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 Ashtapati.
Sri Rama Ashtapadi
Our manuscript gives us the most venerated ‘sri rama ashtapadi’ after the Mohana raga taranga. We get to see an introductory verse detailing the structure of the ashtapati. The phrases “अष्टाविंशाधिकशत-गीतरत्नाकरोत्तमे” (‘aShtAvimSAdhika-Sata gIta-ratnAkarOttamE’), “श्रीराम-शब्द-सम्बुद्ध्या सकामाष्टविभक्तिकः” (‘srIrAma-Shabda -sambudhyA sAkamashta-vibhaktikaha’) , “एकैकस्या विभक्तेस्तद्गीतं षोडशाद्योच्यते” (‘EkaikasyA vibhaktEstadgItam shOdashadyOchyatE’), “पञ्चाषड्-वर्ण-सन्मालालङ्कारा वरकन्धर” (‘paNcAshad-varNa-sanmAlAlaNkAra vara-kandhara’) clearly elucidates the structure. These can be roughly translated as follows: The ashtapadi-s consists of gita-s 128 in number. All were composed on Sri Ramachandra with the Rama shabda used in eight vibhakti-s (declensions) with each vibhakti having 16 gita-s. All these songs open with each of the 50 letters of Sanskrit alphabet. From the description, it can be said Upanishad Brahmendra served as a source of inspiration for Muthuswamy Diskitar to compose vibhakti kritis!
The individual compositions are referred to as gita-s and each gita has a pallavi and eight carana-s, fashioned in line with the celebrated ashtapadi-s of Jayadeva Maha Kavi. From the material available, it can be presumed that the gitas were arranged into 16 khanda-s, each khanda-s having eight gita-s in all the vibhakti-s. The khanda-s also have introductory verses and a gita preceding the proper ashtapadi gita-s. This introductory gita alone has 13 carana-s.
We are indeed seeing the ashtapadi-s tuned by Muthuswamy Diksitar! As with the Taranga-s, the ashtapadi-s too are incomplete (in this manuscript) with only eight of them available – one preceding gita and seven from the vibhakti set. The preceding gita ‘srI rAma tubhyam’ was set to the raga Bilahari. (Raghavan considers this as the gita representing the eighth vibhakti in the vibhakti set). Tala was not marked for any of these gita-s. The contents of the first khanda are as follows:
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 astapati-s does not seem to explain a story. However, these can be conclusively said only if the sahitya is read and analyzed by a scholar.
We are looking into the kritis of a Sri Rama Upasaka who has influenced and shaped the thoughts of our beloved composers Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. The sahitya of these compositions are to be studied in detail to understand the tenets of Upanishad Brahmam. Let us hope to get the Taranga-s and Ashtapati-s in full with the blessings of Ramachandrendra.
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.
It has been reiterated several times that
Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has not explained many tenets explicitly in his treatise Saṅgīta
Sampradāya Pradarṣini. It is up to the
reader to comprehend the information given by reading and analyzing various
evidences published before and after this treatise. One such tenet is bhāṣāṅga
rāgas which was covered here. Another such example will be the point of
discussion in this article – rāga-s with more than one mūrcana.
One cannot stop exclaiming seeing the lakṣaṇa
of few rāga-s when we go through Pradarṣini. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has explained
these rāga-s by giving more than one mūrcana (ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa) . Rāga-s
like Takka, Sālagabhairavi, Kannaḍagaula and Kamās can be placed under this
category. By this we get to know, multiple variant lakṣaṇa-s existed for some rāga-s even during the period of Dīkṣitar and he
was in approval of all these variants.
described by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
Kamās is considered as a dēśīya, bhāṣāṅga janya
of Harikēdaragaula. Madhyama and dhaivata are jīva svara-s. This rāga has a
restricted range between mandra sthāyi nishāda to tāra sthāyi gāndara. At some
places like RGRS in tāra sthāyi, gandhāra is sādharaṇa in nature. What is more
interesting here is the mūrcana given for this rāga. Though SRGMPDNS and
SNDPMGRS is the mūrcana given for this rāga, it can also have other ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa
like SGMPDNS/SMGMPDNS/SMGMNDNS – SNDPMGS says Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. In all the
compositions notated by him, Kamās is dealt only as a sampūrṇa janya of Harikēdaragaula.
In such a case, it is unavoidable for any reader to get a query – the relevance
of the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa SGMPDNS – SNDPMGS, as it is totally devoid of the
svara ṛṣbham. This scale was very well accepted by Dīkṣitar can be understood
from the fact that it was not affixed with any other (derogatory) remarks as
seen with the rāga-s Husēni or Kāpi. Hence this article will cover only this
variant form and look for the presence of available compositions by analyzing older
versions. Neeedless to say, analysis of the rāga Kamās that we hear today will not be attempted.
This rāga has not been catalogued by Śahaji, Tulajā or other musicologists before their period . The Rāga lakṣaṇa, attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too do not mention this rāga. It is interesting that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar had made a note of this rāga, without furnishing a single composition of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar or any other member of his family. The only old composition notated there is that of Svāti Tirunal and the lakṣaṇa there well abides with the structure described by Dīkṣitar.
But Kamās is seen in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi and its allied texts. The scale given in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi is SGMPDNS – SNDPMGS. An absolute discordance is seen between the scale given and the lakṣaṇa gīta notated therein. In the gīta notated in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, many phrases alien to the scale like SGP, GPMG and GPDN can be seen . The ascend form pūrvāṅgam to uttarāṅgam is always by SGP despite the scale being SGMPDN. The phrase SGMP is conspicuously absent in the gītam. Similarly, RSNDP is to be noted, as the svara ṛṣbham is not mentioned in the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa. Also the phrases characteristic of Kamās like SMGM, MNDN can also be not seen. Though we are able to locate a scale given by Dīkṣitar in the treatise Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, the scale in no way is related to the lakṣaṇa portrayed in the gītaṃ. When the gītaṃ is reconstructed, the melody appears totally different from the Kamās described by Dīkṣitar or heard now.
Many texts have been published by the musicians
to understand rāga lakśaṇa. They serve to understand the crystallized structure
of any particular rāga and when many such publications published over the
period of time were analyzed, evolution of a rāga can be understood.
One such book, perhaps the first of its kind was published by Pazamanēri Svāminātha Ayyar in the year 1901 . Rāgavibhōdini, as it is called was also mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his Pradarṣini. Svāminātha Ayyar was a disciple of Mahā Vaidyanātha Ayyar and represents the śiṣya parampara of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal. This book help us to understand the rāga lakśaṇa prevailed in a single branch of Mānambucāvaḍi lineage (See foot note 1). Kamās is mentioned as a janya of Harikāmbhoji with the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa SMGMPDNS SNDPMGRS. He also mentions about the usage of kākali niṣādham in the phrase SNS. Perhaps this could be the first textual evidence regarding the use of kākali niṣādham. He then proceeds to describe this rāga by mentioning various phrases, including the one with ṛṣbham.
Kamās was explained with other dēśī rāgas by S Ramanathan in The Music Academy conference held in 1966. He has mentioned about the presence of kākali niṣādham and made a note that it is not seen in the earlier compositions . A much detail description of this rāga comes from S R Janakiraman. He avers the structure of this rāga has changed over the period of time. He proceeds to give the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa as SMGMPDNS SNDPMGRS and its variant SNDPMGRGS. He emphasizes on the alpatva of the svara ṛṣbham . Though we are able to get a clear definition of this rāga, our question on the scale without ṛṣbham, mentioned by Dīkṣitar remains unanswered.
Before proceeding further, we wish to add a
note on the mūrcana given in Pradarṣini and its relevance in understanding the
rāga lakṣaṇa. Though Dīkṣitar provides mūrcana for every rāga he describes, in
many cases reading mūrcana alone can mislead us in understanding a rāga. A
comprehensive examination of all the compositions notated by him inclusive of
the notes provided at the beginning is a must to get a picture of any rāga. In
other words, mūrcana is just a delineation; even worser than a
scale in describing a rāga in many instances.
