Among the various compositions notated in the text Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, ragamalikas are more interesting and intriguing. Among the composers belonging to the family of Ramasvamy Diksitar, Subbarama Diksitar has employed this musical form extensively. He has composed nine ragamalikas, including the raganga ragamalika. These ragamalikas form vital study material, from the aspects of both sahitya and sangita. An attempt is made here to understand the ragamalikas of Subbarama Dikshitar as a whole, despite understanding the importance of analyzing them individually.
Though the majority of these ragamalikas were composed on the royal patrons like Pusapati Anada Gajapati Raju (kaminchina kalavatira), Raja Jadvira Muddusvamy Ettendra (endhuku ra ra ), Bhaskara Setupathy (garavamu) and Sri Rama Tiruvadi of Travancore (ni sari), he has also dedicated his ragamalikas to deities like Rajagopalasvamy (vedukato) and Kartikeya of Kazhugumalai (manatodi). All of them were composed in Telugu, excluding ‘manatodi’, which is a Tamiz composition.
Number of ragas
I kanakambari (sahitya by Krishna Kavi and music by Subbarama Diksitar)
72 (raganga ragamalika)
The sahitya of these ragamalikas not only have their raga mudras interwoven, but also have the ‘poshaka’ mudra like ‘sri muddusvami jagadvira ettendra candra’ (endhuku ra ra), ‘bhaskara mahipala’ (garavamu) and ‘pusapati ananda gajapati’ (kaminchina kalavatira).
Many of these sahityas are also replete with ‘anuprasa’. Anuprasa is an alliteration, a single syllable is repeated, but as a part of a different set of closely connected words. Using anuprasa is actually an option and not a mandate to be used in a composition. The Sama raga segment featuring in the ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavatira’ is taken as an example. The sahitya reads as ‘kurulu mogula tegalu nagavalarulunu duru nela saga manuduru’, wherein the aksara ‘la’ is used as anuprasam. Though it is esthetically appealing, it is much more challenging for a musician to sing, especially when it occurs as a madhyamakala sahitya.
The structure of these ragamalikas can be divided into two types – those with a structured pallavi, anupallavi and caranam and those without any defined structure. The ragamalikas ‘manatodi’, ‘priyamuna’ and ‘i kanakambari’ fall under the first category. It is indeed these unstructured ragamalikas that captivate, as they are much abstruse in their construction. In many cases, the composer has prescribed stringent ways to render these compositions, making them much complex and intricate. For instance, in the ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavathira’. This is perhaps the most asymmetric composition available. This is a ragamalika comprising 32 ragas, wherein the first 16 ragas were given an elaborate treatment, with a detailed svara-sahitya segment. Contrastingly, a single tala avarta was allotted to the second 16 ragas! The composer has grouped these 32 ragas into 16 pairs. These raga pairs are to be sung alternatively after the elaborate section consisting of 16 ragas. The composer has also prescribed unique guidelines for the ragamalikas ‘endhuku ra ra’ and ‘valapu miri’. This kind of grouping and giving directions to render these compositions are unique to Subbarama Diksitar. Though this adds value to the composition, it also makes the composition sound difficult and complex.
Analysis of the eight ragamalikas (‘i kanakambari’ is excluded from being a raganga ragamalika), shows the composer has indeed included a wide array of ragas. It ranges from the common ragas like Kalyani, Sankarabharanam to rarer ones like Rudrapriya and Balahamsa. It also reveals his personal preference for Todi. It features in all the eight ragamalikas. Kamas, having been used in five compositions, follow this. Other ragas like Bhairavi, Sriragam, Yamuna, etc., occur more than once. The raga selection seems to be completely influenced by Ramasvamy Diksitar. Every raga used in these ragamalikas, except three were used by Ramasvamy Diksitar. Pharaju, Kamas, and Rudrapriya form this trio and the above statement can be confirmed only if we get the complete corpus of the compositions of Ramasvamy Diksitar.
The composer has taken utmost care to give a new flavor to a raga when it occurs more than once. For instance, Todi was used as a panchama varjya raga in the ragamalika ‘priyamuna’, but used as a routine raga though with its different phrases in other ragamalikas. In addition, many phrases that were known/used by his family alone are seen aplenty. Be it ‘PNM’ in Kedaram or ‘SDP’ in Manohari, they stand alone. Besides these, these ragamalikas also serves us to understand the old svarupa of these ragas. For example, the phrase NSGGM in Nilambari (not in vogue today) was used profusely in his ragamalika ‘garavamu’.
An interesting feature was employed by Subbarama Diksitar in his raganga ragamalika. This is a ragamalika, serving as a lexicon to understand the 72 raganga ragas used by the Diksitar family, starting from Kanakambari and ending with Rasamanjari. In this ragamalika, when he transits from one raganga raga to its immediate successor (within a cakra), he preferred not to use the svaras unique to them!
Being raganga ragas, every member within a cakra has the same svara varieties in the purvanga (sa to ma), and they differ only in their uttaranga (pa to ni). If a difference is to be shown between any two ragas that occur in succession (within a cakra), it is much easier to show if the differing svaras are used at the beginning of the raga segment as its opening phrase. This was followed by Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer in his 72 ‘mela ragamalika’ (though we do see few exceptions). Subbarama Diksitar surprisingly did not resort to this practice (at the majority of the places). Instead, he shows the phrases unique to these raganga ragas. Therefore, at many places, we will not be aware of the change in the ragas, unless we are cautious, as the successive ragas share the same svara variety in their purvanga. For example, in the first cakra, the raga segments Kanakambari, Phenadyuti, Ganasamavarali, Bhanumati and Manoranjani starts with the phrase SRGRMPM, MGGRMP, MGRMP, MPMRR, PDPMR respectively. Tanukirti alone starts with the phrase SNDNP. Hence, the opening phrases are not suggestive of the ragas used. The ragas unveil themselves only as we travel with the composition.
Excluding the ragamalikas ‘manatodi’ and ‘i kanakambari’, all the others were composed in either rupaka or tisra eka tala. Analysis of the tala reveals the musical acumen of the composer in the arena of talaprastara. Almost in every ragamalika, we see the usage of three speeds seamlessly and skillfully resulting in various unique patterns. Again, this is an influence from the works of Ramasvamy Diksitar.
The ragamalikas of Subbarama Diksitar not only serve as reference material for understanding the raga svarupa; they also help us to understand the music of the gone era. Analysis of each of these ragamalika separately will not only help us to understand the musical thoughts of Subbarama Diksitar, but also the thoughts of Ramasvamy Diksitar as the seed of the latter’s musical thoughts and/or influence can be seen in the composition of all the Diksita-s.
The name Upanishad Brahmam is not new to anyone who has read the divya carita-s of Tyagaraja Svamigal and Sri Muthuswamy Diksitar. Though he was much familiar to the students of Sanskrit literature, the works of Dr.V.Raghavan made him popular to music lovers. Raghavan has written extensively on the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the late 1950s, which serves as an authentic source even now, to know the works of Upanishad Brahmam in the field of music.
Upanishad Brahmam was born to a Sanskrit scholar of Vadhula gotra named Sadashiva and his wife Lakshmi in Brahmapuram, a village on the banks of the river Palar. He was named Sivarama. He was married, had a son, spent his life as a householder, and then renounced his life and became a sanyasin. His ashrama was set in Agastyashrama in Kanchipuram, on the way to Kailasanatha temple. He took an arduous task of writing a commentary to 108 upanishad-s and hence got the name Upanishad Brahmendra. He was a Sri Rama upasaka and installed a Sri Rama yantra made of Saligrama in his ashrama. His works project him as a Advaita sanyasin, who also extolled and propagated the cult of ‘nama sidhdhanta’ singing ‘bhagavan-nama bhajana’. His compositions bear the mudra ‘ramachandrendra’. Though the exact period of this yati cannot be ascertained, we can clearly say he lived during the middle of 18th century from his own statement,
“प्रजोत्याब्धचापैकादशघस्रे शुभे दिने भौमाश्विन्यामिदं शास्त्रं सम्पूर्णपदवीं गतम्”
(‘prajOtyabdhacapaikAdashaghasrE ShubhE dinE bhaumAshvinyAm idam ShAstram sampUrNapadavIm gatam’). This means he has finished writing commentary for Muktikopanishad in the cyclic year Prajotpatti, Markazhi mAsa, EkAdasi, ASvini nakshatra falling on a Tuesday, which corresponds to the 30.11.1751. A detailed biography of Upanishad Brahmam can be learned from the essays of Raghavan.1,2
Upanishad Brahmam gains more importance due to his connections with Tyagaraja Svamigal and Muthuswamy Diksitar. Upanishad Brahmam was acquainted with Sri Ramabrahmam, father of Svamigal. Perhaps, Sri Rama upasana, a common thread between these three mahaniyA-s united them. It is said a ‘srImukham’ written by Upanishad Brahmam, inviting Svamigal to visit Agastyashrama is available in the manuscript collection preserved at Saurashtra Sabha, Madurai. Later, Tyagaraja Svamigal, during his sojourn to holy sthala-s like Tirupati, Lalgudi, etc., visited Kanchipuram. Needless to say, this rendezvous could have resulted in the discussion of the tenets of nama-sidhdhanta and Sri Rama nama mahima.
Even before this historical event, Upanishad Brahmam had an opportunity to meet Muthuswamy Diksitar. Diksitar, having completed his studies with Cidambaranatha Yogi in Kashi, returned to Manali, Madras. His stay in Manali was much brief and his life as an itinerant started from Kanchipuram. The period can be guessed to be anywhere between the late 1790s and early 1800s. Subbarama Diksitar, a nephew of Muthuswamy Diksitar, in his work Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, mentions Muthuswamy Diksitar spent his life in Kanchipuram for a period of 4 years. He also adds, Muthuswamy Diksitar conducted philosophical dialogues with Upanishad Brahmam during this period and set to tune ‘rama ashtapadi’ authored by Upanishad Brahmam. It is surprising to know Upanishad Brahmendra, despite being a composer has asked Muthuswamy Diksitar to tune them. Unfortunately, the tunes are lost.
Sri Rama Taranga
Though Upanishad Brahmendra has composed many divya nama kirtana-s, this article focuses on two of his works, namely ‘sri rama taranga’ and ‘sri rama ashtapadi’. The word ‘taranga’ immediately reminds us of the work of Narayana Tirtar ‘Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini’. This work describes the divine sports of Krishna Bhagavan in a simple, flowing Sanskrit. The ‘taranga’ of Upanishad Brahmendra describes the lilAnubhUti-s of Sri Ramachandra, again in the divine language Sanskrit. Raghavan, as mentioned earlier, had made a note about Rama tarangamala in one of his essays. The manuscripts in the possession of Raghavan are now preserved at The Theosophical Society, Adyar, and forms a major source for this article.
The tarangamala appears to be much complex in structure. From the descriptions provided by Upanishad Brahmam as introductory verses, it can be speculated the Rama tarangamala had 16 khanda-s or chapters. The author says,
“षोडशकलाभिधानास्तरङ्गमाला गले समर्प्यन्ते” (‘sOdaSakalAbhidhAnAstarangamAla galE samarpyantE’), meaning the taranga-s, sixteen in number similar to the (sixteen) kala-s of moon are being offered.
A composition named as ‘AhvAna taranga’ in the raga Nata begins the work tarangamala. The musical structure and tala of this composition are not available. This composition starting as ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is basically an invocation inviting or calling Sri Ramachandra. This can be roughly equated with the kriti ‘hechchariga gA rA rA’ of Svamigal in the ragam Yadukulakambhoji. This composition ‘AgachchAgachcha mE’ is a dvi-dhatu composition – having pallavi and 12 carana-s. A striking feature seen in the compositions of Upanishad Brahmendra is the lack of ‘dvitiyAkshara prAsa’, the second letter concordance. His creations are more in line with the sloka-s written by Sanskrit theologists like Adi Sankara, Vedanta Desika, etc, distinguishing them from the compositions created by the composers belonging to his period. Interestingly, anuprasa is used profusely in many of the carana-s. The usage of ‘putra’, ‘gAtra’, ‘caritra’ and ‘kalatra’ in the first carana, ‘vinda’, ‘kanda’ and ‘govinda’ in the third carana and ‘ShitAsu’, ‘ganEShu’ and ‘mAnEShu’ in the seventh carana can be cited as examples.
Now begins the first khanda of tarangamala. After three invocatory verses, starts the first Taranga ‘srI rAmacandra’ in the raga Mohanam. This Taranga appears to be much intricate, not because of 12 charana-s, but because of the structure of each carana. Each carana begins with a sahitya, followed by a jati, a svara passage, and a segment of sahityam. In few carana-s, this order is slightly altered. It can be interpreted the svara segment actually corresponds to the sahitya that immediately succeeds it due to the svara-sahitya relationship they share. The svara-s, short, and long match exactly with the hrsva and dIrghAkSharA-a available in the sahityam succeeding the svara segment.
The structure gets more complicated as we move to the eighth caranam. Here, the author has mentioned the jati is to be rendered in dhruva tala. Similarly, it is prescribed in the ninth carana that the jati therein is to be rendered in rupaka tala! The tala specifications is applicable to jati alone or the entire carana cannot be ascertained. If the entire carana is to be rendered in the specified tala with each carana having a different tala, the taranga appears more like a suladi. This assumption can be made only if we get to see tala specifications for all the components and carana-s of this composition, which is not so in this case. The carana having a jati, sahityam and svara passage resembles another musical form prabandha. Again, not all the components, which a prabandha must have is seen here. However, we can definitely say we are looking into a special musical form, which was either invented by Upanishad Brahmam or a form available to the composers of that period!
This Taranga also opens another interesting discussion. From the svara passages, we can get a glimpse of the raga Mohanam used by Upanishad Brahmam. The svarupa of the raga seen here is much similar to the raga extant now. A glance into the history reveals the existence of another raga with the same name, but with a different structure. This defunct raga had six svaras and can be seen in the texts ‘raga lakshanamu’ and ‘sangita saramrta’ of Saha Maharaja and Tulaja respectively. This shadava Mohanam gains importance as the period of Upanishad Brahmam is much closer to the period of Saha (1684-1712) and Tulaja (1677-1736). The mentioned kings also have recorded the present-day Mohanam having five svaras, but preferred to call it Mohanakalyani.3 Upanishad Brahmam, using five svaras, yet calling it Mohanam is really intriguing. The ‘rama taranga-s’ stop abruptly at this point and leads to another work of Upanishad Brahmam, namely Sri Rama 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:
srI rAmacandrAya tubhyam
rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham
It is interesting to note the members of the clan Mayamalavagaula, a favorite of Muthuswamy Diksitar not dominating. However, this statement can be validated only if we happen to get the raga of the rest of the gita-s. Of these eight ragas, two ragas have a composition composed on the deities residing in Kanchipuram, namely ‘kAmAkshi varalakshmi’ in the raga Bilahari and ‘cintaya mAkanda’ in the raga BhairavI. The raga of the gita representing the fifth vibhakti is missing. What could be the missing raga? A raga used by him in one of his Kanchipura kshetra kritis or otherwise?
