Composers

Composers, Sahitya

A note on the sāhitya of Vātāpigaṇapatim

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Before 1900, most kīrtanams of Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar were well-known only within the small core group of śiṣyaparamparā. A few kīrtanams were published in early musical sources such as the works of the Taccuru brothers. It wasn’t until the publication of the Saṅgīta-sampradāya-pradarśini in 1904 that many kīrtanams saw the light of the day. Vātāpi-gaṇapatim in the rāga Hamsadhvani was one kīrtanam which has enjoyed a long history in the performance platform and is seen in early music publications. Accounts of Mahāvaidyanātha Iyer’s embellished and improvised version of Vātāpigaṇapatim with many saṅgatis are well known. Saṅgīta-sarvārthasāra-saṅgrahamu of Vīṇa Rāmānujayya (1857) and the Gāyakapārijatamu of the Taccuru brothers (1877) provide the sāhitya of this kīrtanam.

Recently, an issue with the charaṇa-sāhitya of this kīrtanam was brought to our attention by a samskṛta scholar, Vidvan Brahmaśri Dr.V.Shriramana Sharma.

पुरा-कुम्भ-सम्भव-मुनि-वर-प्रपूजितं त्रिकोण-मध्य-गतम् |
मुरारि-प्रमुखाद्युपासितं मूलाधार-क्षेत्र-स्थितम् |
परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकं प्रणव-स्वरूप-वक्र-तुण्डम् |

Here the issue is with the samāsa (compound word) in the phrase “परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम्” (One who is the true import / nature of four-fold speech beginning with Parā – the other three being paśyantī, madhyamā and vaikharī) The correct expression should be “परादि-चतुर्-वागात्मकम्”. The form चत्वारि is a declined form in prathamā vibhakti and in napumsakaliṅga. In a samāsa, only the prātipadika(base) appears as there is lopa (elision) of the सुप् pratyaya that are affixed to the base. Therefore the base form of “चतुर्” is what would occur in this samāsa and not a declined form such as चत्वारि.

In this case, there are two possibilities. One is that there was an error in transmission and the second is that this was how it was composed by the composer. If we examine the first possibility, all existing published versions of the sāhitya and extant pāṭhāntara-s uniformly use the form परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम्. In any case, Śrī Subbarāma Dīkṣitar himself has admitted to Pt.V.N.Bhatkande, when the latter visited him in Eṭṭayapuram, that he was not formally trained in Samskṛta (but knew enough prayoga or usage to compose kīrtanams). This is also corroborated by the fact there are some visargasandhi errors in the 1904 edition in the sāhitya of Bṛhadiśvaro rakṣatu in rāga gānasāmavarāli and the gauḷa kīrtanam Śrīmahāgaṇapatiravatu mām. However the trouble with asserting this viewpoint is that there is a second case of the identical expression used in the Aṭhānarāga kīrtanam on Bṛhaspati, “Bṛhaspate tārāpate. (incidentally this has also appeared in Gāyakalocanam, a 1902 publication).

 

Considering the second possibility, another Samskṛta scholar Smt.Dr. Sowmya Krishnapur adds that the ‘G r’ svara corresponding to “tvā ri” indicates the intended usage of a svarākṣara here. This svarākṣara occurs in Bṛhaspate as well. Therefore, the possibility that this is an error in transmission could be discounted.  Further, in this case, another explanation is possible to justify the composer’s usage. It could be that the composer had the famous śrutivākya “चत्वारि वाक्परिमिता पदानि तानि विदुर्ब्राह्मणा ये मनीषिणः |” in mind along with the usage in Gaṇapatyatharvaśirṣa where Gaṇeśa’s tattvasvarūpa is expressed as “त्वं चत्वारि वाक्पदानि” and used the expression “चत्वारि”, despite it being in a samāsa. According to Sri.Shriramana Sharma, such a usage can be considered as an ‘anukaraṇa’ wherein the quoted word is not to be analysed grammatically with its prakṛti-pratyaya-vibhaga and ‘artharūpa’ but in terms of ‘śabdarūpa’. The “word-form as-is” that occurs elsewhere is used for the express purpose of highlighting or quoting either for repetition or recall something that is well-attested or mentioned elsewhere. Thus, the initial “परादि” specified for the purpose of clarifying what the four-fold speech is and the words “चत्वारिवाक्” brought in as-is from śrutivākya. In other words, परादि “चत्वारिवाक्” आत्मकम् | In support of this, another example is cited in śāstra. One is the Pāṇini’s sūtra, “प्राग्रीश्वरान्निपाताः” that defines the term nipāta, explained as रीश्वरात् प्राक् निपाता: and discussed by commentary writers. Mahābhāṣyakāra asks why “रीश्वराद्” is used instead of “ईश्वराद्” and the explanation is given that “रीश्वराद्” is used so that “वीश्वराद्” (when the sūtras are read as samhitāpātha) शकि णमुल्कमुलावीश्वरे तोसुन्कसुनौ” (शकिणमुल्कमुलौ + ईश्वरे तो सुन्कसुनौ) which also matches the śabdarūpa specified does not get included here but only that used in another sūtra अधिरीश्वरे.  Shri. Shriramana Sharma also notes in passing that वारणास्यं is often rendered as वारणाश्यं but there is no known usage of आश्यं in the meaning of “face” to give the compound meaning “the elephant faced one”. आश्य is only known in the meaning of “eatable” and hence this could be avoided.

Based on the above, we requested Prof.S.R.Janakiraman to attempt to render the composition with expression “परादि-चतुर्-वागात्मकम्” to understand how this would impact the musical flow of the composition. Given that there is a valid explanation of such a usage, the usage of परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम् can be left as such. With these, we leave the reader to ponder on the issue.

Composers, Raga

mahAganapatim vandE in Todi – The Syamantaka Gem

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PROLOGUE:

GaneshaMy view to the world of Indian mythology, puranas and ancient history during my childhood was through the famous book series Amar Chitra Katha. Every book left a deep and indelible mark on my memory. And sometime last week I chanced to re-read a couple of them namely the titles “Ganesha”, “Tripura” & “Syamantaka Gem”. And in the same breath I also happened to read Dr V Raghavan’s article in Tamil (“Dikshitarum Vrathangalum Anushtanangalum Poojaikalum” part of his compendium of essays titled “Isaikatturaigal”. Needless to add the common thread was Lord Ganesha, especially with the upcoming Chathurthi- this year’s edition of the elephant God’s day of worship- ‘Vinayaka Chathurthi’ in September. It took me just a minute to connect these stories/dots and relate it to the lyrics of Muthusvami Dikshitar’s rarely rendered composition ‘mahAganapatim vandE’ in rupaka tAla and set in rAga tODi, with the carana lyric of the composition running as ‘tripuravadArttham shivEna tryambakEnArccitam“ being the trigger to connect the song and the Amar Citra Katha narration.

My complete introduction to this song was when I was working as part of the Guruguha.Org project to translate Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai’s ‘Dikshitar Keertanai Prakashikai’(DKP) sometime earlier.

And so here goes this short blog on this composition which also covers how Dikshitar encapsulates some of the puranic lore associated with Lord Ganesha therein and some points to ponder on the provenance/antecedents of this composition especially given that it does not figure in Subbarama Dikshitar’s magnum opus ‘Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini’.

THE COMPOSITION -ITS PROVENANCE: 

Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, (SSP) published in AD 1906 in Telugu can be considered the first authentic compendia of Muthusvami Dikshitar compositions, coming especially from him as he was the scion of the Dikshitar family, being Muthusvami Dikshitar’s brother’s grandson & adopted son. With his formidable knowledge of the musical sastras and his tutelage under his great father Balasvami Dikshitar, Subbarama Dikshitar firmly enthroned the SSP as the Holy Bible and the last,first and complete reference point for Dikshitar kritis in its pristine form. And its legacy and reputation endures till date, more than a century later. While the SSP was a product from a direct lineage of Muthusvami Dikshitar, the year AD 1936 saw the creation of yet another luminaire, the aforesaid DKP, which can arguably be anointed as the possible first authentic edition of Dikshitar’s kritis in Tamil, from another line, of disciples this time. One of Muthusvami Dikshitar prime disciples was Tiruvarur Tambiappan Pillai for whose stomach colic, Dikshitar is said to have composed the vAra kriti on Guru Brhaspati set in the raga Athana. See foot note 1.

Tambiappan Pillai stayed on in Tiruvarur even as his venerable Guru Muthusvami Dikshitar relocated to Ettayapuram. Sathanur Pancanada Iyer became in turn one of the prime disciples of Tambiappan Pillai. Records from the second half of the 19th century tell us that Pancanada Iyer was one of the foremost exponents of Dikshitar compositions. Two later day musicians who survived into the first half of the 20th century we know, who learnt from him Dikshitar compositions in its pristine form, were Nagasvara vidvan Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (TNS) and the legendary Veena Vidushi Dhanammal. Natarajasundaram Pillai learnt more than 200 compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar from Pancanada Iyer and in the year 1936, actively encouraged by Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, a Sangita Kalanidhi in his own right and Dr V Raghavan, published the first set of 50 composition in Tamil along with notation titling it “Dikshitar Keertanai Prakashikai’. See foot note 2. 

For those who may want to look at the original Tamil text and its English translation, here are the links.

DKP- Tamil/DKP-English

Though not well known like the SSP even in music circles, in its own right DKP can be rightfully acknowledged as yet another authentic source of Dikshitar kritis. As mentioned in the context of an earlier blog, the notation of the songs in the DKP can be seen to be exactly/very closely matching to those found in the SSP, providing solid external reference as to the authenticity of the notation therein. It is our misfortune that while only 50 kritis made it to the first volume in 1936.The balance of 150 kritis, from out of the corpus of 200 kritis that Natarajasundaram Pillai learnt, never made it to publication, due to his death shortly thereafter. Sadly nothing is also known about the whereabouts of the notation / copies of the original manuscripts of Natarajasundaram Pillai, which he had in his possession wherein Sathanur Pancanada Iyer himself had written and corrected the text/notation in his own hand. Had they survived and today if we were to access the same, it would be a veritable goldmine offering us yet another perfect source of Dikshitar’s composition in its original form, rivalling the SSP in full measure. Sadly that is not the case.

Be that as it may, the kritis in the DKP and SSP and their compare reveals us one key point of discordance. Out of the 50 kritis in the DKP, 49 are found in the SSP. A solitary kriti which is notated in the DKP is not found in the SSP. In fact, this one kriti is never found in any prior publication and therefore the DKP becomes the first truly authentic publication for the notation of this composition. And this composition is none other than ‘mahAganapatiM vandE’. There are those who believe that the kritis found notated in the SSP are the only authentic creations of Dikshitar, given that a substantial number of compositions not found in the SSP came to published in the 1940’s or thereafter, chiefly by vidvans who trained under Ambi Dikshitar, son of Subbarama Dikshitar. Without in any way diluting the evaluation criteria/standard to determine the authenticity of a composition as being Dikshitar’s, just on the strength of pedigree and the fact of its publication to the world at large by Natarajasundaram Pillai, ‘mahAganapatiM vandE’ can without doubt be accepted prima facie as an authentic kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar. We do have a few other kritis which by the sheer quality of lyrics, musical setting and stylistic similarity, can be anointed as authentic creations of Dikshitar, despite not being found in the SSP. Suffice to say that ‘mahAganapatiM vandE’ is unique and is a singular instance of its class in comparison to the others such as ‘ekAmranAthaM’ – Gamakakriya, ‘vadAnyEsvaraM’ in Devagandhari, ‘srI sundararAjaM’ in Ramakriya and ‘siddhi vinAyakaM’ in Camaram. In fact from an oral tradition standpoint too, the repertoire of Dikshitar kritis of the Dhanammal family sourced from her tutelage under Sathanur Pancanada Iyer had only kritis found in the SSP and the Todi composition ‘mahAganapatiM vandE’ was the sole exception.

