CompositionAppreciation

CompositionAppreciation, Repertoire

A Critical Appreciation of the raga Jujavanti and ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’

[simple-author-box]

Prologue:

The raga Jujavanti is typically spoken about in our world of music as a Northern import. The first historical reference to the raga is the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (dateable to circa 1750 AD) of Muddu Venkatamakhin. None of the prior Southern musicological texts talk about this raga. Therefore for us today, the definition of this raga according to the Anubandha, the commentary of Subbarama Dikshita for the same in the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) and the exemplar compositions thereunder which he has provided are the ones which can help us understand the raga.

We can see that the raga as presented in the SSP ( its original construct) has during the 20th century and till date has acquired a slightly evolved hue. And in this blog post we seek to uncover the correct original structure of the composition and the authentic versions from our oral traditions.

SOME INITIAL DISCLAIMERS:

But before we jump headlong, a few disclaimers need to go on record.

  1. As the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika is the first and earliest authoritative musicological text which talks about the raga, I have provided pre-eminence to the same in this blog post.
  2. Secondly the Anubandha gives the raga name as ‘jujAvanti’. And so that will be the name which we will stick to.
  3. We have modern music books and composition banks giving the raga name as Dvijavanti. For this assertion, the authority is the Sangraha Cudamani, a lexicon which we have encountered much in our earlier blog post, wherein the raga is listed with the name as Dvijavanti and not Jujavanti. It has been held beyond reasonable doubt that the Sangraha Cudamani is much anterior to the Anubandha in terms of its creation/authorship. And hence we are not seeking to consider the raga name/definition of Dvijavanti therein. Besides the Sangraha Cudamani can be considered a lexicon of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions. Even from that perspective we see little relevance to this blog post, as we do not have any Tyagaraja composition handed down to us in this raga. We do have some records of compositions being in this raga from later times- see foot note below.
  4. We do have modern texts of music talking about this raga’s kinship to the Hindustani raga Jaijaivanti and Dikshita having a hand in getting to know the Northern melody during his Kashi sojourn. In so far as this blog post goes, given that there is no solid evidence to prove nexus between the northern melody and Jujavanti found in the SSP and on the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin who has listed it in the Anubandha circa 1750 AD, the proximity if any between the ragas is purely coincidental perhaps unless proof is unearthed to prove nexus.
  5. Given that Muthusvami Dikshita alone has composed in this raga and we do not have any record of pre-trinity composers composing in this, the SSP is taken the final and authentic authority for the composition- see foot note 1.
  6. Post SSP we did have the Dikshitar Keertanai Malai (DKM Series) bring forth a new composition ‘akhilAndEsvarI rakshamAm’ attributed the same to Muthusvami Dikshita himself. The same has not been considered again for this blog post and for reasons vide foot note below.
  7. Again, many 20th century composers have taken up this raga which again is not in scope for this blog post.

JUJAVANTI – RAGA LAKSHANA:

The Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika ( the text Ragalakshanam attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin) places the raga Jujavanti under Kedaragaula Mela (28). There are five important dimensions we have to consider to discern a raga’s lakshana, when we say that it is under a particular mela in the Anubandha.

  1. The Anubandha is just a seriatim listing of ragas and their murccana arohana/avarohana, mela wise as one can see from the text of the Anubandha published by the Madras Music Academy.
  2. Beyond this listing one has to look at whether the raga name is found as an upanga or bashanga under the lakshya gita of the parent mela- for example the raga name Jujavanti has to be found under the relevant kandikha of the Harikedaragaula lakshya gitam.
  3. The lakshana sloka for the raga if available has to be looked into.
  4. Gitas and tAnas if any in the raga as to be finally vetted in order to develop the complete picture of the raga.

For points 2, 3 and 4 as above, we have Subbarama Dikshita’s inestimable SSP to assist us. The SSP provides these data point along with Subbarama Dikshita’s commentary on the raga along with his exemplar – kritis and his very own sancaris which we can evaluate as the 5th dimension.

When we evaluate the above dimensions in the context of Jujavanti, the following are the findings:

  1. The Anubandha lists it as the 15th & final raga under the Harikedaragaula mela/clan.
  2. However the Harikedaragaula rAgAnga lakshya gitam  in triputa tAla having ‘Nanda gopa nanda’ as its refrain ( antari section) does not list the raga in its upanga or bashanga raga section.
  3. The raga’s lakshana shloka goes as :

 जुजावान्ताख्यरागश्चसंपूर्णःसग्रहानवितः |

 लक्ष्यमार्गानुसारेणगीयतेगानवेदिभिहि ||

In other words,

  1. the raga jujAvanti is sampurna – meaning it has all the seven notes in both the arohana and avarohana together
  2. the note ‘sA’ – the sadja is the graha or starting note of the raga
  3. the raga has to be sung and understood from practice

While the above shloka is as given by Subbarama Dikshita, the text of the Anubandha as published by the Madras Music Academy is slightly different yet conveying the same meaning as to the lakshana of the raga.

  • There are no available gitas or tanas in the SSP.
  • Subbarama Dikshita provides a kriti of Muthusvami Dikshita ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ in rupaka tAla and his own sancAri in matya tAla as exemplars. He has also provided an elaborate commentary to the raga, which is as we would be seeing in a while, the lodestar for us to get a grasp of the salient features of the raga. At the end of the sancari he provides a foot note to the effect that this raga also displays the shades of Yadukulakambhoji( Yerukalakambhoji as he calls), Darbar, Sahana and Bhairavi, even as it shines forth with its own native shade.

 SUMMARY OF THE LAKSHANA:

With the material at our disposal as above we can proceed to deconstruct their import and deduce the theoretical framework of the raga. Once we have done that can move to the discography to discern the aural contours of Jujavanti through the exemplars cited by Subbarama Dikshita.

The analysis of the above would reveal to us the following findings:

  1. As we can see while the listing of ragas in the Anubandha talks of Jujavanti there is no mention of the raga name in the rAgAnga rAga’s lakshya gita. The deduction can be that the lakshya gita is even prior to the seriatim listing and hence the raga was not formally inducted as a janya to Harikedaragaula at that point in time.
  2. The above also perhaps explains why we do not have gitams and tanams in the raga.
  3. The raga is thus only a post AD 1750 development finding place only in the Anubandha listing with the two Subbarama Dikshita provided exemplars alone as repositories of the raga’s lakshana in the SSP. Obviously the works of Sahaji ( AD 1700) and Tulaja ( Ad 1732) do not mention Jujavanti or any other raga with scalar equivalence.

 The narrative of Subbarama Dikshita for this raga in the SSP can be summarized as under:

  1. He says it is a desi raga or raga which had its origins from the public space.
  2. The raga can be discerned only from practice/lakshya
  3. The notes rishabha and madhyama are the life-giving notes. In fact, the prolonged RRR and MMM are given as illustrative murccanas.
  4. Both sadharana gandhara and antara gandhara occur copiously in this raga. Implicitly the other notes are R2, M1, P, D2 and N2 which are the default svaras for Mela 28.
  5. R/M\G2.R.G2R is a recurring leitmotif. The phrase begins with the catusruti rishabha gliding to the madhyama through jaru gamaka, gliding back to a prolonged sadharana gandhara followed by back-and-forth movement between catusruti rishabha and sadhara gandhara.
  6. Apart from RRR and MMM – prolonged exposition on rishabha and madhyama notes, MGMPD, MPDSPMG, RMG1.R, SRN.D.NS also add color to the raga.
  7. The phrase RGMGR occurs aplenty using both G1 and G3. However given that the raga is under Mela 28, the default gandhara is G2 ant it also occurs aplenty.

While the above is the commentary, from a musical standpoint Subbarama Dikshita while providing the notation for ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ has ensured that the gandhara type- G2 of G3 is marked appropriately as necessary leaving us in no doubt as to when a particular gandhara type occurs in the composition. One can also notice that the rare ‘vaLI’ gamaka occurs extensively in this composition ornamenting almost all the note types and especially the madhyama as seen in the opening lines of the carana.

ANALYSIS OF THE NOTATION OF ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’:

The notation of the kriti by Subbarama Dikshita provides us with a number of useful insights.

  1. Muthusvami Dikshita almost as a rule always commences his composition right on the jiva svara- especially the graha or take off of the kriti sections namely Pallavi, anupallavi & caranam. In this case given that rishabha is the primary note, Dikshita rightfully begins the composition on a prolonged Rishabha. The lakshana shloka of the raga attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin makes no such assertion. It is likely that Subbarama Dikshita’s comment that the rishabha is one of the raga’s jiva svara was driven by the pride of place given by DIkshita right at the start of the composition.
  2. Again it is this Dikshita kriti which is the authority for the usage of both the gandharas and the way it is to be used.
  3. The kriti notation makes it clear that G2 is always a transitory note. It is not a graha or a nyasa note. G2 occurs almost always as RG2R & MG2R in avarohana phrases ending with rishabha. And is typically accessed through the jaru or the glide. This is the aesthetic usage of the sadharana gandhara in Jujavanti. G3 can be a graha or starting note.
  4. Subbarama Dikshita says the raga is sampurna- considering both the arohana and avarohana together, which leaves us to determine what the salient arohana/avarohana & purvanga and uttaranga phrases of the raga are, using the composition as our compass.
    1. In the purvanga section SRG3MP, SRG2R, SRMG2R , SRPMG2R, SRG3MG1R, MG3MP,RG3MPDN
    2. In the inter-octaval movements pR- jump from the pancama ( mandhara/Madhya) to the rishabha ( Madhya/tara) respectively is an oft repeated motif adding beauty to the raga.
    3. In the uttaranga one can notice that PDNS is eschewed as an ascending phrase. We see PS, DPS, DNS and NDNS being used. Also we can see that RGMPDN can also be used.
    4. In the descent SNDP is to be used as a rule without skipping any of the notes.
    5. PMGRS is again not used and instead the double gandhara prayoga PMG3MRG2RS, PMG3RG2RS and MG3S (skipping rishabha in the descent, but using G3 and not G2) are seen.
  5. Subbarama Dikshita adds that RGMGR phrase which recurs again and again uses G2 and sometimes G3. Practically speaking however, the first gandhara occurring in the said phrase is a trishanku gandhara neither as sharp as G3 nor as flat as G2. So much for the gandhara and the way the raga has to be sung with bhava to bring out the unique flavor, that the ancients/Muddu Venkatamakhin decided to give up defining the raga and instead took shelter under the edict “ लक्ष्यमार्गानुसारेणगीयते “
  6.  In the krit notation if one were to observe, Subbarama Dikshita notates the gandhara as G2 in some places, G3 in some places and in quite a few places the gandhara is left without indication as to the variety – G2 or G3. It may be implied that in those places, since the default gandhara is G3 for the raga (as it belongs to Mela 28, for which the gandhara is G3), those places need to be sung only with G3.
THE NOTATION OF THE COMPOSITION AS FOUND IN THE DKP:

As mentioned in previous blog posts, the Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai (DKP) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai is yet another documentation of authentic notation of Dikshita’s kritis. The study of the composition’s notation in the DKP, reveals the following :

  1. The raga name is given as Jujavanti only and not Dvijavanti for instance, exactly in line with SSP.
  2. The raga is under mela 28 – Harikedaragaula having the same murccana progression as found in the SSP.
  3. The notation closely matches SSP, save for one factor which is that the sadharana gandhara occurrences are not clearly discernible.

DISCOGRAPHY:

Presented first is the doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda presenting the composition.

Attention is invited to the specific areas of the composition to show how her version has utmost fidelity to the notation found in the SSP & DKP. The “PDSP” usage in the raga and the rendering of the portion ‘purushOttamAvatAram’ in the composition provide the Yadukulakhambhoji like feel to the raga. Some modern day performers therefore elide/modify the portion as if to keep Yadukulakambhoji out. One can see in the versions presented in this section that this is not the case and she does not shy away from the prayoga.

It has to be reiterated that Smt T Brinda traces her patham to her mother / grand mother Dhanammal on to Sathanur Pancanada Iyer  on to Tambiyappan and finally to Dikshita himself. Smt Dhanammal and Sri Natarajasundaram Pillai ( the compiler of the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai”) learnt Dikshita’s kritis together from Sathanur Pancanada Iyer during the 1880-1900 timeframe. This aspect can be considered while reviewing her rendering with the notation found in the DKP.

Arguably Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer must be credited for rendering this magnum opus of Dikshita frequently in his recitals and invariably he has rendered svara kalpana for the pallavi line almost as de rigueur. Presented first is the kriti proper.

Next is his svarakalpana. Attention is invited to the unique SRG2R, SRMG2R, G3MG3MRG2R and such other purvanga usages highlighting the core of the raga. Attention is invited to the chaste and polished mrudangam accompaniment, filling the gaps and pauses with beautiful rhythmic patterns in the process showing that the composition is a percussionist delight as well.

In passing it needs to be noted that this composition is yet another exemplar for the stylistic construct of Dikshita as is usual for him- a languorous and lilting gait, slow and sedate yet majestic marked by the cadences of the rupaka tala which gives enough visranthi or stretch to the fabric of the kriti. Across the board all performers of this composition render it in the sedate cauka kala as the compositional structure as well as the mood of the raga affords no opportunity to accelerate. As the veteran performer Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s rendering shows, the composition can be artistically rendered in cauka kala and finally topped up with a few round of sedate 1st kala svaras to give a wholesome effect.

PROXIMITY OF SAHANA TO JUJAVANTI:

Subbarama Dikshita’s cryptic foot note on this is rooted to a very subtle point. Many musicians and rasikas alike confuse the point and make a comparison of Jujavanti with modern Sahana. Modern Sahana has practically only G3/antara gandhara. However for Subbarama Dikshita, as we saw in a previous blog post, Sahana is a raga under Mela 22 – with sadharana gandhara dominating and antara gandhara occurring sparsely. Thus this older Sahana and the Jujavanti of Ceta Sri Balakrishnam documented in the SSP has much melodic overlap as

  • Both them utilize the same notes, including the two types of gandhara.
  • GMRS and RGMP the motifs of Sahana, are shared by Jujavanti as well.
  • Both are sampurna utilizing all the seven notes in both arohana and avarohana.
  • The Muddu Venkatamakhin sloka for both the ragas talks about knowing or understanding the raga from practice / lakshya / empirically.

In fact, one can say that with the ascent of modern Sahana ( with G3 and  almost totally eschewing G2), Sahana has itself eveolved and created its own niche and a well-marked domain differentiating itself from Jujavanti markedly. And so the raga Dvijavanthi can at best be treated as a sibling of modern Sahana sharing common musical material.

CONCLUSION

‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ created by the composer nonpareil Muthusvami Dikshita is a magnum opus. Thankfully apart from the notation in the SSP and DKP we do have authentic and high fidelity vocal renderings which assists us in uncovering the original construct of the composition.

REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 1005-1013
  3. Prof R. Satyanarayana (2010) – ‘Ragalakshanam’ – Kalamoola Shastra Series- Published by Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi
  4. Vidvan Thiruppamburam Svaminatha Pillai (1936) – Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai (Tamil) – pages 105-108
  5. T L Venkatarama Iyer (1968) – “Muthusvami Dikshitar” ( English) – Biography Series Published by the National Book Trust, New Delhi
FOOT NOTES:
NOTE 1: A NOTE ON THE KRITI “AKHILANDESWARI RAKSHAMAM” :

This kriti surfaced in the 20th century along with numerous others, ascribed to the authorship of Muthusvami Dikshita. Set in raga Jujavanti and adi tala it was ostensibly composed by Dikshita on Goddess Akhilandesvari at Tiruvanaikaval/Trichirappalli, the Consort of Lord Jambukesvara. In fact, it was also given pride and prominence by being catalogued as a premier composition in the famous NCPA Red Book by no less a personage than Dr V Raghavan. However, both on the internet discussion boards and also in private and public domains, numerous individuals have questioned the attribution of this kriti to Muthusvami Dikshita. One example is this old USENET group discussion archived here. A range of reasons has been quoted in this context including the following.

