. Sri Parthasarathy cites with authority that:

  1. The cittasvara section ( GRSN SRPN SRNRS ….) for “mamava satatam” in Jaganmohini was composed by Walajapet Krishnasvami Bagavathar
  2. Cittasvaras are found added by Veena Kuppier for “Endu daginado”, “Jesinadella”, “Tappi Bratiki” (all in Todi), “Kanna talli” (Saveri) and “Sundari nee” (Kalyani)

Added to the above as also seen in earlier blogs, that we can authoritatively state that:

  1. The popular cittasvara to the Malavi kriti “Nenaruchi naanu” was composed by Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer.
  2. Cittasvaras were composed by Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bagavathar as found recorded in his notebooks.

Sri T S Parathasarathy records that Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer composed cittasvaras for kritis such as “tsalagalla” in Arabhi, though it is not stated whether the popular one rendered today beginning “S,SDP-PPMM GRRS” is that of Narayanasvami Iyer’s.

Musical Creation of Narayanasvami Iyer: Narayanasvami Iyer who was held in awe both by the lay and the cognoscenti of those days, is said to have lived for about 60 years. His ishta devata was Lord Rajagopala of Mannargudi, who has been musically venerated by Patchimiriyam Adiyappa (“Viribhoni” -ata tala varna in raga Bhairavi) and Muthusvami Dikshita (“Sri Rajagopala” in Saveri and “Sri Vidya Rajagopala” in Jaganmohanam). Every year Narayanasvami Iyer apparently undertook a pilgrimage to Mannargudi to have the darshan of Lord Rajagopala and one year he composed a varna in raga Durbar, set in adi tala, which has been published in the JMA along with his biography as written by his son. The varna is not seen published in any other publication nor is it rendered on the concert platform. The notation of the varna in Tamil as recorded in the JMA is provided herein below along with the translation in English.

English Translation of the Varna
(mandhara stayi notes are in lower case; madhya stayi notes in upper case and ; tara stayi notes in upper case italics)

Observations on the varna:

The varna having being published by his son thus attests to the high fidelity of the notation available to us through the aforesaid JMA article. The following observations merit our attention:

  1. Firstly, that strikes one is the way in which the arohana and avarohana krama of the raga Durbar is provided as recorded by Narayanasvami Iyer in his notebook.  The vakra sancaras accommodated in the progression/krama along with the reference to PG is to be reckoned.
  2. The composition features these vakara sancaras to the tee.
  3. The sahitya, akin to “Viribhoni” and “Sri Rajagopala” hails the ksetra as “Dakshina dvaraka”.
  4. The carana portion is exquisitely structured with the jiva svara patterns of Durbar.
  5. Interestingly the notation itself provides 2 variations/sangathis for the carana sahitya section beginning “nIrajAkshi”
  6.  The third cittasvara passage as per the old convention is modelled as sarva laghu.

It has to be pointed out here that apart from the ubiquitous “Chalamela” of Tiruvottriyur Tyagayyar which is the only varna in this raga which is heard often, the others known to us are of Subbarama Dikshitar (“intamodi” ata tala tana varna) and Patnam Subramanya Iyer ( “Dari teliyaka” – khanda ata tala).

Did Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer give Gramophone Recordings?

Michael Kinnear in his book “The Gramaphone Company’s First Indian Recordings -1899-1908” catalogues 10 Inches H Suffix Series of Gramaphone Records wherein an artiste tagged as “Tiruvisanallur Narayanasami Iyer” dating to 1907 has recorded a bunch of compositions, in what seems to be a full-blown concert. There is another Narayanaswami Iyer ( of Pudukkotai) whose music has been recorded and he is a violinist which helps in avoiding the confusion.

The web page below hosts a clipping for one such piece tagged to “Tiruvisanallur Narayanasami Iyer”

https://www.muziekweb.nl/en/Link/KJX3705/Indian-talking-machine-78-rpm-record-and-gramophone-collecting-on-the-sub-continent?TrackID=KJX3705-0021

(hit the URL and browse down to entry 21 which is Tiruvasanallur Narayanasami Iyer – Sanskrit Song Part -1)

One is not sure as to the identity of the person, but yet here is something for us to chew upon.

Conclusion:

While at least something is known about these great vidvans of the past, it is unfortunate that their musical works such as varnas, kritis and cittasvaras have been lost and forgotten. In an earlier blog post on Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar it was pointed out that though the Music Academy was entrusted with his notebooks recording in writing, Bagavathar’s musical creations, yet the same remains lost and untraced. In the instant case of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer, his son Vidvan Radhakrishna Iyer while writing the piece in the JMA, does indicate his wish to publish his father’s works as available with him, but yet nothing seems to have seen the light of the day. The musical note books of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, recording the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita as taught to him Satanur Pancanada Iyer and also Pancanada Iyer’s own note books documenting his own compositions have suffered a similar fate. It is sad that with the passage of time, the probability of recovering any of these just recedes exponentially. In the case of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer the only creation of his available with us is this Durbar varna.

From a familial perspective, it is not known how Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer acquired the link to Tiruvisainallur while his father hailed from Umayalpuram. All that is known is that Narayanasvami Iyer had two sons one of whom was Vidvan T N Radhakrishna Iyer. It would be worthwhile to know if there are any surviving descendants in the lineage of Narayanasvami Iyer and if they still have those notebooks recording not just the creations of Narayanasvami Iyer but also of Saint Tyagaraja as Narayanasvami Iyer was the 2nd generation disciple in his sishya parampara/lineage.

As always one hopes that our vidvans would take up forgotten compositions like this Durbar varna, burnish them up and render them, in the days to come so that the memory of these great souls would live on along with our music.

References:

  1. “Svarakalanidhi Narayanasvami Iyer” – Article in Tamil – Author Sangita Vidvan T N Radhakrishna Iyer – Journal of the Music Academy Madras (JMA) Vol II No 4 (Year 1931) pp 223-226 – Edited by Sri T V Subba Rao
  2. “Tiruvisainallur Narayanasvami Iyer” – Part XVI on page 100 – “Cameos” – A collection of writings by Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar – Portion translated by Ms Padma Narayanan – Published by Sunadham (2005)
  3. “Svara decorations in Carnatic Music” – Article in English – Author T S Parthasarathy – Journal of the Music Academy Madras (JMA) Vol LVIII 1987 pp 154-159– Edited by Sri T S Parthasarathy
  4. “The Gramaphone Company’s First Indian Recordings -1899-1908” -By Michael Kinnear (1994) Sangam Book – pp 157-158

Epilogue:

While I work to have the recording of the aforesaid Durbar varna done and uploaded here, I seek to conclude this blog post with a musical tribute to this great musician. It is recorded that Narayanasvami Iyer in the tradition of Tyagaraja was also a rama baktha. So a composition eulogizing Lord Rama and that too composed by his own disciple would be a worthy tribute to him.

Tiruppazhanam Panchapakesa Sastri, a disciple of Svarakalanidhi Naryanasvami Iyer, as mentioned earlier, was a legendary Harikatha performer of the 20th century. His most famous composition which lives on even today is “sApashyat kausalya”, set in the raga Jonpuri and which runs as under:

sApashyat kausalyA viSNum sApashyat kausalyA (sApashyat) 
prasava sadana gatha mEnam pUSpAyudha shata kOTi samAnam viSNum (sApashyat) 
jaladhara shyAmaLa gAtram pankEruhadaLa sannibha nEtram viSNum (sApashyat) 
kaustubha shobhita kaNTam rAkA candra nibham vaikuNTham  viSNum  (sApashyat)

This composition preceded by a sloka such as “Shringaram kshitinandinim” or “Neelabja deha” in a raga malika format tailing into Jonpuri, was de-rigueur in Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s concerts. I conclude this blog post with a rendering of this composition from one of his innumerable concerts.

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga

The mysterious ‘nagumomu ganaleni’ of Tyagaraja Svamigaḷ

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Only few kṛti-s enjoy the unique status of being both popular and liked by everyone. One such kṛti is ‘nagumōmu ganalēni’ of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ. As much as the kṛti, the controversies surrounding the rāga of this kṛti too is equally popular. What is the rāga of this kṛti, Ābhēri or Karnāṭaka dēvagāndhāri? If it is ābhēri, which variety of dhaivatam is to be employed? If śuddha dhaivatam is to be employed, is it a different rāga from the Ābhēri of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar? If so, is it allowed to have two lakṣaṇa for a single rāga? Almost all the students, performers, researchers and rasikā-s are equally aware of these questions. It is always a never ending debate whenever this kṛti is being played or heard. This article tries to find answers for some or all of these questions by considering the old versions, the keys to understand the truth.

Ābhēri

Before we embark into analysis, let us first understand these rāga-s and the present version of this composition.

Ābhēri find its first mention in Saṅgīta Sudhā of Govinda Dīkśitar [1]. This text and its successor, Caturdaṇḍiprakāśika of Vēṅkaṭamakhi consider this as a rāga with the svara-s taken by (present day rāga) Kīravāṇi. From the Rāga lakśaṇa of Śahaji onwards, this is considered as a rāga with the svara-s seen in the rāga Bhairavi. Rāga lakṣaṇa attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi also advocate the same lakṣaṇa. Thus the rāga Ābhēri had śuddha dhaivata from the period of Śahaji.

Types

Though the svara variety has not changed, we see two different lakṣaṇa-s for this rāga across the texts. In several of our posts, we have classified the lakśaṇa grantha-s available into two types; those that explain a rāga by phrases and the other one, predominantly through a scale. The lakśaṇa grantha-s falling under the first category like the Rāga lakśaṇa of Śahaji, Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulaja etc., consider this as a sampūrṇa rāga with the svara-s rṣbham, dhaivatam and niṣādha varjya (omitted) in the ārohaṇa karma. Avarōhaṇa is sampurṇa. Hence we find phrases like GMPS or SMGMPSS. More about these phrases can be studied here. As expected, Rāga lakṣaṇa attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi follows the same structure and this is much elaborated by Subbarāma Dīkśitar in his text Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This old Ābhēri was visualized and immortalized by Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar in his kṛti ‘vīṇābhēri’ which can be heard here.

