CompositionAppreciation

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, History, Manuscripts, Personalities, Raga

The Rama Taranga-s and Rama Ashtapadi-s of Upanishad Brahmam

The name Upanishad Brahmam is not new to anyone who has read the divya carita-s of Tyagaraja Svamigal and Sri Muthuswamy Diksitar. Though he was much familiar to the students of Sanskrit literature, the works of Dr.V.Raghavan  made him popular to music lovers. Raghavan has written extensively on the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the late 1950s, which serves as an authentic source even now, to know the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the field of music.

Upanishad Brahmam was born to a Sanskrit scholar of Vadhula gotra named Sadashiva and his wife Lakshmi in Brahmapuram, a village on the banks of the river Palar. He was named Sivarama. He was married, had a son, spent his life as a householder, and then renounced his life and became a sanyasin. His ashrama was set in Agastyashrama in Kanchipuram, on the way to Kailasanatha temple. He took an arduous task of writing a commentary to 108 upanishad-s and hence got the name Upanishad Brahmendra. He was a Sri Rama upasaka and installed a Sri Rama yantra made of Saligrama in his ashrama. His works project him as a Advaita sanyasin, who also extolled and propagated the cult of ‘nama sidhdhanta’ singing ‘bhagavan-nama bhajana’. His compositions bear the mudra ‘ramachandrendra’. Though the exact period of this yati cannot be ascertained, we can clearly say he lived during the middle of 18th century from his own statement,

“प्रजोत्याब्धचापैकादशघस्रे शुभे दिने भौमाश्विन्यामिदं शास्त्रं सम्पूर्णपदवीं गतम्”

(‘prajOtyabdhacapaikAdashaghasrE ShubhE dinE bhaumAshvinyAm idam ShAstram sampUrNapadavIm gatam’). This means he has finished writing commentary for Muktikopanishad in the cyclic year Prajotpatti, Markazhi mAsa, EkAdasi, ASvini nakshatra falling on a Tuesday, which corresponds to the 30.11.1751. A detailed biography of Upanishad Brahmam can be learned from the essays of Raghavan.1,2

The Trio

Upanishad Brahmam gains more importance due to his connections with Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. Upanishad Brahmam was acquainted with Sri Ramabrahmam, father of Svamigal. Perhaps, Sri Rama upasana, a common thread between these three mahaniyA-s united them. It is said a ‘srImukham’ written by Upanishad Brahmam, inviting Svamigal to visit Agastyashrama is available in the manuscript collection preserved at Saurashtra Sabha, Madurai. Later, Tyagaraja Svamigal, during his sojourn to holy sthala-s like Tirupati, Lalgudi, etc., visited Kanchipuram. Needless to say, this rendezvous could have resulted in the discussion of the tenets of nama-sidhdhanta and Sri Rama nama mahima.

Even before this historical event, Upanishad Brahmam had an opportunity to meet Muthuswamy Diksitar. Diksitar, having completed his studies with Cidambaranatha Yogi in Kashi, returned to Manali, Madras. His stay in Manali was much brief and his life as an itinerant started from Kanchipuram. The period can be guessed to be anywhere between the late 1790s and early 1800s. Subbarama Diksitar, a nephew of Muthuswamy Diksitar, in his work Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, mentions Muthuswamy Diksitar spent his life in Kanchipuram for a period of 4 years. He also adds, Muthuswamy Diksitar conducted philosophical dialogues with Upanishad Brahmam during this period and set to tune ‘rama ashtapadi’ authored by Upanishad Brahmam. It is surprising to know Upanishad Brahmendra, despite being a composer has asked Muthuswamy Diksitar to tune them. Unfortunately, the tunes are lost.

Sri Rama Taranga

Though Upanishad Brahmendra has composed many divya nama kirtana-s, this article focuses on two of his works, namely ‘sri rama taranga’ and ‘sri rama ashtapadi’. The word ‘taranga’ immediately reminds us of the work of Narayana Tirtar  ‘Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini’. This work describes the divine sports of Krishna Bhagavan in a simple, flowing Sanskrit. The ‘taranga’ of Upanishad Brahmendra describes the lilAnubhUti-s of Sri Ramachandra, again in the divine language Sanskrit. Raghavan, as mentioned earlier, had made a note about Rama tarangamala in one of his essays. The manuscripts in the possession of Raghavan are now preserved at The Theosophical Society, Adyar, and forms a major source for this article.

The tarangamala appears to be much complex in structure. From the descriptions provided by Upanishad Brahmam as introductory verses, it can be speculated the Rama tarangamala had 16 khanda-s or chapters. The author says,
“षोडशकलाभिधानास्तरङ्गमाला गले समर्प्यन्ते” (‘sOdaSakalAbhidhAnAstarangamAla galE samarpyantE’), meaning the taranga-s, sixteen in number similar to the (sixteen) kala-s of moon are being offered.

A composition named as ‘AhvAna taranga’ in the raga Nata begins the work tarangamala. The musical structure and tala of this composition are not available. This composition starting as ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is basically an invocation inviting or calling Sri Ramachandra. This can be roughly equated with the kriti ‘hechchariga gA rA rA’ of Svamigal in the ragam Yadukulakambhoji. This composition ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is a dvi-dhatu composition – having pallavi and 12 carana-s. A striking feature seen in the compositions of Upanishad Brahmendra is the lack of ‘dvitiyAkshara prAsa’, the second letter concordance. His creations are more in line with the sloka-s written by Sanskrit theologists like Adi Sankara, Vedanta Desika, etc, distinguishing them from the compositions created by the composers belonging to his period. Interestingly, anuprasa is used profusely in many of the carana-s. The usage of ‘putra’, ‘gAtra’, ‘caritra’ and ‘kalatra’ in the first carana, ‘vinda’, ‘kanda’ and ‘govinda’ in the third carana and ‘ShitAsu’, ‘ganEShu’ and ‘mAnEShu’ in the seventh carana can be cited as examples.

Now begins the first khanda of tarangamala. After three invocatory verses, starts the first Taranga ‘srI rAmacandra’ in the raga Mohanam. This Taranga appears to be much intricate, not because of 12 charana-s, but because of the structure of each carana.  Each carana begins with a sahitya, followed by a jati, a svara passage, and a segment of sahityam. In few carana-s, this order is slightly altered. It can be interpreted the svara segment actually corresponds to the sahitya that immediately succeeds it due to the svara-sahitya relationship they share. The svara-s, short, and long match exactly with the hrsva and dIrghAkSharA-a available in the sahityam succeeding the svara segment.

The structure gets more complicated as we move to the eighth caranam. Here, the author has mentioned the jati is to be rendered in dhruva tala. Similarly, it is prescribed in the ninth carana that the jati therein is to be rendered in rupaka tala! The tala specifications is applicable to jati alone or the entire carana cannot be ascertained. If the entire carana is to be rendered in the specified tala with each carana having a different tala, the taranga appears more like a suladi. This assumption can be made only if we get to see tala specifications for all the components and carana-s of this composition, which is not so in this case. The carana having a jati, sahityam and svara passage resembles another musical form prabandha. Again, not all the components, which a prabandha must have is seen here. However, we can definitely say we are looking into a special musical form, which was either invented by Upanishad Brahmam or a form available to the composers of that period!

This Taranga also opens another interesting discussion. From the svara passages, we can get a glimpse of the raga Mohanam used by Upanishad Brahmam. The svarupa of the raga seen here is much similar to the raga extant now. A glance into the history reveals the existence of another raga with the same name, but with a different structure. This defunct raga had six svaras and can be seen in the texts ‘raga lakshanamu’ and ‘sangita saramrta’ of Saha Maharaja and Tulaja respectively. This shadava Mohanam gains importance as the period of Upanishad Brahmam is much closer to the period of Saha (1684-1712) and Tulaja (1677-1736). The mentioned kings also have recorded the present-day Mohanam having five svaras,  but preferred to call it Mohanakalyani.3 Upanishad Brahmam, using five svaras, yet calling it Mohanam is really intriguing. The ‘rama taranga-s’ stop abruptly at this point and leads to another work of Upanishad Brahmam, namely Sri Rama Ashtapati.

 

Sri Rama Ashtapadi

Our manuscript gives us the most venerated ‘sri rama ashtapadi’ after the Mohana raga taranga.  We get to see an introductory verse detailing the structure of the ashtapati. The phrases “अष्टाविंशाधिकशत-गीतरत्नाकरोत्तमे” (‘aShtAvimSAdhika-Sata gIta-ratnAkarOttamE’), “श्रीराम-शब्द-सम्बुद्ध्या सकामाष्टविभक्तिकः” (‘srIrAma-Shabda -sambudhyA sAkamashta-vibhaktikaha’) , “एकैकस्या विभक्तेस्तद्गीतं षोडशाद्योच्यते” (‘EkaikasyA vibhaktEstadgItam shOdashadyOchyatE’), “पञ्चाषड्-वर्ण-सन्मालालङ्कारा वरकन्धर” (‘paNcAshad-varNa-sanmAlAlaNkAra vara-kandhara’) clearly elucidates the structure. These can be roughly translated as follows: The ashtapadi-s consists of gita-s 128 in number. All were composed on Sri Ramachandra with the Rama shabda used in eight vibhakti-s (declensions) with each vibhakti having 16 gita-s. All these songs open with each of the 50 letters of Sanskrit alphabet. From the description, it can be said Upanishad Brahmendra served as a source of inspiration for Muthuswamy Diskitar to compose vibhakti kritis!

The individual compositions are referred to as gita-s and each gita has a pallavi and eight carana-s, fashioned in line with the celebrated ashtapadi-s of Jayadeva Maha Kavi. From the material available, it can be presumed that the gitas were arranged into 16 khanda-s, each khanda-s having eight gita-s in all the vibhakti-s.  The khanda-s also have introductory verses and a gita preceding the proper ashtapadi gita-s. This introductory gita alone has 13 carana-s.

We are indeed seeing the ashtapadi-s tuned by Muthuswamy Diksitar! As with the Taranga-s, the ashtapadi-s too are incomplete (in this manuscript) with only eight of them available – one preceding gita and seven from the vibhakti set. The preceding gita ‘srI rAma tubhyam’ was set to the raga Bilahari. (Raghavan considers this as the gita representing the eighth vibhakti in the vibhakti set). Tala was not marked for any of these gita-s. The contents of the first khanda are as follows:

 

 

 

Gita Raga
prAnAdhi nAmAnta Nata
traipada rAmam Yadukulakambhoji
rAmENa mE Saveri
srI rAmacandrAya tubhyam Arabhi
tattaipadAdanya
rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham Anandabhairavi
vidEha kaivalya Bhairavi

 

It is interesting to note the members of the clan Mayamalavagaula, a favorite of Muthuswamy Diksitar not dominating. However, this statement can be validated only if we happen to get the raga of the rest of the gita-s. Of these eight ragas, two ragas have a composition composed on the deities residing in Kanchipuram, namely ‘kAmAkshi varalakshmi’ in the raga Bilahari and ‘cintaya mAkanda’ in the raga BhairavI. The raga of the gita representing the fifth vibhakti is missing. What could be the missing raga? A raga used by him in one of his  Kanchipura kshetra kritis or otherwise?

The composition ‘rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham’ provides material for a case study. The opening lines was used by Muthuswamy Diksitar in his Purvi raga kriti ‘srI guruguhasya dAsOham’, a member of the ‘guruguha vibhakti’ set. Apart from the similarity in the sahitya, the concept propounded also looks similar. Upanishad Brahmam declares he has united with his Lord Sri Ramachandra in this kriti. Muthuswamy Diksitar proclaims the same in his kriti ‘anandEsvarENa’, wherein he says ‘brahmAnandOsmi’!

Though the structure was much designed to be in line with the ‘gita govinda’ of Jayadeva, few differences too exist. First, the theme seems to be non-erotic. Second, the astapati-s does not seem to explain a story. However, these can be conclusively said only if the sahitya is read and analyzed by a scholar.

Conclusion

We are looking into the kritis of a Sri Rama Upasaka who has influenced and shaped the thoughts of our beloved composers Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. The sahitya of these compositions are to be studied in detail to understand the tenets of Upanishad Brahmam. Let us  hope to get the Taranga-s and Ashtapati-s in full with the blessings of Ramachandrendra.

 

Acknowledgment

I thank the authorities of The Theosophical Society, Adyar for allowing me to peruse the required manuscripts.

I thank Smt. Vidya Jayaraman for translating the verses seen in taranga-s and ashtapadi-s.

 

References

  1. Raghavan V. 1956. Upanishad Brahma Yogin, His life, Works and Contribution to Carnatic Music. Journal of The Madras University. 113-150.
  2. Raghavan V. 1957. Upanishad Brahma Yogin. Journal of The Madras University. 151-152.
  3. Hema Ramanathan. 2004. Ragalakshana Sangraha – Collection of Raga Descriptions, p 890-893.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CompositionAppreciation, History, Pathantara, Raga

“SARASAALANU” – THE LONG FORGOTTEN OEUVRE OF PONNAYYA , THE TANJORE QUARTET

( The featured image above of the Lord Brihadeesvara Temple at Tanjore is a photograph of Samuel Bourne, taken circa 1860 AD going with the caption” Great Pagoda and Stone Bull, Tanjore” – Image courtesy : The British Library)

Prologue:

In a previous blog post we had looked at the antecedents and the flavors of the raga Karnataka Kapi. Since then, I happened to encounter a rendering of the rare cauka varna “sarasAlanu” in the raga, composed by Ponnayya of the Tanjore Quartet, on YouTube. I had fleetingly referred to this particular composition in the aforesaid blog post. And therefore, in this blog post I propose the take the reader through this composition in detail and relish its beauty from multiple dimensions.

It is to be noted that the raga of sarasAlanu is always given as Kapi. In view of the different variants of the raga which exists in our world of music, in this blog post I am referring to the raga of the composition as Karnataka Kapi, which name came about to signify that it was an older form and not the later day versions.

Clones in our world of Music:

But before that I seek to present a few aspects of some of the timeless & great compositions which have been in vogue in our world of music. Subbarama Dikshitar in his works waxes eloquent about a varna in the raga Navaroz of Karvetinagar Govindasamayya and of a svarajati in Huseni by Melattur Virabhadrayya. Seemingly these compositions had captured popular imagination during those times so much so that a number of copies or look-alike compositions came to be composed, virtually with the same musical setting or mettu of these magna operas. The Navaroz varna is today virtually extinct. Melattur Virabhadrayya’s lilting Huseni svarajati which in its original form too is today extinct, spawned at least 3 clones “emAyalAdira”, emandayAnara” and “pAhimAm brihannayikE” with attributions to Patchimiriyam Adiyapayya, the Tanjore Quartet and Svati Tirunal. The version recreated by Adiyappaya being “Emandayanara” was salvaged and is found presented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini by Subbarama Dikshita. The Quartet version is documented in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” and the version attributed to Svati Tirunal can be found in Vidvan T K Govinda Rao’s compendia of his compositions.

In other words, if the melodic material /dhatu or mettu of a composition is so bewitching, it was never frowned upon as plagiarism if it were simply cloned with different set of lyrics, as if to validate the saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. And being in public knowledge, no attribution was considered necessary, perhaps. It can also be seen that the dhatu of a couple of the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshita and Tyagaraja do match, for example “gananAyakam” and “srI mAnini”. Whether they are mutual copies or whether the two Trinitarians composed their version basing it on a then popular tune, of a now extinct piece, is not known. Rather the point to note is that it brings no discredit to Dikshita or Tyagaraja for having composed in a common tune for we know that their work was only in honor of the tune and its melodic appeal and their composing capabilities were beyond reproach.

Be that as it may, the subject matter varna “sarasAlanu” too has a similar such “clonal” history in that in its mettu or musical score, there exist one other composition being “sUmasAyaka” with attribution to Svati Tirunal. There are reasons to believe that the subject matter varna sarasAlanu is the likely original one while sUmasAyaka, which is more famous is the clone or copy subsequently created. We will examine this conjecture as well as the originality or uniqueness of this composition in this blog post.

“sarasAalanu Ipudu” in Karnataka Kapi of Thanjavur Ponnayya:

The aforesaid attribution of this composition, which is a cauka varna (more commonly called as a pada varna) to Ponnayya is on the authority of the “Thanjai Naalvar Manimaalai” published by Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam, a descendant of the Quartet. As we know the Tanjore Quartet of Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu were acknowledged disciples of Muthusvami DIkshita. Initially they ornamented the Tanjore Court of King Sarabhoji circa 1800 as AstAna vidvAns. Likely AD 1825 or thereabouts the Quartet of brothers, fell out of royal favour, left Thanjavur and thereafter sought new patrons for their art. While Chinnaya found patronage in the Mysore durbar, Sivanandam and Vadivelu became the AstAna vidvans of Maharaja Svati Tirunal of Travancore. This background becomes important in the context of the fact that subject matter cauka varna in Telugu “sarasAlanu”’s sibling or clone “sUmasAyaka vidurA” is attributed to Maharaja Svati Tirunal himself and which ironically is more popular on the concert circuit.

It is quirky that, “sarasAlanu”’s very existence is unknown to many, save for the few cognoscenti today who may have heard it during the mid-20th century, featured in the dance recitals of the famous danseuse Balasarasvati, whose guru Kandappa Nattuvanar was a direct descendant being the great grandson of Ponnayya himself. It is no surprise that this composition of Ponnayya thus came to be part of Balasarasvati’s performance repertory. I will elaborate more on this in a little while.

Let us now look at the lyrical aspect of the cauka varna as well as the meaning before we proceed to dissect the melodic aspects of the composition.

Lyrics:

Cauka varna- raga Kapi – Tanjore Quartet Ponnayya

Pallavi:

sarasA ninnu Ipudu marimAnarA vinarA calamElarA (sarasA)

Anupallavi:

karunAkara ghanudaU vinu dhAri dI puna ithikO

nirathambuga iga jErarA brihadIsvara cAla

muktayisvara sahitya:

bAgAyarA prEmanunE ninnu nammi nAnu sArEku nu kAminula mOhamuna kunu sadaya

cakkani kucha mulnu kuliki nI jigibigi kAradhUla muddukanu nannu thAsOga sugA kalayarA samayamu (sarasA)

Caranam:

mAninI vErA nA sAmI

ettugada svara sahitya

  1. rA rA nA sAmigA jAlamElarA (mAninI)
  2. mA-na ghanamainamA- dhOravukAvu mA-tavina vEra mA-rasakumAra (mAninI)
  3. sAramuga jEra ninnu kOritijE vELanu dhayarani nuni ramana sAraganadA rakikA (mAninI)

Note: There is no sahitya for the 4th ragamalika ettugada svara section

It needs to be pointed out that the composer of this cauka varna as recorded is Ponnayya, the second amongst the brothers forming the illustrious Tanjore Quartet. The name is often confused with Tanjavur Ponniah Pillai (1888-1945), a Sangita Kalanidhi and another scion and descendant of the Tanjore Quartet being the great grand son of Sivanandam. This Ponniah Pillai too composed many musical pieces as well and therefore the reader should not be confused as between the Ponnayya of the Quartet and Ponniah Pillai his descendant of the 20th century.