In this case, the mūrcana resembles the scale of Harikāmbhōji. But the notes given by him regarding the nyāsa svarā-s, various illustrative phrases gives us a picture about Kamās. When this is combined with a study of the notated compositions, a clear picture of Kamās and possible ways to differentiate it from Harikāmbhōji can be learnt. This rāga could have not posed any problem if he had stopped with this discussion. The presence of an additional information, that SGMPDNS SNDPMGS can be a mūrcana confuses as this lakṣaṇa can nowhere be seen in the notated works. No single composition notated there is devoid of the svara ṛṣbham. As we have mentioned earlier, this scale too is to be taken with a pinch of salt. This scale doesn’t mean an entire composition could have been constructed only with this scale going up and down; rather the phrases given here must form a bulk of the composition and that version should be bereft of ṛṣbham or should have used ṛṣbham sparsely. We wish the readers to remember the phrase SRGMPMR in the rāga Balahamsa and its importance which we have discussed earlier. This phrase is nowhere seen in the compositions notated by Dīkṣitar in the rāga Balahamsa, but it was an arterial phrase mentioned in various treatises and seen in few old version of the kṛtis-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal in this rāga. The link between these treatises and the practice became evident only after examining the older versions.
Rāga-s live through compositions and a study of these compositions not only help us to understand a rāga, but also aid us in understanding the various ways in which a particular rāga was exploited. In the absence of gita-s in this rāga, we are left with the available old versions of kṛti-s, svarajati-s and jāvali-s in this rāga. A detailed analysis of jāvali-s in this rāga can be heard here (See footnote 2). Though the first evidence of jāvali in this rāga can be traced back to 17 CE, the musical structure is much similar to what we hear today.
We do have two kṛti-s of
Tyāgarāja Svāmigal in this rāga –
‘sujana jīvana’ and ‘sītāpate nā manasuna’. Excluding these two kṛti-s none of the compositions deserve a special
mention in this regard.
This is a well-known kṛti in this rāga set to the tāla rūpakam and needs no introduction. Renditions of this kṛti are plenteous and we do not see much variation in the versions. Uniformly, all these renditions use the svara ṛṣbham as an alpa svara. But we get a different picture when textual versions were examined. Despite being a rare find, both in manuscripts and in the texts published in the early part of the last century, the versions sketched there is common, all devoid of ṛṣbham! All the texts – ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’ , ‘saṅgītānanda ratnākaramu’ , ‘saṅgīta raja raṅgōm’  and ‘gandarva gāna kalpavalli’  give us the variant form of Kamās mentioned by Dīkṣitar. Though the scale followed is SGMPDNS SNDPMGS, we do find phrases like SMGM, PDM, PDS, NDN and SP. The combination of these oft heard phrases in the basic melody condition us to an extent that we don’t feel the real absence of ṛṣbham. These versions does not record a mere scale; rather they paint us the rāga Kamās in its variant form. Now we are left with a question, a vital one to understand the svarūpa of this rāga – can Kamās be outlined without the svarā ṛṣbham? Though the ‘alpa’ nature of this svara is mentioned everywhere and even the oral renditions attest the same, none of the oral versions are available for this kṛti which totally eschew this svara. There are few rāga-s wherein inclusion or exclusion of a particular svara is up to the wish of a composer. The svara dhaivatam in Nāta and ṛṣbham in Hindōlavasanta can be cited as examples. Dīkṣitar provides gīta-s with and without these svara-s in both these rāga-s. But such an indication is not given for Kamās!
Let us look into the Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti. The rāga and tāla of this kṛti is mentioned as Kamās and rūpaka respectively. The basic version is relatively similar to the textual versions, though the structure of the saṅgati-s differ. An important observation noted include the restricted usage of ṛṣbham. The svara ṛṣbham is seen only once in anupallavi in a saṅgati as GRRS. Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti can be heard here.
Whereas in the textual
versions described earlier, we were able to see many Kamās defining versions.
This version lacks those phrases; instead has some other like SMGS and GPMG.
The phrase GPMG is totally new, but seen in a sañcāri by Dīkṣitar. As said
earlier, we lack gītas, prabandās or other earlier works in this rāga and description
by Dīkṣitar alone stand as a pramāṇa. Based on the above discussion, it can be
concluded this version best fits into the variant Kamās mentioned by Dīkṣitar, without
deviating from its sampūrṇa nature. Many of the āvarta ends with the svara
madhyamaṃ highlighting its use as a nyasa svara. But dhaivata is not used
extensively as a gṛha svara, though can be considered to be used as an amsa
Also the pada-s in each āvarta are segregated differently than the commonly heard version. The second tāla āvarta in anupallavi starts from ‘cita’ instead of ‘budha’ as we hear now. Same with ‘nana’ instead of ‘dharma’ in the caraṇam (see below). This kind of pada segregation is not only followed in the Vālājāpeṭṭai version, but also in the books ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’ and ‘gandarva gāna kalpavalli’. In these texts, sāhitya reads differently; ‘cita’ (in anupallavi) and ‘nana’ (in caraṇam) were replaced by ‘śrita’ and ‘vana’ respectively (‘ghana’ in ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’). Gāyaka siddhānjanamu reads ‘dharma pālaka’ as ‘dharma pālana’.
bhujaka bhūṣanār II cita budha janāvanāt II
maja vandita śruta candana II daśa turaṅga māmava II
cāru nētra śrī kalatra II śrī ramya gātra II
tāraka nāma sucaritra II daśaratha putra II
tārakādhipā II nana dharma pālaka II
tāraya raghuvara nirmala II tyāgarāja sannutha II
From the analysis of these
old versions, it appears the Kamās handled by Svāmigal could have used ṛṣbham
to the minimal extent or not used at all. But going with the latter hypothesis
creates an impression Kamās was visualized as a shādava rāga by Svāmigal. As we
don’t have any evidence to prove that and from the knowledge gained by
analyzing the mūrcana seen in Pradarṣini, the first option suits well. In that
instance, Vālājāpeṭṭai version stands distinctly as the frequently heard
phrases like SRS, NRS, SMGM and MNDN were not seen. But we do see other rare
phrases like SMGS and GPM.
Though the aim of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is to archive the
compositions known to him, he also took efforts to make a note on other
contemporary accepted practices. In this regard, Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini
is indeed a valuable treatise to not only learn the compositions of Dīkṣitar,
but also serve as a medium to understand the music of the past.
The liberty extended to vāggēyakāra-s by our music is incomparable and they have utilized it to the
Analysis of all the older
versions and Vālājāpeṭṭai versions is of paramount importance to understand the
music of the past.
Readers must have wondered
in not seeing any note on the kṛti ‘sītāpati nā manasuna’. It will be dealt as
a separate essay to do justice to the information that it carries.
Footnote 1 – Though we place many musicians
into a single family, like Umayālpuram, Tillaisthānam or Mānambucāvadi, differences in the versions do exist between
them. This can is more pronounced in Umayālpuram disciples. Such a difference also exist
among the disciples of Mānambucāvadi lineage. This is a generalized statement
and not related to this kṛti as this kṛti is a
hard find in manuscripts and this author was unable find this manuscript in
more than one musician in the Mānambucāvadi lineage.
Footnote 2 – The tune of the jāvali sung by Subhashini Parthasarathy is more modern. She has reconstructed the tune or sung a version tuned version by a contemporary musician is to be determined.
Time and again in these blog posts we refer to a musicological work called the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP). In fact this Anubandha or appendix is a raga compendium or lexicon of ragas and is the core or fulcrum of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita.In fact one will not be far from truth if they were to conclude that the SSP is a commentary on the Anubandha and a treatise wherein the ragas of this lexicon are illustrated with compositions. While all musicological writers and researchers allude to this Anubandha as an appendix to the Caturdandi Prakashika, fact is that they are two different and distinct texts, created by different authors at different points in time and structured differently as well. In fact the name of this appendix/musicological work is ‘rAgalakshanam’ as found in the preface to the text. However given very many musicological works are similarly named (for example Sahaji’s work dateable to circa 1700 AD, is called ‘rAgalakshanamU’, in this blog post we will refer to this text as Anubandha.
