History

History, Manuscripts

Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika – A Monograph

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Prologue:

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:

Venkatamakhin – by Dr S Rajam
न्यूनं नप्यधिकं वापि प्रस्सिधैरध्वदष्स्वरैः |
कल्पयेन् मेलमेतर्हि ममायासो वृथा भवेत् ||
न हि तत्कल्पने फलालोचानोअपि प्रगलभते |
(Extract from the Caturdandi Prakashika – Venkatamakhin says that he has devised the 72 Melakarta scheme that is absolutely above reproach and not even Lord Siva can improve upon it)

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.

Other possibilities

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.

  1. Perhaps another anonymous/unnamed yet descendant in between Muddu Venkatamakhin and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita could have been the author. We don’t know.
  2. 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:

  1. The character references we get from Subbarama Dikshita,
  2. 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.

Epilogue

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.

References :

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr.Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 485-486 & 565-567
  3. Prof R. Satyanarayana(2010) – ‘Ragalakshanam’ – Kalamoola Shastra Series- Published by Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi
  4. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai, pages 241-245
  5. V Vridhagireesan ( 1942) – The Nayaks of Tanjore- Published by the Annamalai University
  6. 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)
  7. Dr S. Sita (1983) – “The Ragalakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja’ – Pages 140-182- JMA Vol LIV
  8. 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

 FOOT NOTES:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Tailpiece:

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.

History, Raga, Repertoire

Sarasvati Manohari – A Conundrum?

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Prologue:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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 Dikshita’s Composition:

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:

  1. The documentation as found in the SSP and other ancillary sources which have a high-fidelity nexus to the musical heritage of Muthusvami Dikshita
  2. The details for the raga as found in the “Triad” of musical works
  3. The oral 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 Dikshita:

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:

  1. 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 upanga janya 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.
  2. The raga is sampurna and carries all the 7 notes, taking the arohana and avarohana together.
  3. Pancama is varjya or dropped in the arohana. Therefore MPD prayoga should be eschewed.
  4. Rishabha is vakra or deviant in the descent.
  5. Dhaivatha is the jiva svara of the raga.
  6. 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.
  7. Therefore, the operative arohana progression of the raga is more like SRGM-DP-MDS or SRGM-DNDS or SRGMDDS
  8. Similarly, the operative avarohana progression is SNDPMGMRS or SNDNP-MGMRS

The perusal of the SSP would reveal the following beyond Subbarama Dikshita’s narrative.

  1. The Sankarabharana lakshya gita, lists Sarasvati Manohari as a bhashanga janya of the raga.
  2. The lakshya gita of the raga eschews DNS in toto despite the fact that the nominal arohana states DNS occurring.
  3. 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:

  1. The raga is named only as Sarasvati Manohari.
  2. Both the royal authors are unanimous in their view that pancama and nishadha are skipped in the arohana and gandhara in the avarohana.
  3. In fact, SRGMDDS and GMDDNDPM are oft repeated murrcanas in the raga.
  4. In 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:

  1. Sankarabharana is the mela or the raganga under which Sarasvati Manohari is classed.
  2. 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.
  3. Pancama and nishadha are dropped in the arohana.
  4. Gandhara is vakra in the avarohana.
  5. Dhaivatha is a prime note emphasized via the repeated/janta notes.
  6. PDNS, MPD and DNS are forbidden in the arohana krama; MGRS is forbidden in the avarohana krama.
  7. 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 Sarasvati Manohari:

The notation of the Dikshita composition which begins with the raga name itself as its refrain reveals the following:

  1. 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.
  2. GMDP, MGMDD, RG-GMR, SNDSN, SNPM, RGMND are seen used in the composition aligning to the 18th century definition of the raga as laid.
  3. In the arohana krama RGMP cannot be used while RGMDP is permissible.
  4. The two madhyama kala sahitya portions provide a pithy/concise delineation of the raga’s lakshana.
  5. And the kriti is littered with svaraksharas particularly of the rishabha and pancama notes.

Key take-ways from the analysis:

  1. 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.
  2. The raga shines forth with its native progressions being SRGM, GMDD, PMDD, SNDP, NDPM, SNDNP, GMRS, GMDP, MGMDD, RGMR, SNDSN, SNPM and RGMND.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. In summary a simple compare of Sarasvati Manohari with modern Kannada can help us differentiate and understand the ragas better.
Attribute Sarasvati Manohari of SSP Modern Kannada
Mela 29 29
Type Upanga Upanga
Arohana purvanga SRGM SGM and SMGM
Arohana uttaranga DDS and DrS MDNS ;PMDNS
Arohana
krama
SRGMDDS SMGMPMDNS
Avarohana uttaranga SNDP and SNDNP SNSDPM
Avarohana purvanga PMGMRS PMGMRS
Arohana
krama
SNDP or SNDNP-PMGMRS SDPMGMRS
Differences inter se
-arohana
Pancama and nishadha are dropped; SRGM and GMDP are permitted 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 Dhanammal tradition.

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.

The Composition:

pallavi

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!

anupallavi

sarasI-ruha-akshi              – O lotus-eyed one!

sadASiva sAkshi                – O one always with Sadashiva

karuNA kaTAkshi                – O one with compassionate side-glances!

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 Mooka!

mOda-kari                            – O source of bliss!

caraNam

akAra-Adi-akshara svarUpiNi    – O embodiment of all the letters beginning with “a”!

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!

prakalpita prapanca 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!

Notes:

It can be seen from the composition that:

  1. The composition is on Goddess Kamakshi of Kancipuram as it is so stated unambiguously.
  2. The raga 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”.
  3. The phrase “akArAdyA-kshara svarupini” reminds one of the similar phrase – “ahantA svarUpini” occurring in “Brihannayaki Varadayaki” in Andhali.
  4. The 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:

1 2 3 1 2 3
G, MD P, MD MG M,
pU rNaph ala prada cara nE
S/R ,S n, pd ,d R,
sara sva tI manO ,ha rE

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.

Discography:

Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda renders the composition “Sarasvati Manohari” here:

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/tvg/UPLOADS-1201—1400/1376-T-Brinda-Muthuswamy_Dikshithar_Krithis/

Sangita Kalanidhi D K Pattammal sings the composition “Sarasvati Manohari” here:

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/ksj/D-K-Pattammal/DKP–004–Dikshitar-Day-/

(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.

Conclusion:

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.

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) -Part IV- Mela 29 Pages 915-919
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 1261-1264
  3. 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
  4. Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
  5. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Carnatic Ragas and the Textual Tradition” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 99-106, Madras, India.
  6. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Apurva ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109, Madras, India.

Acknowledgement/Credits:

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.

CompositionAppreciation, History, Raga

The Kurinji of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

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Prologue:

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

Kurinji’s Raga Lakshana:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurinji according to Sahaji & Tulaja:

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

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

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

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

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

 “Sri Venugopala” of Muthusvami Dikshita:

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

Pallavi:

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

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

dEva nAyaka         – O lord of all the gods!

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

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

Anupallavi

dEvakI su-kumAra    – O illustrious son of Devaki!

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

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

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

caraNam

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

gOvinda             – O friend of the cows!

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

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

Srita satya bhAma   – O one who has embraced Satyabhama!

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

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

SyAma               – O dark one!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Melodic structuring of the composition:

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

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

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

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

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

Exception:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

prAktaya       –           raNabhIma   –           pAlitA            –            rjunabhIma ||          

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

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

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

Discography – “srI vEnugOpAlA”:

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

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

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

“Siva deeksha paru” – The forgotten oeuvre

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

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

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

Composer of “Sivadeeksha paru” – Ghanam Seenayya:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discography – “siva deeksha”:

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

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

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

Kurinji in Ramasvami Dikshita’s 108 Raga Tala Malika:

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

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

Kurinji in Subbarama Dikshita’s compositions:

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

Epilogue:

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

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

References:

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

Safe Harbour Statement:

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

“Svarakalanidhi” Narayanasvami Iyer – A titan from an age bygone

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Prologue:

The world of Carnatic music has sired many a great musician in the past. We do have oral as well as recorded accounts of many of such great personalities. One amongst them, featured in this blog post is Tiruvisanallur “Pallavi” Narayanasvami Iyer a giant from another era. My introduction to his name was through an oral account to the effect that the legendary Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer learnt Muthusvami Dikshita’s kriti “Sri Ramam Ravikulabdhi somam” in Narayanagaula from Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer. My attempt to know more about this personality, fructified finally when I got hold of a brief biography of this great musician, published by the Madras Music Academy in one of its early Journals, written by his son Vidvan T N Radhakrishna Iyer (see reference section below).

From this account, it is seen that Narayanasvami Iyer lived for about 60 years of age somewhere during the time period between 1860-1930. He has been known as “Narayanasvami Anna” or “Tiruvisanallur Narayanasvami Iyer” or “Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer”.

Biography in brief:

One Narayana Avadhani, a polyglot who had mastered the Yajur and Samaveda had two sons Krishna Bhagavathar (elder) and Sundara Bhagavathar (younger) who were both one of the prime disciples of Saint Tyagaraja and were the votaries of the Umayalpuram school of the Tyagaraja sishya parampara.

Narayanasvami Iyer was the son of this Sundara Bhagavathar and trained under him. Apart from father, he also trained under Tiruvisainallur Subramanya Iyer, a disciple of Krishna Bagavathar, his uncle. Even at a very early age, Narayanasvami Iyer achieved very good proficiency in music. An early break for him came when his father took him to Kumbakonam to introduce him to Munsiff Venkacchi Iyer a wealthy patron of those days. Fortuitously for him, the great vidvans of those times Bikshandar Koil Subbarama Iyer and Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844-1893) too were at Kumbakonam to meet Munsiff Venkacchi Iyer as well. Young Narayanasvami Iyer at Venckacchi Iyer’s bidding performed in front of them and was greatly appreciated. In fact, so impressed were the assembled cognoscenti that he was asked to sing along with Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer in a concert scheduled for the following day. And needless to add Narayanasvami Iyer acquitted himself creditably by singing with elan earning recognition as well as gifts from his patron. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer was apparently very much impressed with Narayanasvami Iyer’s svara singing acumen.

There was no looking back thereafter for the young Narayanasvami Iyer. He was adept in every department of performing music and specifically in pallavi exposition and extempore svara singing. So much so that in recognition of his prowess, as we will see, the epithets “Pallavi” and “Svarakalanidhi” came to be prefixed to his name and he came to be addressed with them by one and all, with awe during his life time.

His vidvat blossomed forth as a vaggeyakara as well and he composed exquisite cittasvara sections to very many Tyagaraja compositions. Apart from vocal music, Narayanasvami Iyer also played the Gottuvadyam as well.

With his fame reaching far and wide, Panditurai Tevar, the Zamindar of Pazhavanattam and the maternal uncle of Bhaskara Setupati of the Royal House of the Sethupatis of Ramanathapuram ,and one of the great patrons of those days, sought Narayansvami Iyer’s services to provide advanced training to the then young and upcoming musician Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar ( 1860-1919) in pallavi and svara singing. Consequently Narayanasvami Iyer moved to be at Ramanathapuram to teach the young Poochi for some time.

When the great Maharaja of Mysore Nalvadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar IV ascended the throne in 1902 , Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer was one of the musicians invited to perform in the coronation celebrations and he did so magnificently earning the respect of the assemblage of the great vidvans of those days, which included Veena Subbanna, Veena Seshanna, Namakkal Narasimha Iyengar, Umayalpuram Svaminatha Iyer and others. Veena Subbanna being the dean of the musicians of the Mysore Royal Durbar, at the end of Narayanasvami Iyer’s recital, on behalf of the Durbar and the assemblage, conferred on him the title of “Svarakalanidhi” and reminisced that Narayanasvami Iyer’s svara singing reminded him of Mysore Sadashiva Rao’s (of Tyagaraja sishya parampara) singing.

Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar (1866-1943), the legendary harikatha exponent in his memoirs recalls with rapturous delight a concert of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer, which was arranged on the occasion of the legendary Flute Sarabha Sastri’s ‘seemantham” held to herald the arrival of Sastri’s first child. In that concert Narayanasvami Iyer was accompanied by the veteran Thirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer (Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s maternal uncle) on the violin and Pazhani Krishna Iyer on the ghatam. Narayanasvami Iyer rendered the pallavi “hrudaya kamala vasa hare krishna” in the raga Sankarabharanam set to adi tala. According to Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Iyer, Narayanasvami Iyer sang kalpana svaras for the pallavi, crafted so beautifully as if they were ettugada svaras of a varna! And Bagaavathar adds that in that concert the two accompanists were “Nara-Narayana” in their performance.

Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Iyer also records that Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer was the stock accompanist of Narayanasvami Iyer for the later’s concerts Narayanasvami Iyer taught many sishyas as well, which included Thiruppazhanam Panchapakesa Sastri (1868-1924) – see Epilogue below- Nallur Visvanatha Iyer, Thirukkarugavur Fiddle Narayanasvami Iyer, Paravakkarai Narayanasvami Iyer, Fiddle Seetharama Iyer, Coimbatore Thayi and others.  There are references to the effect that the famed Violin vidvan Kumbakonam Rajamanikkam Pillai too trained under him.

Narayanasvami Iyer was on a very intimate acquaintance with the legendary flute vidvan Kumbakonam “Venugana” Sarabha Sastri (1872-1904), a junior contemporary. The two apparently performed together in concert very many times. The same is recorded both by Narayansvami Iyer’s son and by Sulamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar. The Bagavathar in his memoir records one such recital, which he himself had organized at his house for a “Radha Kalyana Utsava” wherein Narayanasvami Iyer had rendered a brilliant svara kalpana for a Begada main composition on that day.

In the context of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer having composed cittasvaras for compositions, Sri T S Parthasarathi in his article in the JMA advances the proposition that according to the senior vidvans of the late 19th and early 20th century, Tyagaraja did not compose cittasvaras for his compositions and they were composed much later by his sishyas in his parampara. Sri Parthasarathy cites with authority that:

  1. The cittasvara section ( GRSN SRPN SRNRS ….) for “mamava satatam” in Jaganmohini was composed by Walajapet Krishnasvami Bagavathar
  2. Cittasvaras are found added by Veena Kuppier for “Endu daginado”, “Jesinadella”, “Tappi Bratiki” (all in Todi), “Kanna talli” (Saveri) and “Sundari nee” (Kalyani)

Added to the above as also seen in earlier blogs, that we can authoritatively state that:

  1. The popular cittasvara to the Malavi kriti “Nenaruchi naanu” was composed by Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer.
  2. Cittasvaras were composed by Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bagavathar as found recorded in his notebooks.

Sri T S Parathasarathy records that Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer composed cittasvaras for kritis such as “tsalagalla” in Arabhi, though it is not stated whether the popular one rendered today beginning “S,SDP-PPMM GRRS” is that of Narayanasvami Iyer’s.

