History

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.

History, Manuscripts, Notation, Personalities

Manuscripts in the possession of Sivakumar, a descendant of Tanjavur Quartette

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Our music was propagated by two routes – oral and textual. Though we have a textual history of approximately 150 years recording the compositions of prominent composers, the corpus of compositions recorded by this way cannot said to be complete. Also, many compositions exist only in paper as they are not extant in the oral tradition. The converse is also true. Despite this extensive recording, many compositions have not seen the light and remain only in manuscripts and are yet to be published.

Tanjōre Quartette or Tanjai Nālvar as they are fondly called, hail from a family of rich musical heritage with their father and grandfather adorning the court of Maraṭṭa Kings. Cinnaiah (1802), Ponniah (1804), Śivānandam (1808) and Vațivēlu (1810) were born to Subbarāya Naṭṭuvanār, who was delegated to perform musical rites in Tanjāvūr Bŗhadīsvara temple. They were prodigious even at their young age and learnt the basics from their father and grandfather Gaṅgaimuttu Naṭṭuvanār.  Later they had their advanced training from Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar for a period of 7.5 years under ‘gurukulavāsam’.

We do not have exact details regarding the period of their stay with Dīkṣitar. But it can be presumed, these events could have happened during 1810-1820. Nālvar being exceptional musicians and related to a family having a hoary tradition related to classical dance, turned their focus towards Sadir (as it was called) and created a mārgaṃ, which is still followed. They have authored innumerable kṛti-s, padam-s, varņam-s, jāvaỊi-s, rāgamālikā and tillanā-s. Their compositional style for kṛti-s considerably differs from their dance compositions. It is said Nālvar has recorded their compositions and uruppaḍi-s they have learnt from Dīkṣitar in palm-leaf and paper manuscripts.

This family has given us illustrious musician-composers like Sri K Ponniah Pillai, Veena Vidvan Sri KP Śivanandam, who belong to the sixth and seventh descendant respectively from Gaṅgaimuttu Naṭṭuvanār, through the lineage of Śivanandam (of Tanjai Nālvar). These members are not only involved in the transmission and propagation of the compositions of Nālvar, but also involved in the preservation of these manuscripts.

These manuscripts are now, in the possession of Sri Śivakumār, an eight generation descendant and a proficient Veena and Violin vidvān. It is due to the persevering effort of this family, some of the unpublished compositions of Nālvar saw the light.

Paper manuscripts

Śivakumar has, in his possession several bundles of paper and palm leaf manuscripts. Though the palm-leaf manuscripts are under good condition, paper manuscripts require immediate attention.

Of the paper manuscripts available, a segment of a manuscript replete with the kṛti-s of Tanjai Nālvar and Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar are considered now. Though, the report cannot be considered as complete, this can definitely give us an idea about the repertoire of Nālvar.

As with any other manuscripts written before the advent of standardized notations, notational style is primitive; lacks a mark to identify sthāyi, anya svaram and ending of an individual āvartanam. Also, these notations do not indicate about second and third speed. Rāga names too was not mentioned for many kṛti-s. Savingly, svarasthāna and the parent mēla of the rāga are given clearly alongside the notations.

The available material can be divided into three segments based on the composer:

  1. Kṛti-s of Nālvar
  2. Kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar
  3. Others
  1. Kṛti-s of Nālvar

In the section analyzed, Guru-navaratnamālika kṛti-s are seen with notation. This set of 9 compositions was composed by Nālvar as a Guru stuti. This cannot be considered as a regular Guru stuti. Nālvar invoke their Lord Bŗhadīsvara and they are not paeans composed on their Guru.  Very few direct references to their Guru or his personality can be seen. These are to be compared and contrasted against the Guru kṛti-s composed by Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkataramaṇa Bhāgavatar and/or other disciples of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ.

Navaratnamālika of Nālvar

The following kṛti-s are held at high esteem due to the reasons mentioned above:

Māyātīta svarūpiņi – MāyāmālavagauỊa

Śrī guruguha mūrti – Bhinnaṣaḍjam

Jewel box made of Ivory gifted by Mahārājā Svāti Tirunāḷ to Vaṭivēlu Naṭṭuvanār

Sāṭilēni guruguha mūrtini – Nāța

Śrī karambu – Kanakāmbari

Sārekuni – Cāmaram

Śrī rājarājēsvari – Ramāmanōhari

Paramapāvani – VarāỊi

Sārasākși – Śailadēsākși

Nīdu pādamē – PantuvarāỊi

Two interesting observations can be made from this list. First, the rāga of the kṛti-s sāṭilēni and śrīkarambu is different from the present renditions. Now they are sung in the rāgam PūrvikaỊyāņi and Kāmbhojī respectively.  Second, all the kŗtis-s are set in the “Rāgāṅga rāgā-s” (a term equivalent to the term mēḷakarta, usually referred to the scales in the asaṃpūrṇa mēḷa system). Pantuvarāli is specifically mentioned as a rāgam with sādhāraņa gāndhāra. This is in line with the old practice of calling the present day Śubhapantuvarāli as Pantuvarāli. This was remarked by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too in his Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu.

We also can see other kṛti-s of Nālvar in other rāgāṅga raga-s namely bṛhadīśvara in Gānasāmavarāli and bhakta pālana in Phēnadyuti. This totals to 11 kṛti-s belonging to this category. This makes us to surmise that Nālvar could have composed in all the 72 rāgāṅga rāga-s following the footsteps of their Guru. It is emphasized again that the manuscript referred here represents only a portion of their collection and the entire corpus is to be analyzed to get a definitive conclusion.

Though, an in depth analysis of the version given in this manuscript and the other printed versions is to be done, namely “Tanjai Peruvudaiyān Perisai” and “Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini”, the two authentic texts which give these kṛti-s (either all or a few) in notation, preliminary analysis revealed a significant finding which is worth discussing here. The version given here for the Māyātīta svarūpiṇi is exactly the same as given in Saṃpradāya Pradarśini !! There might be subtle differences which are trivial and some allowances need to be given considering the fact we are dealing with a manuscript.

Another interesting finding is related to the kṛti, “śrī rājarājeśvari” in the rāgam Ramāmanōhari. The version given in this manuscript has phrases like PRRSNN, PNS which are not seen in both the books mentioned though the version given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar closely follows the manuscript excluding the presence of the mentioned phrases. Though, these phrases appear to be outlandish in Ramāmanōhari, they feature in a gītam notated in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This shows Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini is a veritable source to know the rāga structure of the by-gone centuries. One more noticeable feature seen in these manuscripts is the total absence of ciṭṭa svāra segment for all the kṛti-s, irrespective of the composer involved.

Three other kṛti-s found in this manuscript deserve a special mention – Sarasvati manōhari gauri, Śrī jagadīṣamanōhari and Śrī mahādēvamanohari. Rāgā-s are not marked for these compositions. The kṛti śrī mahādēvamanohari was published in the book “Tanjai Peruvudaiyān Perisai” by the descendants of Tanjai Nālvar with a slight variations in the sāhityam. Whereas their version starts as mahādēvamanohari, the manuscript adds a prefix ‘śrī’ to mahādevamanōhari. Adding ‘śrī’ satisfy the rules of prosody as anupallavi reads as ‘sōmaśekhari’. Dhātu of this composition, as given in this manuscript too give us an interesting finding. Dēvamanōhari described in the treatises belonging to 17-19 CE whose authorship is known always stress the phrase PNNS and a straight forward DNS was never accepted by them. PNNS can be seen only in the version given in these manuscripts.

Rāga of the other two kṛti-s is to be determined. Rāgam of the first kṛti can be presumed to be Gauri as Nālvar had the practice of incorporating the raga mudra in many of their sāhityam. The notation will be analyzed and updated.

Beside these kṛti-s, varṇam-s like viriboṇi and mā mohalāhiri are seen.

        2. Kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar

Around 90 compositions can be identified to be that of Dīkṣitar and all are available with notations. Out of these 90, 5 are unpublished. The remaining 85 can all be seen in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. As mentioned earlier, the kṛti-s seen in this small portion of the corpus cannot be considered as the complete repertoire of Nālvar. Nevertheless, 85 denotes a significant number and it is to be borne in mind that not even a single composition seen here is outside Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This shows any kṛti not mentioned in this text is always to be taken with a grain of salt.

A. Majority of the kṛti-s in the majority 85 belong to the clan of ”Rāgāṅga rāga-s”. Kṛti-s of Dīkṣitar can be seen in all the rāgāṅga rāgā-s except for ten. They include Toḍi (8), Bhinnaṣaḍjam (9), Māyamālavagaula (15), Varāli (39),  Śivapantuvarāli (45), Ramāmanōhari (52), Cāmaram (56), Niṣada (60), Gītapriyā (63), Caturaṅgiṇi (66), Kōsalam (71). It is to be remembered here that Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini too didn’t furnish the kṛti-s of Dīkṣitar in the rāga-s 9, 45, 52 and 56. Of these four, a kṛti of Ponniah (of Nālvar) was given for three rāga-s – 9, 52 and 56. Śivapantuvarāli was not awarded with any kṛti. Same pattern was followed in this manuscript too. Kṛti-s were given in order of the rāgāṅga raga. After the rāgāṅga rāga 7, we find the kṛti of Nālvar in the rāgam Bhinnașaḍjam (śrī guruguha mūrti) followed by a kṛti of Dīkṣitar viśvanātham bhajēhaṃ in the rāgāṅga rāgam Naṭābharaṇam (10). This pattern is being followed for the rest too [after Bhavānī (44), Kāśirāmakriyā (51) and Śyāmaḷā (55) we find a kṛti of Ponniah in 45, 52 and 56 followed by a kṛti of Dīkṣitar]. Blessed is Śivapantuvarāli to have a kṛti of Nālvar in this manuscript. This raises a doubt on the authenticity of the Dīkṣitar kṛti-s presently prevalent in the rāga-s 9, 45, 52 and 56.

It is to be accepted that we don’t find a kṛti of Dīkṣitar in others rāgāṅga rāga-s namely 15, 60, 63, 66, 70 and 71. Excluding 15 and 39, the rāga-s preceding and succeeding these left–outs do not occur in sequence. They occur haphazardly; perhaps they might have been written separately and those pages are lost. 15 is an exception here as it is seen in sequence succeeding Vasantabhairavī (14) and preceding Vegavāhini (16). Reason for māyātīta svarūpiṇi replacing śrīnāthādi is not clear. But, it could have been separately written and lost. We have another example to support this view – the kṛti bhajarē citta in Kaḷyāṇi (65) is found separately and not after Bhūṣāvati (64). We find only one kṛti in Kamalāmbā navāvaraṇam (śri kamalāmbikayā in Śaṅkarābharaṇam) and three in Navagraḥa series, namely divākaratanujam, bṛhaspate and sūryamūrte. Reason for not seeing any entry in 39 is an enigma.

B. It can be noticed, after the rāgāṅga raga 7, we see a kṛti of Ponniah in the rāga 9. Rāga 8, Tōḍi does not have any entry. Can we presume Kamalāmbike was the only kṛti composed by  Dīkyṣitar in Tōḍi before and/or during his stay in Tanjōre and due to some reasons  that  was not notated ? Either that was not known to Nālvar or that was composed by Dīkṣitar after his stay in Tanjōre ? Alternatively, was that notated separately and yet to be identified ? But not seeing a composition in such a major rāga is strange.

C. Regarding grouping a rāga under a mēla, this manuscript conforms with the grouping system followed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Āndāḷi is given under mēḷa 28 and Sāma under 29. The only exception to this is Saurāṣtram; considered as a janya of Vēgavāhini in this manuscript. This is understandable due the presence of anya svaram in this this rāgam.

D. Four kṛti-s belonging to Guruguha vibhakti kṛti-s are seen – śri guruguha mūrtē in Udayaravicandrikā, śri guruguhasya dasōham in Pūrvi, guruguhādanyam in Balahaṃsa and guruguhāya in Sama. Bhānumati, though a rāgāṅga rāgam is represented only by the kṛti ‘bṛhadambā madambā’ and not ‘guruguha svāmini’.

E. None of the kṛti-s belonging to Tyāgarāja vibhakti group can be seen. Does it mean these kṛti-s were composed after his stay in Tanjōre ?

F. Almost all the kṛti-s addressing Bṛhannayaki or Bṛhadīśvarar, notated in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini are seen here.

G. Mīnākṣi mēmudham dēhi is seen in this manuscript suggesting this kṛti must have been composed when he visited Madurai before his stay in Tanjōre.

H. Minority 5 is much more interesting. We see these compositions for the first time. They appear to be a part of Nirūpaṇam than kṛti-s. They include:

Jaya jaya gauri manōhari – 22 janyam (to be identified)

Kāmakṣi namōstute – Pāḍi

Śaranu kāmākṣi – Mēgarañjani

Manōnmaṇi bhavatutē maṅgaḷam – Mēcabauli

Śaranu śaranu mahēśa śaṅkari – Ārabhī

Of these, the first three has been mentioned by Dr Rīta Rājan in her thesis.

A reconstructed version of the Śaraṇu daru – ‘śaraṇu śaraṇu’ in the rāgam Ārabhī can heard here

I. Though, an in-depth comparison is to be done with the version given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, at the outset, can be confidently said not much difference exist between the two.

       3. Others

Other than the works of Dīkṣitar and Nālvar, we also find  padam-s of Kṣetrayya and some other kṛti-s of unknown authorship. Sri Śivakumar also possess another paper manuscript having around 300 gītam in notation. Examination of a sample showed that they are the replica of the gītam-s notated in Saṅgraha Chūḍāmaṇi. This could been written by some other member in the family.

Conclusion

This inventory is not complete and highlights only some important findings seen in a section of a major collection. It is believed these findings will be more helpful to the researchers and musicians alike to get an idea about the Dīkṣitar kṛti-s learnt by Nālvar. When these kṛti-s are compared with the versions given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, we can get an overall image about the melodic structure of Dīkṣitar kṛti-s in general. This might be of some help In clearing the controversies revolving around these kṛti-s. Some other points in identifying the ‘real’ Dīkṣitar kṛti too is highlighted so that these findings can be applied or recollected when we progress further and get some additional material.

Acknowledgement

I profusely thank Sri KPS Śivakumar, an eighth generation descendant belonging to the family of Nālvar and the son of Sangīta Kaḷānidhi Sri KP Śivānandam for sharing these valuable manuscripts.

History, Raga

Nishumbasudani……. Mystery from the medieval Chola times!

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Prologue:

Nishumbasudani Bas Relief ( Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum)

More than 14,000 Kms away from Tanjore in Southern India, half way across on the other side of earth is the American city of Philadelphia. A discerning lover of Indian art, residing in or near this city should definitely make that visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a visitor goes to the Museum’s second floor which houses its South Asian collection of art, the most eye catching would be the Hall reassembled on site from remnants of the Madana Gopala Swamy Temple, Madurai which was shipped out of India circa 1912 AD, by a wealthy Philadelphian Ms Adeline Pepper Gibson.  While the antiquity of this Hall is just around 500-600 or so years only , in the room adjacent to this Hall, away from the spotlight would be the still older Chola artworks on display dating a further 500 years prior. And amongst the works of arts there, a discerning visitor can spot an icon of Goddess Durga or more specifically one should say, ‘nisumbhasUdanI’ or the Slayer of the demon Nishumbha, on display. A look at the card tagged to this bas relief would state its antecedents briefly as “Goddess Durga As the Slayer of the Demon Nishumbha (Nishumbhasudani), 900 to 925 CE, Tamil Nadu, India”.

A closer analysis of this sculpture would reveal that it is a 10th Century granite bas relief, albeit a little damaged, but nevertheless a masterpiece from the times of the medieval Cholas. We do not know from whom and where this icon was sourced from, but the Museum has this item in its Collection having purchased it from out of the funds of the Joseph E Temple Trust in the year 1965. This Devi, the slayer of Shumbha, Nishumbha and Mahishasura is the subject matter of this blog post.

Actually, the blog is about two mysteries, dating back to centuries prior which continue to hold us in thrall. And this Devi, ‘nishumbhasUdanI’ is the link with which we will look at these two mysteries. We have very few facts or solid information from those times, long bygone and this blog is to place them in proper perspective as always to provide a context for a raga and a composition.  This blog has been written, alternating between the two mysteries while at the same time providing some background then & there for which foot notes have been written so as to provide continuity.

Read On!

 Introduction:

The Cholas were the great Kings of southern Tamilnadu ruling from Tanjore. The subject matter for us are the Medieval Cholas who ruled first from Uraiyur and later from Tanjore between 848 AD and 1070 AD. The Chola Kings who ruled prior are called the Early Cholas and those who ruled after 1070 AD are called the Later Cholas by historians. Very well known in this lineage of medieval Chola Kings are Emperor Raja Raja I (whose actual name was Arulmozhi Varman) and his son Rajendra I who respectively constructed the Brihadeesvara Temple at Tanjore and its look like, the Great temple at Gangaikondacholapuram.

The first King of this medieval Chola lineage was Vijayalaya Chola (regnal years 848 AD-891 AD) who is also credited to have founded the modern city of Tanjore, making it the Capital of the Imperial Cholas. When he laid the foundation of this great Chola lineage and that of the City of Tanjore as his capital, legend has it that he made the icon of Goddess Durga or ‘nishumbasUdanI’ as the tutelary deity of the Cholas. She was revered as a war Goddess and legend has it that Vijayalaya built a temple for Her in Tanjore. Historians are unanimous in their opinion that this Temple no longer exists today. The only reference to this act of Vijayalaya Chola and vouching for the existence of Nishumbasudani is this following verse found in the Tiruvalangadu Copper plate (see Note 1) which in a set of verses, in the nature of hagiography, detailing the entirely lineage of Cholas as a brief history.

The Tiruvalangadu Copper Plates ( photo courtesy “The Hindu”)

தஞ்சாபுரீம் ஸௌத ஸுதாங்காராகாம்
ஜக்ராஹ ரந்தும் ரவிவம்ச தீப:
தத:பிரதிஷ்டாப்ய நிசும்ப சூதனீம்
ஸுராஸுரை:அர்ச்சித-பாதபங்கஜாம்
சது : ஸமுத்ராம்பர மேகலாம் புவம்
ரஹாஜ தேவோ தத்பராசதந”

तञ्जापुरीं सौध सुधाङ्गरागां
जग्राह रन्तुं रविवंश दीपः
ततः प्रतिष्ठाप्य निशुम्भसूदनीं
सुरासुरैः अर्चितपादपङ्कजां
चतुः समुद्राम्भर मेखलां भुवं
रहाज देवो तत्परासदन

(Verse 46 of the Tiruvalangadu Copper Plate – History of the Cholas- See Note 2)

 Meaning: Having next consecrated (there at Tanjore) (the image of) Nisumbhasudani whose lotus-feet are worshipped by gods and demons, (he, Vijayalaya Chola) by the grace of that (goddess) bore just (as easily) as a garland (the weight of) the (whole) earth resplendent with (her) garment of the four oceans.

And this Goddess Nishumbasudani as the tutelary deity of the Cholas becomes our object of attention. And consecrated in that Temple at Tanjore around 850 AD she must have overseen the rise and the fall of the medieval and later Cholas, spanning about 400 years thereafter before she herself probably disappeared from our view. Let us fast forward time by about 100 years to the reign of Vijayalaya’s grandson’s grandson Parantaka Sundara Chola or Parantaka II of the historians for a peek at a mystery which has for a very long time held the attention of Tamil historians, researchers and literary readers.

Circa 957 AD

Lineage of the Medieval Cholas from Vijayalaya till Rajendra I

Parantaka Sundara Chola, a descendant of Vijayalaya, ascended the Chola throne in 957 AD. His father Arinjaya Cola had earlier ruled for a brief period succeeding his own elder brother Gandaraditya. Since Gandaraditya died leaving a very young son (Madurantaka Uttama), Arinjaya ascended the throne and he also having died shortly thereafter, it became inevitable that Parantaka Sundara the son of Arinjaya ascended the throne as Madurantaka Uttama was still a minor. Nevertheless, given the patriarchal line of succession as was prevalent, Parantaka Sundara thus became King even while his father’s elder brother’s son Madurantaka Uttama, being the rightful claimant to the throne was there. We do not know the intrigues that went on in relation to this succession but nevertheless the same becomes a key pivot for the proceedings.

Parantaka Sundara’s eldest son was Prince Aditya Karikala (See Note 3) who records say was anointed as Crown Prince. And it was not Madurantaka Uttama the older claimant. We do not know, as between Aditya Karikala and Madurantaka Uttama who was elder by age but it was Aditya Karikala who became the heir apparent. Parantaka Sundara’s two other children were Prince Arulmozhi Varman and Princess Kundavai who would have been yet another set of siblings to the anointed Crown Prince Aditya Karikala, without any right to inherit the throne, but for the chain of events that were about to engulf Tanjore shortly thereafter, a veritable Game of Thrones, a medieval version at that, which brought these two younger royals to the forefront.

Even while Parantaka Sundara Chola ruled over from Tanjore, by 965 AD it was left to the young & mighty Crown Prince Aditya Karikala to expand the frontiers of the Chola Kingdom. Records say that he decimated the Pandyan army at the Battle of Sevur (near Pudukottai) and killed King Veerapandya earning for himself the title ‘The Vanquisher who took the Head of Veerapandya’ (‘vIrapAndiyan thalai konda parakesari’). Even the Thiruvalangadu copper plate verse No 68 too makes a mention to that effect, Dr Nilakanta Sastri opines that Aditya would have not literally done so and the said epithet was just to signify his victory over Veerapandya. The true import of this epithet would prove important later when we come to interpret the happening that would shake the very foundation of the medieval Chola rule.

Given the perpetual rivalry between the Cholas and Pandyas, a victory of that proportion must have been a truly momentous occasion. But that victory was to turn a pyrrhic one.  It is well likely that Madurantaka Uttama, the cousin of Parantaka Sundara, the reigning King upon attaining majority must have nursed ambitions to be the next King given the precedence of his claim to the throne. However, given the legendary & heroic exploits of the Crown Prince Aditya Karikala, Madurantaka Uttama’s claim would have likely been eclipsed by Aditya’s. Whether Madurantaka Uttama resented it and whether directly or indirectly he advanced his claims or wishes to ascend the throne, we do not know. In the same breath it has to be said that we do see inscriptions wherein Madurantaka Uttama is recorded as a Prince (if not as a Crown Prince) performing his royal duties in his own right during the reign of Parantaka Sundara Chola, such as the one at Tiruvottriyur, (Udayar is the tamil word which is used as a prefix to the Prince in the said inscription).

While all was well this far in Tanjore in the early months of 969 AD with Parantaka Sundara as King and Aditya Karikala as the Crown Prince & successor designate, let us leave the dramatis personae for a while and fast forward quickly to the present.

21st Century:

The Nishumbhasudani Goddess Durga icon which we one can see in the Philadelphia Museum, dateable to 900 AD, being the reign of Vijayalaya Chola or his successor Aditya I sets us thinking if it is perhaps from that very Temple which was constructed at Tanjore for Her by Vijayalaya and which today is just a legend. May be or maybe not, nevertheless the reference to the Nishumbhasudani Goddess Durga and that mythical temple would certainly encourage one to search for a reference to Her and the temple in our musical or literary heritage left behind by the poets, composers and savants of the past. However, a diligent search for Her seems to show no trace of any verse or reference or composition or any epigraphical record pointing us to this Devi. In sum, save for the solitary reference in the above referred Thiruvalangadu Copper plate to this Nishumbhasudani of Tanjore. Also the existing structures and temples in Tanjore for Goddess Durga too seem to have been much later constructed temples. See Note 4. Where was this Goddess who had as her abode the temple constructed by Vijayalaya Chola ?

In passing, it is worth mentioning that readers of Kalki’s classic ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ would doubtlessly recall the references to Goddess Durga Parameswari and also the allusion to this Devi’s Temple in the proceedings in the said work.

While this is so let’s move the clock back this time by just around 200 plus years to first two decades of the 19th century, when Muthusvami Dikshitar the itinerant composer spent some time at Tanjore.

Circa 1800 AD:

Biographers of Muthusvami Dikshitar (1775-1832 AD) refer to an extended period of time when he visited and stayed in Tanjore. His prime disciples namely the Tanjore Quartet being Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Sivanandam & Vadivelu when they were in the Court of Serfoji II, are said to have invited him to be with them and he reportedly obliged them by doing so sometime during this period. It was during this sojourn that Dikshitar at the request of the Quartet, commenced the project of investing a composition in every one of the 72 mela ragas of the compendium of Muddu Venkatamakhin. Even while as Dikshitar embarked on creating a number of them on the deities of the very many temples and around Tanjore, could he have created one on Nishumbasudani Goddess Durga? None of the biographers of Muthusvami Dikshitar attribute any kriti to Her and therefore one in left with their own devices to investigate if any kriti can be ascribed to this long-lost tutelary deity of the Imperial Cholas.

It does make one surmise whether Dikshitar would have craved to have a darshan of this great & hoary deity. He must perhaps got himself satisfied by visiting and paying obeisance to Her at the smaller shrine in the then ramparts of the Tanjore fort. Could he have perhaps having heard of this mythical yet fearsome war Goddess wondered where on earth she was and then hearing about the futility of discovering Her or the legendary temple, perhaps went on to eulogize her, invoking her imagery with his inner vision and thus creating a composition? If indeed there was one kriti at the very least we can surmise that it could be the one he might have composed on this Nishumbhasudani. And that composition could surely be a pen picture of that great Devi, which we can perhaps use as a proxy to that long-lost icon.

In other words, could Dikshitar have created a composition on that mythical Goddess just as how he had done for the mythical Goddess Sarasvati of Kashmir or the One who resided on the banks of the mythical Sharavati river, without having visited Her? And if he had composed one, which is the raga of choice Dikshitar would have employed? Before we progress further we must note one caveat here. In the first place we have attempted to search for this supposed composition on Nishumbhasudani, as there were no already attributed compositions to start with, with the embedded ksetra/stala or any other internal/external evidence. We have embarked on this only to surmise on the possible composition which could have been created by Dikshitar on this mythical Goddess of Tanjore and therefore for sure the composition will be bereft of any evidence to that effect.

In so far as the raga of the composition, it is entirely in the realm of possibility that Dikshitar must have applied great thought to the choice of the raga. And perhaps given his predilection for the rare and the archaic, he must have proceeded to compose the same in a long-forgotten raga, but which would have ruled the roost centuries ago and had been forgotten by 1800’s.

Thus, a composition in a long forgotten archaic raga for a mythical and again completely forgotten tutelary deity of the great Cholas of Tanjore would have been his complete and appropriate homage to that Nishumbhasudani. And could he have done it?

Having surmised a case for a probable composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar, on the Nishumbhasudani of Tanjore, it is time for us to go back to the times of Sundara Parantaka Chola once more.

Circa 969 AD

The year AD 969 would have been King Parantaka Sundara Chola’s 12th year of reign and his Crown Prince & anointed successor Prince Aditya Karikala must have been around 22 years old. And then sometime September that year, tragedy strikes the Royal Cholas.

The Tiruvalangadu Copper plates mourn the death of the young Crown Prince Aditya Karikala with the verse no 68 running thus:

Having deposited in his (capital) town the lofty pillar of victory (viz.,) the head of the Pandya king, Aditya disappeared (from this world) with a desire to see heaven.

In essence the copper plate records, bemoaned the setting of the sun (“Aditya”) probably plunging the entire Chola kingdom in grief & darkness.  It must be noted that Tiruvalangadu plates (which by themselves were created during the reign of Rajendra Cola, circa 1030 AD or more than 50 years or so later from this event) as above merely mention this untimely demise and it does not raise the sceptre of assassination or foul play in his death. Neither was there any war or battle on record in which the valiant Prince could have lost his life, at that point in time. And if so the epigraphs would have eulogized his death much like how his paternal uncle Rajaditya was. It is only the inscription at Udayarkudi (created later during the reign of King Raja Raja Chola, circa AD 1010) which throws further light on this mysterious tragedy. The said inscription attests to the assassination of Crown Prince Aditya Karikala, implying that three brothers Soman Sambhavan, Ravidasan alias Panchavan Brahmadhirajan and Parameswaran alias Irumudichola Brahmadirajan being traitors, had been instrumental in the death of the Crown Prince. Modern historians opine that one or more of these three personalities were high ranking Chola Officials who were insiders to the regime and most probably they took revenge on the Crown Prince for the death of the Pandyan King and after doing the foul deed they probably fled for life, for we have no record of them having been caught, tried and sentenced. The Udayarkudi inscription unambiguously makes it know that the assassins and their relatives were banished and their assets confiscated by the State. Nothing is known further than this.

From inscriptions or the Chola era copper plates, nothing further is known as to how and where Crown Prince Aditya Karikala was killed even while different theories have been floated about both by historians and fiction writers in the 20th century. Be that as it may, the Royal House of the Cholas must have plunged into grief with the death of its Crown Prince. Tongues must have wagged and the loyalties of the members of the Royal Family and Courtiers must have been called into question. (See Note 5)

And thus, ended the life of Crown Prince Aditya Karikala some 1050 years ago in 969 AD. In his death perhaps unwittingly lay the glory of the Imperial Cholas. His brother Raja Raja I and thereafter his successor Rajendra I went on to become the great Emperors of Southern India expanding their influence even into modern day Malaysian peninsula and the Indonesian archipelago. And for these Chola Kings their tutelary deity Nishumbhasudani was always the greatest benefactor and guardian angel in whom they reposed undiminished faith, so much so that even the Mahratta Kings who came to rule from Tanjore much later, in a bid to capitalise on the same faith and authority as the Imperial Cholas, too made Her as their family deity. The medieval Chola history thus leaves amongst many others, chiefly two unsolved mysteries or questions for us today. First being the unsolved death of the young and chivalrous Crown Prince Aditya Karikala in AD 969 and secondly the whereabouts of the Nishumbhasudani icon and the temple venerated by them which was once upon a time in Tanjore.

And with these questions open, we will take leave of the Chola Royals and move on quickly some 800 years hence immersing ourselves now in matters musical.

Circa 1800 AD

As we surmised earlier if indeed Muthuswami Dikshitar had composed a kriti on this Nishumbasudani of Tanjore, it ought to be documented in the magnum opus Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshitar for sure. A perusal of Dikshitar’s compositions therein quickly reveals one which satisfies our query, the composition starting ‘mahishAsuramardhini’ in the raga Narayani under mela 29 Sankarabharanam.

We had further surmised earlier that the raga of the composition, if one exists is likely to be an archaic one. And Narayani is truly one. Before we deep dive to examine this statement, one omnibus declaration needs to be flagged right away. The raga tagged as Narayani by the Sangraha Cudamani with two Tyagaraja compositions as exemplars are certainly not Narayani. Again, as pointed out earlier the scale as exemplified by these two Tyagaraja composition has been wrongly assigned the name Narayani. It is a different raga altogether.

Narayani’s History:

The Narayani of Muthusvami Dikshitar as illustrated in the SSP (1904 AD) on the authority of the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (circa 1750 AD) claims a hoary lineage all the way tracing back centuries prior, as a raga taking only the notes of Sankarabharana/29th mela of our present day Mela system. Ramamatya’s Svaramelakalanidhi ( 1550 AD) Poluri Govindakavi’s Ragatalachintamani ( circa 1650), Ragamanjari of Pundarikavittala ( circa 1575), Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha ( AD 1614), Venkatamakhin’s Caturdandi Prakashika ( 1620 AD), Sangita Parijata of Ahobala ( 17th century), Srinivasa’s Ragatattva Vibhoda ( 1650AD), Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu ( 1710 AD), Tulaja’s Sangita Saramruta ( 1732 AD) and finally ending with Muddu Venkamakhin’s Anubandha, all these musical texts unequivocally & in unison assert that the Raga Narayani takes the notes of Mela 29 /Sankarabharanam. It is indeed incomprehensible how this hoary raga which has been so for centuries under Sankarabharana mela can be classified under Harikambhoji mela (as in Sangraha Cudamani).

Without much ado one simply needs to cast aside/discard the aberrant definition laid down for raga Narayani by the Sangraha Cudamani and proceed to evaluate the history and the lakshana of the raga as laid down unanimously by all previous musicological treatises or more precisely by the Triad – being the works of Sahaji (AD 1710), Tulaja (AD 1732) and Muddu Venkatamakhin (AD 1750) and proceed to draw the conclusions therefrom. We have seen time and again that the lakshana of a raga as given by this Triad together with the exemplar kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar as documented in the SSP would enable us to understand the true and correct picture of the raga. In the current context, we also need to evaluate why Narayani is archaic and went extinct. It is a fact that neither this Dikshitar kriti ‘mahishAsuramadhini’ nor any other kriti conforming to the Narayani of the 29th mela is even encountered on the concert circuit today.