The other type is seen in the lakśaṇa grantha-s falling under the second category, namely Saṅgraha Cuḍāmaṇi and its allied texts like Rāga lakśana manuscript of unknown authorship, Saṅgita Sāra Saṅgrahamu and Mahābharata Cūḍāmaṇi. The rāga here follows the scale SGMPNS  SNDPMGRS. Here, the svara niṣādha is present in ārōhaṇa karma and hence we see phrases like MPNS. Here, we do have an interesting point to ponder. Though the scales given in all the four texts are same, the Rāga lakśana manuscript of unknown authorship mention this rāga as Ābhīri and not Ābhēri! We will come to this a little later.

We can infer from the above discussion that there were two Ābhēri-s in practice between 17-19th centuries, though they take the same svara varieties. It can also be seen the dhaivata used is always of śuddha variety in both the varieties.

Popular version of the kṛti ‘nagumōmu ganalēni’

The presently rendered, popular version of this kṛti is in complete accordance with the lakśana of Ābhēri mentioned in Saṅgraha Cuḍāmaṇi and its allied texts. But the difference here is the dhaivatam employed in the present renditions; it is of catuśruti variety. We have seen Ābhēri always had śuddha dhaivata in the past. In such a case, can it be taken as a recent change happened in the last century?

Nagumōmu ganalēni – old versions

To get an answer for the question posed above, we need to look into the old versions available either as recordings or exist only in various texts and manuscripts. Let us now analyze the available versions.

Renditions

Excluding a single version by Vidushi Saṅgita Kalānidhi R Vēdavalli, every other common rendition is sung only with catuśruti dhaivatam. She uses śuddha dhaivata throughout her rendition. Other than this, the basic structure of the kṛti is not much different between the versions.

Texts

In this section, we will be analyzing this kṛti in various published texts and unpublished texts. The first text taking account of this kṛti is Saṅgita Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu of Vīṇa Rāmānujayya. The rāga-s assigned for Tyāgarāja kṛti-s in this book is a mystery and it requires a separate paper to address. For time being, we restrict ourselves to the kṛti in hand. The rāga of this kṛti is mentioned as Punnāgavarāḷi. Unfortunately, notation is not suffixed with the sāhityam.

The second text that makes a note of this kṛti is “Oriental Music in European Notation’ by AM Chinnasvāmy Mudaliyār. He mention the rāga of this kṛti as Ābhēri, a janya of mēla 20, indicating the presence of śuddha dhaivatam. This text forms a new era as we find the rāga names (for Tyāgarāja kṛti-s) used here is to be followed by every other text published later (excluding few books which follow Saṅgita Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu). Again, all the texts mention Ābhēri as a janya of 20, excluding a text published by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar, published in the year 1911.2 This text forms an important source of reference as this author was a student of Paṭnam Subramaṇya Ayyar, one among the prime disciples of Mānambucāvaḍi Vēṅkaṭasubbaier.  Vēṅkaṭasubbaier was a direct disciple of Svāmigal. At this moment of time, it is not possible to compare the version across this school. It is imperative to perform this, as it is very common to see the differences in the version, even among the members belonging to the same school. We shall provide a related example. Harikeśanallur Muttiah Bhāgavatar has a kṛti ‘īśvari rājēśvari’ in this rāga. He has treated this as a janya of mēla 20, that is with śuddha dhaivatam. It becomes clear now that the two musicians (Muttiah Bhāgavatar and Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar) belonging to the same Mānambucāvaḍi school giving two different lakṣaṇa for a single rāga! Unless we get some more versions from this family, we cannot conclude on the versions or the dhaivatha employed in this school.

Kṛṣṇa Ayyar clearly mentions Ābhēri as a janya of mēla 22, giving another important detail; this kṛti was sung with catuśruti dhaivatham even before Musiri Subramaṇya Ayyar cuts a record!

Version by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar

This version is interesting in many aspects. First, it is the only early version which says catuśruti dhaivatam is to be employed. Second, it comes from one of the important disciple lineage of Svāmigal. Third, this version has one important phrase which gives an indication to identify the rāga of this version (not to be read as the kṛti).

The version here predominantly resembles the presently sung version with catuśruti dhaivatam. But, it has a very important phrase which can neither be detected nor allowed in the rāga Ābhēri. That key phrase, PNDNDP is found in the caraṇam of this kṛti. To understand the relevance of this phrase, we need to know about a rāga called as Dēvagāndhārī.

Dēvagāndhāri or Dēvagāndhāra

Dēvagāndhārī is an old rāga like Ābhēri seen from the text Saṅgīta Sudhā .1 In this text and in the treatises classified under the first type (see the section on Ābhēri), this rāga is said to be placed under Srīrāga mēla and should have catuśruti dhaivatam. This rāga is now referred as Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhārī by some (See Footnote 1). This important phrase PNDNDP (or NDNDP) is seen in both sūlādi and gītaṃ notated in Pradarśini.3

Based on these evidences, it is clear that the version notated by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar is better to be called as Dēvagāndhārī or Dēvagāndhāra or Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhārī. It does not possess the features of the rāga Ābhēri, mentioned in any of the mentioned treatises.

We have another important version given by Taccur Brothers in the year 1905. They say Ābhēri is a janya of mēla 20 and the version is much similar to the present versions and the version given by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar. Intriguingly, they give a phrase PNDNDP! The place where it occurs in the caraṇam too is same! Incidentally they have mentioned Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhāri as a janya of mēla 21 and their Dēvagāndhāri is a janya of mēla 29 (the present popular Dēvagāndhāri).4

Have they got a version with catuśruti dhaivata and to be in line with the prevailing system, they have named it as Ābhēri? We raise this doubt considering the inconsistency seen in the versions and rāga lakṣaṇa given by them in their texts.

Manuscripts

This kṛti is always a rare find in manuscripts. The popularity of a kṛti too differs across a century. In an article on the rāga Balahamsa, we have mentioned the popularity of the kṛti-s in the rāga Balahamsa in the earlier part of last century. Contrary to those kṛti-s, this kṛti seems to be relatively unpopular, at least until Musiri Subramaṇya Ayyar popularizing this. In our study, we were able to find only two manuscripts mentioning this kṛti – manuscripts by Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar and Śrīnivāsarāghavan.

Manuscript by Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar

Though the age of the manuscript is unknown, considering the time period of Natēśa Iyer (1855-1931), it can be very well believed to have been written either in the latter half of 19th  century or in the first decade of  20th century. The notations does not have a mention about the use of dhaivatam. Though the basic structure of the kṛti is comparable to the common version, we see some unusual phrases to Ābhēri like SRGR, MRS, SGRGM and SNDMGS. This indicates the rāga of this kṛti could not be fitted in to any of the two varieties of Ābhēri mentioned!

Manuscript by Śrīnivāsarāghavan

Dr Śrīnivāsarāghavan was a nephew of Tillaisthānam Rāma Ayyaṅgar, a direct disciple of Svāmigal. But he has learnt from many sources; the sources that are known to us include Tillaisthānam Pañju Bhāgavatar and S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar. His notebooks provide a valuable reference material to understand the tunes of the past as it is generally believed that he was faithful to the versions that he had learnt. In his notebooks, he has notated this kṛti, named it as Ābhēri and clearly says, it is a janya of mēla 20. To our surprise, the kṛti starts with the phrase PDNDPM, which is certainly not allowed in any of the two varieties of Ābhēri.  He continues to surprise us by giving phrases like SRG, RGMG, GRG, SRGM and DNS. None of these phrases can be fitted into any of the two varieties of Ābhēri. An astute musician he was, he has mentioned the scale of this rāga as S(R)GMP(D)NS SNDPMGRS. Though the scale is much like Naṭabhairavi or its sampūrṇa janya-s like Nāgagāndhāri, Cāpaghaṇṭāravam et al, structure of the rāga, as evidenced from these phrases is strikingly different.

Vālājāpeṭṭai version

Vālājāpeṭṭai transcripts that we have make a note of this version. It mentions the rāga name as Ghaṇṭāravam! Since notations are not available, we are unable to proceed any further.

The versions see in these manuscripts might be insular. But this insularity is striking and is common to these versions seen in manuscripts. 

Ninnuvinā marigalada

There is a kṛti of Śyāma Sāstri ‘ninnuvina marigalada’ with two versions – one in Rītigaula and the other one in the mentioned in the texts. We are yet to get an older version and will be subjected to analysis once we procure.

What is the rāga of this kṛti?

The answer to this question depends on the version that we believe to be original and the lakṣaṇa embedded therein.

  1. If we rely on the version by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar, it is better to call it as Dēvagāndhārī or Dēvagāndhāra. It is to be remembered that a lot of intra school differences exist within this school and we do not know whether this version was handed over to Kṛṣṇa Ayyar or it was the general version prevailed in Mānambucāvaḍi school. This becomes highly relevant as that determines the authenticity of the version.
  2. The version given by Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar and Śrīnivāsarāghavan cannot be placed into Ābhēri or Dēvagāndhāri / Dēvagāndhāra (irrespective of the dhaivatam). It is some unknown rāga, yet to be identified.
  3. The presently rendered version (śuddha dhaivatam version) is structured more like Ābhēri of the second class of treatises. In that case it could have been called by the name Ābhīrī, as seen in one of the treatise mentioned earlier. Over the years and also due to the ascension of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, Ābhīrī could have been called as Ābhērī. Interestingly, there exists a rāga by name Ābhīr in Hindustani Music. The structure of this rāga is identical with Ābhēri seen in the present version using śuddha dhaivatam. The presently rendered catuśruti dhaivatam version, if it is added with the phrase PNDNDP can be comfortably called as Dēvagāndhārī / Dēvagāndhāra. In the absence of this arterial phrase, it is advisable to give a separate name as it does not satisfy the criteria to be called as Dēvagāndhāri / Dēvagāndhāra or Ābhērī.
  4. The presently heard versions could be actually an abridged version of the original with many of its non-scale abiding phrases removed. 
  5. Getting a Vālājāpeṭṭai version definitely gives an added value.

