Personalities

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, History, Manuscripts, Personalities, Raga

The Rama Taranga-s and Rama Ashtapadi-s of Upanishad Brahmam

The name Upanishad Brahmam is not new to anyone who has read the divya carita-s of Tyagaraja Svamigal and Sri Muthuswamy Diksitar. Though he was much familiar to the students of Sanskrit literature, the works of Dr.V.Raghavan  made him popular to music lovers. Raghavan has written extensively on the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the late 1950s, which serves as an authentic source even now, to know the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the field of music.

Upanishad Brahmam was born to a Sanskrit scholar of Vadhula gotra named Sadashiva and his wife Lakshmi in Brahmapuram, a village on the banks of the river Palar. He was named Sivarama. He was married, had a son, spent his life as a householder, and then renounced his life and became a sanyasin. His ashrama was set in Agastyashrama in Kanchipuram, on the way to Kailasanatha temple. He took an arduous task of writing a commentary to 108 upanishad-s and hence got the name Upanishad Brahmendra. He was a Sri Rama upasaka and installed a Sri Rama yantra made of Saligrama in his ashrama. His works project him as a Advaita sanyasin, who also extolled and propagated the cult of ‘nama sidhdhanta’ singing ‘bhagavan-nama bhajana’. His compositions bear the mudra ‘ramachandrendra’. Though the exact period of this yati cannot be ascertained, we can clearly say he lived during the middle of 18th century from his own statement,

“प्रजोत्याब्धचापैकादशघस्रे शुभे दिने भौमाश्विन्यामिदं शास्त्रं सम्पूर्णपदवीं गतम्”

(‘prajOtyabdhacapaikAdashaghasrE ShubhE dinE bhaumAshvinyAm idam ShAstram sampUrNapadavIm gatam’). This means he has finished writing commentary for Muktikopanishad in the cyclic year Prajotpatti, Markazhi mAsa, EkAdasi, ASvini nakshatra falling on a Tuesday, which corresponds to the 30.11.1751. A detailed biography of Upanishad Brahmam can be learned from the essays of Raghavan.1,2

The Trio

Upanishad Brahmam gains more importance due to his connections with Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. Upanishad Brahmam was acquainted with Sri Ramabrahmam, father of Svamigal. Perhaps, Sri Rama upasana, a common thread between these three mahaniyA-s united them. It is said a ‘srImukham’ written by Upanishad Brahmam, inviting Svamigal to visit Agastyashrama is available in the manuscript collection preserved at Saurashtra Sabha, Madurai. Later, Tyagaraja Svamigal, during his sojourn to holy sthala-s like Tirupati, Lalgudi, etc., visited Kanchipuram. Needless to say, this rendezvous could have resulted in the discussion of the tenets of nama-sidhdhanta and Sri Rama nama mahima.

Even before this historical event, Upanishad Brahmam had an opportunity to meet Muthuswamy Diksitar. Diksitar, having completed his studies with Cidambaranatha Yogi in Kashi, returned to Manali, Madras. His stay in Manali was much brief and his life as an itinerant started from Kanchipuram. The period can be guessed to be anywhere between the late 1790s and early 1800s. Subbarama Diksitar, a nephew of Muthuswamy Diksitar, in his work Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, mentions Muthuswamy Diksitar spent his life in Kanchipuram for a period of 4 years. He also adds, Muthuswamy Diksitar conducted philosophical dialogues with Upanishad Brahmam during this period and set to tune ‘rama ashtapadi’ authored by Upanishad Brahmam. It is surprising to know Upanishad Brahmendra, despite being a composer has asked Muthuswamy Diksitar to tune them. Unfortunately, the tunes are lost.

Sri Rama Taranga

Though Upanishad Brahmendra has composed many divya nama kirtana-s, this article focuses on two of his works, namely ‘sri rama taranga’ and ‘sri rama ashtapadi’. The word ‘taranga’ immediately reminds us of the work of Narayana Tirtar  ‘Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini’. This work describes the divine sports of Krishna Bhagavan in a simple, flowing Sanskrit. The ‘taranga’ of Upanishad Brahmendra describes the lilAnubhUti-s of Sri Ramachandra, again in the divine language Sanskrit. Raghavan, as mentioned earlier, had made a note about Rama tarangamala in one of his essays. The manuscripts in the possession of Raghavan are now preserved at The Theosophical Society, Adyar, and forms a major source for this article.

The tarangamala appears to be much complex in structure. From the descriptions provided by Upanishad Brahmam as introductory verses, it can be speculated the Rama tarangamala had 16 khanda-s or chapters. The author says,
“षोडशकलाभिधानास्तरङ्गमाला गले समर्प्यन्ते” (‘sOdaSakalAbhidhAnAstarangamAla galE samarpyantE’), meaning the taranga-s, sixteen in number similar to the (sixteen) kala-s of moon are being offered.

A composition named as ‘AhvAna taranga’ in the raga Nata begins the work tarangamala. The musical structure and tala of this composition are not available. This composition starting as ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is basically an invocation inviting or calling Sri Ramachandra. This can be roughly equated with the kriti ‘hechchariga gA rA rA’ of Svamigal in the ragam Yadukulakambhoji. This composition ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is a dvi-dhatu composition – having pallavi and 12 carana-s. A striking feature seen in the compositions of Upanishad Brahmendra is the lack of ‘dvitiyAkshara prAsa’, the second letter concordance. His creations are more in line with the sloka-s written by Sanskrit theologists like Adi Sankara, Vedanta Desika, etc, distinguishing them from the compositions created by the composers belonging to his period. Interestingly, anuprasa is used profusely in many of the carana-s. The usage of ‘putra’, ‘gAtra’, ‘caritra’ and ‘kalatra’ in the first carana, ‘vinda’, ‘kanda’ and ‘govinda’ in the third carana and ‘ShitAsu’, ‘ganEShu’ and ‘mAnEShu’ in the seventh carana can be cited as examples.

Now begins the first khanda of tarangamala. After three invocatory verses, starts the first Taranga ‘srI rAmacandra’ in the raga Mohanam. This Taranga appears to be much intricate, not because of 12 charana-s, but because of the structure of each carana.  Each carana begins with a sahitya, followed by a jati, a svara passage, and a segment of sahityam. In few carana-s, this order is slightly altered. It can be interpreted the svara segment actually corresponds to the sahitya that immediately succeeds it due to the svara-sahitya relationship they share. The svara-s, short, and long match exactly with the hrsva and dIrghAkSharA-a available in the sahityam succeeding the svara segment.

The structure gets more complicated as we move to the eighth caranam. Here, the author has mentioned the jati is to be rendered in dhruva tala. Similarly, it is prescribed in the ninth carana that the jati therein is to be rendered in rupaka tala! The tala specifications is applicable to jati alone or the entire carana cannot be ascertained. If the entire carana is to be rendered in the specified tala with each carana having a different tala, the taranga appears more like a suladi. This assumption can be made only if we get to see tala specifications for all the components and carana-s of this composition, which is not so in this case. The carana having a jati, sahityam and svara passage resembles another musical form prabandha. Again, not all the components, which a prabandha must have is seen here. However, we can definitely say we are looking into a special musical form, which was either invented by Upanishad Brahmam or a form available to the composers of that period!

This Taranga also opens another interesting discussion. From the svara passages, we can get a glimpse of the raga Mohanam used by Upanishad Brahmam. The svarupa of the raga seen here is much similar to the raga extant now. A glance into the history reveals the existence of another raga with the same name, but with a different structure. This defunct raga had six svaras and can be seen in the texts ‘raga lakshanamu’ and ‘sangita saramrta’ of Saha Maharaja and Tulaja respectively. This shadava Mohanam gains importance as the period of Upanishad Brahmam is much closer to the period of Saha (1684-1712) and Tulaja (1677-1736). The mentioned kings also have recorded the present-day Mohanam having five svaras,  but preferred to call it Mohanakalyani.3 Upanishad Brahmam, using five svaras, yet calling it Mohanam is really intriguing. The ‘rama taranga-s’ stop abruptly at this point and leads to another work of Upanishad Brahmam, namely Sri Rama Ashtapadi.

 

Sri Rama Ashtapadi

Our manuscript gives us the most venerated ‘sri rama ashtapadi’ after the Mohana raga taranga.  We get to see an introductory verse detailing the structure of the ashtapadi. The phrases “अष्टाविंशाधिकशत-गीतरत्नाकरोत्तमे” (‘aShtAvimSAdhika-Sata gIta-ratnAkarOttamE’), “श्रीराम-शब्द-सम्बुद्ध्या सकामाष्टविभक्तिकः” (‘srIrAma-Shabda -sambudhyA sAkamashta-vibhaktikaha’) , “एकैकस्या विभक्तेस्तद्गीतं षोडशाद्योच्यते” (‘EkaikasyA vibhaktEstadgItam shOdashadyOchyatE’), “पञ्चाषड्-वर्ण-सन्मालालङ्कारा वरकन्धर” (‘paNcAshad-varNa-sanmAlAlaNkAra vara-kandhara’) clearly elucidates the structure. These can be roughly translated as follows: The ashtapadi-s consists of gita-s 128 in number. All were composed on Sri Ramachandra with the Rama shabda used in eight vibhakti-s (declensions) with each vibhakti having 16 gita-s. All these songs open with each of the 50 letters of Sanskrit alphabet. From the description, it can be said Upanishad Brahmendra served as a source of inspiration for Muthuswamy Diskitar to compose vibhakti kritis!

The individual compositions are referred to as gita-s and each gita has a pallavi and eight carana-s, fashioned in line with the celebrated ashtapadi-s of Jayadeva Maha Kavi. From the material available, it can be presumed that the gitas were arranged into 16 khanda-s, each khanda-s having eight gita-s in all the vibhakti-s.  The khanda-s also have introductory verses and a gita preceding the proper ashtapadi gita-s. This introductory gita alone has 13 carana-s.

We are indeed seeing the ashtapadi-s tuned by Muthuswamy Diksitar! As with the Taranga-s, the ashtapadi-s too are incomplete (in this manuscript) with only eight of them available – one preceding gita and seven from the vibhakti set. The preceding gita ‘srI rAma tubhyam’ was set to the raga Bilahari. (Raghavan considers this as the gita representing the eighth vibhakti in the vibhakti set). Tala was not marked for any of these gita-s. The contents of the first khanda are as follows:

 

 

 

Gita Raga
prAnAdhi nAmAnta Nata
traipada rAmam Yadukulakambhoji
rAmENa mE Saveri
srI rAmacandrAya tubhyam Arabhi
tattaipadAdanya
rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham Anandabhairavi
vidEha kaivalya Bhairavi

 

It is interesting to note the members of the clan Mayamalavagaula, a favorite of Muthuswamy Diksitar not dominating. However, this statement can be validated only if we happen to get the raga of the rest of the gita-s. Of these eight ragas, two ragas have a composition composed on the deities residing in Kanchipuram, namely ‘kAmAkshi varalakshmi’ in the raga Bilahari and ‘cintaya mAkanda’ in the raga BhairavI. The raga of the gita representing the fifth vibhakti is missing. What could be the missing raga? A raga used by him in one of his  Kanchipura kshetra kritis or otherwise?

The composition ‘rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham’ provides material for a case study. The opening lines was used by Muthuswamy Diksitar in his Purvi raga kriti ‘srI guruguhasya dAsOham’, a member of the ‘guruguha vibhakti’ set. Apart from the similarity in the sahitya, the concept propounded also looks similar. Upanishad Brahmam declares he has united with his Lord Sri Ramachandra in this kriti. Muthuswamy Diksitar proclaims the same in his kriti ‘anandEsvarENa’, wherein he says ‘brahmAnandOsmi’!

Though the structure was much designed to be in line with the ‘gita govinda’ of Jayadeva, few differences too exist. First, the theme seems to be non-erotic. Second, the ashtapadi-s does not seem to explain a story. However, these can be conclusively said only if the sahitya is read and analyzed by a scholar.

Conclusion

We are looking into the kritis of a Sri Rama Upasaka who has influenced and shaped the thoughts of our beloved composers Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. The sahitya of these compositions are to be studied in detail to understand the tenets of Upanishad Brahmam. Let us  hope to get the Taranga-s and Ashtapadi-s in full with the blessings of Ramachandrendra.

 

Acknowledgment

I thank the authorities of The Theosophical Society, Adyar for allowing me to peruse the required manuscripts.

I thank Smt. Vidya Jayaraman for translating the verses seen in taranga-s and ashtapadi-s.

 

References

  1. Raghavan V. 1956. Upanishad Brahma Yogin, His life, Works and Contribution to Carnatic Music. Journal of The Madras University. 113-150.
  2. Raghavan V. 1957. Upanishad Brahma Yogin. Journal of The Madras University. 151-152.
  3. Hema Ramanathan. 2004. Ragalakshana Sangraha – Collection of Raga Descriptions, p 890-893.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Composers, Manuscripts, Notation, Personalities, Raga, Shishya Parampara

Sri Guruguha Navaratnamalika

Our dharma extols and worship a Guru to an extent that he is always treated synonymously with the ever pervading Almighty. Svetashvatara Upanishad, one among the celebrated 108 Upanishads says an aspirant must have unbiased worship towards his Guru and he is to be considered as a God incarnate itself. This is the only way through which he can attain the eternal bliss, prescribes this Upanishad. Advayataraka Upanishad, comparatively a lesser-known among the 108 Upanishads gives a meaning for the sabda “Guru”. The syllables ‘gu’ and ‘ru’ denotes darkness and dispeller respectively. Hence ‘Guru’ denotes a person who dispels darkness.

This truth as certified by Upanishads was sincerely followed by the disciples belonging to all the branches of Vedic dharma and we do find this idea percolating into the practitioners of Gandarva Veda also. Guru keertana-s and ashtaka-s composed by Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavathar on his guru Tyagaraja Svamigal is quite famous. We also see a mangalam on Svamigal composed by two of his disciples – Venkataramana Bhagavathar and Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier.