But firstly, lets evaluate the lakshana of Narayani according to Sahaji, Tulaja and offcourse Muddu Venkatamakhin.

Lakshana of raga Narayani & likely why it went extinct:

The Triad of musicological texts and the kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar provides us the following lakshana of the raga:

  1. The raga is sampurna, i.e all seven notes of mela 29 occurs in this raga.
  2. It is upanga in the modern as well, i.e it takes only the notes of mela 29 being R2, G3, M1, P, D2 and N3
  3. SRGM, PDNS, SNDP – these lineal combinations do not occur. Though MGRS is permitted by the definition the Dikshitar kriti sports only MG\S only, with the rishabha occurring more as an anusvara.
  4. It is a raga with vakra/ devious progression sporting RMGP, SMGP, GPD, GPDr, PMGS, SNDS, SNPD, DNP, SNP and MGPD as evidenced in the kriti of Dikshitar. Its perplexing that Subbarama Dikshitar provides two murcchanas SRMPNDS and GRSndS, which are not seen in the kriti and which would give a different melodic complexion to the raga, though GRSndS seems acceptable.
  5. In modern parlance SRMGPNDS or better still SMGPDNPDS /SNPNPDMPMGS can be notional arohana/avarohana krama.
  6. Needless to add that it is a quintessential raga aligning perfectly to the classic 18th century raga architecture with jumps, bends, turns and twists on one hands & multiple arohana/avarohana progressions as well. MGPD, MG\S seem to be the recurring leitmotifs.

The evaluation of the raga’s contours would show that it has considerable melodic overlap with modern day Bilahari. Bilahari is a much newer raga in comparison to Narayani for it is documented for the first time only by Sahaji in his work, circa 1710 AD. No prior musical work documents Bilahari. Given the subsequent popularity that Bilahari had gone on to acquire, Narayani must have ceded ground, giving up much of its musical material and thus became archaic.

In this context it has to be pointed out that modern musicological books wrongly provide Bilahari’s arohana plaintively as SRGPDS while it is actually SRMGPDS. And the raga Bilahari is bhashanga and takes the kaishiki nishada too in its melodic body which is attested for by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP. However, we see popular presentations of Bilahari shorn of these two features making us wonder if what is being sung today is only Narayani, of yore! This apart again, we do have some long lost prayogas of Bilahari which would impart a hue very different from what we hear today as Bilahari. The complete analysis of Bilahari rightfully belongs to another separate blog post which will done shortly.

In so far as the Narayani and Bilahari as delineated in the SSP, without doubt it can be stated that on the basis of the lakshanas as laid out in the Triad with the Dikshitar kriti as exemplars, one can sing the two ragas with their respective individual identities intact. However, to understand the correct melodic identity of these two ragas we have to necessarily set aside the incorrect text book lakshana of Bilahari as being presented today popularly and also ignore the aberrant ‘modern’ lakshana of Narayani which has been advanced on the strength of the Sangraha Cudamani, giving the two Tyagaraja kritis ‘rAma nIvEgani’ and ‘bhajanasEyu mArgamunu’ as exemplars. As pointed out earlier, the raga found in these two compositions is a different melody under Harikambhoji mela for which a new name should be identified and given so that no confusion is made between these melodies. Again, it is reiterated that Tyagaraja never assigned names to his ragas and it was only much after his life time, his lineage of disciples, publishers of his compositions and authors who compiled ragas, assigned raga names post 1850 AD, to his kritis. This misnaming of the melodies of Tyagaraja’s compositions using the older raga names and established identities such as Sarasvati Manohari, Narayani etc has resulted in this confusion where we have a single raga name for two melodies with different musical identities. It is regrettable that this state of affairs has been perpetuated this far.

Be that as it may, for this blogpost the record is set straight once more here by reiterating that the Narayani of yore was only a melody under Mela 29/Sankarabharanam taking only its notes (upanga in modern parlance) and the kriti of Dikshitar ‘mahishasura mardhini’ set in this raga is the sole exemplar.

Text and meaning of the lyrics of ‘mahishAsuramardhini’ in Narayani:

The kriti is in the classic Dikshitar format sporting both the raga mudra as well as his colophon. It is to be pointed out here that the section of the caranam commencing ‘shankarAdra sarIrinIm’ is in a pseudo-madhyama kala and is not at double the akshara count of the rest of the composition.

pallavi

namāmi                        – I salute

mahiṣa-asura-mardinIm         – the destroyer of the demon Mahisha!

mahanIya-kapardinIm            – the venerable wife of Shiva (who wears matted locks),

anupallavi

mahiṣa-mastaka-naTana-bheda-vinodinIM – the one who revels in performing different dances on the head of the buffalo-demon Mahisha

mOdinIM                        – the blissful one,

mālinIM                        – the one wearing garlands,

māninIM                        – the honourable one,

praNata-jana-saubhAgya-dāyinIm – the giver of good fortune to the people who salute reverentially,

caraNam

shankha-cakra-shUla-ankusha-pANIM – the one holding a conch, discus, trident and goad in her hands,

shakti-senāM                    – the one leading an army of Shaktis (goddesses),

madhuravāNIM                  – the one whose voice and speech are sweet,

pankajanayanāM                – the lotus-eyed one,

pannagaveNIM                  – the one whose braid is (long and dark) as a cobra snake.

pālita-guruguhāM              – the one who protects Guruguha!

purāNIm                        – the ancient, primordial one,

shankara-ardha -sharIriNIM        – the one who has taken half the body of Shiva,

samasta-devatā-rUpiNIM         – the one who is the embodiment of all the gods,

kankaNa-alankRta-abja-karāM – the one whose lotus-like hands are adorned with bangles,

kātyāyanIM                     – the daughter of Sage Katyayana,

nārāyaNIm                      – the one related to Narayana (being his sister).

In the context of the lyrics, specific attention is invited to the line sankarArdha-sarIrinIm samasta-devatA-rUpiniM, by which Dikshitar alludes briefly to how the conception of Goddess Durga is said to happened as recorded in religious texts.

Here is the link to the rendering of the kriti which has been rendered very close to the notation found in the SSP, by Sangita Kala Acharya Dr.Seetha Rajan. ( see Foot Note 6)

 

A Brief Note on one other composition attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar:

While the SSP records only this Narayani composition ‘mahishAsura mardhini’, on Goddess Durga or her synonymous forms, Veena Sundaram Iyer during the 1960’s brought to light another composition (not found in the SSP), attributing the same to Muthuswami Dikshitar. The text of the same together with the meaning of the lyrics is as under:

mahishāsuramardini – rAgam gauLa – tāLam khaṇDa cApu

Pallavi

mahiṣāsura-mardhini māṃ pāhi madhya-deśa-vāsini

Anupallavi (samaṣṭi caraṇam)

mahādeva-mānasollāsini mā-vāṇI guruguhādi-vedini mārajanaka-pālini sahasra-dala-sarasija-madhya-prakāśini suruciranalini śumbha-niśumbhādi-bhanjani

(madhyamakāla-sāhityam) iha-para-bhoga-mokṣa-pradāyini itihāsa-purāNādi-viśvāsini gaurahāsini

Meaning:

mahiṣa-asura-mardini        – O destroyer of the demon Mahisha!

māṃ pāhi                     – Protect me!

madhya-deśa-vāsini           – O resident of Madhya Desha!

anupallavi (samaṣṭi caraṇam)

mahā-deva-mānasa-ullāsini   – O one who delights the heart of Shiva  (the great god)!

mā-vāṇi-guruguha-ādi-vedini – O one understood by Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Guruguha and others!

māra-janaka-pālini           – O protector of Vishnu (father of Manmatha)!

sahasradaLa-sarasija-madhya-prakāśini – O one resplendent at the centre of the thousand-petal lotus!

suruciranaLini              – O charming one, lovely as a lotus-creeper!

śumbha-niśumbha-ādi-bhanjani – O destroyer of the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha and others!

iha-para-bhoga-mokṣa-pradāyini – O giver of enjoyment and liberation for this world (iha) and the other (para), (respectively)!

itihāsa-purāṇa-ādi-viśvāsini – O repository of the faith of the epics and Puranas!

gaurahāsini                 – O one who has a shining white smile!

Keeping aside the question whether this composition truly is of Dikshitar based on its provenance, prasa, tala, meaning of some of the lyrics occurring in the composition, the mettu/musical setting of the composition etc two points arise for our consideration in the specific context of this blog post.

  1. The reference to the probable sthala of this composition – ‘madhya-desha-vasini’ occurring in the pallavi
  2. The reference ‘shumbha nishumbhAdi bhanjanI’ occurring in the so called samashti caranam or strictly in SSP parlance, anupallavi of the composition.

It has to be confessed that these points take us nowhere, as ‘madhya desa’ is certainly not Tanjore. The other reference as to Her as vanquisher of Nishumbha though relevant may not necessarily advance our case. The controversy as to the authorship of the composition coupled with the above factors, takes us no further forward and given that our objective is to merely speculate on the probable composition of Dikshitar on the mythical Nishumbhasudani of Tanjore, it is left to the reader to draw his own conclusions thereof. ( See Foot Note 7)

CONCLUSION:

With passage of every day, month, year and decade or century, the probability of finding any further evidence or epigraph or inscription which could potentially tell us of what truly happened to that mythical temple and icon of ‘nishumbhasUdani’ at Tanjore or what really happened that fateful day of 969 AD when Crown Prince Aditya Karikala was assassinated and who was behind that, keeps receding. Even Kalki Krishnamurthi in his classic read ‘Ponniyin Selvan’, keeps the mystery tantalizingly open, leaving it for the imagination of the reader for he felt that it would kill the suspense. (See Epilogue)

And for that event of 969 AD, that legendary Chola titular deity Nishumbhasudani had been a mute witness! And it was as if She too disappeared from the face of earth along with her Temple at Tanjore, constructed by Vijayalaya & thus leaving us with just the riddle which is wrapped in that single line verse in the Tiruvalangadu Copper plates.

And all that we have today, is that probable pen picture of the Goddess as etched by Muthusvami Dikshitar (in his kriti ‘mahishAsuramardanI’ in the archaic raga Narayani) which we have so surmised. And not to forget that granite bas relief of that Nishumbhasudani in that corner room in the second floor of the Philadelphia Museum’s South Asian Art section. And so, if one gets to see her at the Museum or were to get the opportunity to hear the composition ‘mahishAsuramadhini’ in Narayani of Dikshitar , they should pause for a moment to offer obeisance to that legendary Nishumbasudani of Tanjore and admire at the Narayani resurrected by Muthusvami Dikshitar for us. And perhaps one would also hark back and wonder what could have happened that fateful day in the year 969 AD when the young and valiant Chola Crown Prince died unnaturally.

Bibliography:

  1. K A Nilakanta Sastri (1955) – The Colas (English)– University of Madras
  2. Kudavoyil Balasubramanian ( NA) – Udayarkudi Inscriptions – A Relook/Review- ‘udayArkudi kalvettu – Oru mIL pArvai’ (Tamil) – Varalaaru.com article in 3 parts in Issue Nos 24, 25 and 27
  3. Subbarama Dikshitar(1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy ( 1977) Part IV pp 843-846
  4. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 275-278 and 963-974

Foot Notes:

  1. Much of the material for this blog is sourced from the references from Prof Nilakanta Sastri’s seminal work, ‘The Cholas”. The works of Prof Nilakanta Sastri and that of Sadasiva Pandarathar, together with the monographs and works of latter day archeologists, historians and epigraphists such as Dr Nagaswami, N S Sethuraman, Kudavoyil Balasubramanian and Dr G Sankaranarayanan can be profitably read to draw useful inferences as to the timelines of the medieval Chola Kings, events during their reign and their accomplishments. It has to be said that the epigraphical records are prone to different interpretations by different epigraphists. In so far as the subject matter of this blog post is concerned all these historical personalities, dates and events pertaining to the medieval Cholas are grounded in the following set of sources:

Epigraphy – Specifically the Udayarkudi inscriptions together with inscriptions cited by the experts/historians cited above whose works I have read and relied upon.

Copper plates (‘cheppu aedugal’ in Tamil) – The records of the Chola Kings which were found later in the 20th century known to us today as Tiruvalangadu Copper plates pertaining to this specific period. The other two sources being the Anaimangalam copper plates (Leiden copper plates) and the Anbil copper plates have nothing to contribute directly to the subject matter of this blog post.

Off course reliance is primarily placed on Prof Nilakanta Sastri’s work and he in turn uses third party sources as well in his reconstruction of the history of the medieval Cholas.

  1. The first section of the Thiruvalangadu Copper plates contains a set of 137 verses in Sanskrit, written by one Narayana during the reign of Rajendra Cola and narrates the lineage and history in brief of the Imperial Cholas. Without just relying on one set of records, I personally find that the logic employed by modern epigraphists/historians like Kudavayil Balasubramanian and Dr G Sankaranarayanan by which they triangulate the dates and events with other evidences including those of rock and temple inscriptions, very persuasive. It must be remembered that the copper plate records serve as epigraphs recording history casting the reigning King in the most favourable light. The Tiruvalangadu Copper plates were created during the reign of Rajendra Cola, the Anaimangalam copper plates (known as Leyden plates as they are presently housed in Leyden Museum in Netherlands) were created during the reign of Raja Raja Chola (985 -1014 AD) and the Anbil Copper plates date back to the reign of Parantaka Sundara Chola.
  2. Author Kalki Krishnamurthi cogently and convincingly opines through his work that Crown Prince Aditya Karikala was probably named after in memory of the legendary King Karikala of the Old Chola lineage and Prince Rajaditya the short lived yet legendary grand uncle of his and a grandson of Vijayalaya, who was felled by deceit in battle at Takkolam when he was fighting atop his elephant and therefore eulogised in epigraphs as ‘Anai mEl thunjiya tEvar’.
  3. Though this medieval Nishumbhasudani Temple no longer exists, a number of other Durga/Kali temples in Tanjore exists today probably attesting to the popularity of this cult worship in this area. Currently the well-known ones are the Vadabadra Kali Amman Temple and the other being the Ugra Kaliamman Temple, which perhaps proclaim themselves to be the original one constructed by Vijayalaya in 10th Century AD
  4. For us only verses 68 & 69 of the Thiruvalangadu plates and the said Udayarkudi inscriptions tell us this unsaid & long forgotten mysterious death of the Chola Prince. The assassination of Prince Aditya Karikala and the unsolved mystery of who actually did or could have done the deed, spawned not just various theories of conspiracy by subsequent historians but also a number of literary works which went on to capture the imagination of 20th century readers. These were part true-part fiction works, the foremost amongst them being Kalki Krishnamurthi’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’, Balakumaran’s “Kadigai’ and ‘Udayar’, Kovi Manisekaran’s ‘Aditya karikAlan kOlai” & ‘T A Narasimhan’s Sangadhara’. While Kalki Krishnamurti in his ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ created a host of real & imaginary characters in his plot and left the identity of the real killer open in suspense, Sri Balakumaran in his Kadigai, made Madurantaka Uttama Chola as the instigator-in-chief, even while in one other novel, Raja Raja Chola and Princess Kundavai, the siblings of Crown Prince Aditya Karikala were made as the mastermind for the royal assassination. Amongst the historians, the earliest being Prof T A Nilakanta Sastri based on epigraphical evidence argued that given the verses 68 & 69 of the Tiruvalangadu Copper plates, Madurantaka Uttama must have had a hand in the death of Crown Prince Aditya Karikala, given that post Aditya’s assassination he had evinced interest to become the King & he was made one by Arulmozhi Verman who gave up his claim. In other words, Prof Nilakanta Sastri did not assign importance to the Pandyan conspiracy angle and the possibility of the three assassinators, named in the Udayarkudi inscription acting on their own to murder Aditya Karikala.  Archeologist Kudavoyil Balasubramanian in his analysis of the Udayarkudi Inscription, gives an excellent summary of the take of different historians and proceeds to argue that Prof Nilakanta Sastri was mistaken in his assessment. Sri Balasubramanian basing his case on multiple sources including the much later unearthed Chola copper plates from Rajendra’s reign from near Esalam near Villupuram during the 1980’s and reading the Udayarkudi inscriptions in context, concludes that Aditya Karikala’s assassination was only the handiwork of the three perpetrators named in the said Udyarkudi inscription namely Soman, Ravidasan and Parameswaran in revenge for the killing of their Pandyan master King Veerpandya by Aditya Karikala earlier and Uttama Chola had no role to play in the said tragedy, based on the reading of the available evidence. See Epilogue.
  5. Mysore Vasudevachar’s grandson in his publication ‘Sangita Samaya’ recounts a humorous incident that happened in the context of this Dikshitar composition ‘mahishAsura mardhini’ in Narayani.

…………………….After the Navaratri festival, the float festival would begin on the Chamundi hills and the Maharaja had directed that vidwans, Bidaram Krishnappa and Vasudevachar, should jointly sing Dikshitar’s “Mahishasura Mardhini” in Narayani raga. Neither of them knew this song; in no time they learnt the Pallavi and violinist Venkataramanayya the tune of the Pallavi. They managed to render it when the float carrying the royal party was there and stopped when the float moved away. Venkataramanayya was happy that they had successfully hoodwinked the royalty. Imagine their predicament when they were asked to render the Anupallavi and the Charanam also.”  https://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2001/04/17/stories/1317017d.htm 

7. The composition in the raga Gaula attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar can be heard rendered in the following URL’s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02aBFW62wjM and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMgl-hjeuLU

 

EPILOGUE:

Much as one would like to write an epilogue regarding some archaeological find regarding the discovery of that original icon of  ‘nishumbhasUdani’ of that Tanjore temple. Alas there isn’t one as yet.  That apart one other inspiration for this blog post, for me has been the enduring mystery of the death of Aditya Karikala, the Chola Crown Prince in 969 AD, fuelled by several re-readings of Ponniyin Selvan and the other fictions and also the historical works of Prof Nilakanta Sastri and Sri Sadasiva Pandarathar. Kalki Krishnamurthi in his part real/part fiction novel had created a number of characters in his narrative such as Nandhini, the cunning and seductive Junior Rani of Pazhuvoor, her consort the Periya Pazhuvettarayar (a Chola feudatory and the Chancellor of the Chola Exchequer in the story) alongside the real life ones being Vandhiya Tevar ( later Royal Consort of Princess Kundavai), Ravidasan and Soman and made them all come together with Aditya Karikala in that dark underground chamber in the Kadamboor Palace that fateful night in 969 AD even as he left the identity of the killer whose fateful act took Aditya’s life open. However he ensured that the needle of suspicion did not point to Uttama Chola ( there being two individuals one, an original and the other a pretender, again fictional). Sri Balakumaran on the contrary in Kadigai makes the Brahmin identity of the perpetrators as a key and spins his tale making Uttama Chola as well as the Queen Mother Sembian Madevi a party to the conspiracy and packing the proceedings with considerable action in Pandya and Kerala country. I should confess that I have not had the appetite to read the other novels based on this plot, but nevertheless got inquisitive to know the epigraphical basis for the storyline/actual event and also the true state of affairs that the historical evidence was pointing to. Finally, I got to read the unequivocal and expert assessment of available evidence by the respected Archaeologist/Historian Kudavoyil Balasubramanian together with the monograph on the Chola Era finds in Esalam in Villupuram, made by Dr Nagaswami in 1987, which proved to be the icing on the cake for me as these two monographs clinically summarizes the position based on available hard facts and likely clears the air as to the mystery who likely killed Aditya Karikala, a vexed question which has been lacking a formal closure all these years. The Tamil original version of Mr Balasubramanian’s monograph on the subject is here. I have taken the liberty of translating it in English which can be read here. A consolidated view of all these, deserves a separate blog post.

History, Translated Articles

Udayarkudi Inscription – An In-depth Assessment ( Translated article)

Udayarkudi Inscription – An In-depth Assessment

(By Kudavoiyal Balasubramanian- Original in Tamil)

(online at the link below in 3 parts)

http://www.varalaaru.com/design/category.aspx?Category=Sections&CategoryID=9

(English translation by Ravi Rajagopalan)

In understanding medieval Tamil history or more specifically the royal Chola history, the Udayarkudi inscription is an important milestone of singular importance. This epigraph recorded as a granite inscription can be found today on the western wall of the inner sanctum of the Anantheesvaram temple complex of Lord Shiva in Udayarkudi Village near Kaattumannarkudi in Villupuram District of Tamilnadu. Marked as having been made in the second regnal year of King Rajakesari Varman (Raja Raja I) this epigraph was published by Prof Nilakanta Sastri in Epigraphia Indica cataloguing it in Volume XXI serial No 27 of the series. On the basis of this epigraph, in his book “History of Cholas” Dr Sastri has detailed the background to the murder of Aditya Karikala 𝟭. And therein he has advanced the view that in the assassination of Aditya Karikala, who was the eldest son of Sundara Chola (Parantaka II) and the elder brother of Raja Raja Chola I, Madurantaka Uttama Chola was guilty of treason as he conspired from behind. This assertion has since then become the blot besmirching the fair name of Madurantaka Uttama Chola.

The Evidence of the other Scholars:

Sri T V Sadasiva Pandarathar the author of the work ‘Later Cholas’ has argued emphatically against the above view advanced by Prof Nilakanta Sastri & emphasized that it was not possible for Madurantaka Uttama Chola to have had a hand in the royal assassination 𝟮. Nevertheless, he did not place convincing evidence to back up his claim. Sri R V Srinivasan writing about the said assassination much later in 1971 in his essay on Raja Raja Chola published in the Magazine of the Vivekananda College 𝟯 went on to advance his theory that it was Raja Raja and his sister Kundavai who were instrumental in liquidating their elder brother Aditya Karikala and vociferously invited rebuttals to this conclusion even as he raised a number of counter questions challenging the traditional view. Dr K T Tirunavukkarasu in his detailed rebuttal of Sri Srinivasan’s view, writing a piece for a collection of historical essays titled “Arunmozhi Aiyvu Thogudi”𝟰, comprehensively ruled out Madurantaka Uttama’s role in Aditya Karikala’s murder. In the said article, basing his view on a number of historical data points, Dr Tirunavukkarasu has gone on to explain that there was a delay in apprehending the perpetrators immediately thereafter and it was only during Raja Raja I’s second regnal year that the culprits were brought to book and given that the assassins were Brahmins, in accordance with the then prevailing Manu dharma sastra they could not be sentenced to death and were therefore sentenced otherwise. Apart from these above referred scholars many other professional historians and observers too have also cogently argued that Madurantaka Uttama could not be guilty of the said murder but none have cited any credible and irrefutable evidence to substantiate this view point beyond doubt.

The Evidence of the Novelists:

Late Kalki K Krishnamuthi who through his literary fiction ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ created an insatiable thirst for history in the minds of Tamil readers, kept this murder of Aditya karikala as the plot & center stage for this work. Therein he wove a story line enmeshing both real and imagined historical characters as the probable perpetrators of the murder but at the end he left the question as to the identity of the actual culprit tantalizingly open leaving it to the imagination of the Tamil reader. Writer/Wordsmith Balakumaran in his novel ‘Kadigai’ again belonging to the genre of literary fiction, ends his work with the murder of Aditya Karikala as its climax. And he too with his acumen and adept story telling convincingly portrays that even though the culprits were Brahmins the brain behind the assassination actually was Madurantaka Uttama. Even though works of fiction can be of no assistance or substitute for sound historical research, in so far as the murder of Aditya Karikala is concerned it has to be said that the assertion made by Prof Nilakanta Sastri as aforesaid has formed a solid foundation and fodder for the fiction authors. And this has resulted in the prevailing popular perception today that Madurantaka Uttama was the culprit.

The Udayarkudi Stone Inscription:

Let us now turn to the text of the actual inscription 𝟱 recorded on granite which makes a reference to the assassination of Aditya Karikala.

It runs thus:

‘svasti srI kO rAjakesari varmarukku yAndu rEndAvadu vadakarai Brhmadeyam vIranArAyana catuvEdimangalatu perunguri perumakkalukku cakkaravarthi srImukham

pAndiyanai talaikonda karikAla chozhanai kondru drOgigalAna sOman ……..<< illegible>>… thambi ravidAsanAna panchavan BrahmAdirAjanum ivandrambi paramEsvaranAna irumudichozha BrahmAdirAjanum ivargal udanpirandha malayanUrAnum ivargal thambimArum ivargal makkalidum ivar brahmanimAr petrAlum E ….<illegible>>…rAmathham pErappanmAridum ivargal makkalidam ivargalukku pillaikodutha mAmanmAridum thAyodu piranda mAmanmAridum ivargal udanpirandha pengalai vEttArinavum Aga ivvanaivar udamaiyum ANaikkuriyavAru kottaiyUr BrahmasrI rAjanum pullamangalathu chandrasEkara bhattanaiyum  pErathandOm.thAngalum ivargal kankAniyOdum ivargal sOnnavAru nam ANaikkurivAru kudiyOdu kudipperum vilaikku vittruthalathiduka ivai kurukAdikkizhAn ezhuthu enru ipparisuvara

E srImukhathin mErpatta malayanUrAnAna pApanacEri rEvadAsavittanum ivan maganum, ivan thAi pEriya nangai chANiyum immUvaridhum Ana nilam srI vIranArAyana chaturvEdimangalathu sabhaiyAr pakkal vennaiyUr nAttu vennaiyUr UdaiyAn nakkan aravanaiyAn Ana pallava mutharaiya magan bharathanAna viyazha gajamalla pallavarAyanEn innilam pazhampadi irandE mukkAlE oru mAvum ahamanai Arum Aha innilamum immanaiyum nUtrorupatthi iru kazhanju pOn kudutthu vilaikondivvUr tiruvanandIsvarathu bhattArakar koyililE ivvAtai mEsha nAyatru jnAyitrukkizhamai petra pUrattAdi jnAnru chandrAdittavar Alvar koil munbu mUvAyiratharu nUtruvanAna nilaiambalathu  thannEr atrum brAhmanan Oruvanukku nisa dambadi nAzhi nEllum Attaivattam Oru kAgam nisadham padhinaivar brAhmanar uNbadarkku Aga padinAru ivaRul Aivar sivayOgigal uNNavum vaithEn

Araiyan bharathanAna vyAzha gajamallapallavarayanEn I dharmam rakshikkindra mahAsabhaiyAr srI pAdangal En thalaimEl Ena.

The identity of ‘kO rAjakesari varmar’ referred in the Udayarkudi inscription:

The Chola Kings in lineal succession have alternatively prefixed their names with the title ‘rAjakEsari’ and ‘parakEsari’ and in this inscription the Royal appellation used is ‘kO rAjakEsari’ for the reigning King in whose name the authority to make this inscription is made out. In the absence of the specific reference to the reigning King’s first name or his Royal name conferred upon Coronation, we are forced to consider the possibility that this record must have been made in the name of any of the Chola Kings post the assassination of Aditya Karikala who had assumed the title of rAjakEsarI. Nevertheless, based on the reference to one ‘kurugAdi kizhAn’ an imperial Officer of the Chola Administration whose name is found mentioned in this record, it can be deduced that this inscription/record pertains only to the reign of Emperor Raja Raja Chola, for we find this Officer’s name mentioned in other inscriptions as well pertaining to Raja Raja’s period. Further based on this inference and the astral sign signified in line no 7 of the inscription being ‘mEsha gnAyitrukkizhamai petra pUrattAdi nAL’, it can be doubtlessly inferred that this grant was made during the reign of Raja Raja I.

The reference to Two dates/years in the inscription:

The inscription in its body refers to two dates/years signifying the events narrated in the inscription. The first being the one right at the outset (‘svasti SrI kO rAjakesari varmarukku yAndu rEndAvadu vadakarai’) which is the second regnal year of the reigning suzerain during which time the Royal Order/permission to perform the proposed action was dispatched. The second mention is of the time which is referred to in the 7th line ( ‘ivvaatai mEsha jnAyittrukkizhamai….’) of the said inscription which refers to the event/date on which the conveyance of the subject land was given effect to by the Mahasabha by conveying the land to Vyazhan Gajamallan. These two dates are different dates. However, Prof Nilakanta Sastri starts on the erroneous assumption that both the events are coterminous and proceeds to derive his conclusions.

Given the astral confluence signifying the date of the second event above being mEsha nAyattru (which is the tamil month of Chaitra) pUrattAdi vinmIn kUdiya jnAyitrukkizhamai (the Sunday coinciding with the star pUrattAdhi), the date/year in question in accordance with Indian Astronomical Ephemeris is 23 April CE 988. Assuming Raja Raja’s second year since ascension to be CE 986 or 987 (the first event), the same would be the year in which the Royal Order was dispatched to the Elders of the Udayarkudi granting Assent to the conveyance while the actual conveyance by this inscription pursuant to the said Assent was made ( an year perhaps later) only in CE 988.

Is this epigraph a Royal Proclamation/Order of Raja Raja?

Starting with Dr Sastri all historians and scholars who had provided their commentary on the inscription have represented that this inscription by itself is the original Royal Proclamation made by Raja Raja Chola by which the properties of the assassins of Aditya Karikala, who were labelled as traitors, were confiscated by the State and proceeded to build their case thereon. This is not true. A careful perusal of the inscription’s narrative would show that the first four lines are only the Royal Assent that was conferred by the reigning King Raja Raja Chola during his second regnal year (CE 986 or CE 987 latest) to the Elders of the village of Veeranarayana Chaturvedimangalam (Udayarkudi as it was known then). This Royal Assent granted for the conveyance of the property was a preamble to the actual conveyance done then by the Mahasabha/Elders in favour of Vyazhan Gajamalla (a mere land record). And therefore, this inscription should not be treated as a Royal Proclamation or Edict issued by Raja Raja directly.

The Identity of the Individual by/for whom the inscription was made:

According to the narrative in the inscription, an individual Bharathan also known as Vyazha Gajamalla Pallavarayan, son of ‘aravanaiyAn’ Pallava Muttharayan of Tiruvennainallur created an endowment in perpetuity for providing potable water supply source and for feeding 15 sivayogis inclusive of saivaite brahmanas, by purchasing from the Elders/Mahasabha of the Village consisting of lands measuring 2 ¾  velis & 1 mA and six house sites ( agamanai) for a sum of 112 gold coins. This purchase of land from the State and the consequential creation of this charitable endowment is what is evidenced by this inscription. It has to noted here that the creator /originator of this inscription is this individual Vyazha Gajamallan and is not Raja Raja.

The Details of the Land found in the Epigraph:

The inscription purports to document the purchase of 2 ¾ veli and 1 ma of land together with six house sites. Vyazha Gajamalla purchases this from the Sri Parantaka Veeranarayana Chaturvedimangalam village Mahasabha/Elders and the same is obvious from the phrase ‘sabhaiyaar pakkal’ occurring in the 6th line. Reviewing the language and the grammatical construct of the sentence and the usage of the word ‘pakkal’ ( EzhAm vEtrumai uruppu in tamil grammar) in conjunction with a similar usage seen in another Chola inscription ( SII VI 356) it is crystal clear that the Elders/Mahasabha of the Village, being a Chaturvedimangalam, were the sellers in the said conveyance and they sold it as Trustees. That the village was earlier a Royal tax-free gift of land to Brahmins (brahmadEyam) and was a resident settlement or enclave of Brahmins (Chaturvedimangalam) is obvious from the first line of the inscription.

And while so selling the land to an endowment being set up by an individual, as is practice, they as sellers disclosed the antecedents to their title to the property. The properties belonging to the killers of Aditya Karikala being traitors together with that of their immediate and close relatives ( dAyAdis) were confiscated by Royal Proclamation ( earlier) and pursuant to the same it stood vested with the Sri Parantaka Veeranarayana Chaturvedimangalam Village represented by its Mahasabha or Elders. The epigraph does not disclose when and under whose reign the confiscation and attachment of the properties of the perpetrators and their relatives took place (earlier) nor does it detail the total quantum of such lands which were confiscated earlier enmasse perhaps through a Royal Proclamation. Such details would be subject matter of the specific and separate Royal Order or Proclamation that would have been issued then, in that behalf.