The composition ‘rAmacandrasya tava dAsOham’ provides material for a case study. The opening lines was used by Muthuswamy Diksitar in his Purvi raga kriti ‘srI guruguhasya dAsOham’, a member of the ‘guruguha vibhakti’ set. Apart from the similarity in the sahitya, the concept propounded also looks similar. Upanishad Brahmam declares he has united with his Lord Sri Ramachandra in this kriti. Muthuswamy Diksitar proclaims the same in his kriti ‘anandEsvarENa’, wherein he says ‘brahmAnandOsmi’!
Though the structure was much designed to be in line with the ‘gita govinda’ of Jayadeva, few differences too exist. First, the theme seems to be non-erotic. Second, the 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.
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.
I thank the authorities of The Theosophical Society, Adyar for allowing me to peruse the required manuscripts.
I thank Smt. Vidya Jayaraman for translating the verses seen in taranga-s and ashtapadi-s.
Raghavan V. 1956. Upanishad Brahma Yogin, His life, Works and Contribution to Carnatic Music. Journal of The Madras University. 113-150.
Raghavan V. 1957. Upanishad Brahma Yogin. Journal of The Madras University. 151-152.
Hema Ramanathan. 2004. Ragalakshana Sangraha – Collection of Raga Descriptions, p 890-893.
( The featured image above of the Lord Brihadeesvara Temple at Tanjore is a photograph of Samuel Bourne, taken circa 1860 AD going with the caption” Great Pagoda and Stone Bull, Tanjore” – Image courtesy : The British Library)
In a previous blog post we had looked at the antecedents and the flavors of the raga Karnataka Kapi. Since then, I happened to encounter a rendering of the rare cauka varna “sarasAlanu” in the raga, composed by Ponnayya of the Tanjore Quartet, on YouTube. I had fleetingly referred to this particular composition in the aforesaid blog post. And therefore, in this blog post I propose the take the reader through this composition in detail and relish its beauty from multiple dimensions.
It is to be noted that the raga of sarasAlanu is always given as Kapi. In view of the different variants of the raga which exists in our world of music, in this blog post I am referring to the raga of the composition as Karnataka Kapi, which name came about to signify that it was an older form and not the later day versions.
Clones in our world of Music:
But before that I seek to present a few aspects of some of the timeless & great compositions which have been in vogue in our world of music. Subbarama Dikshitar in his works waxes eloquent about a varna in the raga Navaroz of Karvetinagar Govindasamayya and of a svarajati in Huseni by Melattur Virabhadrayya. Seemingly these compositions had captured popular imagination during those times so much so that a number of copies or look-alike compositions came to be composed, virtually with the same musical setting or mettu of these magna operas. The Navaroz varna is today virtually extinct. Melattur Virabhadrayya’s lilting Huseni svarajati which in its original form too is today extinct, spawned at least 3 clones “emAyalAdira”, emandayAnara” and “pAhimAm brihannayikE” with attributions to Patchimiriyam Adiyapayya, the Tanjore Quartet and Svati Tirunal. The version recreated by Adiyappaya being “Emandayanara” was salvaged and is found presented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini by Subbarama Dikshita. The Quartet version is documented in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” and the version attributed to Svati Tirunal can be found in Vidvan T K Govinda Rao’s compendia of his compositions.
In other words, if the melodic material /dhatu or mettu of a composition is so bewitching, it was never frowned upon as plagiarism if it were simply cloned with different set of lyrics, as if to validate the saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. And being in public knowledge, no attribution was considered necessary, perhaps. It can also be seen that the dhatu of a couple of the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshita and Tyagaraja do match, for example “gananAyakam” and “srI mAnini”. Whether they are mutual copies or whether the two Trinitarians composed their version basing it on a then popular tune, of a now extinct piece, is not known. Rather the point to note is that it brings no discredit to Dikshita or Tyagaraja for having composed in a common tune for we know that their work was only in honor of the tune and its melodic appeal and their composing capabilities were beyond reproach.
Be that as it may, the subject matter varna “sarasAlanu” too has a similar such “clonal” history in that in its mettu or musical score, there exist one other composition being “sUmasAyaka” with attribution to Svati Tirunal. There are reasons to believe that the subject matter varna sarasAlanu is the likely original one while sUmasAyaka, which is more famous is the clone or copy subsequently created. We will examine this conjecture as well as the originality or uniqueness of this composition in this blog post.
“sarasAalanu Ipudu” in Karnataka Kapi of Thanjavur Ponnayya:
The aforesaid attribution of this composition, which is a cauka varna (more commonly called as a pada varna) to Ponnayya is on the authority of the “Thanjai Naalvar Manimaalai” published by Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam, a descendant of the Quartet. As we know the Tanjore Quartet of Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu were acknowledged disciples of Muthusvami DIkshita. Initially they ornamented the Tanjore Court of King Sarabhoji circa 1800 as AstAna vidvAns. Likely AD 1825 or thereabouts the Quartet of brothers, fell out of royal favour, left Thanjavur and thereafter sought new patrons for their art. While Chinnaya found patronage in the Mysore durbar, Sivanandam and Vadivelu became the AstAna vidvans of Maharaja Svati Tirunal of Travancore. This background becomes important in the context of the fact that subject matter cauka varna in Telugu “sarasAlanu”’s sibling or clone “sUmasAyaka vidurA” is attributed to Maharaja Svati Tirunal himself and which ironically is more popular on the concert circuit.
It is quirky that, “sarasAlanu”’s very existence is unknown to many, save for the few cognoscenti today who may have heard it during the mid-20th century, featured in the dance recitals of the famous danseuse Balasarasvati, whose guru Kandappa Nattuvanar was a direct descendant being the great grandson of Ponnayya himself. It is no surprise that this composition of Ponnayya thus came to be part of Balasarasvati’s performance repertory. I will elaborate more on this in a little while.
Let us now look at the lyrical aspect of the cauka varna as well as the meaning before we proceed to dissect the melodic aspects of the composition.
Note: There is no sahitya for the 4th ragamalika ettugada svara section
It needs to be pointed out that the composer of this cauka varna as recorded is Ponnayya, the second amongst the brothers forming the illustrious Tanjore Quartet. The name is often confused with Tanjavur Ponniah Pillai (1888-1945), a Sangita Kalanidhi and another scion and descendant of the Tanjore Quartet being the great grand son of Sivanandam. This Ponniah Pillai too composed many musical pieces as well and therefore the reader should not be confused as between the Ponnayya of the Quartet and Ponniah Pillai his descendant of the 20th century.
The opening words as given in the book is ‘sarasA ninnu’ whereas the renderings and popular references to this composition have the opening words as ‘sarasAlanu’. As the lyrics would show, the Quartet’s mudra being “brihadIsvara” adorns the composition. It may be pointed out that Lord Brihadeesvara was the titular deity of the Tanjore Royals. The “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” of the Quartet’s descendant Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam assigns the composition to the authorship of Ponnayya and given this set of factors, it can be reasonably surmised that the composition was certainly composed when the brothers were in the Tanjore Court much before Vadivelu found patronage in Travancore.
It is likely that after Vadivelu became the astana vidvan in Svati Tirunal’s Court, he must have rendered his brother’s sarasAlanu before the Maharaja. Much enamored by its beauty, the Maharaja must have proceeded to ruminate and come up with the equivalent Sanskrit lyrics, with the appropriate svaraksharas and prAsA concordance to match the musical fabric of sarasAlanu. And thus, “sUmasAyaka” must have been born which had since then become ubiquitous given its royal ancestry eclipsing the original of Ponnayya.
I surmise that “sarasAlanu” was thus the one which was first composed when the Quartet ornamented the Tanjore Court, as it is vested with the mudra or colophon ‘brihadIsvara” which is seen in almost all compositions of the Quartet, when they are created during their Tanjore residency. After the brothers left the Tanjore Court, their compositions came to be invested with the pOShaka mudra or that of Padmanabha as in the case of Vadivelu. For example, Chinnaya’s Karnataka Kapi tillana “dhIM nAdhru dhIm dhIm” in Adi tala goes with the pOshaka mudra “cAmarAjendra” the Maharaja of Mysore. Similar is the case of the Kamalamanohari tana varnam in adi tala.
Prof R. Srinivasan in his erudite article “Music in Travancore” published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy (Volume 19- 1948 – pages 107-112) makes this telling statement:
“Among the varnas, the one in Kapi beginning with “Suma Sayaka” is well known and at the same time technically of a high order. It is understood that Vadivelu influenced a large extent the music of it” (Emphasis is mine)
Therefore, for all the aforesaid reasons I would forcefully argue the case that sarasAlanu served as the model for sUmasAyaka and not the other way around. Though the two compositions can simply be labelled as clones of each other with much similarities, yet a few points of differences are seen between them, though melodically they are the same.
To restate the obvious, “sarasAlanu” is in Telugu with “brihadIsvara” as the colophon, while “sUmasAyaka” is in Sanskrit with “sarasIruhanAbha” as the colophon.
Both are set in Karnataka Kapi and in tisra eka tala in the cauka varna format with a pallavi, an anupallavi with muktayi svaras followed by a carana section with multiple ettugada svaras sections thereafter to follow.
For both the varnas, the last ettugada svara section is structured as a ragamalika with 4 ragas, which finally segues seamlessly into Karnataka Kapi.
Barring a few and minor differences in the music/svara setting, the three critical differences seen between the two compositions are as under:
sarasAlanu has sahitya for the muktayisvara section of the anupallavi and for the ettugada svara sections of the carana; Whereas sUmasAyaka does not have such sahitya for the said sections.
The final ettugada svara section of sarasAlanu features Hamir Kalyani, Vegavauhini, Vasanta and Mohana; sUmasAyaka instead has Kalyani, Khamas, Vasanta and Mohana. Each of the raga sub sections span 2 avartas of tisra eka tala of 3 beats each.
The last tala beat of the final raga malika section in Mohanam directly transitions to the carana refrain ‘mAninI’ in sarasAlanu ; Whereas in sUmasAyaka the last tala beat of the final raga malika section in Mohanam has Karnataka Kapi svaras which then transition to the carana refrain
And without much ado let us first proceed to hear the composition before we embark on dissecting and learning some of the other aspects.
Discography – Part 1:
sarasAlanu is today all but forgotten. One may say that given its melodic identity being exactly like sUmasAyaka it did not survive. But the fact remains that sarasAlanu is unique for the aforementioned contrasting features and melodically distinct therefore from sUmasAyaka with the result that it deserves to survive, given it was the original one. Can we hear it today given that it is all but forgotten?
Luckily, we have a Vidushi in our midst, who had rendered this in a concert in the year 2010 and which was fortuitously recorded. I present the same being the rendering of Dr Ritha Rajan accompanied by Vidvans R K Sriramkumar and K Arun Prakash on the violin and mrudangam respectively.
The aforesaid recording was sourced from YouTube (see Foot Note 1). This is from the concert she gave for ‘Nada Inbam’ on 30-Aug-2010 at the Raga Sudha Hall, Chennai (See Foot note 2). In the original blog post on Karnataka Kapi, I had presented sUmasAyaka as sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda. Readers may refer to the same to hear it once again.
The Musical Vista of sarasAlanu :
The raga Kapi, as we saw from the other blogpost, as seen in this composition has been chiseled from out of the native svaras of the 22nd Mela ( Sri Raga / Karaharapriya) going with the notes R2, M1, P D2 and N2. The arohana and avarohana krama as conventionally given is:
Arohana: S R2 M1 P N2 S
Avarohana: S N2 D2 N2 P M G2 R2 S
I should confess that this melodic representation does not convey the entire beauty of the raga. As the composition would show, the following features stand out:
The gandhara note, even if occurring only in descent phrases is a strong note of the raga and comes in different shades. It is an (a)sadharana gandhara to state the least. Subbarama Dikshita in his SSP waxes eloquent on the gandhara of Todi as it occurs in the grand cittasvara section of the Kumara Ettendra classic “gajavadana sammOdita”. One can similarly revel in the different shades of gandhara in this composition.
The descriptive grammar of the raga Kapi as seen in this composition can be given as under:
In the purvanga ascent – SRGM, SRMP, RGMP are default murchanaas. It can be inferred therefore that SRGMP is forbidden. If the prayoga is SRGM it has to descend. Given that gandhara is “seen” omitted in the arohana, prayogas like SRGM or RGMP may sound quirky to us schooled in modern day musicology of the Sangraha Cudamani but yet these grammatical constructs are entirely in accordance with the principles of 18th Century musical architecture.
In the uttaranga PDNS does not occur. PNDN descending back to Panchama and PNS proceeding to tara sadja alone are seen;
SNP and SNDNP is the descent prayogas, eschewing the lineal SNDP completely.
The lineal prayoga PMGRS is the one for purvanga in the descent.
Gandhara and madhyama are presumably the jiva svaras of this raga imparting the greatest ranjakatva and figure both as the graha and nyasa svaras. The well oscillated gandhara is itself a leitmotif of this raga.
pnR from the mandhara pancama , N\G in the Madhya stayi and PNDNPM, nG,R from the mandhara nishadha are some of the motifs of the raga.
And above all in modern parlance, the raga is upanga and takes only the notes of the 22 Mela being catusruti rishabha, sadharana gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, catusruti dhaivatha and kaisiki nishadha only.
The Ragamalika section of sarasAlanu and a few questions around it:
An explanation is in order for the ragamalika ragas of sarasAlanu. The “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” calls out the second svara section albeit wrongly as Chakravakam. The examination of the raga malika svara appendage would reveal otherwise. The said svara section runs as under:
sarasAlanu (notation as found in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimaalai”):
Tala avarta of tisra eka
Vegavauhini (wrongly tagged as Chakravakam and with a possible printing mistake as srsm-gpmd-…..)
sarasAlanu (notation as per the pAtham of Dr Ritha Rajan)
sUmasAyaka (notation as per notation published by Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao)
The above tables would show the following differences:
The Hamirkalyani section in sarasAlanu and the Kalyani section in sUmasAyaka
The difference in the Vegavauhini/Chakravaka section as between the two versions of sarasAlanu . It can be seen that in Dr Ritha’s oral tradition the svara progression is lineal as SnSRGMPDNSN,D,PMPDM,GM,, without the SMGM prayoga and hence can be called as Chakravaka.
The difference in the svaras for the last beat of the tisra eka tala of the Mohana section in all the three versions, transitioning to the carana refrain ‘mAninI”.
While the Dr Ritha Rajan’s version of the second ragamalika section proceeds linearly as SnSR1GMPDNS… ., the version found in the “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” does not proceed linearly, which gives us doubt whether the second raga is Chakravakam as per the notation found therein.
