History, Raga

The Mystery about Kambhoji -Part 1


Kambhoji is a purva prasiddha raga of yore which has ornamented  Carnatic music for ages. There are many  beautiful compositions adorning this raga. Sometime ago I happened to study some of musicological books to understand Kambhoji’s raga lakshana and its evolution, in the context of the earlier blog post on Pallavi Gopala Iyer.,which is when I was struck by a mention in the Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini ¹, under Kambhoji (Pages 671 & 672 – Vol III of the 2006 Tamil edition as published by the Music Academy) that according to Venkatamakhi, madhyama & nishada are varjya in the arohana ! Confounded, I did a deep dive and so one thing led to another.  Thus this blog post is about 2 points:

  1. Kambhoji’s is not a linear scale to be given just as SRGMPDS/SNDPMGRS. Rather it is/was SRMGPDS/SNDPMGRS. The madhyama and gandhara svaras are vakra and the lineal progression SRGMP is very very rare or was even totally eschewed in olden times.
  2. The kakali nishada(N3) is very alpa/rare in usage and is probably a post 1800 development. N3 appears more as an anusvara of the tara sadja during a direct descent to the pancama. In other words, in modern parlance, Kambhoji was upanga & not bashanga. Even today a complete Kambhoji can be presented without using N3.

Another related aspect is the way purva prasiddha ragas like Kambhoji, must be understood and sung. It is my understanding that these ragas ( other examples are Sankarabharanam, Bhairavi, Samantha etc) are not bound by the conventions and strictures that abound in today’s modern musicology. For example they cannot be delineated and understood by just an arohana/avarohana or by mere linear progressions of notes as demanded by the Melakarta scheme.

Read On!

Kambhoji – A Quick Primer:

As on date, there is a complete consensus on the melodic structure of Kambhoji amongst all musicologists and musicians. Its attributes in the conventional current day parlance can be summarized as:

  • It is a shadava sampurna raga. S R G M P D S/ S N D P M G R S is the arohana and avarohana under the Kedaragaula/Harikambodhi raganga/mela, with kakali nishada (N3) as anya/bashanga svara which appears in sancaras such as SN3PDS, N3PDS where ” is the downward glide or jaaru gamaka.
  • A rakthi raga par excellence, Kambhoji has been found in the Tamil pann system as well, known as  “Takkesi”.
  • Kambhoji is famous in musicology for an altogether different reason. Venkatamakhi went hammer and tongs at Ramamatya for his having said in the Svaramelakalanidhi that Kambhoji sported only the kakali nishada.

An analysis of the raga & its compositions can be found in the following link:


Vidushi Seetha Narayanan provides a performer’s perspective of this magnificent raga:


A historical perspective of Kambhoji can be glimpsed here:


For this blog post let’s first look at what Kambhoji was till circa 1750 the notional cut-off year by which perhaps the asampurna mela scheme must have been formulated by Muddu Venkatamakhi/Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar.


The following musical texts can be examined in this regard:

  1. Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha (SS) – Circa 1600
  2. Venkatamakhi’s Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP)- Circa 1650
  3. Shahaji’s Ragalakshanamu (RL)- Circa 1700
  4. Tulaja’s Saramrutha (SM)- Circa 1735

The analysis of the above musical texts in relation to Kambhoji can be summarized as :

Circa 1600:

Govinda Dikshitar in the SS says Kambhoji sports the Kaishiki nishada.²

Circa 1650:

In his seminal work CDP, Venkatamakhi the son of Govinda Dikshitar has this to say as Kambhoji’s raga lakshana:²

“Kambhoji ragah sampurnopyarohe ma ni vakritah”

(Vide Shloka 70 & 71, Raga Chapter, Caturdandi Prakashika (Sanskrit) – Edited by Pandit Subramanya Shastri and published by Music Academy)

The key operative words thus are ‘ma ni vakritah’, meaning madhyama and nishada are vakra in the arohana.

Circa 1700:

Shahaji in his “Ragalakshanamu” has this to say about Kambhoji:

Ma and Ni are varja in the arohana. It is a basha (raga) of Kakubha with shadja as graha/amsa/nyasa and to be rendered in the evenings. For the sake of rakti however Ma appears in some arohana phrases.³

Circa 1735:

King Tulaja mentions Kambhoji as one of his 21 melas and says that Kambhoji is described as “Ma Ni varjarohaniyam”- i.e Ma and Ni are varja in the aroha phrases and his illustrative murcchanas for Kambhoji are devoid of a linear RGMP, echoing Venkatamakhi’s stated position in the CDP. Also he does not mention usage of kakali nishada- alpa or otherwise.²

In the context of the above discussion, a few points need to be clarified:

  1. The Anubandha to the CDP as well as the lakshana shloka that Subbarama Dikshitar gives as Venkatamakhi’s in his SSP are considered as post 1750 works attributable to Venkatamakhi’s great grandson Muddu Venkatamakhi/Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar. What has been considered above is the shloka found in the CDP as edited by Pandit Subramanya Sastrigal & published in Sanskrit. As we will see latter, the CDP’s Anubandha as well the shloka found in the SSP varies from what was actually said by Venkatamakhi in the original CDP.
  2. The usage of the term “Sampurna” in older texts signifies a meaning slightly different from what it connotes today. In older times, a raga was considered sampurna if the seven svaras occurred in the raga’s murcchanas or in other words either in the arohana or avarohana. ³
  3. Similar to the usage and connotation of the term ‘sampurna’ as above, terminologies like raganga, bashanga, kriyanga & upanga meant something else in older days. Thus if Shahaji says Kambhoji was a bhasha of Kakubha, it meant that Kambhoji resembled or had the cchaya of that bhasha. In turn the bhasha raga is a melodic extension or elaboration of a grama raga.³

Now the pre 1750 position of Kambhoji can be summarized as:

  1. Madhyama was vakra or varja in aroha phrases and Ni was varja. Or in other words the purvanga portions of the raga’s murcchanas didn’t have the lineal SRGMPDS at all.
  2. The nishada of Kambhoji was undoubtedly kaishiki only and kakali nishada was not used at all.

As pointed out earlier, Venkatamakhi in his CDP had castigated Ramamatya in severe terms for his having documented in the Svaramelakalanidhi that Kambhoji sported the kakali nishada.² We have no means of going into that controversy as it may truly have been so & in that period between Ramamatya and Venkatamakhi ( ~100 years), Kambhoji’s nishada might have morphed. Or it could also be the case of printer’s devil or rather copyist devil.

Govinda Dikshitar and his wife Nagamambal (parents of Venkatamakhi) Photo Courtesy : THE HINDU


For this time period namely 1750-1900 the following music texts can be considered:

  1. The Anubandha to the CDP as edited & published by the Music Academy
  2. Sangraha Cudamani of Govindacarya again as edited & published by the Music Academy
  3. Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini


The lakshana shloka for Kambhoji found in the Anubandha to the CDP (attributable to Muddu Venkatamakhi) defines Kambhoji thus: ²

“Kambhoji ragascharohe gani varjitah”

While the recital in the original CDP goes as “Ma Ni Vakritah”, the anubandha shloka talks of Kambhoji being “Ga Ni varjitah”! Was it by chance “Ma Ni varjitah” & probably some copyist erred in reproducing it? Again we will never know for sure. And so this confusion is there, etched in history for ever! Also there is no mention of usage of kakali nishada in this shloka.

We need to consider this shloka in the light of the lakshana gitam for Kambhoji composed by Muddu Venkatamakhi which is given by Subbarama Dikshitar in his SSP. In this gitam we can notice that in line with the lakshana shloka found, the gitam does not have SRGM phrase at all. It is SRMG only. In fact the gitam starts off with the murcchana ndSRMGR.¹

SSP 1904:

Interestingly Subbarama Dikshitar provides us a shloka in SSP attributing it to Venkatamakhi which is aligned to the Anubandha, but gives an extra line of verse to the effect that kakali nishada can be “appropriately” used in Kambhoji.¹

Kambhoji ragah sampurnah carohe gani vakritah |

Nishadah kakaliyuktah kvacit sthane prayujyathe ||

So according to Muddu Venkatamakhi (the author of the CDP Anubandha ) Ga and Ni are vakra in aroha phrases. And now per the SSP version of the shloka kakali nishada also appears appropriately in Kambhoji !