From out of the said lands so confiscated belonging originally to the assassins, their immediate families and relatives and which were in the custody of the grama sabha/village elders, a portion of which, included the lands of the 3 individuals namely rEvadAsa grAmavitthan of Malayanoor, his son and & his mother by name Nangai chAnI, land aggregating to 2 ¾ velis & 1 mA along with the house sites were sold off by the Elders to Vyazha Gajamalla for this endowment for a sum of 112 gold coins ( ‘kazhanju pOn is the Chola coinage). The details of the previous owners of this property was provided as a narrative to the title of the sellers, in this case being the Elders/Mahasabha of the Village.

The inscription if read in context, would also show that Raja Raja during his second regnal year had appointed two administrators namely Kottaiyur BrahmaSri Rajan and Pullamangalam Chandrasekara Bhattar for this confiscated property  and by this srimukham (missive/Order) the King was granting the power to the Mahasabha/Elders to dispose of the confiscated property which had till date been held by them for and on behalf of the State and remit the consideration received, into the local treasury ( thalathiduga). And that was the context the initial line of the epigraph was providing as the preamble.

The reference in the preamble made to the Royal Order/permission/missive (Srimukham) has been misinterpreted by Dr Sastri to the effect that the perpetrators were arraigned only during the second year of Raja Raja’s reign and the said inscription by itself was the Royal Order of Confiscation of the property of the traitors. The same is not acceptable in the light of the foregoing. It has to be noted that nowhere does this epigraph mentions the apprehending of the culprits or the confiscation of their property and details of their lands so confiscated and attached. It can be stated that all that the preamble or the opening lines of the inscription conveys is that the sale was being executed pursuant to Raja Raja’s Royal Order according permission to the Village Mahasabha/Elders to sell the confiscated lands under supervision by the two named individuals and the lands having earlier been confiscated and attached by Royal Proclamation/Orders issued either during Sundara Chola’s reign or a little thereafter during Madurantaka Uttama’s reign. The Village’s Mahasabha after receiving the Royal permission ( srimukham) or assent to convey the land after an year or two, proceeded to give effect to the same by executing the sale of a portion of the original lot of lands which had been confiscated. The mistaken belief that this inscription (of Udayarkudi) by itself was the original Royal Order of Confiscation of property issued by Raja Raja has resulted in confusions beg faced by researchers down the line.

The Perpetrators & their Relatives:

The Udayarkudi inscription (found in the Thiruvanandeesvaram Temple of the Sri Parantaka Caturvedi Mangalam) has the following narrative about the identities of the perpetrators and their relatives as below.

“……..pAndiyanai talaikonda karikAla chozhanai kondru drOgigalAna sOman ……..<< illegible>>… thambi ravidAsanAna panchavan BrahmAdirAjanum ivandrambi paramEsvaranAna irumudichozha BrahmAdirAjanum ivargal udanpirandha malayanUrAnum ivargal thambimArum ivargal makkalidum ivar brahmanimAr petrAlum E ….<illegible>>…rAmathham pErappanmAridum ivargal makkalidam ivargalukku pillaikodutha mAmanmAridum thAyodu piranda mAmanmAridum ivargal udanpirandha pengalai vEttArinavum Aga ivvanaivar udamaiyum……”

The narrative of the above inscription upon examination makes it very clear that that only other three brothers namely Soman ( his alias is not decipherable in the inscription), Ravidasan alias Panchavan Brahmadirajan and Paramesvaran alias Irumudi Chola Brahmadirajan were the culprits/traitors who assassinated Aditya Karikala and since the other referred individuals are dealt with as ‘others’ (‘evagal’) it becomes obvious that these ‘others’ were only relatives of the 3 brothers and were not complicit otherwise to the said murder.

According to the narrative of this epigraph the original owner of the land and the house site (ahamanaigal) forming subject matter of this conveyance, is one pApanacEri rEvadAsa grAmavitthan hailing from Malayanoor (along with his son and mother) and he was a brother to the conspirators & obviously he did not participate in the said treacherous act. These individuals being related (dAyadIs) (though innocent) were therefore deemed culpable as well for the said murder and consequently their properties too were confiscated by the State, attached and was now being sold. It is pertinent to note that nowhere does this epigraph deals with the land & house site which stood in the name of the perpetrators themselves namely Soman, Ravidasan and Paramesvaran connected to the murder.

‘Brahmadirajan’ is a title bestowed by the Tamil sovereigns on high ranking Brahmin Officials in the Royal Service ( peruntharathu aluvalar). The portion of the inscription giving the titular appellation of the first of the perpetrators, mentioned in the inscription namely Soman has been damaged and is therefore not decipherable. The other two perpetrators bear the title of Panchavan Brahmadirajan, which is granted by Pandyan Sovereigns and that of Irumudichola Brahmadirajan, which is conferred by Chola Kings, to Brahmins who are senior ranking members of their Imperial Service. If we view the narrative of this inscription in totality, it can be logically deduced that the first of them being Soman, whose titular appellation is illegible must have been bearing an appellation (which is not decipherable) conferred most probably by the Pandyan sovereign.

The conspectus of these facts would show that it is definitive that the plot to kill Aditya Karikala was hatched only in the Pandya country. Dr Nilakanta Sastri while opining on inscriptions were Aditya Karikala proclaimed himself as ‘vIrapAndiyan talaikOnda kOperukEsari’ ( ‘the Royal who took the head of  Veerapandya’) advances his view that he (Aditya Karikala) used the epithet as a mere figure of speech as to mean that he vanquished him and he did not literally behead him ( Veerapandya)𝟲 . While this view has prevailed till date, much after Dr Sastri’s times, very recently a copper plate inscription as a part of a collection dating back to times of Rajendra Chola has been unearthed at esAlam village, Villupuram Taluk in Tamilnadu, wherein it is unequivocally recorded therein that Aditya Karikala beheaded King Veerapandya’s head, hoisted it on a post and had it displayed at the entrance of the Tanjore Palace for all to see 𝟳. It was thus in revenge for this macabre act done wantonly in blatant disregard for wartime conventions, that Aditya Karikala came to be assassinated.

Born in Sri Parantaka Veeranarayana Caturvedimangalam (Udayarkudi) and having occupied high Offices under both Pandyan and Chola sovereigns, the siblings after being successful in their conspiracy must have in all probability left the Chola dominions. They must have fled either to the Pandya country or to the Chera Kingdom being their allies and must have lived in exile there for a considerable period of time. Their immediate families and relatives too must have migrated out of the Chola land. And it was therefore that the Chola regime must have confiscated and attached their lands and house dwellings. There is no doubt that the above said Imperial action to confiscate, must have taken place either during Sundara Chola’s reign itself or immediately after Madurantaka Uttama Chola’s ascension to the throne.

Madurantaka Uttama Chola’s benign rule, the great respect that Raja Raja Chola had for him and the affinity he enjoyed as evidenced by Raja Raja naming his own son as Madurantaka, the love and affection the Dowager Queen Mother Sembian Maadevi ( Madurantaka Uttama’s mother) had for Raja Raja even while as she was the matriarch of the Royal Household even after the tragic episode are all documented for posterity and they would all go to demonstrate that there is no basis whatsoever to foist the blame of murder on Madurantaka Uttama and thus castigating him so is unfounded.

The other allegation made against Raja Raja in this matter is that since the perpetrators of this murder were Brahmins he deigned not to punish them. This too is unfounded and unsubstantiated. It is well known that one of Raja Raja’s Commanders was Krishnan Raman alias Mummudi Chola Brahmadirajan, a Chola General and a Brahmin to boot. Again, in the Chalukya inscriptions which details the military campaign Raja Raja Chola undertook against the Western Chalukyan King Satyasraya, it is recorded that Raja Raja remorselessly killed brahmin soldiers, during the said expedition. Thus, it was quite normal during those times that Brahmins took to weapons and fought battles and were also killed in them. Viewed in this context it would be unacceptable to blame Raja Raja in this regard in the absence of any historical evidence whatsoever.

The Udayarkudi inscription is just an epigraph which in a line therein as a part of the background narrative provides information as to the assassins of Aditya Karikala. And it is not a Royal Edict disclosing the other details in connection with the assassination or the punishment that was meted to the perpetrators Thus, in sum the Udayarkudi inscription is only a record of an individual Bharathan alias Vyazha Gajamallan having purchased property to create a charitable endowment.

Bibliography:
  1. The Colas, K A Nilakanta Sastri, University of Madras 1984, pp157-158
  2. Pirkaala Chozar Varalaaru, T V Sadasiva Pandaarathar, Annamalai University, 1974, pp 76-78
  3. A Note on the Accession of Raja Raja, R V Srinivasan, Vivekananda College Magazine, Madras 1971 p 13
  4. Aditya Karikala’s Murder – A Review by K T Tirunavukkarasu, Arunmozhi Research Collection, Tamilnadu Archaeological Department, Chennai 600028, 1988 pp143-153
  5. No 27, The Udayarkudi Inscription of Rajakesarivarman, K A Nilakanta Sastri, Epigraphia India Vol XXI pp 165-170
  6. The Colas, K A Nilakanta Sastri, University of Madras 1984, p 154
  7. Archeological Finds in South India, Esalam Bronzes and Copper Plates by Dr R Nagaswamy, Bulletin DE 1’ Ecole Francaise D’Extreme Orient Tome LXXVII, Paris, 1987 p14

 

History, Repertoire

The Quest for the true melodic contours of Tyagaraja’s “varadarAja ninnEkOri”

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PROLOGUE:

The raga names and their associated melodic contour for Tyagaraja’s compositions, from a theoretical framework can be assessed by referring to the Sangraha Cudamani attributed to Govinda and to the Andhra edition of a manuscript called Ragalakshanam. The date of Sangraha Cudamani is not without controversy though. Votaries of the Sangraha Cudamani advance the argument that the work is antecedent to Tyagaraja and he composed and assigned ragas only using this treatise.  There are those who cogently put forth reasoned arguments that the Sangraha Cudamani is neither authoritative nor is it dateable atleast to the times of Tyagaraja. There are others who advocate the theory that Tyagaraja had a set of inherited ‘scale dictionaries’ through Vina Kalahasti Ayya and others (‘Katakamus’) which he then breathed life into as ragas. We have seen much of these in previous blog posts in this series. Leaving aside the question as to the authenticity and whether Sangraha Cudamani is ex post or ex ante to Tyagaraja’s life time, for us at the least it serves a useful reference or a lexicon for us to determine the true melody of Tyagaraja’s compositions.

 While assessing the correct melody of a Tyagaraja composition, though we can rely on the oral traditions – such as the primary sishya paramparas- we still have two important problems.

  1. It is very much discernible from history that Tyagaraja did not assign or disclose the name of the raga of a composition, when he taught it to his students. Therefore, in quite a few instances the different sishya paramparas held different raga names and/or different melodic contour for the same composition.
  2. The second issue is that outside of the sishya paramparas, early publishers of Tyagaraja’s compositions (1870-1920) gave the raga name/description simply as ‘apuroopam’ meaning rare for melodies which were uncommon or not discernible with certainty by them/at that point in time for quite a few of his compositions.

Doubts have been expressed about the correct raga and or /raga lakshana of many Tyagaraja compositions which have remained unresolved and unsettled for many different reasons till date. Examples include the popular as well the rare ones such as ‘nAdatanumanisam’, ‘sItamma mAyamma’& ‘nEnendhu vEdakudhurA’ on one hand and ‘nannu kanna talli’ and ‘prAnanAtha’ on the other to name a few. Our quest to identify the correct raga /melodic contour of compositions becomes severe in the case of compositions which are:

  1. Not much in currency
  2. In uncommon ragas
  3. In ragas not found described in the Sangraha Cudamani and also if many of the late 19th century and early 20th century publications do not offer much clue.

Paucity of systematic musicological research, proper tabulation/classification and scientific analysis of data/information have ensured that we have never gotten to certainty or truth on these questions. In this series of blog posts, we have looked at some of these compositions and with available data attempted to piece together a credible case for a particular raga as being the one in which Tyagaraja might have possibly composed a particular piece.

The composition ‘varadarAja ninnukOri’ set apparently to a raga called SvarabhUshani is a case in point and we will look at it in this blog post.

BACKGROUND TO THE COMPOSITION:

Let’s first look at the history and other aspects of the composition ‘varadarAja ninnukOrI’. Though Tyagaraja was apparently not an itinerant composer in the mould of Muthusvami Dikshitar, he reportedly did undertake a few journeys/pilgrimages to places away from Tiruvaiyyaru during his life time. His biographers including Prof Sambamoorthi and others based on his compositions/internal evidence, accounts of his disciples and such other collateral information, aver that he visited places like Srirangam, Nagapattinam, Tiruvottiyur, Kovur, Tirupati & Kancipuram. In fact, musical historians based on the kritis also advance the view that the following four deities, have been sung upon by every member of our Trinity

  1. Lord Varadaraja at Kancipuram
  2. Goddess Kamakshi at Kancipuram
  3. Goddess Nilayathaksi at Nagapattinam
  4. Goddess Dharmasamvardhini at Tiruvaiyyaru

Taking the case of Lord Varadaraja at Kancipuram, while Dikshitar composed ‘varadarAja avAva’ in Gangatarangini and Syama Sastri is said to have composed the Anandabhairavi varnam ‘sami nI rammanavE’ on Lord Vardaraja, Tyagaraja is said to have composed two compositions on Him:

  1. ‘varadarAja nine kOri’ in raga SvarabhUshani – rupaka tAlA
  2. ‘varada navanItAsha’ in raga rAgapanjaram- misra cApu tAlA

Standard texts of Tyagaraja’s compositions such as T S Parthasarathy’s give the text of ‘varadaraja ninnukori’, our subject matter composition as under:

pallavi

varadarAja ninnu kOri vacciti mrokkErA

anupallavi

surulu munulu bhUsurulu cuTTi cuTTi sEvince

caraNam

varagiri vaikuNTha maTa varNimpa daramugAdaTa nirjarulanu
tArakamulalO candruDai merayaduvaTa vara tyAgarAjanuta garuDasEva jUDa

THE EVIDENCE OF THEORY:

Dr. V Raghavan’s Index of Tyagaraja’s compositions has an entry for this piece based on its availability in the records of Chinnasvami Mudaliar/Walajapet manuscripts and that of Rangaramanuja Ayyangar. The raga name is given as Svarabhushanl. As pointed out earlier none of the lexicons of Tyagaraja’s songs namely Sangraha Cudamani or the Andhra text of the Ragalakshanam or the Tamil text Mahabharata Cudamani makes a mention of a raga by this name or the scale under the 22 mela. Again only 20th century listings of ragas make a mention of Svarabhushani with the varying arohana/avarohana kramas under mela 22. They do not have any prior authority whatsoever other than their very own which makes the raga a suspect for being tagged to a composition of Tyagaraja. This name is first documented in Nadamuni Panditar’s Svaraprastara Sagaram, circa 1914. And modern publications assign this raga name to the composition as Svarabhushani/Svarabhushini under mela 22 with SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS as the nominal arohana/avarohana.

It needs to be pointed out that mere mention of raga names in older manuscripts by itself does not confer legitimacy for ascribing a particular melody in the case of assigning that to Tyagaraja’s compositions. The learned critic of the last century Sri K V Ramachandran, records that Walajapet Ramasvami Bhagavathar Bhagavathar the scion of the authentic Walajapet line of sishyas confided to him that the raga names assigned in manuscripts were sourced from questionable sources without scrutiny ( “Apurva Ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs”. – 1950 JMA XXI pp109)

With not much inputs available to us from a textual history standpoint beyond this, we move over to the oral tradition to determine the true melodic svarupa/contours of this raga and that of the composition.

THE EVIDENCE FROM PRACTICE- DISCOGRAPHY:

Vidvan S Rajam's depiction of the garudaseva which Tyagaraja refers in this composition
Vidvan S Rajam’s depiction of the garudaseva which Tyagaraja refers in this composition

Unfortunately, even here we do not have renderings of this composition from stalwarts of the previous century and hence the composition falls into the rare category. We have an account of Dr S Rajam narrating that Kancipuram Naina Pillai used to beautifully render this composition. But we do not have a recording of Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda, who learnt from him, rendering this composition. Similarly though it is known that Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao had been heard singing this composition, the composition has not been known to be sung popularly.

However, we do have a record of Vidvan Madurai Somasundaram who had his tutelage under Chittoor Subramanya Pillai, rendering this composition. Let’s first hear out his version of ‘varadarAja ninnukOri’.

Watch the video of the garuda seva of Lord Varadaraja with Vidvan Somu’s rendering as the sound track.

Vidvan Somu’s rendering ( Video with footage of Lord Varadaraja’s Garuda seva)

Its fortuitous that he renders svaras for this composition @ vara tyAgarAja, providing additional insights for us. But first if we were look at the opening bars of the composition that he renders and then the reminder of the composition, it’s very obvious that:

 

  1. The raga is sampurna having all svaras of the mela 22 having SNDP, PMGRS and SRS, SGRS and SGMPDNS
  2. He does not render the carana line “nirjarulanu tArakamulalO candruDai merayaduvaTa”.
  3. His articulation of the mettu/music of the sahitya ‘vacciti’ of the Pallavi line or the ‘daramugAdata’ is not clear at all, which could have thrown light on the purvanga prayoga, whether it is SRGMP or SGMP.
  4. While he rounds up the pallavi rendering between 0.47 to 0.52, he lends a touch of Anandabhairavi suggesting SGRGM.
  5. Similarly, in the tAra stayi uttaranga sancharas at ‘cutti cutti’ or ‘garuda sEva’ is clearly suggestive only of SRS or SGRS.   And in the svarakalpana he renders SGMP (an oscillated gandhara much like in Anandabhairavi) in the madhya sthayi and again SGRS in the tAra sthayi.

Leaving aside other factors, his rendering enables us to place the contours of this raga as per his pAtham as under:

                                         Arohana krama:     S G R G M P D N S

                                         Avarohana krama: S N D P M G R S

In other words, the melody he paints is a raga of mela 22 with a vakra gandhara in the arohana and a krama sampurna avarohana, without any anya svaras.

Now with this first version of the composition let us move to the next one presented by Sangita Kalanidhi M S Gopalakrishnan. The source of his pAtham of the composition is unknown.

The following points emerge from his presentation.

  1. His version stands out for the use of the oscillated sadharana gandhara through the “GMR” prayoga, a staple of the Kapi/Kanada family. SGMP also occurs which impart the Devagandharam flavour to the alapana.
  2. In the kriti rendering as well he uses the GMRS. Attention is invited to the pallavi closing ahead of the anupallavi commencement and the tAra sthAyi at the anupallavi sahitya section ‘cutti cutti’.
  3. SNDP is the way the pallavi begins. GMPDNS and such other prayogas native to the 22 mela occur otherwise. MRS or GMRS is the way the avarohana krama progresses as is obvious from the svara kalpana as well.

 In sum, this version of the raga and the kriti as painted by the violin virtuoso, provides us the melodic contours as:

            Arohana krama :     S G M P D N S

                                            Avarohana krama : S N D P M G M R S

The gandhara intoned in this version is of two types – one which occurs as GMPDNS and the other which occurs in the GMRS reminiscent of the kAnadA ang/motif native to the Kapi family. In contrast to Vidvan Madurai Somasundaram’s version, Sri MSG’s version though adopting apparently the same svara sets, imparts a different hue and color, due to the GMRS that occurs in his conception. Again, to reiterate we have no clue as to the source of Sri MSG’s pAtam and whether it has nexus to any of the main schools of Tyagaraja’s sishya parampara namely Walajapet, Umayalpuram or Tillaistanam.

We now move to the version of this composition by vocalist Vidushi Dr Vijayalakshmi Subramanian.

 Video recording from her Kshetra series concert is here.

  1. She begins with SNDP and uses SGMP for ‘vacciti’ in the pallavi. The gandhara occurring in the madhya stayi sounds like the one in Karnataka devagandharam and the tara stayi usage of GMRS at cutti cutti is the kAnada motif.
  2. Her rendering is more disjointed making the purvanga, uttaranga on one hand and the mandhara, Madhya and tara stayis on the other hand sound like different raga sets giving the impression of a misra raga rather than a cohesive/singular melody
  3. In the kalpana svara section the MRS sounds more like MGS. Her version is proximate to Sri MSG’s edition using the same svara sets. However, Sri MSG’s conception is apparently more homogenous for the ears.

ANALYSIS OF THESE RENDERINGS:

In the first cut of the analysis, one can clearly say that Vidvan Somasundaram’s edition is one bucket while the editions of Sri MSG and Dr Vijayalakshmi Subramanian is clearly of the second bucket. The versions of Sri MSG as well as Smt Vijayalakshmi Subramanian suggests that present day available editions that we hear are most possibly interpretations of available notations by the individual musicians. In other words, they learnt it from text and their reproduction is constrained by the initial conditions – the fidelity and correctness of the raga, it lakshana and the notation, from the book they learnt.

There are a few initial conditions/caveats that hold true for our discussion:

  1. The raga name Svarabhushani or its melodic contours suggested by prevailing musical texts beginning with Nadamuni Panditar are of recent 20th century vintage only.
  2. This raga name does not figure in the Sangraha Cudamani. Given that Tyagaraja did not assign raga names to his compositions, the absence of the lakshana of ‘svarabUshani’ in Sangraha Cudamani makes it clear that in this case the assignment of the raga name was clearly a very late 19th century or early 20th century development at best.
  3. Using the rendering available in the public domain of a composition, it is likely that the notional mela and arohana/avarohana krama that was implicit in the melodic fabric of this Tyagaraja composition under question was perhaps determined at that point in time.
  4. A perusal of historical records particularly musical books published during late 19th century and early 20th century validates the fact that ragas which were not as popular/well known/common as Sankarabharanam, Todi, Bhairavi, Sriranjani etc couldn’t be identified by them. The publishers of these printed musical books simply left it unspecified by giving the raga name ‘apurUpam’ or ‘rare’. Such was the state of our knowledge and capability from a musical publishing standpoint. Critics of the past century like Sri K V Ramachandran in their presentations before the Music Academy highlighted the need to research and catalogue the compositions and the correct ragas thereof of Tyagaraja. (See foot note 1)
  5. Given the situation the true melodic contours of a raga of Tyagaraja’s composition can be gauged only by triangulating/reconciling the three inputs namely:
    1. available notations from authentic sources & lakshana commentary of any from Sangraha Cudamani/Andhra edition of a document called Ragalakshanam
    2. renderings of vidvans/vidushis who learnt it through the oral tradition route
    3. the internal evidence if any within the composition with minimum but plausible assumptions.
  6. There seem to be no dependable research material or proper research done on this subject, for us to rely upon. See foot note 2.

SOME PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS:

This section and the next completely reflects my view point of this entire problem. Additional facts or authentic versions if any unknown till date, if made available can potentially help in resetting our findings/conclusions. With the available data so far, the following conclusions could be drawn based on the musical material on hand.

  1. The point that the raga name ‘Svarabhushani’ is missing from the listing in Sangara Cudamani makes it clear that the raga of the composition is suspect at the very outset. Most possibly the melody of this composition is already one which is found in the Sangraha Cudamani and is not Svarabhushani.
  2. The analysis of the available recordings as that of Vidvan Somu, Sri M S Gopalakrishnan (MSG) or Smt Vijayalakshmi Subramanian(VS) do not reconcile against each other for many different reasons:
  3. The contours of the raga itself differ considerably as between Vidvan Somu and the rest.
  4. The versions of Sri MSG and Smt VS employ SGMP and PMRS which do not provide a homogenous color to the raga nor does it appear facile. The artistes seem to have learnt it from notation intoning the notes as is and thus constrained by the nature of the source and its fidelity. The contours that they paint also lack musical authority from any known musicological text.
  5. Available notations too seem to have reconciled the composition to the prescribed scale. Who assigned this composition to this scale and/or who prescribed the arohana avarohana of SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS remains cloaked in mystery. We do have texts which give SNPMGMRS as avarohana krama.
  6. Even notations appear suspect and seem to have been written down from oral tradition without having clarity of the source. For example, the available notations do not seem to prescribe gandhara in the Madhya sthayi sancaras whereas the gandhara makes it appearance in the tAra sthAyi through the GMRS phrase (e.g the sahitya.  “cutti cutti” in the anupallavi). The notation seems to have been written from a source who perhaps did not properly render the tAra stayi phrases. The kriti even with the GMRS does not seem to belong to Kapi clan ragas as well such as Karnataka Kapi or Kanada, Durbar and their ilk. The aural effect, one can feel is that the gandhara appears to have been “thrust” into this composition. Vidvan Somu’ version sadly seems to be no better on this count as well. For the moment, we may treat this point as a hypothesis and we will revisit this point in a little while, as it will prove a clincher for us in determining the “possible true raga” of ‘varadarAja ninnEkOri’.

SVARABUSHANI IS NOT THE RAGA OF THE COMPOSITION

tyagayya-1946-VNagayyaArmed with this provisional finding I embarked on getting hold of an older rendering possibly of the composition which could provide a clue as to the true raga of this composition. And help came from not from our world of classical music but from unexpected quarters.  The composition was part of the Telugu musical cinema ‘tyAgayya’ starring V Nagayya of 1945 vintage. This movie being a bio-pic of Saint Tyagaraja, featured more than 20 of the his compositions.

The entire movie can be viewed here: Movie

The musical tracks featuring Tyagaraja’s compositions are marked in the progress bar of the movie.

While serious researchers can embark on determining the pAtham of the compositions in detail along with the sahitya and attempt it match it to a specific school of Tyagaraja’s, but for the purposes of the analysis on hand, a quick & dirty summary/high level assessment tells us a number of facts:

  1. All the compositions featured in the movie are of impeccable authenticity. None can be doubted as not being of Tyagaraja’s/spurious.
  2. One can reasonably surmise that given the attention the movie could have garnered, the choices of the compositions and their version must have been of the highest order. If not, they can potentially attract adverse criticism and or reviews.
  3. The melodic constructs of the commonly heard compositions, tracks to the classical versions and no dilution could potentially be imputed to the renderings.
  4. As a caveat, it must be acknowledged that the renderings in the movie do have, what I prefer to call as ‘desi’ quality. They are not pure concert-editions and are more ‘bhajana-sampradaya’ version. And thus, here and there they sport melodic extensions or a few sangathis which may not be completely aligned to the classical lakshana of the raga. In other words, given the source (cinema), one could & should anticipate a few phrases here and there which may not be kosher from the point of view of the classical definition of the raga.

Subject to these disclaimer(s) the musical idea, skeleton or musical construct of a composition sung in this film/available in the musical track of this movie, can (in my opinion) be used as evidence/input to determine the raga contour of that composition.

Here is the Youtube track of the video of the particular song: varadarAja

The audio track of the song is given below:

The analysis of the rendering of ‘varadarAja ninnEkOri’ from the film Tyagayya reveals the following:

  1. The core melody is unquestionably the raga Devamanohari as one can hear. The elements of the raga are all there.
  2. It conforms to the 22 mela, without any gandhara. The usage of the leitmotif DNP which for example appears at “ninnEkOri’ and other places makes it obvious. We do not see any SGM or GMRS anywhere in the melodic body.
  3. The gamut of the raga in the Madhya sthayi captured by the initial sangatis of the pallavi line and the anupallavi line ‘varnimpa  taramu gAdhada’ is plain unadulterated Devamanohari.
  4. The suspect tAra sancara movements at ‘chUti chUti’ does not paint an outright R..MRS which is what I referred to as ‘dEsI’ in its presentation/intonation. I suspect that these so called prayogas could have found its way to popular/mass version of the song and thus becoming a “corrupted” version of the composition.
  5. These suspect musical expressions together with certain prayogas such as SNDP in certain sangathis can be safely isolated as ‘’subsequently injected aberrations”, for Tyagaraja could not have created his composition with questionable phrases (SNDNP and SNDP in the same breath) that too in a raga of hoary antiquity.
  6. One can safely conclude that the core musical material of the song is Devamanohari and that must have been original raga of the song.
  7. The raga of the version presented by Sri MSG and Smt VS seems very contrived and artificial and no wonder the theoretical progression of that melody SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS did not at all gain traction as the resulting melody was not homogenous. Neither do we have any other compositions in this scale today. This is an aesthetic/harmonic aspect which can only be sensed & concluded aurally.
  8. Moreover, the foregoing makes one to logically conclude that the available notation too may have been derived from a corrupted version of the composition. The film version that we saw perhaps represents a least corrupted version of the composition as available to us.
  9. Devamanohari is an old raga recorded by Tulaja and Sahaji during the early 18th century. However it is sad, but true that during the late 19th and early 20th century, the raga Devamanohari was not known to a good proportion of the public. So much so many of the publications during that period simply labelled compositions in Devamanohari as ‘apuroopam’ or rare. The available copies of these publications are mute witness today to this blissful ignorance. The famous music critic Sr K V Ramachandran laments on the very same point in his seminal lecture/research paper titled ‘Apurva Ragas of Tyagaraja’ & “Carnatic angles from a new angle’- presented in the portals of the Music Academy decades ago. He mourns that the Bard’s compositions were normalized/mutilated by teachers of music and publishers as well, to standard versions based on their own knowledge with scant respect for textual tradition.

And in this instant case, based on the available evidence and the logic that we have employed, we can conclude the possible sequence of events that came about as under:

  • The melodic construct of this composition got corrupted due to abuse or disuse making the composition rare.
  • It came to be assigned a brand-new raga name ‘Svarabushani’ by editors/teachers who perhaps were impervious of Devamanohari and/or were they never knew the true & original melody of the composition, sometime during the latter half of the 19th century/early 20th century.
  • While the mainstream 20th century musicians totally forgot the raga & the composition, it possibly survived in a corrupted form in the oral tradition such as the one captured in the movie made in 1946.
  • Later day publishers probably got only these corrupted versions to notate which meant that they retrofitted a raga name for the corrupted version, for example accommodate only the tara gandhara phrases and hence normalized the body of the melody to create a brand-new raga SGMPDNS and SNDPMRS, without rhyme or reason. This line of reasoning is not novel and has been documented/seen in compositions such as ‘nagumOmU ganalEnI”, “sOgasu jUda taramA”, “nannu kanna talli’ et al.
  • The original score of the composition being lost, the composition today appears in a famished melody which lacks textual tradition, did not gain traction or public appeal.

On the left is the cover and on the right is the relevant page of the publication ‘sangIta nunmanimAlai’ featuring the compositions of TyAgaraja, published in 1908.The right page features the text of the composition ‘evarikai avatAramEtithivO’ for which the rAga name is given as ‘apurUpam’ or rare in Tamil)
On the left is the cover and on the right is the relevant page of the publication ‘sangIta nunmanimAlai’ featuring the compositions of TyAgaraja, published in 1908.The right page features the text of the composition ‘evarikai avatAramEtithivO’ for which the rAga name is given as ‘apurUpam’ or rare in Tamil)

In the light of the reasoning as above and unless we have further credible facts to rebut, the raga of the composition can only be presumed to be in Devamanohari. And the lyrics of the composition below as available from the music track seem to be most appropriate.

వరదరాజనిన్నేకోరి వచ్చితిరామ్రొక్కేరా
varadarAja ninnE kOri vaccitira mrokkErA             (varadarAja)

సురులుమునులుభూసురులు చుట్టిచుట్టిసేవించే
surulu munulu bhUsurulU chUti chUti sEvincE    (varadarAja)

వరగిరివైకుంటమటవర్ణింపతరముగాదట
varagiri vaikunta matA varnimpa taramuga dhadA

  నిర్జరులనుతారకములలోచంద్రుడైమెరయుదువట
nirjarulanu tArakalalO candrudai nErayulu vata

  వరత్యాగరాజసుతగరుడసేవజూడ
vara tyAgarAja nuta garuda sEva jUda srI             (varadarAja)

And much after I done this deduction I stumbled upon this presentation of the Tyagaraja composition by the scion of the Lalgudi sishya parampara of Tyagaraja, Sri G J R Krishnan.

Sri Krishnan renders the composition here in the company of Vidushi Vijayalakshmi which I have split into two parts.

Apparently in deference to tradition which assigns the raga name of Svarabhushani, at the outset the Vidvan announces the raga name as is, perhaps. But in his raga outline, the composition proper and the ensuing svarakalpana there is no doubt that the raga is Devamanohari. There is no gandhara “heard”at all, not even a trace of it anywhere in his rendering. SNDP occurs prominently both at the start of the pallavi and the anupallavi. Contrastingly the V Nagayya film edition started with PDNS. According to the pAtham of Sri G J R Krishnan, the raga’s kramA is SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS. If one were to reconcile the intonation of the gandhara and account for it, the explanation is perhaps it is so oscillated & close to rishabha.