It is quite plausible that Ponnayya being a disciple of Muthusvami Dikshita must have certainly known the raga lakshana of Vegavauhini which is the 16th mela raga in Venkatamakhi’s scheme and for which Chakravaka is the equivalent heptatonic scale. The notes of the svara section as found in the Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai corresponds exactly to the lakshana of Vegavauhini, vide the commentary for the same in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshita. The opening murcchana of the raga being SR1SM1G3M1PD2N2S, eschewing the lineal SRGM is verily the signature of Vegavauhini as immortalized by Dikshita in his piece-de-resistance “vIna pustakadhArinIm”. In the face of these facts, it would be a travesty to tabulate the raga as Chakravaka and proceed to linearize and sing the same given Vegavauhini must have been the scale known to Ponnayya the composer of sarasAlanu and a scion of the Dikshita sisya parampara. It is on these sound grounds that it is argued that the second raga in the ragamalika ettugada svara section of sarasAlanu can only be Vegavauhini and not Chakravakam.
It must also be pointed out that in sUmasAyaka, both the ragas Hamirkalyani and Vegavauhini are seen flipped respectively to Kalyani and Khamas with a minimum of fuss. Further the flipping to Khamas (SnSMGMP) from SRSMGMP (Vegavauhini) sounds plausible, better than a flip from SnSRGMP (Chakravaka). Was the flip intentional or an accident or mistake in transmission that the ragas were flipped? For save for the R1 note, it would be virtually impossible to make out between a Khamas and a Vegavauhini. One doesn’t know!
Is sarasAalanu a svarajati or a padavarna:
The book “Tanjai Naalvar Manimalai” lists the composition sarasAlanu as a pada varna only. And to contrast, the Huseni composition “EmandayAnarA” is enlisted as a svarajati. As a rule, if a composition is invested with svaras and jatis being rhythmic syllables, it is more a svarajati than a pada varna. However, this boundary has now become blurred given that Syama Sastri’s creations in Bhairavi, Todi and Yadukulakambhoji are today labelled as svarajatis despite them lacking jatis in their body. Further as Prof S R Janakiraman persuasively argues, the nomenclature of ‘cauka varna’ would be more appropriate than ‘pada varna’.
Therefore, in all fairness, sarasAlanu which lacks jatis can and ought to be called a cauka varna or pada varna and certainly not a svarajati. Interested readers can refer to the article “Jatisvaram & Svarajati” by Dr Ritha Rajan in the JMA, mentioned in the reference section of this blog post herein below.
Placement of a cauka varna in a Concert:
In contrast to a tAna varna, the pada /cauka varnas, are more appropriate to be rendered right at the middle of a concert a little ahead of the main composition/pallavi. It can be seen that almost invariably all older cauka varnas are in rakti ragas which are melismatic by nature. The sedate tempo of the cauka varna together with a rakti raga being the subject of exposition through the cauka varna, adds a contrast to the concert, especially when it is sandwiched between madhyama kala compositions in contrasting ragas. I must hasten to point out exceptions do and always exist, such as for instance, Sangita Kalanidhi Govinda Rao has commenced a concert with the wondrous Surati cauka varna of Subbarama Dikshita “sAmi entani”. And I have personally heard the duet concert of Sangita Kala Acharyas Suguna Purushothaman and Suguna Varadacari, wherein they sang Svati Tirunal’s tour-de-force “dAni sAmajEndra gAmini” in Todi as the concert opener. And both these instances have been recorded for posterity.
In the instant case it can be seen from the concert recitals of Sri K V Narayanasvami that “sUmasAyaka” is rendered almost in the first half of the concert or just after the main piece. Even in the aforesaid rendering of “sarasAlanu” it is seen that Dr.Ritha Rajan has positioned it in the middle of the concert as seen in the listing from her recital- see Foot Note 2, during which this recording was made. As one can see that “sarasAlanu” has been featured right before the main or the piece-de-resistance of the concert and has been wedged between the ragas Kannada and Bhairavi.
Further in the context of rendering a cauka varna, it is noticed that while the pallavi, anupallavi and the muktayi svara and the corresponding sahitya are sung in a vilamba kAla, the carana line along with the ettugada svaras are rendered at a higher sprightly pace (Ottam ஓட்டம்). It is likely that this is a performance technique designed to prevent the concert from sagging, given the prolonged vilamba kala exposition in the first half of the composition. In the instant case of sarasAlanu as well it will be seen in the recording of Dr Ritha Rajan, that the rendering gathers pace from the carana portion “mAniNi vErA nA sAmI”.
Raga name- Is it Karnataka Kapi?
According to Dr Ritha Rajan, the raga of sarasAlanu/ sUmasAyaka being the upanga one bereft of anya svaras, the raga name ought to be simply Kapi. The term “Karnataka Kapi” was coined by Prof Sambamoorti much later and has no sastraic sanction otherwise. No musicological text or authority prior, make no mention of Karnataka Kapi. The version with kAkali nishAda can be called as Hindustani Kapi.
I should confess that while this proposition is attractive, we do have the versions of Muthusvami DIkshita (‘Venkatachalapate”) being the Kapi with traces of Kanada and or Durbar as in the case of versions of Tyagaraja’s kritis ‘nitya rUpa” or “anyAyamu sEyakura” which are bereft of distinguishing names to differentiate them from Kapi and Hindustani Kapi. It has to be pointed out that Subbarama Dikshita calls the raga only as Kapi but the version documented in the SSP is the one with the overwhelming flavour of Kanada. It’s a matter of record that some of the modern texts today even call this as Suddha Kapi.
Be that as it may it has to be on record that according to Dr Ritha Rajan the raga of sarasAlanu/ sUmasAyaka is Kapi. But as pointed out in my introduction, I have for the limited purposes of this blog post kept the name as Karnataka Kapi to differentiate it from the rest of the versions.
Origins of this pAtham of sArasAalanu :
While sUmasAyaka had taken roots in Kerala and had become an inextricable part of the dance repertoire, its foray into the Carnatic music stage was arguably through Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami, who gave it a pride of place. See Foot Note 3
It can be surmised that sarasAlanu however continued to languish within the repertoire of the descendants of the Tanjore Quartet. After the life time of the 4 brothers and particularly the composer of the piece Ponnayya in 1864 AD the piece along with the rest of the crown jewels must have come to the possession of Nellayappa Nattuvanar (1850-1905), who was the grandson of Ponnayya. As T Sankaran recounts, Nellayappa Nattuvanar moved to then Madras and became a close acquaintance of the Dhanammal family. It was he who taught the family members including Jayammal, Balasarasvati’s mother popular javalis such as Vani Pondu (Kanada), Ela rAdayanE (Bhairavi) and JanarO E mOhamu (Khamas).
Nellayappa Nattuvanar died early and his son Kandappa Nattuvanar (1899-1941) therefore underwent tutelage under his uncle Kannusvami Nattuvanar (see family tree) at Tanjore and then moved to Madras when he became Balasarasvati’s (1918-1984) dance guru. It was under his tutelage and guidance that Bala ascended the stage in 1925, when she was just about 7 years old at the Ammanakshi Temple at Kanchipuram. As the conductor-in-chief of Bala’s dance ensemble, Kandappa Nattuvanar taught many pieces to the rest of the team. And amongst them was Sri Gnanasundaram who handled the vocals in Bala’s ensemble and he must have likely learnt sarasAlanu from Kandappa Nattuvanar. What we now know for sure in this entire narrative is that it was from Gnanasundaram that the legendary Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan (1918-1973) came to acquire this composition from after being so enamored of it. And he in turn taught it to Dr Ritha Rajan, his disciple whose rendering of sarasAlanu is featured in this blog. I have to point out that we do not have any recording of the rendering of sarasAlanu by any member of the Veena Dhanammal family including Sri T Visvanathan. See Foot Note 4.
And sadly, we do not have a recording of the Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan singing sarasAlanu. In this context we need to remember that the Karnataka Kapi seen in this composition is what is called as the upAnga version, which is bereft of anya svaras such as the antara gandhara (G3) or kakali nishadha (N3) or suddha dhaivatha (D1) which have come to be featured in modern day versions of the raga Kapi. It is worth recording here in the context of upAnga Kapi that it was Ramnad Krishnan again who learnt the jAvali “parulannamAta” of Dharmapuri Subbaraya Iyer in this upAnga version of Kapi from Rupavati Ammal, the younger sister of Vina Dhanammal who lived in Hyderabad and then rendered it often thus bringing it to the limelight.
Ponnayya – A Distinguished Composer:
I would argue further that sarasAlanu was the core for sUmasAyaka given the credentials and creative abilities of Ponnayya, of the Quartet. In fact, the perusal of the text of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini would show that for two ragas namely Binnasadja and Camara, Subbarama Dikshita provides the kritis of Ponnayya alone as the authority for the respective raga lakshanas. In his commentary Subbarama Dikshita ahead of the Binnasadja kriti “srI guruguha mUrtikinE” (Mela 9) records thus:
This kirtana was composed by Ponnayya, who was the hereditary dance teacher of the Tanjore samasthana, and who was a disciple of Muttusvami Dikshita, was a great scholar in the laksya, and lakshana aspects of bharata sastra and who had also earned fame by composing numerous svarajatis and varnas, suitable for dances.
That apart under Malavagaula (Mela 15), the kriti “mAyAtIta svarUpini” of Ponnayya has also been provided as an exemplar by Subburama Dikshita. It is however unfortunate that we hardly rely upon the compositions of the Quartet as authority for raga lakshana, when even Subbarama Dikshita had done so without any reservations whatsoever.
This demonstrated and acknowledged composing mastery of Ponnayya is another aspect that supports the proposition/conjecture that sarasAlanu was composed earlier by Ponnayya. much prior to the Quartet’s migration to the Travancore Court. No further evidence is therefore needed to conclude that Ponnayya was a composer par excellence and the authorship and originality of sarasAlanu and its tune can without doubt be ascribed to him, without any doubt whatsoever.
And so, every time one hears the Karnataka Kapi of sUmasAyaka we should for a moment recall the aesthetic construct of the varna and the raga therein. Hark at the different shades of the gandhara of mela 22 as well as the placement of the svaraksharas such as on the madhyama note which will evoke awe spontaneously. The credit for this conceptualization should undoubtedly go to Ponnayya of the Quartet, the illustrious disciple of Muthusvami Dikshita. To clarify, this is not to belittle or discredit Maharaja Svati Tirunal or call into question his compositional abilities in any way. As in the case of “gana nAyakam” and “srImAnini”, the Maharaja was perhaps left smitten by the melodic fabric of sarasAlanu that he went on to compose another set of lyrics for it out of sheer love for the melody of sarasAlanu.
And thus here, all that is sought to be argued is that sarasAlanu was anterior in time composed by Ponnayya, the Maharaja after hearing it later in time composed sUmasAyaka to the same mettu/dhatu and that the preponderance of evidence on hand and of probability as well, firmly supports this line of reasoning.
Further in the context of ragamalikas, it is seen that it was part of the kriti format even prior to 1800’s, as evidenced by the compositions of Melattur Virabhadrayya and Ramasvami Dikshita. And the family of Dikshitas reveled in composing ragamalikas. Having been under the tutelage of Muthusvami Dikshita, the Quartet seem to have warmed up to this concept of stringing in ragas so much so that sarasAlanu came to be appended with a ragamalika ettugada svara section, which to my best of knowledge is not seen in any pre 1830 AD composition of the genre of varnas. This piece of melodic engineering can perhaps only be very much confidently ascribed to the Quartet’s tutelage under Muthusvami DIkshita.
Discography Part 2:
Even as I had almost finished composing this fairly long blog post, as if in answer to my wish, my co-rasika acquaintances- see Foot Note 5 – mailed me the entire 45-minute recording of the rendering of sarasAlanu by Balasarasvati’s famed ensemble presumably from one of her dance recitals. The audio recording also has the sound of the bells of Bala’s anklets as well.
And this recording for sure features the following artistes/Vidvans – vide Foot Note 6 below.
Kanchipuram Sri. C. P. Gnanasundaram alias Gnani and Sri Narasimhulu – Vocals ;
Sri Radhakrishna Naidu – Clarinet; Kanchipuram Sri Kuppuswami Mudaliar – Mridangam
T Vishwanathan – Flute with Ganesan Pillai – Nattuvangam
After the demise of Bala’s mother Jayammal (1890-1967) Vidvan Gnanasundaram hailing from Kanchipuram assumed the mantle of the lead vocalist of the ensemble. Trained by Naina Pillai’s disciple Villiambakkam Narasimhachar he was an accomplished singer having sung in the Music Academy for instance in the December 1959 season and a graded AIR artiste as per archived records of the “Indian Listener”.
Sri C.P. Gnanasundaram. and Sri. Narasimhulu were concert musicians of high order. Their rich musical flow matched the incessant interpretative expertise of T. Balasaraswati in an outstanding manner so much so that each of Bala’s performance with this orchestral team made an unforgettable experience. And each of Bala‘s orchestra members were exponents in their own right. Upon the premature demise of Bala’s Guru Kandappa Pillai in 1942, Ganesan (1924 – 1987) his son took over as the conductor-in-chief of her ensemble. See Foot Note 7.
This audio recording which must be dateable at the latest to circa 1965, is also a snippet encapsulating history entwining the successive descendants of Carnatic music and dance’s great first families, the lineage of the Quartet and that of Tanjavur Pappammal whose lineage we today know, as the Veena Dhanammal’s family.
Dhanammal’s great great grandmother Tanjavur Pappammal was part of the Tanjore Court and her granddaughter Tanjavur Kamakshi (1810-1890) left Tanjore Court along with Sivanandam and Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet to Travancore. Tanjavur Kamakshi’s granddaughter was Veena Dhanammal. And her granddaughter Balasarasvati went on to have Kandappa Nattuvanar, a great great grandson of Ponnayya of the Quartet as her guru and later his son Ganesha Pillai as the conductor-in-chief of her ensemble.
The recording of sarasAlanu by Bala’s ensemble is thus a vista or a montage of the very history of our fine-arts, tradition and musical excellence. Decades have flown by since this recording had been made and I now wonder how the diva of our dance must have captured abhinaya for this wonderful piece, holding the audience spell bound for 40 or so minutes , all the while competing with the rapturous melody and the lyrics and with all of them vying for the rasika’s attention.
sUmasAyaka has had considerable airtime in the past decades. As pointed out earlier, the late Sangita Kalanidhi K V Narayanasvami used to render it quite regularly in his concerts. We do have the Bombay Sisters having cut a record of the same. In modern times Vidvans T M Krishna, Ramakrishnan Murthi and others have presented the composition quite frequently. See Foot Note 8.
My first encounter with sarasAlanu was when Smt Sundari, wife of Prof C S Seshadri sang for me the composition so beautifully, one summer evening more than a decade ago. I now recollect from my conversation with her that she too had learnt it from Vidvan Narasimhulu of Bala’s ensemble. Sadly, I failed to record her rendering then.