MUSICAL SETTING OF ‘MAHAGANAPATIM VANDE’:

In the context of appraising the authenticity of the kriti and also evaluate the melodic setting, I invite the attention at this point to the views of the expert Dr N Ramanathan in his seminal monograph ‘Problems in the editing of the compositions of Muddusvami Dikshitar’. The following are some of the salient points that he brings to our attention in the context of this composition:

1.   Acccording to him he had learnt this composition from Mahadeva Bhagavathar, from the Ambi Dikshitar side. He avers that the musical setting/notation he learnt is almost the same as found in the DKP providing a useful corroborative evidence that the kriti and its notation are authentic as it is the same in two independent lineages, despite not being found in the SSP.

2.    The melodic setting of the entire anupallavi line is very peculiar to Todi and is entirely native to this composition and is in fact the same in both the Ambi Dikshitar version as well as the DKP version, providing yet another validation as to the kriti being an authentic one of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

As we will hear in the discography section, the prAsa concordance, svarakshara,  the languorous rupaka tala and the marked cadences of Todi reaching up to tAra madhyama in its contours all mark out this beautiful creation of Dikshitar. As pointed out though this kriti did not make it to the SSP, subsequent publishers of Dikshitar’s compositions particularly those who were disciples of Subbarama Dikshitar’s son Ambi Dikshitar such as Calcutta Ananthakrishna Ayyar & Sundaram Ayyar on their authority published ‘mahAganapatim vandE’ with notation. One such publication is by Ananthakrishna Ayyar dateable to April 1956 wherein this composition is presented as the Invocatory song for the collection of the so called “Abhayambha Navavarana” kritis. Leaving aside the fact that the said collection cannot be ordained as a navAvarana, the notation of the song closely aligns to the one found in DKP, as pointed by Dr N Ramanathan. 

THE KRITI-LYRICS:

Having taken a view of the composition’s origins , we next move on to its lyrics. 

Krti:                      ‘mahAganapatiM vandE’      Raga: tODi / Tala: rUpakam

Pallavi:                 mahAgaNapatim vandE mAdhavAdyamara-bRndam ||

Anupallavi:         ahantAdirahitam shaktivihitam Anandadantamekadantam ||

Carana:                 tripuravadArttham shivEna tryambakEnArccitam |

upaniSadpratipAditam umAmahEshvarasutam |

kapilavasiSThAdinatam kaHnjajAdibhirIDitam |

kapilam kRSNapUjitam karivadanena shObhitam |

suparNavAha-sevitam sura-guruguha-bhAvitam |

kapitthAmra-panasa-jambU-kadaLIphala-bhakSitam ||

 

The analysis of the text of the composition reveals that as always Dikshitar has embedded his standard colophon in the final carana segment ‘sura-guruguhabhAvitam’. The raga name Todi is not found in the composition, though it may be speculated that ‘ahantAdi’ is a sUcita reference. While Dikshitar explicitly refers to the iconic type of Lord Ganesa as Mahaganapathi, right at the outset, he also refers to ekadantam (the one with a single tusk) and one who feasts on kapittha (wood apple) , amra ( mango), panasa ( jackfruit) jambu (rose apple) and kadaliphala ( plantain) in the composition. In this composition Dikshitar alludes to Lord Vishnu thrice through the words ‘mAdhavAdyamara’, ‘krishnapUjitam’ and ‘suparnavAha-sEvitam’. The words ‘ahantAdi-rahitam’ reminds one of the contrasting usage of the word as in ‘ahantA-svarUpini’ occurring in the Andhali kriti ‘Brhannayaki varadayaki’. While in this kriti, it signifies ego, the word is played upon by Dikshitar as he says that She, the Mother Goddess manifests as the alphabets starting with A and ending with HA, in Sanskrit, in the Andhali composition which was covered in an earlier blogpost.

 

In sum, Dikshitar pays obeisance to the one-tusked harbinger of happiness, the Great Ganapati, extolled by Madhava and other celestials, the one free from ego, ordained by Shakti, the one worshipped by Lord Shiva for the destruction of Tripura, the One extolled by the Upanishads and the Son of Uma and Mahasvara, the One worshipped by Kapila,Vasishta, Vishnu, Brahma, Devas, Kartikeya and the One who feasts on the fruits -wood apple, mango, jackfruit, rose apple and plantain. The kriti is replete with svaraksharas right from the opening syllable.

While the pallavi and anupallavi employ standard epithets to extol Lord Ganesha, Dikshitar in the carana clearly alludes to two specific puranic lore/stories.

  • The first one is the reference to Lord Shiva propitiating Lord Ganesha before embarking on his mission to destroy Tripura , the mythical City created by his own devotee Maya the Asura, referred in the lyrics ‘tripuravadArttham shivEna tryambakEnArccitam’.  
  • The second is the reference as ‘kapilam kRSNapUjitam’. At the outset, it may sound as a generic/ordinary reference of Krishna worshipping Lord Ganesha. In a while we will see that from a puranic perspective Dikshitar is referring to a not much popular story/episode from the Bhagavatham wherein Lord Krishna had to propitiate Lord Ganesha and seek his divine blessings to absolve himself of the sin of having to shoulder the accusation of killing his own kinsman Prasena.

Both these puranic episodes are interesting in themselves and one should revisit them in brief even as we immerse ourselves in the lyrical beauty of Dikshitar.

THE DESTRUCTION OF TRIPURA:

Tripuraनमस्ते अस्तु भगवन्  विश्वेश्वराय महादेवाय

त्र्यम्बकाय त्रिपुरान्तकाय त्रिकालाग्निकालाय

कालाग्निरुद्राय नीलकण्ठाय मृत्युञ्जयाय

सर्वेश्वराय सदाशिवाय श्रीमन् महादेवाय नमः

 So goes the passage from the Sri Rudram wherein Shiva is extolled as ‘tryambakAya tripurAntakAya’ amongst other epithets. While a deeper philosophical meaning for those terms can be enjoined, from a puranic perspective the reference is tagged to the destruction of the three worlds constructed by the Asuras by Lord Shiva. This puranic episode has come to feature the form of Shiva called ‘tripurAnthakA’.

Shortly after Lord Kartikeya the Commander in Chief of the Devas vanquished Tarakasura & drove the Asuras out of their domains, predictably his three sons plotted revenge to get back their abodes. Invoking Lord Brahma through austerity and penance they made him give a boon, enabling them to build three almost eternal and impregnable floating fortresses which would be their abodes. Lord Brahma’s only covenant /rider given that no boon can be granted for permanence, was that the cities would perish if one were to take aim and shoot them down when the three floating cities would be in a perfect straight line/occultation with each other, once every 1000 years when the star Pushya is in conjunction with the Moon. Maya the architect of the Asuras built the three cities called as Tripura from where Tarakasura’s sons unleashed their reign of terror and destruction. And as doomsday came – the day when the star Pushya conjected with the Moon, the Devas headed by the Trimurtis launched their final assault on Tripura. As the Cities transited into a straight line, Lord Shiva shot the fatal arrow which destroyed the three great Cities of Tripura, with which he earned himself the sobriquet of ‘tripurAntakA’, the annihilator of the three worlds and destroyer of Tripura. Incidentally Lord Ganesha is the ruling deity of the star Pushya. Lord Ganesha’s role in this story comes in when Lord Shiva fails to pay the customary obeisance to Lord Ganesha or Vigneshvara- the One who removes all obstacles, before he departs in his chariot to shoot that fatal arrow/pAshupatAstra which destroyed the three occulting cities. Legend has it that the axle of his chariot broke down as soon as he started. In a jiffy Lord Shiva realized his folly of not having worshipped Lord Vignesvara. To atone, he prayed forthwith to Lord Ganesha the remover of all obstacles, paid his obeisance before proceeding forward. Popular literature too highlights this episode. For instance Arunagirinathar in his well known Thiruppugazh eulogizes Lord Ganesha thus:

கைத் தலநிறை  கனி

முப்புரம்எரிசெய்த அச்சிவன்  உறைரதம்

அச்சது பொடிசெய்த அதிதீரா

The legend has a number of variations in the kshetra puranas for quite a few Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu including those at Thiruvirkolam, Thiruvadhigai and Accharapakkam particularly which in fact boasts of a shrine for Lord Ganesha wherein he is enshrined as ‘Acchumuri Vinayaka’. See footnote 3 below. Be that as it may, Dikshitar by referring to Tripura dahanam by Lord Shiva, highlights the role of Lord Ganesha as the vanquisher of all obstacles and reinforces the puranic injunct that He be worshipped before one embarks on any endeavour.

THE STORY OF THE SYAMANTAKA GEM:

In this section we shall look at ‘krishnapUjitam’ in ‘mahAganapatim vandE’ & the cross reference it has to ‘rouhinEya anujArcitaM’ found in ‘siddhi vinAyakaM’ in raga cAmara, again another kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar on Lord Ganesa.

SyamantakaAs we embark on this let us go over to what Dr Raghavan has to say on the same context but in a different kriti of Dikshitar namely ‘siddhi vinAyakam anisaM’ in the raga cAmara. Dr V Raghavan in his essay in Tamil narrates how the 68th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta, Sri Chandrashekarendra Sarasvati clarified to him & others, the meaning of the lyric ‘rauhinEyAnujArcitham’ found in the cAmara kriti ‘siddhi vinAyakam anisham’.

Sometime during the 1950’s during September the Paramacharya was camping at the Madras Sanskrit College in Mylapore along with his entourage. On the Vinayaka Chaturthi day that fell during his stay, the Acharya bade his personal attendants to mould a figurine of Lord Ganesha from the clay soil in the premises and he personally performed puja to it with all spiritual splendour. Amongst the many apart from Dr V Raghavan who attended the puja and had darshan that day, was the legendary vocalist Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who after completion of the puja and ahead of the arati to Lord Ganesha by the Paramacarya, proceeded to sing the Dikshitar composition ‘ siddhi vinayakam anisham’ in Camara as his offering.

Here is the clipping of Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer rendering the Dikshitar composition ‘ siddhi vinAyakam anisham’ as he must had done that September evening at the Sanskrit College, Mylapore premises decades ago, in the august presence of the Paramacharya.