Conclusion

This could be one of the apūrva rāga kṛti of Svāmigaḷ. Alternatively it could have been composed in an old rāga, yet to be identified. Perhaps, the lakṣaṇa seen in the version of Śrīnivāsarāghavan can be compared with all 20 mēla janya rāga-s.

Based on this analysis, it appears that the presently heard versions might not be portraying the complete lakṣaṇa of this rāga, as visualized by Svāmigaḷ. As with many other kṛti-s of Svāmigaḷ , we might be hearing a changed version(s).

Acknowledgements

The library in The Music Academy is a repository of many valuable manuscripts written in the early part of last century, like that of Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar. I thank Sri V Sriram, Secretary, The Music Academy for permitting me to access those valuable manuscripts.

I sincerely thank Dr Chandran, descendant of Dr Srinivasa Raghavan for parting me with the manuscripts in his possession.

References

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

2. Kākināḍa C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar, Śrī Tyāgarāja Śata Kīrtana Svarāvali, 1911.

3. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905. 

4. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gāyaka Siddhānjanamu. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905.

Footnote 1

In the second type of treatises, namely Saṅgita Sāra Saṅgrahamu  Mahābharata Cūḍāmaṇi and Rāga lakśana manuscript of unknown authorship this rāga is called as Dēvagāndhāra considered as a janya of mēla 20 with the same scale as Ābhēri. In that instance the difference between Dēvagāndhāra and Ābhēri is not clear (as these texts do not furnish phrases or gītam).  These three treatises along with Saṅgraha Cudāmaṇi also mention another rāga, Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhāri  with the same scale as Ābhēri and Dēvagāndhāra, but as a janya of mēla 21. Simply saying, Ābhēri mentioned in Saṅgīta Sudhā and Caturdaṇḍiprakāśika exist as Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhārī in these texts.

Composers, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga, Shishya Parampara

Intriguing raga-s – Balahamsa

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Changes occurred to a rāga can be of various types ranging from trivial to drastic. There are some rāga-s wherein some phrases have disappeared over the period of years, there are a few wherein a rāga was made to sport a svara which is not present in its derivative scale and lastly there are some which were given a new form altogether. The last change is most dangerous as we are deprived to understand its old and original form. One such ‘extinct’ rāga is Balahamsa, a rāga that was much popular during the period of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ and his contemporaries. The Balahamsa visualized by these composers was indeed a grand ‘rāga’ with lot of fluid phrases traversing the scale.

Though we do hear Balahamsa now and then with the same svara sthāna as that of Balahamsa of yore, the kṛti-s heard are mostly modern considering the lakṣaṇa of this rāga. The contemporary Balahamsa is much scalar which is essentially to be contrasted against the Balahamsa used by the composers mentioned above.  

Balahamsa

The present form of Balahamsa, in texts is seen only from the period of Śahaji. But the lakṣaṇa seen here has not changed; Tulaja too records the same, though he was late by around a century (See Footnote 1). This rāga, essentially in the same form was utilized by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in his kṛti ‘guruguhādanyam’, belonging to the set of guruguha vibhakti kṛti-s. This kṛti as notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśini follows the same lakṣaṇa as given by Śahaji and Tulaja. Unfortunately, the later versions of this kṛti resemble this Balahamsa remotely and were structured to be in confirmation with the commonly heard Scalar Balahamsa. This scalar version subdued the Scale-transcending Balahamsa in the Post – Trinity era and live through many compositions.

We have mentioned in our earlier articles that many of the Scale-transcending rāga-s have a Scalar counterpart and Balahamsa can be best fitted into this. It is a rarity to hear Balahamsa in the present day concert milieu and when it is heard, it is invariably the Scalar Balahamsa that bemuse us.

Scalar Balahamsa

Balahamsa takes the svara that are assigned to the mēla 28 (present system), namely catuśruti ṛṣabham, antara gāndhāram, suddha madhyamaṃ, catuśruti dhaivatam and kaiśiki niṣādham. It is an upāṅga rāgaṃ and svara-s alien to mēla 28 are never seen here. All the advocatory texts of the Scalar school like Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sāram etc., identify this rāga and assign the scale SRMPDS SNDPMRMGS to it (See Footnote 2). The phrase RMGS has been given an undue importance (in the Post-Trinity era) and this phrase has almost become synonymous with this rāga which we feel, is mainly due to the influence of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi and the lakṣaṇa gīta given there in. The lakṣaṇa gīta notated there does not have gāndhāra in ārōhaṇa phrases, strictly confirming with the scale and RMGS is found aplenty. Glide towards the ṣaḍja in avarōhaṇa phrases is always RMGS, excluding a single place wherein MGRS is seen.

Scale-transcending Balahamsa

This grand rāga, as noted by Śahaji and Tulaja cannot be reined in by a mere scale. Though the svara stanāna-s it takes are exactly the same as that of scalar one, it has many unique phrases which was well projected by the composers like Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar explains its entire firmament in a single śloka, attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi:

      balahamsākhyarāgōyam ārōhē ca nivarjitaḥ I
sagrahassarvakālēṣu gīyatē gāyakōttamaihi II

The first part of this śloka says ‘the svara niṣādha is varjya (absent) in the ārōhaṇa of the rāga balahamsa’.  Though the śloka appears to be concise and at times non-explanatory, the very essence of Balahamsa is communicated here assiduously. This Balahamsa has ārohaṇa phrases, with the six svara-s used in various permutations, excluding the niṣādha. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives various illustrious phrases like SRGR, SRGM, SRMP, MPDP etc., and when they are studied with the śloka mentioned above, gives an idea that these grantakāra-s are willing to convey. Niṣādha is seen in the phrases like SNDP and DNDP. Beside these standard phrases, this rāga has many unusual phrases like SRGMPMR, SRPMR, PR and PDPS. There are two striking features in the above mentioned discussion – the phrase RMGS is not mentioned anywhere (See Footnote 3) and the phrase SRGMPMR, though mentioned by Dīkṣitar as very important, is seen nowhere in any of the compositions notated by him. The point we wish to reiterate by this discussion is that RMGS was an ignored phrase in this rāga (in the past), this rāga can be placed in par with the rāga-s like Kāmbhōji or Rītigaula which has very many special phrases outside the fixed scale and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar wishes to educate us about a rāga by giving important phrases of a rāga, irrespective of them being used in the compositions notated by him. It is thus imperative for us to read each and every discussion or note that he gives to contemplate a rāga.  

Compositions of Tyāgaraja Svāmigaḷ in the rāga Balahamsa

An astute reader will be with a query on the svarūpa of Balahamsa seen in the compositions of Svāmigaḷ. In the commonly heard versions, we hear only Scalar Balahamsa and the phrase RMGS ornate each and every single composition. Also they also do not confirm with the lakṣaṇa of the Scale-transcending Balahamsa as portrayed in the composition of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar or elsewhere. Does it mean both of them followed two different schools? This puzzle can be resolved only by looking into the older versions of the kṛti-s of Tyāgaraja Svāmigaḷ.

Older versions – a repository of lost tradition

We have insisted several times in our previous posts regarding the importance of collecting and analyzing the manuscripts preserved at various repositories. Analysis of various versions prevalent during the early part of the last century and prior reveal, the older form of Tyāgarāja kṛti-s too were in Scale-transcending Balahamsa and the possibilities of them being the ‘original’ intent of the composer is extremely high.

We have around eight compositions of Svāmigaḷ in this rāga and we were able to identify the older version for few of these compositions. A comparison across the versions will be done for the kṛti-s which were able to get an old version, to draw a conclusion.

Ninnu bāsietla

This is the rarest of the entire lot of the kṛti-s of Svāmigaḷ in Balahamsa. Surprisingly this could have been a popular kṛti in the past, getting mentioned by many musicians who had the habit of notating the kṛti-s that they have learnt. It can also be seen in published texts. Vālājāpēṭṭai version of this kṛti can be heard here. Though a small kṛti, it epitomize the Scale-transcending Balahamsa. The phrase SRGMPMR is heard in the caraṇam of this kṛti.

T M Vēṅkaṭa Śāstri was the first one to publish this kṛti in notation as early as in 1892. Though the version much resembles the Vālājāpeṭṭai version, there exist few minor differences. A prominent difference being observed is the absence of the phrase SRGMPMR and SNDNP. Instead this reads as SRMPPMR and SNDNDP respectively! (See Footnote 4)This trend gets continued in the Gāyaka Siddhānjanamu of Taccur brothers. P V Ponnammāl, a musician who lived around 1917 also recorded a similar version, but without the phrase SRGMPMR. Same is the case with Kumbakōṇam Visvanātha Ayyar, an Umayālpuram musician. There are two versions other than the Vālājāpeṭṭai version to have this phrase; one by Srinivāsa Rāghavan, a nephew of Tillaisthānam Rāma Ayyaṅgār and another one in a book published by Kākināda C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar. Srinivāsa Rāghavan has learnt from various sources including S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar, a disciple of Vālājāpeṭṭai Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar and Umayālpuram Kṛṣṇa and Sundara Bhāgavatar and he could have learnt this from S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar. The version published by Kākināda C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar  is extraordinarily similar to Vālājāpeṭṭai version, but for the absence of the phrase SNDNP. Though few minor differences exist across the versions, the basic structure of this kṛti is almost similar. Strikingly, none of these versions use the phrase RMGS. The presently rendered concert version can be heard here.