In this blog post we shall look at the content of this Anubandha, how it came to be unearthed, its author and it probable date.
The discovery of the Anubandha:
We do know that the musicological texts which were in the custody of Subbarama Dikshita when he published the SSP in 1904, included amongst others both the CDP and the Anubandha. From the narrative in the SSP we do know that Subbarama Dikshita treated the Caturdandi Prakashika as well as the Ragalakshanam listing as coeval, meaning he thought that the author of both of these texts was one person and that was Venkatamakhin himself, who lived somewhere between 1580-1650 AD.
We did see in an earlier blog post, the efforts of Subbarama Dikshita to acquire the texts and also the contribution of the 64th Pontiff of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta in enabling the same. Subbarama Dikshita while utilizing the text (Anubandha) in his SSP, did not print the complete text as a separate publication. He utilized the lakshana slokas and the arohana/avarohana murcchanas found therein and reproduced it verbatim in his SSP.
Subbarama Dikshita did share a copy of the CDP or portion of it to Pandit Bhatkhande when the later came visiting him in Ettayapuram. It is not known with certainty if the Anubandha was also shared. Prof Bhatkhande refers to only the original CDP and the other text (also called Ragalakshanam) which embodies the 72 Sampurna Melakarta starting from Kanakangi and ending in Rasikapriya, in his work as evident from his publication “Music Systems in India – A comparative study of some of the leading music systems of the 15th,16th,17th & 18th centuries”). Since the so called Asampurna Mela scheme found documented in the Anubandha is not referred to by Prof Bhatkhande, we can infer that the same was perhaps not shared by Subbarama Dikshita, when he met him at Ettayapuram on 17th December 1904.
Subbarama Dikshita died in 1906 and all these musicological texts & other collateral material such as gitams, tAnams ( portions of which are found in the SSP) were presumably inherited by Ambi Dikshita, the son of Subbarama Dikshita thereafter. Ambi Dikshita came in contact with Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, who met him at Kovilpatti in southern Tamilnadu in May 1931. Justice TLV became enamored of the music as practiced by Ambi Dikshita and brought him to Chennai, then Madras, the provincial capital of the Presidency. It was during this interaction that Justice TLV was perhaps able to access the manuscripts of CDP and the Ragalakshanam, with the result, in 1934 under the auspices of the Madras Music Academy the CDP as well as the Ragalakshanam was published as edited by Pandit Subramanya Sastri, T V Subba Rao and Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer. It was these authors/editors of this edition who first called the Ragalakshanam as Anubandha or Appendix to the CDP. See foot note 1.
The Ragalakshanam manuscript lacked a formal preamble/introductory portion, colophon, date & such other details and was more like a manual or a lexicon rather than a formal treatise in itself. It was divided into two chapters with 45 and 145 anustubh verses in Sanskrit and was prosaic or free flowing like, in its narrative. It also differed in certain portions from the corresponding verses reproduced by Subbarama Dikshita in his SSP, thus giving rise to the suspicion that there were more than one version of the text.
Author of the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha & Its probable date:
During the first half of the 20th Century, based on Subbarama Dikshita’s averments and on his authority all subsequent writers and musicologists attributed the Anubandha to the authorship to Venkatamakhin himself. We do even have the much respected Dr V Raghavan himself acknowledging to the effect that Venkatamakhin also composed a work on the 72 melas (alluding to the Anubandha), based on the input of Pandit Subramanya Sastri.
It was only after the year 1950 perhaps that researchers started noticing the inconsistencies between the CDP on one hand the Anubandha on the other and they started voicing the same. While that was the state of music research at that point in time sometime after 1975 we have atleast two musicologists who advanced the view that the CDP and the Anubandha were two different texts, created by two different authors at two different points in time. They were Prof S R Janakiraman and Dr Satyanarayana. There may have been other writers/scholars/experts who might have advanced a similar view or opinion perhaps and I should confess that I am not aware and would like to be corrected if so.
The works of these two scholars alone are being considered in this blog post for the simple reason that they are leading and acknowledged authorities on the subject and they have time and again written and spoken about this in all their works and interactions. References 3 and 4 in the section below are the works of these two stalwarts and they advance the view that the Ragalakshanam was a creation of a descendant of Venkatamakhin sometime after 1700 A D.
Between Venkatamakhin who created the CDP in the year AD 1636 and the year AD 1760 which we know to be the possible end period before which the Anubandha should have been created , we have two historical personages from the account of Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP, who are mentioned as descendants of Venkatamakhin. One is Muddu Venkatamakhin, who Subbarama Dikshita attributes the authorship of the gitams published in the SSP & Pratamabhyasa Pustakamu for the ragas Natakurinji, Saveri and Gaulipantu. The other is Ramasvami Dikshita’s preceptor Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita.
The Argument advanced by Prof SRJ
Prof S R Janakiraman in his commentary to the Saramrutha of King Tulaja as published by the Madras Music Academy attributes the Anubandha or the Ragalakshanam – the listing of the arohana/avarohana murccana together with the lakshana sloka for the ragangas and the janya ragas thereunder to Muddu Venkatamakhin or to Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, who was the preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshita. He argues cogently that Subbarama Dikshita is prima facie wrong as the text of the original CDP is never at all a listing of the 72 melas. It was Venkatamakhin who envisaged the mathematical possibility of 72 melas but he saw that it was an exercise in futility to lay out all these 72 combinations as it would be a mere theoretical exercise. In the body of the CDP he drew out/documented only those 19 purva prasiddha melas and added Desi Simharava ( Simhendra Madhyamam of modern times) to it. The Anubandha on the contrary lists out all the 72 ragangas and their offspring which are in direct contradiction to the listing found in the CDP. Thus the Anubandha is a later day compendium obviously and its author could not have been Venkatamakhin. It could be either Muddu Venkatamakhin or Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, who could have authored the Ragalakshanam. This is the crux of the hypothesis advanced by Prof SRJ, implying that the Anubandha must have been created during the first half of the 18th century.
Prof Satyanarayana’s take on the authorship and timeline of the Anubandha:
For his part Prof Satyanarayana in his commentary on ‘Ragalakshanam’, reiterates the points stated by Prof SRJ but attributes it to Muddu Venkatamakhin only/himself. The raja mudra/patron’s colophon of the aforementioned Nattakuriji gitam given in the SSP, has King Sahaji of Tanjore as the royal patron with Muddu Venkatamkhin’s ankita. He concludes firmly that Muddu Venkatamakhin lived during King Sahaji’s times. Given that this Muddu Venkatamakhin was the paternal great grandson of Venkatamakin the Ragalakshanam can be ascribed to him with a date of circa 1700 AD. Readers may please refer to Prof Satyanarayana’s vimarsa/commentary on the Ragalakshanam. His introductory chapter highlights the case for attributing the authorship to Muddu Venkatamakhin and placing the time of the Ragalakshana to the reign of Sahaji. He also lists a number of other features/grounds with which we can say that Anubandha/Ragalakshanam and the original CDP were composed by two different authors.
Logical deduction as to the author of the Anubandha
It is indeed unfortunate that Ragalakshanam text in itself does not have a colophon and we are forced to resort to therefore seek the truth through collateral evidence. Also Subbarama Dikshita himself makes no connection whatsoever between Venkatamakhin, Muddu Venkamakhin and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita together, except stating that Muddu Venkatamakhin was the paternal great grandson of Venkatamakhin.
Be that as it may, armed with data given by Subbarama Dikshita we can still assume personages as place holders of their respective generations, just to ascertain their probability of being the author to the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha. So assuming for overlap of timelines between these personages, a more plausible life span calculation can be approximated as under for our understanding.