  • Deficiency of the sahitya including usage of terms such as “jalli jarjhara” which occurs in the body of the composition.
  • The musical construct of the composition not being in consonance with Dikshita’s usual style

Be that as it may for me one particular evidence that this composition is most likely not Dikshita’s comes from Sangita Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer (TLV) a legal personage who retired as a Chief Justice of India. He had in my opinion the greatest opportunity to provide first-hand information on this. Enamored by Muthusvami Dikshita’s kritis, he was the one who brought Subbarama Dikshita’s son Ambi Dikshita to Madras and learnt many compositions of Dikshita from him. At that point in time he was a sitting Judge of the Madras High Court and later Chief Justice and therefore the respect and awe that he commanded from the society then was considerable. Much later after his retirement from the Supreme Court, he along with Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, assisted by Dr S Ramanathan and Dr B Rajam Iyer brought out the Tamil translation of the SSP. In other words, Justice TLV had an insider view of this and he had in all probability complete access to the repertoire and manuscripts of Ambi Dikshita himself from where much of the Dikshita compositions, post Ambi Dikshita’s demise surfaced. Now, Justice TLV in his biography of ‘Muthuswami Dikshitar’ National Book Trust published in November 1968, makes the following two statements & I quote him verbatim:

  1. On page 18 he says “The song Ceta Sri Balakrishnam of Dikshitar in this raga ( Dvijavanti) is a magnificent edifice giving the full view of the raga in all its aspects and is rightly regarded as the most impressive song in this raga….”
  2. On page 72 he makes a telling remark thus: – “In Dwijavanthi the piece Ceta Sri of Dikshitar stands out in solitary splendour…..” (emphasis mine).
  3. Again, on page 39 when he narrates the ksetra kritis of Tiruchirapalli he narrates that Dikshita created ‘Jambupate’ in Yamuna Kalyani. And he says “……On the Devi in that temple he composed the kriti “ Sri Matah siva vamanke” in Begada….”. But does not mention the Dvijavanthi composition.
  4. Nowhere in this book does he catalogue the kriti “Akhilandesvari” in Dvijavanthi.

Attention is invited to the use of the word ‘solitary’ which means a “singular” creation in this raga by Dikshita, in this context. Given his background as a jurist as well one must accord the right weightage to his written view or statement. Moreover, nowhere in his book does he make a mention of the kriti “Akhilandeswari” in this raga, even as he refers to a number of other kritis which came to be published later & not found in the SSP. He makes no mention of this kriti even in the context of his narrative on the kritis composed by Dikshita on the temples in Trichirappalli. And this book is dated 1968 more than a decade or so after the composition surfaced as a part of Dikshita Kriti Mala Series published by Kallidaikurici Sundaram Iyer in the 1940’s-1950’s.

If Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer’s take on this subject is that “Ceta Sri Balakrishnam” is the “solitary” i.e. the “only creation” of Dikshita in Jujavanti, it surely is an added & forceful weight to the argument that ‘Akhilandeswari rakshamam’ is not a composition of Dikshita. For this reasoning and others outlined above which casts doubts over the authenticity of the kriti , the same has been kept out of the analysis of the raga in this blog post.

NOTE 2: COMPOSITIONS IN JUJAVANTI/DVIJAVANTI- SOME COLLATERAL EVIDENCE:
  1. Dr Sita in her ‘Tanjore as a Seat of Music’ avers on the authority of old manuscripts found in the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Library that there is a composition in raga Jujavanti by a composer by name Giriraja Kavi who was patronized by King Sarabhoji, making it dateable to round 1800’s or thereabouts coinciding with the period of Trinity. However the musical setting is not available for the composition. Technically this composition is probably of the 1800 vintage coinciding with Muthusvami Dikshita’s times.
  2. Tiruvottiyur Tyagayya’s Pallavi Svarakalpavalli lists a lakshya gitam in raga Jujavanti, again which is post 1850 AD.
  3. Dr S Ramanathan has notated in the JMA 1965 Vol XXXVI a kriti of Gopalakrishna Bharathi in raga Dvijavanthi. Again this is a composition of post 1850 AD vintage.
  4. A composition of Margadarsi Sesha Iyengar, a pre-trinity composer is also seen assigned this raga.
CompositionAppreciation, History, Personalities

Caturanana Pandita I – A Courtier-General & a Pontiff

[simple-author-box]

Prologue:

Our country in the past has sired a great number of men whose valour, glory, contribution and many a times their very existence has been long forgotten, unwept and unsung. One such personality is Caturanana Pandita who is the subject matter of this blog post. He was a monk or the head of a monastic institution and  more precisely a ‘mahAvratin’ – (observer of a great vow) a member of a holy order of monks belonging to the kALAmukha sect of Saivas.  Historical records reveal that there was a succession of Caturanana Panditas between 950 CE-1175 CE, all of them being the head of the monastery at Tiruvottriyur (near Chennai) . The  subject matter of this post is Caturanana Pandita I who in fact set up the monastery at Tiruvottriyur and became its first titular head or Pontiff circa 957 CE. His history is an enigma and only through the works of a handful of epigraphists & historians, are we able to connect the dots and get to know this personality. This blog has been structured to look at the life sketch this Caturanana Pandita, the details as to the kALAmukha tradition of Saivas (which is virtually extinct today) to which he belonged to and we would end it of course with a homage by way of a composition.

An inscription attesting to this great personality was made 1077 years ago or to be exact, 14th of January 943 CE, in a temple in remote Tamilnadu.

kALAmukhas – A brief primer on an old Saivite tradition:

Sadly, as of today, no religious material or text in full pertaining to the practice of Kalamukhas have survived to reach us to provide us with first hand evidence as to their beliefs & practices. Lakulisa is the 28th avatara of Siva as mentioned in the Lingapurana. It is said that Lakulisa had four shishyas – Kusika, Garga, Maitreya and Kaurushya. From each of these four shishyas originated , Pasupata, Kapalika, Kalamukha and Saiva. According to the Vamana Purana, it is said that Kalamukhas were founded by Apastamba and his shishya Kratheshvara. The Kalamukhas based on inscriptional evidence seem to be orthodox brahmanas studying Veda and Sastra and thus different from Kapalikas.

The Kalamukhas were often clubbed together with the Kapalikas in terms of a negative portrayal by Ramanujacharya and Yamunacharya. Similar to the Kapalikas, some of the characters found in literary works such as “mAlatimAdhavA”, has cast even the kALAmukAs too in bad light. Notwithstanding the same it can be said the Kalamukhas were primarily reclusive students of Vedas and sastras – nyayavaisheshika in particular and were worshippers of Lord Shiva, who undertook ascetic vows thereby getting the designation of mahavratins.  They had their own matAs or monasteries and also enjoyed the patronage of the wealthy and the Royals. Their name derives from their practive of smearing their foreheads (sometimes the face) with a dark bhasma.

What commands our attention next is the form of Lord Shiva that these Saivas propitiated. While the fearsome Lord Bhairava was the presiding deity of the kApAlikAs, the Kalamukhas worshipped Lord Lakulisa. Lakulisa is represented as a naked yogi, carrying a japamala, a laguda or a club and a kapala or human skull. Befitting his yogic stance, he is also represented as urdhva-retah (ithyphallic). However there is an interesting form of Lakulisa , interpreted by some to be a form of Lord Dakshinamurti called as Gaulisa.  In this context I invite the attention of the discerning reader to the existence of a shrine in Tiruvottriyur , near Chennai in the temple complex of Lord Adipureesvara, wherein this form is enshrined. See Foot Note 1.

With this quick introduction to kaLAmukhas , we will quickly go back in time when the Medieval Cholas to the late 9th Century were entrenching themselves as a significant power in Southern Tamilnadu with their capital first at Uraiyur and later at Tanjore. Readers may remember that we encountered this piece of history in a previous blog post dealing with the quest for the long-lost Goddess Nishumbasudani of Tanjore.

Medieval Cholas – Circa 930 AD

King Vijayalaya Chola’s (the founder of the lineage of the medieval Cholas) son Aditya I who was the Chola ruler with his capital at Tanjore, at this point in time was buffeted by the Pallavas of Kanci and the Rashtrakutas of Deccan from the North and by the Pandyas and Cheras from the west and without significant military clout was unable to expand the boundaries of the Kingdom. It would be nearly 70 years later that the Cholas would reach their zenith under Emperor Raja Raja Chola ( closer to 1000 AD) and his son Rajendra Chola in establishing complete suzerainty of peninsular India. Nevertheless, it would be Aditya I’ son & grandsons who would lay the foundation for the medieval Cholas at this point in time. Aditya I’s eldest son was Parantaka I. In order to build relationships and neutralize enemies, as was the custom & practice of those times, Aditya I reached out to the Chera King (of mAkOttai as is referred in epigraphs) and had his son Parantaka I married to the Kerala Princess Kokkilan Atikal. Their son was the famous Prince Rajaditya a.k.a Kodandarama. ( see featured image , header to this blog post). This Prince was the scion of that lineage having both the Chola and Chera blood flowing in his veins, reflecting a great royal alliance of those times.

Prince Rajaditya was a young and brave warrior and as Crown Prince he went on to become the Commandant of the garrison of Chola forces at the northern borders of the Kingdom being thirumunaipAdi nAdu quartered at the place today known as Tirunavalur or Tirunamanallur. This region of modern-day Tamil Nadu is called Tondaimandalam and the valiant Crown Prince was anointed as the Viceroy of this northern bulwark of the Chola Kingdom. And most likely his entire retinue including probably his mother Queen Kokilan as well perhaps moved to this place to be with him. Or at the least the Queen must have visited this place frequently to be with her son. For, this Tirunavalur is also known to epigraphists as “Rajadityapuram” and the Siva temple there is recorded as having been endowed by Prince Rajaditya’s mother, the aforesaid Queen Kokkilan, of the Chera Royal House. Earlier when this Kerala Princess moved to her matrimonial home at Tanjore and into the Royal Chola household, a retinue of noblemen, warriors and also retainers too moved along with her from the Chera land accompanying her to Tanjore. And likely one amongst those, was a young Chera warrior by name Vellan Kumaran or to be precise Vallabhan Kumaran (corrupted to Vellan Kumaran) who was perhaps a son of one of those who moved in with the Chera Princess. And this young warrior went on to become a retainer, an aide-de-camp and thereafter a close, intimate friend and confidante of Crown Prince Rajaditya. The Chola records dating back to those times indicate that this Vellan Kumaran hailed from a place called Puttur on the banks of the Nandi river and he was a man of eminence hailing from Kerala (malainAdu)and he was a loyal and unswerving commander of the Prince (Rajaditya). The records further record that this warrior despite being a migrant to the Chola land had a meteoric rise in the Chola military ranks rising to the level of dandanAyakA or a Commander (perumpadai nAyakar in Tamil) and also was perhaps a vassal or perhaps an anointed chieftain of a Chola fiefdom as well. Chola records dating to this period hold that Vellan Kumaran was a ‘mUlabhritya’ of Prince Rajaditya and Dr V Raghavan records the following inscription from thsoe times, which attests to the foregoing:

Epigraphist S R Balasubramanian deduces the date of this inscription, found at the temple of Lord Siva at Tirumundeesvaram or Tirumudiyur or Mouligramam or Gramam ( as it is called today),  to 14th January AD 943, 1077 years ago ! ( see Foot note 2)

Dr Raghavan goes on to deduce that Vallabhan Kumaran alias Vellan Kumaran was not merely a warrior but he also exhibited scholarly and spiritual attainments and thus was ‘supratishthita-dhi’ or to use the vocabulary of Gita, a stitha-prajna .

And thus in short, Vellan Kumaran was a close companion and an indispensable member of Crown Prince Rajaditya’s Royal entourage ever since Prince Rajaditya assumed command of the Tirumunaipadi garrison, circa 930 AD leading up to the Battle of Takkolam (in 949 AD). During this period as Dr V Raghavan notes, a number of epigraphical evidences underlines Vellan Kumaran ‘s munificence and also the special relationship he shared with Prince Rajaditya.

In a while we will see that this epic Battle of Takkolam would prove a proverbial turning point not just for the Royal House of Medieval Cholas but also for Vellan Kumaran personally.

The Battle of Takkolam & Vellan Kumaran’s remorse

This is a contemporary depiction of the Battle of Takkolam (949 CE) as it is shown on a pillar of a temple built by Butuga II (939-960 CE) of the Western Ganga dynasty (a Rashtrakuta empire vassal) as a fitting finale to his victory over the Cholas of Tanjore at the Takkolam battle. The reliefs on the circular pillars of the Nandi Mandapa depict the defeat of Chola commander Rajaditya by Butuga Il who fought for the Rashtrakutas. Location: Arakeshwara temple (also spelt Arakeshvara or Arakesvara) in Hole Alur, Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka state, India.

Ever since Crown Prince Rajaditya was anointed as the commander of the northern Chola outpost at thirumunaipAdi nAdu, things began boiling on those frontiers. The Rashtrakuta King Krishna III ( referred to as Kannaradeva in inscriptions) , an adversary of the Cholas , during those times, decided to take on the Cholas led by the valiant Crown Prince Rajaditya and the battle was fought in Takkolam, a town today in North Arcot/Vellore District in Tamilnadu in the year 949 AD. According to Prof Nilakanta Sastri, the Rashtrakutas allied with the Banas and Vaidumbas along with the Western Ganga clan of Kings and went into the battle against the Cholas. Crown Prince Rajaditya died in this battle leading the Chola forces.

According to historical records, Butuga II of the Western Ganga clan who was fighting the Cholas alongside the Rashtrakutas, killed Prince Rajaditya, seated on an elephant, by deceit. Chola records of the period bemoan the death of the young & valiant Chola Prince & heir apparent eulogizing him as ‘AnaimEl tunjiya tEvar’ (the Prince who gave up his life, atop an elephant).  The Leyden Copper Plates tracing the Chola history recounts the event in its narrative as under:

“ The heroic Rajaditya, the ornament of the Solar race, having shaken in battle the unshakeable Krishna Raja with his forces by means of his sharp arrows flying in all directions, was himself pierced in his heart while seated on the back of  a large elephant, by the sharp arrows of the enemy and thus won the praise of the three worlds even as he ascended to the heaven of heroes in a tall vimana.”

While it definitely plunged the Royal House and the entire Chola Kingdom into grief, for Vellan Kumaran the Prince’s unfortunate and sudden demise would have been emotionally catastrophic, for he was the Prince’s vayasya – a constant companion and friend. It is known that for some unknown reason, Vellan Kumaran had not been by the side of the Crown Prince that fateful afternoon at the battlefield at Takkolam and most probably it added a further element emotional & mental trauma of not being there to defend his bosom friend and master.

Left to survive alone, without his much beloved Crown Prince, master and a bosom friend, this great warrior Vellan Kumaran went through pangs of guilt. The trauma that he underwent is captured by the following Sanskrit inscription which also captures the atonement that this great warrior resorted to, so as to assuage and rid himself of his feelings of guilt.