(THE GENEOLOGY CHART DETAILING THE LINEAGE OF THE TANJORE QUARTET)

Analysis:

The opening words as given in the book is ‘sarasA ninnu’ whereas the renderings and popular references to this composition have the opening words as ‘sarasAlanu’. As the lyrics would show, the Quartet’s mudra being “brihadIsvara” adorns the composition. It may be pointed out that Lord Brihadeesvara was the titular deity of the Tanjore Royals. The “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” of the Quartet’s descendant Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam assigns the composition to the authorship of Ponnayya and given this set of factors, it can be reasonably surmised that the composition was certainly composed when the brothers were in the Tanjore Court much before Vadivelu found patronage in Travancore.

It is likely that after Vadivelu became the astana vidvan in Svati Tirunal’s Court, he must have rendered his brother’s sarasAlanu before the Maharaja. Much enamored by its beauty, the Maharaja must have proceeded to ruminate and come up with the equivalent Sanskrit lyrics, with the appropriate svaraksharas and prAsA concordance to match the musical fabric of sarasAlanu. And thus, “sUmasAyaka” must have been born which had since then become ubiquitous given its royal ancestry eclipsing the original of Ponnayya.

I surmise that “sarasAlanu” was thus the one which was first composed when the Quartet ornamented the Tanjore Court, as it is vested with the mudra or colophon ‘brihadIsvara” which is seen in almost all compositions of the Quartet, when they are created during their Tanjore residency. After the brothers left the Tanjore Court, their compositions came to be invested with the pOShaka mudra or that of Padmanabha as in the case of Vadivelu. For example, Chinnaya’s Karnataka Kapi tillana “dhIM nAdhru dhIm dhIm” in Adi tala goes with the pOshaka mudra “cAmarAjendra” the Maharaja of Mysore. Similar is the case of the Kamalamanohari tana varnam in adi tala.

Prof R. Srinivasan in his erudite article “Music in Travancore” published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy (Volume 19- 1948 – pages 107-112) makes this telling statement:

“Among the varnas, the one in Kapi beginning with “Suma Sayaka” is well known and at the same time technically of a high order. It is understood that Vadivelu influenced a large extent the music of it” (Emphasis is mine)

Therefore, for all the aforesaid reasons I would forcefully argue the case that sarasAlanu served as the model for sUmasAyaka and not the other way around. Though the two compositions can simply be labelled as clones of each other with much similarities, yet a few points of differences are seen between them, though melodically they are the same.

  1. To restate the obvious, “sarasAlanu” is in Telugu with “brihadIsvara” as the colophon, while “sUmasAyaka” is in Sanskrit with “sarasIruhanAbha” as the colophon.
  2. Both are set in Karnataka Kapi and in tisra eka tala in the cauka varna format with a pallavi, an anupallavi with muktayi svaras followed by a carana section with multiple ettugada svaras sections thereafter to follow.
  3. For both the varnas, the last ettugada svara section is structured as a ragamalika with 4 ragas, which finally segues seamlessly into Karnataka Kapi.
  4. Barring a few and minor differences in the music/svara setting, the three critical differences seen between the two compositions are as under:
    1. sarasAlanu has sahitya for the muktayisvara section of the anupallavi and for the ettugada svara sections of the carana; Whereas sUmasAyaka does not have such sahitya for the said sections.
    2. The final ettugada svara section of sarasAlanu features Hamir Kalyani, Vegavauhini, Vasanta and Mohana; sUmasAyaka instead has Kalyani, Khamas, Vasanta and Mohana. Each of the raga sub sections span 2 avartas of tisra eka tala of 3 beats each.
    3. The last tala beat of the final raga malika section in Mohanam directly transitions to the carana refrain ‘mAninI’ in sarasAlanu ; Whereas in sUmasAyaka the last tala beat of the final raga malika section in Mohanam has Karnataka Kapi svaras which then transition to the carana refrain

And without much ado let us first proceed to hear the composition before we embark on dissecting and learning some of the other aspects.

Discography – Part 1:

sarasAlanu is today all but forgotten. One may say that given its melodic identity being exactly like sUmasAyaka it did not survive. But the fact remains that sarasAlanu is unique for the aforementioned contrasting features and melodically distinct therefore from sUmasAyaka with the result that it deserves to survive, given it was the original one. Can we hear it today given that it is all but forgotten?

Luckily, we have a Vidushi in our midst, who had rendered this in a concert in the year 2010 and which was fortuitously recorded. I present the same being the rendering of  Dr Ritha Rajan accompanied by Vidvans R K Sriramkumar and K Arun Prakash on the violin and mrudangam respectively.

 

The aforesaid recording was sourced from YouTube (see Foot Note 1). This is from the concert she gave for ‘Nada Inbam’ on 30-Aug-2010 at the Raga Sudha Hall, Chennai (See Foot note 2). In the original blog post on Karnataka Kapi, I had presented sUmasAyaka as sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda. Readers may refer to the same to hear it once again.

The Musical Vista of sarasAlanu :

The raga Kapi, as we saw from the other blogpost, as seen in this composition has been chiseled from out of the native svaras of the 22nd Mela ( Sri Raga / Karaharapriya) going with the notes R2, M1, P D2 and N2. The arohana and avarohana krama as conventionally given is:

Arohana: S R2 M1 P N2 S

Avarohana: S N2 D2 N2 P M G2 R2 S

I should confess that this melodic representation does not convey the entire beauty of the raga. As the composition would show, the following features stand out:

  1. The gandhara note, even if occurring only in descent phrases is a strong note of the raga and comes in different shades. It is an (a)sadharana gandhara to state the least. Subbarama Dikshita in his SSP waxes eloquent on the gandhara of Todi as it occurs in the grand cittasvara section of the Kumara Ettendra classic “gajavadana sammOdita”. One can similarly revel in the different shades of gandhara in this composition.
  2. The descriptive grammar of the raga Kapi as seen in this composition can be given as under:
    1. In the purvanga ascent – SRGM, SRMP, RGMP are default murchanaas. It can be inferred therefore that SRGMP is forbidden. If the prayoga is SRGM it has to descend. Given that gandhara is “seen” omitted in the arohana, prayogas like SRGM or RGMP may sound quirky to us schooled in modern day musicology of the Sangraha Cudamani but yet these grammatical constructs are entirely in accordance with the principles of 18th Century musical architecture.
    2. In the uttaranga PDNS does not occur. PNDN descending back to Panchama and PNS proceeding to tara sadja alone are seen;
    3. SNP and SNDNP is the descent prayogas, eschewing the lineal SNDP completely.
    4. The lineal prayoga PMGRS is the one for purvanga in the descent.
    5. Gandhara and madhyama are presumably the jiva svaras of this raga imparting the greatest ranjakatva and figure both as the graha and nyasa svaras. The well oscillated gandhara is itself a leitmotif of this raga.
    6. pnR from the mandhara pancama , N\G in the Madhya stayi and PNDNPM, nG,R from the mandhara nishadha are some of the motifs of the raga.
    7. And above all in modern parlance, the raga is upanga and takes only the notes of the 22 Mela being catusruti rishabha, sadharana gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, catusruti dhaivatha and kaisiki nishadha only.

The Ragamalika section of sarasAlanu and a few questions around it:

An explanation is in order for the ragamalika ragas of sarasAlanu.  The “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” calls out the second svara section albeit wrongly as Chakravakam. The examination of the raga malika svara appendage would reveal otherwise. The said svara section runs as under:

sarasAlanu (notation as found in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimaalai”):

Tala avarta of tisra eka 1 2 3 1 2 3
Hamirkalyani S, d, ndpd p,g, p,md pmgm1 gm1r,
Vegavauhini (wrongly tagged as Chakravakam and with a possible printing mistake as srsm-gpmd-…..)

srsm

gmpd

nsn,

d,pm

pdm,

gm,,

Vasantha gr,s g,md mdg, md,n sndm ddn,
Mohanam S,Rg RSSd ,pgp d,pg rspd pSdp

sarasAlanu (notation as per the pAtham of Dr Ritha Rajan)

Tala avarta 1 2 3 1 2 3
Hamirkalyani S, d, ndpd m,gm p,md pmgm1 gm1r,
Chakravakam snsr gmpd nsn, d,pm pdm, gm,,
Vasantha g,rs g,md mdg, mdns ndmd n,,,
Mohanam S,RG RSSd ,pgp d,pg rspd
Karnataka Kapi psnp

 sUmasAyaka (notation as per notation published by Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao)

Tala avarta 1 2 3 1 2 3
Kalyani S, d, ndpd m,gm p,md ,ppm g,gr
Khamas snsm gmpd nsn, d,pm pdm, gm,,
Vasantha g,rs g,md mdg, mdns ndmd n,,,
Mohanam S,RG RSSd ,pgp d,pg rspd
Karnataka Kapi pn,p

The above tables would show the following differences:

  1. The Hamirkalyani section in sarasAlanu and the Kalyani section in sUmasAyaka
  2. The difference in the Vegavauhini/Chakravaka section as between the two versions of sarasAlanu . It can be seen that in Dr Ritha’s oral tradition the svara progression is lineal as SnSRGMPDNSN,D,PMPDM,GM,, without the SMGM prayoga and hence can be called as Chakravaka.
  3. The difference in the svaras for the last beat of the tisra eka tala of the Mohana section in all the three versions, transitioning to the carana refrain ‘mAninI”.

While the Dr Ritha Rajan’s version of the second ragamalika section proceeds linearly as SnSR1GMPDNS… ., the version found in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” does not proceed linearly, which gives us doubt whether the second raga is Chakravakam as per the notation found therein.

It is quite plausible that Ponnayya being a disciple of Muthusvami Dikshita must have certainly known the raga lakshana of Vegavauhini which is the 16th mela raga in Venkatamakhi’s scheme and for which Chakravaka is the equivalent heptatonic scale. The notes of the svara section as found in the Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai corresponds exactly to the lakshana of Vegavauhini, vide the commentary for the same in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshita. The opening murcchana of the raga being SR1SM1G3M1PD2N2S, eschewing the lineal SRGM is verily the signature of Vegavauhini as immortalized by Dikshita in his piece-de-resistance “vIna pustakadhArinIm”. In the face of these facts, it would be a travesty to tabulate the raga as Chakravaka and proceed to linearize and sing the same given Vegavauhini must have been the scale known to Ponnayya the composer of sarasAlanu and a scion of the Dikshita sisya parampara. It is on these sound grounds that it is argued that the second raga in the ragamalika ettugada svara section of sarasAlanu can only be Vegavauhini and not Chakravakam.

It must also be pointed out that in sUmasAyaka, both the ragas Hamirkalyani and Vegavauhini are seen flipped respectively to Kalyani and Khamas with a minimum of fuss. Further the flipping to Khamas (SnSMGMP) from SRSMGMP (Vegavauhini) sounds plausible, better than a flip from SnSRGMP (Chakravaka). Was the flip intentional or an accident or mistake in transmission that the ragas were flipped? For save for the R1 note, it would be virtually impossible to make out between a Khamas and a Vegavauhini. One doesn’t know!

Is sarasAalanu a svarajati or a padavarna:

The book “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” lists the composition sarasAlanu as a pada varna only. And to contrast, the Huseni composition “EmandayAnarA” is enlisted as a svarajati. As a rule, if a composition is invested with svaras and jatis being rhythmic syllables, it is more a svarajati than a pada varna. However, this boundary has now become blurred given that Syama Sastri’s creations in Bhairavi, Todi and Yadukulakambhoji are today labelled as svarajatis despite them lacking jatis in their body. Further as Prof S R Janakiraman persuasively argues, the nomenclature of ‘cauka varna’ would be more appropriate than ‘pada varna’.

Therefore, in all fairness, sarasAlanu which lacks jatis can and ought to be called a cauka varna or pada varna and certainly not a svarajati. Interested readers can refer to the article “Jatisvaram & Svarajati” by Dr Ritha Rajan in the JMA, mentioned in the reference section of this blog post herein below.

Placement of a cauka varna in a Concert:

In contrast to a tAna varna, the pada /cauka varnas, are more appropriate to be rendered right at the middle of a concert a little ahead of the main composition/pallavi. It can be seen that almost invariably all older cauka varnas are in rakti ragas which are melismatic by nature. The sedate tempo of the cauka varna together with a rakti raga being the subject of exposition through the cauka varna, adds a contrast to the concert, especially when it is sandwiched between madhyama kala compositions in contrasting ragas. I must hasten to point out exceptions do and always exist, such as for instance, Sangita Kalanidhi Govinda Rao has commenced a concert with the wondrous Surati cauka varna of Subbarama Dikshita “sAmi entani”. And I have personally heard the duet concert of Sangita Kala Acharyas Suguna Purushothaman and Suguna Varadacari, wherein they sang Svati Tirunal’s tour-de-forcedAni sAmajEndra gAmini” in Todi as the concert opener. And both these instances have been recorded for posterity.

In the instant case it can be seen from the concert recitals of Sri K V Narayanasvami that “sUmasAyaka” is rendered almost in the first half of the concert or just after the main piece. Even in the aforesaid rendering of “sarasAlanu” it is seen that Dr.Ritha Rajan has positioned it in the middle of the concert as seen in the listing from her recital- see Foot Note 2, during which this recording was made. As one can see that “sarasAlanu” has been featured right before the main or the piece-de-resistance of the concert and has been wedged between the ragas Kannada and Bhairavi.

Further in the context of rendering a cauka varna, it is noticed that while the pallavi, anupallavi and the muktayi svara and the corresponding sahitya are sung in a vilamba kAla, the carana line along with the ettugada svaras are rendered at a higher sprightly pace (Ottam ஓட்டம்). It is likely that this is a performance technique designed to prevent the concert from sagging, given the prolonged vilamba kala exposition in the first half of the composition. In the instant case of sarasAlanu as well it will be seen in the recording of Dr Ritha Rajan, that the rendering gathers pace from the carana portion “mAniNi vErA nA sAmI”.

Raga name- Is it Karnataka Kapi?

According to Dr Ritha Rajan, the raga of sarasAlanu/ sUmasAyaka being the upanga one bereft of anya svaras, the raga name ought to be simply Kapi. The term “Karnataka Kapi” was coined by Prof Sambamoorti much later and has no sastraic sanction otherwise. No musicological text or authority prior, make no mention of Karnataka Kapi. The version with kAkali nishAda can be called as Hindustani Kapi.

I should confess that while this proposition is attractive, we do have the versions of Muthusvami DIkshita (‘Venkatachalapate”) being the Kapi with traces of Kanada and or Durbar as in the case of versions of Tyagaraja’s kritis ‘nitya rUpa” or “anyAyamu sEyakura” which are bereft of distinguishing names to differentiate them from Kapi and Hindustani Kapi. It has to be pointed out that Subbarama Dikshita calls the raga only as Kapi but the version documented in the SSP is the one with the overwhelming flavour of Kanada. It’s a matter of record that some of the modern texts today even call this as Suddha Kapi.

Be that as it may it has to be on record that according to Dr Ritha Rajan the raga of sarasAlanu/ sUmasAyaka is Kapi. But as pointed out in my introduction, I have for the limited purposes of this blog post kept the name as Karnataka Kapi to differentiate it from the rest of the versions.

Origins of this pAtham of sArasAalanu :

While sUmasAyaka had taken roots in Kerala and had become an inextricable part of the dance repertoire, its foray into the Carnatic music stage was arguably through Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami, who gave it a pride of place. See Foot Note 3

Kandappa Nattuvanar
Kandappa Nattuvanar

It can be surmised that sarasAlanu however continued to languish within the repertoire of the descendants of the Tanjore Quartet. After the life time of the 4 brothers and particularly the composer of the piece Ponnayya in 1864 AD the piece along with the rest of the crown jewels must have come to the possession of Nellayappa Nattuvanar (1850-1905), who was the grandson of Ponnayya. As T Sankaran recounts, Nellayappa Nattuvanar moved to then Madras and became a close acquaintance of the Dhanammal family. It was he who taught the family members including Jayammal, Balasarasvati’s mother popular javalis such as Vani Pondu (Kanada), Ela rAdayanE (Bhairavi) and JanarO E mOhamu (Khamas).

Nellayappa Nattuvanar died early and his son Kandappa Nattuvanar (1899-1941) therefore underwent tutelage under his uncle Kannusvami Nattuvanar (see family tree) at Tanjore and then moved to Madras when he became Balasarasvati’s (1918-1984) dance guru. It was under his tutelage and guidance that Bala ascended the stage in 1925, when she was just about 7 years old at the Ammanakshi Temple at Kanchipuram. As the conductor-in-chief of Bala’s dance ensemble, Kandappa Nattuvanar taught many pieces to the rest of the team. And amongst them was Sri Gnanasundaram who handled the vocals in Bala’s ensemble and he must have likely learnt sarasAlanu from Kandappa Nattuvanar. What we now know for sure in this entire narrative is that it was from Gnanasundaram that the legendary Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan (1918-1973) came to acquire this composition from after being so enamored of it. And he in turn taught it to Dr Ritha Rajan, his disciple whose rendering of sarasAlanu is featured in this blog. I have to point out that we do not have any recording of the rendering of sarasAlanu by any member of the Veena Dhanammal family including Sri T Visvanathan. See Foot Note 4.

Ganesa Pillai, the son of Kandappa Nattuvanar

And sadly, we do not have a recording of the Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan singing sarasAlanu. In this context we need to remember that the Karnataka Kapi seen in this composition is what is called as the upAnga version, which is bereft of anya svaras such as the antara gandhara (G3) or kakali nishadha (N3) or suddha dhaivatha (D1) which have come to be featured in modern day versions of the raga Kapi. It is worth recording here in the context of upAnga Kapi that it was Ramnad Krishnan again who learnt the jAvali “parulannamAta” of Dharmapuri Subbaraya Iyer in this upAnga version of Kapi from Rupavati Ammal, the younger sister of Vina Dhanammal who lived in Hyderabad and then rendered it often thus bringing it to the limelight.