Subbarama Dikshitar in his SSP commentary skirts the issue. He says that the murcchana arohana/avarohana is SRGMPDNDS/SNDPMGRS. His representation gives the workaround for the nishada varja definition but none for M1 which appear as a straightforward sequential svara in the arohana as SRGMP. Also in all fairness, Subbarama Dikshitar to keep the record straight makes the reference to Venkatamakhi’s definition (in the CDP) of madhyama being varja in the arohana, but he does not develop/dwell on it further much to our disappointment.

So for us the other interesting aspect is the second added line (not found in the CDP Anubandha) which talks of Kambhoji also sporting kakali nishada and thus becoming bhashanga in modern day terms. We have no clue as to Subbarama Dikshitar’s source for this ‘modified’ shloka with the extra line pertaining to usage of kakali nishada. But nevertheless, it provides documented authority for us, for the first time in Kambhoji’s musical history, that kakali nishada is used in its sancaras, laying the foundation for modern day Kambhoji.


Moving over to Govinda’s Sangraha Cudamani , this is what he has to say of Kambhoji’s raga lakshana:²

Catushruti rishaba antara gandhara catushruthi dhaivatha svara kaishiki nishada |

Itara suddha aroha ni varjitha avaroha sampurna sa grahanyasamsa truputa yukta |

Harikambhoji mela janita Kambhoji ragah ||

Govinda’s enunciation of Kambhoji’s raga lakshana is clear as to nishada alone being vakra and again there is no mention of kakali nishada being used. Given the facts we have today, it wouldn’t be far from truth if we were to state that the modern day Kambhoji has its roots in the lakshana as propounded by Subbarama Dikshitar.

(To be continued)

Composers, History, Personalities

Pallavi Gopala Iyer – A Sequel

Since the post I made on Pallavi Gopala Iyer,  I came across a couple of more points which I thought should form part of the original post.


Per Prof Sambamoorthy and Dr B M Sundaram as well, Gopala Iyer was the son of Tsallagali Veeraraghava Iyer as mentioned in my previous post. I should confess that I had not looked to into Dr Sita’s magnum opus, “Tanjore as a Seat of Music” to see what she had to say. Dr Sita provides a brief profile of Pallavi Gopala Iyer under pages 179-180 of her work and therein there is no mention of his forefathers or descendants. Further in pages 256-262, of her thesis/publication, she profiles the famous Minister of the Tanjore Court, Varahappa Dikshita Pandit (1795-1869) along with his descendants and therein she makes a mention of another/different Gopala Iyer who was called Tsallagali Gopala Iyer and he was the son of Tsallagali Veeraraghava Iyer. They were a famous line of vaineekas attached to the Tanjore Court. In sum, there seem to have been two different Gopala Iyers in question, in the Tanjore Court. Also according to Dr Sita, Tsallagali Gopala Iyer belonged to the period of King Sivaji and thus he belonged to a time much latter than Pallavi Gopala Iyer.

The point I want to place on record is that as per Dr Sita, Pallavi Gopala Iyer had nothing to do with Tsallagali Veeraraghava Iyer whose son Tsallagali Gopala Iyer is a different musician from a different time period altogether. My original post refers to Pallavi Gopala Iyer as the son of Tsallagali Veeraghava Iyer, which is based on the account of Prof Sambamoorthy and Dr B M Sundaram. It also needs to be mentioned here that historians/researchers typically refer to the Modi records found in the Saravathi Mahal Library in Tanjore to verify or reconstruct history. Dr Sita provides a facsimile reproduction of a Modi record in her work as an example.  Interpreting those records/scripts has a great bearing on the final conclusion/deduction and this may probably account for the divergences that one notices in the two sets of accounts about Pallavi Gopala Iyer.


Secondly, since my original post I came across the rendition of the kriti , “shrI ramA ramani” in the raga Mohanam which is found in Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s Kritimanimalai, attributed to Pallavi Gopala Iyer. Vidvan Sanjay Subramaniam, accompanied by Vidvan S D Sridhar on the violin and Vidvan Trivandrum Vaidyanathan on the mrudangam, opens his All India Radio Concert, broadcast by Chennai A Station on 26th June 2009@ 8:45 AM, with this kriti of Pallavi Gopala Iyer.


Apparently this composition was fairly well encountered in concerts decades ago and musicians including G N Balasubramaniam (GNB) used to render it elaborately. As one can see this kriti is structured in the old kriti template, akin to Needumurtini in Nattakurinji  which is as under:

Pallavi – 1 avarta of adi tala

Anupallavi  – 1 avarta of adi tala

Caranam – 2 avarta of adi tala

Additionally we can see that the kriti template has multiple caranas (at least two) and a cittasvara section spanning 2 avartas of adi tala. This seems to have been the classic structure from the pre-trinity days. Another example from that period is ‘Sphuratute’ in Devagandhari of Paidala Gurumurti Sastrigal notated in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini(SSP). Many of kritis of Melattur Veerabadrayya are in this template as well, barring the cittasvara section. These proto-kriti form comes to us from an age when compositions such as varnas, svarajatis and padas dominated. The trinity perhaps went on to impart a slightly more expansive kriti template, investing sahitya for atleast an additional avarta of tala in the anupallavi and couple of more for the caranams. Muthusvami Dikshitar contributed an additional segment called the madhyama kala sahitya portion as an appendage to the carana. It would’nt be out of place to mention a very odd form for a kriti as utilized by Dikshitar for the kriti ‘Sri Meenakshi Gauri’ in the rare raga Gauri. This kriti as documented in the SSP has a number of oddities bunched together:

  • The pallavi itself has a madhayama kala sahitya portion
  • The pallavi is immediately followed by a portion of svaras called muktayisvara
  • The anupallavi(samashti carana) has four rupaka tala avartas of madhyamakala sahitya followed by 4 avartas of cittasvaras.
Composers, History, Personalities

Pallavi Gopala Iyer


Pallavi Gopala Iyer is one of the composers from the pre-trinity period who adorned the Tanjore Court and was a vaggeyakara par excellence, in his own right. We do have accounts of him from Subbarama Dikshitar and also from manuscripts and references in the Sarasvathi Mahal Library of Tanjore and from Prof Sambamoorthy. Subbarama Dikshitar has also recorded for posterity, the notation for a number of his compositions which offers us an invaluable glimpse of the music of those days bygone and which help us understand raga lakshana as it existed in the run up to the times of the Trinity.


In his “Vaggeyakara Caritamu”, Subbarama Dikshitar states that Gopala Iyer adorned the Tanjore Court during the times of King Amarasimha(1787-1802) and King Serfoji(1802-1832)¹. Prof Sambamoorthy places the timeline of Pallavi Gopala Iyer as the latter part of 18th century and first quarter of 19th century. Given this and other collateral evidences, he should have lived circa 1750-1820. And thus he was in all probability slightly elder to the Trinitarians.

Here is his biography in brief as dealt with in the records and accounts available to us:

Gopala Iyer hailed from “northern regions” according to Subbarama Dikshitar. He was the son of one Callagalli Veeraraghava Iyer. Gopala Iyer also had a brother by name Sanjeeva Iyer. The honorific title “Callagalli” (telugu) came to be conferred, probably because the music that Veeraraghava Iyer sang was like pleasant cool breeze, as the term implied in Telugu! Both the sons of Veeraraghava Iyer were enrolled under no less a teacher as Patchimiriam Adiyappayya, the legendary composer of the classic Bhairavi Ata tala varnam, “Viribhoni”. From amongst the all time greats of Carnatic Music, the honorific title “mArgadarshi” or “Trail Blazer” has been conferred on 4 icons :

  1. Karvetinagar Govindasamayya – for his magnum opus adi tala tana varna in Navaroz and probably for the ‘pedda varnamu’, “SarigadAni pai” in raga Mohana as well.
  2. Melattur Veerabhadrayya (for his now lost classic, the Huseni Svarajathi “Sami Ninne” in Adi tala)
  3. Sesha Iyengar (for his immortal set of 60 krithis, selected no less by the Lord at Srirangam) and
  4. Patchimiriam Adiyappayya ( for his Bhairavi ata tala tana varna)

Adiyappayya’s other illustrious disciples include Syama Shastri, Ghanam Krishna Iyer and “bhUlOka gAndharva” Narayana Svami Iyer (of the Udayarpalayam Samasthanam). Needless to say each one of Adiyappayya’s disciples went on to make a mark in the world of music with their contribution!