”bālye vidyāsamastās svayam adhigatavān bāhuśālī viśālībhūtoras sthāpitaśrīr bhuvanahitarataś coladeśaṃ sametya |

rājādityasya rājñaḥ prakaṭataragurusnehasamāntabhāvaṃ yaḥ prāpto’sannidhānāt sahamaraṇasukhaṃ saṃyuge tena nāptataḥ ||

Epigraphia Indica 27 (1947–48), no. 47: v. 2. Page 292-

Translation:

That strong armed one, having acquired as a child all the sciences of the world, and with Śrī fixed on his broad chest, and devoted to the welfare of the world ( i.e Vellan Kumaran) , entered the lands of the Chola, and achieved the position of a vassal of king Rājāditya on account of his great and very transparent affection, but did not obtain, owing to his absence, the happiness of dying with him together on the battlefield.

While we have no access to the feelings of Rājāditya and can only guess that Veḷḷaṉ Kumāraṉ’s remembrance and words such as Sneha points to a very close intimacy that is now sadly lost to us.  This is however attested by scholars who have studied this part of history.

Vellan Kumaran becomes Caturanana, the mahavratin :

Left to fend for himself emotionally and inwardly consumed by his pangs of guilt, history tells us this warrior left for Kashi seeking to cleanse his so-called sin that he himself deemed to have incurred (albeit for no fault of his). Dr V Raghavan in his commentary on the aforesaid inscription in Epigraphia Indica, mentions that Vellan Kumaran came to be inspired by one Niranjana Guru of Tiruvottriyur (Adigrama or Adipuri as it was known in ancient times) and whereupon sometime between 952 AD- 957AD, he perhaps first lived as a recluse in a cave at Tiruvottriyur which was perhaps the same cave which was inhabited decades prior by the said Niranjana Guru (Niranjana -guha). He then took upon the vow to cleanse his conscience, became a mahavratin and thereafter came to be known as Caturanana Pandita. Dr V Raghavan makes very interesting observations and deductions as to this transformation of Vellan Kumaran, a warrior into a monk Caturanana who then established a monastery (matha) at Tiruvottriyur.

In sum, Caturanana Pandita I was Vellan Kumaran is his pUrvAsrama and a warrior, between 930 AD – 945 or 949 AD (the year of the battle of Takkolam) and as the monk and as a Pontiff with the name of Caturanana Pandita between 949 or 950 till 959 AD where upon all records about his existence as available to us, fall silent. It is known that he was succeeded by a lineage of Pontiffs who all took the same titular appellation of Caturanana Pandita all the way till 1173 AD again where after, no mention of any Caturanana Panditas or of the matha at Tiruvottriyur survives for our benefit. According to Dr Raghavan there is no trace of this matha or its remnants anywhere in Tiruvottriyur today. It has to be mentioned that it was at the instance of one of the subsequent Caturanana Panditas that the vimAnam / temple tower for Lord Adhipurisvara of the Tiruvottriyur temple was built by the Chola Kings later in the 11th century.

In the context of Vellan Kumaran’s absence from Prince Rajaditya’s side in the Takkolam Battle theories abound and the take of historians on the same is given in Foot note 3.

MUSICAL HOMAGE TO THE GREAT SOUL

As attested to by Dr V Raghavan nothing survives to us from that age of roughly 1000 odd years back from today. Neither is there any trace of the matha/monastery at Tiruvottriyur or that of any immediate vestiges or artifacts attesting to the existence of the first Caturanana Pandita nee Vallabhan or Vellan Kumaran, save for the inscriptions that have come to us from those times. The temple complex at Tiruvottriyur being the shrine of Lord Adhipurisvara and the shrine of Lord Dakshinamurti or Gaulisa, the presiding deity of the kALAmukhas, therein are the only mute witnesses who can testify to this historical character and his existence. As we know Tiruvottriyur is one of the seven viTanka ksetras, being an abode of Lord Tyagaraja, the sOmAskanda form of Lord Shiva. And as a musical homage to that great soul Caturanana Pandita I, presented here is a composition on Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvottriyur by Tiruvottriyur Tyagier, son of the great composer Veena Kuppayyar.

Both Dr V Raghavan and Dr Daud Ali in their works espouse a much higher and different level of friendship / affinity / closeness / intimacy that Vellan Kumaran and Prince Rajaditya shared. It is inferable that the protagonists must have shared this affinity mutually. For us today the closest emotion or bhava one can get to, in terms of the yearning they must have shared for each other can at best only be equated to the emotion of Virahotkantitha Nayika (विरहोत्कंठित नायिका – One distressed by separation), a highly aesthetic emotion being one amongst the so-called bouquet of eight, in the world of dance & music. And it certainly would have been an equivalent emotion, one of separation that Vellan Kumaran would have suffered post 949 AD along with his feelings of guilt and remorse.

In line with this bhAva, I seek to present a composition which in fact depicts a love lorn nAyikA, dispatching her friend with a message to her nAyakA, Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvottriyur, asking him not to tarry and be in communion with her. And one can certainly place the song in perspective, as Vellan Kumaran in his metamorphosis as the mahAvratin Caturanana Pandita would have transformed that yearning or emotion, by directing that to Lord Tyagaraja, the Lord of Tiruvottriyur, the very place where he spent the rest of his life.

This composition ‘sAmi nI rammanavE sArasAkshirO’ is a sprightly pada varna in the raga Kedaram, set in rupaka tala rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subramanian. The varna as one can notice has sahitya for its cittasvara and ettugada svara sections which are rendered fully by the Vidvan.

CONCLUSION:

History is littered with many such undiscovered personalities and great men who made a lasting contribution during their life time. In the instant case from amongst several warriors Vellan Kumaran, a person who wasn’t a member of the Chola Royal House, is singled out in the Chola inscriptions of those times. And it must have been doubtless for some great contribution and importance, to the Kingdom. Again, given that he was a man of letters as well, it’s a tragedy that we know next to nothing about his contribution in his second life as Caturanana Pandita , except that the matha / monastery that he founded survived for more than 200 years after his demise and with his successors commanding the greatest of respect from successive Chola Kings, which is no mean feat. And so, His Holiness Caturanana Pandita I, a preceptor and founder of the great and now lost kALAmukha matha at Tiruvottriyur must have truly been a great man of those times. May glory be to him!

References:

  1. David N Lorenzen (1972) – “The Kapalikas and Kalamukhas”- Published by Thomson Press (India) Ltd – pp 73-140
  2. Dr V Raghavan (1947-1948) – Item No 47: “Tiruvorriyur Inscription of Caturanana Pandita”- Epigraphia Indica Vol XXVII- Printed & Published by the Govt of India; pp 292-303
  3. K V Subramanya Aiyar (1923)- ‘Travancore Archaeological Series Vol III – page 202
  4. K A Nilakanta Sastri (1955) – The Colas (English)– University of Madras- pp 128-139
  5. Dr Daud Ali (2017)- “The Death of a Friend: Companionship, Loyalty and Affiliation in Chola South India” – Studies in History Volume: 33 issue: 1, page(s):36-60 – Published by Jawaharlal Nehru University & Sage Publications
  6. Rajeswari Ghose (1996)- “The Lord of Arur, The Tyagaraja Cult in Tamil Nadu-A Study in conflict and Accommodation” published by Motilal Banarsidass – pp 148-181
  7. S R Balasubramanian (1971) – “Early Chola Temples”- published by Orient Longman Ltd – pp 299-309
  8. S R Balasubramanian (1975) – “Middle Chola Temples”- published by Thomson Press India Ltd – pp 299-309
FOOT NOTE 1:

The Gaulisa icon, being a variant of Lord Dakshinamurti, worshipped by kALAmukhAs, as enshrined in the temple complex at Tiruvottriyur has a yogic posture, four-armed, lower right arm in cin-mudra pose, the lower left hand is held parallel to the ground and close to the torso with the palm open upwards, the upper right hand holds a trident and the upper left hand holds a bowl. This unique icon has bewildered iconographers and historians as it is an odd and a not encountered elsewhere, form of Lord Shiva. The article tilted “Kalamukhas and an Interesting Dakshinamurti Image” – available in the URL below is an excellent commentary on this icon by Dr R Nagaswamy which can be read profitably – http://tamilartsacademy.com/articles/article04.xml

FOOT NOTE 2:

Archaeologist & Epigraphist S R Balasubramaniyan in his work opines that Tirumundeesvaram or Tirumudiyur or Mouligramam or Gramam (as it is called today) was perhaps the place which was the garrison town of the Cholas which was commanded by Prince Rajaditya. He even ventures to state that the name Tirumudiyur came to be assigned to this place as perhaps the anointment of Prince Rajaditya as the Crown Prince and heir apparent took place here and its from here that Prince Rajaditya perhaps held Court as the region’s Viceroy. The inscription records a number of grants made by Vellan Kumaran to this temple of Lord Sivalokanathasvami, situated on the south banks of the Pennai river, near Tirukkoyilur.

http://know-your-heritage.blogspot.com/search/label/Sivalokanathar%20Temple

In so far as the nativity of Vellan Kumaran is concerned , on a similar vein the Travancore Archaeological Series records that the village of Puttur situated in the banks of the Nandi River (as described in the Chola inscription) in Kerala, refers to the village of the same name located near Tirparappu, in Kanyakumari District, the river now being known as Nandiaaru.

http://tourmet.com/thirunandhikarai-cave-temple/

FOOT NOTE 3:

Historians like Prof Fleet,  based on Rashtrakuta inscriptions have hypothesized that Vellan Kumaran was a spy of the Rashtrakuta King Krishna and had a hand in the treacherous killing of Prince Rajaditya and which is why he wasn’t fighting beside him in the Battle of Takkolam. Both Prof Nilakanta Sastri and Dr V Raghavan with authority and proper reading of the Chola and Rashtrakuta inscriptions, cogently, authoritatively and conclusively negate Prof Fleet’s hypothesis as untrue. Dr V Raghavan goes on to say that such a conclusion is a baseless conjecture. Nevertheless, he also points out there is no inscription referring to Vellan Kumaran during the period of 943 AD and 957 AD & given that the Battle of Takkolam being dateable to the year 949 AD, the question that begs for an answer is where was this Commander Vellan Kumaran between AD 943-949?  Though historians like Prof Fleet probably looked at that as an evidence of Vellan Kumaran being a spy of the Rashtrakutas and having weaned him away, Krishna III found it easier to eliminate Prince Rajaditya, one is left grappling with a very tricky question. One wonders whether Prince Rajaditya directed Vellan Kumaran to be with his father Parantaka I, in case the war with the Rashtrakutas turned against the Cholas and Krishna III landed up outside the Tanjore Fort? And is that why Vellan Kumaran did not fight alongside Prince Rajaditya at Takkolam? This line of argument is a hypothesis and there is no shred of direct or collateral evidence to back this up. Be that as it may, the Tiruvottriyur inscription of 957 AD which captures the grief and the act of atonement of Vallabhan/Vellan Kumaran still leaves this question tantalizingly open for us.

It has to be pointed out that Prince Rajaditya was a also a great benefactor for modern Tamil Nadu as he was the one built the Veeranarayana Eri (Lake) or Veeranam Lake, which supplies water to Chennai and irrigates several acres of land by storing up the floods/surplus Cauvery waters, which would go waste when discharged directly to the sea, via Kollidam, in order to prevent floods in Tanjore delta areas. Legend has it that when Prince Rajaditya had mobilized his army to take on the Rashrakutas, he had to idle his troops till such time the weather/season and time was in his favour. In the interregnum he proceeded to deploy the troops productively by conceptualizing the Veeranarayana Eri (Lake) or Veeranam Lake and had it constructed by them to store the surplus waters and also prevent flooding of downstream Tanjore delta areas! Such was his foresight that till date the lake remains the largest man-made lake in this part of the world and an irrigational infrastructural marvel of the Cholas.

https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/a-chola-gift-to-chennai/article7089318.ece

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga

Apurva raga-s handled by Tyagaraja Svamigal – Phalaranjani

Dr Aravindh T Ranganathan

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

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

Vālājāpet notations

Vālājāpet manuscripts form an important source to understand the kṛti-s of Saint Tyāgarājā. These manuscripts were written by Vālājāpet Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar (VVB) and his son Vālājāpet Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar (VKB). It is even said Tyāgarājā could have seen this as they were recorded during his life time.(3) These notations were preserved at Madurai Sourāṣtra Sabha and the transcripts are available in GOML, Chennai. Few of these transcripts can be accessed online here (4). These transcripts are the main source for this article. In the absence of first hand records made by Tyāgarājā, these notations form a very valuable and authentic source to understand the version learnt by his prime disciple Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar and his son. These notations when used appropriately help us to solve many problems seen with the apūrva kṛti-s of the Saint. 

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in earlier texts

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

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

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

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

Rāga lakṣaṇaṃ

Phalaranjani

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

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

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

Phalamanjari

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

Notated versions of ‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’

Version by Taccur brothers

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

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

Tillaisthānaṃ version

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

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in unpublished manuscripts

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

Vālājāpet notations                                                           

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

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

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

Manuscript of SA Rāmasvāmy Ayyar

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

Umayāḷpuraṃ version

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

Manuscript in the possession Srīvañchiyaṃ Rāmachandra Ayyar

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

Comparison between Vālājāpet notations and the version by Taccur brothers

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

‘Srī nārasiṃha māṃ pāhi’ in oral tradition

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

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

Conclusion

The following conclusions can be drawn from the above discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgements

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

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

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

References

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

CompositionAppreciation, History, Raga

The Kurinji of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

[simple-author-box]


Prologue:

The raga Kurinji under Mela 29- Sankarabharana is a well-known dhaivatantya raga and popularly rendered in a lineal fashion in madhyama sruti. Along with its siblings Neelambari and Navaroz with which Kurinji shares the melodic fabric, it can be seen that these three melodies are used in compositions such as lullabies, lAlis, Oonjal and songs of similar genre. Being an old and hoary raga, without engendering a much broader discussion, this blog post just focusses on the raga dealt with in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradashini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita.

Kurinji’s Raga Lakshana:

Kurinji is a melodic scale under Mela 29 Sankarabharanam, taking only the notes from this scale, with the nominal arohana/avarohana krama as under:

                        n3 S R2 G3 M1 P D2 and D2 P M1 G3 R2 S n3

Given the lack of movement below N3 in the mandhara stayi and D2 in the madhya stayi, the raga for felicity of rendition is rendered in madhyama sruti, whereby the madhyama note of the octave becomes the tonic. There are no sancaras below mandhara nishadha or above the madhya dhaivatha.

From an antiquity perspective it may be noted that the composition “Jaya Jaya Gokula Bala” a tarangam of Narayana Teertha which was famous once upon a time, was originally set fully to Kurinji. It was later fully reset to Bhairavi (published by K V Srinivasa Iyengar) and much later the modern extant version came into being, with the lyrics being set as  a ragamalika to Bhairavi, Atana, Kalyani, Kambhoji and Surati, with the retuning being ascribed to Tiruvotriyur Tyagier.

The raga lakshana of Kurinji heavily overlaps with that of Navaroz and is compounded by the fact that both the ragas have octaval constraint imposed by grammar and both of them are rendered in madhyama sruti. Navaroz runs as pdnSRGMP-PMGRSndp, traversing the madhya stayi pancama to the mandhara pancama alone. DIkshita has also composed both in Kurinji – “Sri Venugopala” and Navaroz- “hastivadanaya namstubhyam” which again is a magnum opus in itself.