Musical Creation of Narayanasvami Iyer: Narayanasvami Iyer who was held in awe both by the lay and the cognoscenti of those days, is said to have lived for about 60 years. His ishta devata was Lord Rajagopala of Mannargudi, who has been musically venerated by Patchimiriyam Adiyappa (“Viribhoni” -ata tala varna in raga Bhairavi) and Muthusvami Dikshita (“Sri Rajagopala” in Saveri and “Sri Vidya Rajagopala” in Jaganmohanam). Every year Narayanasvami Iyer apparently undertook a pilgrimage to Mannargudi to have the darshan of Lord Rajagopala and one year he composed a varna in raga Durbar, set in adi tala, which has been published in the JMA along with his biography as written by his son. The varna is not seen published in any other publication nor is it rendered on the concert platform. The notation of the varna in Tamil as recorded in the JMA is provided herein below along with the translation in English.

English Translation of the Varna
(mandhara stayi notes are in lower case; madhya stayi notes in upper case and ; tara stayi notes in upper case italics)

Observations on the varna:

The varna having being published by his son thus attests to the high fidelity of the notation available to us through the aforesaid JMA article. The following observations merit our attention:

  1. Firstly, that strikes one is the way in which the arohana and avarohana krama of the raga Durbar is provided as recorded by Narayanasvami Iyer in his notebook.  The vakra sancaras accommodated in the progression/krama along with the reference to PG is to be reckoned.
  2. The composition features these vakara sancaras to the tee.
  3. The sahitya, akin to “Viribhoni” and “Sri Rajagopala” hails the ksetra as “Dakshina dvaraka”.
  4. The carana portion is exquisitely structured with the jiva svara patterns of Durbar.
  5. Interestingly the notation itself provides 2 variations/sangathis for the carana sahitya section beginning “nIrajAkshi”
  6.  The third cittasvara passage as per the old convention is modelled as sarva laghu.

It has to be pointed out here that apart from the ubiquitous “Chalamela” of Tiruvottriyur Tyagayyar which is the only varna in this raga which is heard often, the others known to us are of Subbarama Dikshitar (“intamodi” ata tala tana varna) and Patnam Subramanya Iyer ( “Dari teliyaka” – khanda ata tala).

Did Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer give Gramophone Recordings?

Michael Kinnear in his book “The Gramaphone Company’s First Indian Recordings -1899-1908” catalogues 10 Inches H Suffix Series of Gramaphone Records wherein an artiste tagged as “Tiruvisanallur Narayanasami Iyer” dating to 1907 has recorded a bunch of compositions, in what seems to be a full-blown concert. There is another Narayanaswami Iyer ( of Pudukkotai) whose music has been recorded and he is a violinist which helps in avoiding the confusion.

The web page below hosts a clipping for one such piece tagged to “Tiruvisanallur Narayanasami Iyer”

https://www.muziekweb.nl/en/Link/KJX3705/Indian-talking-machine-78-rpm-record-and-gramophone-collecting-on-the-sub-continent?TrackID=KJX3705-0021

(hit the URL and browse down to entry 21 which is Tiruvasanallur Narayanasami Iyer – Sanskrit Song Part -1)

One is not sure as to the identity of the person, but yet here is something for us to chew upon.

Conclusion:

While at least something is known about these great vidvans of the past, it is unfortunate that their musical works such as varnas, kritis and cittasvaras have been lost and forgotten. In an earlier blog post on Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar it was pointed out that though the Music Academy was entrusted with his notebooks recording in writing, Bagavathar’s musical creations, yet the same remains lost and untraced. In the instant case of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer, his son Vidvan Radhakrishna Iyer while writing the piece in the JMA, does indicate his wish to publish his father’s works as available with him, but yet nothing seems to have seen the light of the day. The musical note books of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, recording the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita as taught to him Satanur Pancanada Iyer and also Pancanada Iyer’s own note books documenting his own compositions have suffered a similar fate. It is sad that with the passage of time, the probability of recovering any of these just recedes exponentially. In the case of Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer the only creation of his available with us is this Durbar varna.

From a familial perspective, it is not known how Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer acquired the link to Tiruvisainallur while his father hailed from Umayalpuram. All that is known is that Narayanasvami Iyer had two sons one of whom was Vidvan T N Radhakrishna Iyer. It would be worthwhile to know if there are any surviving descendants in the lineage of Narayanasvami Iyer and if they still have those notebooks recording not just the creations of Narayanasvami Iyer but also of Saint Tyagaraja as Narayanasvami Iyer was the 2nd generation disciple in his sishya parampara/lineage.

As always one hopes that our vidvans would take up forgotten compositions like this Durbar varna, burnish them up and render them, in the days to come so that the memory of these great souls would live on along with our music.

References:

  1. “Svarakalanidhi Narayanasvami Iyer” – Article in Tamil – Author Sangita Vidvan T N Radhakrishna Iyer – Journal of the Music Academy Madras (JMA) Vol II No 4 (Year 1931) pp 223-226 – Edited by Sri T V Subba Rao
  2. “Tiruvisainallur Narayanasvami Iyer” – Part XVI on page 100 – “Cameos” – A collection of writings by Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar – Portion translated by Ms Padma Narayanan – Published by Sunadham (2005)
  3. “Svara decorations in Carnatic Music” – Article in English – Author T S Parthasarathy – Journal of the Music Academy Madras (JMA) Vol LVIII 1987 pp 154-159– Edited by Sri T S Parthasarathy
  4. “The Gramaphone Company’s First Indian Recordings -1899-1908” -By Michael Kinnear (1994) Sangam Book – pp 157-158

Epilogue:

While I work to have the recording of the aforesaid Durbar varna done and uploaded here, I seek to conclude this blog post with a musical tribute to this great musician. It is recorded that Narayanasvami Iyer in the tradition of Tyagaraja was also a rama baktha. So a composition eulogizing Lord Rama and that too composed by his own disciple would be a worthy tribute to him.

Tiruppazhanam Panchapakesa Sastri, a disciple of Svarakalanidhi Naryanasvami Iyer, as mentioned earlier, was a legendary Harikatha performer of the 20th century. His most famous composition which lives on even today is “sApashyat kausalya”, set in the raga Jonpuri and which runs as under:

sApashyat kausalyA viSNum sApashyat kausalyA (sApashyat) 
prasava sadana gatha mEnam pUSpAyudha shata kOTi samAnam viSNum (sApashyat) 
jaladhara shyAmaLa gAtram pankEruhadaLa sannibha nEtram viSNum (sApashyat) 
kaustubha shobhita kaNTam rAkA candra nibham vaikuNTham  viSNum  (sApashyat)

This composition preceded by a sloka such as “Shringaram kshitinandinim” or “Neelabja deha” in a raga malika format tailing into Jonpuri, was de-rigueur in Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s concerts. I conclude this blog post with a rendering of this composition from one of his innumerable concerts.

History, Raga, Repertoire

“Balambike Pahi” – Manoranjani

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Prologue:

While the year 2000 was a sort of milestone for us, the year circa 1800 too was a momentous milestone in the modern history of Tanjore, the Eden of South India. It marked the end of political issues plaguing the region and the ascension of Prince Serfoji (AD 1798) as the King of Tanjore. The Kingdom of Tanjore was riven by internal strife and famine during the 1770-1800 period, so much so that many fled the region for the safety and security of Chennapatna or Madras which was under the rule of the British East India Company. It was after these tumultuous events that peace returned to Tanjore circa 1800 and the decade thereafter was marked by peace and prosperity, more particularly the first quarter of the 19th century.

Dikshita’s  Sojourn to Tanjore:

Accounts of Muthusvami Dikshita’s life talk of his sojourn to Tanjavur during this time period- during the first decade of the new century on the invite of his pupils, the Tanjore Quartet Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu. The Quartette by then had firmly ensconced themselves in the Tanjore Royal Court of King Serfoji and it was then they must have invited their master/guru Muthusvami Dikshita to Tanjore, who it seems stayed for a while in Tanjore.

Legend has it that at this point in time when the Quartet played host, they requested Dikshita to compose kritis in all the raganga ragas of the Venkatamakhin tradition so that these kritis would become shining exemplars of those melodies. Accordingly, Dikshita set about the task and this stay in Tanjore produced a number of kritis in these ragangas.

Subbarama Dikshita’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) catalogues all these compositions. It must be mentioned that the SSP does not feature Dikshita’s compositions for certain ragangas/melas such as Binna Sadjam (mela 9), Ramamanohari (Mela 52) and Chamaram (Mela 56).

Amongst those said to have been composed during Dikshita’s sojourn to Tanjore and catalogued in the SSP is the composition in the 5th Mela raga/raganga Manoranjani. Barring some of the main ragas, Dikshita seems to have composed kritis in his shorter format in these mela ragas. This shorter format lacks a full blown carana. Few exceptions to this observation are the following kritis in the raganga ragas ( not major ones) , from an SSP perspective, which are in the full blown format including a carana portion as well.

  1. Kanakambari Karunyamrutalahari” in Kanakambari – 1st mela
  2. Bakthavatsalam” in Vamsavati – Mela 54; But the other kriti “Vamsavati Sivayuvati” is in the shorter format.
  3. Kalavathi Kamalasana Yuvati” – Kalavathi – mela 31
  4. Sri Sulinim” – Sailadesakshi – mela 35

These shorter format kritis with just the pallavi and anupallavi is always appended with a cittasvara section.

In the case of the 5th Mela the composition of Dikshita recorded in the SSP is “Balambike Pahi” let us first  evaluate the raga first and then the composition, in this blog post.

Manoranjani – A Study:

The raga and the scale is obviously a post 1750 AD development arising as a part of the 72 mela scheme formulated by Muddu Venkatamakhin as the raganga of the 5th Mela taking the notes of R1, G2, M1, P, D2, N3 with the gandhara being dropped in the ascent because of the R1G2 combination being a vivadhi pair. The raga also came to be documented as a janya under the Kanakangi-Ratnangi Scheme catalogued by the Sangraha Cudamani, with Manoranjani being categorized as a janya under the 5th Mela, the heptatonic krama sampurna raga Manavati. Tyagaraja’s “Atukaradani” is an exemplar of the same.

According to the SSP, the following are the features of the raga:

  1. The operative arohana-avrohana krama is as under:
    • S R1 M1 P D2 N3 S
    • S N3 D2 P M1 R1 G1 R1 S
  2. In the footnote Subbarama Dikshita remarks that MGRS is seen used in the compositions.
  3. The vivadhi combination of R1G1 is worked-around by dropping the gandhara in the ascent.
  4. Apart from the lakshya gitam, gitams & tanams and the sancari of Subbarama Dikshita, the kriti “Balambike Pahi” of Muthusvami Dikshita in catusra matya tala is provided as the exemplar.

It has to be noted that though the lakshana sloka provides for gandhara being vakra in the avarohana, the kriti, as pointed by Subbarama Dikshita, sports MG1R1S as well.

Dikshita’s Kriti in Manoranjani:

Here is the kriti and the meaning of the lyrics:

pallavi

bAlA-ambikE                  – O Goddess Balambika!

pAhi                                  – Protect (me)!

dEhi dEhi                        – Give, give(me)

bhadraM                          – good fortune/auspiciousness/happiness.

Anupallavi

sAlOka-Adi mukti sAmrAjya dAyini – O the bestower of liberation, beginning with Saloka!

Sankara nArAyaNa manOranjani – O one delighting the heart of Lord Sankaranarayana!

dhanini                      – O repository of all riches!

nIla kaNTha guru guha nitya Suddha vidyE – O eternal pure knowledge of the blue-throated Shiva and Guruguha!

It is seen that Dikshita’s colophon “guruguha” and the raga mudra “manoranjani” are embedded in this composition segueing seamlessly with the lyrics, which is set in catusra matya tala (1 kalai). While the name of the Goddess as also her Consort’s name appears in the composition, there is no explicit reference to the ksetra name in the composition.

The Ksetra or Temple of this Kriti:

The kriti is on Goddess Balambika consort of Lord Sankaranarayana as is obvious from the lyrics. It has to be pointed out that Goddess Balambika is the name of the deity enshrined in Vaideesvarankovil ( vide the kriti “Bhajare Re Citta” – Kalyani – Misra Eka) with the presiding deity being Lord Vaidyanatha. And Lord Sankaranarayana is the presiding deity of the temple at Sankarankovil where his consort is Goddess Gomathi. As seen in one of the previous blogs, Veenai Sundaram Iyer has much later to the SSP published a kriti “Sankaranarayanam” in the raga Narayana Desakshi, attributing it to Dikshita,

On the contrary this kriti “Balambike Pahi” on Goddess Balambika and wherein Dikshita proclaims her as the consort of Lord Sankaranarayana and does not specify the ksetra or the temple or any reference to it in the body the kriti. There is no likelihood thus of the composition being sung on the deity at Sankaran Kovil or Vaideesvaran Kovil.

As pointed out in the prologue, we have reliable textual authorities who have recorded Muthusvami Dikshita visited Tanjore and composed on the various deities in around Tanjore, including Lord Brihadeesvara and Goddess Brihannayaki, in the ragangas of the Venkatamakhin tradition. Both Dr. V Raghavan and Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer in their works (see reference section below) have provided a narrative to this effect.

Dr V Raghavan in his famous NCPA Red Book asserts that Dikshita undertook the project to compose at least one composition in every one of the 72 raganga ragas of the Venkatamakin scheme. And he marks a number of kritis in the raganga ragas, of Dikshita and also provides the ksetra where the same was purportedly composed, based on the internal evidence. He asserts thus:

“This series ( i.e corpus of songs to illustrate the 72 ragas mela-janya scheme) is not completely available and I shall give here a list in so far as I have been able to compile it…..”

However, no reference is provided to this composition “Balambike Pahi” in his aforesaid listing in the NCPA Red Book.

Some individuals in the public domain assert that this composition is on Goddess Balambika at Vaideesvaran Kovil, without any authority whatsoever, merely on the strength of the name of the presiding Goddess which is plain misattribution. It is also seen that those who provide the meaning for the lyrics of this composition provide the meaning for the line ” Sankara nArAyaNa manOranjani” as ” O one delighting the hearts of Shiva and Vishnu! ” without realizing that the reference here is not the Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu individually but to Lord Sankaranarayana. It is respectfully submitted that these reasonings do not hold water.

In the context of the raga of this composition being Manoranjani, the 5th mela we can surmise that:

  1. this kriti was likely composed when Dikshita visited Tanjore ;
  2. And as a part of his endeavor to compose a kriti on the mela ragas, he composed this one as well ( for Mela 5) while at Tanjore :
  3. And therefore Goddess Balambika, the subject matter of this kriti must be deity of a temple somewhere in or around Tanjore.

Fortuitously the perusal of an old publication titled “Siva-Vishnu Ksetra Vilakkam” (Tamil)-see below, provides a reference to a temple in the town of Tanjore where the presiding deity’s name is Lord Sankaranarayana and the name of the Goddess being Balambika.

Siva-Vishnu Ksetra Vilakkam” (Tamil)-Entry 53 on page 29

The book refers to the temple as being located in Tanjore mEla rAja veedhi at its southern end. Based on the said reference I have marked the same in the Google Maps below.

https://goo.gl/maps/CNVMb9SocHmnf4nL9

The said temple has also been covered in an article in a daily as well- refer the Reference section below. The temple also finds reference in the “Tanjapuri Mahatmiyam”. It is also recorded that during the reign of King Serfoji circa 1805, a consecration ( Kumbabishekam) for the temple was performed. Given that this coincides with the probable period of Dikshita’s visit, one wonders if he composed this kriti and paid his obeisance to Goddess Balambika during the festivities.