Prof Sambamurthy with authority credits Adiyappayya as the first to systematize the art of rendering raga, tana and pallavi as an organized mechanism of exposition. And he went on to teach that to his worthy disciples. Gopala Iyer became so adept in it that he became the first to be conferred the title “Pallavi” in recognition of his mastery over this  (then) new art form. This title also adorns the name of many other latter musicians/composers including Pallavi Duraisvami Iyer, Pallavi Sesha Iyer etc. And Pallavi Gopala Iyer was one of the prominent gems of the Tanjore Court, which at that point in time had more than 360 vidvans ornamenting it!

Pallavi Gopala Iyer also seems to have had a son by name  Krishnayyar who too was a musician of merit. This apart we have no other personal details available about Gopala Iyer or about his descendants.





Gopala Iyer’s colophon was “Venkata”. Apart from having been part of the Tanjore Court, he also visited the Mysore Court during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1799-1868). His compositions sport the raja mudra as an ankita as well.The following are the compositions that are available to us through the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP), its anubandha and manuscripts found in the Sarasvati Mahal Library.


  1. Vanajakshi – Kalyani – Ata tala (Mudra : Kasturiranga)
  2. Kanakangi – Todi – Ata tala
  3. Intacalamu – Kambhoji – Ata tala


  1. Amba Nadu – Todi – Adi tala (Mudra : Venkatapati Sahodari)
  2. Hari sarva paripurna -Misra Eka (Mudra : Varada Venkata Sriramana)
  3. Mahishasura mardhini – Kalyani – Tisra Eka (Mudra : Varada Venkata Sriramana)
  4. Needu carana pankaja – Kalyani – Adi (Mudra : Varada Venkata )
  5. Needu Murtini – Nattakurinji – Adi (Mudra : Venkatesa)

Apart from the above ,we have the following compositions ascribed to Gopala Iyer available to us from Sri Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s Kritimani Malai Vol IV.

  1. Mahatripura Sundari – Bhairavi – Rupaka
  2. Sri Rama ramani manohara – Mohanam – Adi
  3. Shripura nivasini – Mohanam – Rupaka

Amongst these compositions, the tana varnas in Kalyani and Todi are heard in the concert circuit along with the Todi, Kalyani (‘Needu carana’) and Nattakurinji krithis.

Also there are 2 other daru’s found in the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal collection -“Sringara Na Mohana” in the raga Begada and “Vintadanara” in Madhyamavathi, both of which sport “kasturiranga” as an ankita/mudra. One cannot but wonder if they could also be Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s. Again we do not know for sure.


According to Prof Sambamoorthy, as a composer Pallavi Gopala Iyer was the first or perhaps one of the earliest to adopt the so called “sampurna varika” style of approach. Under this approach in a composition every note is invested with kampita gamaka, totally eschewing flat notes. Indeed this is a very interesting point of discussion. Gopala Iyer purposefully applied it on the then “auttara ragas”, namely Todi & Kalyani . In that era long bygone, these 2 ragas along with Pantuvarali were treated as auttara/turuska/northern/videsi ragas. The transformation of Todi and Kalyani is one of the remarkable examples of the dynamics of our music system during the run-up the period of the Trinity.

Clip 1: Musiri Subrahmanya Iyer’s Rendering of Ambanadu – Todi

Perhaps one can surmise that in the hands of Pallavi Gopala Iyer, Todi and Kalyani got a royal treatment with the result they became mainstream ragas along with the Sankarabharanams, Bhairavis and Kambhojis and the Trinitarians subsequently went on to compose some of their greatest gems adopting the approach Gopala Iyer took.

Prof Sambamoorthy also credits Gopala Iyer of reformatting the then existing structure of a tana varna, to its current modern form. And this view is also advanced by Prof S R Janakiraman in one of his lecture demonstrations.

Older structure of a tana varna ( circa 1750):

The varna was structured with a pallavi, followed by anupallavi & muktayisvara, followed by ettugadda Pallavi/carana & its sets of ettuagada svaras, followed by a small sahitya portion called anubandha. The ettugada svaras were composed in increasing avartas of the tala in which the tana varna was composed.

The pallavi line was first rendered, followed by anupallavi with a round of muktayi svara as its appendage. This was then followed by the ettugada pallavi or carana which was used as a refrain to render the 4 or 5 sets of ettugada svaras. After the last ettugada svara was sung, the ettugada pallavi/carana/refrain was sung followed by a portion of sahitya called anubandha. After singing the anubandha, the anupallavi was to be sung followed by the muktayi svara and finally the pallavi line had to sung once to conclude the rendering.


  • “Viribhoni” – Bhairavi – Ata tala – The notation as provided by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP for the ettugada section and for the anubandha can be referred. As one can notice , modern day renditions are a truncated version of the original template.
  • Many of the varnas found in the SSP including those composed by Subbarama Dikshitar himself (“Intamodi”- Durbar- Ata, “Varijakshi” -Sahana – Ata et al ) follow this conventional but lengthy format.
  • Another older varna dating to the early half of the 18th century, which can be cited as an example is “Nenarunchi” – Bilahari – Ata of Sonti Venkatasubbayya as also the tana varnas of Ramasvami Dikshitar.

Current/Modern Form:

A tana varna today is structured with just the pallavi, followed by anupallavi & muktayi svaras and end with the ettugada pallavi/refrain with 3 to 5 ettugada svaras with upto a maximum of 3 tala cycles in the last ettugada svara sequence. The anubandha portion no longer exists. In terms of rendering, a tana varna is concluded with the singing of the last ettugada svara sequence with the ettugada pallavi refrain.

Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s varnas are the earliest examples of this modern form, which is bereft of the anubandha portion. In fact his ata tala tana varna in Kambhoji “Intachalamu” is one of the smallest of its breed with the following structure:

  • Pallavi, Anupallavi, muktayi svara section each with 2 cyles/avarthas of ata tala
  • Ettugada pallavi – 1 cycle/avartha of ata tala
  • Ettugada svara 1 – 1 cycle/avartha of ata tala
  • Ettugada svara 2 – 1 cycle/avartha of ata tala
  • Ettugada svara 3 – 2 cycles/avarthas of ata tala

Prof Sambamoorthy, also goes on to add that much latter Veena Kuppier, also applied Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s modified form for all his varnas by dispensing with the anubandha portion. However it needs to go on record that this is not entirely true. Quite a few varnas of Veena Kuppier do have the anubandha and this is recorded for posterity by the notation and text of the varnas as published in the invaluable ‘Pallavi Svarakalpavalli’ by his equally illustrious son Tiruvottriyur Tyagier. In fact the famous Sankarabharana Adi tala varna “Sami Ninne” taught to all beginners, has a short and beautiful anubandha with the following sahitya:

“nEnarUnci nE nI mAruni kelI kUdi maninca rA kUmArA”

Vidushi Seetha Rajan, true to tradition renders the varna completely with the anubandha  in this clipping below in a “varnas only” concert !

Clip 2: Sami Ninne – Sankarabharanam


The ata tala tana varna in Kalyani has been a staple concert starter for many vidvans. Prof Sambamoorthy rates the varna as one of the best vocalizers to kick start a concert. Gopala Iyer’s conceptualization of Kalyani in his gem-of-a composition is a veritable lesson in Kalyani for any listener or learner. The varna sports the mudra “mA kasturi ranga”. Prof Sambamoorthy opines that it refers only to Vishnu, the father of manmatha & not on any mortal or King. Interestingly there is another varna “(Y)Enthani vedinaga” in the raga Navaroz which also sports the mudra “kasturiranga” as well and in some of the publications it is attributed  (perhaps without authority) to Maharaja Svati Tirunal.