It can also be argued that for all practical purposes the Swarabhushani in this edition is practically SRMPDNS/SNDPMRS, a gandhara varjya janya under Mela 22 with SNDNP occurring here and there. But that would beg the question ‘Does that make this raga any different from Devamanohari?’ Is there any textual authority for such a scale in our history so far?

One other version that can be considered is by Vidvan Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana given below.

The kriti rendering as well as the svaras can be dissected on the above lines and conclusions can be drawn. Again the authority for the SGMPDNS/SNDPMRS, the raga lakshana, the presence or absence of the gandhara, its intonation etc lack authority, textual or otherwise.

‘vAradarAja ninnEkOri’ is thus a classic case where in the absence of a supposed authority like Sangraha Cudamani or an authentic pAtham with considerable authority, we have struggled & are struggling to determine the contours of the raga. The presence or absence of the gandhara is the real clue but eludes a determination.

Actually, the solution to this question/struggle is rather straightforward . The raga is Devamanohari and we have to edit the available closest version of the song to the lakshana of this hoary raga, eschewing all ‘non-Devamanohari’ phrases/sangatis (particularly SNDP) and attempt to recreate a close to possibly original version.

This is the complication we have had with our tradition/past and I think we would continue with that without any resolution. In so far as this composition goes, it is my humble opinion that it was once a upon a time Devamanohari. An improperly sung Devamanohari down the line much later from the times of Tyagaraja has been legitimized over time by providing a name to it (as Svarabhushani) without any authority whatsoever with poor manuscript copying and careless publication and/or propagation causing all these dissimilar copies/versions. Some versions/pAthams included the gandhara. Some excluded it. And thus, today it speaks of the poor fidelity with which the compositions of the Saint have been transmitted over the centuries.

We also saw the similar cases of Natanarayani/Pratapavarali (how the p/S and S\p of Natanarayani morphed to PDS and SDP) and Sindhu Kannada/ Kesari/Sharavathi (how the D1/N1 morphed) in our previous blogs. The pattern keeps repeating and now these confusions are part and parcel of our tradition. We also touched upon this in the context of the previous blog on 18th century raga architecture when we dealt with Devamanohari itself.

I am atleast fortified in this aspect that this modern-day version of Vidvan G J R Krishnan stands as a solid proof that the melodic fabric of this raga is Devamanohari and not a scalar melody theoretically derived by Nadamuni Panditar decades after Tyagaraja had passed away.

I now leave this for the rumination of a discerning rasika of our music.

EPILOGUE:

The story for me did not end here. Whence investigating this there were at least a couple of more problems which were potential loose ends which had to be ironed out.

  1. The prAsA concordance of the carana lyric – line starting “nIrjarulanu” was an irritant. Potentially the ‘nIr’ had to figure as the ending sahitya for the previous line/previous rupaka tala avarta. But it cannot be accommodated within the tala akshara as the previous line sahitya itself was dense enough.
  2. Coincidentally the Walajapet manuscripts had an extra line added in its running notation as marudu siggu cE mandarara Athadu”which did not make meaningful sense. See foot note 3.

What these two points meant was potentially, the original composition had 4 rupaka tAla avartas worth of sahitya which were probably left out when the manuscript was copied. And the melodic flow of the composition had to be reorganized to accommodate these lines which can be done using the running notation found in the manuscripts themselves. This sahitya as available from the Walajapet manuscripts had to be edited to mean correctly in the context of the composition as well. See foot note 4.

The revised (edited) sahitya/lyrics for the entire composition and the meaning are given below: (See foot note 5)

Pallavi:

 వరదరాజనిన్నేకోరి వచ్చితిరామ్రొక్కేరా
varadarAja ninnE kOri vaccitira mrokkErA                  (varadarAja)

Meaning: O Varadaraja! I have come seeking you. I salute you!

Anupallavi:

సురులుమునులుభూసురులు చుట్టిచుట్టిసేవించే
surulu munulu bhUsurulU chUti chUti sEvincE            (varadarAja)

Meaning: O the one whom the Devas, rishis & denizens of the earth surround and worship.

Caranam:

 వరగిరివైకుంటమటవర్ణింపతరముగాదట
varagiri vaikunta matA varnimpa taramuga dhadA

Hasthigiri (Kanchipuram, referred to here as the sacred giri) is considered equal to Vaikuntham and beyond all description.

మరుడుసిగ్గుచే     ముందురాడట

marudu siggucE mundhu rAdata (nir)

Manmatha abashed by your beauty hesitates to come forward.

 నిర్జరులనుతారకములలోచంద్రుడైమెరయుదువట

-jarulanu tArakalalO candrudai nErayulu vata

Amidst the stellar assemblage of the Devas you shine like the moon.

వరత్యాగరాజసుతగరుడసేవజూడ
vara tyAgarAja nuta garuda sEva jUda srI                    (varadarAja)

O the one worshipped by Tyagaraja,I have come to have darshan of the Garuda Seva.

CONCLUSION:

As we saw both the textual tradition as evidenced by the notations on one hand and the oral traditions on the other provided discordant views to us as to the correct raga and mettu/musical contours of ‘varadarAja ninnEkOri’. The analysis based on available evidence indicates a balance of convenience in favour of Devamanohari.

What has been attempted is an amateur/armchair effort to uncover the truth from diverging musical material and history. It is fervently hoped that issues like these are taken up by professional/qualified researchers and the same goes to add to our body of knowledge so that students and serious listeners of music get the correct perspectives as to the versions of the compositions of the Trinity.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. There are very many articles and also lecture-demonstrations done on the subject of ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja as given in pre-1930 publications and the dichotomy it has with the ragas that are actually sung in practice. Many of the items listed, would leave us agitated. While it is true that quite a few compositions suffered a change in the raga, ragas of well know compositions are printed differently in these texts. During the Dec 2016 Music Season Festival of the Madras Music academy atleast a couple of lecture demonstrations were done on this subject including one by Dr Hemalatha. The to be released JMA of 2017 would have that recorded. From the past one such example of a tabulation of the list of compositions whose actual currently rendered ragas is different from what appears in pre-1930 publications is by Smt.Radha Sarangapani in the Shanmukha (Vol XXXIII No 3& 4, July-Sep & Oct-Dec 2007). Suffice to say that the ragas of compositions listed in the publications and the actual ragas as per the authentic sishya paramparas in practice, manuscripts of the Walajapet Sishya parampara or of Chinnasvami Mudaliar or Subbarama Dikshitar as available should be compared before drawing a conclusion as to the actual raga of those compositions.
  2. The current state of musicological research more so in the context of this raga and composition can be rated by the Ph.D thesis ‘Rare and New ragas handled by Tyagaraja- A critical Study’, submitted at the Department of Music, Kannur University available here. In Chapter 3 of this thesis on pages 117-118, this raga ‘Swarabhushani’ and the composition ‘varadaraja ninnukori’ is dealt with by the Researcher.

   At the outset, the Researcher provides the arohana/avarohana of the raga as under, on the authority of Nadamuni Panditar.

Arohana        – s g m p d n s 

Avarohana   – s n p m g m r s

Attention is invited to the lack of dhaivatha in the avarohana krama as provided. Providing the narrative of the exemplar kriti, the Researcher goes on to say  that Tyagaraja brings in the phrase ‘s n d p, m’ even at the beginning. Mark the dhaivatha that makes its appearance now. What is the researcher trying to convey? Is there a dhaivatha in the descent or not. So much for the Researcher, the Guide and the Thesis. Such is the pitiable state of our research, academia and institutions. Not that I am nit-picking selectively from this so-called thesis. One can also find innumerable such faux pas. The raga Vegavauhini dealt with in page 141-142 suffers a similar fate. A reading of the passage thereunder will convey that Muthusvami Dikshitar composed in Vegavauhini with an arohana krama of SRGMPDNDS!

  1. I am thankful to Sri Aravindh Ranganathan for providing me with his copy of the extract of the notation of this composition as seen in the Walajapet manuscripts.
  2. A perusal of the Walajapet notation taking into account the defective sahitya, perhaps makes one surmise that the kriti was perhaps not part of the core set of compositions which was learnt/notated originally by Venkataraman Bagavathar. It is most likely that somebody subsequent to Walajapet Venkataraman Bagavathar in his sisya parampara must have heard this being sung from some others and must have then notated it as a part of their digest/record of Tyagaraja compositions. Walajapet Venkataramana Bagavathar himself was proficient in Telugu and also a composer of merit. And it would be rather unfair to tag the kriti with a defective sahitya line to his repository. If he had learnt it originally from the Bard himself, he for sure would have notated it correctly to make a proper meaning of the sahitya.
  3. I am indebted to Spencer Sri R Venugopal for helping me to understand the lyrical aspect of the composition and editing the Telugu lyrics suitably to make it meaningful, particularly the missing carana line of the composition.
History, Personalities

Obeisance to a Holy Benefactor

INTRODUCTION:

For us in the 21st century world of music the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshitar published in 1904 is a true and invaluable magnum opus. The SSP offers a peek into the music of yore, the music of the 18th century, capturing in its pages the very essence of it. And we are in great debt to Subbarama Dikshitar, the scion of the Dikshitar family for having bequeathed to us the tome. Apart from Subbarama Dikshitar, we have seen in past blog posts that there are a number of benefactors who have directly and indirectly assisted Subbarama Dikshitar when he compiled the SSP. The Royals of Ettayapuram who funded the publication, Cinnasvami Mudaliar the man who assiduously followed up to seek the intervention of the Raja of Ettayapuram to issue a Royal edict commanding Subbarama Dikshitar to publish all that he knew, the personages whom Subbarama Dikshitar mentions in his preface to the SSP as having been of great assistance to him, to them all we owe a great debt of gratitude as they were our benefactors in every conceivable way.

But there is one benefactor who stands out, but not mentioned formally anywhere and not connected at all directly in the entire exercise of the compilation of the SSP, which was started sometime 1899 and finished in 1904. In fact this personage had passed way close to a decade earlier in 1891 itself. He is none other than His Holiness Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati, the 65th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta who adorned the same during 1850-1891 AD.

Subbarama Dikshitar records in his two works, SSP -Vaggeyakara Caritamu and in his Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu that he is in gratitude to this 65th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati as he had provided the original manuscripts pertaining to the Caturdandi Prakashika to him at Kumbakonam. His narration both in his own biographic note as well as in the foot note to the Gamakakriya raga gitam in the Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu bears this out.

His Holiness Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati was anointed as Peetadhipati/Pontiff on November 27, 1850 (tamil/lunar month of karthigai, 14th). This week marks the 166th Anniversary of the Acharya’s ascension/peetArohana as a Pontiff of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam. In this blog post we will look at this great Acharya with emphasis from a musical standpoint and Subbarama Dikshitar’s paeans on this Acharya who was an acknowledged rasika & patron of our music.

He is/will be referred to interchangeably in this blog and also in all books and in the compositions on him as Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati or Sri Mahadeva Sarasvati or Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati Samyameendra.

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF HIS HOLINESS MAHADEVENDRA SARASVATI:

The Acharya in his pUrvAsrama was named Mahalingam. He was born in Tiruvidaimarudur, which is very near Kumbakonam, in the year 1831 where he grew up. His father Sesha(dri) Sastrigal, a rigvEdin being his tutor, taught him all that he knew. Mahalingam’s paternal grandfather Subramanya Sastri, a Hoysala/Kannada Brahmin was the Mudradhikari – the person in charge of the treasury/finances of the Kanci Kamakoti Mutt, which was then quartered at Kumbhakonam. This family hailed from Kannada region and they were descendants of Govinda Dikshitar. See foot note 1.

acharyas-6465Mahalingam was extremely precocious and his knowledge, personality and spiritual profile drew the admiration of many. Not surprisingly the young boy’s capabilities reached the ears of the then Acharya His Holiness Chandrasekharendra Sarasvathi VI (pontificate 1813-1850). This reigning 64th Acharya was in his purvasrama named Venkatasubramanya Dikshita and was himself a direct descendant of Venkatamakhin, the third son of Govinda Dikshitar. Given his/common background and credentials, the 64th Acharya bade Mahalingam to be part of his entourage. So impressed was the Acharya that shortly thereafter the he must have decided that he should succeed him next. Subsequently the hardly 15 year old Mahalingam was ordained into sanyAsA as Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati sometime circa 1843.

Between the years 1845 and 1850, the young disciple/Junior Pontiff/successor designate, His Holiness Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati performed great service to the cause of religion and the Kamakoti Peeta much to the delight of his Guru. The Royals of those time as well as the ordinary public, the followers of the Matha and also learned scholars, musicologists and musicians were drawn to him. We do have records of the communication in the form of epistles written by Maharaja Svati Tirunal Rama Varma of Travancore (1813-1846), a musician/musicologist himself, to Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati, even while he was still a successor designate. Svati Tirunal presented an elephant to His Holiness as an offering to Lord Chandramouleesvara.

svatiletter
Maharaja Svati Tirunal’s epistle to His Holiness Mahadevendra Sarasvati sent circa 1844

It is apparent from the letter that His Holiness desired to visit the holy shrine of Lord Padmanabha and the Maharaja earnestly wishes in his communication that it will be fulfilled in the very near future. His Highness remarks in the first epistle that once the ongoing monsoon/rainy season concludes he would dispatch a young elephant as an offering to Lord Chandramouleesvara the presiding deity of the Acharyas of Kanchi. And he does that soon after as evidenced by his second epistle. See foot note 2.

It must have been a source of great joy for venerated seer, the 64th Pontiff Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati VI to see his ward/disciple playing a great role and vindicating the choice that was made to anoint him successor. The Acharyas of Kanci had been discharging the sacred duty of replacing the tATankAs of Goddess Akhilandesvari at TiruAnaikAval, replacing it once every 60 years. In the year 1848 when the incumbent Pontiff Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati VI embarked on performing the same, many an obstacle arose. His disciple perhaps rose to the occasion by meticulously planning and conducting the event. See foot note 3 & 4.

When his Guru attained samadhi on Nov 21, 1850 at Kumbakonam, His Holiness Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati became the 65th Pontiff in the hoary lineage of the SankarAcharyas of Kanci. Maharaja Sivaji of the Tanjore Kingdom held him in high reverence and performed kanakAbhisheka to this seer. Years later the Raja of Pudukottai also performed kanakabhisheka as well. The Royals of Travancore, Zamorin of Calicut, Satara, Pudukkottai and Ettayapuram were devout followers of this Acharya and they all contributed to the sustenance of the Kanci matha/monastery.

His Holiness during his lifetime performed Vijaya Yatras and visited many places in modern Tamil Nadu and also Vijayanagaram in Andhra Pradesh and Puri in Orissa. He was feted by the Maharaja of Vijayanagaram Ananda Gajapati Raju in July 1885 (Subbarama Dikshitar in his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Anubandha gives a ragamalika that he had composed on this ruler).

Accounts have it that this Acharya was a great Siva bhakta and his puja to Sri Chandramouleesvara during the Pradosha days, was a sight to behold. Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer in his chronicles has mentioned about this Acharya and his awe inspiring presence.

Apart from agamas, sastras and puranas, this Acharya was very knowledgeable in music apparently and he patronized a number of musicians with whom he enjoyed great rapport. A galaxy of musicians including some of the greatest of that era were patronized by His Holiness and were part of his sangita vidvat sadas/gathering. In the next section we will look at the key contributions of the Acharya to the cause of Music.

ilayathangudi-epitaph-found-on-the-tombstone
Epitaph at the samadhi of His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati at Ilayathangudi, Ramanathapuram Dt

During the Acharya’s southern sojourn, circa 1889 after visiting Ramesvaram he visited Ettayapuram where he was again ceremoniously welcomed by the then Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa, who was then a minor. Records have it that a tamil poet attached to the Court of Ettayapuram composed verses in His honor. Needless to add, Subbarama Dikshitar too must have been in attendance during the Acharya’s visit. This Rajah of Ettayapuram was the one who ascended the throne later in 1899 upon attaining majority and he was the one who funded the publication of the SSP.

In early 1890 when the Acharya was in Ilayaatangudi, a village about 20 kms near Karaikudi, Sivaganga District in southern Tamilnadu, he had a premonition of his approaching end. He attained beatitude on 20th March 1890 (tamil/lunar month of panguni the 8th). His mortal remains interned in the Samadhi there, is today an adhishtAnam with a sivalinga installed atop. The premises has been taken care by the Nattukkotai Nagarathar clan who had revered him and one can visit the shrine even today. See foot note 5 10, 11.

THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE 65th ACHARYA HIS HOLINESS SUDARSANA MAHADEVENDRA SARASVATI:

A study of the Acharya’s divyacarita, makes us realize a number of his contributions to the cause of music which are listed below.

PATRON OF MUSIC:

Much like a patron Royal, this great Acharya was also a great connoisseur of music. He must have been well versed in musicology as well. Never in the history of the monastic orders of Southern India in recent history has an Acharya of such eminence been sung about much and known for hosting the great musicians of his era in his vidvat sadas. Available records indicate that the musicians who flocked to him included Veena Subbukutty Ayya (vaineeka and grandson of Patchimiriyam Adiyappayya and the asthana vidvan of Pudukkottai) Tirumalairayan pattinam Ramudu Bhagavathar, Tirukkadaiyur Bharati (disciple of Muthusvami Dikshitar), Subbarama Dikshitar, Mysore Sadasiva Rao, Kavi Kunjara Bharati and others.

A number of musicians during that age apparently vied with one another in performing before the Acharya. Old timers of those days apparently recalled time and again in awe one such recital with a spellbinding rendering of a pallavi complete with neraval, svarakalpana etc by the legendary Vidvan Talaignyayar Somu Iyer ( refer the book ‘Cameos – The Memoirs of Sulamangalam Vaidyanatha Bagavathar, pp 96-97, for a profile of this vidvan) one evening during the evening/sAyaraksha puja performed by the Acharya to Lord Chandramouleesvara. Vidvans including Padakam Gopala Iyer, Fiddle Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer, Svaragat Krishna Iyer, Dholak Nannumiya regularly performed for the Acharya.

It is also said that the Acharya was greatly enamoured of the compositions of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra and he used to immerse himself in the renderings by vidvans. He also used to emphasise the importance of maintaining the fidelity of the compositions and frequently provide a commentary on the sahitya & its meaning.

SETTING THE TUNES FOR ASTAPADIS:

Acharya was instrumental in re-popularizing the singing of the Gitagovinda Ashtapadis of Jayadeva which had nearly gone extinct during those times, circa 1860. The older tunes of the Ashtapadis had been long forgotten and the practice of reciting the same particularly in the bhajana sampradaya had virtually ceased. The Acharya got Tirumalairajanpattinam Ramudu Bhagavathar to set the Ashtapadis to an appropriate raga and tala.

PROVIDING THE COPY OF THE CATUDANDI PRAKASHIKA OF VENKATAMAKHIN TO SUBBARAMA DIKSHITAR:

Subbarama Dikshitar the scion of the Dikshitar family and a votary of the Venkatamakhin tradition circa 1860’s was on the mission to acquire the original manuscripts of the Caturdandi Prakshika. From his own family he had inherited a number of musicological texts and also the exemplar compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar which practically illustrated the schemata of ragas, of what we call today as the later Kanakambari nomenclature or the so-called Asampurna mela scheme. Subbarama Dikshitar perhaps did not possess the complete framework for the scheme and he perhaps only had only portions or parts of the Caturdandi Prakashika and the document/text which today we call as the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika. It is likely that when Subbarama Dikshitar evaluated all the texts he had and the practical exemplars of the scheme of ragas through the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar, he found gaps between the theory and practice. He perceived therefore that he did not have the complete theoretical basis or the complete manuscript of the Caturdandi Prakashika which he knew was the holy grail of the Venkatamakhin Sampradaya to which his ancestors as well as himself, were followers. See foot note 6.

To this end to secure the original manuscripts, circa 1864 he set about scouring the town of Kumbhakonam and Tiruvaidaimarudur /Madhyarjunam where most of the Hoysala/Kannada Brahmins had settled down, particularly those who were descendants of Govinda Dikshitar/Venkatamakhin. The 64th Acharya, Chandrasekarendra Sarasvati VI whom we saw earlier, in His purvasrama was born and he lived in a house very adjacent to the Sankara Matam premises in Kumbakonam and was a direct descendent of Venkatamakhin himself.

Subbarama Dikshitar’s objective must have been to tap the heirlooms of these families/descendants and get a copy of the elusive original text of the Caturdandi Prakasika and related manuscripts if any. His search proved futile and needless to add he must have been dejected and crestfallen. At Kumbakonam, with all earnestness and sincerity at his command he placed his wish and quest to access the manuscripts to His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati, whom he knew to be a descendant of the Govinda Dikshitar family in his purvasrama.

When Subbarama Dikshitar expressed his ask after seeking the permission of the Acharya, the Pontiff in his boundless Grace let him know that he had those manuscripts in his custody. Given both the Acharyas, the 64th and the 65th Pontiffs were from the Govinda Dikshitar/Venkatamakhin clan, we do not know for sure who had procured it and kept it in custody. Be that as it may, it must have been a moment of great joy and happiness that day at Kumbakonam circa 1865 for Subbarama Dikshitar when he was given the manuscripts by His Holiness.

The copy of the original manuscripts provided by His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati is acknowledged by Subbarama Dikshitar both in the Vaggeyakara Caritamu and his Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu. Needless to add the manuscripts provided, must have given him the complete basis/foundation when he later created the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, which is today the only lexicon of authentic 18th century music for us capturing both the theory and practice of the music of Venkatamakhin Sampradaya.

One can imagine the shining countenance of the Acharya as he summoned the attendants in his entourage to fetch the manuscripts and Subbarama Dikshitar with all humility and respect, bowed reverentially in front of the Acharya all agog and excited beyond words to receive the manuscripts. Later in the day as he retired to his quarters provided by the Acharya for his stay in the premises of the Matha, it must have been sleepless night for Subbarama Dikshitar must have been too excited and filled with joy and contentment for he had achieved what he had set about to do.

And he must have spent the sleepless night, poring over the texts atleast as a cursory glance. And the next day when Subbarama Dikshitar must have gone to the Cauvery banks for his morning bath at the adjacent Bhagavath bathing ghat (paditturai in tamil) he must have started wondering how on earth he can ever repay the debt to this great mahatma who had granted his life’s wish. What is that he, Subbaraman can give to the Pontiff of a hoary monastic order, who had given up everything in life and donned the ochre? And then it must dawned on Subbarama Dikshitar that the best way would be etch this great personage forever in the fabric of our music by creating a couple of compositions as a paean on the Acharya Shresta. And the Acharya being the greatest of connoisseurs meant that he would cherish the same without doubt.

The more Subbarama Dikshitar thought about it the more convinced he was that no greater homage can ever be possible as the Acharya’s Grace and memory will stand reinforced and sung every time the composition is rendered for ages down the line.

And Subbarama Dikshitar must have given considerable thought to the raga and the composition type. A tana varna and a conventional kriti must has easily struck him as obvious ones. And as he decided to choose the ragas, he was in no doubt perhaps. They shall be old and hoary ragas, the greatest amongst melodies-Sankarabharanam and Ramakriya. And so he must have gone about fashioning them that early afternoon in Kumbakonam. As he composed the sahitya and notated it, he must have had his disciple perhaps by his side as a scribe who would have also been made to practice the pieces countless times to meet with the final approval of Subbarama Dikshitar who in turn must have also corrected it then and there to burnish the compositions to a perfect finish. In sum two brilliant compositions formed Subbarama Dikshitar’s offering to his benefactor.

  • kriti – ‘sankarAcAryaM’ in Sankarabharanam and Adi tAlA
  • tAna varnA – ‘srI kanci kAmakOti’ in Ramakriya and ata tAlA

Shortly thereafter, once Subbarama Dikshitar had gained the confidence that the pieces would secure expert approval he must have approached the Acharya perhaps with great trepidation after the evening puja, one of the following days in the Matha premises at Kumbakonam. With humility he must have submitted to him that he would like to debut the compositions he had newly created and must have sought the Acharya’s blessings, permission and direction.

Subbarama Dikshitar says in his own biography that he presented the two compositions to his Holiness in the presence of several other musical giants of that age, including Veena Subbukutty Ayya (vaineeka and grandson of Patchimiriyam Adiyappayya) Tirumalairayanpattinam Ramudu Bhagavathar and Tirukkadaiyur Bharati (disciple of Muthusvami Dikshitar), who were in the vidvat sadas. We do not know if he played it on the veena or he sang or did both or perhaps had one of his illustrious disciples to render it, we do not know. Nevertheless it must have been a defining moment in time for Subbarama Dikshitar for the occasion was truly momentous. Here he was in the possession of the long sought after manuscripts. He had the blessings of a great savant of those times. The compositions he had created in great debt and gratitude to this great benefactor had met with the approval of not only the Holiness but also of the musical greats of that era. Subbukutty Ayya or Thirukkadaiyur Bharathy must have been no ordinary personages. They were representing the old and hoary musical lineages of the past. It must have been truly euphoric for Subbarama Dikshitar and the effort in terms of both sahitya and melody he has invested in the two songs was monumental. Let’s partake the sweetness of that moment in time for Subbarama Dikshitar by celebrating it by hearing & relishing the renderings of these two classics.

ANALYSIS OF THE KRITIS & DISCOGRAPHY:

‘sankarAcAryam’ – Sankarabharanam – Adi tala

mahadevendrasarasvati
A photograph of “srImat paramahamsa parivrAjakAcArya srImat sankara bhagavatpAda pratishTita srI kAmakOti pItAdhIsvara srImat sudarshana mahadEvEndra sarasvatI samyamIndra”

The Sankarabharanam kriti was well known and was part of the repertoire of the Veena Dhanammal family. We do have a record of the 68th Pontiff, the Paramacharya himself saying so as a part of his commentary on Muthusvami Dikshitar’s classic Kambhoji kriti ‘ Sri Subramanyaya namaste’. The web documents an instance of the Paramacharya, having given his commentary for three long hours on this kriti ‘sankarAcAryam’ which is recorded here. But sadly no details are available.

The meaning of the sahitya of the kriti is given in the footnote 7. A number of compositional features or alankaras/ornamentation which are signatures of Subbarama Dikshitar are found in this composition.

  1. The kriti is constructed like a magnificent edifice. For example the pallavi section has three subsections to be rendered as if it were a refrain with ‘sankarAcAryam’. A similar construct can be seen in the Ahiri navAvaraNa kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar which has 4 individual segments in the pallavi itself.
  2. Both the anupallavi and the caranam are invested with distinct madhyama kAla sahityas.
  3. The cittasvara section is uniquely constructed in two aspects:
    • It is set in two avartas of adi tala. Assuming that the main composition is set to vilamba kAla, the the first avarta is set to the madhyamakAla just as the preceding madhyamakAla section of the carana beginning ‘karakalita danda’ while the second avarta is set to the druta kala, twice the speed of the previous avarta.
    • The svaras forming part of the cittasvara section are arranged uniquely with the entire sequence of the first avarta, repeated in the first 4 aksharas of the second avarta at twice the speed and ending with a crowning makuta svara sequence.
  4. In the pallavi,anupallavi and caranam he uses the words ‘pankajAta, ‘sankara’ and ‘parama’, repeatedly, a form of sabdalankara or ornamentation with words. One can find a similar device used by Subbarama Dikshitar for example in ‘pArthasArathini’ in Yadukulakambhoji.
  5. The pallavi and anupallavi have a profusion of words ending with ‘ra’ while in the caranam they end with ‘lam’
  6. The kriti has many P/s, S/s which has to be sung very inimitably.

We do have renderings of very many Vidvans and Vidushis of the composition including Sangita Kalanidhis Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Smt M S Subbulakshmi. Considering the authentic rendering which can be truly expected of the Veena Dhanammal lineage, presented below is the rendering by the doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda. In this excerpt from the National Program of Music for AIR, she is assisted by her daughter Smt Vegavahini Vijayaraghavan and by Kandadevi Alagiriswami on the Violin and Coimbatore Ramaswami on the mrudangam. She first prefaces the kriti with a succinct vinyasa of the raga and later at the caranam portion begining ‘parama jnAna’ in the rendering she performs neraval and svaraprastara as well.

In the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar provides a cittasvara section as well for this composition, which is not rendered at all in the concert circuit. Presented below is a rendering of the same by me presented for the purposes of understanding the construction of the same.

 ‘Sri Kanci Kamakoti’ – Ramakriya – Ata tala:

Let us first look at the construction of the varNa. See foot note 8.

  1. The varNa is found to be in the older format with a pallavi, anupallavi, muktAyi svara section with sahitya, carana, 5 ettugada svara section and an anubandha which has to be sung following the final ettugada svara section. After singing the anubandha, the anupallavi and the muktayi svara has to be sung before ending with the pallavi refrain.
  2. As is his self-imposed norm, Subbarama Dikshitar makes the fourth carana ettugada svara section as sarva laghu.
  3. Along with his other varnas in Balahamsa, Sahana, Durbar and Purnacandrika, Subbarama Dikshitar’s Ramakriya varna is the perfect example of an ideal varna replete with all the features and complete with all the melodic contours of the raga as aforesaid.
  4. The anupallavi muktAyi svara section and its lilting sahitya captures all the salient features of Ramakriya.
  5. The anubandha section features the sahitya ‘ srI cakrOdhAraka’ – an apparent reference to the Acharya being a Sri Vidya upasaka as well. We have records that on more than one occasion he had performed Sri Cakra puja. Given that Sir Subbarama Dikshitar was a Sri Vidya upasaka too, it is no surprise that the reference is made in the composition.

The text of the varNa and its meaning is provided in foot note 9.

Let us next look at the musical construct of the varna. The raga of this composition is Ramakriya or Kasiramakriya the raganga raga of the 51st mela and it sports sadja, suddha rishabha, antara gandhara, prati madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivatha and kakali nishadha. A very old and hoary raga of great antiquity, it was once known as Suddha Ramakriya. The name Ramakriya or Ramakriti was used for a scale known as Ramkali, a raga which is different in its scalar structure and also sported both the madhyamas. However Suddha Ramakriya and Kasiramakriya are today used synonymously with Ramakriya to refer to the raganga raga of the 51st mela. Suffice to say that this raga is melodically very different from the heptatonic scale of mela 51 Kamavardhani which is also synonymously called as Pantuvarali today. Unfortunately today Ramakriya is all but forgotten and the melodic implementation of mela 51 as available today is the raga Pantuvarali, which is called so rightly or wrongly.

Ramakriya was not a linear svara implementation of the 51st mela. Its melodic svarupa can never be explained with the modern arohana/avarohana constructs, a legacy of the Sangraha Cudamani. We can understand Ramakriya by evaluating the contours/melodic svarupa that Subbarama Dikshitar presents to us in the varna. One sees the following features in the varna.

  • Ramakriya’s salient murcchanas/motifs are SGRGMP, SRGMGR, GPD, dSR,Dgrs,SNDP, PMGR, DMGR, SDS.
  • If the arohana were to lead to the pancama then the route would be SGRGMP. If the movement from the sadja were to end with the gandhara or rishabha or back to sadja itself then SRGMGR appears. In other words SRGMP is never seen.
  • Nishadha is a very weak svara, langhana/skipped if not varjya. On a similar note PDNS is never seen. PDs is prolific in its usage. Neither does one see DNsrg as well.  Nishada is significantly underplayed and it is never a graha, amsa or nyasa.
  • Also SNDP is not copious. Nishada varjya prayogas abound. dGRs leading from the madhya stayi dhaivata to tara gandhara is an oft repeated leitmotif.
  • GPD or GMD, DMGR , PGRS  making the pancama or the madhyama langhana/skipping over is the norm in the raga.

Though in the SSP, the Muthusvami Dikshitar kriti ‘Uccishta ganapatou’ and the Purandara Dasa composed suladi are also given for this raga as exemplars, it is the varna of Subbarama Dikshitar which is the encyclopedia for us in understanding this old raga in its entirety.

A detailed analysis of the raga and the kriti exemplars will be dealt with in an upcoming blog post.

DISCOGRAPHY:

The varna to the best of knowledge is not part of the modern day repertoire. Very strangely it has never been known to be rendered at all, despite its beautiful structure. This observation would go for almost all of Subbarama Dikshitar’s varnas and sadly the loss is certainly ours. Given the lack of a recording, I have endeavored to learn and sing the same to the best of abilities, interpreting the notation found in the SSP.

