श्रीमत्त्रिपाद्रामचन्द्र नमस्तुभ्यं पुनः पुनः ॥
ஆத்மஸ்வரூபத்தை (மறைக்கும்) அவித்யை மற்றும் அதன் செயல்பாடுகளால் ஏற்பட்ட மூன்று பாதங்களைக் (வித்யா, ஆனந்தம் மற்றும் துரீயம்) கொண்ட (ப்ரஹ்மத்தின்) ஸச்சிதானந்த ஸ்வரூபமாக இருக்கும் ஸ்ரீ ராமசந்த்ரனுடைய (மோக்ஷ) ஸாம்ராஜ்யத்தை வணங்குகிறேன்.
ஸ்ரீ குருவை வணங்கியபின், முக்தியை விரும்பியோர்க்கு அது கிடைப்பதற்காக த்ரிபாத்ராமனுடைய கீதங்கள் வரிசையாக சொல்லப்படுகின்றன.
128 கீதங்கள் கொண்ட கீத ஸமுத்ரத்தில் முதல் (கீதமானது) 13 பதங்கள் (கொண்டதாகவும்) எஞ்சியவை எட்டு பதங்கள் ஆக உள்ளது.
ஸ்ரீ ராம என்ற பதத்தை ஸம்போதனத்துடன் (விளி வேற்றுமை உட்பட) சேர்த்து எட்டு விபக்திகள் கொண்டது. ஒவ்வொன்றும் ஒரு விபக்தியில் என கீதம் பதினாறாக முதலில் சொல்லப்பட்டது.
51 (அக்ஷரங்கள் அமைந்த) வர்ணமாலா ரூபமாக அலங்கரிக்கப்பட்ட கழுத்தை உடைய ஸ்ரீ த்ரிபாத் ராமசந்த்ர! உனக்கு மீண்டும் மீண்டும் நமஸ்காரம். (வ்யாகரணாதிகளின் அடிப்படையில் தீர்க்க लॄ போன்றவை இல்லையெனில் மந்த்ர சாஸ்த்ர அடிப்படையில் இவைகளைச் சேர்த்தே 51 அக்ஷரங்கள்.)
श्रीराम तुभ्यम् – गीतम् – बिलहरिरागः
श्रीराम तुभ्यम् – गीतम् – बिलहरिरागः
श्रीराम तुभ्यं नमोऽस्तु भो राम ते नाम वाचि ममास्तु ।
तव [द्द]दक्षपादो हृद्यस्तु विदेहकैवल्यभाग्यं ममास्तु ॥ श्री ॥ १
अद्भुतत्वद्भक्तिरस्तु आवयोरन्तरं कदापि मास्तु ।
इन्दिरा मत्कैवल्येऽस्तु ईश्वर त्वद्भक्तिबृन्दक्षेमोऽस्तु ॥ श्री॥ २
ஸ்ரீராம! உனக்கு நமஸ்காரம்! ஓ ராம! உன் நாமம் என் வாக்கில் இருக்கட்டும்! உன்னுடைய நைபுண்யம் பொருந்திய திருவடிகள் என் இதயத்தில் இருக்கட்டும்! விதேஹ முக்தி என்ற பெரும் பாக்யம் எனக்கு கிட்டட்டும். (१)
உன்னிடத்தில் அத்புதமான பக்தி தோன்றட்டும். நம்மிடையே இடைவெளி எப்போதும் இல்லாமல் இருக்கட்டும். என்னுடைய முக்தியில் லக்ஷ்மீ (கடாக்ஷம்/அனுக்ரஹம்) இருக்கட்டும்.
ஓ இறைவா! உன்னுடைய பக்தர் கூட்டத்தில் நன்மை இருக்கட்டும். (२)
மேலான உனது தத்வம் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும். மேல் நோக்கிச் செல்வதாக என் ஞானம் இருக்கட்டும். ருதத்தில் (தார்மீகமான உலக நியதி என்று ஸ்தூலமாக பொருள் கொள்ளலாம்) உன்னுடைய பெருமை இருக்கட்டும். பாம்பைப் போன்ற மோஹம் குறைவாக இருக்கட்டும். (३)
மலை போன்ற மோஹம் விழுங்குகையில் மோஹமற்ற தன்மை உள்ள புத்தி என்னிடம் இருக்கட்டும் இவ்வுலக விஷயமாக மாயையும் த்வேஷமும் என்னிடம் இல்லாமல் போகட்டும். இரண்டற்ற ஒன்றே என்னுள் இருக்கட்டும்! ஈஶ்வரனைப் பற்றிய புனிதமான ஞானம் என்னுடையதாக ஆகட்டும். (४)
ப்ரஹ்மவித்யையில் என்னுடைய (மனம்) இருக்கட்டும். மாயையால் ஏற்படும் தோற்றங்களுக்கு அழிவு உண்டாகட்டும். என் ஹ்ருதயம் ஓம்கார லக்ஷ்யத்தில் இருக்கட்டும். உபாதிகளுக்கு அப்பாற்பட்ட ஆனந்தம் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும். (५)
கல்யாணராமன் என் ஹ்ருதயத்தில் இருக்கட்டும்! தீமை செய்யும் (காம க்ரோத லோப மோஹ மத மாத்ஸர்யங்கள் ) என்ற (பகைவர்களான) ஆறினை ஒதுக்குதல் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும்! கீதத்தை அளிக்கும் ஆசை இருக்கட்டும்! கோரமான சம்சாரம் உன்னுடைய பக்தர்களுள் இல்லாமல் இருக்கட்டும் (६)
உன் சக்ரமெனும் (ராம யந்த்ரம்) தங்குமிடம் மட்டுமே என்னுடையதாகட்டும். விஷய ஆசைகள் என்ற கடலின் ஶாந்தம் உண்டாகட்டும். உபநிஷதங்களில் என் வாக்கு லயிக்கட்டும். ஜீவனும் ப்ரஹ்மமும் ஒன்றென்ற கொள்கையில் தங்கு தடையற்றதாக இருக்கட்டும் (७)
(மத்ஸ்யாவதாரம் செய்தவரானதால்) மீன் குலத்தின் அரசரின் க்ருபை என்னிடம் இருக்கட்டும். ஞானம் விஞ்ஞானம் என்ற சரியான ஞானம் என்னுடையதாக ஆகட்டும். ரோகமான சம்சாரத்தின் சாந்தி என்னுடையதாக ஆகட்டும். சந்த்ரமண்டலத்தின் குளுமை என் புத்தியாக இருக்கட்டும் (८)
கடலில் உண்டாகும் விஷமிக்க முதலைகள் இல்லாமல் போகட்டும்! பறைசாற்றும் ஒரே நோக்கமாகிய நித்யமான செல்வமான முக்தி என்னுடையதாக ஆகட்டும்! வித்யையின் நோக்கம் என் சித்தத்தில் கிட்டட்டும். மூன்று பாதங்கள் கொண்ட அந்த சைதன்ய ஸ்வரூபமானது என்னுடையதாக ஆகட்டும் (९)
அறிவின் நோக்கமான ஞான ஸ்வரூபமான பேரொளி எனதாகட்டும். காக்கும் தர்மத்தில் ப்ரவ்ருத்தி இருக்கட்டும். சீதையின் தலைவனிடத்தில் அடியவனாக இருக்கும் தன்மை எப்போதும் என்னுடையதாக ஆகட்டும் (९०)
பேரானந்தம் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும், பாம்பணை மேல் துயில்பவரின் தயை இருக்கட்டும். பிறப்பு இறப்பு என்ற இரு நிலைகளான குழப்பம் இல்லாதிருக்கட்டும். பக்தர் கூட்டத்தின் கடாக்ஷம் எப்போதும் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும் (९९)
மாயையின் செயல்பாடுகளால் உள்ள தாக்குதல் இல்லாதிருக்கட்டும். யோகத்தின் முக்ய பலனான சித்ரூபம் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும். ராமசந்த்ரனிடத்தில் பக்தி இருக்கட்டும்! உலகில் குருவின் உபதேசம் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும் (९२)
(ஶமம் தமம் உபரதி, திதிக்ஷா, ஶ்ரத்தா, ஸமாதானம்) ஆகிய ஆறு குணங்களெனும் செல்வம் எனதாகட்டும். விஷ்ணுத்தன்மை எங்கும் என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும். ஸத்யத்துக்கு கட்டுப்பட்டவன் என்ற விருது உனதாக இருக்கட்டும். (१३)
அனந்த ஶக்தியும் ஶக்தியை அளிக்கும் அந்த பரப்ரஹ்மம் என் சித்தத்தில் ஒளிரட்டும். ஹ்ருதயத்தில் உன்னுடைய ஶக்தி வாய்ந்த திருவடிகள் இருக்கட்டும். ஸ்ரீ ராமசந்த்ரேந்த்ர! முக்தி நிலை என்னுடையதாக இருக்கட்டும்! (१४)
Shri Upanishad Brahmendra Yogi whose sanyasa nama was Ramachandrendra was an advaiti who wrote the commentaries on 108 upanishads and several works on vedanta and namasiddhanta. An article on his Ramatarangas and Ashtapadis by Dr. Aravindh Ranganathan can be found here.
We present the sahityam of his Ramashtapadi written as a set of Vibhaktyanta gitas here. The source of this is the handwritten manuscript copies from Adyar library (from Dr.V.Raghavan’s collection) procured for the personal research work of Dr. Aravindh Ranaganthan. A typed version of this with the Tamil translation by Smt. Vidya Jayaraman is provided here to enable people to further sing and popularise these compositions. In addition, each ashtapadi will be rendered as audio in the youtube channel of The Lost Melodies as a series of individual posts.
We thank Vidvan Brahmashri Dr. V. Shriramana Sharma for perusing through the contents, and suggesting corrections and clarifications.
The name Upanishad Brahmam is not new to anyone who has read the divya carita-s of Tyagaraja Svamigal and Sri Muthuswamy Diksitar. Though he was much familiar to the students of Sanskrit literature, the works of Dr.V.Raghavan made him popular to music lovers. Raghavan has written extensively on the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the late 1950s, which serves as an authentic source even now, to know the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the field of music.
Upanishad Brahmam was born to a Sanskrit scholar of Vadhula gotra named Sadashiva and his wife Lakshmi in Brahmapuram, a village on the banks of the river Palar. He was named Sivarama. He was married, had a son, spent his life as a householder, and then renounced his life and became a sanyasin. His ashrama was set in Agastyashrama in Kanchipuram, on the way to Kailasanatha temple. He took an arduous task of writing a commentary to 108 upanishad-s and hence got the name Upanishad Brahmendra. He was a Sri Rama upasaka and installed a Sri Rama yantra made of Saligrama in his ashrama. His works project him as a Advaita sanyasin, who also extolled and propagated the cult of ‘nama sidhdhanta’ singing ‘bhagavan-nama bhajana’. His compositions bear the mudra ‘ramachandrendra’. Though the exact period of this yati cannot be ascertained, we can clearly say he lived during the middle of 18th century from his own statement,
“प्रजोत्याब्धचापैकादशघस्रे शुभे दिने भौमाश्विन्यामिदं शास्त्रं सम्पूर्णपदवीं गतम्”
(‘prajOtyabdhacapaikAdashaghasrE ShubhE dinE bhaumAshvinyAm idam ShAstram sampUrNapadavIm gatam’). This means he has finished writing commentary for Muktikopanishad in the cyclic year Prajotpatti, Markazhi mAsa, EkAdasi, ASvini nakshatra falling on a Tuesday, which corresponds to the 30.11.1751. A detailed biography of Upanishad Brahmam can be learned from the essays of Raghavan.1,2
Upanishad Brahmam gains more importance due to his connections with Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. Upanishad Brahmam was acquainted with Sri Ramabrahmam, father of Svamigal. Perhaps, Sri Rama upasana, a common thread between these three mahaniyA-s united them. It is said a ‘srImukham’ written by Upanishad Brahmam, inviting Svamigal to visit Agastyashrama is available in the manuscript collection preserved at Saurashtra Sabha, Madurai. Later, Tyagaraja Svamigal, during his sojourn to holy sthala-s like Tirupati, Lalgudi, etc., visited Kanchipuram. Needless to say, this rendezvous could have resulted in the discussion of the tenets of nama-sidhdhanta and Sri Rama nama mahima.