According to the SSP, Kurinji once upon a time possessed a different contour (while being under the same Mela 29 – Sankarabharanam). This archaic Kurinji is recorded by Subbarama Dikshita on the authority of the eka tala lakshya gita of Muddu Venkatamakhin “Srimad Gopi nathure” as the refrain or udgraha. According to Subbarama Dikshita archaic Kurinji had the following features:

  1. It had tristayi sancaras, progressions spanning all three octaves
  2. It lacked dhaivatha (varjya) in its ascent and dhaivatha being vakra in the descent.
  3. The nominal arohana/avarohana went as SRGMGMPMPNNS – SNPNDDPMGGRS, which is provided by Subbarama Dikshita on the authority of the raga lakshana sloka of Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD)
  4. Nishadha was its jiva svara

It has to be pointed out here that this archaic Kurinji does not exists today.

Subbarama Dikshitar proceeds to record that post Muddu Venkatamakhin’s times the raga got truncated and had the following features, which we can call as the modern or the extant Kurinji in contrast to the archaic version as delineated above.

  1. It became a madhyama sruti raga.
  2. The raga’s melodic progression was nSRGMPD, traversing mandhara nishadha to madhya dhaivatha only.
  3. It had an exceptional n\pSS  prayoga commencing on mandhara nishadha to the mandhara pancama and back to the madhya sadja.
  4. The raga cannot be lightly dismissed as a minor madhyama sruti raga, for the ancients had accorded it the highest importance by placing it as the first upanga raga janya under Mela 29 Sankarabharanam as seen in the Sankarabharana lakshana gitam “ripupala khandanure”.

Additionally, Prof S R Janakiraman points out that the dhaivatha note (of the madhya stayi) is seen to occur very sparingly in this raga, more as a foray from the pancama note and back.

Thus, what survives today is the modern Kurinji that we hear today and as authority for the same Subbarama Dikshita provides two compositions, apart from his sancari.

  1. Sri Venugopala” – Muthusvami Dikshita – Jhampa tala
  2. Siva deeksha paru” – Ghanam Seenayya – Adi

We shall look into both these compositions in this blog post. But before that we will evaluate the Kurinji as was recorded atleast a little prior to 1750 AD.

Kurinji according to Sahaji & Tulaja:

The raga Kurinji is found recorded in both Sahaji’s “Ragalakshanam” (circa 1700 AD) and Tulaja’s “Saramruta” (circa 1732 AD) and the commentary of these two author Kings of Tanjore on this raga Kurinji in their respective works resonate with the definition of the archaic Kurinji of the SSP and of Muddu Venkatamakhin. However, one assertion made by Sahaji and Tulaja in their respective treatises which is relevant to us, as we will see shortly, is that “SRGM and PDNS should not occur in the raga.”

As we saw in previous blog posts this is a key architectural construct of the 18th century. The raga definitions were provided (apart from being categorized under a particular mela or raganga) in the following ways:

  1. A particular note is to be repeatedly emphasized being the raga’s jiva svara
  2. Certain notes being the choice notes to begin or end a musical phrase – graha, nyasa svaras
  3. Certain notes which cannot be used as the take-off or ending note, but which should only be used as a transit note – amsa svara
  4. A particular note being varjya (dropped)
  5. A particular note being vakra (devious)
  6. A specified murrcana (motif) was to occur or was to be emphasized repeatedly (leitmotif) in the raga in its progression.
  7. A specified murrcana (motif) was not supposed to occur.

This “composite” way of specifying the lakshana of a raga is completely lost to us today where we simply proceed lineally based on a single arohana or avarohana krama under a given mela. This ancient, archaic and now extinct practice of the 18th century is expressly found recorded in the works of Sahaji and Tulaja.

In so far as Kurinji is considered in terms of the aforesaid rules, Rule 7 above, specified that SRGM shall not occur in the melodic body of the raga according to Sahaji and Tulaja. With this in mind let us take up the first exemplar composition from the SSP, which is “Sri Venugopala” of Muthusvami Dikshita.

 “Sri Venugopala” of Muthusvami Dikshita:

The lyrics and the meaning of the composition is as under:

Pallavi:

SrI vENu gOpAla     –  O Lord the Cowherd bearing the flute!

SrI rukmiNI lOla    – O one who frolics in the company of Goddess Rukmini!

dEva nAyaka         – O lord of all the gods!

SriyaM dEhi dEhi    – Give, give (me) wealth and auspiciousness!

madhu mura hara     – O vanquisher of the demons Madhu and Mura!

Anupallavi

dEvakI su-kumAra    – O illustrious son of Devaki!

dIna jana mandAra   – O wish-fulfilling celestial tree of the downtrodden!

gOvardhana-uddhAra  – O the one who lifted the Govardhana mountain!

gOpa yuvatI jAra    – O beloved of the young Gopi maidens!

caraNam

gOkula-ambudhi sOma – O moon to the ocean of Gokula!

gOvinda             – O friend of the cows!

nata bhauma         – O one saluted by Angaraka – son of Bhumi (Earth Goddess)!

SrI-ku-ranjita kAma – O one who delights Lakshmi (Sri) and Bhumi (Ku) with your love!

Srita satya bhAma   – O one who has embraced Satyabhama!

kOka nada pada      – O one with feet hued like red lotus!

sOma guru guha hita – O one congenial to Shiva (in the company of Uma) and Guruguha

SyAma               – O dark one!

SrI kara tapa hOma SrI jayantI nAma – O one well-known for the Sri Jayanti (birthday festivities) in which penance and sacrifices cause welfare and prosperity!

prAkaTya raNa bhIma – O one who is formidable in battle!

pAlita-arjuna bhIma – O protector of Arjuna and Bhima!

pAka ripu nuta nAma – O one whose name is glorified by Indra (the slayer of the demon Paka)!

bhakta yOga kshEma  – O one who bestows welfare to the devotees!

It appears to be a generic composition without any reference to any ksetra or its presiding deity. Based on the lyrics which occur which is “sri jayanthi nama” there are those who opine that much like “Sri Varalakshmi namastubhyam” and “Siddhi Vinayakam” which were purportedly created to propitiate Goddess Lakshmi on Varalakshmi Pooja day and Lord Ganesa on Vinayaka Caturthi day respectively , Dikshita composed this kriti for “Sri Jayanthi”/”Krishna Jayanthi” – Lord Krishna’s birth day. The raga mudra is seamlessly interwoven as:

“SrI-ku-ranjita kAma” meaning “O the one who delights Lakshmi (Sri) and Bhumi (Ku) with your love!

The colophon of Dikshita “guru-guha” as always occurs in the composition.

The Melodic structuring of the composition:

From a melodic standpoint it is noticed that the composition is in line with the “extant” or modern version of the Kurinji. From the notation provided therein, Dikshita’s raga conception in the composition conforms to the modern Kurinji:

  • The melody traverses between mandhara nishadha and madhya dhaivatha only
  • Uses the occasional nn\pSS prayoga- seen at the first occurrence of the lyric ‘dEhi’ in the pallavi itself

It was pointed out earlier that according to Sahaji and Tulaja, in the case of Kurinji “SRGM and PDNS should not occur in the raga”. This is however not seen expressly commented upon or recorded in the SSP.

In this context the occurrence of SRGM or PDNS phrase in “Sri Venugopala” can be evaluated thus:

  • It is seen that the SRGM prayoga is avoided in the melodic setting after duly taking into account the caesura (s)which occur in the composition.
  • Though superfluous, it has to be formally noted that PDNS has no occasion to arise as the raga’s truncated progression provides no room for the same.
  • The following portions/lyrics of the composition would reveal that:
    • The composition begins as RGMR (“sri vEnugOpAla”) and thus SRGM is avoided. Though SRGM is forbidden, RGM or RGMP is a permitted prayoga
    • Caesura occurs at “lOla” which ends on rishabha note and when “dEvanAyaka” begins with the phrase being GMP. Thus, the SRGM phrase has been avoided.
    • Pointedly the anupallavi lyric “Devaki sukumara” begins as SRSMGM RGMP, avoiding a direct SRGM phrase.
    • Both “govardhanO” and “gOpayuvati” use SM and SP phrases to the exclusion of SRGM phrase.
    • The lyrics “sri kurinjita” and “kokhanatha pada” are again SMGMP and not SRGMP
    • The madhyama kala sahitya lyrics “pAlita-arjuna bhIma” is notated as SMGRGM to the exclusion of SRGMP
    • Though the ending of the pallavi, anupallavi and the madhyama kala sahitya portions is on the sadja and the pallavi take off being rishabha, on account of the intervening caesura/conclusion of tala marking the logical ending of the musical phrase, the rule of avoidance of SRGM can be deemed as kept.
  • Thus, it can be seen, that subject to the one exception below, Dikshita has eschewed the use of SRGM and has instead used SMGMP in the composition, as the default ascent phrase.

Exception:

From the SSP notation of this composition one outlier that is noticed, without in anyway being disrespectful, is that the lyric “srikara tapO hOma” is notated as SnSRGMP.. It is likely that this phrase too ought to have been “SnSMGMP” in line with the rest of the composition, as nowhere else where an ascent phrase is warranted, is the phrase SRGMP used. It can be very well deuced that Dikshita being completely aware of this ancient practice having avoided the use of SRGM everywhere would not have deigned to use that just in one place and most likely the notation seen in the SSP is an aberration.

It is very likely that the notation SnSRGMP is a typographical error/printer’s devil at play in the SSP or an error in the pAtham itself as was transmitted, which begs for a correction. Therefore, it is most respectfully submitted that this phrase ought to be rendered as SnSMGMP and NOT as SnSRGMP as given, keeping in view of the fact that SRGM has been consciously avoided everywhere else and it was perhaps how it was composed.

Thus, subject to the above exception we can safely conclude that the Kurinji of Dikshita and which evolved post 1700 was actually an improvisation of the old archaic Kurinji with SRGM being eschewed as well. In the modern version of the Kurinji we have completely forgotten this aspect of SRGM to be avoided.

The prayogas dealt with in the Kurinji as found in “Sri venugopala” are:

  • nSRGR -RGMP- GMPD
  • DMPG-PMGR-MGRSn
  • n\pSS being the outlier prayoga at “dEhi”
  • The use of a dainty phrase MRG\S at “madhu murahara”, skipping the rishabha- in the pallavi.

 If SRGM is to be eschewed, SRGR and SMGMRGM can take its place and cannot be generically stated that rishabha and/or gandhara should be vakra. This rule can only be stated negatively as “SRGM cannot occur” and cannot be stated otherwise.

The madhyama kala sahitya perfectly, pithily and unambiguously captures Dikshita’s conception of Kurinji and is the perfect & complete authority for the Kurinji that had evolved post 1700’s, the version truly documented in the SSP, albeit implicitly.

S,S,n               –           SRS,n             –           S,MGMG,       –           RGM,M             ||

prAktaya       –           raNabhIma   –           pAlitA            –            rjunabhIma ||          

P,DPM           –           GMP,P           –          M,GR              –           GMGGRS            ||

pAkaripu      –           nutarAma     –           bhakta-yO     –           ga..ksEma         ||

It can be seen that Dikshita has skilfully avoided the SRGM phrase by resorting to SMGMRGMM-PDPM at the juncture of the two jhampa tala avartas.

Discography – “srI vEnugOpAlA”:

There are very many versions of this oft-rendered composition. The version that best tallies with the notation found in the SSP is the one by Vidushi Sumitra Vasudev and I present the same (courtesy Sangeethapriya):

And off-course if one were to learn from this rendering, care should be taken to correctly render “srikara tapO hOma”rendering as SnSMGMP to ensure the consistency ( avoid the inconsistency) that I pointed out earlier.

With this I move on to the next exemplar found in the SSP.

“Siva deeksha paru” – The forgotten oeuvre

The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) records a few pre-trinity compositions in its main work (excluding the Anubandha) and one such is “Sivadeekshaparu” in Kurinji composed by Ghanam Seenayya. This classic composition, a padam, was very popular a hundred years ago and today barring a few instances of it being performed in dance recitals, the composition is nowhere found rendered on concert platforms.

The composition is recorded in the SSP by Subbarama Dikshita as the second exemplar of Raga Kurinji. From a historical perspective this composition comes from era (early 18th Century AD) when the Saivite and Vaishnavite doctrines of Hindu worship vied with each other to be in royal favour and patronage and the song is reflective of this politico-religious undercurrent. We will evaluate the song in that context as well.

Before we address the composition proper, lets first look at the composer and his times.

Composer of “Sivadeeksha paru” – Ghanam Seenayya:

Subbarama Diksita in his “Vaggeyakara Caritamu” records that Ghanam Seenayya, the composer of this Kurinji composition, was a Vaishnavite and the Chief Minister in the Court of the Nayak King Vijayaranga Cokkanatha (1706-1732 AD). We did refer to this Nayak King of Madurai in the context of the Yamuna Kalyani blog post

Ghanam Seenayya was learned man, very proficient in Sanskrit, Telugu and in music and this is found recorded in Sasanka Vijayam (of Seshamu Venkatapati Kavi). In fact, Subbarama Dikshita quotes a couplet from the said work as authority to state that Ghanam Seenayya composed with the ankita/colophon “mannaru ranga”. According to C R Srinivasa Iyengar (in his book “Indian Dance”- Natya and Nritya) Ghanam Seenayya composed the following padas with the ankita being “mannaru ranga”.

  • Magavaadani” in Durbar
  • Magavadu Valaci” – Neelambari
  • Siva Deeksha paru” – Kurinji
  • Vadevvaro” – Sankarabharanam –https://karnatik.com/c18080.shtml

The same is also echoed in toto by Vidvan Vinjamuri Varaha Narasimha-chari in his article titled “Contribution to the Telugu region to the Dance Art” – JMA (Vol XLV – 1974) pp 200.

The prefix “Ghanam” especially appended to the name of a vocalist/ musician may perhaps be linked to the expertise the person had in the “ghanam” mode of vocalization/singing. In the recent past Ghanam Krishna Iyer is recorded by Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer as an exponent and past master in the art of “ghanam” singing though not much detail is know as to what it really meant. Be that as it may given that Subbarama Dikshita has recorded the musical capability of Seenayya, it may well be perhaps that he was adept in this quaint musical art form.

The ankita “mannaruranga” refers to Lord Rajagopala of Mannargudi who was the titular deity of some of the Royal Houses of the medieval Tamil history. During circa 1600-1700 time period, it is seen that the Saivite and Vaishnavite cults had been vying for exclusive royal patronage at the expense of the other. For instance, Venkatamakhin (1620 AD) is said to have composed the Reetigaula gitam “sanka chakkrAnka nAtya ca rE rE” appealing to Lord Mahalingasvami at Madhyarjunam as the King a Vaishnavite acolyte was persecuting followers of Saivism. Apparently, the King Vijayaraghava Nayak of Tanjore, Venkatamakhin’s Royal patron was a staunch Vaishnavite so much so that he exhorted all his subjects to wear the sanka-chakra and other Vaishnavite emblems. Later the King took to bed and suffered stomach pains. Legend has it that he soon thereafter realized his folly and made amends and which is attributed to Venkatamakin’s prayers to Lord Mahalingasvami.