After the veteran concluded his rendering, the Acharya nodding approvingly with his benign smile & affection queried those around him if they /anyone assembled knew the real import/meaning of the words ‘rouhinEyAnujArcitham’ which occurred in the carana of the composition. Seeing that none including Dr Raghavan had an answer, the Paramacharya went on to narrate when –‘rouhinEya anuja’ or the younger brother of Balarama, i.e Krishna had to worship Lord Ganesha. The instance occurs in the story of the Syamantaka gem which comes in the Bhagavatham. Prasena, a Yadava kinsman of Krishna owned the Syamanataka gem, a legendary gem of great attraction/value and many were reportedly rumoured to have been so enamoured of the gem that they were willing to take any risk to purloin it. Prasena in vanity always wanted to flaunt it and so used to wear it as a regular neck ornament. One day wearing it he went to the forest accompanied by Krishna, for hunting. As fate would have it he was attacked by a lion which killed him , dragged him away along with the jewel in his neck. Jambavan the bear dweller of the forest latter killed the lion, took the jewel and gifted it to his daughter Jambavati. In the mean while Krishna returned to Dvaraka without Prasena, and he conveyed to the Yadava elders the news of Prasena succumbing to the attack of a lion. However in the absence of proof – witness or body and with the gem too missing & unaccounted for, quite a few members of the citizenry suspected that something sinister was afoot. Dvaraka was soon agog with rumours that Krishna himself had liquidated Prasena so that he could appropriate the famed Syamantaka gem all for himself.  Without Prasena’s body or any other evidence to prove that the accident had happened, Krishna was left with no choice but to go back to the forest to recover the body and the gem so as to establish the truth, redeem his name and erase the blemish that had been caused to himself.

And so, Krishna went to the forest, fought Jambavan, won the battle with him, got back the gem and came back to Dvaraka. And immediately on his return he restored the gem to the deceased Prasena’s brother Shatrujith, as its rightful owner. Even then the travails of the gem and its owner did not end with that. Boding ill-luck to Krishna even thereafter, the gem put him in an extreme quandary as events continued to unfold much to his chagrin, lending ever greater credence to the original rumour that Krishna wanted to somehow own the gem. Krishna was thus left worrying in Dvaraka about all this.

And at this point in time Sage Narada came to visit him. Krishna confided to him his predicament and he sought the great sage’s guidance as to how to absolve himself of this liability once and for all. The Sage in his infinite wisdom told Krishna of the malefic effect of watching the Moon on Caturthi day and the pain that it brings to the incumbent, as the root cause of this apavAdA. He advised Krishna to worship Lord Ganesha and offering modaka and fruits on Caturthi day as atonement and that would cleanse him off this self-inflicted dOsha. And thus did Krishna redeem his lost honour and name, at the end by doing the Caturthi pooja to Lord Ganesha.

Dr Raghavan concludes his narrative by saying that this mythological story related by the Acharya is also found documented in the ‘Skandapurana’ under ‘Syamantaka AkhyAnam’ and in texts such as ‘vrata cUdAmani’. 

And just as Dikshitar highlights the virtue and cleansing of the malefic effect caused by Moon from an astrological perspective in the cAmara kriti, he makes a direct reference to this puranic episode as ‘krishnapUjitam’ in this Todi kriti, embedding the entire story/episode pithily as is his wont.

DISCOGRAPHY:

From amongst the popular vocalists of the previous century we do notice that Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramanian has sung ‘mahAganapatim vandE’ which is available in the public domain. There are no renderings of this composition by members of the Dhanammal family much to our disappointment. Instead for this blog post I seek to present the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt M S Subbalakshmi from a concert of unknown provenance.  She must have presumably learnt it from the scion of the Dhanammal family Smt T Brinda perhaps. Smt MSS is known for her fidelity of rendering true to the source from which she learns and it is on that basis that this version is specially sought to be presented.

Part 1 : pallavi & anupallavi

 

Part 2: caranam

The version she sings is mostly aligned to the notation found in the DKP except for a few melodic extensions or flourishes, which one can and should anticipate. Attention is invited to the anupallavi rendering which Dr N Ramanathan talks about as also some of the melodic variations she weaves around some of the carana lines. There is one point to highlight especially in the context of the pallavi. The line ‘mAdhavAdyamara brindam’ spans 3 rupaka tAla cycles or totally 9 beats as per the DKP notation whereas all performers complete the said sahitya snippet in 2 avartas itself ( total of 6 beats).

Presented next is the rendering of the kriti by ‘Dikshitarini’ Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Kalpakam Svaminathan. It is in all probability learnt either from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer or Ananthakrishna Iyer, under whom she was a pupil, both of them belonging to the Ambi Dikshitar lineage.

Apart from the version of Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramanian one other version which can be profitably listened to is the one by Sangita Kalanidhi R K Srikantan.

From amongst the renderings, in my opinion, Smt Subbulakshmi’s rendering is closest to the notation in the DKP with the correct gait/pace of rendering. One other distinctive aspect of this kriti and rendering by Smt Subbulakshmi is the dominance of pancama varjya phrases, in the kriti body together with emphasis more on madhyama. Its always been a practice to render Todi skipping frequently the pancama note for it has a beauty on it own.

Some modern musical texts refer to Todi bereft totally of pancama as Suddha Todi. This Todi bereft of pancama is a beauty in its own right. In fact Patnam Subramanya Iyer the prolific composer created the ubiquitous varna ‘erA nApai’ in adi tAla with the pancama being rare/alpA. Many might not know that Patnam has also created one more varna (sAmi ninnE kOriunnAnurA – Adi tAlA) with the following sahitya totally eschewing the pancama ( Suddha Todi). 

sAmi ninnE kOriyunnAnurA cAla namminAnurA (sAmi)

nA manavi vinarA shrI vEnkatEsa cennApuri nivAsA

cAla vE tOda mElukOra

Presented next is the doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt M L Vasanthakumari beginning one of her many concerts with this rare varna. Mark the complete absence of the pancama note in the body of the varna.

And she follows up by rendering a dainty set of imaginative kalpana svaras again without the pancama.

The varna is apparently composed on Lord Venkatesa of Chennapuri, as is obvious from the sahitya. Given that Patnam Subramanya Iyer was a denizen of North Chennai/George Town area one wonders if the Temple/diety in question was what is known as the Bairagi Temple at Muthialpet. Historian S Muthiah in his tome “Madras, Chennai: A 400 year record of the First City of Modern India- Vol 1” notes that this old temple dedicated to Sri Venkatesvara was mentioned as Lorraine’s Pagoda in olden records. Apparently it was built by Ketti Narayana, son of Beri Thimmanna, a 17th century Dubash. A detailed note on the temple appears in Joan Punzo Waghorne’s book “Diaspora of the Gods” published by OUP.

CONCLUSION: 

And in conclusion, for me the story and the lyric is a throwback to the days I read the Amar Citra Katha stories including ‘The Syamantaka Gem’ alluded in this blog post, abridged/adapted/published by the Late Anant Pai. What a great way to know these in a simple way! If the Amar Citra Katha is a visual pen picture of these legends & stories then Dikshitar’s classic ‘mahAganapatim vandE’ is an immortal musical pen picture, a modern day Syamantaka gem which he has bequeathed to us. In contrast to the puranic gem which brought ill luck, one can be sure that if this modern gem were to be sung it is sure to bestow us prosperity and the boundless Grace of Lord Ganesha, this Chathurthi.

REFERENCES:

  1. Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai -Tamil ( 1936) – Vidvan Thiruppamburam Svaminatha Pillai
  2. Problems in the editing of the Kirtanas of Muddusvami Dikshitar(1991) – Dr N Ramanathan- Paper presented in the 65th Annual Conference of the Music Academy Madras on 19-Dec-1991 and published in JMA Madras, 1998 Vol LXIX,pp 59-98.
  3. Isai Katturaigal – Tamil (2006)- Dr V Raghavan- Published by the Dr V Raghavan Center for Performing Arts, Adayar, Chennai – pp 68-70 

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Legend has it that Dikshitar examined the astro chart of his devoted disciple and sensed that that the recurring colic pain was due to the malefic impact of Jupiter ( graha dosha). Given that Tambiappan Pillai would not be able to recite shlokas to propitiate Guru and seek divine relief to ameliorate his suffering, because of his caste, Dikshitar proceeded to create the composition ‘Brhaspate’ in Atana condensing the very essence of Guru worship, bade his disciple to sing it. Needless to add he did so and recovered completely. The story finds mention in many of the Muthusvami Dikshitar biographies including those written by Subbarama Dikshitar, Dr V Raghavan and Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer.
  2. Readers are requested to read the Introductory sections of the English translation of the DKP given in the link above, for a detailed biography of Sri Sathanur Pancanada Iyer who was also called Sathanur Panju Iyer, the guru of Veena Dhanammal and Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai. Additionally readers may also read this article, published in Guruguha.Org sometime back.
  3. Given that we have a few Siva ksetras which feature Lord Ganesa having connection with the Tripura samhara episode as above, surprisingly we do not find modern day editors of Muthusvami Dikshitar kritis, arbitrarily assign ‘mahAganapatim vandE’ in Todi to the Ganesa enshrined in those temples.  

Disclaimer: The clippings used in this blog post have been purely used for educational/research purposes and no attribution is made or copyright claimed, which is exclusively the property of the producers/artistes concerned. The photos has been sourced from the web & belong exclusively to the trademark owners of ‘Amar Citra Katha’ 

 

Composers, Raga

The Melodic setting of ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ of Muthusvami Dikshitar

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Prologue:

It is one of the settled principles of music or for that matter any art form, that utmost fidelity to the intent of the composer/creator should be maintained. The original structure of a composition as intended by the composer must be reproduced at all costs/as much as possible, by all those who perform the same. In fact modern intellectual property law acknowledges this as a formal right of a composer, calling it the Right of Integrity of the composer creator or “droit de respect de l’oeuvre”. It effectively forbids all performers from mutilating, distorting or modifying his creative work. In our Music one instead witnesses the fact that we have taken much liberties with the compositions of very many composers particularly the Trinity. A comparison of the versions of the compositions that we hear today, say for example of Muthusvami Dikshitar with that of an authentic reproduction of the original setting as recorded in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini would show how much we have deviated considerably from the original setting. We have seen this as a regular theme in almost all cases which we have analyzed in this blog series.

In this blog post we will take up the case of a very well-known composition in a ubiquitous raga. And as we analyse it in the context of its original notation, it can be demonstrated how we have:

  1. Modified the very lakshana of a raga
  2. Changed the musical setting or mettu/mAthu of the composition

The composition is ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ in raga Nattai in adi tala. The core idea of this short blog post is not to censure ourselves, though we might deserve one, but is to demonstrate how Muthusvami Dikshitar has presented the grammatically correct laid down form of the raga for us.  And at the same time imprinted his own style in the musical setting of the composition.

The goal for a student or listener of music is to appreciate the original beauty of this composition and ruminate on the takeaways it provides us.

Overview of composition and modern lakshana of Nattai:

Let us first look at the sahitya or the lyrical setting of the composition in question.

