History, Personalities, Raga

‘sAmajagamana’ – An ode to a banished Tanjore King



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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ragachudamani – A Crest Jewel amongst ragas

– Ravi Rajagopalan


As one makes this next post after a long hiatus, it is all but a new start. And to make amends the subject matter take on is a melody which also has a composition, albeit a rare one, composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar on Lord Ganesha who should have been rightly propitiated when this series was started. And it is indeed fortuitous that one gets a chance to correct oneself especially on this Chaturthi day. Like quite a few other ragas, this melody called Ragachudamani was perhaps a theoretical derivation of Muddu Venkatamakhin for the mela/clan 32, a post 1700s development, when he codified his scheme of raganga ragas. We do not have references to this raga or scale in any pre Muddu Venkatamakhin tomes available to us such as the works of Govinda Dikshita, Venkatamakhin, King Sahaji or King Tulaja. To reiterate very many of the shlokas and attributions that Subbarama Dikshitar makes in his Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini are, in all possibility those of Muddu Venkatamakhin, except for the exceptions. Under the mela thirty two, save for the gita and the tana that was composed by him, this raga  Ragachoodamani was all but a lifeless scale, till Muthusvami Dikshitar invested life and blood when he composed ‘Sveta ganapatim’. There have been a few other such raaganga ragas which his father Ramaswami Dikshitar had handled, which were again mere scales such as Gangatarangini or Tanukirti. A diligent search of the anubandha to the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) including his monumental raga tala malika does not disclose usage of this raga by him..

Thus for all practical purposes, Muthuswami Dikshitar’s solitary composition ‘Sveta ganapatim’ defines the raga’s svarupa for us. The only other composition for reference is Subbarama Dikshitar’s mela raga malika ‘E kanakambari’, wherein the portion beginning ‘mAnabhUshana’ along with its muktayi svaram features this ragaanga raga.¹

Let us jump rightaway into the raga’s definition.


Ragachudamani sports the svaras sadja, shatsruti rishabha, antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivatha and kaishiki nishada and is featured with vakra prayogas & a few of the notes being varja as well in the arohana or avarohana. The scalar definition of this raga is found documented first by Muddu Venkatamakhin in his compendium “Ragalakshanam” (as published by the Madras Music Academy)² and followed (not so faithfully in this case) by Subbarama Dikshitar in his SSP.  As in the case of Kambhoji for example, there is diversity on the defining structure of this raga between Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshanam and the SSP, though SSP also alludes to the same shloka of Muddu Venkatamakhin.

Thus the shloka in the Ragalakshanam talks of rishabha being varjya in the avarohana while the shloka attributed by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP talks of gandhara being varjya in the avarohana. One does not know if it was a scribal error or otherwise but there it is for us to reconcile.

To state in summary here are the raga lakshanas as available to us:

Ragalakshanam – Gandhara and dhaivata are dropped (varjya) in the arohana and rishabha is varjya in the avarohana

SSP: Gandhara and dhaivatha are dropped/varjya in the arohana and gandhara also varjya in the avarohana. So the operative scale is SMRGMPNNS/SNDPMMRS

With the operative footnotes of Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP one can get a ringside view of the raga’s structure through salient murccanas.

  1. SRGM and PDNS are not permitted. SMRGM is the ideal opening building block. PNNS is the ideal route to the tara sadja. SNDP is permitted while PMGRS is a no-no given that gandhara is varjya in the avarohana. Thus the further descent to the Madhya sadja can be either as MGMRS or MGPMRS.
  2. So what is clear is that dhaivatha is clearly absent in the ascent. Gandhara and rishabha are vakra rather than varjya. For instance rishabha is accessible only through the madhyama. So from a murccana standpoint SMRGMP or MGMRS or MGPMRS can be the only building blocks or operative phrases/murccanas.
  3. While one is wondering about gandhara being varja, it actually appears in two prayogas RGMP and MGPM and hence not totally eschewed by the raga definition. Neither is gandhara alpa or rare in usage as once can see from the available compositions. In sum if one views the shloka definition and the kriti, it is obvious that gandhara ought to have been defined as vakra and not varjya.
  4. According to Subbarama Dikshitar Nishadha and madhyama are jiva svaras and righly so they are emphasized with janta prayogas. It’s worth noting that they do not feature as nyasa or starting/take off notes in the Dikshitar composition.
  5. In sum, SMRGMPNNS seems to be the defining arohana krama and SNDPMGMRS or SNDPMGPMRS is the avarohana krama for this raga.

The raga name with a slightly different scalar structure is found documented in the ‘Sangraha Cudamani’ albeit under the same mela. This raga is defined therein with dhaivatha and nishadha omitted in the ascent and pancama being omitted in the descent. There are no extant compositions available to us in this version of the raga. It’s worth noting here that the equivalent heptatonic krama sampura scale in the Kanakangi scheme is the raga Ragavardhani doubtlessly well delineated by Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer in his mela raga malika “Pranathartihara prabho”.

The connection between a raga and the time of the day in which it has to be rendered and of rasa the raga is said to evoke hasn’t been formalized in our music, in contrast to Hindustani Music. Though we see mentions of it in treatises such as SSP, it’s much more exceptional than a rule. According to the SSP this raga can be sung at all times.

From a rasa standpoint we are given to understand that given this svara combination of lower varieties of dhaivatha and nishada and higher varieties of rishabha and gandhara, the raga evokes bheebatsa or disgust.²


Let us move on to the Dikshitar composition in this supposedly eka kriti raga. This is a small composition (labeled as a samashti carana composition in popular Dikshitar literature) obviously composed to concisely present the raga lakshana. More than the composition it is the cittasvaram or muktayi svaram or the svara appendage to the composition which completes Dikshitar’s pen picture of this melody. The usage of the SMRGMP and the emphasis on the svaras – nishada and madhyama through the janta prayogas can be rightfully cited as authority for the raga’s lakshana as textually given by Subbarama Dikshitar.

A few points need mention here:

  1. The song is on the white colored/hued Lord Ganesa and no mention is made of any temple or ksetra by Dikshitar in this composition. There are those who attribute this composition as having been composed on the Lord Ganesa at Tiruvalanchuzhi. There is another attribution that the kriti was composed on the Vellai Pillaiyar at Kizhavasal in Tanjavur3. This attribution is also in line with the common assertion that it was on the Quartet’s request that Dikshitar went to stay in Tanjavur and deigned to compose a composition atleast in each of these raagangas so that they can serve as lodestar for those who would like to know their svarupa. Alternatively one can also surmise perhaps that in the midst of the myriad and innumerable number of Ganapatis enshrined in the Tyagaraja temple, there is one white colored vigraha to whom Dikshitar pays obeisance through this composition. There are no internal evidences or authority to support any of these claims. However considering the balance of possibilities, the kriti being on the Vellaipillayar at Tanjavur seems plausible.
  2. The text of the Pallavi as given in the SSP is only ‘Sveta ganapatim vamadeva pratipadyam anadyam’ and not ‘sveta ganapatim vande vama deva…..’. The word vande is omitted in the notation found in the SSP. However for completeness of meaning, the word vande might have been added to fill in as a verb. The version with’ vande’ is found documented by Rangaramanuja Iyengar in his kriti compendium. Sri.Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sarma has mentioned the absence of the verb in this as well as the saurasena kriti in the Andhra Sahitya parisad edition of the SSP. The Anantakrishnayyar school sings it as bhajEham instead of vande, and begins as p,,mgmrs,, instead of s,,mgmrs,, for swetaganapatim.
  3. The tala for this composition is only (tisra jati) triputa tala. Renderings of this composition by a particular lineage/school feature in Misra capu tala. In this context, this kriti is in the company of the famous Gaula composition ‘Sri Mahaganapatiravatumam’. See Footnote 1.
  4. The composition seems to have been part of the repertoire of some of the great lineages and has not been resurrected just on the strength of the notation found in the SSP. It has been so documented as rendered in the Madras Music Academy in 1966. See footnote 2.

Subbarama Dikshitar’s sancari and of course his conception as evidenced by the notation and svaram for the Ragachudamani section of ‘E kanakambari’ is aligned to the Muthusvami Dikshitar conception of the raga.


Featured first is Prof S R Janakiraman who in his inimitable style outlines the lakshana of this raga in this clip from his lecture demonstration titled ‘Ragas Unique to the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini’ before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy in the year 2005 4 . He then follows up by rendering the Dikshitar composition ‘ Sveta Ganapatim’.

Prof SRJ-Ragachudamani’s raga lakshana

Attention is invited to the version of the cittasvaram he renders which he has apparently modified while being within the four corners of the slated lakshana.

Presented next is a high fidelity interpretation of the raga followed by the composition by Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Seetha Rajan, again from a lecture demonstration, circa 2008.

Svetaganapatim – Ragacudamani -Smt Seetha Rajan

Vidushi Seetha Rajan expounds first the vivadhi nature of the raga in the purvanga and how in the Muddu Venkatamakhin scheme the dissonance is avoided by making the relevant notes vakra/varja as the case may be.

Attention is again invited to the rendering of the cittasvaram as found in the SSP. One can get a handle on the finite possibilities of envisioning this raga, as Smt Seetha Rajan shows when she sings kalpana svaras for the pallavi line.

While there are a couple of compositions such as ‘kalangAdiru manamE’ by Koteesvara Iyer in Ragavardhani which is krama sampurna, there seems to be only one janya raga in this clan under mela 32  worth mentioning, the raga Vishnupriya, which has been well delineated by the veteran composer Tanjavur Sankara Iyer in his Tamil composition ‘bAlasubramanyan pAdame tunai’ . A commercial rendering of this composition along with svaraprastara by Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan is available. No compositions of Tyagaraja are available in Ragavardhani or Ragachudamani.


One cannot be sure if this raga could have truly been a crest jewel as its name symbolizes, nevertheless one does wish and hope that the raga and the solitary ‘Svetaganapatim’ is sung frequently  just to keep it alive and living.


  1. Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904) – Subbarama Dikshitar
  2. Ragalakshana Sangraha (2004)- Hema Ramanathan – Pages 1104-1107, published by Dr N Ramanathan Chennai
  3. Pradeep Chakravarthy (2009)-‘Literary Connection’ – Article in THE HINDU dated 24 Nov 2009 available at the URL http://www.hindu.com/fr/2009/11/06/stories/2009110651320400.htm
  4. Pappu Venugopala Rao (2005)– Proceedings of the Experts Committee of the Music Academy – The Hindu dated Jan 7,2005 available at the URL http://www.hindu.com/fr/2005/01/07/stories/2005010702590600.htm
  5. Thanks to Naresh Keerthi for bringing up a few pertinent points with respect to this post.


Foot Note 1:

It is worth highlighting here on the authority of the notation given in the SSP, that the rhythmic gait of quite a few of Dikshitar’s composition has been changed and the composition has been speeded up through the usage of capu talas – khanda and misra. Notable examples include the following:

  1. Documented in SSP  as tisra triputa tala but rendered in Misra capu in practice
    1. Sri Mahaganapati – Gaula
  2. Documented in SSP as misra ekam – one beat followed by 6 finger counts, but rendered in misra capu in practice
    1. Sri Matrubutam – Kannada
    2. Hastivadanaya – Navaroz
    3. Anandanatana – Kedaram
    4. Akshayalinga vibho -Sankarabharanam
    5. Mamava Pattabhirama – Manirangu
    6. Mamava Raghuveera – Mahuri
    7. Bhajare re citta – Kalyani
    8. Mamava Meenakshi – Varali
    9. Sri Balasubramanya – Bilahari
  3. Documented in SSP as in misra jhampa but rendered in khanda capu in practice
    1. Renukadevi – Kannadabangala
    2. Abhayambam anyamnajaneham – Kedaragaula
    3. Mangalaambayai Namaste – Malavasri

While the Kannada, Kedara, Manirangu and Sankarabharana compositions for example seem ideal for misra capu – in terms of lyrics, the natural stress points in the composition together with the words themselves  and the rhythmic gait, the same may not hold true for the others and certainly not for this composition. Incidentally the “Dikshitar Keertanai Prakashikai’ authored by Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (1936), a disciple of Sathanur Pancanada Iyer also documents the Kalyani, Kedara , Manirangu, Varali, Bilahari and  Sankarabharana compositions in misra eka and not as misra capu. In fact none of the 50 compositions found notated therein feature any capu talas. Interestingly, renderings of these compositions by the Dhanammal school who learnt Dikshitar compositions from Sathanur Panacanada Iyer or Kekkarai Muthu Iyer are to be seen only in misra capu.

Foot Note 2:

Vidvan Chennakesavayya (25th Dec 1966 vide JMA Vol XXXVIII Pages 33-34) a senior disciple of Mysore Vasudevachar and an authentic repository of the Mysore tradition has rendered ‘Svetaganapatim’ before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy. In fact Sri Chennakesavayya rendered a set of compositions, which he says were taught to him by Sri Vasudevachar. The listing is as under:

(a)    Intachalamu – Kambhoji-  Ata tala tana varna – Pallavi Gopala Iyer ( documented in SSP)

(b)   Svetaganapathim – Ragachudamani – Triputa – Muthusvami Dikshitar

(c)    Nannu broce – Narayanagaula – Adi – Veena Kuppier

(d)   Madirakshi – Mukhari – Adi tala tana varna – Tiruvottriyur Tyagier

(e)   Tillana – Kalyani – Vasudevachar

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

History, Raga

Hindolavasantam – The sprightly blossom from the Royal Gardens of Tanjore


We have lost quite a few ragas over the last few centuries either by disuse or abuse. The raga Hindolavasanta or Hindolavasantam under the Nariritigaula/Natabhairavi raganga/mela is one such instance of a raga with a rich textual tradition, having been given a royal treatment by two of the Trinitarians. This raga has a hoary past as evidenced by its documentation by Govinda Dikshitar, Venkatamakhi, King Shahaji, King Tulaja, Muddu Venkatamakhi and finally by Subbarama Dikshitar. The raga lakshana as codified by these greats mentioned above in their musicological works provides us an invaluable lesson as to how our ancients practised the grammar of music which has now been almost forgotten by us. It is a model:

  • Where the tonal color of a melody/raga was driven by bends, turns and twists and not by linear progression of svaras.
  • Where harmonics and aural experience of a raga determined the lakshana or grammar of a raga and not its scalar construction or pedigree as determined by the melakartha.

It is sad that this older process of natural evolution of a raga has now been short circuited by the new mathematically auto generated raga creation model driven by lineal progression of svaras and assignment of ragas to families based on scalar relationship rather than through melodic association. In fact, one can say that, Venkatamakhi wisely refrained from indexing out the set of all 72 permutation/combination scales as he must have strongly felt that such a theoretical exercise would serve no useful purpose- melodically as well as aesthetically. Again it is to the credit of his descendant Muddu Venkatamakhi who while  evolving  the Asampurna mela scheme, attempted to salvage the older ragas and their names, created a harmonic basis for raga creation and classification and thus  provided some continuity to the older model. Alas! This older model is all but dead and many of the hoary ragas have been swept away, in the name of change. The works of Venkatamakhi, King Shahaji and King Tulaja have luckily survived the ravages of these changes and of time and offer us a glimpse of what it was at that point in time in our glorious past.

The raga Hindolavasanta comes to us from that age. I suspect that this raga was/is of a Tanjore/Southern origin for the very simple reason that none of the northern musicologists (north of Tanjore) barring Vidyaranya seem to have noted/documented this raga or its melodic equivalent in their works . Hence I have titled this post, as if this exquisite raga was a sprightly blossom from the Royal Gardens of Tanjore!


I will first outline what is the current state of this raga before we quickly move back in time to circa 1650. The popular definition of this raga as of today is as under:

Hindolavasanta is an upanga janya under the Natabhairavi mela with an operative arohana/avarohana krama as under:

Arohana        : S G M P D N D s

Avarohana     : s N D M G S

The above referred raga lakshana with sadja, sadharana gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivata and kaisiki nishada is as found in the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Ra Ra Seeta ramani manohara’. The dhaivata svara in some of the pathams of this composition is rendered as catusruti in line with the confusion in the allied ragas including Hindolam for example. This raga admits only the suddha dhaivatha as evidenced by the overwhelming body of musicological documentation starting with Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha. Another point worth mentioning here is that this melody has been dealt with slightly differently by Muthusvami Dikshitar.

With this note, let us first look at the historical evolution of this raga starting with the work of Sangita Sudha of Govinda Dikshitar.

Hindolavasanta –As found in Sangita Sudha:

In sum according to Govinda Dikshitar Hindolavasanta comes under the Bhairavi mela and thus has only suddha daivatha. In fact the Sangita Sudha seems to be the first of the texts which documents this melody. From Govinda Dikshitar’s description the contours of this raga that emerges is not much different from what one gets to see today. Phrases starting with rishabha are not to be seen in the murrcanas that Govinda Dikshitar provides in his work.

Hindolavasanta – As found in Venkatamakhi’s Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP):

Of all the musicological works, it is CDP which strikes a note of discordance as to the raga lakshana of Hindolavasanta. According to Venkatamakhi, this raga belongs to Ahiri mela (his 21st mela) which takes kakali nishada. All through musical history, we see this raga being grouped only under the Bhairavi mela taking thus suddha dhaivatha and kaishiki nishada. Nowhere has the raga taken kakali nishada. Was it an oversight on the part of this great giant or was it a scribing error or was the raga indeed rendered with kakali nishada during his times? One does not know and yet there it is documented so in this work.