Returning to the subject matter on hand, the times of Nayak King Vijayaranga Chokkanatha of Madurai is captured by Sathianatha Iyer in his classic work “Nayaks of Madura” and according to him during this Nayak’s reign the kingdom seem to have gone into terminal decline. Sathianatha Iyer records that the King was very religious and barring a grant to the temple of Lord Shiva at Tiruvanaikka (Lord Jambukesvara) he seems to have made grants munificently to Vaishnavite temples underlining the fact that he was very favourably disposed towards the Vaishnavite cult.

The setting of the padam “Siva Deeksha” runs thus. The nAyika/heroine is ordained to the worship of Lord Shiva and she happenstance encounters the nayaka/hero who is irresistible and leaves her smitten. The padam attempts to capture her predicament as she is caught between the obligations cast on her because of the ochre she has donned and the craving from her very heart and soul tugging her to the nayaka/hero being none other than “mannaru ranga” or Lord Rajagopala, a vaishnavite God. Should she continue with the rites & duties to be done by her as per the holy order of Shiva worship to which she has been initiated by her Gurus or should she succumb to the call of her heart and allow the nayaka to take her body and soul?

The piece has been a traditional composition much amenable to abhinaya and depiction of a variant of the khandita type of nayika.

From a raga lakshana perspective, the following aspects can be noted:

  1. The padam composed in the first quarter of the 16th century/early 1700’s is in the modern version of the raga, spanning from mandhara nishada to madhya dhaivatha only. We do not know if it was composed so in circa 1700 AD, for Sahaji (circa 1700 AD) and Tulaja (1732 AD) record Kurinji as being archaic as documented in the SSP.
  2. Leaving this point as to the originality of the melodic setting of the composition, the notation as provided by Subbarama Dikshita of this composition in the SSP reiterates the point made in “Sri Venugopala” above. The same is bereft of SRGM and only SMGMP or RGMP or SMGMRGMP occurs as the uttaranga ascent phrases.

Thus, given that “Siva Deeksha” too uses only SMGM and not SRGM, can be cited as proof and in support of the assertion that Dikshita too would have followed the same rule and could not have used SRGM at all. Therefore, the SRGM notated in the SSP in one place in the composition “Sri Venugopala” is perhaps an aberration that we need to correct and render as SMGM.

Discography – “siva deeksha”:

I present two renderings of this composition, which are not strictly in line with the SSP but are nevertheless within the confines of the notation provided in SSP and making only reasonable departures from the same.

  • I present the vocal rendering of the song by Vidushi Preethy Mahesh being the audio track of the accompaniment to the dance performance of this song by Smt Priyadarshini Govind, an excerpt of which is available in the public domain. Clip 1 and Clip 2

The second rendering above, made for a dance performance is much richer, slower and improvised reflecting the true content and spirit of the song.

Kurinji in Ramasvami Dikshita’s 108 Raga Tala Malika:

The Anubandha to the SSP also provides the said composition in notation and the 40th khandika or portion of the said composition commencing with the lyric “Sri Parthasarati” set in Kurinji, too does not bear SRGM in its melodic construct. This provides additional evidence that SRGM phrase was to be eschewed in toto in Kurinji.

Vidushi R S Jayalakshmi presented a lecture demonstration of this mammoth composition of Ramsvami Dikshita in the Dec 2014. Here is the Youtube link to the same. The Kurunji portion is demonstrated starting from 1:48:05 onwards.

Kurinji in Subbarama Dikshita’s compositions:

Subbarama Dikshita’s own sancari and his raga malika too feature Kurinji. However his sancari is modelled on the archaic Kurinji and it seems that he has stuck to the old version on the supposed authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin, whom he always mistook for Venkatamakhin himself. It has to be pointed out that Venkatamakhin’s Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP) does not talk about Kurinji and it is only the Anubandha or the compendium / appendix to the CDP authored by Muddu Venkatamakhin circa 1750 AD which talks about Kurinji.

Epilogue:

While compositions can be rendered ad nauseum as taught, it is important that we correctly assimilate and imbibe the true spirit, grammar and confines of the raga and the composition. The raga Kurinji is an example in this regard. If one were to go with the public material and not-properly appraised pAthams, the raga’s definition would be wrongly learnt/taught with the raga progression of Kurinji as  nSRGMPD/DPMGRSn, whereas as the two exemplar compositions demonstrate that the raga’s progression is nSMGMRGMPD/DPMGRSn, duly disallowing the SRGM as the ancients did in this melody. And hopefully students/learners would take notice of this and properly render these compositions in this raga. And given this rich history of more than 300 plus years Kurinji like its illustrious parent Sankarabharana has stood athwart for centuries!

And in parting I leave readers with a thought. Was and is this raga Kurinji synonymous with Lord Venugopala/Rajagopala/Krishna, for the “nayaka” or the subject/object of all the three compositions found in the SSP (“srimad gOpi nAturE” of Muddu Venkatamakhin, “Sri Venugopala” of Dikshita and “Siva Deeksha” of Ghanam Seenayya) are all coincidentally Lord Krishna?

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) -Vol IV- Mela 29 Pages 837-842
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 742-746
  3. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr S R Janakiraman (1993)- “ Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta” – Published by the Madras Music Academy – pp 134-139
  4. Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
  5. R. Sathianatha Iyer (1924) – “History of the Nayaks of Madura” -pages 223-231

Safe Harbour Statement:

  1. The renderings used or linked as above in the body of this blog has been made strictly for purposes of education and knowledge under fair use category. The intellectual property belongs to the respective artistes and the same cannot be shared or exploited without their consent.
  2. I place on record my gratitude to Smt Preethy Mahesh for permitting me to share the vocal rendering of the padam “siva deeksha” as was available in the public domain from where it was sourced.
CompositionAppreciation, Raga

O Mother! Embodiment of Auspiciousness! May there be prosperity

[simple-author-box]

Prelude:

In these trying and uncertain times, connecting or attempting to connect to the Supreme One through one’s inner self is perhaps the soothing balm. And what can be better than music, especially compositions of our Trinity. And personally as I ruminated over the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshita, the one that stuck most aptly in terms of its haunting melody, lyrics and its plaintive appeal was the solitaire “Mangaladevate” in the raga Margadesi, under Mela 15 Malavagaula, a long lost archaic melody, for which this composition is the sole exemplar.

First let us look at the lyrics, before we embark on dissecting the raga.

Sahitya & Meaning:

pallavi

mangaLa dEvatE                – O auspicious goddess!

para dEvatE                         – O supreme goddess!

mangaLaM bhavatu           – May there be prosperity!

nata dEvatE                          – O one saluted by the gods!

anupallavi

angaja pura kAla vairi sahitE – O one in the company, the One inimical to (vanquisher of) Manmatha, Tripura and Yama i.e. Lord Shiva

anAdi-avidyA prapanca rahitE ­ O one distinct, from this eternal universe pervaded by ignorance

pungava guru guha-Adi mahitE – O one venerated by the eminent/valorous Guruguha and others

satsanga mArga darSitE        – O one who shows the path to association with the good (men)

sura hitE                                    – O the benefactress of the Devas.

The sahitya as above would show that apart from his colophon, Dikshita has skilfully woven the raga mudra (indirectly– mArgadarsitE) in the composition, while keeping his date as always with the dviteeya akshara prasa (2nd letter consonance). The sahitya clearly is an appeal to the Mother Goddess (Devi), the consort of Lord Shiva seeking her to bestow prosperity and auspiciousness. From a compositional construct perspective, the composition lacks a carana segment but has a pithy and beautiful cittasvara section which we will see when we delve into the musical aspects. The kriti does not bear any stala/ksetra reference and is thus only a generic composition.

A brief note on the raga Margadesi:

It has to be mentioned that save for the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) no other treatise prior to it mentions this raga. In other words, this raga finds place only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshanam compendia (dateable to circa 1750 AD) and Dikshita’s kriti being the sole exemplar thereof – an eka-kriti raga. Thus, the SSP, by its commentary of the raga and documentation of Muthusvami Dikshita’s composition becomes the only repository for us in so far as this raga is concerned.

According to the SSP, the raga is placed under the 15th mela taking the notes of R1, G3. M1, P, D1 dropping nishadha altogether. And very oddly it takes M2 (prati madhayama) in its melodic body.

Normally it is seen that under mela 65 (Kalyani) for which M2 is the dominant note M1 is taken as a anya svara via the G3M1R2S motif. Under Mela 15, in SSP we do see that there are number of ragas documented therein, which take the M2 as an anya svara. Margadesi is one such which takes M2. But it is not that straight forward as there is an “interpretative” issue as to when M1 or M2 would occur in the melodic progression of raga. Lets us take up Subbarama Dikshita’s narrative of the raga:

  1. The raga is classified under Mela 15 on the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin.
  2. The raga name occurs in the Malavagaula Raganga Lakshya Gita “ravikOti tEja” as a bashanga janya under malava gaula mela. Please note that the reference to the “bashanga” in the context of SSP bears no relevance to how we construe the expression today.
  3. As per the provided lakshana shloka:
    • The raga is shadava, lacking nishada (both in arohana and avarohana krama)
    • Madhyama note is vakra, both in arohana and avarohana
    • SRGRGDMPDS is the arohana and SDMPGRS is the avarohana krama, duly accommodating the vakra madhyama note
  4. While the lakshana shloka does not say anything about M2 or its equivalent cyuta pancama being used in the raga, Subbarama Dikshitar in his commentary makes two assertions, based on the prevalent convention:
    • Assertion 1: According to him RGD#MP, RGP#MGRG, DMPP, DSDMPG are the motifs of the raga. Mark #M being the sharper variety of the madhyama that is being singled out in the first two motifs (RGD#MP, RGP#MGRG) and which do not occur in the third and fourth (DMPP, DSDMPG) murccanas.
    • Assertion 2: Further according to him, intoning the madhyama of the raga as pratimadhyama (M2 or #M as notated) is the convention followed by the cognoscenti.
  5. The inescapable conclusion flowing from these 2 assertions is that M1 does not at all occur in the raga (despite being classed under Mela 15), safely ignoring the non-provision of the sharp sign for the madhyama that occurs in the third and fourth murrcana as above.
  6. And confusingly enough, in the notation proper for the composition of Dikshita “mangaladevatE” (and also the Lakshya gita and his own sancari) Subbarama Dikshita does not notate the madhyama with the sharp sign (#).
  7. Thus, we are left to infer that M1 does not occur in the raga and that in all places only M2 is intoned. However according to Prof S R Janakiraman the arohana krama has M1 while the descent SDM2P has the prati madhyama prayoga – see his lecture demonstration below.
  8. Viewing the notation from a madhyama note stand point the following murccanas occur in the composition including the cittasvaras.
    • RGD\MP
    • PDMPG
    • SDMPDMPG
  9. And thus, given the omnibus statement found in assertion 2, it can be said that in all these places, M2 is to be used. We will deal with this point further in the discography section as to when M1 and M2 are seen used, in the renderings.
  10.  Along with the cittasvara section, the composition spans the mandhara madhyama to the tara stayi gandhara of the raga.
  11. The raga mudra occurs with a svarakshara on the madhyama and dhaivatha note apart from other such instances.

The usage of madhyama note of the sharper variety imparts a haunting tinge to the raga that segues very well with the appeal to Her in the sahitya.

I have to note that this raga is dealt with in the Sangraha Cudamani as Margadesika (dropping madhyama in the ascent) and also further to the fact that there is no composition of Tyagaraja is either forms, I have not dealt with this, in this blog and I have confined myself only to the Margadesi of the SSP here.

Discography:

Presented first in the close to the SSP rendering sans any embellishment, rendering of the composition along with the cittasvara section, by Vidvan G Ravi Kiran.

Attention is invited to the places where m1 and m2 are rendered. Thus, he renders:

  • Mangaladevate” with M2 the prayoga being is G/DM2P
  • bhavathu nata tE” comes through with M1 as the prayoga is GPDM1PG.
  • angajapura” is sung as R,G/DM2P
  • “anAdyavidyA” is again sung as rsDM1P
  • guruguhAdi” employs G/DM1P
  • sat-sanga-mArga” is sung as s,sDM1P
  • The cittasvara section goes as under:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
R,,S ,RRG D,,M2 ,PGR ,RSd m1pdS RRGR ,GRS
RG,G DDM2P ,DM2P ,Dsr Dg,r sDM1, PGRS ,RSd

NB: tara stayi svaras are denoted in italics, madhya stayi in upper case and mandhara stayi svaras in lower case.

It can be noticed that not all G/DMP combinations are intoned with the sharper prati madhyama, on this rendering. M1 and M2 are used “as needed” alternatingly as an ornamental device.  

Presented next is the rendering by the revered Prof S R Janakiraman who prefaces the composition with a raga vinyasa and also sings kalpana svaras, demonstrating the raga can well be delineated competently without any confusion whatsoever.

His erudite lecture demonstration of a raga is always revelatory and its indeed fortuitous that Margadesi was one such covered by him of which a recording is available. Here is a clipping from his Lec-Dem titled ‘Ragas Unique to the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini’ before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy in the year 2005.

Mark the vivaciousness with which he presents the raga for us, as always. Attention is invited to his point that he makes to the effect that when M1 occurs as an ascent (ascent only) and M2 (via DMP) occur in this raga.

Some reflections on this kriti:

The sangita and sahitya of the compositions, for me stands out in very many ways. When one looks at the sahitya one cannot but appreciate the apparently simple lyrics which actually enjoin a much broader and enigmatic meaning in its conception.

  1. The lyrics proclaim her as the very embodiment of auspiciousness at the outset. There are atleast two shrines in the Tamil lands, which Dikshita has visited, where the presiding Goddess of the temple is Mangalanayaki (in Tamil) or Mangalambika. One is Kumbakonam where She is the Consort of the Lord Adi Kumbeshvara. Dikshita eulogized her by composing the  rare Ghanta kriti “Sri Mangalambikam”, which we dealt with in an earlier blog. The deity at Srivanchiyam is also Goddess Mangalambika who has been invested another beauty of a kriti Mangalambayai namaste, this time in the rarer raga Malavasri. As pointed out this composition does not specify the ksetra and is a generic composition only.
  2. The kriti declares- “mangalam bhavatu” – let there be prosperity- as an ask. Dikshita does not seek the ambrosial bliss (amruta bOdham dEhi – as in “Jambupate Mampahi” – Yamuna Kalyani). Nor does he personally seek auspiciousness or fortune (“bhadram dEhi as in Sri Bhargavi in Mangalakaisiki). The kriti contemplates a prayer – “let there be auspiciousness or prosperity for all”. The kriti is therefore a benedictory hymn and is couched in a rare raga.
  3. The kriti, apart from being a benedictory invocation is full of epithets to the Mother. And as his wont will keeping his date with prAsA, Dikshita address Lord Shiva indirectly via the puranic references to Him having vanquished or subdued Kama, the God of Love (angaja), the impregnable City of Tripura (pura) and its denizens and Lord Yama (kAla). He further alludes to the philosophical precept of Her being devoid or being apart from the eternal maya prapancha, which is beginning-less and pervaded with ignorance.
  4.  The first anupallavi sahitya line commencing “angajapura” is structured with jumps in its progression as R,G/DM2PD,sD,/rsDs which is the arohana krama of the raga. Mark the jumps from gandhara to dhaivatha, back to madhyama, from dhaivatha to tara rishabha and the pendulum like movement between madhya dhaivatha and tara rishabha before settling at the tara sadja.
  5. The second line marks the achievement of the crescendo at tara gandhara before commencing the descent and settling down to the basal madhya sadja. The single avarta madhyama kala portion appended to the anupallavi succinctly traverses the entire gamut of the raga, concluding with a pithy cittasvara section.
  6. The usage of the prati madhyama in this raga or to be more precise, when it is to be used in contradistinction to M1 is sort of left open. It has to be said here that if Subbarama Dikshita’s second assertion is given effect to then, the raga is to be rendered wholly with M2 only. Though the raga is classed under Mela 15 and M2 is left unmarked yet like Gaulipantu, this raga should be rendered only with M2, going with Subbarama Dikshita’s second assertion. But yet as we will see in the renderings of the venerable Prof SRJ and Vidvan G Ravikiran, in the discography section the rendering is interspersed with both M1 and M2 with no standard rule as to “when” the M2 note is to be intoned. Thus, for instance all GDMP occurrences in the composition are not seen with M2 only, per Subbarama Dikshita’s first assertion.
  7. SDM2PDM1PGRS is a very elegant murccana incorporating both the madhyama notes in quick succession which can be employed in this raga.
  8. The case of Margadesi, the usage of M2 being recorded in the commentary but unmarked in the notation, reminds us of the case of Anandabhairavi as documented in the SSP where Subbarama Dikshita makes a reference to the usage of D2 in the raga in his commentary as a development seen in practice but yet he does not mark D2 in the notation in the compositions thereunder.
  9. Margadesi is not seen classed under the ghana, naya or desi raga listings either by Subbarama Dikshita or by others.
  10. Mela 15 seems to be the counterpart of Mela 65 (Kalyani) in admitting the use of the other madhyama note by its janya ragas. None of the other mela’s are seen with janyas with both varieties of madhyama being used, atleast as seen in the SSP or in practice.