  1. ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ is a composition ostensibly composed on the Lord at Svamimalai by Muthusvami Dikshitar, though its sahitya does not bear any details as to situs such as puranic or stala references etc.
  2. It is the pallavi-anupallavi-madhyamakala sahitya format, lacking the carana. Neither do we see a cittasvara section for this composition.
  3. It carries both the colophon (as in ‘vallIsa guruguha dEvasEnEsa’ in the pallavi) and raga mudra (‘kAvya nAtakAlankArabharana’ in the madhyama kala sahitya) in its sahitya body.
  4. It is found documented/notated in both Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshitar and in the Dikshitar Keertanai Prakashikai (DKP) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, the two most authentic textual authorities for Dikshitar’s compositions.

It is composed in Nattai, a raga which almost every text book on music would provide the modern day lakshana , under the 36th mela as under:

Arohana : S R3 G3 M1 P N3 S ( some give it as  SRGMPDNS)

Avarohana: S N3 P M1 R3 S

While prescribed theory is so, a perusal of available renderings of compositions in this raga feature the following svaragati/progression :

Arohana : S R3 G3 M1 P N3 S

Avarohana: S N3 P M1 G3 M1 R3 S

In modern musicological parlance it is almost always presented as a derivative of the heptatonic calanAta mela , excluding the shatsruti dhaivata D3in both arohana & avarohana, with both PMRS and GMRS in its descent.

Modern Nattai is encapsulated in this concise edited presentation below by Vidvan Neyveli Santhanagopalan, who provides his delineation of the raga for us through a short adi tala pallavi ‘nAttai kApadu nam kadamai, nallor vazhum bhAratha’, the raga name being embedded therein. He prefaces it with an alapana, tops it up with a few rounds of neraval and kalpana svaras as well.

There are very many compositions in this raga and for us the subject matter for this blog post is ‘Svaminatha Paripalaya’ kriti, which we take up concentrating on the extant version/rendering of the composition. Arguably one of the earliest popular vocalist to frequently render this composition was Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramaniam. And his version/presentation of the composition is what almost all modern day performers have adopted. Let us first hear that out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1t8BYA7CvQ

I would like to invite specific attention to the following factors in this rendering.

  1. The rhythmic setting – Many the eduppus/take off in the kriti lines are after 1/2 akshara (edam) after the first beat including the pallavi itself.
  2. The pace of the composition is medium & fast tempo. There is no slow or cauka kala exposition.
  3. The ragalakshana as is obvious from the svarakalpana is very clear. The above given arohana and avarohana, devoid of D3 and using both PMRS and GMRS is observed to the tee.

Now that we have looked at the raga and the popular exposition of this Muthusvami Dikshitar composition, let’s evaluate the form as notated in the SSP and DKP, which we alluded to before. But before that let’s evaluate the raga lakshana as summarized by Subbarama Dikshitar.

‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ in the SSP :

  1. The raga’s correct/complete name is cAlanAta, the same which has been assigned to the sampurna/heptatonic scale in Sangraha Cudamani.
  2. The arohana/avarohana murrcana is SRGMPDNS/SNPMRS
  3. Dhaivata and gandhara are varja in the avarohana. The reasoning is fairly obvious as in the Muddu Venkatamakhin scheme. D3N3 and R3G3 the vivadhi combinations are facile in their arohana krama. However in the avarohana krama they are worked around either as vakra or varja as SN3D3N3P or M1R3S.

In contrast to the modern lakshana, two features that we need to note at the outset are the prescribed usage of PD3N3S and PM1R3S. As we saw in the modern expositions in the discography above, PNS and GMRS seems to dominate the scheme of Nattai today. Nattai of today is totally bereft of D3 making it an shadava raga. See Foot Note 1.

Moving over to the notation of the kriti in the SSP, one is surprised to note the amount of deviation that we see in modern expositions compared to the notation provided in the SSP.

  1. PDNS occurs expressly in the composition in two places (‘guruguha’ and ‘vitarana’), the portions being in madhyama kAla. Along with PDNS we also see PS and Pr as well.
  2. GMRS does not occur, atleast in this composition. Everywhere it is only PMRS. Though GMRS is permissible or is not forbidden, it was perhaps a convention that in Nattai PMRS was to dominate ( i.e gandhara would not be vakra in avarohana passages) and which is why Subbarama Dikshitar gives the avarohana murccana as SNPMRS. And Dikshitar does not use that in ‘svAminAtha paripAlayA’.

Brief History of Nattai:

The above two features are not just found in the Natta of the Anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin which was supposed to have been followed by Muthusvami Dikshitar and which Subbarama Dikshitar uses as authority for his SSP. It was also the intrinsic component of the Natta of the 18thcentury for we see the same as documented by Tulaja in his Saramrutha (circa A D 1835). In fact Sangita Kalanidhi B Subba Rao and Prof S R Janakiraman in their commentary to Tulaja’s Saramrutha emphatically state that the raga’s lakshana had remained the same over centuries till today. In fact they add that in contrast to the older Nattai, modern Nattai had narrowed down by dropping the shatsruti dhaivatha completely from its melodic body.

Tulaja records the name of this melody as ‘Suddha Natti’ anointing it as a mela. He states:

  1. The raga lacks dhaivatha and gandhara in the avaroha
  2. And the svaragati/progression is straight both in arohana and avarohana, meaning it was SRGMPDNS and SNPMRS. Thus dhaivatha and gandhara were not again appearing vakra in the avarohana such as SNDNP or PMGMRS. He effectively rules out GMRS.

Needless to add, Nattai has a history tracing back centuries prior and is seen recorded in the works of Somanatha, Pandarika Vitthala, Venkamakhin and others. Even the Sangraha Cudamani which ploughs a lone furrow on many ragas gives the same svara progression for Nattai. In short Nattai is a purva prasiddha raga sporting the two vivadi combinations R3G3 and D1N1 in full in its melodic body. See Foot Note 2.

Thus we can safely conclude that Muthusvami Dikshitar’s ‘svAminAtha paripAlaya’ as notated in the SSP completely embodies the older, complete Nattai that was prevalent in the 18th century.

As stated, the two contrasting features between the Nattai of yore and the one today is that present day renderings of this composition and modern day delineation of the raga are devoid of PDNS. And they include GMRS as well, which prayoga is not found in the old Nattai.

Muthusvami Dikshitar’s Conception:

Even as he faithfully went about adhering to the older definition of Nattai, Muthusvami Dikshitar in his ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsu mAm’ chiseled out his own features, which are today not visible or conspicuous in modern day renderings.

  1. We have been repeatedly seeing in these blog analysis that jumps,bends,turns and twists were how the melodic progression of svaragati of ragas was in the 18th century. Taking that as a cue, Dikshitar implements the same through the repeated use of the prayoga/motif M/N and N\MP with the nishadha being ornamented with the kampita gamaka. Examples are the sahitya portions ‘nAradAdi bhAvita’ & ‘sammOhitAkAra’.
  2. Dikshitar has also kept the gandhara (G3) usage to the absolute minimum in this composition which spans 8 complete tala avartas, as a signature construct for the Nattai of ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm. The 3 usages, namely two dIrgha and one hrsva usage is seen at :
    1. ‘svAminAtha’
    2.  ‘vAmadEva’
    3. ‘nipunacarana’

He works around the gandhara note by jumping over as SM or SP in his progression. But he does give G3 its pride of place elegantly/tellingly at ‘vAmadEva’ and this dIrgha gandhara placement right at the middle of the composition at the beginning of the 5th avarta, half way in this 8 tala avarta composition is poignant. See Foot Note 3.

  1. He has further clustered the sahitya and the underlying notes into a pattern almost – alternating hrsva and dIrgha syllables in the body. This point is brought out for the simple reason that this original setting has been completely lost due to the modern rendition style of this composition or what we can call as normalization.

A Comparison:

A compare of this notation with the modern day rendering provides us a number of insights:

  1. Sahitya for many tala avartas are started off (eduppu) at 1/2 edam/ after the first beat, by performers. One can see from the SSP notation of this composition that the sahitya for every one of the tala avartas ( 8 in total) start only at samam/on the beat.
  2. The sahitya syllables are equally spread out over the rest of the tala cycle, in contrast to the original notation.
  3. In the original scheme we see that there are either two hrasva svaras or one dIrgha svara per akshara in the sama kAla and double that in the madhyama kala. This is tampered with in modern renderings with the result that the actual svara notation deviates considerably from the SSP notation in very many places. One can even see that it is perhaps even 4 svaras per aksharas in sama kala sometimes, giving us the speeded up impression and also melodically denser, which was not the original construct.

For example the sahitya lines starting ‘svAminAtha’, ‘kArtikEya’ and ‘vAmadEva’ are all rendered not starting at samam but 1/2 after the beat. The word ‘kArtikEya’ which is notated for the first 4 aksharas of the adi tala cycle are sung as,SRGM rather than SRSMR. Similar is the fate of the line ‘vAmadEva’ which is again not rendered at samam/beat start and is rendered as GMPNSNP whereas the actual notation is GGMMP. As pointed out earlier, from the anupallavi start till the madhyama kala start, spanning 4 adi tala avartas, Muthusvami Dikshitar uses the gandhara note only one at the place vAmadEva. Whereas in all modern renderings we see that these 4 tala avartas are rendered with gandhara being indiscriminately used. The madhyama kala sahitya mettu too has been tampered with as one can see.

4. In a number of places the unique kampita gamakas as well as the jArus that are embedded in the composition is hardly ever heard in the modern day renderings of this composition. Simply put, the melodic artwork innate in the composition has been sacrificed at the altar of speed. See Foot Note 4.

These changes are a consequence of our poor understanding of the legacy bequeathed to us. Sadly the tempo of the rendering is speeded up and the composition is rendered as if it were a kriti of Tyagaraja. While we bear no ill will to that format, it is reiterated that this was not the style/format in which Dikshitar composed ‘svAminAtha paripAlaya’. And it does no justice to us to wrongly render a magnificent construction carelessly with scant respect for raga lakshana as well, by needlessly singing the unwarranted GMRS or eliding the PDNS.

We can aurally sense the normalization that we have done to the melodic body and gait of the composition in the discography section.

Discography:

Vidvan T M Krishna sings ‘svAminAtha paripAlayAsumAm’ as per notation found in the SSP. He first prefaces the composition with his take on the construct of the composition.

And then he renders the composition.

Attention is invited amongst others to:

  • Leisurely progression or tempo of the composition
  • N\MP and M/N usages,
  • The sama eduppu for all the tala avartas
  • The unique/poignant dIrgha gandhara take off at ‘vAmadEva’
  • The original musical setting of the madhyamakala sahitya in particular the mandhara stayi sancara which is not correctly rendered in modern versions.

In his presentation, the ‘PDNS’ usage atleast at the pallavi (‘guruguha’) isn’t very aurally perceivable and personally I wish it were articulated a little more.  Barring the same, this edition more or less reflects a very practical/faithful presentation of the intent of the notation in the SSP for me. In fact the PDNS is also incorporated in Vidvan Krishna’s kalpana svara section and the violinist response captures the D3N3 very well. Its worth noting that Vidvan Krishna only once ( inadvertently perhaps?) in his svarakalpana does use the prayoga GMRS in the tAra stAyi.