Hindolavasanta – As found in King Shahaji’s Ragalakshana Sangraha:

Shahaji groups this raga again under Bhairavi mela with sampurna structure (i.e it takes all the seven svaras in the arohana & avarohana taken together). Further in the melodic movement, there is no straight movement upto pancama (i.e there is no SRGMP usage) and beyond the pancama the movement is regular. Similarly in the descent sNDP is permitted.

Hindolavasanta – As found in King Tulaja’s Saramruta:

King Tulaja completely echoes his illustrious predecessor King Shahaji while documenting this raga in his work. As once can see the raga both in terms of name and structure continued to flourish right up to the times of the Trinity in the same form.

Hindolavasanta – As found in the Ragalakshana Anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin (quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar) & Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini :

According to Muddu Venkatamakhi the raga lakshana of Hindolavasanta is as under:

‘syadindolavasantastu rishabhena tu varjitah
arohena nivarjya syadavarohe nivakritah’

In passing, it needs to be mentioned that this lakshana shloka as found in the text of the appendix to the CDP, printed by the Music Academy gives the shloka line as ‘….rishabena hi varjitah’.

On the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhi, Subbarama Dikshitar provides the lakshana of the raga in summary:

  1. The murccana arohana/avarohana is SGMPDs & sNDPDNDMGS
  2. It is grouped under Narireetigaula mela.
  3. Sadja is the graha svara, rishabha is varjya (excluded), nishada is varjya in the arohana and is vakra in the avarohana.

In the SSP, the commentary on the raga is as under:

  • Though as per Muddu Venkatamakhi, rishabha is varjya, according to Subbarama Dikshitar the svara is instead alpa or occurs on a rare basis for the following reasons:
    • Muddu Venkatamakhin has not expressly stated that the raga is shadava.
    • The expression ‘Rishabhena tu varjitah’ in the definition implies that rishaba is alpa in usage instead of being varjya.
    • There are many older tanas and sancaras in this raga with rishabha usage and its on that strength that both Ramasvami Dikshitar and his son Muthusvami Dikshitar have composed, incorporating rishabha.
  • Also the rishabha svara occurs only through a couple of choice phrases such as GRMGS and GRGM only.
  • Key phrases/murccanas of Hindolavasanta include SPP, Sss, DPDNDMG, GGMMPDMG, GGMPD & NDMGS apart from rishabha svara phrases such as GRMG and GRGMGS. Another phrase that Subbarama Dikshitar highlights is the usage of NDNS in the mandhara stayi/lower octave.
Hindolavasanta – As found in Sangraha Cudamani:

According to Sangraha Cudamani the raga is from the mela Narabhairavi with dhaivatha as nyasa and rishaba being omitted. The operative ascent/descent is : SGMPDNDs/sNDPMDMGS. The raga lakshana of Hindolavasanta is more or less aligned to the overall version that comes forth from the other musicologists ( save for the alpa usage of rishabha).  Obviously as per the Sangraha Cudamani, the dhaivatha is only suddha dhaivatha. As one can see later, we can certainly say with this authority that versions of Tyagaraja’s composition ‘Ra ra seetaramani manohara’ with catushruthi dhaivatha are aberrations  or patantharam deviation and as such the composition should be rendered only with suddha dhaivatha.

  1. This raga has throughout its history been always under the Bhairavi mela and thus it sports only suddha dhaivata and kaishiki nishada.
  2. In terms of its scalar structure it has been more or less the same since the time of Govinda Dikshitar.
  3. The versions of this raga with catusruti dhaivata may at best be patantharam deviations and are not supported by musicological texts. Again the documentation of the raga by Venkatamakhi in CDP with kakali nishada may safely be ignored.
  4. The operative arohana/avarohana that are found are:
    1. SGMPDs/sNDMGS as evidenced by the versions of Tyagaraja’s ‘Ra Ra Seetaramani Manohara’.
    2. SGMPDNDs/sNDPDNDMGRGS or sNDMPDMGRMGS as evidenced by the compositions of Ramasvami Dikshitar and Muthusvami Dikshitar. In essence this conception employs more vakra sancaras on one hand and incorporates rishabha svara in certain phrases.
  5. The key phrases that bring out Hindolavasanta include SPP, Sss, DPDNDMG, GGMMPDMG, GGMPD and NDMGS apart from rishabha svara phrases such as GRMG and GRGMGS. In fact according to Prof S R Janakiraman, this raga does not have a straight arohana/avarohana krama. It can at best be delineated with a set of catchy phrases.

The difference in the treatment once sees between Tyagaraja and Dikshitar are:

  1. The arohana passages sport PDs in Tyagaraja’s conception of this raga while Dikshitar utilizes the vakra sancara PDNDs. Also the nishada is vakra in Dikshitar’s treatment as in DNDM.
  2. The descent is characterized by sNDM avoiding the pancama in Tyagaraja’s visualization of this raga. Dikshitar on the other hand utilizes sNDPDNDM, making the pancama vakra by flanking it between the dhaivata svaras.
  3. While rishabha is altogether omitted in Tyagaraja’s conception, we find rishabha is used sparingly through some choice phrases such GRGM in the compositions of Ramasvami Dikshitar and Muthusvami Dikshitar.
  4. The raga sports only suddha dhaivata without doubt and it is anomalous that we have a version of Tyagaraja’s composition with catushruti dhaivata/D2.

The 3 major compositions in this raga available to us today are:

  1. The Cauka varna of Ramasvami Dikshitar ‘Valaci vaci’ in rupaka tala
  2. The kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar ‘Santana ramasvaminam’ in adi tala
  3. The kriti of Tyagaraja ‘ Ra ra seetaramani manohara’ in adi tala

The raga is not encountered in other compositional forms such as padam or javalis nor is it known to have been dealt with by performers as a part of the Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi exposition.

The raga has its pride of place in the musical paddhati of the Tiruvarur temple which was formalized by Ramasvami Dikshitar. In the ceremonial procession of Lord Tyagaraja around the 4 mada streets (Veedi Ula in Tamil) surrounding the sprawling temple complex in Tiruvarur, the raga Hindolavasanta is to be played as the procession goes down the East Street/Kizhakku Veedi. The nagasvara or the wind pipe that is used in Tiruvarur temple is the bari nayanam as it is called and it is this instrument that is played out during the Lord’s procession.


As mentioned earlier we have three compositions available to us in this raga.


Varnas are said to be the lexicon or repository of raga lakshana and so one is indebted to Ramasvami Dikshitar for bequeathing to us a gem of a varna ‘Valaci vacci’. Composed on Lord Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur, this varna seems to have been created for rendering as a part of the temple’s pooja/festivities. It’s been recorded that Ramasvami Dikshitar moved to Tiruvarur at the behest of the King of Tanjore with the brief to codify the paddathi/protocol to be followed in the temple in terms of rendering of songs, dance etc during the daily poojas and for the festivals observed in the temple. Accounts have it that for this purpose Ramasvami Dikshitar liaised with the nagasvara vidvans and courtesans attached to the temple. He is also credited with having created a number of specific or bespoke compositions for the numerous festive occasions which have since then become part of the repertoire of the temple’s hereditary musicians namely the nagasvara vidvans and the dasis/courtesans. This varna is also one amongst them. In passing, it needs to be mentioned that with the ravage of time, the musical paddathi of the Tiruvarur temple has now been practically lost with the passing away of the old temple performers. Today all we have is only skeletal information or references to the musical practices/protocols that Ramasvami Dikshitar had instituted.

Vidushi Kalpakam Svaminathan a scion of the Dikshitar sishya parampara, opens one of her concert recitals with this beautiful cauka varna.

Presented next is the rendering of the same varnam by Prof S R Janakiraman a repository of many rare compositions and he does so in his inimitable style.

This varna encompasses the salient murccanas of this raga handed down to us from medieval times. It is entirely on the authority of this varna that Subbarama Dikshitar has identified the salient murccanas of Hindolavasanta and listed them out in his commentary to the raga in the SSP. As one can notice, the raga conceptualization is full of bends, turns and twists. Except for the lineal combinations of  SRGM, PDNs , sNDP and MGRS  every other vakra sancara makes its appearance in this raga. Thus one can conclude that the raga does not have a fixed scalar structure but instead has a few catchy phrases with which the svarupa of the raga blossoms forth.

In passing it is worth noting here that Subbarama Dikshitar employs the term ‘cauka’ varna only, in contrast to modern day usage of the word ‘pada’ varna which is used synonymously.


It would be more than appropriate to spend some time first on the kriti per se as it has quite a few very interesting aspects worth looking into. We will cover them first in this section.

  1. The kriti is on Lord Rama enshrined in the temple at Needamangalam, which is on the route from Kumbakonam to Mannargudi in Tanjore/Nagapatinam District in Tamilnadu.
  2. Dikshitar refers to the kshetra by its older name ‘Yamunambapuri’, named after the favorite wife of King Sarabhoji of Tanjore. King Sarabhoji had two wives, Yamunamba Bayee Saheb and Ahilya Bayee Saheb. King Sarabhoji’s successor, King Shivaji was the son of Yamunambha Bayee Saheb. The suffix “Bayee Saheb” is an honorific epithet. This Rani Yamunambha Bayee established an endowment and built a choultry for the pilgrims in this town (Needamangalam). To this day this building called Yamunambha Bayee Chatram exists and presently houses State Government Offices! Perhaps Dikshitar stayed in this choultry when he visited the Santanaramasvami Temple at Needamangalam. It was however a sad ending for her that as Serfoji’s favorite wife, Yamunambha Bayee performed Sati upon his death in the year 1832. ( See Footnote 1 below on an interesting piece of trivia , a ‘rishabha’ connection  between this raga, the composition and the Queen)
  3. Another aspect of this composition is that the text of this composition as found in the Tamil edition published by the Music Academy differs from the one found in the telugu original edition by Subbarama Dikshitar. In the telugu original, one sees only the Pallavi and the Anupallavi sahitya portions and no carana sahitya ( portion starting with ‘Santhana soubhagya vitharanam’) is given. In the Tamil translation as published by the Music Academy, the carana & cittasvara portions have been added with the footnote that it had been provided by Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer. The premise is that the original telugu version was probably incomplete – a printing error perhaps and that was sought to be made good in the subsequent Tamil edition, with the missing carana being sourced from the version as taught by Subbarama Dikshitar’s son Ambi Dikshitar to Justice T L Venkatrama Iyer. Now the problem in this case is that the standard Dikshitar colophon ‘guruguha’ is found only in the carana portion which is not found in the original SSP. So the issue for us is that along with the other kriti ‘Nabhomani Candragni nayanam’ in the raga Nabhomani which also lacks the standard Dikshitar colophon, are these two, authentic Dikshitar compositions? Is the presence of the mudra ‘guruguha’ a pre-requisite for a Dikshitar composition?  Is the carana portion section which was added subsequently, part & parcel of the original composition? Prof N Ramanathan had addressed this issue with his incisive analysis in a monograph. His take is that based on the analysis of the lyric and melody, the carana portion indeed seems to be part & parcel of the original composition and as such there is no internal evidence to the contrary. But the issue is there for one and all to see. A printers devil probably.

In the context of this composition a brief discussion on the cittasvara section is warranted. In the case of Santana Ramasvaminam, the Tamil edition of the SSP carries the cittasvara section below.


SSPP DNDDM PDs gs sNDPD NDMMGG (Santana Ramasvaminam)

(Svaras in upper case signifies madhya stayi; those  in italics & bold font signifies mandhara stayi ; those in lower case signifies tara stayi)

As one can observe the cittasvara embodies the key phrases of Hindolavasanta and is strung together beautifully. Also given the cogency ,  lyrical continuity and the way the carana and the cittasvara sections of ‘Santana ramasvaminam’ segues with the pallavi & anupallavi it indeed appears that they are an integral part of the composition, in complete musical alignment with the raga’s lakshana. They must have perhaps gotten genuinely missed out when the original telugu  edition was printed/proof read/published by Subbarama Dikshitar. In other words the carana section may not be a latter date addition.

Moving on with the discography, two renderings of this composition are presented below. First is the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. It is known with certainty that quite a few Dikshitar compositions were learnt by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer from Tiruvisainallur Pallavi Narayanasvami Iyer including the Narayanagaula composition “Sri ramam ravikulabdhi somam”. It would be interesting to know from whom or how Sri Srinivasa Iyer learnt this composition.

As one can observe, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders it in a brisk tempo, 1 kalai adi tAla. Attention is invited to the fidelity of the rendition to the notation as found in the tamil edition of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. Sri Srinivasa Iyer rounds off his rendering with a few rounds of kalpana svaras for the Pallavi line. Attention is invited to the salient murccanas that the veteran uses as illustration for this raga’s lakshana such as the janta prayogas on the madhyama and dhaivata, rishabha svara incorporated phrases such as GRGS & GRGM and standard phrases such as PDNDs and GMGSGSn etc.

The next is the rendering of this composition by Prof S R Janakiraman (Prof SRJ).

Prof SRJ’s rendering is a true scholarly presentation aligned to the notation & the raga lakshana. In his clipping Prof SRJ as is his wont, first presents a free flowing raga murccana elaboration. He uses the following phrases to paint this beauty of a raga: SGRGM, GMPDNDMG SGRGM MPDs GMPDs sNDMPDNDM MPDM and MGRGS. This is in complete alignment with the raga lakshana as documented by Subbarama Dikshitar. Attention is invited to the way he sings the line ‘sadhujana hrudaya sarasija caranam’ in line with the notation found in the tamil edition of the SSP.

Presented next is a rendering of ‘santAna rAmasvAminam’ by late Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer (BRI), from an AIR Concert.

A number of observations stand out for us when we hear this rendering with the notation of the SSP in front of us.

  1. Sri Rajam Iyer’s version is a literal interpretation down to every single note. In other words, the rendering is a very high fidelity reproduction of the notation or a gold standard in terms of adherence to both the letter and spirit of the notation.
  2. His version is not in not brisk like the version of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Its in an languid pace, a true cauka kAla rendering, almost at half the elapsed duration for a tAla matra in comparison to Sri Srinivasa Iyer’s.
  3. He renders the cittasvara section for our benefit as recorded in the SSP.

It is not known if this was how he learnt it from his Guru Sangita Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer. Besides, Sri Rajam Iyer along with Sangita Kalanidhi Dr S Ramanathan formed the team in translating the SSP from Telugu to Tamil annd having it published by the Music Academy under the expert guidance of Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, Mudicondan Venkatrama Iyer and Dr V Raghavan who guided the exercise by providing lakshya, lakshana and editorial inputs. Its likely that Sri Rajama Iyer as a part of this exercise took inspiration from the notation of Subbarama Dikshitar and perhaps rebaselined his version to what we hear. We may not entirely know, but his textbook rendering is a virtual giveaway, leaving us in no doubt as to the origins of this version. It is well known and also recorded by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr U Ve Svaminatha Iyer, that Dikshitar kritis are always in cauka kala ( vide his Urai Nadai Noolgal) and Sri BRI’s rendering is a reinforcement of the same.


Beyond the pale of musicology and its texts, the raga svarupa as found in Tyagaraja’s compositions has been much influenced by the sishya paramparas/disciples of the Bard themselves who, whether rightly or wrongly, ended up creating various versions of the same composition. One victim has been ragas belonging to the mela 20 such as Hindola, Hindolavasanta, Abheri, Ritigaula and their ilk. We find that the versions of popular Tyagaraja kritis in these ragas sport D2 instead of D1. Tyagaraja’s ‘rA rA sItAramanI manOhara’ in Hindolavasanta is an exemplar and very many versions of this composition are heard only with D2.

Presented first is an oddity, a rare rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi Dr S Ramanathan with D1. Most probably the musicologist in him took over when he learnt this composition and with that persona he renders it with fidelity to the musical texts which have always said that this raga had only D1.


We next move over to the ubiquitous version of Hindolavasanta with D2/catushruthi dhaivatha as evidenced by popular versions of Tyagaraja’s composition ‘Ra Ra Seetaramani manohara’. As pointed out earlier it is indeed surprising to note that the raga is so presented ( with D2 and so a derivative of Mela 22- Karaharapriya ) despite the fact that the raga is grouped only under Mela 21/Nat(r)abhairavi with a nominal arohana/avarohana of SGMPDNDs/sNDPMDMGS , with D1 in the Sangraha Cudamani, which scheme Tyagaraja is supposed to have utilized and which is the holy grail of modern Carnatic musicology. Its thus a matter of controversy if the bard of Tiruvaiyaru had indeed composed it with D2.

Presented first under this category is the rendering by the legendary Alathur Brothers from a vintage recording , wherein they also render an exquisite cittasavara section.

From a manodharma perspective, presented next are raga vinyasas for our understanding. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan does an alapana of Hindola Vasanta with D2 in his mellifluous voice.

Presented next is a tanam of the raga by the Veena maestro S Balachandar.

We round up this section with Vidvan Balachandar playing kalpana svaras for the pallavi line of ‘Ra ra seetaramani’.