Even before this historical event, Upanishad Brahmam had an opportunity to meet Muthuswamy Diksitar. Diksitar, having completed his studies with Cidambaranatha Yogi in Kashi, returned to Manali, Madras. His stay in Manali was much brief and his life as an itinerant started from Kanchipuram. The period can be guessed to be anywhere between the late 1790s and early 1800s. Subbarama Diksitar, a nephew of Muthuswamy Diksitar, in his work Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, mentions Muthuswamy Diksitar spent his life in Kanchipuram for a period of 4 years. He also adds, Muthuswamy Diksitar conducted philosophical dialogues with Upanishad Brahmam during this period and set to tune ‘rama ashtapadi’ authored by Upanishad Brahmam. It is surprising to know Upanishad Brahmendra, despite being a composer has asked Muthuswamy Diksitar to tune them. Unfortunately, the tunes are lost.
Sri Rama Taranga
Though Upanishad Brahmendra has composed many divya nama kirtana-s, this article focuses on two of his works, namely ‘sri rama taranga’ and ‘sri rama ashtapadi’. The word ‘taranga’ immediately reminds us of the work of Narayana Tirtar ‘Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini’. This work describes the divine sports of Krishna Bhagavan in a simple, flowing Sanskrit. The ‘taranga’ of Upanishad Brahmendra describes the lilAnubhUti-s of Sri Ramachandra, again in the divine language Sanskrit. Raghavan, as mentioned earlier, had made a note about Rama tarangamala in one of his essays. The manuscripts in the possession of Raghavan are now preserved at The Theosophical Society, Adyar, and forms a major source for this article.
The tarangamala appears to be much complex in structure. From the descriptions provided by Upanishad Brahmam as introductory verses, it can be speculated the Rama tarangamala had 16 khanda-s or chapters. The author says,
“षोडशकलाभिधानास्तरङ्गमाला गले समर्प्यन्ते” (‘sOdaSakalAbhidhAnAstarangamAla galE samarpyantE’), meaning the taranga-s, sixteen in number similar to the (sixteen) kala-s of moon are being offered.
A composition named as ‘AhvAna taranga’ in the raga Nata begins the work tarangamala. The musical structure and tala of this composition are not available. This composition starting as ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is basically an invocation inviting or calling Sri Ramachandra. This can be roughly equated with the kriti ‘hechchariga gA rA rA’ of Svamigal in the ragam Yadukulakambhoji. This composition ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is a dvi-dhatu composition – having pallavi and 12 carana-s. A striking feature seen in the compositions of Upanishad Brahmendra is the lack of ‘dvitiyAkshara prAsa’, the second letter concordance. His creations are more in line with the sloka-s written by Sanskrit theologists like Adi Sankara, Vedanta Desika, etc, distinguishing them from the compositions created by the composers belonging to his period. Interestingly, anuprasa is used profusely in many of the carana-s. The usage of ‘putra’, ‘gAtra’, ‘caritra’ and ‘kalatra’ in the first carana, ‘vinda’, ‘kanda’ and ‘govinda’ in the third carana and ‘ShitAsu’, ‘ganEShu’ and ‘mAnEShu’ in the seventh carana can be cited as examples.
Now begins the first khanda of tarangamala. After three invocatory verses, starts the first Taranga ‘srI rAmacandra’ in the raga Mohanam. This Taranga appears to be much intricate, not because of 12 charana-s, but because of the structure of each carana. Each carana begins with a sahitya, followed by a jati, a svara passage, and a segment of sahityam. In few carana-s, this order is slightly altered. It can be interpreted the svara segment actually corresponds to the sahitya that immediately succeeds it due to the svara-sahitya relationship they share. The svara-s, short, and long match exactly with the hrsva and dIrghAkSharA-a available in the sahityam succeeding the svara segment.
The structure gets more complicated as we move to the eighth caranam. Here, the author has mentioned the jati is to be rendered in dhruva tala. Similarly, it is prescribed in the ninth carana that the jati therein is to be rendered in rupaka tala! The tala specifications is applicable to jati alone or the entire carana cannot be ascertained. If the entire carana is to be rendered in the specified tala with each carana having a different tala, the taranga appears more like a suladi. This assumption can be made only if we get to see tala specifications for all the components and carana-s of this composition, which is not so in this case. The carana having a jati, sahityam and svara passage resembles another musical form prabandha. Again, not all the components, which a prabandha must have is seen here. However, we can definitely say we are looking into a special musical form, which was either invented by Upanishad Brahmam or a form available to the composers of that period!
This Taranga also opens another interesting discussion. From the svara passages, we can get a glimpse of the raga Mohanam used by Upanishad Brahmam. The svarupa of the raga seen here is much similar to the raga extant now. A glance into the history reveals the existence of another raga with the same name, but with a different structure. This defunct raga had six svaras and can be seen in the texts ‘raga lakshanamu’ and ‘sangita saramrta’ of Saha Maharaja and Tulaja respectively. This shadava Mohanam gains importance as the period of Upanishad Brahmam is much closer to the period of Saha (1684-1712) and Tulaja (1677-1736). The mentioned kings also have recorded the present-day Mohanam having five svaras, but preferred to call it Mohanakalyani.3 Upanishad Brahmam, using five svaras, yet calling it Mohanam is really intriguing. The ‘rama taranga-s’ stop abruptly at this point and leads to another work of Upanishad Brahmam, namely Sri Rama Ashtapadi.
Sri Rama Ashtapadi
Our manuscript gives us the most venerated ‘sri rama ashtapadi’ after the Mohana raga taranga. We get to see an introductory verse detailing the structure of the ashtapadi. The phrases “अष्टाविंशाधिकशत-गीतरत्नाकरोत्तमे” (‘aShtAvimSAdhika-Sata gIta-ratnAkarOttamE’), “श्रीराम-शब्द-सम्बुद्ध्या सकामाष्टविभक्तिकः” (‘srIrAma-Shabda -sambudhyA sAkamashta-vibhaktikaha’) , “एकैकस्या विभक्तेस्तद्गीतं षोडशाद्योच्यते” (‘EkaikasyA vibhaktEstadgItam shOdashadyOchyatE’), “पञ्चाषड्-वर्ण-सन्मालालङ्कारा वरकन्धर” (‘paNcAshad-varNa-sanmAlAlaNkAra vara-kandhara’) clearly elucidates the structure. These can be roughly translated as follows: The ashtapadi-s consists of gita-s 128 in number. All were composed on Sri Ramachandra with the Rama shabda used in eight vibhakti-s (declensions) with each vibhakti having 16 gita-s. All these songs open with each of the 50 letters of Sanskrit alphabet. From the description, it can be said Upanishad Brahmendra served as a source of inspiration for Muthuswamy Diskitar to compose vibhakti kritis!
The individual compositions are referred to as gita-s and each gita has a pallavi and eight carana-s, fashioned in line with the celebrated ashtapadi-s of Jayadeva Maha Kavi. From the material available, it can be presumed that the gitas were arranged into 16 khanda-s, each khanda-s having eight gita-s in all the vibhakti-s. The khanda-s also have introductory verses and a gita preceding the proper ashtapadi gita-s. This introductory gita alone has 13 carana-s.
We are indeed seeing the ashtapadi-s tuned by Muthuswamy Diksitar! As with the Taranga-s, the ashtapadi-s too are incomplete (in this manuscript) with only eight of them available – one preceding gita and seven from the vibhakti set. The preceding gita ‘srI rAma tubhyam’ was set to the raga Bilahari. (Raghavan considers this as the gita representing the eighth vibhakti in the vibhakti set). Tala was not marked for any of these gita-s. The contents of the first khanda are as follows:
srI rAmacandrAya tubhyam
rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham
It is interesting to note the members of the clan Mayamalavagaula, a favorite of Muthuswamy Diksitar not dominating. However, this statement can be validated only if we happen to get the raga of the rest of the gita-s. Of these eight ragas, two ragas have a composition composed on the deities residing in Kanchipuram, namely ‘kAmAkshi varalakshmi’ in the raga Bilahari and ‘cintaya mAkanda’ in the raga BhairavI. The raga of the gita representing the fifth vibhakti is missing. What could be the missing raga? A raga used by him in one of his Kanchipura kshetra kritis or otherwise?
The composition ‘rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham’ provides material for a case study. The opening lines was used by Muthuswamy Diksitar in his Purvi raga kriti ‘srI guruguhasya dAsOham’, a member of the ‘guruguha vibhakti’ set. Apart from the similarity in the sahitya, the concept propounded also looks similar. Upanishad Brahmam declares he has united with his Lord Sri Ramachandra in this kriti. Muthuswamy Diksitar proclaims the same in his kriti ‘anandEsvarENa’, wherein he says ‘brahmAnandOsmi’!
Though the structure was much designed to be in line with the ‘gita govinda’ of Jayadeva, few differences too exist. First, the theme seems to be non-erotic. Second, the ashtapadi-s does not seem to explain a story. However, these can be conclusively said only if the sahitya is read and analyzed by a scholar.
We are looking into the kritis of a Sri Rama Upasaka who has influenced and shaped the thoughts of our beloved composers Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. The sahitya of these compositions are to be studied in detail to understand the tenets of Upanishad Brahmam. Let us hope to get the Taranga-s and Ashtapadi-s in full with the blessings of Ramachandrendra.
I thank the authorities of The Theosophical Society, Adyar for allowing me to peruse the required manuscripts.
I thank Smt. Vidya Jayaraman for translating the verses seen in taranga-s and ashtapadi-s.
Raghavan V. 1956. Upanishad Brahma Yogin, His life, Works and Contribution to Carnatic Music. Journal of The Madras University. 113-150.
Raghavan V. 1957. Upanishad Brahma Yogin. Journal of The Madras University. 151-152.
Hema Ramanathan. 2004. Ragalakshana Sangraha – Collection of Raga Descriptions, p 890-893.