Ponnayya – A Distinguished Composer:

I would argue further that sarasAlanu was the core for sUmasAyaka given the credentials and creative abilities of Ponnayya, of the Quartet. In fact, the perusal of the text of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini would show that for two ragas namely Binnasadja and Camara, Subbarama Dikshita provides the kritis of Ponnayya alone as the authority for the respective raga lakshanas. In his commentary Subbarama Dikshita ahead of the Binnasadja kriti “srI guruguha mUrtikinE” (Mela 9) records thus:

This kirtana was composed by Ponnayya, who was the hereditary dance teacher of the Tanjore samasthana, and who was a disciple of Muttusvami Dikshita, was a great scholar in the laksya, and lakshana aspects of bharata sastra and who had also earned fame by composing numerous svarajatis and varnas, suitable for dances.

The Illustrious Tanjore Quartet A Traditional Depiction

That apart under Malavagaula (Mela 15), the kriti “mAyAtIta svarUpini” of Ponnayya has also been provided as an exemplar by Subburama Dikshita. It is however unfortunate that we hardly rely upon the compositions of the Quartet as authority for raga lakshana, when even Subbarama Dikshita had done so without any reservations whatsoever.

This demonstrated and acknowledged composing mastery of Ponnayya is another aspect that supports the proposition/conjecture that sarasAlanu was composed earlier by Ponnayya. much prior to the Quartet’s migration to the Travancore Court. No further evidence is therefore needed to conclude that Ponnayya was a composer par excellence and the authorship and originality of sarasAlanu and its tune can without doubt be ascribed to him, without any doubt whatsoever.

And so, every time one hears the Karnataka Kapi of sUmasAyaka we should for a moment recall the aesthetic construct of the varna and the raga therein. Hark at the different shades of the gandhara of mela 22 as well as the placement of the svaraksharas such as on the madhyama note which will evoke awe spontaneously. The credit for this conceptualization should undoubtedly go to Ponnayya of the Quartet, the illustrious disciple of Muthusvami Dikshita. To clarify, this is not to belittle or discredit Maharaja Svati Tirunal or call into question his compositional abilities in any way. As in the case of “gana nAyakam” and “srI mAnini”, the Maharaja was perhaps left smitten by the melodic fabric of sarasAlanu that he went on to compose another set of lyrics for it out of sheer love for the melody of sarasAlanu.

And thus here, all that is sought to be argued is that sarasAlanu was anterior in time composed by Ponnayya, the Maharaja after hearing it later in time composed sUmasAyaka to the same mettu/dhatu and that the preponderance of evidence on hand and of probability as well, firmly supports this line of reasoning.

Further in the context of ragamalikas, it is seen that it was part of the kriti format even prior to 1800’s, as evidenced by the compositions of Melattur Virabhadrayya and Ramasvami Dikshita. And the family of Dikshitas reveled in composing ragamalikas. Having been under the tutelage of Muthusvami Dikshita, the Quartet seem to have warmed up to this concept of stringing in ragas so much so that sarasAlanu came to be appended with a ragamalika ettugada svara section, which to my best of knowledge is not seen in any pre 1830 AD composition of the genre of varnas. This piece of melodic engineering can perhaps only be very much confidently ascribed to the Quartet’s tutelage under Muthusvami DIkshita.

Discography Part 2:

Even as I had almost finished composing this fairly long blog post, as if in answer to my wish,  my co-rasika acquaintances- see Foot Note 5 – mailed me the entire 45-minute recording of the rendering of sarasAlanu by Balasarasvati’s famed ensemble presumably from one of her dance recitals. The audio recording also has the sound of the bells of Bala’s anklets as well.

Here is the audio uploaded to Youtube:

T Balasaraswati and Troupe | Raga Kapi | Sarasalanu Ipudu (Varnam) – YouTube

And this recording for sure features the following artistes/Vidvans – vide Foot Note 6 below.

 Kanchipuram Sri. C. P. Gnanasundaram alias Gnani and Sri Narasimhulu – Vocals ;

 Sri Radhakrishna Naidu – Clarinet; Kanchipuram Sri Kuppuswami Mudaliar – Mridangam

 T Vishwanathan – Flute with Ganesan Pillai – Nattuvangam

After the demise of Bala’s mother Jayammal (1890-1967) Vidvan Gnanasundaram hailing from Kanchipuram assumed the mantle of the lead vocalist of the ensemble. Trained by Naina Pillai’s disciple Villiambakkam Narasimhachar he was an accomplished singer having sung in the Music Academy for instance in the December 1959 season and a graded AIR artiste as per archived records of the “Indian Listener”.

Sri C.P. Gnanasundaram. and Sri. Narasimhulu were concert musicians of high order. Their rich musical flow matched the incessant interpretative expertise of T. Balasaraswati in an outstanding manner so much so that each of Bala’s performance with this orchestral team made an unforgettable experience. And each of Bala‘s orchestra members were exponents in their own right. Upon the premature demise of Bala’s Guru Kandappa Pillai in 1942, Ganesan (1924 – 1987) his son took over as the conductor-in-chief of her ensemble. See Foot Note 7.

This audio recording which must be dateable at the latest to circa 1965, is also a snippet encapsulating history entwining the successive descendants of Carnatic music and dance’s great first families, the lineage of the Quartet and that of Tanjavur Pappammal whose lineage we today know, as the Veena Dhanammal’s family.

Dhanammal’s great great grandmother Tanjavur Pappammal was part of the Tanjore Court and her granddaughter Tanjavur Kamakshi (1810-1890) left Tanjore Court along with Sivanandam and Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet to Travancore. Tanjavur Kamakshi’s granddaughter was Veena Dhanammal. And her granddaughter Balasarasvati went on to have Kandappa Nattuvanar, a great great grandson of Ponnayya of the Quartet as her guru and later his son Ganesha Pillai as the conductor-in-chief of her ensemble.

The recording of sarasAlanu by Bala’s ensemble is thus a vista or a montage of the very history of our fine-arts, tradition and musical excellence. Decades have flown by since this recording had been made and I now wonder how the diva of our dance must have captured abhinaya for this wonderful piece, holding the audience spell bound for 40 or so minutes , all the while competing with the rapturous melody and the lyrics and with all of them vying for the rasika’s attention.

Conclusion:

sUmasAyaka has had considerable airtime in the past decades. As pointed out earlier, the late Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami used to render it quite regularly in his concerts. We do have the Bombay Sisters having cut a record of the same. In modern times Vidvans T M Krishna, Ramakrishnan Murthi and others have presented the composition quite frequently. See Foot Note 8.

My first encounter with sarasAlanu was when Smt Sundari, wife of Prof C S Seshadri sang for me the composition so beautifully, one summer evening more than a decade ago. I now recollect from my conversation with her that she too had learnt it from Vidvan Narasimhulu of Bala’s ensemble. Sadly, I failed to record her rendering then.

Alas thus practically sarasAlanu lies unsung and forgotten, save for Dr Ritha Rajan’s solitary rendering presented above. Even on the Bharatanatyam stage, sUmasAyaka now rules the roost. Apparently even Bala stopped performing this piece past the 1960s. With passage of time, compositions so unique like sarasAlanu will be completely forgotten and would be lost forever unless the succeeding generation learns and perpetuates the cycle of transmission.

sarasAlanu in the beautiful Karnataka Kapi is an aigrette deserving to be sung and burnished further. One hopes as always that modern day performers would take it up learn and present it in its pristine and full form frequently, including the rendering of the sahityas of the muktayi and ettugada svaras. And whenever we get to hear this composition, one should pause for a moment and remember every one of the giants from the past starting from Ponnayya of the Tanjore Quartet on to his grandson Nellayappa Nattuvanar and on to Kandappa Nattuvanar his son and then on to Ganesa Pillai & Gnanasundaram of Balasarasvati’s ensemble and to Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan and finally today on to Dr Ritha Rajan. Had it not been for this long, glorious and unbroken lineage of gurus and sishyas, starting from 1830 AD or thereabouts, we would not have been able to savor this composition today. May this glorious parampara continue so that the composition sarasAlanu will live on for many more generations to come.

Post-script:

Purely as an aside, I venture to conclude this post with a humorous anecdote. The beauty of the notes/svaras gandhara (G, க in tamil) and madhyama (M, ம in tamil) that have been beautifully and tellingly used in this composition reminds me of a quip reportedly made by the legendary Smt T Brinda, the source of which I am unsure. It seems once she was listening in to an All-India Radio (AIR) Arangisai broadcast of Vidvan D K Jayaraman and in it he was rendering Tyagaraja’s “nEnaruncarA nA pai” in Simhavahini. And the Vidvan after rendering the kriti apparently launched into an imaginative svara prastara sally on the pallavi line as “gm gm g, m- (nEnaruncarA)” and so on in succession, pivoting on the “gm-gm” janta phrase. Bemused, the doyenne upon the conclusion of the piece, reportedly remarked in jest in a style typical of her, making a play on the notes/words thus-ஐய்யரு கமகமனு மணக்க மணக்க பாடறாரு”. In the instant case it is perhaps the gandhara and madhyama notes making the “kApi” or “kAfi” (as its Northern counterpart is usually referred to) of sarasAlanu, melodically fragrant (கமகம) made me recall Smt Brinda’s witty comment.

References:

  1. 1984- T Sankaran – Article “Kandappa Nattuvanar” (English)– Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – No 072-073 (April- September 1984) -pp 55-59
  2. 1984 – T Sankaran – Article “Bala’s Musicians” (English) – Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – No No 072-073 (April- September 1984) -pp 61-65
  3. 1940 – K P Sivanandam – “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” (Tamil) – Reprinted in 2002 -IV Edition -pp 73-75
  4. 1948-Prof R Srinivasan– “Music in Travancore” (English) – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) Vol 19-Edited by T V Subba Rao and Dr V Raghavan -pp 107-112
  5. 2017 -Prof B Balasubramanyam, University of Wesleyan – “Music of Balasarasvati”- Lecture Demonstration at the Madras Music Academy on 22-December 2017 – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) -Volume 89 (2018)- Edited by V Sriram – Report of the Daily Proceedings of the Annual Conference of 2017- pages 19-20
  6. 2010-Douglas M Knight – “Balasaraswathi -Her Art & Life” – Published by Tranquebar Press- Chapter 2 titled “Madman at the Gate”- Pages 49-59
  7. 2017 -Dr Ritha Rajan Article “Ramnad Krishnan” – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) – Volume 89(2018) -Edited by V Sriram -pp 44-50.
  8. 2002 -Dr Ritha Rajan Article “Jatisvaram & Svarajathi” – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA)- Volume LXXV (2002) -Edited by Sri TT Vasu & Nandini Ramani -pp 68-88
  9. 2019 – Compilation of Balasarasvati’s Repertoire – (English)– “Sangeet Natak”- The Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – Vol LIII (Numbers 1-4 2019) -pp 117-122

Foot Notes:

Note 1: The recording of sarasAlanu from Dr Ritha Rajan’s concert has been sourced from the Youtube account of Krishna Narayanan which can be found here. I am thankful to him for sharing the rendering.

Note 2:The details of the concert are recorded in the blog post of a rasika Sri Bharat, which can be read here. The list of composition featured in the recital, seriatim is as under:                                       

sAmi nI pai – Anandabhairavi – aTa – Veenai Kuppayyar (short sketch of raga) [varNam]

rAmA nI pai – kEdAram – Adi – Tyagaraja (short sketch of raga and svarams)

kAntimati – kalyANi – rUpakam – Subbarama Dikshitar (Raga alapana)

idhE bhAgyamu – kannaDa – misra cApu – Tyagaraja (Ragam & Svaram)

sarasAlanu ipuDu – Karnataka KApi – rUpakam – Tanjore Quartet (short sketch of raga)

nI pAdamulE gatiyani – bhairavi – Adi – Patnam Subramanya Iyer (Ragam Neraval Svaram followed by Tani avartanam)

koNTE gADu – suruTTi – tisra tripuTa – Ksetrajna padam

marubAri – senjuruTTi – rUpakam – Javali – Dharmapuri Subbarayar

rAkA chandra samAna kAnti vadanAm – slOkam from mUka panchasati – aTANA, nAyaki, sahAnA, yadukula kAmbhOji

kAraNamadAga vandu – sindhu bhairavi – kaNDa tripuTa – Arunagirinathar [tiruppugazh]

nI nAma rUpamulaku – saurAshTram – Adi – Mangalam – Tyagaraja

The entire concert is now posted to YouTube: Vidushi Ritha Rajan for Naada Inbam Vintage series “Music heals” – YouTube

In the recording of Dr. Ritha Rajan’s rendering, an alert listener can discern from her remarks at the conclusion of the recording, that the same is from this particular concert as she also refers to the Kalyani composition (“kAntimati”) of Subbarama Dikshita in response to a query from a rasika, which she had rendered ahead of sarasAlanu in the concert. As one evaluates the concert listing above, one can’t but admire the Vidushi for her selection, placement and spread of the compositions, the choice of ragas including those for the sloka as well, imparting the aesthetic balance and wholesomeness to the concert recital. Again many thanks are due to “Nada Inbam” for having recorded the concert for posterity and to Parivadhini for taking the time and effort to get this concert uploaded on to YouTube

Note 3: It is on record through T Sankaran, that when Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda was roped in to provide musical training to the Royals of Travancore, she took residency in Trivandrum briefly during which time quite a number of Svati Tirunal compositions were learnt by her which explains how sUmasAyaka and valaputAla the padam in Atana, came to find place in her repertoire. It may be news to many that the doyenne apparently also learnt a bunch of Svati Tirunal compositions from Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, when she was roped in to give an AIR National program concert exclusively of Svati Tirunal compositions. I haven’t come across the recording of the said radio concert and I wonder now if the recording of her singing sUmasAyaka was from that concert.

Note 4: The legendary Veena Vidvan S Balachandar a vociferous advocate of the school of thought that Maharaja Svati Tirunal as composer was just a perpetuated myth, was so enthralled by “sarasAlanu” that he would ask his disciple Smt Gayathri Narayanan to play it. Again, we have no record of a rendering by the maestro or his disciple.

Note 5: I am in great gratitude to Krishna Narayanan again for digging out the complete track of sarasAlanu as rendered by Smt Balasarasvati’s ensemble for her performance and to Shreeram Shankar for hosting and sharing through his curated Vaak YouTube channel.

Note 6: I am greatly indebted to our family friend Ms.Sushama Ranganathan & her mother the respected Smt Nandini Ramani for confirming the identities of the performers in this clip, first hand and providing inputs as to the composition’s provenance and its rendering by Smt Balasarasvati’s ensemble. Smt Nandini Ramani, daughter of Dr V Raghavan was one of the senior disciples of Smt Balasarasvati herself and her daughter Ms.Sushama Ranganathan was trained by Ganesa Pillai, the son of Kandappa Nattuvanar.

Note 7: It is a pity that these great artistes were never duly recognized and life too wasn’t kind to them. Vidvan Gnanasundaram contracted leprosy even as he was part of Bala’s ensemble and yet Bala ensured he was part of it nevertheless and he died prematurely. These artists ultimately died unwept and unsung and possibly many in penury. For instance, here is what T Sankaran writes (circa 1984) of Kuppusvami Mudaliar alias Kuppanna who provided the mridangam accompaniment which is heard in the audio recording:

“Kuppanna is today living in Kanchipuram, pining away in infirmity, clutching his empty purse, feeding on his glad memories of his halcyon days and the bad memories of his ungrateful son a Tahsildar who predeceased him.”

Ganesa Nattuvanar, died a bachelor much of his time in drunken stupor with nothing to sustain him. And alas with him the branch of the Ponnayya line of the Quartet came to an end. One should be thankful to the late Sri T Sankaran for having recorded at the least a brief biography and the contribution of these artistes, who made a Bala recital a delectable experience, in the Sangeet Natak Akademi Journal article “Bala’s Musicians”, given in the references section, without which we would have never known even the very existence of these great artistes.

Note 8: The composition sUmasAyaka is also part of the audio track of the Malayalam movie “Swati Tirunal” wherein it has been sung by Ms.B.Arundhati. The composition is also part of the Mohiniyattam repertory of compositions and occupies a pride of place in the quartet of varnams along with ‘dAni sAmajEndra’ (Todi), ‘manasimE paritApam’ (Sankarbharanam) and ‘hA hanta vanchitam’ (Dhanyasi) presented by the Kalamandalam school/tradition of Mohiniyattam and choreographed by the high-priestess of the tradition Smt Sathyabhama (Source Ms Sapna Govindan – “Tradition in Mohiniyattam” – available Online)

Acknowledgments:

I am deeply in debt to Dr Ritha Rajan for providing me the time, patiently answering all my questions and for clarifying or validating many points as to this composition and its nuances and antecedents, without which this blog post would not have been complete. The photographs of Kandappa Nattuvanar and Ganesa Pillai has been taken from the Sangeet Natak Akademi Journal and the others have been sourced from the internet.

Disclaimer:

I have endeavored to present the information, facts and the inputs received from the named individuals including Dr Ritha Rajan to the best of my abilities and understanding. The arguments that I have advanced or the opinions I have expressed is independent of their viewpoints /inputs and the individuals concerned do not necessarily subscribe to the same nor do they acknowledge it as their point of view.

The renderings have been in the public domain and the copyrights if any for the performance thereof continues to be exclusively of the respective performers/authors. No part of this blog or its contents shall be commercially exploited.

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Raga, Sahitya

Sri Rama Pattabhisheka, as envisioned by Tyagaraja Svamigal

Sri Ramachandra always served as a source of inspiration for poets for his ideal and desirable characters. We have innumerable compositions composed over the ages on the ‘martyavatara’ (Bhagavan who has taken the form of a human). Among all these compositions, the compositions or poems on his crowning ceremony ‘pattabhisheka’ deserve a special mention. It is said that reading or even listening to the ‘pattabhisheka’ sarga, available in the Yuddha Kanda, the sixth book of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana confers auspiciousness.

Almost every other composer or poet takes an attempt to describe the ‘pattabhisheka’ in his own inimitable way. The kriti ‘mamava pattabhirama’ in the raga Manirangu is much popular. The composer Muthuswamy Dikshitar describes this celestial event almost along the lines of Valmiki. There exists a lesser-known composition of Vaikunta Sastri in the raga Pharaju. This kriti ‘sreyase dhyayami’ starts as a paean to Ramachandra, but proceeds to mention ‘pattabhishekam’.

