Composers

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, History, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga

Colourful Bhashanga-s – Rudrapriya III

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We have seen about the rāga Rudrapriyā, its gṛha, amsa, nyāsa svarā-s and salient phrases in the two earlier posts. It was established that Rudrapriyā was mentioned by various names, the most common one being Karnāṭaka Kāpi. It was also illustrated the name Rudrapriyā was used to denote different scales in the past.

We have been mentioning in our earlier posts that Rudrapriyā elucidated in the main body of Saṅgīta Samprādaya Pradarśini is much different from the two kṛtis, ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’, notated in the ‘anubandham’ of the same text. The lakṣaṇa of these two kṛti-s too does not confirm with each other. The kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ was covered in an earlier post and the second kṛti will be the subject of discussion in this post.  

Tyāgēśam bhajarē in Saṅgīta Samprādaya Pradarśini

This is a very small kṛti constructed in a pallavi-anupallavi format. This is not even suffixed with a ciṭṭa svara passage. This is an ode to Tyāgēśa of Tiruvārur. Despite being a small kṛti, it has a reference to an important attribute associated with the deity Tyāgēśa. The relics of Tyāgeśa like his swords and throne are equally famous and much venerated as the Lord himself in this shrine. He is the sovereign, rules the world and his throne is said to be made of precious gems (Ratna simhāsanam). Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar has referred to His throne in many of his compositions,  ‘kanaka ratna simhāsanābharaṇa’ in the Vīravasanta kṛti ‘vīravasanta tyāgarāja’, ‘simhāsanapatē’ in this kṛti and in ‘tyāgarājaya namaste’, a kṛti in Bēgaḍa. There is a ślokam ‘Tyāgarāja aṣṭakam’ attributed to Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar.1 As the name indicates, this has eight verses and each verse ends with the line ‘śri tyāgarāya namo namaḥ’. The second verse here again refers to this throne as ‘samśobhi simhāsana samsthithāya’ (one who sits on a greatly shining throne).

Musically, the rāga lakṣaṇa portrayed here is much different from others kṛti-s notated in Rudrapriyā. Excluding a single phrase MGMGGR, the lakṣaṇa followed here more confirms with the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS, which can be heard here. This is one of the few kṛti-s, wherein Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar strictly follows a scale. The gṛha svara used here includes gāndhāra, pañcama and niṣādha and the nyāsa svara is always madhyama. We do find a plenty of janṭa gāndhāra, dhaivata and niṣādha prayōga-s.  Excluding the use of janṭa phrases, we do not find any similarity with the rāga Rudrapriyā. More about the rāga Rudrapriyā can be read here. We now get a question, can a kṛti with this lakṣaṇa can be called as Rudrapriyā ?

Consensus on Rudrapriyā

We have not seen the opinion of other musicians/musicologists on this rāga in our earlier posts and that will be taken now. The documentations of the rāga lakṣaṇa discussions happened during the annual conference organized by The Madras Music Academy always provides a valuable reference to understand a rāga. These discussions were attended by legion of musicians and they were not restrained in expressing their thoughts on a rāga, its versions or the kṛti-s known to them. These discussions not only enable us to know about a particular rāga, but also make us aware of its variants. Fortunately, they were also recorded for the posterity.

Rudrapriyā finds a place in two of such discussions. The first one happened in the year 1956.2 Two distinctive types of Rudrapriyā were mentioned by the musicians participated in this discussion; first is with the scale SRGMPDNNS  SNPMGRS and the second with the scale SRGMNS SNPMGRS. They were also of the opinion that the second one is to be called as Pūrṇaṣaḍjam. A note has been made that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has given six kṛti-s in notation including ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’. Whereas Musiri Subraḥmaṇya Ayyar had recorded the lakṣaṇa of the former kṛti, no discussion happened on the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’.

The second discussion happened in the year 2009.3 Here this rāga was discussed with its allied rāga-s like Kānaḍā and Durbār. This was a much-detailed discussion wherein many eminent musicologists participated and shared their views. Here Rudrapriyā compositions in the main section differed from the two kṛti-s in anubandham and difference between these two kṛti-s were taken note of. The kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ was analyzed in detail and its resemblance with ‘śrī mānini’ of Svāmigal was also discussed. Again no reference to the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ can be seen.