Alas thus practically sarasAlanu lies unsung and forgotten, save for Dr Ritha Rajan’s solitary rendering presented above. Even on the Bharatanatyam stage, sUmasAyaka now rules the roost. Apparently even Bala stopped performing this piece past the 1960s. With passage of time, compositions so unique like sarasAlanu will be completely forgotten and would be lost forever unless the succeeding generation learns and perpetuates the cycle of transmission.
sarasAlanu in the beautiful Karnataka Kapi is an aigrette deserving to be sung and burnished further. One hopes as always that modern day performers would take it up learn and present it in its pristine and full form frequently, including the rendering of the sahityas of the muktayi and ettugada svaras. And whenever we get to hear this composition, one should pause for a moment and remember every one of the giants from the past starting from Ponnayya of the Tanjore Quartet on to his grandson Nellayappa Nattuvanar and on to Kandappa Nattuvanar his son and then on to Ganesa Pillai & Gnanasundaram of Balasarasvati’s ensemble and to Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan and finally today on to Dr Ritha Rajan. Had it not been for this long, glorious and unbroken lineage of gurus and sishyas, starting from 1830 AD or thereabouts, we would not have been able to savor this composition today. May this glorious parampara continue so that the composition sarasAlanu will live on for many more generations to come.
Purely as an aside, I venture to conclude this post with a humorous anecdote. The beauty of the notes/svarasgandhara (G, க in tamil) and madhyama (M, ம in tamil) that have been beautifully and tellingly used in this composition reminds me of a quip reportedly made by the legendary Smt T Brinda, the source of which I am unsure. It seems once she was listening in to an All-India Radio (AIR) Arangisai broadcast of Vidvan D K Jayaraman and in it he was rendering Tyagaraja’s “nEnaruncarA nA pai” in Simhavahini. And the Vidvan after rendering the kriti apparently launched into an imaginative svara prastara sally on the pallavi line as “gm gm g, m- (nEnaruncarA)” and so on in succession, pivoting on the “gm-gm” janta phrase. Bemused, the doyenne upon the conclusion of the piece, reportedly remarked in jest in a style typical of her, making a play on the notes/words thus- “ஐய்யரு கமகமனுமணக்கமணக்கபாடறாரு”. In the instant case it is perhaps the gandhara and madhyama notes making the “kApi” or “kAfi” (as its Northern counterpart is usually referred to) of sarasAlanu, melodically fragrant (கமகம) made me recall Smt Brinda’s witty comment.
1984- T Sankaran – Article “Kandappa Nattuvanar” (English)– Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – No 072-073 (April- September 1984) -pp 55-59
1984 – T Sankaran – Article “Bala’s Musicians” (English) – Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – No No 072-073 (April- September 1984) -pp 61-65
1940 – K P Sivanandam – “Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai” (Tamil) – Reprinted in 2002 -IV Edition -pp 73-75
1948-Prof R Srinivasan– “Music in Travancore” (English) – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) Vol 19-Edited by T V Subba Rao and Dr V Raghavan -pp 107-112
2017 -Prof B Balasubramanyam, University of Wesleyan – “Music of Balasarasvati”- Lecture Demonstration at the Madras Music Academy on 22-December 2017 – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) -Volume 89 (2018)- Edited by V Sriram – Report of the Daily Proceedings of the Annual Conference of 2017- pages 19-20
2010-Douglas M Knight – “Balasaraswathi -Her Art & Life” – Published by Tranquebar Press- Chapter 2 titled “Madman at the Gate”- Pages 49-59
2017 -Dr Ritha Rajan – Article “Ramnad Krishnan” – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA) – Volume 89(2018) -Edited by V Sriram -pp 44-50.
2002 -Dr Ritha Rajan – Article “Jatisvaram & Svarajathi” – Journal of the Music Academy of Madras (JMA)- Volume LXXV (2002) -Edited by Sri TT Vasu & Nandini Ramani -pp 68-88
2019 – Compilation of Balasarasvati’s Repertoire – (English)– “Sangeet Natak”- The Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi – Vol LIII (Numbers 1-4 2019) -pp 117-122
Note 1: The recording of sarasAlanu from Dr Ritha Rajan’s concert has been sourced from the Youtube account of Krishna Narayanan which can be found here. I am thankful to him for sharing the rendering.
Note 2:The details of the concert are recorded in the blog post of a rasika Sri Bharat, which can be read here. The list of composition featured in the recital, seriatim is as under:
sAmi nI pai – Anandabhairavi – aTa – Veenai Kuppayyar (short sketch of raga) [varNam]
rAmA nI pai – kEdAram – Adi – Tyagaraja (short sketch of raga and svarams)
In the recording of Dr. Ritha Rajan’s rendering, an alert listener can discern from her remarks at the conclusion of the recording, that the same is from this particular concert as she also refers to the Kalyani composition (“kAntimati”) of Subbarama Dikshita in response to a query from a rasika, which she had rendered ahead of sarasAlanu in the concert. As one evaluates the concert listing above, one can’t but admire the Vidushi for her selection, placement and spread of the compositions, the choice of ragas including those for the sloka as well, imparting the aesthetic balance and wholesomeness to the concert recital. Again many thanks are due to “Nada Inbam” for having recorded the concert for posterity and to Parivadhini for taking the time and effort to get this concert uploaded on to YouTube
Note 3: It is on record through T Sankaran, that when Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda was roped in to provide musical training to the Royals of Travancore, she took residency in Trivandrum briefly during which time quite a number of Svati Tirunal compositions were learnt by her which explains how sUmasAyaka and valaputAla the padam in Atana, came to find place in her repertoire. It may be news to many that the doyenne apparently also learnt a bunch of Svati Tirunal compositions from Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, when she was roped in to give an AIR National program concert exclusively of Svati Tirunal compositions. I haven’t come across the recording of the said radio concert and I wonder now if the recording of her singing sUmasAyaka was from that concert.
Note 4: The legendary Veena Vidvan S Balachandar a vociferous advocate of the school of thought that Maharaja Svati Tirunal as composer was just a perpetuated myth, was so enthralled by “sarasAlanu” that he would ask his disciple Smt Gayathri Narayanan to play it. Again, we have no record of a rendering by the maestro or his disciple.
Note 5: I am in great gratitude to Krishna Narayanan again for digging out the complete track of sarasAlanu as rendered by Smt Balasarasvati’s ensemble for her performance and to Shreeram Shankar for hosting and sharing through his curated Vaak YouTube channel.
Note 6: I am greatly indebted to our family friend Ms.Sushama Ranganathan & her mother the respected Smt Nandini Ramani for confirming the identities of the performers in this clip, first hand and providing inputs as to the composition’s provenance and its rendering by Smt Balasarasvati’s ensemble. Smt Nandini Ramani, daughter of Dr V Raghavan was one of the senior disciples of Smt Balasarasvati herself and her daughter Ms.Sushama Ranganathan was trained by Ganesa Pillai, the son of Kandappa Nattuvanar.
Note 7: It is a pity that these great artistes were never duly recognized and life too wasn’t kind to them. Vidvan Gnanasundaram contracted leprosy even as he was part of Bala’s ensemble and yet Bala ensured he was part of it nevertheless and he died prematurely. These artists ultimately died unwept and unsung and possibly many in penury. For instance, here is what T Sankaran writes (circa 1984) of Kuppusvami Mudaliar alias Kuppanna who provided the mridangam accompaniment which is heard in the audio recording:
“Kuppanna is today living in Kanchipuram, pining away in infirmity, clutching his empty purse, feeding on his glad memories of his halcyon days and the bad memories of his ungrateful son aTahsildar who predeceased him.”
Ganesa Nattuvanar, died a bachelor much of his time in drunken stupor with nothing to sustain him. And alas with him the branch of the Ponnayya line of the Quartet came to an end. One should be thankful to the late Sri T Sankaran for having recorded at the least a brief biography and the contribution of these artistes, who made a Bala recital a delectable experience, in the Sangeet Natak Akademi Journal article “Bala’s Musicians”, given in the references section, without which we would have never known even the very existence of these great artistes.
Note 8: The composition sUmasAyaka is also part of the audio track of the Malayalam movie “Swati Tirunal” wherein it has been sung by Ms.B.Arundhati. The composition is also part of the Mohiniyattam repertory of compositions and occupies a pride of place in the quartet of varnams along with ‘dAni sAmajEndra’ (Todi), ‘manasimE paritApam’ (Sankarbharanam) and ‘hA hanta vanchitam’ (Dhanyasi) presented by the Kalamandalam school/tradition of Mohiniyattam and choreographed by the high-priestess of the tradition Smt Sathyabhama (Source Ms Sapna Govindan – “Tradition in Mohiniyattam” – available Online)
I am deeply in debt to Dr Ritha Rajan for providing me the time, patiently answering all my questions and for clarifying or validating many points as to this composition and its nuances and antecedents, without which this blog post would not have been complete. The photographs of Kandappa Nattuvanar and Ganesa Pillai has been taken from the Sangeet Natak Akademi Journal and the others have been sourced from the internet.
I have endeavored to present the information, facts and the inputs received from the named individuals including Dr Ritha Rajan to the best of my abilities and understanding. The arguments that I have advanced or the opinions I have expressed is independent of their viewpoints /inputs and the individuals concerned do not necessarily subscribe to the same nor do they acknowledge it as their point of view.
The renderings have been in the public domain and the copyrights if any for the performance thereof continues to be exclusively of the respective performers/authors. No part of this blog or its contents shall be commercially exploited.
Sri Ramachandra always served as a source of inspiration for poets for his ideal and desirable characters. We have innumerable compositions composed over the ages on the ‘martyavatara’ (Bhagavan who has taken the form of a human). Among all these compositions, the compositions or poems on his crowning ceremony ‘pattabhisheka’ deserve a special mention. It is said that reading or even listening to the ‘pattabhisheka’ sarga, available in the Yuddha Kanda, the sixth book of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana confers auspiciousness.
Almost every other composer or poet takes an attempt to describe the ‘pattabhisheka’ in his own inimitable way. The kriti ‘mamava pattabhirama’ in the raga Manirangu is much popular. The composer Muthuswamy Dikshitar describes this celestial event almost along the lines of Valmiki. There exists a lesser-known composition of Vaikunta Sastri in the raga Pharaju. This kriti ‘sreyase dhyayami’ starts as a paean to Ramachandra, but proceeds to mention ‘pattabhishekam’.
A very elaborative Sri Rama Pattabhishekam was picturized by Arunachala Kavirayar. Though his Rama nataka kritis are famous, this kriti intricately describing the pattabhishekam is obsolete. This kriti was set to the raga Saurashtra and has a pallavi, anupallavi and three charanas, each comprising fifteen lines. On all probabilities, this kriti ‘makutabhishekam kondane’ could be the longest composition available explaining all the events mentioned in Pattabhisheka sarga of Valmiki Ramayana.
Tyagaraja Svamigal (1767-1847) is a popular South Indian composer, well known for his devotion towards Sri Ramachandra. He is said to have composed thousands of compositions, but only around seven hundred are available. Despite being a Rama bhakta, the theme seen in his compositions is much varied. Even his ‘Rama’ based kritis can be divided into several groups. The first type of composition is those wherein he records the personal communications he had with his deity Ramachandra. Kritis like ‘adaya sriraghuvara’ in Ahiri, ‘eti yochanulu’ in Kiranavali can be cited as examples. In the second type, he delves into the Rama nama and its mahima. The kritis ‘melu melu’ in the raga Saurashtra, ‘smarane sukhamu’ in the raga Janaranjani helps us to understand this theme. The third type of composition describes his ishta devata Sri Ramachandra. The Mayamalavagaula raga kriti ‘merusamana’, ‘nee muddu momu’ in the raga Kamalamanohari can be remembered. He has also extolled the story of Rama and the kingdom ruled by Rama in the kritis ‘rama katha sudha’ and ‘karu baru’ in the ragas Madhyamavathi and Mukhari respectively. This forms the next set of kritis. The last set of kritis would be the ones wherein the incidents from Ramayana were listed. The divya nama kriti ‘vinayamu’ in the raga Saurashtra, ‘e ramuni’ in the raga Vakulabharana are good examples. This list becomes endless and we can visualize the various ways by which this composer has envisioned his devata Sri Ramachandra, his nama, and the epic Ramayana through his kritis. He literally was transported to the days of Rama Rajya!
Strangely, it is rare to see kritis explaining Sri Rama Pattabhisheka. The possibility of not getting such compositions is also to be kept in mind. From the available corpus, we will be seeing a composition that gives a vivid description of Sri Rama Pattabhisheka.
Sri Rama Pattabhisheka and Tyagaraja Svamigal
Though, the majority of the kritis of Svamigal are composed in pallavi-anupallavi-charana format, there are a sizeable number of kritis composed in pallavi-charana format and these are usually labeled as divya nama keertanas. There exist a Kapi raga kriti among the latter set wherein Svamigal has pictured pattabhisheka.
The kriti ‘sundara dasaratha’ has a pallavi and six charanas. It is a dvi-matu keertana, wherein the tune of the pallavi is different from the charanas, whereas all the charanas are set to the same tune. Here is the sahitya of this kriti
The kriti starts like any composition on Rama, not giving any clue on the theme of ‘pattabisheka’. He is described as a handsome son of the King Dasharatha. Sri Rama Pattabhisheka is visualized beginning from the first charana. Svamigal says, “O Rama! Beholding Dharaja (Sita) in your lap, I pay obeisance to you”. Though Rama is always described to be with Sita, an equal asana to Sita is given only during the pattabhisheka. The words of Valmiki ‘rAmAn ratnamayopiTE sahasItam nyavESayat’ can be remembered here. The third, fourth and fifth charana again paint us the image of pattabhisheka. Whereas the third charana mentions Bharata holding an umbrella, the fifth charana makes a rare reference to monkey chieftains, Gavaya and Gavaksha, who helped Rama to reach Lanka.
During the coronation ceremony of Sri Ramachandra, Gavaya, ordained by Sugriva brought cool water from the western ocean, in a jar set with jewels, says Valmiki (gavayaha paschimAttOyamAjahAra mahArNavat I ratnakumbhEna mahatA SItam mArutavikramaha II). Though it is common to see Anchaneya, Sugriva, Angata, and Vali being referred to in the compositions of Svamigal (or other composers), a reference about Gavaya and Gavaksha is extremely rare. The fifth charana speaks about Ghataja (Agasthya), Vasishta, Mrukandu and Gautama. These sages were invariably referred to in any keertanas describing Sri Rama Pattabhisheka.