Venkatamakhin – AD 1590-1640
Venkatamakhin’s Son or next generation (Unknown) AD 1620- 1670
Venkatamakhin’s grandson or third generation (Unknown) – AD 1650-1700
Muddu Venkatamakhin (son of above, perhaps or 4th generation) – AD 1680-1730 (contemporary of King Sahaji)
Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita (maternal great great grandson, possibly) – AD 1700-1760 (guru of Ramasvami Dikshita)
One can logically expect that at the least, a gap of 4 to 5 generations has to be there for the said period considering the average life spans of those days. The listing as above certainly makes it plausible for Muddu Venkatamakhin to have lived during the period 1680-1730 and that coincides with King Sahaji’s regnal years of AD 1684-1712. Assuming the authorship of the Ragalakshanam, as between Muddu Venkatamakhin & Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita we have the period of AD 1700- 1750 as the probable timeline during which the Ragalakshanam could have been authored. See foot note 2.
Subbarama Dikshita’s asserion that Muddu Venkatamakhin was a prapautra of Venkatamakhin and that Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita was a maternal grandson appears a little confusing/contradicting given the timelines. Or it could be that Venkata Vaidyanatha DIkshita coming from a maternal line too was born circa 1690 to be part of the same generation as Muddu Venkatamakhin, but survived till 1750-1760, which meant he must have lived very long given the mortality of those times.
With this possible set of conclusions/observations let us move on the evidence if any within the Ragalakshanam itself as to its timeline.
Ans so what was the date it was probably created?
Dr V Raghavan postulates in his works that the CDP was written perhaps in 1620 AD by Venkatamakhin. However Prof Vriddhagireesan a historian, in his treatise on the Nayaks of Tanjore authoritatively records with collateral evidence that the Caturdandi Prakashika must have been composed in or around A. D 1637 during the initial years of the rule of King Vijayaraghava Naik (regnal years- AD 1633-1673) who succeeded King Raghunatha, of the erstwhile Royal House of the Naiks/Nayaks of Tanjore. It was in King Vijayaraghava Naik’s Court that Venkatamakhin was a minister, like how his father Govinda Dikshita was in King Raghunatha’s Court, Vijayaraghava’s predecessor. By the years AD 1675-77 the Naiks of Tanjore were decimated and Ekoji of the Maharatta Bhonsale clan had occupied the Tanjore throne and set up his Kingdom by AD 1680. Records show that this period of AD 1670-1680 had been a period of great political upheaval and peace returned to Tanjore only with the stable rule of the powerful King Sahaji (son of Ekoji) between the years AD 1684-1712. We do know that Muddu Venkatamakhin the great grandson and descendant of Venkatamakhin was patronized by King Sahaji as the Nattakurinji gitam ( in the SSP) composed by him on King Sahaji as attributed by Subbarama Dikshita bears the the ankita very clearly making out beyond doubt that Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Royal patron was King Sahaji.
Therefore can we presume that the “Ragalakshanam” a.ka. Anubandha too was composed during the regnal years of Sahaji, just as how Prof Satyanarayana concludes? No so fast, for we have a problem and lets turn to it.
The Litmus test – Evidence of the lakshana of the raga Velavali:
Sahaji created the Ragalakshanamu – a lexicon of ragas which were current during his life time/at that point in time during his regnal years at the latest say circa AD 1710. Now to determine if Ragalakshanam/Anubandha was composed during the same time as that of Ragalakshanamu, a comparison of ragas between the two texts can be done. The ragas recorded by Sahaji (as he observed in practice) must logically be a sub set of the set of theoretical ragas propounded in the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha assuming them to be coeval. So if we identify one raga at least which is defined in say Sahaji’s work as having a particular svarupa but is differently described of has a different svarupa in the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha then we have an issue. Because if the raga was in practice/vogue at a given point in time but is assessed differently by the two works created at the same place and time, then we can logically deduce that they cannot be coeval.
Now if we indeed do that analysis with the Anubandha on one hand and Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu on the other, we hit at least with one roadblock pertaining to one raga’s lakshana. And the raga whose raga lakshana differs in the 2 texts is the raga Velavali !
The Velavali documented by King Sahaji:
Velavali, according to Sahaji, is categorized as a janya raga under the Sriraga mela (modern mela 22) with Nishadha dropped/varja in the arohana and sampurna in the descent. The Nishadha in Sriraga mela is N2 or kaishiki and the raga is to be sung at sunrise/day break. Thus Velavali which was in currency during 1710 or thereabouts, according to Sahaji was a raga having N2. In fact if we go back in time it was so even in Govinda Dikshita’s as well as during Venkatamakhin’s times. Both in Sangita Sudha and CDP, the raga Velavali had always been classed under the Sriraga mela with its nishadha being N2 only. See foot note 3.
In fact Venkatamakhin in his CDP ( circa 1636 AD) gives this as the lakshana sloka for Velavali :
vElAvaLI tu bhAshAngaM jAthAh srIrAga mElathah |
sampUrna BhAvaM BhajatE praBhAtE chEsha gIyatE ||
In fact comparing the definitions between Venkatamakhin and Sahaji, they match perfectly even about the time of rendering the raga, which is day break! And in fact Sahaji betrays no knowledge of CDP and thus becomes a perfect independent source for us. Thus all the way from circa AD 1637 to 1710, the raga’s lakshana has been stable under Sriraga mela with N2 as the nishadha svara occuring only in the avarohana.
In contradistinction, for the author of the Ragalakshana/Anubandha, (Gauri) Velavali is the raganga of mela 23. “Gauri” is a prefix added in the Ragalakshanam to get the sankhya so that the mela number of 23 can be derived as per Katapayadhi formula. Since it is mela 23, the nishadha can only be N3 or kakali ! Thus if the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha were to say that the nishadha of Velavali was only N3 and is not under Sriraga, it goes without saying that the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam must be dated only much later to 1710. It cannot be earlier to 1710 with certainty because for Sahaji and for Venkatamakhin, Velavali has only N2. One may ignore the reference to the term bhashanga used by Venkamakhin, Sahaji and Tulaja in the context of Velavali. The term signified a different raga attribute which has since been deprecated and did not refer to the presence of notes foreign to the raga’s mela, which is what it refers to today. We may be rest assured that Velavali always had only notes of the mela to which it pertained, in other words it was upanga from a modern standpoint.
If the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam were to be much later than AD 1710 then we need to do a similar compare with Tulaja’s Saramruta which is chronologically the next musicological text, available to us, being composed circa AD 1736, to determine Ragalakshanam’s timeline.
The Velavali of Tulaja
After Sahaji’s abdication of the Tanjore throne in AD 1711 and given that he was childless, his younger brother and successor Sarabhoji I ruled Tanjore from AD 1711-1729 for a period of 18 years. See foot note 4. He too died childless and was succeeded by his next brother Tulaja I, who ruled for a short period of 7 years between AD 1729 and 1736. This Tulaja I was the author of ‘Sangita Saramrutha’ a work very similar to his elder brother Sahaji’s ‘ Ragalakshanamu’. Again this Saramrutha indexed all ragas that were in currency during Tulaja I ‘s times or circa 1732-36 approximately. For the puposes of our onging analysis we can look at Saramrutha and see if Velavali is there and if so find its lakshana.
Luckily for us Velavali had survived till AD 1732 or latest till AD 1736 (when Tulaja I died). And to our surprise, he catalogues Velavali not under Sriraga mela but as a separate raganga with N3 to boot, exactly like how Anubandha/Ragalakshanam classifies it as melA 23. The raga continued to be sampurna and is bereft of nishadha in the arohana. It has all the notes of Sriraga except the nishadha has changed from N2 to N3.
So can we now conclude now that the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam is atleast coeval to the Saramrutha? There is still one more hitch. For, both Sahaji and Tulaja (leaving out the N2 being dropped and N3 being taken) Velavali lacked nishadha alone in the arohana, and it was sampurna in the avarohana. But for the author of the Anubandha/Ragalakshana, Velavali lacked gandhara as well as nishadha in the arohana, while the avarohana was sampurna!