“Tyagaraja” is the presiding devata at Tiruvarur or Kamalalaya (the birth place of Shri Shyama, Shastri, Shri TyagarajaSwamigal and Shri Muttusvami Dikshitar) and other six kṣetras collectively known as the Saptavitanka Sthala-s. Tyagaraja is siva in the form of Somaskanda. This devata-svarupa true to the name signifying the fourth purushartha as ‘tyaga’ as Shri Venkatamakhi states in his mangalacharanam to the Chaturdandiprakashika has inspired many sanyasis and yogirajas and paramahamsas. One such yatindra was Shri Paramasivendra Sarasvati Svamigal, the 57th Acharya of Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham. The Dashapurāna-sangraha or Tyagaraja-Mahatmyam presented here is a “sangraha grantha” (compilation) that this Acharya created by painstakingly culling information pertaining to ShrI Tyagaraja from various puranic sources. It is noteworthy that many of the published recensions of some of these purāņas do not have these verses as some of these are available in Southern recensions only. Hence, these verses are valuable sources of information about these kṣetra.
On this auspicious Shravana shukla dashami day of Shri Paramashivendral’s aradhana, due to the anugraha of acharyas, we are happy to make a copy of this book available in PDF Format for astikas and admirers of Shri Muttusvami Dikshitar alike.
Thanks are due to Shri. B. Ganapati Subrahmanian, Karaikkal for his encouragement and support and to my guru Brahmashri Nerur Dr. V. Shriramana Sharma for his guidance.
( The featured image above of the Lord Brihadeesvara Temple at Tanjore is a photograph of Samuel Bourne, taken circa 1860 AD going with the caption” Great Pagoda and Stone Bull, Tanjore” – Image courtesy : The British Library)
In a previous blog post we had looked at the antecedents and the flavors of the raga Karnataka Kapi. Since then, I happened to encounter a rendering of the rare cauka varna “sarasAlanu” in the raga, composed by Ponnayya of the Tanjore Quartet, on YouTube. I had fleetingly referred to this particular composition in the aforesaid blog post. And therefore, in this blog post I propose the take the reader through this composition in detail and relish its beauty from multiple dimensions.
It is to be noted that the raga of sarasAlanu is always given as Kapi. In view of the different variants of the raga which exists in our world of music, in this blog post I am referring to the raga of the composition as Karnataka Kapi, which name came about to signify that it was an older form and not the later day versions.
Clones in our world of Music:
But before that I seek to present a few aspects of some of the timeless & great compositions which have been in vogue in our world of music. Subbarama Dikshitar in his works waxes eloquent about a varna in the raga Navaroz of Karvetinagar Govindasamayya and of a svarajati in Huseni by Melattur Virabhadrayya. Seemingly these compositions had captured popular imagination during those times so much so that a number of copies or look-alike compositions came to be composed, virtually with the same musical setting or mettu of these magna operas. The Navaroz varna is today virtually extinct. Melattur Virabhadrayya’s lilting Huseni svarajati which in its original form too is today extinct, spawned at least 3 clones “emAyalAdira”, emandayAnara” and “pAhimAm brihannayikE” with attributions to Patchimiriyam Adiyapayya, the Tanjore Quartet and Svati Tirunal. The version recreated by Adiyappaya being “Emandayanara” was salvaged and is found presented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini by Subbarama Dikshita. The Quartet version is documented in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” and the version attributed to Svati Tirunal can be found in Vidvan T K Govinda Rao’s compendia of his compositions.
In other words, if the melodic material /dhatu or mettu of a composition is so bewitching, it was never frowned upon as plagiarism if it were simply cloned with different set of lyrics, as if to validate the saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. And being in public knowledge, no attribution was considered necessary, perhaps. It can also be seen that the dhatu of a couple of the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshita and Tyagaraja do match, for example “gananAyakam” and “srI mAnini”. Whether they are mutual copies or whether the two Trinitarians composed their version basing it on a then popular tune, of a now extinct piece, is not known. Rather the point to note is that it brings no discredit to Dikshita or Tyagaraja for having composed in a common tune for we know that their work was only in honor of the tune and its melodic appeal and their composing capabilities were beyond reproach.
Be that as it may, the subject matter varna “sarasAlanu” too has a similar such “clonal” history in that in its mettu or musical score, there exist one other composition being “sUmasAyaka” with attribution to Svati Tirunal. There are reasons to believe that the subject matter varna sarasAlanu is the likely original one while sUmasAyaka, which is more famous is the clone or copy subsequently created. We will examine this conjecture as well as the originality or uniqueness of this composition in this blog post.
“sarasAalanu Ipudu” in Karnataka Kapi of Thanjavur Ponnayya:
The aforesaid attribution of this composition, which is a cauka varna (more commonly called as a pada varna) to Ponnayya is on the authority of the “Thanjai Naalvar Manimaalai” published by Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam, a descendant of the Quartet. As we know the Tanjore Quartet of Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu were acknowledged disciples of Muthusvami DIkshita. Initially they ornamented the Tanjore Court of King Sarabhoji circa 1800 as AstAna vidvAns. Likely AD 1825 or thereabouts the Quartet of brothers, fell out of royal favour, left Thanjavur and thereafter sought new patrons for their art. While Chinnaya found patronage in the Mysore durbar, Sivanandam and Vadivelu became the AstAna vidvans of Maharaja Svati Tirunal of Travancore. This background becomes important in the context of the fact that subject matter cauka varna in Telugu “sarasAlanu”’s sibling or clone “sUmasAyaka vidurA” is attributed to Maharaja Svati Tirunal himself and which ironically is more popular on the concert circuit.
It is quirky that, “sarasAlanu”’s very existence is unknown to many, save for the few cognoscenti today who may have heard it during the mid-20th century, featured in the dance recitals of the famous danseuse Balasarasvati, whose guru Kandappa Nattuvanar was a direct descendant being the great grandson of Ponnayya himself. It is no surprise that this composition of Ponnayya thus came to be part of Balasarasvati’s performance repertory. I will elaborate more on this in a little while.
Let us now look at the lyrical aspect of the cauka varna as well as the meaning before we proceed to dissect the melodic aspects of the composition.
Note: There is no sahitya for the 4th ragamalika ettugada svara section
It needs to be pointed out that the composer of this cauka varna as recorded is Ponnayya, the second amongst the brothers forming the illustrious Tanjore Quartet. The name is often confused with Tanjavur Ponniah Pillai (1888-1945), a Sangita Kalanidhi and another scion and descendant of the Tanjore Quartet being the great grand son of Sivanandam. This Ponniah Pillai too composed many musical pieces as well and therefore the reader should not be confused as between the Ponnayya of the Quartet and Ponniah Pillai his descendant of the 20th century.
The opening words as given in the book is ‘sarasA ninnu’ whereas the renderings and popular references to this composition have the opening words as ‘sarasAlanu’. As the lyrics would show, the Quartet’s mudra being “brihadIsvara” adorns the composition. It may be pointed out that Lord Brihadeesvara was the titular deity of the Tanjore Royals. The “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” of the Quartet’s descendant Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam assigns the composition to the authorship of Ponnayya and given this set of factors, it can be reasonably surmised that the composition was certainly composed when the brothers were in the Tanjore Court much before Vadivelu found patronage in Travancore.
It is likely that after Vadivelu became the astana vidvan in Svati Tirunal’s Court, he must have rendered his brother’s sarasAlanu before the Maharaja. Much enamored by its beauty, the Maharaja must have proceeded to ruminate and come up with the equivalent Sanskrit lyrics, with the appropriate svaraksharas and prAsA concordance to match the musical fabric of sarasAlanu. And thus, “sUmasAyaka” must have been born which had since then become ubiquitous given its royal ancestry eclipsing the original of Ponnayya.
I surmise that “sarasAlanu” was thus the one which was first composed when the Quartet ornamented the Tanjore Court, as it is vested with the mudra or colophon ‘brihadIsvara” which is seen in almost all compositions of the Quartet, when they are created during their Tanjore residency. After the brothers left the Tanjore Court, their compositions came to be invested with the pOShaka mudra or that of Padmanabha as in the case of Vadivelu. For example, Chinnaya’s Karnataka Kapi tillana “dhIM nAdhru dhIm dhIm” in Adi tala goes with the pOshaka mudra “cAmarAjendra” the Maharaja of Mysore. Similar is the case of the Kamalamanohari tana varnam in adi tala.
Prof R. Srinivasan in his erudite article “Music in Travancore” published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy (Volume 19- 1948 – pages 107-112) makes this telling statement:
“Among the varnas, the one in Kapi beginning with “Suma Sayaka” is well known and at the same time technically of a high order. It is understood that Vadivelu influenced a large extent the music of it” (Emphasis is mine)
Therefore, for all the aforesaid reasons I would forcefully argue the case that sarasAlanu served as the model for sUmasAyaka and not the other way around. Though the two compositions can simply be labelled as clones of each other with much similarities, yet a few points of differences are seen between them, though melodically they are the same.
To restate the obvious, “sarasAlanu” is in Telugu with “brihadIsvara” as the colophon, while “sUmasAyaka” is in Sanskrit with “sarasIruhanAbha” as the colophon.
Both are set in Karnataka Kapi and in tisra eka tala in the cauka varna format with a pallavi, an anupallavi with muktayi svaras followed by a carana section with multiple ettugada svaras sections thereafter to follow.
For both the varnas, the last ettugada svara section is structured as a ragamalika with 4 ragas, which finally segues seamlessly into Karnataka Kapi.
Barring a few and minor differences in the music/svara setting, the three critical differences seen between the two compositions are as under:
sarasAlanu has sahitya for the muktayisvara section of the anupallavi and for the ettugada svara sections of the carana; Whereas sUmasAyaka does not have such sahitya for the said sections.
The final ettugada svara section of sarasAlanu features Hamir Kalyani, Vegavauhini, Vasanta and Mohana; sUmasAyaka instead has Kalyani, Khamas, Vasanta and Mohana. Each of the raga sub sections span 2 avartas of tisra eka tala of 3 beats each.
The last tala beat of the final raga malika section in Mohanam directly transitions to the carana refrain ‘mAninI’ in sarasAlanu ; Whereas in sUmasAyaka the last tala beat of the final raga malika section in Mohanam has Karnataka Kapi svaras which then transition to the carana refrain
And without much ado let us first proceed to hear the composition before we embark on dissecting and learning some of the other aspects.
Discography – Part 1:
sarasAlanu is today all but forgotten. One may say that given its melodic identity being exactly like sUmasAyaka it did not survive. But the fact remains that sarasAlanu is unique for the aforementioned contrasting features and melodically distinct therefore from sUmasAyaka with the result that it deserves to survive, given it was the original one. Can we hear it today given that it is all but forgotten?
Luckily, we have a Vidushi in our midst, who had rendered this in a concert in the year 2010 and which was fortuitously recorded. I present the same being the rendering of Dr Ritha Rajan accompanied by Vidvans R K Sriramkumar and K Arun Prakash on the violin and mrudangam respectively.
The aforesaid recording was sourced from YouTube (see Foot Note 1). This is from the concert she gave for ‘Nada Inbam’ on 30-Aug-2010 at the Raga Sudha Hall, Chennai (See Foot note 2). In the original blog post on Karnataka Kapi, I had presented sUmasAyaka as sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda. Readers may refer to the same to hear it once again.