There exist a lesser-known set of Guru kritis composed by Tanjavur Quartette on their teacher Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar and they can be collectively called as Sri Guruguha Navaratnamalika.

Tanjavur Quartette and Sri Muthuswamy Diksitar

Unlike Svamigal, Diksitar was peripatetic and this ambulant nature made him to spread his music at various places. Whereas disciples from distant places swarmed at Tiruvayyaru and learnt from Svamigal, Diksitar planted his seed at various places which later blossomed to give flowers of various colour and shapes. One such set of disciples, who has learnt from Diksitar during his stay as a court musician in Tanjavur is Chinniah, Ponniah, Sivanandam and Vadivelu, commonly called as Tanjavur Quartette.  They hail from a musical family and further honed their skills by learning from Diksitar for a period of approximately 8 years. As a tribute, they have composed and submitted this kritis into the lotus feet of their Guru.

The uniqueness of Sri Guruguha Navaratnamalika

A close introspection into the Guru kritis reveals they are strategically different from the works composed by the disciples of Svamigal.

  1. All these kritis are composed in Telugu and are on either Lord Brhadiswara or Devi Brhadiswari.
  2. Excluding a few phrases, these kritis do not deify their teacher. But it can be well perceived that their mental image about their Guru is exactly the same as mentioned in the Upanishad.
  3. Extra-ordinary parallelism is seen between these nine kritis and the kritis of Diksitar. In other words, these nine kritis stand out significantly from the rest of their creations! Perhaps, they could have felt, composing in the style followed by Guru would be a better tribute to show that He has bequeathed his wisdom to them.

As the name indicates, this set comprises of nine compositions set to nine different ragas:

Sri guruguha murthiki – Dhunibinnasadjam – Rupakam – Raganga raga 9

Mayatheetha svarupini – Mayamalavagowla – Rupakam – Raganga raga 15

Sri karambu – Kambhoji – Kantachapu

Sarasakshi – Sailadesakshi – Adhi – Raganga raga 35

Paramapavani – Varali – Rupakam – Raganga raga 39

Needu padame – Pantuvarali – Rupakam – Raganga ragam 45

Sri rajarajeswari – Ramamanohari – Adhi – Raganga ragam 52

Saatileni guruguhamurthini – Purvikalyani – Misrachapu – Raganga ragam 53

Sarekuni padamule – Chamaram – Rupakam – Raganga ragam 56

The kriti Mayateetha svarupini, as interpreted from Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini can be viewed here.

It is surprising to see that all of them are raganga ragas (another term used to refer melakarta) except the kriti in Kambhoji. To approach it more academically, even Kambhoji can be considered as a raganga raga as it was considered as a mela by few composers in the past. A gitam by Paidala Gurumurthy Sastri, who was an elder contemporary of Quartette can be cited as an example.

A close observation reveals another interesting finding; four of the nine ragas take the svaras suddha dhaivatam and kakali nishadham (raganga ragas 9,15,39 and 45). Is this merely a coincidence?

The parallelism between Navaratnamalika and the kritis of Dikshitar

As mentioned above, the compositional style unexceptionally resembles that of Dikshitar. This gets more visible by the following discussion.

Raga mudra is seen in all except the kritis in Kambhoji and Purvikalyani.

Five out of these nine compositions are set in pallavi-anupallavi format, a common feature seen in the kritis of Diksitar (these are now called as samasti charana kritis).

Madhyamakala sahityam is seen in all the kritis excluding the kritis in Sailadesakshi and Purvikalyani.

A chittasvaram is affixed to many kritis in this set.

Has a graha svaram segment (only in the Dhunibinnasadjam kriti).

The raga structure portrayed in these kritis correspond exactly with the lakshana seen in the kritis of Diksitar as notated by Subbarama Diksitar.

All these kritis bear the mudra ‘guruguha’.

Guruguha mudra

Though this mudra has become synonymous with Diksitar, we do see this mudra being used by other composers. This mudra can be seen in some compositions of Subbarama Diksitar and Ambi Diksitar, other than the Quartette. In these nine kritis, this mudra is suffixed with phrases like ‘daasudaithi’, bhaktudani and sadhbhaktudani.

Only two kritis use a different form of this mudra and they give an internal reference regarding their relationship with Diksitar. The kriti in Binnasadjam begins as ‘sri guruguhamurtiki ne sishyudai yunnanura’, wherein the composer declares he was a disciple of Diksitar. Another personal reference is seen in the kriti ‘saatileni guruguhamurti’ wherein he says he is acquainted with his Guru for a considerable period of time (aa naatanundi).

Sources

We have three sources to study and analyse these kritis. The primary one is the text “Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai” published by the descendants of Quartette. To the limited knowledge of this author, this is the first text to give these kritis in notation and name them as Navaratnamalika. Second is “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” of Subbarama Diksitar and the third is the manuscripts believed to have been written by Quartette and now in the possession of Sri Sivakumar, a descendant of Quartette who graciously shared to do this analysis.

The notated version of all these nine kritis can be seen in the first source and only four kritis are notated in the text by Subbarama Diksitar. Subbarama Diksitar, in his treatise, has explained 72 raganga ragas and their janyas, practically by illustrating with the kritis of Muthuswamy Diksitar. Strangely for 4 raganga ragas (Dhunibinnasadjam, Siva Pantuvarali, Ramamanohari and Chamaram), no kriti of Diksitar was affixed. Instead, he has given the kritis of Ponniah as an authority to understand the ragas Dhunibinnasadjam, Ramamanohari and Chamaram (though Quartette in general were given the credit as the composer of these nine kritis, Subbarama Diksitar specifically mention the three kritis given by him as the creations of Ponniah).  Siva pantuvarali is devoid of any kriti.

At the outset, no significant differences can be seen between these two texts with respect to the raga lakshana excluding the kriti in Ramamanohari. The raga lakshana seen in the kriti ‘sri raja rajeswari’, in the version given by Subbarama Diksitar is more in line with the Ramamanohari gitam seen in Samparadaya Pradarshini. Also, only Subbarama Diksitar has given a chittasvaram for Ramamanohari and Chamaram kritis. The graha svaram segment seen in the Dhunibinnasadajam kriti too is given only by Subbarama Diksitar.

Two inferences can be drawn from these findings – the descendants of Quartette have taken diligent efforts to preserve the compositions of their ancestors and Subbarama Diksitar, though belong to a different lineage has given the versions learnt and / or known to him earnestly.

Manuscripts

Versions seen in the manuscripts too correspond extraordinarily well with the other sources. Few striking differences are seen:

  1. Pantuvarali is mentioned as the raga taking sadharana gandhara corresponding to the raganga raga 45 (this is given as the raga taking antara gandhara corresponding to melam 51 in the text ‘Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai’).
  2. The kriti ‘sri raja rajeswari’ has few special phrases that are seen in the gitam given in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.
  3. The manuscript gives different versions for two kritis – sri karambu and saatileni guruguha murti. ‘Sri karambu’ is mentioned as the raga taking the svaras of Kanakambari, raganga raga 1 and the raga for ‘saatileni guruguhamurti’ is given as Nata, which also serves as a raga mudra. Sivakumar opines that this is a common pattern observed with the Quartette; to tune a single sahityam to two different ragas and to fix two different sahityam into a single tune.

Summary

Rather than praising their Guru, Quartette has followed a different technique of paying tribute to their Guru. They have incorporated the special elements (like raga mudra, graha svaram segment and madhyamakala sahityam) of Diksitar kritis in these nine compositions to show His influence on them.

These nine kritis are an important source to understand the raga laskshana prevailed in the Diksitar family and their disciples. Having kritis in nine raganga ragas might be an indication that Quartette might have composed in other raganga ragas too and are to be identified.

Acknowledgement

I profusely thank Sri Sivakumar for allowing me to peruse the manuscripts said to be written by Tanjavur Quartette.  

This article appeared in Sruti, April 2020 issue.

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Manuscripts, Personalities, Sahitya, Shishya Parampara

Sri Tyagarajaya mangalam

The term mangalam indicates auspiciousness amongst its many other denotation that it conveys. Mangalam is usually heard at the end of a Nama samkeertanam, Sita kalyanam or at the end of a concert to be propitious to both the listener and reciter.  Mangalam can be compared with the ‘phalastuthi’ recited at the end of any sloka and usually eulogizes a deity. Though presently very few mangalam-s are in vogue, each family inherited their own repertoire of mangalam-s in the past. The deity extolled here will a family deity or a deity enshrined in a town to which the family belongs to. This author has listened to his grandmother singing a mangalam addressing the Lord Devanatha of Tiruvahindrapuram in the ragam Kamavardhani. Also, age old mangalam-s runs in the family through the generations. ‘Sri ramachandranukku’, a common mangalam appended to Rama nataka kirtanam of Arunachala Kavi and often sung in Madhyamavathi is sung in Asaveri in this author’s family. Interestingly, the oldest book which mentions this kriti too gives Asaveri as the raga for this kriti.  

Occasionally, mangalam-s were also composed on Saints and mortals. Though the sahityam of these compositions might superficially appear inconsequential, they provide a lot of biographical details, especially when they are composed by individuals who are closely associated with the nayaka of the mangalam.

Disciples of Tyagaraja Svamigal

Svamigal could have been one of the very few composers to have a lot of disciples. Many of them were also composers and two of them who are of interest to us are Valajapettai Venkataraman Bhagavathar and Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier.  Both of them have composed mangalam-s furnishing a lot of details about their Guru.

Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier

Venkatasubbaier was related to Svamigal and he had trained a lot of disciples like his preceptor. He was a composer and sadly, only a few of his compositions survive through few isolated recordings like ‘avarakuta’ in the ragam Kuthuhalam and a kriti ‘samiki sari’ in the ragam Devagandhari resounding the glory of his Guru. His unknown compositions include a ragamalika ‘sivabhupathe’ and a mangalam ‘giriraja pautraya’ on his teacher among others.

Giriraja pautraya

Many of us are benighted about this mangalam in the ragam Surati set to khanda chapu. Only the sahityam will be analyzed to know more about Svamigal, as provided by his direct disciple.Sahityam of this mangalam is provided first followed by a discussion on some of the salient details seen in this kriti (The sahityam provided here is taken from a thesis by Nityasri on the disciples of Manabuchavadi venkatasubbaier).

Pallavi

giri raaja pautraaya kaarunya sindhave  

gaana rasa purnaaya  sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

Anupallavi

raama brahmaankita  bhuvara suputraaya

naadabrahmaananda sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

Caranam – 1

sitamma kruta punya baagyaaya

vimalaaya gitaya nitaya sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

Caranam – 2

panca nada tiraavataaraaya  naadaaya bandha  sihaaraaya

sri  tyaagaraajaaya buloga ava tirṇa vaalmikaamsine  

venkataanugraha  sri  tyaagaraajaya  mangaḷam  subha mangalam

This is a mangalam composed in simple Sanskrit. This gives the geneology of svamigal starting from his grandfather. Mangalam start as ‘giritaja pautraya’ meaning the grandson of Giriraja. This indicates Giriraja was his paternal grandfather (dauhitra is the term to be used to denote maternal lineage), resolving the confusions surrounding the relationship between Svamigal and Giriraja. In the anupallavi, Venkatasubbaier says Svamigal was the blessed son of a brahmana by name Ramabrahma. Interestingly, the next line gives the sanyaasa diksha name of Svamigal, ‘naadabrahmaananda’ (this is a prevalent information given by various accounts covering the biography of Svamigal). Though, the occasion which saw the birth of this mangalam is not known, it could be speculated that this could have been composed after his beatitude. It is in this context, the line ‘panca nada tiraavataaraaya’ occurring in the caranam is to be studied.   

There are controversies regarding the birth place of Svamigal. Whereas the predominant view is in support of Tiruvarur, few hold a view that Tiruvayyaru should get this privilege. Though outwardly seeing, this line might refer Tiruvayyaru as the avatara sthalam of Svamigal, when combined with the previously disclosed significance of the word ‘naadabrahmaananda’, it can be well presumed that ‘panca nada tiraavataaraaya’ might refer to the second birth place of Tyagaraja ; him taking the order of Sanyaasa and taking a new birth altogether as Naadabrahmaananda. This kriti also mentions Sitamma, his mother, and considers him as an amsa of Valmiki.

Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavathar

Guru kritis and Guru ashtakam of Venkataramana Bhagavathar are quite famous and require no introduction. What is less known is his mangalam on Svamigal. This mangalam with notation, tuned to Madhyamavathi and set to adi talam can be seen in the book by S Parthasaradhi, a disciple of Srinivasaraghavan. This kriti, with some additional carana-s  feature in Valajapettai transcripts, preserved at Government Oriental Manuscript Library, Chennai. This mangalam is seen interspersed with the transcript dealing with ‘Nauka Caritramu’ of Svamigal. Whether this mangalam was composed along with the said natakam (of Svamigal) by Bhagavathar or it was written just alongside the natakam by the scribe cannot be ascertained. Only the text of the mangalam is provided; no notations or raga – tala marking is seen.  This make us to doubt whether this was rendered as a kriti or recited only as a padyam. The text seen in the transcripts verbatim are provided first followed by analysis.

  1. Sri mad kaakarla vamsaadhi Candra yaamala tejase – raama rasagyaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  2. Raamabrahma suputraaya sitamma garbhajaaya cha – raamachandra svarupaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  3. Paarvati kamalaamba sad bhaarya samyathaaya cha – sarva sadguna purnaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  4. Naaradaacharya karunaa paatraayadbutha kirtaye – dhiraaya nirvikaaraya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  5. Sri karunaa samudraaya lokaanugraha kaarine – saakedhaadhipa bhaktaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  6. Yogi pungava mitraaya yogaananda svarupine – raaga lobha vimukthaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  7. Gaana saastra pravinaaya kali kalmasha naashine – naanaa sishya samuhaaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam
  8. Kaaveri tira vaasaaya karunaamruta varshine – paavana sucharitraaya tyaagaraajaaya mangalam  

Sanskrit was the language used similar to the first mangalam. No distinction of the text into pallavi and carana-s can be noted.