Thus, given the preponderance of probabilities and the data points agreeing, it can be deduced, that Dikshitar could have visited this particular temple during his Tanjore sojourn and composed this kriti in raga Manoranjani on Goddess Balambika enshrined there.

In so far as the history of this Temple of Lord Sankaranarayana is concerned, in his critical commentary to the work “Tanjapuri Mahatmiyam” part of the “Cola Campu” of Virupaksa, Dr V Raghavan records that the Tanjore King Bhima Chola’s wife hailed from lands of Tirunelveli and her family deity was Lord Sankaranarayana of Sankarankovil. And to fulfill his wife’s desire to worship the Lord in Tanjore itself Bhima Chola built the temple for Lord Sankaranarayana at what is today known as west Main Street, the subject matter of this blog post.

Discography:

Presented first is the rendering aligned to the notation found in the SSP by Vidvan G Ravi Kiran (The video upload wrongly mentions the name of the performing artiste).

Presented next is the rendering of the same composition, again close to the SSP notation, along with the rendering of the cittasvara section and preceded by a brief raga alapana by Vidushi T S Sathyavathi. This rendering is based on the SSP notation and has been embellished suitably as a concert platform piece, within the confines of the spirit of the notation.

Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Suguna Purushothaman renders the composition here:

Epilogue:

The kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita especially in the mela ragas, are pithy and are ideal to both learn and perform professionally. These compositions with brevity being their hallmark need not be be-labored upon and can be sung with a brief raga vinyasa and concluded with a couple of cycles of svaras. One fervently hopes that artistes include these compositions more in their performances in the days to come.

References:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol 1- Mela 5 Pages 26-30
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 855-856
  3. Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
  4. Dr V Raghavan (1975) – NCPA Quarterly Journal Vol IV – Number 3- September 1975 -pp 10-11 – referred to as the NCPA Redbook
  5. T L Venkatrama Iyer (1968) – “Muthuswami Dikshitar” – National Biography Series published by National Book Trust of India -Chapter V – pp 46-53
  6. Srinivasa Iyer ( Unknown) – “Siva-Vishnu Ksetra Vilakkam” (Tamil)-Entry 53 on page 29
  7. News Article in Tamil – Malai Malar
  8. Dr V Raghavan (1951) – Commentary on “Cola Campu” of Virupaksa – TSMS No 55 – Edited by T Chandrasekaran

Safe Harbour Statement:

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

Composers, History, Personalities

Ramaswamy Deekshithar – A ‘dvimudra’ vaggeyakara ?

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This article was published in the journal “Shanmukha” 2019 issue.

Apart from identifying raga-s sung by a musician, another exercise that enthuse a listener and musician alike is identifying the composer (vaggeyakara) of a song.  This is important as sahityam forms the basis of our music and a vaggeyakara expresses his feelings only through the sahityam. Identification of a vaggeyakara becomes simpler if we have a basic knowledge about the ‘mudra’ employed by each one of them.

Mudra used by a vageeyakara is not uniform; it can be his name (svanama mudra), his patron’s name (poshaka mudra) or the place with which he is associated with (sthala mudra) and so on. Also a  vaggeyakara can use one or more mudra-s and conversely two or more vageeyakara-s can use a same mudra. For instance, the mudra ‘venkatesa’ was used by Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier, Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Kothavasal Venkatarama Iyer. This has created confusion in attributing a composition to a particular composer. For instance, ‘dhanyudevvado’, a krithi in the ragam Malayamarutham is attributed to both Patnam Subramanya Iyer and his Guru Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier. Another interesting krithi which suffers this identity crisis is ‘parabrahmamu’. When a musician considers this as a composition of Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer, he is supposed to sing this in the ragam Kapinarayani. Whereas, if a musician feels it was composed by Manambuchavadi Venktasubbaier, he should sing this in the ragam Pravalajyothi.

A single musician can use one or more mudra-s too. Kshetrayya and Melattur Virabhadrayya can be cited as examples. Kshetrayya has used the mudra ‘muvva gopala’ in majority of his works where muvva is the sthala mudra. In few of his padam-s we can also see the mudra-s like  ‘kanchi varadudu’ and ‘cevvandhi lingudu’. 1 Virabhadrayya, a famous composer of the medieval period has used the mudra ‘pratapasimha’ in few of his compositions. Mudra-s like ‘achudabdhi nilaya’, ‘unnathapurisha’ and ‘achuthapuri’ are seen in his other compositions. Whereas pratapasimha is to be taken as poshaka mudra, achudabdhi nilaya and achuthapuri indicates the sthalam Melattur to which he belonged to and unnathapuri denotes the svami mudra (Unnatapurishvarar is the deity in Melattur).  

Ramaswamy Deekshithar, father of Muthuswamy Deekshithar was born in the year 1735 and attained the heavenly abode on Mahasivaratri in the yaer 1819. He was a prolific composer of 18 th century who has composed innumerable compositions, many of them does not even exist in paper, leave alone recordings. His initial training in music was from Melattur Virabhadrayya and later learnt the intricacies of music from Venkata Vaidyanatha Deekshithar, grandson of Venkatamakhi, propagating Venkatamakhi’s illustrious legacy to his disciples. His early years were spent at Tiruvarur, where he codified the raga-s and compositions to be sung by  Nagasvaram vidvans in Tyagarajasvamy temple upon the divine instruction by Tyagaraja himself. He was then patronized by the father-son dubashi-s of Manali, Chennai (erstwhile Madras) – Manali Muddukrishna Mudaliyar and Chinnaswamy (Venkatakrishna) Mudaliyar in later part of his life. Unfortunately, not many of his compositions are available and it is Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, which gives us a significant number of compositions. Though, mudra of Ramaswamy Deekshithar is considered to be ‘venkatakrishna’ (poshaka mudra), it will be illustrated from the following discussion that he can be considered as a dvi-mudra vaggeyakara.

Compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar

Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Deekshithar 2 lists the following compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar:

  1. Sarigani – Todi – Adhi – Svarasthana varnam
  2. Inkadaya – Vegavahini – Adhi – Keertanam
  3. Amba ni – Anandabhairavi – Adhi – Keertanam
  4. Rammanave – Hindola – Ata – Varnam
  5. Valachi vachi – Hindolavasantha – Rupakam –  Varnam
  6. Sami ninne – Sriranjani – Adhi – Varnam
  7. Vashivashi – Sahana – Adhi – Keertanam
  8. Sambho jagadeesa – Shankarabharanam – Adhi – Keertanam
  9. Ra ra puseyaka Shankarabharanam – Ata – Varnam
  10. Candaseyala – Hamsadvani – Matya –  Lakshya Prabandham
  11. Ela namne – Purnachandrika – Rupaka – Varnam
  12. Sivamohana – Ragamalika – Adhi
  13. Manasaveri – Ragamalika – Rupakam
  14. Nattakadi vidyala – 108 Ragatalamalika
  15. Samaja gamana – Ragamalika – Adhi
  16. Sarasa nayana – Gangatarangini – Tisra ekam – Daru
  17. Sri kamalamba – Manohari – Adhi – Varnam
  18. Paga jupa – Mohanam – Ata – Varnam  (not mentioned in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini). 3

Analysis of these compositions

Of these available compositions, the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’ is seen in svarasthana varnam, krithi in the ragam-s Vegavahini, Anandabhairavi, Sahana and in the lakshana prabandham.  This mudra is also seen in the ragamalika-s natakadi vidyala and sivamohana. Hence, 7 compositions out of 18 bear the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’.

Let us see the 11 compositions without the mudra “venkatakrishna” in detail.

1. Varnam in Hindola

This ata tala varnam ‘rammanave tyagaraja sami neevu’ is on Tyagarajaswamy of Tiruvarur. This is a cauka varnam with 4 ettugada svaram-s.

2. Varnam in Hindolavasantha

This is a cauka varnam is set to rupaka talam. Interestingly this varnam has only 3 ettugada svaram. This is on Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. Anupallavi of this varnam reads ‘velayu sripuravasa veeravasantha tyagesha’. The epithet ‘veeravasantha’ is used only for Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur and this was used only by vaggeyakaras linked personally and intimately with that deity like Ramaswamy Deekshithar and Muthuswamy Deekshithar.

3. Varnam in Sriranjani

This adi tala varna was also composed on Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. Anupallavi reads as ‘tamasamika seyaku mrokkera tyagaraja dayasagara sri’. This varnam has 4 ettugada svaram-s. Of these, only the first svara passage was composed by Ramaswamy Deekshithar. Second, third and fourth svara passages were contributed by Syama Sastri, Chinnaswamy Deekshithar and Muthuswamy Dekshithar respectively. 4

4. Varnam in Shankarabharanam

This grand ata tala varnam follows an old varna template seen with the varnam-s like ‘viriboni’ (Bhairavi) and ‘sami nine’ (Shankarabharanam). Contrast to his other varnam-s, this one has an anubandham which is linked to anupallavi and mukthayi svaram-s. Hence, this varnam is finished by singing pallavi. This is again on the Lord Tyagesha and he describes Tyagaraja as ‘koti lavanya tyagaraja maharaja’.

5. Varnam in Purnachandrika

This rupaka tala varnam is again on the Lord Tyagaraja and he asks him ‘jalamelara natho sami sri tyagesha’? This is a pada varnam with sahityam for mukthayi and ettugada svaram-s.

7. Varnam in Mohanam

This is a rare work of Deekshithar not found in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. This can be seen in few private manuscripts too. We find the epithet ‘veerasantha tyagaraja sami’ again here in anupallavi.

8. Samajagamana

This ragamalika is a string of 20 ragas composed on the Raja Amarasimha of Tanjore. It is said Deekshithar praised Amarasimha with this garland when the latter visited Tiruvarur. This is one of his best creations wherein he has skillfully woven the raga mudra into the sahityam. Though this is a pean to Amarasimha, Deekshithar has invoked Tyagesha too –  ‘aharindruni pujinchu tyageshu krupanijamu’.

From the above discussion, it becomes clear that, of the 11 compositions lacking the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’, 6 were composed on the Lord Tyagesha of Tiruvarur. All these bear the mudra ‘tyagesha’ or its variant. Of the remaining compositions, the ragamalika ‘samaja gamana’ has the mudra ‘tyagesha’ though the ‘nayaka’ glorified there was Amarasimha. 

The remaining 4 compositions namely the kriti in Sankarabharanam, ragamalika ‘manasaveri’, daru and the varnam in the ragam Manohari does not possess any of the mentioned mudra, though “venkataramana” can be seen in the ragamalika mentioned. It can be understood that this krithi was composed on the Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi.

Conclusion

The above discussion shows Ramaswamy Deekshithar was a  ‘dvi-mudra vaggeyakara’ with ‘tyagesha’ and ‘venkatakrishna’ as his mudra-s. It can also be assumed that he has used the mudra ‘tyagesha’ when he spent his life in Tiruvarur and used the mudra ‘venkatakrishna’ when he was in Manali, in memory of his benefactor Venkatakrishna Mudaliyar. It is a must to visit and analyse other compositions with the mudra ‘tyagesa’ as they could also be the compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar !!

A rare composition of ramaswamy Deekshithar can be heard here.

Acknowledgement

I personally thank Smt Jayasri, Editor, Shanmukha Journal for publishing this research work in their esteemed journal.

References

  1. Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini, Pg 16-18. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.           
  2. Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.
  3. BM Sundaram, ed. Tana Varna Tarangini, Part 3 – Pg – 228-229. Rajalakshmi Arakkattalai.
  4. Subbarama Diksitulu. Sangita Sampradāya Pradarsini, Pg – 602-604. Vidya Vilasini Press, Ettayapuram Samasthanaṃ, 1904.

History, Manuscripts, Raga

Colorful Bhashanga-s – Rudrapriya – Part II

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The rāga Rudrapriyā is mentioned twice by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśini; once under the rāgāṅga rāga Śri rāgaṃ and second time in the Anubandham. The first mention has 5 kṛti-s and a sañcari and in the Anubandham, two kṛti-s of Śri Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar –”gaṇanāyakam bhajēham” and “tyāgēśam bhajarē” were given. Analysis of the notations reveal a considerable difference in the lakṣaṇa of these two kṛti-s from other kṛti-s notated in the main section and also the svarūpa of Rudrapriyā differ considerably between these two kriti-s to an extent that they need a separate discussion. Hence these two kṛti-s will be covered separately and this article will cover the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’. It is advisable to read Part I for better understanding of this rāga. Before we embark into the kṛti, it is pertinent to know about the structure of rāga-s prevailed during 19th century and prior.

Approaching a rāga – concept prevailed during 17th and18th century

From 17th/18th century or even prior to that, there could have been two school of thoughts in approaching or handling a rāga. First one is to treat a rāga in such a way that a definite scale (ārōhaṇam or avarōhaṇam) cannot explain the svarūpa of a rāgaṃ as they transcend these scales (Scale-transcending rāga-s). Second thought is to approach a rāgam in a scalar manner. Both could have enjoyed popularity and there could have been proponents for both these systems; the exact time period which saw the inflow of these systems cannot be framed with the available evidences.  

Whereas the latter is really a simple method to approach a rāga, only the former method gives an adequate structure to the svara-s to be called as a rāga. Whereas the treatment of a rāga in the latter approach can be compared with a small water canal, which has only a single course with the water flowing through it monotonously, the former approach can be compared with a river. A rāga has its own delineated course and it is our duty to cruise through it and identify its tributaries and distributaries, the area where it bifurcates, various ways through which it reaches its destination etc. 

Whereas the Scale-transcending approach is seen with the treatises like Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śahāji and Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulaja, to cite a few, the scalar approach is seen with the treatises like Saṅgīta Sāra Saṅgrahamu of Tiruvēṅkaṭa Kavi and Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi. So, if a composer is a follower of the first school, he handles a rāga as an organic structure (Scale-transcending approach); whereas a composer who believes in the latter thought handles a rāga exactly in concordance with the scale prescribed for that rāga (Scalar approach). In due course, a scalar rāga could have been developed as an equivalent to ‘scale transcending’ rāga and used by the Scalar school. Pūrṇacandrika and Janarañjani can be cited as an example to explain this. Whereas the former is limited to a scale now, it was actually a rāga with a wider scope. The latter could have been developed to get a feel of Pūrṇacandrika and at the same time making it simple to approach by making it to abide a scale. Alternatively, many Scale-transcending rāga-s were converted into scales. This concept can be easily understood by studying the rāga Gauḍamalhār.

Though we generally believe Harikēśanaḷḷur Muttiah Bhāgavatar handled this for the first time, we do have evidence to say this could have been handled by another composer preceding him. ‘Cinta dīrca’ is a kṛti of Tiruvoṭṭriyūr Tyāgayyar in this rāga and belongs to the set “Śrī Vēṇugōpāla Svāmy Aṣṭottara Śata Kṛti-s” composed by Tyāgayyar. Many rare scales feature in this set and this is one amongst them. Both Tyāgayyar and Muttiah Bhāgavatar had strictly adhered to the scale SRMPDS SNDMGRS, considering it as as janya of mēḷa 29, Dhīraśaṅkarābharaṇam. Interestingly, Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi gives the scale as SRMPDS  SDNPMGRS and the scale followed by them is seen only in the treatise Saṅgīta Sāra Saṅgrahamu ! This is again an instance showing, even 20th century composers were not strict followers of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi.