It can be seen from the above discussion, though a note has been made about this kṛti and the different lakṣaṇa seen here, no detailed analysis has been attempted; possibly due to unpopularity of this kṛti.  

A kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal

When we discuss the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ or render the kṛti, it is inevitable for us to think about the kṛti ‘śrī mānini’. We have analyzed these two kṛti-s in detail in the second part of this article which can be read here. Lesser-known fact is the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ also have a complementary kṛti, composed by Svāmigal. Contrary to the first pair, this pair is similar only with respect to their rāga lakṣaṇa-s and not with the melody.

We have mentioned earlier that the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ follows the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS. This rāga is now called as Sālagabhairavi. But the complementary kṛti that we will be seeing is not the commonly heard ‘padavini sadbhakthi’. Though this is the kṛti which epitomizes the rāga Sālagabhairavi today, the older version of this kṛti is much different, perhaps composed in a different rāga and we also find references to support this view.4 An analysis of this older version and the differences between this and the old Sālagabhairavi is to be covered separately.

We have a kṛti which could have been composed in the present Sālagabhairavi (the scale that corresponds to the lakṣaṇa in ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’), but now commonly sung in Mukhāri (See footnote 1). This kṛti ‘ēlāvatāra’ is mentioned as Sālagabhairavi in the text ‘Oriental Music in European Notation’ by A M Chinnasāmy Bhāgavatar (See footnote 2).

Though this kṛti is a personal dialogue between the composer and his iṣta dēvata Śrī Rāmacandra, this kṛti has an important reference about the musical contribution of the composer. This is one of the kṛti-s which reveals he has composed in 100 rāga-s and grouped it as rāgamālika, referred to as ‘śata rāgaratna mālikalu rasiñcina’ in this kṛti. Though we have no idea about this rāgamālika, C R Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār gives a fleeting reference in one of his article published in Sudēsamitran (See footnote 3).5

Vālājāpeṭṭai manuscripts mention the rāga of this kṛti as Sālagabhairavi. The version here exactly follows the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS. Gāndhāra and pañcama were the gṛha svara-s used and madhyama acts as a nyāsa svara apart from ṣaḍja (can be compared with the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’). The svara-s ṛṣbha and gāndhāra do occur as janṭa, but as pratyāgata gamaka (janṭa occurring in avarōhaṇa krama) and in catusra phrases. So it is common to find phrases like MGG and GRR, in this kṛti. This confirms with the typical style of Svāmigal, as seen in Vālājāpeṭṭai versions. This can be compared with the janṭa phrases seen in the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ wherein the janṭa svara-s occur as pratyāgata gamaka (but not as catusra phrases). This stylistic difference in the handling of svara-s give a different gait to the kṛti, despite being composed in the same rāga. The only difference that can be seen between these two kṛti-s is the presence of prayōga-s MGMGGR and PDND, but only in the latter kṛti. Though the first phrase is a deviation from the scale, the latter one is very much within the scale. There is a kṛti of Vīṇa Kuppaier in this rāga, ‘sāmagāna lolanē on Śrī Kālahastīśa. This kṛti too follows the mentioned scale, excluding the presence of the phrase SRGR. This special phrase is seen in the lakṣaṇa gītaṃ notated in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi.

Gītaṃ in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi

Many believe Tyāgarāja Svāmigal followed the treatise Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, selected apūrva rāga-s and composed in them. But analysis of many old, defunct versions like that from Vālājāpeṭṭai transcripts disprove this hypothesis (Readers can refer to Apūrva rāga-s series of this author placed in this site to know more). This rāga, Sālagabhairavi, as we call it today, is seen in this treatise and it also gives a lakṣaṇa gītaṃ for better understanding of this rāga.6 Many phrases outside this scale can be seen here like SRGR, SPM, RGRS, RPM, GSR, GRPM, GDP, MMGMGR and PDMGR.