This mangalam gives more insight into the biographical details of Svamigal. He starts with a mention about the ‘vamsa’ of Svamigal – Kakarla. He then proceeds to say he was the divine son of Ramabrahmam and Sitamma. He is the amsa of the Lord Sri Ramachandra itself and he had two wives – Parvati and Kamalaamba. This mangalam depose the incident wherein Svamigal had a vision of Sage Narada and blessed by him – ‘naaradaacharya karuna paatraaya’. He extols his Guru by using the phrases like the ‘one who is devoid of desire and greed’ (raaga lobha vimukthaaya), ‘well versed in sangita’(gaana saastra pravinaaya), ‘always surrounded by various disciples’ (naanaa sishya samuhaaya) etc., This mangalam does not mention about his diksha name or his place of birth. But, a biography written by Valajapettai father-duo affirms he was indeed born in Tiruvarur.

Apart from slight differences in the sahityam, the third kandika cannot be seen in the version given by S Parthasaradhi. Instead, we have a new sahityam starting with ‘dhina maanava poshaaya’.

Conclusion

Svamigal was revered and extolled by more than one disciple, even during his lifetime. These two mangalam could have been composed at different occasions, though the exact event or incident that kindled them to compose is not known. Nevertheless, these mangalam-s stand as a testimony to know the personal details about Svamigal with an authority.

The article appeared in Sruti, January 2020 issue.

CompositionAppreciation, History, Personalities

Caturanana Pandita I – A Courtier-General & a Pontiff

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Prologue:

Our country in the past has sired a great number of men whose valour, glory, contribution and many a times their very existence has been long forgotten, unwept and unsung. One such personality is Caturanana Pandita who is the subject matter of this blog post. He was a monk or the head of a monastic institution and  more precisely a ‘mahAvratin’ – (observer of a great vow) a member of a holy order of monks belonging to the kALAmukha sect of Saivas.  Historical records reveal that there was a succession of Caturanana Panditas between 950 CE-1175 CE, all of them being the head of the monastery at Tiruvottriyur (near Chennai) . The  subject matter of this post is Caturanana Pandita I who in fact set up the monastery at Tiruvottriyur and became its first titular head or Pontiff circa 957 CE. His history is an enigma and only through the works of a handful of epigraphists & historians, are we able to connect the dots and get to know this personality. This blog has been structured to look at the life sketch this Caturanana Pandita, the details as to the kALAmukha tradition of Saivas (which is virtually extinct today) to which he belonged to and we would end it of course with a homage by way of a composition.

An inscription attesting to this great personality was made 1077 years ago or to be exact, 14th of January 943 CE, in a temple in remote Tamilnadu.

kALAmukhas – A brief primer on an old Saivite tradition:

Sadly, as of today, no religious material or text in full pertaining to the practice of Kalamukhas have survived to reach us to provide us with first hand evidence as to their beliefs & practices. Lakulisa is the 28th avatara of Siva as mentioned in the Lingapurana. It is said that Lakulisa had four shishyas – Kusika, Garga, Maitreya and Kaurushya. From each of these four shishyas originated , Pasupata, Kapalika, Kalamukha and Saiva. According to the Vamana Purana, it is said that Kalamukhas were founded by Apastamba and his shishya Kratheshvara. The Kalamukhas based on inscriptional evidence seem to be orthodox brahmanas studying Veda and Sastra and thus different from Kapalikas.

The Kalamukhas were often clubbed together with the Kapalikas in terms of a negative portrayal by Ramanujacharya and Yamunacharya. Similar to the Kapalikas, some of the characters found in literary works such as “mAlatimAdhavA”, has cast even the kALAmukAs too in bad light. Notwithstanding the same it can be said the Kalamukhas were primarily reclusive students of Vedas and sastras – nyayavaisheshika in particular and were worshippers of Lord Shiva, who undertook ascetic vows thereby getting the designation of mahavratins.  They had their own matAs or monasteries and also enjoyed the patronage of the wealthy and the Royals. Their name derives from their practive of smearing their foreheads (sometimes the face) with a dark bhasma.

What commands our attention next is the form of Lord Shiva that these Saivas propitiated. While the fearsome Lord Bhairava was the presiding deity of the kApAlikAs, the Kalamukhas worshipped Lord Lakulisa. Lakulisa is represented as a naked yogi, carrying a japamala, a laguda or a club and a kapala or human skull. Befitting his yogic stance, he is also represented as urdhva-retah (ithyphallic). However there is an interesting form of Lakulisa , interpreted by some to be a form of Lord Dakshinamurti called as Gaulisa.  In this context I invite the attention of the discerning reader to the existence of a shrine in Tiruvottriyur , near Chennai in the temple complex of Lord Adipureesvara, wherein this form is enshrined. See Foot Note 1.

With this quick introduction to kaLAmukhas , we will quickly go back in time when the Medieval Cholas to the late 9th Century were entrenching themselves as a significant power in Southern Tamilnadu with their capital first at Uraiyur and later at Tanjore. Readers may remember that we encountered this piece of history in a previous blog post dealing with the quest for the long-lost Goddess Nishumbasudani of Tanjore.

Medieval Cholas – Circa 930 AD

King Vijayalaya Chola’s (the founder of the lineage of the medieval Cholas) son Aditya I who was the Chola ruler with his capital at Tanjore, at this point in time was buffeted by the Pallavas of Kanci and the Rashtrakutas of Deccan from the North and by the Pandyas and Cheras from the west and without significant military clout was unable to expand the boundaries of the Kingdom. It would be nearly 70 years later that the Cholas would reach their zenith under Emperor Raja Raja Chola ( closer to 1000 AD) and his son Rajendra Chola in establishing complete suzerainty of peninsular India. Nevertheless, it would be Aditya I’ son & grandsons who would lay the foundation for the medieval Cholas at this point in time. Aditya I’s eldest son was Parantaka I. In order to build relationships and neutralize enemies, as was the custom & practice of those times, Aditya I reached out to the Chera King (of mAkOttai as is referred in epigraphs) and had his son Parantaka I married to the Kerala Princess Kokkilan Atikal. Their son was the famous Prince Rajaditya a.k.a Kodandarama. ( see featured image , header to this blog post). This Prince was the scion of that lineage having both the Chola and Chera blood flowing in his veins, reflecting a great royal alliance of those times.

Prince Rajaditya was a young and brave warrior and as Crown Prince he went on to become the Commandant of the garrison of Chola forces at the northern borders of the Kingdom being thirumunaipAdi nAdu quartered at the place today known as Tirunavalur or Tirunamanallur. This region of modern-day Tamil Nadu is called Tondaimandalam and the valiant Crown Prince was anointed as the Viceroy of this northern bulwark of the Chola Kingdom. And most likely his entire retinue including probably his mother Queen Kokilan as well perhaps moved to this place to be with him. Or at the least the Queen must have visited this place frequently to be with her son. For, this Tirunavalur is also known to epigraphists as “Rajadityapuram” and the Siva temple there is recorded as having been endowed by Prince Rajaditya’s mother, the aforesaid Queen Kokkilan, of the Chera Royal House. Earlier when this Kerala Princess moved to her matrimonial home at Tanjore and into the Royal Chola household, a retinue of noblemen, warriors and also retainers too moved along with her from the Chera land accompanying her to Tanjore. And likely one amongst those, was a young Chera warrior by name Vellan Kumaran or to be precise Vallabhan Kumaran (corrupted to Vellan Kumaran) who was perhaps a son of one of those who moved in with the Chera Princess. And this young warrior went on to become a retainer, an aide-de-camp and thereafter a close, intimate friend and confidante of Crown Prince Rajaditya. The Chola records dating back to those times indicate that this Vellan Kumaran hailed from a place called Puttur on the banks of the Nandi river and he was a man of eminence hailing from Kerala (malainAdu)and he was a loyal and unswerving commander of the Prince (Rajaditya). The records further record that this warrior despite being a migrant to the Chola land had a meteoric rise in the Chola military ranks rising to the level of dandanAyakA or a Commander (perumpadai nAyakar in Tamil) and also was perhaps a vassal or perhaps an anointed chieftain of a Chola fiefdom as well. Chola records dating to this period hold that Vellan Kumaran was a ‘mUlabhritya’ of Prince Rajaditya and Dr V Raghavan records the following inscription from thsoe times, which attests to the foregoing:

Epigraphist S R Balasubramanian deduces the date of this inscription, found at the temple of Lord Siva at Tirumundeesvaram or Tirumudiyur or Mouligramam or Gramam ( as it is called today),  to 14th January AD 943, 1077 years ago ! ( see Foot note 2)

Dr Raghavan goes on to deduce that Vallabhan Kumaran alias Vellan Kumaran was not merely a warrior but he also exhibited scholarly and spiritual attainments and thus was ‘supratishthita-dhi’ or to use the vocabulary of Gita, a stitha-prajna .

And thus in short, Vellan Kumaran was a close companion and an indispensable member of Crown Prince Rajaditya’s Royal entourage ever since Prince Rajaditya assumed command of the Tirumunaipadi garrison, circa 930 AD leading up to the Battle of Takkolam (in 949 AD). During this period as Dr V Raghavan notes, a number of epigraphical evidences underlines Vellan Kumaran ‘s munificence and also the special relationship he shared with Prince Rajaditya.

In a while we will see that this epic Battle of Takkolam would prove a proverbial turning point not just for the Royal House of Medieval Cholas but also for Vellan Kumaran personally.

The Battle of Takkolam & Vellan Kumaran’s remorse

This is a contemporary depiction of the Battle of Takkolam (949 CE) as it is shown on a pillar of a temple built by Butuga II (939-960 CE) of the Western Ganga dynasty (a Rashtrakuta empire vassal) as a fitting finale to his victory over the Cholas of Tanjore at the Takkolam battle. The reliefs on the circular pillars of the Nandi Mandapa depict the defeat of Chola commander Rajaditya by Butuga Il who fought for the Rashtrakutas. Location: Arakeshwara temple (also spelt Arakeshvara or Arakesvara) in Hole Alur, Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka state, India.

Ever since Crown Prince Rajaditya was anointed as the commander of the northern Chola outpost at thirumunaipAdi nAdu, things began boiling on those frontiers. The Rashtrakuta King Krishna III ( referred to as Kannaradeva in inscriptions) , an adversary of the Cholas , during those times, decided to take on the Cholas led by the valiant Crown Prince Rajaditya and the battle was fought in Takkolam, a town today in North Arcot/Vellore District in Tamilnadu in the year 949 AD. According to Prof Nilakanta Sastri, the Rashtrakutas allied with the Banas and Vaidumbas along with the Western Ganga clan of Kings and went into the battle against the Cholas. Crown Prince Rajaditya died in this battle leading the Chola forces.

According to historical records, Butuga II of the Western Ganga clan who was fighting the Cholas alongside the Rashtrakutas, killed Prince Rajaditya, seated on an elephant, by deceit. Chola records of the period bemoan the death of the young & valiant Chola Prince & heir apparent eulogizing him as ‘AnaimEl tunjiya tEvar’ (the Prince who gave up his life, atop an elephant).  The Leyden Copper Plates tracing the Chola history recounts the event in its narrative as under:

“ The heroic Rajaditya, the ornament of the Solar race, having shaken in battle the unshakeable Krishna Raja with his forces by means of his sharp arrows flying in all directions, was himself pierced in his heart while seated on the back of  a large elephant, by the sharp arrows of the enemy and thus won the praise of the three worlds even as he ascended to the heaven of heroes in a tall vimana.”

While it definitely plunged the Royal House and the entire Chola Kingdom into grief, for Vellan Kumaran the Prince’s unfortunate and sudden demise would have been emotionally catastrophic, for he was the Prince’s vayasya – a constant companion and friend. It is known that for some unknown reason, Vellan Kumaran had not been by the side of the Crown Prince that fateful afternoon at the battlefield at Takkolam and most probably it added a further element emotional & mental trauma of not being there to defend his bosom friend and master.

Left to survive alone, without his much beloved Crown Prince, master and a bosom friend, this great warrior Vellan Kumaran went through pangs of guilt. The trauma that he underwent is captured by the following Sanskrit inscription which also captures the atonement that this great warrior resorted to, so as to assuage and rid himself of his feelings of guilt.

”bālye vidyāsamastās svayam adhigatavān bāhuśālī viśālībhūtoras sthāpitaśrīr bhuvanahitarataś coladeśaṃ sametya |

rājādityasya rājñaḥ prakaṭataragurusnehasamāntabhāvaṃ yaḥ prāpto’sannidhānāt sahamaraṇasukhaṃ saṃyuge tena nāptataḥ ||

Epigraphia Indica 27 (1947–48), no. 47: v. 2. Page 292-

Translation:

That strong armed one, having acquired as a child all the sciences of the world, and with Śrī fixed on his broad chest, and devoted to the welfare of the world ( i.e Vellan Kumaran) , entered the lands of the Chola, and achieved the position of a vassal of king Rājāditya on account of his great and very transparent affection, but did not obtain, owing to his absence, the happiness of dying with him together on the battlefield.

While we have no access to the feelings of Rājāditya and can only guess that Veḷḷaṉ Kumāraṉ’s remembrance and words such as Sneha points to a very close intimacy that is now sadly lost to us.  This is however attested by scholars who have studied this part of history.