A very elaborative Sri Rama Pattabhishekam was picturized by Arunachala Kavirayar. Though his Rama nataka kritis are famous, this kriti intricately describing the pattabhishekam is obsolete. This kriti was set to the raga Saurashtra and has a pallavi, anupallavi and three charanas, each comprising fifteen lines. On all probabilities, this kriti ‘makutabhishekam kondane’ could be the longest composition available explaining all the events mentioned in Pattabhisheka sarga of Valmiki Ramayana.

Tyagaraja Svamigal (1767-1847) is a popular South Indian composer, well known for his devotion towards Sri Ramachandra. He is said to have composed thousands of compositions, but only around seven hundred are available. Despite being a Rama bhakta, the theme seen in his compositions is much varied. Even his ‘Rama’ based kritis can be divided into several groups. The first type of composition is those wherein he records the personal communications he had with his deity Ramachandra. Kritis like ‘adaya sriraghuvara’ in Ahiri, ‘eti yochanulu’ in Kiranavali can be cited as examples. In the second type, he delves into the Rama nama and its mahima. The kritis ‘melu melu’ in the raga Saurashtra, ‘smarane sukhamu’ in the raga Janaranjani helps us to understand this theme. The third type of composition describes his ishta devata Sri Ramachandra. The Mayamalavagaula raga kriti ‘merusamana’, ‘nee muddu momu’ in the raga Kamalamanohari can be remembered. He has also extolled the story of Rama and the kingdom ruled by Rama in the kritis ‘rama katha sudha’ and ‘karu baru’ in the ragas Madhyamavathi and Mukhari respectively. This forms the next set of kritis. The last set of kritis would be the ones wherein the incidents from Ramayana were listed. The divya nama kriti ‘vinayamu’ in the raga Saurashtra, ‘e ramuni’ in the raga Vakulabharana are good examples. This list becomes endless and we can visualize the various ways by which this composer has envisioned his devata Sri Ramachandra, his nama, and the epic Ramayana through his kritis. He literally was transported to the days of Rama Rajya!

Strangely, it is rare to see kritis explaining Sri Rama Pattabhisheka. The possibility of not getting such compositions is also to be kept in mind. From the available corpus, we will be seeing a composition that gives a vivid description of Sri Rama Pattabhisheka.

 

Sri Rama Pattabhisheka and Tyagaraja Svamigal

Though, the majority of the kritis of Svamigal are composed in pallavi-anupallavi-charana format, there are a sizeable number of kritis composed in pallavi-charana format and these are usually labeled as divya nama keertanas. There exist a Kapi raga kriti among the latter set wherein Svamigal has pictured pattabhisheka.

The kriti ‘sundara dasaratha’ has a pallavi and six charanas. It is a dvi-matu keertana, wherein the tune of the pallavi is different from the charanas, whereas all the charanas are set to the same tune. Here is the sahitya of this kriti

pallavi

sundara dasharatha nandana vandana monarincedarA

caraNam 1

pankaja lOcana dharajAyankamuna velungaga gani

caraNam 2

parama dayAkara shubhakara girIsha manOhara shankara

caraNam 3

karamuna goDugiDukoni sOdaru bharatuDu karagaga gani

caraNam 4

suguNadanila tanayuDu gavaya gavAkSulu goluvaga gani

caraNam 5

ghaTaja vasiSTha mrkaNDuja gautamadulu bogaDa gani

caraNam 6

akaLanka mukha tyAgarAjunu brOcina avyajA karuNAsAgara

 

The kriti starts like any composition on Rama, not giving any clue on the theme of ‘pattabisheka’. He is described as a handsome son of the King Dasharatha. Sri Rama Pattabhisheka is visualized beginning from the first charana. Svamigal says, “O Rama! Beholding Dharaja (Sita) in your lap, I pay obeisance to you”. Though Rama is always described to be with Sita, an equal asana to Sita is given only during the pattabhisheka. The words of Valmiki ‘rAmAn ratnamayopiTE sahasItam nyavESayat’ can be remembered here. The third, fourth and fifth charana again paint us the image of pattabhisheka. Whereas the third charana mentions Bharata holding an umbrella, the fifth charana makes a rare reference to monkey chieftains, Gavaya and Gavaksha, who helped Rama to reach Lanka.

During the coronation ceremony of Sri Ramachandra, Gavaya, ordained by Sugriva brought cool water from the western ocean, in a jar set with jewels, says Valmiki (gavayaha paschimAttOyamAjahAra mahArNavat I ratnakumbhEna mahatA SItam mArutavikramaha II). Though it is common to see  Anchaneya, Sugriva, Angata, and Vali being referred to in the compositions of Svamigal (or other composers), a reference about Gavaya and Gavaksha is extremely rare. The fifth charana speaks about Ghataja (Agasthya), Vasishta, Mrukandu and Gautama. These sages were invariably referred to in any keertanas describing Sri Rama Pattabhisheka.

The raga Kapi

At this juncture, it is pertinent to make a note about the raga Kapi. This is an old raga and placed as a janya of mela 22, Karaharapriya. But, the raga Kapi used by Svamigal is much different from the present form heard commonly in concerts. The svaras kakali nishadha and antara gandhara, which form an integral part of this raga are not seen in old Kapi, used by Svamigal. The accounts by Sambamurthy and Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar attest this fact. Interestingly, Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma makes a note in Sudesamitran that the original tune of the kriti ‘mivalla gunadosha’ was lost (another kriti of Svamigal in the raga Kapi), even as early as in 1938. This evidence shows the present tune available for this kriti (also for the other kritis of Svamigal in the raga Kapi) could be a later tuned one. The Valajapettai transcripts (written by Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavatar and his son Krishnasvamy Bhagavatar), which gives few Kapi raga kritis in its old form, did not give this kriti in notation. It is much unfortunate that the original tune of a kriti which mentions Sri Rama Pattabhisheka is unavailable to us. Let us hope Svamigal will bless us to get the original tune in the near future. Valajapettai version of the kriti ‘intha saukhya’, in the old Kapi raga can be heard here  :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlxVy-ma_Zs

 

This was published in the magazine Laksquare, May issue.

 

 

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Notation, Raga

Inimitable Raganga-s – Stavaraja

The rāga-s in Karnataka Music are innumerous and can be grouped into various ways. The most common, and perhaps the well-known system is to identify them as mēlakarta and janya rāga-s. Mēlakarta-s are 72 in number and the commonly used scheme starts with Kanakāṅgi and ends with Rasikapriya. We do have an alternative scheme, wherein these mēlakarta-s are denoted as ragāṅga rāga-s. The latter system considers Kanakāmbari as the first ragāṅga rāga (mēlakarta) and Rasamañjari as the last one. Though, it is commonly believed that mēlakarta or ragāṅga rāga is the parent raga or the clan head that give rises to janya rāga-s, glancing the pages of history reveal this to be a later developed concept and interested readers can refer to an article by Rāmanāthan (1982) to understand the same.

Though we frequently equate ragāṅga raga -s with the mēlakarta raga-s, they are structurally much different, albeit with a few exceptions (See footnote 1). It is pertinent to note that many of the ragāṅga rāga -s are listed as janya rāga-s of their complementary pair in the mēlakarta scheme elaborated in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, denoting the importance given by the grantakarta of the latter text in distinguishing ragāṅga-s from mēlakarta-s. However, it is true that the Kanakāṅgi system was much popular than the Kanakāmbari system and many composers, posterior to Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ and Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar have preferred to use this.

Rāgāṅga rāga-s

The term ‘rāgāṅga’ can be seen in the text Bṛhaddēsi of Mataṅga, said to have been written between 6th and 8th century CE, to denote a group of dēśi raga-s (Hēmalatā 2001:1). However, the term in the present parlance of denoting a clan head (of rāga-s) can be seen only from the text Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. He considers ‘rāgāṅga rāga’ as a sampūrṇa raga which mostly follows grāma raga. This is known as janaka and mēla rāga (Rao 2011:75). His usage of this term was based on work, ‘raga lakṣaṇa’ attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhī, the author of Caturdandīprakāṣikā.

Only the members of Dīkṣitar family gave a practical and more discernable form to these theoretical entities. Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar, a pioneer who served as a perennial source of inspiration for his descendants was the first to apply rāgāṅga rāga-s in his works. The rāgāṅga rāga-s Jhankārabhramari, Tanukīrti, Tōyavēgavāhini, etc., can all be seen in his kṛti-s for the first time (See footnote 2). His descendants Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar, and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar later elaborated on this. Surprisingly, this tradition did not survive posterior to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Among the disciple lineage of this family, these raga-s were used by Tanjāvūr Quartette (See footnote 3).

A careful inspection into Pradarṣini, the only text available to understand theoretical and practical aspects of these raga-s reveals they are not mere scales traversing the octaves; many of them are non-linear in their approach. This non-linearity, which gives them a unique and individual svarūpa was crafted purposefully or it was a documentation of a pre-existent practice cannot be ascertained. This feature is to be concentrated between the complementary members (identified by the same number in the 72 mēlakarta-rāgāṅga rāga schemes) of the different rāga classification systems.

An attempt to study these rāgāṅga rāga-s was made by Hēmalatā (2001). She has not only analyzed the compositions notated in Pradarṣini in these rāga-s, but also classified them based on the number of svara-s taken by them in āroha and avarōha. This kind of characterization can only be done for rāgāṅga rāga-s as melakarta-s are sampurna in both āroha and avarōha, differing only in their svarasthāna-s. This confers them a homogenous nature and any possible svara combination can be applied uniformly to all, at least theoretically. Contrarily, the nonlinearity seen with the rāgāṅga rāga-s makes them special and make us delve more into them.

These rāga-s deserve more individual attention as we do have many compositions outside the text Pradarṣini and also attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Moreover, taking a single rāgāṅga and analyzing all the compositions available gives us a better view of the raga svarūpa seen in these compositions. This also facilitates us to compare the lakṣaṇa of the rāgāṅga-s seen in the compositions available in Pradarṣini with those not notated in Pradarṣini. This section is intended to cover these rāga-s.

As a first step, this paper will highlight the phrases unique to the rāga Stavarāja, as seen in Pradarṣini, identify the differences between Stavarāja and Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi and proceeds to understand the svarūpa of Stavarāja seen in the compositions not notated in Pradarṣini.

The complementary pair

Stavarāja, an unpopular rāga is placed as 46th rāgāṅga raga in the Kanakāmbari – Rasamañjari scheme followed by the Dikṣitar family. Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi is its complementary rāga in the Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriya mēlakarta scheme. Both the rāga-s take the same svara varieties – śuddha ṛṣabha, sādhāraṇa gāndhāra, prati madhyama, catuśruti dhaivata, and kaiṣiki niṣadha apart from saḍja-pañcama. This similarity had made many of us believe that they are indeed the same rāga-s but with different names. However, the compositions in this rāga reveal discernable differences existing between them. Let us first examine Ṣadvidamārgiṇi and then proceed to understand Stavarāja.

Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi

Like any other mēlakarta, this is a sampūrṇa rāga, a raga with all the seven svara-s in both āroha and avarōha, arranged in order. Almost all the compositions available in this raga are treated similarly (only the works of composers who lived and/or composed prior to 20th century are considered). The mēla rāgamālika of Mahā Vaidyanātha Śivan (Subraḥmaṇya Śāstri 1937:55-56) handles this more like a sampūrṇa scale with no special phrases. However, we do find phrases that cannot be restricted within the scale in few other compositions, as can be seen from the table (See footnotes 4 and 5). Hence, Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi can be visualized as a krama sampūrṇa rāga with few exceptional phrases. However, PDS seems to be important and is perhaps the only phrase transferred from gīta to kṛti (outside its linear scale).

                                   Table – Special phrases seen in the raga Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi  

Composition Phrases
Ā rē rē sīta manōhara – Gīta SGRG, SMG, MDP, PDS and PNS
Gñanamosaga rāda of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ PDS
Antaraṅga bhakti of Kōtīṣvara Ayyar PDM and NDM

 

Stavarāja

Contrary to Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi, its complimentary pair Stavarāja is introduced by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar as an audava-audava rāga, lacking (varjya) gāndhāra – niṣādha in the ascent and pañcama – ṛṣabha in the descent. Though this can be simply represented as SRMPDS SNDMGS, the real svarūpa of this rāga can be perceived only by studying the gīta, attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhin, a kīrtana and a sañcāri of Muddusvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar respectively. This raga also features in the ragāṅga rāgamalika, ī kanakāmbari of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, a lexicon to understand the rāgāṅga rāga system (See footnote 6).

Analysis of the above-mentioned compositions reveals the presence of a lot of phrases outside the prescribed mūrccana, which can be learned from the table. The svara ṛṣabha occurs only as SRMP or GRS. Whenever we try to train our minds to accommodate the lakṣana prescribed in the mūrccana, we are surprised by any one of the outliers observed in the table. This surprise element continues with the kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar ‘stavarājādinuta’ on Lord Bṛhadīṣvara of Tanjāvūr.

Bṛhadīṣvara was a source of inspiration for Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, perhaps during his stay in Tanjāvūr, as a court musician in the Court of Śerfōji II (r1798-1832). Many of the kṛti-s composed on Bṛhadīṣvara and his consort Bṛhadamba are in rare rāga-s and Stavarāja is one such. With very few exceptions, the kṛti-s (on Bṛhadīṣvara and/or on his consort Bṛhadamba) do not have much information on sthala, tīrta or mūrti. Neither these kṛti-s are filled with heavy philosophical content. Certainly, this kṛti cannot be placed under the exceptional category.

‘Stavarājādinuta’ is a small kṛti set in pallavi – anupallavi – svara pattern. Interestingly, the prayōga SRMPD featuring in the gīta ‘ravi samnibha’ and in the sañcāri cannot be located in this kṛti! Contrarily many new phrases not seen in the gīta can be seen here. Despite these differences, we can clearly see the influence of this gīta on Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Lot of similarities can be seen between the two compositions. Both the compositions start with the phrase DMGS. The immediate phrase succeeding DMGS is SNNSNNP in the gīta and S,NSNNP in the kṛti.  Both the compositions use dhaivata and niṣādha as janṭa in plenty as PNN, DDNDP, etc. Also, the svara ṛṣabha is used sparsely as in gīta.  All these features direct us to conclude that the mentioned kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar was composed based on this gīta. In that case, we need to account for the prayōga-s featuring in this kṛti alone.

We need to analyze two compositions of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar before arriving at a conclusion, namely ī kanakāmbari, a rāgamālika mentioned in the earlier part of this article and a sañcāri.  The Stavarāja segment in the rāgamālika too starts with the phrase DMGS and is followed by SNDS. It is a faithful reproduction of phrases seen in the gīta, though in his own style. The rāgamālika and sañcari also have unique phrases seen only in the kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar like SRGS. Interestingly, his sañcāri, set to maṭya tāla also has many phrases not seen in other compositions – gīta and kṛti. We find MDDMP, PDP, PGGS, DNND, and NPDM only here. This raises the question again – the authority on which Dīkṣita-s introduced these new phrases.

 

                                                          Table – Phrases available in the raga Stavaraja

Composition Phrases
Ravi samnibha – Gīta GGRS, PMP, PNND, PSNS, NDPM, NPMPSS and SNP
Stavarājādinuta – Kīrtana MDPM, DRS, DDNDP, SRS, SNDP and PMG
Sañcāri MDDMP, PDP, PGGS, DNND and NPDM

 

An interpretation of this kṛti, as notated in Pradarṣini can be heard here.

This issue can be addressed in two ways – these phrases can be considered as an innovation by Dīkṣita-s or Dīkṣitar family must have had additional materials like tāna-s or gīta-s in their possession, displaying these phrases. The second possibility appears more plausible as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar reiterated several times in his text that he had many more materials in his possession and has not published them due to space restraint. A similar issue was explained by the author in an article on Gōpikāvasanta.

When the compositions of Muddusvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in this rāga are compared, we can see the latter gave an elaborate treatment, more so than the former. We find all the phrases of gīta in his rāgamālika and many new phrases in his sañcāri. Whereas, despite taking inspiration from the gīta and modeled like that, the kṛti ‘stavarājādinuta’ does not have all the phrases that can be located in the gīta. We have already observed such a finding when we discussed the kṛti ‘rudrakopa’ and the rāga Rudrapriyā.

It can be reminded that the text Saṅgraha Cūḍamaṇi, which places many of the rāgāṅga-s as a janya-s of mēlakarta-s, fail to recognize Stavarāja. This makes us believe, not all could have been aware of the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Stavarāja, in the past. Perhaps, these rāga-s could have been known only to the privileged disciples of Vēṅkaṭamakhī. Hence, to understand a rāga like this, it is essential for us to go through all the available compositions notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Based on these facts, it can be speculated that Dīkṣita-s could have had an access to unpublished materials, available only with them, carrying all these phrases, transmitting the legacy to the next generation.

The phrases not confirming with the mūrccana given in Pradarṣini carries high significance. Many of the phrases like GRS, SNP, etc., gives more flexibility for an otherwise strict scale. This peculiar feature is seen only with the rāgāṅga rāga-s. This feature is to be compared with their counterpart, Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi, wherein the latter strictly follows the scale with very few exceptional phrases. These exceptions too do not create an aural impact, as these rāga-s are all karma sampūrṇa-s with these phrases occurring occasionally. Whereas the vakra phrases, forming an integral part of the rāga architecture are seen only in the rāgāṅga-s creating a different melodic texture. This is accentuated when a svara given as varjya (ga – ni in the āroha and ri – pa in the avarōha) in mūrccana occurs in the composition, that too repeatedly. Hēmalata also highlighted this point in her thesis. She proceeds further and says such a course is not possible with the janya rāga-s having varjya svara-s, in the mēla scheme.  For example, the rāga Āndōḷika with the scale SRMPNS SNDMRS cannot have the phrase PMRS or SNP (Hēmalatā 2001:89).

Madhurāmbām bhajarē

Perhaps the only other kṛti available in this rāga is ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’. This kṛti is attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and forms a component of ‘Non – Pradarṣini kṛti-s’. Non-Pradarṣini kṛti-s are those compositions not notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his texts but found in the books published later and are attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.

Kallidaikuricci Sundaram Ayyar (Sundaram Ayyar 1992:39-40), a disciple of Ambi Dīkṣitar has published a series of books, predominantly containing the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in notation. These books serve as an additional source to know about the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, especially the ones not published by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. For the same reason, these kṛti-s usually find a place under the ‘spurious’ category. He has notated two kṛti-s in this rāga – ‘stavarājādhinuta’ and ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’. The kṛti ‘stavarājādhinuta’ much resembles the version given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and hence the second kṛti will be taken up for discussion.