The morphing of the dhaivatha from D1 to D2 especially in murccanas in the ascent/uttaranga PD1N2s is driven by harmonics and felicity of rendition. The PD1Ns almost always morphs off to PD2Ns as in the case of Bhairavi. As one can notice that in all the upanga ragas featured under Narireetigaula mela in the SSP, considering the fact that the transition from suddha dhaivatha to kaishiki nishada and then on to tara sadja from the pancama is not felicitous, the uttaranga portion of all the ragas are either PD1s or PD1ND1 s or PD1Ps almost as a rule. In fact it is in alignment with this logic that the purvanga structure of Hindolavasanta is PD1s or PD1ND1s.

This harmonics issue with the usage of D1 might have in all probability spawned the catusruti dhaivata/D2 only versions of Hindolavasanta though the original version as composed by the bard ‘must’ have been only with suddha dhaivatha. It is our misfortune that lack of an authentic, systematic & standardized documentation of Tyagaraja’s kritis compounded by multiple versions of the same compositions by the different schools of his disciples, effectively prevents us from discovering the original versions of a good number of his compositions.

It needs to be conceded here that though the D2 version of Hindolavasanta does not have the sanction of the older musicological texts, it is indeed beautiful in its own way. Should it be classified as a separate raga in its own right and so documented is an open question. Suffice to say that it would make immense sense to properly reclassify/tabulate these ragas, which are melodically different in the interest of clarity and for the benefit of students of music.

As noted earlier, this raga to the best of knowledge is not seen featured in other composition types or in pallavis.


Given the beauty of the raga one does wonder why the kritis and the varna are not frequently rendered. The raga and the compositions therein are evidence for the the older murccana/motifs based approach of melody construction with its bends, jumps and twists, which has been long forgotten. And in the context of Hindolavasanta, it is in no small measure we are indebted to the great Subbarama Dikshitar for having passed on to us this priceless gem of a raga and the nearly extinct, compositions in it, through his magnum opus, the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.


  1. Hema Ramanathan(2004) – Raga Lakshana Sangraha – Published by Dr N Ramanathan, ISBN 81 7525 536 6; pages 552-558
  2. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini as published in Tamil by the Madras Music Academy
  3. T V Subba Rao & S R Janakiraman(1993)- Ragaas of the Saramruta published by the Madras Music Academy, pp 252-255
  4. N Ramanathan(1991) – ‘Problems in Editing the compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar’ – Journal of the Music Academy -1998 Vol XIX pp 59-98
  5. S R Janakiraman(1996) – ‘Raga Lakshanangal'(Tamil) Vol 2, published by the Madras Music Academy,2009 Edition  pp 48-50
  6. Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer(1957) – Lalita & Manji – Journal of the Music Academy, Vol XXVIII Pages 122-125

The clippings used in this blog post have been used solely for educational purpose and covered under fair use  . No part of this article or the clippings can be used for any commercial purpose and the copyrights if any vests with the author and performers as the case may be.

Footnote 1:  A Piece of Historical Trivia – The ‘Bayee Saheb’ Rishabha Vahanam

The mention of ‘Bayee Saheb’ in the context of Rani Yamunamba Bayee, would almost certainly remind old time Tanjore residents of the so the called ‘Bayee Saheb Rishabha vahanam’. Apparently handed out as hearsay or the so called ‘karna paramparai kadai’ ( in Tamil), the episode features this Tanjore Queen. In the Tanjore temple ( as in the case of any Shiva temple), the fifth day of the annual festival ( Utsavam) features the rishabha vahana with the Lord and his consort taken around the town on the bedecked silver Rishabha (bull) as the vahana. The procession typically starts late in the  night on the fifth day of the annual festivities and after going around the town/temple mada streets, it reaches back the temple only by early morning of the next day. The Rani as per practice used to view it from from the precincts of the Royal Palace, closer to midnight when the procession reaches there.

Tanjore Royal Palace

(The Photograph above of the eastern side of the Royal Palace at Thanjavur was taken by Edmund David Lyon c. 1868. It was probably from one of these ornate balconies/entrance that Yamunambha Bayee Saheb might have witnessed the Rishaba Vahana seva of the Lord. Photo courtesy: Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

One year due to some reason, the Rani missed having the darshan of the Lord, perhaps having fallen asleep. The maids in attendance were apparently too scared to wake up the Queen. Outside the Palace the procession waited seemingly for eternity for the Rani to come out but that was not to happen that day. The Lord could not be kept waiting thus and so the procession moved on without the Rani having had her customary darshan. But belief had it that if a person having had the opportunity to witness the darshan of the Rishabha vahana seva , fails to do so then he/she will be reborn as a dog in the next birth. The Rani having missed  having the darshan coupled with this belief, sent the Royal Palace and temple authorities into a tizzy as it was scandalous to have allowed this very episode to happen. Who was to be blamed, the Queen ? Or was it her Royal entourage who ought to have woken her up or was it the temple establishment which should have waited for some more time before allowing the procession to move on ? It must have been the ultimate scandal of those times and would have become the talk of the town. And above all with the Royals at the very epicenter, it would have been a great public relations disaster as well.  One can imagine the Ministers, Courtiers , Royal Advisers, the Temple Chief Priests and their assorted underlings running helter-skelter to get the situation under control, assuage the Royals and mollify the indignant Queen.

A get-well plan was quickly hatched. We do not have a factual account of what transpired in the background or the ‘dramatis personae’ who orchestrated this plan.  Be that as it may, as per this ‘get-well’ plan, a second rishabha vahana was organized once again on the third day after the conclusion of the festivities for the queen’s exclusive benefit. This  re-run  was  structured in such a way so that it did not break the custom/practice/agama sastras and it offered one more chance for the queen to have her darshan without further delay as it formed part of that year’s festival itself.

The plan satisfied the pundits, the astrologers & the Royal establishment. And so that year the ‘Rishabha vahana replay’  was witnessed by the Queen  as per plan and the ruffled Royal feathers were assuaged.  Needless to say the second outing of the Lord on his favorite mount was much grander than the first one and was apparently the talk of the town for very many years. Thus the unfortunate situation of the Rani  having to shoulder the sin of having missed the darshan of the Lord on the bedecked bull was thus averted to everyone’s satisfaction. This action replay  or second rishabha vahana seva went on to become a permanent feature when it was made a part of the festival every year thereafter and was formally called the ‘Bayee Saheb Rishabha vahanam’. And it is only in the Tanjore Temple that one have the opportunity to  witness the rishabha vahana twice and it is courtesy of the Rani Saheba !

In parting, one is left wondering at this ‘rishabha’ connection, i.e. this second ‘rishabha’ vahana being rare or alpa as the ‘rishabha’ svara one encounters in Dikshitar’s conception of Hindolavasanta !

Update History:

  1. Dr.B Rajam Iyer’s rendering of ‘santAna rAmasvAminam’ and the commentary for the same added in Nov 2016
  2. Rendering of ‘rA rA sItAramani manOhara’ by Dr S Ramanathan with D1 and the commentary for the same added in Nov 2016
History, Raga

Tarangini – The story of a Quaint Beauty


Tarangini is a fairly old raga of the Carnatic Music system. It was the 26th mela both in the earlier as well as the later Kanakambari list (circa 1750), sporting chatushruti rishabham, antara gandharam, suddha madhyama, pancamam, suddha dhaivatam and kaisiki nishadam, with the mela being asampurna or vakra sampurna ( in modern day terminology). In the Kanakangi-Ratnangi scheme, the 26th slot was taken over by the heptatonic, krama sampurna Charukesi. Tarangini is one of the ragas which was mutilated during the 20th century. The suddha dhaivatha it sported was replaced by chatushruthi dhaivatha & the sole krithi composed in it by Dikshitar, “Maye tvam yahi” came to be rendered in a melody which resembles Jhanjuti.

In the popular press/reviews, in some standard music books/works and even amongst musicians, the raga of ‘Maye” is referred to as Sud(d)ha Tarangini ( which sports the chatushruti dhaivatha). Fact is that there is no raga called Sud(d)ha Tarangini. Suffice it to say that the raga with a textual tradition and which sports D1, is Tarangini only. Apart from the dhaivata being flipped to D2, the mathu of the kriti “Maye” has also been changed in few places. The result is the modern, popular and prevalent version of Tarangini which is nothing but a pale anemic copy of the original.

Be that as it may, fortunately for us we have authentic renditions by a few masters who have endeavored to protect  and preserve the pristine heritage left behind by Dikshitar. In this post, let us get a peek into this melody through this kriti of Dikshitar and also look at the musicological treatment of this raga.


The combination of R2G3M1PD1N2 is not to be seen in earlier works such as that of Somanatha or others. The earliest reference available to us is in the Kanakambari list as codified in the raga lakshana anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika dateable to 1700-1750 CE. The Sangraha Cudamani too makes a mention of this raga. The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshitar is the next authority and in it we have the following compositions made available to us:

  1. The lakshana gitam of Muddu Venkatamakhi
  2. The 2 tanams given by Subbarama Dikshitar again most probably composed by Muddu Venkatamakhi
  3. Maye Tvam yahi – Kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar
  4. The sancari of Subbarama Dikshitar
  5. The portion of the ragamalika ” E Kanakambari”, starting with “Peru Jenthina”, composed by Subbarama Dikshitar and given in the Anubandha to the SSP.

Apart from the above compositions we have the following two other compositions outside the SSP:

  1. “Palayamam” attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar, not found in the SSP, brought out by Veenai Sundaram Iyer in his publications.
  2. The portion of the catur-raga shlokamalika “Saanandam Kamalamanohari”, starting with ‘Devam ksheeratarangini”, which is rendered in Tarangini, composed by Maharaja Svati Tirunal, notated and published in the Tanjai Pervudiayan Perisai and Ponnayya Manimalai with the footnote that Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet set the lyric to music.

Tyagaraja, a supposedly avowed votary of the Sangraha Cudamani, has apparently composed only in Charukesi as exemplified by his kriti ‘Adamodi Galade’. As we will see later we have an account of a Tyagaraja composition being originally in Tarangini.


As mentioned earlier none of the older musicological texts (pre 1700 AD) including the Caturdandi Prakashika talk of Tarangini or its melodic equivalents. The first mention of this raga is in the Raga Lakshana anubandha of the Caturdandi Prakashika with a date of around 1700-1750 (See Foot Note 1). The lakshana shloka found therein provides a very illuminating lakshana for Tarangini.

pUrNastarangini ragArohe riga varjitah

avarohe padhanidha rigamagari samyutah

gIyate sarvakaleshu sagrahacaucyate budhaih

According to the above anubandha shloka:

  • The raga is sampurna- meaning it takes all the 7 notes in the arohana and avarohana murccana, taken together
  • The raga drops the svaras ri and ga in ascent and
  • Includes the phrases PDND and RGMGR in descent – that is in the descent, the nishada and madhyama are vakra
  • It has sadja as graham and can be sung at all times
  • It is the raganga raga of the 26th mela.

This raga lakshana shloka is a rare instance from the Raga Lakshana anubandha, wherein entire phrases are given as a part the raga description. As we will see next, this lakshana is contrary to what one sees in the SSP.


Moving on to the SSP, a lakshana shloka attributed to Venkatamakhi is quoted as under:²

ragastarangini purnah aarohe mani varjitah

avarohe padhanidha rigamagari samyutah

gIyate sarvakaleshu sagrahacaucyate budhaih

Generally the lakshana shloka found in the anubandha is almost always verbatim reproduced by Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP. However in the case of Tarangini the shloka as quoted is at variance (similar to the case of Kambhoji which was discussed in a previous article), especially the first line ( emphasis is mine) which states, which svaras are varja or excluded in the ascent.

The implication is not difficult to understand. The Anubandha lakshana shloka talks of the svaras R and G as being absent in the ascent, whereas the shloka quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar says that the svaras M and N are dropped in the ascent. Indeed this is source of confusion for we do not know from where Subbarama Dikshitar sourced this shloka. However based on the murccanas found in the Dikshitar composition ‘Maye’, we can convincingly conclude that M and N are the svaras which are dropped in the ascent and probably the shloka quoted by Subbarama Dikshitar is the authentic one or the one relying on which Dikshitar composed ‘Maye’. (See Footnote 2)

The SSP is today our only source to ascertain the raga lakshana of this raga which perhaps came into vogue with the dawn of the 18th century. Subbarama Dikshitar paints the melodic canvas of Tarangini with the following attributes in his commentary:

  1. A sampurna raga, shadja as graham
  2. Both M1 and N2 are vakra, appearing only as SR2G3M1G3R2 or PD1N2D1S. In other words the M1 note is always flanked by the gandhara and the dhaivatha is sandwiched between 2 nishadas.
  3. The murccana arohana is SR2G3PD1N2D1PD1S
  4. Avarohana is SD1PG3R2SR2G3M1G3R2S
  5. R2 is a favoured amsa svara apparently & being used as graha as well as nyasa.
  6. G3 is another favoured note, used in janta prayogas such G3M1G3G3R2S

Subbarama Dikshitar gives a tanam and a lakshana gitam as well for Tarangini ascribing authorship to Venkatamakhi. Needless to add, these compositions must be creations of Muddu Venkatamakhin. In the gitam and tanam, the Tarangini that is conceived is fairly the same as found in the lakshana shloka (SSP version) save for one point. The tanam seem to have the prayoga DPNDP which is not found even in his lakshana gitam. As we can see this murccana/prayoga is latter on completely deprecated. In Subbarama Dikshitar’s creations too, namely the sancari and the Tarangini raga portion of the ragamalika “E Kanakambari” found noted in the SSP and its anubandha respectively, the raga lakshana is aligned to the Dikshitar composition.

The Sangraha Cudamani provides the ragalakshana of Tarangini as SRMGRMPDs / sNDPMGRS under mela Carukesi. As one can see the svaras R and G are vakra in this version. In passing one may hypothesize that if the Muddu Venkatamakhin shloka in the anubandha is recast as “pUrnastarangini ragaarohe riga vakritah” (replacing varjitah with vakritah) then the Tarangini definition as between the anubandha and that of Sangraha Cudamani would be completely aligned!


As of today, the Tarangini that prevails is the one as codified by Subbarama Dikshitar in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini with the operative murccana arohana/avarohana of SRGPDNDPDs/sDPGRSRGMGRS on the authority of the kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar and the not the one as postulated in the Anubandha or the Sangraha Cudamani. This Tarangini one can say belongs to SSP and SSP alone.


The raga lakshana of this raga does not seem to have been discussed by the Experts Committee of the Music Academy. However a perusal of the Journals of the Music Academy indicates that the raga has been discussed/referenced in two instances:

  1. By the renowned critic Sri K V Ramachandran as a part of his lecture in the year 1938.
  2. By Dr T S Ramakrishnan, Experts Committee member and an acknowledged authority on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, in the year 1977.

Noted critic Sri K V Ramachandran (KVR) in his seminal paper presented before the Experts Committee of the Music Academy3, with authority says that many of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions were wrongly identified using the Sangraha Cudamani as a reference. He says that the raga of the composition “Nenendhu Vedakudura”  was  not Karnataka Behag but  Tarangini or rather the Tarangini of Dikshitar as exemplified by “Maye”. During this lecture demonstration Sri KVR also argues that the ragas of quite a few kritis of Tyagaraja had been changed.

The point to be highlighted here is that Tarangini was also utilized by Tyagaraja for the composition “Nenendhu Vedakudhura”, but this melodic setting is now all but extinct/dead.


For Dr T S Ramakrishnan (TSR), Subbarama Dikshitar was a parama guru of sorts as his father had worked with Subbarama Dikshitar and Chinnasvami Mudaliar during the publication of the SSP. He was a member of the Experts Committee of the Music Academy and a recipient of the Academy’s Certificate of Merit. Above all he was an acknowledged authority on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini and had been called upon to present many lecture demonstrations in connection with SSP and the music of the so called Dikshitar/Venkatamakhi sampradaya.

Dr TSR in the 1977 Academy session4 (on 22 Dec 1977) demonstrated the raga lakshana of Tarangini by singing (Muddu) Venkatamakhi’s gitam and the kriti “Maye”. He underlined the change that has been made to the raga and the kriti by changing it over to the 28th mela and calling it as ‘Sudha Tarangini’. Dr TSR emphasized that there was no raga by name ‘Sudha Tarangini’ and that the raga’s lakshana and the kriti has been tampered with through ignorance or sheer disregard for authentic tradition. In his concluding remarks for that lecture demonstration, Dr V Raghavan also pointed out that Tarangini was the correct name of the raga and the word ‘sudha’ had been appended by Dikshitar to the raga mudra to provide the meaning “as a flowing stream of ambrosial bliss”.

In this context it needs to be re-asserted that there is no raga called Sudha Tarangini at all and versions of the raga and of ‘Maye’ sung in this so called melody are spurious. Sadly even a few works on music authored by musicologists & authorities such as Prof Sambamoorthi have codified this raga5 which has no textual tradition.