Vellan Kumaran becomes Caturanana, the mahavratin :

Left to fend for himself emotionally and inwardly consumed by his pangs of guilt, history tells us this warrior left for Kashi seeking to cleanse his so-called sin that he himself deemed to have incurred (albeit for no fault of his). Dr V Raghavan in his commentary on the aforesaid inscription in Epigraphia Indica, mentions that Vellan Kumaran came to be inspired by one Niranjana Guru of Tiruvottriyur (Adigrama or Adipuri as it was known in ancient times) and whereupon sometime between 952 AD- 957AD, he perhaps first lived as a recluse in a cave at Tiruvottriyur which was perhaps the same cave which was inhabited decades prior by the said Niranjana Guru (Niranjana -guha). He then took upon the vow to cleanse his conscience, became a mahavratin and thereafter came to be known as Caturanana Pandita. Dr V Raghavan makes very interesting observations and deductions as to this transformation of Vellan Kumaran, a warrior into a monk Caturanana who then established a monastery (matha) at Tiruvottriyur.

In sum, Caturanana Pandita I was Vellan Kumaran is his pUrvAsrama and a warrior, between 930 AD – 945 or 949 AD (the year of the battle of Takkolam) and as the monk and as a Pontiff with the name of Caturanana Pandita between 949 or 950 till 959 AD where upon all records about his existence as available to us, fall silent. It is known that he was succeeded by a lineage of Pontiffs who all took the same titular appellation of Caturanana Pandita all the way till 1173 AD again where after, no mention of any Caturanana Panditas or of the matha at Tiruvottriyur survives for our benefit. According to Dr Raghavan there is no trace of this matha or its remnants anywhere in Tiruvottriyur today. It has to be mentioned that it was at the instance of one of the subsequent Caturanana Panditas that the vimAnam / temple tower for Lord Adhipurisvara of the Tiruvottriyur temple was built by the Chola Kings later in the 11th century.

In the context of Vellan Kumaran’s absence from Prince Rajaditya’s side in the Takkolam Battle theories abound and the take of historians on the same is given in Foot note 3.

MUSICAL HOMAGE TO THE GREAT SOUL

As attested to by Dr V Raghavan nothing survives to us from that age of roughly 1000 odd years back from today. Neither is there any trace of the matha/monastery at Tiruvottriyur or that of any immediate vestiges or artifacts attesting to the existence of the first Caturanana Pandita nee Vallabhan or Vellan Kumaran, save for the inscriptions that have come to us from those times. The temple complex at Tiruvottriyur being the shrine of Lord Adhipurisvara and the shrine of Lord Dakshinamurti or Gaulisa, the presiding deity of the kALAmukhas, therein are the only mute witnesses who can testify to this historical character and his existence. As we know Tiruvottriyur is one of the seven viTanka ksetras, being an abode of Lord Tyagaraja, the sOmAskanda form of Lord Shiva. And as a musical homage to that great soul Caturanana Pandita I, presented here is a composition on Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvottriyur by Tiruvottriyur Tyagier, son of the great composer Veena Kuppayyar.

Both Dr V Raghavan and Dr Daud Ali in their works espouse a much higher and different level of friendship / affinity / closeness / intimacy that Vellan Kumaran and Prince Rajaditya shared. It is inferable that the protagonists must have shared this affinity mutually. For us today the closest emotion or bhava one can get to, in terms of the yearning they must have shared for each other can at best only be equated to the emotion of Virahotkantitha Nayika (विरहोत्कंठित नायिका – One distressed by separation), a highly aesthetic emotion being one amongst the so-called bouquet of eight, in the world of dance & music. And it certainly would have been an equivalent emotion, one of separation that Vellan Kumaran would have suffered post 949 AD along with his feelings of guilt and remorse.

In line with this bhAva, I seek to present a composition which in fact depicts a love lorn nAyikA, dispatching her friend with a message to her nAyakA, Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvottriyur, asking him not to tarry and be in communion with her. And one can certainly place the song in perspective, as Vellan Kumaran in his metamorphosis as the mahAvratin Caturanana Pandita would have transformed that yearning or emotion, by directing that to Lord Tyagaraja, the Lord of Tiruvottriyur, the very place where he spent the rest of his life.

This composition ‘sAmi nI rammanavE sArasAkshirO’ is a sprightly pada varna in the raga Kedaram, set in rupaka tala rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subramanian. The varna as one can notice has sahitya for its cittasvara and ettugada svara sections which are rendered fully by the Vidvan.

CONCLUSION:

History is littered with many such undiscovered personalities and great men who made a lasting contribution during their life time. In the instant case from amongst several warriors Vellan Kumaran, a person who wasn’t a member of the Chola Royal House, is singled out in the Chola inscriptions of those times. And it must have been doubtless for some great contribution and importance, to the Kingdom. Again, given that he was a man of letters as well, it’s a tragedy that we know next to nothing about his contribution in his second life as Caturanana Pandita , except that the matha / monastery that he founded survived for more than 200 years after his demise and with his successors commanding the greatest of respect from successive Chola Kings, which is no mean feat. And so, His Holiness Caturanana Pandita I, a preceptor and founder of the great and now lost kALAmukha matha at Tiruvottriyur must have truly been a great man of those times. May glory be to him!

References:

  1. David N Lorenzen (1972) – “The Kapalikas and Kalamukhas”- Published by Thomson Press (India) Ltd – pp 73-140
  2. Dr V Raghavan (1947-1948) – Item No 47: “Tiruvorriyur Inscription of Caturanana Pandita”- Epigraphia Indica Vol XXVII- Printed & Published by the Govt of India; pp 292-303
  3. K V Subramanya Aiyar (1923)- ‘Travancore Archaeological Series Vol III – page 202
  4. K A Nilakanta Sastri (1955) – The Colas (English)– University of Madras- pp 128-139
  5. Dr Daud Ali (2017)- “The Death of a Friend: Companionship, Loyalty and Affiliation in Chola South India” – Studies in History Volume: 33 issue: 1, page(s):36-60 – Published by Jawaharlal Nehru University & Sage Publications
  6. Rajeswari Ghose (1996)- “The Lord of Arur, The Tyagaraja Cult in Tamil Nadu-A Study in conflict and Accommodation” published by Motilal Banarsidass – pp 148-181
  7. S R Balasubramanian (1971) – “Early Chola Temples”- published by Orient Longman Ltd – pp 299-309
  8. S R Balasubramanian (1975) – “Middle Chola Temples”- published by Thomson Press India Ltd – pp 299-309
FOOT NOTE 1:

The Gaulisa icon, being a variant of Lord Dakshinamurti, worshipped by kALAmukhAs, as enshrined in the temple complex at Tiruvottriyur has a yogic posture, four-armed, lower right arm in cin-mudra pose, the lower left hand is held parallel to the ground and close to the torso with the palm open upwards, the upper right hand holds a trident and the upper left hand holds a bowl. This unique icon has bewildered iconographers and historians as it is an odd and a not encountered elsewhere, form of Lord Shiva. The article tilted “Kalamukhas and an Interesting Dakshinamurti Image” – available in the URL below is an excellent commentary on this icon by Dr R Nagaswamy which can be read profitably – http://tamilartsacademy.com/articles/article04.xml

FOOT NOTE 2:

Archaeologist & Epigraphist S R Balasubramaniyan in his work opines that Tirumundeesvaram or Tirumudiyur or Mouligramam or Gramam (as it is called today) was perhaps the place which was the garrison town of the Cholas which was commanded by Prince Rajaditya. He even ventures to state that the name Tirumudiyur came to be assigned to this place as perhaps the anointment of Prince Rajaditya as the Crown Prince and heir apparent took place here and its from here that Prince Rajaditya perhaps held Court as the region’s Viceroy. The inscription records a number of grants made by Vellan Kumaran to this temple of Lord Sivalokanathasvami, situated on the south banks of the Pennai river, near Tirukkoyilur.

http://know-your-heritage.blogspot.com/search/label/Sivalokanathar%20Temple

In so far as the nativity of Vellan Kumaran is concerned , on a similar vein the Travancore Archaeological Series records that the village of Puttur situated in the banks of the Nandi River (as described in the Chola inscription) in Kerala, refers to the village of the same name located near Tirparappu, in Kanyakumari District, the river now being known as Nandiaaru.

http://tourmet.com/thirunandhikarai-cave-temple/

FOOT NOTE 3:

Historians like Prof Fleet,  based on Rashtrakuta inscriptions have hypothesized that Vellan Kumaran was a spy of the Rashtrakuta King Krishna and had a hand in the treacherous killing of Prince Rajaditya and which is why he wasn’t fighting beside him in the Battle of Takkolam. Both Prof Nilakanta Sastri and Dr V Raghavan with authority and proper reading of the Chola and Rashtrakuta inscriptions, cogently, authoritatively and conclusively negate Prof Fleet’s hypothesis as untrue. Dr V Raghavan goes on to say that such a conclusion is a baseless conjecture. Nevertheless, he also points out there is no inscription referring to Vellan Kumaran during the period of 943 AD and 957 AD & given that the Battle of Takkolam being dateable to the year 949 AD, the question that begs for an answer is where was this Commander Vellan Kumaran between AD 943-949?  Though historians like Prof Fleet probably looked at that as an evidence of Vellan Kumaran being a spy of the Rashtrakutas and having weaned him away, Krishna III found it easier to eliminate Prince Rajaditya, one is left grappling with a very tricky question. One wonders whether Prince Rajaditya directed Vellan Kumaran to be with his father Parantaka I, in case the war with the Rashtrakutas turned against the Cholas and Krishna III landed up outside the Tanjore Fort? And is that why Vellan Kumaran did not fight alongside Prince Rajaditya at Takkolam? This line of argument is a hypothesis and there is no shred of direct or collateral evidence to back this up. Be that as it may, the Tiruvottriyur inscription of 957 AD which captures the grief and the act of atonement of Vallabhan/Vellan Kumaran still leaves this question tantalizingly open for us.

It has to be pointed out that Prince Rajaditya was a also a great benefactor for modern Tamil Nadu as he was the one built the Veeranarayana Eri (Lake) or Veeranam Lake, which supplies water to Chennai and irrigates several acres of land by storing up the floods/surplus Cauvery waters, which would go waste when discharged directly to the sea, via Kollidam, in order to prevent floods in Tanjore delta areas. Legend has it that when Prince Rajaditya had mobilized his army to take on the Rashrakutas, he had to idle his troops till such time the weather/season and time was in his favour. In the interregnum he proceeded to deploy the troops productively by conceptualizing the Veeranarayana Eri (Lake) or Veeranam Lake and had it constructed by them to store the surplus waters and also prevent flooding of downstream Tanjore delta areas! Such was his foresight that till date the lake remains the largest man-made lake in this part of the world and an irrigational infrastructural marvel of the Cholas.

https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/a-chola-gift-to-chennai/article7089318.ece

Composers, History, Notation, Personalities

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

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Prologue:

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

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

Biography in brief:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observations on the varna:

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

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

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

Did Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer give Gramophone Recordings?

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

References:

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

Epilogue:

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

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

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

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

Composers, Personalities, Uncategorized

Kshetrayya: A figment of imagination?

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Note:
This article is a rejoinder to the views questioning Kshetrayya’s existence in an article by Dr.Swarnamalya Ganesh that appeared in the NewsMinute.

For those who listen Karnataka music, Kshetrayya needs no introduction as he is one amongst the few who has composed compositions brimming with srungara rasa. He can be very well placed in the line of few Azvar-s like Tirumangai Azvar or  Andal and Jayadeva. It is commonly believed that he hails from the place called Muvva and he was a devotee of Lord Krishna enshrined there. He takes the role of a nayika and his compositions are intimate love dialogues between him and his Lord. Kshetrayya’s compositions are well known for his free and lucid style with an absorbing music.

I happened to read an article by Swarnamalya Ganesh on Kshetrayya and his creations, pada-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. She claims the compositions were actually composed by courtesans and they were appropriated to give a ‘male voice’ to those erotic lyrics. This article by Swarnamalya also quotes another article by Harshita Mruthinti Kamath who even claims Kshetrayya was a figment and was created by the literary community. These two articles shake the belief that Kshetrayya can be no more called as a vaggeyakara as the compositions bearing the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ are in reality, the voice of courtesans.  Though it is imperative to attribute the compositions to the composer who conceived it, we need to first analyze the quality of the research that has taken place to call Kshetrayya as a figment. The readers are requested to read the article by Harshita and Swarnamalya before proceeding further.  This article will be analyzing the arguments placed by them and an analysis will be provided from the angle of a music researcher.

This article can be divided into two parts – first part deals with the theory that Kshetrayya is not a historical figure but a later construct and the second one with the authorship of the pada-s of Kshetrayya.

Let us see the various literary evidences that mention about Kshetrayya. Before going to this, it is to be admitted that the details of this poet available from the literary sources are very scant. The first evidence that we get comes from Manda Lakshminarayana, a 17th or 18th century poet who wrote the text ‘Sarasvati Trilinga Sabdaanusaasanam’ also called as ‘Andhra Kaumudi’, a text on Telugu grammar. He remarks Kshetrayya as ‘iti muvvagopala bhaktena ksetra kavinaa uktatvaacca’, meaning ‘as said by the poet Ksetra, a devotee of Muvvagopala’. What can be understood from this is that the kavi ‘Ksetra’ was popular for using the mudra ‘muvvagopala’, being a bhaktha of the Lord Muvvagopala. This (text) occurs as a continuation of a verse praising Ragunatha Nayaka in the reference mentioned. 1

Supplicants come on their own

to a patron who knows how to give.

Who invited them?

Don’t bees visit the lotus pond

on their own,

king Raghunatha?