According to Prof Sambamoorthy, it seems Gopala Iyer composed this Kalyani varna even when he was under the tutelage of Adiyappayya. The disciple took the courage to sing this in front of his revered guru, who heard it with rapt attention. And then Adiyappayya apparently remarked that it was a ‘schoolboy’s composition’, probably out of goodwill, lest his illustrious disciple were to become proud should he praise him profusely ! The master must have undoubtedly been secretly happy with his ward’s attainment, no doubt!

Clip 3: Architect of modern day recital format (which starts with a varna), Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar begins his concert  with the Kalyani varna

In the Todi varna “Kanakangi” which is attributed by Subbarama Dikshitar to Pallavi Gopala Iyer, the ankita/raja mudra that one finds therein is “Tulajendruni tanayudaina Sarabhoji maharajendra..”, composed on Sarabhoji II who ruled between 1802-1832. Interestingly Dr B M Sundaram on the strength of the manuscripts of the Tanjore Quartet & the publication “Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai” ascribes it to Ponniah .

Clip 4: Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami renders the Todi varna “Kanakangi

Gopala Iyer’s another magnum opus is his Nattakurinji composition “Nidu Murtini”. This composition along with the Kambhoji varna “Intachalamu” and the Kalyani varna “Vanajakshi” is found in the SSP and Subbarama Dikshitar upholds them as authority/examples of raga lakshana for those ragas. Nattakurinji is one of the old ragas of our system with a documented textual tradition. One of the oldest compositions in Nattakurinji is the varna “Inta aluka” in Ata tala composed by Kuvanasamayya, one of the Karvetnagar brothers, dating to circa 1700! The varna is found documented in the SSP (1904) and the much older printed publication Sangita Sarvaarta Saara Sangrahamu (1852). Gopala Iyer interprets Nattakurinji in his own inimitable way. Attention is invited to Gopala Iyer’s version of Nattakurinji especially the repeated emphasis on the vakra sancara MNDNs and its exquisite citta svara.

Clip 5: Prof S R Janakiraman renders the kriti “Needumurti ni” here :Needumurtini – Nattakurinji

The Prof opines that Gopala Iyer was the first to add cittasvara as a section/appendage to krithis. However Dr Sita in her article says that Kavi Matrubhutayya (circa 1850, slightly earlier to Gopala Iyer) was possibly the first to add the cittasvara feature to krithis as exemplified by the beautiful cittasvara of his classic ‘Neemadi callaga’ in Anandabhairavi.

Moving over next to Gopala Iyer’s other Kalyani piece “nIdu carana”, according to Prof Sambamoorthy it is a composition on Goddess Anandavalli, enshrined in the temple on the Vennar river banks at Tanjore. Muthusvami Dikshitar has composed on this diety, refer his kriti “Chayavatim Anandavallim” in the raga Chayavati, the asampurna mela equivalent of Suryakantham. We also have another krithi of Dikshitar (“Agasteesvaram”)in the raga Lalitha on the Lord Shiva at this temple.

Clip 6: Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi renders Needu carana

Prof Sambamoorthy opines that the dhatu/musical setting of  the pallavi “Needu carana” is very unique/beautiful and has been thrust on Tyagaraja’s compositions “Sundari nee divya rupa” and “Vasudevayani”. According to him the present dhatu of the pallavi of these two songs is spurious, being derived from Needu carana. The original dhatu of the pallavi of “Vasudevayani” starts off as  GMPDNs only and not as one hears today! And Svati Tirunal’s “sArasa suvadhana” too is a similar victim!

I have not heard the renditions of the other krithis of Gopala Iyer namely  ‘Harisarva paripurna’ in Kambhoji and ‘Mahishasura mardhini’ in Kalyani. I would be grateful if somebody were to share any recordings of these 2 compositions. The tana varna in Kambhoji is again a rare one and luckily we do have authentic renditions and I intend covering that in the next post!

PS: I have drawn much of the content of this blog post from the references cited below and for the sake of brevity I have not indicated them in the body itself. Also thanks are due to Sri Lakshman Ragde for providing the listing of Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s compositions.


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini – Reprinted in Tamil by the Madras Music Academy, India
  2. Prof.P. Sambamoorthy (1970) – “Pallavi Gopala Iyer” – Published in the “The Hindu” dated 12th April 1970
  3. Dr B M Sundaram (2002) – “Varna Svarajathi” – Published by Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Tanjore
  4. Dr S Sita (1970)- “Kavi Matrubhutayya” – Published in the “The Hindu” dated 6th December 1970
History, Raga

Raga Lakshana – Madhavamanohari


Raga Lakshana – Madhavamanohari

One of the first impressions that an observer or student of our music gets is that Muthusvami Dikshitar was a strict conformist to sampradaya and to the raga lakshanas that were laid out by Venkatamakhi. But if one undertakes a scrupulous analysis of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, one can see how hollow that statement is. Dikshitar was a vageyyakara-par-excellence and he never himself considered absolutely bound by past practice or tradition. If occasions or situations so warranted he deemed it fit to depart from tradition or from the laid down raga lakshana. Like Tyagaraja, Dikshitar was an innovator who endeavored to enhance melody and aesthetics by redefining raga lakshanas and thus redraw the musical landscape of Carnatic Music.

The conception of the raga Madhavamanohari under the Sriraga mela, by him illustrates how he transformed the existing raga lakshana through a subtle value-add, driven by aesthetics, which is the subject matter of this blog.

For me this blog post has a collateral objective. I dedicate this to Prof. C S Seshadri, a distinguished mathematician on the occasion of his having been very recently honoured with the Padmabushan for his outstanding contribution in his field of eminence. The uniqueness of Dikshitar’s version of Madhavamanohari was unveiled to me by him a few summers ago one afternoon when he taught me the kriti as notated in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini(SSP)¹ Having been fed on Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s benchmarked version, Prof Seshadri’s rendition of the kriti opened my eyes to that hitherto unknown side of Dikshitar.

Read on!


Madhavamanohari is a raga from the Dikshitar School placed under the Sri raga mela. The extant version of the raga is as illustrated by Dikshitar’s composition ‘Mahalakshmi Karunarasalahari’. The first mention of the raga in musical works, is encountered in the Sangita Saramruta (1735) of King Tulaja, where it is given as a janya of Sri raga mela. The next mention of this raga is in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini(SSP)¹of Subbarama Dikshitar(SD). Neither Tyagaraja nor Syama Shastri have composed in Madhavamanohari. However 3 latter day compositions are found in this raga.

  1. One is “Kripasagara” by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar.
  2. The other is “Madhava Priya Mahima” composed in this raga by a composer by name Hari Nagabushanam (1884-1959).
  3. The raga also finds place in the Manohari Ragamalika composition “Manohari Maatangi” composed of Spencer Sri Venugopal in 9 ragas which have Manohari as suffix in their names.

In so far as this blog post is concerned, I am basing the analysis on the strength of the solitary Dikshitar composition and its notation as found in the SSP.