Dikshitar’s conception of Tarangini as found in the SSP is a masterpiece in itself. He builds on the edifice that Muddu Venkatamakhin left behind. The composition in its lyrical and musical structure is unique in more than one aspect. There are a few kritis that authorities say reflects incidents in Dikshitar’s life such as “Mangaladevataya” (Dhanyasi) or “Tyagarajam Bhajare” (Yadukulakambhoji). I strongly feel that the pathos that the kriti evokes reflects some personal pain or incident in his life. The salient features of this composition are as follows:

  1. The kriti is structured oddly with an anupallavi and 3 caranas (though the SSP rather “counts” it only as 2 each with a different dhatu. No other krithi of Dikshitar is so structured with the refrain/pallavi  seamlessly segueing with the anupallavi and caranas.
  2. Dikshitar’s development of the raga can be gauged by the way in which he progressively expands the raga in each of the composition’s anga. The svaras S, G and P are used as the starting notes for these segments.
  3. Every time (barring the final carana) Dikshitar forays into the mandhara stayi to reach the pancama before traversing back to the madhya stayi.
  4. Sancara is seen from mandhara pancama to tara gandhara in the kriti. Tara madhyama is touched in the cittasvara.
  5. GMGGR or GMGR is a recurring motif throughout this kriti along with the PDND prayoga.
  6. The M1 is very deergha in its intonation
  7. The essence of Tarangini is captured by the cittasvara which encompasses the entire gamut of the raga.


Before we look at the renderings of Dikshitar’s composition “Maye”, an analysis of the treatment of this raga in another composition “Saanandam Kamala manohari’ is required here. This composition is a shloka which is set to music in a raga malika format and is referred to as a catur raga shloka malika with the four ragas Kamalamanohari, Revagupti, Hamsadhvani and finally Tarangini. Kamalamanohari is the raga for the pallavi refrain (‘Saanandam Kamalamanohari’). A few interesting aspects in relation to this composition needs to be mentioned.

  1. This shloka malika has the raga names as well the composer’s colophon appearing in the sahitya. The Tarangini raga portion features last, with the sahitya line “Devam ksheerataranginisa shayanam sri padmanabham bhajeham”.
  2. The composition is found notated in the Tanjai Pervudiayan Perisai6 & Ponnayya Manimalai7 as edited & published by Sangita Kalanidhi Ponnaya Pillai and latter by Sangita Kalanidhi K P Sivanandam. The footnote very clearly states that the sahitya was done by Maharaja Svati Tirunal and the music was set by Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet.
  3. Au contraire, according to Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s disciple Sri K Subramaniam, the sahitya was set to music by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer 10. Interestingly Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer has himself written the foreword to the edition7 which carried the notation of this shloka malika, which had the footnote to the effect that the music for this composition was set by Vadivelu of the Quartet. So given that, one can rule out the possibility of Sri Srinivasa Iyer having set the music to this composition.

From a raga lakshana perspective the Tarangini raga presented in ‘Saanandam’ is slightly different. To recapitulate, according to Subbarama Dikshitar and as evidenced by “Maye”, the operative arohana/avarohana murccana is SRGPDS/SDPGRS with GMGGRS and PDNDs occurring in profusion, In other words both N and M are vakra.

The notation given for the sahitya of the Tarangini portion of ‘Sanandam Kamalamanohari” namely “Devam ksheeratarangineesa shayanam sri padmanabham bhajeham” as well as the cittasvara section sports a lineal descent- sNDPMGRS which is not in accordance with the raga lakshana of this raga as found in the SSP. The raga thus seems to have been modified with the arohana/avarohana as SRGPDNDs/sNDPMGRS with both nishada and madhyama not being vakra at all. Given that the Quartet were the disciples of Muthusvami Dikshitar, it is indeed quite surprising and perplexing to observe such a deviation ( a krama sampurna avarohana) in the conception itself or the notation as published.

Was it the printer’s devil at work? One does not know. But for a student/connoisseur of music there it is: Three versions(melodic/structural) of Tarangini found documented, first in the Raga Lakshana anubandha of Venkatamakhin, second in the SSP and lastly in the composition ‘Saanandam Kamalamanohari’.


Fortunately we have some authentic renditions of this beautiful Dikshitar composition “Maye Tvam Yahi”, in the original melody with the suddha dhaivatha.

Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer who passed away in 2009, was a repository of many rare Dikshitar compositions having learnt it first hand from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer. Here is a clip of his rendering of Maye.

Clip 1: Dr B Rajam Iyer sings “Maye”

Prof S R Janakiraman another scion of the Dikshitar sishya parampara, first elaborates raga Tarangini in this clip. And then he sings the composition along with the elegant & pithy cittasvara.

Clip 2: Prof SRJ sings “Maye”

Next Vidushi Sowmya, a disciple of Dr S Ramanathan sings Maye in this commercially available rendition of the kriti. Her patham is slightly different in texture especially the pallavi sangatis with emphasis on rishaba.

Clip 3: Vidushi Sowmya sings “Maye” – Excerpt

Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli a disciple of Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer is always known for rendering kritis in their authentic/original form. Here she teaches (her students at Cleveland under the auspices of the Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana Committee) the version as found in the SSP.

Clip 4: Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli teaches ‘Maye’ – Excerpt

The raga Tarangini and the kriti Maye with chatushruti dhaivatha(D2) enjoyed considerable airtime in the last century, sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Sangita Kalanidhi Madurai Mani Iyer, Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi amongst others, with the result that the D2 version is now recorded for posterity as apparently authentic & original. In these versions apart from the replacement of D1 with D2 changes too have been made to dhatu/musical setting of the kriti. For example the 1st and 2nd caranas are sung in the same fashion with the gandhara svara as the eduppu/take off. Curiously the version of this composition by Vidushi Kalpakam Svaminathan is also with D2 as evidenced by the rendering of this kriti with the catushruthi dhaivatha in a Music Academy Lecture demonstration on Gamakas in the year 2005.  Given that she had learnt it so from Ananthakrishna Iyer, it is indeed a matter of speculation & controversy as to who could have changed the patham of this composition with D2 instead of D1. We also have discs cut by N C Vasanthakokilam(1919-1951) of this composition in the D2 version!

Presented next is a slightly different take or interpretation of the composition, by the revered vaineeka Prof R Visveswaran. Here is the rendering of the alapana of Tarangini , followed by the kriti from an AIR Concert( courtesy Sangeethapriya).

Prof. Visveswaran’s interpretation of the kriti is remarkably different for more than one reason. Additionally the rendering being on the veena enables one to compare the version with the notation of the composition found in the SSP and helps us in understanding the nuances of the original conception of the raga by Dikshitar.

First in his alapana, Prof. Visveswaran highlights the core skeletal structure of Tarangini i.e SRGPDs/sDPGRS with the additional PDNDP murrcana with emphasis on the gandhara & pancama (not madhyama as one could observe in all other versions). The RGPD murccana dominates and PDNDP is also given prominence. But the GMGGR murccana and consequently madhyama is relegated to the background. The madhyama note too, whenever it is rendered in his sangathis, seems to be intoned more as an anusvara of the gandhara and not prominently. 

Moving over to the kriti, in almost all other interpretations cited supra, one can notice that the Pallavi “Maye” is started off as a svarakshara on madhyama itself. The notation is GMG in the SSP, for the first sangathi with the take off note being gandhara. The Professor’s interpretation rightfully so, including the four additional variations/sangathis to the Pallavi line that he plays, avoids the madhyama note being the takeoff/nyasa. The Professor in fact tellingly uses GPDNDPGRSR with variations for the pallavi refrain/sangathis without utilizing madhyama note. Attention is invited to the variations in the pallavi after rendering the anupallavi and the carana segments. As one can note, the first sangathi (of all the sections of the composition) is always completely cued to the notation in the SSP but the subsequent sangathis are improvisations based on his interpretation he outlines in his alapana. Perhaps the only place where the madhyama note is conspicuously heard is at the fag end of the carana line UpAye before it loops back to the pallavi line.

In sum here is what makes the Professor’s creative interpretation of the raga/composition, stand apart from the rest: 

  1. Gandhara and pancama notes are the chosen pivots in the Professor’s interpretation while madhyama is very rare & is used an auxiliary note at best and never a takeoff note/nyasa.
  2. The dhaivatha & nishada are sharply intoned and in sum the Professor emphasizes the uttaranga portion of the raga much more than in other editions of this composition/raga.
  3. The skeletal structure emphasized throughout is SRGPDS/SDPGRS with a good usage of PDND. The madhyama note and the murccana GMGGR is kept to the very minimum.

Gravely beautiful and beseeching is the emotion of this raga and no wonder the bard of Tiruvaiyaru chose this raga for his heart wrenching ‘Nenendu vedhakudura’! And so this is the pen picture of Tarangini as painted by the Professor with its own shade and texture reminding us of the noveau raga Vasanthi (in which there is a tillana composed by Sri Lalgudi G Jayaraman). And it is rightfully so within the framed lakshana of the raga as documented in the SSP. Can one fault this interpretation, given the primacy shown for the madhyama (and for GMGGR murccana) in the notation (the cittasvara section actually begins on the madhyama note and the composition’s dhatu is littered with quite a few GMGGRS) for the composition? But that’s what artistic creativity is all about. One can comprehend that within the four corners of the raga’s stated lakshana, by emphasising certain notes/murrcanas while de-emphasizing a few others different flavors/facets of a raga could be derived. And that’s the evidence of the consummate skill and artistic genius/virtuosity of a musician even while he maintains fidelity to the musical intent of the composer and the laid down lakshana. 

As an aside , Prof Visveswaran’s equally illustrious brother Prof. Satyanarayana ran his own crusade to resurrect the correct version of Tarangini with suddha dhaivata more than half a century ago. Read it here.

Other editions:

Two other known instances of Maye having been sung as per the SSP raga lakshana in the last century and recorded are:

  1. Dr S Ramanathan’s rendition at the residence of former UN Chef-de-Cabinet, music aficionado, vocalist and disciple of Musiri Subramanya Iyer, Sri C V Narasimhan in the United States in the year 1967, both on veena and vocal!8
  2. Sri C V Narasimhan himself has rendered “Maye” as per the SSP raga lakshana at a home concert.9

Both the above versions have been recorded by the late James Rubin and is a part of this Oriental Music Collection which has been archived in the Harvard University Library.

I conclude this section with the rendering of Svati Tirunal composition, ‘sAnandam kamalA manOharI”. Presented below is the rendering of the shloka malika, a joint production of Maharaja Svati Tirunal and Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartet, from a 1966 Concert of Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who presents it with absolute fidelity to the notation as found in the “Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai”. Accompanying him is V V Subramanyam on the violin and Ramnad Raghavan on the mridangam.

Clip 5: Dr Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders “Saanandam kamala manohari”

One can surmise that Vadivelu having learnt the raga and the composition during his tutelage under Muthusvami Dikshitar must have sung it before Svati Tirunal who got enamored about it and went on to compose the lyric incorporating the raga and the mudra (in the composition the word “tarangini’ has been used to imply the Ocean of Milk which is the abode of Lord Vishnu/Padmanabha) for which Vadivelu set the music.


Given the beautiful conception of Tarangini by Dikshitar in this kriti one is forced to consider the possibility of he himself  having changed the raga’s contour ( assuming that the raga lakshana anubandha shloka of (Muddu) Venkatamakhin being the right/original one) . As a trail blazer and innovator Dikshitar could indeed have done so but we have no direct evidence in this case. Which ever way it is, one cannot deny the fact that this 26th raaganga was a mere theoretical derivation of Muddu Venkatamakhin. And it was left to to the ‘composer non pareil’ Muthusvami Dikshitar to provide flesh & blood and bring life to this beauty of a raga with its jumps, twists and bends. Tarangini’s structuring  & the composition ‘Maye’ again stand as shining examples to the long forgotten fundamentals of our ancient music namely non lineal progression, aesthetics and harmonics.


  1. Hema Ramanathan(2004) – Raga Lakshana Sangraha – Published by Dr N Ramanathan, ISBN 81 7525 536 6; pages 1455-57
  2. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini
  3. Ramachandran K.V. (1938) – “The Melakarta – A Critique” – The Journal of the Music Academy IX, pp. 31-33, Madras, India.
  4. Dr T S Ramakrishnan (1977) – ‘Tarangini & Navaroz’ – Lecture Demonstration conducted on 22 Dec 1977, Journal of the Music Academy Vol XLIX- Pages 33-34
  5. Prof P Sambamoorthi(1966) – South Indian Music Volume 6 – Pages 221-222
  6. Sivanandam K P (2001) – Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai, III Edition
  7. Sivanandam K P (2001)- Tanjai Nalvar Manimalai III Edition
  8. James Rubin(1967) – Recording of the home concert of Dr S Ramanathan dated Aug 13,1967 – reference AWMRL 15731- Harvard University Library Collection
  9. James Rubin(1975) – Recording of the home concert of Sri C V Narasimhan dated Oct 26, 1975 – reference AWMRL 15758- Harvard University Library Collection
  10. V Subrahmaniam & V Sriram (2008)- ‘Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer : Life & Times”, Published by East West
FOOT NOTE 1: Note on Muddu Venkatamakhin

The Caturdandi Prakashika is dated to the reign of King Vijayaraghava Nayak (1614-1672) & is said to have been written sometime around 1620. It’s the consensus opinion of all modern musicologists that though the Raga Lakshana listing (asampurna mela scheme) is treated as an appendix or anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika, it was in all probability created close to a 100 years later. For all practical purposes the anubandha is attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin a grandson or great grandson of Venkatamakhin, who lived during the reign of King Shahaji of Tanjore. While Govinda Dikshitar & his son Venkatamakhi ornamented the Nayak Court, this descendant Muddu Venkatamakhin was probably part of the Mahratta Court of King Shahaji.

We do not have any direct evidence to this effect. However in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar has given gitams & tanams for certain ragas attributing it to Muddu Venkatamakhi himself. One such is the gitam given for the raga Nattakurinji which bears the ankita/raja mudra of Sahaji with the composer name given by Subbarama Dikshitar as ‘Muddu Venkatamakhin” . King Shahaji ruled Tanjore during 1684-1710. He crowned his successor Serfoji I and retired to live in the Royal Estate at Tiruvarur very near the Tyagaraja temple, till the end of his life. For all practical purposes we may approximate the date of Muddu Venkatamakhin and the Anubandha to the CDP to the time period of 1700-1750. Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar, who finds mention in the SSP and the Vaggeyakaracaritamu of Subbarama Dikshitar, was probably a son/grandson/ descendant of this Muddu Venkatamakhin. The 65th Acharya of the Kanci Kamakoti Peetam Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvathi (1857-1890) in his purvashrama was a descendant of Venkatamakhin/Muddu Venkatamakhin. And not surprisingly, Subbarama Dikshitar sought this Acharya’s good offices to procure a copy of the Caturdandi Prakashika.

FOOT NOTE 2: Subbarama Dikshitar’s version of the Caturdandi Prakashika

Dr.R.Sathyanarayana in his critical commentary to the Caturdandi Prakasika says that Subbarama Dikshitar’s  source was a Telugu version of the Caturdandi . He also lists the differences and patha bedhas between what Subbarama Dikshitar had and what was made available to Pt. Bhatkande. Perhaps these differences are due to scribal errors or version differences between copies of manuscripts as we know for sure that Pt Bhatkande copied it from Subbarama Dikshitar only.

FOOT NOTE 2: Raga of Nenendhu Vedakudhura

The raga for Nenendhu Vedakudhura, according to Sri K V Ramachandran was arbitrarily assigned by Taccur Singarachar to Karnataka Behag when he passed on the details of Tyagaraja’s compositions to Chinnasvami Mudaliar who was collating them for his work the Oriental Music in Western Notation. The raga of this composition is given as Harikambhoji in Chinnasvami Mudaliar’s work, Kannada Behag by K V Srinivasa Iyengar and Karnataka Behag by Rangaramanuja Iyengar.

On the assumption that the svaras were flipped one can analyze the mathu or the musical construct of the composition to see if indeed if the composition’s available mathu matches the melodic hue of Tarangini with an operative arohana/avarohana of SRGPDNDs/sDPGRMGRS. One other aspect that one can consider is the lyric itself. One can do an analysis if the lyric is melodically aligned to the raga in which it is set. In this composition Tyagaraja appears to be in a very sad and remorseful state of mind. Tradition has it that this song was composed after he lost the idol of Lord Rama that he was worshipping and his continuous but unavailing search till then. Given the melancholic mood that Tyagaraja would have been in, the tune for this composition as it exists seems inappropriate. Given the melodic mood that Tarangini with the suddha dhaivatha and prayogas such as SD1P, PD1ND1s etc would impart, one can surmise that it would be most appropriate and fitting for this composition.

Update History:
  1. The rendering of ‘mAyE’ by Prof Visvesvaran along with the commentary added in Nov 2016

History, Raga

Yamuna Kalyani–A Journey Back in Time-Part III


Apart from the famous compositions “Krishna Nee Begane”, “Pibare ramarasam” and “Bhavayami Gopalabalam”, Yamuna Kalyani is elaborated by musicians during concerts only in viruttams/shlokas usually under the pretext of lending a “Hindustani” touch to the musical proceedings. I present two of them.

First, Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer interprets Yamuna Kalyani in this shloka rendered as a ragamalika, to the violin accompaniment of Vidvan Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin, in this very good recording from a live concert, circa 1960. Incidentally in this concert, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer sandwiches this raga between two solid “carnatic” ragas, Dhanyasi and Saveri in this ragamalika rendering of the shloka, ‘kOdanda dIksha gurum’. ( See Foot note 4).