Taḷḷi tandrulu

Another common kṛti seen in almost all the manuscripts written during the early part of the last century. The lakṣaṇa of Balahamsa is similar to the other kṛti-s mentioned in the Vālājāpeṭṭai manuscripts (‘ninnu basi’, ‘daṇdamu bettēnura’ and ‘ika gāvalasina’). We do not find the phrase SRGMPMR here, though we find PMR and PR in plenty. Similar lakṣaṇa is seen in the text Gānēnduśekaram of Taccur brothers. A similar version with the complete absence of RMGS and plenty of DSR, SRGR,PMR,PDND etc., were seen in the versions of Bālasubraḥmaṇya Ayyar, supposedly an Umayālpuram musician, PV Ponnammāl and Srinivāsa Rāghavan. This again shows the older versions of the kṛti-s of svāmigaḷ is much different from the presently heard versions.

Ika gāvalasinadēmi

This is perhaps one of the common kṛti heard in this rāga. The version that is commonly heard must have been probably sourced from Umayālpuram tradition as this version much resembles the version notated by B Kṛṣṇamūrti, as learnt from Umayālpuram Rājagōpāla Iyer, a descendant of Umayālpuram Svāminātha Iyer. This version has plenty of the phrase RMGS. This kṛti could have not been known to all (musicians of the past) is gleaned from the fact that this kṛti is very rarely encountered in the manuscripts examined by us. Fortunately, a Vālājāpēṭṭai version is available, but only in part; pallavi and the first line of anupallavi alone is notated in the transcripts available. This version is devoid of the phrase RMGS.

It can be seen the arterial phrase SRGMPMR occurs and this version is not even remotely identical with the common Umayālpuram version of this kṛti!

Daṇdamu beṭṭēnura

This is perhaps the most popular kṛti in this rāga. Including the Vālājāpēṭṭai versions, none of the older versions deviate from the structure of Scale-transcending Balahamsa explained earlier. This is also applicable to the Umayālpuram version notated by B Kṛṣṇamūrti.

Rāma ēva daivatam

This is another rare kṛti in this rāga. Whereas the commonly heard version is replete with the phrase RMGS and predominantly scalar, the version by Srinivāsa Rāghavan is in line with the Scale-transcending Balahamsa. Like ‘ninnu bāsietla’, it can be conjectured that this could have also been learnt from S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar.

It can be seen the kṛti-s ‘daṇdamu beṭṭēnura’, ‘taḷḷi tandrulu’ and ‘ninnu bāsietla’ were much known to the musicians in the past and all the kṛti-s were structured only in the Scale-transcending form. Of these versions, Vālājāpēṭṭai versions tend to harbor more archaic, yet arterial phrase like SRGMPMR and SNDNP which has been dropped off in the later versions. The emergence of Janarañjani with this phrase (SRGMPMR) might be a reason that can be speculated.

Post-Trinity composers

This rāga was handled by almost all the prominent Post-Trinity composers from Mysore Sadāśiva Rao to Harikēśanallur Muttiah Bhāgavatar. Whereas the lakśaṇa of the rāga resembles the Scale Balahamsa to a greater extent with a profuse use of the phrase RMGS, few have also used some phrases outside the scale. SRGMPMR in the kṛti ‘dēvi dākśāyani’ of Muttiah Bhāgavatar, DM and MD in the kṛti ‘evarunnaru brōva’ of Sadāśiva Rao can be cited as examples. This shows their acquaintance with Scale-transcending Balahamsa and perhaps due to changes in the trend during their period, they have composed in Scalar Balahamsa with few special phrases outside the scale to give us an inkling about the past tradition.

Unique Post-Trinity composers

As mentioned earlier, Scalar Balahamsa rose to prominence in the Post-Trinity era mainly due to the works of prominent composers who lived in the last century. Amongst this, we have two composers who have made a mark by composing in the Scale-transcending Balahamsa. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has composed a grand aṭa tāḷa varṇa ‘śri raja rāja’ demonstrating all the vital phrases of this rāga following the lines of Tyāgarāja Svāmy and Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar. Tiruvottriyūr Tyāgayyar has composed a kriti ‘paluka vādēla’ in this rāga belonging to the set ‘ Śri Vēṇugōpāla Aṣṭōttara Śata Kṛtis’. Though he has not used the phrase RMGS, he has neither used the phrases like SRGMPMR, SNP or PDPS, the definitive features of Scale-transcending Balahamsa. So it is neither scalar nor having all the phrases of Scale-transcending Balahamsa.

Scalar Vs Scale-transcending Balahamsa

Having discussed the two types of Balahamsa and the compositions therein, we wish to give a reckoner to identify and understand these two types. The Scalar Balahamsa follows the scale exactly with no outliers. The avarōhaṇa phrases leads to ṣaḍja only through RMGS or a phrase having the motif ‘GS’ like SRGS. But, none of the compositions exist to serve as an example for this Scalar Balahamsa that is following only the scale. The compositions by the Post-Trinity composers predominantly are scalar with few phrases not confirming with the scale.

Scale-transcending Balahamsa has the phrase MGRS in addition with the avarōhaṇa phrases mentioned above. Phrases like SRGMPMR, PDPS and SDNP are inherently present. The compositions of Tyāgaraja Svāmigaḷ, Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar come under this category. Though we do not find the phrase SRGMPMR in the compositions of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, we do find a phrase MRGMPMR in the mentioned varṇam by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Hindustāni equivalent of Balahamsa

There is no equivalent rāga for Balahamsa in Hindustāni music. Subbā Rao gives four types of Baḍahamsa in his book and none of them resemble our Balahamsa.

Conclusion

Analysis of older versions reveal, Balahamsa was handled only in a Scale-transcending form earlier, at least till the period of Tyāgarāja and Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar. Though we do not have any recordings, this is clear form all the manuscripts and the early texts examined. Since every other evidence points towards the same direction, it can be very well concluded that the kṛti-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmy in the rāga Balahamsa has been changed from Scale-transcending to Scalar form. The Balahamsa that is heard today is definitely a Post-Trinity development.

The Vālājāpēṭṭai version of the kṛti ‘ninnu bāsi etla’ represents an original authentic version, as every other old version, representing various other schools confirm this.

Though it is not technically wrong in having the phrase RMGS, for some unknown reasons, composers like Tyāgarāja Svāmy and Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar has avoided that phrase. 

There are many pockets within the broader Umayālpuram school, with total disagreement in their versions and they are to be studied separately.

Vālājāpēṭṭai notations, being the oldest of all maintain many archaic, yet arterial phrases which are must to understand this rāga. Any efforts to analyze the rāga-s handled by Tyāgarāja Svāmy will be futile without examining them.

This analysis shows there are no two different thoughts in approaching a rāga between Tyāgarāja and Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and it is the change that has happened over the time has created this illusion.

This analysis also highlights the importance of analyzing manuscripts to understand the truth. We request the readers to share information about any unpublished manuscripts that they are aware of.

Acknowledgements

The library in The Music Academy is a repository of many valuable manuscripts written in the early part of the last century, like that of P V Ponnammal. I thank Sri V Sriram, Secretary, The Music Academy for permitting me to access those valuable manuscripts.

I sincerely thank Sri B Krishnamurti, Smt Nandhini Venkataraman, descendant of Kumbakonam Sri Visvanatha Iyer and Dr Chandran, descendant of Dr Srinivasa Raghavan for parting me with the manuscripts that they possess.

References

Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905. 

Subraḥmaṇya Śāstri. Sangraha Chudamani of Govinda, 1934.

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

T M Vēṅkateśa Śāstri. Saṅgīta Svayam Bodhini, 1892.

Kākināḍa C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar, Śrī Tyāgarāja Śata Kīrtana Svarāvali, 1911.

Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gāyaka Siddhānjanamu. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905.

Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gānēnduśekaram. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1912. 

B Subbā Rao. Rāganidhi – A comparative study of Hindustāni and Karnatik rāga-s, Volume 1, The Music Academy, 1980. 

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – Balahamsa can also be seen in the treatises like Saṅgīta Pārijāta and Hṛdaya Kautuka. But the rāga lakṣaṇa is different and Balahamsa with the present svara sthāna-s can be seen only from the text by Śahaji.

Footnote 2 – Saṅgraha Cuḍāmaṇi gives the scale asSRMPD SNDPMRMGSRS. Rāga lakṣaṇa, a similar text of unknown authorship gives us the scale SRMPDS  SNDPDMGRS.

Footnote 3 – The phrase RMGS occur as RMGGS only once in the rāgamālika ‘śivamōhana’ of Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar.

Footnote 4 – Since this article predominantly deals with the rāga Balahamsa, the various versions were not discussed in detail.

Composers, Personalities, Uncategorized

Kshetrayya: A figment of imagination?

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Note:
This article is a rejoinder to the views questioning Kshetrayya’s existence in an article by Dr.Swarnamalya Ganesh that appeared in the NewsMinute.

For those who listen Karnataka music, Kshetrayya needs no introduction as he is one amongst the few who has composed compositions brimming with srungara rasa. He can be very well placed in the line of few Azvar-s like Tirumangai Azvar or  Andal and Jayadeva. It is commonly believed that he hails from the place called Muvva and he was a devotee of Lord Krishna enshrined there. He takes the role of a nayika and his compositions are intimate love dialogues between him and his Lord. Kshetrayya’s compositions are well known for his free and lucid style with an absorbing music.

I happened to read an article by Swarnamalya Ganesh on Kshetrayya and his creations, pada-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. She claims the compositions were actually composed by courtesans and they were appropriated to give a ‘male voice’ to those erotic lyrics. This article by Swarnamalya also quotes another article by Harshita Mruthinti Kamath who even claims Kshetrayya was a figment and was created by the literary community. These two articles shake the belief that Kshetrayya can be no more called as a vaggeyakara as the compositions bearing the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ are in reality, the voice of courtesans.  Though it is imperative to attribute the compositions to the composer who conceived it, we need to first analyze the quality of the research that has taken place to call Kshetrayya as a figment. The readers are requested to read the article by Harshita and Swarnamalya before proceeding further.  This article will be analyzing the arguments placed by them and an analysis will be provided from the angle of a music researcher.

This article can be divided into two parts – first part deals with the theory that Kshetrayya is not a historical figure but a later construct and the second one with the authorship of the pada-s of Kshetrayya.