Conclusion:

The composition “Mangaladevate” and the raga Margadesi are thus unique as they stand out in many aspects. We have long forgotten the feature of ragas which principally sport the suddha madhyama note and use the pratimadhyama as well, especially under Mela 15. These ragas perhaps had died out even by CE 1800. It was left to the sans egal composer Muthusvami Dikshita to resurrect these long-forgotten ragas which had gone out of vogue.

I have chosen to present this raga in this blog post as I stumbled upon this composition and found it to be both, from the melodic and lyrical perspective so apt and resonating with the present times. The Goddess symbolized by Dikshita in this composition as the very embodiment of auspiciousness ( Mangalam) and the fact that the raga is a long forgotten one, reminded me of the the dilapidated and desolate temple of Goddess Mangaladevi in remote Tamilnadu, though the composition on hand bears no nexus of any sort, with this temple. I have used the photograph of that in the panel above, details of which are in the hyperlink. The haunting use of M2 via the DM2P prayoga imparts an ethereal feel for the raga. Immersing oneself in the beauty of the composition and making the prayer out to Her by learning or rendering this composition will without doubt confer Her benign blessings to one and all.

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol 1- Mela 15 Pages 243-246
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 857-857
  3. Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
  4. Proceedings of the Meetings of the Advisory Committee of the Madras Music Academy ( 3rd Jan 2005)- Journal of the Madras Music Academy (JMA) Vol LXXVI 2005 page 160

Safe Harbour Statement:

The renderings used or linked as above in the body of this blog has been made strictly for purposes of education and knowledge under fair use category. The intellectual property therein belongs to the respective artistes and the same cannot be shared or exploited without their consen

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga

The mysterious ‘nagumomu ganaleni’ of Tyagaraja Svamigaḷ

[simple-author-box]

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

Ābhēri

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

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

Types

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

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

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

Popular version of the kṛti ‘nagumōmu ganalēni’

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

Nagumōmu ganalēni – old versions

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

Renditions

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

Texts

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

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

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

Version by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar

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

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

Dēvagāndhāri or Dēvagāndhāra

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

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

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

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

Manuscripts

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

Manuscript by Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar

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

Manuscript by Śrīnivāsarāghavan

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

Vālājāpeṭṭai version

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

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

Ninnuvinā marigalada

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

What is the rāga of this kṛti?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Acknowledgements

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

Footnote 1

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

CompositionAppreciation, History, Raga

‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOhaM’ in Salagabhairavi – A Critical Appreciation

[simple-author-box]

Prologue:

prAthasmArami girijAnkitha vAmabhAgham

bakthAnusaktha hrudayam hrutha-daksa yAgam |

vAthAshanArchita padAmbuja mUrdhnibhAgam

 vandhArupOshamanisham sahajAnurAgam ||

(Meaning: I, SahajA offer my morning salutations to the Lord who took the (daughter of Mountain) Parvati as the left part of His body; who lives in the heart of his devotees, who destroyed Daksha’s sacrifice, who is worshipped by the sages and the one who protects those devoted to Him)

So did the great musicologist King Sahaji of Tanjore belonging to the Royal House of the Marathas pay obeisance to Lord Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur or Arur, in the first of his set of 5 slokas titled ‘Tyagaraja Stotram”. King Sahaji ruled Tanjore between circa 1690-1720 AD and without a child to succeed him, he abdicated the throne in favour of his younger brother Tulaja I and retired to live in Tiruvarur near his ishta-devata, Lord Tyagaraja. Sahaji left us the ‘Ragalakshanamu’ (circa 1710 AD) while Tulaja I gave us the ‘Saramrutha’ (circa 1736AD) both being compendia of ragas along with their lakshanas, as were in vogue at that point in time when they were respectively written. These two treatises together with the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP) dateable to circa 1750 AD, form the triad of musicological sources with which we can evaluate the music of the 18th century and particularly that of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

Three quarters of a century after King Sahaji, towards the end of the 18th century the Trinitarian Muthusvami Dikshitar a votary of his music paddhathi of Venkatamakhin propitiated the Lord of Aroor with a series of 8 compositions each of one being in a vibakthi/declension as his offering. Out of them, 7 are found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshitar. This blog post is about one of those compositions which is, ‘Tyagarajena samrakshitoham’ in the raga Salaga Bhairavi set in adi tala.

As always at the outset I begin by exploring the raga’s history and how it was dealt with by Muthusvami Dikshitar.

Overview of the lakshana of Salagabhairavi:

At the outset readers are forewarned that the raga of “Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham” of Muthusvami Dikshitar and the raga of ‘Padavini sadbaktiyu’ of Tyagaraja, as heard today though called commonly as Salagabhairavi,, are melodically not the same. We will deal with the difference at the end of the blog in the context of the raga as defined in Sangraha Cudamani which is the lexicon of the ragas found utilized by Tyagaraja.

We will evaluate the lakshana of the raga as found documented in the Triad and evaluate

  1. where the lakshana of the Salagabhairavi as found in ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ sits in the context of the Triad and the
  2. difference between the melodies of Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ and ‘Padavini sadbaktiyu’ though both of them are called Salagabhairavi in the context of Sangraha Cudamani.

The Overview of the definitions of the raga Salagabhairavi as dealt with the Triad:

The table below summarizes the lakshana of the raga as dealt with in the treatises which are dateable to different points in time during the 18th Century in the run up to the times of the Trinity.

Attribute/ Lakshana Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu (Circa 1710 AD) Tulaja’s Saramruta (Circa 1736 AD) Anubandha to the CDP (Circa 1750) – as provided in the SSP
Mela 22 (Sriraga) 22 (Sriraga) 22 (Sriraga)
Svaras varjya or vakra in arohana Dha is vakra and ni is varjya; PDPS occurs along with SNS and SRGR; complete sex or five note sequences do not occur Dha is vakra and ni is varjya; PDPS occurs along with SNS and SRGR;complete sex or five note sequences do not occur Pancama and dhaivatha are varjya in arohana
Svaras varjya or vakra in avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana
Time of the day it has to sung Fourth watch of the day (tUri yAmE) Fourth watch of the day (tUri yAmE) Last watch of the day (caramE yAmE)

While this is so, if one were to compare the above definitions with the lakshana as found in the Dikshitar kriti “Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham” the chart below would emerge.

SSP/Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750) Muthusvami Dikshitar as evidenced by his kriti ‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOham’ Remarks provided by way of commentary by Subbarama Dikshitar
Pancama and dhaivatha are varjya in arohana Dhaivatha is vakra and nishadha is varjya in the arohana and thus the uttaranga becomes PDPS SRGM PDPS/SNDPMGRS The alternated arohana krama is SRGRPMPDPS. Murccanas such as SRMGRPPDPS; NSDPGGRS and SGRMPDPMGRS also occur
Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana

The following conclusions would flow forth from the SSP Commentary:

  1. The raga lakshana as found in the kriti and so notated in the SSP completely deviates from the Anubandha definition as well as from the Subbarama Dikshitar commentary.
    • The Lakshana sloka and the arohana-avarohana murchanas are contradicting
    • The prayogas found notated in the three compositions thereunder are also in contradiction to the stated lakshana sloka
  2. This contradiction within the SSP is reminiscent of the case of Gopikavasanta which we saw in an earlier blog post.
  3. Further the lakshya gita provided in the SSP (“Sri Nanda tanu’) attributed by Subbarama Dikshitar to Venkatamakhin himself has the following prayogas:
  4. SNSDP, SNDPS, PMGR, GGRS, SRMMGRPPDPS
  5. SGR, SMGR, SRGS, PPNPM
  6. Subbarama Dikshitar’s sancara sports the same prayogas found in the above said lakshya gita.
  7. The lakshana shloka found in the SSP beginning ‘sampUrnO sagrahOpeta’ is obviously of AD 1750 vintage probably of Muddu Venkatamakhin and cannot be of Venkatamakhin. For, the original lakshana sloka found in the CDP for Salagabhairavi runs as under (and not as what the SSP says)

               ‘shrIrAga mEla sambhUthO ragaH sAlagabhairavI |

               sampUrna-svara-samyuktA yAmE-gEya-tUrIyakE ||

  • It is well possible that the raga definition had perhaps changed again between AD 1736 (post Saramrutha) and AD 1750 (the time Anubandha was probably compiled) resulting in the change in the lakshana shloka.
  • It is important to note that even the modern-day contour of for Salagabhairavi – SR2M1PD1S/SN2D2PM1G2R2S is even different, to which we will turn to once we analyse the kriti of Tyagaraja in this scale.
  • To state simply, Muthusvami Dikshitar’s Salagabhairavi is
    • aligned more to Sahaji and Tulaja’s version.
    • Aligned also to a fair extent to the lakshya gita ‘Sri Nanda tanu’

And it sports only a sub-set of prayogas from those and eschews the rest. But the conception does not conform to the lakshana shoka provided by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP.

It is Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP who attempts to bridge the Dikshitar version of Salagabhairavi with the one of Muddu Venkatamakhin by providing an alternate arohana/avarohana, as a part of his commentary.

Analysis of ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham”:

With this high-level overview of the theoretical definition of the raga let us move to the kriti. While that may be so what may be of importance for us is to understand Sahaji’s definition and look at the Dikshitar kriti for comparison. The following points would emerge:

  1. Sahaji in his commentary says about complete or 7 note, six note or five note sequences or phrases do not occur. The implication here is that the phrase should not have sequentially svaras beyond 4 notes. Thus, SRGMGR would be how the phrase would flow to stay in conformance to this constraint. One can logically conclude that taking sadja as the starting note, SRGMPDN or SRGMPD or SRGMP phrases would not occur. Similarly taking rishabha next, RGMPDNS or RGMPDN or RGMPD would not occur. Quite oddly Dikshitar kriti lacks SRGM or RGMPD usage whereas we do find RGM usage via RGMGRS for example. As pointed out , the upshot of this would be that Dikshitar’s conception of Salagabhairavi would be closer to the Salagabhairavi of Sahaji rather than the one laid out in the Anubandha to the CDP, which version of the raga drops pancama and dhaivatha in its ascent. And this is a very curious way of raga construction and delineation, probably native to the 18th century or prior.
  2. And both the pallavi as well as the carana of ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ begins on the rishabha note. It has to be pointed out that for the ragas under Mela 22 under Sriraga, rishabha is a pivotal note and this raga is perhaps no exception. Thus Dikshitar, perhaps for this raga deemed that rishabha was the jiva svara and so he began the pallavi and the carana on the said note. And for good measure the kriti has the note pancama as svara akshara in a number of places.
  3. In sum Dikshitar in this composition uses the following phrases:
    • Mandhara stayi – Sndp, dpS, Sdp
    • Madhya stayi – SRGM, RGMP, DPS, SNDP, MGRS, RGS, PGRS  
    • Tara stayi – SRMGRS
  4. Phrases such as SNSDP or SMGR found profusely in the lakshya gitam is not found in the kriti.
  5. In the carana for the first two avartas /lines of sahitya he spans mandhara pancama to madhya pancama. And for the next two avartas/lines he spans madhya dhaivatha to tara gandhara and back to madhya sadja. The final madhyamakala sahitya of the carana, as always, he encompasses the entire melodic body of the raga.
  6. Leaving out the 18th century construct of the raga – vide point 1 above- purely from a modern perspective, the perusal of the notation of the composition would show that the murccana arohana/avarohana krama of this raga as per Dikshitar’s conception under          Mela 22 would be as under:

S R2 G2 M1 P D2 P S

S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S

               The above would go with the caveat that nishadha or madhyama or gandhara varjya          prayogas such as SDPMGRS, RPMP, PGR and RGS can also occur in profusion.  

The lyrics of the kriti together with the meaning can be had from here. And with that we move on to hear the renderings of the composition.

Discography:

The version of a violinist:

Oddly in this blog post, I seek to first present a version of this beautiful Dikshitar composition as rendered on the violin by an unknown perhaps amateur artiste, and uploaded on the Youtube, for I found it to be concise, complete, beautiful and a high-fidelity rendering/ interpretation of the notation of this composition found in the SSP. It has been rendered to the accompaniment of the tanpura sruti only. Here are the Youtube and audio links to rendering.                                              

Audio of the above rendering

Let us now turn our attention to the notation of the composition as found in the SSP and do a compare with the above rendering.

  1. I invite attention first to the way in which the kAlapramAnam of the composition has been pegged from start to end. Typically, in recitals, the rendering of a given composition for varied reasons gets accelerated and it will be noticeable towards the end of the composition’s rendering. In this case one can notice that the pace in which the pallavi for example is rendered at the beginning is the same when the song concludes at the end of the 6th minute. The violinist was perhaps helped by the fact that there was no percussion accompaniment. It is generally true that for many vocalists, more so in the case of Dikshitar compositions, after singing the madhyamakala sahitya rarely do they exactly land back to the original tempo/kalapramanam of the sama kala pallavi segment of the composition. More so, this composition is likely to get more than accelerated as it has sparser sahitya conforming to the ati citra tama marga, that we saw in a previous blog post in the context of the Kannada Bangala kriti ‘Renuka Devi Samrakshitoham’.
  2. There are no blemishes, sruti/svara lapses or staccato notes, anywhere in this rendering.
  3. In the pallavi rendering while keeping to the notation a few melodic extensions are done, for example for the sahitya ‘sAgarEna srI’ the violinist employs janta prayogas NNDDP MMGGRRS.
  4. In the anupallavi, attention is invited to the rendering of ‘yativarAdyupA-sitEna-bhavEna’ which goes as ndpSdp-GR.G-MP.P which vocalists do not properly render (see editions below). The phrase “upA” should land on the mandhara pancama and not on the madhya pancama. Moreover, vocalists tend to take a breather/pause just after yativarAdyupA-. The jump from the mandhara pancama(‘upA’) to the madhya gandhara(‘sitEna’) is the beauty here which needs to be listened to. This motif pG repeats elsewhere as Pg, from the madhya pancama to the tara gandhara, in the composition and needs to be highlighted. The violinist does complete justice to the two samakAla lines of the anupallavi, rendering it seamlessly providing us complete satisfaction.
  5. I again invite attention to the continuous playing/phrasing by the artiste of the carana lines each seamlessly segueing into one other resulting in a continuous fluid flow of melody right through the carana.
  6. One would also find that the melodic extensions with which the artiste ends the pallavi, anupallavi or the carana are very aesthetic and in conformance with the lakshana delineated in the kriti proper.