Clip 7 – Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer – Shloka

In this exposition it may be noted that Sri Srinivasa Iyer does not render the raga in madhyama sruti. He starts of on the gandhara note, the jeeva svara of Yamuna and ornaments it with a prolonged kampita gamaka. Note that when he finally concludes his essay he ends it on gandhara only . He reaches out to the tara sadja via jaaru from the pancama and travels on to the taara gandhara as well and does uses the suddha madhyama sparingly.  The prati madhayama as one notices is also muted and he uses only nRGP.  Also he focuses only on the purvanga svaras and never pauses on /uses the nishada or dhaivata as a nyasa-start or ending svara even as he conjures up his vision of Yamuna Kalyani. The  version that the veteran paints has predominantly shades of the older archaic Yamuna with suddha madhyama thrown in as well. Attention is invited to the gamaka laden murccanas/akaaras that Sri Semmangudi weaves with his well warmed up voice, imparting  the so called ‘Carnatic’ charge to this apparently northern raga!

We next move on to the rendering of a viruttam by Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan (TVS), as a prelude to the kriti “Krishna Nee”. He uses Yamuna Kalyani to present the pAsuram (verses) of Tirumangai Azhwar on the Lord at Tiru Allikkeni (Triplicane, Chennai).

Clip 8 – Vid T.V.Sankaranarayanan – pasuram

Sri Sankaranarayanan’s presentation is reminiscent of Prof TRS’s style, marked by fidelity to sruti, open throated and unrestrained felicity in the execution of sancaras in the top octave.

Another old composition that is rendered in Yamuna Kalyani is the javali ‘Adhi Neepai’ of Dharmapuri Subbarayar, which again is rendered in madhyama sruti, in the modern version of the raga. The version as rendered by the doyenne of the Dhanammal family, Smt T Brindha may be referred to.


To summarize, since its origination there has been at least 3 forms of Yamuna Kalyani as under:

  • The archaic Yamuna Kalyani melodically equivalent to Suddha Kalyan of Hindustani Music as evidenced by the gavai prabandha (Foot Note 1) and Subbarama Dikshitar’s jatisvaram.
  • The Yamuna Kalyani of Dikshitar as embodied in the composition “Jambupate” with alpa suddha madhyama prayoga (restricted to GM1R or GM1GR) and nishada being vakra in arohana, melodically equivalent to Yaman (purists may prefer the nomenclature Jaimini Kalyan for this) of Hindustani Music.
  • The much more modern and lighter sampurna version of Yamuna with more/denser suddha madhyama usage (even used in quick succession following the prati madhyama note) and ornamented with more jaarus and less of kampita gamaka. Many of the modern day expositions of even older compositions such as Tyagaraja’s beautiful piece “haridAsulu vEdalE” or “Vidhi chakra” fall within this ambit.

Today,though the raga has been relegated to a minor niche on our music canvas, the composer non-pareil Muthusvami Dikshitar has in his infinite wisdom chosen to ornament it with a truly great magnum opus, “Jambupate”. In fact I suspect that Dikshitar may have had a special affinity to the kshetra of Trichirapalli or Trisirapuram or Thiruccevvandipuram as it had been called in older texts (See Foot Note 2 and 3) .His family accounts have it that his daughter was married off into a family based in Trichirapalli. Be that as it may,  Dikshitar’s compositions for this kshetra are gems in themselves, a veritable roll call of the very best compositions from him. Here is the list:

  1. Jambupate – Yamuna Kalyani – On Lord Jambukeshvara
  2. Sri Matah – Begada – On his consort Godesses Akhilandesvari
  3. Sri Matrubutam – Kannada – On Lord Matrubuteshvara
  4. Sri Suganti kuntalambike – Kuntalam – On his consort Godesses Sugantha Kuntalambika
  5. Ranganayakam – Nayaki – On Lord Ranganatha
  6. Sri Bharghavi – Mangalakaishiki – On his consort Goddesses Ranganacciar

And as a first among equals in this listing, the composition and the conception of the raga Yamuna Kalyani therein, by themselves exemplify the greatness of Dikshitar and his monumental contribution to our music.

FOOTNOTE 1 – Prabandha Type of the Gavai Prabandha:

From a grammatical standpoint, a prabandha is supposed to have the following 5 components namely tala, tenaka etc.  For a more detailed practical exposition on the components of a prabandha  readers may refer to the book of Prof S R Janakiraman’s , “Essentials of Musicology in South Indian Music”. As we can see this prabandha has all the requisite components so mandated:

  1. Tala – Is given as Adi
  2. Tenaka – an optional attribute for a prabandha .This is not seen in this prabandha instance.
  3. Patha – Is seen, which is the sollkattus – thathom, thaiyaa etc
  4. Svara- The dhatu is available as required.
  5. Pada – The lyric is secular in character and in praise of a mortal and hence is of the category of “biruda”

Since the prabandha (with tattaittaiyaa -GGGR, as the refrain or udgraha) has 4 components including the mandatory svara part, it is a Anandini Jati prabandha. One can surmise that since this prabandha had been composed in a desya raga of northern origins, it was probably treated as a slightly inferior composition.


While one can always speculate on Dikshitar’s choice of ragas for some of his great compositions, his choice of Yamuna for “Jambupate” is very intriguing. “Jambupate Maam Pahi” is a krithi which forms part of the set of 5 compositions covering the pancabhuta kshetras namely Kancipuram (prithvI), Kalahasti,(vAyu), Tiruvannamalai (agnI) , Jambukeshvaram (jala/appU) and Cidambaram (AkAsa), wherein Lord Siva is said to embodied in the form of one of these primordial elements. Each of these kritis in unique and has been custom structured lyrically having a solid nexus to the kshetra. Jambukeshvaram or  tiruvAnaikkA, the kshetra on which this kriti has been composed, represents Shiva of the form of Water. Hence this composition features a number of water related references such as Ambu, Ambudhi, Ganga, Kaveri, Yamuna, Kambu, appU etc. The lyrics also features the standard dviteeyakshara prasa, the usage of which Dikshitar is justly famous for such as, Jambu-ambu, tumbu, ambu, kambu etc).

On the choice of ragas for the panca bhuta kritis, Dikshitar chose older and traditional Carnatic ragas such as Huseni, Bhairavi, Saranga and Kedaram for the other pieces. But the fact that he chose Yamuna for this composition/kshetra , seems to be a sort of a teaser.Given the facts we have , I speculate that he had chosen Yamuna for the following 2 reasons, perhaps:

  • To showcase his musical virtuosity by taking up a desya raga and providing a make-over to it and in the process bring it into the musical mainstream in Carnatic Music. Suddha Kalyan as a raga is considered a challenge to musicians in Hindustani Music. This is what Deepak Raja says on this point.

“A survey of available recordings of this raga (Suddha Kalyan) reveals some interesting patterns. To begin with, Suddha Kalyan appears to have been performed only by musicians of considerable stature. Even these musicians appear to have performed them primarily at concerts, and rarely on commercial recordings. These facts suggest that the raga is regarded as a considerable aesthetic challenge, and those who do perform it do so after they have ascertained the receptivity potential of their audiences to the raga’s melodic subtleties.”

  • Dikshitar associated Yamuna with Trichy/ Jambukesvaram. Given that the prabandham (the oldest available composition) is on a ruler of Trichirapalli, Dikshitar associated it with the Tiruvaanaikka temple and proceeded to compose in it.  In fact King Vijayaranga Cokkanatha was a great benefactor of the Tiruvanaikka temple as well.  Additionally one can surmise as well that Dikshitar might have heard the prabandham being rendered when he was in Trichirapalli , had it notated, which latter came into the hands of Subbarama Dikshitar, who proceeded to publish it in the SSP.
“Jambukeshvara Temple andTrichirappalli – A Photo Montage, Circa 1850 (Courtesy: The Collection from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The famous British Photographer Linnaeus Tripe took these photographs of Trichirappalli and the Jambukesvara Temple , perhaps just a few decades after Dikshitar visited the temple. Dikshitar must have walked through the temple courtyard and the approach street as one sees in the photograph above. The photo on the bottom right is the ramp parts of the Trichy Palace/Fort as it was then. This Palace was probably the Court of King Vijayaranga Cokkanatha, where perhaps the Yamuna Kalyani gavai prabandha was composed and rendered, with him as the nAyakA.


Time and again one can notice that whenever there is a conversation about Dikshitar’s composition “Jambupate”, the lyrical and melodic structuring of the composition on the lines of the Northern/Hindustani Dhrupad is invariably referred to. Dhrupad in short it is an old and now virtually extinct compositional form and vehicle for musical exposition of Hindustani Music. For an in depth coverage of dhrupad I would refer the readers to the book by Deepak Raja ,titled ‘Hindustani Music – A Tradition in Transition’ . There are apparently 2 types of Dhrupad’s in the northern classical music – the so called devotional dhrupad, which is typically sung in Vaishnavite temples of the North and the second one being classical dhrupad. This is what author Selina Theilemann says of the 2 types of dhrupad ( or dhruva pada) in her work “Singing the Praises Divine: Music in the Hindu Tradition”, which I think summarizes it perfectly.

“While the classical dhrupada performance represents a musical rendition in its own right, the dhrupada of the Vaishnavite temples is characterized by its strict functionality within the devotional sevice. In the devotional drupada, the composition and sacred content of its text form the central element of the performance, whereas the purely musical aspects such as alapa and improvisation are reduced to a minimum. Devotional drupadas are always composed in cau tala and are sung in slow tempo. The rendition of the complete composition is compulsory and no part of the devotional text is indispensable. The alapa is either omitted or reduced to a few characteristic phrases of the raga. Rhythmic and melodic improvisation too is given little space and in some temples and traditions, improvisation is altogether prohibited. What is shared by both the classical and devotional drupada is the slow and heavy movement, along with the emphasis on the textual component and on the effective delivery of the devotional message.”

In all probability Dikshitar structured his ‘Jambupate’ on the lines of the northern ‘devotional drupad’. Did he hear it in a northern Vaishnava shrine, probably during his Kashi sojourn? Or did he perhaps hear it being rendered by some visiting ‘durbari gavai’ in Tanjore or Trichirapalli? No one can be sure. Be that as it may, Dikshitar invokes the deeply meditative and contemplative structure of the devotional dhrupad in this composition. The similarities ‘Jambupate’ has with the devotional dhrupad also give us a clue as to how the composition has to be rendered and there can be no doubt about it. Selina Theilemann’s summary of the style/tempo of rendering the devotional dhrupad says it all.


As an aside, attention is invited to the remarks that Sri Srinivasa Iyer makes at the start of Sri Lalgudi’s vinyasa response. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer known for his humorous and witty on/off-stage remarks and repartee, given that the raga being rendered is of  Hindustani origins, in this clipping, expresses his appreciation for Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman’s raga response with the Hindi words ‘acchA acchA’ and then follows up with a comment to the effect that (given that the “Anti Hindi’ agitation was running high in Tamil Nadu then i. e during the early 1960’s) the usage of “that” Hindi word is best avoided! The entire concert has been commercially released by Carnatica through a CD album titled “Classical Everest”.


  1. Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904) of Subbarama Dikshitar – Tamil translation published the Music Academy, Madras
  2. “Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Compositions in Desiya Ragas” ( 1975) by B V K Sastry- Collection of Essays, published as “The Musical Heritage of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar”, by the Indian Indological Society, Baroda
  3. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Carnatic ragas from a new angle – Sankarabharana” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 88-99, Madras, India.
  4. “Desi ragas of Post-Ratnakara Period” ( 1996) – Ph.D Dissertation of  R Hemalatha, Department of Indian Music, University of Madras, Chennai, India.
  5. Deepak Raja’s blog featuring his notes on Raga Shudda Kalyan -URL: http://swaratala.blogspot.com/2007/04/raga-shuddha-kalyan-how-and-why-it-is.html
  6. “Raganidhi” (1984) by B. Subba Rao, published by Music Academy, Madras
  7. “Kalyani”(Jan 2002) – An article by M V Ramana and V N Muthukumar available at http://www.sawf.org/newedit/edit01142002/musicarts1.asp
  8. “South Indian Shrines” by Shri P V Jagadisa Iyer  and published by Asian Educational Services, 1993;  ISBN 8120601513, 9788120601512 ;638 pages
  9. “History Of The Nayaks Of Madura”  (1924) by R Sathyanatha Aiyar ; Published by Oxford University Press


  1. The clippings in this article have been used for purely educational purpose as illustration only and all copyrights therein lies with the music distributors or the artistes or their descendants as the case may be.
  2. I am extremely grateful to Dr. Abhiramasundari for providing me with with her interpretation and permission to use the rendering of the jatisvaram of Subbarama Dikshitar.
  3. I thank Vidvan Suryaprakash for providing me with the permission to post his rendering of the Yamuna Kalyani kriti ‘Paramashivatmajam’, from his CD release titled “Shanmatha Sunadham” distributed by Poornima Records, Chennai.
History, Raga

Yamuna Kalyani–A Journey Back in Time-Part II

Subbarama Dikshitar’s Compositions:

The jatisvaram found notated under this raga in the SSP can be considered as Subbarama Dikshitar’s second composition composed in the year 1856, the first one being the varna in Durbar “Intamodi”. The reference to his is found in his autobiography that he wrote as a part of the “Vaggeyakara Caritamu”. When he sang the Durbar varna before the Rajah of Ettayapuram, the Rajah to ensure that the Courtiers and other musicians too acknowledge and realize that the seventeen year old Subbarama Dikshitar was truly an original musician, made him compose this jatisvaram in the raga Yamuna as a test. The composition was structured by the young Subbarama Dikshitar as specified by the Rajah such that the pallavi and anupallavi had svaras as sahitya, the next set of svaras started with dhaivata, the final svara set had all the three speeds, and finally ending with the muktayi svaram.

As one can notice from the notation of this composition, Subbarama Dikshitar’s Yamuna is featured with older prayogas like GPDs, sDP etc. The ragamalika too bears out Subbarama Dikshitar’s penchant for the older version/archaic Yamuna rather than the newer Yamuna as embodied in ‘Jambupate’. It is only in the sancari that Subbarama Dikshitar uses the melodic material of the newer Yamuna of Dikshitar with usage of M1 and also prolific usage of nishada. His sancari too contains phrases from the older Yamuna as well as the newer Yamuna. One can surmise that the sancaris were probably composed during the run up to the creation of the SSP by Subbarama Dikshitar and not earlier.

At this juncture, attention is invited to the other notated composition found in the SSP, which is Krishnasvami Ayya’s kriti ‘Cintaye Janakiramanam’. Incidentally the kriti is not encountered in the concert circuit, but the notation in the SSP, features a slightly different Yamuna Kalyani. In this composition, suddha madhyama usage is denser and is not just restricted to the GM1R usage. We do see a GM1P usage as well as a GM2M1 usage in the kriti ! Also the M1 shows up in tara stayi sancaras as  gm1r which is extremely rare in Yamuna Kalyani. Given that Subbarama Dikshitar must have in all probability had a role to play in setting the tune for this composition, the treatment of Yamuna Kalyani in this composition is indeed very odd and unusual!


As highlighted elsewhere in this article, modern/present day Yamuna is clearly a further narrowing down of the Yamuna Kalyani of Dikshitar with two important changes:

  1. The raga is rendered in madhyama sruti
  2. Usage of suddha madhyama is much more prolific and one can also see that it is used in succession with the prati madhyama note.

On the usage of M2M1 notes in succession, it needs to be pointed that classical versions of the Hindustani raga Yaman do not feature the same. According to Rajan Parrikkar, the suddha madhyama using versions of Yaman should be called Jaimini Kalyan rather than Yaman Kalyan.  Fact is  that the Hindustani raga Yaman which is an implementation of the ‘thAt’ or raaganga Kalyan, does not sport suddha madhyama at all. The versions of Kalyan sporting suddha madhyama (Yaman Kalyan or Jaimini Kalyan as may be called), use M1 only via GM1G . The phrase M2M1G usage with the glide is considered a “lighter” version. I would invite readers to the two seminal articles on Kalyan and Kalyani by Rajan Parrikkar and Muthukumar and Ramana, respectively on sawf.org.


In this section we will take a look at the recordings of compositions as encountered in the  three evolutionary forms of Yamuna Kalyani.

Archaic Yamuna:

First is the older form, equivalent to the Suddha Kalyan of the Hindustani Music. As pointed out earlier, the Jatisvaram of Subbarama Dikshitar as notated in the SSP is a prime example. Dr Abhiramasundari, a disciple of Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli renders the jatisvaram as per the notation found in the SSP.

Clip 1 – Jatisvaram-yamunakalyani – SubbaramaDikshitar (Dr.Abhiramasundari)

Attention is invited to the total absence of the suddha madhyama svara and the nishada in this composition. The tonal color of the raga as delineated in this composition is vastly different.

Dikshitar’s Yamuna Kalyani –  Jambupate:

Next is the Yamuna of Dikshitar which is best defined by the pancabhuta kshetra kriti “Jambupate Mam pahi” and exemplified by the notation found in the SSP. The most popular renditions of this composition are that of Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman and Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer, both of whom trace their pAtham to Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer and on to Ambi Dikshitar. For the purposes of this article, I present two interpretations/renderings which  appear in my opinion to be closer to the notation as found in the SSP.