The Musical Vista of sarasAlanu :
The raga Kapi, as we saw from the other blogpost, as seen in this composition has been chiseled from out of the native svaras of the 22nd Mela ( Sri Raga / Karaharapriya) going with the notes R2, M1, P D2 and N2. The arohana and avarohana krama as conventionally given is:
Arohana: S R2 M1 P N2 S
Avarohana: S N2 D2 N2 P M G2 R2 S
I should confess that this melodic representation does not convey the entire beauty of the raga. As the composition would show, the following features stand out:
The gandhara note, even if occurring only in descent phrases is a strong note of the raga and comes in different shades. It is an (a)sadharana gandhara to state the least. Subbarama Dikshita in his SSP waxes eloquent on the gandhara of Todi as it occurs in the grand cittasvara section of the Kumara Ettendra classic “gajavadana sammOdita”. One can similarly revel in the different shades of gandhara in this composition.
The descriptive grammar of the raga Kapi as seen in this composition can be given as under:
In the purvanga ascent – SRGM, SRMP, RGMP are default murchanaas. It can be inferred therefore that SRGMP is forbidden. If the prayoga is SRGM it has to descend. Given that gandhara is “seen” omitted in the arohana, prayogas like SRGM or RGMP may sound quirky to us schooled in modern day musicology of the Sangraha Cudamani but yet these grammatical constructs are entirely in accordance with the principles of 18th Century musical architecture.
In the uttaranga PDNS does not occur. PNDN descending back to Panchama and PNS proceeding to tara sadja alone are seen;
SNP and SNDNP is the descent prayogas, eschewing the lineal SNDP completely.
The lineal prayoga PMGRS is the one for purvanga in the descent.
Gandhara and madhyama are presumably the jiva svaras of this raga imparting the greatest ranjakatva and figure both as the graha and nyasa svaras. The well oscillated gandhara is itself a leitmotif of this raga.
pnR from the mandhara pancama , N\G in the Madhya stayi and PNDNPM, nG,R from the mandhara nishadha are some of the motifs of the raga.
And above all in modern parlance, the raga is upanga and takes only the notes of the 22 Mela being catusruti rishabha, sadharana gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, catusruti dhaivatha and kaisiki nishadha only.
The Ragamalika section of sarasAlanu and a few questions around it:
An explanation is in order for the ragamalika ragas of sarasAlanu. The “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” calls out the second svara section albeit wrongly as Chakravakam. The examination of the raga malika svara appendage would reveal otherwise. The said svara section runs as under:
sarasAlanu (notation as found in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimaalai”):
Tala avarta of tisra eka
Vegavauhini (wrongly tagged as Chakravakam and with a possible printing mistake as srsm-gpmd-…..)
sarasAlanu (notation as per the pAtham of Dr Ritha Rajan)
sUmasAyaka (notation as per notation published by Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao)
The above tables would show the following differences:
The Hamirkalyani section in sarasAlanu and the Kalyani section in sUmasAyaka
The difference in the Vegavauhini/Chakravaka section as between the two versions of sarasAlanu . It can be seen that in Dr Ritha’s oral tradition the svara progression is lineal as SnSRGMPDNSN,D,PMPDM,GM,, without the SMGM prayoga and hence can be called as Chakravaka.
The difference in the svaras for the last beat of the tisra eka tala of the Mohana section in all the three versions, transitioning to the carana refrain ‘mAninI”.
While the Dr Ritha Rajan’s version of the second ragamalika section proceeds linearly as SnSR1GMPDNS… ., the version found in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” does not proceed linearly, which gives us doubt whether the second raga is Chakravakam as per the notation found therein.
It is quite plausible that Ponnayya being a disciple of Muthusvami Dikshita must have certainly known the raga lakshana of Vegavauhini which is the 16th mela raga in Venkatamakhi’s scheme and for which Chakravaka is the equivalent heptatonic scale. The notes of the svara section as found in the Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai corresponds exactly to the lakshana of Vegavauhini, vide the commentary for the same in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshita. The opening murcchana of the raga being SR1SM1G3M1PD2N2S, eschewing the lineal SRGM is verily the signature of Vegavauhini as immortalized by Dikshita in his piece-de-resistance “vIna pustakadhArinIm”. In the face of these facts, it would be a travesty to tabulate the raga as Chakravaka and proceed to linearize and sing the same given Vegavauhini must have been the scale known to Ponnayya the composer of sarasAlanu and a scion of the Dikshita sisya parampara. It is on these sound grounds that it is argued that the second raga in the ragamalika ettugada svara section of sarasAlanu can only be Vegavauhini and not Chakravakam.
It must also be pointed out that in sUmasAyaka, both the ragas Hamirkalyani and Vegavauhini are seen flipped respectively to Kalyani and Khamas with a minimum of fuss. Further the flipping to Khamas (SnSMGMP) from SRSMGMP (Vegavauhini) sounds plausible, better than a flip from SnSRGMP (Chakravaka). Was the flip intentional or an accident or mistake in transmission that the ragas were flipped? For save for the R1 note, it would be virtually impossible to make out between a Khamas and a Vegavauhini. One doesn’t know!
Is sarasAalanu a svarajati or a padavarna:
The book “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” lists the composition sarasAlanu as a pada varna only. And to contrast, the Huseni composition “EmandayAnarA” is enlisted as a svarajati. As a rule, if a composition is invested with svaras and jatis being rhythmic syllables, it is more a svarajati than a pada varna. However, this boundary has now become blurred given that Syama Sastri’s creations in Bhairavi, Todi and Yadukulakambhoji are today labelled as svarajatis despite them lacking jatis in their body. Further as Prof S R Janakiraman persuasively argues, the nomenclature of ‘cauka varna’ would be more appropriate than ‘pada varna’.
Therefore, in all fairness, sarasAlanu which lacks jatis can and ought to be called a cauka varna or pada varna and certainly not a svarajati. Interested readers can refer to the article “Jatisvaram & Svarajati” by Dr Ritha Rajan in the JMA, mentioned in the reference section of this blog post herein below.
Placement of a cauka varna in a Concert:
In contrast to a tAna varna, the pada /cauka varnas, are more appropriate to be rendered right at the middle of a concert a little ahead of the main composition/pallavi. It can be seen that almost invariably all older cauka varnas are in rakti ragas which are melismatic by nature. The sedate tempo of the cauka varna together with a rakti raga being the subject of exposition through the cauka varna, adds a contrast to the concert, especially when it is sandwiched between madhyama kala compositions in contrasting ragas. I must hasten to point out exceptions do and always exist, such as for instance, Sangita Kalanidhi Govinda Rao has commenced a concert with the wondrous Surati cauka varna of Subbarama Dikshita “sAmi entani”. And I have personally heard the duet concert of Sangita Kala Acharyas Suguna Purushothaman and Suguna Varadacari, wherein they sang Svati Tirunal’s tour-de-force “dAni sAmajEndra gAmini” in Todi as the concert opener. And both these instances have been recorded for posterity.
In the instant case it can be seen from the concert recitals of Sri K V Narayanasvami that “sUmasAyaka” is rendered almost in the first half of the concert or just after the main piece. Even in the aforesaid rendering of “sarasAlanu” it is seen that Dr.Ritha Rajan has positioned it in the middle of the concert as seen in the listing from her recital- see Foot Note 2, during which this recording was made. As one can see that “sarasAlanu” has been featured right before the main or the piece-de-resistance of the concert and has been wedged between the ragas Kannada and Bhairavi.
Further in the context of rendering a cauka varna, it is noticed that while the pallavi, anupallavi and the muktayi svara and the corresponding sahitya are sung in a vilamba kAla, the carana line along with the ettugada svaras are rendered at a higher sprightly pace (Ottam ஓட்டம்). It is likely that this is a performance technique designed to prevent the concert from sagging, given the prolonged vilamba kala exposition in the first half of the composition. In the instant case of sarasAlanu as well it will be seen in the recording of Dr Ritha Rajan, that the rendering gathers pace from the carana portion “mAniNi vErA nA sAmI”.
Raga name- Is it Karnataka Kapi?
According to Dr Ritha Rajan, the raga of sarasAlanu/ sUmasAyaka being the upanga one bereft of anya svaras, the raga name ought to be simply Kapi. The term “Karnataka Kapi” was coined by Prof Sambamoorti much later and has no sastraic sanction otherwise. No musicological text or authority prior, make no mention of Karnataka Kapi. The version with kAkali nishAda can be called as Hindustani Kapi.
I should confess that while this proposition is attractive, we do have the versions of Muthusvami DIkshita (‘Venkatachalapate”) being the Kapi with traces of Kanada and or Durbar as in the case of versions of Tyagaraja’s kritis ‘nitya rUpa” or “anyAyamu sEyakura” which are bereft of distinguishing names to differentiate them from Kapi and Hindustani Kapi. It has to be pointed out that Subbarama Dikshita calls the raga only as Kapi but the version documented in the SSP is the one with the overwhelming flavour of Kanada. It’s a matter of record that some of the modern texts today even call this as Suddha Kapi.
Be that as it may it has to be on record that according to Dr Ritha Rajan the raga of sarasAlanu/ sUmasAyaka is Kapi. But as pointed out in my introduction, I have for the limited purposes of this blog post kept the name as Karnataka Kapi to differentiate it from the rest of the versions.
Origins of this pAtham of sArasAalanu :
While sUmasAyaka had taken roots in Kerala and had become an inextricable part of the dance repertoire, its foray into the Carnatic music stage was arguably through Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami, who gave it a pride of place. See Foot Note 3
It can be surmised that sarasAlanu however continued to languish within the repertoire of the descendants of the Tanjore Quartet. After the life time of the 4 brothers and particularly the composer of the piece Ponnayya in 1864 AD the piece along with the rest of the crown jewels must have come to the possession of Nellayappa Nattuvanar (1850-1905), who was the grandson of Ponnayya. As T Sankaran recounts, Nellayappa Nattuvanar moved to then Madras and became a close acquaintance of the Dhanammal family. It was he who taught the family members including Jayammal, Balasarasvati’s mother popular javalis such as Vani Pondu (Kanada), Ela rAdayanE (Bhairavi) and JanarO E mOhamu (Khamas).
Nellayappa Nattuvanar died early and his son Kandappa Nattuvanar (1899-1941) therefore underwent tutelage under his uncle Kannusvami Nattuvanar (see family tree) at Tanjore and then moved to Madras when he became Balasarasvati’s (1918-1984) dance guru. It was under his tutelage and guidance that Bala ascended the stage in 1925, when she was just about 7 years old at the Ammanakshi Temple at Kanchipuram. As the conductor-in-chief of Bala’s dance ensemble, Kandappa Nattuvanar taught many pieces to the rest of the team. And amongst them was Sri Gnanasundaram who handled the vocals in Bala’s ensemble and he must have likely learnt sarasAlanu from Kandappa Nattuvanar. What we now know for sure in this entire narrative is that it was from Gnanasundaram that the legendary Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan (1918-1973) came to acquire this composition from after being so enamored of it. And he in turn taught it to Dr Ritha Rajan, his disciple whose rendering of sarasAlanu is featured in this blog. I have to point out that we do not have any recording of the rendering of sarasAlanu by any member of the Veena Dhanammal family including Sri T Visvanathan. See Foot Note 4.