The raga Kapi
At this juncture, it is pertinent to make a note about the raga Kapi. This is an old raga and placed as a janya of mela 22, Karaharapriya. But, the raga Kapi used by Svamigal is much different from the present form heard commonly in concerts. The svaras kakali nishadha and antara gandhara, which form an integral part of this raga are not seen in old Kapi, used by Svamigal. The accounts by Sambamurthy and Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar attest this fact. Interestingly, Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma makes a note in Sudesamitran that the original tune of the kriti ‘mivalla gunadosha’ was lost (another kriti of Svamigal in the raga Kapi), even as early as in 1938. This evidence shows the present tune available for this kriti (also for the other kritis of Svamigal in the raga Kapi) could be a later tuned one. The Valajapettai transcripts (written by Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavatar and his son Krishnasvamy Bhagavatar), which gives few Kapi raga kritis in its old form, did not give this kriti in notation. It is much unfortunate that the original tune of a kriti which mentions Sri Rama Pattabhisheka is unavailable to us. Let us hope Svamigal will bless us to get the original tune in the near future. Valajapettai version of the kriti ‘intha saukhya’, in the old Kapi raga can be heard here :
The rāga-s in Karnataka Music are innumerous and can be grouped into various ways. The most common, and perhaps the well-known system is to identify them as mēlakarta and janya rāga-s. Mēlakarta-s are 72 in number and the commonly used scheme starts with Kanakāṅgi and ends with Rasikapriya. We do have an alternative scheme, wherein these mēlakarta-s are denoted as ragāṅga rāga-s. The latter system considers Kanakāmbari as the first ragāṅga rāga (mēlakarta) and Rasamañjari as the last one. Though, it is commonly believed that mēlakarta or ragāṅga rāga is the parent raga or the clan head that give rises to janya rāga-s, glancing the pages of history reveal this to be a later developed concept and interested readers can refer to an article by Rāmanāthan (1982) to understand the same.
Though we frequently equate ragāṅga raga -s with the mēlakarta raga-s, they are structurally much different, albeit with a few exceptions (See footnote 1). It is pertinent to note that many of the ragāṅga rāga -s are listed as janya rāga-s of their complementary pair in the mēlakarta scheme elaborated in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, denoting the importance given by the grantakarta of the latter text in distinguishing ragāṅga-s from mēlakarta-s. However, it is true that the Kanakāṅgi system was much popular than the Kanakāmbari system and many composers, posterior to Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ and Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar have preferred to use this.
The term ‘rāgāṅga’ can be seen in the text Bṛhaddēsi of Mataṅga, said to have been written between 6th and 8th century CE, to denote a group of dēśi raga-s (Hēmalatā 2001:1). However, the term in the present parlance of denoting a clan head (of rāga-s) can be seen only from the text Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. He considers ‘rāgāṅga rāga’ as a sampūrṇa raga which mostly follows grāma raga. This is known as janaka and mēla rāga (Rao 2011:75). His usage of this term was based on work, ‘raga lakṣaṇa’ attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhī, the author of Caturdandīprakāṣikā.
Only the members of Dīkṣitar family gave a practical and more discernable form to these theoretical entities. Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar, a pioneer who served as a perennial source of inspiration for his descendants was the first to apply rāgāṅga rāga-s in his works. The rāgāṅga rāga-s Jhankārabhramari, Tanukīrti, Tōyavēgavāhini, etc., can all be seen in his kṛti-s for the first time (See footnote 2). His descendants Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, Bālasvāmy Dīkṣitar, and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar later elaborated on this. Surprisingly, this tradition did not survive posterior to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Among the disciple lineage of this family, these raga-s were used by Tanjāvūr Quartette (See footnote 3).
A careful inspection into Pradarṣini, the only text available to understand theoretical and practical aspects of these raga-s reveals they are not mere scales traversing the octaves; many of them are non-linear in their approach. This non-linearity, which gives them a unique and individual svarūpa was crafted purposefully or it was a documentation of a pre-existent practice cannot be ascertained. This feature is to be concentrated between the complementary members (identified by the same number in the 72 mēlakarta-rāgāṅga rāga schemes) of the different rāga classification systems.
An attempt to study these rāgāṅga rāga-s was made by Hēmalatā (2001). She has not only analyzed the compositions notated in Pradarṣini in these rāga-s, but also classified them based on the number of svara-s taken by them in āroha and avarōha. This kind of characterization can only be done for rāgāṅga rāga-s as melakarta-s are sampurna in both āroha and avarōha, differing only in their svarasthāna-s. This confers them a homogenous nature and any possible svara combination can be applied uniformly to all, at least theoretically. Contrarily, the nonlinearity seen with the rāgāṅga rāga-s makes them special and make us delve more into them.
These rāga-s deserve more individual attention as we do have many compositions outside the text Pradarṣini and also attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Moreover, taking a single rāgāṅga and analyzing all the compositions available gives us a better view of the raga svarūpa seen in these compositions. This also facilitates us to compare the lakṣaṇa of the rāgāṅga-s seen in the compositions available in Pradarṣini with those not notated in Pradarṣini. This section is intended to cover these rāga-s.
As a first step, this paper will highlight the phrases unique to the rāga Stavarāja, as seen in Pradarṣini, identify the differences between Stavarāja and Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi and proceeds to understand the svarūpa of Stavarāja seen in the compositions not notated in Pradarṣini.
The complementary pair
Stavarāja, an unpopular rāga is placed as 46th rāgāṅga raga in the Kanakāmbari – Rasamañjari scheme followed by the Dikṣitar family. Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi is its complementary rāga in the Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriya mēlakarta scheme. Both the rāga-s take the same svara varieties – śuddha ṛṣabha, sādhāraṇa gāndhāra, prati madhyama, catuśruti dhaivata, and kaiṣiki niṣadha apart from saḍja-pañcama. This similarity had made many of us believe that they are indeed the same rāga-s but with different names. However, the compositions in this rāga reveal discernable differences existing between them. Let us first examine Ṣadvidamārgiṇi and then proceed to understand Stavarāja.
Like any other mēlakarta, this is a sampūrṇa rāga, a raga with all the seven svara-s in both āroha and avarōha, arranged in order. Almost all the compositions available in this raga are treated similarly (only the works of composers who lived and/or composed prior to 20th century are considered). The mēla rāgamālika of Mahā Vaidyanātha Śivan (Subraḥmaṇya Śāstri 1937:55-56) handles this more like a sampūrṇa scale with no special phrases. However, we do find phrases that cannot be restricted within the scale in few other compositions, as can be seen from the table (See footnotes 4 and 5). Hence, Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi can be visualized as a krama sampūrṇa rāga with few exceptional phrases. However, PDS seems to be important and is perhaps the only phrase transferred from gīta to kṛti (outside its linear scale).
Table – Special phrases seen in the raga Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi
Ā rē rē sīta manōhara – Gīta
SGRG, SMG, MDP, PDS and PNS
Gñanamosaga rāda of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ
Antaraṅga bhakti of Kōtīṣvara Ayyar
PDM and NDM
Contrary to Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi, its complimentary pair Stavarāja is introduced by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar as an audava-audava rāga, lacking (varjya) gāndhāra – niṣādha in the ascent and pañcama – ṛṣabha in the descent. Though this can be simply represented as SRMPDS SNDMGS, the real svarūpa of this rāga can be perceived only by studying the gīta, attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhin, a kīrtana and a sañcāri of Muddusvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar respectively. This raga also features in the ragāṅga rāgamalika, ī kanakāmbari of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, a lexicon to understand the rāgāṅga rāga system (See footnote 6).
Analysis of the above-mentioned compositions reveals the presence of a lot of phrases outside the prescribed mūrccana, which can be learned from the table. The svara ṛṣabha occurs only as SRMP or GRS. Whenever we try to train our minds to accommodate the lakṣana prescribed in the mūrccana, we are surprised by any one of the outliers observed in the table. This surprise element continues with the kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar ‘stavarājādinuta’ on Lord Bṛhadīṣvara of Tanjāvūr.
Bṛhadīṣvara was a source of inspiration for Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, perhaps during his stay in Tanjāvūr, as a court musician in the Court of Śerfōji II (r1798-1832). Many of the kṛti-s composed on Bṛhadīṣvara and his consort Bṛhadamba are in rare rāga-s and Stavarāja is one such. With very few exceptions, the kṛti-s (on Bṛhadīṣvara and/or on his consort Bṛhadamba) do not have much information on sthala, tīrta or mūrti. Neither these kṛti-s are filled with heavy philosophical content. Certainly, this kṛti cannot be placed under the exceptional category.
‘Stavarājādinuta’ is a small kṛti set in pallavi – anupallavi – svara pattern. Interestingly, the prayōga SRMPD featuring in the gīta ‘ravi samnibha’ and in the sañcāri cannot be located in this kṛti! Contrarily many new phrases not seen in the gīta can be seen here. Despite these differences, we can clearly see the influence of this gīta on Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. Lot of similarities can be seen between the two compositions. Both the compositions start with the phrase DMGS. The immediate phrase succeeding DMGS is SNNSNNP in the gīta and S,NSNNP in the kṛti. Both the compositions use dhaivata and niṣādha as janṭa in plenty as PNN, DDNDP, etc. Also, the svara ṛṣabha is used sparsely as in gīta. All these features direct us to conclude that the mentioned kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar was composed based on this gīta. In that case, we need to account for the prayōga-s featuring in this kṛti alone.
We need to analyze two compositions of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar before arriving at a conclusion, namely ī kanakāmbari, a rāgamālika mentioned in the earlier part of this article and a sañcāri. The Stavarāja segment in the rāgamālika too starts with the phrase DMGS and is followed by SNDS. It is a faithful reproduction of phrases seen in the gīta, though in his own style. The rāgamālika and sañcari also have unique phrases seen only in the kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar like SRGS. Interestingly, his sañcāri, set to maṭya tāla also has many phrases not seen in other compositions – gīta and kṛti. We find MDDMP, PDP, PGGS, DNND, and NPDM only here. This raises the question again – the authority on which Dīkṣita-s introduced these new phrases.
This issue can be addressed in two ways – these phrases can be considered as an innovation by Dīkṣita-s or Dīkṣitar family must have had additional materials like tāna-s or gīta-s in their possession, displaying these phrases. The second possibility appears more plausible as Subbarāma Dīkṣitar reiterated several times in his text that he had many more materials in his possession and has not published them due to space restraint. A similar issue was explained by the author in an article on Gōpikāvasanta.
When the compositions of Muddusvāmy and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in this rāga are compared, we can see the latter gave an elaborate treatment, more so than the former. We find all the phrases of gīta in his rāgamālika and many new phrases in his sañcāri. Whereas, despite taking inspiration from the gīta and modeled like that, the kṛti ‘stavarājādinuta’ does not have all the phrases that can be located in the gīta. We have already observed such a finding when we discussed the kṛti ‘rudrakopa’ and the rāga Rudrapriyā.
It can be reminded that the text Saṅgraha Cūḍamaṇi, which places many of the rāgāṅga-s as a janya-s of mēlakarta-s, fail to recognize Stavarāja. This makes us believe, not all could have been aware of the rāgāṅga rāga-s like Stavarāja, in the past. Perhaps, these rāga-s could have been known only to the privileged disciples of Vēṅkaṭamakhī. Hence, to understand a rāga like this, it is essential for us to go through all the available compositions notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Based on these facts, it can be speculated that Dīkṣita-s could have had an access to unpublished materials, available only with them, carrying all these phrases, transmitting the legacy to the next generation.
The phrases not confirming with the mūrccana given in Pradarṣini carries high significance. Many of the phrases like GRS, SNP, etc., gives more flexibility for an otherwise strict scale. This peculiar feature is seen only with the rāgāṅga rāga-s. This feature is to be compared with their counterpart, Ṣadvidhamārgaṇi, wherein the latter strictly follows the scale with very few exceptional phrases. These exceptions too do not create an aural impact, as these rāga-s are all karma sampūrṇa-s with these phrases occurring occasionally. Whereas the vakra phrases, forming an integral part of the rāga architecture are seen only in the rāgāṅga-s creating a different melodic texture. This is accentuated when a svara given as varjya (ga – ni in the āroha and ri – pa in the avarōha) in mūrccana occurs in the composition, that too repeatedly. Hēmalata also highlighted this point in her thesis. She proceeds further and says such a course is not possible with the janya rāga-s having varjya svara-s, in the mēla scheme. For example, the rāga Āndōḷika with the scale SRMPNS SNDMRS cannot have the phrase PMRS or SNP (Hēmalatā 2001:89).
Perhaps the only other kṛti available in this rāga is ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’. This kṛti is attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and forms a component of ‘Non – Pradarṣini kṛti-s’. Non-Pradarṣini kṛti-s are those compositions not notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his texts but found in the books published later and are attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.
Kallidaikuricci Sundaram Ayyar (Sundaram Ayyar 1992:39-40), a disciple of Ambi Dīkṣitar has published a series of books, predominantly containing the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in notation. These books serve as an additional source to know about the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, especially the ones not published by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. For the same reason, these kṛti-s usually find a place under the ‘spurious’ category. He has notated two kṛti-s in this rāga – ‘stavarājādhinuta’ and ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’. The kṛti ‘stavarājādhinuta’ much resembles the version given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and hence the second kṛti will be taken up for discussion.
This is a paean to the Goddess Mīnākṣi of Madurai. This kṛti, along with nine other kṛti-s is usually grouped as Madhurāmba vibhakti kṛti-s. Interestingly, only two of the nine kṛti-s are notated in Pradarṣini, namely ‘śri mīnākṣi gauri’ in the rāga Gauri and ‘śyāmalāṅgi mātaṅgi’ in the rāga Śyāmaḷa. It is to be noted that both the kṛti-s does not carry the śabda ‘madhurāmba’.
The kṛti ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’ describes Mīnākṣi as a daughter of the Sage Mataṅga (mataṅga tanayām) enshrined in Madurai (madhurāmbām), the one who delights the heart of Manu, Kubera, etc., the giver of prosperity (dhaninīm) and the one who is pleased with praises offered in the rāga Stavarāja (See footnote 7). This kṛti is free of prosodic errors, as seen with many other ‘spurious’ kṛti-s, attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar.
The kṛti starts with the phrase PDSSND and has all the standard phrases that fall within the mūrccana of this rāga. The non-mūrccana phrases, typical to these rāgāṅga-s are also seen aplenty. These include SRS, PGS, DND, DMG, and DRS. It is to be noted that the phrase PGS is seen only in the sañcāri of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and DRS occurs only in the kṛti ‘stavarājādhinuta’. SRS occurs in both the kṛti and sañcāri. There occurs a prayōga MDPD, unique only to this kṛti. This phrase occurs thrice, in madana janakādi, mataṅga tanayām, and mādhavādya. The authority on the use of this phrase is not clear.