For many of us, this version interpreted from the notation from the SSP, may be a revelation. The contrast and the takeaways provided by this version in comparison with the modern version, presented earlier in this post, is something that is now left to the rumination and judgement of a discerning listener/connoisseur of our music.

Epilogue:

Many of the modern day presentations of Muthusvami Dikshitar’s compositions are found normalized both for melody and for rhythm/structure, deviating significantly from their original construct. Thankfully we have an authentic repository of notations of his compositions preserved by Subbarama Dikshitar in the form of the magnum opus, SSP as a benchmark/gold-copy for us. This blog post was to precisely demonstrate how we have significantly deviated from the original setting of Dikshitar’s creations. It is earnestly & sincerely hoped that students and performers of music would at least now, relearn & recalibrate their repertoire of Dikshitar compositions to be in alignment to the original intent of the composer. And finally rendering them on concert platforms in true fidelity to that would be the only greatest homage to composer nonpareil.

REFERENCES:
  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 980-998
  3. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai – pages 41-43
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

I am indebted to Vidvan Sri T M Krishna for permitting me to share the recording of his rendering of ‘svAminAtha paripAlayasumAm’ for this blog post. This is from his concert for Guruguhamrutha, held on 13th Nov 2016 @ Raga Sudha Hall, Chennai. Accompanying him in this recital were Vidvans Sri H N Bhaskar on the violin, Sri Manoj Siva on the mrudangam and Sri B S Purushotham on the kanjira.

FOOT NOTE:

  1. The PD3N3S usage has always been problematic to many schools of music especially between the 1850 to 1950 time period. The vivadi combination was attributed with dosha so much so purists wouldn’t render them at all, fearing ill health upon doing so. Many ragas sporting this vivadi svara combination too were mutilated. In the case of Nattai, Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer went one step further when he stripped R3G3 vivadhi combination too in his rendering of ‘mahA ganapatim’, a famous kriti attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar and not found in the SSP. Here, in this clipping from the Music Academy Concert of the year 1964, dubbed the Ghana Raga concert , the Carnatic veteran opens the concert at the Academy presenting his version of ‘mAhAganapatim’ and Nattai sans R3 and D3, a raga which we can call as Gambhira Nattai, prefacing it with a brief tanam !

Attention is invited both to the kriti and the kalpana svara section. One wonders what the rasikas and the cognoscenti of those times had to say upon hearing the veteran render the composition so! For a sharp ear a very muted R3 is discernible tinting the sadja as an anusvara in quite a few places, for example when he ends ‘mahAganapatim’ before commencing the svarakalpana.

  1. Tulaja’s commentary in the Sangita Saramrutha to the effect that Suddha Natti or Nattai of today is a Ghana raga and is to be sung in evenings is echoed verbatim by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP. We have seen in an earlier blogpost what ‘ghanam’ means and in that context Nattai rightfully is a Ghana raga, being the first amongst equals in the Ghana raga pancakam. The attribute of a raga pegging its rendering to the time of a day seems to have lost its relevance except for a few ragas. One is unable to divine today, the reason why Nattai should be sung in the evenings only.
  2. Antara gandhara- G3 in the case of Nattai is found in the arohana alone. Normally as a rule a note found only in the arohana is very likely to be a weak note in the raga. If the note finds place in the avarohana as well, atleast as a vakra note then it is likely to emerge as a powerful pivot note. With PMRS alone being used, or in other words PMGMRS being excluded, it is likely that Dikshitar given the implicit deduction that G3 became weak, perhaps made its occurrence rare in this composition. It could also be hypothesized that the older or vintage form/definition of Nattai warranted this. It could also be that by his times Nattai had perhaps acquired in the meanwhile, GMRS or a vakra gandhara formally in its avarohana. And in this, then nouveau form of Nattai, Dikshitar perhaps composed the other composition ‘pavanAtmaja’, which has GMRS usage in its final madhyama kala sahitya section. An interesting line of thought one can say.
  1. The almost same notation of this composition that one sees both in the SSP and DKP is amazing to say the least. Barring a few extra kampita gamaka ornamentations that is seen in DKP, the two notations reinforce our belief in the original creation as the same comes through to us through two independent sishya paramparas of Muthusvami Dikshitar. One is humbled by the fact that the sishya paramparas to that point, namely Tambaippan Pillai –> Sattanur Pancanada Iyer –> Natarajasundaram Pillai for DKP on one hand and Balasvami Dikshitar –> Subbarama Dikshitar for the SSP on the other, have maintained the greatest of fidelity in transmitting the tradition without polluting/morphing it in anyway.
Composers, History, Personalities

Tana Varna Margadarshi Adiyappayya

Preface:

Adiyapayya (Adippayya or Adiyappa Iyer/Ayya), whom Subbarama Dikshitar refers to in awe as a Margadarshi or trailblazer for the genre of tana varnas, shall forever be remembered just for his magnum opus, the Bhairavi ata tala varna “Viribhoni”. This varna has captured the imagination of both lay rasikas and the cognoscenti spanning across centuries. Sangita Kalanidhi Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, an acknowledged authority, even advances a hypothesis that it was this varna and its popularity that propelled Bhairavi to the forefront, enabling it to capture popular imagination and thus eclipsing its sibling Manji.  Adiyappaya will also be remembered as the guru/preceptor of the great Trinitarian Syama Sastri. The worthy disciple went on to craft another monumental classic in Bhairavi, the svarajati.

We have a historical account of Adiyappayya by Subbarama Dikshitar. Later day writers like Prof Sambamoorthi, Dr S Seetha and Dr B M Sundaram too have documented details about him both from oral traditions and from manuscripts from the Saraswati Mahal Library in Tanjore. Dr.U.Ve.Saminatha Ayyar also records  a short biographical sketch of his while listing the eminent personages who adorned the Udayarpalayam Zamindari.This post is a consolidation of the information on Adiyapayya available to us together with a discography of his compositions.

Adiyapayya – His Life time:

In so far as the time period that Adiyappayya lived, we have four important references:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar in his Vaggeyakara Caritamu says that he was Madhva Brahmana, hailing from modern day Karnataka who lived during the times of the Tanjore Mahratta kings Pratapasimha (regnal years 1739-1763 as per historical records, while according to Subbarama Dikshitar it is 1741-1765) and Tulaja II(1763-1787). Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP, under raga Huseini gives the composition “Emandayanara” with the ankita “pratapasimha” and credits Adiyappayya as the composer. Based on Subbarama Dikshitar’s record, Adiyappa’s life time can be placed as 1725-1775. Dr Seetha too in her seminal work “Tanjore as a Seat of Music” echoes Subbarama Dikshitar as to Adiyapayya’s timeline.
  2. According to the book Gayakasiddanjanam (1904) of Taccur Singaracar, Adiyappayya was a musician of the Pudukottai Court and his period was 1750-1820.
  3. Prof Sambamoorthi in his biography on Syama Shastri(1762-1827) records that Adiyappayya was over 50 years , when the 18 year old Syama Sastri came under his tutelage. Extrapolating based on this evidence, Adiyappayya must have been born no latter than 1730.
  4. According to Dr V Raghavan, Adiyappayya lived even during the reign of Tulaja II. Thus Adiyappayya might not have lived beyond 1780 or thereabouts.

All the above historical references point to Adiyapayya having lived during the period of 1725-1780. In all probability, Adiyappaya must have been a contemporary of Melattur Veerabadrayya, the other ‘margadarshi’ who  was a guru and musical preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshitar (1735-1817). Subbarama Dikshitar in his work adds that Adiyappayya followed the footsteps of Veerabhadrayya when it came to the style of music. According to Dr B M Sundaram,  Adiyapayya must have lived for a long time in Tanjore and later in Pudukkottai. In Pudukottai, he must have been patronized by King Vijaya Raghunatha Tondaiman (1730-1769), perhaps. A descendant of his was part of the Pudukottai Court.

His Family/Descendants:

Subbarama Dikshitar lists out one Veena Krishnayya as a son of Adiyapayya. Veena Krishnayya was adept in playing veena and was also a composer prabandhas such as saptataleshvaram. Krishnayya’s son was Veena Subbukutti Ayya who was another veena expert. When Subbarama Dikshitar composed & presented his Ramakriya varna and the Sankarabharana kriti “Sankaracaryam” extolling Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvathi, the 65th Pontiff of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam at Kumbakonam (which was then the seat of the mutt) circa 1860, Subbukutti Ayya was also present in the sadas. Additionally Dr Seetha in her work, mentions in the context of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844-1893) that when he performed the raga Darbar in the Court of Raghunatha Tondaiman, the Rajah of Pudukkottai ( the reigning Raja should have been Ramachandra Tondaiman who ruled between 1839-1886. I am unsure how Dr Seetha says it was Raghunatha Tondaiman) Vina Subbukutti Iyer who was in the Court along with the other assembled expert vidvans, appreciated Vaidyanatha Iyer’s rendition.

Veena Subbukutti Ayya/Iyer seems to have visited Svati Tirunal Maharaja’s Court as well.

King Ramachandra Tondaiman in Durbar (1858)

Photograph by Linnaues Tripe. Courtesy V&A

Prof Sambamoorthi records that the great Veena virtuosos Veena Seshanna (1852-1926) and Veena Venkataramana Das of Vijayanagar are the descendants of Adiyapayya. No reference is given regarding the prefix Pachimiriya or Pacchimiriyan. Perhaps the epithet represents his native village or is a familial name.

His Disciples:

Syama Sastri, Pallavi Gopala Iyer and BhUlOka Gandharva Narayanasvami Iyer are recorded as Adiyappayya’s illustrious disciples by almost all authorities.  A yati by name Sangeeta Svami is recorded by Prof Sambamoorthi as the first musical guru of Syama Sastri. It is further recorded by him that it was this Sangeeta Svami who recommended that Syama Sastri develop his musical skill /prowess by hearing to Adiyappayya. Prof Sambamoorthy also records the (apocryphal?) betel juice episode as a part of Syama Sastri’s life history which involved Adiyappayya.

Pallavi Gopala Iyer was another illustrious disciple, who has been covered in an earlier article in this series. Bhuloka Gandharva Tanjore Narayanasvami Iyer is the third disciple of Adiyappayya. He is recorded as having been patronized by the Udayarpalayam Zamindar, Kaci Yuvaranga BhUpati. According to Dr B M Sundaram, Narayanasvami Iyer too was a composer of great merit. Again we do not have any compositions of him, handed down to us.

Dr.U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer records that Ramaswami Iyer of Tanjavur sent his sons Periyatirukkunram Subbarama Iyer, Ghanam Krishna Iyer to Tanjavur to be educated under Pachimiriyan Adiyappayya. They too turned out to be master composers. Dr U Ve Sa further records that Adiyappayya appreciated the compositions of Subbarama Iyer and called him by the epithet “Chinna Srinivasan” alluding to another composer of great merit from Srirangam.

His Music:

As mentioned earlier according to Subbarama Dikshitar, Adiyappayya was well versed in music and Telugu and he followed the footsteps of Melattur Veerabadrayya who was probably an iconic figure of that generation. Adiyappayya was the one to standardize “Pallavi” as a unique platform for musical exposition comprising of raga alapana, tana or madhyamakala rendering followed by the Pallavi. His two disciples namely Pallavi Gopala Iyer and Syama Sastri went on to become exponents nonpareil in this genre. Prof Sambamoorthi also records the story of a pallavi contest involving vidvan Bobbili Kesavvayya and Adippayya’s illustrious disciples held in the Tanjore Court.