And sadly, we do not have a recording of the Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan singing sarasAlanu. In this context we need to remember that the Karnataka Kapi seen in this composition is what is called as the upAnga version, which is bereft of anya svaras such as the antara gandhara (G3) or kakali nishadha (N3) or suddha dhaivatha (D1) which have come to be featured in modern day versions of the raga Kapi. It is worth recording here in the context of upAnga Kapi that it was Ramnad Krishnan again who learnt the jAvali “parulannamAta” of Dharmapuri Subbaraya Iyer in this upAnga version of Kapi from Rupavati Ammal, the younger sister of Vina Dhanammal who lived in Hyderabad and then rendered it often thus bringing it to the limelight.
Ponnayya – A Distinguished Composer:
I would argue further that sarasAlanu was the core for sUmasAyaka given the credentials and creative abilities of Ponnayya, of the Quartet. In fact, the perusal of the text of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini would show that for two ragas namely Binnasadja and Camara, Subbarama Dikshita provides the kritis of Ponnayya alone as the authority for the respective raga lakshanas. In his commentary Subbarama Dikshita ahead of the Binnasadja kriti “srI guruguha mUrtikinE” (Mela 9) records thus:
This kirtana was composed by Ponnayya, who was the hereditary dance teacher of the Tanjore samasthana, and who was a disciple of Muttusvami Dikshita, was a great scholar in the laksya, and lakshana aspects of bharata sastra and who had also earned fame by composing numerous svarajatis and varnas, suitable for dances.
That apart under Malavagaula (Mela 15), the kriti “mAyAtIta svarUpini” of Ponnayya has also been provided as an exemplar by Subburama Dikshita. It is however unfortunate that we hardly rely upon the compositions of the Quartet as authority for raga lakshana, when even Subbarama Dikshita had done so without any reservations whatsoever.
This demonstrated and acknowledged composing mastery of Ponnayya is another aspect that supports the proposition/conjecture that sarasAlanu was composed earlier by Ponnayya. much prior to the Quartet’s migration to the Travancore Court. No further evidence is therefore needed to conclude that Ponnayya was a composer par excellence and the authorship and originality of sarasAlanu and its tune can without doubt be ascribed to him, without any doubt whatsoever.
And so, every time one hears the Karnataka Kapi of sUmasAyaka we should for a moment recall the aesthetic construct of the varna and the raga therein. Hark at the different shades of the gandhara of mela 22 as well as the placement of the svaraksharas such as on the madhyama note which will evoke awe spontaneously. The credit for this conceptualization should undoubtedly go to Ponnayya of the Quartet, the illustrious disciple of Muthusvami Dikshita. To clarify, this is not to belittle or discredit Maharaja Svati Tirunal or call into question his compositional abilities in any way. As in the case of “gana nAyakam” and “srImAnini”, the Maharaja was perhaps left smitten by the melodic fabric of sarasAlanu that he went on to compose another set of lyrics for it out of sheer love for the melody of sarasAlanu.
And thus here, all that is sought to be argued is that sarasAlanu was anterior in time composed by Ponnayya, the Maharaja after hearing it later in time composed sUmasAyaka to the same mettu/dhatu and that the preponderance of evidence on hand and of probability as well, firmly supports this line of reasoning.
Further in the context of ragamalikas, it is seen that it was part of the kriti format even prior to 1800’s, as evidenced by the compositions of Melattur Virabhadrayya and Ramasvami Dikshita. And the family of Dikshitas reveled in composing ragamalikas. Having been under the tutelage of Muthusvami Dikshita, the Quartet seem to have warmed up to this concept of stringing in ragas so much so that sarasAlanu came to be appended with a ragamalika ettugada svara section, which to my best of knowledge is not seen in any pre 1830 AD composition of the genre of varnas. This piece of melodic engineering can perhaps only be very much confidently ascribed to the Quartet’s tutelage under Muthusvami DIkshita.
Discography Part 2:
Even as I had almost finished composing this fairly long blog post, as if in answer to my wish, my co-rasika acquaintances- see Foot Note 5 – mailed me the entire 45-minute recording of the rendering of sarasAlanu by Balasarasvati’s famed ensemble presumably from one of her dance recitals. The audio recording also has the sound of the bells of Bala’s anklets as well.
And this recording for sure features the following artistes/Vidvans – vide Foot Note 6 below.
Kanchipuram Sri. C. P. Gnanasundaram alias Gnani and Sri Narasimhulu – Vocals ;
Sri Radhakrishna Naidu – Clarinet; Kanchipuram Sri Kuppuswami Mudaliar – Mridangam
T Vishwanathan – Flute with Ganesan Pillai – Nattuvangam
After the demise of Bala’s mother Jayammal (1890-1967) Vidvan Gnanasundaram hailing from Kanchipuram assumed the mantle of the lead vocalist of the ensemble. Trained by Naina Pillai’s disciple Villiambakkam Narasimhachar he was an accomplished singer having sung in the Music Academy for instance in the December 1959 season and a graded AIR artiste as per archived records of the “Indian Listener”.
Sri C.P. Gnanasundaram. and Sri. Narasimhulu were concert musicians of high order. Their rich musical flow matched the incessant interpretative expertise of T. Balasaraswati in an outstanding manner so much so that each of Bala’s performance with this orchestral team made an unforgettable experience. And each of Bala‘s orchestra members were exponents in their own right. Upon the premature demise of Bala’s Guru Kandappa Pillai in 1942, Ganesan (1924 – 1987) his son took over as the conductor-in-chief of her ensemble. See Foot Note 7.
This audio recording which must be dateable at the latest to circa 1965, is also a snippet encapsulating history entwining the successive descendants of Carnatic music and dance’s great first families, the lineage of the Quartet and that of Tanjavur Pappammal whose lineage we today know, as the Veena Dhanammal’s family.
Dhanammal’s great great grandmother Tanjavur Pappammal was part of the Tanjore Court and her granddaughter Tanjavur Kamakshi (1810-1890) left Tanjore Court along with Sivanandam and Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet to Travancore. Tanjavur Kamakshi’s granddaughter was Veena Dhanammal. And her granddaughter Balasarasvati went on to have Kandappa Nattuvanar, a great great grandson of Ponnayya of the Quartet as her guru and later his son Ganesha Pillai as the conductor-in-chief of her ensemble.
The recording of sarasAlanu by Bala’s ensemble is thus a vista or a montage of the very history of our fine-arts, tradition and musical excellence. Decades have flown by since this recording had been made and I now wonder how the diva of our dance must have captured abhinaya for this wonderful piece, holding the audience spell bound for 40 or so minutes , all the while competing with the rapturous melody and the lyrics and with all of them vying for the rasika’s attention.
sUmasAyaka has had considerable airtime in the past decades. As pointed out earlier, the late Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami used to render it quite regularly in his concerts. We do have the Bombay Sisters having cut a record of the same. In modern times Vidvans T M Krishna, Ramakrishnan Murthi and others have presented the composition quite frequently. See Foot Note 8.
My first encounter with sarasAlanu was when Smt Sundari, wife of Prof C S Seshadri sang for me the composition so beautifully, one summer evening more than a decade ago. I now recollect from my conversation with her that she too had learnt it from Vidvan Narasimhulu of Bala’s ensemble. Sadly, I failed to record her rendering then.
Alas thus practically sarasAlanu lies unsung and forgotten, save for Dr Ritha Rajan’s solitary rendering presented above. Even on the Bharatanatyam stage, sUmasAyaka now rules the roost. Apparently even Bala stopped performing this piece past the 1960s. With passage of time, compositions so unique like sarasAlanu will be completely forgotten and would be lost forever unless the succeeding generation learns and perpetuates the cycle of transmission.
sarasAlanu in the beautiful Karnataka Kapi is an aigrette deserving to be sung and burnished further. One hopes as always that modern day performers would take it up learn and present it in its pristine and full form frequently, including the rendering of the sahityas of the muktayi and ettugada svaras. And whenever we get to hear this composition, one should pause for a moment and remember every one of the giants from the past starting from Ponnayya of the Tanjore Quartet on to his grandson Nellayappa Nattuvanar and on to Kandappa Nattuvanar his son and then on to Ganesa Pillai & Gnanasundaram of Balasarasvati’s ensemble and to Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan and finally today on to Dr Ritha Rajan. Had it not been for this long, glorious and unbroken lineage of gurus and sishyas, starting from 1830 AD or thereabouts, we would not have been able to savor this composition today. May this glorious parampara continue so that the composition sarasAlanu will live on for many more generations to come.
Purely as an aside, I venture to conclude this post with a humorous anecdote. The beauty of the notes/svarasgandhara (G, க in tamil) and madhyama (M, ம in tamil) that have been beautifully and tellingly used in this composition reminds me of a quip reportedly made by the legendary Smt T Brinda, the source of which I am unsure. It seems once she was listening in to an All-India Radio (AIR) Arangisai broadcast of Vidvan D K Jayaraman and in it he was rendering Tyagaraja’s “nEnaruncarA nA pai” in Simhavahini. And the Vidvan after rendering the kriti apparently launched into an imaginative svara prastara sally on the pallavi line as “gm gm g, m- (nEnaruncarA)” and so on in succession, pivoting on the “gm-gm” janta phrase. Bemused, the doyenne upon the conclusion of the piece, reportedly remarked in jest in a style typical of her, making a play on the notes/words thus- “ஐய்யரு கமகமனுமணக்கமணக்கபாடறாரு”. In the instant case it is perhaps the gandhara and madhyama notes making the “kApi” or “kAfi” (as its Northern counterpart is usually referred to) of sarasAlanu, melodically fragrant (கமகம) made me recall Smt Brinda’s witty comment.
1984- T Sankaran – Article “Kandappa Nattuvanar” (English)– Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – No 072-073 (April- September 1984) -pp 55-59
1984 – T Sankaran – Article “Bala’s Musicians” (English) – Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – No No 072-073 (April- September 1984) -pp 61-65
1940 – K P Sivanandam – “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” (Tamil) – Reprinted in 2002 -IV Edition -pp 73-75
1948-Prof R Srinivasan– “Music in Travancore” (English) – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) Vol 19-Edited by T V Subba Rao and Dr V Raghavan -pp 107-112
2017 -Prof B Balasubramanyam, University of Wesleyan – “Music of Balasarasvati”- Lecture Demonstration at the Madras Music Academy on 22-December 2017 – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) -Volume 89 (2018)- Edited by V Sriram – Report of the Daily Proceedings of the Annual Conference of 2017- pages 19-20
2010-Douglas M Knight – “Balasaraswathi -Her Art & Life” – Published by Tranquebar Press- Chapter 2 titled “Madman at the Gate”- Pages 49-59
2017 -Dr Ritha Rajan – Article “Ramnad Krishnan” – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) – Volume 89(2018) -Edited by V Sriram -pp 44-50.
2002 -Dr Ritha Rajan – Article “Jatisvaram & Svarajathi” – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA)- Volume LXXV (2002) -Edited by Sri TT Vasu & Nandini Ramani -pp 68-88
2019 – Compilation of Balasarasvati’s Repertoire – (English)– “Sangeet Natak”- The Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – Vol LIII (Numbers 1-4 2019) -pp 117-122
Note 1: The recording of sarasAlanu from Dr Ritha Rajan’s concert has been sourced from the Youtube account of Krishna Narayanan which can be found here. I am thankful to him for sharing the rendering.