 OTHER COMPOSITIONS:

We do have compositions of Mysore Sadasiva Rao and couple of other anonymous compositions. Records from the early 20th century reveal that there has been a number of compositions on this savant. Here is the listing.

Sl No Kriti Raga & tala Composer Remarks
1 Sri Sanmukha Janaka Sankarabharanam – catusra Dhruva tala Mysore Sadasiva Rao The kriti is on Lord Chandramouleesvara the icon which is the puja vigraha of of the Kanci Acharyas. The said kriti has a line eulogizing the AchAryA- “pAsandamata kandana sanmatastApana sriman mahAdEvEndra sarasvatI sri bhagavat pAdAcArya pUjita pAda nandanadanahita namAmi lOkakAnta parama shAnta”
2 nAmAmi sriman mahadEvEndra sarasvati Chandrachooda Raga   Misra jhampa tala Mysore Sadasiva Rao See note below in discography section
3 Guruvaram AsrayE Mohanam, capu Anonymous Notation is unavailable
4 sankaracarya SadguruvArya Sriragam, misra capu Anonymous Notation is unavailable
6 GurucaranAravindamE (telugu) Kambhoji Anonymous Notation is unavailable
7 lOka guruvE sankara nAma taruvE( tamil) NA Mazhavai Cidambara Bharati Notation is unavailable

DISCOGRAPHY:

Mysore Sadasiva Rao (circa 1804-1880) a disciple of Walahahpet Venkataraman Bhagavathar in the sishya parampara of Tyagaraja, seems to have been closely associated with Acharya Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati. None of his available biographies talk about this association with the Acharya. We are left to deduce the same only from the compositions themselves. It is likely that Sadasiva Rao a senior contemporary of the Acharya made frequent visits to Kumbakonam to have his darshan. The visits must be been musical interactions of the highest order. And it is no surprise that Sadasiva Rao has composed one kriti exclusively as his obeisance. He has utilized a new raga melodically akin to Kamalamanohari under mela 15. Chandrachooda raga is the name that Vidvan Chennakesavayya assigns during his presentation of this composition for the first time in Music Academy in the year 1957. Incidentally this composition does not find place in the publication of Mysore Sadasiva Rao Kritis by Sangeeta Kalabhivardhini Sabha, Mysore in 1954. Vidvan Chennakesavayya indicates in his demonstration that these compositions were discovered after much effort – vide JMA XXX1 pages 161-164.

sadasivarao-kriti
Notation of Mysuru Sadasiva Rao kriti in Chandrachooda raga as published in JMA

Chandrachooda raga is a melody, a janya under mela 15 malava gaula with an operative arohana/avarohana as under, resembling Kamalamanohari, very much.

Arohana : S M1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S

Avarohana: S N3 D1 P M G3 S

Much like the Ramakriya varna of Subbarama Dikshitar, this kriti too has remained unsung and unseen from the point of view of modern Carnatic repertoire. Again given its novelty value, I have ventured to interpret the notation of the song provided by Vidvan Chennakesavayya, the rendering of which is presented next.

The raga as implemented by Sadasiva Rao spans from mandhara nishadha to tAra madhyama. To keep it distinct from Kamalamanohari he has emphasised both the SMGM as well as PDNS in the kriti. Though the kriti is in jhampa I have rendered it in khanda eka, without in anyway impacting the rhythmic gait of the  composition. The notation of the composition in Tamil as published in JMA is given above.

In the Bangalore Univ publication “Kannada Javaligalu”, wherein many javalis are given with lyrics alone, a few are found notated. Therein there is a javali listed as being in Kamalamanohari, but  an occasional PDNS and SNDP is seen notated ( information courtesy Sri Keerthi)  

See foot note 12 for the text and meaning of the kriti. Also see foot note 13.

Apart from this composition, we find that the Acharya is mentioned in the Sankarabharanam kriti ‘Sri Sanmukha Janaka’. Sadasiva Rao’s Sankarabharanam kriti has been released as a part of the music disc ‘Sankara Stuti’ by Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi. Provided is a brief excerpt of the composition, the rendering of the anupallavi portion which refers to His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati- vide table above.

Provided next is a rendering of the full composition – courtesy Sangeethapriya.

CONCLUSION:

The objective of these blog posts including the current one on His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati is to understand our music and its artefacts in a historical context and to bolster our understanding and our appreciation of the music with other facets as well. Apart from the musical aspect it’s indeed an opportunity to know and understand the contributions of some of these great personalities to the cause of our music.

One wishes that the Ramakriya varna and the other nearly extinct compositions are learnt and rendered more by vidvans and vidusis. It has to mentioned here that more than 115 year later we still continue to uncover golden nuggets like these compositions buried in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini and as often reiterated in this blog, we will continue to be in eternal debt to the great karmayogi, the great Subbarama Dikshitar.

REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Pudukkottai Malladi Dakshinamurti Sastri(1954)- Sankaracarya Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati – A Biography (Tamil)– Published by Sri R Svaminatha Iyer, Sri Kailasanatha Svami Nityakalyani Amman Devasthanam, Ilyathangudi, Ramanathapuram District.
  3. Vidvan V Mahadevan(1988) – Jagadguru Sri Sankaracarya Svamigal Thirumarabu Arul Varalaru (Tamil) published by Sri Kamakoti Aivu Mayyam, Kumbakonam(Tamil)
  4. Vyasa Vidvat Sadas Souvenir (1963)- An account of the proceedings of the Sadas (convened by the 68th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam at Ilayathangudi in the year 1962)and a collection of valuable articles contributed and the speeches made by eminent men in the fields of agama, silpa, temple-building, bharata-pravachana, temple-arts, etc published by the Sri Kamakoti Kosasthanam( English/Tamil)
  5. Dr R Satyanarayana(2008) – Karnataka Music as a Aesthetic form- Published by PHISPC

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

I am in deeply indebted to Vidvan Sri Ganesa Sarma, Scholar and well versed in the genealogy and life histories of the Acharyas of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam, for providing me with inputs in collating the biography of His Holiness.

FOOT NOTE 1:

Accounts have it that since Kanci was northernmost from a geographical perspective, it was open to invaders especially from the Muslim Kingdoms of Deccan and from North. King Pratapasimha the powerful King of Tanjore whose regnal years were 1749-1765, requested the then Kanci Acharya, the 62nd in the lineage, His Holiness Chandrasekarendra Sarasvati V, to move his quarters to Tanjore. The Acharya acceded to his request sometime circa 1750 perhaps and later he moved the quarters to Kumbakonam.

FOOT NOTE 2:

The epistle from the Maharaja of Travancore is subject to a controversy of authorship.  The version that I have provided to the effect that they were written sometime circa 1845 by Svati Tirunal to His Holiness Mahadevendra Sarasvati the 65th Acharya is based on the narration provided by “Select Epistles of the sovereigns of Travancore addressed to the Acharyas of the Kamakoti Peetha”, edited by  K. G. Natesa Sastri and published by G S Sarma Eliyurkar, Kalyanasrama, Mylapore, Madras, in 1928. The same is the authority cited by  the biographers of Svati Tirunal as well. However a contrary view is expressed  by Sri N Ramesan in his article ‘Sri Kamakoti Peeta of Sankaracarya’ found in the book ‘Preceptors of Advaita’ published by Sri Kanci Kamakoti Sankara Mandir , Secunderabad (1968) pages 439-440, which was published to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the Ascension of the 68th Acharya to the Kamakoti Peeta. In his account Sri Ramesan advances the view that the said epistles were written much earlier by Svati’s predecessor King Bala Rama Varma I or Avittam Tirunal ( regnal years 1798-1810) as he was known to then Kanci Acharya who was His Holiness Mahadevendra Sarasvati (1783-1814) who was the 63rd Acharya.

The Kings of Travancore sharing the same name as well as the titular names of the Acharyas of the Kamakoti Peetam too getting repeated is a probable cause of confusion. It would not be appropriate to ascertain the fact using secondary evidences such as those found narrated in books. Only a first hand analysis of the actual epistles together with other collateral evidences by professional historians/paleographers could possibly help us in finding out the truth.

 FOOT NOTE 3:

Legend has it that the Devi enshrined at Tiruvanaikaval/Jambukesvaram at Trichy was an embodiment of fury/ugra  so much so that Adi Sankara himself in order to mitigate the effulgence of the deity and make her benign, invested the tATankAs or ear rings to Goddess Akhilandesvari with Sricakra encrusted on it. He also proceeded to install the figurine of Lord Mahaganapathy right in front of the sanctum sanctorum in the Temple at Trichy to subdue her anger/radiance and bring about the benign, merciful Grace of the Devi to the devotees visiting the temple. Muthusvami Dikshitar in his kriti ‘Sri Matah SivavAmAnke’ in raga Begada alludes to this as ‘sri cakra rupa tATankE’. More can be read here:

http://www.kamakoti.org/peeth/origin.html

http://www.sutrajournal.com/akhilandeshwari-the-power-of-brokenness-by-laura-amazzone

 FOOT NOTE 4:

The Mahasvamigal of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam, the 68th Acharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati has reportedly narrated a version of the event as told to him by his grandmother ( from his pUrvAsramA) surrounding the litigation about the right to perform the tATanka pratishta to Goddess Akhilandesvari and some subsequent events including the role the Rajah of Tanjore Sivaji, in the matter. http://www.kamakoti.org/souv/4-12.html

From this narrative it emerges that there was one Hoysala brahmin a descendant from the family of Govinda Dikshitar who had settled down in Tiruvidaimarudur by name Subramanya Sastri. He was held in high esteem in the Court of Raja Amarasimha of Tiruvidaimarudur/Madhyarjunam. From Tiruvidaimarudur he used to go over to the Kanci Kamakoti Mutt at Kumbakonam where he was employed as a mudrAdhikari. He had two sons Sesha Sastrigal the elder one and Ganapati Sastri the younger one. Sesha Satrigal’s son was Mahalingam who went on to become His Holiness Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati, the 65th Acharya. The younger son Ganapati Sastri was the paternal grandfather (in pUrvAsrama) of the Mahasvamigal, the 68th Acharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati.

The same narrative is given as a biography of the Mahasvamigal Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati here:

https://mahaperiyavaa.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/sri-mahaswamy-charitram-1.pdf

This narrative is ascribed to the Paramacharya himself with his source of information being his own paternal grandmother Kamakshi Ammal, wife of Ganapati Sastri.

FOOT NOTE 5:

vyasavidvatsabha-1962People who interacted very closely with the Paramacharya, the 68th Pontiff, would recall his performing the Vyasa Puja at Ilayathangudi in the year 1962. On the occasion of the same, during the almost year-long celebrations, the Acharya conducted seminars and exhibitions. The same was published as a souvenir which offers a wealth of information.

The town/village of Ilayathangudi is a Siva stala, having a temple dedicated the Lord Kailasanatha and his consort Goddess Nityakalyani, apart from the Adhistanam of the 65th Acharya which is in a separate premises. Many of the devout and the followers of the Kanci Kamakoti Acharya, who participated in the said Vyasa Puja festivities, named their daughters or grand-daughters born that year as Nityakalyani, considering its newness and novelty! Close associates to the Paramacharya would recall that he would request the Matha employees to arrange for jackfruit to be included as a part of the offerings on the 65th Acharya’s Annual Jayanthi day, mentioning nostalgically that the 65th Acharya Sri Sudarsana Mahadevendra Sarasvati used to like Jackfruit.

FOOTNOTE 6:

It needs to be pointed out that most of the time in the past, Acharyas of the Kanci Kamakoti Peeta were chosen only from a Brahmin sub-sect, particularly those hailing from Kannada country or Hoysala brahmins. Govinda Dikshitar was one such, whose ancestors were residents of the ancient city of Vijayanagar (modern day Hampi) and after the demise of the Vijayanagar empire circa 1550 they sought Royal patronage by migrating to Tanjore which became the hot bed of learning and music. Tanjore was under the Rule of the powerful Nayaks who were then feudatory to the powerful Vijayanagar Kings. With the demise of the suzerain power of the Vijayanagar Empire, these vassals including those of Tanjore, Madurai etc they began to assert themselves as independent Kings. Circa 1580 Govinda Dikshitar became the Chief Minister of the Nayak King Raghunatha who was one of the most powerful Tanjore Rulers of the Nayak dynasty. He composed the Sangita Sudha. His son Venkatamakhin adorned the Court of his son Vijayaraghava and composed the Catudandi Prakashika circa 1636. The demise of the Nayak rule in Tanjore circa 1670, coincided with the installation of Ekoji of the Mahratta Royal House of Bhonsales as the Ruler of Tanjore. His successor Sahaji (1680-1712) composed Ragalakshanamu and he is seen as the patron of Venkamakhin’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin as recorded by Subbarama Dikshitar. The records of the period of 1700-1750 provides us with reference to two personages as descendants of Venkatamakhin as having lived then namely Muddu Venkamakhin, the paternal grandson and Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita a maternal grand/great rand son who was the preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshitar. As we saw earlier, the 64th Acharya Chandrasekarendra Saravati VI in his purvasrama was called as Venkatasubramanya DIkshita and is recorded as a direct descendant of Venkatamakhin himself. The 65th Acharya Mahadevendra Sarasvati and the later 68th Acharya Chandrasekarendra Sarasvati are in their purvasrama, descendants from an other line from Govinda Dikshitar . The connection between the Govinda Dikshitar/Venkatamakhin family and the lineage of the Kanci Kamakoti Acharyas is unmistakable.

FOOT NOTE 7:

Pallavi:

sankarAcAryaM SrImacchhankarAcAryaM bhaktamanovasankarAcAryaM smarAmyaham Sri (sankarAcAryaM)

शङ्कराचार्यं श्रीमच्छङ्कराचार्यं भक्तमनोवशंकराचार्यं स्मराम्यहम्

I remember the revered Sankaracharya who captivates the mind of devotees.

pankajAta-bhava-vedyam hRdyam pankajAta-bhavarOga-vaidyam Aadyam (sankarAcAryaM)
पङ्कजातभववेद्यं ह्रदयं पङ्कजातभवरोगवैद्यम् आद्यम् (शङ्कराचार्यं)

(I remember Him) who has realized (the likes of ) Brahma – the lotus-born, who looks inward / is pleasant,
who cures the diseases of the world –  made of dust.

sadguNasAndraM  srImahAdEvasarasvatIsamyamIndra-candram (sankarAcAryaM)

सद्गुणसान्द्रं श्रीमहादेवसरस्वतीसम्यमीन्द्रचन्द्रम्

(I remember Him)  who is full of virtues, (who bears the name) MahadevaSarasvati, The one shining like a moon amidst the kings of ascetics (who have controlled their senses).

Anupallavi

sankarabhagavaccaranAparavaryaM sankarakRpayAvardhitavIryaM
sankarAgasita-yasho-dhuryam ani-  saM karAbjamavArya-tapashshauryam

शङ्करभगवच्छरणापरवर्यं शङ्करकृपयावर्धितवीर्यं
शङ्करागसित-यशो-धुर्यम् अनिशं कराब्जमवार्य-तपश्शौर्यम्

(I remember Him) who is extremely revered as dedicated to the sacred feet of Sankara(charya) and whose prowess grows due to the grace of Sankara. Whose lotus hands are known for forever warding off doubts and desires.
Who possess unparalleled penance and valor.

Charanam

paramajnAna-latAlavAlaM bhavyatarasUmanOjAlaM
paramatakhaNDana-chaNDimashIlaM paramAdvaita-sthApanalIlam

परमज्ञान-लतालवालं भव्यतरसूमनोजालं
परमतखण्डन-चन्डिमशीलं परमाद्वैत-स्थापनलीलम्

(I remember Him) Who is the sustaining base that irrigates the creeper of supreme knowledge,
Who captivates the minds that are good and extremely humble,
who is unsurpassable in refuting the other paths,
who as if by mere sport, established the great Advaita philosophy.

karakalita-daNDa-kamaNDalaM kAshAyadharaM vinata-munimaNDalaM
varamativijitahara-kuNDalaM shubhavaradaM natadharAkhaNDalam (shrI)

करकलित-दण्ड-कमण्डलं काशायधरं विनत-मुनिमण्डलं
वरमतिविजितहर-कुण्डलं शुभवरदं नतधराखण्डलम् श्री

Whose hands bear the staff and a kamaNDala, Who wears the ochre robes, One who is worshipped by sages
Whose wisdom outshines Siva’s earrings (Sesha), Who bestows auspicious boons, Who is worshipped as Siva
(the bearer of the regions)

FOOT NOTE 8:

Subbarama Dikshitar apart from kritis has created a good number of varnas in ragas like Khamas, Surati, Sahana, Durbar, Purnacandrika, Yadukulakambhoji,Atana and Balahamsa apart from Ramakriya. We get to hear very few of these on the concert stage. That apart from a musicological perspective, his varnas are a compendium of the respective raga’s lakshana and sadly that factor has never been appreciated in any quarters. As the late music critic Sri K V Ramachandran lamented in 1950, in his lecture titled ‘ Carnatic ragas from a new angle- Sankarabharana’ (vide JMA XXI pages 88-89) –  Subbarama Dikshitar was respected but not followed while Taccur Singaracariar was not respected but was followed.

FOOT NOTE 9:

Pallavi:

shrI-kanci-kAmakOtI-pIThAbhishikta shrI-sankarAcArya-vArya nannu brovumu

O revered Sankaracharya anointed as the head of the KanchikamakotipITa – Protect me!

Anupallavi:

shrIkaNTharupa lOkAnugrahakAra shrImahAdEvEndrasarasvatIyatIndra anantakalyAnaguNagaNA

SrimahAdevendrasarasvati -the king of ascetics, The form of Siva Himself, and the one graces the world, the one whose is the repository of all the auspicious virtues

muktayi svara sahitya

sAdhujanavinuta natamahipAlala mAnitagunA sAntarasarUpa yOgasastramArganubhava

bhavajaladhidharana subhamulOsagumu deva sArasanayana sankarAvatAra nIdu sumahita

padamulanu santatambu chinta jEsedanu

caranam

srIkAmaksI-katAksapAtra

anubandha

srIcakrodhArakA

Who is worshipped by sage and kings, Whose qualities are admired, who is of serene countenance, who is a torchbearer in the path of yogasastra. Who is a support in this ocean of samsara – Bestow auspiciousness on me, O Lord, I Lotus-eyed one, The incarnation of Sankara, your petal-like benevolent feet, I forever meditate. One who is blessed with the grace of Kamakshi, the one who worships the Sri chakra.

FOOT NOTE 10 :

The full titular appellation of this Acharya can be given as under:

‘srImat-paramahamsa-parivrAjakAcArya srImat-sankarabhagavatpAdapratishTita srIkAmakOtipItAdhIsvara srImat sudarshanamahadEvEndrasarasvatI samyamIndra’

FOOT NOTE 11 :

The records of the Kanchi Mutt indicate that the seat moved from Kanci to Tanjore and on to Kumbakonam circa 1745. Between 1750 and 1850 Kumbakonam  became the seat of the monastery. During the fag end of the Pontiffship of the 64th Acharya His Holiness Sri Chandrasekarandra Saravati VI, moves were initiated to move back the Matham/monastery back to its old seat, that of Kanci. By 1850, most of India was already under British Rule and all principalities had more or less been subsumed or played a very nominal political role. The political and military issues faced earlier due to Muslim rulers of Deccan, Mysore and Wallajah which had necessitated the move to be under a protective Hindu ruler at Tanjore had by now completely dissipated. Thus on 22 Jan 1840 the 64th Acharya arranged for the Kumbabishekam of the Kanci Kamakshi Amman temple. In fact this 64th Acharya is the last of the Pontiffs to be interned in the Matham premises at Kumbakonam. The 65th Acharya attaned samadhi while travelling in Southern Tamilnadu in Ilayathankudi. His successors the 66th and 67th Acharyas were interned at Kalavai a village near Kancipuram. By 1891 soon after the attainment of beatitude by the 65th Acharya, the Matham had for all practical purposes moved back to Kancipuram. And thus after a gap of nearly 150 years, circa 1900 it once again became the permanent abode, to the lineage of the Acharyas of Kanci.

FOOT NOTE 12 :
Pallavi

namAmi srimanmahAdevendrasarasvatIM srI bhagavatpAdAcArya guro

नमामि श्रीमन्महादेवेन्द्रसरस्वतीं श्रीभगवत्पादाचार्य गुरो

I prostrate the revered mahAdevendrasarasvati. O preceptor in the line of Sankarabhagavatpada.

Anupallavi

ramApativinuta srIcandramoulIsvara-pAdAbja-makaranda-pAna-dhurINa
kamalAsana-mukha-jAta-sakalvEda-vEdAntatattvapArINa-dhurINa-caNa

रमापतिविनुत-श्रीचन्द्रमौलीस्वर-पादाब्ज-मकरन्द-पान-धुरीण

कमलासन-मुख-जात-सकलवेद-वेदान्ततत्त्वपारीण-धुरीणचण

Foremost in drinking the nectar of the feet of Candramaulisvara – worshipped by Vishnu – the Lord of Rama.
Foremost in realizing the essence of vedas  – born of Brahma’s mouth and vedanta .

carana

sakala-sishyajana-hRt-tApa-hara subhakara sadAsivavinuta sujnAnAlamkAra
sakala-hrudaya-panditOttama-samudAya-mahA-tapah-kAya bhava-jaya mAmpAlaya

सकल-शिष्यजन-हृत्तापहर शुभकर सदाशिवविनुत सुज्ञानालङ्कार
सकल-हृदय-पण्डितोत्तम-समुदाय महा-तपः-काय भवजय मां पालय

Remover of the afflictions of every disciple’s heart, Worshipped by Sadasiva (the composer) and decorated with the ornament of knowledge;
Surrounded by the learned assembly of scholars, Personage sanctified by penance.
One who is victorious over samsara. Protect me!

cittasvara sahitya

gurucaraNa-sarOruha-madhu-pAna kritisurasana sphaTika-maNimayahAra-gala mrudulacarana

गुरुचरण-सरोरुह-मधुपान कृतिसुरसन स्फटिक-मणिमयहार-गल मृदुलचरण

One who relishes the drinking of honey from the lotus feet of the guru
One who wears a sphaTika garland and one whose feet are soft.

FOOT NOTE 13:

Mysuru Sadasiva Rao seems to have created compositions similarly on another seer. There are two compositions of his, worth recording here:

  1. ‘krupAlaya srI gurumadvarAya’ in Todi and adi tala
  2. ‘namAmi satyavijaya svAmi gurO’ in Dhanyasi and adi tala

sadasivaraomysuruThe examination of these two kritis reveal that they are composed on Sri Satya Vijaya Teertha, a Madhva monk of the Uttaradhi Mutt who lived during the first half of the 18th century and who lived in a village in Tiruvannamalai District, near Aarani, presently called Satyavijayanagaram. The Ruler/Raja/Jaghirdar of Aarani one Venkatanatha Rao Sahib patronized the seer. During the 19th century the monastery was led by Swami Satyaveera Teertha who was patronized by the then Raja of Arani Srinivasa Rao Saheb and later his son Tirumala Rao Sahib. The name of the patron of this Acharya is found embedded in the composition. The details of this seer and also that of place are available here.

http://srisatyavijaya.org/index.php

According to the biography published by Vidvan Chennakesavayya in the compilation of the Composer’s kritis as aforesaid, Sadasiva Rao’s wife Sundara Bayee was the aunt of the aforesaid Tirumala Rao Saheb.

On an entirely unrelated note, Subbarama Dikshitar’s profile of musicians who lived during his times also included Sadasiva Rao. Amongst so many others it appears that Subbarama Dikshitar has singled out this composer from the sprawling sisya parampara of Tyagaraja, and documented him perhaps driven by the common bond they shared, the devotion to Acharya Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati. They could have perhaps met in Kumbakonam during the sojourns they would have undertaken to pay their obeisance to the Acharya Sreshta.

Safe Harbor Statement: The clipping and media material used in this blog post have been exclusively utilized for educational / understanding /research  purpose and cannot be commercially exploited or dealt with. The intellectual property rights of the performers and copyright owners are fully acknowledged and recognized.

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Update History:
  1. The rendering of the Sadasiva Rao kriti ‘ namAmi sriman’ in Chandrachooda raga has been added along with the commentary and the picture of the notation. 10 Dec 2016
  2. The narration as to the authorship of the epistle of the Maharaja of Travancore has been added as foot note 2. 10-Dec-2016
  3. The raga being found notated in the Kannada Javali publication, courtesy information provided by Sri Keerthi.
History, Raga

Natanarayani – A melody lost in the forest of time

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Introduction

Very many ragas which predate the formal classification schemes, that of Venkatamakhin, Muddu Venkatamakhin, Sahaji, Tulaja & Govindacharya have been sacrificed or mutilated in the process of retro-fitting them to the schemes in question. These so called purva prasiddha ragas defy the formal grammar of today- which demand a lineal ascent and descent & also need a formal parent in the so called raganga or melakartha scheme. Ancient music was guided only by two melodic principles- that of harmonics and aesthetics. Individual svaras were never the building block of ragas. Only murccanas or svara aggregations were the building blocks of ragas and they determined the melodic contour of a raga. Within a murccana or a motif, svaras assumed melodic relationship to one another and created a stable melodic unit. Bends, turns, twists and jumps were the rule. There were no foreign notes or need for a raga to be a parent or be a child raga under a parent to justify melodic existence. Ragas were even given a persona, color, sex, time of the day, season etc for rendering so that the aural effect they create could be part of the overall artistic or aesthetic experience.

Today much of the ragas exist for the sake of grammar & on the basis of individual svaras rather than murrcanas/motifs. Older ragas have been force fitted to the new models/schemes and in that process few have survived , quite many have become practically extinct (Samantha, Velavali & Desakshi) and quite some have been mutilated. Music today is subservient to grammar rather than to aesthetics or harmonics. Ragas derived today, evolve as mere scalar structures and do not have a melodic existence beyond the single kriti that hosts them. As a silver lining, few of the ancient ragas which survived this onslaught, were given life to by Muthusvami Dikshitar. Those compositions and the related documentation of the same by Subbarama Dikshitar in his priceless and invaluable work the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP, hereafter) offers us a peek into those times when melody and aesthetics ruled supreme.

One such raga which has survived and reached us today is Natanarayani, which is the subject matter of this blog post. His solitaire in this raga serves as the only beacon light for us in understanding this melody.

Read on!

A Brief History – textual

Natanarayani or Natanarayana/Nattanarayana, as it has been referred to in older musical texts, always took the notes which today form part of Mela # 28 (Kedaragaula/Harikambhoji) or Mela 29(Sankarabharanam). It has been documented by both Northern as well as Southern musicological texts. The earliest text which refers to Natanaraya(ni)/(na) is Narada’s ‘Sangita Makaranda’. Many compositions of Talapakka Annamacharya seem to have been set in Natanarayani, according to copper plates. It is seen documented in works such as Sadraga Chandrodaya, Rasa Kaumudi etc well into the 16th CE.- see Footnote 2.

And then the raga seem to have gone extinct/out of vogue during the times of Govinda Dikshitar (1614 AD) & Venkatamakhi (circa 1620 AD), for it is not recorded in their treatises namely Sangita Sudha & Caturdandi Prakashika. There is also no other raga which closely resembles it in terms of melody, except for the raga Sama which can be considered as an allied melody from a scalar perspective.

Natanarayani makes an appearance again in the treatises of the Mahratta Kings Sahaji’s Ragalakshanamu (end of 17th CE & early 18th CE) and King Tulaja I’s Saramruta (circa 1730). From the textual evidence the raga thus seems to have gained currency but in a truncated form. While prior to 1700’s it was sampurna with kakali nishada, in its post 1700’s form it dropped the nishada totally & moved fully under the then Kambhoji mela (which is akin to the modern day raganga/mela # 28). In line with this Muddu Venkatamakhin too documented this raga under Kedaragaula as an upanga, in his Raga Lakshanam compendium (first quarter of the 18th century) available to us as Anubandha to the original Caturdandi Prakashika.  See Foot note 1 & 7

Subbarama Dikshitar faithfully follows the footsteps of Muddu Venkatamakhin & documents the raga under raganga # 28 in his SSP with a set of illustrative compositions.

Melodic structure of Natanarayani

Before we embark on assessing the contours of this raga, a couple of caveats are in order:

  1. There is a divergence between the musicological texts/treatises & the compositions. In other words the raga form as per theory & the structure one seen is practice or the implementation in the exemplar compositions, are different. See foot note 4.
  2. The scalar structure which is the modern assessment of a raga’s body through the lens of the melakartha scheme doesn’t fully help us appreciate the melodic worth of this purva prasiddha raga.

The structure of this raga post 1700 as illustrated by Sahaji, Tulaja and Muddu Venkatamakhin in their works is what is relevant for us today, because the exemplar compositions, available to us today, pertain to that Natanarayani only.

Sahaji & Tulaja’s Textual Evidence

Sahaji and Tulaja’s version of this raga are virtually one and the same. The salient features of Natanarayani according to them,are:

  1. The raga is grouped under Kambhoji and is shadava as nishada is varja
  2. It is a ghana raga
  3. Gandhara never occurs in the aroha
  4. Melodic phrases are Ppmgr, mgrgrr/pddrrsr/mmpdssdsS/pdssrr/mgr/grr/mmppddss/ dsdd pm /pmmgrgrr

We need to partake the definition as above in the context of what the terms meant during Sahaji’s or Tulaja’s times. The term ‘ghana’ has not been defined and we do not know what it meant (see foot note 5). And Sahaji makes no mention of the Caturdandi Prakashika of Venkatamakhin as well.  However from the the foregoing the arohana murccana karma seems to be SRGSRMPDS. Since gandhara is varja in arohana, RGM and GMG phrases are forbidden by implication. However we do have RGRR occurring in the outlined melodic phrases.

Muddu Venkatamakhin’s raga definition

As we move over to Muddu Venkatamakhin’s assessment of this raga, we are faced with a confusing situation- we have two versions of Muddu Venkatamakhin’s lakshana shloka – one in Raga Lakshanam (Appendix to the Caturdandi Prakashika as published by the Music Academy) and one published by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP. The key difference to be reconciled being, if the gandhara in the ascent is varjita(devoid) or vakrita(deviant). Thus according to Muddu Venkatamakhin as quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar as in the shloka below, gandhara is said to be vakritah.

natanArayanI ragastvArOhE tu gavakritAh |

nivarjyashAdavastu syAt gIyatE satatam budhaih ||

Subbarama Dikshitar interprets Muddu Venkatamakhin’s lakshana shloka and provides his commentary of the raga as under:

  1. Natanarayani’s arohana/avarohana murccanas/movements are SRGSRMPDS/SDPMGRS under Harikedaragaula mela #28. Also point to note is that the lakshana shloka does not talk of a vakra dhaivata in the arohana and it is Subbarama Dikshitar’s interpretation probably on the basis of what was practiced. See footnote 5.
  2. It is shadava (having 6 notes in whole- considering both arohana and avarohana); Nishada is varja or totally absent in the scale.
  3. Sadja is the graha svara
  4. Gandhara is vakra in the arohana
  5. Jumps in the raga’s movements such as: RdSR\pdSR- Madhya rishabha to mandhara dhaivata and pancama ; S\pdpmgr and SSmpdpmgr – tara sadja to Madhya pancama or madhyama- make the raga beautiful.
  6. ‘giyate satatam budhaih’ seems to indicate that despite the proposed scalar structure, rendering is not for novices, seemingly to indicate the amount of experience & expertise one has to have to render the raga.

Exemplar Compositions & the musical contour of the raga therein

The SSP & its Anubandha are the sole repository of this raga’s compositions & it lists about 5 of them which are in different genres:

  • ‘nandanamdana’- Muddu Venkatamakhin’s lakshana gitam – eka tAla
  • ‘mahA ganapatE pAlayasUmAm’ – kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar – Adi tAla
  • ‘sarasAgre sarasa’ – a daru of Subbarama Dikshitar – tisra eka tAla( see footnote 2)
  • Sancari of Subbarama Dikshitar – matya tAla
  • Portion of the rAga tAla mAlikA “nAtakAdi vidyAlaya” of Ramasvami Dikshitar-(section # 30) commencing “ nagu natanarAyani yanu nAmamu” set to raga Natanarayani & caturmukhi tAla
  • Portion of the ragamalika of Ramasvami Dikshitar – ‘sivamOhana sakti’ where the raga is found in the 5th caranam in the company of Brindavana Saranga, Ritigaula, Purnacandrika, Devakriya, Megharanji, Hamvira and Bhupalam and set in adi tala. The composition is on Goddess Meenakshi at Madurai.