The above discussion might give an impression that this was a recently developed rāga. In reality, this is an old rāga finding its presence for the first time in the Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śahāji and Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulaja in its present form (as a janya of mēla 29). In these treatise, this was more a rāga and we do find phrases outside the scale like SRGR.

Whereas Śrī Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has followed the former method (though with few exceptions like the kṛti in the rāga Navaratnavilāsa), Śrī Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ was a follower of both these schools. The rāga-s handled by Svāmigaḷ can be divided into two types – rāga-s which are seen in both the schools and the rāga-s which are unique to the scalar school. In the former category, Svāmigaḷ has handled only a Scale-transcending approach. An analysis of Vālājāpeṭṭai notations and other reliable sources clearly indicate this.

Until the dawn of 20th century, both schools were active and we can see the rāga repertoire being built in by both the schools; but the second school dominated the scene from the last century onwards. Though we find plenty of new rāga-s being developed in the last century, they were mere scales and lack the skeleton inherently present in the Scale-transcending approach.

Gaṇanāyakam bhajēham

This is a kṛti by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar on Lord Vināyaka. This does not have any reference to a kṣētra or a purāṇa and it is structured more like a hymn to the Lord. Structurally too, this is much smaller with a paḷḷavi and anupaḷḷavi.1 This is not even affixed with a ciṭṭa svara passage as seen with many other kṛtis composed in the paḷḷavi-anupaḷḷavi format. Many doubt the authenticity of this kṛti as:

  1. This is not grouped with the other kṛti-s in the rāga Rudrapriyā (by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar).
  2. Lakṣaṇa is different from other kṛti-s notated in the rāga Rudrapriyā.
  3. Tālam of this kṛti (more modelled like dēśādhi which is unusual for a kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar).
  4. Melody of this kṛti is extraordinarily identical with the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ of Svāmigaḷ.

The points mentioned above are overtly visible and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar himself could have been aware of these facts. Considerable thought must have gone into his mind before including this in Anubandham and labelling it as a kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Hence it can be believed that this kṛti was a genuine construction of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and having this in mind let us try to understand and solve the discrepancies.  

In general, the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar propagated through the printed texts in the early part of the last century are very minimal. If we analyse the Dīkṣitar kṛti-s in the available texts, the number might rarely cross 25-35, implying singing or hearing a kṛti of Dīkṣitar was a rarity in those days. The same inference can be again drawn from the available gramophone records. Whereas kṛti-s like bālagōpāla, śrī vēṇugōpāla and ananta bālakṛṣṇam can be seen frequently either notated or otherwise, it is surprising to see the absence of (presently) popular kṛti-s like raṅganāyakam, saundararājam or jambupatē. It was at that juncture Pradarśini was releasedhaving around 230 kṛti-s of Dīkṣitar notated. Needless to say the kṛti in hand is seen here for the first time.

A rāga can be visualised and envisaged only from its phrases and each rāga has its own special phrases and common phrases that it share with its allies. It can be redacted from a simple examination of Pradarśini that this kṛti follows the scale SRGMNNS SNPMGRS. This scale is now called by the name Pūrṇaṣadjam and we have two kṛti-s of Svāmigal in this rāga, ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ and ‘lāvaṇya rāma’. But a stringent examination will reveal the presence of a phrase PNS which cannot be fitted into the mentioned scale. The readers are now requested to recollect our discussion on the two schools of approaching a rāga. The Scalar rāga-s generally are faithful to their scale and we cannot find even a single phrase outside the prescribed scale. In that case, where do we place this rāga? This phrase PNS is to be neglected (considering it as an error on the side of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar) and calling it as Pūrṇaṣadjam or it is to be considered as an inkling that this could have been a Scale-transcending rāga? In the latter case, is it advisable to call it as Rudrapriya? Before trying to find out a solution for this question, let us get introduced to the rāga Pūrṇaṣadjam.

The rāga Pūrṇaṣadjam

It has been mentioned at various occasions that the lakṣaṇa and the nomenclature of the kṛti-s of  Svāmigaḷ in the apūrva rāga-s always pose a problem and the readers are requested to understand the facts given here before proceeding further.

It was a general consensus made in the last century that Svāmigaḷ followed Saṅgraha Chūḍāmaṇi, a text of late origin and unknown authorship. Scholars date the period of this text to be somewhere around late 18th century and in that case we are forced to believe Svāmigaḷ followed this treatise leaving behind the tradition that was extant for very many centuries. Strangely, no one focused or questioned this aspect, excluding few lone voices like that of renowned musicologist Śrī K V Rāmacandran.  A study of this rāga shows, we have much deviated from the truth and it is pertinent, at least at this point of time to search for the same.  

Pūrṇaṣadjam appears to be a rāga of recent origin with the present available evidences, as we do not get to see this rāga in the treatises belonging to the medieval period, from Svaramēlakalānidhi of Rāmamāṭya to Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulajā. This rāga is first seen in the text Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sārām attributed to Tiruvēṅkaṭakavi (See Footnote 1) and later, we do find it in Saṅgraha Chūḍāmaṇi. This rāga is considered as a janya of mēla 20 in both the texts though with a different lakṣaṇa. Whereas the former treats this as a rāga with the scale SRGMDS SDPMGRS, the latter consider SPMPDPS SNDMGRS as the scale.2 In both cases this is a rāga with dhaivatam unlike the rāga, that we now call it as Pūrṇaṣadjam.

Books on Tyāgarāja kīrtanā-s published in the last century follow a dichotomous approach for labelling the kṛti-s ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ and ‘lāvaṇya rāma’ of Svāmigal. Few mention as Rudrapriyā and few others as Pūrṇaṣadjam, but the lakṣaṇa remains the same. Any ways it becomes clear that scale or the structure of the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ in its present form (and also the commonly available version of the kṛti ‘lāvaṇya rāma’ of Svāmigaḷ) cannot be fitted into the scale of Pūrṇaṣadjam mentioned in these treatises. This again is an indication that the belief, Svāmigaḷ was a follower of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi is a hoax.

Henceforth the discussion will pertain only to the kṛti  ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ as this is related to the main topic and the other the kṛti ‘lāvaṇya rāma’ will be covered at a later period of time. Though, the commonly available version and the versions given in the majority of the texts follow the scale SRGMNS SNPMGRS, few texts published in the last century and some unpublished manuscripts harbour the phrase PNS! So, it is not the rāga name alone that has been appropriated, an immaculate service had also been done by removing a phrase which do not fit into the scale and this is definitely not a fate of this kṛti alone. Be it as it may, it can be concluded that the rāga of this scale cannot be called as Pūrṇaṣadjam and few versions in the past do had the phrase PNS is emphasized.

Having reiterated the problem seen with these apūrva kṛti-s and inclusion of the phrase PNS at least in the few versions of the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’, it is essential for us to turn into another related question – was the melody of these two kṛti-s (gaṇanāyakam bhajēham andśrī mānini manōhara) were same in the past? This will also give us a solution to the question on the rāga of the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’.

The two kṛti-s

Unlike Dīkṣitar kṛti, we  lack an authentic source to study this kṛti of Svāmigaḷ, as Vālājāpēṭṭai manuscripts, said to be written by his direct disciple Vālājāpēṭṭai Śrī Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar do not give us this kṛti in notation (in the corpus available to us).  From the recordings available to us and from the books and manuscripts which give this kṛti in notation, it can be said that the currently heard version could have been a common version in the past. Hand written manuscripts written by Dr Śrīnivāsarāghavan, Śrī B Kṛṣṇamūrti (as learnt from Umayālpuram Śrī Rājagōpāla Ayyar) and a musician by name Śrī Bālasubraḥmaṇya Ayyar (possibly a student belonging to Umayālpuram lineage) too record the same, though with minor differences. Śrī C R Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār, too gives almost the same version. In all these versions, the paḷḷavi starts with the svara ṛṣabham (see Footnote 2). There is an exception to this common version which will be dealt soon.

Gaṇanāyakam bhajēham in Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśini

The kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ as given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can be heard here. It can be seen that the kṛti starts with the svara gāndhāram (unlike ṛṣabham in most of the presently available versions). Paḷḷavi has only two lines in contrast with the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’. Also, the line ‘vara bāla guruguham’ is rendered in a madhyama kālam (see Footnote 3). The sāhitya akṣara-s in the mentioned line is doubled when compared to other parts of the caraṇam, indicating this was the intent of the composer and not changed later. Though in some renditions we do hear the word ‘guruguham’ slightly rendered fast, and in some others, this was treated as a śabdam in the sama kālam. All these points not only convey us, the melodies of these two kṛti-s were not identical, but also add value to the authenticity of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in considering this composition as a genuine construct of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.

The structure of these two kṛti-s: are they identical?

We have seen that hearing a kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar itself was a rarity in those days. When this kṛti came into circulation, the similarity in the rāga lakṣaṇa between these two kṛti-s could have made some musician to transpose the melody of ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ (to start with ṛṣabham) and made it to be identical with the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’, either voluntarily or inadvertently!

We have seen, the way in which the original version of ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ has been changed to resemble the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’. Now we will look into a lost version of ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ which resembles ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ as notated in Pradarśini. The rāga handled in this version is more like ‘Scale-transcending’. Incidentally, this version published by Tenmaṭam Brothers was the earliest published version and it starts with the svara gāndhāram, similar to ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ given in Pradarśini.3 Also, it has the phrases MGRG, RGS which out lie the prescribed scale! Though the tāḷam of this kṛti is given as dēśādhi in various texts, it is notated only in ādhi tāḷam starting from 1.5 idam in this text and can be heard here. This version can better be called as Rudrapriya (as it has all the phrases seen in the Rudrapriya mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in the main text).

It can be very well observed that these kṛti-s are not exact copies of each other and the present version of ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ was modelled like the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ in the last century. The original version of the former kṛti is quite different from the latter (be it a common version or the version given by Tenmaṭam Brothers) despite having few similarities. The similarities can be attributed mainly to the key phrases highlighted in these compositions and handling of the rāga, in general.

A common inspiration

Irrespective of the rāga nomenclature, it is clear that the rāga lakṣaṇa and handling of the phrases is same with both the kṛti-s. This might be an indication that both the composers might have had a common source of inspiration.

The cultural and social canvas of Tanjāvūr was always inclusive. Though it had its own indigenous culture, it always invited and incorporated the customs and practise from other regions. This is much so with music. What we now call as Karnāṭaka Music is actually a digestion and integration of all these cultures. Whereas we had indigenous rāga-s and musical systems flourishing there, we also see Kings patronising other forms of music. The pillars of Tanjāvūr Mahal had witnessed the musicians playing God save the King and Marlbrook. The streets in Tanjāvūr were reverberated with Mahārāṣtra Bhajans and Abhangs. Varāhapayyar, an eminent musician in the court of Śerfoji was fined for not learning Hindustani music in the stipulated time. Hence, melodies of various genres were prevalent during the period of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ. These composers too never restricted themselves from including these melodies into their repertoire. It is like having multiple ‘maṅgaḷam’ and ‘tālāṭṭu’ set to a single tune differing only in sāhityam, sung by household women of yester generation.

The basic melody or the original tune seen in these two kṛti-s could have been a popular melody belonging to any of these genres; these composers having inspired by that tune could have  shaped them in their own imitable way. Hence, calling them as copies and believing one copying another is going to be a futile and stale discussion. 

Such tunes were a strong source of inspiration even in the last century as can be seen from the work of Popley and Stephen4, two Christian musicians, in the last century, has used them to fit into their own sāhityam as a method to evangelise the natives, though just mentioning as Mahārāṣtra meṭṭu and without mentioning the original tunes.

Rāga of these kṛti-s

Having established that it is a vagary to consider ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ as to have been composed in Purṇaṣadjam and this was not a copy of ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’, it is essential to discuss the lakṣaṇa portrayed in these kṛti-s.

The kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’

In the Part I of this series, we have seen Rudrapriyā blossoms when G or N is used as a janṭa svara, use of phrases like SNP, SNDN, SDNP and the use of dhāṭṭu prayōga-s. R,G,M and N can be the jīva svara-s (starting notes) and nyāsa svara-s (ending notes). In the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ G,N and N,M were the jīva and nyāsa svara-s respectively. The kṛti starts with the janṭa G and we do see a profuse use of janṭa R and N throughout the kṛti. None of the phrases used here were outside the realm of Rudrapriyā including MNN, though it is to be accepted that Rudrapriyā is not shown in its full potential. For the matter of fact, Rudrapriya was exploited to its full potential more by Bālasvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar than Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar as discussed in Part I. The phrase GRR is used frequently similar to the kṛti-s in the rāga Rudrapriyā (notated in the main section of Pradarśini). These findings could have made Subbarāma Dīkṣitar to name the rāga of this kṛti as Rudrapriyā and he is certainly not wrong in doing that.

We have mentioned in Part I of this article that Rudrapriyā could have been called by several names in the past and Karnātaka Kāpi was one amongst them. We hypothesized Subbarāma Dīkṣitar could have been a single proponent in using the name Rudrapriyā. We also made a point that the name Rudrapriyā could have also been shared by many rāga-s. We can conjecture from these facts that the rāga that we see here in these two kṛti-s could have been called as Rudrapriyā and the other 5 kṛti-s seen in the main section of Pradarśini could have been called by the name Karnātaka Kāpi! This statement gets more valid when we remember the rāga mudra is not seen in the kṛti kṛti ‘rudra kōpa’ of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and the pada varṇam ‘suma sāyaka’ is still called as Kāpi (provided the version that we hear is original) despite resembling Rudrapriyā. We also have another evidence to support this.

We also like to place another view. We were discussing the proponents of the Scalar approach tried to have an equivalent for a Scale-transcending rāga. So, Rudrapriyā (seen in ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’) could have been invented by the proponents of the Scalar approach as an alternate to Karnāṭaka Kāpi. Hence, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar who was well aware of these facts placed the kṛti-s in Karnāṭaka Kāpi separately, naming it as Rudrapriyā, thereby differentiating from the Scalar Rudrapriyā.  A manuscript written by Mazhavarāyanēndal Subbarāma Bhāgavathar names the scale SRGMNS SNPMGRS as Rudrapriyā and not Purṇaṣadjam. But the problem in relying this manuscript is that it does not attest involving the phrase PNS.5

Alternatively, we can also consider the rāga of this kṛti as Karnāṭaka Kāpi akin to the kṛtis given as Rudrapriyā in Pradarśini (main text).  Going by this statement, a doubt arise on the authenticity of not using all/ majority of key phrases in a rāga. Though this question cannot be satisfactorily replied with the available evidences, it can be said that we do have examples to show ‘out of the box’ handling of a rāga. A beautiful exemplar to explain this is the kṛti ‘pāliñcu gōpāla’ of Vīṇa Kuppaier in the rāga Husēni. The rāga, in this kṛti is explored only from mandra niṣādham to madhya pañ chamam! Though it is unimaginable now to see such a handling of Husēni, this shows the inclusive nature of our music and the liberty enjoyed by our composers in the past.

The kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’

Regarding the rāga of the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’, if we go by the common version, it can be called as (or ought to be called as?) Rudrapriyā (the Scalar one) and if we go by the version by Tenmaṭam Brothers, it can be considered to be close to Karnāṭaka Kāpi (Rudrapriyā of the main section in Pradarśini). Any more observations will be updated if we happen to get a Vālājāpeṭṭai version or a version from other veritable sources.

Conclusion

The following can be concluded from the above discussion:

  1. The kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ were not cast in the same mould. Both the composers could have been inspired from a single source, a popular melody of their times.
  2. It is advisable to not label the kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ as Pūrṇaṣadjam; preferable to call it by the name Rudrapriyā.
  3. Many details are unsaid explicitly in the treatise by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. It is up to us to reconcile with the available evidences rather dismissing his thoughts out rightly. 
  4. Though Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi is much popular now, it might not have been the case in the past. Svāmigaḷ had his own lexicons of rāga-s and it is not wrong if it is said he was a creator many rare rāga-s.
  5. Manuscripts serve as a living evidence to understand the past. It is pertinent for us to search all the available manuscripts and preserve them for posterity.

The third part in this series can be read here.

References

  1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905.  
  2. Hema Ramanathan. Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.
  3. Tenmaṭam Brothers. Saṅgītānanda Ratnākaramu, 1917.
  4. Stephen LI, Popley HA. Handbook of Musical Evangelism. The Methodist Publishing House, 1914.
  5. P.C Sitaraman : Mazhavai Subbarama Iyyarin nottupusthakalilulla sangita vishayangal. Journal of Music Academy:106;1972.

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – Though Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi is much popular in understanding the scalar rāga-s, this is not a singular treatise dealing rāga-s like this. Saṅgīta Sarvārtha Sārām was written earlier than Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi and we do have manuscripts just having rāga name with their scales lying in various libraries. Many musicians lived during the last century had a lexicon of these scalar rāga-s.

Footnote 2 – The kṛti ‘śrī mānini manōhara’ too has many versions as with any other kṛti of Svāmigaḷ. An in-depth analysis of these versions was not attempted. Though we frequently hear MNNS in the renditions available, we do rarely hear PNS/PNNS, especially in the mandra sthāyi.

Footnote 3 – The name ‘madhyama kāla sāhityam’ itself is self-explanatory. It refers to only the sāhityam and not the melody. For example, in any segment of a composition in ādhi tāla, if the first two lines has 16 sāhitākṣara-s (calculated by giving a value of 1 for short vowel/consonant and a value of 2 for long vowel/consonant) and the succeeding line has 32 sāhitākṣara-s, the latter line is called as ‘madhyama kāla sāhityam’.

History, Raga

Kapi – A Raga of Myriad Hues

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INTRODUCTION:

Kapi or Karnataka Kapi is an old raga. Sahaji’s Raga Lakshanamu, Tulaja’s Saramrutha,the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika and the Sangraha Cudamani have documented this raga. We  have compositions in it from the pre-trinity times which are available to us through the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP). We have grounds to believe that Trinitarians have composed in this raga perhaps with different musical flavors. The northern raga Kafi is spoken of, more as an equivalent of Karaharapriya while Kapi is truly different and in terms of the Hindustani music scheme, it belongs to the Kanhra/Kanada family of ragas.

Kapi is a raga which has become extinct in its original form but survives today in a much metamorphosed version or versions. Apart from its evolutionary history, one additional aspect of this raga merits attention. It probably spawned or was at the epicenter of a family of ragas which shared a common melodic motif G2M1R2S. Each of the ragas in this family went on to transform itself in an evolutionary process and are today in our midst, each with their own distinct melodic identity and remarkably distinguishable from one another.

In this blog post , we would take a deep dive into this raga and also cover the aspects highlighted above. In a later blog post we will cover the comparison of this raga with a few other ragas with which it shares common melodic material.

KAPI – ITS CURRENT FORM:

Before we look at the history of Kapi, it would be appropriate to take stock of the current form of this raga.

Kapi (rather modern Kapi) is grouped as a bhashanga janya under the Kharaharapriya mela/Sriraga raganga with anatara gandhara, suddha dhaivatha and kakali nishada as anya svaras, depending on the version of the composition. There is no strict arohana or avarohana for the raga today².This modern day Kapi is encountered in renderings of Tyagaraja’s kritis such as “Meevalla Gunadosha”, Papanasam Sivan’s “Enna Tavam seidhanai”, the javali ‘Parulannamata’ and the tune melody of “Jagadodharana” of Purandaradasa.

With this brief introduction let us look at the antiquity of this raga and the transformation it had undergone to reach its present stage.

Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu (Circa 1700):

Kapi is not encountered in older texts including that of Govinda Dikshitar and Venkatamakhi. The first person to record this raga in the post 1700 period was King Sahaji who had captured the ragas in currency during his lifetime in this work “Ragalakshanamu’. According to him, the raga is sampurna, desya and is under the Sriraga mela and in the avarohana sancaras sometimes madhyama and dhaivatha are eliminated.⁴

As regards the usage of the terminology ‘sampurna’, it is to be noted that in all old musicological texts a raga is treated as sampurna if the seven svaras occurred in the arohana and avarohana taken together.

Tulaja’s Saramrutha (circa 1736 AD) ⁶:

Next is the text “Saramrutha” which records the raga. According to Tulaja, this raga is under the Sriraga mela , sampurna with sadja as graham, amsa and nyasa with the svaragati of the raga being niraghata or unlimited. The murccanas that Tulaja gives for alapa and gita indicate a sequential progression of svaras, much like modern day Kharaharapriya! Also according to Tulaja this raga is auspicious and is to be rendered in the evenings.⁶

Raga Lakshana anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin³:

Venkatamakhin in his CDP does not deal with Kapi or any other raga which shares a similar melodic structure or with a different name. The Anubandha to the CDP which is most probably a work of his great grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin or his son Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar who was the preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshitar, provides reference with a lakshana shloka for Kapi under mela 22 (Sriraga) as under:

Kapi ragascha sampurnah sagrahah sarvakalika

The shloka does not denote any anya svaras occurring or whether any svaras are vakra or varja in the arohana or avarohana.

Summary of the above:

The raga Kapi as documented by the three authors as above has one common theme. It was more or less modern Kharaharapriya in terms of its scalar structure. Additionally according to Sahaji, the dhaivatha and madhayama were sometimes skipped in the avarohana. Based on this observation one can postulate that Kapi probably featured prayogas like sNPMGRS or sNDNPMGRS (which are found in Karnataka Kapi of today) and madhyama varja prayogas such as NPG…R (which also do occur in Karnataka Kapi).  With that we move on the Subbarama Dikshitar and his work the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini to take stock of what Kapi was.

KAPI OF THE SSP ¹:

Subbarama Dikshitar provides us with three sets of inputs in the Sampradaya Pradarsini:

  1. Muddu Venkatamakhin’s raga lakshana shloka and his lakshana gitam
  2. His own commentary on the raga lakshana and his sancari
  3. Compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar and that of three pre-trinity composers namely Margadarshi Sesha Iyengar, Srinivasayya and Bhadracala Ramadas

The Muddu Venkatamakhi gitam too offers us no further light in terms of raga lakshana. It is Subbarama Dikshitar’s commentary that provides us with some practical insight as to the Kapi of yore.

SUBBARAMA DIKSHITAR’S COMMENTARY:

According to Subbarama Dikshitar, the arohana and avarohana murccanas of Kapi under mela 22 ( Sriraga) are SRGMPDNs/NDPMGGRS. Attention is invited to the usage of the nishada without touching the tara sadja and the janta gandhara and the dirgha rishabha. Further according to him the gandhara and rishabha are the jiva & nyasa svaras. Subbarama Dikshitar also gives us a few choice phrases which he says are native to the raga:

NSGMGmRS , NNSDPMGmRS, RGMPDNPMGMRS, SNPMGMRS, PMGGMRS, NPMPDRS, NSDNSRGMRS etc

Subbarama Dikshitar also observes that kakali nishada (N3) and antara gandhara (G3) occur in the phrases sNPMP DsNPMP, PMGMR and MPGMRS, though the same is not found notated in the compositions that he gives subsequently including his own sancari. So his observation is really a conundrum as we do not have a record of the said compositions or renderings incorporating the said prayogas.

For us the Kapi that Subbarama Dikshitar paints has one major feature which is the occurance of the anga/leitmotif  “GMR” which is the hallmark of modern day Kanada. The melodic tinge of GMRS is so pronounced for example in the notation of the kriti “Rangapate Pahi” of Sesha Iyyengar that it sounds more as modern day Kanada for us and it should be remembered that the composition dates back to the pre-trinity era which did not have a raga called Kanada. In that sense, Karnataka Kapi can surely be called the precursor of modern Kanada.

ANGAS – A NOTE ON MUSICAL LEITMOTIFS

The murcchana or leitmotif ‘GMRS’ which occurs in profusion as a melodic signature is not just a property of Karnataka Kapi but also a host of other ragas and the notation in SSP is evidence of it. Beyond the raaganga-janya or Melakarta-janya relationship, in olden times in our music, ragas had a common melodic bond through a shared murrcana or anga.  Even ancient texts like Anupa Sangeeta Ratnakara of Bhavabhatta give ragas which have been grouped / classified on such a premise. For example the Kanhra group consists of 14 ragas such as Suddha Karnat, Nayaki,Bageshri, Adana, Shahana, Mudrik, Gara, Huseini, Kafi Kanhra etc. The architect of modern Hindustani paddhati, Pandit Bhatkande, formalized the anga based classification of ragas and he codified a few types of angas in the process¹°:

  • Kafi ang – RRGGMMP is the motif and the ragas sharing it include Sindhura & Pilu
  • Kanhara ang – GMRS, NDNP and NPGM are the key motifs and ragas sharing it include Shahana, Adana, Durbari etc
  • Malhar ang – MRPm MPDs and DPM are the motifs with the ragas being Shuddha Malhar, Mian ki Malhar, Gaud Malhar etc
  • Sarang ang – NSR, MR, PR are the motifs and the ragas being Gaud Sarang, Madhmadh Sarang and Vrindavani sarang

Some of the other types include Dhanashree ang, Shree ang, Lalit ang and Gaud ang. Attention is invited to the motifs of the Kanhara/Kanada ang namely GMRS, MNDNP and NPGM which are seen in Kapi. Additionally the janta gandharas of the Kafi anga too merit attention in the context of our Kapi as it is seen as well.

Based on the raga lakshanas and notations that Subbarama Dikshitar gives in the SSP, one can see that this GMRS motif is shared by a host of ragas under the Sriraga mela namely Kapi, Durbar, Nayaki and Sahana. The raga Andhali though grouped under the Kedaragaula mela, shares a similar feature with the gandhara having morphed. The modern day Kanada and Phalamanjari ragas (though not featured in the SSP) sport the GMRS motif as well.

The anga as a musical aspect or a raga attribute has lost its relevance in modern Carnatic musicology. Emphasis on individual notes rather than murcchanas, sequential progression and alignment of the raga’s contour to its melakartha etc have taken roots at the expense of aesthetics and harmonics which were the only yardstick, one upon a time.  The anga aspect though a deprecated concept at this point in time, is a useful tool for us to assess the musical contours of Kapi and also to understand the evolutionary path it went through with its sibling ragas such Kanada, Sahana, Durbar etc.

One other music text (older than the SSP) that features the raga Kapi is the Sangeetha Sarvatha Sara Sangrahamu of Vina Ramanujayya published in the years 1859 and 1885 . There is a ragamala gitam given in the work( 1885) starting with the words ‘Karnata konkana’ which is set to 36 ragas each having a line of sahitya in one tala avartha of 10 beats (misra jhampa or catushra matya). Here the Kapi raga portion ( svara and sahitya ) is as under:

P   D   N   P   M   G  ,  G  ,  R

Ka………………………….pi

Two unique motifs are featured here namely the usage of PDNPM and janta gandhara which would give a Durbar effect to the Kapi.

SUMMARY of SSP’S RAGA LAKSHANA :

The melodic features of raga Kapi as featured in the SSP notation can be summarized as:

  1. The sequential descent such as sNDP is rare and instead sNPM can be used. So avarohana phrases can be sNPMGMRS, NPGMRS, NDNPMGRS or NDPGMRS
  2. Again PDNs is also rare and is dispensed with in favor of aroha phrases such as PDNPNs or PNDNs.
  3. Thus a straight SRGM and PDNs can be avoided and GMRS used in profusion along with DNP (as in PDNP or MPDNP or MNDNP) to establish a unique melodic identity much in line with the northern Kanhra/Kanada ang
  4. The dhirga gandhara, the janta gandhara or gandhara shaken with kampita gamaka and the nishada which is intoned uniquely as in NPG are hallmarks of this Kapi  which again are the key components of the Kanhra/Kanada anga.

For Subbarama Dikshitar, the raga name is only Kapi. Given the evolution that it underwent and to identify its old form, the term Karnataka Kapi was probably coined during the early/mid 20th century to commonly denote all upanga versions.

The above summary provides us with some practical insights about this raga and also gives us clues as to why this form of Kapi has virtually become extinct. Before we look at that, let us look at what some experts/authorities had to say on the raga lakshana of Kapi.

THE COMMENTARY ON KAPI BY MUSICOLOGISTS/AUTHORITIES:

Four documented authorities pertaining to raga Kapi’s lakshana, one of Prof Sambamoorthi, on of Dr T S Ramakrishnan and two instances from the proceedings of the Music Academy discussions are available to us.

THE ACCOUNT OF PROF SAMBAMOORTHI⁷:

According to him, in the lakshya of Karnatic music, we have three varieties of Kapi.

  1. First is the pure/old Kapi or Karnataka Kapi, immortalized by Kshetrayya in his padas, by Tyagaraja in his piece ‘Cuta murare (Nowka Caritram) and other songs and by Syama Sastri in ‘Akhilandesvari’. This Kapi, in modern day parlance is upanga, meaning it inherits only the svaras of its parent mela Kharaharapriya/Sriraga.
  2. Apart from this upanga Kapi, there is another upanga Kapi which is evidenced by the tillana ‘udharana dhim’, which is a composition of Pallavi Sesha Iyer (1842-1909). This type of Kapi has srmpns-sndnpmgrs as its arohana/avarohana with Mmp as a visesha prayoga. The kriti ‘Manamohana syamala rama’ is another example of this upanga Kapi. These two type of Kapi’s do not take anya svaras namely antara gandhara, kakali nishada or suddha dhaivatha.
  3. The third/last type is the bhashanga type made familiar to us by javalis like ‘Vaddani ne’. This bhashanga Kapi is also known today as Hindustani Kapi, Desya Kapi or Misra Kapi. Prof Sambamoorthi further adds that the current tunes (incorporating these anya svaras) of the compositions “Meevalla gunadosha” and ‘Intasoukya” are 20th century innovations.

Prof Sambamoorthi’s observations are exceedingly in line with the forms of Kapi that one encounters in practice. But he seems to have overlooked the version as documented in the SSP including the kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

THE ACCOUNT OF DR T S RAMAKRISHNAN

Dr T S Ramakrishnan, a past member of the Experts Commitee of the Music Academy and acknowledged authority of the Venkatamakhi sampradaya and the SSP, in a lecture demonstration in the Music Academy had this to say when he discussed the position of Sriraga as the 22nd Mela in the Asampurna mela scheme.