Note 2:The details of the concert are recorded in the blog post of a rasika Sri Bharat, which can be read here. The list of composition featured in the recital, seriatim is as under:
sAmi nI pai – Anandabhairavi – aTa – Veenai Kuppayyar (short sketch of raga) [varNam]
rAmA nI pai – kEdAram – Adi – Tyagaraja (short sketch of raga and svarams)
In the recording of Dr. Ritha Rajan’s rendering, an alert listener can discern from her remarks at the conclusion of the recording, that the same is from this particular concert as she also refers to the Kalyani composition (“kAntimati”) of Subbarama Dikshita in response to a query from a rasika, which she had rendered ahead of sarasAlanu in the concert. As one evaluates the concert listing above, one can’t but admire the Vidushi for her selection, placement and spread of the compositions, the choice of ragas including those for the sloka as well, imparting the aesthetic balance and wholesomeness to the concert recital. Again many thanks are due to “Nada Inbam” for having recorded the concert for posterity and to Parivadhini for taking the time and effort to get this concert uploaded on to YouTube
Note 3: It is on record through T Sankaran, that when Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda was roped in to provide musical training to the Royals of Travancore, she took residency in Trivandrum briefly during which time quite a number of Svati Tirunal compositions were learnt by her which explains how sUmasAyaka and valaputAla the padam in Atana, came to find place in her repertoire. It may be news to many that the doyenne apparently also learnt a bunch of Svati Tirunal compositions from Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, when she was roped in to give an AIR National program concert exclusively of Svati Tirunal compositions. I haven’t come across the recording of the said radio concert and I wonder now if the recording of her singing sUmasAyaka was from that concert.
Note 4: The legendary Veena Vidvan S Balachandar a vociferous advocate of the school of thought that Maharaja Svati Tirunal as composer was just a perpetuated myth, was so enthralled by “sarasAlanu” that he would ask his disciple Smt Gayathri Narayanan to play it. Again, we have no record of a rendering by the maestro or his disciple.
Note 5: I am in great gratitude to Krishna Narayanan again for digging out the complete track of sarasAlanu as rendered by Smt Balasarasvati’s ensemble for her performance and to Shreeram Shankar for hosting and sharing through his curated Vaak YouTube channel.
Note 6: I am greatly indebted to our family friend Ms.Sushama Ranganathan & her mother the respected Smt Nandini Ramani for confirming the identities of the performers in this clip, first hand and providing inputs as to the composition’s provenance and its rendering by Smt Balasarasvati’s ensemble. Smt Nandini Ramani, daughter of Dr V Raghavan was one of the senior disciples of Smt Balasarasvati herself and her daughter Ms.Sushama Ranganathan was trained by Ganesa Pillai, the son of Kandappa Nattuvanar.
Note 7: It is a pity that these great artistes were never duly recognized and life too wasn’t kind to them. Vidvan Gnanasundaram contracted leprosy even as he was part of Bala’s ensemble and yet Bala ensured he was part of it nevertheless and he died prematurely. These artists ultimately died unwept and unsung and possibly many in penury. For instance, here is what T Sankaran writes (circa 1984) of Kuppusvami Mudaliar alias Kuppanna who provided the mridangam accompaniment which is heard in the audio recording:
“Kuppanna is today living in Kanchipuram, pining away in infirmity, clutching his empty purse, feeding on his glad memories of his halcyon days and the bad memories of his ungrateful son aTahsildar who predeceased him.”
Ganesa Nattuvanar, died a bachelor much of his time in drunken stupor with nothing to sustain him. And alas with him the branch of the Ponnayya line of the Quartet came to an end. One should be thankful to the late Sri T Sankaran for having recorded at the least a brief biography and the contribution of these artistes, who made a Bala recital a delectable experience, in the Sangeet Natak Akademi Journal article “Bala’s Musicians”, given in the references section, without which we would have never known even the very existence of these great artistes.
Note 8: The composition sUmasAyaka is also part of the audio track of the Malayalam movie “Swati Tirunal” wherein it has been sung by Ms.B.Arundhati. The composition is also part of the Mohiniyattam repertory of compositions and occupies a pride of place in the quartet of varnams along with ‘dAni sAmajEndra’ (Todi), ‘manasimE paritApam’ (Sankarbharanam) and ‘hA hanta vanchitam’ (Dhanyasi) presented by the Kalamandalam school/tradition of Mohiniyattam and choreographed by the high-priestess of the tradition Smt Sathyabhama (Source Ms Sapna Govindan – “Tradition in Mohiniyattam” – available Online)
I am deeply in debt to Dr Ritha Rajan for providing me the time, patiently answering all my questions and for clarifying or validating many points as to this composition and its nuances and antecedents, without which this blog post would not have been complete. The photographs of Kandappa Nattuvanar and Ganesa Pillai has been taken from the Sangeet Natak Akademi Journal and the others have been sourced from the internet.
I have endeavored to present the information, facts and the inputs received from the named individuals including Dr Ritha Rajan to the best of my abilities and understanding. The arguments that I have advanced or the opinions I have expressed is independent of their viewpoints /inputs and the individuals concerned do not necessarily subscribe to the same nor do they acknowledge it as their point of view.
The renderings have been in the public domain and the copyrights if any for the performance thereof continues to be exclusively of the respective performers/authors. No part of this blog or its contents shall be commercially exploited.
Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkande in his quest for seeking answers about Sangita Shastra undertook various journeys across places in India, travelling and meeting different people. His South Indian Journey was published by Indira Kala Vishvavidyalaya Khairagarh as “Meri Dakshin Bharat ki Sangita Yatra. This is a translation of that work into Tamil and was completed in 2013 after receiving permissions from Khairagarh University for undertaking this translation.
My thanks and namaskarams to Professor. S.R. Janakiraman for reading through this and to Professor. N. Ramanathan for his innumerable clarifications and feedback.
This ebook is made available freely for download and distribution for personal and academic use only. No part of this document may be reused in a commercial publication or reproduced and used for derivative works of a commercial nature.
We get to know the structure of many rāga-s only through Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This text has both musical and musicological importance, as the rāga-s are not only explained by their phrases, but also through compositions. One such rāga whose svarūpa can be grasped well by analyzing this text is Gōpikāvasanta. A detailed analysis of this rāga has been done, wherein the author has concluded that Gōpikāvasanta is actually a name given to an old rāga by name Induganṭāravam. The conclusion was made based on the similarities between the two rāga-s and by considering the musicological treatises. Let us revisit this hypothesis in the light of some fresh evidences.
Gōpikāvasanta – Lakṣaṇa
Perhaps Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and Anubanda to Caturdanḍīprakāśikā attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi were the only teatises that describe this raga (See Footnote 1). Gōpikāvasanta is a bhāṣāṅga, vakra sampūrṇa janya of mēla 20 (Nārīrītigaula or Naṭabhairavi). He gives a śloka and mūrcana and few phrases to explain the rāga and then proceeds to give a kṛti of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and his own sañcāri. We have mentioned in our post on Kamās that interpreting the mūrcana verbatim will not only lead to confusion, but also an incomplete understanding of a rāga and it is always to be combined with the notated compositions. Likewise, in this case we do find some discrepancies between the lakṣaṇa given in the śloka and the prayōga-s seen in the kṛti. Let us first look into the lakṣaṇa ślōka given in Pradarṣini:
dhavakraśca avarōhē rivakritaḥ II
The gṛha of this sampūrṇa rāga
is ṣaḍjam and the svara-s dhaivata and ṛṣbha are vakra in ārōhaṇa and avarōhaṇa
respectively are the maximum possible details that can be gathered from this
lakṣaṇa śloka.1 Mūrcana given by Dīkṣitar is RSRGMPDPNNS SNDPMGRMGS which
gives a slightly clear picture. It can be observed that the possible phrase
that lead us to tāra ṣaḍja is PNNS and to that of madya ṣaḍja is RMGS. More detail
can be gathered by studying the salient phrases delineated by Dīkṣitar (See Footnote
2). By this exercise, few details not mentioned in the śloka and mūrcana can be
learnt. Also we come to know the additional phrase to reach tāra ṣaḍja is PS.
Similarly madya ṣaḍja can also be touched by the phrase RGS. There are special
phrases like NDM and RM which is usually suffixed with RG or GS.
The above elucidation clearly
shows the importance of reading the rāga as a whole rather than analyzing the mūrcana
alone. Our learning further enhances and is completed when the kṛti-s in this rāga
notated by Dīkṣitar are analyzed.
Gōpikāvasanta was taken up by
a conclave of musicians in The Music Academy conference as a part of rāga lakṣaṇa
discussion. A reference to the mūrcana given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has been
made and an utsava sampradāya kīrtanam of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal was sung by Māṅgudi
Cidambara Bgāgavatar. A consensus was made and this rāga was considered as a
janya of mēla 20 with the presence of antara gāndhāra, catuśruti dhaivata and kākali
niṣādha. This rāga followed the scale SRGMPNS
SNDPMGS. This lead us nowhere and we don’t know whether that was a
different rāga or a variant (aberrant form?) existed at that time.2
There are two kṛti-s
notated by Dīkṣitar in this rāga. The first one is the well-known ‘bālakṛṣṇam
bhāvayāmi’ of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and the second one is ‘gōvindarājam’, a very
rare one by Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar tuned the compositions of the
latter composer and this is no exception. Though many of the compositions of Kṛṣṇasvāmy
Ayya can be seen in Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini, this composition is seen
only in the lesser known and perhaps the last publication of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
‘Samskṛta ānḍra drāviḍa kīrtanālu’ published in the year 1906 (See Footnote 3).3
There is supposed to be a kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svamigal in this rāga which will be
taken up soon.
bhāvayāmi of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar
This is a kṛti on Śrī Kṛṣṇa. No reference to any
specific kṣetra is seen in this kṛti. As mentioned earlier, this has many prayōga-s,
not mentioned in the mūrcana or in the specific phrases listed like PMPG, P(mandra
sthāyi)R, SGR,SMMS and RGMGS. Analysis of this kṛti can be read in the article
of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya – Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya is an
underrated composer who has composed many kṛti-s in Sanskrit, Tamiz and Telugu.
It is much unfortunate that many of his kṛti-s are not presented on stage. Subbarāma
Dīkṣitar’s musical inception can be studied by analyzing these tunes and are
definitely useful in understanding the musical style of Dīkṣitar family. This kṛti
is on Kṛṣṇa incarnated as Gōvindarājā.
This is set in pallavi-anupallavi-caraṇam format with a muktāyi svara at the end. Many of the key phrases seen in the kṛti ‘bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi’ and the phrases elucidated while describing the rāga can be seen here. Even before we cross the first line of the sāhitya, the phrase P(mandra sthāyi)S is highlighted and this phrases repeats. Similarly, PS too recur often. We do see some new phrases like SRS, PNDNDM, and DNDDM. Phrases used by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar like RGMGS, SMMS are not seen here. Whereas the svara-s ṣaḍja and gāndhāra were used as gṛha svara by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, it is pañcama and gāndhāra by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This kṛti by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has many repetitive phrases like GRGS, DNDNDM and SPS which is not the case with the other kṛti. It is very clear that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has tried to give us a very different picture of this rāga. It is to be remembered here that Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has extracted this rāga to its maximum possible limit without compromising the melody. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, understanding this limitation and being aware of the restricted scope of this rāga has shown us the lesser exposed side of this rāga, thereby giving a different, yet complete picture. This kṛti also serves as an exemplar to understand Dīkṣitar’s musical acumen in the realm of tāla. This kṛti can be heard here.
of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
In the treatise Saṅgīta
Sampradāya Pradarṣini, whether a particular rāga is furnished with a kṛti or
not, it invariably has a sañcāri composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Sañcāri in
this rāga forms an important role as it is not just an encapsulation of the kṛti
‘bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi’ or the phrases he elucidated while introducing this rāga.