This is a paean to the Goddess Mīnākṣi of Madurai. This kṛti, along with nine other kṛti-s is usually grouped as Madhurāmba vibhakti kṛti-s. Interestingly, only two of the nine kṛti-s are notated in Pradarṣini, namely ‘śri mīnākṣi gauri’ in the rāga Gauri and ‘śyāmalāṅgi mātaṅgi’ in the rāga Śyāmaḷa. It is to be noted that both the kṛti-s does not carry the śabda ‘madhurāmba’.

The kṛti ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’ describes Mīnākṣi as a daughter of the Sage Mataṅga (mataṅga tanayām) enshrined in Madurai (madhurāmbām), the one who delights the heart of Manu, Kubera, etc., the giver of prosperity (dhaninīm) and the one who is pleased with praises offered in the rāga Stavarāja (See footnote 7). This kṛti is free of prosodic errors, as seen with many other ‘spurious’ kṛti-s, attributed to  Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.

The kṛti starts with the phrase PDSSND and has all the standard phrases that fall within the mūrccana of this rāga. The non-mūrccana phrases, typical to these rāgāṅga-s are also seen aplenty. These include SRS, PGS, DND, DMG, and DRS. It is to be noted that the phrase PGS is seen only in the sañcāri of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and DRS occurs only in the kṛti ‘stavarājādhinuta’. SRS occurs in both the kṛti and sañcāri. There occurs a prayōga MDPD, unique only to this kṛti. This phrase occurs thrice, in madana janakādi, mataṅga tanayām, and mādhavādya. The authority on the use of this phrase is not clear.

Excluding the phrase MDPD, the rāga lakṣaṇa portrayed here is much in line with the Stavarāja of the gītaṃ, kṛti and sañcāri. However, the approach seen here is distinguishingly different from the above-mentioned compositions. First, the vital phrases like DMGS, PNNDPM, NNDPM, SNNP, etc., seen in the gīta, kṛti (stavarājādhinuta) and rāgamālika are missing in this kṛti. These phrases are abundant and used repeatedly in the compositions notated in Pradarṣini and when heard together, the melodic structure of Stavarāja can be better perceived. The absence of these phrases in ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’ fails to create an image of Stavarāja, as experienced with the other kṛti-s mentioned. In addition, we see phrases like MDP- PM-PG-ND, a style usually not seen in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar notated in Pradarṣini. Second, the svara-s gāndhāra, niṣādha, dhaivata are often used as janṭa in the compositions notated in Pradarṣini. In this kṛti, niṣādha alone occurs as a janṭa svara as SNND in two places. Third, there are no mandra sthāyi phrases in this kṛti. The phrases in the mandra sthāyi are an integral part of a kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. In the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar notated in Pradarṣini, we see mandra sthāyi phrases either in the basic structure of a kṛti or in its svara segment. Very rarely, we find an exception, like ‘arunācalanātham’ in Sāraṅga. In fact, the majority of the older versions of the kṛti-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ too have mandra sthāyi phrases. The absence of such a phrase in this kṛti is intriguing. The kriti ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’ as notated by Kallidaikuricci Sundaram Ayyar can be heard here.

Though the difference of opinions exists on the authenticity of this kṛti, the Stavarāja presented here abides the rāga lakṣaṇa given in the text Pradarṣini. If we exclude the phrase MDPD, the phrases seen in this kṛti are authorized by the compositions mentioned earlier. At the same time, it is to be accepted that the presentation of Stavarāja in this kṛti is very different from the compositions seen in Pradarṣini and sounds more like a variant of Ṣadvidamārgaṇi.

Conclusion

Many of the rāgāṅga rāga-s are much different from their complimentary pair in the mēlakarta system. Stavarāja is one such rāga which is to be distinguished from Ṣadvidamārgaṇi. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives three compositions in this rāga and all display a similar rāga lakṣaṇa. It is through these compositions, we can perceive the rāga Stavarāja.

Madhurāmbām bhajarē, a kṛti attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar is not seen in the text Pradarṣini. The phrases seen in this kṛti are very much in line with Stavarāja of Pradarṣini, with the exclusion of a single phrase. However, the melodic structure of this kṛti does not fit with the approach seen in the compositions notated in Pradarṣini. The melodic structure perceived by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has been modified or it was composed by a musician who was inspired by the Stavarāja handled by Dikṣita-s remains a mystery.

 

Footnotes

1.It is technically not correct to say Kanakāṅgi is equivalent to Kanakāmbari, Rasikapriya is equivalent to Rasamañjari and so on, and treating the kṛti-s composed in these two rāga-s in a similar way.

2.The usage of these raga-s in kṛti -s are considered here, as gīta-s in these raga-s, notated in Pradarsini predate the works of Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar.

3.Analysis of their compositions and a manuscript with a descendant of Tanjavur Sivanandam indeed reveals they have composed in many of the rāgāṅga rāga-s. The readers can refer to an article by the author for more details. The article can be accessed here. https://tlmthelostmelodies.wordpress.com/2020/11/19/sri-guruguha-navaratnamalika/

4.Though this kṛti is now sung in Purvikalyani, it is said to have been composed in Sadvidamargani. This kṛti also had a version in Gamanasrama. The phrase PDS is seen in the version given by Srinivasa Ayyangar (pg 101), but conspicuously not present in the version notated by S. Parthasaradhi (1986:58-60).

5.The phrase PDS is seen in the kṛti ‘antaraṅga bhakti’, notated by S.Rajam (1998:87-88).

6.A poet by name Kṛṣṇa Kavi composed this rāgamālika, which was tuned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

7.Translation by V Gōvindan, can be accessed on the site http://guruguha.blogspot.com/2008/03/dikshitar-kriti-madhurambam-bhajare.html.

 

References

Hēmalatā R. A study of the rāgāṅga rāga-s in the Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma dīkṣitar. 2001. PhD Thesis submitted to Department of Indian Music, University of Madras.

Pappu Vēṇugōpāla Rao (Ed). 2011. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. English Translation – Volume I. The Music Academy.

Pārthasārati S. 1986. Śrī Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanaigaḷ – Tillaisthānam Pātam. Published by Sadguru Śrī Tyāgabraḥma Ārādana Kaiṅkaryam, Madras.

Rājam S. 1998. Śrī Kōtīsvara Ayyarin Kīrtanaigaḷ. Published by Rasikās, Mailapūr.

Rāmanāthan N. 1982. The concept of mēla. Journal of The Madras University, Volume LIV (1), accessible in the site   http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/2318

Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār K.V. Saṅgīta Cintāmaṇi. Published by M.S. Rāmulu and Company, Madras.

Subraḥmaṇya Śāstri (Ed).1937. The Mēlarāgamālika of Mahā Vaidyanātha Śivan. Published by The Adyar Library, Madras.

Sundaram Ayyar A. Kallidaikuricci. 1992. Śrī Dīkṣita Kīrtana Mālā, Part XI. Published by Music Book Publishers, Madras.

 

 

 

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Manuscripts, Personalities, Sahitya, Shishya Parampara

Sri Tyagarajaya mangalam

The term mangalam indicates auspiciousness amongst its many other denotation that it conveys. Mangalam is usually heard at the end of a Nama samkeertanam, Sita kalyanam or at the end of a concert to be propitious to both the listener and reciter.  Mangalam can be compared with the ‘phalastuthi’ recited at the end of any sloka and usually eulogizes a deity. Though presently very few mangalam-s are in vogue, each family inherited their own repertoire of mangalam-s in the past. The deity extolled here will a family deity or a deity enshrined in a town to which the family belongs to. This author has listened to his grandmother singing a mangalam addressing the Lord Devanatha of Tiruvahindrapuram in the ragam Kamavardhani. Also, age old mangalam-s runs in the family through the generations. ‘Sri ramachandranukku’, a common mangalam appended to Rama nataka kirtanam of Arunachala Kavi and often sung in Madhyamavathi is sung in Asaveri in this author’s family. Interestingly, the oldest book which mentions this kriti too gives Asaveri as the raga for this kriti.  

Occasionally, mangalam-s were also composed on Saints and mortals. Though the sahityam of these compositions might superficially appear inconsequential, they provide a lot of biographical details, especially when they are composed by individuals who are closely associated with the nayaka of the mangalam.

Disciples of Tyagaraja Svamigal

Svamigal could have been one of the very few composers to have a lot of disciples. Many of them were also composers and two of them who are of interest to us are Valajapettai Venkataraman Bhagavathar and Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier.  Both of them have composed mangalam-s furnishing a lot of details about their Guru.

Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier

Venkatasubbaier was related to Svamigal and he had trained a lot of disciples like his preceptor. He was a composer and sadly, only a few of his compositions survive through few isolated recordings like ‘avarakuta’ in the ragam Kuthuhalam and a kriti ‘samiki sari’ in the ragam Devagandhari resounding the glory of his Guru. His unknown compositions include a ragamalika ‘sivabhupathe’ and a mangalam ‘giriraja pautraya’ on his teacher among others.

Giriraja pautraya

Many of us are benighted about this mangalam in the ragam Surati set to khanda chapu. Only the sahityam will be analyzed to know more about Svamigal, as provided by his direct disciple.Sahityam of this mangalam is provided first followed by a discussion on some of the salient details seen in this kriti (The sahityam provided here is taken from a thesis by Nityasri on the disciples of Manabuchavadi venkatasubbaier).

Pallavi

giri raaja pautraaya kaarunya sindhave  

gaana rasa purnaaya  sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

Anupallavi

raama brahmaankita  bhuvara suputraaya

naadabrahmaananda sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

Caranam – 1

sitamma kruta punya baagyaaya

vimalaaya gitaya nitaya sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

Caranam – 2

panca nada tiraavataaraaya  naadaaya bandha  sihaaraaya

sri  tyaagaraajaaya buloga ava tirṇa vaalmikaamsine  

venkataanugraha  sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

This is a mangalam composed in simple Sanskrit. This gives the geneology of svamigal starting from his grandfather. Mangalam start as ‘giritaja pautraya’ meaning the grandson of Giriraja. This indicates Giriraja was his paternal grandfather (dauhitra is the term to be used to denote maternal lineage), resolving the confusions surrounding the relationship between Svamigal and Giriraja. In the anupallavi, Venkatasubbaier says Svamigal was the blessed son of a brahmana by name Ramabrahma. Interestingly, the next line gives the sanyaasa diksha name of Svamigal, ‘naadabrahmaananda’ (this is a prevalent information given by various accounts covering the biography of Svamigal). Though, the occasion which saw the birth of this mangalam is not known, it could be speculated that this could have been composed after his beatitude. It is in this context, the line ‘panca nada tiraavataaraaya’ occurring in the caranam is to be studied.   

There are controversies regarding the birth place of Svamigal. Whereas the predominant view is in support of Tiruvarur, few hold a view that Tiruvayyaru should get this privilege. Though outwardly seeing, this line might refer Tiruvayyaru as the avatara sthalam of Svamigal, when combined with the previously disclosed significance of the word ‘naadabrahmaananda’, it can be well presumed that ‘panca nada tiraavataaraaya’ might refer to the second birth place of Tyagaraja ; him taking the order of Sanyaasa and taking a new birth altogether as Naadabrahmaananda. This kriti also mentions Sitamma, his mother, and considers him as an amsa of Valmiki.

Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavathar

Guru kritis and Guru ashtakam of Venkataramana Bhagavathar are quite famous and require no introduction. What is less known is his mangalam on Svamigal. This mangalam with notation, tuned to Madhyamavathi and set to adi talam can be seen in the book by S Parthasaradhi, a disciple of Srinivasaraghavan. This kriti, with some additional carana-s  feature in Valajapettai transcripts, preserved at Government Oriental Manuscript Library, Chennai. This mangalam is seen interspersed with the transcript dealing with ‘Nauka Caritramu’ of Svamigal. Whether this mangalam was composed along with the said natakam (of Svamigal) by Bhagavathar or it was written just alongside the natakam by the scribe cannot be ascertained. Only the text of the mangalam is provided; no notations or raga – tala marking is seen.  This make us to doubt whether this was rendered as a kriti or recited only as a padyam. The text seen in the transcripts verbatim are provided first followed by analysis.

  1. Sri mad kaakarla vamsaadhi Candra yaamala tejase – raama rasagyaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  2. Raamabrahma suputraaya sitamma garbhajaaya cha – raamachandra svarupaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  3. Paarvati kamalaamba sad bhaarya samyathaaya cha – sarva sadguna purnaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  4. Naaradaacharya karunaa paatraayadbutha kirtaye – dhiraaya nirvikaaraya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  5. Sri karunaa samudraaya lokaanugraha kaarine – saakedhaadhipa bhaktaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  6. Yogi pungava mitraaya yogaananda svarupine – raaga lobha vimukthaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  7. Gaana saastra pravinaaya kali kalmasha naashine – naanaa sishya samuhaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  8. Kaaveri tira vaasaaya karunaamruta varshine – paavana sucharitraaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam  

Sanskrit was the language used similar to the first mangalam. No distinction of the text into pallavi and carana-s can be noted.

This mangalam gives more insight into the biographical details of Svamigal. He starts with a mention about the ‘vamsa’ of Svamigal – Kakarla. He then proceeds to say he was the divine son of Ramabrahmam and Sitamma. He is the amsa of the Lord Sri Ramachandra itself and he had two wives – Parvati and Kamalaamba. This mangalam depose the incident wherein Svamigal had a vision of Sage Narada and blessed by him – ‘naaradaacharya karuna paatraaya’. He extols his Guru by using the phrases like the ‘one who is devoid of desire and greed’ (raaga lobha vimukthaaya), ‘well versed in sangita’(gaana saastra pravinaaya), ‘always surrounded by various disciples’ (naanaa sishya samuhaaya) etc., This mangalam does not mention about his diksha name or his place of birth. But, a biography written by Valajapettai father-duo affirms he was indeed born in Tiruvarur.

Apart from slight differences in the sahityam, the third kandika cannot be seen in the version given by S Parthasaradhi. Instead, we have a new sahityam starting with ‘dhina maanava poshaaya’.

Conclusion

Svamigal was revered and extolled by more than one disciple, even during his lifetime. These two mangalam could have been composed at different occasions, though the exact event or incident that kindled them to compose is not known. Nevertheless, these mangalam-s stand as a testimony to know the personal details about Svamigal with an authority.

The article appeared in Sruti, January 2020 issue.

CompositionAppreciation, Repertoire

mAra kOti kOti lAvanya- Arabhi – Obeisance to Lord Shiva

न जानामि योगं जपं नैव पूजां। नतोऽहं सदा सर्वदा शंभु तुभ्यं॥

जरा जन्म दुःखोद्य तातप्यमानं॥ प्रभो पाहि आपन्नमामीश शंभो॥8॥

(Sloka No 8 – “Rudrashtaka” of Gosvami Tulasidas)

na jAnAmi yOgam japam naiva pUjAm nathOham sadA sarvadA sambhu thubyam |

jarA janma dhukhOdhya thAthapyamAnam prabhO pAhi ApannamAmIsa sambhO ||

Meaning: I know neither yOgA nor jApa nor worship. All I know is to be devoted to you O Lord Shambhu. Save me from this bondage/misery of old age, death and birth.

Sangita Kalanidhi Trichur V Ramachandran presents this short sloka in the raga Surati

Prologue:

The subject matter of this blog post is the composition “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” of Muthusvami Dikshita found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) of Subbarama Dikshita, which is rarely encountered on concert platforms. The sibling Arabhi composition in the SSP, “Sri Sarasvati Namostute” on the other hand is fairly ubiquitous and is typically taught to learners as one of the early kritis, for abhyAsA.

Records and accounts indicate that this composition “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” has been rendered in the past and has also been part of the oral tradition but yet today it is rarely heard. In this blog let us get reintroduced to this composition and in the discography, section look at the renderings of this composition by two masters from the past. And I would seek to argue that this composition is immensely capable of an expanded treatment but yet inexplicably it is not been presented so by present day performers.

Let us first look at the lyrical aspect of the composition followed by the musical aspects and the related discography.

The Composition:

pallavi

mAra kOTi kOTi lAvaNya mAM pAlaya

(madhya stayi madhyama to mandhara pancama and to madhya pancama)

dhIra-agragaNya vAsukI valaya

(madhya dhaivatha to tara sadja and back to madhya sadja)

anupallavi

dArukA vana tapO-dhana taruNI mOha-AkAra bhikshATana vEsha dhara Sankara

(madhya dhaivatha to tara madhyama and back to madhya sadja after descending upto mandhara dhaivatha)

caraNam

viraktAnAM vidEha kaivalya dAna vicakshaNa -bhaktAnAM-abhaya pradAna

virinci-Adi sakala dEva-upAsyamAna – vibhUti rudrAksha-abhimAna

paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna -parama-advaita tAtparya-anusandhAna

para vAma dEva-Adi sakala virAjamAna – parama-ISvara guru guha samAna bhAsamAna

Meaning

pallavi

mAra kOTi kOTi lAvaNya     – O one handsome as crores and crores of (i.e. countless) Manmathas!

mAM pAlaya                 – Protect me!

dhIra-agragaNya            – O foremost among the courageous!

vAsukI valaya              – O one wearing the snake Vasuki as a bracelet!

anupallavi

dArukA vana tapO-dhana taruNI mOha-AkAra – O one whose form enchanted the wives of the sages of the Daruka forest!

bhikshATana vEsha dhara    – O one bearing the guise of a mendicant!

Sankara                    – O causer of welfare and good fortune!

caraNam

viraktAnAM vidEha kaivalya dAna vicakshaNa – O the foremost at giving videha-mukti to the dispassionate!

bhaktAnAM-abhaya pradAna   – O one who bestows protection to devotees!

virinci-Adi sakala dEva-upAsyamAna – O one adored by all celestials beginning with Brahma!

vibhUti rudrAksha-abhimAna – O one who adores (wearing) vibhuti (sacred ash) and Rudraksha!

paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna  – O one holding the axe, antelope, fire, skull and drum!

parama-advaita tAtparya-anusandhAna – O object of contemplation for understanding the meaning of supreme non-dualism!

para vAma dEva-Adi sakala virAjamAna – O resplendent one with many great forms such as Vamadeva!

parama-ISvara              – O supreme lord!

guru guha samAna bhAsamAna – O one as effulgent as Guruguha!