Harshita raises following queries:

               ‘insertion of this line and attributed author is interesting for three reasons: first, the line is written in prose, which does not match the lyrical poetic style of the padam genre. [sic] Second, the line is dedicated to Raghunātha Nāyaka (r. 1612–34), who is the predecessor of Vijayarāghāva Nāyaka (r. 1634–73), the latter of whom is the king commonly thought to have patronised Kṣētrayya as per the mēruva padam. [sic] Finally, the poet is identified as Kṣētra, not Kṣētrayya or Kṣētrajña, a Sanskritised version of the poet’s name’. [sic]

Let us see one by one in detail.

Style of the text

Harshita starts by saying the text does not confirm with the style padam-s, the genre for which Kshetrayya is known for. When we don’t even know the proper life history of Kshetrayya, his exact number of compositions and the location where he exactly hailed from, is this not a hasty conclusion that he could have composed only padam-s and this text is out of place? Why should we not think he has composed a text on Raghunatha Nayaka or some other theme where this line features in?

The verse on Raghunatha Nayaka

As mentioned earlier, we do not know the exact time period of Kshetrayya. From his various compositions and the internal evidences therein, it can be understood he lived during the period of Vijayaragahava Nayaka and patronized by him. We also understand he was patronized by two other kings, Tirumala Nayaka of Madurai and Padsha of Golconda from his meruva padam. In the meruva padam, which we will be seeing it soon, he refers to Tirumala Nayaka of Madura, followed by Vijayaraghava Nayaka and the Padsha of Golconda. If we place them in the timeline, Tirumala Nayaka is anterior to Vijayaraghava Nayaka, the former reigned Madurai from 1623-1629 and the latter ruled Tanjavur from 1633-1673. This implies Kshetrayya should have lived in the early part of 17th century. What is interesting here is the reign of Tirumala Nayaka coincides with that of Raghunatha Nayaka (1613-1631). Hence the possibility that Kshetrayya could have visited the court of Raghunatha Nayaka and patronized by him cannot be denied. We wish to remind the readers that not all the padam-s of Kshetrayya are extant. Subbarama Dikshitar has mentioned, he had 700 padam-s of Kshetrayya; only around 200 or 300 are in circulation now. So, the number of padam-s handed over to the next generation is always in decline and one of these lost padam-s might have a reference to Raghunatha Nayaka! This link was strangely missed by Harshita!

Name of the kavi

The text that we quoted read as ‘kshetra’ and not as Kshetrayya or Kshetragna. Harshita raises a query ‘were the poet Kshetra and Kshetrayya are same’?  It is distressing to see such an argument from a scholar who has worked on Telugu literature. The word ‘ayya’ is used as a form of respect and is usually added as a suffix to a person’s name. In this case, Kshetra has become Kshetrayya as a token of respect. Do we have to believe her inability to make this out is a happenstance?

The next reference is from Raghava Chary in his book written in the year 1806.1

Cashatreya, a modern Poet of first note, who composed innumerable Padasmarked with the name of Moova Gopala (Kristna) [sic] – his style is elegant and musical; his language is easy and clear, and his meaning is comprehensive

Though Cashatreya is a variant, we can again see his name is being associated with the deity Muvvagopala. What we wish to reiterate is Kshetrayya was always treated synonymously with his deity Muvvagopala throughout the literary history. But his life history was not mentioned in any of the mentioned references. The first information about his personal life comes from Subbarama Dikshitar in his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.2 He was the first one to mention about his initiation into Gopala mantram and he was from Muvvapuri. Dikshitar also mention various incidents happened in the life of Kshetrayya and perhaps he was the first to call him as Kshetragna.  We have two other evidences that say about Kshetrayya before the publication of the book by Vissa Appa Rao in 1950s and these two were missed by Harshita. The first one is the book Gayaka Siddhanjanam by Taccur Brothers published in the year 1905.3 Their mention is very brief and they say he was a composer of 1000 love songs and lived in a place by name Muvva. The second one is more important as it is from a believer of different faith, Abraham Panditar.4 He has mentioned Kshetiriya has composed 1000 padam-s, mainly reflecting the srungara rasa with the mudra muvvagopala. Further down the line, we find an elaborate story on Kshetrayya’s personal life by Vissa Appa Rao and Rajanikanta Rao. We do not want to dwell into that as they are the author’s interpretation of the available evidences and might lack historical authenticity. From the discussion above, we can understand there existed a poet by name Kshetra/Kshetrayya/Cashatreya/Kshetriya during the reign of Tirumala Nayaka and Raghunatha Nayaka, who could have reached the zenith of his career during the reign of Vijayaraghava Nayaka. He was known for his srungara padam-s, though the exact number is not known. He was always associated with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ due to his intimate attachment with the Lord Gopala of Muvva. Various places contest to get identified with the Muvva of Kshetrayya and we do want to venture into it, as it will make us to deviate from the topic.

Meruva padam

Almost every other who has given a detailed description about the padam-s of Kshetrayya mention this padam ‘vedukato’ in the raga Devagandhari, also called as meruva padam.

When Tirumala, the king of Madhura, lavished me with gifts

and ordered me to sit before him in his assembly,

he asked: ‘Give me the best of your poems’.

I responded, ‘Here’s 2,000 poems. Pick your favorite’.

Seated on a stage, the king was immensely overjoyed.

He’s the best of customers who plays with joy.

I saw Vijayarāghava in Tañjāvuri in a resplendent garden,

seated under a cool canopy.

When I talked to him, composing 1,000 songs,

he showered me with gifts.

He’s the best of customers who plays with joy.

When the strong Pāduśā of Gōlakoṇḍa gave gifts to me

he conversed with Tulasimūrti that day.

Muvva Gōpāla sang 1,500 songs in 40 days, all through me.

He’s the best of customers who plays with joy1

This is the common padam used to date the period of Kshetrayya and Harshita again places a few queries. She argues there is no reference to Kshetrayya and this is not in the style of other padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. Let us look in to these issues now.

Period of Kshetrayya

Every composer, at least in one of his composition gives an internal evidence about himself. It might be some important event that happened in their life or about his parents or about his place of origin. In this padam, we find the names of three rulers – Tirumala Nayaka, Raghunatha Nayaka and Padsha of Golconda and how the author of this composition was honored by every one of them. At the end of the padam, all the glory to the composer were attributed to the deity Muvvagopala. We have seen in all the earlier evidences, including the one by Abraham Panditar, that Kshterayya has made an indelible mark in the mind of people with two pointers – one by composing predominantly srungara padam-s and the second one by associating himself with the deity Muvvagopala. None of the grantakara-s seen above has mentioned him to use ‘svanama’ mudra (his name as a mudra). Hence it is much clear that Kshetrayya was the composer of this padam. Understanding vageeyakara-s (not poets) is important when we try to date the period of a composer and this lack of understanding, perhaps made Harshita to raise this query.

Style of the padam

Harshita mentions this padam differs from the rest of the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ which typically involve a female lover speaking to a friend or lover. A careful examination of few other padam-s could have avoided this confusion. Let us cite two examples:

I offer you worship in ever so many ways,

O ! Lord unite her with me !!

For having supplicated you to such an extent

O ! Lord fulfill my desire !!5

                                   – Inni vidhamula (Mukhari)

When I am unable to bear the onslaught of Cupid,

are you angry, Muvvagopala that I aspire for your love ?5

                                   – Sripati sutu (Anandabhairavi)

Both the examples cited are his personal communications with his Muvvagopala and nowhere an emissary or a pining lover is involved. As we have mentioned, every composer furnishes his creations with internal evidence and the meruvu padam is one such example similar to the two padam-s cited here.

Article with no convincing evidence

We have cited various lacunae on the way by which the research by Harshita was carried out. Let us look into one more issue of that sort. A research article is supposed to have a hypothesis affixed with plausible evidences. Strangely here in this article, we find a conclusion but with no acceptable explanations! Nowhere in this article, was she able to prove Kshretrayya never existed! She is also of the opinion that the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’ were composed by courtesans or nattuvanar-s. Again no evidence for this too can be seen in her article and we will elaborate this in the next section.

Kshetrayya is not a figment

We have placed coherent counter arguments for the erroneous statement made by Harshita on Kshetrayya, without giving any solid evidence.  Anyone who goes through the available evidences (provided here or elsewhere) can easily make out that Kshetrayya is indeed a historical figure, who has composed with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. It is accepted that the details about his life history are very scanty in the written literature. Many of our oral histories exist as oral traditions, fragments due to repeated invasions and ravages of time. So unless we have a clear evidence of absence we cannot conclude that the absence of written evidence or history should say that Kshetrayya doesn’t exist.

Who is to be credited?

We will now concentrate on the next segment, on the authorship of the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. The seeds of this query was planted by Harshita and was nourished by Swarnamalya in her recent article. Harshita states:

‘I raise the possibility that vēśyas composed these Nāyaka-period padams’ [sic]

and Swarnamalya continues as:

‘she does not however delve into the possible names of poetesses and courtesans, which I endeavor to do’ [sic]’

Before seeing these arguments in detail, let us understand that Devadasi-s were custodians of the padam-s of Kshetrayya (along with other musical forms that deal with srungara like javali-s) and they consider as a perquisite with great pride. Many of these compositions were known only to them and even now, we might get some unpublished compositions from their descendants. In other words, it can be said Devadasis were mainly responsible for the propagation of Kshetrayya padam-s. The authors Harshita and Swarnamalya believe the works of these courtesans were appropriated and given a male voice to make these erotic songs more palatable. On analyzing the articles mentioned, we get the following questions:

  1. When did this appropriation take place?
  2. What are the evidences to say courtesans were the composers of these padam-s and why did every other courtesan use the mudra muvvagopala?
  3. Why were the works of courtesans alone appropriated?
  4. Do we have a history of males writing about women-specific expression?

When did this appropriation take place?

Though the scholars keep reiterating the works of courtesans have been appropriated, they never came with a hypothetical period during which this could have occurred. Absence of this information even in a full length research article, like that of Harshita is glaring. Now, let us dissect the possibilities of this appropriation.

From the above discussion, it becomes clear Kshetrayya lived during the period of Nayaka dynasty. Let’s imagine that was the period these padam-s could have been written by the courtesans. Also, we can understand from the discussion of the scholars that, the sanitization of the art of South Indian dance and the implementation of Anti-nautch Act, in association with the colonial mentality is mainly responsible for repugnance towards the erotic works. So, the appropriation could have taken place by the second half of 19th century and/or the first half of 20th century. This raises two pertinent questions – we have a reference to the kavi Kshetrayya and his association with the deity Muvvagopala by Manda Lakshminarayana Kavi, written during 17/18th century. How can this be accounted? Going by this evidence, if at all, the padam-s were appropriated, it could have happened before the period of Lakshminarayana Kavi, which could be before 17th or 18th century. If that is the case, what was the need to appropriate when there was not a generalized aversion to srungara rasa? We could not even find a discussion in these lines in the article mentioned, leave alone an explanation.

What are the evidences to say courtesans were the composers of these padam-s and why did every other courtesan use the mudra ‘muvvagopala’?

As mentioned elsewhere, when a researcher places a hypothesis, he/she is expected to affix it with evidences. What evidences do we have to say these ‘muvvagopala’ padam-s were composed by courtesans? Harshita’s article does not have any explanation and Swarnamalya mentions:

‘Nayaka period repertoires, there was one Nava padamulu [sic]. Nava to mean new, contemporary padams by a variety of composers, were performed in the court every day [sic]. Several of the “now attributed to Kshetryya” padams debuted there, through the courtesan voice and never in that of a Kshetrayya’s [sic]’.     

The details of the manuscript, paper or palm leaf preferably with the catalogue number, padam-s featured therein, the name of the composers therein, whether the names are found in association with padam-s or in a separate folio, any evidences of that manuscript being copied earlier etc., are to be furnished to be more subjective.  Though it is an article in an online magazine, it is intriguing that, not even a name of a single composer purported to have composed these padam-s has been mentioned. Even if the argument is made that some of these expressions are typically female, there is plenty of reference in literature including Kamasutra of Vatsyayana where males articulate from the female standpoint. Many Sangam era poets were male who wrote from the viewpoints of female. So this is nothing new within the larger cultural framework.

Now comes a yet another a germane question – what is the reason for so many courtesans to compose the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’? Mudras are insignia of a composer making us to identify the author of a given composition. Mudras can be of various types – svanama (his own name), poshaka (patron’s name), sthala (place with which he is associated) and so on. A single vaggeyakara can use multiple mudra and conversely multiple vaggeyakara-s can use the same mudra. Subbarama Dikshitar says ‘cevvandilinga’, ‘vijayaraghava’ were some of the mudras used by Kshetrayya other than his favourite ‘muvvagopala’. Virabhadrayya, Ramaswamy Dikshitar all come under this category. The mudras like ‘gopala’, ‘venkatesa’ were all favored by many composers. The mudra ‘gopaladasa’ was used by Veena Kuppaier and his son Tiruvottriyur Tyagayyar. The mudra ‘gopalasodari’ was used by one anonymous composers, who works exist only in the manuscripts, seen by this author. Similarly ‘venkatesa’ was used by the composers like Annamacharya, Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier etc. What can be seen here is, the mudra-s like gopala’ or ‘venkatesa’ were all more generic, refer to the composer himself (or could be their favourite deity), but the mudra ‘muvvgopala’ is not a generic one. It specifically refers to the Gopala in Muvva. So, it could have been used only the composers associated with the sthala Muvva. In that case, what was the connection between the courtesans who has written these padam-s and the Gopala of Muvva. Muvva (irrespective of the contestants) is certainly not in close proximity to Tanjavur is to be noted and it is to be related with the claim that courtesans of Nayaka era composed these padam-s.  Also we have seen, no granthakara has remarked about this mudra being used by someone else.

Alternatively, why the courtesans in the court of Vijayaraghava Nayaka should write padam-s, wherein the hero is Muvvagopala and included in the daily court routine? The period of Vijayaraghava Nayaka saw the outburst of competent courtesans, not necessarily only in the field of music. They could have very well composed padam-s in praise of him to include it into their repertoire and performed daily in his court.  This is an intriguing question and the scholars are compelled to give a suitable explanation, if their hypothesis is to be accepted.