Adiyappayya – The Vaggeyaka/Composer:

He was a composer of kritis which were ornate with exquisite gamakas and composed with the ankita  ‘sri venkataramana’. Subbarama Dikshitar further adds that he followed the path of Veerabhadrayya in his compositional style. U.Ve.Svaminatha Iyer further notes that Adiappayya has composed in many languages including Telugu, Sanskrit, Marathi and Tamil and had visited Udayarpalayam during the reign of Kacchi Yuvaranga and had composed on him in ragas such as Nattakuranji and Sahana and that  musicians such has Pudukkottai Veena Subbayyar have sung two  of his compositions.

None of the kritis composed by him has been handed down to us. As of date we have only the following three compositions ascribed to him:

  1. The ata tala tana varna in Bhairavi, “Viribhoni”
  2. The ata tala tana varna in Pantuvarali ( mela 51- Kamavardhani), “Madavati”
  3. The rupaka tala svarajathi in Huseni, “Emandayanara”

In the context of Adiyappayya’s available compositions, the following merit our attention.

  • The standard colophon of Adiyappayya ‘sri venkataramana’ (according to Subbarama Dikshitar) is not found in any of the above compositions. Compositions 1 & 2 have ‘sri rajagopala’ as mudra while the third composition, the svarajati has ‘pratapasimha’ as the ankita representing the patron of Adiyappayya, namely the Mahratta King of Tanjore Pratapasimha. The ankita ‘rajagopala’ (of different varieties) has also been used by Moovanallur Sabhapatayya, who is said to have lived during the times of the Trinity, slightly latter than Adiyappayya.
  • Compositions 1 & 3 are found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini with Subbarama Dikshitar  ascribing authorship to Adiyappayya.
  • While Composition # 1 is universally acknowledged as Adiyappaya’s, as we will see presently there is some ambiguity or rather, lack of unanimity on the other two compositions.
  • Composition # 2 was brought to light by Vidvan Mysore Chennakesavayya, a disciple of Tiger Varadacariar and was published by the Madras Music Academy. Vidvan N Chennakesavayya published a number of rare varnas from out of his family’s manuscripts dating back to early 19th century. As a member of the Experts Committee of the Music Academy, he did a number of lecture demonstrations on some of these rare compositions. The authorship of this varna has been ascribed to Adiyappayya on the strength of the ankita found within the composition and as such no other independent source of reference or authority is available. Dr Seetha in “Tanjore as a Seat of Music’ unequivocally says that “Viribhoni” is the only composition of Adiyappayya as available to us.
  • On composition # 3, Subbarama Dikshitar ascribes authorship of the Huseni svarajathi to Adiyappayya with an accompanying footnote to the effect that the sahitya for the jatis were done by Melattur Venkatrama Sastri. This attribution is controversial and disputable on more than one ground. Dr  V Raghavan and Dr B M Sundaram on different grounds negate, directly or indirectly the attribution of this piece to Adiyappayya. An additional aspect is the fact that this svarajati is a scaled down version of the legendary Melattur Veerabadrayya’s original Huseni svarajati raising the question as to Adiyapayya’s authoring a composition of such a nature. The svarajati and its companion pieces (composition having the same dhatu (musical setting) but different matu (lyrics)) namely ‘Emayaladira’, ‘Pahimam Bruhannayike’ etc are ascribed to members of the family of the Tanjore Quartet and forms part of their family manuscripts.

So considering all these factors, this svarajati is not held by the musicologists, historians and the cognoscenti in the same breath as “Viribhoni” as Adiyappayya’s composition, not withstanding Subbarama Dikshitar’s attribution in the SSP. The Bhairavi varna and the svarajati, will be dealt in a seperate blog post on Bhairavi and  the Pantuvarali varna is presented in the discography section of this post.

DISCOGRAPHY:

In this section let us look at renderings of the two masterpieces of Adiyappayya. While the Bhairavi varna is frequently encountered and is synonymous with Bhairavi even for a lay listener of classical music, the Pantuvarali varna “Madavati’ is seldom heard. The Bhairavi varna is almost always presented in its truncated form.

Madavati in Pantuvarali:

Lets first take up Madavati. Vidushi Mythili Nagesvaran who learnt music from Vidvan Chennakesavayya ( amongst many other including Jayammal, Savitri Rajan & others) presents the varna in a chamber recital circa 1990. As mentioned earlier this varna made its way out of obscurity when it was presented by Vidvan Chennakesavayya in the portals of the Music Academy. Given the rarity of the varna, link is provided to the notation of the composition as well for the benefit of the readers of this blog.

Clip 1 :

Notation : English version of the Notation of the  Pantuvarali Varnam as notated by Vidvan Chennakesavaiah

In the past, there has been a confusion as to the raga Pantuvarali & whether the name referred to Subhapantuvarali or to the scale which is presently assigned to Kamavardhani. The version of this varna as documented and available to us is only the scale of Mela 51.

CONCLUSION:

Current day performers should learn these long forgotten and rare masterpieces, polish and burnish them and present them with absolute fidelity in their concerts and that would be the best homage one can ever provide to the great composers of our past. One hopes that this Pantuvarali varna will be resurrected and sung and will be passed on to the next generation in the same way as Adiyappayya’s Bhairavi varna.

REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini – Reprinted in Tamil by the Madras Music Academy, India
  2. DR B M Sundaram (2002) – “Varna Svarajathi” – Published by Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Tanjore, India
  3. Dr S Seetha (2001)- “Tanjore as a Seat of Music “- Published by the University of Madras, India
  4. Chennakesavaiah. N (1964) -” Four Rare Compositions” – Edited and published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol XXXV, Pages 175-179 Madras, India
  5. Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer – ‘Ragas Lalita and Manji’ – Journal of the Music Academy XXVIII- Pages 122-125
  6. Prof Sambamoorthi – ‘Great Composers – Book 1’ Seventh Edition (2004)
  7. Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer – ‘En Caritiram’ – series of books published by Dr U Ve Sa Library, Chennai ( 2008 Edition)
  8. Savithri Rajan & Michael Nixon – ‘Sangita Sarvartha Sarasangrahamu’ – Edited and published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol LII, Pages 169-188 Madras, India
Composers, History, Personalities

Pallavi Gopala Iyer – A Sequel

Since the post I made on Pallavi Gopala Iyer,  I came across a couple of more points which I thought should form part of the original post.

WHO WAS PALLAVI GOPALA IYER?

Per Prof Sambamoorthy and Dr B M Sundaram as well, Gopala Iyer was the son of Tsallagali Veeraraghava Iyer as mentioned in my previous post. I should confess that I had not looked to into Dr Sita’s magnum opus, “Tanjore as a Seat of Music” to see what she had to say. Dr Sita provides a brief profile of Pallavi Gopala Iyer under pages 179-180 of her work and therein there is no mention of his forefathers or descendants. Further in pages 256-262, of her thesis/publication, she profiles the famous Minister of the Tanjore Court, Varahappa Dikshita Pandit (1795-1869) along with his descendants and therein she makes a mention of another/different Gopala Iyer who was called Tsallagali Gopala Iyer and he was the son of Tsallagali Veeraraghava Iyer. They were a famous line of vaineekas attached to the Tanjore Court. In sum, there seem to have been two different Gopala Iyers in question, in the Tanjore Court. Also according to Dr Sita, Tsallagali Gopala Iyer belonged to the period of King Sivaji and thus he belonged to a time much latter than Pallavi Gopala Iyer.

The point I want to place on record is that as per Dr Sita, Pallavi Gopala Iyer had nothing to do with Tsallagali Veeraraghava Iyer whose son Tsallagali Gopala Iyer is a different musician from a different time period altogether. My original post refers to Pallavi Gopala Iyer as the son of Tsallagali Veeraghava Iyer, which is based on the account of Prof Sambamoorthy and Dr B M Sundaram. It also needs to be mentioned here that historians/researchers typically refer to the Modi records found in the Saravathi Mahal Library in Tanjore to verify or reconstruct history. Dr Sita provides a facsimile reproduction of a Modi record in her work as an example.  Interpreting those records/scripts has a great bearing on the final conclusion/deduction and this may probably account for the divergences that one notices in the two sets of accounts about Pallavi Gopala Iyer.

DISCOGRAPHY:

Secondly, since my original post I came across the rendition of the kriti , “shrI ramA ramani” in the raga Mohanam which is found in Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s Kritimanimalai, attributed to Pallavi Gopala Iyer. Vidvan Sanjay Subramaniam, accompanied by Vidvan S D Sridhar on the violin and Vidvan Trivandrum Vaidyanathan on the mrudangam, opens his All India Radio Concert, broadcast by Chennai A Station on 26th June 2009@ 8:45 AM, with this kriti of Pallavi Gopala Iyer.

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/tvg/UPLOADS-1201—1400/1225-Sanjay_Subramanian/

Apparently this composition was fairly well encountered in concerts decades ago and musicians including G N Balasubramaniam (GNB) used to render it elaborately. As one can see this kriti is structured in the old kriti template, akin to Needumurtini in Nattakurinji  which is as under:

Pallavi – 1 avarta of adi tala

Anupallavi  – 1 avarta of adi tala

Caranam – 2 avarta of adi tala

Additionally we can see that the kriti template has multiple caranas (at least two) and a cittasvara section spanning 2 avartas of adi tala. This seems to have been the classic structure from the pre-trinity days. Another example from that period is ‘Sphuratute’ in Devagandhari of Paidala Gurumurti Sastrigal notated in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini(SSP). Many of kritis of Melattur Veerabadrayya are in this template as well, barring the cittasvara section. These proto-kriti form comes to us from an age when compositions such as varnas, svarajatis and padas dominated. The trinity perhaps went on to impart a slightly more expansive kriti template, investing sahitya for atleast an additional avarta of tala in the anupallavi and couple of more for the caranams. Muthusvami Dikshitar contributed an additional segment called the madhyama kala sahitya portion as an appendage to the carana. It would’nt be out of place to mention a very odd form for a kriti as utilized by Dikshitar for the kriti ‘Sri Meenakshi Gauri’ in the rare raga Gauri. This kriti as documented in the SSP has a number of oddities bunched together:

  • The pallavi itself has a madhayama kala sahitya portion
  • The pallavi is immediately followed by a portion of svaras called muktayisvara
  • The anupallavi(samashti carana) has four rupaka tala avartas of madhyamakala sahitya followed by 4 avartas of cittasvaras.
Composers, History, Personalities

Pallavi Gopala Iyer

INTRODUCTION:

Pallavi Gopala Iyer is one of the composers from the pre-trinity period who adorned the Tanjore Court and was a vaggeyakara par excellence, in his own right. We do have accounts of him from Subbarama Dikshitar and also from manuscripts and references in the Sarasvathi Mahal Library of Tanjore and from Prof Sambamoorthy. Subbarama Dikshitar has also recorded for posterity, the notation for a number of his compositions which offers us an invaluable glimpse of the music of those days bygone and which help us understand raga lakshana as it existed in the run up to the times of the Trinity.