Now this gets interesting. Between AD 1710 and 1736, the raga Velavali changes its nishadha from N2/kaisiki to N3/kakali, as evidenced by the Saramrutha. Now additionally gandhara too is lost in the ascent. What it means is that this could have happened only after 1736 because the dropping of the gandhara in the arohana is not recorded by Tulaja in Saramrutha circa 1736. For both of them i.e Sahaji and Tulaja, the raga had gandhara both in the arohana and avarohana.
Thus by deduction the Anubandha is dateable only to a date later than AD 1736. It was certainly not coeval to both Sahaji’s “Ragalakshanamu” or Tulaja’s “Saramrutha”. It was certainly much later to these two texts.
The other collateral evidence – Gopikavasanta & Gamakakriya
So we now see some light at the end of the tunnel. Velavali which was a janya under Sriraga till around AD 1710, is now elevated to be a raganga/mela in its own right during Tulaja’s times, circa 1732. In a span of 25 to 30 years outermost, Sahaji’s Velavali dropped its N2 acquired N3 and in one stroke moved out from being under the Sriraga mela to become a mela or a raganga in its own right. And after AD 1736 sometime circa 1750 perhaps, the raga additionally dropped the gandhara as well which is evidenced by the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha.
There is yet another set of evidence that we should consider. In an earlier blog post on the raga Gopikavasanta, we saw that the raga which was called Indu Ghantarava by both Sahaji and Tulaja in their works, had the name of Gopikavasanta in the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam. Both these ragas had the same melodic contour. If the Ragalakshanam/Anubandha was composed prior to 1736, the author would have called it Indu Ghantarava (the name assigned to that melody by Tulaja) as that was the name by which the melody went in practice in 1736. He would not have called it Gopikavasanta. Now that Tulaja’s Indu Ghantarava, post 1736 AD must have gone out of vogue by say AD 1740-1750. So circa 1750 AD , the melodic skeleton of Indu Ghantarava was then exhumed and given the name Gopikavasanta, by the author of Ragalakshanam/Anubandha. Meaning it could only be that the work was closer to 1750.
We also saw the case of the raga Gamakakriya and the earliest available composition in that raga by Sonti Venkatasubbayya dating back to circa 1770 AD. Gamakakriya again is a raga never seen in the CDP or in Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu or Tulaja’s Saramrutha. It makes its first appearance only in the Anubandha as the raganga raga for Mela 56. This is another evidence to the fact that the Anubandha is dateable only to AD 1750 or later.
The evidence provided by the two forms of Velavali , the musical identities of Indu Ghantarava & Gopikavasanta and the inception of Gamakakriya all make it clear and point to the conclusion that the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha was composed sometime after 1740 and closer to 1750 and certainly before 1760, the date by which Ramasvami Dikshita had probably finished his tutelage under Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita and had learnt the ragas of the Anubandha.
The unsaid evidence provided by the political turmoil in Tanjore
We can also strengthen our deduction based on the political situation during these relevant times in Tanjore. It goes without saying that a stable political atmosphere, absence of political turmoil or long drawn wars or marauding invaders is an essential prerequisite for arts to blossom forth. And without doubt a strong, militarily powerful and able ruler who is a good administrator, a lover and patron of arts and the learned is a sine qua non for arts and music to flourish . All these are all required to enable fine arts and music along with musicians to prosper in a given geography or Kingdom.
As historical records show, close on the heels of Tulaja I’s death in 1736, the Kingdom of Tanjore was plunged in chaos, without a legitimate heir to the throne and a bunch of illegal contenders fighting for the throne. The neighboring Kingdom of the Nayaks of Madura too was in political foment. That said in all probability between 1736 and 1740 nothing ever worthwhile could have happened from the point of music and arts as the Tanjore kingdom was in turmoil till then. The most powerful of the contenders to emerge successful was Pratapasimha the son of a concubine of Tulaja I and he seized the Tanjore throne for himself towards the end of AD 1739. Thus it was in AD 1740 that that some semblance of order came to being in TanJore. And over the next decade stability and patronage of arts restarted with the ascension of King Pratapasimha to the Tanjore throne and has he firmly ensconsed himself. Much like his paternal uncle, King Sahaji, he too was a militarily powerful King, a great administrator and a great patron of arts and he too went on to earn the tile of “Abhinava Bhoja”. As we see later, this period of Pratapasimha’s rule (1740-1765) witnessed the greatest of the pre-trinity composers blossoming forth from the fertile land of Tanjore.
Therefore the Ragalakshanam/anubandha’s date being decidedly after AD 1736, could have been created only during Pratapasimha’s golden rule, circa 1750 or thereafter, in all probability.
And who could have been the Author?
Now that we have nailed down the year of the text closer to AD 1750 we turn over to the question of who could have been the author of the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha, as between the two personages, Muddu Venkatamkhin and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita. Now if the most probable time period was around 1750, given our estimated life time of Muddu Venkatamakhin (1680-1730) and that of Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita (1710-1760), it is more probable that it was Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita the preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshita perhaps who could have been the author of the Anubandha. Statistically speaking Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita has a significantly higher probability of being the author of the Ragalakshanam / Anubandha compendium, than Muddu Venkatamakhin. See foot note 5.
It is not to say that Muddu Venkatamakhin being the author is impossible. If he were born sometime later say in A D 1690 and had composed the Natakurinji gitam at worse say in the year of Sahaji’s abdication AD 1711, meaning he had gained royal favors even at a young age of 21 years, he would be around 60 years old in 1750 and could have still created the Anubandha/Ragalakshanam. Probable? Yes. Possible? Only ‘perhaps’ can be the answer. Too many positive assumptions have been made in this case. Too young to get royal favors at age 21 and too old for those times to have survived till 1750 or later.
There are even more possibilities/scenarios which are probable. It could have been neither Muddu Venkatamakhin nor Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, as well being the authors of the Anubandha.
Perhaps another anonymous/unnamed yet descendant in between Muddu Venkatamakhin and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita could have been the author. We don’t know.
One other very plausible scenario is that the Venkatamakhin clan kept the Ragalakshanam / Anubandham compendium periodically updated with the raga lakshanas in vogue at various points in time and kept it as a living document. Thus the document or work had no single author but was instead a versioned document constantly updated at different points in time. This surmise can be validated with the finding that the Ragalakshanam listing contains raga names not found in the Raganga Lakshana gitas of the corresponding mela ragas. For example the Sankarabharana raganga gita does not refer to Nilambari whereas under the Anubandha we have the lakshana sloka and arohana/arohana murrcana krama being provided. Such misses can only arise if it were a running document. Therefore in such a dynamic situation our analysis needs to be slightly modified. We can simply conclude that the last such update to this Ragalakshanam / Anubandha as a living document was done perhaps by 1750 or latest 1760 AD as by then Ramasvami Dikshita had been taught the ragas of the Venkatamakhin Sampradaya presumably by Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita. The Ragalakshanam stands frozen since then! See footnote 5.
I should confess that based on the preponderance of probabilities, my personal view is that the scenario per Point 2 above is he most plausible, if one were to view all the available facts logically.
All that we surmise now, is based on:
The character references we get from Subbarama Dikshita,
The dating of the texts CDP, Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu and Tulaja’s Saramrutha and with life times and mortality factored in.
To conclude, from the perspective of musiologists and scholars today, as we see with the available evidence, the balance of probabilities favor Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita more than Muddu Venkatamakhin. If Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita was older than the 50 years which we assume he might have been during AD 1750-60 when he taught Ramasvami Dikshita, it would only strengthen our conclusion.
The objective of this monograph, if I might deign to call it one, was to provide an insight into the antecedents of the Ragalakshanam, the work which was called as the Anubandha or Appendix to the Caturdandi Prakashika. In contrast to the much popular perception, we saw that on the authority of Prof S R Janakiraman and that of Dr Satyanarayana, the work was by a different author done much later in time. And with a little more analysis using the raga Velavali as a litmus agent, we saw that the most probable author could be Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, dateable closer to 1750 or thereafter and definitely not earlier. We also saw the two alternate hypothesis particularly the the one where the Ragalakshanam was likely treated by the descendants of the Venkatamakhin family as a living document and they kept it updated frequently, which appears the most plausible explanation. And if that is so then there cannot be a single author for the work. See foot note 6.