Neither is it a replica of the phrases seen in the kṛti ‘gōvindarājam’. It is
unique in its own way as it gives us a more complete picture of this rāga. New
phrases found here help us to understand this rāga further, which includes PDM,NS,
SNS and GGPP. The phrase SPS is again
stressed and also we get to see other phrases in mandra sthāyi like PR and NS (P
and N are in mandra sthāyi).
From the above discussion
it could be well perceived that Dīkṣitar has not explained all the phrases in
his introductory remarks (to this rāga); mūrcana given by him is not
comprehensive in explaining a rāga. When we see the phrases which cannot be
redacted from the mūrcana and also when older forms like gīta or prabandha were
not furnished (in his Pradarṣini), how and from where Dīkṣitar extracted these
Following hypotheses can be
Dīkṣitar (Muddusvāmy and/or
Subbarāma) could have had unpublished gīta-prabandha-s with them (See Footnote
Rāga lakṣana said to be
written by Vēṅkaṭamakhi, which was in the possession of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
could have an explanatory phrases to understand rāga-s like this. The book what
we call it as ‘anubandha’ appears to be an incomplete work. A lakṣaṇa granta
tries to explain a rāga with its phrases or more detailed ślōka-s. The ślōka-s
in the ‘anubandha’ are totally redundant in understanding a rāga and they more
appear to be a part of a main treatise which is yet to be discovered.
and Indughanṭārava – Two names for a single rāga?
We have reiterated several times that the compositions handed over to us by oral tradition or through the printed texts and the rāga lakṣaṇa therein is not comprehensive in any manner. We need to look into unpublished manuscripts lying untouched at various repositories. Analysis without considering the data given in the manuscripts will be superfluous and will not give us an exact solution.
manuscript in Tanjāvūr Mahārāja Śerfoji Sarasvati Mahāl Library (TMSSML)
TMSSML is a veritable
source to understand the cultural history of Tanjāvūr as it preserves
manuscripts related to our culture and many of them are yet to be explored. Many
of these manuscripts are believed to be of Nāyak period.3 One among
this is a manuscript having a collection of gīta-s and sūlādi-s in notation. This
manuscript also has a notation for āyittam in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta (See
Footnote 5). Gōpikāvasanta is also mentioned as (a janya of) Bhairavi mēla. This
shows the existence of this rāga during or even before the period of Śāhāji and
Tulaja. The phrases there in, though much less elaborative that what is seen in
the compositions mentioned above, is much suggestive of Gōpikāvasanta. Excluding
two phrases, other prayōga-s can be seen in the compositions mentioned above. The
unique prayōga-s seen only in this āyittam are GRS and PDNS! How can we
reconcile this? This rāga also has the phrases PDND (also seen in the āyittam)
Technically, this rāga could
have had these phrases (GRS and PDNS) and these composers could have avoided
using this phrase. Not necessarily, a composer is expected to exhaust all the
phrases in his composition. Secondly, Dīkṣitar has mentioned several phrases in
many rāga-s that they are used only in gīta-s or prabandha-s and not in kīrtana-s.
Even in this case, Dīkṣitar remarks, the phrase PNS or SNS is seen only in the
tānam. GRS and PDNS could have been such unique phrases used only in those
genres and not used in kṛti-s.
Based on these evidences,
we can clearly say this is definitely an old rāga, existent even before the
time of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and due to some unknown reasons, was not catalogued
in the treatises like Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śahāji or Saṅgīta Sāramṛta of Tulaja. Having
said this, we will now analyze Indughaṇṭārava and see how it differs from Gōpikāvasanta.
This is a janya of Bhairavi
mēla says Śahāji and Tulaja. This could correspond to Nārīrītigaula mentioned
by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. They have given some illustrative phrases and stressed
PDNS and MGRS will not occur in this rāga.5
Though it appears much
similar to Gōpikāvasanta, certain vital differences can be seen on careful
introspection of the phrases given by them. First is the appearance of the
phrases PDNS and GRS. This cannot occur in Indughaṇṭārava, but seen in Gōpikāvasanta.
Second is the phrase SRGMGS. This is seen only in Indughaṇṭārava and not in the
āyittam or any of the available compositions in Gōpikāvasanta. The common avarōhaṇa
phrase in Indughaṇṭārava is SNDPM, which is certainly not permissible in Gōpikāvasanta
(See Footnote 6).
Based on the available evidences, we can clearly conclude both are old rāga-s and are much allied to each other. We had many gīta-s and tāna-s in both these rāga-s, implying both could have been popular. As mentioned earlier, due to some unknown reasons, some musicologists failed to catalogue Gōpikāvasanta (See Footnote 7). We get to know Indughaṇṭārava is a ghana and naya rāga. Can Gōpikāvasanta be a dēśīya rāga and hence got missed to be catalogued like many other dēśīya rāga-s?
kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal
We have mentioned about Māṅgudi Cidambara Bāgavatar singing an utsava sampradāya in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta. Though we have no clue on the kṛti, we can narrow down our search based on an information given by Taccur brothers.
Taccur brothers had
published a series of books in the earlier part of the last century. One among
them is Śrī Bhagavad Sārāmṛtam, published in the year 1916.6 This
has a kṛti of Svāmigal in the rāgaṃ Gōpikāvasanta.
Śri rāma rāma rāma is an
utsava sampradāya kṛti, now sung in Nīlāmbari. Almost all the texts mention the
rāga of this kṛti as Nīlāmbari, but mentioned as Gōpikāvasanta by Taccur
brothers. Another significant observation here is the tāla of this kṛti is not
specified. It should be sung like an ālāpana, without reckoning tāla says the
author. We were unable to find any living tradition singing this kṛti like this.
The melody of this sounds
much different from the Gōpikāvasanta that we were discussing. Many phrases
like PMR and RGMDP, which are not seen in the compositions mentioned earlier
can be seen. The svarūpa seen here does not even seem to match the scale given
by them (in the ‘rāga lakṣaṇa proceedings’ happened in The Music Academy); Gōpikāvasanta
mentioned by them is devoid of ṛṣbham, but this version has. Combining these
evidences with the points mentioned in The Music Academy conference, this could
have been some other rāga disguised in the name of Gōpikāvasanta.
Based on the presently available evidences, we can conclude Gōpikāvasanta was a separate entity from Indughaṇṭārava though they share very many similarities. Many rāga-s have not been catalogued by the lakṣaṇa granthakāra-s and it is only by examination of gīta-prabandha manuscripts preserved at various repositories and texts like Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini we get to know the mere existence of these rāga-s. The Dīkṣitar family had done a great service by providing these abstract rāga-s in the form of kṛti-s which are more palatable than any other form and we are indebted to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar for cataloguing rāga-s like Gōpikāvasanta which do not have any textual reference. This also shows Dīkṣitar was much aware of his tradition and assiduously bequeathed to us.
I thank Dr Ārati Rao, Research Scholar for providing me a copy of TMSSML manuscript.
Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi and its
allied texts do make a note of this rāga. But the scale given there lacks ṛṣbham
completely and is much different from the Gōpikāvasanta described here.
RgmrG, RmrG, Rggs, RgM,
PdpM, GmP, rgmP, ndM, grmgS, rmrgS, PsPPs,
GRmgS, Pnns, psns were few of the phrases mentioned by Dīkṣitar (P is in mandra sthāyi).
Raṅga Rāmānuja Ayyaṅgār has notated this composition in his book ‘kṛti maṇi mālai’. We find a completely different version there. This version is not taken for comparison, as we have an authentic version given by the composer himself and the version by Ayyaṅgār is definitely a retuned one irrespective of his source. The tāla intricacies seen in the composer’s version is not maintained here and this version also lacks the citta svaram.
Dīkṣitar, at many places in
Pradarṣini proclaims he has supplementary material in the form of tāna-s and
gīta-s and not publishing them because of space restraint. One such example
that might be of relevance here is the note that he gives in the Ābhērī rāga
lakṣana. He clearly mentions he has tāna-s to support the statement given by
him regarding the lakṣaṇa and not publishing them. For the same reason, he
could have refrained himself from publishing tāna-s in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta.
Rāga ālāpana was also
referred as ‘āyitam’.
It is to be accepted that
the phrases available to us are very limited and we need to see the compositions
in full to understand the rāga Indughaṇṭārava.
In this regard, Gōpikāvasanta
alone is not a solitary exclusion. Many dēśi rāga-s like Bhairavam, Aṭhāṇa, Bēgaḍa
etc., were not catalogued by Śāhāji and Tulaja.
We have seen about the rāga Rudrapriyā, its gṛha,
amsa, nyāsa svarā-s and salient phrases in the two earlier posts. It was established
that Rudrapriyā was mentioned by various names, the most common one being Karnāṭaka
Kāpi. It was also illustrated the name Rudrapriyā was used to denote different
scales in the past.
We have been mentioning in our earlier posts
that Rudrapriyā elucidated in the main body of Saṅgīta Samprādaya Pradarśini is
much different from the two kṛtis, ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’,
notated in the ‘anubandham’ of the same text. The lakṣaṇa of these two kṛti-s
too does not confirm with each other. The kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ was
covered in an earlier post and the second kṛti will be the subject of
discussion in this post.
bhajarē in Saṅgīta Samprādaya Pradarśini
This is a very small kṛti constructed in a pallavi-anupallavi
format. This is not even suffixed with a ciṭṭa svara passage. This is an ode to
Tyāgēśa of Tiruvārur. Despite being a small kṛti, it has a reference to an important
attribute associated with the deity Tyāgēśa. The relics of Tyāgeśa like his
swords and throne are equally famous and much venerated as the Lord himself in
this shrine. He is the sovereign, rules the world and his throne is said to be
made of precious gems (Ratna simhāsanam). Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar has referred to
His throne in many of his compositions, ‘kanaka ratna simhāsanābharaṇa’ in the Vīravasanta
kṛti ‘vīravasanta tyāgarāja’, ‘simhāsanapatē’ in this kṛti and in ‘tyāgarājaya
namaste’, a kṛti in Bēgaḍa. There is a ślokam ‘Tyāgarāja aṣṭakam’ attributed to Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar.1
As the name indicates, this has eight verses and each verse ends with the line
‘śri tyāgarāya namo namaḥ’. The second verse here again refers to this throne
as ‘samśobhi simhāsana samsthithāya’ (one who sits on a greatly shining throne).
Musically, the rāga lakṣaṇa portrayed here is much different from others kṛti-s notated in Rudrapriyā. Excluding a single phrase MGMGGR, the lakṣaṇa followed here more confirms with the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS, which can be heard here. This is one of the few kṛti-s, wherein Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar strictly follows a scale. The gṛha svara used here includes gāndhāra, pañcama and niṣādha and the nyāsa svara is always madhyama. We do find a plenty of janṭa gāndhāra, dhaivata and niṣādha prayōga-s. Excluding the use of janṭa phrases, we do not find any similarity with the rāga Rudrapriyā. More about the rāga Rudrapriyā can be read here. We now get a question, can a kṛti with this lakṣaṇa can be called as Rudrapriyā ?