Leaving aside Muddu Venkatamakhin’s gitam, we see that all the other compositions broadly conform to the melodic contours outlined by the shloka definition of Muddu Venkatamakhin as quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar but with some additional features.

  1. Almost apparently as a rule none of the compositions have PDS or SDP usage in the Madhya sthayi, though not forbidden by the definition. See foot note 4.
  2. There is no sancara beyond tara sadja at all, which again is not forbidden by the lakshana shloka.
  3. Though Subbarama Dikshitar gives the arohana murccana as SRGSRMP- we see no evidence of SRGS at all. The GS prayoga is seen in the daru though but with rishabha marked as an anusvara GrS. It would have been clarifying had he given it as SRGRS instead.
  4. We also see RGMG and RGRG prayogas which would be forbidden if we were to go by the Subbarama Dikshitar murccana definition. Even Subbarama Dikshitar’s own sancari and daru have those prayogas.
  5. Rishabha svara seems to be a jiva and nyasa (ending note) as it occurs in profusion, while madhyama seems to be the preferred take off note. Janta svaras have been used in profusion in all the compositions.
  6. The Muthusvami Dikshitar kriti, the daru as well as the rAgatAla mAlikA have been invested with the cittasvara/muktayi svara section which clearly encapsulates the melodic identity of Natanarayani in a nutshell.
  7. The raga & the Muthusvami Dikshitar kriti seem much amenable to a madhyamakala exposition. Was it on this strength that Shahaji categorize this as a ghana raga?
  8. The raga spans effectively only between mandhara pancama to the madhya daivatha with occasional touches of tara sadja, thus resembling more a dhaivatantya raga which can be comfortably rendered in madhyama sruti. We will address this question in a while.
  9. Given the usage of gandhara in phrases such RGMG and RGR, the shloka of Muddu Venkatamakhin as quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar seems to be the original one.

Discography

In the public domain we only have recordings of the Muthusvami Dikshitar kriti in Natanarayani which is ‘mahA ganapatE pAlayAsumAm’. This composition is a generic kriti on Mahaganapathi and does not have any reference to a particular kshetra. The raga mudra is given very clearly in the lyric as ‘natanArAyani nandana’ & the kriti also bears the standard Dikshitar colophon. We have commercial recordings of Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman & his disciple Vidvan Vijay Siva, rendering this composition along with the cittasvaras as per SSP.

Interestingly this composition used to be frequently rendered by Chittoor Subramanya Pillai a rendering of which is already in the public domain. The version can probably be traced back to Kancipuram Naina Pillai and perhaps on to Ettayapuram Ramachandra Bagavathar who was one of Subbarama Dikshitar’s prime disciples. These artistes have not sung the cittasvara portion of the kriti.

As an example of rendering from this school, featured here first is a rendering by a protégé of this school, Vidvan Sri. Tadeppalligudem Lokanadha Sarma from this AIR concert ( courtesy Sangeethapriya)

tadepalli-inconcert
Vidvan Lokanadha Sarma in Concert at Musiri Chambers in 2016 where he commenced his recital with ‘mahAganapatE pAlayAsumam’

Attention is specifically invited to the svara kalpana on the opening pallavi line. One can notice that the MGS phrase along with PDSDP (“…mAyAmaya…” in the Pallavi) though not found in the composition, but in conformance with the SSP text book definition, are rendered in profusion. The first kAla svaras are almost Sama like.

Presented next is a rendering by the venerable Prof S R Janakiraman who concludes his rendering with his pungently humorous remark on the raga’s melodic association with Sama.

Presented next is the rendering of Vidvan T M Krishna from a concert recording in the public domain. He sticks to the SSP. One can see the ‘middukku’ or tautness with which he renders the composition and also the kalpana svaras on the pallavi line. He pointedly does not use a mrudhu madhyama which could potentially reflect Sama.

The composition begins on a svarakshara with Ma(‘ma’) and then the the sahitya syllable’hA’ is at Gandhara which as one can see is strong and pronounced/prolonged, not the weak gandhara of Sankarabharanam. It is a strong gandhara native to (Hari)Kedaragaula, very pronounced and part of the MGGR which appears in this composition as a leitmotif. Along with the madhyama, this gandhara operates to distinguish Natanarayani with Sama, as we will see later. The midukku/tautness as alluded earlier, the intonation of the gandhara and its dense and janta usage in Sri T M Krishna’s svarakalpana provide us illustration of the so called ‘ghana’ feature as a marker for this raga.

A few more points merit our attention though. In the madhyama kala sahitya section he sings as “…..manikka vadanendrathi vandana” or something to that effect whereas the SSP text is ‘mAtamga vadanEndrAdi vandana”. Also to note is that he doesn’t render the cittavara section given in the SSP. In the svara kalpana section he sticks to the script of the raga as found in the SSP for most except in the two rounds of svaras where he brings on PDs, sDP and tara sancaras. To his credit he does highlight DPs, sPDPM etc to bring jump from pancama to tara sadja jump and back in his svara kalpana.

Presented now is the clip of Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman rendering the cittasvara section of the composition ‘mahAganapatE’ for our understanding, from this concert available in the public domain.

Presented next is the Natanarayani portion of the raga-tala-malika composition of Ramasvami Dikshitar, rendered by Sangita Kala Acharya Vidusi Dr.R S Jayalakshmi, who gave a lecture demonstration of the magnum opus composition in 2014 at Chennai under the auspices of Nada Inbam. Dr Jayalakshmi’s interpretation is strictly in line with the notation found in the Anubandha to the SSP. One can note as well how identical it is from a scale/melodic point of view with the Dikshitar composition.

Presented finally is the blog author’s personal rendering/interpretation of the Subbarama Dikshitar daru. According to the explanatory note provided to this composition in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar composed this as an ode on Sri Nagayasvami Pandiyan, the Zamindar of Periyur. There are a couple of historical references to this Zamindar which points to the probably date of this piece being composed around 1889 CE. Please see footnote 2 & 3 below.

Did Tyagaraja compose in Natanarayani ?

Today none of the compilations of Tyagaraja’s kritis show Natanarayani as one of the ragas in which the Bard of Tiruvaiyaru composed. Even the earliest listing, such as the one by Chinnasvami Mudaliar does not show any kriti in Natanarayani. In fact it is known with certainty that Tyagaraja never communicated the ragas names for his creations. Experts such as K V Ramachandran have always with forceful authority proposed that raga names available today for Tyagaraja’s compositions were assigned by the authors/printers who started publishing the text of Tyagaraja’s compositions during the late 19th CE and early 20th CE, the first of them being the Taccur Brothers. And this is attested by the Walajapet manuscripts and also the accounts of Tyagaraja’s lineage by his disciples. Thus given this set of facts, we may have to find out the piece available to us today, which could have been set by Tyagaraja to Natanarayani.

We do not have to search afar. The kriti is right there – “vinanAsa koniyunnAnurA” in desAdhi tala masquerading under the raga name of Pratapavarali, a raga which has no textual history at all prior to the Sangraha Cudamani and grouped under Harikambodhi mela. Unsurprisingly this raga is an ekakriti raga & there exists no other composition. It goes with the same scale of Natanarayani with a little twist – SRMPDPS/SDPMGRS. This is the flavor of Natanarayani that Tyagaraja implemented with sancaras up to tAra madhyama, a liberty he perhaps took which Dikshitar didn’t deign to take. In fact both of them use PDPS in the aroha krama phrasings. In the absence of nishada both ways, PDPS or PDS are not significantly different from a melodic stand point. But that doesn’t make the melody of ‘vinanAsakoni’ any different from that of Natanarayani. In fact one can even speculate if the tara sthayi phrases and additions of SDP were latter day additions by musicians when they added sangatis, but that would be stretching the argument too far, in the absence of a shred of evidence.

Now to the renderings. Presented below is the rendering of this composition by the legendary, Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda, the doyenne of the Dhanammal musical lineage, who must have most probably learnt it from Kancipuram Naina Pillai, under whom she learnt music initially.

Presented also is the rendering of the same composition by her disciple Vidushi Aruna Sairam from the year 1984. Attention is drawn to the kalpana svaras she sings on the pallavi line, well in line with the melodic contours of the composition itself.

Question for us is, do we require this plethora of unnecessary multiple raga names for the same melodic material/scale & shouldn’t we dispense the newer ones in favor of those which have a long textual documented history, more so for those one which have one such as Natanarayani? This is definitely a point of view worth ruminating.

Thus we do have strong evidence that both Dikshitar and Tyagaraja composed using the same melodic material of what we have been calling as Natanarayani for centuries. Renaming it as Pratapavarali with no melodic or historical basis, needs to be set aside without much ado. But is that it? The point remains whether Natanarayani can be safely and securely be ring fenced from its popular sibling Sama, so that its independent melodic existence can be secured.

Natanarayani & Sama – a study in contrast

If we have to understand the melodic structure of Natanarayani deeply, we may need to reset and revisit some of the assumptions we make as a part of modern musicology. Modernists may say that this raga is a minor one and is incapable of being sung elaborately. But so is the case with very many ragas including those created by Tyagaraja. Natanarayani existed as one amongst the 109 ragas that Tulaja documented as very popular & in currency during the first half of the 18th CE, in the run up to the times of the Trinity. It existed along with its close melodic sibling Sama with a unique melodic identity with which it shared the same set of svaras. How do we assess & quantify the musical individuality of this raga as distinct from Sama? With the same set of svaras we already have examples of ragas which have evolved and thrived to this date, Arabhi and Devagandhari & Surati and Kedaragaula, for instance. And they have become the crown jewels of our music. So can’t we draw up a matrix to distinguish the melodic contours of Sama and Natanarayani?

Before we embark on that, its worth noting here that the Music Academy at Madras did deliberate on the question of the raga lakshana of all the three ragas – Natanarayani, Sama and Pratapavarali the year 1932, the year when Sangita Kalanidhi Sabesa Iyer was the President. Sadly the Experts Committee was virtually split between the votaries of the so called Tyagaraja & Dikshitar schools and they arrived at no meaningful consensus. They only ended up reiterating the status quo and establishing no connection between them and thus frittered away the opportunity to make a contribution towards clarity.

Let us turn our attention to what some musicologists have to say on this. When discussing this point, the revered Prof S R Janakiraman in his commentary on Tulaja’s Saramruta, forcefully advances the view that since both the ragas – Natanarayani & Sama have the same scale, Natanarayani may safely be made a dhaivatantya madhyama sruti raga, omitting the fleeting touches of the tara sadja found in the Dikshitar kriti. By rendering it so, the learned Professor says, the melodic independent existence of Natanarayani can be justified distinctively from Sama.  It is respectfully submitted, that this would provoke more questions than answers. Thus the counterpoint would be, are we to amputate/mutilate the raga, deprive it of its tAra sadja just to bring melodic conformance to the standard? We need to bear in mind that Shahaji & Tulaja merely captured ragas which were popular and in currency during their times, some 109 of them and classified them under melas. And they were not dealing also with technically generated scalar ragas using mathematical permutation/combination (like the raga compendiums of Govindacarya, Nadamuni Panditar et al which fall in this category).

So by logical deduction one can surmise that in so far as the ragas captured in the works of Shahaji and Tulaja are concerned, the musical cognoscenti and composers of the first half of the 18th century were able to acknowledge the independent & individual musical worth/identity of all of those ragas including Sama and Natanarayani. Also we know that Dikshitar and Tyagaraja (second half of 18th CE) composed in both Sama and Natanarayani/Pratapavarali and if so they would have definitely found them to be musically distinctive to start with or if not, at the least they would have endeavored to bring about or magnify the point of distinction between these two ragas in their compositions.

And thus it follows that even today we must be able to find what these distinguishing attributes between the two ragas are, a subject worthy of a full research paper in itself. As Muddu Venkatamakhin’s classification scheme was the basis for Muthusvami Dikshitar, the analysis of these two ragas under this scheme is a useful starting point.

  1. In Muddu Venkatamakhin’s scheme, Sama is classified under Sankarabharanam while Natanarayani is under Harikedaragaula, despite both of them lacking nishada (varjya). The melodic reason if any is not formally given. It is quite possible for ragas to be grouped under Sankarabharanam if they have a weak gandharam. For example Mohanam can come under multiple melas. Still it is normally assigned to Kalyani because of the gandhara being strong & so unlike the gandhara of Sankarabharanam. Gandhara will be weaker still if it appears only in the avarohana as well. Au contraire, Prof S R Janakiraman holds the view that given the weaker dhaivata in Sama which is only at trisruti level it should be categorized under Harikambhoji rather than Sankarabharanam. Again he passionately argues that even Mohanam should be under Harikambhoji as well given the usage of both the gandhara and dhaivata at trisruti levels. And so this is the generic problem encountered in assigning preexisting ragas to the janaka/janya system on an unscientific or no standard basis.
  2. For Sama, gandhara is totally absent in the ascent/arohana while in Natanarayani the gandhara is vakrita in the arohana and we see SRGR profusely in Natanarayani. This is a key differentiator.
  3. The gandhara is prolonged and strong in Sama in comparison to Natanarayani where the janta phrasing MGGR and the vakra phrasing SRGR is used profusely. It can quite likely be argued that dhaivata too is slightly stronger in Natanarayani in comparison to Sama.
  4. In Sama the madhyama seems to be a more powerful note occurring in profusion and also being the key to the raga being a shanta rasa pradhana raga. From the kritis, the rishabha seems to be a favored phrase ending note in Natanarayani.
  5. In madhya sthayi, for Sama, PDS and SDP are used phrases while in Natanarayani, PDPS and SP or SM phrases alone are used. PDS and SDP though not forbidden by lakshana, the kritis are devoid of those prayogas. Also in practice Sama has some characteristic vakra phrases such PMD & MDP which is not seen in Natanarayani, while on the other side Natanarayani sports MGMG and RGRG which is not seen in Sama.
  6. In sum, the play of the notes/phrases & the emphasis given to them leading them to be vilambakala/shanta rasa as the color of Sama and the madhyamakala /vira or playfulness as the rasa in the case of Natanarayani, makes for their contrasting nature.
  7. Much like Ritigaula, Natanarayani sports different sets of prayogas for mandhara sthayi and madhya sthayi for the same svaras. We see no such constraint in Sama.
  8. The identical scalar structure but different melodic structure is akin to the phenomenon of Isomerism one encounters in physical Chemistry. Much like how isomers have same molecular formula but different structural formula, Sama and Natanarayani exhibit musical isomerism. Other examples are Kedaragula and Surati, Malahari and Kannadabangala & Kannada and Suddha Vasanta.

A more in-depth research on the lakshanas found documented in the two works, namely Shahaji’s ‘Ragalakshanamu’ and Tulaja’s ‘Saramruta’ along with the constructive interpretation of the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshitar & Tyagaraja should help us get some more clarity on this point. Also see Note 6.

References

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006 – pages 666-671
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 1005-1013
  3. Prof R. Satyanarayana(2010) – ‘Ragalakshanam’ – Kalamoola Shastra Series- Published by Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi
  4. Dr S. Sita (1983) – “The Ragalakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja’ – Pages 140-182- JMA Vol LIV
  5. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai, pages 201-205 & 207-210

Footnotes:

 

NOTE 1.

To understand some of the medieval raga nomenclatures and it’s connect with aesthetics, the musical work ‘Sangita Siromani’ written around 1428 AD offers interesting insights. For instance this text defines the raga Natanarayana as: Having born from raga Kakubha with Dha is its dominant final note,Ga in the upper octave is the predominant note, Pa in the lower octave is its lower limit; it is heptatonic preferably performed during raining season and is capable of evoking pathos.

NOTE 2.

Daru – According tomethe Lakshana Sangraha – the preamble to the SSP, daru as a composition is akin to a padam with sringara as the rasa/theme. A daru has normally one carana and can be sung in a slightly accelerated tempo. Darus with more than one carana is not uncommon though. According to Dr Gowri Kuppuswamy & Dr Hariharan (“Darus in Carnatic Music” – Sanmukha-Vol XII No 4 Oct 1986 Pages 1-10) daru is a musical piece written for a drama – yakshagAna, geyanAtaka or opera. In a drama, a dialogue if not spoken but is sought to be conveyed musically, then it is done through a daru. This article gives a historical perspective of daru and its evolution, types & examples & can be referred to, to know more about this compositional genre. The SSP itself documents a number of darus including Ramasvami Dikshitar’s in Gangatarangini, Muthusvami Dikshitar’s in Sriranjani raga, Balusvami Dikshitar’s in Rudrapriya, a tillana daru of Krishnasvami Ayya in Surati apart from the aforesaid daru in Natanarayani & one in Yadukulakambhoji of Subbarama Dikshitar. Curiously except Muthusvami Dikshitar’s one which is composed on Lord Valmikesvara of Tiruvarur, all other have been composed as an ode on patrons/mortals – Manali Cinnaya Mudaliar, Venkatesvara Ettappa of Ettayapuram, Nagayasvami Pandian of Periyur and Varaguna Rama Pandian the Zamindar of Sivagiri. Probably these darus were retrofitted into the existing panegyric plays depicting the life of the patrons & their clan. They were then staged/performed on occasions by the artistes, in the presence of the patrons, obviously to their delight. The case could have been same in the case of the Dikshitar Sriranjani daru as well. Plays were done in the Tiruvarur Tyagaraja temple eulogizing the deity, recounting the stala purana etc and enacted by the dasis and the musicians attached to the temple. Arguably Muthusvami Dikshitar must have perhaps composed this daru on Lord Valmikesvara, for one such play and not as a standalone music composition and which is why it is bereft of his standard colophon, ‘guruguha’.

NOTE 3.

The Zamindar of Peraiyur (not Periyur as given in the SSP, a village near the town of Tirumangalam) is one of the large zamindaris or pAlayams amongst the 72 ones in Madurai district in Tamilnadu. Periayur was the second largest zamindari the taluk with about 30 villages spread over 21 square miles. According to the “Madura Gazetteer’ of W.Frances (page 329), there was a Zamindar in 1889  who went by the name of Nagayasvami Tumbichi Nayakkan , the last two parts of the name being titular appellations. We know no more than that. Probably this Zamindar was the one on whom Subbarama Dikshitar composed this daru. Curiously there was another Nagayasvami Kamayya Nayakkar II, of the neighboring Saptur Zamindari who is documented in the “Aristocracy of Southern India- Vol II” by A Vadivelu (Page 315- 321). This Zamindar who was the last in his line, lived during 1845-1889. He has been documented as a very intelligent & independent person, a Tamil scholar and a patron of music. Given this information, the fact that the Zamindaris of Saptur and Peraiyur were intertwined in history and relationship and also the fact that Sri Jagannatham Chetty (who was associated with the Ettayapuram Royals & on whose authority the SSP was published) assisted the minor son of the Zamindar Sri Nagayasvami after his death, makes one to speculate whether the daru was on the Zamindar of Saptur instead.

NOTE 4.

In the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar gives the lakshana of raga Abheri as SMGMPPS as the aroha karma even though the Muddu Venkatamakhin lakshana shloka only says ‘abherI sagrahA pUrna; syAdArohE nivarjitA’. The shloka does not say that rishabha, gandhara and dhaivata are varjya. Yet Subbarama Dikshitar on the authority of the purvacharyas and their tAnams in this raga, says that SMGMPPS is the arohana krama to be used in compositions.

NOTE 5.

According to Subbarama Dikshitar the notes of a ghana raga need to emanate from the nAbhi/navel. The discussion on the nature of raga and its classification under the ghana, naya and desi categories from a historical perspective is done in the work “Ghana, Naya and Desi Ragas” by Smt Premalatha Nagarajan which is available here. Here is what she has to say on ‘ghana’ ragas in the modern context.

From the description of ghana raga as being suitable for t¡na or madhyamakala, it couldbe inferred that such raga-s were based more on svara-s with moderate oscillations and which were devoid of extreme kampitam or vali. It is also possible that the form of a svara in these raga-s, was more or less static or rigid and not fluid. On the other hand, the raktiraga-s must have been characterised by some svaras which had more fluid form than a static one. If we consider the raga-s referred to as ghana today namely, nata, gaula, arabhi and varali (leaving out varali), the forms of the svara-s in these raga-s appear to be centred around their svarasthana-s. None of the svara-s seem to have excessive kampita gamaka. It is these raga-s that seem to be used for singing or playing tanam.

The classification of ragas under ghana, naya and desya by Shahaji is perhaps on the basis of melodic movement, according to performing musician Vidvan T M Krishna (Southern Music – Karnatak Story- Page 405). A raga classified as ghana probably meant (as in Tamil – heavy or dense) its rendering ought to be rigid & dense. In fact Vidvan Sri T M Krishna opines that this classification or the attribute of a raga to be a ghana/naya/desi, was then a component of the aesthetics of that raga. The word ghana has been used not only in the context of ragas as above but also in the context as one of the modes of singing (ghana mArga). And then there is this connection to tanam and madhyamakala rendering as well. In the context of a raga and its melodic personality (as distinct from the way or mArga in which a musician renders ragas in general), we are left only with the meaning that a raga to be ghana has to be phrased in a dense & rigid manner. Did it imply employment of janta svaras for example to give that feel? One doesn’t know for sure if that logic was what was used in Shahaji’s times to classify a raga as ghana.

NOTE 6.

In the Hindustani idiom there doesn’t seem to any raga close to the melodic svarupa of Natanarayani, though there is a name sake, Nata Narayan. It’s said to belong to the Bilaval thaat (Sankarabharanam) with N3 or tivra/sharp nishada. Off course our Natanarayani lacks nishada totally. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi apparently on the strength of the Carnatic Natanarayani seems to have implemented his version of Nata Narayana under the Khamaj thaat with a komal nishad (N2) to boot.

NOTE 7.

For the purpose of this article/blog post, Govindacharya’s Sangraha Cudamani (as well as other works which are allied in their content such as ‘Sangita Sara Sangrahamu’ of Akalanka and also recent raga compendiums such as those of Nadamuni Panditar or K V Srinivasa Iyengar) has not been considered, due to lack of clarity around the date of some of them & given that all these texts were much later to the times of the Trinity & hence are not relevant to assess the music of the compositions of Ramasvami Dikshitar, Muthusvami Dikshitar & Subbarama Dikshitar.

History, Raga

The true identity of the raga of Tyagaraja’s ‘nannu kanna talli’

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Introduction:

There are two raga names assigned to this composition ‘nannu kanna talli’ of Tyagaraja, by the authors of the different compendia of Tyagaraja kritis. One is a raga called Sindhu Kannada and another is Kesari. The kriti is found documented in almost all of the collections of Tyagaraja’s kritis with the ragas as above and the melody being assigned to the 28th Mela Harikambhoji.

The idea of this short blog post is to determine what is the true and original contours of this raga or in other words what indeed in the original raga of ‘nannu kanna talli’.  The standard text of this composition goes as under. There may be minor variants with some of the words though.

pallavi

nannu kanna talli nA bhAgyamA nArAyaNi dharmAmbikE

anupallavi

kanakAngi ramApati sOdari kAvavE nanu kAtyAyani

caraNam

kAvu kAvumani nE morabeTTagA kamala lOcani karagu cuNDaga nIvu brOvakuNTE nevaru brOturu sadA varambosagu tyAgarAjanutE

Read on!

DISCOGRAPHY:

For a change let us first hear how this kriti of Tyagaraja is rendered in practice, understand the melody with our ear and then proceed to the theory of the raga.

There are very many popular editions of this composition in the public domain. All of them are fairly similar and the melody is only a derivative/Janya of Harikambhoji, the 28th mela. Exemplar renderings include those by Sangita Kalanidhis M S Subbulakshmi, Dr M Balamuralikrishna, T M Thyagarajan and a whole galaxy of other artistes.

A sample rendering is presented which is by a Vidvan of an age bygone, late Srivanchiyam Ramachandra Iyer, a disciple of Sangita Kalanidhi Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer.  ( courtesy Sangeethapriya)

ANALYSIS OF THE MELODY AND THE KRITHI AS PRESENTED:

  1. The raga’s svarupa is fairly obvious for a student of music. It is unambiguously taking the notes of the 28th Mela Harikambhoji
  2. The operative arohana/avarohana is easily discernible from the rendering as under:

  Arohanam:    S M1 G3 M1 R2 G3 M1 P D2 P S or S M1 G3 M1 P D2 S

 Avarohanam:  S N2 D2 N2 P M1 G3 R2 S

  1. The standard notation for this kriti is available here, along with the text, meaning and notation. http://www.shivkumar.org/music/Nannukannathalli.pdf
  2. Almost all musical texts provide the raga name – the melody as embodied in this extant rendering of this composition as Kesari or Sindhukannada under Mela 28.
  3. There may be minor changes to the way in which the composition is rendered by different vidvans but the soul of the melody / raga is always the arohana/avarohana krama as above under mela 28.

EVALUATING THE MUSICAL HISTORY/MATERIAL OF SINDUKANNADA/KESARI:

One of the earliest authentic texts notating this composition is the work of Chinnasvami Mudaliar. Towards the closing quarters of the 19th century and the first few years of the 20th century, he went about meticulously collecting the kritis of Tyagaraja in their authentic form, sourcing them particularly from the Walajapet sishya parampara of the bard, which was considered authentic for very many reasons. The manuscripts of the notation and text of many compositions were zealously maintained by this sishya parampara in true fidelity to the original melody of the compositions.

While a few other texts gave the raga of this composition as Sindhukannada a raga name which first appears in a raga compendium ‘ragalakshanam’ (RL hereafter – see foot note 1) under Mela 28, the Chinnasvami Mudaliar’s compilation assigns the raga name of Kesari to this composition. Sindhukannada is not found in the Sangraha Chudamani the musical text which is thought to have been utilized by Tyagaraja or which is also considered a lexicon of all ragas that Tyagaraja is said to have composed in.

In contrast the raga name Kesari appears in the Sangraha Cudamani and hence most likely the raga of ‘Nanu kanna talli’ can only be the melody which goes with the name of Kesari.

AND SO IS THE AVAILABLE SVARUPA OF THE RAGA OF NANNU KANNA TALLI, CORRECT AS PER THEORY:

Now while the raga of the composition as seen in practice is under Mela 28, the raga name now being known with clarity as Kesari, the next step is to evaluate to find whether the mathu is right. The raga Kesari according to the Sangraha Cudamani is under Mela 25, Mararanjani ! And as per the lakshana shloka of Sangraha Cudamani the raga should be having the following arohana avarohana.

 Arohanam:    S M1 G3 M1 R2 G3 M1 P D1 P S

 Avarohanam:  S N1 D1 N2 P M1 G3 R2 S

As one can see it is exactly same in structure to the Sindhu Kannada lakshana of RL except that Kesari is under mela 25 with D1 and N1 while Sindhukannada has D2 and N2, that is under Mela 28. Structurally they are akin, while melodically they are different.

Thus one can safely conclude at this juncture that the extant version of the composition ‘nannu kanna talli’ is rendered with D2 (catusruti dhaivata) and N2 ( kaishiki nishadha) while the theory backed up by Sangraha Cudamani ( a perfect lexicon of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions) says that the raga for this composition should instead use only D1 ( suddha dhaivata) and N1 ( suddha nishadha).

So somewhere somebody threw a spanner in the works by which all renderings of ‘ nannu kanna talli” by prominent sishya paramparas of Tyagaraja got normalized to a version with D2 and N2 ( mela 28) with the result that the probably original raga of the composition was simply morphed by shifting the notes especially the dhaivata and nishadha from D1 and N1 to D2 and N2 ! This version with D2 and N2 became prolific and mainstream completely eclipsing the original version.

SO WHAT WAS THE ORIGINAL FORM OF THE RAGA OF ‘NANNU KANNA TALLI’ ?

As one can see the change that took place was that the raga of the Tyagaraja’s composition ‘nannu kanna talli’ was simply amended by replacing the notes D1 and N1 with D2 and N2 . The notation and lakshana by Cinnasvami Mudaliar and the Sangraha Cudamani, respectively – two unimpeachable witnesses in so far as Tyagaraja’s composition goes are the mute witnesses to this disfigurement done to ‘nannu kanna talli’ . The raga Kesari under mela 25 was done away with by replacing the D1 and N1 notes with D2 and N2 and a new raga Sindhukannada was created to replace it. And this morphing of the raga of this composition was most likely done during the first half of the 20th century.

And what was the need to deprive the composition of its original tune? The motive is perhaps not too complicated. The raga sported D1 and N1, a vivadi combination. In very many schools, especially at that time it was considered ‘traditional’ not to render vivadhi combinations as it was thought of as a ‘dosha’ so much so in private it was believed that the dosha brought misfortune. Musicians with such a belief system eschewed rendering such ragas/compositions which sported vivadhi combinations. Its quite likely that instead of avoiding rendering ‘nannu kanna talli’ with D1N1, one/ some or many considered that the composition being so beautiful should be brought to ‘mainstream’ by flipping its raga, by replacing the D1N1 combo with D2N2 and thus working around the problem!

So much so, notwithstanding the evidence of the Sangraha Cudamani which the musicians of that era adored, the notes D1 and N1 for the raga of ‘nannu kanna talli ‘were set aside without much ado as they suffered vivadi dosha, perhaps on the strength of the text RL and also perhaps of Nadamuni Panditar. It must have been as well considered that the D1N1 rendering was not harmonically facile , notwithstanding the fact that the sampradaya of Venkatamakhin provided for the workaround – PD1N1D1Ps and SN1D1P respectively for the arohana and avarohana. See foot note 2.  Such a change could not have been so easily propagated unless musicians/practitioners of those days had acted ‘in concert’.

Au contraire, the acclaimed music critic of those times, a titan who was feared both for his formidable knowledge and an acerbic tongue, Sri K V Ramachandran argued from the portals of the Music Academy that the new melody of nannu kanna talli was not authentic. And neither was the the raga Sindukannada of mela 28 found in the hoary musical tradition of Dikshitar or Tyagaraja. He records that he had heard the original version of ‘nannu kanna talli’ being rendered with D1. But apart from being recorded in the JMA for posterity, his sole voice of truth and reason was and has long been ignored and forgotten.

And post 1950, for certainty there is no version of Kesari/’nannu kanna talli’ with D1 and N1. Kesari was long dead and all musicians therefter and well now in to the second decade of the 21st century, unaware of this raga change, have proceeded to sing ‘nannu kanna talli’ with D2 and N2.

AND SO IS THIS THE TRUTH ?

Well the answer is yes. The raga of ‘nannu kanna thalli ‘ is not Sindukannada under Mela 28 but it is Kesari under mela 25. The problem is it is still not yet the  complete truth! So isn’t Kesari which sport D1 and N1, the raga of ‘nannu kanna talli’ the original tune of the composition?

On the authority of ‘Sangraha Cudamani’, Kesari is indeed the raga of the composition and indeed it sports the vivadhi notes D1 and N1. But Kesari is not its original name. It is the name given by Sangraha Cudamani whose date is debatable. Kesari is a name without a textual history. And this melody masquerading under the name of Kesari is older than many of us think. It is older than the Trinity. It was not discovered by Tyagaraja. The melody of Kesari which goes by the arohana/avarohana murcchana as given by the Sangraha Cudamani, is found documented in the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika dateable to the first half of the 18th century, prior to the days of the Trinity.

On the authority of the Anubandha to the CDP, this raga sporting D1/N1can be found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini as a raganga, head of the clan of Mela 25. Subbarama Dikshitar provides the arohana/avarohana krama as under:

Arohana :      S M1 G3 M1 P D1 N1 D1 P S

Avarohana:   S N1 D1 P M1 G3 R2 S

The raga is Sharavati, a pre trinity raga which was derived by Muddu Venkatamakhin to be the head of the clan 25. Subbarama Dikshitar provides the Muthusvami Dikshitar kriti ‘ Sharavati tata vasini’ as the exemplar. As we can see the implementation of Sharavati both by Tyagaraja and Dikshitar goes by the text book definition afforded by Muddu Venkatamakhin as documented and commented upon by Subbarama Dikshitar. While the heptatonic Mararanjani is the melakartha and Kesari a janya thereunder ( in sangraha Cudamani), Sharavati which shares the same structure as that of Kesari, is the raganga under Muddu Venkatamakhin’s scheme.

The comparison of the raga lakshana given for Kesari in Sangraha Cudamani under Mela 25 and that of Sharavathi as a raganga for mela 25 by Muddu Venkatamkhin will completely tally. Sharavati and Kesari are one and the same !