HIS LIFE & TIMES:

In his “Vaggeyakara Caritamu”, Subbarama Dikshitar states that Gopala Iyer adorned the Tanjore Court during the times of King Amarasimha(1787-1802) and King Serfoji(1802-1832)¹. Prof Sambamoorthy places the timeline of Pallavi Gopala Iyer as the latter part of 18th century and first quarter of 19th century. Given this and other collateral evidences, he should have lived circa 1750-1820. And thus he was in all probability slightly elder to the Trinitarians.

Here is his biography in brief as dealt with in the records and accounts available to us:

Gopala Iyer hailed from “northern regions” according to Subbarama Dikshitar. He was the son of one Callagalli Veeraraghava Iyer. Gopala Iyer also had a brother by name Sanjeeva Iyer. The honorific title “Callagalli” (telugu) came to be conferred, probably because the music that Veeraraghava Iyer sang was like pleasant cool breeze, as the term implied in Telugu! Both the sons of Veeraraghava Iyer were enrolled under no less a teacher as Patchimiriam Adiyappayya, the legendary composer of the classic Bhairavi Ata tala varnam, “Viribhoni”. From amongst the all time greats of Carnatic Music, the honorific title “mArgadarshi” or “Trail Blazer” has been conferred on 4 icons :

  1. Karvetinagar Govindasamayya – for his magnum opus adi tala tana varna in Navaroz and probably for the ‘pedda varnamu’, “SarigadAni pai” in raga Mohana as well.
  2. Melattur Veerabhadrayya (for his now lost classic, the Huseni Svarajathi “Sami Ninne” in Adi tala)
  3. Sesha Iyengar (for his immortal set of 60 krithis, selected no less by the Lord at Srirangam) and
  4. Patchimiriam Adiyappayya ( for his Bhairavi ata tala tana varna)

Adiyappayya’s other illustrious disciples include Syama Shastri, Ghanam Krishna Iyer and “bhUlOka gAndharva” Narayana Svami Iyer (of the Udayarpalayam Samasthanam). Needless to say each one of Adiyappayya’s disciples went on to make a mark in the world of music with their contribution!

Prof Sambamurthy with authority credits Adiyappayya as the first to systematize the art of rendering raga, tana and pallavi as an organized mechanism of exposition. And he went on to teach that to his worthy disciples. Gopala Iyer became so adept in it that he became the first to be conferred the title “Pallavi” in recognition of his mastery over this  (then) new art form. This title also adorns the name of many other latter musicians/composers including Pallavi Duraisvami Iyer, Pallavi Sesha Iyer etc. And Pallavi Gopala Iyer was one of the prominent gems of the Tanjore Court, which at that point in time had more than 360 vidvans ornamenting it!

Pallavi Gopala Iyer also seems to have had a son by name  Krishnayyar who too was a musician of merit. This apart we have no other personal details available about Gopala Iyer or about his descendants.

 

 

 

GOPALA IYER – THE VAGGEYAKARA:

Gopala Iyer’s colophon was “Venkata”. Apart from having been part of the Tanjore Court, he also visited the Mysore Court during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1799-1868). His compositions sport the raja mudra as an ankita as well.The following are the compositions that are available to us through the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP), its anubandha and manuscripts found in the Sarasvati Mahal Library.

Varnas:

  1. Vanajakshi – Kalyani – Ata tala (Mudra : Kasturiranga)
  2. Kanakangi – Todi – Ata tala
  3. Intacalamu – Kambhoji – Ata tala

Kritis:

  1. Amba Nadu – Todi – Adi tala (Mudra : Venkatapati Sahodari)
  2. Hari sarva paripurna -Misra Eka (Mudra : Varada Venkata Sriramana)
  3. Mahishasura mardhini – Kalyani – Tisra Eka (Mudra : Varada Venkata Sriramana)
  4. Needu carana pankaja – Kalyani – Adi (Mudra : Varada Venkata )
  5. Needu Murtini – Nattakurinji – Adi (Mudra : Venkatesa)

Apart from the above ,we have the following compositions ascribed to Gopala Iyer available to us from Sri Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s Kritimani Malai Vol IV.

  1. Mahatripura Sundari – Bhairavi – Rupaka
  2. Sri Rama ramani manohara – Mohanam – Adi
  3. Shripura nivasini – Mohanam – Rupaka

Amongst these compositions, the tana varnas in Kalyani and Todi are heard in the concert circuit along with the Todi, Kalyani (‘Needu carana’) and Nattakurinji krithis.

Also there are 2 other daru’s found in the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal collection -“Sringara Na Mohana” in the raga Begada and “Vintadanara” in Madhyamavathi, both of which sport “kasturiranga” as an ankita/mudra. One cannot but wonder if they could also be Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s. Again we do not know for sure.

AN ANALYSIS OF GOPALA IYER’S CREATIONS:

According to Prof Sambamoorthy, as a composer Pallavi Gopala Iyer was the first or perhaps one of the earliest to adopt the so called “sampurna varika” style of approach. Under this approach in a composition every note is invested with kampita gamaka, totally eschewing flat notes. Indeed this is a very interesting point of discussion. Gopala Iyer purposefully applied it on the then “auttara ragas”, namely Todi & Kalyani . In that era long bygone, these 2 ragas along with Pantuvarali were treated as auttara/turuska/northern/videsi ragas. The transformation of Todi and Kalyani is one of the remarkable examples of the dynamics of our music system during the run-up the period of the Trinity.

Clip 1: Musiri Subrahmanya Iyer’s Rendering of Ambanadu – Todi

Perhaps one can surmise that in the hands of Pallavi Gopala Iyer, Todi and Kalyani got a royal treatment with the result they became mainstream ragas along with the Sankarabharanams, Bhairavis and Kambhojis and the Trinitarians subsequently went on to compose some of their greatest gems adopting the approach Gopala Iyer took.

Prof Sambamoorthy also credits Gopala Iyer of reformatting the then existing structure of a tana varna, to its current modern form. And this view is also advanced by Prof S R Janakiraman in one of his lecture demonstrations.

Older structure of a tana varna ( circa 1750):

The varna was structured with a pallavi, followed by anupallavi & muktayisvara, followed by ettugadda Pallavi/carana & its sets of ettuagada svaras, followed by a small sahitya portion called anubandha. The ettugada svaras were composed in increasing avartas of the tala in which the tana varna was composed.

The pallavi line was first rendered, followed by anupallavi with a round of muktayi svara as its appendage. This was then followed by the ettugada pallavi or carana which was used as a refrain to render the 4 or 5 sets of ettugada svaras. After the last ettugada svara was sung, the ettugada pallavi/carana/refrain was sung followed by a portion of sahitya called anubandha. After singing the anubandha, the anupallavi was to be sung followed by the muktayi svara and finally the pallavi line had to sung once to conclude the rendering.

Examples:

  • “Viribhoni” – Bhairavi – Ata tala – The notation as provided by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP for the ettugada section and for the anubandha can be referred. As one can notice , modern day renditions are a truncated version of the original template.
  • Many of the varnas found in the SSP including those composed by Subbarama Dikshitar himself (“Intamodi”- Durbar- Ata, “Varijakshi” -Sahana – Ata et al ) follow this conventional but lengthy format.
  • Another older varna dating to the early half of the 18th century, which can be cited as an example is “Nenarunchi” – Bilahari – Ata of Sonti Venkatasubbayya as also the tana varnas of Ramasvami Dikshitar.

Current/Modern Form:

A tana varna today is structured with just the pallavi, followed by anupallavi & muktayi svaras and end with the ettugada pallavi/refrain with 3 to 5 ettugada svaras with upto a maximum of 3 tala cycles in the last ettugada svara sequence. The anubandha portion no longer exists. In terms of rendering, a tana varna is concluded with the singing of the last ettugada svara sequence with the ettugada pallavi refrain.

Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s varnas are the earliest examples of this modern form, which is bereft of the anubandha portion. In fact his ata tala tana varna in Kambhoji “Intachalamu” is one of the smallest of its breed with the following structure:

  • Pallavi, Anupallavi, muktayi svara section each with 2 cyles/avarthas of ata tala
  • Ettugada pallavi – 1 cycle/avartha of ata tala
  • Ettugada svara 1 – 1 cycle/avartha of ata tala
  • Ettugada svara 2 – 1 cycle/avartha of ata tala
  • Ettugada svara 3 – 2 cycles/avarthas of ata tala

Prof Sambamoorthy, also goes on to add that much latter Veena Kuppier, also applied Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s modified form for all his varnas by dispensing with the anubandha portion. However it needs to go on record that this is not entirely true. Quite a few varnas of Veena Kuppier do have the anubandha and this is recorded for posterity by the notation and text of the varnas as published in the invaluable ‘Pallavi Svarakalpavalli’ by his equally illustrious son Tiruvottriyur Tyagier. In fact the famous Sankarabharana Adi tala varna “Sami Ninne” taught to all beginners, has a short and beautiful anubandha with the following sahitya:

“nEnarUnci nE nI mAruni kelI kUdi maninca rA kUmArA”

Vidushi Seetha Rajan, true to tradition renders the varna completely with the anubandha  in this clipping below in a “varnas only” concert !

Clip 2: Sami Ninne – Sankarabharanam

DISCOGRAPHY:

The ata tala tana varna in Kalyani has been a staple concert starter for many vidvans. Prof Sambamoorthy rates the varna as one of the best vocalizers to kick start a concert. Gopala Iyer’s conceptualization of Kalyani in his gem-of-a composition is a veritable lesson in Kalyani for any listener or learner. The varna sports the mudra “mA kasturi ranga”. Prof Sambamoorthy opines that it refers only to Vishnu, the father of manmatha & not on any mortal or King. Interestingly there is another varna “(Y)Enthani vedinaga” in the raga Navaroz which also sports the mudra “kasturiranga” as well and in some of the publications it is attributed  (perhaps without authority) to Maharaja Svati Tirunal.

According to Prof Sambamoorthy, it seems Gopala Iyer composed this Kalyani varna even when he was under the tutelage of Adiyappayya. The disciple took the courage to sing this in front of his revered guru, who heard it with rapt attention. And then Adiyappayya apparently remarked that it was a ‘schoolboy’s composition’, probably out of goodwill, lest his illustrious disciple were to become proud should he praise him profusely ! The master must have undoubtedly been secretly happy with his ward’s attainment, no doubt!

Clip 3: Architect of modern day recital format (which starts with a varna), Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar begins his concert  with the Kalyani varna

In the Todi varna “Kanakangi” which is attributed by Subbarama Dikshitar to Pallavi Gopala Iyer, the ankita/raja mudra that one finds therein is “Tulajendruni tanayudaina Sarabhoji maharajendra..”, composed on Sarabhoji II who ruled between 1802-1832. Interestingly Dr B M Sundaram on the strength of the manuscripts of the Tanjore Quartet & the publication “Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai” ascribes it to Ponniah .