As a corollary to this monograph we will cover the curious history of the raga Velavali which we dealt with in passing for the litmus test, in the next blog post, which could logically conclude our study of that raga as well.
Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
Prof R. Satyanarayana(2010) – ‘Ragalakshanam’ – Kalamoola Shastra Series- Published by Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi
Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai, pages 241-245
V Vridhagireesan ( 1942) – The Nayaks of Tanjore- Published by the Annamalai University
S N Ratanjankar (1940) -V N Bhatkhande’s – Music Systems in India- A Comparative Study of some of the leading music systems of the 15th,16th,17th and 18th centuries- Republished by S Lal & Co(1984)
Dr S. Sita (1983) – “The Ragalakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja’ – Pages 140-182- JMA Vol LIV
Dr V Raghavan – ‘Later Sangita Literature’ – Republished in JMA Platinum Jubilee Commemoration Volume – Compilation from the years 1930-1940, published by the Madras Music Academy in 2001 – pages 121-124
Pandit Subramanya Sastri a great Sanskrit scholar had done yeoman service to the cause of editing older musicological text and making them ‘ready’ for publication during the greater part of the 20th century. He has been instrumental in editing not just the Ragalakshanam, but also Govinda’s Sangraha Cudamani, which is today the Bible for modern Carnatic musicology. It is very likely that he must have substantially corrected the grammatical and scribal issues with the Ragalakshanam manuscript as well.
The personage named “Govinda Dikshita” who apparently met the Dikshita family at Manali circa 1790-1800, according to Subbarama Dikshita though described as a descendant of Venkatamakhin, is not known to Ramasvami Dikshita before obviously as he had to prove his credentials that he learnt the Venkatamakhin sampradaya from Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita ( who was descendant on the maternal side). This Govinda Dikshita based on his own introduction was probably a son or grandson of Muddu Venkatamakhin who himself was Venkatamakhin’s patrilineal great grandson ( prapaautra according to Subbarama Dikshita)
Earlier to both Govinda Dikshita and his son Venkatamakhin, Ramamatya in his Svaramelakalanidhi mentions Velavali. His Velavali too is bunched under Sriraga mela. But he says that in some places rishabha and pancama svaras are not seen. That doesn’t completely conform to the svarupa of Velavali under Sriraga as articulated by Govinda Dikshita, Venkatamakhin and Sahaji in their works namely Sangita Sudha, Caturdandi Prakashika and Ragalakshanamu, respectively. Hence leaving aside Ramamatya, we can consider Govinda Dikshita to have first mentioned the raga Velavali of the form with N2 that we have considered for this blog post.
During his regnal years Sahaji, a musicologist & composer, created the “Ragalakshanamu” a compendium of ragas which were prevalent during his life time. We know that upon the death of his father Ekoji he ascended the throne at a very tender age of 12 in the year A.D. 1684 (born 1672). So much for his generosity and patronage, he was referred as Abhinava Bhoja. It is also known that Sahaji was childless and he actually abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Serfoji I in the year 1712, having ruled over the Tanjore domain for 28 years. He was an avowed devotee of Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur. Legend has it that he retired to live a life of an ascetic in Tiruvarur where he had his abode very near the temple and overlooking its precincts so that he could have a darshan of his Lord Tyagaraja everyday as he woke up. While we do know he renounced the throne in 1712, we do not when he finally died perhaps in Tiruvarur. Assuming once again a time span of around 50 years, Sahaji must have lived atleast until 1722 or thereabouts.
While Govinda Dikshita and his son Venkatamakhin enjoyed great authority and wielded considerable patronage and the respect of the Nayak Kings in the 17th century, their descendants in the 18th century do not seem to have garnered a similar patronage from the succeeding Bhonsale Kings. For example King Sahaji circa 1710 renamed the village of Tiruvisainallur as Sahajirajapuram and converted into a tax free grant for a set of prominent learned individuals. The Venkatamakhin descendants, including Muddu Venkatamkhin or Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita are not found in that listing nor is anyone having nexus to the family, are recorded as recipients of Sahaji’s grants or patronage elsewhere. Either they were not interested in patronage or perhaps they were not prominent enough to be a recipient, we do not know. From a historical record perspective the next great practitioner of Venkatamakhin’s musical legacy/sampradaya who rose to prominence and was much feted was only Sonti Venkatasubbayya, the creator of the immortal Gamakakriya varna (found in the SSP). He must have perhaps been part of Pratapasimha’s Court, but he certainly attained his pinnacle of glory during the reign of Pratapasimha’s son Tulaja II (1765-1788) in who’s Court he became the Dean of the Palace musicians. As pointed out elsewhere, Subbarama Dikshita in his Pratamabhayasa Pustakamu records Sonti Venkatasubbaya as a prime disciple of Muddu Venkatamakhin.
It needs to be stated that this is pretty much an outcome of my personal armchair research with the available secondary references. It needs to be recorded here that notwithstanding the above finding/premise/hypothesis, in these blog posts we shall continue to refer to the Anubandha as being authored by Muddu Venkatamakhin sometime during the first half of the 18th century or circa 1750 AD. With the analysis we did in this blog post, one fervently hopes that music researchers will focus on exactly dating this precious document based on a serious study of not only the ragas therein, but also the style and such other collateral evidence. That would provide some form of finality or closure to the date/authorship issue.
The featured image in this blogpost’s header is that of a gold coin or “Phanam” ( spelt as fanam perhaps the precursor to the Tamil word பணம் ) as it was called, being the coinage /currency issued during the times of King Serfoji I ( Regnal years 1712-1728 AD). This Tanjore sovereign, ruled after King Sahaji who had earlier abdicated the throne (and being childless) and before King Tulaja I, his brother who succeeded him. This coin is embossed on one side with the “Sharabha“, a mythical creature being part lion and part bird and the text “Sri Sarabhaja” in Nagari script on the other side.
At the very outset before we deal
with the raga Sarasvati Manohari as documented in the Sangita Sampradaya
Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita in this blog post, the following
disclaimers are in order:
This raga as documented in the SSP, belongs to the 29th Mela and it has nothing to do with the melody as found in “Entha Veduko” of Tyagaraja, which is provided with the name of Sarasvati Manohari as well but is under the 28th Mela.
The raga name “Sarasvati Manohari” has been assigned to the melody of “Entha Veduko” of Tyagaraja by all musical authorities post 1900 AD on the authority of the Sangraha Cudamani which is purportedly the lexicon of the ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja. It has been reiterated in these blog posts that the “Sangraha Cudamani” is a musical text of a much later vintage (19th century, most probably second half) in comparison to the Anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin which is dateable at the latest to 1750AD. The views of the noted music critic K V Ramachandran, the man who discovered the Sangraha Cudamani in the Adayar Library, in this regard are recorded for posterity and in these blogs as well. ( See Reference section below)
Therefore, in our discussion of this raga in this blog post we will not be referring at all to the raga as found in “Entha Veduko” or the treatment thereof under Sangraha Cudamani. All references are to the treatment of the raga as found in the SSP.
The authority for the raga Sarasvati Manohari under Mela 29 as documented in the SSP, comes from the three unassailable 18th century authorities (the Triad as we refer to these three texts in unison in these blog posts) of the likes of Sahaji (circa 1700 AD) , Tulaja (circa 1832 AD) and Muddu Venkatamakhin (1750AD) and crystallized with the exemplar composition of Muthusvami Dikshita.
It’s a folly to talk of the Sarasvati Manohari of Tyagaraja and the Sarasvati Manohari of Dikshita given the weight of historical evidence we have in this regard. In these blog posts it is simpliciter stated the raga names as found in the Anubandha and documented in the SSP, are much older and are of far greater antiquity and authority. The assignment of such older names of ragas to the melodies of the compositions of Tyagaraja (such as Sarasvati Manohari) without relevance as to the identicality, was a post 1850 AD development. In fact, it is on record that Tyagaraja never revealed the raga names when he taught the compositions to his disciples and only much later after his death with the advent of printing did the assignment of raga names to the melodies happen. The effect was that in quite many cases wrong names came to be assigned to the ragas arbitrarily without taking into account the textual history of the raga concerned. Sarasvati Manohari is one such victim of misnaming whereby the older raga name came to be assigned to the melody of “Enta Veduko” without effecting a check whether the melody found in the composition corresponded to the scale of the raga as per grammar.