Let us see the various literary evidences that mention about Kshetrayya. Before going to this, it is to be admitted that the details of this poet available from the literary sources are very scant. The first evidence that we get comes from Manda Lakshminarayana, a 17th or 18th century poet who wrote the text ‘Sarasvati Trilinga Sabdaanusaasanam’ also called as ‘Andhra Kaumudi’, a text on Telugu grammar. He remarks Kshetrayya as ‘iti muvvagopala bhaktena ksetra kavinaa uktatvaacca’, meaning ‘as said by the poet Ksetra, a devotee of Muvvagopala’. What can be understood from this is that the kavi ‘Ksetra’ was popular for using the mudra ‘muvvagopala’, being a bhaktha of the Lord Muvvagopala. This (text) occurs as a continuation of a verse praising Ragunatha Nayaka in the reference mentioned. 1

Supplicants come on their own

to a patron who knows how to give.

Who invited them?

Don’t bees visit the lotus pond

on their own,

king Raghunatha?

Harshita raises following queries:

               ‘insertion of this line and attributed author is interesting for three reasons: first, the line is written in prose, which does not match the lyrical poetic style of the padam genre. [sic] Second, the line is dedicated to Raghunātha Nāyaka (r. 1612–34), who is the predecessor of Vijayarāghāva Nāyaka (r. 1634–73), the latter of whom is the king commonly thought to have patronised Kṣētrayya as per the mēruva padam. [sic] Finally, the poet is identified as Kṣētra, not Kṣētrayya or Kṣētrajña, a Sanskritised version of the poet’s name’. [sic]

Let us see one by one in detail.

Style of the text

Harshita starts by saying the text does not confirm with the style padam-s, the genre for which Kshetrayya is known for. When we don’t even know the proper life history of Kshetrayya, his exact number of compositions and the location where he exactly hailed from, is this not a hasty conclusion that he could have composed only padam-s and this text is out of place? Why should we not think he has composed a text on Raghunatha Nayaka or some other theme where this line features in?

The verse on Raghunatha Nayaka

As mentioned earlier, we do not know the exact time period of Kshetrayya. From his various compositions and the internal evidences therein, it can be understood he lived during the period of Vijayaragahava Nayaka and patronized by him. We also understand he was patronized by two other kings, Tirumala Nayaka of Madurai and Padsha of Golconda from his meruva padam. In the meruva padam, which we will be seeing it soon, he refers to Tirumala Nayaka of Madura, followed by Vijayaraghava Nayaka and the Padsha of Golconda. If we place them in the timeline, Tirumala Nayaka is anterior to Vijayaraghava Nayaka, the former reigned Madurai from 1623-1629 and the latter ruled Tanjavur from 1633-1673. This implies Kshetrayya should have lived in the early part of 17th century. What is interesting here is the reign of Tirumala Nayaka coincides with that of Raghunatha Nayaka (1613-1631). Hence the possibility that Kshetrayya could have visited the court of Raghunatha Nayaka and patronized by him cannot be denied. We wish to remind the readers that not all the padam-s of Kshetrayya are extant. Subbarama Dikshitar has mentioned, he had 700 padam-s of Kshetrayya; only around 200 or 300 are in circulation now. So, the number of padam-s handed over to the next generation is always in decline and one of these lost padam-s might have a reference to Raghunatha Nayaka! This link was strangely missed by Harshita!

Name of the kavi

The text that we quoted read as ‘kshetra’ and not as Kshetrayya or Kshetragna. Harshita raises a query ‘were the poet Kshetra and Kshetrayya are same’?  It is distressing to see such an argument from a scholar who has worked on Telugu literature. The word ‘ayya’ is used as a form of respect and is usually added as a suffix to a person’s name. In this case, Kshetra has become Kshetrayya as a token of respect. Do we have to believe her inability to make this out is a happenstance?

The next reference is from Raghava Chary in his book written in the year 1806.1

Cashatreya, a modern Poet of first note, who composed innumerable Padasmarked with the name of Moova Gopala (Kristna) [sic] – his style is elegant and musical; his language is easy and clear, and his meaning is comprehensive

Though Cashatreya is a variant, we can again see his name is being associated with the deity Muvvagopala. What we wish to reiterate is Kshetrayya was always treated synonymously with his deity Muvvagopala throughout the literary history. But his life history was not mentioned in any of the mentioned references. The first information about his personal life comes from Subbarama Dikshitar in his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.2 He was the first one to mention about his initiation into Gopala mantram and he was from Muvvapuri. Dikshitar also mention various incidents happened in the life of Kshetrayya and perhaps he was the first to call him as Kshetragna.  We have two other evidences that say about Kshetrayya before the publication of the book by Vissa Appa Rao in 1950s and these two were missed by Harshita. The first one is the book Gayaka Siddhanjanam by Taccur Brothers published in the year 1905.3 Their mention is very brief and they say he was a composer of 1000 love songs and lived in a place by name Muvva. The second one is more important as it is from a believer of different faith, Abraham Panditar.4 He has mentioned Kshetiriya has composed 1000 padam-s, mainly reflecting the srungara rasa with the mudra muvvagopala. Further down the line, we find an elaborate story on Kshetrayya’s personal life by Vissa Appa Rao and Rajanikanta Rao. We do not want to dwell into that as they are the author’s interpretation of the available evidences and might lack historical authenticity. From the discussion above, we can understand there existed a poet by name Kshetra/Kshetrayya/Cashatreya/Kshetriya during the reign of Tirumala Nayaka and Raghunatha Nayaka, who could have reached the zenith of his career during the reign of Vijayaraghava Nayaka. He was known for his srungara padam-s, though the exact number is not known. He was always associated with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ due to his intimate attachment with the Lord Gopala of Muvva. Various places contest to get identified with the Muvva of Kshetrayya and we do want to venture into it, as it will make us to deviate from the topic.

Meruva padam

Almost every other who has given a detailed description about the padam-s of Kshetrayya mention this padam ‘vedukato’ in the raga Devagandhari, also called as meruva padam.

When Tirumala, the king of Madhura, lavished me with gifts

and ordered me to sit before him in his assembly,

he asked: ‘Give me the best of your poems’.

I responded, ‘Here’s 2,000 poems. Pick your favorite’.

Seated on a stage, the king was immensely overjoyed.

He’s the best of customers who plays with joy.

I saw Vijayarāghava in Tañjāvuri in a resplendent garden,

seated under a cool canopy.

When I talked to him, composing 1,000 songs,

he showered me with gifts.

He’s the best of customers who plays with joy.

When the strong Pāduśā of Gōlakoṇḍa gave gifts to me

he conversed with Tulasimūrti that day.

Muvva Gōpāla sang 1,500 songs in 40 days, all through me.

He’s the best of customers who plays with joy1

This is the common padam used to date the period of Kshetrayya and Harshita again places a few queries. She argues there is no reference to Kshetrayya and this is not in the style of other padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. Let us look in to these issues now.

Period of Kshetrayya

Every composer, at least in one of his composition gives an internal evidence about himself. It might be some important event that happened in their life or about his parents or about his place of origin. In this padam, we find the names of three rulers – Tirumala Nayaka, Raghunatha Nayaka and Padsha of Golconda and how the author of this composition was honored by every one of them. At the end of the padam, all the glory to the composer were attributed to the deity Muvvagopala. We have seen in all the earlier evidences, including the one by Abraham Panditar, that Kshterayya has made an indelible mark in the mind of people with two pointers – one by composing predominantly srungara padam-s and the second one by associating himself with the deity Muvvagopala. None of the grantakara-s seen above has mentioned him to use ‘svanama’ mudra (his name as a mudra). Hence it is much clear that Kshetrayya was the composer of this padam. Understanding vageeyakara-s (not poets) is important when we try to date the period of a composer and this lack of understanding, perhaps made Harshita to raise this query.

Style of the padam

Harshita mentions this padam differs from the rest of the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ which typically involve a female lover speaking to a friend or lover. A careful examination of few other padam-s could have avoided this confusion. Let us cite two examples:

I offer you worship in ever so many ways,

O ! Lord unite her with me !!

For having supplicated you to such an extent

O ! Lord fulfill my desire !!5

                                   – Inni vidhamula (Mukhari)

When I am unable to bear the onslaught of Cupid,

are you angry, Muvvagopala that I aspire for your love ?5

                                   – Sripati sutu (Anandabhairavi)

Both the examples cited are his personal communications with his Muvvagopala and nowhere an emissary or a pining lover is involved. As we have mentioned, every composer furnishes his creations with internal evidence and the meruvu padam is one such example similar to the two padam-s cited here.

Article with no convincing evidence

We have cited various lacunae on the way by which the research by Harshita was carried out. Let us look into one more issue of that sort. A research article is supposed to have a hypothesis affixed with plausible evidences. Strangely here in this article, we find a conclusion but with no acceptable explanations! Nowhere in this article, was she able to prove Kshretrayya never existed! She is also of the opinion that the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ were composed by courtesans or nattuvanar-s. Again no evidence for this too can be seen in her article and we will elaborate this in the next section.

Kshetrayya is not a figment

We have placed coherent counter arguments for the erroneous statement made by Harshita on Kshetrayya, without giving any solid evidence.  Anyone who goes through the available evidences (provided here or elsewhere) can easily make out that Kshetrayya is indeed a historical figure, who has composed with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. It is accepted that the details about his life history are very scanty in the written literature. Many of our oral histories exist as oral traditions, fragments due to repeated invasions and ravages of time. So unless we have a clear evidence of absence we cannot conclude that the absence of written evidence or history should say that Kshetrayya doesn’t exist.

Who is to be credited?