But before that, I present an excerpt from a 1993 Lecture Demonstration on select Dikshitar Kritis by Prof S R Janakiraman @ Seattle, USA. He is accompanied by Srividya Chandramouli of the Karaikudi veena school . Here he dwells on the Yamuna Kalyani of Dikshitar.

Clip 2 – Prof SRJ – Yamuna Kalyani Demonstration

Prof S R J first outlines the salient features of Dikshitar’s Yamuna Kalyani and shows how different it is from Kalyani, even without usage of suddha madhyama. Watch out for the Professor tellingly use the nRGMP or nRGP (lower case signifying mandhara stayi and uppercase madhya stayi) and again PNDs (italics signify upper or tara stayi) to proceed to the upper octave, reminding us of the Hindustani Yaman. He renders portions of the composition as illustration and shows how by the mere intonation of the gandhara and purvanga svaras, Kalyani can be distinguished very clearly from Yamuna Kalyani.

Clip 3 – Prof SRJ – Jambupate

Next, Prof S R J presents Jambupate in full, to the accompaniment of tanpura sruti, preceding it with a crisp raga outline. Attention is invited to the total exclusion of suddha madhyama svara in the alapana and the sparing use of it in the kriti, in line with the notation as found in the SSP.To reiterate, in Dikshitar’s version of Yamuna Kalyani the suddha madhyama svara usage is supposed to be sparing in usage and is seen only via the murccana GM1RS only. An example, is the negotiation of the sahitya line of the anupallavi, “tumburu nuta hrudaya tapopasamana”.  Also note that fact that the rendering is “not” in madhyama sruti, driven by the fact that the kriti has sancaras spanning upto the tara gandhara. Attention is again invited to the way in which Prof S R J explicitly intones prati madhyama at the anupallavi line “AmbujAsanAdi sakala deva namana”.Within the framework of the original notation, the Prof melodically  extends , interprets and develops the sahitya line revealing the myriad melodic hues of Yamuna. The entire anupallavi presents in a nutshell, Dikshitar’s conception of the modern Yamuna in its so called bhashanga form with M1, a veritable lesson indeed for us.

A note on kampita gamaka and its usage in Yamuna Kalyani is warranted at this juncture. It is not that kampita gamaka is not to be used in Yamuna. Modern interpretations of this raga near totally eschew kampita gamaka usage, driven perhaps by the logic that since it is a raga with northern origins, its notes should be plainer and not oscillated with this gamaka. The notation of “Jambupate” in the SSP and its interpretation by the Professor clearly shows how misconceived this view can be. In his rendering, attention is invited to the portion where the Professor tellingly uses the gamaka on the gandhara as he interprets the caranam line “sarva jeeva dayakara sambho”, for example, in line with the SSP notation. Gandhara, dhaivatha and the pancama svaras , especially in the caranam are ornamented with the kampita gamaka notation, debunking this common misconception that this raga needs to be rendered “only” in a plainer/lighter fashion, lest it may probably be mistaken for Kalyani.

I present next, Sangita Kala Acharya Seetha Rajan interpreting the composition, again with fidelity to the notation of Subbarama Dikshitar, in this August 2009 recording from a chamber music recital.

Clip 4 – Vidushi Seetha Rajan – Jambupate

As I understand, she has re-learnt it on the basis of the notation found in the SSP. Her grounding in Hindustani Music as well comes to the fore as she interprets the Pallavi line ‘amruta bodham dehi” executing the GMPD/rs svara sequence via jaaru gamaka, jumping from the madhya stayi dhaivatha to the tara rishabha. One can appreciate and savor Dikshitar’s extraordinary depth of imagination as it comes to the fore when he flips the GPDs of the older Yamuna as GMPDrs imparting a different hue in this composition. The fundamental axiom of raga lakshana and its interpretation which was practiced by Dikshitar is best embodied by the assertion of noted music critique, the Late K V Ramachandran, in one of his lecture demonstrations where he avers that jumps, bends, twists were the rule for svaras in ragas and that rarely do they proceed in a linear succession. Attention is invited to the grand finale of this composition, which is the concluding carana sahitya in madhyamakala, begining “nirvikalpa samAdhi nishta…”. Students and learners of this composition should listen to the Vidushi Seetha Rajan’s interpretation with the SSP notation by the side, to appreciate how Dikshitar provides us with an unalloyed summary of his Yamuna in this final section, devoid of even the suddha madhyama.

Dikshitar’s other compositions:

Apart from “Jambupate” which is the sole composition in Yamuna Kalyani of Muthusvami Dikshitar as documented in the SSP, we have two other compositions “Nandagopala” and “Paramashivatmajam”, which have been documented by Veenai Sundaram Iyer and attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar. Recordings of “Nandagopala” by both Dr B Rajam Iyer and by Sri Maharajapuram Santhanam are available to us. For sake of analysis, I take up “Paramashivatmajam”, which is hardly encountered in the concert circuit. Vidvan R Suryaprakash interprets this composition as he learnt it from Dr V V Srivatsa.

Clip 5: Vidvan Suryaprakash – Paramashivatmajam-Yamunakalyani

Attention is invited to the usage of the svarakshara “sDP” in the Pallavi line “sadA bhajeham”, which is a signature prayoga or motif of the older Yamuna. Attention is invited to the treatment of the raga in the composition (not found in SSP) in contradistinction to ‘Jambupate’ (found in SSP). In fact this divergence of raga lakshana and its treatment is encountered in few other ragas , such as for example Vegavauhini and Chaturangini, exemplified by the SSP kritis on one hand and the non SSP kritis on the other, as composed by /attributed to Dikshitar.

Moving away from Dikshitar, in the absence of authentic versions or notations of the available Tyagaraja kritis in this raga, I am unable to divine if indeed the Bard of Thiruvayyaru’s, interpretation of this beautiful raga was on the lines of the archaic Yamuna or of Dikshitar’s Yamuna. The analysis of the notation of the kriti “Haridasulu vedale” as documented in detail by Rangaramanuja Iyengar presents us with some data as to the form it was at least during the first half of the 20th century.


I next take up the interpretation of Tyagaraja’s composition “Haridasulu Vedale” by the veteran vocalist Prof T R Subramaniam (Prof TRS). He along with Prof SRJ, Sangita Kalanidhi T K Govinda Rao and the well known music guru Bombay Sri Ramachandran were batch mates, learning music at the Madras Music College during the 1950’s from the likes of Musiri Subramanya Iyer, T Brinda and others.

Prof SRJ and Prof TRS @ Cleveland 2004

Clip 6 – Prof TRS – Haridasulu

In this old recording, we can find how pristine and felicitous, Prof T R S’s voice was. The fast brighas he executes with razor sharp precision remind us of the style of the late Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramaniam, whom he  idolized. First, Prof T R S embarks on an alapana of Yamuna Kalyani. He lets his imagination run riot literally as he takes us far into upper reaches of Yamuna Kalyani and fleetingly uses the prayoga incorporating the two madhyamas in succession, which is well within the province of modern Yamuna Kalyani, which permits a much denser and unrestrained use of suddha madhyama. He concludes by outlining the eduppu/take-off of the famous Yamuna Kalyani kriti “Krishna Nee” probably for the benefit of the audience and moves on to render the kriti.

In in his rendering of the final sangati of the Pallavi line “Ananda mAye dayalo”, Prof TRS uses the two madhyamas in succession as a svarakshara. Clearly this edition of the Tyagaraja composition is classifiable under the modern version of Yamuna Kalyani.

It is indeed a pity that we are unable to divine the true/original conception of Yamuna by the bard, beyond doubt. The different patantharams and the lack of a reliable oral or textual notation as authority prevents us from understanding many of Tyagaraja’s original melodies. In fact the Experts Commitee of the Music Academy debated it without a conclusion being reached, in the year 1958, the year in which Sri G N Balasubramanian became the Sangita Kalanidhi. During those deliberations, the Experts Committee member C S Iyer ( father of  Vidushi Vidya Shankar and disciple of Sangita Kalanidhi Sabhesa Iyer) raised the question as to the original raga of the famous Tyagaraja composition “Etavunara”, which is presently rendered in Kalyani. According to him the raga of the composition was not Kalyani but Yamuna ( vide JMA Vol XXX, Page 30, Proceedings dated 23-Dec-1958 ).

We now move over to Vyasaraya’s ‘Krishna Nee’ which is a shining example of modern Yamuna Kalyani.

Krishna Nee Begane Baro:

In the context of the ‘Krishna Nee Begane” , the composition or atleast the text/lyrics dates back to the 15th/16th century.  I am unable to speculate on the antiquity of the tune. It might be very old or may not be, but needless to say that this song as immortalized by Sangita Kalanidhi T Balasarasvati (1918-1984) is the extant version of the popular Yamuna Kalyani.  For connoisseurs of fine arts, Tanjore Balasarasvathi was the very embodiment of  the music and dance of Tanjore. She was the star student of Kandappa Nattuvanar (1899-1941) who was the great grandson of Cinnayya of the  illustrious Tanjore Quartet. For the benefit of those of us who may not be aware as to why this legendary scion of the Veena Dhanammal family is justly identified with this composition, Dr B M Sundaram’s in his work “Marabu Thanda Manikkangal” (Tamil) has captured that moment in history ! The following paragraph is a rough translation of his account.

The year was 1934 and the venue was the Rasika Ranjani Sabha at Mylapore , Madras the Mecca of Carnatic Music. The cognoscenti of the City had assembled to watch ‘their’ Bala ( as she was adoringly referred to by her avid rasikas) performing to the singing of her mother, the incomparable Jayammal. During the course of the recital Jayammal, extempore launched into “Krishna Nee Begane”, the devaranama which was one  of the several, she had learnt from the great Dasa pada exponent and guru, Dharwad Hayagrivachar. Bala was caught unawares as she had not danced to the piece before that day and her hesitation if any was perhaps momentary as she instantly and naturally drew on her consummate artistic genius and innate skill of abhinaya. For the next thirty minutes  or more, she held the audience spell-bound with her remarkable interpretation of the lyrics, conjuring up the very image of Krishna of Udipi before them.  As they say, the rest is history. It went on to become the talk of the town for the next several years, setting a new benchmark for  this composition and its interpretation.

Hear the meltingly rendered composition with the abhinaya. Luckily for us, it has been captured by the doyen Satyajit Ray on film and has thus been preserved for posterity:


History, Raga

Yamuna Kalyani–A Journey Back in Time-Part I


Raga Yamuna Kalyani, also called as Yamuna, is a supposedly lighter melody and a minor raga today, under the Kalyani raganga/melakartha. A look at the musical history as available to us and also given the fact that we have major compositions from both Tyagaraja and Muthusvami Dikshitar, would show that this raga was not a minor one. In fact there is even an authoritative reference that one of the kritis of Syama Shastri (“Birana Varalichi”) was composed in Yamuna Kalyani, implying that this raga should have been a member of that exalted list of 28 ragas (making it 29) that were utilized by the Trinity in common for their compositions. Many of the 20th century authorities such as Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer have been of the firm opinion that Yamuna Kalyani was an import from Hindustani Music and that the melodic equivalent of our Yamuna Kalyani was Yaman or Iman as it is referred to. In fact the “import” is ascribed to Muthusvami Dikshitar himself with the storyline that he learnt it during his Kashi sojourn.

When one traces our musical history, it can be deduced that Yamuna Kalyani had its roots in the old mela of Venkatamakhi called as Kalyana or Suddha Kalyan. This Suddha Kalyana spawned modern Kalyani even while it metamorphosed into Yamuna Kalyani as evidenced by the Dikshitar’s “Jambupate Mam Pahi”, the Panchabhuta kshetra kriti on the Lord at Tiruvanaika (Trichy) in this raga. Thus it would be erroneous to state that Yamuna Kalyani is a janya or offshoot of Kalyani. Rather Yamuna Kalyani was Kalyani’s precursor or at least Kalyani’s sibling, having been spun off from Suddha Kalyan. To suit the convenience of modern day classification it came be bundled under the Kalyani Ragaanga, in other words as a member of the Kalyani clan.

Coming back to the main thread, this Yamuna Kalyani as envisioned by Dikshitar underwent a further modification in the 20th century as evidenced by the melodic setting of the two current day famous compositions, “Krishna Nee Begane” and Annamacharya’s “Bhavayami Gopalabalam”. This modern Yamuna Kalyani can also be seen in modern interpretations of Tyagaraja’s better known compositions namely “Haridasulu vedale” and “Vidhi Chakradulaku”.

This blog post is an attempt to outline this history or metamorphosis as understood from the study of the musical history of Yamuna Kalyani through the ages from the time of our music’s great patriarch Venkatamakhi to Muddu Venkatamakhi to Muthusvami Dikshitar to Subbarama Dikshitar & to our times.


This raga’s current or modern day attributes/lakshana can be summarized as :

A sampurna bashanga janya of the 65th mela/raaganga Kalyani with usage of suddha madhyama in descent or avarohana phrases.

Given the current treatment of Yamuna Kalyani on concert platforms, one can additionally ascribe the following attributes:

  • Yamuna Kalyani almost as a rule, is today sung in madhyama sruti & thus having its sancara restricted in the upper octave.
  • Apart from the usage of suddha madhyama, Yamuna differs from Kalyani on two additional grounds:
    • Kalyani is rendered with more intense usage of kampita gamakas in the so called “sampurna varika style” by which every note is invested with kampita gamakas. On the other hand Yamuna Kalyani is rendered with more jarus and with vakra sancaras rather than sequential progression of svaras.
    • In terms of performance Yamuna Kalyani is relegated to lighter compositions, shlokas or javalis but is never taken up for a detailed exposition or for tillanas.

The modern form of Yamuna Kalyani is best illustrated by the following 3 compositions:

  • The Dasar pada “Krishna nee begane” as immortalized by Smt T Balasarasvathi,
  • Annamacarya’s composition “Bhavayami Gopalabalam” as popularized by Smt M S Subbulakshmi
  • Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s music setting of Sadasiva Brahmendra’s composition”Pibare Ramarasam”


There are two references to the raga lakshana of this raga, which one can refer to:

  1. First is the raga lakshana as outlined by Subbarama Dikshitar in his monumental work, the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904), SSP for short.
  2. The raga lakshana as documented by Subba Rao in his work Raga Nidhi (1996), which is a comparative study/documentation of ragas featured in the Carnatic and Hindustani idiom.

There are no references to this raga ( that is Yamuna)in older texts including Caturdandi Prakashika or Sangita Sudha or the works of King Shahji or King Tulaja. The raga name figures as a desya raga in the listing found in the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika.


The SSP offers the first glimpse into this scale, wherein Subbarama Dikshitar refers to this raga as Yamuna. Let’s review first the information presented by SSP in connection with this raga.

  • In the (Shantha) Kalyani Raganga lakshya gitam it is given that Imma Kalyani and Mohanam are the bashanga janyas of Kalyani. As a side note, we do not see Hamir Kalyani and Saranga mentioned as Kalyani’s janyas in this raaganga raga lakshana gitam. However Subbarama Dikshitar lists out Hamir Kalyani and Saranga as Kalyani’s janyas subsequently in SSP.
  • Subbarama Dikshitar does not provide any lakshana shloka for Yamuna as he usually does. It’s indeed a puzzle for us that (Muddu)Venkatamakhi gives a reference to Imma Kalyani in the Kalyani raagaanga gitam, but no lakshana shloka or prabandha or tana or gita of (Muddu)Venkatamakhi is provided for this raga!
  • Subbarama Dikshitar gives the murccana arohana/avarohana as SRGMPDNS/SNDPMGRS under the Kalyani raagaaga. However he defines the lakshana with the following caveats.
    • Arohana is usually SRGPDs or SRGPMPDs
    • Avarohana is usually sNDPGRS or sDPMGRS
    • Sa is grahasvara and Ga, Ri and Dha are jeeva svaras
    • Suddha madhyama occurs in the prayogas GmRS or GmGRS
  • The oldest lakshana providing composition given by Subbarama Dikshitar is the “Khabay Prabandha” attributed to pUrvikAs or old timers. This composition has the ‘udgraha’ or refrain as “tha thai thaiyya”.
  • Subbarama Dikshitar provides 4 other compositions to illustrate the raga:
    • ‘Jambupate Mampahi’ of Muthusvami Dikshitar
    • ‘Chintaye Janakiramanam’ of Krishnasvami Ayya
    • Jatisvaram beginning with ‘SDPM’
    • His own sancari set in matya tala
    • The anubandha to the SSP lists out a ragamalika with 10 ragas starting with the words “Priyamuna” which has the raga mudra itself in its pallavi refrain, composed by Subbarama Dikshitar in the ragas Yamuna Kalyani, Todi, Sri, Hamir Kalyani, Durbar, Padi, Huseni, Sahana , Mohanam & Bhupalam.