Lyrical aspects of the Composition:

The following points merit our attention:

  1. At the very outset it has to pointed out that there are no internal, external or collateral evidences to demonstrate that this composition even remotely pertains to a particular deity or ksetra. Therefore any attribution of this composition to a particular ksetra is purely speculative devoid of hard evidence.
  2. Dikshita first begins the composition in the pallavi by paying obeisance to this beautiful form of the Lord, at the very outset, whose identity he reveals only in the anupallavi when he explicitly refers to the “bikshatana” form of Lord Shiva by invoking the puranic lore of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu coming together to subdue the vanity of the sages of the Darukavana ( forest of deodhar trees).
  3. The usage of a word twice consecutively such as “kOti kOti” in a lyrical device which is found used by Muthusvami Dikshita in “Sri Subramanyaya Namaste” in Kambhoji for example where the word “namaste” as well as “koti” are used twice over consecutively to mean that its being meant as many times over.
  4. While this kriti is an adulatory paean to Lord Shiva, the lyrics can be said to be propitiating Lord Shiva of the “Bikshatana” form. Lord Shiva is said to have 64 forms such as Linga, Vrushabarudha, Dakshinamurti, Kalasamharamurti, Bhairava, Tyagaraja or Somaskanda, sadAshiva and others of which the “Bikshatana mUrti” is one form.
  5. The reference in the lyrical portion of the anupallavi being “dArukA vana tapOdhana………………..vEshadhara sankara” pertains to the mythological lore of Lord Shiva assuming the form of a handsome mendicant to enchant the wives of the Sages of Darukavana, so as to teach those sages a lesson. This mythology finds reference in the stala purana of Chidambaram and Thiruvenkadu (Svetaranyam or Adi Chidambaram). The blog header is a panel from the Chidambaram temple describing this instance when Lord Shiva took the form of Bikshatana and Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini to teach the sages of Darukavana, a lesson.
  6. It may be pointed out that this lore of Lord Shiva taking the form of a bikshatana is found referenced by Dikshita in two other compositions as under:
    • dArukAvanastapOdhana” in the Bilahari kriti “hAtakesvara samrakshamAm” and
    • dArukAvana tapOdhana kalpitha” in the Caturdasa ragamalika kriti “Sri Visvanatham Bhajeham” being the Saranga raga portion of the said composition.
  7. Residents of Mylapore, Chennai may recall that the Panguni Festival in the Sri Kapaleesvara Temple features the Lord in this form with a bowl as a seeker of alms on the 9th day of the festival. In fact, Papanasam Sivan who composed the well-known Kambhoji song “kAna kann kOdi vEndum” on the “adhikAra nandhi sEva” of the Lord of Mylapore also sang “picchaikku vandhIrO” set in raga Surati as well, on this Bikshatana murti procession of Mylapore.
  8. Amongst the quartet of Tamil savants three have sung tEvArams on this form of the Lord as a seeker of alms and the following are few instances:
    • Thirujnanasambandhar – Hymn on the Lord at Tiruvalachuzhi.
    • Appar/Tirunavukkarasar – hymn on the Lord at Tiruvottriyur
    • Sundaramurti Svamigal – hymn on the Lord at Tiruvarur
  9. The Bikshatana form of Lord Shiva is a risqué imagery and again Dikshita as is his wont brings in the iconography of this form in the lyrical portion as a pen picture for us:
    • His inestimable beauty of form “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya”- being akin to the beauty of innumerable manmatAs,
    • His enchanting handsomeness “mOhAkAra” – which entranced the women folk of Darukavana.
    • His predilection for “vibhUti” and “rudrAksha” beads which he wears as ornamentation along with vAsuki the serpent to adorn his body.
    •  “paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna” – enumerating the pick-axe, deer, fire, skull and the drum. Curiously the bhikshadana form is seen to hold only shUlA (Trident), kapAla (skull), the antelope and the bowl for alms in the 4 hands, whereas Dikshita identifies 5 objects as being held by the Lord.
  10. The lyrical portion “guruguha samAna bhAsamAna” is reminiscent of “guruguha samAnavaraOjasE” which occurs again in “Hastivadanaya Namastubhyam” in Navaroj.
  11. The raga mudra is beautifully interwoven in the lyrics at “mOha-AkAra bhikshATana”. Dikshita has adroitly woven in the same (‘sUchita’ raga mudra) much like how he has done in “citpratibimbE galajitasankE” (“Sri Matah Sivavamanke” in Begada) and “samAnavara OjasE” in “hastivadanaya namstubhyam” in Navaroj. Dikshita has enmeshed the raga mudra Arabhi in his other two compositions in the same raga as under;
    • “samsAra bhItyApahE” – in “Sri Sarasvati Namostute
    • “srutajana samsara bhItyApaham” in the Arabhi raga portion of “Sri Visvanatham bhajeham”, the caturdasa ragamalika
  12. While these two instances above belong to the same category from a usage/meaning perspective, Dikshita has very beautifully invoked the raga name in the instant case of “mAra kOti kOti” by placing the mudra at the junction of two words which together describes Lord Shiva as the enchanting mendicant.
  13. As always, the composer’s colophon “guruguha” appears explicitly in the final madhyama kala sahitya section at the fag end of the composition.

Discography:

In this section I present versions of the composition as available in the public domain so that we can have an idea as to the melodic contours of this rarely encountered composition.

And I start with the version of Sangita Kalanidhi Alathur Srinivasa Iyer. Before we hear his rendering, it would be interesting to divine the likely source of the pAtham of his. We do know for sure that the Alathur Brothers namely Sri Sivasubramanya Iyer and Sri Srinivasa Iyer were associated with the legendary Vaineeka Sri Sambasiva Iyer. Sri Sambasiva Iyer was a Srividya Upasaka and which may likely explain the fact that compositions like “Sri Matah Sivavamanke” in Begada was part of his repertoire which he may have passed on to Alathur Brothers. This kriti “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” too could have been part thereof.

In this recording Alathur Sri Srinivasa Iyer renders “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” prefacing it with a succinct alapana. Attention is invited to how the veteran pivots the raga anchoring it firmly at pancama (with the rishabha as the ending note for his phrases) and then tara sadja and tara rishabha notes and how he caresses the dhaivatha note ever so gently, summarizing the raga every now and then, thus presenting the unalloyed Arabhi of yore for us even as he concludes it with the fluid madhyama kala akara passages . The way in which the raga vinayasa is expounded by the legend, is a veritable lesson for a student of music.

The accompanist though not indicated in the sleeve notes, appears to be Vidvans Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin and the legendary Palghat Mani Iyer on the mrudanga.

Alathur Srinivasa Iyer renders “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya”

Presented next is a rendering of the same composition by the veteran music composer Tanjavur Sankara Iyer from a private chamber recital.

Tanjavur Sankara Iyer renders “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya”

The Musical Aspect of the Composition:

I choose to present the musical side of this composition finally in this blog post to highlight, the hidden nuances of the composition as documented in the SSP which have hitherto not been fully presented. I would further argue that with greater fidelity to the notation found in the SSP, the composition’s true beauty can be envisioned and brought out by performers today.

  1. The composition begins with an elongated madhyama note as a svarakshara, a rarity in Arabhi, where pancama is always a strong note or jiva svara. The composition is found notated in 1 Kalai misra jhampa tala and 2 ½ aksharas of the tala is found allocated to this opening madhyama note. The commencement on the dhirgha madhyama making it a graha adds a singularly different complexion to the rendering and the texture of Arabhi of this composition. In my opinion, as notated by Subbarama Dikshita, this opening madhyama is not an oscillated note but a steady, prolonged, deep and sonorous dhIrga madhyama note. This madhyama graha note of the composition as envisaged, is perhaps of the same type as the madhyama of the raga Sama as one would hear being rendered at the very outset of “mAnasa sancara rE” of Sadasiva Brahmendra, set to music by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (with the madhyama note both as a svarakshara & graha). As an aside it can further be noted that one other kriti where Dikshita tellingly uses the madhyama note as a graha svara is the Mahuri composition “mAmava raghuvIra” where it is used both in the pallavi and the carana commencement so beautifully both as a grahasvara and a svarakshara.
  2. At the pallavi itself, the lyric “lAvanya” is svara wise “dd-pd SSR’ which is a beautiful phrase not heard in any rendering of this composition. In fact, in this entire composition it is the only place where the mandhara pancama is touched.
  3. The anupallavi section “vEshadhara sankara” is PDP,MGRnddSR/M and is typically sung fully around the pancama note without descending to the mandhara dhaivatha note as notated. And quite uniquely in this entire composition this is the only place which is ornamented (the mandhara dhaivatha & nishadha notes) with the vaLI gamaka and the lyric “sankara” looks like it should be rendered with a hUmkAra with the jAru gamaka to the elongated madhyama graha svara of the pallavi.
  4.  As is his wont, Dikshita has invested the composition with svaraksharas on the pancama and dhaivatha notes as well apart from the madhyama as pointed out earlier.
  5. From an architecture perspective given that the madhayama is the graha svara or commencement note, Dikshita accesses the starting note of the pallavi as  dSR/M (the lyric being “sankara” with the vaLI gamaka on the mandhara stayi notes as pointed out earlier), from the mandhara stayi in the case of anupallavi and SNDDP ( the lyric being “bhAsamAna”) from the tAra sadja in the case of carana, as we loop back to the pallavi refrain thus providing a refreshing variation.
  6. Against the lyrical lines of the kriti for the pallavi and anupallavi above I have provided the musical movement as well in those lines to demonstrate how Dikshita has progressively expanded the raga elaboration in the kriti before embarking to display the entire gamut of the raga in the carana segment without traipsing up and down the scale.
  7. The madhyama kala sahitya section appended to the carana has been developed by Dikshita spanning the three octaves in 3 sections, spanning mandhara dhaivatha to tara madhyama note completing his musical conception.

It is my humble opinion that the SSP notation of this composition ought to be rendered as the first/base/plain sangati for every line and as appropriate, suitable lines can be taken up, expanded melodically through additional sangatis so as to burnish and embellish the composition.

Conclusion:

In the last century, the great performing vidvans of yester-years, made some ragas or particular compositions their very own and as a result they became synonymous with that raga or the composition as the case may be. Vidvan Madurai Mani Iyer’s renderings of “Sarasasamadhana” (Kapinarayani, Tyagaraja) or Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s “Dakshinamurte” ( Sankarabharanam, Muthusvami Dikshita) or his extraordinary renderings of the raga Kharaharapriya are examples that comes to one’s mind instantly. It is my most humble opinion that modern day musicians haven’t made use of this stratagem and “mAra kOti kOti” offers one such opportunity.

In sum “mAra kOti kOti” in Arabhi is yet another bewitching composition lying dormant in the SSP even as it awaits a modern-day performer to take it up, embellish, perform beautifully by taking the core skeletal notation in the SSP as the base, expanding and building on it and thus finally making it as his or her own.  Would it happen?  

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshita (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) in Tamil -Vol IV- Mela 29 – Pages 846-852

Disclaimer & Credits:

The recording of the rendering by Vidvan Tanjavur Sankara Iyer has been sourced from the uploads made in Sangeethapriya. The relevant references have been suitably hyperlinked to complete the attribution. The blog header has been sourced from the web, being a panel depicting the lore of the Darukavana from the Cidambaram Temple and the painting of the Lord as a Bikshadana murthi is of artist Sri Siddalinga Svami of Mysore.

CompositionAppreciation, Notation, Sahitya

“vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” – A Critical Appraisal

Prologue:

One key aspect in our assessment of the authenticity of Muthusvami Dikshita’s compositions is the reliance we place on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) of Subbarama Dikshita. The SSP published in 1904 AD is the numero uno in this aspect as Subbarama Dikshita had evaluated both the lyric as well as the melody of every composition and presented it in an almost original form. Rare are the instances of a composition in the SSP being doubted for authenticity, though some questions have arisen especially in the case of kritis documented in its Anubandha.

Apart from the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) which was published in 1904 AD, chronologically the next publication that merits our attention is the Dikshita Kirtanai Prakashikai (“DKP”) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (in the lineage from Tambiappan Pillai and Sathanur Pancanada Iyer). This publication made in the year 1936 AD was a compilation of 50 kritis of Dikshita, of which 49 kritis found herein was also found in the SSP. And it had one which was not in the SSP being “Mahaganapatim Vande” in Todi which was covered in an earlier blog post.

Post this during the 1940’s after the death of Ambi Dikshita, the son of Subbarama Dikshita, a large number of compositions from outside of the SSP bearing the colophon “guruguha” came to be published by the disciples of Ambi Dikshita, which have been attributed to Muthusvami Dikshita. All these compositions are documented by Veena Sundaram Iyer who published the same during 1940’s & 50’s as the “Dikshitar Keertanai Mala” (“DKM”).

In so far as compositions not found in the SSP and those which came to published as above and seen in DKM, many questions arise as to whether these compositions not found in the SSP are truly Dikshita’s compositions.

In this blog we will take up one such composition, not found in the SSP but which came to be published in the 1940’s as above. The kriti is “vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” in the raga Devagandhari under Mela 29, in Adi tala. The said composition is not found listed in the SSP or in the DKP. We will look at the kriti and also its antecedents along with renderings of the same to develop a point of view as to its attribution to Muthusvami Dikshita.

In this blog it will be argued that this composition too, much like “Mahaganapatim Vande” in Todi has all the hallmarks of a true composition of Muthusvami Dikshita and based on available extrinsic and intrinsic evidence can be attributed to him, notwithstanding the fact that it is not notated in the SSP.

But first let us take up the composition text for our consideration.

The Composition:

pallavi

bhajE-ahaM                  – I worship

sadA                        – forever

vadAnyESvaraM               – Vadanyeshvara (the great benefactor).

tyajE-ahaM                  – I renounce

mada-Adi vRttiM             – tendencies such as arrogance,

mudA                        – joyfully

anupallavi

pada-aravindaM              – (I worship) the one whose feet are (lovely) as lotuses,

Ananda kandaM              – the root-source of bliss,

pAlita dEva gAndhArava bRndaM – the protector of the multitudes of Devas and Gandharvas,

sadA-arcitaM                – the perennially worshipped one,

vinata vidhi mukundaM       – the one saluted by Brahma and Vishnu,

sadguru guha cidAnandaM     – the bliss of consciousness of the noble Guruguha,

sadA                        – always.

caraNam

paSu pASa mOcanaM           – (I worship) the one who liberates creatures from bondage,

tri-lOcanaM                 – the three-eyed one,

panca-AnanaM                – the five-faced one,

praNata gaja-AnanaM         – the one saluted by the elephant-faced – Ganesha

SiSu bAla gOpa viditaM      – the one well-known even to infants, children and cowherds,

muditaM                     – the joyous one,

SivaM                       – the auspicious one,

bilva vana vaibhavaM        – the splendorous one in the Bilva forest,

bhavam                      – the one who has become everything in this universe,

viSuddhi-Adi nilayaM        – the one residing in Visuddhi and other Chakras,

maNi valayaM                – the one wearing bejewelled bracelets,

vigata vikalpakaM           – the one in whom variations have ceased,

Srita kalpakaM              – the wish-fulfilling divine tree to those who seek refuge,

paSu patiM                  – the master of all creatures,

jnAnAmbikA patiM            – the Consort of Goddess Jnanambika,

paraSu mRga dharaM          – the bearer of the axe and deer,

nIla kandharaM              – the blue-throated one,

aSubha kshaya karaM         – the annihilator of the inauspicious,

abhaya vara karaM         – the one whose hands gesture freedom from fear and granting boons,

anAdi-avidyA haraM          – the remover of primordial ignorance,

Sankaram                    – the causer of welfare and good fortune.

Notes:

  1. The kriti is on the Lord Siva enshrined at Vallalar Kovil in Mayuram / Mayavaram / Mayiladuthurai, Lord Vadanyesvara and whose consort is Goddess Gnanambika
  2. The raga mudra is indirectly embedded in the composition in a slightly truncated fashion in “dEvagandharva brindham”
  3. The composer’s colophon is also found in the composition in “sadguruguha cidAnandam”.
  4. The kriti is a paean to Lord Shiva with epithets in his glory strung together as a composition.

The Provenance of this Composition:

What sets this composition apart in our analysis is the very source of the pAtham of this composition. As pointed out this composition is not found in the SSP (1904). Nor is it notated in the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai” (1934) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, which was the next authoritative publication of Dikshita’s compositions. Up and until 1940, these two publications were the most authoritative compilations of the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshita.

The composition “Vadanyesvaram” crops up from an unexpected source in the year 1943, when it was published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol XIV (1943)- pages 147-149 (“JMA“) -see header to this blog post.

As the notes to the composition make it clear, it is obvious that:

  1. The kriti has been edited by Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer.
  2. The source of this pAtham is attributed to Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer.
  3. The text as well as the notation of the composition is provided therein. It is in the regular SRGM notation, with 1st and 2nd kala markings and does not carry any other gamaka signs or such other embellishments/ ornamentations.

Unfortunately, nothing is known as to the identity of this Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer and if ever he belonged to the sisya parampara of Muthusvami Dikshita. It can be safely concluded that outside of the regular sources of Dikshita compositions, this source is an odd/unique and yet refreshing fount. And it was only later that this composition figured firstly in Veenai Sundaram Iyer’s “Dikshitar Kirtanai Mala -Volume 2- Song No 21” and then in Rangaramanuja Iyengar ‘s Kritimanimalai Vol 5 – Song No 142.

Suffice to state that this source is ex-facie of unimpeachable fidelity and we will examine the notation further to confirm the same.

Key structural aspects of the composition:

It can be seen from a stylistic perspective, the composition is Dikshitar’esque in its form.

  1. The language and style of the lyrics, the prAsA concordance, the gait of the composition, the construct of the pallavi-anupallavi- carana as well as the colophon and the ‘sUcita” raga mudra embedded in the composition all point to this conclusion.
  2. The melodic material is expanded in an organized manner first in the pallavi, then in the anupallavi and finally in the carana section.
  3. Akin to quite a few compositions, the lyrics commencing “pasupatim jnanambika patim” and ending with “…anadya vidya haram sankaram” appended to the final carana section seemingly looks to be a madhyama kala sahitya section, but is not. It has to be pointed out that to qualify as a madhyamakala sahitya section the lyrics in question must be set to exactly half the duration of the immediately preceding carana/anupallavi sahitya section.
  4. The raga “Devagandhari” of Mela 29 is kept musically beautiful in this composition.

Notation of the Composition:

Given below is the notation as published in the aforesaid JMA.