Excluding the phrase MDPD, the rāga lakṣaṇa portrayed here is much in line with the Stavarāja of the gītaṃ, kṛti and sañcāri. However, the approach seen here is distinguishingly different from the above-mentioned compositions. First, the vital phrases like DMGS, PNNDPM, NNDPM, SNNP, etc., seen in the gīta, kṛti (stavarājādhinuta) and rāgamālika are missing in this kṛti. These phrases are abundant and used repeatedly in the compositions notated in Pradarṣini and when heard together, the melodic structure of Stavarāja can be better perceived. The absence of these phrases in ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’ fails to create an image of Stavarāja, as experienced with the other kṛti-s mentioned. In addition, we see phrases like MDP- PM-PG-ND, a style usually not seen in the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar notated in Pradarṣini. Second, the svara-s gāndhāra, niṣādha, dhaivata are often used as janṭa in the compositions notated in Pradarṣini. In this kṛti, niṣādha alone occurs as a janṭa svara as SNND in two places. Third, there are no mandra sthāyi phrases in this kṛti. The phrases in the mandra sthāyi are an integral part of a kṛti of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar. In the kṛti-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar notated in Pradarṣini, we see mandra sthāyi phrases either in the basic structure of a kṛti or in its svara segment. Very rarely, we find an exception, like ‘arunācalanātham’ in Sāraṅga. In fact, the majority of the older versions of the kṛti-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ too have mandra sthāyi phrases. The absence of such a phrase in this kṛti is intriguing. The kriti ‘madhurāmbām bhajarē’ as notated by Kallidaikuricci Sundaram Ayyar can be heard here.
Though the difference of opinions exists on the authenticity of this kṛti, the Stavarāja presented here abides the rāga lakṣaṇa given in the text Pradarṣini. If we exclude the phrase MDPD, the phrases seen in this kṛti are authorized by the compositions mentioned earlier. At the same time, it is to be accepted that the presentation of Stavarāja in this kṛti is very different from the compositions seen in Pradarṣini and sounds more like a variant of Ṣadvidamārgaṇi.
Many of the rāgāṅga rāga-s are much different from their complimentary pair in the mēlakarta system. Stavarāja is one such rāga which is to be distinguished from Ṣadvidamārgaṇi. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives three compositions in this rāga and all display a similar rāga lakṣaṇa. It is through these compositions, we can perceive the rāga Stavarāja.
Madhurāmbām bhajarē, a kṛti attributed to Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar is not seen in the text Pradarṣini. The phrases seen in this kṛti are very much in line with Stavarāja of Pradarṣini, with the exclusion of a single phrase. However, the melodic structure of this kṛti does not fit with the approach seen in the compositions notated in Pradarṣini. The melodic structure perceived by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has been modified or it was composed by a musician who was inspired by the Stavarāja handled by Dikṣita-s remains a mystery.
1.It is technically not correct to say Kanakāṅgi is equivalent to Kanakāmbari, Rasikapriya is equivalent to Rasamañjari and so on, and treating the kṛti-s composed in these two rāga-s in a similar way.
2.The usage of these raga-s in kṛti -s are considered here, as gīta-s in these raga-s, notated in Pradarsini predate the works of Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar.
4.Though this kṛti is now sung in Purvikalyani, it is said to have been composed in Sadvidamargani. This kṛti also had a version in Gamanasrama. The phrase PDS is seen in the version given by Srinivasa Ayyangar (pg 101), but conspicuously not present in the version notated by S. Parthasaradhi (1986:58-60).
5.The phrase PDS is seen in the kṛti ‘antaraṅga bhakti’, notated by S.Rajam (1998:87-88).
6.A poet by name Kṛṣṇa Kavi composed this rāgamālika, which was tuned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.
7.Translation by V Gōvindan, can be accessed on the site http://guruguha.blogspot.com/2008/03/dikshitar-kriti-madhurambam-bhajare.html.
Hēmalatā R. A study of the rāgāṅga rāga-s in the Sangīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma dīkṣitar. 2001. PhD Thesis submitted to Department of Indian Music, University of Madras.
Pappu Vēṇugōpāla Rao (Ed). 2011. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. English Translation – Volume I. The Music Academy.
Pārthasārati S. 1986. Śrī Tyāgarājasvāmi Kīrtanaigaḷ – Tillaisthānam Pātam. Published by Sadguru Śrī Tyāgabraḥma Ārādana Kaiṅkaryam, Madras.
Rājam S. 1998. Śrī Kōtīsvara Ayyarin Kīrtanaigaḷ. Published by Rasikās, Mailapūr.
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
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
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.
All these kritis are composed in Telugu and are on either Lord Brhadiswara or Devi Brhadiswari.
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.
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:
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
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
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’.
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).
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.
Versions seen in the manuscripts too correspond extraordinarily well
with the other sources. Few striking differences are seen:
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’).
The kriti ‘sri raja rajeswari’
has few special phrases that are seen in the gitam given in Sangita Sampradaya
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.
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.
I profusely thank Sri Sivakumar for allowing me to peruse the manuscripts said to be written by Tanjavur Quartette.
(Dhyana Sloka of Lord Mahaganapati from the Mudgala Purana)
Meaning: I sing the praise of the great red hued Lord with the countenance of the King of Elephants, who wears the moon, has three eyes, embracing his beloved atop his lap with His lotus like hands and who holds the pomegranate , mace, sugarcane bow, discus, blue lotus flower, noose , broken tusk and bejewelled pitcher.
Legend has it that Muthusvami Dikshita composed a set of kritis on the Shodasa Ganapatis (16 forms of Lord Ganesa) But no mention of this so-called set is found expressed in the “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” (“SSP”) of Subbarama
Dikshita. One amongst this so-called set is this composition “hastivadanAya namastubhyam” in the raga Navaroz or Navaroj set in misra eka tala and is found notated in the SSP.
In this blog post to celebrate the upcoming Ganesa Caturthi festival, we will delve into this composition which is a magnum opus both from a lyrical and musical perspective. In other words, a musical tour de force by Dikshita. It is also available to us from the oral traditions in the sisya parampara of Muthusvami Dikshita which we will see in the discography section.
The lyrics of this kriti together with the meaning is as under:
kRtti vasana dhara-arcita –(My salutation to the one) worshipped by the Lord who
wears an elephant hide ( Lord Shiva)
gaNapAya – the great Lord of
svarUpAya – the embodiment of
the Supreme truth,
bhakta-anugrahAya – the bestower of grace on all devotees,
vigrahAya– the one whose form is embraced
by the goddess who signifies Maya-Shakti (the power of illusion),
pASa Sankha cakra-ikshu-kArmuka vrIhyagra gadA nija vishANa – mAtulanga ratna
kalaSa dharaNa kara-ambujAya -the one who has lotus-like hands that hold a
lotus, a water-lily, a noose, a conch, a discus, a sugarcane bow, rice stalks,
a mace, his own (broken) tusk, a pomegranate and a bejewelled pitcher;
pankajAya – the one with
– the pure one
sthiti vilayAya –the agent of creation, protection and destruction of the
– the abode of mercy,
tanaya-Anana pankaja -hiraNya garbhAya –the sun (Hiranya-garbha) to the
lotus-face of Parvati (daughter of Himavan), making it bloom,
– the good-hearted one,
ramaNa kumAra guruguha-samAnavaraOjasE –the one who equals
Guruguha, the son of Shiva (husband of Uma), in vigour and splendour,
– the brilliant one.
sloka of the Mahaganapati form of Lord Ganesa as found in the Mudgala Purana
provides the iconography of this form. It can be seen that the same is fully
reflected in the composition.
is found notated in both the SSP and the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai”
(published in 1936 AD) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, who along with
Veena Dhanammal learnt Dikshita’s compositions including this one from Satanur
Pancanada Iyer of Muthusvami Dikshita’s sisya parampara. See Foot Note 1.
of the song:
very outset in the pallavi, Dikshita captures for us the high level and the
overall perceptible visual setting of the Lord – his elephantine countenance,
the throne on which he is seated and the environ, being the golden pavilion and
he pays obeisance to Him.
the anupallavi, even while he keeps his date with the dviteeyakshara prasa,
Dikshita proceeds to praise Him on four aspects before looping back to the
Lord Shiva himself propitiating Him- ahead of the destruction
of Tripura– the allusion to Lord Shiva as the One wearing elephant hide
is reminiscent of the poet Kalidasa’s invocatory sloka of his play Malavikagnimitram
referring to Him as “krittivAsa”
Him being the benefactor of all devotees – this
again is an epithet which is found as well in the other kriti of Dikshita “guruguhAya
bhaktAnugrahAya” in the raga Sama.
Him being the embodiment of truth and lastly
Him being the one who encompasses mAyA –
the illusory world.
construct of the carana is a wonderous conceptualization by Dikshita. What
stands out in this magnificent composition is the remarkable way in which the
form – the iconography of Mahaganapati- has been described by Dikshita in
the first two lines of the carana which runs continuously thus:
pASa Sankha cakra-ikshu-kArmuka vrIhyagra gadA nija vishANa – mAtulanga ratna
kalaSa dharaNa kara-ambujAya” (see word by word meaning above)
cue from the Mudgala Purana dhyana sloka but yet fleshing it out in the
composition for keeping prAsA, ordering them so as to segue with the
tala by stretching & contracting the lyrics (ordering the hrasva-dhIrgha
syllables) and investing it with the unalloyed melody of Navaroj, Dikshita
paints the picture of the great Lord. This style of recording the iconography
is similar to the way he has done in “Pancamatanga
mukha” in Malahari and “ucchista ganapatou” in Ramakriya, for
instance. We also did see in an earlier blog post how Dikshita depicted the
Devi as Goddess Kamesvari, in the Sahana kriti “IsAnAdhi
sivAkAra mancE”, turning the composition into a melodic pen picture,
describing Her iconography in detail.
in the carana, after this iconographic depiction Dikshita reverts to a couple
of paeans adulatory of Him and then as a crowning glory or the crescendo of this
kriti he appends the madhyama kala sahitya to this composition which
encompasses the entire lyrical and musical essence he has to offer. He
dexterously meshes in the raga mudra in the lyric “samAnavarOjasE”
along with his own colophon “guruguha”, to mean that the Lord
is as splendorous as His equally illustrious sibling Guruguha or Lord
Subramanya. Dikshita to complete the lyrical text of the composition and also
to keep prAsA in place, prefixes a relationship-based reference to Lord
Subramanya as “.umA ramana kumAra guruguha”. This lyrical contraption is
reminiscent of the reference “murArI snushAkAniramjani” used in the
kriti “kalAvati kamalAsanayuvati” in the raga Kalavati and ‘himAdri
jAmAtri jambUpati sahitE” in “srI mAtAh sivavAmAkE” in Begada. The
usage of the word “Ojas” and its usage to complete the raga mudra herein
can be cited as authority for the raga naming being “Navaroj”.
needless to add, Dikshita packs the very essence of the raga Navaroj in this
madhyama kala sahitya. It is no surprise that both Dr V Raghavan and Sangita
Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer, the main biographers of Muthusvami Dikshita,
wax eloquently and go rapturous over this Navaroj composition in their works.
See Foot Note 2.
context of the composition or the stala of this Mahaganapati
dealt with in this kriti is discernible from the composition per se.
It is highly likely that somewhere in the sprawling complex of the Tiruvarur
Tyagaraja Temple this form of Lord Ganesa i.e. Mahaganapathi is found
enshrined in one of its innumerable sanctums and Muthusvami Dikshita has
propitiated that icon with this composition.
Navaroj or Navaroz or Navarasam as it is called in Kathakali music is a scalar
derivative of Sankarabharana sung in madhyama sruti. It is a raga not seen
documented by Sahaji (1700AD) or Tulaja (1735 AD) or by anybody prior such as
Venkatamakhin (circa 1620 AD). Sahaji and Tulaja have on the contrary
documented the sibling raga Kurinji which we saw in an earlier blog post. Arguably
the raga Navaroj has been first listed out only in the Anubandha to the Caturdandi
Prakashika attributable to Muddu Venkatamakhin and dateable to circa 1750
AD. We do have two pre-trinity period compositions in this raga, but
nevertheless from a musicological perspective the Anubandha can be considered as
the first text to document the melody.
commentary of this raga by Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP (1904 AD) forms the
bedrock for us to comprehend this raga. We will understand this raga in two
parts- one as documented by Subburama Dikshita and secondly by comparing it
to Subbarama Dikshita:
The raga progresses thus – p d n S R G M P and P M
G R S n d p under mela 29, from the mandhara pancama to the madhya pancama and
Dhaivatha, gandhara and rishabha are the key life-giving
notes of the raga
The madhya stayi pancama is only touched rarely (alpa
prayoga) in practice and practically the madhyama note is the upper bound
of the raga.
The raga can be illustrated with a number of native
note that musical note in lower case signifies mandhara stayi and upper
case signifies madhya stayi in this narrative section)
from a lakshya gitam and his own sancari, the solitaire “Hastivadanaya
Namastubhyam” of Muthusvami Dikshita in misra eka tala (7 beats kept
as a laghu, being a clap of the hand followed by six finger counts) is provided
by Subbarama Dikshita in the SSP as an exemplar for the raga. It has to be
pointed out that the kriti is typically rendered in misra capu tala in
Prof S R
Janakiraman in his work “Raga Lakshanangal” provides his
The raga Navaroj corresponds to the ancient “kolli
pann” of Tamil music.
Navaroj is a pancamAntya janya raga of
Sankarabharana, traversing from mandhara pancama to the madhya pancama with the
notes R2, G3, M1, P, D2 and N3.
Traversal beyond madhya stayi pancama is forbidden
in this raga and therefore for ranjakatva it is always sung in madhyama
Sndn\p – the movement from the madhya sadja to the
mandhara pancama is the life blood of that raga wherein the glide from the
nishadha to the pancama via the jAru gamaka (glissando) distinguishes
The raga is found in popular music especially in
lAli, oonjal and lullaby songs.
Navaroj differs from Kurinji on three key aspects:
Kuranji spans upto madhya dhaivatha
(nSRGMPD/DPMGRSn) whereas Navaroj (pdnSRGMP/PMGRSndp) spans only upto madhya
pancama. Curiously the respective top notes in both the ragas are touched only
Kurinji eschews SRGM and instead uses only
SMGM-RGM in its purvanga. No such limitation is seen in Navaroj in its purvanga.
In Kurinji the mandhara nishadha is the lower
bound note with the occasional s\pS occurring. Au contraire, the
expression “Sndp” or more importantly “Sndnp” occurs prolifically in Navaroj as
a leitmotif in the mandhara stayi.
Kurinji and Navaroj are avowed madhyama sruti ragas as seen from modern day
I seek to present three renderings of this compositions each one a beauty in itself. And as primus inter pares, I first present the version available to us from the oral tradition, that of the Veena Dhanammal family, tracing its way to Dikshita himself via Sathanur Pancanada Iyer and Tambiyappan Pillai. Vidushis T Brinda & T Mukta present this bewitching composition in this recording. It is a fact that this composition along with others including “vInA pustaka dhArinIm” in Vegavauhini (khanda eka) is considered an exclusive heirloom of Veena Dhanammal’s family for their exquisite rendering of the composition.
Presented next is the rendering of the composition by Vidvan T Visvanathan of same Dhanammal lineage as he learnt it from his mother.
Presented next is “Dikshitarini” Vidusi Kalpagam Svaminathan, soulfully playing it on the veena in this rare video, recorded for posterity.