Why were the works of courtesans alone appropriated?

Throughout the article(s), we can see a statement being reiterated multiple times in a different form – ‘works of the courtesans have been appropriated’, though with no evidence. But, both of them didn’t even try to look into the question ‘why their works have been appropriated’? We have a strong rationale behind this question which will be explained now. Swarnamalya observes:

             ‘For example, in the court of Raghunatha Nayaka were Ramabhadramba, Madhuravani, Krishnatvari and others.[sic] During the reign of Vijayaraghava Nayaka thrived Pasupuleti Rangajamma who wrote prolifically in eight languages alongside Krishnajamma, Candrarekha, Rupavati, Lokanayaki, Bhagyarati and others. [sic] Many of them composed padams which portrayed relationships; emotional, physical and social between the female lover and her deity / King / customer’. [sic]

This clearly shows there were many ‘female’ poets who wrote padam-s. Pasupaleti Rangajamma has even written an opera by name “Usha parinayamu”. This undoubtedly a love story and she was given freedom and voice of expression to compose a dance-drama like this is to be noted.  Women penning srungara pada-s were not uncommon in our culture. Andal, one among the twelve Azvar and her works ‘Nachiyar Tirumozhi’ and ‘Tiruppavai’, serve as a good example. In the medieval era we had the poets mentioned above and even in the colonial era, we do see women composing works based on srungara rasa. Muddupalani and her work Radhika Santwanamu can be cited an example for this. What we understand is, not necessarily, a male voice is required to express srungara. More importantly, none of the works mentioned above articulate in a male voice and none of these works were appropriated to another poet. Contrarily, we have lot of evidences wherein a male has written with a female voice. Those who are familiar with Vaishnavite literature cannot forget Parankusanayaki and Parakalanayaki and their pining for divine unison. The names might be deceiving for others; Nammazvar and Tirumangaiazvar has composed srungara poems in the voice of a female. In the medieval history, we have Jayadeva and in the latter period the works of Ganam Sinayya cannot be left untouched. His padam ‘siva diksha’ clearly explains our point. So, we only have a history of a male being voicing through a female and not the reverse and all these works are extant till now and every orthodox family, men or women are much aware of these poems (by Azvar and Jayadeva).

Having understood the history properly, we have two logical questions:

  1. When the works of Andal and Muddupalani has come to us without being appropriated to a male, why the works of courtesans alone were appropriated? They are much in line with the above mentioned woks, wherein a lady longs to get united with her divine lover.
  2. Their hypothesis looks much more ironic after reading the following statement by Swarnamalya:

      ‘let us not forget that Ramabhadramba, Rangajamma, Madhuravani and later Muddupalani and Nagaratnammal fall in the long line of audacious female figures from literary history, who wrote of the sensual pleasures and female sexual desires in an unabashed manner’.[sic] 

She has mentioned the female poets from the medieval and later era till Nagarathnammal, who lived till the middle half of the last century. So, even in the last century, we have evidences that females were bold enough to express their views, be it sensual or non-sensual. Then why should appropriation take place? The arrival of modern Classical dance is the reason for appropriation cannot hold water for the reason that it was developed to its present form, only from the second or third decade of the last century and we have a reference to Kshetrayya from 17th/18th onwards. The first book on Kshetrayya padam-s was published in the year 1862! Also if someone detest these lyrics in the dance community, they would have concealed, as happened to the work Radhika Santwanamu of Muddupalani.

Do we have a history of males writing about women-specific expression?

We do have a long cultural history in literature. That would be beyond the scope of this article, though a few examples has been cited elsewhere in this article.

Not all are the creations of Kshetrayya

Having rebutted the arguments of these two scholars on the authorship of the padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’, let us also make a record that not all the extant compositions with the said mudras were his creations. This is particularly in response to a query by Harshita on the padam ‘cerugu maasiyunnanu’ in the raga Begada.

It’s true, I have my period,

but don’t let that stop you.

No rules apply to another man’s wife.

I beg you to come close,

but you seem to be hesitating.

All those codes were written

by men who don’t know how to love.

When I come at you, wanting you,

why do you back off?6

It is very clear that it is much different from the other padam-s of Ksheatrayya. There are hints to social practices that were prevalent among Devadasis in this padam and is quite unnatural. The readers are referred to another article, where in this author has tried to classify the composers based on their composition. A set of composers act like social commentators – they record the events happening around them. Purandaradasa, Samartha Ramadasa and Tyagaraja Svamigal belongs to this category. But, excluding this (perhaps we might have some other padam-s too), we do not find such a social commentary in his other extant padam-s. As ably put by Pillai, Kshetrayya, being a man is always sublime even in expressing srungara.7 A careful analysis of his padam-s will not equip us to ignore this fact. So, this may have been a later construct and the author of these padam-s has used Kshetrayya and his lord Muvvagopala as an armour to make the author’s view more authentic and sounder. Let us place few instances to support this.

Soneji refers to a javali by Neti Subbaraya Sastri ‘ceragu maseyemi’ in the raga Kalyani.

It’s that time of the month, what can I do?

          I can’t even come close to you!6

Even a glance reveals an extraordinary similarity between the two lyrics. If we do not know that the composer of this Kalyani javali is Subbaraya Sastri, it can be very well mistook as a composition of Kshetrayya. Subbarama Deekshithar warns about the tempering that have taken place to the sahitya of Kshetrayya padam-s. Fortunately, the Kalyani javali has naupuri, purportedly to be a mudra.

Lord of Naupuri with a gentle-heart,

Don’t have these worries in your heart,6

This mudra further raises our suspicion on the mentioned Kshetrayya padam in the ragam Begada. This ‘naupuri’ could have been replaced as ‘muvvapuri’! We do not argue this has taken place in this padam. What we try to reprise is the mudra of a composer can be mutilated or rather modified to make it to appear like a construction of another famous composer for better acceptance by the public. It is in the light of Soneji’s research, we need to further analyze this issue. He claims this javali is not published and the ‘kalavantulu’ whom he had interviewed sang it from her memory. Hence the full piece was fragmented and has been pieced together by her.6 These kind of unpublished kriti-s, especially in an oral tradition many times have a problem with the sahitya and are much prone to interpolations.

We wish to cite an example for this too. ‘Parakela nannu’ is a famous kriti of Syama Sastri in the raga Kedaragaula. Whether or not sung in the concerts, it always takes a prominent place in His Jayanthi celebrations or any tribute concerts to him. But the sad truth is that it was not a creation of Sastri at all ! It was actually composed by a musician by name Kakinada Krishna Iyer, who himself has mentioned this kriti in a book published by him.8 His mudra ‘krishna’ occurs in the line ‘smaraadhinudanu sri krishnanutha’ has been tampered as ‘smaraadhinudanu sri syama krishnanutha’ to escalate the image of this kriti and misattributed it to Syama sastri! When the fate of a kriti of relatively a recent construct has been changed, we can imagine the changes that could have happened to the work of Kshetrayya which was composed some 400 years back. The savant Subbarama Dikshitar and his wise words does not fail to hit our mind! Alternatively his mudra in its full form could have been used by others as happened with the case of Tyagaraja svamigal or Muthuswamy Dikshitar.

What we wish to say is that these ‘out of the way’ kritis could have been composed by some unknown authors and attributed to Kshetrayya to sell their product. It is up to us to distinguish the works of Kshetrayya from these spurious padam-s.

Conclusion

Anyone can undertake a research and give a hypothesis. A methodical research demands truthful evidences suffixed with a plausible explanation. Free thoughts of any author based on loose evidences is to be condemned and cannot be accepted as a research.

We have provided evidences to prove the existence of Kshetrayya and his association with his Lord of Muvva by composing padam-s with the mudra ‘muvvagopala’. They are his personal interactions and it is better to be viewed as an expression of craving to get united with the Ever- pervading Parabrahmam.

As Swarnamlaya has stated:

   ‘Are we prepared to hear these padams in its original, female, liberated tone, sans the undercover of discipline, rationality, utilitarian value and knowledge of divinity?’ [sic]

It is up to an individual to view these srungara padam-s in a female, liberated tone or in a disciplined tone to get united with the Parabrahmam, not considering the gender at all. But it is definitely not an academically rigorous act to make broad claims or strawman arguments, appropriating Kshetrayya’s works and attributing them to courtesans with no clear evidence and trying to create an impression, liberality lies only with viewing these padam-s at a mundane level.

Also, it is essential to distinguish the padam-s of Kshetrayya from other composers (even name of some of the composers might be an arcane).But a deep knowledge in Telugu language along with an unbiased mindset and disinterest in thrusting one’s idea is a pre-requisite to do this analysis.

The very main essence that Kshetrayya is a figment and his compositions are actually that of courtesans will definitely trouble the Devadasis, leave alone us. It is their Kshetrayya through whom they have visualized Muvvagopala. It is their Kshetrayya who had taught them the nuances of abhinaya through his immortal padam-s. They would be eternally witnessing this discussion and be much happy that we have understood who He is.

Acknowledgement

I thank my friend Smt Vidya Jayaraman for helping me in preparing this article.

References

  1. Harshita Mruthinti Kamath. Kshetrayya: The making of a Telugu post. The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 56(3):253-282, 2019. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0019464619852264
  2. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini. Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Samasthānaṃ, 1904.      
  3. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gayaka Siddhanjanam. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905
  4. Abraham Panditar. Karunamruta Sagaram. Part 1. Tanjai Karunanidhi Vaidyasalai, 1917.
  5. Rajanikanta Rao, B. Makers of Indian Literature: Kshetrayya, New Delhi, 1981.
  6. Soneji, D. Unfinished Gestures: Devadāsīs, Memory, and Modernity in South India, Chicago, 2012.
  7. Manu S Pillai. https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-woman-who-had-no-reason-for-shame/article24057695.ece.
  8. C S Krishna Iyer. Prathama Siksha Prakaranam.   https://www.dropbox.com/s/ss6wf9myaqylx1u/BkTm-prathamaSikshAprakaraNam-incomplete-0222.pdf?dl=0  

Composers, History, Personalities

Ramaswamy Deekshithar – A ‘dvimudra’ vaggeyakara ?

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

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

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

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

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

Compositions of Ramaswamy Deekshithar

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

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

Analysis of these compositions

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

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

1. Varnam in Hindola

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

2. Varnam in Hindolavasantha

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

3. Varnam in Sriranjani

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

4. Varnam in Shankarabharanam

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

5. Varnam in Purnachandrika

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

7. Varnam in Mohanam

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

8. Samajagamana

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

A rare composition of ramaswamy Deekshithar can be heard here.

Acknowledgement

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

References

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

Composers, Notation, Personalities

The birth of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

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The Tamiz month Thai (January – February) in the year 1904 marked a new beginning in the history of Karnataka Music. 15th February, 1904 (Rakshasa, Krishnapaksha chaturdashi) saw the first printed copy of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini written by Brahma Sri Subbarama Dikshitar. SSP, as it is frequently called was a brainchild of AM Chinnasamy Mudaliyar, but got the present shape only by the benevolence and munificence of the ruler of Ettayapuram, Raja Jagadveera Rama Venkateswara Ettappa Maharaja.

Though we consider SSP as a single book, it is indeed a collection of various aspects of our music and musicology. The book is mainly divided into two segments – theory and practical sections and this was  much intended by Subbarama Dikshitar himself. An adequate knowledge on these segments is a must to understand and interpret this treatise.

Segments

The theory segment consists of the following sub-divisions:

                         An index to the compositions notated in SSP.

                                      Vaggeyakara caritramu.

   Sangita lakshana pracheena padhathi dealing with grama,jati etc.

     Sangita lakshana sangrahamu dealing with svaras, gamakas etc.

Ragaangopaanga bhaashanga murchanaalu dealing with the arohana-

avarohana of various ragas.

Errata (tappoppulu) and section on identifying and rectifying the mistakes

(porabatalu).

The practical segment starts by giving notations with gamaka symbols for various kritis which extends as anubandham.

Whereas Sri Subbarama Dikshitar is much appreciated for his treatise which deals with both the lakshana and lakshya of music, his accomplishment as a composer is often abated. This article will deal only with Subbarama Dikshitar as a tribute to his priceless contribution.

Before embarking into the versions notations in SSP, it is imperative to understand that the svarupa of ragas shown there in not only reflect the lakshna seen during his time, but also that of an era which saw the birth of Trinity. Understanding this concept alone helps us to relate with the music provided by him.

Works of Subbarama Dikshitar

The creations of Subbarama Dikshitar can be equalled with that of well celebrated Trinity of Karnataka Music. His handling of ragas, use of alliterations, scrupulously obliging the rules of prosody are all unsurpassed and are to be enjoyed personally. He has composed around 35 compositions across various genres like varnam, daru, jatisvaram, keertanam and ragamalika and also tuned the compositions of other poets like Sri Krishnaswamy Ayya. The kriti ‘amba paradevate’ which is almost synonymous with the raga Rudrapriya was a creation of both Krishnaswamy Ayya (lyrics) and Subbarama Dikshitar (music). Though, the quantity appears to be less, they are all replete with arterial phrases of a raga which not only appeal the mortals like us, but also evoke the raga devata which are a personification of ever pervading ‘nadabrahmam’. Quite in the line of his predecessors, archaic phrases which can be seen only in ancient gitas can be seen aplenty in his works. Perhaps, he could be one of the modern composer to visualise the varnas in its old form – with an anubanda. All his varnas end with the pallavi (due to the presence of anubanda at the end of citta svara) and not with the caranam as is seen with majority of the varnas.