As mentioned earlier, none of these outliers can be seen in the kṛti ‘ēlāvatāra, whereas these outliers can be seen in the kṛti-s ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ and ‘sāmagāna lolanē’ – MGMGR and SRGR respectively. Can we say Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Vīṇa Kuppaier were conversant with Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi?

Though we cannot give a definite answer, these phrases cannot be taken lightly and ignored as a mere coincidence. It is a well-known fact that Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar was equally conversant with Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā nomenclature (See footnote 4). This possibility can be conceived if we feel the present mēla system was a later development. Rather if we consider Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā and Kanakāmbari – Rasamañjari system were coeval, it can be taken that he had good acquaintance with both these systems.

It seems Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi was much popular among the disciples of Svāmigal and Vīṇa Kuppaier too could have accessed the same.Hence it is actually not impossible to find the use of the phrases seen in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi in the works of these composers who were shrewd and able to incorporate the changes happening around them.

Sindhūra or (Hindustāni) Saindhavi

Though we were able to locate the phrases used in these kṛti-s, in the lakṣaṇa gītaṃ notated in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, this hypothesis is not infallible when we consider the cultural milieu of Tanjāvūr between 17-19 CE. In the second part of this article, we have speculated the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘śrī mānini’ were not identical twins, but actually an inspiration from a common melody heard in that area. We can apply this hypothesis to this kṛti too. Tanjāvūr during the mentioned period was very active musically and there was not only an amalgamation of various genres of music, but also effective incorporation and thereby adaptation of these genres into our music. The composers mentioned in this article were much inclusive to various musical thoughts and they did not restrain themselves from incorporating these ideas into their creations. Dīkṣitar’s nōṭṭusvara sāhitya-s, Svāmigal’s ‘ramiñcuva’ all come under this category wherein they have adopted Western music into their creations. This rāga under discussion could be an adaptation from Hindustāni music. There is a Hindustāni rāga by the name Sindhūra or (Hindustāni) Saindhavi (emphasis is mine) and with the same scale.7 This rāga could have influenced these two composers to create a composition in their own commendable style.  Both these composers were adept in ancient treatises and it is very unlikely that they would have labelled this kṛti as Sālagabhairavi. For our reference, Sindhūra could be a better option as it will not lead to any more confusion.

Rudrapriyā and this kti

The above discussion clearly shows the rāga of this kṛti cannot be fitted into the realm of Rudrapriyā. Atleast the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ has some elements that made us to speculate, this kṛti could be a different interpretation of the rāga Rudrapriyā. But that cannot be applied for this kṛti. In such a case, the reason for Dīkṣitar labelling it as Rudrapriyā is mysterious. We did not want to make a hasty conclusion saying Dīkṣitar was wrong in naming it as Rudrapriyā. We just want to make a point that we are unable to find a reason for this labelling. Even Dīkṣitar could have been puzzled by seeing the lakṣaṇa of this kṛti, strikingly different from the Rudrapriyā of the main text. But the reason for him to tag Rudrapriyā with this melody is even really intriguing. Perhaps he must have had a lexicon in his possession, which label this scale as Rudrapriyā. Our statement ‘Rudrapriyā had many names and many different scales were called as Rudrapriyā’ can be remembered here.

We will stop at this point and leave this discussion open. We believe Dīkṣitar will show us the way to crack this secret by opening some unknown avenues in the near future.

Conclusion

Rudrapriyā visualized by Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar in this kṛti is distinctly different from the Rudrapriyā mentioned elsewhere. Analysis of the lakṣaṇa clearly shows the name Rudrapriyā is actually a misattribution, based on the present level of understanding. Considering the acumen of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it can be very well presumed that he must have had his own reasons to label this as Rudrapriyā.

It is better to call the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS as Sindhūra or Hindustāni Saindhavi. The rāga Sālagabhairavi is an old rāga mentioned in various treatises and was much popular. Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ were much conversant with these rāga-s and they would have not called this rāga as Sālagabhairavi. This also proves our oft-quoted hypothesis that evanescence of old versions made us to believe Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ were followers of two different schools. 

It is much surprising to see a phrase seen in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi finding a place in a kṛti of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar. This makes us to presume Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar too was aware of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi.