The raga Kapi, a rakti raga, would have been perhaps more apt as the ragaanga raga for this 22nd mela, but it had the bashanga tinge and hence could not represent the mela. Even before Venkatamakhin’s days, this raga Kapi , being really the same as our present day popular and major raga Kharaharapriya, had migrated to the North, where it was considered as a ‘thaat’, in their system of music. Later it came back to us with its Northern hue as our modern day Kapi ( with an intermediate stage as our Rudrapriya- It may be noted that Rudrapriya is Harapriya) with pronounced bhashanga features. Venkatamakhin has a lakshya gita for this raga Kapi , which when rendered , sounds entirely like our present day mela raga Kharaharapriya, with no difference whatsoever in its raga picture. Venkatamakhin considered this Kapi as a bhashanga janya under the 22nd mela and has given its name accordingly in the bhashanga khanda of the lakshana gita for the ragaanga raga Sriraga.

THE ACCOUNT OF THE EXPERTS COMMITTEE OF THE MUSIC ACADEMY:

The Experts Committee of the Music Academy does not seem to have discussed individually the lakshana of this raga and its evolution in detail. We have two instances however where in relation to proceedings of related ragas or presentation of rare kritis, the ragas has been discussed.

First is the one when during the 1967 Music Academy session on 24th December of that year, Vidvan Salem D Chellam Iyengar presented 3 rare kritis of Tyagaraja as learnt by his father, the late Salem Doraisvami Iyengar from the legendary Pooci Srinivasa Iyengar. Vidvan Chellam Iyengar presented ‘Anyayamu Seyakura’ in Karnataka Kapi devoid of anya svara kakali nishada. Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer referred to the controversial nature of the raga of this composition and his own patham according to the Umayalpuram school which featured kakali nishada.

One can take note of the fact that the compositions of Tyagaraja in the raga Karnataka Kapi are today either rendered in Durbar or in the modern form of Kapi with anya svaras. The commentary of Subbarama Dikshitar and the assertion of Prof Sambamoorthi also substantiate this point.

EXPERTS COMMITTEE DISCUSSION ON THE RAGA KAPI⁵:

During the Expert Committee Meeting held during the Music Academy Session in the year 2008, the raga lakshanas of a set of allied ragas including that of Kapi had been discussed and the same has been collated & presented by Expert Committee member Dr N Ramanathan. The raga lakshana of  four allied ragas Rudrapriya, Karnataka Kapi, Darbar and Kanada were discussed by the Experts panel consisting of Vidvan Chinglepet Ranganathan, Vidushi Suguna Purushothaman, Dr Ritha Rajan, Dr R S Jayalakshmi apart from Dr N Ramanathan. The Academy’s Expert Committee had in the past discussed the raga lakshana of all the other ragas in this set namely Rudrapriya, Durbar and Kanada and had also prescribed the arohana/avarohana of these ragas, but not of Kapi.

The following facts are available to us from the discussions as documented in the Academy’s Journal of the year 2009.

  1. According to Dr Ramanathan, K V Srinivasa Iyengar has documented Kapi with the use of kakali nishada but use of antara gandhara has not been mentioned by him. According to him the song ‘Anyayamu seyakura’ is in this form of Kapi and he also observes that some render this composition in Durbar.
  2. According to the Umayalpuram sishya parampara of Tyagaraja, the compositions ‘Anyayamu seyakura’, “edi ni bahubala’ and ‘cutamu rare’ have shades of both Kanada and Durbar without any resemblance of Hindustani Kapi.
  3. According to Dr Ritha Rajan, the Tyagaraja composition ‘Nitya rupa’ was rendered by Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan in Durbar. Additionally Rangaramanuja Iyengar has documented two versions of the composition, one in raga Kapi and the other in Durbar. Further the compositions ‘Naradagurusvami’ and ‘Edi ni bahubala’ exists both in Kapi and Durbar.
  4. The Nauka caritra composition “cutamu rare” when sung as notated, has shades of Durbar.
  5. In general, the Dikshitar school version of Kapi had shades of Kanada with the usage of the phrase ‘sNPMGMRS’, while the compositions of Tyagaraja has shades of Durbar with usage of phrases such as ‘sNsD,PMP,G,MRS’
  6. From a raga chaya perspective, the raga Rudrapriya is closer to Hindustani Kapi than Karnataka Kapi.

While Prof Sambamoorthi’s account ignored the Dikshitar treatment of the raga, the Academy Experts Committee in its deliberations do not seem to have considered the version of Kapi as envisaged in the Svati Tirunal composition ‘Sumasayaka’ and in the compositions of the Tanjore Quartet.

SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE THIS FAR:

Using these data sets to crystallize our understanding, one can divine at least four forms of Kapi, rather than the three forms that Prof Sambamoorthi documents in his account. The four such flavors of Kapi are:

1: This old version or Karnataka Kapi as it is now called profusely uses GMRS along with kampita gamaka ornamented gandhara.The Dikshitar manipravala classic “Venkatachalapate” found documented in the SSP is an example of this flavor. This form is more aligned to modern day Kanada which as a scale goes as SRGMDNs or SRPGMDNs/sNPMGMRS. This flavor of Kapi is completely extinct and the sole surviving example to us is the Dikshitar composition. Any other older kritis in this form of Kapi has been normalized to Kanada. In the context of this statement we need to evaluate the raga lakshana as found in the kritis attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar, not found in the SSP but published subsequently by Vidvan Sundaram Iyer. See foot note 2.

One other kriti with this flavor which survives today may probably be Svati Tirunal’s composition ‘Sambho Satatam’. As we will see later the melodic fabric of this kriti is different from that of his other composition, the cauka varna ‘Sumasayaka’. The notation of ‘Sambo Satatam’ reveals a profusion of GMRS and a near sequential svara progression. It may be noted that we have Svati Tirunal’s compositions in 3 flavors of Kapi.

2: This flavor of Kapi has lot of janta gandhara with GGRS as leitmotif and features a near sequential svara progression. Flavor 2 Kapi shares nearly the same melodic structure as that of modern day Durbar. In fact, many modern musicologists believe that many of Tyagaraja’s Kapi compositions were normalized to be rendered in Durbar. An example is the composition ‘Nityarupa’. One can also surmise that the GMRS prayoga of flavor 1 Kapi morphed as GGRS to produce this flavor. The GMRS connection between Durbar and Kapi is also seen in the notation of the Dikshitar’s Durbar composition “Tyagarajad anyam najaneham” as found in the SSP. A version of the Syama Sastri composition ‘Akhilandesvari durusuga’ is rendered in this flavor . Tyagaraja’s Nauka Caritra composition is an other example of this flavor.

There is also a hybrid of flavor 1 and 2 as well, having both the GMRS and the GGRS giving both the Kanada and the Durbar effect. Versions of the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Anyayamu Seyakura’ is an example.

3: This flavor of Kapi is bereft of the prayogas GGRS or GMRS. Instead, it has a profusion of gandhara with an elongated kampita gamaka and characterized by the arohana/avarohana of SRMPNs/sNDNPMGRS. This Kapi is not much in currency and is rarely encountered in concert circuits. The pada varna “Sumasayaka”, the Quartet kriti ‘Sri Mahadevuni” and the Chinnayya tillana in this raga are excellent examples of this type of Kapi. The Music Academy Experts Committee Discussion of the year 2008, presented above had discussed flavor 1 and 2 in detail but not this flavor. This is the type of upanga Kapi that Prof Sambamoorthi has referred to in his commentary given above, with the Pallavi Sesha Iyer tillana as an example. It is indeed our loss that we hardly look upon the compositions of the Quartet as authority for raga lakshana. The Kapi in this flavor is found in the following Quartet compositions:

  1. Kriti ‘Sri Mahadevuni’ – On Goddesses Brihannayaki of Tanjore
  2. Javali ‘Elara Naapai’
  3. Tillana ‘Dheem nadru dheem’ on King Camaraja Wodeyar of Mysore
  4. Cauka varna ‘Sarasala ninnu’ on Lord Brihadeesvara ( the varna is almost similar to the Svati Tirunal pada varna ‘Sumasayaka’)

4: The Kapi which sports additionally the anya svaras namely antara gandhara and/or kakali nishada with or without suddha dhaivatha, which is the modern day Kapi. Examples are the javali Parulannamata and the  the Purandara dasa composition Jagadhodharana.

Curiously we have compositions of Svati Tirunal notated⁸ in 3 of the above flavors and rendered so as well. They are:

Flavor 1 : The kriti ‘Sambo Satatam’

Flavor 3 : The pada varna ‘Sumasayaka’

Flavor 4 : The kriti ‘Vihara Manasa rame’

Though one cannot say with certainty if they were indeed composed so, but the fact we have compositions so rendered is relevant to further our understanding of this raga and the flavors in which it existed. Vihara Manasa sports N3, G3 and D1 as well with N3 occurring in the prayogas such as sN3s while G3 occurs in prayogas like MG3M, MG3S and suddha dhaivatha is found in prayogas like PMD1P⁸.

Subbarama Dikshitar’s commentary in the SSP as to usage of kakali nishada and antara gandhara merits a mention here. According to him sN3PMP and DsN3PMP features kakali nishada while PMG3MR and MPG3MRS feature antara gandhara. Its at variance with what one sees in modern usage. Usage of sN3P or MPG3MRS would cast a different melodic color to Kapi¹.

Amongst the four flavors above, only flavor 4 is the bashanga form and the one which is the most popular today. Flavor 2 does not exist today in practice as it has lost itself to the melodic structure of Durbar in essence. Again save for the Dikshitar composition ‘Venkatachalapate’, flavor 1 type compositions do not exist for they are grouped off under Kanada. From a naming convention perspective, flavors 1, 2 & 3 are called as Karnataka Kapi and flavor 4 alone is either referred to as Kapi or more specifically as Hindustani Kapi.

The cause of Karnataka Kapi’s demise in its old form, the melodic overlap it has with allied ragas or rather its siblings and the evolution of this group of ragas can all be seen in the above categorization ( see Foot Note 1). We next move over to review renderings of the different flavors of Kapi.

DISCOGRAPHY:

Kapi – Flavor 1 or Karnataka Kapi:

On the authority of Subbarama Dikshitar, one can state that this flavor should have been/was the Kapi of yore, the Kapi handled by Sesha Iyyengar, Virabadrayya and others. We do not have authentic oral patantharam of these pre-trinity compositions save for those who might have learnt it from the SSP notation. We can with the evidence of Dikshitar’s composition take it for granted that this version of Kapi was the oldest of the lot and was conforming to the then sampradaya.  Presented first is the the kriti as rendered by Vidushi Kalpakam Svaminathan who learnt it first hand from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer.

Clip 1: Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan renders Dikshitar’s Venkatacalapate

The version presented by the veteran faithfully follows the notation in the SSP. The profusion of GMRS and the kampita gamaka on the gandhara in this old version of Kapi needs to be highlighted here. Also this composition stands out in several counts.

  1. This is probably Dikshitar’s only kriti with its sahitya being an admixture of Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil as documented in the SSP. We have two other kritis (one in Sriraga and the other again in Karnataka Kapi ) ‘Sri abhayambha’ brought out by Vidvan Sundaram Iyer and ‘Sri Maharajni’ brought out from the Tanjore Quartet manuscripts, being attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar.
  2. The raga name has been adroitly woven into the sahitya of the madhayama kala portion of the kriti as “dIna rakshakA pItAmbaraDhara deva deva guruguhan mAmanAna”, along with his own mudra.
  3. This composition is on the Lord Venkatachalapathi at the kshetra of Pulivalam, a few miles from Tiruvarur.

The kriti ‘Rangapate Pahi’ as notated in the SSP has been rendered after being normalized to Kanada and as well as to Durbar. The clipping below is an excerpt, being a Kanada version:

Clip 2: Vidushi Prema Rangarajan renders Rangapate

As pointed out earlier Svati Tirunal’s composition ‘Sambho Satatam’ is documented with a profusion of GMRS prayoga⁸. Let’s look at a rendering of this composition. Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer in this Navaratri Mantapam Concert from the 1970’s renders this composition

Clip 3: Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders ‘Sambho satatam’

One can notice that the GMRS is intoned with a muted madhyama in the prayoga and does not give the complete kAnadA effect that one will get with a strong intonation of the madhyama. Listeners may well compare this with the strong madhyama intonation in the GMRS prayoga of the Dikshitar composition particularly the sahitya line in the carana ‘seegramai vandhu’ which combines a kampita gamaka on the gandhara as well. Apart from the GMRS, another motif which is found in both the compositions is the phrase RP as in RPMP.

In this Music Academy concert of 1970, Sri Srinivasa Iyer renders this composition between 1:36: 40 and 1:41:06  I invite attention he makes at the fag end of his rendition at 1:41:07 – “This raga is called Karnataka Kapi and it is neither Durbar nor Kanada” in Tamil.

Here is another edition of the veteran, presenting the same composition, this time at the hallowed precincts of the Temple of Lord Padmanabha at Trivandrum from one of his innumerable Navaratri Mantapam Concerts

The entire concert can be heard here:

http://www.sangeethamshare.org/gvr/SSI_Concerts/SSI_Navarathri/

( Requires Google or Yahoo ID)

Kapi Flavor 2:

The Syama Sastri kriti ‘Akhilandesvari durusuga’ is rendered in both flavor 2 and flavor 4. The hybrid flavor having both Kanada and Durbar in Kapi is best exemplified by Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan’s presentation of the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Anyayamu Seyakura’. In this clipping below, the raga outline that he provides us ahead of the kriti conveys the melodic contours of the kriti to follow with the shades of both Kanada and Durbar.

Clip 4: Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan renders Anyayamu Seyakura

The contrast is provided by Vidvan Nedunuri Krishnamurthi, whose presentation of the same kriti is in modern Kapi.

Clip 5: Sangita Kalanidhi Nedunuri Krishnamurthi renders Anyayamu-seyakura-Kapi

As evidence of the morphing of flavor 2 Kapi to Durbar, the kriti ‘Nitya roopa’ of Tyagaraja is presented next, rendered by Smt Mythili Nagesvaran a votary of the Dhanammal school ( Jayammal ).

Clip 6 : Vidushi Mythili Nagesvaran renders Nityaroopa-Durbar

The presentation is very neatly done in modern Durbar, bereft of any trace whatsoever of Kapi.