We have not seen the
opinion of other musicians/musicologists on this rāga in our earlier posts and
that will be taken now. The documentations of the rāga lakṣaṇa discussions
happened during the annual conference organized by The Madras Music Academy
always provides a valuable reference to understand a rāga. These discussions
were attended by legion of musicians and they were not restrained in expressing
their thoughts on a rāga, its versions or the kṛti-s known to them. These
discussions not only enable us to know about a particular rāga, but also make
us aware of its variants. Fortunately, they were also recorded for the
Rudrapriyā finds a place in
two of such discussions. The first one happened in the year 1956.2 Two
distinctive types of Rudrapriyā were mentioned by the musicians participated in
this discussion; first is with the scale SRGMPDNNS SNPMGRS and the second with the scale SRGMNS
SNPMGRS. They were also of the opinion that the second one is to be called as Pūrṇaṣaḍjam.
A note has been made that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has given six kṛti-s in notation including
‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘tyāgēśam
bhajarē’. Whereas Musiri Subraḥmaṇya Ayyar had recorded the lakṣaṇa
of the former kṛti,
no discussion happened on the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam
The second discussion happened in the year
2009.3 Here this rāga was discussed with its allied rāga-s like Kānaḍā and Durbār. This was a much-detailed
discussion wherein many eminent musicologists participated and shared their
views. Here Rudrapriyā compositions in the main section differed from the two kṛti-s
in anubandham and difference between these two kṛti-s were taken note of. The kṛti
‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ was
analyzed in detail and its resemblance with ‘śrī mānini’ of Svāmigal
was also discussed. Again no reference to the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam
bhajarē’ can be seen.
It can be seen from the above discussion,
though a note has been made about this kṛti and the different lakṣaṇa
seen here, no detailed analysis has been attempted; possibly due to
unpopularity of this kṛti.
kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal
When we discuss the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ or render the kṛti, it is inevitable for us to think about the kṛti ‘śrī mānini’. We have analyzed these two kṛti-s in detail in the second part of this article which can be read here. Lesser-known fact is the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ also have a complementary kṛti, composed by Svāmigal. Contrary to the first pair, this pair is similar only with respect to their rāga lakṣaṇa-s and not with the melody.
We have mentioned earlier that the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ follows the scale SRMPDS
SNDPMGRS. This rāga is now called as Sālagabhairavi. But the complementary kṛti that we will be seeing is not the commonly
heard ‘padavini sadbhakthi’. Though this is the kṛti which
epitomizes the rāga Sālagabhairavi today, the older version of this kṛti is much different,
perhaps composed in a different rāga and we also find references to support
this view.4 An analysis of this older version and the differences
between this and the old Sālagabhairavi is to be covered separately.
We have a kṛti which could
have been composed in the present Sālagabhairavi (the scale that corresponds to the
in ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’), but now
commonly sung in Mukhāri (See footnote 1). This kṛti ‘ēlāvatāra’ is mentioned as Sālagabhairavi in the text ‘Oriental Music in
European Notation’ by A M Chinnasāmy Bhāgavatar (See footnote 2).
Though this kṛti is a
personal dialogue between the composer and his iṣta dēvata Śrī Rāmacandra, this
kṛti has an important reference about the musical contribution of the composer.
This is one of the kṛti-s which reveals he has composed in 100 rāga-s and
grouped it as rāgamālika, referred to as ‘śata rāgaratna mālikalu rasiñcina’ in
this kṛti. Though we have no idea about this rāgamālika, C R Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār
gives a fleeting reference in one of his article published in Sudēsamitran (See
Vālājāpeṭṭai manuscripts mention the rāga of this kṛti as Sālagabhairavi. The version here exactly follows the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS. Gāndhāra and pañcama were the gṛha svara-s used and madhyama acts as a nyāsa svara apart from ṣaḍja (can be compared with the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’). The svara-s ṛṣbha and gāndhāra do occur as janṭa, but as pratyāgata gamaka (janṭa occurring in avarōhaṇa krama) and in catusra phrases. So it is common to find phrases like MGG and GRR, in this kṛti. This confirms with the typical style of Svāmigal, as seen in Vālājāpeṭṭai versions. This can be compared with the janṭa phrases seen in the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ wherein the janṭa svara-s occur as pratyāgata gamaka (but not as catusra phrases). This stylistic difference in the handling of svara-s give a different gait to the kṛti, despite being composed in the same rāga. The only difference that can be seen between these two kṛti-s is the presence of prayōga-s MGMGGR and PDND, but only in the latter kṛti. Though the first phrase is a deviation from the scale, the latter one is very much within the scale. There is a kṛti of Vīṇa Kuppaier in this rāga, ‘sāmagāna lolanē on Śrī Kālahastīśa. This kṛti too follows the mentioned scale, excluding the presence of the phrase SRGR. This special phrase is seen in the lakṣaṇa gītaṃ notated in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi.
in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi
Many believe Tyāgarāja Svāmigal
followed the treatise Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, selected apūrva rāga-s and composed in
them. But analysis of many old, defunct versions like that from Vālājāpeṭṭai
transcripts disprove this hypothesis (Readers can refer to Apūrva rāga-s series
of this author placed in this site to know more). This rāga, Sālagabhairavi, as we call it today, is seen in this
treatise and it also gives a lakṣaṇa gītaṃ for better understanding of this rāga.6
Many phrases outside this scale can be seen here like SRGR, SPM, RGRS, RPM, GSR,
GRPM, GDP, MMGMGR and PDMGR.
As mentioned earlier, none
of these outliers can be seen in the kṛti ‘ēlāvatāra, whereas these outliers can be seen in the kṛti-s ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ and ‘sāmagāna lolanē’
– MGMGR and SRGR respectively. Can we say Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Vīṇa Kuppaier were conversant with Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi?
Though we cannot give a definite answer, these
phrases cannot be taken lightly and ignored as a mere coincidence. It is a
well-known fact that Muddusvāmi
Dīkṣitar was equally conversant with Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā nomenclature (See
footnote 4). This possibility can be conceived if we feel the present mēla
system was a later development. Rather if we consider Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā and
Kanakāmbari – Rasamañjari system were coeval, it can be taken that he had good acquaintance
with both these systems.
It seems Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi
was much popular among the disciples of Svāmigal and Vīṇa Kuppaier too could have accessed the same.Hence it is actually not impossible to find the use of the phrases seen
in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi
in the works of these composers
who were shrewd and able to incorporate the changes happening around them.
Sindhūra or (Hindustāni) Saindhavi
Though we were able to locate the phrases used
in these kṛti-s, in the lakṣaṇa gītaṃ notated in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, this
hypothesis is not infallible when we consider the cultural milieu of Tanjāvūr between
17-19 CE. In the second part of this article, we have speculated the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘śrī
mānini’ were not identical twins, but actually an inspiration from a common
melody heard in that area. We can apply this hypothesis to this kṛti too. Tanjāvūr
during the mentioned period was very active musically and there was not only an
amalgamation of various genres of music, but also effective incorporation and
thereby adaptation of these genres into our music. The composers mentioned in
this article were much inclusive to various musical thoughts and they did not
restrain themselves from incorporating these ideas into their creations. Dīkṣitar’s
nōṭṭusvara sāhitya-s, Svāmigal’s ‘ramiñcuva’ all come under this category
wherein they have adopted Western music into their creations. This rāga under
discussion could be an adaptation from Hindustāni music. There is a Hindustāni
rāga by the name Sindhūra or (Hindustāni) Saindhavi (emphasis is mine) and with the same scale.7
This rāga could have influenced these two composers to create a composition in
their own commendable style. Both these
composers were adept in ancient treatises and it is very unlikely that they
would have labelled this kṛti as Sālagabhairavi. For our reference, Sindhūra could be a better option as it will not lead
to any more confusion.
The above discussion clearly shows the rāga of this kṛti
cannot be fitted into the realm of Rudrapriyā. Atleast
the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ has some elements that
made us to speculate, this kṛti could be a different interpretation of the rāga Rudrapriyā. But
that cannot be applied for this kṛti. In such a case, the reason for Dīkṣitar labelling it as Rudrapriyā is mysterious. We did not want to make a hasty
conclusion saying Dīkṣitar was wrong in naming it as Rudrapriyā. We just want to make a point that we are
unable to find a reason for this labelling. Even Dīkṣitar could have been puzzled by seeing the lakṣaṇa of this kṛti, strikingly
different from the Rudrapriyā of the main text. But the reason for him to
with this melody is even really intriguing. Perhaps he must have had a lexicon
in his possession, which label this scale as Rudrapriyā. Our statement ‘Rudrapriyā
had many names and many different scales were called as Rudrapriyā’ can be
We will stop at this point
and leave this discussion open. We believe Dīkṣitar will show us the way to crack this secret by
opening some unknown avenues in the near future.
Rudrapriyā visualized by Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar in this kṛti is
distinctly different from the Rudrapriyā mentioned elsewhere. Analysis of the lakṣaṇa clearly shows the name Rudrapriyā is actually a
misattribution, based on the present level of understanding. Considering the
acumen of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it can be very well presumed that he must have
had his own reasons to label this as Rudrapriyā.
It is better to call the
scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS as Sindhūra or Hindustāni Saindhavi. The rāga Sālagabhairavi
is an old rāga mentioned in various treatises and was much popular. Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ
were much conversant with these rāga-s and they would have not called this rāga
as Sālagabhairavi. This also proves our oft-quoted hypothesis that evanescence
of old versions made us to believe Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ
were followers of two different schools.
It is much surprising to see a phrase seen in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi finding a place in a kṛti of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar. This makes us to presume Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar too was aware of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi.
Footnote 1 – The present scalar Sālagabhairavi is actually an abridged version of
Mukhāri, but with only one variety of dhaivatam.
Footnote 2 – Interestingly, this kṛti was not
mentioned by Narasiṃha
Bhāgavatar and S A Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar in their texts.
Footnote 3 – Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar,
grandson of Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar has averred to Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār
that he had collected the individual kṛti-s in this rāgamālika and had plans to
publish it soon. Unfortunately, we are now clueless on the condition of the
manuscript in the possession of Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar.
Footnote 4 – Using mēla
names current in Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā nomenclature like ‘haimavatīm’ and ‘śūlinīm’
in his kṛti-s attest this fact.
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
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.
rājādityasya rājñaḥ prakaṭataragurusnehasamāntabhāvaṃ yaḥ prāpto’sannidhānāt sahamaraṇasukhaṃ saṃyuge tena nāptataḥ ||
Epigraphia Indica 27 (1947–48), no. 47: v. 2. Page 292-
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.
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!
David N Lorenzen (1972) – “The Kapalikas and Kalamukhas”- Published by Thomson Press (India) Ltd – pp 73-140
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
K V Subramanya Aiyar (1923)- ‘Travancore Archaeological Series Vol III – page 202
K A Nilakanta Sastri (1955) – The Colas (English)– University of Madras- pp 128-139
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
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
S R Balasubramanian (1971) – “Early Chola Temples”- published by Orient Longman Ltd – pp 299-309
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.
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.
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.