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – The present scalar Sālagabhairavi is actually an abridged version of Mukhāri, but with only one variety of dhaivatam.

Footnote 2 – Interestingly, this kṛti was not  mentioned by Narasiṃha Bhāgavatar and S A Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar in their texts.

Footnote 3 – Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar, grandson of Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar has averred to Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār that he had collected the individual kṛti-s in this rāgamālika and had plans to publish it soon. Unfortunately, we are now clueless on the condition of the manuscript in the possession of Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar.

Footnote 4 – Using mēla names current in Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā nomenclature like ‘haimavatīm’ and ‘śūlinīm’ in his kṛti-s attest this fact.

References

1. Śrī Tyāgarāja Aṣtakam – http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Sri_Thyagaraja_ashtakam

2. Proceedings of the Experts Committee of the Madras Music Academy. 1956. The Journal of  Music  Academy, Volume XXVII, p 27-28.

3. Rāmanāthan N. 2009. Rāga-s: Rudrapriyā, Karnāṭaka Kāpi, Darbār and Kānaḍā – A   Comparative Analysis. The Journal of Music Academy, , Volume LXXX, p 103-114. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/2359

4. Proceedings of the Experts Committee of the Madras Music Academy. 1943. The Journal of  Music Academy, Volume XIV, p 17-18.

5. Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgar C.V. 1935. Sudēsamitran. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/1638, p 10.

6. Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi. 1938. Sālagabhairavi lakṣaṇa gītaṃ – p 111-112. The Adyar Library.

7. Subbā Rao T.V. 1996. Rāganidhi. A Comparative Study Of Hindustāni and Karnātik Rāgas.  The Music Academy, p 46-47.

Composers, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga

Apurva raga-s handled by Tyagaraja Svamigal – Karnataka Kamas

Dr Aravindh T Ranganathan

This article is a continuation of the previous one on the rāga Kamās. It is advisable to get acquainted with that article before proceeding further as the mentioned article will be quoted often.

Like K V Rāmachandran has mentioned in one of his article, Tyāgarāja Svāmigal is like Prajāpati in creating his own rāga-s.1 Many of these rāga-s were hitherto unknown and many have only his compositions. This uniqueness had posed a problem for the musicians, compilers and researchers in the last century. Many rāga-s were given more than one name, some had scale-lakṣaṇa discrepancies, that is the rāga name does not match with the rāga svarūpa portrayed in the rāga and some were corrected to the nearest scale. The basic reason for such a discrepancy is the name of these rāgas-s remained anonymousand the compilers adopted their own indigenous ways to name these rāga-s (See Footnote 1).Frequently Taccur brothers were impeached for adopting the names from the text by name Saṅgraha Cūdāmani.2 Rāga-s handled by Tyāgarāja and Dīkṣitar with varied lakṣaṇa were given a single name and in this process a theory was devised to behold this glaring anomaly, Tyāgarāja and Dīkṣitar followed two different schools and a same rāga was handled differently depending on the school to which they belong to. Whereas Dīkṣitar’s musical ancestry was traced back to Vēṅkaṭamakhi, sincere thanks to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, Svāmigal’s ancestry was traced back to the text Saṅgraha Cūdāmani whose authorship is unknown. But this theory was questioned by Chērmadevi Subraḥmaṇya Sāstrigal as early as in 1936, a Veena vidvan belonging to Dīkṣitar school (See Footnote 2).3 This thought was later echoed in many of the articles by K V Ramachandran.1,2 Their reasoning and querying the authenticity of this theory is genuine, when we see a similar handling of ghana, rakti and dēśīya rāga-s, how or why should these contemporary composers follow different schools while handling apūrva rāga-s? This question remains open even now; but we still believe they propagated two different schools. This author tries to supplement the thoughts put forward by these musicians/musicologists, by analyzing Vālājāpeṭṭai manuscripts and other older versions and articles in this series can be accessed in this site.