We will now concentrate on the next segment, on the authorship of the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. The seeds of this query was planted by Harshita and was nourished by Swarnamalya in her recent article. Harshita states:

‘I raise the possibility that vēśyas composed these Nāyaka-period padams’ [sic]

and Swarnamalya continues as:

‘she does not however delve into the possible names of poetesses and courtesans, which I endeavor to do’ [sic]’

Before seeing these arguments in detail, let us understand that Devadasi-s were custodians of the padam-s of Kshetrayya (along with other musical forms that deal with srungara like javali-s) and they consider as a perquisite with great pride. Many of these compositions were known only to them and even now, we might get some unpublished compositions from their descendants. In other words, it can be said Devadasis were mainly responsible for the propagation of Kshetrayya padam-s. The authors Harshita and Swarnamalya believe the works of these courtesans were appropriated and given a male voice to make these erotic songs more palatable. On analyzing the articles mentioned, we get the following questions:

  1. When did this appropriation take place?
  2. What are the evidences to say courtesans were the composers of these padam-s and why did every other courtesan use the mudra muvvagopala?
  3. Why were the works of courtesans alone appropriated?
  4. Do we have a history of males writing about women-specific expression?

When did this appropriation take place?

Though the scholars keep reiterating the works of courtesans have been appropriated, they never came with a hypothetical period during which this could have occurred. Absence of this information even in a full length research article, like that of Harshita is glaring. Now, let us dissect the possibilities of this appropriation.

From the above discussion, it becomes clear Kshetrayya lived during the period of Nayaka dynasty. Let’s imagine that was the period these padam-s could have been written by the courtesans. Also, we can understand from the discussion of the scholars that, the sanitization of the art of South Indian dance and the implementation of Anti-nautch Act, in association with the colonial mentality is mainly responsible for repugnance towards the erotic works. So, the appropriation could have taken place by the second half of 19th century and/or the first half of 20th century. This raises two pertinent questions – we have a reference to the kavi Kshetrayya and his association with the deity Muvvagopala by Manda Lakshminarayana Kavi, written during 17/18th century. How can this be accounted? Going by this evidence, if at all, the padam-s were appropriated, it could have happened before the period of Lakshminarayana Kavi, which could be before 17th or 18th century. If that is the case, what was the need to appropriate when there was not a generalized aversion to srungara rasa? We could not even find a discussion in these lines in the article mentioned, leave alone an explanation.

What are the evidences to say courtesans were the composers of these padam-s and why did every other courtesan use the mudra ‘muvvagopala’?

As mentioned elsewhere, when a researcher places a hypothesis, he/she is expected to affix it with evidences. What evidences do we have to say these ‘muvvagopala’ padam-s were composed by courtesans? Harshita’s article does not have any explanation and Swarnamalya mentions:

‘Nayaka period repertoires, there was one Nava padamulu [sic]. Nava to mean new, contemporary padams by a variety of composers, were performed in the court every day [sic]. Several of the “now attributed to Kshetryya” padams debuted there, through the courtesan voice and never in that of a Kshetrayya’s [sic]’.     

The details of the manuscript, paper or palm leaf preferably with the catalogue number, padam-s featured therein, the name of the composers therein, whether the names are found in association with padam-s or in a separate folio, any evidences of that manuscript being copied earlier etc., are to be furnished to be more subjective.  Though it is an article in an online magazine, it is intriguing that, not even a name of a single composer purported to have composed these padam-s has been mentioned. Even if the argument is made that some of these expressions are typically female, there is plenty of reference in literature including Kamasutra of Vatsyayana where males articulate from the female standpoint. Many Sangam era poets were male who wrote from the viewpoints of female. So this is nothing new within the larger cultural framework.

Now comes a yet another a germane question – what is the reason for so many courtesans to compose the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’? Mudras are insignia of a composer making us to identify the author of a given composition. Mudras can be of various types – svanama (his own name), poshaka (patron’s name), sthala (place with which he is associated) and so on. A single vaggeyakara can use multiple mudra and conversely multiple vaggeyakara-s can use the same mudra. Subbarama Dikshitar says ‘cevvandilinga’, ‘vijayaraghava’ were some of the mudras used by Kshetrayya other than his favourite ‘muvvagopala’. Virabhadrayya, Ramaswamy Dikshitar all come under this category. The mudras like ‘gopala’, ‘venkatesa’ were all favored by many composers. The mudra ‘gopaladasa’ was used by Veena Kuppaier and his son Tiruvottriyur Tyagayyar. The mudra ‘gopalasodari’ was used by one anonymous composers, who works exist only in the manuscripts, seen by this author. Similarly ‘venkatesa’ was used by the composers like Annamacharya, Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier etc. What can be seen here is, the mudra-s like gopala’ or ‘venkatesa’ were all more generic, refer to the composer himself (or could be their favourite deity), but the mudra ‘muvvgopala’ is not a generic one. It specifically refers to the Gopala in Muvva. So, it could have been used only the composers associated with the sthala Muvva. In that case, what was the connection between the courtesans who has written these padam-s and the Gopala of Muvva. Muvva (irrespective of the contestants) is certainly not in close proximity to Tanjavur is to be noted and it is to be related with the claim that courtesans of Nayaka era composed these padam-s.  Also we have seen, no granthakara has remarked about this mudra being used by someone else.

Alternatively, why the courtesans in the court of Vijayaraghava Nayaka should write padam-s, wherein the hero is Muvvagopala and included in the daily court routine? The period of Vijayaraghava Nayaka saw the outburst of competent courtesans, not necessarily only in the field of music. They could have very well composed padam-s in praise of him to include it into their repertoire and performed daily in his court.  This is an intriguing question and the scholars are compelled to give a suitable explanation, if their hypothesis is to be accepted.

Why were the works of courtesans alone appropriated?

Throughout the article(s), we can see a statement being reiterated multiple times in a different form – ‘works of the courtesans have been appropriated’, though with no evidence. But, both of them didn’t even try to look into the question ‘why their works have been appropriated’? We have a strong rationale behind this question which will be explained now. Swarnamalya observes:

             ‘For example, in the court of Raghunatha Nayaka were Ramabhadramba, Madhuravani, Krishnatvari and others.[sic] During the reign of Vijayaraghava Nayaka thrived Pasupuleti Rangajamma who wrote prolifically in eight languages alongside Krishnajamma, Candrarekha, Rupavati, Lokanayaki, Bhagyarati and others. [sic] Many of them composed padams which portrayed relationships; emotional, physical and social between the female lover and her deity / King / customer’. [sic]

This clearly shows there were many ‘female’ poets who wrote padam-s. Pasupaleti Rangajamma has even written an opera by name “Usha parinayamu”. This undoubtedly a love story and she was given freedom and voice of expression to compose a dance-drama like this is to be noted.  Women penning srungara pada-s were not uncommon in our culture. Andal, one among the twelve Azvar and her works ‘Nachiyar Tirumozhi’ and ‘Tiruppavai’, serve as a good example. In the medieval era we had the poets mentioned above and even in the colonial era, we do see women composing works based on srungara rasa. Muddupalani and her work Radhika Santwanamu can be cited an example for this. What we understand is, not necessarily, a male voice is required to express srungara. More importantly, none of the works mentioned above articulate in a male voice and none of these works were appropriated to another poet. Contrarily, we have lot of evidences wherein a male has written with a female voice. Those who are familiar with Vaishnavite literature cannot forget Parankusanayaki and Parakalanayaki and their pining for divine unison. The names might be deceiving for others; Nammazvar and Tirumangaiazvar has composed srungara poems in the voice of a female. In the medieval history, we have Jayadeva and in the latter period the works of Ganam Sinayya cannot be left untouched. His padam ‘siva diksha’ clearly explains our point. So, we only have a history of a male being voicing through a female and not the reverse and all these works are extant till now and every orthodox family, men or women are much aware of these poems (by Azvar and Jayadeva).

Having understood the history properly, we have two logical questions:

  1. When the works of Andal and Muddupalani has come to us without being appropriated to a male, why the works of courtesans alone were appropriated? They are much in line with the above mentioned woks, wherein a lady longs to get united with her divine lover.
  2. Their hypothesis looks much more ironic after reading the following statement by Swarnamalya:

      ‘let us not forget that Ramabhadramba, Rangajamma, Madhuravani and later Muddupalani and Nagaratnammal fall in the long line of audacious female figures from literary history, who wrote of the sensual pleasures and female sexual desires in an unabashed manner’.[sic] 

She has mentioned the female poets from the medieval and later era till Nagarathnammal, who lived till the middle half of the last century. So, even in the last century, we have evidences that females were bold enough to express their views, be it sensual or non-sensual. Then why should appropriation take place? The arrival of modern Classical dance is the reason for appropriation cannot hold water for the reason that it was developed to its present form, only from the second or third decade of the last century and we have a reference to Kshetrayya from 17th/18th onwards. The first book on Kshetrayya padam-s was published in the year 1862! Also if someone detest these lyrics in the dance community, they would have concealed, as happened to the work Radhika Santwanamu of Muddupalani.

Do we have a history of males writing about women-specific expression?

We do have a long cultural history in literature. That would be beyond the scope of this article, though a few examples has been cited elsewhere in this article.

Not all are the creations of Kshetrayya

Having rebutted the arguments of these two scholars on the authorship of the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’, let us also make a record that not all the extant compositions with the said mudras were his creations. This is particularly in response to a query by Harshita on the padam ‘cerugu maasiyunnanu’ in the raga Begada.

It’s true, I have my period,

but don’t let that stop you.

No rules apply to another man’s wife.

I beg you to come close,

but you seem to be hesitating.

All those codes were written

by men who don’t know how to love.

When I come at you, wanting you,

why do you back off?6

It is very clear that it is much different from the other padam-s of Ksheatrayya. There are hints to social practices that were prevalent among Devadasis in this padam and is quite unnatural. The readers are referred to another article, where in this author has tried to classify the composers based on their composition. A set of composers act like social commentators – they record the events happening around them. Purandaradasa, Samartha Ramadasa and Tyagaraja Svamigal belongs to this category. But, excluding this (perhaps we might have some other padam-s too), we do not find such a social commentary in his other extant padam-s. As ably put by Pillai, Kshetrayya, being a man is always sublime even in expressing srungara.7 A careful analysis of his padam-s will not equip us to ignore this fact. So, this may have been a later construct and the author of these padam-s has used Kshetrayya and his lord Muvvagopala as an armour to make the author’s view more authentic and sounder. Let us place few instances to support this.