And finally, Prof S R Janakiraman presents the composition:
The composition is deeply meditative and contemplative in its construction, loaded with both sangita and sahitya bhava in equal measure. It is a pity that the kriti is not heard in concert halls these days. As an exception, Sangita Kala Acharya Vidusi Smt. Seetha Rajan is her rare concert performances frequently features this in the second half of her recital towards the fag end. Its hoped that the composition is rendered frequently in the days to come, doing full justice to its musical and lyrical content in full measure.
Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil
by Madras Music Academy (1977) in Tamil -Vol IV- Mela 29 Pages 924-929
Prof S R Janakiraman (1996) – “Raga
Lakshanangal” (Tamil) – Published by Madras Music Academy – Vol II – pp
Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga
Descriptions – pp 1016 – 1017
Dr V Raghavan (1975) – “Muttusvami Dikshitar”- Special Bicentenary
Number – National Center for the Performing Act (Vol IV – Number 3 – Sep 1975)
T A Gopinatha Rao (1985) – Elements of Indian Iconography – Volume I – pp
The oral tradition or pAthams of the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita are available
to us today only through two main lines or lineages. One is the lineage
emanating from Dikshita on to his disciple Tambiappan Pillai and on to Sathanur
Pancanada Iyer and finally to Dhanammal and Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram
Pillai. The second line traces through from Subbarama Dikshita on to his son
Ambi Dikshita and then on to Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, Kallidaikurici
Vedanta Bhagavathar, D K Pattammal and others who learnt from Ambi Dikshita. We
do not have any other musicians surviving today who trace back to Muthusvami
Dikshita through any other sisya parampara lineage, though Subbarama
Dikshita records a number of his disciples of Dikshita such as Tirukkadaiyur
Bharati, Tevur Subramanya Iyer & others. The transmission of songs through
the line of Tanjore Quartet is at best minor and not much has been gleaned from
this lineage by way of authority for the compositions of Dikshita.
Vidvan R K Sriramkumar always covers this Navaroj composition in his lecture demonstrations
of Dikshita’s compositions. Once such instance is this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDp7rIpmPss&t=678s wherein he demonstrates “Hastivadanaya” from 8:00 to 14:43 in this recording.
We get to know the structure of many rāga-s only through Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This text has both musical and musicological importance, as the rāga-s are not only explained by their phrases, but also through compositions. One such rāga whose svarūpa can be grasped well by analyzing this text is Gōpikāvasanta. A detailed analysis of this rāga has been done, wherein the author has concluded that Gōpikāvasanta is actually a name given to an old rāga by name Induganṭāravam. The conclusion was made based on the similarities between the two rāga-s and by considering the musicological treatises. Let us revisit this hypothesis in the light of some fresh evidences.
Gōpikāvasanta – Lakṣaṇa
Perhaps Subbarāma Dīkṣitar and Anubanda to Caturdanḍīprakāśikā attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi were the only teatises that describe this raga (See Footnote 1). Gōpikāvasanta is a bhāṣāṅga, vakra sampūrṇa janya of mēla 20 (Nārīrītigaula or Naṭabhairavi). He gives a śloka and mūrcana and few phrases to explain the rāga and then proceeds to give a kṛti of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and his own sañcāri. We have mentioned in our post on Kamās that interpreting the mūrcana verbatim will not only lead to confusion, but also an incomplete understanding of a rāga and it is always to be combined with the notated compositions. Likewise, in this case we do find some discrepancies between the lakṣaṇa given in the śloka and the prayōga-s seen in the kṛti. Let us first look into the lakṣaṇa ślōka given in Pradarṣini:
dhavakraśca avarōhē rivakritaḥ II
The gṛha of this sampūrṇa rāga
is ṣaḍjam and the svara-s dhaivata and ṛṣbha are vakra in ārōhaṇa and avarōhaṇa
respectively are the maximum possible details that can be gathered from this
lakṣaṇa śloka.1 Mūrcana given by Dīkṣitar is RSRGMPDPNNS SNDPMGRMGS which
gives a slightly clear picture. It can be observed that the possible phrase
that lead us to tāra ṣaḍja is PNNS and to that of madya ṣaḍja is RMGS. More detail
can be gathered by studying the salient phrases delineated by Dīkṣitar (See Footnote
2). By this exercise, few details not mentioned in the śloka and mūrcana can be
learnt. Also we come to know the additional phrase to reach tāra ṣaḍja is PS.
Similarly madya ṣaḍja can also be touched by the phrase RGS. There are special
phrases like NDM and RM which is usually suffixed with RG or GS.
The above elucidation clearly
shows the importance of reading the rāga as a whole rather than analyzing the mūrcana
alone. Our learning further enhances and is completed when the kṛti-s in this rāga
notated by Dīkṣitar are analyzed.
Gōpikāvasanta was taken up by
a conclave of musicians in The Music Academy conference as a part of rāga lakṣaṇa
discussion. A reference to the mūrcana given by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has been
made and an utsava sampradāya kīrtanam of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal was sung by Māṅgudi
Cidambara Bgāgavatar. A consensus was made and this rāga was considered as a
janya of mēla 20 with the presence of antara gāndhāra, catuśruti dhaivata and kākali
niṣādha. This rāga followed the scale SRGMPNS
SNDPMGS. This lead us nowhere and we don’t know whether that was a
different rāga or a variant (aberrant form?) existed at that time.2
There are two kṛti-s
notated by Dīkṣitar in this rāga. The first one is the well-known ‘bālakṛṣṇam
bhāvayāmi’ of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and the second one is ‘gōvindarājam’, a very
rare one by Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar tuned the compositions of the
latter composer and this is no exception. Though many of the compositions of Kṛṣṇasvāmy
Ayya can be seen in Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini, this composition is seen
only in the lesser known and perhaps the last publication of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
‘Samskṛta ānḍra drāviḍa kīrtanālu’ published in the year 1906 (See Footnote 3).3
There is supposed to be a kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svamigal in this rāga which will be
taken up soon.
bhāvayāmi of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar
This is a kṛti on Śrī Kṛṣṇa. No reference to any
specific kṣetra is seen in this kṛti. As mentioned earlier, this has many prayōga-s,
not mentioned in the mūrcana or in the specific phrases listed like PMPG, P(mandra
sthāyi)R, SGR,SMMS and RGMGS. Analysis of this kṛti can be read in the article
of Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya – Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayya is an
underrated composer who has composed many kṛti-s in Sanskrit, Tamiz and Telugu.
It is much unfortunate that many of his kṛti-s are not presented on stage. Subbarāma
Dīkṣitar’s musical inception can be studied by analyzing these tunes and are
definitely useful in understanding the musical style of Dīkṣitar family. This kṛti
is on Kṛṣṇa incarnated as Gōvindarājā.
This is set in pallavi-anupallavi-caraṇam format with a muktāyi svara at the end. Many of the key phrases seen in the kṛti ‘bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi’ and the phrases elucidated while describing the rāga can be seen here. Even before we cross the first line of the sāhitya, the phrase P(mandra sthāyi)S is highlighted and this phrases repeats. Similarly, PS too recur often. We do see some new phrases like SRS, PNDNDM, and DNDDM. Phrases used by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar like RGMGS, SMMS are not seen here. Whereas the svara-s ṣaḍja and gāndhāra were used as gṛha svara by Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, it is pañcama and gāndhāra by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. This kṛti by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has many repetitive phrases like GRGS, DNDNDM and SPS which is not the case with the other kṛti. It is very clear that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has tried to give us a very different picture of this rāga. It is to be remembered here that Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has extracted this rāga to its maximum possible limit without compromising the melody. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, understanding this limitation and being aware of the restricted scope of this rāga has shown us the lesser exposed side of this rāga, thereby giving a different, yet complete picture. This kṛti also serves as an exemplar to understand Dīkṣitar’s musical acumen in the realm of tāla. This kṛti can be heard here.
of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
In the treatise Saṅgīta
Sampradāya Pradarṣini, whether a particular rāga is furnished with a kṛti or
not, it invariably has a sañcāri composed by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Sañcāri in
this rāga forms an important role as it is not just an encapsulation of the kṛti
‘bālakṛṣṇam bhāvayāmi’ or the phrases he elucidated while introducing this rāga.
Neither is it a replica of the phrases seen in the kṛti ‘gōvindarājam’. It is
unique in its own way as it gives us a more complete picture of this rāga. New
phrases found here help us to understand this rāga further, which includes PDM,NS,
SNS and GGPP. The phrase SPS is again
stressed and also we get to see other phrases in mandra sthāyi like PR and NS (P
and N are in mandra sthāyi).
From the above discussion
it could be well perceived that Dīkṣitar has not explained all the phrases in
his introductory remarks (to this rāga); mūrcana given by him is not
comprehensive in explaining a rāga. When we see the phrases which cannot be
redacted from the mūrcana and also when older forms like gīta or prabandha were
not furnished (in his Pradarṣini), how and from where Dīkṣitar extracted these
Following hypotheses can be
Dīkṣitar (Muddusvāmy and/or
Subbarāma) could have had unpublished gīta-prabandha-s with them (See Footnote
Rāga lakṣana said to be
written by Vēṅkaṭamakhi, which was in the possession of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
could have an explanatory phrases to understand rāga-s like this. The book what
we call it as ‘anubandha’ appears to be an incomplete work. A lakṣaṇa granta
tries to explain a rāga with its phrases or more detailed ślōka-s. The ślōka-s
in the ‘anubandha’ are totally redundant in understanding a rāga and they more
appear to be a part of a main treatise which is yet to be discovered.
and Indughanṭārava – Two names for a single rāga?
We have reiterated several times that the compositions handed over to us by oral tradition or through the printed texts and the rāga lakṣaṇa therein is not comprehensive in any manner. We need to look into unpublished manuscripts lying untouched at various repositories. Analysis without considering the data given in the manuscripts will be superfluous and will not give us an exact solution.
manuscript in Tanjāvūr Mahārāja Śerfoji Sarasvati Mahāl Library (TMSSML)
TMSSML is a veritable
source to understand the cultural history of Tanjāvūr as it preserves
manuscripts related to our culture and many of them are yet to be explored. Many
of these manuscripts are believed to be of Nāyak period.3 One among
this is a manuscript having a collection of gīta-s and sūlādi-s in notation. This
manuscript also has a notation for āyittam in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta (See
Footnote 5). Gōpikāvasanta is also mentioned as (a janya of) Bhairavi mēla. This
shows the existence of this rāga during or even before the period of Śāhāji and
Tulaja. The phrases there in, though much less elaborative that what is seen in
the compositions mentioned above, is much suggestive of Gōpikāvasanta. Excluding
two phrases, other prayōga-s can be seen in the compositions mentioned above. The
unique prayōga-s seen only in this āyittam are GRS and PDNS! How can we
reconcile this? This rāga also has the phrases PDND (also seen in the āyittam)
Technically, this rāga could
have had these phrases (GRS and PDNS) and these composers could have avoided
using this phrase. Not necessarily, a composer is expected to exhaust all the
phrases in his composition. Secondly, Dīkṣitar has mentioned several phrases in
many rāga-s that they are used only in gīta-s or prabandha-s and not in kīrtana-s.
Even in this case, Dīkṣitar remarks, the phrase PNS or SNS is seen only in the
tānam. GRS and PDNS could have been such unique phrases used only in those
genres and not used in kṛti-s.
Based on these evidences,
we can clearly say this is definitely an old rāga, existent even before the
time of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and due to some unknown reasons, was not catalogued
in the treatises like Rāga lakṣaṇamu of Śahāji or Saṅgīta Sāramṛta of Tulaja. Having
said this, we will now analyze Indughaṇṭārava and see how it differs from Gōpikāvasanta.
This is a janya of Bhairavi
mēla says Śahāji and Tulaja. This could correspond to Nārīrītigaula mentioned
by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. They have given some illustrative phrases and stressed
PDNS and MGRS will not occur in this rāga.5
Though it appears much
similar to Gōpikāvasanta, certain vital differences can be seen on careful
introspection of the phrases given by them. First is the appearance of the
phrases PDNS and GRS. This cannot occur in Indughaṇṭārava, but seen in Gōpikāvasanta.
Second is the phrase SRGMGS. This is seen only in Indughaṇṭārava and not in the
āyittam or any of the available compositions in Gōpikāvasanta. The common avarōhaṇa
phrase in Indughaṇṭārava is SNDPM, which is certainly not permissible in Gōpikāvasanta
(See Footnote 6).
Based on the available evidences, we can clearly conclude both are old rāga-s and are much allied to each other. We had many gīta-s and tāna-s in both these rāga-s, implying both could have been popular. As mentioned earlier, due to some unknown reasons, some musicologists failed to catalogue Gōpikāvasanta (See Footnote 7). We get to know Indughaṇṭārava is a ghana and naya rāga. Can Gōpikāvasanta be a dēśīya rāga and hence got missed to be catalogued like many other dēśīya rāga-s?
kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal
We have mentioned about Māṅgudi Cidambara Bāgavatar singing an utsava sampradāya in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta. Though we have no clue on the kṛti, we can narrow down our search based on an information given by Taccur brothers.
Taccur brothers had
published a series of books in the earlier part of the last century. One among
them is Śrī Bhagavad Sārāmṛtam, published in the year 1916.6 This
has a kṛti of Svāmigal in the rāgaṃ Gōpikāvasanta.
Śri rāma rāma rāma is an
utsava sampradāya kṛti, now sung in Nīlāmbari. Almost all the texts mention the
rāga of this kṛti as Nīlāmbari, but mentioned as Gōpikāvasanta by Taccur
brothers. Another significant observation here is the tāla of this kṛti is not
specified. It should be sung like an ālāpana, without reckoning tāla says the
author. We were unable to find any living tradition singing this kṛti like this.
The melody of this sounds
much different from the Gōpikāvasanta that we were discussing. Many phrases
like PMR and RGMDP, which are not seen in the compositions mentioned earlier
can be seen. The svarūpa seen here does not even seem to match the scale given
by them (in the ‘rāga lakṣaṇa proceedings’ happened in The Music Academy); Gōpikāvasanta
mentioned by them is devoid of ṛṣbham, but this version has. Combining these
evidences with the points mentioned in The Music Academy conference, this could
have been some other rāga disguised in the name of Gōpikāvasanta.
Based on the presently available evidences, we can conclude Gōpikāvasanta was a separate entity from Indughaṇṭārava though they share very many similarities. Many rāga-s have not been catalogued by the lakṣaṇa granthakāra-s and it is only by examination of gīta-prabandha manuscripts preserved at various repositories and texts like Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini we get to know the mere existence of these rāga-s. The Dīkṣitar family had done a great service by providing these abstract rāga-s in the form of kṛti-s which are more palatable than any other form and we are indebted to Subbarāma Dīkṣitar for cataloguing rāga-s like Gōpikāvasanta which do not have any textual reference. This also shows Dīkṣitar was much aware of his tradition and assiduously bequeathed to us.