K V Rāmachandran also made two valid observations which help us to understand these apūrva rāga-s better and help us to continue his quest in identifying the original tunes and the original rāga names. First, he mentions, in the event of identifying or tagging a rāga name to a composition, the original tune has been vitiated. Secondly, Vālajāpet Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar (grandson of Vālajāpet Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar) has admitted to him that many rāga names has been assigned to the kṛti-s without proper scrutiny.2 The latter point becomes more important as the names that we see today for many of these apūrva rāga-s appear for the first time in the book “Oriental Music in European Notation” by A M Chinnasāmy Mudaliyar published in the year 1893. The main source for this publication is Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar, along with some other prominent musician whose identity is anonymous. However Rāmachandran and Sāmbamūrti expounded the genuineness of Vālajāpeṭṭai notations and Rāmachandran even advises that these notations are to be analyzed to know the true svarūpa of the compositions of Svāmigal.2,4

With this introduction, let us move to the kṛti ‘sītāpate nā manasuna’. Nowhere else the rāga of this kṛti is disputed and this is such an innocuous kṛti always sung in the rāga Kamās. But our understanding on the Kamās made us to revisit all the available versions for this kṛti – both oral and textual and we are here to report an unusual misattribution; a kṛti composed in an apūrva rāga could have been attributed to the rāga Kamās!

Sītāpatē nā manasuna

We had mentioned several times that the popularity enjoyed by a kṛti too vary and is much time dependent. We have seen such instances in the rāga-s Balahamsa and Kamās. This is one another instance, a kṛti which was not common in the early part of the last century, gained prominence in the later half. Very few texts give this kṛti in notation and this is the same trend seen in the manuscripts examined.

Oral renditions

We hear almost a similar version with the sparse use of ṛṣbham. It is one of the fortunate kṛti-s wherein the basic structure of the kṛti is fairly similar across the renditions. As seen in the article on Kamās, none of the renditions are devoid of the svara ṛṣbham (See footnote 3).

Textual versions – An analysis

As mentioned earlier, very few texts give this kṛti in notation; three texts and three manuscripts in our collection gives us this kṛti. The first text to give this kṛti is ‘saṅgīta kalānidhi’ of Taccur brothers.5 This version is totally devoid of ṛṣbham, has Kamās phrases like SGMS, MNDN and PNDP and set to ādi tāla. To make it more precise, it represents the variant Kamās mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar with unfeigned adherence to the scale SGMPDNS  SNDPMGS, yet maintaining other important phrases of Kamās. If we include the svara ṛṣbham, this version will be much closer to the version that we hear commonly.

Saṅgītānandaratnākaram is the next text to make a note of this kṛti.6 The version given here is also devoid of ṛṣbham, but more closer to the one given in Vālājāpeṭṭai version which will be described soon. The pallavi has five saṅgati-s, of which four show its presence in Vālājāpeṭṭai version. One saṅgati here sports the phrase MNDN, which occur only once in this kṛti. This phrase is absent in Vālājāpeṭṭai version. Similarly the first line of anupallavi has a saṅgati which has the phrase SGMSN. This phrase is again not seen in Vālājāpeṭṭai version. It can be concluded that the basic Vālājāpeṭṭai version could have been followed in this text with few additional saṅgati-s. Whether this version has a Vālājāpeṭṭai source or this was the musical tune of this kṛti prevalent among all the disciples, directly learnt from Svāmigal cannot be ascertained.

Dākṣinātyagānam is the third text to take a note of this kṛti (See footnote 4).7 In contrast with the other two versions mentioned above, this has ṛṣbham. Also, tāla of this kṛti is given as dēśādhi. The svara ṛṣbham occurs in the phrases like SRS, RSNDN and RGM; but phrases like SMGM or MNDN are not seen. Can we then call it as Kamās, when its integral phrases are not present? It is acceptable that a composer need not use all phrases in a rāga. But is he entitled to envisage a rāga with none of its integral phrases?

Coming to manuscripts, this is seen in Vālājāpeṭṭai transcripts and a manuscript written by Śrīnivāsarāghavan and Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar. Śrīnivāsarāghavan has collected manuscripts from various sources and we cannot point it to any particular source. This has ṛṣbham in the phrases SRGM and NRS, but only in two or three places. This version corresponds to SGMPDNS  SNDPMGS with occasional SRGM. Again, no other vital phrases of Kamās can be seen.  