Lets first look at Tulaja’s mention as found in the Sangita Saramruta. According to him, th features of Madhavamanohari are:

  1. A sampurna raga with dhaivata varja in the aroha and the pancama in the avaroha
  2. Shadja is graha, amsa and nyasa

Based on the Sangita Saramruta , we see that both Sriranjani and Madhavamanohari came into vogue about the begining of the 18th century.In the SSP Subbarama Dikshitar provides us the following references & notes for Madhavamanohari:

  • Mention of the raga as a bhashanga janya in the Sriraga raganga gitam attributed to Venkatamakhi
  • The lakshana shloka for the raga attributed to Venkatamakhin
  • His commentary on the raga lakshana
  • Illustration of the raga through the notation of the compositions:
    • Gitam attributed to Venkatamakhi
    • ‘Mahalakshmi” of Muthusvami Dikshitar
    • His Sancari

Subbarama Dikshitar’s account of Madhavamanohari can be summarized as under:

Arohana: S R2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Avarohana: S N2 D2 M1 G2 R2 S

Jeeva svaram: Madhyama

Visesha prayogams: MNDNs nGRMGRS, PD1M


The Sangita Saramruta Of Tulaja is the first of the musicological texts which offers a glimpse of the evolution of Madhavamanohari as well as it sibling Sriranjani. The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini offers captures for us the svarupa of the raga via the 3 extant notated compositions namely the gitam attributed to Venkatamakhi, the kriti “Mahalakshmi Karunarasalahari” of Dikshitar and the sancari of Subbarama Dikshitar. In SSP, along with Sriranjani and Madhyamavathi ragas, Madhavamanohari is classified as a bhashanga janya of the Sriraga mela. Madhavamanohari is mentioned in the Sriraga ragaanga gitam as a bhashanga janya. One must understand why ragas like these are labeled as “bhashanga” in SSP by Subbarama Dikshitar. The term as used by SD is meant to indicate the bhasha or regional origin of the raga in contrast to the modern connotation of the term. Lets now look back in time , probably the first half of the 18th century and in Tulaja’s time, as to how Madhavamanohari was. The surviving earliest composition available to us is the gitam .

Venkatamakhi’s Raga Lakshana:

The gitam is most probably a composition of Muddu Venkatamakhi or Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita, the descendant of Venkatamakhi. The gitam lacks the colophon & the raja mudra and hence attribution is impossible. Anyways the the summary of the raga lakshana as per this gitam is like this:

Arohana: S R2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Avarohana: S N2 D2 M1 G2 R2 S

Jeeva svaram: Madhyama

Visesha prayogams: MNDNs nGRMGRS, GrND, GMGR

Jiva/Amsa svara: Ma and Ga as seen in profusion.

Notes: By and large the composition is centered in the uttaranga and in the tara stayi. Also given the murccanas as above, its clear that the raga has been conceived as a upanga janya of Sri. As per Tulaja, Dhaivata is absent in the arohana while it is vakra in Subbarama Dikshitar’s assessment. The addition of the vakra dhaivata should have happened in the period interim to Tulaja and Muddu Venkatamakhi.

Moving on, next we have the solitary composition of Dikshitar – ‘Mahalakshmi Karunarasalahari’ in Adi tala.

Dikshitar’s Conception of Madhavamanohari:

When one analyses the Dikshitar composition, it can be noticed that he sticks to the contours of the raga as laid down in the gitam. However he introduces the note D1(suddha dhaivata) ( a note foreign to the Sriraga mela) via the murccana ‘P/D1M1’ to his conception of Madhavamanohari (the / indicating the ettra jaaru or the upward glide – the jaaru gamaka adornment).The following is the summary of his conception.

  1. Characteristically enough Dikshitar commences the pallavi and the anupallavi with the raga’s jiva svara namely M1.
  2. He uses the characteristic visesha murccana MNDMGR, for the lyric “Mamava Madhavamanohari’ in the pallavi.
  3. The motif PD1M is used a total of 5 times, once in the anupallavi and 4 times in the carana.
  4. The notes M1 and G2 are ornamented with the kampita gamaka.

The salient features of Dikshitar’s Madhavamanohari are:

Arohana: S R2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Avarohana: S N2 D2 M1 P D1 M1 G2 R2 S

Salient murccanas : M1N2D2M1, P/D1M1

Jiva svaras ; M1 and G2

Gamaka: Kampita on M1 and G2, jaru from P to D1

In summary as one can see the improvisation that Dikshitar has made is in effecting the use of the motif PD1M1 to the preexisting form of Madhavamanohari or in other words, in modern parlance, converted it into a bhashanga derivative under Sri with D1 as anya svara.


This composition of Dikshitar is a generic one on Goddess Mahalakshmi and is not ascribable to any kshetra as such details are not found in the composition. It carries Dikshitar’s standard colophon “guruguha” in the anupallavi and the raga mudra in the pallavi itself. Dikshitar uses the raga name to signify that she is beloved one (Manohari) of Madhava (Lord Vishnu). Though not categorized so by Subbarama Dikshitar or other authorities on Dikshitar’s compositions, there are those who hold the belief that this kriti is a part of the set of 7 kritis, the so called “Lakshmi Saptakriti Mala”, dedicated to Goddess Mahalakshmi. The other members of this “informal list” includes:

  1. Hariyuvatim Haimavatim – Hemavati or Desisimharava
  2. Hiranmayeem Lakshmim – Lalitha
  3. Sri Bhargavi – Mangalakaisiki
  4. Sri Varalakshmi- Sri
  5. Varalakshmim Bhajare – Saurashtra
  6. Mangala Devataya – Dhanyasi

It is worth noting that all the above kritis said to form part of this so called series or set of compositions are found notated in the SSP.

Apart from the SSP (1904), this kriti in Madhavamanohari has also been published by:

  • The Tatchur Brothers in Gayakasiddanjanam (Telugu, 1904-1906)
  • Veenai Ramanujacarya in Sangeetha Sarvartha Sara Sangrahamu (Telugu,1908)
  • S Ranganatha Iyer in Sangita Rajarangam and Sangita Vidyarangam (Malayalam, 1920)
  • K V Srinivasa Iyengar in Adi Gana Bhaskaram(Telugu, 1943)
  • Veenai Sundaram Iyer in Dikshita Kritimala Vol V
  • Rangaramanuja Iyengar in Kritimanimalai, Vol IV


The credit of popularizing this composition on the concert platform goes to Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. He has popularized a good number of Dikshitar’s rare compositions such as Sriramam Ravikulabdhi Somam in Narayanagaula and the Gopikavasantam composition “Balakrishnam Bhavayami”. Apparently Sangita Kalanidhi and veena vidvan K S Narayanasvami also used to render this composition beautifully. However no recording of his rendition exists.

First is the audio clip of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, rendering the composition, possibly rendered in a concert in Mumbai. His interpretation continues to be the standard version for many performing musicians as well as students of music. One can notice that Semmangudi’s version tracks to the notation in the SSP, except for the fact that he eschews usage of D1. D2 is utilized by him throughout the composition. The measured gait in the 2 kalai adi tala is seen in his rendition.

Audio Clip 1: Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer rendering Mahalakshmi

Semmangudi’s version does not conform to the newer conception of Dikshitar as it is bereft of D1. In modern parlance & usage of the term upanga/bhashanga, Semmangudi’s version is in the upanga version.

Second is the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi R Vedavalli². The clip is a portion of the caranam featuring the usage of D1. As one can observe the kalapramana of the rendition is slightly faster than the Semmangudi version. Vid.Vedavalli adheres to the SSP notation in full. One can see that she emphasizes D1 in the kriti as in “baktiyukta manasa” , “amara vandite”and “neerajasanaste”( those underlined in bold font are the D1 usages as per the SSP notation). Needless to say therefore that her version of the raga is in its bhashanga form as was conceptualized by Dikshitar.

Audio Clip 2: Vid R Vedavalli rendering Mahalakshmi –An excerpt

Next is the rendition of Sangita Kalanidhi D K Pattamal.The following points stand out in her rendition:

  1. Her version is different from Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s in that its kalapramana is slightly faster. In the anupallavi section attention is invited to the lyrics “…..manonmani ma(M1)ra(P)ja(D1)na(M1)ni(G2)”. The D1 ‘seems’ very faintly intoned & if indeed so, its encountered in her version only at this place in the entire composition. As pointed out earlier, D1 is notated in 5 places in the SSP. In all these places in contrast to Semmangudi’s approach, Smt Pattammal loops the sancara at the pancama itself as if there is a hesitation to render the D1. In Semmangudi’s version, instead of D1, D2 is substituted and rendered.
  2. In the carana portion with the lyrics “….varijaasanadyamara vandite na(P)ra(N2)da(N2)adi(s) muni vandite..”, we hear PNNs , with the janta Ni sounding as in Ritigaula, closer to the tarashadja & not NDNS as it should be.