Kapi Flavor 3:

The pada varna of Svati Tirunal’s ‘Sumasayaka’ is one of the best versions of this type of Kapi, characterized by SRMPNs/sNDNPMGRS and a dirgha gandhara. We do have some oral versions of this composition where tints of modern Kapi (flavor 4) are thrown in. There is also an equivalent composition that is with the same melodic setting but with telugu lyrics which is a creation of the Quartet being ‘sArasAlanu’. This pada varna starting with the sahitya ‘Sarasalanu’ has a few differences with ‘Sumasayaka’:

  1. The varna has sahitya for the muktayi svaras and for the ettugada svaras barring the last one , which like Sumasayaka is in a raga malika format. Sumasayaka does not have sahitya for the muktayi svaras and ettugada svaras.
  2. In terms of ordering of the carana ettugada svaras there seems to be a small change. The 2nd & 3rd ettugada sequences of ‘sumasayaka’ are reversed in ‘Sarasalanu’.
  3. While ‘Sumasayaka’ has Kalyani, Khamas, Vasanta and Mohanam as the ragamalika svaras for the last ettugada, the Quartet creation has Hamirkalyani, Chakravakam, Vasantha and Mohanam instead.
  4. The varna mettu of the varna is exactly the same as that ‘Sumasayaka’.
  5. While the ankita for Sumasayaka is ‘sarasijanabha’ in ‘Sarasala ninnu’ it is ‘brihadeesvara’

The essence of this type of Kapi is best encapsulated by the muktayi svara of Sumasayaka/Sarasalanu, which begins with the well oscillated gandhara.

Clip 6: Vocalists C Saroja & C Lalitha render the Sumasayaka-Muktayi svara

Presented below is the complete pada varna ‘sumasayaka’  by the scion of the Dhanammal family, Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda.

Clip 7: Smt T Brinda renders Sumasayaka-Karnatakakapi

Attention is invited to the oscillated gandhara which is the hallmark of this version and punctuated with prayogas such as PNDN, GRnS, PNsr and sNDNP. Attention is also invited to the intonation of the nishada as in the carana refrain where it appears as a svarakshara, “mAnInI hAtE hrt tApam”. As one can observe that the nishada is different from the one we find in Sriraga for example, to which clan, Kapi belongs to.

We next move over to the two other compositions of the Quartet namely the kriti ‘Sri Mahadevuni” composed on Goddess Brihannayaki of Tanjore and the tillana ‘Dheem Nadru dhim dhim” composed on King Chamarajendra of Mysore by Cinnayya of the Tanjore Quartet. Though we do not have renderings of these two compositions, the notations from the manuscripts have been published in the “Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai”⁹. The notations clearly bear out the fact that the Kapi is of flavor 3 with an operative arohana/avarohana SRMPNs/sNPMGRS with dhaivatha being vakra as in PNDNP, MNDNP and sNDNP. Gandhara is obviously kampita and is encountered in its dirgha variety. GMRS is not to be seen in this version. Sangita Kalanidhi Ponnayya Pillai while publishing the compositions has added the footnote that the composition has been structured skillfully avoiding the use of anya svara⁹.

In so far as flavor 4 of Kapi is concerned, the kritis pointed out elsewhere in this post features this form such as “Meevalla Guna dosha” or “Enna Tavam saidhanai” of Papanasam Sivan.

ALLIED RAGAS OF KAPI:

The ragas Sahana, Durbar, Nayaki and Kanada along with Phalamanjari  share a close melodic relationship to Karnataka Kapi. But from the standpoint of modern Kapi, the ragas Saindhavi and perhaps Salaga Bhairavi share a close affinity. In a followup post we will look at the comparison of these ragas.

CONCLUSION:

The raga Kapi and its evolution is an interesting study. The modern Kapi is most probably the final product of this long cycle of evolution. There does not seem to be any other raga with such different shades and implementations spanning centuries in our musical firmament. Interestingly in Hindustani Music, this raga/scale was considered the scale of suddha svaras and hence was given a pride of place and Rajan Parikkar’s take on the raga is a must read. One will find that his observation as to Kafi of Hindustani music would apply like a glove to Karnataka Kapi  or pehaps to the fourth/modern Kapi and I quote him verbatim, to conclude this blog post:

Kafi is accorded a great deal of latitude in the interest of ranjakatva.  In all kshudra ragas, ‘contamination’ on account of swaras not part of their intrinsic makeup is par for the course.  A ‘pure’ version of Kafi is seldom heard in performance; almost all instances fall to the Mishra Kafi lot.  With this understanding, here and in the ragas to follow, the explicit Mishra qualifier shall be dispensed with altogether.  Bear in mind that strict conformity to etiquette is not expected of kshudra ragas.”

REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Published by the Madras Music Academy
  2. Prof S R Janakiraman(2002)-‘Ragas at a Glance’- Published by Srishiti’s Carnatica P Ltd, Chennai
  3. Hema Ramanathan(2004)- ‘Raga Lakshana Sangraha’- Published by Dr N Ramanathan, Chennai, pages 662-665
  4. Dr S Sita (1993) – “The Raga Lakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja” -Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol LIV, pp 140-181, Madras India
  5. Dr N Ramanathan (2009)- “Ragas Rudrapriya, Karnataka Kapi, Kanada and Durbar- A Comparative Analysis”- Pages 103-114 Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol 80, 2009
  6. Subba Rao & S R Janakiraman(1993) – “Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta” published by the Music Academy, Chennai
  7. Prof S Sambamoorthi(1970)- ‘Pallavi Sesha Iyer” – Article in ‘The Hindu’ dated 27th Jul 1970
  8. Govinda Rao T K (2002)- ‘Compositions of Maharaja Svati Tirunal’ published by Ganamandir Publications, Chennai
  9. K P Sivanandam(1964) – ‘Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai’ – Compositions of the Tanjore Quartet, compiled by Sangita Kalanidhi T Ponnayya Pillai
  10. Sobhana Nayar (1989)- ‘Bhatkande’s Contribution to Music’ – Published by Popular Prakashan P Ltd, India  ISBN 0 86132 238X
  11. Dr T S Ramakrishnan(1972) – ‘Venkatamakhin’s 72 Mela Scheme’ – Journal of the Music Academy Vol XLIV Pages 24-26, 61-83

FOOT NOTE 1: How did Kapi go extinct – A Hypothesis

During the period of 1600’s to late 1700’s, flavor 1 of Kapi held sway as evidenced by the kritis of Sesha Iyyengar, Virabadrayya and Srinivasayya. Flavor 2 perhaps coexisted into the late 1700’s.  Despite being a famous sampurna raga then, it could not qualify as a raganga given the presence of Sriraga and it had to stay put under that clan.

Circa 1800- However with the onset of the 19th century, this Karnataka Kapi stood imperiled. Two new ragas were appearing on the horizon which proved life threatening. Probably by early 1800 – Kanada had started gaining ground. One can consider the evidence of the 2 Tyagaraja compositions namely Sukhi Evvaro and Sri Narada in Kanada. The period of 1800-1830 was perhaps marked by both the old Kapi and Kanada co-existing as evidenced by the kritis of Tyagaraja and of Dikshitar. Given Kanada’s dominance, flavor 1 Kapi probably cast off GMRS and morphed off into flavor 3 Kapi. The flavor 2 Kapi too went into oblivion as it could not sustain its melodic identity against the might of the Durbar. Durbar too sported GMRS and over the 1800’s, its GMRS morphed into GGRS, spelling the death knell for the flavor 2 Kapi.

In so far as the more traditional flavor 1 Kapi, Muthusvami Dikshitar or Svati Tirunal were perhaps the last to compose in this form of Kapi. One can even surmise that by that time (early 1800’s) it was on the verge of extinction and Dikshitar had attempted to resurrect it.

Flavor 3 Kapi derived out of the remnants of flavor 1 managed to survive between the 1800-1850 as evidenced by compositions of Svati Tirunal and the Quartet. The 1800’s also marked the rise of Kharaharapriya the full blown heptatonic melakartha, driven by the emergence of the Sangraha Cudamani and Tyagaraja’s prolific treatment of this raga through his kritis. And to Kharaharapriya, Kapi had to cede its scalar structure which resulted in Kapi losing almost all its melodic identity. Tyagaraja having composed in Kanada and Kharaharapriya might have composed in the old Kapi as well. We do have versions of kritis like Anyayamu Seyakura which is rendered both in Karnataka Kapi (flavor 1 or 3) and in modern Kapi or flavor 4.

The emergence of Kanada and Kharaharapriya meant that even the surviving flavor 3 Kapi had to go as it had little by way of melodic individuality to survive on its own. And so it went on to acquire 3 anya svaras namely kakali nishada followed by antara gandhara and suddha dhaivatha. The modern Kapi had now emerged ( by the latter half of the 19th century) from the skeletal remains of flavor 3 Kapi and today it exists ain a form much different to what it was once upon a time.

The life cycle that Karnataka Kapi underwent was probably also tied with the parallel evolution of the modern forms of the ragas Sahana, Durbar, Nayaki and Andhali. All of these ragas were at one point in time siblings along with Kapi under the Sriraga mela, sharing the motif GMRS and unique gandhara with kampita gamaka. They underwent a skeleton wracking transformation:

  1. Sahana gave up its sadharana gandhara, acquired a full blown antara gandhara with the result that it moved from the Sriraga clan into the Harikambodi/Kedaragaula melakartha/clan. As evidenced by the SSP, one can see that Sahana as captured by Subbarama Dikshitar sported both the gandharas and given the dominance of sadharana gandhara it was placed under the Sriraga mela. The notation of the kritis “vasi vasi” of Ramasvami Dikshitar, ‘Sri Kamalabikayam” of Muthusvami Dikshitar and the tana varna “Varijakshi” of Subbarama Dikshitar can be cited as concrete examples of the older Sahana.
  2. Durbar gave up its GMRS, acquired full ownership of the GGRS. The notation of the Dikshitar composition ‘Tyagarajad anyam najaneham” and that of Kuppusvami Ayya’s kriti ‘Sri venkatesvaruni’ found in the SSP and anubandha respectively can be cited as evidence for the older form of Durbar sporting GMRS.
  3. Nayaki too gave up GMRS and in lieu acquired an exclusive RGRS. The notation of the Dikshitar composition “Ranganayakam” and that of Tyagaraja’s ‘Dayaleni’ as found in SSP are evidences to this effect.
  4. Andhali which was during the times of Venkatamakhi under Sriraga mela, gave up its sadharana gandhara and moved to Kedaragaula mela. The notation of the Dikshitar kriti “Brihannayaki varadayaki” and the rendering of the kriti with sadharana gandhara by Smt T Brinda can be cited as authority for this. This has been discussed in an earlier blog post.

FOOT NOTE 2: Dikshitar’s 3 other kritis published by Sundaram Iyer

We have three more kritis in Kanada attributed to Dikshitar and published by Sundaram Iyer subsequently. They are ‘Veera Hanumate’, ‘Vishveshvaro’ and ‘Balambikaya param nahire’. This apart we have a kriti again in an admixture of Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil starting as ‘Sri Maharajni’ which was discovered in the manuscripts of the Tanjore Quartet and published subsequently.  The notations of the three compositions as published by Sundaram Iyer and their popular renderings seem to be aligned to modern Kanada rather than the Kapi documented in the SSP. It is indeed debatable whether Dikshitar composed in Kanada given that the raga is not found indexed in the Anubandha to the CDP and Subbarama Dikshitar too hasn’t given the raga in his SSP (though he mentions of a raga called Kanhra, which had gone out of vogue). Also in one of Sundaram Iyer’s publication it’s given that the raga name Kapi is synonymous with Kanada itself without any authority. A similar such reference is found in the Kritimanimalai of Rangaramanuja Iyengar.

In this section we take up just two of the kritis namely ‘Vishveshvaro Rakshatumam’ and ‘Balambikaya’.

The kriti “Vishveshvaro Rakshatumam” has most of its sahitya/lyric mirroring the Samavarali kriti of Dikshitar, “Brihadeesvaro’ documented in the SSP, making us look at this attribution with suspicion. Parking this issue aside ,we take a look at the presentation of this composition by Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. In this undated concert he prefaces this so called samashti carana composition with an alapana and follows up with a few rounds of svaras. The interpretation in full has Kanada all over it.

Clip 8 :  Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srivasa Iyer renders Vishveshvaro-Kanada

Vidushi Raji Gopalakrishnan renders the composition, “bAlAmbikAyA param nahIrE” in an AIR Navaratri Concert broadcast from the year 2007, accompanied by Vid Usha Rajagopalan on the violin, Vid Tanjavur Kumar on the mridangam and Vid Raman on the morsing

Clip 9 : Vidushi Raji Gopalakrishnan renders Balambikaayah-Kanada

Again the melodic material of this composition is all but modern Kanada. Both these compositions do not feature the raga mudra but sport the ankita ‘guruguha’.

Credits/Acknowledgements:

The clippings in this blog post have been used for purely educational purpose as illustration only and all copyrights therein lies with the performers or the music distributors.

CompositionAppreciation, History, Raga

‘tyAgarAjEna samrakshitOhaM’ in Salagabhairavi – A Critical Appreciation

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Prologue:

prAthasmArami girijAnkitha vAmabhAgham

bakthAnusaktha hrudayam hrutha-daksa yAgam |

vAthAshanArchita padAmbuja mUrdhnibhAgam

 vandhArupOshamanisham sahajAnurAgam ||

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

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

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

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

Overview of the lakshana of Salagabhairavi:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following conclusions would flow forth from the SSP Commentary:

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

               ‘shrIrAga mEla sambhUthO ragaH sAlagabhairavI |

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

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

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

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

Analysis of ‘Tyagarajena Samrakshitoham”:

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

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

S R2 G2 M1 P D2 P S

S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S

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

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

Discography:

The version of a violinist:

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

Audio of the above rendering

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

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

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

Other interpretations:

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

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

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

(Would require Yahoo/Google ID for Log In)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue:

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

References:

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

Safe Harbour Statement

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

History, Manuscripts, Raga

Colorful Bhasanga-s – Rudrapriya – Part I

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The colourful nature of the bhāṣāṅga rāga-s, their ability to be used flexibly according to the intent of a composer were explained in an introductory article on these rāga-s. In this article, we will be venturing into Rudrapriyā, a representative of the bhāṣāṅga clan.

Rudrapriyā is not a very popular rāga though few can reconcile this rāga and relate it with the kṛti ‘amba paradēvatē’. But Rudrapriyā was very popular once and we do have a significant number of compositions to analyse this rāga.

Rudrapriyā – A bhāṣāṅga

The first treatise to elaborate this rāga is Saṅgita Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and Rudrapiyā is introduced as a dēśīya, bhāṣāṅga  janya of the rāgāṅga rāga Śrī and takes the svara-s therein. Though the given mūrcana is SRGMPDNS – SNPMGRS, this is really a grand rāga and use various phrases outside the given mūrcana. In fact, Rudrapiyā cannot be conceived with this scale alone and can be considered akin to Kharaharapriyā. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar also says antara gāndhāra is employed in some places where the phrase MGM occurs and this Rudrapriyā is called as Hindustani Kāpi. We can infer two points from this valuable statement:

  1. Antara gāndhāra do not or need not necessarily feature in all the places wherein the phrase MGM occurs. MGM with antara gāndhāra is used only by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, that too only once in his sañcāri. This was the hypothesis proposed in our previous article; use of a svara not seen in the parent scale in a bhāṣāṅga is an option!!
  2. A rāga is given two different names based on the presence or absence of a svara.  The necessity to employ two names for a single rāga is not known. Does Subbarāma Dīkṣitar mean to say Rudrapriyā (Rudrapriyā is a dēśīya rāga is to be remembered) was used in some other regions with antara gāndhāra, wherein it was called as Hindustani Kāpi ? Anyways this is a very clear indication that this rāga was called by more than one name. This point will be elaborated later.