  1. The composition is replete with svaraksharas on the
    1. dhaivatha note as in “madAdi”,”mudA” in the pallavi
    2. pancama note as in “padhAravindam” and “pasupAsa mOcanam
  2. Jumps are seen at “sisupAla” going directly to pancama from sadja note with R/P MP prayoga. The S/D and S\d prayogas, launched from the madhya sadja note are also found in the composition. The said jumps are reminiscent of the prayogas found in the cittasvara section of the Dikshita composition “ksitijAramanam” which is found documented in the SSP.
  3. The sama kAla and dhruta kAla sections are marked as plain and line-on-top respectively with 2 kalai caukam as the rendering mode of the composition.

The overall musical setting, the way the raga progresses in the individual sections and the usage of adulatory paeans on Lord Siva as seen in the composition all of them attests to the fact that the composition should have been composed by Muthusvami Dikshita. It has to be pointed out that Dikshita has visited the ksetra as evidenced authoritatively ( vide the kriti “Abhayambayah anyam na janEham” in Kedaragaula on the Goddess enshrined in Lord Mayuranathasvami Temple) in the SSP and it is therefore very well possible that he visited the nearby temple of Vallalar Kovil as well, which is the subject matter of the composition on hand. As an aside it can be noted that one of Dikshita’s disciples was Vallalar Kovil Ammani which is recorded by Subbarama Dikshita in his biography of Dikshita, who likely hailed from this place.

Thus viewed from multiple angles including the sangita, sahitya, likelihood of his visiting the ksetra and the stylistic aspects and further given the independent source of this composition coming to us through the patham of Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer ( outside of the known lineages or sisya parampara of Dikshita), all of them attest to the fact that this composition is not a spurious one and an overwhelming body of evidence exists to accept this as an authentic composition of Muthusvami Dikshita himself.

From a ksetra perspective, today the place is famous for its shrine of “medha dakshinamurti” which is located within the precincts of this Temple.

Discography:

Arguably one of the finest renderings of this composition is that of the legendary Vidvan Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. I present the composition sung by him in his 1966 Music Academy recital accompanied by Vidvans Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin, Umayalpuram Sivaraman on the mrudangam and Narayanasvami on the ghata.

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders “vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” in Devagandhari of Muthusvami Dikshita

In this recording, the veteran embarks first on an alapana of the raga and then proceeds to the kriti. It’s a trifle unfortunate that the recording is truncated in a few places. Nevertheless the recording is complete in itself. It can be noted that the pAtham as sung, sticks closely to the notation as published by Mudicondan Venkatrama Iyer (supra). The veteran sings it in the sedate cauka kalam bringing out the essence of Devagandhari so distilled by Dikshita in this composition.

From the past, Veena Vidvan K S Narayanasvami too is recorded to have brilliantly rendered this composition. Here is his rendering of the composition excerpted from his 1972 Music Academy Concert accompanied by Vidvan Vellore Ramabadran on the mrudanga.

Veena Vidvan K S Narayanasvami renders “vadAnyEsvaram

Hark at the sowkhyam with which plays the carana beginning with “pasupAsa mOcanam” and his rendering of the finale “pasupatim jnanambika patim“.

And presented finally is the full suite of alapana-kriti-svaraprastara for the composition by Vidusi Seetha Rajan from a chamber recital to complete our understanding and how the composition can be melodically extended and exploited to its fullest potential to maximize ranjakatva. Attention is invited to the 2nd kala svaras sung for the composition for the pallavi line at the fag end of the svaraprastara, skillfully avoiding Arabhi in its wake, lest the color of Devagandhari is lost.

Vidushi Seetha Rajan renders “vadAnyEsvaram” with alapana and svaraprastara

Conclusion:

Thus, for all these aforesaid reasons, the composition “vadAnyEsvaram” in Devagandhari can be attributed to the authorship of Muthusvami Dikshita, beyond reasonable doubt. However it is indeed a puzzle why it was left out of the SSP. And as always one hopes that modern day performers will keep this kriti alive on the concert circuit by singing it frequently.

Update History:

19-Aug-2020: Since the first posting, I have updated the post to include the rendering of the composition by Vidvan K S Narayanasvami and Vidushi Seetha Rajan.

CompositionAppreciation, Raga

hastivadanaya-namastubhyam-an-aigrette-in-navaroj

हस्तीन्द्राणां-इन्दुचूड-अरुणछायां-त्रिनेत्रां-रसात्
आश्लिष्टंप्रियया-सपद्मकरया-स्वाङ्गस्तया-सन्ततम् |
बीजापूर-गधेक्षु-चाप-कार्मुकरुजा-चक्राब्ज-पाशोत्पल
व्रीह्यग्र-स्वविषाण-रत्नकलशान्-हस्तैर्-वहन्तं-भजे ||

hastIndrAnAm
indhu cUda aruna chAyAm trinEtram rasAt,
Aslishtam priyayA sapadma karayA swAngastAya santatam,
bhIjApUra gadhEkshu kArmukalAsachakrAbhja pasOtphala,
vrIhyagrasvavishAna-rathna kalasAn hasthair vahantam bhajE.

 

(Dhyana  Sloka of Lord Mahaganapati from the Mudgala Purana)

 

Meaning: I sing the praise of the great red hued Lord  with the countenance of the King of Elephants, who wears the moon, has three eyes, embracing his beloved atop his lap with His lotus like hands and who holds the pomegranate , mace, sugarcane bow, discus, blue lotus flower, noose , broken tusk and bejewelled pitcher.

Prologue:

Legend has it that Muthusvami Dikshita composed a set of kritis on the Shodasa Ganapatis (16 forms of Lord Ganesa) But no mention of this so-called set is found expressed in the “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” (“SSP”) of Subbarama
Dikshita. One amongst this so-called set is this composition “hastivadanAya namastubhyam” in the raga Navaroz or Navaroj set in misra eka tala and is found notated in the SSP.

In this blog post to celebrate the upcoming Ganesa Caturthi festival, we will delve into this composition which is a magnum opus both from a lyrical and musical perspective. In other words, a musical tour de force by Dikshita. It is also available to us from the oral traditions in the sisya parampara of Muthusvami Dikshita which we will see in the discography section.

The Composition:

The lyrics of this kriti together with the meaning is as under:

pallavi

hastivadanAya namastubhyaM hATaka-maya maNTapE siMhAsanasthitAya

anupallavi

hastikRttivasana-dharArcita-mahA-gaNapAya tatva-svarUpAya

(madhyama kAla sAhityam)

samasta-bhaktAnugrahAya mAyAlingita-vigrahAya

caraNam

kamalOtpala-pASa-Sankha-cakrEkshu-kArmuka-vrIhyAgra-gadA-nija-vishANa-mAtulanga
ratna-kalaSa-dharaNa-karAmbujAya

padapankajAya vimalAya – viSvOtpatti-sthiti-vilayAya karuNAlayAya

(madhyama kAla sAhityam)

himAdri-tanayAnana-pankaja-hiraNya-garbhAya-sumanasE
umA-ramaNa-kumAra-guruguha-samAna-varaujasE mahasE

Meaning

Pallavi

namaH-tubhyaM –       Salutations to you,

hastivadanAya –      O the elephant-faced one,

 

 

siMha-Asana
sthitAya –the one seated on a throne,

 

 

hATaka-maya
maNTapE – in a golden pavilion

 

 

anupallavi

 

 

hasti
kRtti vasana dhara-arcita –(My salutation to the one) worshipped by the Lord who
wears an elephant hide ( Lord Shiva)

 

 

mahA
gaNapAya –             the great Lord of
the Ganas,

 

 

tatva
svarUpAya –           the embodiment of
the Supreme truth,

 

 

samasta
bhakta-anugrahAya – the bestower of grace on all devotees,

 

 

mAyA-Alingita
vigrahAya–    the one whose form is embraced
by the goddess who signifies Maya-Shakti (the power of illusion),

 

 

caraNam

 

 

kamala-utpala
pASa Sankha cakra-ikshu-kArmuka vrIhyagra gadA nija vishANa – mAtulanga ratna
kalaSa dharaNa kara-ambujAya -the one who has lotus-like hands that hold a
lotus, a water-lily, a noose, a conch, a discus, a sugarcane bow, rice stalks,
a mace, his own (broken) tusk, a pomegranate and a bejewelled pitcher;

 

 

pada
pankajAya –            the one with
lotus-like feet,

 

 

vimalAya
–                  the pure one

 

 

viSva-utpatti
sthiti vilayAya –the agent of creation, protection and destruction of the
universe,

 

 

karuNA-AlayAya
–            the abode of mercy,

 

 

hima-adri
tanaya-Anana pankaja -hiraNya garbhAya –the sun (Hiranya-garbha) to the
lotus-face of Parvati (daughter of Himavan), making it bloom,

 

 

sumanasE
–                  the good-hearted one,

 

 

umA
ramaNa kumAra guruguha-samAnavaraOjasE –the one who equals
Guruguha, the son of Shiva (husband of Uma), in vigour and splendour,

 

 

mahasE
–                    the brilliant one.

 

 

The dhyana
sloka of the Mahaganapati form of Lord Ganesa as found in the Mudgala Purana
provides the iconography of this form. It can be seen that the same is fully
reflected in the composition.

 

 

The kriti
is found notated in both the SSP and the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai”
(published in 1936 AD) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, who along with
Veena Dhanammal learnt Dikshita’s compositions including this one from Satanur
Pancanada Iyer of Muthusvami Dikshita’s sisya parampara. See Foot Note 1.

 

 

Architecture
of the song:

 

 

At the
very outset in the pallavi, Dikshita captures for us the high level and the
overall perceptible visual setting of the Lord – his elephantine countenance,
the throne on which he is seated and the environ, being the golden pavilion and
he pays obeisance to Him.

 

 

Next in
the anupallavi, even while he keeps his date with the dviteeyakshara prasa,
Dikshita proceeds to praise Him on four aspects before looping back to the
pallavi:

 

 

Lord Shiva himself propitiating Him- ahead of the destruction
of Tripura– the allusion to Lord Shiva as the One wearing elephant hide
is reminiscent of the poet Kalidasa’s invocatory sloka of his play Malavikagnimitram
referring to Him as “krittivAsa”
Him being the benefactor of all devotees – this
again is an epithet which is found as well in the other kriti of Dikshita “guruguhAya
bhaktAnugrahAya” in the raga Sama.
Him being the embodiment of truth and lastly
Him being the one who encompasses mAyA –
the illusory world.

 

 

Iconography:

 

 

Next the
construct of the carana is a wonderous conceptualization by Dikshita. What
stands out in this magnificent composition is the remarkable way in which the
form – the iconography of Mahaganapati- has been described by Dikshita in
the first two lines of the carana which runs continuously thus:

 

 

“kamala-utpala
pASa Sankha cakra-ikshu-kArmuka vrIhyagra gadA nija vishANa – mAtulanga ratna
kalaSa dharaNa kara-ambujAya” (see word by word meaning above)

 

 

Taking the
cue from the Mudgala Purana dhyana sloka but yet fleshing it out in the
composition for keeping prAsA, ordering them so as to segue with the
tala by stretching & contracting the lyrics (ordering the hrasva-dhIrgha
syllables) and investing it with the unalloyed melody of Navaroj, Dikshita
paints the picture of the great Lord. This style of recording the iconography
is similar to the way he has done in “Pancamatanga
mukha” in Malahari and “ucchista ganapatou” in Ramakriya, for
instance. We also did see in an earlier blog post how Dikshita depicted the
Devi as Goddess Kamesvari, in the Sahana kriti “IsAnAdhi
sivAkAra mancE”, turning the composition into a melodic pen picture,
describing Her iconography in detail.

 

 

And then
in the carana, after this iconographic depiction Dikshita reverts to a couple
of paeans adulatory of Him and then as a crowning glory or the crescendo of this
kriti he appends the madhyama kala sahitya to this composition which
encompasses the entire lyrical and musical essence he has to offer. He
dexterously meshes in the raga mudra in the lyric “samAnavarOjasE”
along with his own colophon “guruguha”, to mean that the Lord
is as splendorous as His equally illustrious sibling Guruguha or Lord
Subramanya. Dikshita to complete the lyrical text of the composition and also
to keep prAsA in place, prefixes a relationship-based reference to Lord
Subramanya as “.umA ramana kumAra guruguha”. This lyrical contraption is
reminiscent of the reference “murArI snushAkAniramjani” used in the
kriti “kalAvati kamalAsanayuvati” in the raga Kalavati and ‘himAdri
jAmAtri jambUpati sahitE” in “srI mAtAh sivavAmAkE” in Begada. The
usage of the word “Ojas” and its usage to complete the raga mudra herein
can be cited as authority for the raga naming being “Navaroj”.

 

 

And
needless to add, Dikshita packs the very essence of the raga Navaroj in this
madhyama kala sahitya. It is no surprise that both Dr V Raghavan and Sangita
Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer, the main biographers of Muthusvami Dikshita,
wax eloquently and go rapturous over this Navaroj composition in their works.
See Foot Note 2.

 

 

No other
context of the composition or the stala of this Mahaganapati
dealt with in this kriti is discernible from the composition per se.
It is highly likely that somewhere in the sprawling complex of the Tiruvarur
Tyagaraja Temple this form of Lord Ganesa i.e. Mahaganapathi is found
enshrined in one of its innumerable sanctums and Muthusvami Dikshita has
propitiated that icon with this composition.

 

 

Navaroj –
Raga Lakshana:

 

 

The raga
Navaroj or Navaroz or Navarasam as it is called in Kathakali music is a scalar
derivative of Sankarabharana sung in madhyama sruti. It is a raga not seen
documented by Sahaji (1700AD) or Tulaja (1735 AD) or by anybody prior such as
Venkatamakhin (circa 1620 AD). Sahaji and Tulaja have on the contrary
documented the sibling raga Kurinji which we saw in an earlier blog post. Arguably
the raga Navaroj has been first listed out only in the Anubandha to the Caturdandi
Prakashika attributable to Muddu Venkatamakhin and dateable to circa 1750
AD. We do have two pre-trinity period compositions in this raga, but
nevertheless from a musicological perspective the Anubandha can be considered as
the first text to document the melody.

 

 

The
commentary of this raga by Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP (1904 AD) forms the
bedrock for us to comprehend this raga. We will understand this raga in two
parts- one as documented by Subburama Dikshita and secondly by comparing it
with Kurinji.

 

 

According
to Subbarama Dikshita:

 

 

The raga progresses thus – p d n S R G M P and P M
G R S n d p under mela 29, from the mandhara pancama to the madhya pancama and
back.
Dhaivatha, gandhara and rishabha are the key life-giving
notes of the raga
The madhya stayi pancama is only touched rarely (alpa
prayoga) in practice and practically the madhyama note is the upper bound
of the raga.
The raga can be illustrated with a number of native
phrases.

 

 

(Kindly
note that musical note in lower case signifies mandhara stayi and upper
case signifies madhya stayi in this narrative section)

 

 

Apart
from a lakshya gitam and his own sancari, the solitaire “Hastivadanaya
Namastubhyam” of Muthusvami Dikshita in misra eka tala (7 beats kept
as a laghu, being a clap of the hand followed by six finger counts) is provided
by Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP as an exemplar for the raga. It has to be
pointed out that the kriti is typically rendered in misra capu tala in
practice.

 

 

Prof S R
Janakiraman in his work “Raga Lakshanangal” provides his
commentary thus:

 

 

The raga Navaroj corresponds to the ancient “kolli
pann” of Tamil music.
Navaroj is a pancamAntya janya raga of
Sankarabharana, traversing from mandhara pancama to the madhya pancama with the
notes R2, G3, M1, P, D2 and N3.
Traversal beyond madhya stayi pancama is forbidden
in this raga and therefore for ranjakatva it is always sung in madhyama
sruti.
Sndn\p – the movement from the madhya sadja to the
mandhara pancama is the life blood of that raga wherein the glide from the
nishadha to the pancama via the jAru gamaka (glissando) distinguishes
the raga.
The raga is found in popular music especially in
lAli, oonjal and lullaby songs.

 

 

The raga
Navaroj differs from Kurinji on three key aspects:

 

 

Kuranji spans upto madhya dhaivatha
(nSRGMPD/DPMGRSn) whereas Navaroj (pdnSRGMP/PMGRSndp) spans only upto madhya
pancama. Curiously the respective top notes in both the ragas are touched only
sparingly.
Kurinji eschews SRGM and instead uses only
SMGM-RGM in its purvanga. No such limitation is seen in Navaroj in its purvanga.
In Kurinji the mandhara nishadha is the lower
bound note with the occasional s\pS occurring. Au contraire, the
expression “Sndp” or more importantly “Sndnp” occurs prolifically in Navaroj as
a leitmotif in the mandhara stayi.

 

 

And both
Kurinji and Navaroj are avowed madhyama sruti ragas as seen from modern day
practice.

 

 

Discography:

 

 

I seek to present three renderings of this compositions each one a beauty in itself. And as primus inter pares, I first present the version available to us from the oral tradition, that of the Veena Dhanammal family, tracing its way to Dikshita himself via Sathanur Pancanada Iyer and Tambiyappan Pillai. Vidushis T Brinda & T Mukta present this bewitching composition in this recording. It is a fact that this composition along with others including “vInA pustaka dhArinIm” in Vegavauhini (khanda eka) is considered an exclusive heirloom of Veena Dhanammal’s family for their exquisite rendering of the composition.

 

 

 

 

Presented next is the rendering of the composition by Vidvan T Visvanathan of same Dhanammal lineage as he learnt it from his mother.

 

 

 

 

Presented next is “Dikshitarini” Vidusi Kalpagam Svaminathan, soulfully playing it on the veena in this rare video, recorded for posterity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, Prof S R Janakiraman presents the composition:

 

Conclusion:

The composition is deeply meditative and contemplative in its construction, loaded with both sangita and sahitya bhava in equal measure. It is a pity that the kriti is not heard in concert halls these days. As an exception, Sangita Kala Acharya Vidusi Smt. Seetha Rajan is her rare concert performances frequently features this in the second half of her recital towards the fag end. Its hoped that the composition is rendered frequently in the days to come, doing full justice to its musical and lyrical content in full measure.