It is interesting to note that from a patanthara perspective, Smt D K Pattamal traces to Ambi Diksitar himself.

Audio Clip 3: Sm D K Pattammal rendering Mahalakshmi

Third is the clip of a rendering of the composition by Vidvan Vijay Siva³. His version closely follows Smt Pattammal’s version . Again D1 is not seen in his rendition in the carana portion.

Audio Clip 4: Vid Vijay Siva rendering Mahalaksmi-An Excerpt

The final clip is of the veteran vainika Smt Kalpakam Svaminathan. Below is an excerpt of her rendition featuring the same madhyamakala portion ” varijaasana- dyamara vandite…”. In her version as well the D1 is muted and does not sound conspicuous .

Audio Clip 5: Vid Kalpakam Svaminathan rendering Mahalakshmi – An Excerpt

The only other commercially available recording of “Mahalakshmi” is by Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi and as I understand it is on the lines of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s version.

If one were to interpret the notation in SSP, in my opinion, of this composition, the D1 should be strongly intoned and is not a weak or a passing note. The analysis here is based on that premise. The justification for such an interpretation is detailed in the section below.


First a disclaimer is in order. The foregoing is my surmise and I think it is plausible with the set of facts we have. And I have no other authority for this. Given the information at our disposal especially the mention in the Saramruta one can surmise that this raga is a circa 1700 entrant into our music system.

Sriranjani (SRGMDNS/SNDMGRS) is another raga of the Sriraga clan which shares a very close melodic affinity/svarupa with Madhavamanohari. Muddu Venkatamakhi is his ragaaga gitam for Sriraga gives both of them as as bhashanga janyas.The ascent murccana MNDNS though prescribed for Madhavamanohari is used in Sriranjani as well, which SD himself gives in the ragalakshana for Sriranjani. So the common jiva sancaras like MNDNS and RGMRGS cause Sriranjani and Muddu Venkatamakhi’s( or Tulaja’s) older Madhavamanohari to melodically overlap. Also the pancama, found in Madhavamanohari’s arohana, is apparently weak as it is in essence tagged on to the prayoga PNDNS. So it does not qualitatively contribute, to enable Madhavamanohari to be melodically distinct. from Sriranjani. One can also consider the possibility of Madhavamanohari being a derivative of Sriranjani itself. One can surmise that Sriranjani itself being “regional” /bhasha in origin, it is plausible another variant of Sriranjani existed with pancama in its arohana. Though this “with pancama” form of Sriranjani was assimilated into the music world formally with the nomenclature of Madhavamanohari, it probably couldn’t get sufficient traction with practitioners/listeners because of its melodic closeness to the more popular pancama varja Sriranjani.

Confronted with this problem, Dikshitar utilized the anga feature to differentiate and enhance the musical material of Madhavamanohari. The use of notes, foreign to the parent raganga is only via the use of the anga or a murccana and not by a plain vanilla addition of the individual note(s) themselves, if we were to take Dikshitar’s construction as example. The anga or the motif that Dikshitar chose to embellish Tulaja’s & Muddu Venkatamakhi’s older Madhavamanohari with, was the P/D1M1. The embellishment P/D1M1 brings a different quality & uniqueness to the Madhavamanohari of Dikshitar.


The SSP abounds in many such examples where one can see that Dikshitar departs from the existing lakshana and proceeds to expand the scope of the raga or embellish the raga lakshana appropriately. His kriti(s) so created, itself becomes the lakshana for us. Again it wouldnt be far from truth to state that nothing would please Dikshitar more if we were to sing his compositions in the true spirit that he had composed them.And in this instant case, musicians should render the krithi with the P/D1M. Again to adhere to the path he has shown, the SSP and the notation therein serves us as the beacon lights.


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Telugu) and its Tamil translation published the Music Academy, Madras.
  2. R Vedavalli- Album-“Varalakshmi Vrata Paadalgal” – Cassette # GCR309 – Produced and Marketed by Giri Trading Agency P Ltd, Chennai 600004
  3. Vijay Siva(2003) –Album -“Mayuranatham – Compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar” – CDNF 147791 –Produced by Saregama India Ltd, Calcutta, India.
  4. Dr V Raghavan (1975)- “Muttuswami Dikshitar”- Special Bicentenary Number – National Center for Performing Arts – Quarterly Journal – Vol IV, Number 3 September 1975
  5. Oppiliappan Kovil Varadacari Satakopan(2001) -‘Dikshitar’s Mahalakshmi Kritis’ – Available as an eBook online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/1028746/mahalakshmi-kritis and at http://www.ahobilavalli.org/mahalakshmi_kritis.pdf
Foot Notes: Those who know Prof Seshadri personally will vouch for the musician in him(vide N Ramanathan (2007) – “Harold Powers & India” – Published online at http://www.musicresearch.in) He is not only a disciple of the revered Rangaramanuja Iyengar ,having learnt formally from him but also inherits a musical lineage tracing back to Kancipuram Naina Pillai via his grandmother. Humility personified, Prof Seshadri, heads the CMI in Chennai. His love for chaste music becomes obvious, given the fact that he has roped in Prof.N.Ramanathan as an Adjunct Professor in the Institute.
History, Raga

Andhali – An Enigma

Andhali – An enigma – Ravi Rajagopalan

Andhali is an old raga with a textual tradition which is now virtually extinct. Its close cousins, Purnachandrika and the much latter born Janaranjani have usurped much of its musical material. We have compositions of both Tyagaraja and Dikshitar in this raga. There is an element of a controversy, nay a puzzle about the nativity of this raga, which we will see while we look at the raga lakshana of this raga. For this blog post I shall use the Dikshitar composition ‘Brihannayaki Varadayaki’ as the benchmark to understand this raga.


There have been several writers of musicological texts since 10th century AD. Vidyaranya, Parsvadeva, Sarangadeva, Pundarikavittala,Ramamatya, Somanatha and others. Each one of them has captured the snap shot of the musical milieu as it existed during their times, in their works. Every one of these illustrious authors took a step forward for us in understanding the science of melody and harmonics and of instruments and voice. They drafted the technical aspect of musicology or the science of intonation & svarasthanas on one hand and the raga lakshanas of ragas, gramas, jaatis on the other. Many of the melodies that they have dealt with have long since died. It has also become irrelevant for us to investigate those melodies for, the ever dynamic system of ours has spawned newer melodies in their place. At best a discussion of those ancient melodies serves to understand history but nothing beyond.

However from a raga lakshana angle and formulation of ragas perspective, especially for the extant/present day ragas, 3 musicological works produced during the 16th & 17th centuries remain relevant to us even today. They can be labeled as the ‘Early Triad” and are:

  1. The Caturdandi Prakasika of Venkatamakhin(circa 1620)
  2. Raga Lakshanamu by King Shahaji ( circa 1700)
  3. Sangita Saramruta (1735)by King Tulaja

These 3 works remain till date, a constant source of reference for us in understanding the ragas that existed in the run up to the Trinity’s time period. They deal with many a raga, which are still with us today either in practice or atleast in text. These 3 works offer us clues and a surfeit of musical material to help us understand the musical transformation that the Trinity undertook in the period of 1765-1835. They also offer us assistance in terms of assessing the musical worth of 3 other subsequent musical works or the “Latter Triad” that came about in the period of 1800-1910, namely:

  1. The Anubanda to the Caturdandi Prakashika (circa1750)
  2. The Sangraha Cudamani of Govinda ( Late 18th century-Early 19th century or possibly late 19th century according to scholars)
  3. The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)

The authorship as well as the timelines of works 1 and 2 above of the ‘Latter Triad’, is a subject matter of dispute and controversy. Additionally the formulation of the heptatonic system and janaka/janya relationship amongst melas/ragas by Sangraha Cudamani through the “Kangi-Priya” or the Kanakangi- Ratnangi scheme and its allied text, “The Meladhikaralakshana” has been a subject of debate & controversy. Be that as it may, the point remains & is undeniable that all these works have had a remarkable & profound impact on the world of music as we see/hear today.