Compositions in Rudrapriyā

The mystical nature of this rāga does not end only with its bhāsāṅga nature. The way it was handed by various composers is equally intriguing. Before proceeding to analyse the lakṣaṇa of this rāga, let us acquaint with the available compositions.

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives the following compositions notated in his treatise in addition to his own sañcāri.

Rudra kōpa – Rūpakam – Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Vaḷḷī dēvasēnāpati – Rūpakam – Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar

Nīvē raśika śhikāmaṇi – Ādhi – Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar

Amba paradēvatē – Maṭya cāpu – Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya – Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

Murugāvunai nambinēn – Rūpakam – Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Mahārāja

Enduku rā rā – Rūpakam – Subbarāma Dīkṣitar (occurs as a small segment in this rāgamālika)

For the kṛti ambā paradēvatē, both Śrī Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya and Śrī Subbarāma Dīkṣitar are to be given the credit. Whereas the former has written the lyrics, the latter tuned it. Since we are concerned with music, only Subbarāma Dīkṣitar will be associated with this kṛti henceforth.

In the anubandham of the same treatise, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives two more kṛti-s, named as Rudrapriyā but with a different rāga lakṣaṇa:

Gaṇanāyakam – Catusra Ēkam – Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Tyāgeśam bhajarē – Ādhi – Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Since the last two compositions differ considerably from the rest, they will be covered separately in two subsequent articles. We will be analysing only the main Rudrapriyā here.

Apart from those mentioned, three other compositions are attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar:

Śivakāyārohanēśaya – Rūpakam

Śri tyāgarājasya bhakto bhavāmi – Misra capu / Triputa

Parāśakthim bhajarē – Ādhi

These Non – Pradarśini kṛti-s require special attention and they too will not be covered here.

Antiquity of Rudrapriyā

Only the Dīkṣitar tribe has handled this rāga is clearly fathomable from the above discussion (Eṭṭappa Mahārāja, the composer of Tamiz kṛti was also a disciple of Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar).  Apart from the kṛti-s, we do not find any gīta in this rāga (gīta–s are usually given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar to demonstrate old phrases in a rāga). Also, there is a conspicuous absence of a kṛti by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar. This rāga was not even included by Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar in any of his rāgamālika-s. These, along with the fact of not seeing this rāga in any of the earlier lakṣana grantha-s might make us to surmise this is a relatively a new rāga which must have come into circulation around 18th century. But, what is the reality?

It is to be remembered, absence of a rāga in the lakṣana grantha-s do not demote antiquity of a rāga. These treatises are not comprehensive in cataloging the rāga-s prevalent when they were written (also see the related discussion here). The information given in these treatises are to be conjunctively analysed with the available compositions to date a rāga.  The following evidence show the perspicuous presence of this rāga even before the arrival of the mentioned kṛti-s.

Dakśiṇāśāsyam gurum vandē

This is a composition of Śrī Bhadrācalam Rāmadāsu (1620-1680) in the rāga Rudrapriyā. It is very surprising to see a composition on Dakśiṇāmūrti by Rāmadāsu. But worshiping Dakśiṇāmūrti is an integral part of Bhajana saṃpradāya and this kṛti could have been used to invoke Him in his daily bhajana. This kṛti, to the best knowledge of this author is not in circulation and this is the only version available.

This is more like a divyanama kīrtanam with a pallavi and multiple caraṇā-s. All the caraṇā-s have the same melodic structure. The melodic structure is much simple and devoid of any decorative saṅgati-s, characteristic of any old version. Rudrapriyā portrayed here highly confirms with the mūrcana mentioned earlier excluding two significant signature phrases, SDNP and SNDNP which transgress the mūrcana mentioned proving it a non-scalar rāga. 

Interestingly, Māṅcāla Jagannatha Rao, who gave us this version make a note that this is also called as Śuddha Kāpi. We request to reiterate the point mentioned earlier; this rāga had multiple names !!

The following two evidences additionally prove the existence of this rāga during 18th century.

Ambā kṛupai tandu

This is a composition of Śrī Mazavai Cidambara Bhārathi who lived in early part of the19th century. He is said to be a contemporary of Kavikuñjara Bhārathi, whose period is said to be between 1810 and 1896.

This kṛti can be seen in the book published by The Music Academy, but labelled as a different raga – Karnāṭaka Kāpi !! Perhaps, this name could have been in common use and a variant of this rāga with antara gāndharam was called as Hindustani Kāpi. Subbarāma Dikṣitar having been aware of this polyonymy (especially Karnāṭaka Kāpi) gives us the variant name alone. This is extremely possible, as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar was proud of his heritage and he must have felt this rāga is to be named as Rudrapriyā as Vēṅkaṭamakhī followed this nomenclature (in the treatise that was available to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar). Our doubt gets more validated if we observe the fact that the kṛti ‘rudra kōpa’ by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar lacks the rāga mudra Rudrapriyā!!

The rāga portrayed here is exactly like Rudrapriyā sans two phrases – SNDNM and SDP. The phrase SNDNM occur in the beginning of this kṛti as seen below:

sa    n    da  n   m    m   ga    r      ri    s    r     g  I m ; ; r g I s   ri    m  pa ni ri II

am…….baa….. krupai.. tan..dhu..rak.shi yiyam    yo…ga   ga na..yi..ke..jaga

                                        Svara-s in bold denote tāra sthāyi

SNDNM is replaced by SNDPM in the second saṅgati. This phrase was an original construction or a printing error is not to be identified. Though SNDNM appears odd, a similar phrase PDNM is there in the Rudrapriyā segment, seen in the rāgamālika of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. The phrase SDP is found nowhere in the compositions notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar; rather, it is seen in the kṛti by Rāmadāsu. This is an allowed phrase and not used by Dīkṣitar Quartette or is a corrupt phrase that occurred due to the passage of time or a printing error cannot be ascertained.

Sāmaja gamana

This is a hitherto unknown svarajati composed in the rāgam Karnāṭaka Kāpi. It is seen in a manuscript whose authorship too is not traceable. This is composed in the style of Svarajati-s composed by Śrī Śyāma Śāstri. This has a pallavi and four caraṇā-s. Predominant phrases seen include ṠNDNP, ṠNPM, NGR and ṠNPṠNPM. It very well corresponds with the rāga lakṣaṇa described above excluding a single phrase MNDPM.

From the above discussion it is unquestionable that Rudrapriyā was indeed a very old rāga. More importantly, it must have been called by various names at different part of this country.

The structure of Rudrapriyā and its possible relationship with Karnāṭaka Kāpi

Though the lineage is same for all the Dīkṣitar members, each one has carved their own style in approaching a rāga. This is explicitly seen in the rāga-s which are bestowed with a composition from more than one Dīkṣitar. Rudrapriyā is one such and this heterogeneity is seen its full glory here. The main feature of Rudrapriyā will be described in brief, which will be followed by a discussion on their individual style.

Striking features of Rudrapriyā

As mentioned earlier, a broad picture about this rāga is given only by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and the compositions therein are lexicons to understand this rāga in its full grandeur. This rāga has many unique features to distinguish it from its saṃpūrṇa allies like Kharaharapriya and Kāpi (the old one) which can be grasped by learning and analysing these compositions.  

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar says niṣādha, gāndhāra, madhyamaṃ and riṣabha are the pivotal svara-s. Compositions start or end only with one of these svara-s. There is a profuse use of janṭa niṣādha and gāndhāra. With this idea let us analyse the individual compositions. When the compositions are analysed, there are some important prayōga-s which traduce the mūrcana given, like SDNP, SNDNP, DNDNP, SRM and SMGM. Apart from this, plenty of dhāṭṭu prayōga-s like MGNPGR, GDGN can be seen. All these prayōga-s, are unanimously used in all the sthāyi-s, unlike Rītigaula wherein the phrase NPNNS is used only in the mandra sthāyi.

Rudra kōpa of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

This kṛti-s follows the lakṣana mentioned above. The āvarta-s start only with the above mentioned four pivotal svara-s apart from sadja and pañcama. Janṭa ṛṣabha as GRR is more commonly used other janta niṣādha and gāndhāra. We see dhāṭṭu prayōga-s like MGNPGR. In all these aspects, we see similar handling of this rāga among the Dīkṣitar Trio.

The differences seen are as below:

  1. The use of janṭa svara is much less than that used by Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar. Also, the gamakam used for these janṭa svara-s are different. Apart from spuritam, we also find kampitam and nokku for these janṭa svara-s.
  2. The predominant avarōhaṇa phrase in this kṛti is SDNP and SNP. We never get to see the phrase SNDNP. Though a composer is not expected to use all the phrases to visualise his rāga, certain phrases become important as either they define a rāga or has been by all the composers whomsoever has handled that rāga. SNDNP, being such an important phrase can be in the kṛti-s of Rāmadāsu, Cidambara Bharati, Bālasvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. It is surprising that this was not used in this kṛti.
  3. To compensate for the phrase SNDNP, we find a new phrase seen in this kṛti – MN(N)G. This occur twice, first in bhadrakāli and second in mālikā, both in anupallavi. This phrase is not seen in any of the compositions mentioned above, inclusive of the kṛti-s of Rāmadāsu and Cidambara Bharati. This phrase reminisce the composition ‘suma sāyaka’ of Svāti Tirunāḷ. The first text to publish this Kṛti with notation is Bālāmṛtam by S Raṅganātha Ayyar. He mention the rāga of this varṇam as Kāpi. The present version has plenty of ṠNP, ṠNDNP, NRG which all feature in Rudrapriyā. On the other hand, these are not found in the old Kāpi. The old Kāpi is now living through the compositions of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and other Pre-Trinity composers notated in Pradarśini. We too have Vālājapeṭṭai manuscripts giving the compositions of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ in this rāgaṃ (the kṛti-s of Svāmigaḷ that we commonly hear in the rāga Kāpi were all mutated and mutilated in the last century). Interestingly this phrase MNG is not seen in any of the old Kāpi compositions. All these might make us to surmise Rudrapriyā could have been alternatively called as Karṇāṭaka Kāpi in the past (along with its other known and unknown names). We are now left with another question – the reason for not seeing this phrase in the composition of other composers. We can exclude the compositions of Rāmadāsu and Cidambara Bharati, as they are small kṛti-s. But, not seeing even in magnificent edifices of Bālasvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is absorbing.

A vocal interpretation of the textual representation of this kṛti given in the treatise Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī is attempted to the best abilities of this author. The readers are invited to observe unique phrases like MNGG, GRR, ṠNP and ṠDNP (see Footnote 1).

Vaḷḷī dēvasēnāpati and Nīvē raśikhāmaṇi of Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar

The kṛti ‘nīvē raśikhāmaṇi’ could have been one of the initial compositions of Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar on Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Maharāja. The kṛti ‘vaḷḷī dēvasēnāpati’ is unique in that it is one of the three compositions composed by Bālasvāmy on Kazugumalai Subraḥmaṇya Svāmi. Rest of his compositions were all on various Maharāja-s of Eṭṭayapuram.  

These two kṛti-s are better exemplars, even more than the ‘rudra kōpa’ of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Plenty of janṭa gāndhāra and niṣadha can be seen in these kṛti-s. Here the janṭa svara-s are handled predominantly with the spurita gamakam. The predominant avarōhaṇa phrases are PDNDP, PDNDNDP, ṠDNP, ṠNDNP and ṠNDNṠ (the last two phrases are absent in ‘rudra kōpa’). We also find phrases SMGM, GRR, NG and NR, PDNS (in mandra sthāyi). All these phrases give a wholesome structure covering an entire gamut of this rāga. Rudrapriyā flows through the dhāṭṭu prayōga-s and the ciṭṭa svaram affixed to the kṛti ‘nīvē raśikhāmaṇi’ is captivating. The third āvarta goes as NṠṘN GNDN MGNP GR with plenty of three-s. Also, ṠṘĠṀ can be noted.

The kṛti nīvē raśikhāmaṇi interpreted from the treatise of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can be heard here.

Murugāvunai nambinēn of Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Mahārāja          

This is much in line with the other kṛti-s and uses some special phrases used like ṘDD. Also, extreme importance is given to riṣabham as a jīva svaram. This was composed by Jagadvīra Rāma Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭappa Mahārāja who ruled between 1853 and 1858.

Ambā paradēvatē and Enduku rā rā of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar

The rāga approach by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar can be considered as a combination of both Muddusvāmy and Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar. Whereas we find almost all the prayōga-s used by Bālasvāmy in these two compositions, we also find some phrases like PDP, PNṠ, ṘDD and PDNM which are not seen in the compositions of Bālasvāmy. Though the janṭa svara prayōga-s are more seen in this kṛti when compared to that of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, it is certainly lesser than what is seen in the works of  Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar.

The ciṭṭa svara segment attached to this kṛti is very unique and displays the craftsmanship of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. It runs for 32 āvarta-s and every āvarta starts with ṛṣabham. This 32 āvarta svara segment composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is much different from the abridged version that we hear today and it is a question to ponder on the composer of this abridged version. Also, the manōdharma that we hear frequently only display the scalar Rudrapriyā. Though we enjoy the modern versions and are equally pleasant to hear, these old tunes conceived by the composer are to be at least archived as they not only serve as an example to understand the rāga conceived by the composer, they also teach us the svarūpa of the rāga extant during their times. Here, the various ways in which the jīva svara ṛṣabham can be employed in various ways is demonstrated. These can be adopted by us to resurrect the rāga Rudrapriya, rather than following the scale.

The presence of the phrase ṘDD along with an importance given to ṛṣabham makes us to understand the influence of Vēṅkaṭēśvara Eṭṭapa Mahārāja on Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.

Conclusion

Rudrapriyā, a grand rāga of the past is mainly characterised by janṭa and dhāṭṭu prayōga-s. This rāga has very many phrases outside the prescribed mūrcana and only an untainted version of the kṛti-s preserved by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and from other older/original versions help us to understand this rāga. The kṛti-s of Bālasvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar epitomize this rāga more than even the mentioned kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Sadly, the rāga portrayed in majority of the versions that we hear today is mainly scalar and fail to project the beauty of this rāga in its full capacity.

Unlike Rītigaula, the phrases in this rāga are not sthāyi specific – all the phrases occur in all the octaves.The name Rudrapriyā could have been in circulation only with the family of Dīkṣitar and this rāga could have been called by multiple names in the past. Perhaps, Subbarāma Dīkṣitar could have been the single person endorsing this name. The rāga Kārnāṭaka Kāpi mentioned in various texts could be this Rudrapriyā and we need to search for original versions to get a clear picture.

This also highlight the importance of collecting the manuscripts preserved at various places to understand rāga-s of the past.

References

Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī, Vidyavilasini Press, 1904.

Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī – Tamiz edition published by The Music Academy.

Mazavai Cidambara Bhārati Pādalgal. Edited by PC Sitarama Ayyar. Published by The Music Acedemy. This can be accessed in http://musicresearchlibrary.net/omeka/items/show/2713

Footnotes

Footnote 1 – Whereas the Tamiz edition of Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśinī read as ‘anuvadana’ in anupallavi, the original Telugu version read as ‘ajavadana’. This difference was overlooked by this author in his rendition. This is a mistake and is deeply regretted.