Ironically today so synonymous is the raga name “Sarasvati Manohari” with “Enta Veduko” so much so that the actual or true melodic identity which is found in Dikshita’s composition “Sarasvati Manohari” is looked upon with suspicion!
And it has to be placed on record that this aberration which came to be inflicted on this raga cannot and should not be used to advance the proposition that the raga itself evolved by dropping N3 and acquiring N2, as we have musical history of spanning 1700 to 1906 AD recording the raga as a janya of Mela 29. The raga of “Enta veduko” should have been assigned another new name without any confusion whatsoever, leaving the older name of “Sarasvati Manohari” out of this entire controversy. This mis-assignment of name is a self-inflicted wound by us on our very known musical theory and musicological history without any justification whatsoever. The only way is to acknowledge this aberration ex facie, and safely navigate the study of ragas and raga lakshanas, rather than trying to justify the same needlessly.
With these disclaimers in place,
in this blog post we will embark on dissecting this old raga which is hardly
ever rendered in the modern concert stage, save for the occasional rendering of
just the kriti of Dikshita, sans alapana, neraval or svaraprastara.
It is reiterated that the raga
Sarasvati Manohari of Dikshita is under Mela 29 (Sankarabharanam with N3) as
documented in his composition “Sarasvati Manohari”, beginning on the raga mudra
itself and no attempt should be made to corrupt the same and attempt to render it
under Mela 28 by replacing the N3 with N2. There is no authority for it whatsoever
in either the textual or the oral traditions.
Contours of the raga as found in
On an entirely different note it
can be demonstrated that the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita are best understood
by triaging the lakshana as found in the composition with the stated grammar of
the raga in the “Triad” of musical works which are Sahaji’s “Raga
Lakshanamu” (circa 1700 AD), Tulaja’s “Saramruta” (circa 1832 AD)
and the “Ragalakshanam” of Muddu Venkatamakhin ( circa 1750 AD) being
the Anubandha to the original Caturdandi Prakashika of Venkatamakhin ( the
main text which is dateable to circa 1620 AD).
The SSP records for us by way of
a snapshot, the composition (being the notation) and the raga lakshana which is
the sole basis for this blog post and the analysis thereof. In the instant
case, the treatment of the raga Sarasvati Manohari by Dikshita will be
investigated to derive a proper understanding by solely looking at:
documentation as found in the SSP and other ancillary sources which have a
high-fidelity nexus to the musical heritage of Muthusvami Dikshita
details for the raga as found in the “Triad” of musical works
renderings of the compositions as passed on to us being authentic versions or pAtAntharams.
This blog post has to be read
focussing only on the above and any other extraneous material outside of the
above is patently irrelevant for the subject on hand and hence a discussion on
those is safely avoided. And which is why the aforesaid disclaimers become
important in the context of this discourse.
The raga according to Subbarama
The SSP records the lakshana of
the raga strictly in line with the “Ragalakshanam” of Muddu
Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD) along with Subbarama Dikshita’s commentary and
does not record the lakshana as found in the works of Sahaji and Tulaja.
According to the SSP the following are the features of the raga:
The raga is a bashanga janya of Sankarabharanam according to the SSP. For us in modern parlance it can be safely concluded that the raga is an upangajanya and takes only the notes of the parent Mela 29 only. It has been pointed out earlier that the term upanga/bashanga as used in the SSP, connotes a very different attribute of the raga and not the modern meanings that are ascribed to the said terms. The unassailable point here is that from a modern musicological perspective, the raga is without doubt upanga and the native nishadha note of the raga is N3 or kAkali variety only.
The raga is sampurna and carries all the 7 notes, taking the arohana and avarohana together.
Pancama is varjya or dropped in the arohana. Therefore MPD prayoga should be eschewed.
Rishabha is vakra or deviant in the descent.
Dhaivatha is the jiva svara of the raga.
Despite the nominal arohana and avarohana progression of the raga being SRGMDDNS/SNDPMGMRS (as seen in the Ragalakshanam anubandha), DNS prayoga is not seen in the compositions.
Therefore, the operative arohana progression of the raga is more like SRGM-DP-MDS or SRGM-DNDS or SRGMDDS
Similarly, the operative avarohana progression is SNDPMGMRS or SNDNP-MGMRS
The perusal of the SSP would
reveal the following beyond Subbarama Dikshita’s narrative.
The Sankarabharana lakshya gita, lists Sarasvati Manohari as a bhashanga janya of the raga.
The lakshya gita of the raga eschews DNS in toto despite the fact that the nominal arohana states DNS occurring.
Though the sloka as found in the Anubandha cited in the SSP refers to the raga name as “sarasvata manohari”, Subbarama Dikshita labels the raga as “sarasvatI manOhari” only.
Armed with the above details let
us look at the evidence provided by Sahaji and Tulaja in their respective works
as to this raga.
“Sarasvati Manohari” according to
Sahaji and Tulaja:
is named only as Sarasvati Manohari.
royal authors are unanimous in their view that pancama and nishadha are skipped
in the arohana and gandhara in the avarohana.
SRGMDDS and GMDDNDPM are oft repeated murrcanas in the raga.
essence MPD, DNS and MGRS are forbidden murrcanas of the raga.
In fact amongst the Triad, Sahaji
and Tulaja are completely ad idem on the lakshana while Muddu
Venkatamakhin alone strikes the sole discordant note by allowing DNS prayoga.
However, Subbarama Dikshita explains away this sole discordance stating that
DNS is not seen in practice.
Summary of the raga lakshana
according to the Triad:
From the foregoing the raga lakshana
can be restated in the classical 18th century vernacular as under:
Sankarabharana is the mela or the raganga under which Sarasvati Manohari is classed.
The raga is sampurna and all the 7 notes occur in its body and the notes are S, R2, G3, M1, D2 and N3. No other variety of the notes occurs.
Pancama and nishadha are dropped in the arohana.
Gandhara is vakra in the avarohana.
Dhaivatha is a prime note emphasized via the repeated/janta notes.
PDNS, MPD and DNS are forbidden in the arohana krama; MGRS is forbidden in the avarohana krama.
SRGM, GMDD, PMDD, SNDP, NDPM, SNDNP, GMRS are the permitted murrcanas which join together to form the skeletal structure of the raga.
Dikshita’s Implementation of
The notation of the Dikshita
composition which begins with the raga name itself as its refrain reveals the
d/R and D/r being the jump from mandhara dhaivatha to madhya rishabha and madhya dhaivatha to tara rishabha is seen repeatedly used apart from d/G and D/g as well.
GMDP, MGMDD, RG-GMR, SNDSN, SNPM, RGMND are seen used in the composition aligning to the 18th century definition of the raga as laid.
In the arohana krama RGMP cannot be used while RGMDP is permissible.
The two madhyama kala sahitya portions provide a pithy/concise delineation of the raga’s lakshana.
And the kriti is littered with svaraksharas particularly of the rishabha and pancama notes.
Key take-ways from the analysis:
It is thus seen that Dikshita has meticulously stuck to the early 18th century version of the raga as documented by Sahaji and Tulaja, keeping out the DNS prayoga as well. His novelty has been the employment of the d/R and D/r, which is seen in Purnachandrika as a leitmotif. Dikshita has also eschewed DDS and is consistently seen approaching the tara sadja via the tara rishabha and not directly from the madhya dhaivatha.
The raga shines forth with its native progressions being SRGM, GMDD, PMDD, SNDP, NDPM, SNDNP, GMRS, GMDP, MGMDD, RGMR, SNDSN, SNPM and RGMND.