YAMUNA IN THE SSP – Analysis of the Compositions:

The ‘Khabay’ or Gavai Prabandha:

To understand the origins and evolution of Yamuna, one has to look at the notation of the Prabandha which Subbarama Dikshitar credits as being composed by pUrvAcaryAs. When one looks at this prabandha, many points show up:

  1. Though Subbarama Dikshitar uses the term “Khabay”, it should rightly be “Gavai” for reasons we can see shortly.
  2. Unusually for a prabandha this one is well ornamented/notated. The only other “khabay’ type of prabhanda in SSP is under Pharaz which also is notated well. The ankita/raja mudra of the Pharaz khabay clearly indicates that it is on Tulaja II (1763-1787) & son of Pratapasimha).
  3. The lyrics in the Yamuna prabandha indicate that it has been composed on one Vijayaranga Cokkanatha , son of one Rangakrishna Muthuveera. A quick look at the Nayak Rulers of Madurai reveals that this Vijayaranga Cokkanatha was the great grandson of Thirumalai Nayak of the Madurai Nayaka clan. He shifted his Court from Madurai to Trichy & ruled between 1704 -1731.  This Chieftain has a statue in the Srirangam temple. Given the epi-graphical details, we can conveniently place the composition as having been composed circa 1720 or thereabouts. See Footnote 1 below.
  4. In the prabandha, the nishada is virtually not seen, except in one place as a podisvara & it can ignored.  The contours of Yamuna as outlined in this composition are SRGPDS, SDPMGRS without any suddha madhyama or nishada. From a musical structure perspective the following emerge.
  5. It’s very clear that G is the jeeva/nyasa svara for Yamuna. The Prabandha opens with the classic ‘GGG’ prayoga.
  6. M1 is not present & is not notated at all in the prabandha.
  7. Ga is janta with kampita gamaka thrown in liberally.
  8. Jarus are another embellishment  usages spanning GR, PG,R/G, G/P & P/s
  9. S, G, R and P are the nyasa svaras. Ga comes in as first among equals as the jeeva svara & is accompanied by the kampita gamaka as the default adornment.

Based on the internal evidence from this prabandha, some observations/conclusions follow:

  • The word “khabay” or “gabay” or “kapay” apparently had its roots in the term “Gavai”. Interestingly, the northern origins of the word become obvious, as Dr Sita in her “Tanjore as a Seat of Music” gives one musician of the name of “Gavai Khamas” Madhava Rao who had been in the Court of King Sivaji of Tanjore. Gottuvadhyam Sakha Rama Rao is named as his descendant. The word “gavai” stands for “musician” or “vidvan”. In the samasthanas of Deccan/Maharashtra, the Royal Courts had the so called AstAna vidvan who was called as a ‘Durbari Gavai” or in other words the Court Musician. The composition was probably composed by such a visiting singer or perhaps a musician from the North of the Naik Court itself. Incidentally, the composer of the famous Kuranji padam “Sivadikshaparulanu”, Ghanam Sinnaya was the Chief Minister of King Vijayaranga Cokkanatha.
  • The other “khabay’ prabandha found in the SSP is under Pharaz, which also is another raga imported into Carnatic Music. Persian/Arabian/Moslem origin thereof of both Pharaz and Yamuna is thus something which is very plausible.
  • The Kalyani raganga gitam refers to this Kalyani janya as “Imma Kalyana”, perhaps indicating its roots to the Persian melody Iman. While we may attach importance to the Kalyani raganaga gitam a number of questions remain to be answered such as :
    • The authorship, timelines and the lack of a lakshana shloka for Yamuna Kalyani makes one look at the Kalyani lakshana shloka suspiciously. It must have been the work of Muddu Venkatamakhi dateable to circa 1750 or thereabouts.
    • The other janyas of Kalyani such as Hamir/Hamvira or Saranga find no mention in this raganga gitam.  Also is the question whether this “imma kalyana” is Yamuna at all.


Thus the contours of the older version of Yamuna emerge from out of the prabandha with SRGPDS/SDPMGRS as its murccana arohana & avarohana. It was devoid of Ni & suddha madhyama as well and had gained currency in our music system by the late 1600/early 1700 close to a hundred years before the trinity. For the purposes of this  post I am labeling this Yamuna as the archaic Yamuna as we will see that this metamorphosed with few variations into the modern Yamuna Kalyani as we know today.

Before we proceed further, we need to take a look at the nexus between the archaic Yamuna and the Kalyani or Suddha Kalyana of Venkatamakhi, which is considered as the forerunner of our modern day Kalyani.


Kalyana or (Suddha) Kalyana is an old raga referred to even by Somanatha in his Raga Vibodha (circa 1600). In his work he refers to Kalyana as one of his primary 23 mElas. The next reference to Kalyana is by Venkatamakhi in his CDP. This is what he has to say of Kalyana, in summary:

A desya raga, not fit for gita, thaya & prabandha, with Ma and Ni varjya in the arohana, sampurna and liked by Turuskas, having pancashruti rishabam,antara gandharam,varali madhyamam, pancamam, pancashruthi dhaivatham and kakali nishada.

The description of the Kalyana of Venkatamakhin bears an uncanny resemblance to the archaic Yamuna as found in the prabandha. The Kalyana scale of Venkatamakhin is next echoed by King Shahaji (1684-1712) in “Ragalakshanamu” where he mentions this scale as Suddha Kalyani. King Shahaji illustrates the Suddha Kalyani with prayogas such as GPDs,  sNDPMGR and GDPMGR etc. While the CDP talks of (Suddha) Kalyani being a desya raga, the Anubandha elevates Kalyani to that of a ‘rakti’ raga !

Be that as it may, the (Suddha)Kalyana of Venkatamakhi which can be resolved as SRGPDS/SNDPMGRS, probably spawned the older Yamuna as a variant while at the same time it became the nucleus of the sampurna/heptatonic modern Kalyani ( mEca kalyAnI/shAntha kalyAnI). Modern Kalyani as referred to in this post is the sampurna Kalyani sporting only the prati madhyama and rendered in the sampurna varika style as evidenced by the classic ata tala varna of Pallavi Gopala Iyer, “Vanajakshi”. This qualification to Kalyani is warranted and would be appreciated in the light of the fact that the origins of Kalyani are tied to Yamuna as well through Suddha Kalyani. This Suddha Kalyani ruled the roost for a century or two before it died leaving in its wake two off-springs namely Yamuna Kalyani or Yamuna and our modern Kalyani. The archaic Suddha Kalyan(i) was revived/resurrected as a ‘scalar structure’ by Gayakashikamani Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar during mid 20th century, when he set to music Svati Tirunal’s kriti “Seve Srikantham” and composed his two own kritis “Siddhi Vinayakam Seveham” and “Bhuvaneshvarya” in the raga now known as Mohanakalyani.

DIKSHITAR’s Composition “Jambupate”:

Since the gavai prabandha was composed (circa 1720), for the next approx 100 years, till circa 1810 or thereabouts Yamuna must have perhaps remained so as dealt with therein. It must have been then that Dikshitar composed ‘Jambupate mam pahi”. This composition is found notated in several publications old & new and forms part of the oral tradition as well. The analysis of the notation given by Subbarama Dikshitar reveals quite clearly that Dikshitar interpreted the raga very differently in contrast to the prabandha version. It is obvious that Dikshitar proceeded to provide a makeover to the older Yamuna. The changes he brought forth can be summarized as :

  1. He gave the Ni svara a formal position in the avarohana passages.
  2. He brought in “sparing” usage of M1 via GM1R & as a fleeting podisvara/anusvara to G ( only in the madhya stayi) while M2 shows up in profusion as always. In essence from a Hindustani Music equivalence perspective, Dikshitar flipped Yamuna to be closer to Yaman & thus moving it away from Shuddha Kalyan.
  3. He moved the pivot of the raga slightly away from G towards P. One can see a lot of pancama pradhana sancaras in Jambupate, vide the caranam portion of the composition. From a purvanga centric raga, Dikshitar moved it to make it uttaranga centric.
  4. He continued to mark the gandhara with janta and kampita gamakas. He also invested Ri, Dha and Pa with the kampita gamaka.
  5. In contrast to the more Mohanam based legacy treatment, Dikshitar moved it to a more Kalyani based treatment. The prayoga PDS was deprecated and PNDs or DNDs PDPS or PDrS were brought in by him to impart a different hue to Yamuna.

Thus the end result as conceptualized by Dikshitar was a fairly gamaka laden raga, in contrast to what we think of Yamuna Kalyani today as a plainer & lighter raga.

Comparison between the Archaic Yamuna and Dikshitar’s Yamuna:

Before we proceed further with some more analysis of the Dikshitar composition a quick comparison between the older Yamuna and that of Dikshitar’s interpretation is required.

  • Arohana/Avarohana :

Archaic Yamuna : SRGPDS/SNDPGMRS

Dikshitar’s Yamuna : SRGPDNDS/SNDPMPGmRS

  • Key murccanaas:

Archaic Yamuna: GGRGP, GPDPD,PDS, SDP, SDPPGRS. M2 appears more as a podi svara with pancama and gandhara & thus gives the raga the hue of Mohanam. The raga is melodically equivalent to Bhup based version of Suddha Kalyan of Hindustani Music.

Dikshitar’s Yamuna: NsNDNDP, PDr, PNDPM, GM1RS. M2 appears distinctly and thus brings the raga closer to Yaman.

  • Melodic movement:

Archaic Yamuna: Purvanga centric with emphasis on arohana murccanas. Gandhara is the key jeeva/nyasa svara.

Dikshitar’s Yamuna: Uttaranga centric with emphasis on avarohana phrases. Gandhara and pancama become the key jeeva/nyasa svaras.

  • Gamakas:

Archaic Yamuna: Kampita on gandhara.

Dikshitar’s Yamuna : Kampita on gandhara, rishabha, pancama and dhaivatha


In relation to Suddha Kalyan as is dealt with in the world of Hindustani music, I invite readers to read Deepak Raja’s blog post on the different flavors of Suddha Kalyan as is handled in Hindustani Music. To put it simply the raga in northern music is SRGPDS/SNDPMGR with only M2. For our ongoing , I quote the relevant portion from his blog post to understand the nuances/flavors of  the Hindustani Suddha Kalyan.

“According to Manikbuwa Thakurdas (Raga Darshan), this raga can be performed in either of its two distinct variants — a Bhoop-biased treatment, and a Kalyan-biased treatment. In a Bhoop-biased treatment, the use of the Ni/Ma swaras in the descent should be subtle enough to be “apratyaksha” (subliminal/ implicit/ imperceptible). This is normally achieved by using the two swaras only in a meend (glissando) as grace swaras in the transition from Sa to (Ni) Dha and Pa to (Ma) Ga. When presented in the Kalyan-biased treatment, the Ni/Ma swaras can be “pratyaksha” (explicit) or “apratyaksha” (implicit), and therefore not limited to being treated as grace swaras.Subba Rao (Raga Nidhi, Vol.IV) points out a third interpretation of the raga which omits the Ma/Ni swaras altogether. In such a treatment, distinguishing the resulting music from Bhoop/Bhupali requires great skill. This version was heard occasionally until the 1960s, and is virtually extinct now.”

Needless to say here that the Bhup based version of Suddha Kalyani and the archaic Yamuna are similar and it must have been the one which was used by the anonymous Court musician when he composed the Gavai prabandha on King Vijayaranga Cokkanatha. The words that Deepak uses- “subtle or imperceptible use of Ni and Ma” would strike us when we view the notation of the prabandha as found in the SSP.

K V Ramachandran the noted critic of the last century advances the very same argument with authority, that our (archaic) Yamuna and Suddha Kalyan are one & the same:

“I agree with the conclusion of the Academy that Yamuna Kalyani employs both the Ma, but the raga is not the equivalent of Yaman as as stated by Hulugur Krishnachar. Suddha Kalyan is its Northern prototype, which omits Ma and Ni in the ascent and employs Ma1 occasionally. Ga is vadi, Dha is samvadi, meend between PaGa, PaRi, SaNiDha, PaMaGa, Mandhara sanchara is characteristic. Sa Ri Ga Pa Dha Sa – Sa Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa – Ri Ga Dha Pa Ma Ga Ri- Pa Ma2 Ga Ri- Ri Ga Ga Ma1 Ga Ri- Sa Ni Dha – Ri Ga Pa Dha sa Ni Dha Pa – Pa Sa Dha Pa Ma2 Ga. The Kalyani of Venkatamakhi, Ahobala, Pundarikavittala and Locana is just this – a blende of Kalyani & Mohanam. The marriage song when the bride and the bride groom play the ball, the kolattam song “Lokasakshi”, the mettu known as “Indra Sabha” ( see Footnote 2), the Tamil padam “Maruva Oru” are all in this raga. Sri K V S Iyengar remarks that the Syama Shastri’s “Birana Brova”, though now sung in Kalyani was sung in a different way by others. That different way is Yamuna Kalyani.”

K V Ramachandran’s reference is to the older or the archaic Yamuna and not to the Yamuna as redefined by Dikshitar in his “Jambupate”. The melodic contours of Dikshitar’s conception of Yamuna are much different in comparison with the 2 flavors of Suddha Kalyan that Deepak Raja mentions. To analyse a little more, Hindustani Suddha Kalyan is an avaroha pradhana raga with Sa, Ri, Ga and Pa as nyasa svaras, Ni and M2 being used “imperceptibly as a passing note, with PDPs and Prs as the chief uttaranga prayogas. Also the sancaras range from mandhara pancama till Madhya stayi panchama and Ri is the jeeva svara and the raga does not use suddha madhyama at all. On a side note, it is indeed puzzling for me why Sri KVR did not refer to the Dikshitar magnum opus in this lec-dem.

Dikshitar’s Yamuna Kalyani as found in “Jambupate” has Sa, Ga and Pa as the chief nyasa svaras, Ni and Ma figuring prominently with M1 as an alpa prayoga figuring in avarohana passages through the murccana GM1R & Ni is  vakra in aroha passages. Ga and Pa seem to be the amsa svaras with Ri being very weak. The sancaras range from mandhara Pa/Dha to tara sthayi Ga. In fact there is no tradition of singing Dikshitar’s Jambupate in madhyama sruti, while all others including the modern tuned up compositions such as  “Krishna nee begane” and “Bhavayami Gopalabalam” are all sung in madhyama sruti.

It’s indeed important to underline this aspect before we move on to Subbarama Dikshitar’s conception of Yamuna Kalyani as evidenced by him compositions namely the Jatisvaram, sancari and the ragamalika.

( To be Continued)


For those who are interested in the historical angle, Vijayaranga Cokkanatha was the grandson as well of the famous Rani (Queen) Mangammal, who valiantly threw tradition out of the window, by refusing to perform ‘sati’ upon the death of her husband. She instead chose to ascend the throne upon the death of her husband to bring up the minor son (Rangakrishna Muthuveera)  , who also died suddenly leaving behind his pregnant wife. Mangammal bore these losses with great fortitude and continued to reign as the sovereign regeant for her grandson Vijayaranga Cokkanatha. Sadly she couldnt prevent her daughter-in law ( wife of Rangakrishna Muthuveera & mother of the new born Vijayaranga Cokkanatha ( the patron king eulogized in this gavai prabandha) from performing Sati after she gave birth to her son. And Mangammal went on to make history, probably on the model of the legendary Rani of Jhansi. The end of the reign of Mangammal circa 1703-04, is shrouded in mystery as she reportedly became a victim of palace intrigues. Prof R Sathianatha Iyer’s ‘History of the Nayaks of Madura” is an original account of this history and readers may well refer to the same.


I am unsure which composition Sri K V Ramachandran refers to starting with the words ‘Indrasabha’. Mahamahopadhyaya U Ve Svaminatha Iyer in his work “Urainadai Noolgal” refers to a padam of Ghanam Krishna Iyer on his patron, the Tanjore King Amarasimha of Madhyarjunam ( Tiruvidaimarudur), which starts with the words “indra sabhai mAdiyil’. Probably the reference may be to this composition.

History, Raga

The Mystery about Kambhoji -Part 2


To summarize the understanding from the 3 works from the post 1750 era :

  1. Ma or Ga and Ni were vakra/varja in the arohana, according to (Muddu) Venkatamakhi.  In arohana/avarohana terms the archaic Kambhoji as one should call it, would be defined as SRGPDS/SNDPMGRS. Or to restate, that since Ma was vakra, the aroha can be given as SRMGPDS as well.
  2. The ever changing dynamics of our system possibly “linearized”/standardized the older Kambhoji to its modern standard form SRGMPDS/SNDPMGRS.
  3. Only Kaishiki nishada was used throughout in the archaic Kambhoji. The usage of kakali nishada in avaroha phrases such as SNPD had not been in currency at least till 1750 as is obvious from the lack of its mention in Tulaja’s Saramruta for example. It’s worth noting that Tulaja mentions about SNP phrase but doesn’t state that its kaishiki. Prof S R Janakiraman² opines that even during that time kaisiki nishada must have been used in that phrase.


The analysis of Kambhoji’s musical history shows us again how dynamic and ever changing our music is. But two questions would still remain with us:

  1. Is it Ga or Ma, which is vakra/varja in the arohana of the old Kambhoji?
  2. Can we safely say that the Kakali nishada usage in Kambhoji was a much latter day introduction? If it’s indeed to be used, how strong/weak is its intonation/usage?