So if we were to know the original setting of the Tyagaraja composition, we can see the exemplar provided by the Dikshitar composition for Sharavati and use that to reconstruct the original melody/mathu of ‘nannu kanna talli’. Here is the rendering of ‘sharavati tata vasini’ by Vidushi Gayathri Girish learnt by her from the Late  V V Srivatsa and rendered by her for one of his Guruguhanjali Programs.

DIVINING THE ORIGINAL TUNE OF ‘NANNU KANNA TALLI’

From the notation of the Tyagaraja composition it is very clear that the same device used by Dikshitar for dealing with D1 and N1 svaras has been used as the arohana/avarohana murcchana given by Subbarama Dikshitar would show.

  1. PD1PS or PDN1DPS is the arohana krama
  2. SN1D1P is the avarohana krama.

In the existing patham of ‘nannu kanna talli’ by simply intoning D1 instead of D2 and N1 instead of N2 and by respecting the arohana and avarohana krama as above the possible original melodic svarupa of ‘nannu kanna talli’ can be obtained. Also the feature to note is both Tyagaraja and Dikshitar invoke the same arohana purvanga krama SM1G3M1P though SRGM suffers no dosha/dis-harmony. Yet the motif of the older Sharavati is only SM1G3M1 which both of them faithfully enshrine in their compositions, which is additional proof that Sharavati is the raga of ‘nannu kanna talli’.

Muthusvami Dikshitar has also appended a cittasvara section to pithily provide the raga lakshana of Sharavati.  Here is the rendering of the kriti together with the cittasvara section by the disciples of Vidushi Ambujam Vedantham. Though the kriti rendering has been augmented with embellishments for some of the lines, the spirit of the sharavati of Dikshitar is kept overall. Attention is invited to the ragas motifs in the cittasvara section. See foot note 4.

Based on the above here is my reconstruction of the beautiful Tyagaraja composition with D1 and N1, in Kesari, originally known as Sharavati.

NOTE: A note has to be placed here, which is the point which was reiterated in the earlier post on the raga Kalavati which too sported the PD1N1S in its uttaranga. The svara N1 can never be a nyasa, meaning one should not park on that note, when delineating the raga or singing the composition. The suddha nishadha has to be shown while executing a glide PD1/N1\D1, as a shade when intoning the suddha dhaivatha. While in the descent it should fleetingly appear when moving from the tAra sadja to the suddha dhaivata svara as S\N1\D1P. In all the renditions above presented, one would find that this mode of rendering is not strictly adhered to. While rendering, vidvans and students alike should take care to stick to the true spirit of this mode of rendering and not violate the same. In the same breath it is to be noted that in a few places the suddha nishadha appears as dheergha as well which has to be treated accordingly – For example mOdhinI in the madhyamakala sahitya which is a svarakshara is a dhirgha nishadha. Also we see Dikshitar using P/N1D1P as well in the composition.

CONCLUSION:

The likes of Sri K V Ramachandran and Vidvan Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer have always voiced their  opinion that the original ragas of very many compositions of Tyagaraja’s has been lost or mutilated. The raga of ‘nannu kanna talli’ is one such instance. Much water has flown under the bridge. Much of the evidence if any for such statements are now no longer available due to efflux of time. But with the texts and the so called internal evidence of the compositions themselves, we can attempt to divine the true melodic contours of some of these classics so that an attempt can be made to restore the pristine original beauty of these works of art.

While Tyagaraja apparently kept the ragas of his compositions secret, Muthusvami Dikshitar made it obvious, embedding them in the very sahitya/text itself. And with his composition “sharavati tata vasini’ as an exemplar, this blog post has been an attempt to re-examine and determine the melody of his illustrious contemporary, Tyagaraja. The raga Sharavati, a raganga enthroned by Muddu Venkatamakhin as the head of the clan/mela 25 has been the vehicle for both DIkshitar and Tyagaraja and on this day one can celebrate their memory and their shared/common heritage with ‘nannu kanna talli’!

REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan(2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions
  3. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Carnatic Ragas and the Textual Tradition” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 99-106, Madras, India.
  4. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Apurva ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109, Madras, India.
  5. C Ramanujachari (2008) -The Spiritual Heritage of Tyagaraja – Reprint- Published by Sri Ramakrishna Mission – page 67- Text & Translation of song

FOOTNOTES:

  1. A suspicious entry or rather an insertion is found in a musicological text confusingly named ‘Ragalakshanam’ ( Andhra text) of unknown authenticity, provenance and date. Dr Hema Ramanathan in her work ( page 1312) states that without any preamble, the raga name Sindukannada with the aroha/avaroha krama is inserted as just a line with no other information under another raga Isamanohari under mela 28. It is certainly grist for the mill and fodder for conspiracy theorists. The raga listing of Nadamuni Panditar (1906) gives Sindhukannada under mela 28. Similarly Ragakosam of RR Kesavamuthi too lists this raga Sindukannada under mela 28.
  2. In humor it also makes one wonder, if the entire episode of the raga of ‘Nannu Kanna talli’ getting flipped was a freak incident. Perhaps it was a work of a musician with a poor sense of svara gnana who ignorant of the actual raga and its svarupa began to mistakenly render or went on to teach the raga/composition with the facile notes D2/N2 so much so a mistake became the standard !
  3. We do have similar such changes that were introduced during the first half of the 20th century. Example is the raga of another Tyagaraja’s well known composition ‘nagumOmU ganalEnI’. The account of old timers as well historical/musical records would show that the raga sported only D1/suddha dhaivatha. But for some reason a particular school of Tyagaraja or a particular musician started rendering the raga with D2/catusruti dhaivata with the result that the spurious edition became popular/mainstream. It has lead to a comedy of errors, with the result today one treats the original tune of ‘nagumOmU’ with suspicion. The same has been the case with quite a few other vivadhi raga compositions of Tyagaraja.
  4. The permission granted by Smt Gayathri Girish to use the recording of her rendering of ‘sharavati tata vAsini’ in this blog post is gratefully acknowledged. The recording of the kriti by the disciples of Smt Ambujam Vedantham is already available in the public domain.

Safe Harbor Statement: The clipping and media material used in this blog post have been exclusively utilized for educational / understanding /research  purpose and cannot be commercially exploited or dealt with. The intellectual property rights of the performers and copyright owners are fully acknowledged and recognized.

History, Personalities, Raga

‘sAmajagamana’ – An ode to a banished Tanjore King

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Introduction:

History is littered with instances of many Kings falling from grace due to political bickering, back room or royal intrigues, machinations of foreign powers or neighboring Kingdoms, outright misrule bringing about a palace coup or public revolt and the like. The period of 1765 to 1800 in the case of Tanjore regionlikewise was a period of great political turmoil and polarization. Apart from the native rulers of the area which included the Maratta clan of Tanjore, the Nawab of Arcot and the smaller fiefdoms of Udayarpalayam and others, the dramatis personae also included Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan from Mysore. Pitching these rulers one against the other, in the game of elimination were the two foreign powers namely France and England. The British East India Company was attempting to consolidate its hold through its Governor at Madras Fort St, Sir George Pigot while the French were trying to be one up with their Governor in Pondicherry the famous Dupleix providing the stewardship.

Amidst all this war and political turmoil, Art was patronized and it grew to its zenith. Kings & Chieftains played patrons to the hilt even while as they involved themselves in wars and in cunning machinations to stay in power. For many of us, Tanjore and hence that Maharatta rule of Tanjore is synonymous with King Sarabhoji whose regnal years were 1799 to 1832 ( see foot note 1) .

This blog post is about his predecessor, King Amarasimha or Ramaswami Amarasimha Bhonsle ( the full Royal titular name) who ruled for a brief period of 1787 to 1799 as a Regent of the minor Prince Sarabhoji. This King Amarsimha was a patron in his own right like many of his illustrious kinsmen who ruled before him, right from King Sahaji who was a composer & musicologist (author of Ragalakshanamu), King Tulaja I who is tagged with the authorship of the Saramruta and Pratapasimha who was a great patron of arts & music and who was called as Abhinava Bhoja. Amarasimha too was a patron of many musicians including Ramasvami Dikshitar the father of the Trinitarian Muthusvami Dikshitar. Amarasimha is referred to as Amar Sing(h) as well in very many documents and also as Madhyarjunam Amarasimha, for later in his life he was banished to live in exile at Madhyarjunam / Tiruvidaimarudur, a few miles from Kumbakonam. This blog is about this King Amarasimha ( always referred to as is) & his times and from a musical angle we will see an exemplar composition sung on him by Ramaswami Dikshitar. This piece is a ragamalika documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP hereafter) of Subbarama Dikshitar and from a performance perspective it is extinct for all practical purposes. As pointed out in an earlier blog post in this series , the overall enjoyment of a composition is enhanced by knowing about the historical background, the setting, the composer’s perspective and such other factors like the nayaka of the song etc. . Hence the profile of the patron King Amarasimha, the context of the composition – time, place etc. and the composition ‘sAmajagamana’ along with the discography is sought to be presented.

THE ROYAL HOUSE OF BHONSALES- The TANJORE MAHARATTAS:

The Mahratta rule of Tanjore commenced in the year 1675 (from the remains of the erstwhile Nayak rule). The lineage of Kings who ruled from Tanjore from this Royal House is given in the genealogy chart below. They were apart o the extended Bhonsale clan of Maharashtra to which King Shivaji of fame, belonged to.

The Geneology of the Royals of Tanjore
The Geneology of the Royals of Tanjore

Though the Tanjore Bhonsale clan were rank outsiders from a territorial perspective, the Kings of this Royal House went about enmeshing themselves in the social fabric of the then Tanjore area. The Kings of this House made Lord Rajagopala at Mannargudi, Lord Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur and finally Lord Brihadeesvara at Tanjore as their titular deities and for practical purposes even attempted to rule in the name of these Gods. Along with Marathi they made Telugu as well as the lingua franca of the Court, taking the previous Nayak rule as a template. The local Brahmin learned men were made the Prime Minister or Rayasam akin to how the Nayak Kings had, including the way they administered the kingdom. And lastly if not the least, the Kings though hailing from Central India, became great connoisseurs and patrons of South Indian music. The “Modi records” as they are called, which are the Royal records of this rule which has been preserved in the Sarasvathi Mahal Library in Thanjavur vouches for the retainers which has been paid to the musicians, courtesans and others attached to the Royal Court. That apart several compositions are still available to us composed on these Kings which bears testament to their munificence as well. Dr Sita ‘s ‘ Tanjore as a Seat of Music’ is a fairly complete reference for the musical history of this period.

THE HEADY DAYS OF THE RULE OF PRATAPASIMHA:

We begin the journey with King Pratapasimha whose regnal years were 1739 to 1763, one of the longest rulers in the Tanjore Maharatta Royal house. Despite many external threats he was a powerful ruler and administrator. Given his acumen, the British East India Company accorded high regard for him and he was the last King of Tanjore to be referred to as “His Majesty” in the company records from that period. All subsequent Kings became puppets in the hands of the British. Pratapasimha faced considerable odds in holding on to Tanjore given the threats from the Nawab of Carnatic and from the French. He allied with the British and in 1761, participated in the siege of Pondicherry which resulted in a crushing defeat for the French. Despite all these political upheavals, Pratapasimha played the role of benefactor and patron of arts. Many musicians and artistes flourished during his rule. Amongst so many compositions from his reign, one fine exemplar stands out, the magnum opus, the Huseini Svarajati composed by Melattur Virabadrayya, the guru and preceptor of Ramasvami Dikshitar, whom Subbarama Dikshitar alludes to in awe as ‘Margadarshi’ or “Trailblazer”. For very many decades and even well into the 20th century this Svarajathi was a piece-de-resistance with its lilting carana refrain “au rE rA sAmi vinara…….”. This masterpiece in adi tala started as “sAmi nEnarElla”, was composed on Lord Varadarajasvami of Melattur spawned many copies inspired by its melting tune and evergreen popularity. In fact Subbarama Dikshitar in his SSP has documented one such copy commencing with the words ‘ emantayAnarA’ attributing it to Patchimiriyam Adiyappayya, which bears the poshaka mudra/colophon as ‘Pratapasimha’. Pratapasimha who himself was a son of a concubine had ascended the throne by banishing the legal contender to the throne Prince Sahuji. Records indicate that when he died he had atleast two sons. The elder one and next to the throne, was Prince Tulaja II (born in 1738) through his Royal Queen. He later ascended the throne as a rightful heir. And the younger one was Prince Amarasimha, the protagonist of this blog post, a son through Pratapasimha’s concubine. Pratapasimha died on 16th Dec 1763 after reigning for 24 long years and the 25 year old Tulaja II ascended the throne.

THE TURMOIL DURING TULAJA II’s RULE

The British with an eye on assimilating the Royal Kingdom of Tanjore to its growing empire, started destabilizing King Tulaja II’s rule right from day one. Tulaja II by nature was not a formidable character like his great father and he became amenable to the intrigues, both inside and outside of the Fort at Tanjore. Implementing the divide-and-rule policy which they perfected as a fine art to perpetuate their imperialistic rule for more than 3 centuries, the British set Tulaja II against the Rajas of Ramanathapuram and the Nawab of Carnatic. To defray the cost of wars, Tulaja II was forced to borrow money and incur huge debts with the British East India Company at usurious interest rates. In fact it was Manali Muthukrishna Mudaliar ( the later day Patron of Ramasvami Dikshitar) who was then the Dubash of the then Governor of Madras, Pigot, who came periodically to negotiate financial matters with Tulaja II at Tanjore and to Tiruvarur. It was then when the Mudaliar came to be introduced to Ramasvami Dikshitar which would prove fortuitous for the Dikshitar clan, later on. The British finally forced Tulaja II into a Treaty with the result he was divested of his army and thus was rendered into a yet another tribute paying vassal of the British. Their plan to annex the Tanjore territory was complete. See Footnote 2.

Turning to matters musical, probably some time, circa 1768 is when Ramaswami Dikshitar was perhaps directed by Tulaja II to go to Tiruvarur to formulate the musical paddhathi for the Tyagaraja temple. Subbarama Dikshitar is his Vaggeyakara Caritamu, alludes to this with a dream that Ramasvami Dikshitar had, in which Lord Tyagaraja bade him to come over to Tiruvarur to carry out the divine task. We can see later that it was sometime circa 1770 that Prince Amarasimha came visiting Tiruvarur. Between the years 1780 & 1786, Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan plundered the Tanjore region, driving out Tulaja II into exile. According to the records of the Christian Missionary Schwartz, children numbering more than 20,000 were carried away and the entire region was ransacked. The scorch-the-earth policy of Tipu Sultan between 1780 and 1786, the impoverished Treasury of the Tanjore King together with successive famines in the Cauvery delta due to poor monsoons during the period of 1780-1800 took a toll. Records show that the region lost the 2 decades and it recovered only after 1800, following the political stability afforded by the ascension of Serfoji II in 1799. Many people including the likes of Ramasvami Dikshitar & his family fled to Madras to be under the protective cover of the British. They were absorbed into the society by the cognoscenti of the City ( Chennapattana/Madras) namely Manali Muthukrishna/ Cinnaya Mudaliar & others. ‘Sarva Deva Vilasa’ the Sanskrit work narrates the state of the City and also the high and mighty who served the British during the last decade of 1700’s and the early years of 1800’s. Reverend Schwarz ( 1726-1798) the renowned Danish Christian Missionary was a close confidant of Tulaja II for very many years and was a faithful interlocutor for the King when he dealt with the local British Resident and the Commandant of the Tanjore Garrison. In fact given the proximity between the two, it was rumored, as accounts show, that Tulaja II had either converted to Christianity or was a closet Christian. In fact when Tulaja II adopted Serfoji II (born 1777, a son of Tulaja II’s cousin) as his son sometime 1787 or thereabouts, the British retrieved Tanjore and reinstated him on the throne, Rev Schwarz was a source of great solace and his memoirs offer a glimpse as to how Tulaja II was grieving inwardly. So much was Tulaja’s faith in this Padre that on his deathbed in the year 1787, wanted Rev Schwarz to be the guardian of the minor Serfoji. It was apparent that the dying King feared for the life of the young adopted Prince Serfoji. But the Missionary refused. We would see that he would later go on to become a philosopher and guide to the young Serfoji and support his claim to Kingship through his minority till 1799.

THE ASCENDANCE OF AMARASIMHA

Tanjore Palace painting - Photo courtesy Takako Inoue
Tanjore Palace painting – Photo courtesy Takako Inoue

Tulaja II passed away in 1787, a year or two after he had taken back Tanjore. On his deathbed he summoned the British resident and the Commandant of the Tanjore garrison and held over the minor Serfoji to their care. This was when intense jockeying started as to who would be the Regent and rule the Tanjore Kingdom till Serfoji attained majority. Prince Amarasimha the paternal uncle of Serfoji played his cards well notwithstanding the support of Rev Schwarz who was the interlocutor for the Minor Serfoji. It was quite a departure from established mores for a religious missionary to be interfering in the political affairs of the country where he had come to preach. The existing Hindu establishment in Tanjore had animosity towards Rev. Schwarz whom they considered as a meddler who was instrumental in Tulaja II’s religious bias towards Christianity which they had greatly resented. Moreover given Schwarz’s influence over the young Prince, the palace establishment was of the firm view that he too could be a potential Christian convert which would be anathema to them. Arguably this greatly tilted the balance of power in favor of Prince Amarasimha who with the connivance of the local British resident and his masters in the Madras establishment, successfully wrested the Regency for himself in 1787. The problem was also arbitrated upon by religious experts from Kashi to provide inputs on Sastraic sanction for rule by Regency, royal succession etc, which in turn gave rise to allegations of bribery and chicanery.  See foot note 4.  It would not be out of place to mention that there were bickering going on even within the British establishment of Madras with the East India Company’s London Directors taking a very dim view of many a political happenings in India and the financial malfeasance of the Company’s Officers in India. They believed that the Company officials in India including the Governor of Madras were accumulating wealth by taking bribes from the local Princes in return for Kingship and reduction in the peshcush/tribute payable to the Company. Firmly ensconced as the Regent, King Amarasimha began his 12 year rule from Tanjore. Accounts have it that he ill-treated the minor Serfoji greatly and Rev Schwarz together with Serfoji paid several visits to Madras to plead with the British establishment there for succor. It was not to happen so easily. Matters only turned for the worse for Serfoji on his return to Tanjore as it made his uncle King Amarasimha even more inimical to his interest. (see foot note 2). Even though the rivalry and discord was simmering inside, Amarasimha could not wish away the fact that he was a Regent and so he had to necessarily present himself in public along with the boy King Serfoji. In fact many paintings from that era depict both of them in the Royal regalia, for an example see here. One account has it that in 1793, Amarasimha went ahead and proclaimed himself the King and absolute ruler, much to the chagrin of the British and the faction of the family supporting Prince Serfoji which included Tulaja II ‘s Queens. While from a political standpoint Amarasimha appears in a different light, from an arts perspective he played his role to the hilt. With an efficient Prime Minister Sivarayamantri on hand, he patronized a great number of scholars and musicians.  The composer of the famous Anandabhairavi kriti, ‘Nee mati Callaga’ and that of Parijataapaharana’, Kavi Matrubhutayya was one such recipient. Apart from the Anandabhairavi kriti, we also have a couple of more available from this composer, one such being ‘tarali boyyE” in Todi, which is found notated in the SSP. (Refer pages 160-169 of Dr Sita’s work – Reference # 5 below).

 THE ANOINTMENT OF SERFOJI in 1799 & THE BANISHMENT OF AMARASIMHA

Circa 1797 – Portrait of Amarsingh/Amarasimha of Tanjore Wearing a feathered turban lined with pearls and gold lace, a white chemise trimmed with fur, pearls and jewels, with a red and yellow sash, a dagger within the sash, the Brihadishwara Temple beyond, gilt-metal mount, ebonized frame inscribed on the verso of the frame: Miniature of the Rajah of Tanjore in / the East Indies given by him to Major Wiliam Monson then Commandant at Tanjore 1797; Watercolour on ivory: 9.6 by 8 cm.; 3 3/4 by 3 in.

Due to the continued efforts of Reverend. Schwarz and the change in perception of the British, fortuitously for Serfoji, moves were afoot to restore him to the throne with the taking over of Lord Wellesley as the the Governor General of India. The fact that Amarasimha’s rule wasn’t auguring well for the British became obvious and a deal was struck by the then Resident Benjamin Torin at Tanjore acting on the instructions from Governor General Lord Wellesley.  ( See Foot note 3). As a part of the tripartite deal the British negotiated, Amarasimha was to move to Tiruvaidaimarudur (also known as Madhyarjunam), a few miles from Kumbakonam, where he set up his Samasthanam/Royal Estate funded by the Treasury at Tanjore. Serfoji for his part would ascend the throne giving away all the powers to the British and relegating himself as a nominal ruler from the Fort at Tanjore converting the Kingdom in essence to a Principality, in return for the Privy Purse. The British plan to annex Tanjore to the Empire was complete. Some accounts have it that Amarasimha grew ill even during the Regency and in the run up to this tripartite deal. Records from a British standpoint go cold after 1799 in so far Amarasimha goes. The details if any about him reduces to a trickle thereafter. Few of such sources includes Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer. He is recorded as “Madhyarjunam Amarasimha” and apparently according to Dr. U Ve Svaminatha Iyer, he was the patron of Ghanam Krishna Iyer, Hindustani musician Ramdas & others. In fact the above referred Ramadas taught music to Gopalakrishna Bharathi (1811-1881)  who used to reside in Mayavaram. A reconciliation of the dates of these personages and the life time of Amarasimha reveal even more confusion. It could be that Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer is confusing himself with Madhyarjunam Pratapasimha, the son of Amarasimha who was the successor to his father.  Dr Sita in her treatise ( Reference 5, pages 104-106) provides a historical summary of the King. Given the chronology of events and logical reasoning, Amarasimha should have died sometime during the early years of the first decade of the 19th century, 1805 or thereabouts. (See Footnote 5 below)

 AMARASIMHA’s DESCENDANTS:

Amarsimha’s son Madhyarjunam Pratapasimha (named after his illustrious grandfather) is briefly profiled by Subbarama Dikshitar in his Vaggeyakkara Caritamu which gives us some clue as to the timelines. He says that Madhyarjunam Pratapasimha was well versed in music and mrudangam playing. He was also a composer having created a Navaratnamalika and a ragatalamalika in mahratti language with beautiful svara patterns. According to Subbarama Dikshitar he died sometime before the period of Sivaji Maharaja. Now King Serfoji died in 1833 and Sivaji ascended the Tanjore throne that year. Thus it is quite possible that Madhyarjunam Pratapasimha died circa 1832. Barring the dilapidated palace & buildings at Tiruvidaimarudur, ( see note 6 )there exist no other artifact attributable to this branch of the Royal House of Bhonsales. We do have a couple of paintings of Amarasimha and one of  Madhyarjunam Pratapasimha his son.

COMPOSITION & DISCOGRAPHY

Ramasvami Dikshitar is said to have moved to Tiruvarur after his stay in Tanjore where he was patronized by King Tulaja II. About 1768 or 1770, he visited Tiruvarur, according to Subbarama Dikshitar, to take part in the Temple festivities. It was during this time by Royal decree from Tulaja II and/or by divine orders in his dream that Ramasvami Dikshitar embarked on codifying the musical rituals for the Tyagaraja Temple. During the temple festivities, Prince Amarasimha (as he was then, during the reign of Tulaja II) happened to visit Tiruvarur. Ramasvami Dikshitar must have been granted an audience with the Royal. And in a trice he perhaps composed & rendered a ragamalika piece ‘sAmajagamana’, which is the musical core of this blog post. The objective as pointed out earlier is to first deconstruct and quickly understand the history, the situation and the setting in which the composition was born and then deep dive into the composition, to make the experience wholesome. Now moving over to the very composition, one can see from the musical history that the entire Dikshitar clan reveled in composing Ragamalikas. The SSP has captured them for posterity in notation from which one can recreate therefrom. This ragamalika of Ramasvami Dikshitar notated in the Anubandha to the SSP,is an archetype and has the following features:

  1. ‘sAmajagamana’ has a Pallavi (2 ragas), anupallavi( 2 ragas) and 4 caranas( 4 ragas each). In sum we have 20 ragas which have been utilized in this composition.
  2. The composition is set in Adi tAla
  3. The Pallavi is made of 2 ragas – sAma and Lalitha which has a makuta svara section in sAma for ½ tala avarta which is rendered after the anupallavi and caranas to loop back to the Pallavi refrain.
  4. The anupallavi consist of 2 ragas – Hamvira ( or Hamirkalyani) and Bhupalam and muktayi svara in Bhupalam for ½ avarta of tala
  5. The carana section ragas are:
    1. 1st carana – Natta, Padi, Mohanam, Sahana, followed by muktayi svara/jathi in Sahana for ½ avarta tala
    2. 2nd carana- Manirangu, Kapi ( Karnataka), Shri and Durbar followed by muktayi svara/jathi in Durbar for ½ avarta tala
    3. 3rd carana – Kannada, Ramkali, Kalyani and Saranga followed by muktayi svara in Saranga for ½ avarta tala
    4. 4th Carana – Ghanta, saurashtra, Varali and Ahiri followed by muktayi svara in Ahiri for ½ avarta tala
  6. The raga names are expressly made part of the sahitya, segueing with it seamlessly. Ahiri appears as “A harI”, Sahana appears as ” sogsusAnanI, Hamirkalyani appears as ‘hamvIrU’, rAmakali appears right at the conjunction of the Kannada and Ramkali section  and so on.
  7. The poshaka mudra is found in the anupallavi sahitya which goes as “Sri mahA hamvirU pratApa simhEndrUni tanaya ; chiranjeevI amarasimha bhUpAla” extolling Prince Amarasimha as the son of that great warrior King Pratapasimha. Reference is made again in the Saranga raga section as ‘ mA cakkani amarasimhEndra sAranga’.
  8. The entire sahitya is structured as an erotic composition with the nAyika pining for Prince Amarasimha.

A couple of important points stand out from a musical perspective:

  1. Usage of ragas sharing common murcchanas, being placed next to each other is a marked feature. Ramasvami Dikshitar himself in his 108 raga tala malika, ‘nAtakadi vidyAlaya’ uses the same stratagem. Even as one sings for that ½ or 1 avarta, the raga structure is made out distinctively in the midst of other ragas from the same family. In this case Manirangu, Kapi, Shri and Durbar bring that feature.
  2. Ragas like Hamir, Ramkali etc have traditionally been believed to have been imported into our music, by Muthusvami Dikshitar post his visit to Kashi. In this ragamalika, assignable to a date much earlier to the birth of Muthusvami Dikshitar (1775), we see the ragas Ramkali and Hamir being used, pointing to the fact that the usage of these ragas predate the Trinity.
  3. With the greatest of gratitude to Subbarama Dikshitar for gifting us with the SSP, one can see that he has notated Ramkali in this composition with both the madhyamas ( m and m#). In the SSP main raga lakshana text, Subbarama Dikshitar assigns Ramkali under Mela 15. And therein he mentions that it is the convention to render the madhyama of the raga as m# and gives a few sample murcchanas. But in the notation for the solitary exemplar composition(kriti) for the raga, ‘rAma rAma kalikalusha virAma”, he does not notate the prati madhyama (m#) at all. Whereas for this composition ‘sAmajagama’ in the anubandha he marks the place where the prati madhyama has to be rendered and thus provides a formal authority for the sanctioned usage. In fact the prati madhyama is so positioned by Ramasvami Dikshitar in this composition that the sahitya line in Kannada ends in M1 ( the preceding sahitya line) and the Ramkali portion begins with M2, producing the Lalitanga like effect via GM1M2G . In North Indian music this classic musical motif is called ‘lalitAnga” with the improvisation that the M2 is sandwiched between two M1’s. Additionally Ramasvami Dikshitar skillfully spreads the rAmkali raga mudra over the Kannada portion and rAmkali portion as well showing that perhaps the GM1M2G is a motif for Ramkali!
  4. The final carana ends with the benedictory appeal for the benign Grace of Lord Tyagaraja – “A harIndrUnI pUjincU tyAgEsa krupa nijamU”
  5. Just as a passing observation, we do not see the standard colophon that Ramasvami Dikshitar usually uses namely “venkatakrishna” in this composition.

This ragamalika composition as far as one knows, has never been part of the concert platform repertoire and there exists no known recording of this composition. During the music festival season of 2015, Parivadhini presented a thematic concert on Pre-Trinity compositions @ Nada Inbam by Vidushi Smt. Gayathri Girish. (See Note 7), wherein this piece was rendered. Here is the complete composition rendered by her from that concert. Accompanying her, on the violin is Dr Hemalatha and on the mrudangam by Sri. B Sivaraman.

CONCLUSION:

The virtuosity and proficiency of the great composers needs to be researched further in the context of both musical and social history. Such an effort should encompass identifying & publishing hitherto undiscovered compositions and archiving the music material to be preserved for posterity. Performing musicians too should take the lead in adding these rare and unheard compositions in their repertoire and presenting them frequently in concerts.

 REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar(1904) -Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini with its Tamil translation published by the Madras Music Academy
  2. William Hickey (1875) -The Tanjore Mahratta Principality in Southern India- Second Edition- Published by Foster & Co. eBook published by Google
  3. K R Subramanian(1928 & 1988) – The Maratha Rajas of Tanjore – Published by Asian Educational Services
  4. Dr U.Ve.Svaminatha Iyer (2005) – Urainadai Noolgal – Part 1( Reprint)
  5. Dr Sita (2001)- Tanjore as a Seat of Music

FOOTNOTES :

  1. Tanjore was actually called the ‘Eden of the South’ as it was lush & green, a picture of prosperity coupled with the fact like just like Silicon Valley in modern U.S.A, the place became a beehive for all of performing arts. The water of the Cauvery, the fertility of the delta alluvial soil, the inclination of the people to arts, temple, religion and culture ensured that the cognoscenti flocked to the Tanjore Kings who ruled the area.  In her treatise, “Tanjore as a seat of Music”, Dr Sita says that at some point the Tanjore Court hosted more than a 1000 vidvans !
  2. Much of the intrigues surrounding the Royal House of Tanjore during the period of 1760-1775 can be found documented in the “Original Papers Relative to the Restoration of the King of Tanjore and the Arrest of the Rt. Honble George Pigot” available here.
  3. This Royal skulduggery and the untold misery of Prince Serfoji was much later a subject of a historical novel “Old Tanjore” written by Seshachalam Gopalan & published by P R Rama Iyer and Sons, Madras (1938). This novel has as its plot, the intrigues at the Tanjore Court. The aspirations of Prince Serfoji, Maharaja Tulaja’s lawfully adopted son is checkmated by Amarasimha who aspires for the throne and for achieving that he even deigns to liquidate him. But the Dowager Maharani (Tulaja’s mother) and two of Tulaja’s wives who didn’t commit Sati, namely Queen Sujanabayee and Queen Girjabayee save Serfojee with the help of the famous Danish Christian missionary Schwarz. Assisting them is Tukaram Rao, a courtier and friend of Tulaja . They finally succeed in removing the Amarasimha from the throne and anointing Serfoji as King. “Old Tanjore” is a historical novel dealing with a period in Tanjore history which is at once the twilight of the Mahratta royal rule and the dawn of the British Raj. We get in it preserved with great skill, the aroma of days by-gone. And the characters and events assume a living dimension. Rev Schwarz  and Tukaram, the energetic courtier who though on the same side to promote the interest of Prince Serfoji, frequently come into conflict in these pages and they realize at the last for a fleeting moment the kindred nature of their mission on earth. All these are vividly portrayed by the author Sri. Gopalan and it lends its own peculiar charm to the story. The underlying religious ferment in the ancient city which throws up a lofty character like Tukaram, the intrigues of Amarasimha to usurp the throne from the young Serfojee & persecute him, his final rescue by Schwarz & others thus constitutes the central theme of the story. One does not know whether these characters and their actions as depicted in the novel are completely true or fiction, save for a few. Wish one does. The author, Seshachalam Gopalan a resident of Tanjore much like Madhaviah another English writer from the early 20th century,seems to have written a bunch of novellas apart from ‘Old Tanjore’. These include ‘Jackal Farm or Jungle of good Jackals’ (1949) a satire, “Tryst with Destiny” (1981), “From my Kodak” and ‘Distant Views”.
  4. The Memoirs of Lord Wellesley, archived here by Google offers the view of the British establishment then with respect to the question of making Prince Serfoji the King. For more on Reverand Scwarz and his take on the entire affair one can refer to Lives of Missionaries in Southern India archived here by Google books. Many other documents too have been referred to and this listing is not complete.
  5. In those days with life span hardly exceeding 50 years on an average it is quite possible that Amarasimha’s life time was 1755-1805. It agrees well with Pratapasimha’s reign of 1739-1763 and Tulaja’s life time of 1740-1787. In the same breath given King Serfoji’s life time was 1777 to 1833 or an age of 56 years, Madhyarjunam Pratapasimha (who is a cousin) could have lived between the period of 1780-1832, assuming Subbarama Dikshitar is correct in stating the date of demise.

    pAvai Vilakku - History - Narration at the Mahalingasvami Temple in Tiruvidaimarudur
    pAvai Vilakku – History – Narration at the Mahalingasvami Temple in Tiruvidaimarudur

    However another contrarian evidence emerges from the precincts of the sprawling temple of Lord Mahalingasvami in Tiruvidaimarudur where one can see in the outer prahara, a statuette of a lady with a lamp called ‘pAvai vilakku’. The temple authorities have written a commentary – see photograph, roughly translating the note written on the base of the statuette, as under:

“The Maharatta Raja Amar Singh (Amarasimha) used to reside in the palace on North Street. His son was Pratap Singh (Pratapasimha). Yamunabhayee Sahib and Sagavarbayee Sahib were respectively his first and second wives. Neither of them had any progeny. Pratap Singh desired to marry Ammanubayee Saheb, a daughter of his maternal uncle. They were deeply in love with each other. The said Ammanubayee prayed to Lord Mahalingasvami and undertook to light a 1000 lamps if her heart’s desire was fulfilled. And when the marriage indeed took place the Rani lit those 1000 lamps and she had this figurine of herself forged and installed in the temple. This is dated to Salivahana era 1775, 22nd day of the month of Jaiyshta(AnI),a sOmavAra, corresponding to 4th July 1853 of the English calendar”

This certainly complicates matters as the date of demise given by Subbarama Dikshitar doesn’t tally with the date inscribed in the figurine which should be accorded higher evidentiary value. If we are to take this into consideration, Madhyarjunam Pratapasimha must have lived well into the second half of the 19th century. On the left  is the photo of the narration in Tamil found in the temple precincts, mentioned above.