Soneji refers to a javali by Neti Subbaraya Sastri ‘ceragu maseyemi’ in the raga Kalyani.

It’s that time of the month, what can I do?

          I can’t even come close to you!6

Even a glance reveals an extraordinary similarity between the two lyrics. If we do not know that the composer of this Kalyani javali is Subbaraya Sastri, it can be very well mistook as a composition of Kshetrayya. Subbarama Deekshithar warns about the tempering that have taken place to the sahitya of Kshetrayya padam-s. Fortunately, the Kalyani javali has naupuri, purportedly to be a mudra.

Lord of Naupuri with a gentle-heart,

Don’t have these worries in your heart,6

This mudra further raises our suspicion on the mentioned Kshetrayya padam in the ragam Begada. This ‘naupuri’ could have been replaced as ‘muvvapuri’! We do not argue this has taken place in this padam. What we try to reprise is the mudra of a composer can be mutilated or rather modified to make it to appear like a construction of another famous composer for better acceptance by the public. It is in the light of Soneji’s research, we need to further analyze this issue. He claims this javali is not published and the ‘kalavantulu’ whom he had interviewed sang it from her memory. Hence the full piece was fragmented and has been pieced together by her.6 These kind of unpublished kriti-s, especially in an oral tradition many times have a problem with the sahitya and are much prone to interpolations.

We wish to cite an example for this too. ‘Parakela nannu’ is a famous kriti of Syama Sastri in the raga Kedaragaula. Whether or not sung in the concerts, it always takes a prominent place in His Jayanthi celebrations or any tribute concerts to him. But the sad truth is that it was not a creation of Sastri at all ! It was actually composed by a musician by name Kakinada Krishna Iyer, who himself has mentioned this kriti in a book published by him.8 His mudra ‘krishna’ occurs in the line ‘smaraadhinudanu sri krishnanutha’ has been tampered as ‘smaraadhinudanu sri syama krishnanutha’ to escalate the image of this kriti and misattributed it to Syama sastri! When the fate of a kriti of relatively a recent construct has been changed, we can imagine the changes that could have happened to the work of Kshetrayya which was composed some 400 years back. The savant Subbarama Dikshitar and his wise words does not fail to hit our mind! Alternatively his mudra in its full form could have been used by others as happened with the case of Tyagaraja svamigal or Muthuswamy Dikshitar.

What we wish to say is that these ‘out of the way’ kritis could have been composed by some unknown authors and attributed to Kshetrayya to sell their product. It is up to us to distinguish the works of Kshetrayya from these spurious padam-s.

Conclusion

Anyone can undertake a research and give a hypothesis. A methodical research demands truthful evidences suffixed with a plausible explanation. Free thoughts of any author based on loose evidences is to be condemned and cannot be accepted as a research.

We have provided evidences to prove the existence of Kshetrayya and his association with his Lord of Muvva by composing padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. They are his personal interactions and it is better to be viewed as an expression of craving to get united with the Ever- pervading Parabrahmam.

As Swarnamlaya has stated:

   ‘Are we prepared to hear these padams in its original, female, liberated tone, sans the undercover of discipline, rationality, utilitarian value and knowledge of divinity?’ [sic]

It is up to an individual to view these srungara padam-s in a female, liberated tone or in a disciplined tone to get united with the Parabrahmam, not considering the gender at all. But it is definitely not an academically rigorous act to make broad claims or strawman arguments, appropriating Kshetrayya’s works and attributing them to courtesans with no clear evidence and trying to create an impression, liberality lies only with viewing these padam-s at a mundane level.

Also, it is essential to distinguish the padam-s of Kshetrayya from other composers (even name of some of the composers might be an arcane).But a deep knowledge in Telugu language along with an unbiased mindset and disinterest in thrusting one’s idea is a pre-requisite to do this analysis.

The very main essence that Kshetrayya is a figment and his compositions are actually that of courtesans will definitely trouble the Devadasis, leave alone us. It is their Kshetrayya through whom they have visualized Muvvagopala. It is their Kshetrayya who had taught them the nuances of abhinaya through his immortal padam-s. They would be eternally witnessing this discussion and be much happy that we have understood who He is.

Acknowledgement

I thank my friend Smt Vidya Jayaraman for helping me in preparing this article.

References

  1. Harshita Mruthinti Kamath. Kshetrayya: The making of a Telugu post. The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 56(3):253-282, 2019. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0019464619852264
  2. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini. Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Samasthānaṃ, 1904.      
  3. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gayaka Siddhanjanam. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905
  4. Abraham Panditar. Karunamruta Sagaram. Part 1. Tanjai Karunanidhi Vaidyasalai, 1917.
  5. Rajanikanta Rao, B. Makers of Indian Literature: Kshetrayya, New Delhi, 1981.
  6. Soneji, D. Unfinished Gestures: Devadāsīs, Memory, and Modernity in South India, Chicago, 2012.
  7. Manu S Pillai. https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-woman-who-had-no-reason-for-shame/article24057695.ece.
  8. C S Krishna Iyer. Prathama Siksha Prakaranam.   https://www.dropbox.com/s/ss6wf9myaqylx1u/BkTm-prathamaSikshAprakaraNam-incomplete-0222.pdf?dl=0  

Composers, History, Personalities

Ramaswamy Deekshithar – A ‘dvimudra’ vaggeyakara ?

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This article was published in the journal “Shanmukha” 2019 issue.

Apart from identifying raga-s sung by a musician, another exercise that enthuse a listener and musician alike is identifying the composer (vaggeyakara) of a song.  This is important as sahityam forms the basis of our music and a vaggeyakara expresses his feelings only through the sahityam. Identification of a vaggeyakara becomes simpler if we have a basic knowledge about the ‘mudra’ employed by each one of them.

Mudra used by a vageeyakara is not uniform; it can be his name (svanama mudra), his patron’s name (poshaka mudra) or the place with which he is associated with (sthala mudra) and so on. Also a  vaggeyakara can use one or more mudra-s and conversely two or more vageeyakara-s can use a same mudra. For instance, the mudra ‘venkatesa’ was used by Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier, Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Kothavasal Venkatarama Iyer. This has created confusion in attributing a composition to a particular composer. For instance, ‘dhanyudevvado’, a krithi in the ragam Malayamarutham is attributed to both Patnam Subramanya Iyer and his Guru Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier. Another interesting krithi which suffers this identity crisis is ‘parabrahmamu’. When a musician considers this as a composition of Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer, he is supposed to sing this in the ragam Kapinarayani. Whereas, if a musician feels it was composed by Manambuchavadi Venktasubbaier, he should sing this in the ragam Pravalajyothi.

A single musician can use one or more mudra-s too. Kshetrayya and Melattur Virabhadrayya can be cited as examples. Kshetrayya has used the mudra ‘muvva gopala’ in majority of his works where muvva is the sthala mudra. In few of his padam-s we can also see the mudra-s like  ‘kanchi varadudu’ and ‘cevvandhi lingudu’. 1 Virabhadrayya, a famous composer of the medieval period has used the mudra ‘pratapasimha’ in few of his compositions. Mudra-s like ‘achudabdhi nilaya’, ‘unnathapurisha’ and ‘achuthapuri’ are seen in his other compositions. Whereas pratapasimha is to be taken as poshaka mudra, achudabdhi nilaya and achuthapuri indicates the sthalam Melattur to which he belonged to and unnathapuri denotes the svami mudra (Unnatapurishvarar is the deity in Melattur).  

Ramaswamy Deekshithar, father of Muthuswamy Deekshithar was born in the year 1735 and attained the heavenly abode on Mahasivaratri in the yaer 1819. He was a prolific composer of 18 th century who has composed innumerable compositions, many of them does not even exist in paper, leave alone recordings. His initial training in music was from Melattur Virabhadrayya and later learnt the intricacies of music from Venkata Vaidyanatha Deekshithar, grandson of Venkatamakhi, propagating Venkatamakhi’s illustrious legacy to his disciples. His early years were spent at Tiruvarur, where he codified the raga-s and compositions to be sung by  Nagasvaram vidvans in Tyagarajasvamy temple upon the divine instruction by Tyagaraja himself. He was then patronized by the father-son dubashi-s of Manali, Chennai (erstwhile Madras) – Manali Muddukrishna Mudaliyar and Chinnaswamy (Venkatakrishna) Mudaliyar in later part of his life. Unfortunately, not many of his compositions are available and it is Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, which gives us a significant number of compositions. Though, mudra of Ramaswamy Deekshithar is considered to be ‘venkatakrishna’ (poshaka mudra), it will be illustrated from the following discussion that he can be considered as a dvi-mudra vaggeyakara.

Compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar

Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Deekshithar 2 lists the following compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar:

  1. Sarigani – Todi – Adhi – Svarasthana varnam
  2. Inkadaya – Vegavahini – Adhi – Keertanam
  3. Amba ni – Anandabhairavi – Adhi – Keertanam
  4. Rammanave – Hindola – Ata – Varnam
  5. Valachi vachi – Hindolavasantha – Rupakam –  Varnam
  6. Sami ninne – Sriranjani – Adhi – Varnam
  7. Vashivashi – Sahana – Adhi – Keertanam
  8. Sambho jagadeesa – Shankarabharanam – Adhi – Keertanam
  9. Ra ra puseyaka Shankarabharanam – Ata – Varnam
  10. Candaseyala – Hamsadvani – Matya –  Lakshya Prabandham
  11. Ela namne – Purnachandrika – Rupaka – Varnam
  12. Sivamohana – Ragamalika – Adhi
  13. Manasaveri – Ragamalika – Rupakam
  14. Nattakadi vidyala – 108 Ragatalamalika
  15. Samaja gamana – Ragamalika – Adhi
  16. Sarasa nayana – Gangatarangini – Tisra ekam – Daru
  17. Sri kamalamba – Manohari – Adhi – Varnam
  18. Paga jupa – Mohanam – Ata – Varnam  (not mentioned in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini). 3

Analysis of these compositions

Of these available compositions, the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’ is seen in svarasthana varnam, krithi in the ragam-s Vegavahini, Anandabhairavi, Sahana and in the lakshana prabandham.  This mudra is also seen in the ragamalika-s natakadi vidyala and sivamohana. Hence, 7 compositions out of 18 bear the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’.