For question 1 above, the only answer that seems to strike us as plausible is that in the archaic Kambhoji both Ma and Ga were vakra ! To look at the options before us, the 4 possible purvanga combinations for Kambhoji can be:

  1. SRGMP – Lineal- which is found in profusion in the Kambhoji of today
  2. SRGMGP – Ma is vakra, but Ga is not. This murrcana is slightly tricky and can be dispensed with in favor of SRGP.
  3. SRMGMP – Ga is vakra but Ma is not
  4. SRMGP – Ma and Ga are both vakra, in the sense the arohana kramas would be SRMG, GPDS and MGPDS

Let me hasten to add here that what matters is not the svara and its location per se in the sequence but the tonal color that is imparted to Kambhoji if one were to use the Ga and Ma as vakra in the sancaras. It also proves a point that linearization is not a binding factor for some of the purva prasiddha ragas. Thus for example in Sankarabharana SRGPM can also be a legitimate murcchana & need not signify Bilahari alone , so long it’s sung in such a way (in terms of intonation and sequencing of the succeeding murcchanas) that the flavor of Sankarabharana is not lost. Similarly the SRMG usage need not bring Yadukulakambhoji here, for the madhyama intonation and the way the purvanga gets structured finally is different for both the ragas. I will revert back to this point in the end of this post.

So now the question in corollary would be that if SRMGPDs was indeed the melodic contour of the archaic Kambhoji, is there a way to have of a glimpse of that old form which was not lineal in its purvanga? Today, much of the Trinity’s compositions are being rendered in the modern flavor of Kambhoji and hence it “may” not provide us a complete view of the older Kambhoji. Based on available data, one can conjecture that by even 1800’s Kambhoji’s metamorphosis into its modern lineal form was complete. But luckily for us, Subbarama  Dikshitar in his magnum opus SSP has documented the notation of an Ata tala tana varna in Kambhoji “Intacalamu” of Pallavi Gopala Iyer (circa 1800). Coming as it does from the post 1750’s, this varna offers us a splendid ringside view of the old Kambhoji. It is indeed fortuitous that the original varna  had also been part of our oral tradition. Also varnas have always been traditionally considered by us as repositories/examples of raga lakshana. And thus our analysis of Kambhoji’s musical history/lakshna would be complete & our 2 questions as above could be answered, if we were to examine and analyze the varna.


The Kambhoji varna of Pallavi Gopala Iyer in Ata tala is found notated in the following publications /manuscripts.

  1. Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshitar¹
  2. Manuscript B 11618 & B 11605C  of the Sarasvathi Mahal Library, transcribed in Telugu/Sanskrit in the year 1842 & published by Dr B M Sundaram⁵
  3. Manuscript of Nagasvara Vidvan Rakti Veerasvami Pillai written in circa 1870 as published by Dr B M Sundaram⁵
  4. Notebook (Part II) of MazhavarayanEndal Subbarama Iyer ( Sangita Kalanidhi 1942) which has in notation about 30 varnas of which 19 were rare.⁹

It’s quite interesting to note that the sahitya of the varna or in other words, the Royal patron on whom the varna has been composed is divergent if we view the oral as well as the documented texts as available to us:

  1. In the SSP the sahitya reads as “syAmarAjendra vara tanaya appuraya chamdra” ¹. Apparently syAma and chAma seem to be treated as equivalents!
  2. In the older manuscripts cited by Dr B M Sundaram, the sahitya reads “chamarAjendra vara tanaya abhraraya chamdra”⁵
  3. As per Prof S R J’s version the sahitya goes as “chamarAjendra vara tanaya pUraya chamdra”
  4. Interestingly there is yet another version/patham of this varna where the sahitya is “tulajendra ghanUni tanaya sarabhOjendra”, on the lines of the sahitya of the Todi varna “Kanakangi” with the composition being attributed to the Quartet! Its worth noting here that the composition is not listed in the publication ‘Tanjai PeruvudaiyAn Perisai”. Reference is to Sarabhoji II (1798-1832), son of King Tulaja II (1763-1787) who ruled Tanjore.
  5. In the aforesaid notebook of Subbarama Iyer the varna bears the sahitya ‘Sri Kadarajendra kandu Srivara tanaya pura chamdra”⁹, which doubtless gets confusing.

Dr B M Sundaram forcefully argues that the correct sahitya of this Kambhoji varna, (as given by the older manuscripts) is -“Chamarajendra vara tanaya abhraraya chamdra”. According to him the word “abhra” means cloud, implying dark/black , i.e Krishna and hence alludes to Krishnaraja Wodeyar III who was the son of Chamaraja Wodeyar(1776-1796).⁵ Also Prof Sambamoorthy in his brief biography of Pallavi Gopala Iyer states that this is a varna indeed composed on Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. ( See Foot Note I & II on my notes on the mudra ‘krishnarajendra’ on King Krishnarajendra Wodeyar, respectively)

The analysis of the musical material of this varna of  Gopala Iyer reveal following points which underscore the conclusion reached earlier in this post about the archaic Kambhoji:

  1. The purvanga murcchanas of Kambhoji having G and M appear only as vakra/non linear as MGPDS, GPDS and SRMGPDS. It needs to be reiterated here that the lineal murccana SRGMPDS is melodically much different to SRMGPDS.  To be even more clear, it’s the melodic movement encompassing the jumps from Ri to Ma first and then to Ga and then to Pa before moving on to the uttaranga region which was thought to give the unique melodic hue to Kambhoji, in olden times- not the lineal movement from Ri to Ga to Ma and then to Pa. The vakra prayoga of Ma and Ni in Kambhoji, is even highlighted by Ahobala² when he says that “Kambhoji tivragandhara gandharadhika murcchana |Arohe maniheenasyan  madhamsasvarabhushitah||”
  2. Gopala Iyer’s conception of Kambhoji in this smallest Ata tala tana varna is thus defined by the following murcchanas: MGPDS, GPDS, SRMGPDS, RMGMP, GRGS and RPMGS. Rightly so Subbarama Dikshitar highlights these sancaras on the authority of this varna when he gives his commentary on Kambhoji’s raga lakshana in the SSP. The other composition of Gopala Iyer, a kriti in Kambhoji (“Harisarva”) found in the Anubandha to the SSP is also similarly structured without the lineal prayoga SRGMPDS. To the best of my knowledge there is no oral version of this composition. I would be grateful to have a copy of a rendition if available.
  3. Also one can see from the rendering in the section below,that the SRMG & other purvanga phrases as seen in the varna do not suggest Yadukulakambhoji at all.
  4. Kakali nishada usage is virtually nil or is very alpa occurring in the phrase sNPDs. Prof SRJ opines that  even there the kakali nishada is only a shade, occurring as one descends from the tara sadja directly to the pancama without going via the kaishiki nishada -chatushruthi dhaivatha route. The frequency of the note drops in the SP descent to give a shade of kakali nishada, nothing more.


First is Prof S R Janakiraman rendering “Intachalamu”. In the first clipping below he first explains the nuances of Kambhoji. He also outlines the confusion around the svaras Ga and Ni being vakra/varja in the shloka as published in the SSP.

He delineates in brief the older Kambhoji with alpa N3 and also the uniqueness of this Ata tala varna.

He follows up by rendering the varna peppering his rendition with his insightful remarks.

Here is the text of the sahitya of the varna as per his patham.

Pallavi:                Inthachalamu sEya idi mEra gAdurA sAmi

Anupallavi:      kAnthudaina ShrI chAmarAjendrA gHanunI varatanayA pUraya chamdra

Charanam:       chiNNa nAti mOdalu kOrina

(For the svara sahitya and for the  muktayi & ettugada svaras, readers may refer to the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, ¹edition published by the Music Academy and also available online here. The notation is also available in full with the multiple versions in the book published by Dr B M Sundaram⁵).

During the course of his demonstration, Prof SRJ reminisces how the legendary Alathur Srinivasa Iyer would elaborate Kambhoji.


Purva prasiddha ragas like Kambhoji or Sankarabharanam should not be viewed in the context of the modern linearized krama arohana/avarohana regime  which is the legacy of the Sangraha Cudamani or the Melakarta system designed sometime during the 18th /19th century. It’s indeed sad that today ragas are viewed as a mere aggregation of notes strictly defined by an arohana/avarohana. The concept of murcchanas and how they need to be sequenced to define a raga has now been lost in our music. Hindustani Music still has as its pivots those very concepts, with terminologies such as calans, pakads etc. The concepts underlying the structuring of these older ragas & the way of understanding them are best illustrated by Dr S Sita ³and by Sri K V Ramachandran⁶. I will quote them verbatim to substantiate my understanding.

“…….The chaya or complexion of a raga is a sum total value of many aesthetic factors including the raga form. What is of real significance is not the actual number or quantity of svaras present either in the aroha or avaroha but how the respective svaras progress in their characteristic movement ( calana) gAnakriya in the raga involving arohana, avarohana and combination of both kramas. In this larger sense, the concept of arohana and avarohana is of very little significance. Essentially the nature of the tonal movement or behavior in the raga taken as a whole is the crucial factor.

For instance the arohana/avarohana of Bilahari is SRGPDS/SNDPMGRS. It is definitely not to be understood as a misra of Mohanam and Sankarabharanam. After all the form of a raga cannot be understood either from the arohana or avarohana, but only from the whole or entire progression of svaras…….”³ (Emphasis is mine)

While Dr Sita in her Music Academy lecture demonstration pitches her argument against delineating ragas merely based on the arohana/avarohana as above, noted critic Sri K V Ramachandran takes it one step further in his lecture demonstration, in the same portals of the Academy, some 40 years before her.

“…Svara is one of the materials out of which ragas are fashioned, even as out of bricks, the architect makes the dome. The end product dome is entirely different from the bricks of which it was made. And each raga has its own idiom and vocabulary; Bends and twists and omissions are the rule and very rarely do Ragas progress regularly. By the mere omission or addition of a note a Raga cannot be altered….”⁶ (Emphasis is mine)

And both Sri KVR & Dr Sita, in my very humble understanding are spot on! And for Kambhoji and the discussion above as to its raga lakshana as it was once upon a time, their words apply like a glove!

Extending the rationale to Kambhoji and to conclude :

  1. The vakra tAnas/sancAras of Kambhoji mandate SRMGPDS. The linearization as SRGMPDS must have been a change effected much latter, probably when we designed the melakarta scheme with its inbuilt rules as to progression of svaras and structuring of a raga via a plain arohana avarohana.
  2. The Kamboji tone poem can be delineated as MGPDS, GPDS & SRMGPDS in the aroha phrases. Also as Subbarama Dikshitar mentions & on the authority of Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s varna, other (vakra) sancaras include RMGMP, GPDS, GRGS, RPMGS which constitute the melodic hue of Kambhoji of yore.
  3. The Kakali nishada was a much latter addition but alpa in usage. It may not be out of place to mention that the Kambhoji gitam “Mandhara dhara re” composed by Paidala Gurumurti Sastrigal starts off with the phrase sN3P.
  4. On a related note, it needs to be mentioned that it would be an exercise in futility to talk about some sancaras belonging to Kambhoji and not to Harikambhoji etc for the simple reason that Kambhoji is much older and much of Harikambhoji must have been carved out latter, from out of Kambhoji’s scalar material. In fact now, one can also convincingly argue that SRGMP being linear/sequential, should belong to Harikambhoji while the vakra sancara SRMGP can be Kambhoji’s & rightly so as it would also help differentiate the 2 ragas much better in the modern context!


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini – Reprinted in Tamil by the Madras Music Academy, India
  2. Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Prof S R Janakiraman (1993)-“Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha” – Published by the Music Academy, Madras India
  3. Dr S Sita (1993) – “The Raga Lakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja” -Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol LIV, pp 140-181, Madras India
  4. Dr S Sita (2001)- “Tanjore as a Seat of Music “- Published by the University of Madras, India
  5. DR B M Sundaram (2002) – “Varna Svarajathi” – Published by Sarasvathi Mahal Library, Tanjore, India
  6. Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Apurva ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” – The Journal of the Music Academy, Vol XXI, pp. 107-109, Madras, India.
  7. Kamat & Jyothsna Kamat (2006) – “Wodeyars of Mysore” – Available online at http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/deccan/wodeyars.htm
  8. Dr B M Sundaram (1984)- “Mudras in Tana Varnas” -Lecture Demonstration in the Krishnagana Sabha, Chennai – available online here.
  9. Dr P C Seetharaman(1972) -“Musical contents from Mazhavai Subbarama Iyer’s Notebook” (Tamil)- Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol XLIII, Pages 32-33,100-107, Madras, India
  10. Chennakesavaiah. N (1964) -” Four Rare Compositions” – Edited and published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol XXXV, Pages 175-179 Madras, India

Foot Note  – I

Determining the authorship of varnas is another arcane area of our musicology. Experts typically look at the internal evidences within the composition such as ankitas ,mudras or colophons ( svanama mudra, raja mudra etc) not only to ascertain authorship and also the period in which they were composed, apart from other attributes. Interestingly , in connection with the use of the raja mudra “krishnarajendra”, it must be noted that we have several varnas with this raja mudra referring both to Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar and his descendant Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar ( those of Veena Seshanna, Muthiah Bagavathar & K V Srinivasa Iyengar).

  • For example the Kamalamanohari varna “Neevanti” was composed by Chinniah of the Tanjore Quartet on Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. Also varnas with this raja mudra seem to have some controversy/confusion associated with them pertaining to authorship. Specific instances include the varna in Nattai “Marulaiyunnadi”, the Mandhari varna “Vanajaksha” and the pada varna “E Maguva BodincerA” in Dhanyasi !
  • Subbarama Iyer’s aforesaid notebook has a beautiful Huseni Ata tala varna ( composer not given) starting with the words “ninnu jUci”. The sahitya runs as “….bakthudaina srI rAmarAjendra vara tanaya karnAvatAra srI krishnArajendra gAna rasika shikAmanE…”⁹. Again it can be speculated that this varna should have run as syAma or chama rAjEndra, instead of rAmarAjendra.
  • There is an anonymous varna sporting the ankita ‘krishnaraja’ begining with the word ‘Viribhoni’ in the rare raga Suddha Velavali.
  • Another anonymous rare varna is the one in the raga Kedaram ( Khanda Ata) with the following lyrics. Given that it was found in manuscript dating to circa 1870, could it be another composition of Pallavi Gopala Iyer or perhaps Tanjore Chinniah on Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar ? One doesnt know ! But here is the text of it :

Pallavi :           vanajalOcana nIpai cAla vanajAkshi valaci yunnadirA

Anupallavi:    ghanudaina cAmarajEndruni vara tanaya srI krishnarAjemdra dIra

Caranam:        camdrakula sirOmani

In passing, one cannot but help lamenting the fact that such beautiful varnas are no longer in circulation and instead a handful of varnas are reeled off ad nauseum in modern concerts depriving rasikas of the oppurtunity to hear these long forgotten masterpieces, which are also invaluable repositories of raga lakshana. Researchers and performing musicians should actively collaborate to bring these compositions back from oblivion, including the Kambhoji varna under discussion !

Foot Note 2: King Krishnaraja Wodeyar III


Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar(1794-1868)
(Photo courtesy : © K.L. Kamat/Kamat’s Potpourri )⁷

Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar was one of the great patrons of arts and music. One of the modern day Abhinava Bhoja’s, as he is addressed to in some works ! The title of ‘Abhinava bhoja” is found conferred on many Southern Indian rulers and chieftains including King Shahaji and King Pratapsimha of Tanjore, Yuvaranga Bhupati of Udayapalayam, for example. Many musicians were patronized by Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar including Tanjore Chinniah of the Quartet, Mysore Sadasiva Rao & others ⁵.Apart from Pallavi Gopala Iyer, Veena Kuppier has also been honoured by this Mysore King. The rare Begada kriti ‘ Inta parakelanamma’ of Kuppier with its bewitching cittasvara was composed by him on Goddess Camundeshvari during his Mysore sojourn. Again this Ruler and the compositions on him deserve a seperate blog post.

History, Raga

The Mystery about Kambhoji -Part 1


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

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

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

Read On!

Kambhoji – A Quick Primer:

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

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

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


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


A historical perspective of Kambhoji can be glimpsed here:


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


The following musical texts can be examined in this regard:

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

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

Circa 1600:

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

Circa 1650:

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

“Kambhoji ragah sampurnopyarohe ma ni vakritah”

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

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

Circa 1700:

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

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

Circa 1735:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

“Kambhoji ragascharohe gani varjitah”

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

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

SSP 1904:

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

Kambhoji ragah sampurnah carohe gani vakritah |

Nishadah kakaliyuktah kvacit sthane prayujyathe ||

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

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

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


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

Catushruti rishaba antara gandhara catushruthi dhaivatha svara kaishiki nishada |

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

Harikambhoji mela janita Kambhoji ragah ||

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

(To be continued)

History, Raga

Raga Lakshana – Madhavamanohari


Raga Lakshana – Madhavamanohari

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

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

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

Read on!


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Arohana: S R2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Avarohana: S N2 D2 M1 G2 R2 S

Jeeva svaram: Madhyama

Visesha prayogams: MNDNs nGRMGRS, PD1M


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

Venkatamakhi’s Raga Lakshana:

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

Arohana: S R2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Avarohana: S N2 D2 M1 G2 R2 S

Jeeva svaram: Madhyama

Visesha prayogams: MNDNs nGRMGRS, GrND, GMGR

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

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

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

Dikshitar’s Conception of Madhavamanohari:

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

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

The salient features of Dikshitar’s Madhavamanohari are:

Arohana: S R2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

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

Salient murccanas : M1N2D2M1, P/D1M1

Jiva svaras ; M1 and G2

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Audio Clip 1: Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer rendering Mahalakshmi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio Clip 3: Sm D K Pattammal rendering Mahalakshmi

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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