6. V Sriram( 3rd Jan 2014, The Hindu) has his account of the abode of Amarasimha at Tiruvidaimarudur here. His brief narration of the historical background is entirely based on Dr Sita’s ‘Tanjore as a Seat of Music’, reference # 5 above.

7. In that concert, ‘sAmajagamana’ was presented as an exemplar for the ragamalika archetype composition and this blog author had a hand in that choice. The permission granted by Smt Gayathri Girish to share a recording of his composition in the public domain is gratefully acknowledged.

Safe Harbor Statement: The clipping and media material used in this blog post have been exclusively utilized for educational / understanding /research  purpose and cannot be commercially exploited or dealt with. The intellectual property rights of the performers and copyright owners are fully acknowledged and recognized.

History, Personalities

A Tribute to a Munificent Benefactor

INTRODUCTION:

Subbarama Dikshitar in his preface to his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) mentions a number of personalities who played a major role in enabling him to complete the treatise. They are:

  • The past rulers and members of the Royal family of Ettayapuram (profiled by Subbarama Dikshitar in his Vaggeyakara Caritamu – entries 67 to 71)
  • Sri Cinnasvami Mudaliar
  • Rao Bahadur Jagannatham Chettiar the then Divan of Ettayapuram
  • Sri Radhakrishna Iyer, the then Principal of the Maharaja’s College, Pudukottai.

Subbarama Dikshitar singles out his benevolent patron His Highness Raja Jagadveera Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa who ascended the Ettayapuram throne in December 1899, in his preface saying he was eternally in gratitude to the Raja for having provided him with the support to bring out the SSP and thus making him famous. It was to this ruler that Chinnasvami Mudaliar earnestly appealed to convince Subbarama Dikshitar to document all that he knew. And it was under this Raja’s direction that Subbarama Dikshitar embarked on the creation of the SSP. And on top the Raja sanctioned a princely sum of Rs.10,000/, arranged for importing the typesets and the machinery so that Vidya Vilasini Press could complete the production of the entire treatise with all its notations.

The photo on the left features a  page from the original Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, capturing the notation in telugu of the tana varna in Atana that Subbarama Dikshitar had composed on Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa(1878-1915)

December 2010 marks the Raja’s 132nd birth anniversary as well the 111th anniversary of his coronation in the year 1899 which was when the groundwork was done by Chinnasvami Mudaliar to get the task of collating the SSP started. According to Dr. T. S. Ramakrishnan, the actual work began on 21 December 1901 (a full two years later) and ended with the publication of the SSP on 15th February 1904. This article is to commemorate the memory of Raja Venkatesvara Ettappa and that of the Royal House of Ettayapuram without whom the magnum opus would not have seen the light of the day. And the musical tribute is through a chef-d’oeuvre conjured up by Subbarama Dikshitar, a bewitching cauka varna in the raga Surati, along with 3 rare compositions of an Ettayapuram ruler.

A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE ROYAL HOUSE OF ETTAYAPURAM:

Ettayapuram is today a small town in the district of Tuticorin in Southern Tamilnadu. Prior to the British annexation in the year 1775 (appr), it was a principality ruled by Poligars/Kings with quasi independence having the Vijayanagar Kings or the Nayaks of Madura as their overlords. We do have historical accounts of this royal family from the British chronicler Robert Caldwell. In the local language, we have the historical account of one Swami Dikshitar (circa 1860) who was patronized by the Ettayapuram Royals, called “History of Ettayapuram” which provides the lineage of a total of more than 30 rulers, till 1870. Apart from this, as mentioned in the introduction, Subbarama Dikshitar has provided a brief biographical sketch of the Royals of Ettayapuram in his Vaggeyakara Caritamu. The Ettayapuram Royals have also been profiled by Sri A Vadivelu (a chronicler of Indian royal families from the last century), Dr T S Ramakrishnan (a past member of the Experts Committee of the Music Academy) and Dr V Raghavan.

The members of the Royal House and the rulers during the period of 1775-1905 are given in the genealogy chart below for  reference. Quite a few musical books and historical accounts, given the commonality of names of the different Rajas, give a confusing account of the Rajas mixing them up and also wrongly attributing compositions. For example, many publications blindly attribute all available compositions to Kumara Ettendra. For the sake of clarity I have documented the correct Raja name as attributed by Subbarama Dikshitar and cross-validated with other accounts as found in the references section, in the footnote.

The history of the Royal House of Ettayapuram apparently traces back to circa 856 CE. However, evidence in the form of historical documentation is traceable only from circa 1423 CE onwards. There is a stone inscription in the town of Devikapuram dateable to 1479 AD that mentions of Ettappa Nayaka making available devadasis to the temple. There are also stone inscriptions dating to 1690 which talks of the acts done by Nayakas of Ettayapuram.

Throughout this article and also in all historical accounts, the principality of Ettayapuram is referred to synonymously as a palayam or zamindari or estate or samasthana(m) and those in-charge are addressed as King, Raja, Zamindar and poligar. The names of the rulers/zamindars are usually prefixed by Jagadveera and the common suffixes include Ettappa, Ettendra, Ayyan, Pandian and Nayaka(n).

Genealogy chart of the Ettayapuram Rajas CE 1775-1904

The Rajas of Ettayapuram were originally called  Nayaks/ Nayakkar with a common surname of Ettappa Nayaka and were a warrior clan hailing from the Chandragiri region which is in modern day Andhra Pradesh. They had been local chieftains who then moved into the Madurai region and became a vassal of the Pandyan Kings in 1423 CE. According to Robert Caldwell (‘A History of Tinnellvely’ p.49)  Kumaramuttu Ettappa Nayaka, an ancestor of the Ettayapuram Rulers fled from Chandragiri with his huge retinue to the Madurai region fearing reprisal from the Bahmini Kings. They perhaps represented the first wave of Telugu speaking people to migrate to the Tamil hinterland. The Pandyan Kings conferred the title of ‘Jaga(d)veera Rama’ on these chieftains which is used by them till today. The 20th Ruler in this line was one Raja Jagaveera Ramakumara Ettappa Nayaka who in January 1567 (vide Henry Heras’s ‘The Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara’) founded the present day Ettayapuram and moved his headquarters there. Bishop Caldwell in his book ‘Political and General History of Tinnelvelly’ records the year as 1565.

During the 1500’s, when the Vijayanagar Empire was at its zenith these chieftains of Ettayapuram became poligars (or palayakkarar in Tamil i.e royalty paying Chieftains) under the overall suzerainty of the Vijayanagar Kings. The Nayakas of Madura and Tanjore were higher in terms of their pecking order while the Nayakas of Ariyalur, Gingee, Udayarpalayam and Ettayapuram were next in line. The Nayakas of Ettayapuram were on very friendly terms with the Nayakas of Madura and in turn they were conferred the title of ‘Ayyan’ oor the support and friendship that was extended. They Nayakas of Ettayapuram were also granted the village of Kazhugumalai in 1500’s. The temple of Lord Subramanya was constructed by the Ettayapuram rulers there and the Lord enshrined therein became the presiding deity of the Royals from then on. During early 1800’s when the British consolidated their hold over Southern India, the Ettayapuram rulers like the rest of the others followed suit and became vassals of the British and became kist/peshcush paying Zamindars.

Extract from Kadigaimuttu pulavar’s panegyric ‘Samudravilasam’ (Tamil)
Extract from Kadigaimuttu pulavar’s panegyric ‘Samudravilasam’ (Tamil)

The Rajas/Zamindars of Ettayapuram (those who are given in the genealogy chart above) have been profiled in detail by Subbarama Dikshitar in his Vaggeyakara Caritamu and I refer readers to the same available in English online. The Rajas were patrons of music, arts and literature. Subbarama Dikshitar lists out a number of great musicians and poets who ornamented the Nayaka Court at Ettayapuram.

The famous Tamil poet Kadigaimuttu Pulavar, who was patronized by the Royals, wrote a panegyric of a 100 Tamil verses on Raja Venkatesvara Ettappa (marked as Ruler 2 in the genealogy chart above), was patronized by the Ettayapuram Royals. Above is an excerpt from that work called ‘Samudravilasam’ extolling the Raja.

MUSICAL COMPOSITIONS OF THE RAJAS:

As Subbarama Dikshitar points out, the Rajas and the family as whole were great patrons of arts and culture. Some of the rulers were also composers in their own right, such as Rama Kumara Ettappa Maharaja or Kumara Ettendra (as he is named in the SSP), who ruled between 1840 and 1850. The SSP lists out 13 compositions of this Raja Kumara Ettappa (herein after referred only as Kumara Ettendra) such as ‘Gajavadana Sammodita’ in Todi, ‘Karunananda Catura’ in Neelambari and ‘Sivananda Rajayoga’ in Surati with the ankita ‘kartikeya’.

The discography section features three of his compositions. See Foot Note 1 for a compilation of the compositions of the Rajas of Ettayapuram.

Some of compositions of Kumara Ettendra given the style and also considering the fact that they were on Lord Subramanya have been mistakenly attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar himself by the Taccur Brothers in their works/publications.

The compositions of the Rajas have been encountered very rarely in the concert platform. ‘Gajavadana Sammodita’ in Todi has perhaps been the sole exception and that too these days the piece has become a rarity. Dr T. S. Ramakrishnan in his Music Academy Lecture demonstration on 18th December 1976, rendered a number of rare compositions along with his daughters, accompanied on the veena. The compositions that were rendered were:

  • Ashtangayoga prabhava – Sankarabharanam
  • Nityananda Kartikeya – Asaveri
  • Sarasadala Netra – Atana
  • Karunarasa madhura – Mukhari
  • Karunarasalahari – Yadukulakhamboji

Apart from the musical contributions, the Rajas have also contributed to arts and literature especially. G U Pope’s and L D Barnett’s “Catalogue of Tamil Books in the British Museum Library’ in two volumes, bear out that Raja Venkatesvara Ettappa had written a Tamil drama  in three acts called ‘Gnanavalli – A Creeper of Wisdom’ with an English translation by S A Tirumalai Kozhundu Pillai, published in 1915. Subbarama Dikshitar also lists out the contributions and literary acumen of the personalities from this family in the Vaggeyakara Caritamu.

The name of these Rajas came to be sullied in history in relation to the episode of the capture of Kattabomman, the polygar of the neighboring Pancalamkurici, dating to the year 1799. See Footnote 2.

A BRIEF PROFILE ON RAJA RAMA VENKATESVARA ETTAPPA AND HIS DEWAN JAGANNADAM CHETTIAR:

It would be befitting to formally record what is known of these two eminent personalities instrumental in the publication of the SSP. Profile # 71 of the Vaggeyakara Caritamu of Subbarama Dikshitar is of Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa.

Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa was born in December 1878 as the first son of Raja Rama Kumara Ettappa who reigned between 1875 and 1890. When Rama Kumara Ettappa died in circa 1890, Venkatesvara Ettappa was a minor and hence could not ascend the throne. The British instrumentation of Court of Wards was invoked and the minor Raja was placed under the care of a group of Englishmen and an Indian. Mr.Potts, Mr.Ellison, Mr. Morrison, Mr.Payne and Sri.Jagannadam Chettiar were handpicked by the Court of  Wards to handhold the minor Raja till he attained the age of 21. Till the minor Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa attained majority in 1899, this group of tutors kept a watchful eye as guardians and ensuring he was educated and well informed. He was taken around the country and to Sri Lanka to make him worldly wise as well. The affairs of the Zamindari Estate, was in the meanwhile first handled by Sri Venkata Royar and then by Sri Sivarama Iyer as the Dewan or Manager working under the supervision and control of the British Collector. Sri Sivarama Iyer was also  the tutor/guardian of Raja Bhaskara Sethupati who was profiled in an earlier article.

The photograph on the left ( circa 1900 ), features Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa Nayaka(the benefactor who funded the publication of the SSP) in his royal regalia. To his right is Dewan K Jagannadam Chettiar on whose authority the SSP was published. Photo Courtesy: ‘Aristocracy of Southern India’ by A.Vadivelu

Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa’s paternal uncle (brother of Raja 6 in the genealogy chart), Venkatesvara Ettendra Pandian took significant interest in running the zamindari during the Raja designate’s minority. This Venkatesvara Ettendra Pandian is also mentioned by Subbarama Dikshitar as a great patron and connoisseur of music and arts. Apparently there were litigations galore between Rama Venkatesvara and his uncle as well. It may not be out of place to mention here that Krishnasvamy Ayya (whose compositions are notated in the SSP) was a solicitor/advocate, who had his residence in Tirunelveli and it was he who handled litigations in connection with the Zamindari and provided legal advice to the Royals.

Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa attained majority in the year 1899 and he became the Zamindar/Raja in December of that year. His marriage was also performed just before this coronation. Upon his ascension, Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa made K Jagannadam Chettiar as the Manager of the Estate/Dewan. Jagannadam Chettiar was also honored with the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’. Records indicate that he was an officer of marked ability, unblemished reputation and long experience. Jagannadam Chettiar during 1904 retired from service on a hefty pension and was succeeded by Mr. S T Shanmugham Pillai who had earlier served as a Deputy Collector.

Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa was also a patron of Subramanya Barathi the renowned tamil poet and freedom fighter. Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa Nayaka  died circa 1915.

In the Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu and Vaggeyakara Caritamu, three kritis are recorded as having been composed by Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa. They are:

  1. ‘Muruga Tarukilaya’ – Raga Khamas
  2. ‘Va Va nee valli manala’ – Raga Bhairavi
  3. ‘Engal Valli Deivanai’ – Raga Mohanam

In the SSP the lyrics of the first composition are also found notated additionally under ragas Anandabhairavi and Vasanta. The second composition is also notated under Sankarabharanam. Did Subbarama Dikshitar set the lyrics to these ragas? One does not know. The third composition is found notated in the 1905 work of Subbarama Dikshitar, Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu and was probably composed post 1902.

COMPOSITIONS BY SUBBARAMA DIKSHITAR ON HIS BENEFACTOR:

Subbarama Dikshitar has composed two varnams, a padam and a daru in honor of these two personages.

  1. ‘Sri Raja Raja Maharaja’ – Purnacandrika – Ata tala – Tana varnam
  2. ‘Sri Raja Raja Maharaja’ – Atana – Ata tala – Tana varnam ( same sahitya as the above)
  3. ‘Imdemdu vaccitira’ – Begada – Misra eka – Padam
  4. ‘Emani Pogadudune’ – Pharaz – Adi – Daru

Notes:

  • Compositions 1 and 2 are found in the SSP, 3 in the Anubandha and 4 in the Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu.
  • Compositions 1-3 are in honor of Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa.
  • In the case of composition 3, the telugu lyrics have been composed by Sri Jagannadam Chettiar and Subbarama Dikshitar has set it to music and is in honor of Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa.
  • Composition 4 is an ode on Sri Jagannadam Chettiar composed by Subbarama Dikshitar. This daru is constructed with a crowning makuta svara or muktayi svara passage which has sahitya as well.

No known renderings of these compositions exist.

MUSICAL TRIBUTE AND DISCOGRAPHY:

In this section, four compositions are sought to be presented as a musical tribute to the munificent benefactor Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa and his Royal House.

The first is a cauka varna composed by Subbarama Dikshitar on his patron Raja Muttusvami Jagadveera Rama Ettappa who ruled between 1858-1868. This Raja is marked with the number 5 in the genealogy chart above and is profiled by Subbarama Dikshitar in the Vaggeyakara Caritamu under serial number 69. Also known as Muddusvami Ettendra this Raja was the grandfather of Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa who ascended the throne in 1899 and was instrumental in funding the publication of the SSP.

The text of this cauka varna is available in full in all its regal splendor in the SSP. Set in rupaka tala and the raga Surati, the varna is a connoisseurs delight. It is also encountered in the dance circuit and is performed in full as the center piece.

Before we present the rendering of this composition, Prof S R Janakiraman talks first of raga Surati and how Subbarama Dikshitar has handled the elongated dhaivatha of raga Surati in the varna. It’s not without reason that the Professor says that the varna is a veritable encyclopedia of Surati.

Prof SRJ -Surati -Ragalakshana

According to Prof S R Janakiraman , the following are salient aspects of the raga:

  1. The raga called as Sorata or Surati is clearly a post 1700s raga with a skeletal arohana/avarohana murrcana of SRMPNs/sNDPMGRS which it shares with Kedaragaula.
  2. And without doubt it’s a documented melody of Muddu Venkatamakhi and not of Venkatamakin as the raga is not found in the Caturdandi Prakashika.
  3. It is to be noted that the avarohana murrcana sNDPMGPMR is a later day refinement. On the authority of the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshitar and of the adi tala tana varna of Veenai Kuppaier, ‘Ento Prema’ we can say that sNDPMGRS is the older or in terms of today, a rather visesha avarohana krama.
  4. In this raga, the notes gandhara and dhaivatha are not intoned at their respective svarasthanas as applicable for Kedaragaula/Harikambhoji mela. Rather the gandhara is rendered close to/as madhyama and the dhaivatha close to the nishada itself. Surati is thus a raga to be dealt with and understood from lakshya rather than lakshana.
  5. The dhaivata that is found documented in Subbarama Dikshitar’s composition is elongated in its intonation, rare and has been so used in Muttusvami Dikshitar’s Surati compositions including ‘Angarakam’ and ‘Sri Venkatagireesam’.

Sami Entani – Surutti – Varnam by Prof S.R.Janakiraman

Apparently the composition was learnt by the Professor from Tiruppamburam Svaminatha Pillai in the company of Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao. Years ago in an Academy concert as Sri Govinda Rao was rendering this mammoth composition, he beckoned over to Prof Janakiraman who was in the audience to join him in rendering the remaining portion of the varna! In sum this composition in its pristine glory exemplifies the greatness of Subbarama Dikshitar as a musicologist and as a composer par excellence.

Next is a composition of Kumara Ettendra’s ‘Karunananda Catura’ in Neelambari. Vidushi Padma Varadan the daughter of renowned musicologist and veena vidvan Sri Rangaramanuja Iyengar, who passed away some time back, renders this gem of a composition. This rendering is a one to cherish for its singular beauty and aesthetic presentation of a very high order.

The source of this patham of the composition ‘Karunananda Catura’ could be interesting to know. This composition of Kumara Ettendra dates back to the time when Balusvami Dikshitar was the Court Musician or astana vidvan of the Ettayapuram Court. Whether he played any role in contributing to this creation, particularly in terms of the musical setting, is not known. For example, the cittasvara section of the Todi composition of Kumara Ettendra, ‘Gajavadana Sammodita’ with its emphasis on the different shades of the gandhara svara is a creative addition of Balusvami Dikshitar. In this case Subbarama Dikshitar clearly marks it as a composition of Kumara Ettendra himself. It is not known for sure how this Neelambari composition went on to ornament the repertoire of the legendary Veena Dhanammal. Was it through Satanur Pancanada Iyer/Panju Iyer by any chance as it was also known to Tiruppamburam Svaminatha Pillai  also given that Panju Iyer taught both Dhanammal and Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai? One does not know. Dhanammal’s Friday musical soirees featured for sure a rendering of this composition on the veena to the solitary accompaniment of her lilting voice. Rangaramanuja Iyengar for sure must have learnt it as rendered by the femme royale of our music of the last century and passed it on to his daughter. Not surprisingly, Vidushi Padma Varadan renders vocally the song even as she plays it on the veena in a style typical of Dhanammal herself.

Karunananda Chatura – Neelambari

Attention is invited to the madhyama sruti rendering of this composition which gives Neelambari a different lilt and hue.

This section concludes with the renderings of two other compositions of Kumara Ettendra which are extremely rare. Featured first is a rare rendering of Kumara Ettendra’s composition in Surati, ‘Sivananda Rajayoga’. Again this recording is from an AIR Concert of Vidushi Padma Varadan from the year 2008.

Sivananda Rajayoga – Surutti – Krithi

Incidentally these two compositions namely ‘Karunananda’ and ‘Sivananda’ seem to be part of a set of compositions (the ‘Ananda’ series) which are listed in the SSP as composed by Kumara Ettendra. The others in this so called series are ‘Nityananda’- Asaveri, ‘Nikhilananda’ – Saveri and ‘Paramananda’ – Bhairavi. It’s worth noting here that the text of this Surati kriti features the word ‘pranava hrimkara’ being repeated four times as the starting point for each of the carana lines of the kriti.

Presented finally is Kumara Ettendra’s Sriraga composition ‘Shadadhara tatva’ rendered by Vidushi Srirangam Gopalaratnam.

ShadaDharachakra – Sri

As one can see that the composition is melodically modeled on Muttusvami Dikshitar’s Sriraga composition ‘Sri Muladhara cakra vinayaka’. While Dikshitar’s creation does not feature the vakra dhaivatha usage, this composition as per practice utilizes the dhaivatha via the murccana PDNP just once in the kriti and once in the cittasvara section.

REFERENCES:

  1. Subbarama Dikshitar(1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini
  2. Subbarama Dikshitar(1905)- Pratamabhyasa Pustakamu
  3. Burton Stein(1990)– Vijayanagara Vol 1- Pages 77-80 published by Cambridge University Press ISBN: 9780521266932
  4. Anthony Good (2004) – Worship and the ceremonial economy of a royal South Indian Temple, Edwin Mellen Press
  5. A. Vadivelu (1903)- Aristocracy of Southern India- Volume I, pp 154-178
  6. Dr T.S Ramakrishnan(1973)–‘Subbarama Dikshitar & his contributions’- JMA Volume XLI pages 194-207
  7. Dr T.S Ramakrishnan(1976)- ‘Compositions of Kumara Ettappa Maharaja’ – Lecture Demonstration, JMA Volume XLVIII, pages 28-29
  8. Prof S.R. Janakiraman(1995) – ‘Raga Lakshanangal’ Volume I published by the Madras Music Academy, pp 132-134

CREDITS/ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:

  1. The audio recordings and photographs in this blog post have been used purely for educational/research purpose and is covered by fair use and the copyrights for the same vests with the authors/performers as applicable.
  2. I am grateful to Sri Naresh Keerthi for providing me with a copy of the recording of ‘Shadadhara cakra’ in Sriraga.

FOOTNOTE 1: LIST OF COMPOSITIONS OF THE ETTAYAPURAM ROYALS

1.    Ashtanga yoga prabhava —Sankarabharanam—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

2.    Enduku (padam)—Kambhoji—Misra Eka—Kumara Ettendra

3.    Gajavadana sammodita vira gajavalli ramana—Todi—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

4.    Iha para sadhana —Nata—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

5.    Kamalasanadi chintita –Brindavana Saranga—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

6.    Karuna sara madhura prasada kamala vadana—Mukhari—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

7.    Karunananda catura sahasradala —Nilambari—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

8.    Karunarasa lahari katakshena—Yadukulakambhoji—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

9.    Muruga tarugillaiya –Khamas—M/Eka— Rama Venkatesvara Ettapa
Muruga tarugillaiya —Anandabhairavi—M/Eka— Rama Venkatesvara Ettapa
Muruga tarugillaiya —Vasanta—M/Eka— Rama Venkatesvara Ettapa

10. Muruga unai nambinenayya —Rudrapriya—Rupaka—

11. Nikhilananda nitya pradipa —Saveri—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

12. Nityananda kartikeya nityam manasa—Asaveri—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

13. Paramananda sara pravaha parvati ramana—Bhairavi—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

14. Sarasa dala netra svaminatha sarvaloka—Atana—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

15. Shadhadhara tatva —Shri—Adi—Kumara Ettendra
Shadhadhara tatva —Kharaharapriya—Adi—Kumara Ettendra (Taccur Singaracar’s publication)

16. Siva guru nathanai —Mukhari—Adi— Raja Venkatesvara Ettendra

17. Sivananda rajayoga prakasha shivakama vallisuta—Surati—Adi—Kumara Ettendra

18. Va va va ni valli manala –Sankarabharana—Adi—Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa
Va va va ni valli manala —Bhairavi—Adi— Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa

19. Engal Valli Deivanai — Mohanam—Adi– Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa (Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu)

The references to the Rajas in the above listing are as under:

  • Kumara Ettendra refers to Kumara Ettappa Maharaja (name found in the SSP), the raja listed with number 3 in the genealogy table above and 67 in Subbarama Dikshitar’s listing in Vaggeyakkara Caritamu.
  • Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa refers to the Raja listed with number 7 in the table and 71 in Subbarama Dikshitar’s listing.
  • Raja Venkatesvara Ettendra refers to the Raja listed with number 2 in the table & number 66 in Subbarama Dikshitar’s listing in Vaggeyakkara Caritamu

Of the above barring the two compositions the source/publication of which are given in braces, the rest are found notated in the SSP and its anubandha.

For an academic analysis of the compositions of the Ettayapuram Royals, readers may please refer to the Journal of the Music Academy Volume LXII 1991, pages 82-94, ‘Compositions of the Ettayapuram Rulers’ by Dr Gowri Kuppusvami and Dr N Hariharan.

FOOTNOTE 2: THE ETTAYAPURAM RAJA & THE KATTABHOMMAN EPISODE

It needs to be mentioned here that popular historical/folklore accounts also reference the Rajas of Ettayapuram in poor light in the context of the episode relating to Veerapandiya Kattabhomman the chieftain/poligar/palayakkarars of Pancalamkurici. So much so that in Tamil vernacular, the word ‘Ettappan’ is used to signify a person who performs an act of betrayal or treachery. The popular version of the story/events is that Veerapandiya Kattabomman, the recalcitrant poligar of Pancalamkurici, who had defied the British Raj was caught by the British with significant assistance from Raja Muthu Jagadveera Ramkumara Ettappa (1784-1816) and executed. This popular version is recorded for posterity by Ma.Po.Sivagnanam (1980) in his work ‘The First Patriot Veerapandiya Kattabomman’ which for all purposes is relied upon as authentic account by the general public. We do have older versions of this incident by Caldwell and others as documented in the ‘Political and General History of Tinnelvelly’.

The facts as it appears documented is that, right from day one the Rulers of Ettayapuram were not at all on friendly terms with the polygar of the neighboring Pancalamkurici namely Kattabomman. Kattabomman and his kinsmen seem to have raided the villages under Ettayapuram as well as other neighboring polygars and were plundering them regularly. And on top Kattabomman was refusing to submit himself to the British sovereignty. In the face of such belligerence, the British launched an offensive to capture Kattabomman and sought the assistance of all the friendly poligars of the area. The chief support thus came from the Ettayapuram Raja. Accounts have it that Kattabomman even came down to Madras and had an audience with the British Governor. He offered gifts to the Governor and in turn was showered with gifts and pardoned by the British. The truce apparently was short lived with the Pancalamkurici polygar reverting to his ‘old ways’ in the eyes of the British. With the British Collector Mr.Lushington at the helm of affairs, the operation to quell Kattabomman took place between 17th August and 21st Oct 1799 and it set Kattabomman on the run. And in the end he sought refuge with Raja Tondaiman of Puducottai who took him into custody and handed him over to the British.

Thus it is indeed open to question whether such an unfortunate consequence of being branded a traitor or performer of an act of betrayal can be fastened on to the Ettayapuram Ruler who had provided overt logistical support to the British and had not acted covertly/treacherously. And neither does history record the Ettayapuram Rajas as having played any role whatsoever in the final capture of Kattabomman at Puducottai. And yet reality is that it has come to stay as part and parcel of Tamil history that it was the act of betrayal by the Raja of Ettayapuram that cost Kattabomman his life with their royal name being besmirched with the taint of treachery and betrayal. Readers may refer to Kanakalatha Mukund’s ‘The View from Below: Indigenous society, Temples and the early Colonial State in Tamilnadu, 1700-1835’, published by Orient Longman, pp 176-185 and “A Manual of the Tinnevelly District in the Presidency of Madras” by A J Stuart pages 54-58 which sums up the entire sequence of events as documented by Caldwell and in traditional tamil ballads. The account of the British Collector Mr.Lushington and his appreciation of the role played by the Rajas of Ettayapuram as a loyal tribute paying principality are recorded in the pp 543-546  of  “The Fifth Report from the Proceedings of the Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company ( Madras Presidency)” Volume 2 (1812).

Interestingly this question came up for judicial resolution before the Madras High Court in 2008 when a Tamil movie was named ‘Ettappan’ and the descendants of the Ettayapuram royal family sought to restrain the producers from naming the film so with a negative connotation.

FOOT NOTE 3: OTHER COMPOSITIONS OF SUBBARAMA DIKSHITAR IN HONOR OF THE ROYALS OF ETTAYAPURAM

1.    ‘Sareku’ – Anandabhairavi – Adi – Cauka Varna – In honor of Raja Muttusvami Ettappa

2.    ‘Sami Entani’ – Surati – Rupaka – Cauka varna – In honor of Raja Muttusvami Ettappa

3.    ‘Sri Maharajasrita’ – Atana – Adi- Tana varna – In honor of Venkatesvara Ettendra Pandian ( brother of Raja numbered as 6 in the genealogy chart)

4.    ‘Sri Raja Raja’ – Atana – Ata – In honor of Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa

5.    ‘Sri Raja Raja’ – Purnachandrika – Ata- In honor of Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa

6.    Parikkani – Kalyani – Adi- Svarasthana padam – In honor of Raja Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa

7.    Enduku rara – Ragamalika – Adi – In honor of Raja Muttusvami Ettappa

8.    Manathodinangi – Ragamalika – Adi – In honor of Raja Muttusvami Ettappa

Balasvami Dikshitar during his tenure as astana vidvan of the Ettayapuram Court has composed on his patrons or has set lyrics to music as under:

1.    Neeve rasikashikhamani – Rudrapriya –Adi – Daru – Balasvami Dikshitar on Raja Venkatesvara Ettendra ( Raja with number 2 in the genealogy table above)

2.    Collakel – Sriranjani – Adi – Tamil padam – Mukku Pulavar & Balasvami Dikshitar-( Raja with number 2 in the genealogy table above)

3.    Sarasa durai unnai – Sama – Misra Eka – Tamil padam – Mukku Pulavar & Balasvami Dikshitar-( Raja with number 2 in the genealogy table above)

4.     Virakamu – Vamsavati – Adi – Cauka varna – Muttukumara pulavar & Balasvami Dikshitar (In honor of Raja Muttusvami Ettappa)