His compositional style, though resemble that of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in many aspects, has its own inimitable style. Incorporating raga mudras (punnagagandhari in the kriti mannaru ranga deva and rama ramakali kalusha in the kriti rama rama) and use of the mudra ‘guruguha’ in some of the kritis might resemble the style of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. As with any other member of Dikshitar family, he has also employed many antique ragas like Gauri, Kapi and Mechabauli in his kritis.  

A bulk of his compositions are ragamalikas. In general, ragas employed in his ragamalikas were the usual members patronized by Diksitar family like Gauri, Padi, Paraju, Darubaru and Sri. In this regard, extraordinary resemblance is seen between Subbarama Dikshitar and Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar. Another pathognomonic feature, unique to the family of Dikshitar is the serial use of allied ragas. In his 32 ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavathira’ on Vizianagaram Raja Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, he has used Lalitha, Paraju and Gauri adjacently (all are janyas of Mayamalavagaula).

He has a long ragamalika to his credit ‘I kanakambari’, a grammar to understand the 72 raganga ragas.  The sahitya of this ragamalika was composed by one Krishna Kavi and was tuned by Subbarama Diksitar. Ragamalika demands the use of raga mudra in the sahityam and we can see a seamless integration of raga name into the sahityam in the compositions of Subbarama Dikshitar. Be it the phrase “kaamita subha phaladayakaa pinaakapani” wherein the raga mudra Kapi is woven or “priyamunaayame kori” wherein the raga mudra Yamuna features in, one cannot stop wondering the genius of this composer.  

Plenty of anu-prasa and ‘yamaka’ can be seen in the compositions of Subbarama Dikshitar. One such example is the usage of the word “maana” in his daru in the ragam Natanarayani. Maanani, maanavati and maanamagu are the few forms in which this word features.

Unfortunately only few of his compositions like ‘kanthimathim’, ‘sankaracharyam’ and ‘parthasaradhi’ are in circulation. This author has attempted to give life to few of his compositions as a part of his 180th Birthday Celebrations (1839 – 2019), which can be viewed here.

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.

Personalities, Repertoire, Sahitya

O Goddess mInAkshI ! Princess of Kerala!

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PROLOGUE:

The blog’s heading may be a bit of a surprise. While, Goddess Meenakshi, the presiding deity of Madurai was a legendary Pandyan Princess and has been so eulogized by very many poets and composers, yet hidden in the heap of history and long forgotten is a Goddess Meenakshi, a look alike of her who made Kerala her home and thus veritably became a Queen of the Land of Parasurama and a tutelary deity enshrined in the precincts of the Palace of the Kerala Royals. And eventually while we shall look at a musical composition on this Meenakshi of Kerala in the process, we would also evaluate collateral historical information and remember a Royal who set up the Imperial House of Travancore (to which the musical composer Svati Tirunal belonged to) and who had a hand in this history.

At the outset I should confess that the inspiration for this blog post came from another avid blogger Sri Sharat Sundar Rajeev, a professional conservation architect and a history buff and an original one at that!  Again, my interest in the Royal family of Travancore got kindled last year since reading the classic work “Ivory Throne- Chronicles of the House of Travancore” of Manu Pillai which went on to get him the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Purasakar. It’s indeed sad that very many historical personages and events not to say of temples and other historical monuments lie forgotten. In these blog posts I have attempted to provide that insight as well even while we get to know and relish a raga or a composition. In other words, the idea is to know and enjoy the historical context as well when we get to hear, know or learn a composition.

Over to the Goddess!

FLASH BACK CIRCA A D 1635 – Tirumalai Nayak invades nanjil nadu/southern Kerala

Map of Kerala

Tirumalai Nayak the founding father of the Royal lineage of the Madurai Nayakas ruled from Madurai, his regnal years being 1623-1659 AD. A vassal earlier to the Emperors of Vijayanagar, the Nayaks of Madura, after the collapse of the Vijayanagar Empire, in the epic Battle of Talikota had broken free and become rulers in their own right. Tirumalai Nayak was one of the greatest in that line. And when he ascended the throne, he ruthlessly went about expanding his empire and, in his conquests, laid siege to many of the small principalities of south western coastal regions of peninsular India. He was the Nayak King who moved the Capital from Trichirapalli to Madurai and thus his tutelary deity was Goddess Meenakshi enshrined at Madurai. Tirumalai Nayak thus adopted the ancient signage of the erstwhile Pandyan sovereigns, imparting both political as well as religious legitimacy to their power by anointing Her as his kuladevata. Royals of those days, to derive power and authority always aligned themselves and their lineage to a well known and fiercely venerated Temple and/or godhead. Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur, Lord Brihadeeswara of Tanjore, Lord Rajagopala at Mannargudi are classic examples where the reigning Kings and Chieftains took those deities to be their mascots and shortly we will see that the Royal House of Travancore took it a step further. (See Note 1)

Tirumalai Nayak circa 1635 forayed into nAnjil nAdu (vide Satyanatha Iyer ‘s ‘Nayaks of Madura” page 121) being modern day southern Kerala, which shared its borders with his kingdom. Kerala at that point in time, was an aggregation of small principalities and for the powerful Nayak King they were no match. History has it that perhaps as a mark of his conquest and victory, Tirumalai Nayak perhaps renovated and consecrated the 13th century temple at Padmanabhapuram, the imperial seat of the Royals of Travancore, modelled on the Dravidian architecture, rather than the typical Kerala style, and installed the icon of his tutelary deity, Goddess Meenakshi therein. And legend has it that he ensured that the mUla vigrahA or idol in the sanctum sanctorum too was stylistically made on the lines of the one at Madurai, complete with a parrot on her hand! Unsurprisingly he named this deity too as Goddess Meenakshi, in the process transplanting the hoary history of the Pandya Princess into the Land of Parasurama.

And thus, while history has left us with this piece of information, if one were to embark on a search today at Padmanabhapuram, for this Nayak enshrined deity, it will yield no Goddess named Meenakshi!

CIRCA 1720 – The House of Kulashekaras or Kupakas, the Travancore Royal Family, assume sovereignty

Sri Padmanabha Dasa Vanchi Pala Anusham Thirunal Marthanda Varma”

Venad, the strip of land which stretches from Attingal to Kanyakumari in modern day Kerala was the small principality nominally ruled by the Royals of the House of Travancore or the Kulashekaras or the Kupaka dynasty as they were held, with their seat at Padmanabhapuram.  Emasculated of their power they were nominal figureheads while, the real power lay with two entities. One being the Ettuveetil Pillamar (Lords of the Eight Houses) an aggregation of powerful Nair nobles, on one hand and the powerful Ettara Yogam which was an entity which managed and controlled the Temple of Lord Padmanabhaswami at Travancore. And it was at this point in time that in this Royal House of Kulashekaras/Kupakas was born Prince Marthanda Varma, known later as Anizham (Anusham- the star) Tirunal Marthanda Varma (born 1706 AD) whose regnal years was AD 1729-1758. When he ascended the Ivory throne, he quietly went about consolidating power by annexing the principalities of Quilon, Kayamkulam, Kottarakara, Ambalapuzha & Changanaserry. Marthanda Varma extended his dominions further by taking control of the holdings of the Kings of Cochin and the Zamorin of Calicut. In the famous Battle of Colachel (circa 1741) he defeated the Dutch who had interceded on behalf of the Kottarakara Royals and in the process, he became one of the handful of sovereigns of the sub-continent who had defeated a European colonial power. And finally, years later the Dutch completely succumbed to his suzerainty when they signed the Treaty of Mavelikkara which for all practical purposes anointed him Marthanda Varma as the Lord of Keralaputras. Assisted ably by his trusted Prime Minister (“Dalavai”) Ramayyan , he consolidated the Kingdom of Travancore, ushered in reforms and cut to size the entities including the Ranis of Attingal, the Ettuveetil Pillamar and the Ettara Yogam being the Devaswom Board known as Yogakkaras. (See Foot Note 2). Also realizing that all battles cannot be won militarily, Marthanda Varma calculated that he had to sue for peace with external powers as necessary including the British who were on the anvil of getting a toehold in Southern India. And so, he entered into friendship treaties including the one with the Nayaks of Madurai, who anyway by that time were a spent force. And thus, within a century after Tirumalai Nayaka had seized Padmanabhapuram, the Kulashekaras of Travancore had regained the place back, making the Royal Estate and the Palace there as their imperial seat of power. And in fact, it was his edicts and the policy that he set, which was followed to the T by his descendants all the way till 1950 when Travancore was subsumed by the Indian Union.

But Marthanda Varma wasn’t done yet. Even as he consolidated his hold over the entire Venad, he was about to perform an act that no other sovereign before him had done, which would endure all the way up to the 21st Century.

17th January 1750 – Truppadidanam

Surrender of the Dutch before his Highness Marthanda Varma after the Battle of Colachel

Whether it was a political master stroke to enable his suzerainty and establish and completely legitimise the rule of his Royal House of Kulashekaras into perpetuity or whether it was his unbridled devotion to Lord Padmanabha, we do not know. (See Note 5). On this date January 1750 AD, when the then 44-year-old Marthanda Varma who was at his very pinnacle of glory, made his coup de maître.

History tells us that this great King went in all pomp and splendour to the Temple of Lord Padmanabhaswami and in a ceremony called ‘thruppadi dAnam’ he laid down all his Royal regalia including his ceremonial sword before the Lord and dedicated all that he had including the kingdom to Lord Padmanabha. Travancore as a whole, thus became the property of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, the deity of the Travancore Royal family or in other words it became “God’s Own Country” as Kerala is called today!

In essence Marthanda Varma firmly ensconced himself as a mere vice regent or nominee of Lord Padmanabha/a mere dAsA who would rule for and on his behalf! Adversaries and foes would dare not wage a war again against his Kingdom for its Ruler was Lord Padmanabha himself.

And then on Anusham Tirunal Marthanda Verma went on to assume the complete Royal title “Sri Padmanabha Dasa Vanchi Pala Anusham Thirunal Marthanda Varma”. After this date all sovereigns of the Kulashekara/Kupaka House ruled in the name of Lord Padmanabha, with this title. In fact, Marthanda Varma went on to lay down the protocol that all Royal children in the matriarchal line as was the line of inheritance in the Royal families of Kerala, upon attaining the age of one would be laid before the Lord as a symbol of this dedication. Even female rulers adopted a corresponding title, for example Rani Gauri Lakshmi Bayi who was a Regent was titled as “Sri Padmanabha Sevini Vanchi Rajeshwari Maharani Ayilyam Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, Attingal Mootha Thampuran, Rani of Travancore”.

Goddess mInAkshi, the giver of eternal bliss becomes Goddess Anandavalli

mInAkshI – A painting

Having made this lasting contribution to the history of his Kingdom, this sovereign Marthanda Varma perhaps one fine day sometime circa 1755 turned his attention to the quaint temple of Lord Neelakantaswami near the precincts of his Padmanabhapuram palace which was his imperial seat. It was his successor Karthika Tirunal who in 1795 AD shifted the imperial seat from Padmanabhapuram to Travancore.

And Marthanda Varma must have mulled the fact that it was his Nayak ally, the sovereign of Madurai then back in 1635 AD nearly 100 years ago, who had consecrated this Temple and named the consort of Lord Neelakanteswara as Meenakshi, after the great guardian deity of Madurai, building it completely in the Dravidian style. And he perhaps thought that without in anyway erasing the legacy of the Temple or remodelling or rebuilding the temple in the Kerala style, wanted to just make a symbolic change perhaps by anointing the Goddess anew with a different name. Was it that perhaps in gratitude of this Goddess having gotten him what he wanted in life, did he deign to change the name of the Deity? One does not now, but we do know for sure that this padmanabha dasa during his reign went on to change the name of Goddess Meenakshi to Goddess Anandavalli, the giver of eternal bliss!

And thus, ends our search for that old Goddess Meenakshi of yore consecrated by Tirumalai Nayak. History tells us this for sure and whence one gets a chance to visit the Temple of Lord Neelakanteswara and Goddess Anandavalli nee Meenakshi, today at Padmanabhapuram one can witness the fact that the temple bears the heritage of both its patron royale, Tirumalai Nayaka as well as Marthanda Varma whose figurines still adorn the temple. And the Goddess in the sanctum sanctorum will be holding a parrot just as the celestial Pandya Princess does in Madurai, with that suppressed smile, manda hAsa !

And before we move to matters musical, it is over to Sharat Sundar Rajeev to provide his narrative of this Temple at Padmanabhapuram along with the photos– read his blog post here which actually appeared in print in The Hindu.

Sharat Sundar Rajeev – The Hindu & his blog post – Tales from Travancore

And the personality of Marthanda Varma pervades even today (see Foot Note 3). And as to his master stroke in performing the Truppadidanam, his dying instructions to his successor may prove his credentials to one and all and would show why perhaps he was and is so revered even today. (See Foot Note 4)

Circa 1840 – the Musical Chapter of Goddess Anandavalli nee Meenakshi

The successors of Anusham Tirunal Marthanda Verma who ruled till modern India came into being, were:

  1. Anusham Tirunal Marthanda Varma 1729–1758
  2. Karthika Tirunal Rama Varma (Dharma Raja) 1758–1798
  3. Avittam Tirunal Balarama Varma 1798–1810
  4. Maharani Ayilyam Tirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi 1810–1815 (Queen from 1810–1813 and Regent Queen from 1813–1815)
  5. Maharani Uthirattadi Tirunal Gowri Parvati Bayi (Regent) 1815–1829
  6. Swathi Tirunal Rama Varma 1829–1846
  7. Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma 1846–1860
  8. Ayilyam Tirunal Rama Varma 1860–1880
  9. Visakham Thirunal Rama Varma 1880–1885
  10. Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma 1885–1924
  11. Maharani Pooradam Tirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (Regent) 1924–1931
  12. Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma 1931–1991
  13. Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma 1991– 2013

The 6th in the lineage above who came to occupy the Ivory Throne of Travancore was the musical composer Svati Tirunal who needs no introduction. And it was left him to the immortalize this Goddess by etching her on the fabric of our music by composing the beautiful composition ‘Anandavalli’ in the haunting melody of Neelambari.  Legend had already associated this sovereign known as ‘gharbha srImAn’ with the raga Neelambari, when Irayimaan Tampi the Royal Courtier composed ‘Oomana thingal kidavo’ as the lullaby for the baby King Svati Tirunal. ‘Anandavalli’ ranks on par with the other beautiful compositions in this raga and it is trifle unfortunate that it has not been rendered very frequently. Besides quite a few publishers/editors of Svati Tirunal’s compositions classify this composition as a padam. Given the lyrics of the composition, attempting to class it as padam for the simple reason it is rendered slowly in cauka kAlam does not seem logical and for all practical purposes this composition is only a kriti.