Let us see the 11 compositions without the mudra “venkatakrishna” in detail.

1. Varnam in Hindola

This ata tala varnam ‘rammanave tyagaraja sami neevu’ is on Tyagarajaswamy of Tiruvarur. This is a cauka varnam with 4 ettugada svaram-s.

2. Varnam in Hindolavasantha

This is a cauka varnam is set to rupaka talam. Interestingly this varnam has only 3 ettugada svaram. This is on Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. Anupallavi of this varnam reads ‘velayu sripuravasa veeravasantha tyagesha’. The epithet ‘veeravasantha’ is used only for Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur and this was used only by vaggeyakaras linked personally and intimately with that deity like Ramaswamy Deekshithar and Muthuswamy Deekshithar.

3. Varnam in Sriranjani

This adi tala varna was also composed on Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. Anupallavi reads as ‘tamasamika seyaku mrokkera tyagaraja dayasagara sri’. This varnam has 4 ettugada svaram-s. Of these, only the first svara passage was composed by Ramaswamy Deekshithar. Second, third and fourth svara passages were contributed by Syama Sastri, Chinnaswamy Deekshithar and Muthuswamy Dekshithar respectively. 4

4. Varnam in Shankarabharanam

This grand ata tala varnam follows an old varna template seen with the varnam-s like ‘viriboni’ (Bhairavi) and ‘sami nine’ (Shankarabharanam). Contrast to his other varnam-s, this one has an anubandham which is linked to anupallavi and mukthayi svaram-s. Hence, this varnam is finished by singing pallavi. This is again on the Lord Tyagesha and he describes Tyagaraja as ‘koti lavanya tyagaraja maharaja’.

5. Varnam in Purnachandrika

This rupaka tala varnam is again on the Lord Tyagaraja and he asks him ‘jalamelara natho sami sri tyagesha’? This is a pada varnam with sahityam for mukthayi and ettugada svaram-s.

7. Varnam in Mohanam

This is a rare work of Deekshithar not found in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. This can be seen in few private manuscripts too. We find the epithet ‘veerasantha tyagaraja sami’ again here in anupallavi.

8. Samajagamana

This ragamalika is a string of 20 ragas composed on the Raja Amarasimha of Tanjore. It is said Deekshithar praised Amarasimha with this garland when the latter visited Tiruvarur. This is one of his best creations wherein he has skillfully woven the raga mudra into the sahityam. Though this is a pean to Amarasimha, Deekshithar has invoked Tyagesha too –  ‘aharindruni pujinchu tyageshu krupanijamu’.

From the above discussion, it becomes clear that, of the 11 compositions lacking the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’, 6 were composed on the Lord Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. All these bear the mudra ‘tyagesha’ or its variant. Of the remaining compositions, the ragamalika ‘samaja gamana’ has the mudra ‘tyagesha’ though the ‘nayaka’ glorified there was Amarasimha. 

The remaining 4 compositions namely the kriti in Sankarabharanam, ragamalika ‘manasaveri’, daru and the varnam in the ragam Manohari does not possess any of the mentioned mudra, though “venkataramana” can be seen in the ragamalika mentioned. It can be understood that this krithi was composed on the Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi.

Conclusion

The above discussion shows Ramaswamy Deekshithar was a  ‘dvi-mudra vaggeyakara’ with ‘tyagesha’ and ‘venkatakrishna’ as his mudra-s. It can also be assumed that he has used the mudra ‘tyagesha’ when he spent his life in Tiruvarur and used the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’ when he was in Manali, in memory of his benefactor Venkatakrishna Mudaliyar. It is a must to visit and analyse other compositions with the mudra ‘tyagesa’ as they could also be the compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar !!

A rare composition of ramaswamy Deekshithar can be heard here.

Acknowledgement

I personally thank Smt Jayasri, Editor, Shanmukha Journal for publishing this research work in their esteemed journal.

References

  1. Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini, Pg 16-18. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.           
  2. Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.
  3. BM Sundaram, ed. Tana Varna Tarangini, Part 3 – Pg – 228-229. Rajalakshmi Arakkattalai.
  4. Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini, Pg – 602-604. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.

Composers, Notation, Personalities

The birth of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

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The Tamiz month Thai (January – February) in the year 1904 marked a new beginning in the history of Karnataka Music. 15th February, 1904 (Rakshasa, Krishnapaksha chaturdashi) saw the first printed copy of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini written by Brahma Sri Subbarama Dikshitar. SSP, as it is frequently called was a brainchild of AM Chinnasamy Mudaliyar, but got the present shape only by the benevolence and munificence of the ruler of Ettayapuram, Raja Jagadveera Rama Venkateswara Ettappa Maharaja.

Though we consider SSP as a single book, it is indeed a collection of various aspects of our music and musicology. The book is mainly divided into two segments – theory and practical sections and this was  much intended by Subbarama Dikshitar himself. An adequate knowledge on these segments is a must to understand and interpret this treatise.

Segments

The theory segment consists of the following sub-divisions:

                         An index to the compositions notated in SSP.

                                      Vaggeyakara caritramu.

   Sangita lakshana pracheena padhathi dealing with grama,jati etc.

     Sangita lakshana sangrahamu dealing with svaras, gamakas etc.

Ragaangopaanga bhaashanga murchanaalu dealing with the arohana-

avarohana of various ragas.

Errata (tappoppulu) and section on identifying and rectifying the mistakes

(porabatalu).

The practical segment starts by giving notations with gamaka symbols for various kritis which extends as anubandham.

Whereas Sri Subbarama Dikshitar is much appreciated for his treatise which deals with both the lakshana and lakshya of music, his accomplishment as a composer is often abated. This article will deal only with Subbarama Dikshitar as a tribute to his priceless contribution.

Before embarking into the versions notations in SSP, it is imperative to understand that the svarupa of ragas shown there in not only reflect the lakshna seen during his time, but also that of an era which saw the birth of Trinity. Understanding this concept alone helps us to relate with the music provided by him.

Works of Subbarama Dikshitar

The creations of Subbarama Dikshitar can be equalled with that of well celebrated Trinity of Karnataka Music. His handling of ragas, use of alliterations, scrupulously obliging the rules of prosody are all unsurpassed and are to be enjoyed personally. He has composed around 35 compositions across various genres like varnam, daru, jatisvaram, keertanam and ragamalika and also tuned the compositions of other poets like Sri Krishnaswamy Ayya. The kriti ‘amba paradevate’ which is almost synonymous with the raga Rudrapriya was a creation of both Krishnaswamy Ayya (lyrics) and Subbarama Dikshitar (music). Though, the quantity appears to be less, they are all replete with arterial phrases of a raga which not only appeal the mortals like us, but also evoke the raga devata which are a personification of ever pervading ‘nadabrahmam’. Quite in the line of his predecessors, archaic phrases which can be seen only in ancient gitas can be seen aplenty in his works. Perhaps, he could be one of the modern composer to visualise the varnas in its old form – with an anubanda. All his varnas end with the pallavi (due to the presence of anubanda at the end of citta svara) and not with the caranam as is seen with majority of the varnas.

His compositional style, though resemble that of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in many aspects, has its own inimitable style. Incorporating raga mudras (punnagagandhari in the kriti mannaru ranga deva and rama ramakali kalusha in the kriti rama rama) and use of the mudra ‘guruguha’ in some of the kritis might resemble the style of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. As with any other member of Dikshitar family, he has also employed many antique ragas like Gauri, Kapi and Mechabauli in his kritis.  

A bulk of his compositions are ragamalikas. In general, ragas employed in his ragamalikas were the usual members patronized by Diksitar family like Gauri, Padi, Paraju, Darubaru and Sri. In this regard, extraordinary resemblance is seen between Subbarama Dikshitar and Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar. Another pathognomonic feature, unique to the family of Dikshitar is the serial use of allied ragas. In his 32 ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavathira’ on Vizianagaram Raja Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, he has used Lalitha, Paraju and Gauri adjacently (all are janyas of Mayamalavagaula).

He has a long ragamalika to his credit ‘I kanakambari’, a grammar to understand the 72 raganga ragas.  The sahitya of this ragamalika was composed by one Krishna Kavi and was tuned by Subbarama Diksitar. Ragamalika demands the use of raga mudra in the sahityam and we can see a seamless integration of raga name into the sahityam in the compositions of Subbarama Dikshitar. Be it the phrase “kaamita subha phaladayakaa pinaakapani” wherein the raga mudra Kapi is woven or “priyamunaayame kori” wherein the raga mudra Yamuna features in, one cannot stop wondering the genius of this composer.  

Plenty of anu-prasa and ‘yamaka’ can be seen in the compositions of Subbarama Dikshitar. One such example is the usage of the word “maana” in his daru in the ragam Natanarayani. Maanani, maanavati and maanamagu are the few forms in which this word features.

Unfortunately only few of his compositions like ‘kanthimathim’, ‘sankaracharyam’ and ‘parthasaradhi’ are in circulation. This author has attempted to give life to few of his compositions as a part of his 180th Birthday Celebrations (1839 – 2019), which can be viewed here.

Composers, Manuscripts, Sahitya

Nirupana-s of Sri Muddusvamy Diksitar

 

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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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

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

 

References
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).

Composers, Raga

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

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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.

Conclusion

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

References

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.

Footnotes

  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.
Composers, Raga

Apurva raga-s handled by Tyagaraja Svamigal – Svarabhusani

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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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Acknowledgements

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 .

 

References

  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.