I thank Dr Ārati Rao, Research Scholar for providing me a copy of TMSSML manuscript.
Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi and its
allied texts do make a note of this rāga. But the scale given there lacks ṛṣbham
completely and is much different from the Gōpikāvasanta described here.
RgmrG, RmrG, Rggs, RgM,
PdpM, GmP, rgmP, ndM, grmgS, rmrgS, PsPPs,
GRmgS, Pnns, psns were few of the phrases mentioned by Dīkṣitar (P is in mandra sthāyi).
Raṅga Rāmānuja Ayyaṅgār has notated this composition in his book ‘kṛti maṇi mālai’. We find a completely different version there. This version is not taken for comparison, as we have an authentic version given by the composer himself and the version by Ayyaṅgār is definitely a retuned one irrespective of his source. The tāla intricacies seen in the composer’s version is not maintained here and this version also lacks the citta svaram.
Dīkṣitar, at many places in
Pradarṣini proclaims he has supplementary material in the form of tāna-s and
gīta-s and not publishing them because of space restraint. One such example
that might be of relevance here is the note that he gives in the Ābhērī rāga
lakṣana. He clearly mentions he has tāna-s to support the statement given by
him regarding the lakṣaṇa and not publishing them. For the same reason, he
could have refrained himself from publishing tāna-s in the rāga Gōpikāvasanta.
Rāga ālāpana was also
referred as ‘āyitam’.
It is to be accepted that
the phrases available to us are very limited and we need to see the compositions
in full to understand the rāga Indughaṇṭārava.
In this regard, Gōpikāvasanta
alone is not a solitary exclusion. Many dēśi rāga-s like Bhairavam, Aṭhāṇa, Bēgaḍa
etc., were not catalogued by Śāhāji and Tulaja.
We have seen about the rāga Rudrapriyā, its gṛha,
amsa, nyāsa svarā-s and salient phrases in the two earlier posts. It was established
that Rudrapriyā was mentioned by various names, the most common one being Karnāṭaka
Kāpi. It was also illustrated the name Rudrapriyā was used to denote different
scales in the past.
We have been mentioning in our earlier posts
that Rudrapriyā elucidated in the main body of Saṅgīta Samprādaya Pradarśini is
much different from the two kṛtis, ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’,
notated in the ‘anubandham’ of the same text. The lakṣaṇa of these two kṛti-s
too does not confirm with each other. The kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ was
covered in an earlier post and the second kṛti will be the subject of
discussion in this post.
bhajarē in Saṅgīta Samprādaya Pradarśini
This is a very small kṛti constructed in a pallavi-anupallavi
format. This is not even suffixed with a ciṭṭa svara passage. This is an ode to
Tyāgēśa of Tiruvārur. Despite being a small kṛti, it has a reference to an important
attribute associated with the deity Tyāgēśa. The relics of Tyāgeśa like his
swords and throne are equally famous and much venerated as the Lord himself in
this shrine. He is the sovereign, rules the world and his throne is said to be
made of precious gems (Ratna simhāsanam). Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar has referred to
His throne in many of his compositions, ‘kanaka ratna simhāsanābharaṇa’ in the Vīravasanta
kṛti ‘vīravasanta tyāgarāja’, ‘simhāsanapatē’ in this kṛti and in ‘tyāgarājaya
namaste’, a kṛti in Bēgaḍa. There is a ślokam ‘Tyāgarāja aṣṭakam’ attributed to Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar.1
As the name indicates, this has eight verses and each verse ends with the line
‘śri tyāgarāya namo namaḥ’. The second verse here again refers to this throne
as ‘samśobhi simhāsana samsthithāya’ (one who sits on a greatly shining throne).
Musically, the rāga lakṣaṇa portrayed here is much different from others kṛti-s notated in Rudrapriyā. Excluding a single phrase MGMGGR, the lakṣaṇa followed here more confirms with the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS, which can be heard here. This is one of the few kṛti-s, wherein Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar strictly follows a scale. The gṛha svara used here includes gāndhāra, pañcama and niṣādha and the nyāsa svara is always madhyama. We do find a plenty of janṭa gāndhāra, dhaivata and niṣādha prayōga-s. Excluding the use of janṭa phrases, we do not find any similarity with the rāga Rudrapriyā. More about the rāga Rudrapriyā can be read here. We now get a question, can a kṛti with this lakṣaṇa can be called as Rudrapriyā ?
We have not seen the
opinion of other musicians/musicologists on this rāga in our earlier posts and
that will be taken now. The documentations of the rāga lakṣaṇa discussions
happened during the annual conference organized by The Madras Music Academy
always provides a valuable reference to understand a rāga. These discussions
were attended by legion of musicians and they were not restrained in expressing
their thoughts on a rāga, its versions or the kṛti-s known to them. These
discussions not only enable us to know about a particular rāga, but also make
us aware of its variants. Fortunately, they were also recorded for the
Rudrapriyā finds a place in
two of such discussions. The first one happened in the year 1956.2 Two
distinctive types of Rudrapriyā were mentioned by the musicians participated in
this discussion; first is with the scale SRGMPDNNS SNPMGRS and the second with the scale SRGMNS
SNPMGRS. They were also of the opinion that the second one is to be called as Pūrṇaṣaḍjam.
A note has been made that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has given six kṛti-s in notation including
‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘tyāgēśam
bhajarē’. Whereas Musiri Subraḥmaṇya Ayyar had recorded the lakṣaṇa
of the former kṛti,
no discussion happened on the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam
The second discussion happened in the year
2009.3 Here this rāga was discussed with its allied rāga-s like Kānaḍā and Durbār. This was a much-detailed
discussion wherein many eminent musicologists participated and shared their
views. Here Rudrapriyā compositions in the main section differed from the two kṛti-s
in anubandham and difference between these two kṛti-s were taken note of. The kṛti
‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ was
analyzed in detail and its resemblance with ‘śrī mānini’ of Svāmigal
was also discussed. Again no reference to the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam
bhajarē’ can be seen.
It can be seen from the above discussion,
though a note has been made about this kṛti and the different lakṣaṇa
seen here, no detailed analysis has been attempted; possibly due to
unpopularity of this kṛti.
kṛti of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal
When we discuss the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ or render the kṛti, it is inevitable for us to think about the kṛti ‘śrī mānini’. We have analyzed these two kṛti-s in detail in the second part of this article which can be read here. Lesser-known fact is the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ also have a complementary kṛti, composed by Svāmigal. Contrary to the first pair, this pair is similar only with respect to their rāga lakṣaṇa-s and not with the melody.
We have mentioned earlier that the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ follows the scale SRMPDS
SNDPMGRS. This rāga is now called as Sālagabhairavi. But the complementary kṛti that we will be seeing is not the commonly
heard ‘padavini sadbhakthi’. Though this is the kṛti which
epitomizes the rāga Sālagabhairavi today, the older version of this kṛti is much different,
perhaps composed in a different rāga and we also find references to support
this view.4 An analysis of this older version and the differences
between this and the old Sālagabhairavi is to be covered separately.
We have a kṛti which could
have been composed in the present Sālagabhairavi (the scale that corresponds to the
in ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’), but now
commonly sung in Mukhāri (See footnote 1). This kṛti ‘ēlāvatāra’ is mentioned as Sālagabhairavi in the text ‘Oriental Music in
European Notation’ by A M Chinnasāmy Bhāgavatar (See footnote 2).
Though this kṛti is a
personal dialogue between the composer and his iṣta dēvata Śrī Rāmacandra, this
kṛti has an important reference about the musical contribution of the composer.
This is one of the kṛti-s which reveals he has composed in 100 rāga-s and
grouped it as rāgamālika, referred to as ‘śata rāgaratna mālikalu rasiñcina’ in
this kṛti. Though we have no idea about this rāgamālika, C R Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār
gives a fleeting reference in one of his article published in Sudēsamitran (See
Vālājāpeṭṭai manuscripts mention the rāga of this kṛti as Sālagabhairavi. The version here exactly follows the scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS. Gāndhāra and pañcama were the gṛha svara-s used and madhyama acts as a nyāsa svara apart from ṣaḍja (can be compared with the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’). The svara-s ṛṣbha and gāndhāra do occur as janṭa, but as pratyāgata gamaka (janṭa occurring in avarōhaṇa krama) and in catusra phrases. So it is common to find phrases like MGG and GRR, in this kṛti. This confirms with the typical style of Svāmigal, as seen in Vālājāpeṭṭai versions. This can be compared with the janṭa phrases seen in the kṛti ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ wherein the janṭa svara-s occur as pratyāgata gamaka (but not as catusra phrases). This stylistic difference in the handling of svara-s give a different gait to the kṛti, despite being composed in the same rāga. The only difference that can be seen between these two kṛti-s is the presence of prayōga-s MGMGGR and PDND, but only in the latter kṛti. Though the first phrase is a deviation from the scale, the latter one is very much within the scale. There is a kṛti of Vīṇa Kuppaier in this rāga, ‘sāmagāna lolanē on Śrī Kālahastīśa. This kṛti too follows the mentioned scale, excluding the presence of the phrase SRGR. This special phrase is seen in the lakṣaṇa gītaṃ notated in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi.
in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi
Many believe Tyāgarāja Svāmigal
followed the treatise Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, selected apūrva rāga-s and composed in
them. But analysis of many old, defunct versions like that from Vālājāpeṭṭai
transcripts disprove this hypothesis (Readers can refer to Apūrva rāga-s series
of this author placed in this site to know more). This rāga, Sālagabhairavi, as we call it today, is seen in this
treatise and it also gives a lakṣaṇa gītaṃ for better understanding of this rāga.6
Many phrases outside this scale can be seen here like SRGR, SPM, RGRS, RPM, GSR,
GRPM, GDP, MMGMGR and PDMGR.
As mentioned earlier, none
of these outliers can be seen in the kṛti ‘ēlāvatāra, whereas these outliers can be seen in the kṛti-s ‘tyāgēśam bhajarē’ and ‘sāmagāna lolanē’
– MGMGR and SRGR respectively. Can we say Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Vīṇa Kuppaier were conversant with Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi?
Though we cannot give a definite answer, these
phrases cannot be taken lightly and ignored as a mere coincidence. It is a
well-known fact that Muddusvāmi
Dīkṣitar was equally conversant with Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā nomenclature (See
footnote 4). This possibility can be conceived if we feel the present mēla
system was a later development. Rather if we consider Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā and
Kanakāmbari – Rasamañjari system were coeval, it can be taken that he had good acquaintance
with both these systems.
It seems Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi
was much popular among the disciples of Svāmigal and Vīṇa Kuppaier too could have accessed the same.Hence it is actually not impossible to find the use of the phrases seen
in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi
in the works of these composers
who were shrewd and able to incorporate the changes happening around them.
Sindhūra or (Hindustāni) Saindhavi
Though we were able to locate the phrases used
in these kṛti-s, in the lakṣaṇa gītaṃ notated in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, this
hypothesis is not infallible when we consider the cultural milieu of Tanjāvūr between
17-19 CE. In the second part of this article, we have speculated the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ and ‘śrī
mānini’ were not identical twins, but actually an inspiration from a common
melody heard in that area. We can apply this hypothesis to this kṛti too. Tanjāvūr
during the mentioned period was very active musically and there was not only an
amalgamation of various genres of music, but also effective incorporation and
thereby adaptation of these genres into our music. The composers mentioned in
this article were much inclusive to various musical thoughts and they did not
restrain themselves from incorporating these ideas into their creations. Dīkṣitar’s
nōṭṭusvara sāhitya-s, Svāmigal’s ‘ramiñcuva’ all come under this category
wherein they have adopted Western music into their creations. This rāga under
discussion could be an adaptation from Hindustāni music. There is a Hindustāni
rāga by the name Sindhūra or (Hindustāni) Saindhavi (emphasis is mine) and with the same scale.7
This rāga could have influenced these two composers to create a composition in
their own commendable style. Both these
composers were adept in ancient treatises and it is very unlikely that they
would have labelled this kṛti as Sālagabhairavi. For our reference, Sindhūra could be a better option as it will not lead
to any more confusion.
The above discussion clearly shows the rāga of this kṛti
cannot be fitted into the realm of Rudrapriyā. Atleast
the kṛti ‘gaṇanāyakam bhajēham’ has some elements that
made us to speculate, this kṛti could be a different interpretation of the rāga Rudrapriyā. But
that cannot be applied for this kṛti. In such a case, the reason for Dīkṣitar labelling it as Rudrapriyā is mysterious. We did not want to make a hasty
conclusion saying Dīkṣitar was wrong in naming it as Rudrapriyā. We just want to make a point that we are
unable to find a reason for this labelling. Even Dīkṣitar could have been puzzled by seeing the lakṣaṇa of this kṛti, strikingly
different from the Rudrapriyā of the main text. But the reason for him to
with this melody is even really intriguing. Perhaps he must have had a lexicon
in his possession, which label this scale as Rudrapriyā. Our statement ‘Rudrapriyā
had many names and many different scales were called as Rudrapriyā’ can be
We will stop at this point
and leave this discussion open. We believe Dīkṣitar will show us the way to crack this secret by
opening some unknown avenues in the near future.
Rudrapriyā visualized by Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar in this kṛti is
distinctly different from the Rudrapriyā mentioned elsewhere. Analysis of the lakṣaṇa clearly shows the name Rudrapriyā is actually a
misattribution, based on the present level of understanding. Considering the
acumen of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, it can be very well presumed that he must have
had his own reasons to label this as Rudrapriyā.
It is better to call the
scale SRMPDS SNDPMGRS as Sindhūra or Hindustāni Saindhavi. The rāga Sālagabhairavi
is an old rāga mentioned in various treatises and was much popular. Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ
were much conversant with these rāga-s and they would have not called this rāga
as Sālagabhairavi. This also proves our oft-quoted hypothesis that evanescence
of old versions made us to believe Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Svāmigaḷ
were followers of two different schools.
It is much surprising to see a phrase seen in Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi finding a place in a kṛti of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar. This makes us to presume Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar too was aware of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi.
Footnote 1 – The present scalar Sālagabhairavi is actually an abridged version of
Mukhāri, but with only one variety of dhaivatam.
Footnote 2 – Interestingly, this kṛti was not
mentioned by Narasiṃha
Bhāgavatar and S A Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar in their texts.
Footnote 3 – Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar,
grandson of Vālājāpeṭṭai Vēṅkaṭaramaṇa Bhāgavatar has averred to Śrīnivāsa Ayyaṅgār
that he had collected the individual kṛti-s in this rāgamālika and had plans to
publish it soon. Unfortunately, we are now clueless on the condition of the
manuscript in the possession of Rāmasvāmy Bhāgavatar.
Footnote 4 – Using mēla
names current in Kanakāṅgi – Rasikapriyā nomenclature like ‘haimavatīm’ and ‘śūlinīm’
in his kṛti-s attest this fact.