We do not have any further information as to the background of this composition and one may perhaps just conjecture that this Maharaja perhaps on one of his frequent sojourns to the Padmanabhapuram Palace must have composed it in a trice. Be that as it may this bewitching composition in chaste Sanskrit, is replete with similes and other linguistic adornments.

The text and meaning of this composition runs thus.

 Anandavalli kuru mudam 

पल्लवि :

आनन्दवल्लि कुरु मुदमविरतम्

अनुपल्लवि

दीन-जन-सन्ताप-तिमिरामृत-किरणायित-सुहसे

धृत-शुक-पोत-विलासिनि जय परम

 

चरणं

जम्भवि-मत-मुख-सेवित-पद-युगले

गिरि-राज-सुते (अम्ब)

घनसार-लसित-विधु-खण्ड-सदृश-निटिले

शंभु-वदन-सरसीरुह-मधुपे

सारसाक्षि हृदि विहर दिवानिशं

  rAgam: nIlAmbari                                                                       tALam: Adi

shrI  svAti tirunAL viracita 

pallavi

Anandavalli kuru mudamaviratam

anupallavi

dIna-jana-santapa-timirAmrtakiraNAyita suhasE

dh.rtashukapOtavilAsini jaya param (Anandavalli)

caraNam

jambhavimatamukha sevita padayugaLe girirAjasutE ghanasAralasita

vidhukhaNDasad.rshaniTileshambhuvadanasarasIruha madhupEsArasAkShi h.rdi vihara divAnisham  || 1 ||

keshapAshajita sajalajaladanikare padapa”nkajasevaka-khedajAlashamanaika

paramacaturEnAshitAghacarite bhuvanatraya-nayike vitara me shubhamanupamam || 2 ||

shAradendurucima~njuLatamavadanEmunih.rdaya nivAsini cArukundamukuLopavara

radanE pArijAtatarupallava caranE padmanAbhasahajE hara mE shucam || 3 ||

 

Meaning:
Pallavi :

Oh Anandavalli! Grant me happiness without fail!

Anupallavi:

Your smile is like a ray of nectar which can wipe off the darkness of grief. O the one holding a young parrot! Hail!

Caranam 1:

One whose feet are worshipped by Indra, foe of Jambha; daughter of the king of mountains. One who is adorned with camphor on the crescent like forehead. You are like the bee to the lotus face of Shiva. O the one with lotus-like eyes. Always dwell in my heart.

Caranam 2:

Your long tresses surpass the water bearing collection of clouds. You are the only skilful one in dispelling the misfortunes of those who worship your lotus feet. One who has the glory of removing the afflictions of the three worlds. Please grant me insurmountable prosperity.

Caranam 3:

One whose face is beautiful like the charming autumnal moon; resides in the hearts of ascetics. One who has charming teeth like the beautiful jasmine buds and feet like the tender leaf of Parijata. O The sister of Lord Padmanabha! Dispel my grief!

 And one should for a moment savour the lyrics at ‘dhruta shuka pota vilAsini’ in the anupallavi for that marks the fact that the icon of Goddess Anandavalli sports a parrot, the only reference in this kriti which links the past of this Goddess, when once she was Meenakshi a full hundred years ago even prior to the times of Svati Tirunal. ( See Foot Note 5)

And it wasn’t Svati Tirunal alone who had sung on this Goddess. The quite well own composer Nilakantha Sivan too had composed verses on this Goddess of Padmanabhapuram.

aiyndhu mOraaRu mIraindhu mIraaRu

mOraindhu mOrpatthumaana

          ay mUnRu mOronRum aTcharamaga

          manthram aruL vaDivamaana thaayE

          ayndhu karanODu IraaRukaranaiyumInRa

          ambikE inbha nidhiyE,   akhilaaNDa kODi pugazh magaraasiyaana

          paramaanandha valli umaiyE

 

ஐந்து மோராறும் மீரைந்து மீராறும்
மோரைந்து மோர்பத்துமான
ஐமூன்று மோரொன்றும் அட்சரமாக
மந்திரம் அருள் வடிவமான தாயே
ஐந்து கரனொடு ஈராறுகரனையுமீன்ற
அம்பிகே இன்ப நிதியே அகிலாண்ட கோடி புகழ் மகராசியான
பரமானந்த வல்லி உமையே

 

–        Nilakanta Sivan (from his “Anandavalli Dasakam”- See Foot Note 6)

Two clarifications are in order :

  1. Older publications of Maharaja Svati Tirunal’s kritis such as the one by Sri Sambasiva Sastri( see Bibliography) provide the tala of the composition as ‘cempata’ which in Kathakali too is a 8 beat cycle tala ( some give it as 16 beats as well, a multiple) with probably a difference in the kriya or the way the beat is struck/visually demonstrated.
  2. To the best of my knowledge none of the publications including the very latest being Sri T K Govinda Rao’s, provide the stala of this composition as Padmanabhapuram. There is a actually another ksetra known as Anandavallishwaram in Kollam, Kerala where too the Devi is named as Anandavally. Nevertheless given the facts such as the holding of the parrot by the deity and also the association of the dramatis personae to the shrine at Padmanabhapuram, this kriti can only be assigned to the Devi in that ksetra.

DISCOGRAPHY:

Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subramanian, Vidvan Rama Verma and his disciple Vidusi Amruta Venkatesh have presented this composition in the public space. But for this blog I seek to present the version by Vidvan Dileep Kumar who sings two of the three caranas of this composition in this rendering of his:

 

And here is a brief excerpt of Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subramanian singing the cittasvara section of the composition. The cittasvara section is not found notated in T K Govinda Rao’s publication.

 

 

Audio & Visuals – See Foot Note 7

EPILOGUE:

The Kerala Royals are all but gone with the passing away of the last of them Utharadom Tirunal (see Foot Note 8) in 2013 and whoever survives from the very many branches are already commoners. Yet today the Royal composer’s kriti and the emotions that it evokes convinces one that a visit at least once to that hallowed shrine in the backdrop of the verdant vELI Hills at Padmanabhapuram has to be made. And one can’t but wonder what an ethereal experience it would be to sit, one autumn evening, perhaps during Navaratri on the banks of that emerald green water filled temple tank’s stone steps with the dark sky lit with the autumnal moon, the grand pavilion at the centre resplendent with the oil lit lamps even while the soft fragrance of jasmine pervades the air suffused by a soft tanpura drone and one soulfully sings or listens to an enchanting rendering of this Neelambari composition! And I am sure as one dissolves oneself in the melody, the reverie would take us all the way starting from the 13th century when the Temple was perhaps built and on to the 17th century when Tirumalai Nayak consecrated his iconic Goddess Meenakshi therein and then to Marthanda Varma who thus in the mid-18th century changed Her name to Goddess Anandavalli and on to Svati Tirunal of 19th century who composed this beautiful piece and to that moment is time in the present to feel the ambrosial experience of extolling Her as “paramAnandavallI”.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

 

  1. Manu Pillai (2015) – Harper Collins – ‘The Ivory Throne’ – Introductory Chapter- pp 1-20
  2. Satyanathier (1924) – Oxford University Press- ‘History of the Nayaks of Madura’ – Chapter VIII pp 110148
  3. Shungoony Menon (1878) – Higginbotham & Co – ‘A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times’ – Vol 1- Chapter II pp -112- 175
  4. K Sambasiva Sastri (Editor)(1932)-Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No CXIII – “The Sangita Kritis of Swati Sri Rama Varma Maharaja” pp 101-102
  5. T K Govinda Rao (2002) – Ganamandir Publications- ‘Compositions of Maharaja Swati Tirunal’- Music Series VI pp 370-371

FOOT NOTES:

  1. Sovereigns of yore have always invoked divinity to add legitimacy to their rule in one form or the other. Royal lineages, clans and dynasties have always invoked godhead and history is replete with examples. Rajeswari Ghose’s – ‘The Tyagaraja Cult’ especially Chapter 9 titled ‘Tyagaraja as Cult Typology and Legitimization of Power’ is an illustrative text on this subject.

 

  1. Ettuveetil Pillamar or the Lord of Eight Houses of Kerala and Madempimar were the Nair nobles who held sway at that point in time in the run up to the ascendancy of Marthanda Varma. Curiously they bear an uncanny resemblance to the Chieftains/feudatories of the Chola Kingdom of the 9th and 10th century AD pictured so beautifully by Kalki in his “Ponniyin Selvan”, who held considerable sway and control over their overlord the Chola Kings. The Mazhavarayars of Ariyalur/Tirumalapadi, Sambuvarayar of Kadambur, Pazhuvettarayars of Pazhuvur, Malayamans of Tirukkoilur & others are the illustrated feudatories of the Colas.

 

  1. Marthanda Varma was an iconic personality so much so novels and movies came to produced eulogizing him. C V Raman Pillai brought out a novel on him in 1891 adding a romantic angle as well to his history. A critical appraisal of the novel can be read here: https://wiki2.org/en/Marthandavarma_(novel)

Original Book published in 1891

And just as how later in the 20th century ‘Ponniyin Selvan” (of Kalki K Krishnamurthi) a historical novel with Arulmozhi Varman (later Raja Raja Chola I) as the protagonist went on to capture the imagination of the Tamil readers, Raman Pillai’s Malayalam work too became a best seller. Raman Pillai’s novel has been published by the Sahitya Akademi in Malayalam and along with the English and Tamil translations ( by Padmanabhan Tampy) as well which makes an interesting read.

A movie too was produced based on the novel which was released after a court battle over copyright, in 1933. One can read about it here:

https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/old-is-gold-marthanda-varma-1931/article4350814.ece

And Marthanda Varma and his exploits is poised to hit the screens once again as filming gets underway for the movie starring actor Rana Daggubatti, complete with visual special effects:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/malayalam/movies/news/rana-daggubati-set-to-conquer-mwood-as-king-marthanda-varma/articleshow/61654128.cms

And again much like how “Ponniyin Selvan” has been staged Raman Pillai’s novel too has spawned stage versions:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/thiruvananthapuram/2017/jan/23/cv-ramans-historic-romance-to-come-alive-at-sainik-school-kazhakootam-1562426.html

  1. According to Shungoony Menon (page 175 of his work), when Marthanda Varma in 1758 AD was on his death bed, he ushered in his successor, being his nephew, the next King designate Karthika Tirunal Rama Varma and gave him his instructions which provide a glimpse of this great founder of the modern Kupaka Dynasty & his innermost thoughts for his land and his subjects. His dying instructions to his successor were :
    1. There shall be no deviation whatever made to the dedication of the Kingdom to Sri Padmanabha Swamy and all further territorial acquisitions if done shall be made over to the Devaswom
    2. Not a hair’s breadth alteration or deviation shall be done to the established charities and institutions connected to the Devaswom
    3. There shall be no dissension or quarrel in the Royal House
    4. Expenses of the State should not be allowed to exceed the income at any cost
    5. The Palace expenditure should be defrayed only from the profits of the commercial Department
    6. And above all the friendship existing between the Kingdom of Travancore and the English East India Company shall be maintained at all costs and that full confidence should always be placed in the support and aid of that honourable association.

These six commands would show his great foresight, statesmanship and conviction without doubt.

  1. For me ‘Anandavalli’ makes me reminisce on the similarly structured Neelambari composition ‘karunAnda catura’ of Kumara Ettendra which we featured in a blog post some time ago. The subject matter being Goddess Parvati and usage of words such as ‘nitilE’, kunda mukula radanE, padmanAbha sahajE or sAranga varada sahajE’ seems to prompt the same, while few others might see a musical correspondence with ‘shringAra lahari’ of Lingaraja Urs.

 

  1. Nilakanta Sivan has to his credit a number of Tamil compositions which were a rage once upon a time. Sivanai ninaindhu (Hamirkalyani), Enraikku Siva krupai (Mukhari), Navsiddhi Petrallum (Kharaharapriya), Sambo Mahadeva ( Bhauli), Ananda natanamaduvar ( Purvikalyani) and Teruvadeppo nenje (Khamas) are some of the kritis which were sung frequently and immortalized by the likes of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M S Subbulakshmi and D K Pattammal by their gramophone records. Sivan’s original name was Subramanian and he changed his name due to his great devotion to this Lord Neelakantaswami of Padmanabhapuram. A play list of his compositions on YouTube can be heard/viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIikSmhrlA3p8JYBjEIQwa_fvrtVI6IJv .

 

 

  1. The clippings have been sourced from Sangeethapriya and thanks are due to Sr TVG for his painstaking effort to record and collate recordings on the website. And some spectacular visuals of the Padmanabhapuram Palace, I would recommend the Flickr account of Manfred Sommer which you can access here:

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/asienman/sets/72157655931464592

and off course the Official web site :

http://www.keralaculture.org/padmanabhapuram-palace/297

  1. The last royal died in 2013 and in its wake the treasures which lie in the vaults of the Lord Padmanabhaswami Temple is yet to be fully uncovered and settled.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10528924/Sree-Uthradom-Thirunal-Marthanda-Varma-obituary.html