Clip 4: Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami renders the Todi varna “Kanakangi

Gopala Iyer’s another magnum opus is his Nattakurinji composition “Nidu Murtini”. This composition along with the Kambhoji varna “Intachalamu” and the Kalyani varna “Vanajakshi” is found in the SSP and Subbarama Dikshitar upholds them as authority/examples of raga lakshana for those ragas. Nattakurinji is one of the old ragas of our system with a documented textual tradition. One of the oldest compositions in Nattakurinji is the varna “Inta aluka” in Ata tala composed by Kuvanasamayya, one of the Karvetnagar brothers, dating to circa 1700! The varna is found documented in the SSP (1904) and the much older printed publication Sangita Sarvaarta Saara Sangrahamu (1852). Gopala Iyer interprets Nattakurinji in his own inimitable way. Attention is invited to Gopala Iyer’s version of Nattakurinji especially the repeated emphasis on the vakra sancara MNDNs and its exquisite citta svara.

Clip 5: Prof S R Janakiraman renders the kriti “Needumurti ni” here :Needumurtini – Nattakurinji

The Prof opines that Gopala Iyer was the first to add cittasvara as a section/appendage to krithis. However Dr Sita in her article says that Kavi Matrubhutayya (circa 1850, slightly earlier to Gopala Iyer) was possibly the first to add the cittasvara feature to krithis as exemplified by the beautiful cittasvara of his classic ‘Neemadi callaga’ in Anandabhairavi.

Moving over next to Gopala Iyer’s other Kalyani piece “nIdu carana”, according to Prof Sambamoorthy it is a composition on Goddess Anandavalli, enshrined in the temple on the Vennar river banks at Tanjore. Muthusvami Dikshitar has composed on this diety, refer his kriti “Chayavatim Anandavallim” in the raga Chayavati, the asampurna mela equivalent of Suryakantham. We also have another krithi of Dikshitar (“Agasteesvaram”)in the raga Lalitha on the Lord Shiva at this temple.

Clip 6: Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi renders Needu carana

Prof Sambamoorthy opines that the dhatu/musical setting of  the pallavi “Needu carana” is very unique/beautiful and has been thrust on Tyagaraja’s compositions “Sundari nee divya rupa” and “Vasudevayani”. According to him the present dhatu of the pallavi of these two songs is spurious, being derived from Needu carana. The original dhatu of the pallavi of “Vasudevayani” starts off as  GMPDNs only and not as one hears today! And Svati Tirunal’s “sArasa suvadhana” too is a similar victim!

I have not heard the renditions of the other krithis of Gopala Iyer namely  ‘Harisarva paripurna’ in Kambhoji and ‘Mahishasura mardhini’ in Kalyani. I would be grateful if somebody were to share any recordings of these 2 compositions. The tana varna in Kambhoji is again a rare one and luckily we do have authentic renditions and I intend covering that in the next post!

PS: I have drawn much of the content of this blog post from the references cited below and for the sake of brevity I have not indicated them in the body itself. Also thanks are due to Sri Lakshman Ragde for providing the listing of Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s compositions.

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini – Reprinted in Tamil by the Madras Music Academy, India
  2. Prof.P. Sambamoorthy (1970) – “Pallavi Gopala Iyer” – Published in the “The Hindu” dated 12th April 1970
  3. Dr B M Sundaram (2002) – “Varna Svarajathi” – Published by Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Tanjore
  4. Dr S Sita (1970)- “Kavi Matrubhutayya” – Published in the “The Hindu” dated 6th December 1970
Archives, Composers

Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai

Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai – An Article By. Dr.B.M.Sundaram

We thank Dr.B.M.Sundaram for compiling and providing information on this great vaggeyakara, information which otherwise would have been forgotten in the annals of carnatic music.

South India has the unique greatness of fostering and elevating to heights the system of Carnatic Music. Innumerable vaggeyakaras have born here and produced priceless compositions, that came through their imaginative fertility. In the sphere of cultivating the sangeeta to a great extent, the share of composers (Vaggeyakaras) is in no way lesser than that of the practical musicians, who musically feed the public. The Musical Trinity, Shri Tyagaraja, Shri Syama Sastri and Shri Muttusvami Dikshitar even live amongst us, in the form of their beautiful compositions. But, there were some other Vaggeyakaras, who have contributed to the world of music, wonderful compositions, have never been so famous.

One such Vaggeyakara was Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai, whose gift to the musical world is very very valuable. Tiruvarur, where “one born gets liberation, without fail”, had many families, who hereditarily served the deities of the temple. One was ‘Nayinar Adiyar’ family. ‘Nayanar’ denotes God and ‘Adiyar’ means ‘devotees’ or ‘servants’. The original honorific of this family is ‘Nayanar Adiyar’, which became ‘Nayinar Adiyar’ in corrupt usage. Sometimes, the temple priests were also addressed as such. In the Nayinar adiyar family, there was one musician called Kamala Tyagesam Pillai. His wife was Vasantammal. This couple had a son, in 1798 and named him Ramasvami. Then was born a daughter to them, named Sarasvati. Both Ramasvami and Sarasvati learnt music, their family heritage, from their father and became good musicians. Ramasvami also learnt Samskrit from Veethivitanga Shivacharya, an expert in Agamas and Telugu from Chandrasekhara Sastri both of the same place. In those days, none was accepted as a musician if he did not know Samskrit and Telugu also. Ramasvami Pillai didn’t take up Nagasvara, like his father, but became a vocalist. Sarasvati, true to her name, was an expert in playing on the Veena and vocal music. Ramasvami came close to Muttusvami Dikshita, who also lived in Tiruvarur, which influenced the former in worshipping the goddess. It is said, once during a visit to Tiruvaiyaru, he met Sree Tyagaraja, who, on listening to the music of Ramasvami said, “Only Sarasvati is dwelling in your tongue; be always singing on the goddess” and then only, Ramasvami Pillai commenced to compose songs.

Sarasvati had no interest in ordinary family life and became more or less a renunciate. For the simple reason that his sister had no desire to marry, Ramasvami PIllai also remained a bachelor till the end. Circumstances were not favourable for them to continue living in their native place and hence the brother and sister migrated to Vaideesvarankovil and lived there. Sarasvati was beautiful and youthful, but she disliked to see a number of devadasis in that place, and many of them lived life as prostitutes and so took to saffron robes. She lived only for thirty two years.

Vaidyalinga Tambiran, the pontiff of Dharmapuram Adheenam, whenever visited Vaideeshvarankovil, used to send for Ramasvami Pillai and would enquire, ‘O, a penta-linguist and a wonderful musician! Are you well?’ From this we learn that Ramasvami Pillai was an expert in five languages. The demise of his sister, was a great personal loss to him and he felt that he had become a lone man. This worry debilitated his mental stature and roamed all along the streets, as if a lunatic. He was regular in cleansing the shrine of God Muttukumarasvami, making garlands etc. He, as per the order of the pontiff, was granted food in the temple itself. Seerkazhi Narayanasvami Pillai was a violinist and a disciple of Tanjavur Vadivelu of the famous Tanjavūr Quartette. He used to visit Vaideeshvarankovil often to chat with Ramasvami Pillai. Only on such occasions, Ramasvami Pillai used to converse with the Seerkazhi vidvan, about music. It is said that Narayanasvami Pillai had a special liking for the raga Mohanam. At his insistence, Ramasvami Pillai again started to compose, beginning with the famous kruti, ‘Jagadheesvari’ (Mohanam). Living like a saint, but without saffron robes, Ramasvami Pillai left his mortal coil in Vaideesvarankovil on 26.3.1852, at the age of fifty-three. He had, unluckily, no descendants nor direct disciples. All his compositions in manuscripts came to the possession of his close relatives in Tiruvarur.

His compositions, Varnas and Kritis are in total, fifty-two (according to Tiruvarur Muttappa Pillai), though what have come to us today are not even ten. One or two of his Varnas, are sung by musicians, without knowing the actual composer.

‘Vanita ninne’ (Bhairavi) is one. Though Bhairavi raga has both Dhaivatas, the use of Chatusruti Dhaivata should be minimal. This we see in the Varna ‘Viribhoni’ of Adiyappayya. ‘Vanita ninne’ of Ramasvami Pillai also follows this rule. The first Ettukada swara has two avarttas, which is another speciality. It is said that these Ettukada swaras had sahitya (similarly like ‘Viribhoni’), though they are not now available. Another Varna of Pillai in the raga, Saurashŧra, ‘Na meeda” is there, but found without the Ettukada swaras, which are missing in the manuscripts. According to his relative-descendants, the Varnas composed by Pillai are sixteen.

To compose Chiŧŧasvara for the krutis and also sahitya (completely in Svarakshara format) is the uniqueness of Ramasvami Pillai. ‘Ekkalattilum” (Pūrvikalyani)and Jagadheesvari (Mohanam) may be cited as some specimens. The Purvikalyani piece has the letter ‘Pa’ predominantly in its chiŧŧaisvara (both in the svara and the sahitya); ‘Jagadheesvari’ has Da or Dha as the main letter in the chiŧŧaisvara. Though it has been prescribed by the works on music, that this raga has Chatusruti Dhaivata, one can clearly see, how many types of Chatusruti Dhaivata are employed here by Pillai. One of his compositions, ‘Idu nalla samayam” is in four languages, Tamizh, Samskrit, Kannada and Hindi and also in ragamalika. But, at some period of time, somebody changed it into a single raga, Kalyani. ‘Sree Kamakshi” in the raga Vasanta is a beautiful composition of Pillai. But, unknowingly, some say that it is of Subbaraya Sastri, since the word, ‘Kumara’ appears in this. They forget that Sastri has not used the word ‘Kumara’ exclusively as his ‘mudra’. The mudra of Ramasvami Pillai is ‘Vedapuri’ or ‘Vedapureesa’ or ‘Vedapureesvari’. There are many places in Tamizhnadu with the second (or maybe the first) name as ‘Vedapuri’—Tirukkazhukkunram, Puducherry, Vaideesvarankovil and so on. Ramasvami Pillai adopted that signature, because he lived in Vaideesvarankovil, that’s all.

Compositions of Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai:

1.Ekkalattilum – Purvikalyani
2.Jagadishvari – Mohanam
3.Vanita ninne – Bhairavi – Varnam
4.Idhu nalla Samayam – Ragamalika
5.Na meeda – Saurashtram 6.ShrI kamakshi – Vasanta

NOTE

Shri kamakshi Katakshi has been wrongly credited to Subbaraya Sastri. Per Dr.B.M.Sundaram’s article in the Souvenir of the Krishna Gana Sabha he says the following: When I had the opportunity to peruse the notebooks of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, showed to me graciously by his son Tiruppamburam Flute Swaminatha Pillai, I found this Vasanta krti raga in them. I was given to understand that Natarajasundaram Pillai learnt this directly from the composer who was a good friend and sahadhyayi of Sathanur Panchanadha Iyer.Shri Kamakshi being a composition of Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai was confirmed by Vazhuvoor Sundaram Pillai another disciple of the composer. Those who ascribed the krti to Subbaraya Sastri did so only taking into sight the usage, Kumaranai Rakshi occurring therein without giving even the slightest cognizance to ‘Vedapureeshvari’ the actual mudra.