So whenever we get to discuss a raga especially one which the trinity have handled, we need to reach out the Early Triad as these texts shaped up the musical acumen of the trinity and constituted perhaps the very basis of their learning.


Andhali is a raga of antiquity which probably went by the name of Andol or Andola prior to the times of Ramamatya (1550). Ramamatya was the first to capture it in its current name as a raga belonging to the Sriraga mela in his Svaramelakalanidhi. The next mention of Andhali is by Venkatamakhi in the Caturdandi Prakashika. Again Venkatamakhi places Andhali under the Sriraga mela. Next Tulaja in his Saramruta places it under Kambhoji mela. This is carried forward by the Anubandha to the CDP as well as Subbarama Dikshitar(SD) who classify it as a janya raga under the Kedaragaula mela. We have a kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar as notated in the SSP, “Brihannayaki Varadayaki”. Tyagaraja also seems to have a kriti in triputa tala, “Abhimanamu ledemi” in this raga which is not in currency. There are no other available compositions in this raga.


Pre 1700 :Let’s look at Andhali’s raga lakshana through the eyes of Venkatamakhi first. According to him¹:

  1. Andhali has pancama as its graha svara and is also its nyasa and amsa
  2. Its an audava raga of the Sriraga mela

Circa 1735: Tulaja in his Saramruta takes a different view¹:

  1. Its is a shadhava raga, dhaivata varjya of the Kambhoji mela
  2. Shadja is its graham and is sung in the evenings
  3. RGMR is it key murccana
  4. Given Tulaja’s murccanas, the nominal arohana/avarohana is SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS

Circa 1750 – Muddu Venkatamakhi creates the Anubandha² and also composes the lakshana gitam for Andhali. At this juncture it is worth noting that there is evidence on hand that Anubandha and the Kanakambari list is clearly latter to Tulaja’s Saramruta³. The raga Andhali is mentioned along with Devakriya and others as an upanga janya in the Kedaragaula raganga gitam, which is given in the SSP, attributed to Venkatamakhi himself by Subbarama Dikshitar. Needless to say that the gitam based on facts is ascribable only to Muddu Venkatamakhi. His gitam captures the following raga murccanas²:

  1. RGMRS
  3. rmgrsN
  4. MPNPs

Dikshitar’s Interpretation:

Circa 1800 and Dikshitar constructs his ‘Brihannayaki Varadayaki’ . From Subbarama Dikshitar’s notation² we see the following:

  1. The nominal arohana avarohana that Dikshitar employs is SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS under Kedaragaula.
  2. Nishada and Gandhara are adorned with nokku type of gamaka, Madhyama is adorned with kampita and jaarus are encountered as in PR, R/M and MR.
  3. PM-RGMR is a motif that is that is repeatedly emphasized by Dikshitar.
  4. The raga is purvanga centric and spans from the mandhara nishada till tara madhyama.
  5. Ri seems to be the jiva svara and Dikshitar commences both the pallavi and the anupallavi/samshti carana section with Rishaba.
  6. His raga conception is encapsulated in the pithy cittasvara section which gives the essence of his conception of the raga.

Very clearly one can see that the conception of Andhali by Dikshitar is in line with the raga lakshana as laid down by Tulaja in his Saramrutha.

Circa 1900 – Subbarama Dikshitar composes the Sancari for this old raga². Needless to say he follows Dikshitar in emphasizing PM-RGMR and also reaches till mandhara pancama in one place. Subbarama Dikshitar’s raga lakshana commentary implies that SRGM and MGRS are allowed, but as one can see Dikshitar refrains from using these krama murccanas.The gitam of Muddu Venkatamakhi, the Dikshitar kriti and the sancari all find place in the magnum opus Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.


From Venkatamakhi on to Tulaja & Muddu Venkatamakhi and to Muthusvami Dikshitar & Subbarama Dikshitar we see the following two transforms taking place:

  1. Andhali moves from Sriraga mela to Kambhoji/Kedaragaula mela
  2. The graha svara is shifted from pancama to shadja and back to pancama.

In other words, during the late 16th century /early 17th century the gandhara of Andhali morphs from sadharana to antara gandhara, making this raga move from the Sriraga clan to the Kedaragaula clan. This transformation is captured by the 3 compositions that one finds in the SSP.

Subbarama Dikshitar summarizes the raga lakshana for our benefit, crisply² :

  1. A shadava raga, dhaivata varjya
  2. Pancama is graham and can be sung at all times
  3. On the strength of the (Muddu)Venkatamakhi shloka, SD gives a krama murccana arohana/avarohana as SRGMPNS/SNPMGRS under Kedaragaula mela However Muthusvami Dikshitar prefers SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS, which Subbarama Dikshitar highlights in his explanatory notes.
  4. The key murccanas include pnSRGMR and sNPMRGMR. One is constrained to note that the murccana SRGMR is suggestive of Janaranjani and SNPMRGMR suggest Purnachandrika¹ .
  5. The key motif for Andhali is RGMR as Dikshitar illustrates in his kriti. Prof SR Janakiraman says that the gandhara found in the phrase RGaMR is a dheerga gandhara¹ . The true import of this statement will become obvious when we discuss the renditions in the section below.

Before we move to the composition and its renditions, we can have a quick look at the lakshana of this raga as found in the Sangraha Cudamani ¹ .It gives the arohana/avarohana as SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS, which tallies with the Dikshitar conception. However the lakshana shloka curiously states that the dhaivatha of this raga is suddha dhaivatha, when there is no dhaivatha to be found in the raga murccana! Obviously it looks like a transcribing error but nonetheless it is one of the several such issues that one faces with the Sangraha Cudamani.


Thus the Andhali of today is defined and survives through the Dikshitar composition which is modeled in the so called samashti carana format. Composed by Dikshitar on Goddess Brihannayaki at Tanjore, the consort of Lord Brihadeesvara the kriti carries both the raga mudra as well as his colophon ‘guruguha’. The contrasting usage of the word ‘Ahanta’ can be seen in the lyrics ‘Ahantaa svarupini”, in this composition and “Ahantadi rahitam” found in “Mahaganapatim vande” in Todi. The raga name ‘Andhali’ as used in the lyric as “Andhaali harana carana”is used to mean ‘ignorance’. The cittasvara encompasses the entire raga lakshana in a nutshell.

‘Brihannayaki Varadayaki’ is found notated in the following publications ⁴ :

  • Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904)
  • Tatchur Singaracharya’s Gayakaparijatamu(1877 & 1927)
  • K V Srinivasa Iyengar’s Gana Bhaskaramu(1934)
  • Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai(1936)
  • Vina Sundaram Iyer’s Dikshitar Kirtana Mala ( series from 1941)
  • Chinnasvami Mudaliar’s Oriental Music in Staff Notation (1892-96)
  • Veenai Ananthakrishna Iyer’s Ganamanjusha(1934)
  • Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s Kritimani Malai Vol V(1963)


We have 2 extant renditions of this rare Dikshitar composition and both are from famous scions belonging two different sishya paramparas of Muthusvami Dikshitar.

  1. The first one is by Smt Brinda from the Muthusvami Dikshitar Bi-Centenary year Concert broadcast by AIR originally in the year 1975 where she is accompanied by her daughter Vegavauhini Vijayaraghavan. Her version/patha traces back to Sathanur Panchanada Iyer and to Suddhamaddalam Tambiappan Pillai the disciple of Muthusvami Dikshitar himself.
  2. The second is by ‘Dikshitarini’ Kalpagam Svaminathan who traces her patantharam directly to Ambi Dikshitar himself via Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer & Calcutta Ananthakrishna Iyer. Her rendition is from a chamber recital in 2007 where she is accompanied by Vid Tanjore Kumar on the Mridangam and is supported on the veena by her disciple Vid Ramakrishnan.