References:

Subbarama
Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil
by Madras Music Academy (1977) in Tamil -Vol IV- Mela 29 Pages 924-929
Prof S R Janakiraman (1996) – “Raga
Lakshanangal” (Tamil) – Published by Madras Music Academy – Vol II – pp
106-108
Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga
Descriptions – pp 1016 – 1017
Dr V Raghavan (1975) – “Muttusvami Dikshitar”- Special Bicentenary
Number – National Center for the Performing Act (Vol IV – Number 3 – Sep 1975)
T A Gopinatha Rao (1985) – Elements of Indian Iconography – Volume I – pp
55-56

 

FootNotes:

The oral tradition or pAthams of the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita are available
to us today only through two main lines or lineages. One is the lineage
emanating from Dikshita on to his disciple Tambiappan Pillai and on to Sathanur
Pancanada Iyer and finally to Dhanammal and Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram
Pillai. The second line traces through from Subbarama Dikshita on to his son
Ambi Dikshita and then on to Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, Kallidaikurici
Vedanta Bhagavathar, D K Pattammal and others who learnt from Ambi Dikshita. We
do not have any other musicians surviving today who trace back to Muthusvami
Dikshita through any other sisya parampara lineage, though Subbarama
Dikshita records a number of his disciples of Dikshita such as Tirukkadaiyur
Bharati, Tevur Subramanya Iyer & others. The transmission of songs through
the line of Tanjore Quartet is at best minor and not much has been gleaned from
this lineage by way of authority for the compositions of Dikshita.
Vidvan R K Sriramkumar always covers this Navaroj composition in his lecture demonstrations
of Dikshita’s compositions. Once such instance is this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDp7rIpmPss&t=678s wherein he demonstrates “Hastivadanaya” from 8:00 to 14:43 in this recording.

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

Colourful Bhashanga-s – Rudrapriya III

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

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

Tyāgēśam bhajarē in Saṅgīta Samprādaya Pradarśini

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

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

Consensus on Rudrapriyā

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

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

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

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

A kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal

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

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

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

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

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

Gītaṃ in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi

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

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

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

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

Sindhūra or (Hindustāni) Saindhavi

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

Rudrapriyā and this kti

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Footnotes

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CompositionAppreciation, Raga, Repertoire

The Extinct Malavasri

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Prologue & A Prelude:

Ragas like Saranganatta, Desakshi, Samantha and Malavasri once upon time ruled the roost but today lie forgotten and unsung. Malavasri is a raga in which both Tyagaraja and Muthusvami Dikshita have composed. This blog post is to document the history of the raga in brief and introduce Dikshita’s composition to the reader of this blog.

But before that, is a prelude. The year was 1945, when the Second World War was winding down, with the day being March 25th, a Sunday. If one had tuned into the All India Radio Madras 1 Station at 10PM that day, after the rendering of  the popular “ Nee Inrangayenil” by the young and sprightly M S Subbulakshmi, the listener would have next heard the kriti of Tyagaraja in the raga Malavasri (“Evarunnaru brova”) played from the vinyl record rendered by the then 26 year old D K Pattammal in her inimitable style, followed by Dikshita’s “Manasa Guruguha rupam” in Anandabhairavi – vide the extract of the day’s broadcast schedule from the “Indian Listener” pinned as the header to this post.

The same recording made by her close to 90 years ago can be heard here:

Yet another is a dance piece for listening- Kubera Stuti- in tisra eka tala set in the raga Malavasri.

The raga Malavasri belongs to the 22nd Mela (Kharaharapriya/Sriraga) taking the following svaras/murrcanas in its ascent and descent, according to the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP).

Arohana: S G2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Arohana: S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S

Mark the emphasis on the gandhara, madhyama and nishadha notes in the progression. This raga is an oddity for more than one reason for it also incorporates a few now-lost 18th century raga architectural attributes. While Natta, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali and Sri were the traditional ghana ragas (pancakam) of the first category, the ragas Reetigaula, Narayanagaula, , Bhauli, Malavasri and Saranganatta are the constituents of the dviteeya ghana pancakam.

Historical Background to the Raga:

The raga right through history has been recorded by musicologists and with the advent of the mela scheme, Venkatamakhin (1620 CE) as well as Shaji (circa 1700 CE) and Tulaja (circa 1732 CE), placed the raga as a shadava raga skipping rishabha altogether under Sriraga mela. And the raga is documented as-is in the Ragalakshanam of Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750). Older texts while helping in validating the broad lakshanas of ragas, do not provide us with the intricate details or compositions and we are left to rely on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita which details this raga for our benefit.

The SSP’s narrative provides us with this nominal raga structure for us.

Arohana: S G2 G2 M1 P N2 N2 D2 N2 S

Arohana: S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S

Attention is invited to the vakra dhaivatha in the arohana and the SNDPM, SNDNPM, SNDNPM combinations that occur in the descent. Further Subbarama Dikshita asserts on the authority of the older texts that there are no sancaras beyond the madhya stayi. In fact, Muthusvami Dikshita’s kriti provided as an exemplar goes one step further as the raga is dealt with only between madhya gandhara and tara pancama, with no sancaras below.

The SSP documents the following compositions as exemplars of the raga, none of which are in currency on the modern concert stage.

  1. Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita in misra jhampa tala
  2. Devi Sathatham” of Krishnasvami Ayya in Matya capu tala – the musical setting perhaps being done by Subbarama Dikshita himself
  3. Indha perumai” – a padam in Tamil by Mukkupulavar in misra eka tala – the sahitya being that of the Ettayapuram Court poet and the musical setting likely of Balasvami Dikshita

The SSP apart from documenting the lakshya gitam ascribing it to Venkatamakhin as authority for the raga’s grammar also documents a unique gitam commencing as “manmadha naLa” called as “mukta-pada-grastham” whereby the ending syllabic constituent unit of the previous sahitya section becomes the first syllabic constituent of the succeeding sahitya portion. (andhadhi). Much like the Narayanagaula gitam documented in the SSP, this gitam must have been in currency and must have been a popular composition. It must be emphasized that gitas or gita prabhandas were the concise repositories of a raga’s lakshanas, encapsulating pithily the set of all possible svara combinations or murrcanas of the raga, akin to how we treat the varna in modern days.

A perusal of the said gita offers us vital clues as to this raga’s lakshana:

  1. The raga delineated spans the madhya sadja to the tara madhyama. There are no mandhara stayi phrases in the gita.
  2. The gita is divided into two parts – the first one being the dhruvam – the so-called opening refrain or what we today call as the pallavi. The second is the javada or the so called anupallavi part which loops back to the dhruvam or the refrain.
  3. Nishadha followed by the madhyama is found greatly emphasized by their repeated usage both in the dheergha and janta varieties.
  4. The salient arohana and avarohana murrcanas found are as under:
    • Madhya stayi- ascent- SGGM-MMP-MPNNDN-NDNS
    • Madhya stayi – descent: -SNS-SNNDPMP- SNDP-SNDNPN-MNDMGS-SNDNPNDMGS-PMGS
    • Tara stayi – S,GS- MMGS-SMGS-MGSMGS-

Apart from the SSP two other documented sources of this raga from olden times even antecedent to the SSP are as under:

  1. manmadha nala” the gitam in Malavasri found in the SSP is also published in Pallavi Svara Kalpavalli (published in 1900 CE) by Tiruvottriyur Tyagier. There are a few variations here and there save for one crucial aspect which is that in one place the mandhara nishadha is touched.
  2. Sri Ramani kucakumkuma” – a ragamalika gitam of 32 ragas in Dhruva tala of which Malavsri is one is found published in “Sangeetha Sarvaartha Sara Sangrahamu” of Veena Ramanujacharya (1873 CE). The sahitya and the corresponding musical notation which runs for one avarta of tala is as under:
1 2 3 4 5 6
S , M M G S
gA . . . ya ka
N S N D    
pa . rA .    
N N D M    
ya nu rE .    

The notation in italics is the tara sancara notes of the raga. This brief snippet of  the raga encompasses madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, emphasizing   nishadha madhyama notes, corresponding to the treatment of the raga in  “Mangalambayai Namaste” as we will see shortly. And while dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana, it is more seen vakra in the avarohana as well though a lineal SNDP is not forbidden. Vakra sancaras are de rigueur in this raga, which by incorporating multiple flows of murccanas follows the classical 18th century raga architecture.

It has to be pointed out that the raga’s lakshana as embodied in the SSP fully accords with the musical history right from the times of Venkatamakhin staying under the Sri raga mela and omitting rishabha. Both Sahaji and Tulaja in their works reinforce the same lakshana for the raga. Even the Sangraha Cudamani, the lexicon of the ragas of compositions of Tyagaraja omits rishaba in its structure and provides roughly the same arohana-avarohana krama for the raga.

And off course all musical texts are unanimous as to the rishabha being omitted and the raga being a upanga raga under 22nd mela.

Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita

Before we delve into the musical aspects of composition, let’s look at the sahitya and its meaning first:

Pallavi

namastE                        – Salutations to you,

SrI  mangaLAmbAyai              – to (you who are) Goddess Mangalamba!

SrI vAncha linga nija SaktE    – O personal, active power of Shiva (Vanchalinga)!

vilIna cit-SaktE               – O embodiment of the hidden mental power!

anupallavi

sangIta sAhitya sArajna sannutE – O one celebrated by those who know the essence of music and literature,

mangaLa-Alaya gupta gangA taTa sthitE – O one dwelling in the auspicious temple on the bank of (the tank) Gupta Ganga,

ananga-Adi-upAsitE              – O one worshipped by Manmatha and others!

SRngAra-Adi yutE                – O one possessed of the various sentiments (Rasas) beginning with love(Shrngara)!

caraNam

manda smita-AnanE               – O one with a gentle countenance

mALava SrI janE              – O one who has good people (as devotees) in the country of                                                        Malava!

indirA-AlOkanE                  – O one who blessed Lakshmi with your gaze!

ISvara-ArAdhanE                 – O one who worships Shiva!

indIvara-Asana-Adi-IDita      – O one acclaimed by the gods led by the lotus-seated Brahma!

Siva-anganE                     – O young wife of Shiva!

sindUra kastUri candana-AlEpanE – O one anointed with vermillion, musk and sandal paste!

kunda mukuLa radanE             – O one with teeth like small-jasmine buds,

guru guha hRtsadanE             – O one whose abode is the heart of Guruguha,

sundari                                           – O beautiful one!

mRdu gadanE                               – O soft-spoken one!

sukha-tara kara madanE         – O one who grants great joy to Manmatha!

  1. The raga name and the colophon of Dikshita are seamlessly woven into the lyrics referring to the Malava/Malwa region (modern Central India)
  2. The ksetra of the composition is Sri Vanchiyam and Goddess Mangalambika is the consort of Lord Vanchinatha who is the presiding deity.
  3. Sri Vanchiyam is a hoary ksetra and is rich in stala purana from a mythological standpoint. Refer: http://templesoftamilnadu.co.in/srivanchiyam/
  4. Dikshita has composed three kritis, on Lord Vanchinatha and Goddess Mangalambika, of this ksetra as documented in the SSP as under:
    • Mangalambayai Namaste – Malavsri – misra jhampa tala
    • Sri Mangalambike – Kalyani – Khanda Ata
    • Sri Vanchanatham – Surati – Adi

From a musical aspect, the setting of the composition is itself very interesting.

  1. Subbarama Dikshita in his commentary makes a number of pertinent points about the raga:
    • He says the raga is shadava with rishabha being dropped totally and dhaivatha varja. It has to be pointed out that in the lakshana sloka dhaivatha is said to dropped (varjitha) in the arohana.
    • Malavasri is a ghana raga of the dviteeya category.
    • Gandhara, nishadha and madhyama svara are the key life-giving notes
    • From a lakshya standpoint the raga spans madhya stayi sadja to tara stayi madhyama.
    • SGGMPNNS -NNDPMPNDMMGS is the arohana and avarohana krama
  2. In the kriti however, Dikshita implements the raga as under:
    • While rishabha is dropped, dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana and not varjya. Dhaivatha note occurs as MPNDNS in the arohana and SNDP or SNDMP or SNDNP in the avarohana krama.
    • The raga effectively spans madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, with two outliers/exceptions – in the tara stayi the pancama (“srng-ArAdhiyutE”)is touched in one place and in the madhya stayi gandhara (“vilInacit saktE)” is touched in another place.
    • In other words, there is no sancara below madhya stayi gandhara, while the tara pancama is the outermost svara in the upper register.
    • The madhyama kala sahitya portion appended to the carana commencing “kunda mukula radanE” captures the effective gamut of the raga as visualized by Dikshita in this composition.
    • The primacy of the tara madhyama with which the composition starts and the repeated emphasis on the nishadha note (at “mangalAlaya” for instance) are key aspects to be noted.
    • Kampita gamaka adorns nishadha and gandhara throughout the composition.
    • Given the madhya stayi gandhara to tara madhyama only scope as dealt with in the composition, the murcchanas occurring thereof can be noted as below:
      1. MPNNS; MPNNDNS; GMNNDNS and SNDP, SNDPMPG, MPNNDM, SNDMPM in the madhya stayi
      2. SGS, SGMGS, SMGS and PMGS in the tara stayi
  3. From a rendering perspective the following aspects has to be observed for this composition:
    • The song commences on the tara madhyama and therefore a vocalist should “park firmly” at the madhyama note in the upper register, without deviating in any manner, such as intoning the gandhara instead as the commencing note.
    • Keeping in line with the delineation in the composition, any sancara below madhya gandhara should advisedly be eschewed in any sangati or alapana or neraval or svara prastara, so as to ensure fidelity to the intent of the composer as he has kept to that as the gamut of the raga in this composition.

Discography:

In this section I present the my rendering of “Mangalambayai Namaste” to the best of abilities , keeping to my interpretation of the notation found in the SSP. I should hasten to add that errors and omissions are entirely mine.

In this context the following points are to be noted:

  1. A version of this composition is found in the public domain ascribed to Sangeeta Kalanidhi Smt. Aruna Sairam. It is most respectfully submitted that the said version does not conform to the notation as found in the SSP and much liberties has been taken with the same. Here is the recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHSmlUKZ1PI
  2. It is even more unfortunate that the composition is seen rendered in khanda capu tala as well inflicting even greater damage to the composition. As recorded in earlier blog posts, the Jhampa Tala compositions of Dikshita such as “Sri Venugopala” ( Kurinji), “Sri Kalahasteesa” ( Huseini) are seen rendered in khanda capu tala, doing incalculable harm both the intent of the composer and the rhythmic setting of the kriti.
  3. Notations as well narratives of the raga found in the public domain provides the arohana and avarohana krama of the raga wrongly. Rishabha is seen included in the descent. It has to be noted that the raga is entirely devoid of rishabha note. Students as well as performers need to stay wary of these obvious errors. Example: https://karnatik.com/c5787.shtml
  4. There is another composition “ Kanakasabapatim” passed off as a composition of Muthusvami Dikshita in the raga Malavasri. Again it is most respectfully submitted that this is a plain misattribution as the composition can neither be of Dikshita’s nor is it the Malavasri of the SSP as it does not in any way conform to the lakshana of the raga found in “Mangalambayai” and documented in the SSP. And therefore, the said composition is not considered in this blog post.

Malavasri as featured in Ramasvami Dikshita’s 108-Raga-Tala Malika

This magnum opus as published in the SSP, features the raga Malavasri as the 13th portion/khandika set in rAjacUdAmani tala. The notation shows traversal of Malavasri in the mandhara stayi upto the mandhara madhyama. And above all a considerable portion of the lyrics are notated in mandhara stayi in obvious discordance to Subbarama Dikshita’s own commentary that the raga does not permit sancaras below madhya sadja ! However the raga as delineated is otherwise in line with the stated lakshana of the raga being SGMPNNS/SNDPMGS.

Vidushi R S Jayalakshmi in Dec 2014 gave a lecture demonstration of this mammoth composition of Ramasvami Dikshita. In this Youtube Link she demonstrates the Malavasri portion starting 1:07:18 onwards.

Malavasri & the SSP and Tyagaraja’s Compositions:

Thus, Malavasri has always been a shadava raga of the Sriraga mela, omitting rishabha. And in the SSP as we see there are two other unique aspects:

  1. Dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana and
  2. Sancaras span only from madhya gandhara to tara pancama. And according the Subbarama Dikshita sancaras below madhya stayi sadja are not seen in the raga. This feature of the raga is akin to that of Surati where no sancaras are seen below the sadja of the middle register.

In this context we have to assess the melodic contours of the Malavasri found in Tyagaraja’s compositions “Evarunnaru” and “Ennalu tirigedi”. It is to be noted that this composition of Tyagaraja – “Evarunnaru” is only found listed in Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s publication and is not found documented in other publications or compendia of Tyagaraja’s compositions.

The lyrics of the composition can be found here: http://thyagaraja-vaibhavam.blogspot.com/2007/09/thyagaraja-kriti-evarunnaaru-brova-raga.html

While the rendering of Smt D K Pattammal was presented earlier, the other rendering being that of Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan is given below:

https://wynk.in/music/song/evarunnaru/am_INM159200051?page=0

The following conclusions can be drawn from these renderings:

  1. The melody indeed involves the notes of Mela 22, duly eschewing the rishabha note.
  2. The composition as well as the renderings span the full middle register and up to tara madhyama.
  3. Dhaivatha is seen rendered vakra in the arohana krama.
  4. The carana section “manasAraga dhyanimpanu– manasu nilupu marmambu telipi” seems tinted with rishabha (perhaps due to an oscillated flatter gandhara) which is avoidable. It has to be mentioned that the tara sancaras are rendered with SMGS or its variants without any trace of rishabha.

A cleaner version devoid of even a faint suggestion of rishabha in the said places in the kriti along with a sharper sadharana gandhara intonation, is this rendering of Vidvan Dileepkumar which is presented below:

The other kriti of Tyagaraja “ennalu tirigedi” of Tyagaraja is rendered by Dr Ritha Rajan which can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdvhTBoydpY

Conclusion:

The evaluation of the musical material available to us shows that for Malavsri, the gitam as well as the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita and Tyagaraja present an unalloyed and complete picture of the raga, which is sufficient for one to comprehend, understand and assimilate the raga, from the point of view of both a student and a performer. Further the raga as well as the Dikshita’s composition “Mangalambayai Namaste” can not only be rendered with practice but can be dealt with along with alapana, neraval and svaraprastara. By properly imbuing the composition and the raga lakshana therein, with fidelity to the notation and the intent of the composer, the composition can be performed competently. It is earnestly hoped that this beautiful composition with its uttaranga and upper register centric pivot, will be encountered more frequently on the concert circuit in the days to come.

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol II- Sriraga Mela- Pages 489-496
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – “Ragalakshana Sangraha”- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 816-828
  3. Prof S R Janakiraman & Subba Rao (1993)- “Ragas of the Saramrutha”- published by the Madras Music Academy -pp 34-35
  4. Savitri Rajan & Michael Nixon (1982)–“Sobhillu Saptasvara” – published by CBH Publications -pp 115 & 135