The raga may be considered as melodically close to modern Kannada which is different from the Kannada as documented in the SSP. In contradistinction, the Kannada of the SSP sports N2 prominently and is classed under Mela 28. In this context care should be taken in rendering Sarasvati Manohari as the phrase SNS is likely to creep in. the phrases SNDP or SNDS alone are allowed in contradistinction to modern Kannada.
Under the SSP the raga Suddha Vasantha (under Mela 29) is a close raga which shares a common melodic bonding with Sarasvati Manohari and unfortunately the SSP does not record any composition of Dikshita is this raga.
The two ragas namely Kannada and Suddha Vasantha are also documented by Sahaji and Tulaji under Mela 28 and 29 respectively and thus it may not be of much help.
In summary a simple compare of Sarasvati Manohari with modern Kannada can help us differentiate and understand the ragas better.
Sarasvati Manohari of SSP
SGM and SMGM
DDS and DrS
SNDP and SNDNP
SNDP or SNDNP-PMGMRS
Differences inter se -arohana
Pancama and nishadha are dropped; SRGM and GMDP
Rishabha & Pancama are both dropped in the ascent
Differences inter se-avarohana
SNDP and SNDNP are the permitted prayogas
Nishada is dropped in the descent.
In summary the difference between
the ragas is slender and the Dikshita composition does well to capture the
difference and also emphasizing the d/R prayoga given that rishabha is a much
muted svara in modern Kannada.
It has to be recorded that “Sri Matrubhutam” of Muthusvami Dikshita is today rendered only in modern Kannada, thoroughly eschewing the N2 note which is supposed to dominate the raga Kannada according to SSP, which classes the raga under Mela 28, with N3 being an anya svara ( a bashanga janya under Mela 28).
From a practical perspective Sarasvati
Manohari can be distinguished by emphasizing SRGM and SNDP prayogas along with
d/RR, D/rr so as to safely keep Kannada out of the ken of the raga delineation.
Some collateral data points:
The “Dikshitar Keertanai
Prakashikai” (DKP) published by Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (a
disciple of Satanur Panju Iyer of the Dikshita sisya parampara) records this
composition only under Mela 29without any ambiguity whatsoever. In fact, this
composition was taught both to Natarajasundaram Pillai and to Veena Dhanammal
by Satanur Panju Iyer who was their guru and it can be seen that the version
tallies if the notation in DKP is compared with the oral version of the
composition as sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda, the scion of the
Apart from this the version of
the composition as rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt D K Pattammal, who in turn
traces her pAtham to Justice T L Venkatrama Iyer and on to Ambi Dikshita son of
Subbarama Dikshita, is aligned to the version as seen in the SSP.
We will review these two oral
versions in the discography section.
sarasvatI manOhari – O one who captivates the heart
of Goddess Sarasvati!
Sankari – O wife of Shiva (Shankara)!
sadA-Ananda lahari – O eternal wave of bliss!
gauri – O fair one!
Sankari – O the beneficent One!
sarasI-ruha-akshi – O lotus-eyed one!
sadASiva sAkshi – O one always with Sadashiva
karuNA kaTAkshi – O one with compassionate
pAhi – Protect (me)!
kAmAkshi – O Kamakshi!
mura hara sOdari – O sister of Vishnu (slayer of
the demon Mura)!
mukhya kaumAri – O eminent Kaumari!
mUka vAkpradAna-kari – O giver of speech to the mute poet
mOda-kari – O source of bliss!
akAra-Adi-akshara svarUpiNi – O embodiment of all the letters beginning
antaH-karaNa rUpa-ikshu cApini –
O one who has a sugarcane-bow that represents the mind!
prakASa parama-advaita rUpiNi – O
shining embodiment of supreme non-dualism!
parE – O supreme one!
tripura sundari – O Tripurasundari!
tApini – O glowing, effulgent one!
prakASini – O one who shines forth as
this created universe!
prasiddha guru guha janani – O mother of the renowned Guruguha!
pASini – O one holding a noose!
vikalpa jaTila viSva viSvAsini –
O one who is reliable in this diverse, complicated universe!
vijaya kAncI nagara
nivAsini – O one dwelling in
the victorious city of Kanchi!
It can be seen from the
composition is on Goddess Kamakshi of Kancipuram as it is so stated
mudra occurs right at the beginning of the composition and has been used to
mean that Goddess Kamakshi is one who captivates Goddess Sarasvati. The epithet
is reminiscent of the opening lines of the Manji composition “Sri Sarasvati
Hite” meaning “O the benefactress of Goddess Sarasvati”.
phrase “akArAdyA-kshara svarupini” reminds one of the similar phrase – “ahantA
svarUpini” occurring in “Brihannayaki Varadayaki” in Andhali.
composer’s colophon “guruguha” occurs as well in the composition which is set
in Adi tala.
Sarasvati Manohari featured in the ragamalika “pUrna candra bimba”
Apart from this solitaire, the raga is also found featured in the ragamalika which is found documented in the Anubandha to the SSP. There are those who argue that this ragamalika being bereft of Dikshita’s colophon “guruguha” is not his but that of Ramasvami Dikshita. Be that as it may, Subbarama Dikshita has assigned the same to Muthusvami Dikshita in the Anubandha. The said ragamalika features ragas which are only janyas of Mela 29 Sankarabharana and they being Purnchandrika, Narayani, Saravati Manohari, Suddha Vasantha, Hamsadhvani and Nagadhvani.
The lyrics “pUrna phala prada caranE sarasvati manoharI” being the second anupallavi section to the main pallavi section being “pUrnacandra bimba vijaya vadanE kamalAbikE”, is set in Sarasvati Manohari. The notation and lyrics in rupaka tala runs thus:
As can be seen the motif d/R being Dikshita’s novelty or improvisation as to this raga is seen employed with the overall grammar of the raga being in accordance with what is seen in the kriti “Sarasvati Manohari”. This can perhaps be taken as a point of evidence that this composition is likely to be Dikshita’s given the employment of his novel leitmotif, which is not seen in the generic raga lakshana.
Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda renders the composition “Sarasvati Manohari” here:
(Google/Yahoo ID would be required. Hit the URL and scroll down the items listed in the page)
Sangita Kalanidhi M Balamuralikrishna renders “Purna candra bimba” in this recording. Saravati Manohari portion is featured between 3:36 -4:10. The said portion of the rendering accords with the notation found in the Anubandha for the composition.
Musical history must be properly evaluated and understood and due regard must be had to the authentic versions of the compositions as passed on to us. The fact that raga name Sarasvati Manohari came to be wrongly assigned to the raga of “Entha Veduko” should be acknowledged which would help us in appreciating the creations of both Tyagaraja and Dikshita for their individual beauty, without any confusion whatsoever. Tyagaraja spun many nouveau ragas which weren’t in existence prior to his times and his kritis are the sole exemplars for those ragas. The raga of “Entha veduko” too is one such creation of his, which must have been assigned a new name, instead of repurposing an existing older raga name causing confusion for all concerned. Further no normalization should be inflicted by attempting to render Dikshita’s kriti with N2 or Tyagaraja’s with N3. Each kriti should be preserved and sung as documented. And if we do this Sarasvati Manohari is no conundrum for anyone.
It is indeed sad that discussions and lecture demonstrations are held, the subject being how the same raga has apparently been dealt with differently by Dikshita and Tyagaraja, without realizing the folly committed in the late 19th century and perpetuated into the 20th century and till date. It is humbly submitted and hoped that the Music Academy will take the lead in documenting this anomaly formally and assign newer names to these ragas of Tyagaraja so that the same is not just recorded for posterity but also serves to illuminate students and listeners alike, with the confusion being avoided once and for all.
Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) -Part IV- Mela 29 Pages 915-919
Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 1261-1264
Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr S R Janakiraman (1993)- “Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta” – Published by the Madras Music Academy – pp 113-118
Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Carnatic Ragas and the Textual Tradition” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 99-106, Madras, India.
Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Apurva ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109, Madras, India.
The Kamakshi icon painting, being the featured image in this blog post heading is by artist Shri Rajeshwar Nyalapalli and was sourced from his online webstore.