Smt Brinda renders “Brihannayaki”

Smt Brinda renders the kriti in a steady vilambakala typical of Dikshitar’s compositions. A number of features of her rendition invite our attention:

  1. She starts the kriti with M…P rather than R…P, which is given in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.
  2. Secondly, her intonation of the gandhara svara portions in the composition is (sadharana gandharam) G2 rather than G3.
  3. The gandhara is shaken much with the kampita gamaka and the sequence of G2M1R2S impart the color of Kanada to Andhali. The words Brihannayaki and sahasradala are examples where the G2 is seen conspicuously along with the Kanada flavor.
  4. The cittasvara as given for this composition in the SSP is not rendered by Smt Brinda.

It’s worth reiterating here that Venkatamakhi in his CDP assigns Andhali to the Sriraga mela. Its only Muddu Venkatamakhi and Tulaja who record that Andhali belongs to the Kedaragaula/Kambhoji mela. One is forced to consider the possibility of the composition having been taught with the raga being in the Sriraga mela itself given the fidelity to patantharam that the Dhanammal family is justly known for. Is it the Andhali of Venkatamakhi, which Dikshitar himself composed in? Did he want to follow the grand patriarch rather than his (great) grandson Muddu Venkatamakhi? We do not know. All that we know for sure is on the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin’s lakshana gitam and the Dikshitar’s kriti as well Subbarama Dikshitar places Andhali under the Kedaragaula mela.

Interestingly this kriti is notated by Sri Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (TNS) in the Dikshita Kirtanai Prakashikai⁴ . Sri TNS is a disciple of Sathanur Pancanada Iyer as well. An examination of the notation therein holds out a clue to us in assessing the gandhara intonation.

  1. In his notation Sri TNS clearly gives the mela for this raga/kriti as Kedaragaula (28th mela) and uses the notation sign for antara gandhara (G3) only.
  2. The key difference between his notation on one hand and SSP’s notation on the other is that Sri TNS gives the kampita gamaka as an adornment for G3 which is not given in the SSP. On the contrary the adornment for G3 by SD is nokku in the SSP
  3. Sri TNS also gives the cittasvara for this composition as given by Subbarama Dikshitar.

It’s thus obvious that the kampita gamaka that is seen in the gandhara of Smt Brinda’s rendition is reflected in the notation seen in the DKP.Apparently its is on the strength of this perhaps that Prof SRJ avers that the gandhara is ‘dheerga’. It needs to be pointed out that the SSP does not make any mention of this ‘dheerga’gandhara. The notation of this composition by both TNS and SD clearly point to only usage of G3. The G2 that one gets to hear is apparently a patanthara variation. Because of the influence of Kanada, the G3M1R motif of Andhali may have morphed to G2M1R the Kanada ang is a surmise one can make. Thus one is unable to justify this version of Andhali uing G2.

Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan renders “Brihannayaki”

Vid Kalpagam Svaminathan renders Brihannayaki, in a faster kalapramana in comparison to Smt Brinda’s version. Her version is very close to the notation as seen in SSP. The gandhara is G3 and is very prominent as one can hear in the cittasvara section as well. There is no trace of the wide oscillation on the gandhara, which one gets to see in Smt Brinda’s version. Both in the sahitya and in the cittasvara, I invite attention to the sequence R/M ( the madhayama being oscillated wih the kampita gamaka (as in Brah (R)/madhi(M)) and also in the cittasvara section. These are the embellishments that one needs to observe & render and indeed goes to show the greatness of the performer and in the instant case it is no wonder Musiri Subramanya Iyer coined the epithet of ‘Dikshitarini’ for her. Also it needs to go on record that Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan has been the only vidvan who has been rendering this rare composition frequently in concerts these days.

I have also heard a vocal rendition of this composition from another musician Vidvan Radhakrishnan who learnt it from Kaliddaikurichi Ramalinga Bhagavathar another Dikshitar sishya parampara member. The patantharam of the composition as well as the kalapramana was the same as that of Smt.Kalpagam Svaminathan.


Given the variation in the treatment of the gandhara in this kriti of Dikshitar, it is worth examining some precedents and also analyze the fact of existence of such variations as well.

  1. It goes without saying that the values of the different svarasathanas/srutis have been generalized across the board with the advent of the Melakartha system. Many of the older ragas & scales which were anterior to the current Melakartha system will/do not have these so called ‘normalized’ sruti value for some of its svaras. For example the Rishabha of Gaula is ekasruti and not dvisruti as is applicable to Malavagaula’s generic Ri. Is Andhali’s Gandhara a variant to be sung with a lower sruti value?
  2. The value of the G3 in Sahana is another case in the point. Subbarama Dikshitar classifies Sahana under Sriraga mela and thus Sahana should have predominantly G2 with G3 also occurring occasionally as per his raga lakshana. Over a period of time, the gandhara of Sahana has morphed. Today Sahana is placed under the Kedaragaula mela with the gandhara being ‘only’ G3. In fact some of the practitioners as well as musicologists strongly believe that Sahana’s gandhara is neither G2 nor G3 per se but something in between, the so called tri-shanku gandhara!
  3. The G2/G3 of Sahana as well as the fact that Sahana has the GMR has an interesting point of comparison with Andhali as Sahana also has moved from being under the Sriraga mela to Kedaragaula mela. While the Sahana gandhara is termed ‘trishanku’, Prof SRJ terms the gandhara of Andhali as a ‘dheerga’ version.The gandhara intoned by Smt.Brinda ‘may’ be a version of this. Or it can also be theorized that this Andhali ( with G2) is an archaic version. Suffice to state that we do not have any textual evidence to advance this hypothesis.
  4. The deviation that one notices in versions especially as between authentic sishya paramparas needs to be analyzed and dealt with carefully. These variations or interpretations have come to us via an authentic lineage and should not be just dismissed in a cavalier fashion. These instances need to be differentiated from instances , where contrary to established raga lakshana as obvious from texts as well as authentic oral traditions, ragas of compositions have been short changed or raga lakshana itself changed, inflicting much damage to our musical fabric. Kritis & the ragas thereof composed by Tyagaraja as well as Dikshitar have been subject to such changes and in the absence of a reliable mechanism to capture orally/textually, authentic patantharams, we have issues in dealing with these changes.
  5. In the instant case given the facts on hand, one can observe with certainity that the version of Andhali & the kriti by Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan is aligned to the raga lakshana as seen in the Saramrutha and in line with the notation in the SSP.

Let me hasten to add that to comment on the music of these great masters would be construed as impudence. Readers may be rest assured that observations herein have been made in good faith in furtherance of the sole objective to understand our music better. Nothing more and again if there are additional facts or points that need consideration, do let know so that they can be taken in the right perspective.


In summary, the raga lakshana of Andhali is encapsulated by the Dikshitar composition and the cittasvara as notated by Subbarama Dikshitar. The operative arohana and avarohana murccana is SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS with repeated use of the motif RG3MRS. The raga is almost extinct today in the popular concert platform. One hopes that Andhali would get some air-time atleast as a filler in recitals, going forward. and performers should render this Dikshitar composition with its elegant cittasvara as well.

Tailpiece: There is a rendition of the Tyagaraja composition in Andhali, “Abhimanamu ledemi” which I did hear. The raga lakshana closely mapped to the one found in the Dikshitar composition as played by Smt Kalpagam Svaminathan, without any flavor of Kanada. Given the antiquity of the raga, Tyagaraja could have definitely composed in this raga. However in the absence of details as to authenticity of the kriti, patantharam of the said version and also the notation of the said composition, I am refraining from posting any further observations. I would greatly appreciate further inputs from readers of this blog in this regard.


  1. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr.S R Janakiraman(1993) – “Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta by King Tulaja of Tanjore” – First Edition- Published by The Music Academy, Madras
  2. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini – Published in Tamil by the Music Academy
  3. V Raghavan (1941) – “Venkatamakhin and his 72 Melas” – Journal of the Music Academy Vol XII Pages 67-79
  4. Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai(1936)- ‘Dikshita Kirtanai Prakashikai’- Part 1 ( Tamil)
  5. Dr V Raghavan(1975) – Muttuswami Dikshitar – Special Bicentenary Number – National Center for Performing Arts- Quarterly Journal – Vol IV Number 3 September 1975