Students of music aspiring to learn this composition ought to do so by hearing this version with the SSP notation in hand. It is complete, for I find it to be a very purposive and aesthetic interpretation of the notation. And thus one is indebted to him/her, for such a splendid rendering, sans any blemish whatsoever.

Other interpretations:

We next present other renderings of Dikshitar’s ‘tyAgarAjEna rakshitOham’. Below are the presentations by a couple of Sangita Kala Acharyas.

Vidushi Suguna Varadacari renders the composition next and is from an AIR Concert of hers.

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/tvg/UPLOADS-1601—1800/1617-Suguna_Varadachari-Thyagaraja_Vibarthi_Krithis/

(Would require Yahoo/Google ID for Log In)

And, the venerable Prof S R Janakiraman renders the composition.

Vidushi Kalpakam Svaminathan a scion of the Dikshitar sishya parampara, recorded the Tyagaraja Vibakti kritis which includes this composition as well, as a commercial album, details of which are here.

Dikshitar’s Salagabhairavi and the popular modern version of the raga as found in Tyagaraja’s ‘padavini sadbaktiyu’:

The modern version of the raga Salaga Bhairavi as available us through ‘padavini sadbakti’ is documented in the Sangraha Cudamani as SRMPDS/SNDPMGRS under Mela 22.  

The legendary vidvans, the Alathur Brothers render the composition in this link, prefaced by a raga vinyasa.

Attention is invited to the opening phrase of the pallavi which begins as SRMP itself. A quick comparison between the raga as found in the composition of Dikshitar and Tyagaraja would thus yield the following table for us:

Muthusvami Dikshitar as evidenced by his kriti ‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOham’ Tyagaraja as evidenced by the modern day mettu of ‘padavini sadbakthi’
Dhaivatha is vakra and nishadha is varjya in the arohana Gandhara and nishadha are varjya in the arohana
Sampurna in the avarohana Sampurna in the avarohana
The conception is characterized by jumps and turns as well and more avarohana pradhana/centricity of the raga. Fairly straightforward progression of the raga.

The question whether the scale found in ‘padavini’ being SRMPNS/SNDPMGRS was the original one adopted by Saint Tyagaraja when he composed the same is questionable & not beyond reasonable doubt for the following reasons:

  1. When the raga of the composition ‘padavini’ was discussed in the Music Academy on 26-Dec-1942 (documented in pages 17-18 of JMA XIV, see reference section below) a personage no less than the great Vidvan Tiger Varadacariar, placed on record that he had heard the kriti being rendered with RGMP.
  2. Another musical authority, Sri M S Ramasvami Iyer went on to sing a cittasvaram composed by Patnam Subramanya Iyer for ‘padavini sadbakti’ which incorporated RGM phrase as support /proof for the prayoga having been in vogue.
  3. Prof Sambamoorthi & Dr T V Subba Rao too agreed with the proposition that SRGMP was in vogue and textual authorities too had recorded it.
  4. Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer a votary of the so called Dikshitar school, put forth the case for SRGMPDPS on the authority of the Dikshitar kriti and the documentation in the SSP.

In fact, Sri Tiger Varadacariar even suggested perhaps as a compromise that SRMRGMPDPS can be the recommended arohana krama accommodating the RGMP prayoga. The records of the JMA show that in that discussion that day, Tiger Varadacariar, M S Ramasvami Iyer, Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer & T V Subba Rao were arrayed on one side. However, the acolytes of the Sangraha Cudamani led by the President of the Conference that year, Sangita Kalanidhi Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar had their way making SRMPDS/SNDPMGRS as the nominal arohana/avarohana krama of the raga, based on the then contemporaneous version of ‘padavini’.

The question thus we are left with is whether RGM and PDPS exists for Salagabhairavi. For, Dikshitar uses RGM and PDPS while the same is not so in the case of Tyagaraja based on the evidence of modern-day version of ‘padavini’ available to us & the lakshana as documented in the Sangraha Cudamani. Also, Dikshitar has utilized prayogas documented by all musicologists of yore right up to Tulaja.

Be that as it may, the discussion in the Academy clearly shows that ‘padavini’ was rendered in the past with SRGMP and not SRMP, indicating the possibility that the modern version/musical fabric of ‘padavini sadbakti’ is probably a “normalized” or “truncated” version. It’s likely that perhaps the original version of the composition was in line with the Salagabhairavi of Sahaji or Tulaja or of Muthusvami Dikshitar which was perhaps the defacto standard during the1800’s. Meaning, Salagabhairavi had vakra dhaivatha & nishadha varjya in the arohana and complete/sampurna in the avarohana and perhaps admitting gandhara varjya phrases as well.

Similar perhaps has the been the fate of ‘manavini vinuma’ a Tyagaraja composition, which is assigned a raga name of ‘Jayanarayani’ not found in any musical record save for Sangraha Cudamani which goes with the arohana/avarohana krama as SRGMPDS/SNDPMGRS under mela 22. It may sound like a ‘conspiracy’ theory but nevertheless it is a matter of great concern that the musical material of very many Tyagaraja kritis especially in eka kriti ragas has been subject to controversy and the available melody as on date/assigned, has not been beyond the pale of controversy. If one were to consider the logic and arguments advanced by the noted critic of the previous century Sri K V Ramachandran, one can conclude or at the least suspect that the ragas of ‘padavini sadbaktiyu’ and ‘manavini vinuma’ were perhaps only Salagabhairavi as documented in Muthusvami Dikshitar’s ‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOham’.

One is disconcerted by the fact that disciples or certain lineages have not properly transmitted the composition over the centuries, with the result today, we a corrupted version of what was originally composed. And we need not look far for one more proof, paart from what was placed on record by Tiger Varadachariar as in the case of ‘padavini’. It can be immediately demonstrated with this very Dikshitar composition, ’tyagarajena Samrakshitoham, how tradition can be turned on its head by musicians ignorant of both lakshya and lakshana.

 Here is a modern-day performing musician, Vidushi Shyamala Venkateshwaran who casts the Dikshitar composition ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham’ completely in the garb of the Salaga Bhairavi, not the one expounded by Dikshitar but with SRMPDS/SNDPMGRS as found in the Tyagaraja kriti ‘padavini’) with total impunity and contempt of the authentic notation of the composition found in the SSP.

( The photo used in the video upload is not of the artiste concerned but of Vidushi Rama Kausalya and readers ought to take note of the same)

Not just the kriti rendering, but we have a full suite of alapana and a svaraprastara to boot for this close to 20 min long presentation, providing ripe evidence for us as to how performers/sishyas/sishya paramparas could have and can misinterpret compositions/raga lakshana down the line, doing the greatest of disservice to a composer and his intent. Nothing can be farther from injustice when such musicians are called upon to adjudicate competitions on Dikshitar compositions !

It is indeed sad that this spurious version will most likely be taught to unknowing students of music and will be perpetuated as an authentic edition of the kriti.

Epilogue:

Vigilance they say is the price of liberty and the foregoing is a warning to the discerning listener of our music. Beware of peddlers of spurious music- would be an understatement. However, it is comforting to note that as against these transgressions a non-descript amateur musician is able to hold fort with an authentic interpretation of this rare kriti of Dikshitar, Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham, which was presented first in the discography. And one does wish & pray that known and popular musicians & teachers emulate this worthy example in the days to come and they in turn bequeath an authentic tradition true to the intent of the great composers of the past.

References:

  1. Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy (1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 462-466 of the 2006 Edition of Vol II: Link
  2. Ragalakshana Sangraha –Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1173-1180
  3. Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta (1993) – Edited by Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr S R Janakiraman-Published by the Madras Music Academy – pp 26-27
  4. The Raga Lakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja of Tanjavur (1983) -JMA Volume LVI Published by the Madras Music Academy-pp 140-182
  5. Salagabhairavi Raga lakshana Discussion – Proceedings of the Experts Committee of the Madras Music Academy on 26-Dec-1942 – 16th Music Conference – Published in JMA Volume XIV (1943) -pp17-38

Safe Harbour Statement

The recording of the renderings provided through YouTube or audio links as exemplars are the exclusive intellectual property of the artistes concerned. The same has been utilized here strictly on a non-commercial basis, under fair use for study & research, fully acknowledging their rights and no part of it may be copied, reproduced or otherwise dealt without the consent of the artistes or the concerned IP right holders.

CompositionAppreciation, Pathantara, Uncategorized

Sukhi Evvaro – Kanada – An Evergreen Classic

By Ravi Rajagopalan

Introduction:

The composition and the raga need no introduction to a listener of our Karnataka Sangeetam. This blog post is about certain aspects of the raga on one hand and the way the composition has come to be handled over a period of time.

The composition ‘Sukhi Evvaro” is very ubiquitous and the raga even more, for varied reasons as it can be considered to generate greater ranjakatva with both the lay listeners as well as the cognoscenti. So much so the kriti and the raga has come to be handled commonly that the raga as it was and the kriti as it was perhaps, has now come to be forgotten.

While I embark on my narrative, I am not going to deal with the origins of Kanada or its meandering history. Instead I first present the contemporaneous version of the raga and the kriti and then go back by about 100 years just to savour the probably original version that was in vogue then. And this blog post is only about the kriti ‘Sukhi Evvaro” and the Kanada or perhaps its version that was native to it. Nothing else.

Kanada of Today:

Musical texts of today would place Kanada as a upanga janya of the 22nd Mela with a nominal arohana/avarohana krama as under:

S R2 P G2 M1 D2 N2 S

S N2 P M1 G2 M1 R2 S

The Kanada we deal with in this blog post is the one with kosher phrases, marked by a well oscillated gandhara and taking the svaras as above and nothing else. The leitmotif of the raga is the GMRS marked by the oscillated gandhara. The raga in this form and name cannot be traced back to prior to 1850 AD and its present form and contours that it has taken have been more or less between 1850-1950 AD. Suffice to state that none of the authentic pre 1850 AD texts talk of this raga. In fairness it has to be further stated that the melodic Chaya or svarupa that it shares with its sibling ragas such as Karnataka Kapi or Durbar contributes to our confusion about the origins of this raga.

Be that as it may, for the limited purposes of this blog post, the above contours of the raga would suffice along with the following classical features or lakshana of Kanada for which I cite the authority of the commentary provided by the revered Prof. S R Janakiraman (Prof SRJ) in his work, as under:

  • The raga is a melody which cannot be dealt with as is, within the framework of the janaka-janya system. Though the raga is treated as a janya of the 22nd mela Karaharapriya, Kanada shares no link whatsoever with the mela raga.
  • The best way to understand the raga is by learning and understanding the following two varnas which are ‘nikhandus’ or ‘raga katakas’ or the dictionary of Kanada, holding the set of all possible and permissible combinations of the raga’s notes or phrases.
    • ‘Neranamitti’ – Ata tala- Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar
    • ‘Ninne kori’ – Adi Tala – Tiruvottriyur Tyagier
  • In terms of svara progression the following rules apply:
    1. During descent when sadja occurs, dhaivatha becomes varjya. In other words, SNDP does not occur. Either SNP or NDPM can occur, but not SNDP.
    2. SRSSNNPM, NDPDPPMG, MRGMP, SDPD are special phrases occurring in the raga
    3. The raga’s contours can possibly be elaborated as below to accommodate the vakra sancaras which makes the raga blossom forth.

                                S R G M P M D N S

                                S N S D P M P G M R S

  • The arohana krama bears an uncanny resemblance to the raga Sahana, which is where the difference in the way the gandhara is intoned, which differentiates the ragas from one another.
  • In the SRGM phrase by intoning the sadharana gandhara with a ‘nokku’ thereby reducing the ‘frequency’, below the median sadharana levels, Kanada is ‘heard’. The intonation of the gandhara sharply higher than the median value for ‘sadharana’ levels, closer to the antara gandhara will make the same phrase SRGM sound as Sahana. MPMGMR is another phrase where the gandhara’s intonation determines if the phrase is of Kanada or of Sahana. It is perhaps for this slender difference that Hindustani Music has a melody called Shahana-Kanada which harnesses both these sub-varieties of the sadharana gandhara in its melodic body.
  • The key exemplars of this raga are the following compositions
    • ‘Sukhi Evvaro’ and ‘Sri Narada’ of Tyagaraja
    • ‘Vani Pondu’ – the javali of Pattabhiramayya
    • ‘Gauri Nayaka’ – the simhanandana tala tillana of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer.

When we absorb the commentary as above provided by Porf SRJ, it can be observed that the lakshana of Kanada is characteristically of the 18th century model which we had seen in previous blog posts. The progression of a raga being characterized with jumps, bends, turns and twists with the result that there is no preordained or unique progression in the purvanga or uttaranga section of the raga, is seen in Kanada as well.

Discography for Kanada- The two varnas:

It is to be pointed out that students as well as listeners of music ought to first train their ears and learn or understand the proper lakshana of this raga and hence as prescribed by Prof SRJ, firstly I present the two varnas which may please be heard profitably before we move on to the proper subject matter of this blog post.

I present first the Ata tala varna rendering by the mellifluous Sangita Kalanidhi Smt M S Subbulakshmi, for her clarity of rendering – sahitya and svaras stanas.

I next present ‘Nera nammiti’ by the legendary Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda, who in this AIR Concert recorded in the autumn of her performing career, still brings to life the composition learnt by her from her mother or grandmother who in turn learnt it first hand from the composer himself, Tiruvottriyur Tyagier.

I invite the attention to the intonation of the gandhara, which is in the lower bounds of the permissible frequency for the sadharana variety of the note. It can be said with the authority of Prof SRJ and with the exemplar rendering of the varnas by Smt M S Subbulakshmi and Smt T Brinda, as above, that the defining aspect of Kanada is the way in which the gandhara is to be intoned. With this point noted, we next turn to the subject matter on hand.

Sukhi Evvaro – Of Tyagaraja

Here is a detailed commentary on the composition along with the lyrics.  Arguably, the most popular versions of the compositions are the ones tracing back to the veterans Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar and Madurai Mani Iyer and theirs as well, which are available already in the public domain.

I however choose to present the rare and a revelatory version of the composition ‘Sukhi Evvaro’ by the doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda.

Smt. T Brinda renders ‘Sukhi evvaro’

Attention is first invited to her raga vinyasa wherein she lays out the lakshana of the raga with the kriti firmly in her mind. Hark at the subtle oscillations she gives to the gandhara, the dhaivatha and the nishadha and how she caresses those notes even as she coaxes and cajoles the melody out of them, drawing upon her tutelage under Kancipuram Naina Pillai. The rishabha is perhaps the jiva svara of mela 22 ragas of yore including its ancient titular head Sriraga. And no wonder the anscestry is drawn upon for the eduppu of this composition which begins with the steady janta rishabha. Never does she deliver a sangati not aligning to this take off note.