The version by Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar8 does not have ṛṣbham (See footnote 5). The version given here strictly adheres to the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS. He was a disciple of Umayālpuram Svāminātha Iyer and consider to represent late Umayālpuram lineage.

Vālājāpeṭṭai transcripts give a version which is different from the commonly heard version, yet identical with the rāga Kamās. The version strictly adheres to the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS, a variant of Kamās mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, totally devoid of ṛṣbham. This is set to the tāla dēśādhi and the melody when sung in this tāla gives a different feel. In the article on Kamās we have seen the scale mentioned can be a variant and with the occasional presence of ṛṣbham can be considered as Kamās as seen in the kṛti ‘sujana jīvana’. Now a doubt can arise for an astute observer, the reason for us to discuss this kṛti separately when we have seen a Kamās variant.

The Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti, though appears much similar to the kṛti ‘sujana jīvana’, has much pertinent differences. First, this lacks ṛṣbham completely. Nowhere in the literature, have we come across an evidence to consider Kamās as a ṣādava rāga. Hence calling this kṛti as Kamās is debatable. We had raised this query in the article on Kamās too. Second, the kṛti strictly follows the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS, excluding the presence of DNP. Whereas the kṛti ‘sujana jīvana’ had many outliers like SMGS, GPM which can be seen in any old composition composed in the rāga Kamās. Third, the gṛha and nyāsa svara-s used in this kṛti are ṣadjam and pancamam. If we contrast this kṛti with ‘sujana jīvana’, this point can be understood well. The latter kṛti starts with madyamam and almost every āvarta ends with madyamam. Lastly, dhaivatam, though we didn’t see it as a gṛha svara in the latter kṛti, can be considered as an amsa svara. Madhyama and dhaivata are the important svara-s that form a base for Kamās. This cannot be applied for this kṛti in hand. Niṣādha is actually a prominent nyasa svara in this kṛti. Madhyama and dhaivata were not given a prominent place. Considering all these differences, it can be very well precluded that this kṛti could have been composed in some apūrva rāga, having a lakṣaṇa much similar to Kamās. Vālājāpēṭṭai version can be heard here.

When other old versions were compared, it can be seen that all except one follow this variant scale.  Of these versions, the version in Saṅgītānandaratnākaram is almost a reproduction of Vālājāpeṭṭai version. The version by Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar also supports the scale and though the version is not a verbatim reproduction of Vālājāpeṭṭai version, it is melodically much similar with the latter version. It can very well be considered as a modification of Vālājāpeṭṭai version. Śrīnivāsarāghavan too follows this scale but has ṛṣbham. Going by these versions, can we speculate the basic melody could have been in some rāga with the scale SGMPDNS SNDPMGS. Texts could have mentioned it as Kamās due to its inherent similarity with the latter rāga. In that case, phrases suggestive of Kamās were added later? This name confusion and mixing up of rāga-s is not uncommon. We had discussed earlier about this in the rāga Rudrapriya and how Rudrapriya mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can very well be called as Karnāṭaka Kāpi by many others.

This hypothesis becomes stronger when we consider the version given in Dākṣinātyagānam. That version too has some melodic similarities with Vālājāpeṭṭai verion, especially in the pallavi segment. But the presence of ṛṣbham makes the melody sound different. C R Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār, author of this text has mentioned that the kṛti-s were procured from his personal collection and from Flute Śarabha Śāstrigal. But the source of individual kṛti was not given. In this version, excluding the presence of SRGM and SRS, no other phrase typical to Kamās can be seen. In such a case, is it acceptable to call it as Kamās? We leave this question to musicologists.  

Name of the rāga

Having seen these versions, it is necessary to name the scale seen in this kṛti. Our idea is not to obfuscate the readers by giving some obscure names; rather this an attempt to create an image in the mind of readers that this could have been composed in a rare rāga. Ideally kṛti-s like this are to be discussed in music conferences and consensus has to be made. But to begin with, an attempt is being made here to name this scale. The text Rāga Pravāham gives three different names for this single rāga culled from three different sources – Bilaval, Dhivyamavathi and Karnāṭaka Kamās.9 Of these the last one suits better than the other two, as the this scale represents Kamās in many aspects.

Conclusion

This kṛti, like many kṛti-s of Svāmigal display heterogeneity, across the versions with respect to rāga lakṣaṇam. Though every other version label it as Kamās, the lakṣaṇa given therein differ considerably. From our analysis, it can be seen the lakṣaṇa seen in the majority of the examined versions do not correspond with the lakṣaṇa of Kamās or its variant.

Though this kṛti and ‘sujana jīvana’ were considered to be set in the same rāga, there exist differences between these two as it is evident from our analysis. But all these differences testimony the past and we nowhere can hear those differences, either now or in future.

The rāga handled here could be a scale much resembling Kamās and somewhere down in the line Kamās phrases could have been added. This ṣādava scale has many other names and the one that is much closer to Kamās, less confusing and also which can be taken by us easily is Karnāṭaka Kamās.

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – From Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, several musicians had made a note that Svāmigal didn’t reveal the name of the apūrva rāga-s to his disciples. Someone, perhaps after the beatitude of Svāmigal has named by referring to some lexicon available to them.

Footnote 2 – Cermādēvi Subraḥmaṇya Śāstrigal represents the disciple lineage Śrī Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, being a disciple of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and Ambi Dīkṣitar. He also had his training from Vīna Śēṣaṇṇaof Mysore. In a series of articles in the magazine The Saṅgīta Abhimāni, he expressed his views on the rāga variations seen in the compositions of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ. He raises the same query, how or why the changes are seen only in these apūrva rāga-s of these composers when we have the same lakṣaṇa for rāga-s like Kāmbhōji or Tōḍi? He also mentions both of them belonged to the śiṣya parampara of Vēṅkaṭamakhin.

Footnote 3 – This author was told by Dr Rājaśrī Srīpati, Vaiṇika, that she has learnt this kṛti completely devoid of ṛṣbham from Viduṣi Smt Suguṇa Varadācāri.

Footnote 4 – The exact year of publication of this text cannot be identified. Based on the introductory notes given by Ayyaṅgār, it can be speculated that this text must have been published before 1917.

Footnote 5 – At one place in the anupallavi, we were unable to ascertain the exact svara he has written. Though it appears like ṛṣbham, its complementary part that occurs in caraṇam does not read as ṛṣbham. 

Acknowledgements

I sincerely thank Smt Nandhini Venkataraman, descendant of Kumbakonam Sri Visvanatha Iyer and Dr Chandran, descendant of Dr Srinivasa Raghavan for parting me with the manuscripts in their possession.

My sincere thanks to Dr Rājaśrī Srīpati for educating me about the rare version of this composition.

References

  1. K.V. Rāmacandran. The mēlakartā – A critique. The Journal of Music Academy, pg 31-33, 1938.
  2. K.V. Rāmacandran. Karnatic rāga-s from a new angle. The Journal of Music Academy, pg 105-127,1996.
  3. Cermādēvi Subraḥmaṇya Śāstrigal. Vaiṇīka, gāyaka samvādam. Sila janya rāgaṅgalin kuzappam. The Saṅgīta Abhimāni, pg 101-103,1936.
  4. P. Sāmbamūrti. The Wālājāhpet manuscripts. The Journal of Music Academy, pg 114-129, 1938.
  5. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu . Saṅgīta Kalānidhi, pg . Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1912 
  6. Tenmaṭam Vēṅkaṭācāryulu, Tenmaṭam Varadācāryulu. Saṅgītānanda ratnākaramu, pg 51-52. Śrīnikētana mudrāyantramu, Madras, 1917.
  7. C.R. Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār. Dākṣinātyagānam, pg 156-157.
  8. Kumbakōṇam Viśvanātha Ayyar. http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/browse?collection=1&sort_field=Dublin+Core%2CTitle&page=2

9. M.N. Danḍapāṇi, D. Paṭṭammal. Rāga Pravāham. The Trinity Book Publishers, 2007.

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).