A number of observations invite our attention to the rendering of the maestro, as under amongst others:

  1. The pace and the rhythmic gait of the rendering and how she changes it at the carana
  2. The eduppu of the composition at the rishabha as RRGGM – RPPMGGMRS-RRGGM, as pointed out earlier with the take off being a steady rishabha
  3. The way the gandhara, dhaivatha and the nishadha are oscillated. In fact at ‘nityamai’ in the carana one wonders whether the arohana krama is MPNNS, with the nishadha carrying the shades of the dhaivatha as well.
  4. The gandhara is always intoned at or less than sadharana levels and never being rendered sharper anywhere and is duly ornamented with the oscillated/kampita gamaka

All these key points hold our attention making this version of the composition unique and, in my opinion, it is in complete consonance with the Kanada delineated in the varnas and thus forming the gold standard or exemplar of the raga as it was in the closing quarters of the 19th Century. With due respects to all great vidvans/vidushis of the past and the present, it has to be frankly said that much liberties have been taken both with the raga and this composition as evidenced by the renderings of the same as available tu us today.

In so far as the composition is concerned while the common complaint could be the speeding up of the kriti, yet what is especially notable is the license and liberty taken with the gandhara svara. Almost as a rule the gandhara of modern Kanada has become sharper and less oscillated than what it was once upon a time. Is it the urge to tint it with the so- called Hindustani touch to make it closer to Durbari or Malhar? One does not know. Suffice to say that the Kanada of late 19th century vintage as embodied by this version of Smt Brinda has now been lost and nowhere heard on the modern concert platform.

I leave it to Prof SRJ who in this video between 5.49 and 9.06, waxes eloquent of this version of ‘Sukhi Evvaro” of Smt T Brinda contrasting it with the version that was taught to him by the Flute maestro Svaminatha Pillai. Watch how emotional and passionate he becomes as he recounts that experiance of hearing her sing the composition. QED.

Prof SRJ reminisces on T Brinda’s ‘Sukhi Evvaro between 5:49-9.06 of the clip

Conclusion:

There is nothing more to be said or added and I conclude this post by leaving a thought. As a listener or as a performer one needs to constantly evolve and develop ‘discernment’ in other words, the behavioural attribute to ‘discern’ – the dictionary meaning of which is “distinguish (someone or something) with difficulty/ effort by sight or with the other senses”, the close Tamil word being பகுத்தறிதல்.

We need to discern and discover the truly beautiful versions of great works of art /composition and perhaps only listen or learn them as the case may be. ‘Sukhi Evvaro” of Smt T Brinda is a work of art, an exemplar in its true and only sense and one can’t but silently second the view of the revered Prof SRJ.

References:

  1. Raga Lakshanangal -Part II (Tamil) (2009 Edition) – Prof S R Janakiraman- Published by the Madras Music Academy -pp 78-80

Safe Harbour Statement

The recording of Smt T Brinda as well the renderings provided through YouTube links as exemplars are the exclusive intellectual property of the artistes concerned. The same has been utilized here strictly on a non-commercial basis, under fair use for study & research, fully acknowledging their rights and no part of it may be copied, reproduced or otherwise dealt without the consent of the artistes or the concerned IP right holders.

CompositionAppreciation, Repertoire

“kāśīviśveśvara ehi mām pāhi’ – The forgotten magnum opus in Kāmbhoji

[simple-author-box]

Prologue:

The raga Kāmbhoji needs no introduction to a discerning listener of our music. In it, is a composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar, which is the subject matter of this brief post, which is the first one in this new composition appreciation series of short blogposts. Personally, I consider this as one of the serious and contemplative pieces ever composed in our music and particularly by Dikshitar. Considerable thought ought to have gone into this composition as it is truly a magnum opus of epic proportions set in khanda ata tala, 14 aksharas, with a full suite of pallavi, anupallavi and carana and the last two sections invested with a madhyama kala portion, the sahitya rich in lyrics, sthala/ksetra references and needless to add, infused with Kambhoji as its life and blood.

The Kriti – A Background

During his stay at Tiruvarur, sometime CE 1820 , the itinerant he was, Dikshitar visited the nearby village of Kuzhikkarai perhaps on the occasion of the consecration of the Shiva temple there, whose patron was one Vaidyalinga Mudaliar. The temple being analogous to the one at Kasi, has Lord Kasi Visvanatha as its presiding deity. Musical history tells us that during his sojourn there, Dikshitar composed quite a few kritis including this Kambhoji masterpiece. ‘śrī viśvanātham’, the caturdasha ragamalika, ‘annapūrṇe viśālākṣi’ in sama, ‘viśvanāthena samrakṣitoham in samanta are the other ones which are recorded in history as having been composed by Dikshitar in this ksetra. Near the temple precincts in a water body/tank /kuLaM (in tamizh). The legend associated with the temple has it that by bathing in it, a person afflicted by leprosy would be cured of the same (“kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho”) and that, propitiating the Lord in this kshetra would give one, benefits greater than what can be got by being to kashi itself (“kāśī-kśetra-sadṛśa-adhika-phalada-garta-tīra-vāsa”).

The kriti in its sahitya sports all these references directly or indirectly as under:

भवरोगहर-चतुर-वैद्यलिङ्ग-विभो (bhava-roga-hara-catura vaidya-linga-vibho) – reference indirectly to Vaidyalinga Mudaliar

गर्ततीर-वास भक्तविश्वास ( gartatīra-vāsa bhaktaviśvāsa) & कुष्ठ रोगापह-गर्ततीर्थ-शम्भो (kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho) – Reference to the sacred water tank ‘gartatIra’ and its medicinal property to ward off leprosy (kushta roga)

And as is Dikshitar’s wont, the raga mudra and his colophon are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the composition as under:

भद्रदायक-अम्भोजकर-विभो – meaning “O the one whose lotus hands grant benign fortune and happiness!”

शिवगुरु-गुहजनक-पशुपते – meaning “O the auspicious one, the progenitor of Guruguha and master of all creatures!”

The complete lyrics and the meaning of this composition in Sanskrit can be found here:

http://guru-guha.blogspot.com/2007/09/dikshitar-kriti-kasi-visvesvara-raga.html

Kambhoji Quartet – The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP’s) take:

Subbarama Diksitar’s treatise documents the following compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar in the raga Kambhoji:

  1. Shri Subramanyaya Namaste – Rupaka
  2. Shri Valmikalingam – Ata
  3. Kamalambikayai Kanakamshukayai – Ata
  4. Kashi Vishvesvara -Ata

Each one of the above ‘Kambhoji Quartet’ is a musical marvel, presenting the raga Kambhoji in its seemingly infinite variations and facets and rivalling only each other in their beauty of the melodic construction and intricacy of architecture. But before one looks at the construct of the composition, it has to be first heard. Sadly, the composition “kAsi visvesvara” is never heard on the concert circuit and gives one the impression whether it is even being taught and learnt, leave alone being sung! While the performers, from amongst the above listing of compositions of Dikshitar, take to the ubiquitous ‘Sri Subramanyaya Namaste’, the three others have never been known to be taken up for rendering or serious elaboration. And sadly, keeping the above Kambhoji Quartet aside, performers have taken recourse to the other kritis, (mis)attributed to Muthuswami Dikshitar, such as “Marakatavallim” or “Kailasanathena” which are not only of doubtful antecedents but also not at all comparable or in the same league as the aforesaid Quartet of compositions.

Be that as it may, before we look at the lyrical and musical construct of the composition, the available renderings must be first heard.

Discography:

It is known with certainty that this composition formed part of the repertoire of the late Sangita Kalanidhi D K Pattamal who used to wonder at it saying that singing this composition was nothing short of performing a yagna. Unfortunately, we do not have any recordings of her rendering of this piece. In all probability she must have learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, the repository of Dikshitar compositions, from whom she learnt many Dikshitar compositions.

Presented first in this section is the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer who too learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, which we fortunately have.

Presented next is a rendering of the same by the revered Prof S R Janakiraman, who has rendered it in his own inimitable style.

It has to be pointed out here that the above two are the only available rendering of the composition in the public domain and perhaps luckily become a high-fidelity or pristine version/gold copy of the composition, unsullied by likely extensions or interpolations. A discerning listener ought to immerse himself/herself in the rendering, with the SSP notation by the side to soak up the musical and lyrical essence of the composition.

Musical & Lyrical Construct of the Composition:

From a musical perspective the following points stand out:

  1. The musical phrase ‘DP DM MG MR GR GS’ is the recurring leitmotif which occurs in this composition. The notation for the anupallavi & charana lyrical portions ‘bhakta viś v ā sa’, ‘vaidyalingavibho’, ‘gartatīrtha śambho’ and ‘cinmātra’ would show that they are set to this phrase as it were a refrain of sorts. The pallavi lyrical portion ‘karuṇānidhe’ too sports an equivalent phrase ‘DP DM MG MR rpmG MG MR GS’ as its mettu. By design this musical motif is found in the anupallavi and the charana portions, occurring in the 8th to the 14th akshara of the ata tala cycle.
  2. SN3P finds an acknowledged place in the musical setting. The loop back portions from the anupallavi and the charana back to the pallavi, respectively at ‘dakshina’ and ‘citsabhāpate’ sport SN3P explicitly.
  3. The raga’s purvanga as it appears in the composition eschews SRGMP completely save for a tāra sancara usage at the sahitya ‘rogāpaha’ occurring in the carana. Thus, it is SGRGM, SP or SMGM which dominate the raga’s purvanga prayogas. And the quaint MGPDS as well as the standard SMGMPD appear aplenty in the composition.
  4. The madhyama note is seemingly given a pride of place in the composition. For instance, the anupallavi section of the composition commences with a dheerga madhyama.
  5. The two madhyama kala sahitya portions appended to the anupallavi and the carana portions are a marvel in themselves. The word ‘deva’ is used consecutively but yet to connote different epithets of the Lord, a form of aNi (அணி)or a lyrical motif. This form of lyrical ornamentation is found in a number of compositions of both Muthusvami Dikshitar and Subbarama Dikshitar, as documented in the SSP.
  6. Similarly, the prathamakshara and dvitIyakshara prAsa concordance is found in the two madhyama kala sahityas as under:
  7. The syllable ‘de’ occurring at the 1st and 8th (exact half of ata tala 14 beat cycle) aksharas covering the two full tAla avartas of the anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section “dEśika kaṭākṣeṇa darśita
    |dEvatā-sārvabhauma-mahā || dEva-devadeva-deva nuta |dEva rāja pūjita dakshiṇa||”
  8. The syllable ‘va’ occurring at the 2nd and 9th aksharas covering the two full tala avartas of the carana madhyama kala sahitya section “bhuvana bharaṇa-bhūtagaṇapate -bhava hara-nata-vidhi-śrIpate|| Siva guruguha-janaka-paśupate |nava maṇi-vilasita-citsabhāpate ||
  9. Dikshitar has made the composition capacious. In other words he distributes the sahitya in such a way that even while he keep prAsa in mind, he also incorporates long kArvais, pauses and musical phrases to fill every one of the 14 aksharas. I draw the attention of the reader to what we saw in the previous post on the composition ‘rEnuka dEvi samrakshitOham’ in Kannada Bangala. There Dikshitar took the stylistic route of matching the hrasva and dhirghA syllables of the sahitya to exactly fit the sahitya in a 1:2 ratio- for example if every hrasva sahitya syllable were to be sung for 1 akshara of the tala ( jhampa in that case) then the dhIrgha syllables would be at 2 aksharas and the entire sahitya of the composition would be structured as well to fit into exactly the total tala cycle, leaving no surplus or deficit of either sahitya syllables or tala aksharas. In other words, there was no need for a pause/kArvai to extend sahitya to fill the tala nor was there a need to accelerate to second speed in the midst in order to complete the sahitya within the tala cycle. This construct of mAtu laya is not adopted by Dikshitar here. Contrastingly in ‘kAsi visvEsara’ he liberates himself from this self-imposed constraint of matching the sahitya and tala in perfect mAtu laya. Instead he pitches for long kArvais – sustained intonation/elongation of sahitya/note on to multiple contiguous tala aksharas and gamakas keeping in mind the raga of his choice for the composition namely Kambhoji. Kambhoji as a rakti raga can we melded to this compositional style with elaborate gamakas or kArvais, which we can say as mellismatic whereas a raga like Kannada Bangala which is more note or phrase based would be amenable to a matu laya model composition.  It is an accepted tenet that kArvais or elongation of svaras is generally responsible for bringing visrAnti or reposefulness to rAga elaboration.
  10. In preparing his compositional canvas with ata tala , Dikshitar also pegs the pace of rendering the composition – the rendering ought to be sedate and languorous without either rushing the sahitya through or eliding/abbreviating the pauses. There are those who have attempted to abbreviate the compositions of Dikshitar to shorter talas, as we saw in the case of ‘rEnukA dEvi samrakshitOham’. In fact there are those who render the other Kambhoji ata tala creation of Dikshitar namely ‘srI valmIkalingam in a faster tempo, wreaking havoc on the composition and also eliding the kArvais therein. In sum Dikshitar’s idea of a longer tAla cycle with sparser sahitya per tala must have been to potentially make the performer linger a lot more on every note and have it rendered in a sedate style so that every note and its movement can be slowly partaken by the listeners.
  11. While the sahitya is rich, Dikshitar has strung them in the section with the greatest of care, creating a monumental edifice. From a tala perspective for example the Pallavi itself takes 4 cycles, anupallavi takes 6 cycles with two of them being madhyama kala sahityas and the caranam in 14 cycles again with two of the them being madhyama kala sahitya sections.
  12. And as Dikshitar proceeds to set the composition to music he has for some reason has chosen the phrase in second kAla DP DM MG MR GR GS as the quintessential leitmotif for this composition, repeating this in atleast 5 places spread over the composition as pointed out earlier.
  13. The anupallavi of the composition has been constructed effectively taking Kambhoji’s uttaranga followed by a foray into the tara stayi and back to the Madhya sadja. Launching thus on the madhyama note ( at ‘kAsi ksEtra’) the khandika or section proceeds all the way to the tAra gandhara ( fleetingly touching the tAra madhyama at ‘garthatIra”) before descending to sadja ar ‘vishvAsA’. The delectable anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section ‘dEsika katAksEna’ distills the Kambhoji of yore for us, spanning exactly the same octaval coverage made earlier in the anupallavi proper.. Attention is invited to the different varieties of madhyama employed in the anupallavi, for example the straight/plain variety at ‘Kasi’ and the quivering variety at ‘ksEtra’.
  14. While this is so of the anupallavi, a serious commentary on the construct of the caranam is best provided by the late Veena Vidushi and Musicologist Smt Vidya Shankar in one of her articles ( “A Comparative Study of the Music Trinity”), wherein she demonstrates that the musical setting of this composition is the best exemplar as to how a raga has to be elaborated or laid out in a composition in a systematic/structured manner, which she refers to as ‘AlApana paddhathi’. Again the final madhayama kala sahitya section of the carana ‘bhuvana bharana…………citsabhApatE’ stands out as a grand finale of this magnum opus of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

Epilogue:

This magnificent composition deserves a thoroughly scholarly and aesthetic presentation by an artiste after duly absorbing the melody and lyrics. And it is probably for the likely effort involved in doing so which perhaps deters performers from learning and rendering it. One fervently hopes that this would change in the days to come.

And in parting I conclude this blog post with a piece, a tillana rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari, in a very contrasting raga. It is in a haunting melody Dayavati which goes with the notes: Arohana : S R2 G2 P N2 S and Avarohana: S N2 P M1 G2 S composed by Late N S Ramachandran in khanda triputa tala. The composition is obviously a solitaire, the only one of its kind serving as the sole exemplar of this raga.